Thursday, November 6, 2014

I am not a number.

4: the number of years I have been teaching
120: the number of students I teach on a daily basis
50: the number of my students who got an A first quarter
25,000: the number of dollars I am in debt from my education
15: the average number of hours per week I spend doing school work outside of contracted hours
5: the number of classes I teach in a day
3: the number of levels of French that I teach
94: the number of minutes per day I am paid to prepare for the aforementioned classes
25: the number of hours I have spent doing paperwork for the most recent educator program/evaluation system since the beginning of school

In reading the above numbers, what does it tell you about me?  Can you determine how good of a teacher I am?  Am I effective?  Do I care?  Am I energetic or burnt out?  Am I optimistic or pessimistic?  Do my students know how to use the target language?

The makers of state and national policies and programs seem to think that numbers like that along with other numbers (like test scores, student evaluations, and student achievement) are what dictate my worth as an educator.

They are wrong.

For anyone who is familiar, Wisconsin (my home state) has adopted a new system.  It is called Educator Effectiveness.  In a nutshell, you are evaluated 50/50 on two things: student achievement and professional practice.  To prove student achievement, you must write a Student Learning Objective (SLO).  You do so by giving your students a pre-test, analyzing the results, and then deciding where you want your kids to be by spring based on said pre-test.  If your students do not reach your goal for whatever reason, you lose points.

The other half, as mentioned, is the professional practice.  You must go through the six standards of an effective educator, each of which has about 8-10 sub categories and rate yourself as a strength or a weakness in each category (so we are talking roughly 50-60 statements are made and you have to say whether it is a strength or weakness of yours).  Then, you must write a short reflection on each standard.  Then, you must write a professional practice goal.

Sounds simple right?  Not so much.  The above stuff is only if it is NOT your rotation year (each teacher goes every three years.. some are this year, some are next, and some are the following).  If it's your rotation year, you ALSO must upload artifacts and proof that you are meeting the aforementioned six standards.

You also must survey your students regardless of your year.  They recommend asking your students to rate you on things like how inclusive you are, how enthusiastic you are, how sensitive you are to their issues, etc.  I've given surveys like that before.  Asking a student to rate you from 1-5 on any number of topics will not illicit a constructive response.  By the end they are just checking boxes to be done.  A few years ago I started doing a simple survey about three times per year and asked only four questions.

     1. What kinds of activities do you like/help you?
     2. What kinds of activities do you not like/don't help you
     3. What does Madame do that you like/helps you (teaching style)?
     4. What does Madame do that you don't like/doesn't help you (teaching style)?

It's AMAZING the responses I get from these kids.  They are thoughtful, constructive, and everything you'd want a survey to be.  Imagine my frustration when I was told that a survey I've been using (and improving my teaching styles with) for three years now isn't good enough because I can't report any sort of numerical data to the people who likely aren't even going to take the time to read it.

The time this program takes is astounding and exhausting.  And I know we are not the only state to have programs like this.  We already are spread very thin with things like IEP meetings, parent contacts, extra duties and more.  Why add another program that takes an average of 2 hours out of my week to make me a "better teacher"?

Taking a teacher away from his or her classroom/prep time does NOT make them a better teacher.  It makes them rush through thing preparations because they don't have time.  It makes them not take the time to stop and reflect on a poor lesson because they have to submit their SLO by the end of the week, so they better work on that instead.  Time is GOLD for a teacher and by filling up a teacher's time with tedious tasks you are only making them worse, even if it's designed to make them better.

I read a story the other day about a teacher from Long Island who received a very poor evaluation score because her students did not show much improvement.  Why, do you ask?  Because they already score so high.  BECAUSE OF HER TEACHING.  How does that make even sense?  She is now suing for reform.

When you think back to the teacher who really made a difference in your life, chances are you think of the teacher who reached out to you when nobody else could.  The teacher who gave you a hands on lesson rather than just lecture you.  The teacher who brought in that electrically charged ball, made you hold hands with your classmates, and then touched the ball to show static electricity.  The teacher who summed up a unit on French cuisine by organizing a day for you to cook authentic dishes and taste them.  Those are the teachers you remember.  Not the ones that gave you test after test, maybe not even the ones you got the best grades with.

It's when a teacher CARES that he/she makes a different.  When he/she is PASSIONATE about his/her subject area and wants to IGNITE that passion in students.  It's the teachers who stay after school to HELP you understand that new concept and then CHEER with you when the lightbulb finally goes off for you.

How can you measure caring, passion, ignition, help or cheering with numbers?  It's simple.  You can't.

So instead, how about we trust teachers to do their job.  Trust teachers to effectively evaluate not only student progress but their own.  Good teachers do all the things a program like Educator Effectiveness entails anyway.  I am not a number.  So please stop treating me like one.

Taken from

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