The Reward for Surviving Rough Seas

The Reward for Surviving Rough Seas
We are all like sea shells tossed about in rough waters and being re-shaped in wondrous ways. But have you ever contemplated the notion that sea shells have to complete their journey through the rough waters before they get to rest on the shore? Yeah, we are ALL like sea shells and Heaven is The Great Shore.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Pretty Pie Chart of Student Data

If there are any other high school teachers who are reading this blog, it's likely that we may be in the same boat:  The S.S. Paralysis of Analysis.

(Father, please help those of us who teach!)

For those readers who are not in Education, I am about to whine a little; just wanted to give you fair warning.
It seems to me that Educators have been forced to become Data Addicts.
We have to analyze failure rates.
We have to make graphs and charts.
We have to make Intervention Plans.
We have to Assess, Evaluate, Implement, and Assess and Evaluate all over again.
And we get so busy looking over our shoulders at what has already been done, that it is impossible to look ahead at where we are going.

(Father, thank you for this privilege of teaching.  You blessed me with the ability to reach kids. And I love helping them learn.  It's why I became a teacher. And God, I am stymied at how to help them learn when I can't teach them the way I know they need to be taught)

Whatever happened to Teachers teaching and Students learning?

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind accountability.
It's a good thing.
It builds responsibility and helps build an ethical approach to life.
Accountability sometimes gets unwarranted bad press, yet I hold that Accountability is critically important.

Honest...I GET why we have to test.
I GET why we should assess and evaluate.

But when Accountability drives the Pace and Depth of Curriculum, it seems to me that we have got the cart before the horse on this issue.

At this point many teachers are no longer able to utilize "the teachable moment", because it would throw off their timeline of teaching...which is be able to prepare for the next local or state level test.

Example:  A good friend of mine teaches World History and was recently told that he was not allowed to discuss Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. He was told to mention the names of these great thinkers, but also told that he could NOT discuss their impact on thinking or on education today. When he asked "Why?", he was told "The timeline of testing says that by the end of May teachers are required to be up to the year 2000 so that we can cover Terrorism"

Yes, this REALLY happened!.
And yes this means that if a student is interested in Socrates, Plato or Aristotle and asks a question about those learned men, this teacher can not take the time to answer that question fully or lead a classroom discussion about the topic.
Accountability (measured in distance IE: how many pages of the curriculum guide a teacher covers each year) has taken priority over Learning (measured in depth of understanding IE: application & evaluation & creation ).  How backwards is THAT!

Yes...The Emperor is naked and no one is saying a word about it because he would be angry if he were to be embarrassed.  So, the kitchen staff is working diligently on the menu for his next banquet as if nothing whatsoever is wrong, for no one ever wants to anger the Emperor.

The ACCOUNTABILITY Guru's have mandated the pace in public schools..
And teachers' jobs are on the line if their students don't score well on tests.

Meanwhile, Teachers sadly pat each other on the shoulder and mutter about how it's just not right.

We just want to Teach kids!
We just want to REACH kids!
We just want to make them fall in love with learning!
And all the Pretty Pie Charts of Student Data in the world won't accomplish that.

Go ahead and hold me accountable for good teaching.
PLEASE hold me accountable for good teaching.
And then let me TEACH.

But know this:
I can't fix broken homes or the students who suffer from depression and anger because of them.
But I can give hugs and listen while kids cry.
I can't fix Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or the lack of higher brain function that those students will live with for the rest of their lives.
But I can hold tutorials and help these kids every way I know how.
I can't fix MOST of the social issues running amok in American Home-life.
But I can show up every day and greet my students with a smile and a lesson full of Best Practices.

Yet for all of my "going of the extra mile", I can not guarantee that some kids won't fail.
Please don't hold me accountable for what I can not control.

I LOVE being a Teacher.
My classroom is a place of high energy, high success, and high efficiency.
But all too often we are sacrificing good teaching on the alter of high accountability test results.

Regardless of my inner struggles about this issue,  yesterday I took data from the most recent round of state assessments, and made pretty little pie charts

Yup, I have these pretty multicolored pie charts that are impressive to administrators and make me look like a  really good teacher.

But during the time I spent making pie charts, I could have been doing lesson plans, or grading, or reflecting on which students could benefit from a little more TLC.

I would talk longer with you on this issue, but I'm busy going over the menu for the Emperor's banquet right now.

(Father please help us. We need you to strengthen us and give us courage to teach the way we know it should be done. Help us to be able to reach our students and teach our students and heal them in every way we can...and still stay within the parameters expected of us.)

In Him,

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