I woke up from a dream in which i was struggling to play Stanley Clarke’s “School Days” and stressing that I could not play that complicated baseline well. when my dream cleared, i realized I was really fretting about this school year.
So another year starts. I’ll give it this much, the havoc is more organized this year.
Physically, the high school grounds is mostly done with repairs. The new floors are mostly installed. The new single-point entrance security vestibule is about a third complete.
Technologically, the phone banks throughout the school system are mostly converted to the new format, and are completed in the high school. The iPads are almost ready, and will be by October. The Edmodo update is probably ready. We’re almost ready to switch our websites to Google calendar, but we should continue to update our present format for now.
Also, a positive teaching environment and school work must be posted on the walls of each classroom by all teachers for all students at all times on walls that won’t hold any tape weaker than Duct tape.
And for our lesson planning, we should be ready to incorporate SGOs (Student Growth Objectives), Danielson, Teachscape, Common Core, and Kagan strategies into our lesson plans and lessons and be assessed on them in the classroom, three times a year for tenures, four times a year for non-tenures, with pre and post meetings for each, plus walk-throughs, for which all the above must be in plain sight at any given moment.
Or at least that it how it seems.
And people wonder why teachers are stressed. And people wonder why teachers bristle at the currently very political idea that this is a ten-month job for which we work only 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
It is now early a.m., hours before dawn, and I cannot sleep because I am worried about getting all of this right based on a scale we aren’t fully sure of, which wasn’t even official as recently as August, which seems to have a lot of wiggle room to find fault with a teacher’s performance, which will result in being judged on a scale designed with much more areas rating a teacher as insufficient or in need of improvement than it does acknowledging a teacher’s competence or talents or greatness.
Are we wrong to see the game as rigged? Because we teachers do, we really do.
And we are wondering why.
Yesterday, my department was shown state testing results chart wherein our students grew in almost every category measured. Special Ed fell short in one area, and an ethnic group’s numbers grew to a smaller degree than others, but overall the report was positive to thrilling in its message.
And the supervisor said, “I don’t know how we got that growth but keep doing it.”
We will now “keep doing it” by changing and adding all these new, nerve-wracking elements (and to clarify, we are nervous because we are exactly the dedicated educators who got those growth numbers, not because we are inefficient or incompetent or disinterested), to be judged on a scale where rewards are hard to see but disapproval seems plentiful, an evaluation system that seems to stress teacher shortcomings, and require retraining, and creates an official track record of inefficiency but does not seem balanced with praise or acknowledgement or reward.
So, here we are being shown our success, and then asked to embrace all these changes designed to improve our performance, or record our shortcomings, with possible consequences that include withholding of salary increases or stripping away of tenure, or possible termination.
That evaluation scale celebrates neither experience nor creativity nor dedication nor efficiency nor suggests faith in staff abilities. Yet, this is our new reality in the wake of near total success across the board.
And in the middle of the night when we should be sleeping, we are wondering why.
Welcome back to school.
Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available on Kindle and Nook, and in print. For more info, click here.