As my regular readers know, I am teaching a 6th grade math class for the first time this year along with my regular technology classes. The biggest change for me is the scripted curriculum and standardized tests. I have a ton of academic freedom in my technology classes compared to most teachers, but my math students have the state standardized tests in the fall, quarterly district assessments, and district standardized tests for each unit we teach.
I am attempting standards based grading practices and some of my students are failing and make very little effort to do anything about it. I started the year off with the goal of helping every one of my students succeed in math and learn to like the subject. Utopian I know but I believe in No Child Left Behind-the concept not the ridiculous law. Well, reality has set in and I find myself stressed about the results-assessments, evaluations, whatever.
Some of my students love math and some hate it. Probably the same kids felt the same way at the start of the year. Lots of my students are successful and some are still grade levels behind in their skills and concepts.
I also find myself discouraged by the direction of education in this country. No, I am not about bashing public schools and United States education. I am discouraged by the political obsession of over-assessment of students and now the move to over-assess teachers with merit pay based on student achievement or just fire a whole school.
It really bothers me when a student performs poorly on a test or assignment (read anything). (yes, I was the student who wanted extra credit if I had an A- and actually read all (most) of the assigned readings in college) I think I take it personal sometimes.I truly want every student to earn an A in my class and enjoy it.
But the stress I feel this year is more personal. Since it is my first year teaching math I feel like if any of my students fail, my administration will see me as not a good math teacher. I truly want to be a great teacher for my students and want every one of them to be ready for 7th grade and be successful in the future, but deep down inside is also this ugliness about their failure making me look bad. It really is about my own insecurities and measuring my value based on results, assessment, pass/fail, whatever.
As is often the case, church put these feeling in perspective this morning. Rob preached (podcast will be here in a few days) about the obscure Bible story of David spilling water that his men had risked their lives to bring him (II Samuel 23:13-17). David “wasted” the water by dumping it on the ground as an offering to God. David recognized that the water was sacred because of the sacrifice made by his men to obtain it. How did these guys feel watching David refuse to drink this water and instead dump it on the ground. It is easy to feel that efforts are wasted if we only look at the “results.”
We are not the sum total of our accomplishments. My value is not a reflection of my ability or lack of ability to inspire every child to be successful. Teachers and students can not be measured by test scores or other formal assessment. Teachers sacrifice for their students daily in hundreds of ways. That is how I would measure how good a teacher is: how do they sacrifice daily for their students.
We can not control the results.
We can not make our students learn anything.
We love. We care. We support.
We teach. We learn with.
We sacrifice daily.
Teaching is sacred.
Politicians, administrators, parents, success, failure, assessments, whatever.
I am a Teacher. I am sacred through my sacrifice.