I Was a Shittier Teacher This Week
Every so often I will get a little concerned that I may run out of things to write on this blog. I mean, how much could there be to say about the ludicrousness of teaching?
But every time I think that, God sends me to a meeting, or sends me a memo, or sends one of my administrator-muses into my room.
I had my first evaluations and debriefs in the last several days. The outside evaluator was quite friendly and more or less thought I was doing a pretty good job. She rated me an “effective” teacher.
The inside people, not so much. Ineffective. I am horrible.
Our evaluation system is based on a series of complex rubrics, because I don’t have enough rubrics in my life already. (Goddamn…is there any other profession on the planet that is evaluated this way?) The comments are all very robotic and, to be honest, even though I knew she was coming, it was a lesson that didn’t click. It just didn’t go well and sometimes that happens. So I got marked down because the kids weren’t engaged and for all other sorts of reasons and non-reasons.
It is my responsibility to always be engaging the child, rather than the child’s responsibility to learn how to shut the fuck up, think, and do something he or she doesn’t love once in a while. This HUGE shift in responsibility away from students and families and onto teachers is a topic unto itself. It represents an enormous social capitulation and places an utterly unfair burden on teachers.
So after recounting all the times I had missed opportunities to ask higher order thinking questions, failed to redirect off-task behavior, or whatever, etc, etc…we went on to Part II of the Rubric. This is where we examine all of the 38 things, other than what I am doing when I am teaching, that I am supposed to be doing in order to be an adequate teacher. (These are things made up by my school, not the district.)
Where to start…here are some of my favorites:
• Curricular documents reflect backwards planning, and SMART achievement goals;
• There will be 90% passing rate in all classes; for those students who are struggling, case presentation, referrals to Support Services, and collaboration with teachers and administrators will support student success;
• The attendance rate will be 95%;
• The classroom/work station reflects high expectations through posting of quality student work, data walls, positive messages, and an attractive room that reflects key aspects of the discipline taught;
• The Mission Statement, Creed, and Three Messages are evident in the room and in statements and interactions with students and adults;
• Data is used to differentiate and provide challenge for all students, both those who need significant growth, and those who are more advanced. There is flexible grouping for students, based on data analysis;
• 100% of parents are contacted by email, phone, and/or letter for positive news, progress reports, and/or concerns;
• Attends and fully participates in data meetings as part of the cycle of improvement.
Does any of that sound Orwellian to you? (I especially like that “Three Messages” is Capitalized.) Remember, that’s only eight. There are 30 more where those came from. If you would like to see the full list, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the concerns in my debrief:
1) Slogans not posted on walls;
2) I knew only the individual composite scores of my ELLs on the ACCESS test and not each student’s individual scores for Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking and had failed to provide documentation that my lesson plans had made accomodations for these differences in each student’s ability in Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking (DOH!);
3) Right kind of student work not on walls;
4) Interventions to raise grades and attendence not properly documented;
Here is my point. “Feedback” was entirely negative. Breaks all the rules of basic management communication…or communication in general. Say something nice. Smile. And, in my heart, I know I am not a horrible teacher. But these soulless technocratic nitpick dickheads with their rubrics and their mandates to only find “opportunities for improvement” are doing a great deal of damage to the profession. At least two people have left this year. And the usual crop of new ones are already starting to talk about leaving. Would you stay?
You thought I was “ineffective” last week? You should have seen me this week. Your hyper-critical robotic ways have temorarily demoralized me yet again. I have worked less hard this week than any other week this year due to my only prolonged interaction with you, my boss. I will use the weekend to refresh myself and once again care about children and teaching purely in spite of you. Does this sound like a sustainable model to you? Does this “put children first”? I know…”Fuck it, we’ll just hire 40 more 23 year olds next year.” Good plan.
And good luck.