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In Pursuit of Happiness

Source: YouTube Video

Stashed in: Education!, Education

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She makes many good points.

"I originally intended for this video to be watched by my administrators and my community; I had no idea it would reach so many. The thousands of stories already shared with me from around the globe that mirror my own are both critical and heartbreaking. I cannot change the system from within, so I leave to allow myself to continue teaching in my way, on my terms. I never planned on giving up, and I never will. If you are interested in learning more about me and my future educational endeavors, feel free to visit"

This is a tough one. My administration is not like that, they're good, and our teacher eval system has a bit more latitude--it'll take 3 years to remove someone--but the system's not objective. It's very easy to move a box up or down on the rubric. My first eval was terrible. I was not "seen taking attendance" (poor records management) and I was "off task talking to a student about Twinkies... (actually, I was referring to calc/economics graphs about demand and price point that we'd done earlier when we discovered the Twinkie would be math w 15 year olds:)  In fairness, my lesson was not theatre--I'd just been given my "standardized midterm"...had to cram in vocab to prep students...I wouldn't teach that lesson normally--I'd have rated it average, not the abomination score I got. So, it's tough to judge a 30 minutes snapshot out of context...and it can go either way. I've learned what is necessary to survive these on the fly, and bounced back w 2 good evals... but do I need 3 a year? Never had so many in any other career... 

I've thrown out great two-part lessons because I knew I might be evaluated, and I needed all the "elements" in that snapshot. Basically, you have to learn to game it, "Did I hit 3A on the rubric?" 

We have these goals, "Student Learning Objectives." I picked one that was way too hard to measure and made the targets too high to reach. We do have a chance adjust, but without really understanding the process, I couldn't predict the need--not meeting those #'s is enough to label me an "ineffective educator." Others, who are measuring 20 students with an easier goal to my 177 with a difficult goal will hit their #'s and be rock stars. It's not consistent--by definition, that makes the math invalid. I think I'll pull through this year. Next year, I'll design easy goals. I'll have secret goals for myself. But I have literally seen a woman in one school downgraded because "her (high school) student didn't have a pencil." 

I have 2.5 degrees. I've worked on projects that were worth millions. I've spent millions for corporations without being babysat. I own two businesses. I write for several venues, and in Job Two, I get to work with visionaries. In Job One, education, I must teach to reinforce standardized tests, all the curriculum for the department must be standardized, and the work I have to do for the teacher eval system literally took me maybe 70+ hours this year. I spent entire weekends correcting--not designing lessons. Statewide, I watched teachers take sick days just to process their data by deadlines. My kids spent about 8 days each doing tests to reinforce my teacher eval goals--(oh, and they had tests for other classes). So, I haven't had the experiences of personal hate that this poor teacher has--I like my administration--but I've cried over data. My husband said, "Get professional help."  

And this is no picnic for my admin. When I'm discouraged, I look at them--3 evals and 2 meetings per employee times 80 employees--that's 400 meetings. When are they supposed to have time to lead and inspire if they're too busy being required to give these tests and watch over me. My solution--less monitoring. We have the technology now to assess students on a minute by minute basis. Doesn't need to be standardized. Also, don't hire people you don't trust--I wouldn't for my business. Don't do it here--hire visionaries. Then you get innovative solutions, not battles. 

This is the point in our business where I'd say, "Hmmm...what's going on--what are the unintended consequences?" Then, there'd be a pivot. If this pivot comes, I can respect this--the original intent was to find a way to raise education across the board--to get those schools that are underperforming at the level they need to be... I respect that. I also respect the need to identify how to make teachers great... It's not a formula, though. I'm great because I will do anything to help a student. I read them, I form those relationships... I get the job done.  This year I felt I didn't do a great job because I was worried about or working with data and testing. 

I predict grade inflation (if you tell me that XX data can cost me my job, damn straight students will achieve XX). I already see it. I see a lot of teachers state wide, and I'm seeing some major gaming of the system. The bad teachers already know how to game the system--a new system isn't going to deter them;)  Decrease in student engagement is a result. I actually mock my own tests, "Sorry guys, another test... get this done and we'll do XXX after." 

Here's what I wrote to cheer myself up, because when I need inspiration or have to battle bureaucracy, I think back to my Russian friends, the best entrepreneurs and innovators in the world. They can get around anything:

I'm giving this another year, hoping that leadership will pick up on these unintended consequences of teacher reform. I have to trust that the intentions were there, and that we have to say, "how can we fix this?" If that happens, I have even more respect, and I forgive this year, which has literally been the worst of my professional life. I'm watching the good teachers walk out the door--startups, other careers, doesn't matter. This is going to be the year to watch as far as ed policy and trends. 

Sorry for the length here, if you got to the end of this response. 


I agree with you.

The system is even worse than I thought.

It is what it is... what people don't realize is that the United States commits to free public education for everyone. We go through great lengths to do so.  I really try to make sure every one of my students succeeds, but sometimes, they're not ready. It's not an indictment. I make no judgment. And I remain ready to help them through life--mine are older, so they can find me on SM and always reach out. I've mentored many of them. We need to be okay with allowing failure. And it can't cost us our jobs. We wouldn't fire a doctor if a patient passed. It has to be viewed more like that... Hire experts. Respect them. Simple. 

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