I work with outstanding teachers. I have been fortunate to have had some great mentors over my 15 year teaching career in the only high school of our school district. Some of the outstanding teachers I work with, at times, doubt their own ability to reach students, to help them grasp challenging concepts, and to help them find the intrinsic motivation to become successful problem solvers in all aspects of their lives. I admire them for their self-reflection and adaptation in their classroom. Teachers are special people who work in a profession that doesn’t always have immediate results in terms of their effectiveness in the classroom as teacher and mentor.
In January I had come back to school after a six week hiatus for family medical leave. Our growing family-the addition of twins-necessitated my leave. When I came back I found myself having a tough time transitioning from father/husband mode back to teacher, mentor, and colleague. Internally I began to wonder if I was in the right position as high school English teacher. I began to wonder if I was truly listening to God’s calling. I subtly started to talk to colleagues about this feeling and, surprisingly, found out that some others felt the same way about themselves on certain days or weeks.
That led me to the conclusion that we…those of us who are teachers…are some of the best people I know. Who else would make the sacrifices we make to help students each and every day of the week? Yes we have a huge responsibility in teaching students and being role models, some of us are even the ‘white collar’ representatives of our towns and districts. I believe that all of the teachers I work with are making an effort each and every day to do the best they can to help students in any way possible. I believe all teachers want to be successful…it is in our nature.
If these things are true, and I do believe they are, why do we have an epidemic in our schools of low achieving students? I posted last week that the arbitrary assignment of a letter grade to a student is not the most accurate indicator of what that student knows. I have some of the best students, academically, in the school attending my class each and every day. I do have other sections that represent the lower half of their class academically. Some students are bright kids but don’t seem to find the motivation or desire to complete the requirements of the course. We have ‘traditional teachers’ delivering instruction the best they can each day. To the contrary, we have ‘technology driven teachers’ that are using LOADS of technology in their classes. Results? Same students are struggling in these classes.
There must be an answer to students earning low grades in our schools. Is it a behavioral issue? Some highly trained, qualified, and engaging teachers believe it is. Is it a teacher efficacy issue? Some administrators believe it is. More questions, then, are raised.
How is the efficacy of teachers to be measured? I know there has been much discussion about merit pay for teachers and so on, but what and how are the variables going to be identified and weighted? What or who exactly is an effective teacher? I have never really seen that defined in my teacher handbook. Who is tracking the success or efficacy of the teachers?
How are administrators going to contain and control behavior in their schools? Furthermore, how and when are teachers and administrators going to be on the same page when it comes to changing school climate and academic achievement? What or who exactly is an effective administrator? Who is tracking the success or efficacy of the building administrators?
Working together, like we ask our students to do, on a unified vision will help raise expectations of our students which, in turn, will increase those arbitrary grades we all have to put on a report card.