Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My 2012-2013 Resolution

In 2 weeks I will report back to work for the 2012-2013 school year. With new legislation having passed, I'm sure I will hear lots about teacher evaluations, value-added metrics, and the importance of test scores. Frankly, I'm already tired of it.

My students are more than a test scores. Despite the rhetoric of the reformers, my students are not products. They deserve more than being measured by a number. They deserve more from me than to be seen as a means to school-improvement score. They deserve more than the empty rhetoric that says the only way they can receive a quality education is to "escape" their "failing" school.

As I plan for the year, I am aware that the optimism of August will soon turn into the realities of November,and maybe even the disillusionment of December or the frustrations of February, before heading to the survival of the fittest in the spring. I know there will be times that I will get angry, tired, upset, and want to run and hide. I know I will be tempted to mail it in at times, and yes, there will be times I won't always give my best. I'm human.

There will be pressure to reduce my instruction to test prep and drill for the only metric that  me, my students, and my school will be judged on by the state. There will be the temptation to just do what I am told. It will be easier not to fight the system, to just go along and get along.

BUT- my students deserve more. Even when they make me angry, they deserve more. Even when they make excuses, they deserve more. Even the ones that I don't teach, but can reach by collaborating with colleagues or by helping on my own time, or my sharing lessons with the teacher down the hall, or by offering a word of encouragement- they deserve more.

So, I resolve to teach as if there is no end of the year test. I am going to challenge my students to read and respond, to write with a real world purpose in mind, to think critically and creatively, and to be responsive to the world around them. I am going to expose my students to a wide range of texts from the world of literature. I am going to push them to think about the ideas and how they impact us. I am going to ask them to discuss and write and express their views in a variety of media. I am not going to mention tests. I am going to teach, stretch, and challenge them because it is what I do as a teacher and it is what they need as students. I am not doing it for a test. I believe they will do fine on the tests if they can do what I challenge them. If not, then the test is not important.

If my efforts to do this and the results I get from my students are not good enough for the state, local administrators, or others, then they can fire me. This is a tree on which I am willing to die. My students deserve it. I have come to the conclusion, there is much more that my students need that isn't measured on a test. What isn't measured may be more important to them than what is.

Do I want them to do well on the tests? Yes. Will I teach as if that is the end goal? No. The best teachers I remember never mentioned tests. They molded me. They challenged me. I thank them for it and hopefully one day, my students will remember me the same way.

This is my resolve. I ask for your prayers for me this year. I will need them. I will need encouragement. I will need strength.

I close with words of the protestant reformer Martin Luther, "Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God."

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