“I support you”

Three little words.  That make a difference.

I’ve had a tricky situation to deal with lately.  I’ve been talking through it with a colleague.  The issue is something that I’ve had to deal with on my own. The colleague has been a good listener and added those three words at the end of our conversation.

I’ve never really thought much about those three words.  I don’t hear them very often.  Being single, I really don’t hear them at all.  It’s nice.  It feels good to know that someone’s got my back.

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A nice surprise

Tuesday was the first day of school.  We were expecting over 1800 students and starting a new breakfast program so we were all a little apprehensive.  The day (and the week, for that matter) went quite well.

After the homeroom time I headed back to my room to meet my Algebra 1 students.  When I got there, I found more than just students.  A young man showed up and introduced himself and said he was a T.A.  There are a few students in my class with special education needs and as a result, I have Mr K in my room for the hour.

It would have been nice to know ahead of time that I’d have Mr K.  At first I wasn’t sure how to react.  I’ve never had another adult in the room when I’m teaching.  He told me he’s there to help these two kids in particular, but he usually just walks around the room and helps all of the kids.  Could this be true?  Another competent, helpful adult in my classroom?  I’ll admit, I was very skeptical.  I was also rather self-conscious that someone would be watching me teach every day.  It’s one thing to act like a goof in front of teenagers, it’s another in front of adults.

As the week progressed I worked my way through the new technology and the new students.  I had a few that missed the first 2 days of school.  While I was teaching on Thursday, Mr K discretely went to the kids that had missed and set down his notebook for them to copy the notes from the day before.  How cool is that?  He knew exactly what they needed and did it.  I didn’t have to direct any of it.

I’ll admit that I was apprehensive at first when Mr K showed up at my door.  But I think this is going to be a pretty cool arrangement.  And best of all…  Maybe we can catch all of those kids that fall through the cracks instead of just a few.

Have your cake and…

eat it too?  Apparently my district thinks this is possible.  I get it that they want to wish big.  But in the meantime, they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth.

On the one hand, they want us to all be on the same page at any given time.  We’ve been given pacing guides about which chapter to be on and when.  We’ve been doing common assessments in my school for a few years now.  We only do the common ones at the end of each course.  But it’s a start.  A lot of us share tests or work off of one someone has already made for the chapter tests.  We also have to have standards posted and guiding questions posted. Every high school and junior high use the same texts.

The elementary teachers have it worse (I think).  They have a reading program called MONDO.  Apparently that curriculum is scripted and they all have to move along at the same pace, etc.  That must be exciting for the kids…

So this past week during the superintendents address we were reminded of all of the above stuff and we’re told that we’re supposed to do differentiated instruction.  Differentiated instruction in a land of cookie cutter programs and scripted teaching.  Which way do you want it folks?

Any teacher worth their salt is already trying to do differentiated instruction and tailoring their classes to the needs of their students within the confounds of the script.  But what if this doesn’t fit the district’s plan?  What if my Algebra 1 students aren’t able to start on Chapter 4 in the book?  What good does it do for me to skip over chapters 1, 2 and 3?  None.  But if a district person comes to observe me and I’m not on the right page, then what?  Am I labeled a bad teacher?

I may be oversimplifying the “exact page” concept in a few cases.  But I’m not that far off from the reality of what’s expected.  As teachers we’re professionals that are trained to assess students and figure out what they need.  I have been taught a variety of instructional methods to accomplish the task of educating my students.  One of the reasons I like teaching is the variety of each day and my freedom to change-up the instruction and do what I deem best for my kids.

It seems to me that the people in charge of education want to treat it like a one-size-fits-all program.  They know that that is not the case.  But they’re so desperate for results, we’re treating kids as if they are all the same.  All kids have different talents, interests and abilities.  Until we recognize this it’s not going to be possible to have your cake and eat it too.