All Workshops, All The Time
At the recent TFA learning team I presented materials on test prep, poetry, and year-end projects. I did anger one of those PC-TFAers with my point-of-view remembering tactics: 3rd: omniscient is "God or Santa Claus," 3rd: limited is "Spiderman," and 1st is "Grand Theft Auto." I expected to get dinged for bringing the word "God" into public schools or excluding students with the Santa Clause mention, but apparently it was my implicit support for the undeniably violent, misogynist video game that caused ire. Look man, alls I want to do is raise achievement, I ain't trying to offend no one.
The other contentious moment came when I talked about how I show kids their CST scores, explain the meaning, and ask them to set goals for themselves. Some felt that this would make the kids sad or be interpreted as insulting, or some such thing. I didn't push it, because I hate being the most right-wing person at any gathering of TFAers, but I think that the overall lack of low-achievement self-awareness in our communities is a serious failing. Especially given our homogeneous grouping, the lack of positive academic role models exacerbated by small and charter school's skimming, and the disparity between grades and mastery of standards, I think there are a fair number of kids who really do not understand how far behind they are. I'm serious. There's this false self-satisfaction that does not come from laziness or personally low standards, but rather the lack of knowledge and the positive comparison that can be made to even lower performing family and peers. They don't see it. It seems ridiculous because some of us cannot ever shake the thought from our minds. It is the lens through which we view our classrooms and drive our instruction, it's why we break our backs in pursuit of gap-closing, but if kids are not similarly imbued with this reality, we create those awful chasms between teacher and student where the former cares more and works harder than the latter. Not so good.
I think this TFAer -- and other teachers of similar ideological disposition -- is afraid of insulting them or hurting their feelings. Fine, but not only are there ways to avoid this, we are in service of a higher goal. I have 60 students yet now. None are proficient or advanced. Three are in the "Basic" category, five in the "Below Basic," and the rest are "Far Below Basic," the lowest academic ranking in California. How do I not inform them? How do I not remind them? They need to know that the 3 in 1 posters on the wall are not there to cover the depressing paint. We are called to action.
Monday they're getting their score again, the ones that show their last three years of academic performance. They will see how low they rank, they will see that more than 80% of them fell further behind last year, and they will set performance goals for the California Standards Test we administer in three weeks. I will tell them to think big because they're gonna score big. I will tell them that not one of them will fall further behind, that our hard work will enable us to catch up, pull even, and then move ahead where we belong.