Saturday, April 08, 2006

All Workshops, All The Time

My name is TMAO, and I'll be your professional development for the evening. There was the annual county-run ELL workshop a few weeks ago. There was a TFA middle school language arts learning team presentation. I've been asked back to TFA's spring conference for discussions of writing and long-term planning and I'm part of a team that will present our school's instructional model at WestEd's symposium on school reform in two weeks. That, and this here blog got itself a mention on the much vaunted eduwonk, which is all pretty impressive for a kid who still wears Chuck Taylors to work.

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.

6 Comments:

Blogger posthipchick said...

I couldn't agree more- not being honest with students, particularly teenagers, is a crime. They need to know where they fall, if only to motivate them to prove those tests wrong.

It won't work for every kid, but it will work for many.

10:17 PM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

I think it's insulting to give kids a test and NOT show them their scores. But like everything else, it isn't what you do, it's HOW you do it that makes all the difference.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Polski3 said...

I KNOW the feeling of being on the right side of center in a room full of those on the left, left side of center......Stand your Ground!

Echo comments about being honest with the kids. If teachers continue to coddle them, not having reasonable/high expectations for them, or attempt to place "blame" for their failings on race, lack of language or some other factor, then what can these kids expect when they get out in the real world and attempt to survive? Again, stick by your guns!

2:41 PM  
Blogger Ms. H said...

Seriously. This was my favorite part of what you wrote:

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.

Beautiful. I wish the admin at my school saw things your way.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Johanna said...

I can only echo what people posted before me. Oh, and add that you have 4 years real world teaching experience and these people have something like 7 months. I love that these TFA-ers think they have all the answers after a few months in the classroom.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous rstant said...

You are so right. You could make some kind of thesis study out of this point if you ever want to join the dark side.

8:28 PM  

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