Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Hate This Time Of Year

Three days left.

I'm still teaching.

I don't like this time. I feel like shit. I'm doing the look-back, and the self-reflection, and I don't like it. This school year I've given seven workshops, three WestEd presentations, directed one training institute, been interviewed for a forthcoming Mercury News article-torial on school reform and it couldn't feel more disingenuous. More falsely ridiculous. I'm not sure I've really done anything with these kids to justify standing in front of anyone and saying, look, I got some answers.

I don't know how to get A., J., or E. to give a shit. I don't know how to turn K., J., and D.'s shit-giving into tangible progress. I don't know how to invest families. Seven kids will need to repeat H.P. B. After an extra 50 minutes of instruction, Saturdays, after-school programs, and I foster an anemic single-year growth in these kids. I haven't examined the H.P. C results, but let's assume the same rates. All that for the one-year growth you're supposed to do anyway? With all the 3-in-1 rhetoric, posters on the wall, and the wide-eyed really? of everyone who hears what you're gunning for? And you do this?

Shit man, send em all to charters or some other teacher, because I suck.

None of this is necessarily new. I've been fighting and railing against our drudging stagger toward proficiency all year. But there was always more time left. Kids who hadn't made the leap, who hadn't built the language that enables rapid skill growth, there was always more time. There was always time for another lesson, another chance to practice, to review, to discuss. Not anymore. Time's up.

I've been doing selection interviews for a teacher training program, and one of the questions I always ask is: "In thinking of the interplay between teaching and learning, what percentage of the responsibility for student achievement rests on the teacher? Quantify it."

A lot say 50%. Some think they're bold with a 60%. At the end of one interview, one candidate asked how I would answer.

"Ninety-eight percent," I said.

That's why I'm sitting in this funk, a six-pack of shit-ass Tecate deep, why I'm not grading the final response to literature. Ninety-eight percent. I really believe that, even when I'm not in a discussion group or writing reflection essays. I believe it and I know the falling short is larger and more pervasive than the 2% margin of error.

I worked harder, but not smarter. I became enamored with the cleverness of my instructional program design, trusting the inherent checks to work, but not checking if they did. I managed behavior rather than taught better ways, and the quality of teacher-student interaction suffered. I did a terrible job investing parents in my class and my goals. I was awful at grading and returning work with meaningful feedback, and that struggle is neither entertaining nor clever. I was too rigid.

Do I feel like this every year?

Yes, I do.

But never with more justification.


Anonymous Jeri said...

So you recognize it and you've identified the specifics and you've owned it. That's good and it's one of the best indications that you will do better next year.

And don't forget that the story isn't over yet, and you don't even know where in the plot line you popped in, having whatever effect that this year is going to have on the long story.

Only wallow for a while, though, OK?

5:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

You don't suck. We all feel like this at the end of the year- those of us who are worth our weight in Xerox toner, anyway.
Teaching ELL kids is a whole different kind of teaching, and it sounds like you are doing a good job. And next year, you'll do even better. But, remember: you are not a robot. You are a person and people need to have lives outside of their jobs.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous slim said...

I'm so thankful that there are teachers like you!

12:49 AM  
Blogger pseudostoops said...

Happy end of school year, buddy. You make me wish I was still teaching, but also glad I'm not still teaching because you'd be a hard yardstick to measure up against.

I'm in town this weekend. Let's go out for a beer.


7:16 AM  
Blogger KauaiMark said...

Congrats om the SJ Mercury writeup this morning...


8:32 AM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

Hi. Those kids. You know, the ones you're not sure about. They may be deeply affected by you. You can't see it right away. I watch my teenager and know that.

The lag in outcomes after treatment is a huge problem for us reasearchers, and even more so for folks on the ground. Wait and see.

You need the summer. Then come back. A new group.

1:02 PM  
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6:07 AM  

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