Thursday, January 24, 2013

Now That's The Truth

I joined an interesting webinar tonight hosted by NNSTOY, featuring Charlotte Danielson and Teacher Evaluation. Needless to say, it was incredibly informative. About halfway through the webinar I realized I should have been taking notes...because Charlotte speaks the gospel as far as I can tell. So while I missed my opportunity to scribe the words of wisdom that were tickling my brain at that moment, I did manage to capture one major epiphany.

What struck me as bold and true was this statement:
Teaching is so hard that it can never be perfect.
Knowing that one of the most well-respected gurus in education believes teaching is hard is validating. I recently had a conversation with another educator, in which the educator characterized elementary teaching- primary in particular- as babysitting. This popular misconception changed for her after working in an elementary school for one day.

Charlotte furthered her statement with this quote:

…..classroom teaching…. is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented….The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during a natural disaster.

-Lee Shulman, The Wisdom of Practice

As many of you know, in my Decree Your Degree initiative, I have often compared teachers to doctors.

So, yes, my formal APPR observation was last Friday. I couldn't believe how nervous I was! I don't know what came over me. I've been less nervous to speak in front of an audience of thousands...but I digress. Or do I? Could it be that I recognize how incredibly difficult teaching is, and that despite the best laid plans most lesson are more similar to the emergency room scenario noted above than a choreographed dance? 

Teaching is so hard that it can never be perfect. Thank you, Charlotte.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You'll Be Fine

Last night I didn't sleep very well. I tossed and turned. I had a disturbing dream. What was the dream, you ask? Well, it was a teacher dream.

I dreamt that I was forced to transfer to sixth grade (I teach second grade). I dreamt that I had no choice in the matter, and was not consulted. I dreamt that I was nervously greeting my new students, trying to get to know them, while at the same time trying to remember what I was supposed to teach. The overall feeling of the dream was incredible discomfort, nervousness, and a sense of hopelessness at not having a choice in the matter.

Now why did I share this information with you? I shared this because I have very real feelings of nervousness and anxiety about the changes to our new teacher evaluation, just like all the other teachers I know. Yes, yes, the dream was not exactly about APPR, but the reality is the feelings I experienced are the same as those I feel about my upcoming observation. Regardless of the generous titles I have earned, (and the most wonderful experience a teacher could ever have) I am still a human teacher who sometimes has lessons flop. I, like every other teacher I have spoken to in NY this year, am very nervous about this brand new process, as well as very hopeful that the day my administrator observes me is not one of my "off" days!

On countless occasions during a conversation about APPR I have been told, "You'll be fine." On many of those occasions I've also been told enthusiastically (and very kindly,thank you) "You're Teacher of the Year! Why are you worried?" Yet, I'm still nervous, and of course I have put forth an extraordinary effort to complete a thorough pre-observation form (thanks for the help Jen R.!) and a well thought out lesson plan. Wouldn't you?

My point is this: Every good teacher- every great teacher- is nervous. That's because we are reflective, conscientious, determined professionals. And, we are ALL  striving to put our best foot forward. Anyone who looks at me in response to a question about my lesson  and deprecatingly says to me, "Ugh, your APPR? You'll be fine. Geez. I can't believe you're asking me that." doesn't understand the true nature of teaching, or teachers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Teacher Truths

We had a wonderful field trip to Siena College to see a basketball game. It was a fantastic experience for the children! They had the best time! I had a great time, too, watching my students enjoy themselves while staying in control and being both respectful and responsible...a teacher's dream! I returned to the school relieved, and partially deaf.
After the game, I got to thinking about some things that have happened over the last few days, and how "stuff works" as a teacher. Here are some teacher truths that occurred to me today:
No matter how many times you have told them to "go back and reread", they don't.
If you say, "Put your name on your paper", at least one person won't.
If you tell the children to use the bathroom, and one says he doesn't have to go, he WILL have to go as soon as you don't have a bathroom nearby.
If there is a bathroom on the bus, the children will use it. Unless you tell them it's broken, and then magically nobody has to go.

That's just a few from today! There are many, many teacher truths. Can you think of one?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Love the Teaching

     I really do love teaching. As I walked down the hall today, I thought to myself, "I feel happy when I'm teaching." And I do. I love interacting, showing, developing and scaffolding and building the understanding until I see the glitter in one pair of eyes, then another and another, until hands are in the air and smiles are on their faces.  I love thinking of a new, better way to lead kids to that understanding, and I have a lot of fun singing about math- especially since the best co-teacher in the world (Julie) is so talented at making up songs about tough math topics. I love saying "Good morning" and even, "Where is your homework?". I love when my little darling with the huge 'tude can't resist my sweet as candy patience and understanding and ends up complying with my wishes despite her previous eye rolls, tongue clicks, and shoulder shrugs. Teaching is not hard. The paperwork, heartache, and red tape is hard. But the teaching...that, I love.