The day started like any other: coffee, commute, Power Point creation, teach, plan, teach, lunch, teach, and then . . . my new release period to manage new Instructional Leader duties. See, this year, I was elected by my colleagues to represent them in a department-chair capacity, which our school district calls an “Instructional Leader” position. During the release period attached to this new position, I attend meetings at our district office, attend leadership meetings on campus, order supplies, facilitate reading and writing across the curriculum measures – the usual.
The most important part of my new role, I’m finding, is functioning as a cheerleader for the teachers in my department. Due to the data-driven nature of our current education policies, teachers have found themselves feeling much like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter – the public release of teachers’ "ratings" has caused a severe decrease in morale. Embroidering a scarlet “A” on my professional clothing has, definitely, crossed my mind lately (a concept featured in this teen-movie about to release). . .
More than anything, I’ve found that teachers need a hug. They need an unbiased ear to listen to them. They need a reassuring voice to tell them that they’re NOT crazy – tests designed to measure reading, writing, and math really don’t have any bearing on their ability to teach the whole-child. Creating opportunities for teachers to reflect on their practice – in an invitational and non-threatening or punitive fashion – is becoming crucial to combat the pressures of the current educational climate.
Without divulging too much information about the teachers on my campus or the specific situation in which I found myself, let me just bullet out a few data-driven factors that led up to blowing out the speakers in my Kia on the way home:
· Another meeting about Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
· Creating Corrective Action Tutoring Plans
· Piloting a new teacher evaluation instrument
· Rolling out new curriculum aligned to ACT benchmarks
· Using an entire week of class time to administer pre-tests for new curriculum
· Using another day to administer reading tests to identify ELL students
· Using another day for gifted testing / data collection
· Finding time to meet in teams to discuss ALL of the data
These new data-driven components have resulted in frazzled nerves, less tutoring time for students, and yearbook pictures that reflect drained and blown-out teachers. It’s no wonder that, when the end of the day came around, what was intended as music-therapy in my car ended up being just as destructive as the events that led up to it.