My mailbox had a treat today. One of those red envelopes from Netflix. I already knew what was in it. I have been eagerly waiting to see this movie for quite awhile. Waiting For Superman. This movie has created a lot of buzz in the world of public education. I have heard numerous educators talk about this movie in depth since it came out and I knew that I needed to see it for myself.
As I put it into my dvd player and sat down to watch it, I knew that I was not unbiased. All of the noise I heard about this movie made me pretty sure I was not going to like what I was going to hear or see. However, it's important to know what your critics are saying about you so I hit play.
"Failing neighborhoods are because of failing schools."
"Drop out factory."
"Bad teachers only teach 50% of the curriculum. Good teachers teach 150% of the curriculum."
Yea, this is not a movie that was going to let me feel good about myself. The last comment really struck me as overly simplistic and harsh. According to it, I am definitely not Superman!
After the movie, I sat down and started to count all of the specific performance objectives in every subject that I am required by my state to teach. (I gave up when I reached the 200s.) That number could potentially be doubled next year when I am required to teach both the state standards and the National Core Standards. Then, I wanted to see how many minutes I had with my students to teach them these standards. I have my students daily from 8:30 to 11:50 and from 1:30 to 3:05. Thats a total of 295 minutes a day. Take away time for bathrooms, recess, and transition times probably cost about 30 minutes a day. I believe I have 183 days a year with my students. That comes out to 48,495 minutes of possible instruction time. If you are counting the minutes that are lost on early out days or taken away for assemblies, school plays, and other various activities then that could potentially cost up to about 5,000 minutes a year. So total instruction time is around 44,000 minutes. If I consider that I am supposed to teach about 300 standards a year, that works out to about 140 minutes of instruction time per standard. That includes me teaching it, students practicing it, and then being assessed on their mastery of it. Try teaching 25 seven years olds in this manner and see how successful it is. I have to really be thoughtful and choose the most "important" standards to focus on. My district calls them power standards. Unfortunately, this leaves many standards untouched.
Is it safe for me to admit that I probably teach only about 75% of my required standards? Now this movie declares that I am not a good teacher because I can't find the time to teach 150% of the curriculum. No wonder this movie is called "Waiting for Superman." That is an unrealistic demand and maybe even impossible. (If you're a teacher and you find time to teach that much of your curriculum, let me know and I will retract.) Only a super human can do that.
If that is the kind of teacher the world is waiting on, how long will we have to wait? At my best, I am only human, and at my worst apparently I'm Lex Luthor.