December 31, 2012
These 3 Things I Know are True....
1. Politicians are forcing educators to eat their own.
Recently in Illinois, lawmakers have mandated that student performance and growth should be measured by school districts and USED in teacher performance ratings. In the next few years, Illinois school districts will be forced to incorporate the new laws and determine how student performance can be measured and then injected into individual teacher ratings. While I do believe that we must be held accountable for the success of our students as educators, I believe this will have a negative affect on our profession.
Paramount to the start of any successful professional career is a training program that gets you ready for the job. For educators, spending a semester as a student teacher serves this purpose. It is a valuable time to ride with training wheels. Most student teachers are allowed to make mistakes and learn from trial and error more than anything. But what happens when student performance is tied into a teacher's evaluation? Will school districts be lining up to accept student teachers knowing it could have a negative affect on student outcomes? Moreover, will teachers be lining up to accept student teachers knowing a 21 year old kid will be teaching their classes and possibly, yet indirectly, be contributing to their job performance rating? Unless the law changes or school districts adapt this law drastically to fit the needs of their students and teachers, student teaching, as we know it, is gone.
2. Every school needs first year teachers.
When I first started teaching, I was fortunate enough to have one of the most intelligent, well respected, and down-to-earth mentors assist me through my first year (and beyond). This year, I was assigned my first new teacher to mentor and it has been an absolute pleasure. Being around first year teachers has such a positive effect on everyone in the building. For me personally, it has forced me to think back to when I first started teaching and what a difficult year that can be for anyone.
But for us as educators, don't we realize how lucky we are to have a job? Most first year teachers made it through the 1000 person lines at job fairs, phone calls, emails, interviews, schmoozing, and political rings just to get that job- just like we did when we started. It takes you back.
But first year teachers are among the most unfailingly positive employees in the building. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us.
Having first year teachers around also forces us to articulate exactly what we do and exactly why we do it. It is hard to mentor a teacher and not provide a rationale for any and everything you pass on including curriculum, lesson design, communicating with others, and carrying yourself as a professional. It's a great "gut" check to reevaluate where you are at professionally.
3. If you don't run, you rust.
If you are a Tom Petty fan, you get the reference. This school year, our district gave every student a Google Chromebook. For many of our teachers and our students too, this sent a shock-wave through our common conception of how we "do" school. If I have learned anything from this first semester of teaching in a digitally revolutionized classroom, it's, "if you don't run, you rust." This is how students in the 21st century are going to learn and we are providing the skills they will need to compete in a 21st century job market. While my classroom instruction has generally been current with the latest and greatest technology tools in the classroom, my personal and professional life has been lagging behind. I was, in fact, the last of my friends to take the IPhone plunge. So this is why I am on twitter. This is why I follow educators around the world. This is why I am going to conferences to stay connected. This is why I am blogging today and in the future. Adapt or perish.