This week, if we were chitchatting over warm caffeinated beverages, I’d tell you that I think I’m about to have the best school year of my teaching life!
Yes, it’s true that this school year has begun even more dramatically than last year. The school is requiring us to do double the paperwork of last year. Perhaps even triple! Enough so that it’s been difficult to even grade papers for all the beginning of year (BOY) assignments. Progress report grades are due on Monday, I’m only halfway done with them, and I’m not worried.
Note, I didn’t even say “yet.”
Almost all of the teachers at my school are frustrated, it seems.
Well… the ones I see on a regular basis, anyway. Everyone’s frustrated by the extreme amount of redundancy and the fact that we have to keep data on all of our students. In triplicate.
The thing is, I went through this already two or three years ago at my old school. Suddenly we had to have these extra planning meetings in order to go over the data so that we could better serve our kiddos, and we had to use all these different tests to collect said data. Then, we were using iStation, which is supposed to be used only for elementary, but the district got special licensing to use it on the Freshman class as part of a huge RTI initiative.
Not sure whose graphic I just stole, but it’s cute.
RTI is really the top acronym, though I suppose the bottom one better explains its purpose. RTI is how you respond to a child’s scores and how you differentiate their lesson in order to help them individually be more successful. It’s the added tutorials, or more one-on-one time. It’s all the little things you do, above and beyond the regular work, in order to help a student that isn’t on-level to get on-level.
What scares me is that, after giving my kids a quick reading test (not the most precise, but good for a quick assessment) I found that most of my kiddos were on about a 4th grade reading level. Not good since I teach 10th grade. What this means is that probably 85% of my kiddos are going to need RTI. Meaning that my load of all this extra paperwork is going to be intense.
I could argue that the problem is our society and culture. Our students are losing vocabulary and the ability to think, yet movies, video games, even books, aren’t moving towards a more intense vocabulary level. Instead, they’re dumbing down the the speeches of the characters in order to reflect that our society as a whole is regressing as far as vocabulary is concerned.
Don’t even get me started on how calculators in cell phones have stunted our ability to do basic math…
But back to why I’m not worried…
One of the things that has plagued me for the past few years is that I was constantly being told that my way was obviously wrong, although my way managed to get results. I didn’t have the data to prove that my way got results, and even though I was taught a little bit more about how to use the data a few years ago at my other school, I wasn’t given enough data to prove to me that I was even as good as the other teachers.
It’s hard to know if you’re doing a good job when there’s no comparative data.
It’s even harder when, even though the kids are saying they like the way I teach and that they learned a lot, the adults keep telling me that my methods aren’t good, and that I’m not doing things right…
Basically, my biggest problem is that I needed validation that I wasn’t a horrible teacher, and until this year, I haven’t gotten it from a peer or superior.
Like I said, the kids have told me over and over again that they like my class because they learn AND they have fun. In fact, just yesterday one of my students was telling a new student to my eighth period class that he looks forward to my class all day long. Every. Single. Day.
To hear it gave me a serious case of the warm fuzzies!
But this is the first year I’ve ever had another English teacher tell me I’m doing good work. Even though none of my direct supervisors said anything, several other people mentioned to me that my scores were better than some of my peers who were at school more than I was (remember, I went on medical leave for like 2 months last year). The same coworkers said I have really good ideas, and they like the lesson ideas I come up with.
So, I finally have the validation that I need to assure me that I’m a good teacher.
And, since I’ve done that data thing before, I feel confident that I can now use the data to prove that my methods ARE sound.
That it’s not just a fluke.
That I’m not an imposter.
So while the teachers around me are contemplating quitting, I’m over here, quietly soaking in all the new rules and getting excited because I know I can prove myself to everyone else who has doubted me, because now I have the tools I need to assert myself as a “real” teacher. Not just the teacher whom the kids like, or the cool teacher, or the subversive teacher.
All of which I probably am, as well… But more importantly, I am an effective teacher, and now I can prove it.
And that feels unbelievably satisfying!