As the days shorten and the clock ticks toward that Tuesday after Labor Day the anxiety grows whether you’re a new teacher or a grizzled veteran. Teaching is a unique job, the kids never get older, sixth graders remain sixth graders.
The edu-news that swirls across cyberspace has surprisingly little impact in the confines of a classroom. In spite the number of teachers in your school a teacher spends his/her day as the only adult in the room, the master of their domain. Yes, the hierarchy sets the curricula, issues the marching orders, and edu-wonks speak to edu-wonks, but kids are kids.
For Miss Smith in the 4th grade it’s those thirty or so smiling, or, not so smiling faces each and every year. It’s not the Progress Report, it’s not the Quality Review, or Race to the Top, it’s how do I keep Juan in his seat, how do I get Angel to be one, it’s all the “real world” classroom situations that a teacher confronts day after day.
In too many schools principals have succumbed to the formulaic approach, an externally imposed checklist geared to interim assessments and data. Data is not a new invention, experienced teachers have always driven their planning and lessons utilizing data: the classroom quiz, the checking of homework and notebooks, the daily questioning,\: the teaching, reflection, feedback and re-teaching cycle that teachers embed in their daily practice.
You don’t read the blogs, you don’t read Ed Week, you do call DeShaun’s parents and urge them to get him to school every day on time. You wonder how Kyle got those bruises. Yesterday’s lesson went so well, the kids were so involved, today they remember nothing. You begin to believe that the phases of the moon impact learning and behavior.
In one school an AP snaps at a teacher, “can’t you keep better discipline?”, in another school he asks the teacher to sit in the back of the room and demonstrates.
In not enough schools supervisors are in classrooms on a regular basis, both monitoring lessons and offering advise and assistence. Sometimes teachers on a grade “chat” all summer co-planning grade activities.
The Mayor and the Chancellor trumphet some new initiative, the President and his homeboy Arnie declare and proclaim that this or that policy will close the achievement gap, increase graduation rates and solve the age-old conumdrums of education.
In the real world Mr. Jones and his teacher colleagues are thinking of ways to decorate their rooms, shopping at Staples, reading those inane missives from their principals.
Somehow all the proclamations, all the new “this” and new “that,” the Race to the Top and whatever just doesn’t get to Pablo and Sally who getting set to “duke it out” in the back of the room.
The clock is ticking, all those wonderful summer plans unfullfilled, those books you planned to read, the lesson plans you intended to write, waking up in the middle of the night, a strange school-related dream, anxiety grows as summer ebbs.
All too soon another class of minds to shape and mold, it really is a wonderful profession.