One of the English teachers in my department was on the front of the Family & Life section for speaking out at the school board last night. The article ran as "Orange Teachers Complain about Ratings." There is likely an entire lesson in word choice I could teach just with the headline and the less than two-minute video clip.
|Lisa Marie Lewis speaks out at the school board meeting.|
Discovering it was a mix of emotions. There was a time, years and a couple schools ago, where teachers would pass such things around via email or word of mouth while sharing a table in the teachers' lounge. We are not so connected now.
So much divides us.
We are in our fifth year of a "new" teacher evaluation system in Florida. When I work in other places teachers ask is yours a "Danielson state" or a "Marzano state"--shorthand speak for the two most popular teacher evaluation models in our current Race to the Top system. Florida is a Marzano state. Up for debate at the moment are the number of teachers who received "highly effective" ratings. My county went from over 80% rated highly effective to less than 3%. We had a "no harm" year with a new standardized test, but that may not account for such a drastic drop in "teacher quality."
It is frustrating to work your passion in such a system. It can be worrisome too, to entrust your child's education to such a culture, such a system.
It is easy for educators to get beaten down by the rhetoric that labels them as "complainers." It is easy to get discouraged by the shifting target on standardized tests or the changing language from legislature to school room. It is easy, too easy, to listen to the voices that would distract us from doing important work for and with the children in our classrooms. Work that in my classroom world involves reading and writing and speaking every day.
I did not hear what my colleague had to say. I know she advocates for teachers. I have long admired how she not only attends but actively participates in our local school board meetings. The article reported that she discourages students from going into teaching. That line brought me back to one of my own: Quina.
Quina is one of the most talented young women I've ever taught: amazing writer, passionate speaker (she's since recorded and released her own spoken word album), voracious reader and killer volleyball player. She wrote me on Linked In at the end of her senior year at USF asking about becoming a teacher as she neared graduation. I wish I had connected her with Joan Kaywell. I wished I'd followed up. I wish, I wish... we need passionate learners and teachers.
I didn't want to discourage her. But, I might have.
Teaching is hard work. Teaching is also the most satisfying work I've ever done. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't still be working at my craft. I wouldn't still be learning how to be a better teacher. But, I am. Still learning that is. And still loving purposeful acts of instruction: teaching.
I'm proud of my colleague for speaking her piece. I'm glad that there are teachers who take the time to attend board meetings and share their thinking during such public moments. I'm also proud of my colleagues that do the hard work of everyday in the classroom, meeting learners where they are and bringing them to places they never imagined they could go.