Confessions of a 21st Century Teacher – Part 2

I’m saying all of that to say this. When you have teachers saying all of this bull@#*& about “I do…uhg!”

She paused as if she were finished. Then she continued.

Remember last week? That’s where we left of with Ms. 21st Century Teacher. She was in the middle of reflecting on her frustrating professional development experience. This week we continue with her thoughts as promised.

A reminder from last week: this teacher is an effective one. She’s skilled at engaging traditionally low performing students in critical thinking, and has the ability to excite students about learning. Ms. 21st Century Teacher works until 9PM weekday evenings and on Sundays to prepare for her students. She is no excuse maker. I mention her work ethic so that potential questions do not interfere with your empathy toward her. And so with that, here is the continuation of Confessions of a 21st Century Teacher.

“Yes. I know I’m rambling, but I just need to say it. I just need to say it because I can’t say it here because I don’t know who will go back and say something to the principal. But what I’m saying is this: at the end of the day if you have kids…” She breathed deeply to collect her thoughts, then explained, “Okay you know in third grade you have kids who should be around L, M, N, O, that’s where they should be. I have kids in my class who really truthfully and honestly are reading at a Level D. They are no place close to an L or an M. Then I have kids that are reading on Level R—maybe four of them. And then I have a good chunk of them that are at an L…like bordering third grade reading level. How am I doing all of these other things?”

“How?” Now she escalated to a soft yell—the whisper yelling you do when you don’t want to be heard.

“And this is not exclusive to me. There are other classes that have this too. So how? How are they doing all these other activities and these skills?” Ms. 21st Century Teacher leaned in toward me, clenched her hands and  raised her shoulders as she heightened her intensity. “They can’t really grasp a third grade sentence, but you’re doing all of this stuff with them? She took a deep breath then exhaled. “No you’re not. You’re lying!”

As if in mid-thought she calmly asserted, “Because you really have to spend time breaking s@#t down and getting them to understand the fundamentals. And my top group? I take them to the next level with it.”

She began imitating herself as if she were processing with her students saying, “Okay now you know how to answer a question and you do it in a very exquisite manner. Now I want you to start quoting where you get your information from and I want you to say ‘In the text…my evidence in shown in the text in paragraph 2, sentence 1.’ That’s where I’m taking my upper level group. My middle group? I have to get you to answer the question properly. My lower level group? I just got to get you to answer it. I can’t [ask you yet to] restate the question, answer, and give me a supporting detail. I’m just getting you to answer it. Just to find the answer. Then later on I’m going to start moving you to that next level.

She returned to the boasts of her colleagues. “These other teachers, they’re lying. They’re lying. They’re not doing all of that.”

“And I’m looking around and they are always posting s@#t–putting up, putting up, putting up.” At this point she began imitating a frantic teacher putting up student work around the room.

And then she remembered. “Plus you know what? Every time a student does work, we have a thing where you…okay say the student does a drawing and you put up the drawing, you have to have a rubric for the drawing. “You’ve gotta have a task, the rubric, the standard and then every single drawing has to have a Post-it—she leaned forward to enumerate with her fingers for emphasis.—what they did right, what’s the next step. That’s art.”

She listed even more with her fingers, “Social studies, math, science, ELA. Your’re talking about 5 subjects and 30 kids—I’m lucky I got 28 this year—but 30 kids in your class and every single thing they do you have to do that. Every single thing they’re doing?”

She rested in her chair and exhaled. “These teachers are in here lying.”

“Can you imagine that?” The teacher moved her hands feverishly to imitate the gesture of dispensing materials as she exclaimed, “Post-it! They just did the math. Post-it! Post-it! Okay. Post! Okay. Here’s the rubric.”

“Can you imagine that?” She continued. “Not to mention, you have the new [vendor name deleted] system—which calls you to break up into table groups, then you have the guided reading –which calls you to break up into groups and take notes on that, oh and take notes on your [vendor name deleted], then you have your RTIs—take notes on them and put them into groups, then you have your math groups—break them up and you write notes on them, then you have your RTI math groups and you take notes on them. All these groups and you take notes, plus….”

She paused then leaned in, exhaled again and continued “They’re lying. They’re not doing all of this.”

“And whoever thought ‘Wow! They don’t have enough to do. Let’s make them take notes on every single thing they are doing,’—she said sarcastically –“they’ve never been in the classroom. And what they have contributed to is a bunch of manipulative, conniving, deceitful, wretched teachers.

“I know. I went off on a tangent. I just had to release that.”

After allowing the teacher to vent, I reflected and I wondered about the instructional culture at her school as her principal views it. Then I wondered what other leaders had this teacher at their school—effective and fed up.

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