Teaching to a test.
Data over the child.
Often I find myself stressing out over the three previously mentioned components which have become prevalent in public education. My school, included along with many other ones, is far from being described as perfect. If we were hitting top marks of state testing on a regular basis there would never be an issue. Unfortunately, my school has not (yet) been able to accomplish what Douglas Reeves describes in his coined schools of 90/90/90.
However, we are taking steps in that direction by utilizing an affective process with a clear focus on academic achievement with frequent student progress opportunities. [For those living in Maryland there is an official term for this framework, but it eludes me at the moment.]
In the process, my colleagues and I have written a new framework for each of our terms with a focus on the skills needed for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). In addition, the skills being taught in each unit are pre-assessed with common assessments as our mid-term on two of the skills/standards which students did not fare well on during the pre-assessment. With constant learning opportunities in place and planning a re-teach session after the common assessment, my team is thoughtfully making decisions which is going to enhance student achievement.
However, there are times when the arduous preparation work is makes teaching look less and less desirable. To get through year one of our new framework (which is always the most difficult), I have taken the advice of colleague Jon Harper (@Jonharper70bd) and got my hands on the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and applied the three passions into my daily teaching life.
There are certain topics and standards which I don’t need a lesson plan; I know them so well inside and out. Without a doubt, I could teach weeks and weeks upon them (i.e. argument writing, any Holocaust related text, primary Civil War documents). I love taking students inside and out of particular topics and giving them real-life writing assignments which are posted on individual blogs or sent to a letter to the editor in a local publication. The enjoyment on a child’s face when someone in Australia comments on their blog post or the positive glow in their eyes from seeing their work go to a larger audience is fulfilling.
Then, the horror comes when we move into other units of study which I would rather scratch my eyes out, but it’s demanded by our curriculum framework. For instance, I do not get fired up about many aspects of poetry and my students can tell I am merely going through he motions which is never a good sign. However, these are the days when I need to allow my professional and personal passion kick into full gear.
With the stress of the multi-year transition to the PARCC and Maryland College and Career Readiness Standards (same as the Common Core, but it gets less of a negative connotation in Maryland), I forget about why I entered the field of teaching.
My professional passion is entrenched in students becoming life-long culturally respective citizens of society. I want my students to walk away from my class with a greater understanding of the world around them and how literature (tradition and nontraditional) has documented the world’s history. I love enjoy opening up new doors of information where students are intrigued enough to go out and search for additional information regarding a topic. I love integrating real-world tasks which includes the ever changing technology which is imperative to be proficient in our current society. I am passionate about not letting students fall short due to the horrific educational trends which has made many children into test-taking machine with no ability to apply classroom skills to the world in which they live. I want to model a passion for learning and its effect on not only life, but their lives as well.
Today, I am stepping back from the hectic framework, lesson plans, and growth opportunities to include my professional passion into my daily instruction. I need to be more intentional (which does not always come natural) and focus on my professional passion. Burgess shares a unique perspective about teaching life-changing-lessons (LCL) within his professional passion.
For example in my own instruction, I am working on a writing workshop. I love teaching writing, but not for the mere fact of it’s going to be on an assessment. I want to teach it because the process of writing is valuable in each student’s future (regardless of whatever that future entails). I am going to be teaching an article relating to National Shut Down Your Screen Day (thanks Achieve the Core). Within the teaching, I must deliver the nuts and bolts about the argument writing process (i.e. claim, evidence, counterclaim, rebuttal, etc.) to ensure success. As Burgess stated, “But I also have a hidden and larger agenda. (p.7)” I want my student to see the unbelievable story of what it was like before smart phones, and its incredible effect on individuals (good or bad).” My students are digital natives and do not understand about all the other skills which they don’t possess because technology does it for them. I want to challenge their thinking on the current trends in the technological society we live in and inspire them to think differently about something as common as daily technology usage.
Furthermore, I want them to look into sharing their new found knowledge with friends and family. Will they be willing to create an online petition from Change.org regarding the National Shut Down Your Screen Day (and stick with it)? I want to continually find where I can insert LCL lessons into my daily instruction.
“Professional passion is an absolute treasure chest filled with everything we need to steadfastly refuse to enter the classroom with anything less than a burning hot passion for the awesome job and responsibility that lies before us. Tap into it and feel the power surge through your soul! (Burgess, 2012, p.8).”
Outside of the teaching profession, I am passionate about my family, athletics, West Virginia, technology, and youth ministry opportunities. With time being the most valuable commodity I can never get enough of in life, I must somehow incorporate my personal passion into my daily instruction. For instance, I constantly attempt to incorporate cutting edge technology into my lessons with Google Docs and blogging. Unfortunately, I cannot infuse my personal passions into every lesson daily — my lessons are not all made for it.
Burgess refers to intertwining each of the three passions into a so called “passion monster.” I hope my continuous focus on utilizing my passions into my daily practice will sustain me during long stretches of teaching (which always come at certain times of the year). I want my passion to allow me to look past some of the standardized obstacles which are in my way; focusing on my professional passion will allow me to transform the lives of my students.
There will be difficult days with standards which are not my favorite, but my passion will have an effect on students which lasts well beyond the minutes in my classroom.