Friday, February 12, 2016

Question 1

There's a little educators' writing challenge going around the internet lately. It's called "Five Questions", and the idea is to answer them and then tag some other teachers to try it, too. My good friend and writing group buddy, Ellen, shared her responses and tagged all of us at our meeting  last night. I was thrilled, because I immediately decided to break it up into a series of five posts, which gave me five days of not having to think of a topic! Thanks, Ellen!

1. What has been your one biggest struggle during this school year?

In general, I've been having a pretty good year. I like my students, and the interdisciplinary grade-level team of teachers I am on works really well together to support our group of 100+ kids. Plus, we have fun together; there is always lots of laughing in our classrooms and in our meetings, too.

I am also at a point in my career where I know how to do what needs to be done: I have a variety of knowledge, skills, and strategies in both my instructional and management tool boxes to handle most situations effectively. Sure, it still takes some time to plan, prepare materials, and assess my lessons, but that's my job, and I like it.

And I've been around long enough to see for myself that trends in education really are like shooting stars burning brightly on a dark night, full of wishes and promises. I do my best not to be dismissive or resentful of programs and approaches that are encouraged or even imposed on us; rather I try to look at them as evidence that teaching is such a complex combination of art and science that the search for a magic bullet is irresistible. I also remind myself frequently that people feel so strongly about public school and education because they know how important it is.

Even so, some of the initiatives that have been added to our practice are burdensome to me. Work smarter not harder! A rising tide lifts all boats! They are all *our* students! Such slogans are often used to rationalize the practice of requiring teachers to collaborate with their grade-level, subject-area colleagues. Common units, common lessons, and common assessments are all the hallmarks of these CLTs (collaborative learning teams), and time has been re-allocated from interdisciplinary teams so that these groups can meet and work together. But cooperation and competition are two sides of the same coin; being required to function as a common unit and actually being a functional common unit are two very different things.

And that is my biggest struggle this year: my CLT is a drain of my time and energy. We spend 45 minutes twice a week checking the meeting box, but every meeting is full of defensive comments and complaints. The time we spend is neither productive nor beneficial to us or our students, and it's exceptionally stressful to be part of such an unsuccessful group, especially when we are bombarded by the expectation that our CLT should be a key component to improving our practice.

I guess I'm just not used to failing.

No comments:

Post a Comment