Monday, September 29, 2014

I've Stopped Caring.

 So much of the change in me as an educator has been governed by external forces.  While I was on this earth the day that JFK was assassinated, I was only 2 and was probably taking a nap.         

The same can not be said for knowing where I was when the Challenger exploded in 1986 (first day back to work after the birth of my son),  September 11, 2001, (at a prayer breakfast, as I was only teaching half time that year), and the shooting at the Amish school at Nickelmines, 1/2 a county away - about 15 miles from my own school (where I was in an elementary school computer lab with students.) All of these events, along with many other lead stories on the news in the last fifteen years has impacted education -- and me as an educator.


We are nearing the end of the 30 Day Blog #reflectiveteacher Challenge from the Te@chthought folks.  Today's challenge:

Day 29

How have you changed as an educator since you first started?



While my sense of claustrophobia will most assuredly keep me from going to space -- giving me some control over THAT scenario, the possibility of an attack at school now seems like the norm instead of a far off possibility.  We've gone from code red intruder drills to a new "run for your life" scenario that causes nightmares for parents, students and teachers.

In fact, fear seems to permeate education, and educators these days.

Talk to any teacher, and you'll soon realize that success as a teacher is no longer defined by any assessment designed by anyone within the confines of the school or the educational system.  We are told that we will never be distinguished teachers on the new evaluation.  No matter how hard we try. This is a hard pill to swallow, as most teachers are Type A personalities, wondering what they can do to fall into the upper echelon of the review rubric, and frantically trying to modify their lesson plans, their time commitments, their communication skills, etc, in an attempt to move into the zip code of the "Distinguished Teacher."

The same can not be said for most students.  Kids specifically ASK whether material presented is "going to be on the test" rather than caring about the process of learning.  Our society has done this to them, and to itself.  Education is no longer about learning, it's about gathering the facts necessary to show proficiency to the state.  My friends who are college professors look down their noses disapprovingly at those of us in the high school world, wondering why we do things like give students the chance to "retake" exams and rewrite papers.  High school teachers blame middle school teachers for not teaching kids to research and write;  middle school teachers blame elementary teachers for not drilling times tables.  Teaching has turned into a game of finger pointing and blame.  And, in my case, apathy for the system.


So how has all of this fear and blame changed me as an educator in the last sixteen years?  I've stopped caring.  Yes, you heard me.  I've become numb to the machine, the man, the system.  I've given up on the goal of "living in the zip code of distinguished" in favor of my students.  I have rejected the system that is supposed to motivate me to create perfect graphic organizers, and started asking kids to design them themselves.  I've stopped grading papers on arbitrary rubrics created by someone outside my room, and started including kids in that process.   I no longer force a lesson to arrive at the almighty "summarizer" I've designed; instead we, as a class, find our way to summarization that makes sense for the path we've explored during the class period.  I've changed my mindset to one of growth, thank you very much Carol Dweck, and finally realized that teaching is not about knowing the answers -- it's about asking the questions.  AND, it's about asking the questions in such a way that the kids are motivated to look for the answers themselves and maybe, just maybe, learn something along the way.

My biggest change as an educator is that I have evolved into a tour guide on the path to discovery.  And the view from the front of the bus shows only the horizon of possibilities.   I love the new me.  Every day is a new adventure, as I witness discovery, excitement, and enthusiasm through the eyes of my students.  It's a great gig, and it's mine!