Sunday, September 12, 2010

September musings...

Everyone is talking about teachers and accountability. A woman asked me at church today, "why don't teachers want to be held accountable?" and that started a whole conversation about how I believe we are very much held accountable and why.

It's good that we are talking about assessments and ways to help students learn in the school day. The achievement gap is something real, with success in school often tied to economic level and parental ability to support their child's learning.

Despite all economic differences between students, though, teachers can and do make a world of difference to students. Effective teachers matter because we open doors in the mind.

My students come charging into my class on the first day. It is as hot as a sauna in my room and I try to keep cool while jumping around with our warm-up activities. I look around - every kid is somebody's baby and some of them have had siblings in my class.

"You had Andrew in your class, Maestra," said a perky girl with a very familiar face. "Yeah, and you had my cousin Joe!" said another.

On parents' night, I see their moms and dads take their childrens' seats. They have expectant faces with bright eyes.

I wear the same suit to meet the parents that I wore to meet the president even though I am roasting in long sleeves and my face is bright crimson by the end of the night.

"Aren't you awfully hot?" says a worried mother.
"Hey, if I wore this to the White House, I should wear it for you!" I answer.

Everyone laughs.

Even though the news often seems to paint teachers as public enemy number one, the atmosphere in room 115 and all over the school is jubilant.

And just like us, all the other neighborhood schools have shining floors and lesson plans ready to launch.

September is like this.

The secret is that teachers look forward to the start of the school year. We like to meet our new students to try out the latest and greatest strategies. We want to get better at what we do and we know that our students' success, is the greatest accountability ever.

I got an email the first week of school.

"Hey, Maestra," it read, "College is going really well. I wanted you to know that I placed into the highest level of Spanish and I got an "A."

It sometimes takes a few years to know whether what you are teaching has sunk in and sometimes it takes the student himself a while to realize it.

Learning is gradual and at some point, the light goes on.

As a teacher, sometimes you get to see it, up front and personal, and sometimes you are lucky enough to hear about it years later.

Now that's accountability!

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