Monday, December 30, 2013

An important question . . .

www.prweb.com
Below is a post I did on December 30th that I have decided to post again, something that I have not done before.  I don't have a lot of readers and the count always drops over longer holiday breaks so I should plan better for when to post content I would like to see generate comments and interchange between readers.  For me, this is one of those posts, a topic of importance that impacted me when I read the answers that teachers submitted.

Amy Torrens posted a comment to the original post that captures the feeling that many teachers and principals hold about needing to be perfect  that also showed up in one of the comments to the Strauss post.

I think this post captures what I hear my teachers say, and how I feel as a principal. So many people want to do it "perfectly" but there isn't the time to put in place everything we know goes into good teaching.

I won't make it a practice to repost, but this one deserved more readers and the opportunity for comments from those of you that do this important work.  Consider sharing your answer to this question.

ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS 

On the Washington Post Answer Sheet Valerie Strauss poses the following question.


How hard is teaching?

She includes a few examples such as this one below.

“Teaching is hard. Not only because of the curriculum, not only because of the new tests, new rules, new measures. Not only because there are tests, tests, and more tests. But because it so often feels like an insurmountable, thankless, stressful endeavor. The rules are always changing. The tests are always changing. And the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong usually falls squarely on our shoulders.” – Neyda Borges, teacher at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Florida, from this piece on the website of StateImpact Florida, a project of NPR.

How would you answer the question?  I was particularly moved by a comment to the post from palan.

. . . But in some ways the hardest part is never being enough.

You know what, in a perfect world, you would do-- the assignments you would give, the personal attention you would give, the feedback you would give on assignments, the preparation you would put into units. You will never have enough time to do all of it, especially if you have a life of your own (and you have to, even if only to be able to connect to students), and so you must always decide what thing that ought to be done is not going to be done.

You grow every year (if you're any good) and you get better at juggling more balls faster. But every day is still educational triage and you are still bothered by the things you know you ought to do, but you don't have the time or the resources.

You will never be perfect, even though you have a pretty good idea of what perfect looks like. You will always be better than you used to be, but all good teachers know exactly in what ways they are failing.

Please consider sharing your answer with our readers and commenting on the Strauss post.  It is important for policy makers to get closer to the reality of how hard teaching is as they make decisions that impact what young people need to know and do and the resources they allocate for teachers and support staff to accomplish this difficult task.  

1 comment:

Amy Torrens said...

I think this post captures what I hear my teachers say, and how I feel as a principal. So many people want to do it "perfectly" but there isn't the time to put in place everything we know goes into good teaching. I think the key is make sure we are spending the time on the high leverage practices, rather than the routines that make us feel like something is being accomplished (i.e. grading a practice assignment - homework - with a percentage grade so we have something in the gradebook.) That is not a good use of time. Teacher feedback should be given when students are expected to use the feedback to change practice.

One of my jobs then, as principal, is to model this and help teachers identify the higher level practices and help them see they can be imperfect and still a great teacher!