This, from an open letter a very dear friend wrote in response to meeting “evaluation standards.” I think she’s spot-on.
The VCCS wants me to do scads and scores of paperwork to know if I “meet expectations” as a teacher. They want measurements that are quantifiable. This is all well and good if it didn’t resoundingly smack of No Child left Behind and Common Core practices, the one size fits all models of teaching and learning with their inherent mistrust of educators.
Do I meet expectations?
Tell me how I should measure the moments when students come to my office and say, “Ms. Haines, I know I’m not going to pass your class, but I want you to know that I learned so much from you.”
“Ms. Haines, after this unit on media literacy, I realized I needed to step up and be a more involved parent. I now realize that I have to provide my two kids with some balance.”
“Ms. Haines, thank you for believing in me until I could believe in myself.”
“Ms. Haines, I just wanted you to know I’ve started to read to my kids at night.”
How would you like to measure the times when my students show up hungry to my office for an appointment and, at 2:00, tell me they haven’t eaten yet that day. At the ready are always some snacks and hot soups so I know they’ve eaten at least once that day.
Tell me how I should measure the change in attitude a student has toward his or her own educational opportunities and the subsequent determination in a student’s work after having read Frederick Douglass’s “How I Learned to Read and Write” or Jonathan Kozol’s “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society.”
Tell me how to measure igniting in a student a love for learning rather than the desire to merely regurgitate information for a test.
Tell me how to measure the “light bulb” moments they have (we’ve all seen them) when they see how the semester’s readings thread together in a uniform whole?
How would you like me to quantify creativity and passion? How would you like me to quantify their growth as citizens or human beings?
How do I measure transitioning them from the literal to the inferential and evaluative? From the mirror books of their own lives to the window books of the world?
Tell me how to measure the countless conversations in my offices with students who feel lost, whose family lives are in disarray, or who are suffering domestic violence…finding them safety, food, shelter, counseling, etc.
How do I measure fostering the collegial relationships in the hall with colleagues from different disciplines who help us look at content and at our students from perspectives that we might not have considered?
These are the moments in teaching that matter. It’s the daily interaction with students, the genuine love for students as students and as human beings that elevate teaching to an art. To be sure it is content and sound pedagogy, but no great teacher chose to be a teacher. No, teaching chose us. It’s archetypal and noble and honorable.
And it has been reduced to hoops and forms and proving that a syllabus can fit into a template.
Will I jump through the requisite hoops? You bet. Because I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it. But to suggest that my 24 years of teaching and passion can be measured and that my default status is “does not meet expectations” is anything less than punitive and administrative posturing is an absurdity of the most grand proportions.
Congratulations to the VCCS.