Every year most teachers think all summer about what an amazing year they are going to have, how cute their classroom is going to look thanks to Instagram and Pinterest, and how enriched the content delivery is going to be thanks to the latest edtech tools. I am proudly one of these teachers! But there is this part of teaching that is just sometimes so disheartening- state test scores.
I am just going to be very honest and raw with you as I write my personal opinions and reflections. I just did an analysis of my data, instead of reading my “Foundations of Education Measurement” text (total task avoidance), and kind of wished I hadn’t. I have never prided myself on being the teacher with the highest test scores, or the best behaviors, or the cutest classroom (although this year I think it rocked). As a classroom teacher, I have always been most proud of those small, maybe seemingly insignificant, stride towards becoming a better, more well rounded person. Social Emotional Learning was not as large of a “token phrase” over the past 11 years, however, my goal each and every school year was to allow the students to grow into better, more productive citizens.
*Disclaimer* Now please do not run to your friends and tell them you read a post about a teacher who does not care about academics, or ask me what I do all day if I am not teaching. I very much care about the student’s content knowledge acquisition which is why I attend a significant amount of PD each year, on top of obtaining my Master’s degree, spend hours on planning, grading, and differentiating using various pedagogical practices that best meet my student’s needs. I also very much care for my classroom management which is why I worked side by side with my admin and guidance personnel to assist with students who needed extra assistance that I am not licensed to provide. And if you follow me on Instagram or Pinterest, you know I care about the cleanliness, flexibility, and comfort of my classroom environment.
Sometimes, however, all of the efforts just do not appear to pay off when looking at the test scores. I hate the thoughts that run through my mind when I see that students did not make gains, some students did not maintain… some students dropped. “What does my admin think of me?” “Where did all of my efforts go?” “What did I do wrong?” “What if…” I could go on and on with the self-doubt I allowed to creep into my thoughts today, however, instead of bottling it inside I just accepted what was. I can not go back and change the past nine months. I could sit here and blame the endless struggles my class and I experienced this year, but at the end of the day I can only learn from the data collected, reflect upon my practices, and learn from them. Did I make mistakes? I am sure I did, I was new to the school and grade level content, and am only human. Did I miss opportunities? I am sure I did for fear of making a mistake. The cycle continues…
I focus on the inspiration around me and begin to realize that I am feeling exactly what my students do, the feeling that “test scores” define me. I will never allow my students to feel as though they are a test score, therefore I refuse to let a standardized objective power tests define me as an educator. In truth I am deeply saddened by the results I analyzed, however we live and we learn, we fail and we grow, we try and we sometimes succeed. I do not regret my teachings this year, I think I deeply addressed all of my students in some way, shape, or form. I have to believe that although this may not have been a year of significant academic success, my students will be able to perform better next year because I played a role in allowing them to become more confident, better decision makers, more cultural and gender responsive, and overall happier human beings.
As I am writing this, my eyes are swelling because I know in my heart that I always have my student’s best interests at the fore-front of everything I do and every decision I make. I am finally coming back to allowing myself to be okay with focusing on the successes of the heart and soul.
Sweet story: A student this year is a refugee and struggled academically, emotionally, socially… the things this child had to endure tear at my heart strings. I worked intensively all year not just on academics, but the reassurance of safety, belonging, and unconditional love. I sometimes got upset and disappointed, always explaining why I had these feelings and how I was going to deal with them. I made my emotions transparent, but this was never reciprocated. Again, I felt very doubtful of my strategies because I did not see measurable success. However, as summer began I received several messages of appreciation for what I did to help in math and science, that myself and their friends were greatly, and that this was a very good year for them. I get emotional just telling this story because this is the success I was hoping, wishing, and longing for!
As educators we have to allow ourselves to be mindful of the measures of success and allow ourselves the grace to fail sometimes, but with the passion for our students in our hearts and the support of an amazing PLN we will overcome all obstacles metamorphosing into our best selves!