Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teacher Success Can't Always Be Measured (Sorry Arne!)

The other day one of our special education students was having a bad morning.  The poor kid has, on top of other things, some emotional challenges which are further compounded by a lousy home life.  The boy was having a melt down and was refusing to come to school.  Mom (who is a loser) simply called him in and told the office he was 'in a bad mood and wouldn't be coming to school.'  One of the school's special education teachers, who has worked hard to form a relationship with this student, called the mom back to insist that he come to school.  When he called he learned that the situation had pretty much moved to crisis.  The kid had wrestled the car keys away from the mom and locked himself in the car (they had left home to go to the grocery store).  The teacher was scheduled to meet with the district's special education director that morning, but without hesitation grabbed another teacher and headed out to help.   They were successful not only in calming the child and getting him to exit the car, but brought him to school where he had a successful day.

That same morning my second language teacher learned that one of her families was having trouble completing the physical portion of their child's school registration because their literacy level in English was poor and causing complications with the paperwork at the clinic.  Again, the teacher changed her morning plans and headed to the clinic to assist the family.  

These kinds of stories happen with regularity inside of schools.  The actions described above appear in no teacher job description anywhere.  Yet, these stories rarely receive the attention they deserve.  These actions won't be measured in any teacher evaluation matrix.  They won't enhance any pay for performance opportunity.  The family in the first tale is so screwed up it's doubtful the effort was even appreciated much by the parent.  Yet, it would be difficult to argue that their actions were not the right choice.  Would anyone suggest that ensuring a child's safety and getting him to school or assisting a second language family at a clinic so a child can register for school were bad practice?   

I'm proud of these teachers.  And I believe it's what all teachers should be doing when children's needs are become bigger than fractions and conclusion statements.  And I worry that the more we test, and the more we tie to the results, the less human we risk becoming in our approaches.  I certainly worry that using student achievement to nearly exclusively measure a teachers competency & worth is both unfair and inaccurate (as hopefully was articulated in the above examples).  

These are stressful times in education thanks (at least in part) to idiot lawmakers.  The right choice isn't always easy but it sure helps you sleep at night.  I hope that the few teachers that take a moment to read this keep doing those truly heroic things for kids- even though law & policy makers haven't figured out how to measure it.  Never forget why you chose the profession.  Even though the parent didn't appreciate my teachers rescuing her kid from a locked car- the kid definitely did....   

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