Real quick, think to yourself, “What’s your one real goal as a teacher?”
Mastery of standards, right?
Wrong. Well, not entirely, not simply, and not solely–that’s for sure!
Earlier this year, I was told in an email that “my real goal was simply mastery of a set of standards” and that sometimes I “lose sight of that when I get so caught up in trying to make everyone great writers.”
Yup. That’s true. Yet, of course, now I sacrifice trying to make “great” writers because “proficient” text-based writers are going to move the little green circles and keep them green (this is what the growth model looks like for me). Those circles sometimes hurt my feelings and call me “typical” in my growth and cause me to feel mediocre.
If you read my blog, if you know me, if you have ever heard me in my impassioned dialogues about education, writing, language arts, and standards, you know that I like some things about the standards and the current system of education, while other things I don’t like. At the same time, you know that I take my standards, my content, and my pedagogy seriously.
Tonight when I attended a school production for my son, I thought of how the “real goal” seemed to be mastery of a set of standards, and I was saddened. The fifth grade student body put on a production that was rehearsed during music class. What dismayed me as I read the evening’s program is that each song was followed by a standard. Yes, my email was correct. Why couldn’t I see it? The real goal is simply mastery of a set of standards. I get it now. It’s like I got the memo, again.
Really???!!!! NO! The real goal of the program as delivered seemed to portray a sort of Earth Day theme of how we should take care of our environment. What I read in the program, though, was this:
Don’t Throw it All Way
M5GM.9a Perform music from various historical periods
Somehow I think I’d rather see the name of a local recycling agency or the names of the students who performed the solos. What have we come to when 9 standards are listed on a program that should be celebrating the fine arts and raising public awareness. Man, I wish someone would’ve given me a rubric. I could’ve ranked my unenthusiastic son’s performance based on all 9 standards.
By the way, the students’ names were all listed on the back of the program, I enjoyed the program, and some of the kids seemed to be into delivering the theme of the program and were showing themselves to be masters of music standards. What I wonder, though, is this what Fine Arts’ teachers have to do to let people know that their standards are important, too. Is this a job security sort of program created to show their mastery of their own standards? Another question, is this what parents want to see in a program?
When I think of what the real goal for me as a teacher, I cannot answer that in one sentence, and I cannot restrict that sentence to the simple mastery of a set of standards. Mastery is important to me. I’d like for my growth to be high not typical (typical sounds so mediocre). I like job security, I like doing my job well, and I’d like to keep my job.
My goal? My real goal, that is not something I can write in one sentence, and it’s not just about mastery of standards. I do want to create passionate readers and writers. I do want students to write proficiently. I think teaching students the fundamentals of language and how to use that as writers is important. I do want to find ways to get kids engaged and excited about thinking, learning, talking, growing, reading, writing, collaborating, debating, and laughing. I want to help kids grow academically, yes. Of course, I’d also like to help them become comfortable with their identity, help them not see middle school as an abyssmal experience, help them find their best selves, help them see what they become, and help them get back up when they fail. I want to challenge them and inspire them.
I’m cool, though, I’ll play the game. You can see the writing on my wall, the lessons in my book, and the documented EVERYTHING! My survival depends on it, and I will do whatever it takes to not die off, Survival of the Fittest, right? Of course, what this is about is adaptation. I become what I need to become, but I also must think of my own survival, and I do each and every time I find the nuts and bolts as well as the big picture, and when I think of the whole child and the real goal.
The real goal is almost beyond words. The real goal is to help all children on this journey of life to find their best selves and become who they can become.
Honestly, would you want me to teach your child all year with the real goal being simply mastery of a set of standards?