09 May 2006

Guess what? It's about them.

I worked with ninth grade teachers today to develop the map of their standards. There was a volunteer to represent each school. It was a bit of a motley crew. One is a "short-timer." He's only working one more year and will retire. He was completely suspicious of the whole process today---assuming that this was some sort of district directive and that nothing they did would matter. I have no doubt that he experienced something like that in the past, but he just couldn't hear that we were meeting at the request of science teachers across the district to develop some common language and documents. My second teacher doesn't teach regular physical science (he does have the "honors" version). The third does lots of flashy demos for kids (which they love), but develops no concepts or connects the demos to content. And the last is a high power teacher who is also focused on his bag of tricks.

I repeatedly beat my head against the wall today...trying to get them to understand one thing: what happens in the classroom is not about you. It's about kids.

I don't mean to make that sound as if they are unprofessional or uncaring. They enjoy teaching. They just don't put much of any thought into whether or not the kids have learned anything. When I would ask, "What will you see if students have learned this standard?" they looked at me like I'd just spoken something in Swahili. And it wasn't just the educationese. They had genuinely never thought about things in those terms. "Why would anyone care about looking for evidence of learning? I covered the material. If they didn't get it, it must not be my fault."

By the end of the day, we'd at least accomplished some things. They had laid out the year and identified what would be important to communicate to teachers about one standard (there are 7 or 8 more that I'll have to drag them through). They liked the work. They agreed it's important and that we should continue. But how will I ever get them to stay focused on student learning?

From that perspective, I guess it really is about them (the teachers). If it is my task to coach them to proficiency with standards-based curriculum, then I am going to have to keep working on additional ways to help them make the shift. Because even from my viewpoint, it really is about the kids.

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