I know it sounds so super cliche or maybe even dare I say dumb, but as I head into the home stretch of my 6th year as an educator I realized I am actually teaching. I mean I know I do this every day, but a lot of times I feel the work of a teacher is kind of like being a slow cooker. The teaching and learning must marry one another another in this tiny pot and you have to wait. You see little strides here and there that help keep you moving and know there is something happening. Sure you could probably pull out grains of truth in standardized testing to show you some growth, but in reality just like the crock pot if you take off the lid it slows things down.
Therefore, it creates this moment that one day you will be sitting back and reflecting on a particular student or lesson plan and realize wow, people learned something from you. I have had the very distinct and unusual pleasure to be reteaching a group of students. I had them as freshman in our building. I had about 60 of them as sophomores and then I had the whole of them again this year multiple times. BAM! How is that for forcing you to reflect? It has given me this amazing ability to look at their amazing growths as humans.
I don’t ever necessarily do this through what politicians hold as the holy grail in education, DATA. But I do it because I know my students. So earlier this week I was thinking about a conversation I carried with a student about The Great Gatsby. Yea so what, I have talked Gatsby with all of my students. The so what moment here and the one that prompted this blog post is the growth I saw in this one particular student wasn’t just normal maturity growth. It was mountains of growth, the kinda of growth that blows you away. Mountains of growth that probably by all accounts statistics (data) would have said would never even happen had things not been absolutely set up with the right amount of support and perseverance.
That kind of magic doesn’t happen by happenstance. It doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because students are receptive to it. It happens because I am never going to give up on a student. I love an under dog because an under dog has the chance to prove everyone wrong when no one is looking. I was an under dog and I know them. Our program maybe even an under dog. It certainly feels that way sometimes. But under dogs have fight. That have will. They just need one or two people who believe they not only can, but WILL! That takes working with those people and I do.
That is teaching. That is why I do this. And I know I have a tendency to romanticize what it is I do because it is my passion. There is no romanticizing in this story. This is the real deal and something I know that student will look back on and attribute to their success as a person. That isn’t me. That is my student. There are stories like this in classrooms every single day.
But it is proof and it is about so much more than a test or a teacher being accountable. This week education in Indiana probably took one of its biggest hits. And no matter where you stand on the issue, I respect you. What I really want out of it all is to be able to teach in my classroom and not have to constantly prove myself by testing my students to death. But if that is what the State needs to show I am a highly effective teacher then so be it. I am not afraid of those numbers. In fact, I am quite proud of them and I know I should be too.
But they don’t tell the whole story. But you know what will? When my student walks across the stage and not only receives an Academic Honors Diploma but an Associates Degree and heads off to a four year institution. And none of that will matter because I know they never gave up nor did I and for that sole purpose their lives are infinitely changed. And a tiny sliver of that is shared with me.