Monthly Archives: September 2014

Once upon an educator

Once upon a time, there was a teacher who just graduated from college. She was eager to get started in her new profession and had just earned her degree with honors. She was ready!

The first year of teaching was much more difficult that she could have imagined. Maybe all those classes this teacher aced did not help as much once one entered the ‘real world’ of teaching. She pressed on, using all the techniques that had been praised by her college professors and mimicking practices she learned from her student teaching. Much time was devoted to following the textbook, making sure all students sat in rows (and next to the other students that would keep them quiet), scheduling homework assignments every night, and grading absolutely everything. It was hard work, but this teacher had a job to do, and this room was going to run like clockwork. She was in control and that was how it was supposed to be.

Fast forward 15 years in this teaching career…

Wow, what a complete transformation. The classroom is loud, the curriculum is tailored to student readiness, and relevance for future application. The students choose their seats, and the learning environment is created by the kids and the teacher collaboratively. Grades have moved to the background to be replaced by a focus on learning. The instructor makes sure the learning is owned by the students all the while guiding and providing multiple ways to grow their proficiency. She realizes failures and setbacks for the teacher and students alike are a normal occurrence on the journey to success. This previous idea of the classroom running like clockwork had set a tone of compliance rather than one of collaboration and she works diligently to facilitate the latter.

My story continues from this point and I cannot wait to see where it takes me next. And every story has a moral, right?

Here we go…we cannot waste time fixating on the mistakes we have made in the past. I could spend my time feeling badly about choices I made early on (even though I wish I could go back and change my early teaching), or I can move forward to make the best decisions about the learners I have before me. If I can let go of the guilt I can move on to best serve my current population.

My path in education is ever evolving and I will not stop growing. I have not only learned to accept the discomfort that accompanies the learning process prior to finding success but also embraced a growth mindset. I have to be the lead learner in my environment, modeling is imperative. My career has become so much more of a joyous experience over the years rather than an anxious one striving for perfection.

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.                                                                                                                              – Carl Rogers

What is your story? How have you adapted and developed your craft to improve throughout your career?


Fulfilling the promise

I wrote a blog post earlier this year about my promise to start tough conversations in regard to grading reform. I am happy to say that I am working hard to fulfill that promise and help to move others forward. All the while I continue to learn myself about how to make grades a healthy part of the learning process. In my perfect world, grades would disappear, but I live in a reality where letters must be used as a reporting mechanism. As I write this post, I recommit myself to work toward this goal and not be afraid of the difficult dialogues that inevitably occur when approaching this very personal topic for educators.

I have moved into a leadership role of sorts in my new school district. I am an instructional coach who thankfully is not a part of the evaluation process. My district has moved to Standards Based Learning and Grading at the elementary level, and will change over at the middle schools (including mine) next school year. This is a huge transition, and I want to ease it as much as possible throughout the year. I have been welcomed so whole-heartedly into this learning community and am devoted to work with my new colleagues to improve instructional practice.

This week something occurred to me…my journey with healthy grading practices has become our journey. I am not alone in charting this course, yet I know I will carry a piece of the leadership for this initiative. I am so proud of the district and staff for deciding to embark on this voyage, and feel ready to serve in whatever capacity necessary. I have so much respect and admiration for my new colleagues, their commitment to student learning is visible in every nook and cranny of the school.

I bring my experiences, my knowledge, and my resources to share. There is so much power in the words, “I have been there.” I will be able to connect with their successes and failures along the way. I can talk them through problems and concerns. I am able to calm fears and reassure everyone that this is a work in progress and it will change and improve with each year of implementation.

Our motto is “Engage, Inspire, Empower.” The transition to Standards Based Learning and Grading will no doubt challenge us to the core as educators. I find comfort in the fact that I have already seen the strength of the staff and I am confident they are prepared for this undertaking. Grading reform will allow our students to engage more completely, to become inspired to learn for a lifetime, and will empower them to take charge and own their learning. We will be able to communicate learning goals and determine paths to achieve mastery in a clear, concise manner. We will use feedback to let students know what we value most in the classroom. We will accurately report achievement, habits of work, and growth in a meaningful way.

To say I am excited to transform my journey into our journey is an understatement. When I made the promise to promote healthy grading in any way possible, I had no idea I would be given this opportunity in a new district. I have been given an avenue to fulfill my promise, and I will not take it for granted. Here’s to an awesome year of growth, reflection and tough conversations in the name of student learning.

I will continue to post and share about our growth, trials, tribulations, and success along the way!