Pedagogy

Testing and Treadmills (ABC Challenge)

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So, if you’re one of the few, the proud, who have followed my journey into figuring out what I want to do now that I don’t need benefits – aka, my mid-life crisis – you’ll know that I’ve recently resigned my “coveted” (ha!) position as Curriculum Specialist and taken a job back in the classroom.  I guess I’ll call that Step One.

I’m mixing reality shows, but somewhere between Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader and The Biggest Loser, I know that at some point, a failed contestant has to look at the camera and say, “I am NOT smarter than a fifth grader,” and Bob Greene says to the kicked=0ff contestant “I’m sorry, but you are NOT the biggest loser.”  I feel like when I walk off this job on June 14th, I’ll gladly look into a camera and say “My name is Angie, and I am NOT a curriculum specialist.”

And that makes me proud right now.  I want to be a teaching specialist…A kid specialist, a learning and reading and thriving specialist, but not a curriculum specialist.  Sure you have to have a curriculum – even though I managed to be a successful teacher for many years either without one or without paying attention to one.  But I understand you have to know what you’re supposed to teach, and by nature, you need some measure of your and your students’ success with those goals.  And since there are thousands of teachers in Texas – hundreds or more of which are not naturally good – there has to be a common assessment.

I don’t want a common classroom, though.

My treadmill broke last week, and it’s been stressing me into a depression.  I’ve learned to do my running and walking in the comfort of my pollen-free bedroom while watching Keith Morrison lay out the details of murder after riveting murder.  There is no way on earth I’m going back outside in the dark where the mosquitos are and it might be humid and there aren’t – fortunately and unfortunately – any murders to be solved.  So I’ve done no running or walking, just cursing a lot at my treadmill and the scales.

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So here’s where I’m going with this:  The scales are how I measure and celebrate my hard work on the treadmill.  But without the treadmill, I am stubbornly content to just watch that number go in the wrong direction and bitch about the broken treadmill – as if that’s how to fix it.  Tests are how we measure our hard work in the classroom – Is that the way I’m going to measure and celebrate my hard work with kids???  Of course not!  Never have, why start now?!?  I want to find alternative ways – aka “the right ways” – to sneekily achieve what our advantaged students achieve – without the moaning and dread and copy machine.  I know this is possible.  Dear friend, colleague, mentor, in a conversation with a Resource teacher, flailing a STAAR practice workbook and bitching about the broken copier, reminded her that what kids really need to is to be reading.  Resource teacher said to friend, “It’s not what your kids need, but it’s what my kids need,” (paraphrasing) to which friend replied, in her head, “My kids don’t need that because they REEEEAAAADDDD!!!!”  I know these truths to be self-evident.

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(Really???? Gag me – I don’t mind the STAAR, but I’m certainly not going to attempt to motivate teenagers by having them reach for a test.)

 

So translate, brainiac! (me to self) – If you can find alternative ways to facilitate a learning environment that achieves the same (or better) measures of success in the classroom, why are you so uncreative and unwilling with the running??  You ran outside for decades when it was all you had, but you’ve been spoiled.  Would you be complaining about your kids scores if you had given up on them too?

Not sure what the challenge here is, but I think it’s along these lines:  You know what the goal is, and you know what your resources are, and you know what you have to do…Don’t blame a broken treadmill for your lack of activity.  And don’t ever blame a set of broken standards for your lack of creativity.

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Learning (ABC Challenge)

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Next on my Report Card of Life and things marked as “Needs Improvement”…Learning.  I felt like high school was a lot of time spent doing things that would never matter in real life, and I hated high school.  I felt like college was everything I was ever going to need in life, and I loved college.  And I loved graduate school.  And I loved the classes I took after grad school.  But I block out the noise and flip the “Ignore” switch if someone tries to teach me how to hold a golf club or explain north, south, east, and west because why do I care? 

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And thus, you have the summary my self-diagnosed learning disability.  (Second opinion from husband confirms.)

I don’t really think I have a disability – Contrary to the definition of a disability, I’m pretty sure I chose mine and practiced it to a craft.

It is one of the big reasons why I am so happy to have resigned from my current position to go back to the classroom.  My current (soon to be ex-) job requires me to learn how to do a lot of things that I don’t really care about, and they all make me feel mentally disabled.  The things I DO like to learn about in my job all have to do with teaching and learning.  I’ll learn about learning all day from Donnalyn Miller, Jeff Anderson, Kelley Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Julie Lythcott-Haims, and just about any Ted Talk I can get my hands on.  I love learning about forensic science – that post is coming soon.  I love learning about eating right and home decor.  But try to show me how to import a document into an Excel template and customize the margins, and you might actually be able to hear the sound of my brain powering-down.

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I’m happy that, as I’m writing this, I am firmly reminded that I do still have the superb capacity to learn new things.  It’s the learned-stubbornness against things that I rely on others to know that I need to try harder to shed.

*voice in my head*  I’m still having a hard time understanding why I need to fix this flaw – I don’t feel like this one affects me or anyone else negatively…Geez, I must really have a lot of work to do on this one.