I appreciate that I’m at a school that likes to celebrate successes and understand that teaching is difficult. At the same time, I’m struggling a bit between over-celebrating or just sugar coating situations to .. keep the morale high? or make it seem like things are better than they are? I don’t know why they do this!
So last week, we had our first project segment of our math program. It was a mess. Teachers weren’t fully prepared, materials weren’t paced well, students were a hodge-podge of ability and behaviors, and it was cramped. Basically, everything we had just accustomed ourselves to in the classroom instruction setting (students working on the same standards with similar backgrounds, and smaller groups) went out the window.
As a result, it was horrific. It took everything in me to stay positive everyday and constantly brainstorm and make spur-of-the-moment changes to at least help some kids be successful. At the same time, I gave up on the “management” part and simply just .. tried to cut my losses. It was discouraging to say the least.
On our “presentation day”, that kids didn’t take seriously until that day showed up…, I had 6 out of 24 kids present in one 7/8 class, 4/19 kids present in my other 7/8 class. 10/16 kids present in my 6th grade class, and 6/16 kids present in the other 6th grade class.
That day we also had the admin-equivalents do walk-throughs and video our “baseline.” Mine was the only class that even had presentations because some kids did do it. Was it because of my stellar teaching? No. Kids who have that extra drive will always succeed despite poor teachers, environments, and influences. Those students are not whom I gauge my success by.
So, I rolled my eyes a bit when this was “celebrated.” (See? They were talking about math – and they had the opportunity to talk math!). But then, this same example was touted in our small math PD. (See how Junia’s classroom had this presentation opportunity — never mind that everyone else at the other tables were totally off-topic). Then, today, I saw this “inspirational example” in a school-wide newsletter. And this just sort of ticked me off… because I get that we’re scrounging for the silver-lining, but there’s actually a lot of other examples we could look at. Why can’t we acknowledge that this first round was crap. Why do we sugarcoat? I think it actually cheapens our successes and experiences because to anyone who is on the inside, they know what the actual circumstances were. Yet everyone on the outside perceives something different.
I know it’s tantamount to our success and positive culture to celebrate small breakthroughs, but when 2 students who are at- or above-level and are self-motivated are provided as examples of “success”, it makes me feel like we’re desperate.
Other teachers told me to stop saying, “But” and just to acknowledge the positives, and I DO, but at the same time, I’m not PROUD about this. And I hope I’ll NEVER be at a position where THIS is a “proud” moment, because it’s not. The kids that most needed my help didn’t get the help they needed, and I severely doubt the line, “but kids who normally don’t have the opportunity to talk math, now did.”
Am I being overly Scrooge-y about this? I don’t know. But I wish they would stop using that almost lucky video clip… because I think teachers in my same context who don’t know the context in which that clip was taken would actually feel discouraged. I’d feel discouraged if I saw this — I’d wonder, “What am I not doing that this teacher is doing?”
Well here’s my answer. You’re probably doing nothing different- just this teacher at hand lucked out with two great kids.
THEN this makes ME suspicious of every stinking video I see of “good work.”