Mastery (or adroitness) is becoming the teaching/learning goal for all students in this district. Meeting that goal is the responsibility of teachers who create curricular intentions for student learning.
In multigrade teams.
Individual student progress is measured formatively using a variety of assessments. Academic appraisals depend on the declared intentions for learning and personal dispositions of students.
Assessment strategies may vary according to student proclivities, teaching methods and classroom conditions. Determination of mastery is made qualitatively by each teacher, yet within boundaries. By cooperatively created action verbs and subject fields.
Within unit outcomes and their components.
Teacher accountability is determined through student personal and academic growth — over time. Also important is use of the Teaching/Learning Contract. An agreement created with and for students, parents, and the teacher.
Accountability will no longer be measured quantitatively by student performance on local or standards-based high stakes tests.
That position will be difficult to maintain, given prior public and governmental expectations. But the district is committed to overturning that viewpoint.
Another change in perspective is the measure of quality teaching. Based on the dedication of individuals who sacrifice themselves in the name of a worthwhile “calling.” Jackie and other pedagogical stars will learn not to think of themselves that way.
The way many politicians and others compartmentalize teachers. As society’s caregivers and nurturers who perform essential tasks for intangible and heartfelt rewards.
As people willing to work hard at a job some think is relatively easy and inherently rewarding.
Thereby moving it from the category of “professional” to service provider. Privileged to guide the development of children and young people in ways dictated by society’s leaders. With monetary compensation commensurate to amounts paid to civil servants.
Jackie now realizes her dedication and success with students is more than a sacrificial version of civil service. Modifying her role and roles of others like her means the attainment of a professional stature.
The term professional stature means active involvement and opportunity to make decisions as a team member. In the areas of curriculum, instructional practice, and assessment of student learning.
To be viewed and respected as a professional leader who participates in forming decisions that make a difference. With colleagues, students, community members, and the academic world in general.
Jackie Devises a Plan with Rebecca
After my discussion with Ben, I know the difference between being:
- a member of a team of professional decision-makers and action-takers I want to be
- the devoted and compliant civil servant teacher I am now
My change in perspective pleased Rebecca. She appreciated my new insights and suggested we devise a plan. For helping other teachers understand the importance of establishing team structures.
I agreed to help, because I too am convinced that multigrade teaming is at the heart of making the new learning infrastructure work.
Changes in process are meaningless if teachers do not feel different about themselves and their work. If they cannot interact positively and within a community of likeminded educational professionals.
I asked Rebecca, “Who among the district’s teachers should we include in our discussion? Is a workshop format best?”
Rebecca said, “A proposal should be presented to Ken. Upon his approval, the council and board must sign off on it. Voluntary participation might be best. If the project’s budget is large enough to encourage teachers to attend during off-contract days.
“Another enticement could be use of a retreat center. Retreats take us away from school buildings and allow a more casual interchange of views. Important since we are addressing a topic that will be just as emotional for others as it is for you.
“The retreat would be more than a ‘how to’ event. It would be a ‘who I must be’ exercise. We must plan it carefully and sensitively.”
I wholeheartedly agreed. Inservice staff development was either laughed at or considered a waste of time. Even when I overheard the term from teachers when I was a public-school student. My teachers would talk about enjoying certain speakers. Those with somewhat helpful ideas or funny stories.
But they agreed the events were nothing better than harmless diversions.
Such traditional staff development was taken seriously by administrators and boards. They used discretionary state and federal funds to pay substantial fees to outside experts. While some events were better than others, there was usually nothing in the way of systemic or systematic follow-up.
Nothing happens without continual and consistent follow-up that stimulates discernable change.
The one exception was NCLB, at least for a few years. NCLB brought about change through use of quantifiable expectations. Governmental micromanagement run amuck. Under the belief change can be achieved through force.
Which proved to be a disaster, especially during the pandemic.
The Retreat Format
Unlike old staff development formulas (superficial “inservice days” or NCLB’s “do it or else” approach), the retreat process helps teachers discover their professional side. As Rebecca put it, “It allows the development of a persona in which teachers are encouraged to imagine themselves as more.
“To be professional somebodies.
“Because they are connected to a supportive and dedicated community of knowledgeable and respected colleagues.”
I said, “That sounds cool but how does a program like that have structure and anything in the way of definable outcomes?”
Rebecca’s reply was a surprise. “The teachers involved with our ongoing series of retreats are or will be involved in the work of subject area committees. So the retreat series becomes an emotional support system for working collegially with others — creating and implementing curriculum.
“Joan is an example. She has been teaching fifth grade three years. Considered by her principal and parents of her students to be exceptional. Like other teachers, she has been impacted by the pandemic and related problems. Recently, new political issues like CRT and debates about equity stress her out. Talking about those problems with her retreat series’ cohorts is helpful.
“If Joan is currently serving on a subject area committee or the curriculum council, procedural decisions are made somewhat easier. She has a place to talk them out subjectively with trusted colleagues.
“In other words, the concept of teaming is more than working with others to make policy. Dedicated teachers need another kind of professional family. To air out their emotions and get in touch with their convictions.”
Thinking about my own awakening process with Ben’s support, I said, “That would take the load off families and significant others who help teachers through the emotional down times.
“It reminds me of when I was an unmarried student teacher in a community new to me. My cooperating teacher was great. But I did not feel free to express some of my deepest feelings. Going home to my little apartment after a particularly stressful day was almost torture. My only outlet was a phone call with my mother or crying myself to sleep.
“Neither was helpful. I needed to talk with someone who had insight and the capacity to empathize. Someone with the kinds of experiences I was having in the classroom, from deep frustration to feelings of incompetence.
“Even feelings of anger and despair.”
Rebecca understood. “Yes, teaching is difficult on many levels. Those who have never worked with 30 young students in a public-school classroom do not have a clue.
“What most cannot understand is how an intense sociological and psychological environment like a classroom impacts decisions made about curriculum and instructional design.
“What you teach and how it is done involves much more than techniques and strategies based on content to be covered.”
I agreed with Rebecca and was ready to start writing a proposal.
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