This is my seventeenth year of teaching, my seventh in this school district. I have taught seventh through twelfth grade English literature as well as English Language Development to every level of English Learners. I have co-taught seventh- and eighth-grade science and social studies courses, and I have even taught a computer applications middle school elective.
At this school, I have taught a new curriculum for at least one of my classes every. Single. Year.
This year, I have four preps. Every other year, I’ve had at least two, if not three.
In addition to these preps, I have to spend a minimum of five hours every week sitting in data meetings, leadership meetings, and planning meetings.
On top of these meetings, I have to make sure that my students understand enough English to be able to take the bus home. To find the food bank. To sift through the clothes in our donation closet for coats and gloves for a sudden October snow.
For the course I’ve been teaching consistently for the better part of seven years, I have worked tirelessly to build a curriculum when there was none. I have listened to my school, my neighborhood, my district, and my world tell me about how fucking important a grade-level standardized test is even if my students are still learning how to correctly form letters or decode words.
I have built assessments based on those standardized tests, based on the grade-level curriculum, but tapered down, sheltered, supported, for my students.
I spend anywhere between thirty and forty hours a week PLANNING the lessons for four preps, trying to teach my Newcomers everything from how to greet strangers to present progressive verb tenses to vowel-intensive phonics identification. Trying to teach my level 3 ELLs how to become fluent readers, how to effectively present information, how to listen to, write, and correct dictated sentences, how to create a cohesive paragraph supported by text evidence.
Do you give me time to meet with other ELD teachers?
Do you give me a curriculum that includes common assessments?
Do you visit my classroom and see that, oh, none of my Newcomers know how to write the letter ‘k’ because none of their languages use that letter, and maybe I should spend more time teaching them how to do this? Or see that my ELD Seminar kids spend each Tuesday sifting through grammatical rules to correctly identify their errors on their SAT-style assessments? Or see that every word I teach my kids, whether it be “north” or “however”, is built upon a concept or misunderstanding from a previous lesson?
Have you ever looked at–let me break some shocking barriers here–my GRADEBOOK? Do you think, just for a moment, that it is possible that I progress monitor my students there each week? That I look at their scores and determine what I need to reteach? That my students meet with me to retake quizzes and revise written work based on the scores that they receive, and that I endlessly allow this?
Oh. I forgot.
You don’t have time to visit my classroom.
You are running this and seven other meetings this week.
You are sharing SAT data with the entire staff.
You are making me fill out a graphic organizer that analyzes how blatantly biased standardized tests are against ALL OF THE KIDS I TEACH.
You are here to criticize what I HAVEN’T done. Not to offer:
- Common planning with ELD teachers.
- Fewer preps.
- A curriculum with its own COMMON ASSESSMENTS.
- Fewer data meetings and ones that ACTUALLY APPLY TO ELLs.
This is my seventeenth year of teaching. I know I have taught longer than you, probably more than all of the admin team combined. I think I have an idea of how to monitor the progress of my students.
Do you have an idea of how to progress monitor your ability to listen? To support? To collaborate with those of us who are in the trenches?
I didn’t think so. This “meeting” is adjourned.