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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Continuing to Wait for Marzano

February 2012, leading up to the observation: With my observation now inevitable (I pictured my 2nd-grade self in line for a smallpox vaccination, counting the kids in front of me, knowing there was no escape), I began to reflect on how many years I’ve spent proving myself to myself and to my students.

On my first day as an intern at Raa Middle School in 1976, I dreaded the possibility of failure and of the negative feedback that comes immediately – almost simultaneously with the incompetent act – for every teacher. Na├»ve, dreamy, idealistic – belly churning with nerves --, I tried as hard as I could to be an effective teacher. I wanted my students to learn something that day and, okay, I admit it, I also wanted them to like me. I also not only wanted to be an effective teacher, I wanted to be perceived as one, i.e., I wanted my effectiveness to recognized and rewarded.

(And, looking back, I’m really sorry, and I apologize to all of those students who, if they lived, would now be over 50 years old, for starting the class by playing Cat Stevens’ version of “Morning Has Broken.” I meant well!)

The same was true for my first day as a Freshman Comp teacher the following fall, and then again for my inaugural day as a college professor facing a Writing for Science Majors class at 8 a.m. in September of 1981.

I don’t know what other teachers are like, but every day of my teaching career, someone has been in my class watching me critically, making a list and checking it twice, causing me to fret and wince over every blunder and, when the class is over, to count the freaking hours until I can get back to that class and make right the sins of yesterday.

Like John Proctor in The Crucible, the magistrate that judged me sat in my heart; there were also typically 25 more external magistrates sitting in my class.

And now, being driven by my inner pedagogical demons for over 35 years -- driven, I humbly acknowledge, to a small truckload of teaching awards bestowed upon me at every stop along the way -- must I now endure an actual iPad-bearing judge with the power to articulate for the world my competency level as gauged by a Marzanometer? And with the power, in theory, to impact my salary and my job security?

Having driven myself fairly mad with these ruminations, I was led to ponder the unfairness of this ordeal on another count. My experience has led me to believe that to be an effective teacher requires a great deal of time and labor. There is no reason to recount here the hundreds of information bits swirling around in a teacher’s brain from the moment s/he flicks the classroom lights on at an ungodly hour in the morning when even newspaper deliverers are sleeping, to the depleted afternoon when s/he wobbles back out to the car, a bundle of student manuscripts nestled in the book bag.

The daily teaching experience is, as a friend of mine said, like racing into a house on fire, looking for people to save. Even young teachers who still have short-term memory can become disoriented, sign the wrong form, hit the wrong key, give the wrong grade, call the wrong name.

For teachers driven to do their best daily, who are trying with all their might to be highly effective, this is a very demanding and sometimes overwhelming job.  

So. Add to this another layer of bureaucracy to one already Everest high; add many more urgent Marzano-related messages and meetings and workshops; add pre-observation and post-observation conferences, and the forms required for each; add the hours foolish teachers like me will spend on that one class that will be observed, at the expense of the other classes and of that aforementioned bundle of student manuscripts.

It isn’t fair, I thought, to make me a less effective teacher by forcing me to prove that I’m a highly effective one.

1 comment:

  1. I just read this as it came up on my wall on Facebook. How true. One glimpse, a walk through, a ridiculous "student's will" statement on the board that not one of my students will read; this is what says if I keep a job. How about the hours emailing parents lesson plans, counseling students that have no one else, sitting on a laptop, while I am home sick, and still responding to parent, and doing paperwork? But none of that matters it seems. I am only a thirteen year veteran, but it seems to me we are going in the wrong direction here.

    Sam

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