“Do your best.” That’s what the sign says that hangs above my classroom door.
I am a teacher who hugs, plays multiplication volleyball, uses tortillas to teach fractions, and reads aloud to my students each day after lunch.
I am a Los Angeles Unified school teacher with ten years experience. I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career at one school. I’ve made close relationships with students and their families. And I go home each day knowing I gave my kids my all. I admit that I’m a better teacher now than when I started. I admit I still have plenty to learn (why is it so hard to have children walk in two straight, quiet lines up and down the stairs?).
Teaching has never been just a job for me. It’s been a passion. Now, though, I’m tempted to call it quits. It’s not the money; it’s the blatant disrespect.
The Los Angeles Times decided that the fault of public schools rests on the teachers. We are the reasons our test scores don’t go up. I’m here to tell you, no we’re not. As I tell my students, those state tests are important, but they are not the most important thing. When all is said and done, those tests measure a student’s performance during one week in May.
This year, I have a class of inquisitive, spunky children. Two speak very little English. One has a terminal illness. One has autism. One lives with a parent who has a second grade education. Many do not live with their fathers. Five of them are pulled out for resource. Five more are pulled out for reading intervention. Ask me if they’re smart. And I’ll say, “Hell yes.” These children have challenging lives. And yet, every night, they go home and complete their homework. It’s not always right, but the effort is made each night, by each child.
I don’t post grades where my students can see them. Work hung on bulletin boards is representative of each child’s best work. They are competing with themselves, not each other.
They are trying to do better than they did before. They are doing their best.
So am I.
The Los Angeles Times disagrees. The Times decided to publish an online database listing teachers and their perceived effectiveness. And The Times said I was a “least effective teacher.” I read those words and the computer screen blurred and my stomach hurt.
How could anyone say that about me? When my grade level’s test scores have been going up. When my kids are making progress in all areas of their school life - grades, effort, attitude, and work habits.
I firmly believe you cannot measure a teacher’s effectiveness based on students’ test scores. There are too many variables over which I have no control. I’m with my children from 8:11-2:35. What is happening to them when I’m not around?
Not every student is going to score “Advanced” on a multiple-choice language arts and math test. It’s not how we’re designed.
My job is to help each child succeed. My job is to help each child believe in themselves.