Day 363- Weight Lifting

What a difference a few days make!  I kind of felt like a fraud on Monday.  I could muster up enough optimism to produce a blog and some positive thoughts, but I was upset.  Big time.  This close to the end of the year, I faced one of the biggest tests that I've had to my positive attitude.

I suppose I should explain.  My students took their district summative test last Thursday and Friday.  I have been working my tail off all year to do everything that I'm supposed to do (times ten) to make sure that these kids are learning all of the skills that they are supposed to be learning.  Beyond that, we reviewed for the three days leading up to the test to fully prep students and to go over some of the standards that we hadn't touched on in a few weeks.  I felt confident that I had done everything I knew how to do to teach them and prepare them, and I was absolutely confident that I had done everything that my curriculum director, principal, and department head had asked of me.  As my students handed in their tests, they expressed feelings of confidence as well, and a lot of them told me that the exam was easy.

My score sheets were scanned into the computer program that we use on Monday, and I was excited to pull up the results on Monday night.  I saw this test as being my own personal report card for first semester, something that would help me to figure out how I was doing as a teacher.  When I pulled up the scores, my excitement could not have faded more quickly.  The scores appeared to be disastrous.  I was devastated.  I spent the next few hours feeling as if I had failed my kids.  Sure, I could place a little blame on a poorly written test.  Sure, I may be able to place a little more blame on the fact that my kids are in a completely different situation from all of the other kids in the district and the fact that they experience great economic and emotional hardships on a daily basis.  However, at the end of the day, I was completely questioning my own effectiveness and carrying the weight of these scores on my shoulders.  It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't something to blog home about.

I spoke to my counterpart who had experienced similar results, and we reached out to the people above us to see if they could help us to make sense of how things could have gone so wrong.  I have received nothing but positive feedback and encouragement, so I just could not understand how these results were telling me such a different story about what was happening in my room.  I wanted to set out fixing things ASAP.  I wanted to know how to be better and how to give the kids what they need. 

We got some answers today from some members of administration, and I am breathing again.  One e-mail said something to the effect of, "A concern was expressed that you are trying so hard but not seeing results-- I beg to differ!"  The author of this e-mail had pulled our data and the data from last year, and she gave us bullet point after bullet point of good news.  We experienced significant improvement in 9 out of 14 standards and remained steady on the others.  On some of the more difficult questions where students had to compare texts and get into more in depth analysis, our kids "ROCKED" and improved from 56% mastery last year to 88% this time.  Their performance of DOK 3 questions (those testing a higher depth of knowledge) improved dramatically as well.  While the average score was scary, our author was able to pull bullet point after bullet point of positive information about specific skills and vast improvement.  We had been looking at all of our data completely out of context, and she was able to refocus everything and really put our scores into perspective in terms of where the kids are coming from and where they're headed.  With each sentence, I could feel the weight lifting off of my shoulders.

After that, today was an embarrassment of riches so to speak.  I spent the day having one on one conferences with my students where they were incredibly reflective, insightful, open, and honest with me.  The more I build these relationships and connections with my kids, the more I think the rest will follow, and the better I feel about what they are getting out of their time in my room.  The day at school ended with our principal taking the first five minutes of our faculty meeting to celebrate our Comm. Arts department.  He specifically mentioned our eighth grade team- how hard we have been working, how impressed he was with the progress we have made, and how proud he is of the results we have produced first semester.  I, of course, was both embarrassed and pleased by the compliments at the same time.  As I said at the start of this whole thing, what a difference a few days can make!   I can't even compare my feelings from Monday evening to those that I have today.

I am also coming to terms with the fact that I don't think I'll ever be completely-- hmm, what's the right adjective?-- satisfied? with how I'm doing.  It is important to me that I believe in my kids and their potential to the point that I may always be a bit frustrated.  I am only as effective as my belief in and support of them.  I have high expectations for my students and for myself.  I refuse to make excuses or to lower these expectations for any reason.  I need to continue to hold myself accountable each and every day for their learning and for my own, and I need to continue to celebrate their successes, big and small, whenever I can.  I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say that I want to be amazing at my job because of what it will mean for the kids.  They deserve that kind of commitment from all of their teachers... even on the days when some of them (the students, not the teachers) show up to class with nothing (not even a pencil) and spend ten minutes talking about how they're hoping for a snow day... not that any of my students would ever do that... ahem...

It's a good thing that we get that snow day tomorrow (an ice day, really).  I'm exhausted from all this thinking.

Thank you, weight lifting, you made my day.


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