Friday, June 21, 2013

To the Classroom Warriors K-12

To the Classroom Warriors K-12:

You have gone through the year plugging along with your kids, teaching your curriculum, leading your school, aiding and supporting students throughout the entire building while also trying to swallow the bile from the public opinion and APPR requirements.

You have done so much more than what you will ever be scored for on your evaluations; things that could not possibly show up on your SLOs and although some people in the public and State Ed may not think these other things are important, you know, we educators know, how treasured and foundational these moments are for growing a student into a human.

And I do not just mean those of us with degrees in teaching, I mean all of us who are involved with the children in our buildings each day: the nurses, the assistants, the aides, the hallway monitors, therapists, all support staff no matter your title, custodial, etc.

You may not think anyone even noticed these non-core curriculum-APPR-standards-for being a Classroom Warrior, but they were marked and measured in the hearts and souls of every student you worked with.

You may think you were just going about your usual day-to-day living and being, but it was observed and noted.

You stayed after school with that student who didn’t understand even after you explained it 3 more times in class.

You spent your lunch with those girls or boys who were afraid of the lunchroom and the unkind words their friends from last year threw down.

You brought that book, picture, piece of music, story, artwork, car, in to share with your kids, to share a piece of you.

You stayed late, came in on Saturdays, missed putting your own kids to bed so that you could grade or prep, generally just get things done that you couldn’t get done all day while you worked with students.

You cried when your students or colleagues told you about their mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, grandmother, uncle, grandfather, friend who was sick or worse. You hugged them and comforted them and were there for them. Even showing up for them at the wake.

You told that kid who drives everyone nuts that he was going to make it, that he’d do something with his life. And he now believes he will.

You sat up ‘watching’ TV, creating Animoto accounts from your couch on your own time for students because you were asked.

You spent a day, or two, after classes ended in June, giving that kid a chance to pass your class, you did it all with patience and grace, never showing how far behind it put you in your other work.

You challenged those students, kept them engaged and stretching while still reaching those who struggled. You made all of the students feel you were focused on them.

You kept that kid going, knowing that although he started to pay attention late this year and the school year time ran out for him to catch up, you created a space of time for him so he could find success and confidence.

You spent your own money on books, on crayons, on markers, on paper, on candy, and on food stuff for those hungry kids.

You were exhausted that night you dragged your own kids to the baseball field, the track, the gym, the auditorium to watch your ‘other kids’ play their sports or perform their plays or music.

You created CDs containing pictures of every student in your class highlighting different parts of the year for family’s memories.

You asked that student what kind of book she likes and then you brought it from your home or purchased it. Just because that’s what you do.

You see your students as more than a number on your APPR score. You’re not afraid to work with any type of student who needs you. And we all know that the kids who need us the most, will not be the ones who ‘help’ our teacher evaluation scores the most.

You smiled that huge smile when you watched as "one of your own" accomplished something that even her mom didn't think could happen.

You waited patiently and reassured your student instead of doing it for her.

You went off task/topic with your class when it needed to go there for a ‘teachable moment’ knowing how important they are, curriculum be damned.

You have been moved from grade to grade, school to school, to the purgatory of waiting to see if there is a position for you for next year…again. And yet you never teach like you are stuck in a nightmare, you teach and love it and it shines through to your students.

You research, read and study all summer to bring new ‘things’ into your teaching. And to reach kids like the ones who keep popping into your head when you can’t sleep, the ones who slipped through your fingers last year.

You taught then gave room for kids to perform, to fix cars, to build tractors, to design and build bridges, to design and build tables, chairs and sheds, to sing, to write, to create music and art, to build and throw pumpkin catapults. You taught by doing, just as John Dewey professed all those years ago, and the powers that be in curriculum management still don’t listen to.

You kissed boo-boos; applied more Band-Aids than you can count; you cleaned up accidents (and never complained or showed impatience); you supplied tissues and medicines and untold amounts of counsel from topics ranging from fights with enemies, best friends, boyfriends, teacher and parent issues, abusive relationships, unplanned pregnancies; did medical screenings and spoke to more parents than anyone else in the building.

You found books and shared new technology.

You used your own money so teachers could have what they needed and you said you ‘found’ it.

You are doing the job of more than one person and keeping the rest of us afloat during a crazy year in education.

You brought your husband/wife/friend in as a guest speaker.

You found a local author and made that connection to benefit for all of our kids.

You brought in a guest speaker to show us/remind us how to breathe and SARM.

You created quirky creative videos to encourage students to do what you needed them to, to help them learn something and remember it, to make them laugh.

You supported and did the dirty work (paperwork) so teachers could focus on kids.

You lent an ear to fellow colleagues when they were stressing and calmed them down so they could go back in the classroom and do what they do best.

You tracked down wandering kids in the hallway and herded them back to classrooms so they could be students again.

You taught students about the world outside of our school district.

You brought in creative fundraising ways to provide help to Haiti, Japan, Africa, as well as local places that needed help.

You showed kids that showing support for cancer research, epilepsy research, heart disease and strokes are also ways to heal.

You showed students that drinking and drugs are not your friend.

You played your old music, which introduced the students to something ‘new.’

You taught kids that having healthy choices and exercise regimes help their brains.

You found a way to get a greenhouse and garden going.

You brought in dogs and taught compassion and participation in a bigger picture.

You made your students create then share, all the while making sure they were always visible, never allowing them to be ashamed or discouraged by their disabilities.

You made your classroom a place of safety so all students felt comfortable and able to take risks in their learning.

You have class pets….

You took field trips.

You made sure every girl had a chance for a pretty dress for their big dance because you shopped and bought dresses for the the ones who couldn't afford their own.

You pay attention to the flower, the rock, the book, the sheet of music, the picture, the marks on their skin because you know how important it is not to miss the little things.

You made baked goods for students who promised and kept their word to do something to improve their lives and you made adults baked goods on Mondays because you knew how hard Mondays were otherwise.

You took the time to comment on those papers to suggest what could be done to improve for next time. And you allowed for a next time.

What happens to us when we believe this stuff about the ‘developing/ineffective’ teachers and those designations--erodes us and what we truly do every day.

We dare to disturb the universe and make a difference in the millions of little and big things we do each day for our kids. I could go on and on with my list of what we do and the impact we make, but I think the idea is clear. Despite what the public thinks, despite what some parents think, despite what state ed thinks...we know that growing humans is not a job that fits neatly in a bubble. It’s often messy and unwieldy and chaotic…if done properly. It’s in the moments of kindnesses shared, a laugh treasured and a feeling of being okay with oneself. It’s in the modeling of being honest, compassionate and critical thinking. And it’s what we do each and every day. SLOs, points, percentages and titles, be damned.

We teach, we care, we give, we love, we hurt, we rejoice, we tire, we challenge, we praise, we rejuvenate, we pull our hair out, we learn, we accept, and we get up the next day and do it all over again.

See you in September.


Russell McDowell said...

Miranda Forster directed me here. I have pretty high expectations but the list you included dwarfs my expectations. Don't make it impossible. You make it clear it's not a paycheck, it's a life choice, and APPR and every other topdown change needs to recognize the good before trying to remediate the bad.

V. Gaboury said...

Thanks for your comments Mr McDowell. I decided to write this piece because during regents week I watched as two teachers,one I never really saw teach before, work with two boys to try to get them to pass. These teachers were kind, patient and teaching. When I praised one of the teachers, his whole body language relaxed and he started to tell him his student's story and how this kid started to pull his act together so close to the end of the year and I thought of the expression 'he ran out of year.... "I thought about how no one really sees all the good, quiet and unmeasured things that teachers do as easily as breathing...and since I wasn't allowed in my classroom while my room was used for testing, my home was the library and I got to see other teachers working with students and I also got to hear other teacher's stories and my piece began to grow.And soon I felt I HAD to write it, it wasn't MY was all of ours. We can all claim some piece of it and identify with it and I thought about how amazing that makes teachers and those who work with students. ;)