So where do we get off, really, thinking that we are beyond the accountability measures we impose on our own kids? Seriously. If they get a quarterly review, then that’s the least we can ask of ourselves.
I’m also tired of waiting for my employers to walk in here– be that a supervisor, a principal, a superintendent, or a parent– and ask me questions about my practice that I am unprepared to answer because my implementation is generally solid, but my documentation stinks. Bill Ferriter talks a bit about the disconnect between his own sense of accountability and that of his district’s here.
I want a TEACHER REPORT CARD. Something I can pull out next year and say, with confidence, “This is a snapshot of me as a professional at this moment.” And since this thing does not exist, as my last major thinking for the 07-08 year, I’m going to draft my own.
Here’s my top ten items, in I’m-just-blathering-order. And I’m going all out here. The idea is to make things as sexy as possible at first, and cut them down to manageable size later.
1) Observations, one per quarter in my class. My two scheduled observations next year count– and then I’ll go two more. Two additional observations, I undertake of other classrooms. One should be out of district.
2) Professional Development. New York State requires me to complete 175 hours of this every five years. The district’s supposed to keep a record of this for me, but it’s probably a good idea to keep a tally of this myself.
2a) Membership. Somewhere. (Well, maybe not here.) Unions don’t count. NCTE has served me quite well. ASCD rocks too (and not just because they employed me this year). AERA is good for hard-core geekiness.
3) Reading. A periodical subscription or at least one professional book per year. Inspired by Slate Magazine, in 08-09 I’m contemplating blogging the Handbook for Adolescent Psychology. Yeah, yeah, I’m a nutjob. Leave it in the comments.
3) An independent evaluation of the quality of my written Plans. Not the daily attack, the six-box-to-a-three-inch-line that couldn’t be deciphered by a Navaho windtalker, but something that shows in black and white these four things (heavily influenced by The Science and Art of Teaching, Robert Marzano): a) one or two overarching academic goals per unit, grounded in the power state standards, b) differentiation up and down, c) an assessment, formative or summative, tied directly to every goal, d) a plan for what the heck I do for every goal not achieved the first time around.
3a) Reflection on those plans. Again, in writing. Yes, this worked. No, this stunk. What I will keep, what I will change.
Someone of note should be an independent reviewer for 3 and 3a. Since theoretically we’ll be filling this report card out four times, it could be a rotation through my principal, a mentor teacher, the Literacy Coach for our building, and the English director for the district.
4) Hard evidence of learning. I should be collecting this, in a systematic manner, for every unit I undertake. For the report card, though, I think this ideally should involve three small snapshots:an academically talented kid, a middle of the road kid, and a kid who struggles. What would the snapshots be? It could be a quiz taken a few times, a packet of revisions to an essay, a hard data growth chart on 10 minute weekly homework identifying parts of speech, running reading records. Lots of possibilities.
5) Collaboration. Participation yearly in at least one major academic-based project between me and other teachers in the building/on the grade level. I’ve been batting around the idea of a poetry slam run simultaneously with a teacher in the other middle school in our district. Stay tuned.
6) Autonomy. Deliberately vague, for the moment, while I continue to experiment with autonomy in the classroom. But I want to be able to show how I involve kids in at least one instance of substantive investment, direction, and evaluation of their own learning. I think one of the best and simplest ways to do this is some kind of quarterly course evaluation from the kids, with tallied ratings. Working on what questions I might ask.
6a) Care and Feeding. How I make a concerted, documentable effort to honor a child as an individual, celebrating her successes and supporting her in her challenges.
7) Evidence of supporting literacy as a citizen. Volunteering at another school. Helping out at the public library. Keeping up the blog. Writing and publishing on education. You get the idea.
8 ) Home involvement. At base, this would be a detailed log of regular phone calls, emails, and conferences. At best?…well, I continue to attempt to convince my team that we should do regular home visits with our neediest kids. In between could be any number of things.
9) Getting stuff. By this I mean acquiring bit by bit, by grants, organized events, slyly worded and well timed budget requests, garage sales or begging, the items on the wish list that every teacher keeps somewhere in their head. In mine is two more laptops for editing, about 2000 book titles for a decent classroom library, and a hot chocolate machine. But I’ll be happy with the dozen or so subscriptions to kid-friendly magazines for my room next year, if that goes through.
10) And the usual vanilla icing: showing up to meetings on time, turning papers back within a week, returning messages within 24 hours, fulfilling my extraneous administrative duties in an organized and timely fashion, blah blah blah, and not allowing my desperately fidgety kids to run a race in the sunshine on the front lawn directly after their torturous two hour Social Studies test block, in full view of about eight classrooms. Oh, sorry– that was three days ago. Oops.
So what am I missing? Tear it up, people.
UPDATE: I was going to put this in another post, but decided against beating a dead horse, although the question is worth addressing: how would I rank these ten items? I think I’d stick to something a little more graphically oriented, like concentric circles. Plans, Reflection, Evidence, Autonomy, and Home Involvement seem to me to be the solid heart, something which then Observations, Reading, and Professional Development/Membership nurture and inform. Stuff and Collaboration can be more readily expected of teachers with a little more experience, while Vanilla Icing, like spelling and punctuation in writing, should be emphasized in all things, yet unto itself is the least important aspect of the ten– certainly not the make-and-break of tenure that it can be.