I wrote this in August- and I didn’t publish it because I thought I’d get over it. I’m not over it. So, enjoy internet!
First, I have to tell you how much I love my job. I am so, so lucky to have it. Ask anyone in my life! In fact, they’re probably sick of me talking about it so much. On a daily basis I get to interact with an incredibly diverse, hopeful, smart, energetic group of students. They are so cool. You should come visit us! IIt will make you feel great.
Second, I teach drama.
I went to work today (EDIT: last August) to be part of a committee to help understand and implement the new teacher evaluation system. I participate in a lot of committees at my school. We are a group of forward thinking educators. Working at this school has challenged my notion of what it means to educate a child. We have deep, exciting conversations about what a human needs to succeed and how we can best provide that experience. It is an impossible tangle sometimes. There are so many factors that influence a child and we are only one of them. However, as a school we always agree on one thing. The child/student is our priority. We must do for them, we must be in their service. We try to tamp down ego and prioritize student need. As a school, we are an oasis. We are not even close to perfect but we’re on the right track. We care deeply and we think deeply.
I sat on this committee as an equal and valuable member of a team. I shared horrified glances and made silly jokes as the evaluation system was rolled out. We had an amazing woman come to help us sort it out. She was funny, down to earth, and smart. We sifted through packets of paper, trying to understand this new wall of bureaucracy. Even though it was overwhelming and we were pretty upset we were ready to integrate this into our progressive teaching.
I believe teachers should be held accountable and should get support. TEACHING IS HARD. We want help and support which means we need to be evaluated.
I had a list of ideas in my head about how I, as a drama teacher, could be evaluated. I am the only drama teacher in the building, but I have a strong network to support me around the city. Arts teachers stick together- we’re all a little bonkers anyway.
This new evaluation system has teachers being evaluated by 60% principal observation, based on The Danielson Framework for Teaching and 40% student achievement. Test scores.
Since I don’t teach a subject with the test at the end (we all hate tests, but that’s another open letter) I was hoping to offer a thoughtful way for the other arts professionals in the school and myself to have a fair and helpful evaluation.
The committee waded through baselines, state mandates, growth potential, goal setting (but not like…actual goals) local assessments (tests that you, the DOE, will create but no one will see until AFTER we decide what to do for our kids) and countless other lines of mind numbing information. We got through middle school math, ELA, Science, Social Studies (we teach on a humanities model so…that’s a thing) and finally we get to the end and I think that it’s finally time to put my brain to work.
Instead, the last page of paper just said “other.”
Other. Other = drama, music, dance, visual art, PE, Health Education, Foreign Language (in some cases) and anything else you can think of.
I’ve heard this before and it irks me. Deeply. I have a masters degree, I spend hours planning, my colleagues value me as much as I value them but YOU Department of Education- you can’t even care enough to print my job title.
I am so mad at you. I am so offended by you. I am so disappointed in you. I’m asking for the most basic respect. You can come up with a classification or buzz word for every possible aspect of this system but you can’t even give the arts it’s own system of evaluation. Evaluation for a job that comes with a job title- a job title that you pay me for! Like any other teacher!
I can probably get over the semantics, especially if you let me develop some sort of assessment that I think has value for my students in the classroom and that represents how far I can move them through learning the craft I adore.
Instead 40 percent of my teacher evaluation will be based on my 11th grade student’s ELA scores. Not just me- all of us others.
I’m not worried, our kids are going to do fine. The 11th grade ELA teacher is a rock star just like the rest of your staff! Also, I get it. I teach literacy too! However, I sure as heck don’t teach to that regents exam. It was suggested (by someone with excellent intentions) that we “others” adjust our curriculum. The gym teacher could have the student’s write an essay about the value of calisthenics instead of…you know…doing them.
I strive to not be closed minded or set in my ways. I’ve changed my curriculum every year for as long as I’ve been teaching. I’ve developed six new classes in the last two years. We use standards based grading where the ENTIRE school is aligned to the same shared outcomes. I LOVE COLLABORATION. I. LOVE. IT. You know, we’re all in this together! (HS musical anyone? Fine.)
I am not upset that my school looks to me to help further the literacy education our multi-faceted student body. That’s my main goal! Drama is an excellent way for students to demonstrate their understanding of literacy concepts that aren’t often used in an ELA classroom- or if you teach at my awesome school- in partnership with an ELA classroom. But if you want to know HOW I teach or if my teaching is EFFECTIVE- ELA state scores will tell you nothing.
You won’t know about my curriculum or how I implement it. You won’t get to assess how on the first day of class my main goal is to get even the shyest 6th graders grin when I teach them zip, zap, zop, You won’t know how my costume design class crowds around a youtube video of how to sew pajama pants and make them over four times because we all get caught at that ONE tricky part. You won’t get to see how after school my drama club hides themselves in the dressing room during breaks to practice the cup song and talk about what they will be when they grow up and how I let them have just 5 more minutes before we run through Act 1 and how they start on time anyway because they can’t wait to run through Act 1.
Even if my exceptional and caring principal can manage to observe me SIX separate times this year, like she is now required to do, her observations will not be the full measure of me as a teacher.
Department of education, you will never know my classroom or my mistakes, you will never help me to get better, you will never push me out of a rut.
If I am rated ineffective based on the tests scores of these students you will send me a coach. I’m willing to bet this coach will have no knowledge of drama or theater. If I am rated as ineffective again, you will give me a trial and then despite my tenure you will remove me from the system. Which is pretty insane considering you hardly acknowledge I’m a part of it.
Guys! Joe is showing me Battle Royale- how did I not know how deeply The Hunger Games ripped this off? Cray.
Anonymous asked: i just wanted to know (and in no way trying to be rude or insulting), i thought that being 'fat' was unhealthy? or is it just sometimes? I know that you're not promoting unhealthiness though, i was just wondering? you're super gorgeous by the way!! :)
A person’s body is not an indication of what their health is. There are plenty of healthy fat people and plenty of unhealthy thin people. But it really doesn’t matter because a person should be treated with respect no matter what their health is.