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Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Renewing Old Acquaintances in an Annualized World

Several years back, teachers switched students mid-year.  It was a little intimidating.  I'd say goodbye to 175 or so faces, all known quantities, in order to confront 175 new faces, mostly unknown entities.  It always worked out fine, but, in the back of my mind, there was ever-present chance that it might not.  Lions and tigers and bears!  Oh, no!

There is comfort in knowing I will face the same students in February, following Regents week, when I return to teach.  I know them and they know me.  I also honestly like them, but I won't go so far as to say they like me--because, after all, it is my job to hit them with homework, essays, tests, projects and all sorts of good stuff from the repertoire of teachers!  

At this age, it is more probable that teachers are viewed as obstacles, not pathways, to teenage success.  Many students, at any age, do not share the same values as ed. "reformers" and their formulas. They live in a world where success is measured by self-gratification and socialization.  And, this is one of the great problems with VAM.  Its emphasis on tests and its overall values do not mesh with those of many students; teachers are then blamed for the discrepancy.  

I will say, at the very least, however, my students tolerate me and understand that I am trying to do my job.  A few current students probably like me, but they would be hard-pressed to admit it, especially not in a public forum.  Let's just say we both pretty much know what to expect in the classroom. But who's to know what they might say on a student survey?  It would probably depend more on their current mood or their most recent grade from me!   

When I was a student, I kept the same teachers throughout the academic year.  I liked it that way.  It also saved all the inconvenience of rushing to get a whole new set of school supplies.  Of course, much depends upon whether or not you like your teacher...or your teacher likes you.  

For some students and/or their teachers, annualized courses could be a nightmare.  In most cases, however, students (not teachers) who feel that way can usually find a parent to convince a guidance counselor to work the small miracle of transferring that student to a new teacher.  Note:  Teachers do not try the same.  You do not have the same pull--and neither do your parents!

Each year, I'm pretty certain that I have some of the best students ever, and I am more than happy to hold on to them.  And, I'd be perfectly happy with the annualized system, but for one major drawback.  I am bothered by the fact that annualized courses were most likely implemented in the City to track teachers.   The "reform" crowd wants to pin students' test scores on a single teacher's back.  In this way, teachers become more easy targets or fall guys.  The "reformers" are less concerned with potential benefits to students.  They are primarily interested in putting their junk science into practice--at the expense of teachers' jobs.

Still, and all the same, I'll be happy to see the same, hopefully happy and healthy, faces in February.  If our ship is going down, I couldn't think of a much finer crew.  Let us tidy our ship and hoist our sails together while the weather is still fair.   

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