Sunday, July 17, 2011

Success Comes When We Prove It

     While reading our local newspaper I saw today that our district found it necessary to hire someone to improve public relations.  This individual will more than likely send us emails about how wonderful our district is doing, enhance our district web page with videos, clips, and awards, and finally work with the news outlets to promote how awesome our district is.  Our district has also worked hard in the past few years to develop school attractors, which are small advertisements as to why you would want to choose different schools in the area.  Our state is even fixated on image and tries to motivate each school by assigning a grade and awarding money to high performers and punishments to schools that make them look bad.  The district and state that I work in want to look good, because the reality in our schools is not always that impressive.
     I don't have control of what is happening in my state or district, but I am in charge of my classroom.  In my classroom I often make a comment early in the year, 'Don't tell me how awesome you are, prove it!"  This mantra usually comes about when I ask students, "Who in this room has mastered their multiplication facts?"  Usually almost everyone in the class has supposedly mastered these facts.  I will then have them prove it to me.  A few students usually can then demonstrate mastery in a five minute speed test.  So I have these students stand up and receive praise.  I then make these super stars compete against me to demonstrate that we rarely arrive in life.  I tell them when they can beat the teacher they are welcome to quit practicing.  At the beginning of the year it is no contest with me easily winning, but later in the year, I have to work hard to keep up with some of my students who have learned to prove their abilities. 
     In our jobs it is important to play some of the games of image.  Students may not respect us as much in our comfy clothes as they would in our professional attire.  Our administrators and district gurus might not appreciate us throwing out hundreds of dollars worth of curriculum to head in our own direction.  In the life of a teacher we need to work hard to focus on what works instead of what looks cool. Our students need to understand that learning is not a destination, but a continual improvement over the course of our lives.  As the bureaucrats in our states work hard to make us look good, the real solution will quietly come from teachers who "prove it." 
(Let me know in the comments below some of the ways you celebrate your classroom successes.)

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