A fellow teacher recently told me that this was her last year teaching, I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not. She isn't the first teacher who has told me she's done, honestly I've lost count of the amazing teachers who have left the classroom. I'm not really sure that anyone ever notices. When I asked this teacher to tell me why she was leaving, tears started to fill our eyes. In fact, they're still flowing as I write this post. She recounted what we all know. The work load that we are assigned is never done. We are compelled to earn endorsement after endorsement that we pay for. We spend hours away from our families during our personal time to receive these endorsements and receive no pay for the time. All of these requirements are taking us away from our students who need us. These students are facing circumstances that you can't even imagine. Divorce, child abuse, neglect, loss of loved ones, hunger, just to name a few. This is happening in all of our schools, not just the ones that you see in the news. We need to be there to help these children, but we are too stressed to think clearly. To top it off, we have an evaluation system that tells us in no uncertain terms that we just can't do it all, EVER. We are left feeling inadequate. The extra hours and energy that we are spending in the classroom leave us in turmoil at home. We can't keep up with all of the demands that are placed on us, so we are left feeling inadequate at home as well. The message that teachers have received is "You are never good enough".
Bill and Melinda Gates honored my district with a $100 million grant (one-hundred-million-dollars). They did this with the understanding that our district would match the grant money, that's $200 million dollars. Their objective: to improve student achievement by rethinking how best to support and motivate teachers to elevate their game during the adoption of the Common Core curriculum and beyond. (http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/perspective-progress-made-but-still-gauging-impact-of-gates-100-million-in/2176739) This objective was translated in our district by hiring good teachers out of the classroom to become teacher evaluators. Our evaluation system is pages and pages long evaluating us on every nuance that could ever happen in the classroom all in the span of a twenty minute lesson to an hour long lesson. No part of the evaluation system in itself is evil, each area individually sounds reasonable. I would even dare to say that you could meet all of the requirements in a lesson. We still have to ask what this system costs the student, teacher and administrators? It takes hours upon hours of time to prepare a lesson that would meet the accomplished and exemplary ratings. These are the two acceptable ratings. I keep reading that we are provided with more meaningful feedback at the conclusion of these lessons than prior to the new evaluation system. I personally have not been given information that is more meaningful to me as a teacher than I was before the new system. In fact, I have spent quite a bit less time with my administration because most of their time is spent doing half of our evaluations. That's right, in my district we are double evaluated, by the peer evaluator and administrator. There is no data that supports that this evaluation system is providing a higher quality education for our students. In reality, the data shows that the students in elementary schools are fairing no better.
My colleagues and I have seen something strange happen over the last year. We thought that we had figured the whole evaluation system out. We were receiving scores that made us proud, then all of a sudden part of the teacher's pay was going to be linked to the evaluation scores. My teaching has improved according to the stakeholders that observe my classroom, but my scores are slipping. Areas where I had always received exemplary were now accomplished. In some cases these scores were dropped even lower. Evaluators were sent back for re-calibration (that means they had to fine tune the scores they were giving). Now I certainly hope that we didn't recalibrate our evaluators so our teachers don't score beyond a means that we can pay them. Surely I must be mistaken by correlating these two events, but I doubt it.
Teachers don't like talking about feeling inadequate. We would prefer to quietly work away in our classrooms doing what is best for our students. We certainly don't want people thinking that we are inept at our jobs. These feelings keep teachers from talking to people outside of the classroom honestly about what is happening. Please understand that teachers aren't well. The reality is that at the very least they are stressed beyond a healthy means. I personally cannot control my autoimmune disease because stress triggers my symptoms. Some teachers have had nervous break downs, certified breakdowns as diagnosed by a psychiatrist. Some have gone to their doctors and been prescribed medication for anxiety. Others have increased unhealthy lifestyles to compensate for their stress. Others are just leaving the classroom for a less abusive environment. These are not rare cases. I can no longer find a teacher in the classroom that enjoys teaching under these means. Where is our union? Where are the sane people that should be supporting us? Possibly they are all on the "I Hate Common Core" bandwagon. Too busy to notice what the real problem is because they are sheep believing everything that they read on Facebook.
So how do we fix this mess that we are in? I'm personally going to focus on what's important in the classroom, my students. When I leave the classroom, I'm going to focus on my family. I'm going to rely more on my intuition of what is right, and less on what other people tell me. I'm going to try really hard to care less about this ridiculous evaluation system. We need to stand up for what's right and tell stakeholders "no" when they add more to our list. I'm also pleading with everyone to rally together to help with a resolution to this problem. Let's fix it together before it gets ugly. If nothing changes and I have to choose, I choose my family. It doesn't have to be that way though, we don't have to keep losing good teachers. Stakeholders can fix this problem. Get rid of this ridiculous evaluation system. Spend the money on allowing mentors to come in the room and collaborate with the teachers, side by side in an environment that supports learning. Stop adding to the teacher's list! Let us focus on our lesson plans and students. Allow administrators to walk into the classroom and determine if we are doing a good job with a simple checklist and an end of the year evaluation. Please stop over complicating classroom responsibilities and leave the teaching to the people who are most qualified- the teachers.