OTES and ISTE: Acronyms for the win!

Every teacher I’ve ever known is busy. There are always six things I could be doing right now, and I have to decide which of a laundry list of things is the most urgent. Am I giving meaningful feedback to my 99+ students? Planning lessons based on formative data that’s aligned to state standards? Collaborating with baby teachers new to the profession? Helping my six year old practice his spelling, or coaxing my ten year old to practice her flute? Bedtime stories? Twitter? The occasional face time with my spouse? Laundry or dishes? Play with the dog, or pet the cat? None of these choices is new, to me or any other adult that I know.

What is new to me is the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES). Because we took a pay cut and then a pay freeze, we maintained our old contract well beyond the start of this new “better” system for evaluating teachers. I won’t go into the specifics of the system, sufficed to say that it is more time intensive, and sometimes I feel like writing up what I do on a daily basis just takes away from the little time I have.

In a lot of ways, I am a doer, and I’m too busy doing to reflect on the job that I do. So when both my principal and my community college partner came in to see me on the same day, while I was (and am, BTW) sick, I refused to “pretty up” my lesson for them. The most I had time to do was the extensive, 35+ question “pre-assessment” that OTES required.  It was gratifying to have the community college partner, who was checking to see how well I compare to other college adjuncts, say that I was meeting or exceeding their expectations. I still don’t know what my principal thinks. Sigh.

So here comes the International Technology Society for Technology Education (ISTE) for the reflective win. Last summer, I was invited to reflect on how well my teaching meets their standards, as part of a pilot program. I agreed, because I know how much I hate reflecting, and I knew that the summer was a great time to begin this reflective process. It was a long, drawn out process for me, but I felt confident that in reflecting I would improve my teaching skills. And it worked: I successfully completed the requested two parts of a four part portfolio for the project.

Now the school year is in full swing, and I still have the opportunity to finish the other two parts of the portfolio reflection for ISTE. Here’s where OTES comes in: I have to write two goals for this school year that are “SMART” goals. Why not combine the rest of an ISTE portfolio with OTES? If I have to reflect, why not find a way to achieve something meaningful?

If you made it to the bottom of this post and didn’t TL;DR, are you a doer or a reflector?

Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/photos/twenty_questions/


Student Centered in an OTES World

The door opens into a classroom with students, sitting in circles, leaning towards each other. The volume swells as the discussion gets heated. Hands wave, fingers tap on keyboards and on paperback novels to prove points. But where is the teacher?

The principal frowns. He’s coming to evaluate her teaching, knowing that only 50% of her evaluation, and the RIFF that might follow a bad one, is based on her teaching. The other 50% is based on student growth measures, which right now means a single test score. Then he smiles. There she is, crouched down next to a group of students, observing the magic of student collaboration.

Last night, I took part in a #flipclass discussion on Twitter. Just as a shout out to all my twitter peeps, this discussion takes place every Monday night, EST, from 8-9. I’ve only participated in two chats so far, but I always walk away with some deep insights into how flipping looks from around the country.

And then they asked the question: Q6 How do you help Ss take responsibility for their learning? What can counteract the “playing school” and #PointProstitution?

If you read my previous post, I really want my teaching this year to be all about teaching them how to learn how to learn and to learn from each other. But this question strikes deep into the heart of what I obsess about in the middle of the night–what if they don’t show student growth on the test? The test that I helped to write, the one that focuses on questions coming from a set curriculum. The one that could make or break my continuing teaching career.  The one that cares very little about student responsibility for learning and very much about teaching “what is expected.”

The other answer posts start to flow–asynchronous learning, mastery learning, student choice, and I think, do you be true to your beliefs, or do you “teach to the test” to save your job?

The answer is that I am committed to doing what is best for students–to scaffold them when they struggle, to present them with new ways of looking at the world, to support them in their journey as life long learners, to challenge them to always prove their points with evidence.  This means that I cannot teach to the test. I can only do what is best for them, every day, and let the test score fall where it may.

I pray it is enough.