Thursday, June 7, 2018

Teach 180: Write About a Time... (Day 176 & 177)

Yesterday I proctored a chemistry exam, prepared sixteen different midterm and final exams for summer acceleration, wrote three letters to parents about summer acceleration, attended a faculty luncheon honoring about 15 people (of whom 8 were retiring) and took some time for a singing "jam" session with two colleagues.  At the end of the day, I left feeling like three or four days had elapsed.  In fact, I even forgot where I had parked my car.  It was parked safely down by the science labs, where my day had started!

Today we have a final meeting as an Upper School faculty and we have been asked to take ten minutes to journal about one of the following topics.  (We subsequently had to write for two additional seven minute bursts.) We are to write about at time this year when:

  • you were empowered to make a choice.
  • the power of choice was taken from you.
  • you felt heard.
  • you felt dismissed.

After this school year, I could write on each of these topics, but the two that I could write the most about are the power of choice being taken from me and feeling dismissed.  Based on many of my friends being in states where they have gone on strike, I feel like being dismissed and having choice taken away are happening way to often, especially in public education.  

This blog entry will focus on the feeling of being dismissed.  (It is partly because of this feeling that I chose to leave Moravian and took a job at Kent Place School.)  At the beginning of the year, I suggested two major curriculum changes, one was a re-ordering of courses.  Another was lengthening courses to accommodate the decreased instructional time that was happening relative to the schedule change this year.  Both of those ideas where shot down.  The middle school math department did not want to consider the change in the ordering of courses and the Headmaster (by way of the Upper School Director) told me that we could not lengthen courses.  In essence, we needed to work within the structure we were given.  The Headmaster suggested that new ways of teaching should be used, but in reality, the curriculum itself needed to be restructured first.  (In hindsight, we also should have been given two full days at the start of the school year to meet as a department to consider the impending changes.)  After my meeting with him to discuss the impact of the schedule on the math curriculum, I walked away feeling like I was dismissed and not heard.  

So, the math department worked with what we were given.  We had less review before tests and covered topics in less depth and we created a three page document to show what has been removed or reduced in the curriculum.  The "surfacy" treatment of topics led to decreased student understanding in many areas.  We didn't have time to look at more nuanced problems than we had in the past and students said that they wished they had more practice with math on a daily basis.  I am sad that there is a mess that is being left behind in mathematics and that the new department chair will have to figure out how to clean up the mess.  I am also sad to be leaving many wonderful colleagues.  Keep fighting the good fight, LC and LG!  (If you are reading this MR, don't worry.  I am a phone call away and will gladly help you in any way I can.)  

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