Sunday, August 3, 2008

Events, Pt. 2

This continues from my previous post.

3. Gurus. I use to list these separately, but it is getting too long. I’ll admit, I gravitate towards the best teachers in a building, and I’ve been blessed to work with several in different roles. If I’m looking for a quality in assessing how good a new teacher is, the desire to seek out the best the best indicator I see to future greatness. Because this is my blog, I’ll list a few of the ones that have had the biggest impact, including Birgitta Meade, Ola Nordqvist, Barb Schwamman, Roger Henderson, and Dwight Laidig. Granted, there are many more that I consider equal in quality to these, but these are the ones that have rubbed off on me. Dwight, I’ll talk about later. Perhaps the most influential here, though, is a teacher by the name of Mark Johnson. Mark taught in my discipline (talented and gifted, language arts), and did high amounts of technology integration. I took a graduate course from him after my first year of teaching, and while I already had the desire to change the face of my classroom on the basis of emerging technology, in him I had the model.

4. NCLB - Here, I could elaborate quite a bit. I’ll admit my biases… I’m not a fan. Like many educators, I find it too simplistic, over-relying on standardized “one-size-fits-all” assessment, punishment based, and created without the input of educators. It emphasizes a different skill set than what I see as essential learnings, and it emphasizes a specific group of learners… those that are barely non-proficient. As a talented and gifted instructor, I’ve been abhorred at the resources given to help a small subset of students to acquire a rather arbitrary distinction (in Iowa, it is the 41st percentile on the basic skills test) while grossly ignoring the needs of the gifted.

As a building principal, though, I had to move beyond my griping and deal with the reality of the situation. The person who has helped me here is the author Todd Whitaker. He boiled it down to this: regardless of your vies on public mandate, you as an educator have a duty to meet them. What’s more important is your approach. He described a two-circle analogy, where the bigger circle represents all the things you want to accomplish, and the smaller circle is the mandate. Regardless how you feel about the size or importance of the two circles, if you don’t find a way to address the smaller circle, it becomes the bigger circle.

There will be many mandates for teachers, be it government-led (NCLB, Iowa Core, Rigor and Relevance) or district-led. Right now, NCLB dwarfs the other ones and affects my job as an educator on a daily basis. Therefore, it is irrefutable: NCLB is an important event in my educational outlook.

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