My second year of teaching began at a new school with a new teacher orientation that included a pep talk of sorts from my principal. I learned that he, like me, is an NC State fan, and he quickly earned my trust when he quoted the famous coach Jimmy V.
“Success doesn’t happen overnight.” He paraphrased. He talked about attending district events where other principals, teachers, and superintendants would ask him what it was like to be such a huge “overnight success”. He quickly pointed to the 180 days worth of instruction that took place to get to that “overnight” success, and his point was well-received. Small steps to a larger goal.
This morning as I monitored students taking their Civics & Economics exam, I was reminded of the sentiment I learned years ago from a principal who has been through many more challenges than me. For a moment, I worried that they wouldn’t know the answers; but then I remembered how far they have come. Most importantly, I remembered that their lives will continue beyond the answers to a 50-question multiple choice exam, and I taught them things that they can use and remember forever. They learned because of me.
I don’t have their results back yet – the administration withholds the scores for some unknown reason. Whether they are 9% proficient or 99% proficient, I will rest easy knowing that we all did our best for 180 days, and that any success achieved was fought for every single one of those days.
And when all else fails, I know this to be true: Testing sucks.
I witnessed the sweetest exchange on Friday between one of our developmentally disabled, wheelchair-bound students and his special education teacher. During lunch, the teacher was trying to speed up the eating process. She told him that “we’re late for a very important date”, to which he giggled with delight.
“A date!” he exclaimed. “Are we about to marry our work?!”
Marry our work, what a concept. My husband often jokes that he will miss me once August rolls around, because when the school year starts I am nearly inaccessible. As educators we not only take pride in our ability to “sell out” to school and student, but we are encouraged to do so. Most new state evaluations of teachers contain a strand that judges our willingness and ability to advocate for our students and school. Do we involve ourselves in extracurricular activities? Do we seek out professional development opportunities? If so, we’re barely scraping by. Instead we are pushed to create new opportunities for students, and lead professional development for other educators.
With so many leaders, I wonder who is being served anymore. Just as the divorce rates are astounding in America, so are the statistics for teachers leaving the profession within the first five years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20% of teachers leave the profession within three years. Still, so many professionals stay year after year, because they feel they have no choice or because they truly love what they do.
When he was finished eating his lunch (no small task for someone in his situation), my special ed friend turned to his teacher and said, “hurry, we have work to do!”
I was encouraged.