A Memorable Day.
Time and Teaching 2-12-06
By Freddie A. Bowles
Posted from Fayetteville, Arkansas
The new year 2006 steadfastly progresses. On this cold Sunday in the hills, it's already February. Another holiday (Valentine's Day in the USA) approaches.
In a 24-7 Profession, Time's Measure
Is Calibrated by High-Stakes Gambling.
For educators, the year is measured in semesters with their own special divisions according to the school calendar. Once upon a time, six weeks or nine weeks delineated the transition from one period to the next. Nowadays our academic phases are measured by standardized test periods. Benchmarks approach here in our neck of the woods, preceded or followed by other standardized tests of various levels of importance.
"High-stakes testing" has become one of the paramount passwords in academese these days. Does it not seem amusing that the phrase triggers another association, that of "high-stakes gambling?"
What happens when one loses in either situation? Money is lost on the gaming tables, but what is lost in the classroom?
With the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation, funds for education can be lost or reduced. School districts may have federal funds withdrawn from the budget.
A Federal Hand in Every Local Pie.
The ability of the hometown community to manage its own schools is also threatened. In Arkansas a school board can be dissolved with control relinquished to a governmental body at the state level.
Teachers may be let go if they are deemed ineffective by the artificial standards of the benchmark.
Students lose, too. If students score below proficient or basic, they are placed in remediation. They lose credits and time -- at the senior level, a poor test performance may threaten a student's graduation.
But I stray from the original intent.
How Do Others View Linear Time?
I had come here to ponder arbitrary divisions of calendar time, weighty divisions that drive educators to view the year in large chunks of days and weeks. I wonder: How do other professionals or employees in other lines of endeavor view linear time?
Only once in my lifetime have I worked outside the educational profession. Back in the 1970s I spent a year as a bank teller at Helena National Bank, deep in Mississippi River delta country (Arkansas side of the Great River). There among the coins and bills, time was measured by workweeks. Every weekend was a holiday with no demands, intellectually or professionally.
As a teacher caught up in the school year, the idea of any day free of one demand or another is as rare as perfection on a benchmark exam.
Requirement for Lawmakers.
To have the luxury of demand-free days, we must force ourselves to stop planning, to stop preparing, to stop studying, to stop assessing. If I were President of the USA, every lawmaker would be required to serve as a substitute in a local school for no less than two weeks as part of their "professional development" as a senator or representative. Do you think their views of education would change?
Let's see. How many holidays have passed since my last posting on the day after Halloween? Two or three for sure -- and that includes almost two weeks at Christmas for the teachers among us -- so allow me to fill you in on what has happened since the autumn.
First, a bit of good news. I passed the Praxis III assessor's test. It was a grueling two days of review and testing. Most of my cohort group was there at the former Albert Pike Hotel in Little Rock. After I had received my official letter of acceptance as a Praxis III assessor, I joined the group in Little Rock for a recalibration and the awarding of certificates. Counting our graduating class, Arkansas now has over 250 active assessors.
Hardworking, Inspired, Compassionate.
With a bit of trepidation and excitement, I embarked upon my first assessment at a small school on the Arkansas-Missouri border to observe a fifth grade teacher present a grammar lesson. It was an enjoyable experience, and we both survived! The second assessment was also in this corner of the state, where I was assigned to a middle school resource math teacher. I would sum up these experiences as humbling in light of my experience as a higher education specialist. To observe hardworking, inspired, compassionate teachers demonstrate creativity, organizational and management skills, and content expertise during a relentless and demanding school day is gratifying and makes me proud to be involved in teacher education.
Since those two assessments, I've had another recalibration and have received three more assessments for this semester.
Being a Praxis III assessor aligns perfectly with one of my assignments as a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas. I supervise the foreign language interns in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in addition to teaching a class on Language Development for Educators. As supervisor, I have the opportunity to observe the interns as they teach during two rotations in the public schools -- one semester at a high school and the second at a junior high school. Our program uses the Pathwise Classroom Observation System for assessing the effective teaching progress of the interns, so I have become very familiar with the four domains and nineteen criteria. I also introduce the system to my students in the Language Development class so that they can become familiar with Pathwise before they begin their MAT internship.
The Most Challenging of Semesters.
This winter-spring semester of '06 is the most challenging so far. In one role I am supervisor, assessor, and teacher. In another I am a student enrolled in twelve hours of study. It's interesting, provocative, and demanding. I have a presentation pending (next week at the Association of Teacher Educators' Conference in Atlanta, Georgia), two research projects in the works, and comprehensive exams scheduled in March!
Now we know why time is measured in semesters. The teaching profession is 24-7. I'll have a short break between spring finals before the summer semester begins, which will be my last semester of course work before the year of dissertation writing.
One last question before I resume studying.
What kind of attitude does it take to persevere as a teacher?
The answer from Novice Teacher is that one has to have the "Pollyanna" attitude towards education.
Toward the Greater Good.
The "Pollyanna" teacher holds the persistent belief that students can learn, that every citizen deserves a chance at learning, and that daily wrangling with students is worth the effort. A teacher must have this attitude or cynicism sets in and everyone loses.
Education is the next level of socialization after the primary family unit. If we give up on education, our society loses, and consequently everyone suffers. To the successful teacher, altruism and optimism go hand-in-hand. Those who stay the course continue to believe that education holds the key to societal improvement and that learning provides the spark of change. It all works together toward the greater good.