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In Which My Best Is Not Good Enough

Last week my dean of instruction shows up and does a surprise observation in my classroom. Hey, that's cool, no biggie. I'm on schedule, as a matter of fact.

See, this 6 weeks was supposed to be poetry and drama. So I spent 3 weeks on poetry, and then went on to Drama with "Twelve Angry Men." Following what the other teachers are telling me to do, yes ma'am, I do all the things, and try to cover all my bases.


After class I get an email in which D of I requests I meet with her regarding "reading selection." A second email informs my department that D of I will be meeting with us the next day to "help us" plan our lesson plans.

I.E., Peabody, you got some 'splainin to do.

So fine. I try to meet with her that day, and it doesn't work out, because she's super busy. So next day I go into the planning meeting. I'm feeling okay about all of this, because heck, when I came up with the idea to do the lessons I'm doing I sent a detailed email to my mentor teacher about it, and she had no objections to offer, so I must be good, right? But just to be sure, she's sitting in the room, so I ask her — hey, did anything I have on that lesson present a problem to you?

She blinks at me. Oh, you know, just the "Twelve Angry Men" thing. You know, that 3 weeks of my lesson that I had planned out that she said nothing about.


So D of I shows up and we meet. And here's what I'm told: that "Twelve Angry Men" is a 12th grade reading level, and I'm teaching sophomores, all of whom we KNOW have 4th-5th grade reading levels, and so my students are obviously lost and don't understand the material. So maybe I need to think about that.


In other words: MyDearPeabody, you clearly have no clue whether or not your students understand your class, and even if you did, you would clearly just blindly teach whatever you wanted without regard for their comprehension level, because, hell, why not? Because no one who was actually paying attention to their students would choose to present them with a fun, interactive, interesting, challenging piece, right?

No, clearly not.

I'm sitting there, thinking. I'm thinking about how my slow readers in class got lost during our role-reading because they were reading AHEAD to find out what happened. I'm thinking about how students are so surprised, telling me, "Miss, this is really good!" and "No, let's keep reading, I want to see what happens!" and "Hey, pay attention, stuff is happening right now, and you're slowing us down!" to students who aren't doing their part. I'm thinking about how my kids have been asking me, "So Miss, when do we do the next play? What else are we going to do like this? Can we do more?" I'm thinking about how my students are gleeful at the prospect of performing a scene from the play onstage.


But that's not as important as being on the "same page" as the other teachers. Ostensibly, this means teaching the same objectives and sticking to the Year At a Glance guide. The message I'm getting is that I should be teaching the same material as they do — workbook stuff, in other words. Boring stuff, in other words. Stuff that makes teenagers want to beat their heads against a desk.

It's just frustrating. It'll work itself out, and I know if I'm teaching well it'll show through in the end. I just get so frustrated with the "We need inspiring, creative teachers who will connect with these kids" spiel when it is immediately followed by the "just not in a way that no one else is doing" spiel.


Spiel, shmiel.

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