Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Danielson by the Numbers

Danielson doesn't bother me that much. I look at what's required, and I think that looks like good teaching. Of course everyone should be prepared. Of course everyone should enter the classroom with a plan and have a vision of what will happen. Everyone should have goals for the students.

I also believe strongly in student engagement. I put a lot of energy into trying to create or inspire it. I want my kids to be happy and eager. But, and you knew there would be one, I can't guarantee every kid will be jumping up and down with hands raised. I could instruct them to raise hands at every question each time there's an observer. Or I could call on kids at random, which is my preferred M.O. anyway.

Yet when I see these checklists, the ones mandated by the DOE and maybe or maybe not endorsed by the union, I'm not at all encouraged. You rate one in this, two in that. Your questions are superficial and don't scrape the bottom of the cerebral barrel. Your students are not engaged in deep thinking, did not explain Einstein's theory of relativity to my satisfaction, and I still don't understand it. You engaged in the spread of inaccurate information. I'm not going to tell you what it is, because I don't have to. The fact that I accused you of it ought to be good enough for anyone.

I don't care if I walked out precisely after that second hand hit the fifteen-minute mark, and I don't care what you were leading up to. I have to sit through your class five more times, and I have 240 more observations to do and write up. Otherwise I'm going to be following your ass straight to the unemployment line and that is unacceptable.

This is not how you inspire people. This is not how you improve education. This is not how you grow flowers anyone wants to look at.

Now sure, you can beat down people, discourage teachers, make them want to quit, to jump out a window, to give up. It's not all that hard with hundreds of millions of dollars floating around for anyone wishing to jump onto the reformy bandwagon. But I can't believe that's what Danielson is about. Sure, she took the money, and let her name appear on all this stuff. But even so, the notion of trying to improve instruction is a good one, a worthy one.

That's not happening here, and that's very sad. It's sad not only for the teachers who have to sit through these nonsensical rating sessions, but also for the kids. You don't get great instruction from people with guns to their heads trying to make points in a rubric.

Inspiration comes from people, not from charts. They can fire me in two years if the charts look bad for me. But that won't help all the kids I could teach English to. And there are few things in life I love as much as I do working with these kids. I see little light bulbs going off above their heads. I see them trying to find the words to argue with me, their crazy teacher.

But the observer walking in, all he sees is a sheet of paper to place random checks on. That's no way to evaluate education.
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