Last week I published a post about the quality of candidates who eventually become teachers. This was a timely topic in my own life because I just wrapped up interviews for candidates to our Master of Arts Program in Teaching at the university, I read an article about how Bill Gates is paying for a new measure to “grade teachers and help students”, and I was treated to a story from one of my current pre-service teacher interns about an experience she had in a local school.
First, some back story. Our M.A.T. program requires students to complete a minimum of 33 credits of coursework that include classes in instructional methods, classroom management, literacy, educational measurement and research among others. In addition to these requirements, students must complete an undergraduate major in the content area, and in the case of social studies, an additional 12 courses that span the social sciences, history and education. The students take these graduate courses while also interning at full time at 3 different middle and high schools, at least one of which is in a rural and high needs area. They intern all day for 26 weeks from Monday through Thursday and then come to campus on Fridays for a marathon of classes where we pile on the theory to go with their practice. Whew. Just making it through this gauntlet is an accomplishment in itself.
I try to eat lunch with my students on Fridays whenever possible, and whenever they aren’t too cranky with me for putting them through the wringer. We discuss their experiences in the schools, they ask me questions, I give advice, and we talk about their research projects. A couple of Fridays ago one of my interns, who I will call Andrea because that is her name and she is awesome, told me a story about her last day at her first rotation that I want to share with our EduSanity friends (with her permission of course).
“It was the last day of my first rotation internship and my students had gone out of their way to let me know how much they were going to miss having me as their intern teacher. They made me farewell cards, baked me cookies and even brought donuts to the class to celebrate my last day. I was so happy to know that I had made a difference, even if it was a small one, with that many high school students. It wasn’t until 7th period that I realized how much I had positively influenced my students, one specifically.
I had already finished the attendance when one of my students Gabriella (not her name) walked in about 15 minutes late. I asked Gabriella why she was so late and she told me that her one year-old daughter was sick so she had been absent from school the entire day. Once we started talking I realized she had a gift bag behind her. Gabriella told me that she had asked her mother to drive her to school just so she could bring me my farewell gift because she knew it was my last day at the school. I opened the card, which was not an ordinary card, it was in the shape of a snow globe, and it played Christmas music.
Inside of the card it read,
“Dear Ms. ———-, I am going to miss you dearly, I have spent my only savings allowance to get something special for you. And I wish you a Merry Christmas and love you Ms.———-. Have a great life and I wish you nothing but the best.”
After reading the card, I could not hold back my tears. Gabriella then told me to open up my present, (I could tell she was really excited about it) and inside of a white box, she had bought me a beautiful onyx ring. I insisted that the card was plenty, but she told me that she had seen the ring at the store and that it looked like something I would wear, so she had spent her savings on it. After I finished opening my gift, I went outside and met her mother and her daughter. Her mother let me know how much she appreciated me teaching her daughter and how she had heard nothing but positive things about me.
It was at this moment, that I knew that I had made the right choice about my future profession. If I can make that much of a difference, even in one student’s life, that is enough satisfaction for me. It also made me realize that yes, teaching content is extremely important in being a teacher but there are also many other factors that go into being an overall successful educator.”
At at time in which the right to “grade” our teachers is being purchased by our nation’s elite, it is worth stopping to think about EVERYTHING that teachers do throughout the day. For every story like Andrea’s there are a million more out there that teachers across this country could tell. Ironically, many of the ideas that Bill Gates envisions for teacher evaluation make a lot of sense. Probably because he had a couple thousand teachers help him design it. He didn’t get rich by being stupid.
That said, when it comes to spending money to determine who can and can’t “make the grade”, I’ll always be more impressed with Gabriella’s last $30 than Bill Gate’s next $30 million.