The whole thing gets my crusading type spirit in a perpetual spin, something like a Katrina that keeps coming over, again and again. We have these violent stormy periods, a calm while the virtual eye passes, and then another violent beating. However, in "education world" Katrina keeps changing course and turning around to re inflict her ravages....over....and over...and over.
We were all called upon to come up with a presentation based on our findings in the DATA. I did what I was asked to do. I've been looking at the DATA all year. It DOES help. I won't deny that. But, I wonder at times if we've become so DATA-driven that we've forgotten to recognize the big picture of humanity. I'm talking about the way we relate to students as well as the way administrators relate to teachers here. Oh well. What do I know? ;)
Here's the extra "essay" I wrote and turned in with my findings.
What Data Can’t Tell You
Data is a wonderful tool. The data I’ve been able to retrieve on my students has assisted me a great deal in my ability to serve them and meet their academic needs. I can easily pull up a chart or a graph and locate exact areas of weakness and strength for individuals and groups. I can group them by class, ethnicity, economic status, gender, and, I imagine, if I were so determined, I could rank them by the number of hairs on their heads and come up with some sort of correlation between that number and the data. However, there are many things that the data can’t tell you.
I have no data pertaining to the levels of trust, relationship, self-worth, conflicted emotions, anger, or difficult circumstances that my students face. The aforementioned data is vital to my ability to meet the academic needs of my students. This is data that I must collect, over time, and through the relationship that I build with them on a daily basis. This is data that can make or break me as a teacher. This data doesn’t make or break me based on how many circles they color in correctly on a standardized test. That will come. It makes or breaks me based on whether or not my students feel valued and worth listening to as an individual. While I work diligently to ensure that each of my students achieve the best possible score they are capable of achieving on the test, it means little to me if they put more value on what the test says about them than in what they themselves know they are capable of achieving outside the walls of my classroom and the bubbles on the test.
The test is only one step in their journey toward success. Many of them will become successful in spite of a lack of ability to achieve great scores, and many of them will fail in spite of the fact that they’ve always tested well. This is where I can make the most difference for my students. Somewhere within that cavern of those who will succeed no matter what and those who may fail in spite of everything, I can be a variable that causes a change. It is my job to bridge that cavern; to provide lifelines of hope and help, and the value of giving their best efforts in spite of, and sometimes because of, the difficulties they face.
The data is a piece of that puzzle for me. It provides me with hard evidence of who is testing well and who is not. More often than not, it merely confirms what I all ready know. And yet, confirmation is a valuable thing. Affirmation is valuable as well. Attached is an email I received from one of my students just this morning when I arrived at school. This student is articulate and successful. She will achieve success no matter what and in spite of anything I may do in class. However, in her ability to articulate, and because of the level of confidence she has in herself, she affirms what I am doing in my classroom each day. None of it is based on data. It’s based on trust, relationship, and a willingness to be transparent and honest.
I believe that my students will do well on the TAKS test. The data that’s been provided to me this year has been a wonderful tool in my ability to achieve that goal. However, I’ve learned much more about how to help my students, individually, by knowing them as individuals. I’ve created a level of trust and confidence in which they are free to question, explore, and even make mistakes in my classroom. In doing so, I’ve learned more from them this year than I could possibly have taught them. And there’s no test, no bubbles, not even an essay that could completely describe what’s occurred.
love and grace,
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