Our Students are Not Commodities

I just completed my first-year cycle of the Educator Effectiveness process.  I collected baseline data, analyzed the results, hand-selected a target population, determined a student-learning objective, developed differentiated lessons, taught the lessons, was observed, reflected, changed my teaching practices, monitored progress and, eventually?  Wrapped all of that up with a pretty little number that is supposed to summarize my effectiveness as a teacher.  Okay.

I promise you my job is so much more than what is reflected in that number.  Albeit, my number wasn’t so bad for a first year teacher.  In fact, it was pretty darn good.  But do I feel like it is an accurate depiction of me, as a teacher, as a person?  How do I even answer that?  Though I don’t have an answer for that, I am asked to answer that, for my students.

Listen, I do think there is a ton pf merit to the Educator Effectiveness process, if you dare to put effort into it.  I believe in reflection.  I believe in accountability.  And I love data just as much as the next person.  I could pore over charts and graphs for hours.  But the truth is, not matter how much data I collect on one of my students, data will never give me a complete picture even if I do consider multiple data points.  Because my students are human.  Humans are multidimensional.  Humans are in constant flux–growing, regressing, changing, affected by the most minute details of being human.  They are complex.  They are worthwhile, every single one of them.  And they are not commodities.

During one of the meetings meant to analyze my EEP data, my principal stopped and asked me to explain what I had written at the very end of my SLO document.

“Though I highly value the SLO process, I did feel that, at times, as connected as I was to my students, it made them feel like commodities to me.”

This was a hard thing for me to admit.  I value my ability to connect with kids and to make them feel known.  But the disappointment I felt when a student who had been working so hard failed to meet the student learning objective I had set for them was deep-a little too deep.  Had I turned into an SLO monster?  Had I started to become exactly the person I didn’t want to be–someone whose focus is laser-pointed at the data instead of spotlighted on the student?

How do I prevent myself from becoming that?  From seeing my students as commodities?  I don’t have the answer completely.  But I have some thoughts.

  1. Provide more opportunities for students to take ownership of their work.  Engage my students in more goal-setting and self-reflection.  What matters to you?  Where do you want to push yourself to?  How have you grown?  What would have helped you grow more?  Involve them in the goal-setting process and it becomes more about them than any number.
  2. Be more intentional with lesson objectives.  This will keep me in check as well as aid student learning. Welcome the “Why does this matter?” and always be ready for the “When will I use this?”.  Check in at the end of each lesson with “How did we move towards achieving this objective today?”  How did we make growth rather than the yes or no question, did we make growth?
  3. Don’t bog my students down with data, but be transparent about it.  Celebrate growth without attributing the proof of it to any one point of data.  When they ask to see their test scores, make sure that they are in a reflective place first and always show them more than one data point, especially if seeing their score can be destructive to their future success.

Hopefully these strategies will help me create a healthy relationship in my classroom between being data-driven and student-centered.  What are you suggestions?



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