Monday, October 7, 2013

Failure, Evaluation, Starting Over and Saying 'I'm Sorry'


image courtesy of www.mediawebapps.com



Wow.  What a week this last week was.

We took our first content exam this past week.  It covered quite a bit of standards, but I felt relatively sure my students were ready for it.  Now keep in mind, for the first time in my career, I spent the entire first 5 weeks of school NOT teaching ANY test formatted questions and we did ZERO worksheets.  Last year I did the same thing but didn't start until mid October.  This year it was from Day 1!

We took the exam, and scored 37%.  Terrible, right?  Out of the 5 elementary schools in my district we were also the lowest (though not by much).  I have never been the "lowest" elementary school.  To say I was devastated would be an understatement.  I cried on my way home, got angry, and felt defeated.  I have never felt like such a failure.

The next day, I spent the class time going over the test.  And what did I learn?  I learned that my students actually do have a firm grasp of the math I've been teaching.  What's the issue then?  The issue is their reading skills.  They don't know how to read and comprehend what a question is asking.  Then I realized....every single activity that we had done leading up to the exam, were math activities with NO reading involved.....there was my mistake!  How could I have missed that?

The other "positive" about this exam was it gave me a clear view of who I need to keep an eye on these next few weeks before our next exam.  But as I worked with kids I started to become a little less upset about the scores.  Now I know the percent passing was 37%, but my average grade was in the mid 60s. So that gave me a little more promise.

Was I happy after everything? No.  I am a perfectionist.  I want every single student of mine to be successful no matter what we do.  Whether that be an exam, or project, or even just watching one of their flip class videos.  I want my students to feel proud.  And I think they felt as upset as I do.

We didn't have any students on Friday, thank goodness.  I was broken, I was hurting and I need to re-evaluate things.  After I finished some parent conferences in the morning, I sat in my room wondering where it all went wrong.

I knew what I needed to do.  I needed more reading, I needed more deep evaluation of the math, I needed more period, but most of all I need to be better.  So I went away for the weekend.  My wife and I took a trip to a resort and just kind of disappeared for a few days.  Laid by the pool, went shopping, watched the sunset on the lake, that kind of stuff.

And as I came back I felt rejuvenated, and I was ready.  Ready to start over.  Ready to say to my students "I'm back.  I'm sorry I wasn't my best.  I'm sorry I didn't prepare you enough.  I'm sorry I let my own disappointments threaten the education you should have been receiving.  I'm sorry there were many days I emotionally disappeared because I felt so broken. I'm sorry, but I'm here now.  And together we can do this".  It's not going to be easy to apologize to my students, but I know I must.

I know my students must see me take my part in them not doing as well as I had hoped.  I had become complacent.  I had become lazy, and and I had thought it would just "come".  It didn't, and I know I didn't put in near enough work.  And that blame does not fall on the students.  It falls on ME.  I'm the one who started the year broken, and never could seem to get my act together enough to give them the best teacher they've ever had.

But guess what kids?  I'm back, and I'm ready.  I've failed, I've re-evaluated, and I'm ready to start over.  So let's go!
Argus (c) Poster