When I started working in education, there was a high emphasis on testing data in relationship to student achievement. Interview questions for my first year centered around education catch phrases like formative and summative assessments, differentiation, quartiles and percentiles, curriculum, accommodations and modifications, IEPs…
My first year of teaching centered around numbers, growth, and performance. Teachers earned bonuses for better test scores. After my first year, an instructional coach was placed in my classroom during testing season to ensure that I was able to boost test scores. My classroom of 38 students (36 of which were ML students and 3 of which were on IEPs) were put through rigorous academic practice and testing to ensure that the graph showed positive growth.
As time has progressed, that approach has become less and less effective. The longer I have been in education, the more apparent it is that students need support with behavior, social, and emotional needs. I left a time of teaching academic standards first, to holding multiple class meetings a day revolving around SEL standards. At the end of the day, I was hoping that the students were able to gain academic understanding of common core standards. However, it was not my first concern.
Around my twelfth or thirteenth year of teaching at an affluent school in Wyoming, my behavior management tricks had all run out. I thought of myself as a veteran teacher. I was a teacher who had great test scores, excellent evaluations, and truly loved my students. My third graders were out of control. I had students who screamed, students who threw objects, a student who committed self-harm in class, students who just walked out of class, and just overall disengaged students.
I am a reflector, and I knew something wasn’t right. I was using every trick I had up my sleeve, collaborating with others, and Googling late into the night. No child should have to communicate through extreme behavior to get their needs met.
Since then, I have been on a mission. I know there is more that we can do for students in the classroom. I have listened to countless educators that are at a loss about how to help students. The pandemic sure didn’t help. Now, not only are students struggling, but so are teachers. I am documenting this journey in hopes of working with others to support students. Like the starfish story… I would love to at least help just one (but hopefully more!).