Wednesday, July 13, 2005

EDSE 501

Today, after a month and a half of observing, sometimes dealing with, varying inconsistencies in the instruction and evaluation of the Teacher Corps ed classes, I am angry. Today, in my group of six soon-to-be-teachers, it became glaringly clear that there is a difference between being constructively criticized and evaluated based on a legitimate, objective standard (our evaluation rubric) and being criticized and evaluated based on someone’s personal opinions thinly disguised and justified by what is supposed to be an objective grading tool.

I think, even at the most basic level, it is nearly impossible to create a completely objective standard for assessing a teacher’s performance. If the past month and half has proved anything, it’s that everyone seems to have their own idea as to what constitutes a good teacher. Well aware of this, the MTC directors, from day one, have encouraged us to listen to everyone, to take the advice we find useful, the tools we think best suit us, and employ them if we so choose - to put them in our teacher tool belts. This is the motto to which we were first inducted, and the motto that has been perhaps most ingrained in my mind this summer. I have attempted to learn by it to the best of my ability, and for the most part it has worked. Observing and listening carefully, discerning, choosing what works for me – this allows me to take ownership of my learning, and to feel comfortable with the teacher I envision myself becoming. It gives me the sense that I am respected by the program and by my instructors, that I am seen as an intelligent and capable adult preparing to take on a difficult role. I thought long and hard about applying and joining the MTC, about the responsibilities of a teacher, what I was taking on. I think long and hard each night when preparing for the next day and subsequent days, about what it is I will do with my class, what I am saying, what I am not saying, whether or not this will have the desired effect. I am not in Mississippi just for the chance to be beat up by ninth graders or to employ corporal punishment. Thus, I do not appreciate being demeaned and treated as though I am careless and ignorant based solely on one person’s opinion, which suddenly, rather magically, became fact the moment this person was given grading authority over graduate students as their evaluator.

Because I care deeply and have strong opinions about education, about teaching Spanish, I have thought at length about the subject. I have reflected on my best teachers in general, and specifically on my best Spanish instructors in high school and college. I have spoken to various professionals, some might even call them experts, on the subject. I’ve talked to friends and other students to gain insight from the learner. I can say – unfortunately – that I didn’t just pull emersion techniques and inductive learning out of my ass last night when I was planning my lesson. These are two legitimate, recommended, and respected forms of teaching foreign language, the goal being expose and emerge students in Spanish. How do we learn our native language when we’re children? We listen to those speaking around us and gradually form verbal language capabilities of our own.

Today, my evaluator told me, essentially, that this is all bullshit, that ninth grade high school students will never respond, that they won’t understand, that they won’t learn this way. My evaluator is not a foreign language instructor. I disagreed with her and tried to explain where I was coming from. She told me that the other teachers I had spoken to, and that I myself, were all wrong. She asked me how native English speakers learn English. When I said emersion she told me I was wrong. She said that native English speakers learn first by learning adjectives, and adverbs, and nouns, and then they learn to put them all together, that all native English speakers learn through formal instruction. That, she said, is why so many Mississippians use incorrect grammar.

Are you confused by this logic? If so, that’s okay, so am I. But then again, according to my evaluator today, I’m ignorant, naïve, fairly optimistic, and not nearly enough like her to be a successful teacher.

To be honest, the list of inconsistencies and complaints could continue for another two pages, the above being the most egregious and personally frustrating of the day's - the summer's - events. As I stated at the beginning of this tirade: I am angry. I am angry that that my evaluator gave me a grade based largely on her personal opinion, a grade that will eventually contribute to my permanent, recorded transcript. This officially establishes said evaluators uneducated, unfounded opinions as legitimate curricula enforced and promoted by the Mississippi Teacher Corps. A self-proclaimed, progressive education program should not stand for such a lack of integrity.

I propose that, in the future, evaluators understand the more general outline of what MTC students are introduced to in EDSE 500 as proper technique and procedure for teachers. That this be used as the basis of the evaluation process, and that any evaluator’s personal opinions, ideas, advice, more detailed techniques, etc. which they know and/or practice as a means of fine tuning those general guidelines for themselves, be offered to us as tools to be accepted or left aside at the individual teacher’s discretion. This is not what is happening, however, when evaluators attempt to indoctrinate us with their personal beliefs concerning teaching and classroom management, and using our grades as enforcement. My evaluator doesn’t have to like the instructional technique I use, but I should not receive zero points on portions of the evaluation rubric if that technique is legitimate and I have taught it well.

8 Comments:

Blogger Mr Khaki Pants said...

Well... anger aside, you have a point. Several, actually.

In a subject as "unique" as foreign language, how helpful can a math, science, or history instructor be? Sure, their management plans and insight on your professional dress will prove helpful. But, language acquisition is a largely unrelated skill. And you're right, emersion is essential.

And, of course, MTC rubrics do need some/much ironing out and consistency. EDSE 500, 501, and 502 are training us to do the same job; one would think that the expectations in each course would be similar...

And what does a "zero" mean anyway? "Complete and total failure to comply with any reasonable standard of said criterion" is all I can think of...

5:16 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evaluation 101--Evaluation is based on the taught objectives. To evaluate on other factors is a violation of instructional/curriculum/and evaluation theory. We think you have a right to be angry. We think your evaluator should read James Moffitt's research related to the acquisition of oral language and its relationship to the development of language arts skills.

Beakey Birds

9:39 PM

 
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emersion is spelled immersion.

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