Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What You Measure, You Treasure #sol15 Day 19

Write, Share, Give

"What you measure, you treasure."

"525,600 minutes.  525,000 moments so dear.  525, 600 minutes.  How do you measure, measure a year?"  -"Seasons of  Love"

183 busy school days.  183 days to teach.  183 precious school days. 183 days- who will you  reach?

With benchmarks, with test scores 
with plots, graphs and data points?
With pretests and post-tests?
With modules in Common Core?

183 busy school days.  183 days to teach.  183 precious school days. 183 days- who will you  reach?

With laughter, with smiles,
With high-fives and apples given?
With passion & effort?
With phone calls and letters written?

183 busy school days.  183 days to teach.  183 precious school days. 183 days- who will you reach?

When APPR first came into existence a few years ago, I kept thinking about "Seasons of Love" from the play Rent.  How DO you measure a year? The song states, "In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter and strife.  525,600 minutes.  How do you measure a year in the life?"  What is measurable and quantifiable when you talk about a year in your life? What is measurable and quantifiable when you think of a teacher in the classroom?

They say, "What you measure, you treasure."  It seems our treasures have become test scores and on demand writing pieces, progress monitoring data points and reading benchmark levels. We enter our data. We make predictions on how much our students will grow and we know that our evaluations ride on our predictions. It is all worked out to some mathematical formula, where all of these pieces of data will come together and spit out a rating about you and your ability to do the job you hold so dear. 

But what if we measured how many times a student who never raised her hand started to raise it because she began to believe in herself? What if we measured the amount of books a reluctant reader checked out of the library because he started to like reading a little bit more? What if there was a way to measure that "Aha! moment" a student has when learning a new math concept which was fuzzy but now is crystal clear? What if we evaluated the positive phone calls a teacher made to tell parents about the good things their child is doing? 

How do you measure how much kinder a heart has become from being part of a classroom community?  Can you plot enthusiasm and joy on a graph? Can you weigh the effort a teacher puts in, add up the hours spent grading and planning and redoing and worrying? Would you count the pieces of tape that go on the backs of the student work that gets hung in the hallway? Could you measure the tears dried, the money lent, the school supplies bought, the words of encouragement spoken? 

It's harder to measure the things that really count about teachers and students and learning.  It's so much easier and neater to have test scores that fit nicely into boxes and lead to clear-cut labels: Highly Effective (the elusive Holy Grail). Effective. Developing. Ineffective. Rank them, sort them, fire them.  

Those of us in the trenches, those of us wiping the tears, teaching our hearts out, putting on the best show we can to keep our students engaged, those of us who work with children who are not products to be sorted and labeled...we know better. We are gardeners, planting seeds.  We are teachers, touching lives.  Our influence, our impact, our worth cannot be measured.  Or if it can, as the song goes, "Measure in love."