We expect a lot of teachers and, too often, meeting those expectations comes at the sacrifice of their personal lives, families, and sanity.
Take the recent changes in science education as an example. Teachers are now expected to teach in a totally new way - through a phenomena-based format, with students driving the process. They are also expected to create clear, connected sequences of learning for every standard of multiple preps. They’re expected to collaborate with their teams, create common formative assessments, use those assessments to evaluate student learning, and identify students needing intervention or enrichment. They’re then expected to provide that individualized instruction to the students needing it. We expect teachers keep all students on high growth trajectories, and incorporate technology, and use an LMS, like Canvas, for all their classes, and quickly and accurately grade student work, and give timely feedback to every student, and communicate frequently with parents. We expect them to run bus duty and school teams and committees, and raise money for programs, and improve productivity to lower class sizes, and, and, and….
We expect teachers to do more than any one person could possibly do, and then we give them about an hour and a half each day to make it happen. And if they’re a science teacher, we expect they do it in even less time because they’re taking on productivity (extra class periods in place of prep) in an attempt to lower class sizes. Whatever time is left over they use to focus on students, which is why they got into teaching in the first place.
EXPECTATIONS VS. REALITY
My point is: We all want the current changes in science education. As administrators, we know (and the teachers know) it is better for our students, the community, and the world. But right now, our teachers’ plates are full.
If a teacher’s job is to help every student learn and reach their full potential, we need to give them the support and foundation needed to make this happen.
Teachers should not have to do it all. They should have lessons, assessments, and tools at their fingertips; multiple teaching sequences for every performance expectation, and use Canvas to deliver content to students. Teachers should be able to change these supports based on their collaborative team work, personal creativity, and student outcomes. And they should have an assessment system that makes it easy to create formative checks, and the flexibility to change and adjust when needed.
I believe that creating all of this is the job of the support staff - those of us that work day in and day out to make the “education machine” work. This lets teachers focus on students, teaching, supporting, remediating, and helping them grow. If a teacher’s job is to help every student learn and reach their full potential, we need to give them the support and foundation needed to make this happen.
Many teachers take on these incredible expectations and find a way to do it all. We see these teachers at all of our professional development days and events and we celebrate them. But what about the others, the majority, the ones struggling for survival? What about all the teachers leaving the profession every year? How can we change their trajectory?
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
Every grade and every content area should have a fully developed flexible foundational curriculum, with an assessment system, and an LMS (we use and love Canvas) to use to deliver instruction and support their work. This would allow teachers to focus on teaching and learning and improving student achievement. Support fuels growth and growth fuels stable, inspired, amazing teachers.
This is why we developed the SEEdstorylines site, the accompanying Canvas templates, and the Utah Science Curriculum Consortium. Davis School District recognized the outrageous expectations placed on teachers, and decided to build a science curriculum that aligned to the Utah SEEd standards which are heavily supported by the Next Gen Science Standards, and make it available to every teacher in the state.
Why should teachers struggle through learning and teaching the new standards,when we can make it easier for them? Our goal in making this available across the state of Utah is to make it as easy as possible for every teacher to make that transition to a student-centered, phenomena-based, three-dimensional classroom.
STEM Section Director, Davis School District (Utah)