Monday, December 10, 2012

One Facet of My Job

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what is expected of me in my job. In my mind it seems to be broken into three parts: what society in general sees as my job, what society more specifically sees as my job, and what my job really seems to look like when you're up close and personal.

For today I'm going to focus on the first one. Expectations for teachers, as seen in news report after news report, seem pretty clear. We must ensure that our students meet specific academic benchmarks. Sounds pretty simple.

When I look at it more closely it is a lot more complicated. Let's just take reading, a critical piece of first grade. There is a very specific benchmark for my kiddos in reading. Getting them there requires a cycle of assessment and instruction.

In case those words don't conjure up specific images for you, this means continually assessing what each student knows. In reading this means listening to students read out loud and then talking to them about what they read. Knowing where they are as readers allows us to then teach. The assessment tells us what skills they need more support in so we can teach for those. Then we have to assess to see if they have learned them. Assess, instruct, assess, instruct, assess, instruct, ad infinitum.

We're doing this for each student on and on. Plus, we're doing it in each subject area.

Teaching well requires knowing what students do and don't know at all times. That's no small task. Then creating instruction to meet those specific, individual needs. Another big job. Just standing up and telling students something does not, in any way, guarantee they have learned it.

Of course, this doesn't begin to cover what a teacher does each day. Tomorrow I'll tackle the more specific societal expectations, the ones that come when society actually comes in contact with school.

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