Saturday, August 21, 2010

31 Flavors of Success

Kat explaining our first exercise.
Surprisingly, it went off without a hitch.  Teaching elementary school English wasn’t as daunting as I first imagined.   As I reflect, fresh from my second class in what will be an eight-week section in English, I’m torn in my appraisal of our success.
To bring you up to speed, I’m teaching 5th graders with Kat and we’re thrilled by the voracity and joy they bring to the classroom.  In our first lesson on Tuesday we reviewed their names, identified colors, ran around the room labeling common objects, and divided into two teams (Messi y España) to test their recollection of the objects they just learned.  The kids were engaged and attentive, willingly bending their tongues to our strange pronunciation and transcribing everything we spoke into already crowded notebooks.  The experience was much the same for the other four PDs and the three classes they taught.  But did we meet our expectations?
In our lesson plan we hoped to measure their pronunciation, retention, and level of understanding.  However, as soon as the bell rang and class began that goal quickly became impossible.  My job of scribe morphed into chaperone and cheer leader, and the carefully planned activities changed with the drifting attention spans of the students.  The good, nay great news, is we adapted and kept the kids engaged.  They learned exactly what we hoped they would.  But, at the same time, we didn’t ascertain as much data as we hoped.
Checking the students' homework.
                The experience made me think there are two kinds of success, for on one level, we exceeded our expectations.  We proved ourselves able and engaging teachers.  We earned the respect of Willy, their daily teacher, who practiced the same material as the students from his desk in the back.  But still, on another level, we missed the mark.  None of the information we intended to gather was collected, nor was it in the two sections of 4th graders that Jared and Ginny taught.  Dana and Karen, teaching 6th grade English, had more luck by asking each student to repeat two short phrases, then tallying the number of correctly pronounced words to land upon a quantifiable percentage.  So while that didn’t work for us, it did for them.
Rigoberto sharing his excitement with the other 6th graders.
We agree as a team that we need to reevaluate our assessment methodsas we reevaluate this week.  Recording base measurements from which to compare our progress is vital to the measurability of the time we spend in our programs.  So we try again.  We dust off our caps, and come to terms with the fact that no matter how much time and energy we put into our lessons, flexibility is key.  Still encouraged by the positive reception, we want to meet a higher standard.
            The same could be said about the troop withdraw from Iraq as the sun set on Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Whatever your convictions, the goals we set for ourselves and the expectations we all held in our hearts at the beginning of the mission changed as the years wore on.  We had many praise-worthy successes, unexpected setbacks, and times of reflection where we asked ourselves, as a nation, what it was we wanted to achieve.  There's no question we succeeded, but what kind of success was it, and was it the success we intended? 
               This duality of expectation, rejoicing  yet ever striving, seems a fitting analogy for the year ahead.  Assuredly, in many areas, our best laid plans will dissolve in the midst of application.  But we will adapt, highlighting the small successes all the while continually working towards our long-term objectives.  While we want those objectives to be realistic, we expect excellence in our programs and approaches.
              Now, we need to work smart and work together.  We need your advice; we need the community.  We need two barometers for our own success – one in the moment, in the smiles, in the relationships.  And another in the legacy we leave behind, in the hard data and imparted knowledge.  Both must be at the forefront of our thoughts, both are of utmost importance.

Until next time,

No comments:

Post a Comment