Students who had me in 2009 would hardly have recognized the teacher I was last year. The new teacher-me was a warped version of my former teacher-self; I still brought the rigor and expectations I had previously brought, but there was no Happy Birthday singing hamster, no Freaky Friday Free-write, and no partnerships with the American Ballet Theater. And it wasnít that I stopped caring about these things, I just found myself so consumed with trying to survive within the new system that they fell by the wayside. I had to choose my priorities, and even though supporters of accountability systems based on test scores will try to convince you that this doesnít have to be the case, I had little time or energy to think about anything other than test data and how to get my studentsí scores higher.
By the end of last year, my students had made tremendous gains in math. Here are the graphs, straight from the DCPS site to prove it:
Before last school year, I had worked crazy hours and given up much of my life for work, but only because I loved my job and really believed in what I was doing. Last year, my mindset was completely different. I started doing everything I was doing because I was scared of what would happen if I didnít do those things. I was no longer motivated by a passion for teaching and learning, nor was I trying to develop myself into the great teacher I had once dreamed of becoming; I was motivated by a fear of being stigmatized a loser, and I was trying to do whatever it would take not to be considered one.
Not to give away the ending to my story, but in this process I burnt out and lost faith in what I was doing in teaching. I grew tired of caring so much about a test that I didnít really care that much about. I became frustrated with having to pass up opportunities to teach skills and concepts that I really thought my students needed to learn in order to teach them things I knew they were going to be tested on. I couldnít stand the taskmaster role I had to take on as a teacher. Basically, I became sick of caring too much about all of the wrong things, and not enough about the things that really mattered.