The first day of the second semester is upon us! While our teachers have been back for a couple of days, our students will pour into our classrooms once again on Monday, and our school will be a buzz with innovation, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving. I cannot wait!
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed every minute of the two week winter break with my family, but when you love what you do, it is a JOY to go to work each day! It is a joy to walk into the band room and see the focus of our students as they work together to hone their skills and prepare for their next performance. It is a joy to walk into the learning center and see our students collaborating on a project in our makerspace. It is a joy to look out the window of the school and see our science students searching for microhabitats. It is a joy to walk into a history classroom and hear our students considering what their colony would look like if they were to establish one. This is what real learning looks and sounds like. These are the opportunities our teachers have to measure our students' learning authentically.
Unfortunately, our legislators decided in the previous legislative session that everything a Texas school does each day can be boiled down to one single letter grade based largely on one standardized test. This is oversimplifying the very complex work that professional educators engage in each day. If you have ever been in a school on a standardized test day, you know that students are sitting in straight rows in silence. Zero collaboration, communication or creativity is allowed to happen during a STAAR test. This the antithesis of what a typical day in our school looks like.
On any given day in our school (and I would venture to say most Texas schools), you will see groups of students huddled together collaborating to solve a problem, developing a new idea or creating a prototype. You will hear students communicating, wondering, thinking out loud and asking questions. It is a rare occasion that you would find students sitting silently in rows unable to communicate, collaborate, or create. Yet, those days... those days that are very different from other days of learning are the days by which we are now going to be graded.
We have a choice. We can choose to be defined by the grade the state is going to give us. We can choose to place our focus on one day of testing…OR we can chose to renew our commitment to transforming the learning experiences for our Texas students. We can choose to renew our commitment to equipping our students with the skills that they will need in college and in the careers of their choice - skills like communicating effectively, adding value to collaborative conversations and experiences, and generating solutions to complex problems.
I see these learning experiences happening every day in our school, and I bet you see similar things happening in your schools. Carrying out our real purpose as professional educators brings me joy. This is my purpose and my passion.
On Monday, as hundreds of energetic middle school students pour into our school, we will be ready to welcome them back with big smiles, an abundance of enthusiasm, and meaningful learning experiences. We are passionate about what we do. We are difference makers. We choose JOY!