I cannot believe next week is November already! It has been an interesting year so far. I've been kicking this post around in my mind the past few weeks and am going to try and fill you guys in with what I have been struggling with and still be professional. :)
I think I've been very lucky to have found my niche in education. I hear horror stories all the time about inept leadership, issues that accompany poverty levels (85% of our students qualify for free/reduced lunch), students with no support. My school has never been like that for me. I have had the privilege to work for some amazing administrators and some amazing families who I learned so much from. I look back on my career and see a teacher who has really grown in many, many ways. Even reading my old posts I can see improvement from my early years. I definitely found my voice and my passions within education. Every year I am learning new techniques and strategies to implement with my kiddos. We were not just encouraged to seek out PD's-it was expected. We were always given the opportunity to do what we needed to do for our students-no canned curriculum, no grade level non-negotiables-for the most part, we were left alone to do what we do best.
I work at a magnet school so every grade level has one classroom that is supposed to be homogeneously GT students. Now, in Kinder we could rarely make that fully happen-the competition for magnet schools is really fierce and there are others with better reputations, located in better areas who often become a family's first choice school. But usually when families end up here, they are happy with our program. However, we are under completely new leadership this year. PD is not in the budget. No one in the administration has experience with gifted students. Now I should also tell you that my new principal is not my biggest fan. I hung up the divergent art activity that I did the first day with my students (which is one way I assess creativity throughout the year) and her feedback in front of my colleagues in a meeting was-- "I'm not really a fan of the coloring". Even though I included an explanation of the activity, I don't think she understood the rigor involved or the importance of drawing out their creativity. I have heard that she is tapping another teacher to take the GT kiddos next year. (Not that I have to teach GT kids, but it would be hard for me to watch someone without the passion or experience doing what I feel like I was meant to do).
We now are all required to post exactly the same work on our bulletin boards. So if my colleagues decide to do a unit on Pete the Cat and make Pete the Cat faces, I have to do it too, even though I don't think the activities they use are really tapping into higher level thinking or are very student-centered. One of my pet peeves is fluff. I know Pinterest is full of "cute" activities and bulletin boards-but if the teacher is doing most of the work, then to me that activity is not challenging enough for my students. We had a meeting and were discussing what we were going to plan for the following week. This is close to what the teacher I was supposed to copy did. She cut out all the pieces for the trees and called the kids up one by one to just glue them together. What they are learning from that activity-I'm not sure. What is being assessed with that activity? I don't know.
Well, this is how our trees came out.
They created their own version of Chicka Trees and wrote about the ethical situation of whether it was right or wrong for the letters to climb the tree. This is what I proudly hung on my bulletin board. I have to let them be creative and express themselves in their work. I'm not a cookie-cutter craft kind of teacher. The more I thought about it, the more I came to grips with the fact that my principal was probably right-I don't think I am a good fit for my school any longer. It will be very sad for me after being there for 13 years, but come spring I will be out there pounding the pavement trying to find a place who will take a Square Peg. :)
I know that I'm not alone. I know there are others out there who feel misunderstood. Who know the value they bring to their students, even if others can't see that. I can't stop being the Square Peg-I really have tried. But I need to advocate for what my students need and what is best for them. I think we should keep the Square Peg Revolution going strong and one day maybe the schools will adapt with some square holes for us to fit into. For now, we have to find our tribes elsewhere-thank goodness for blogs and Twitter! I saw this posted by Todd Nesloney just the other day:
Amen to that! :)