A letter to my students, past and present,
My dear students,
I am taking this moment to speak to you directly. Thirty-two years ago, I was blessed with the knowledge that I have a gift for explanation, modeling, and teaching. I witnessed an extraordinary teacher, Dr. Donald Voorhies, who inspired me to become an educator. I earned three college degrees so I could have the privilege of doing what I love. I kept a 3.823 GPA, earned scholarships to pay for college, and then paid those scholarships back by teaching. I love what I do, have never considered it a job, and still find it fascinating that I get paid to do something so fulfilling.
I am defending myself. I am standing up for my honor as a teacher and a professional.
When I started public school teaching in 2007, I did not understood the power the Louisiana legislature had when it came to evaluating teachers. The legislature approved the COMPASS evaluation system, though how many legislators had actually been teachers or who had actually read the COMPASS system is not known to me. I find it hard to believe any true teacher would ever approve a system that prescribes group learning as the only legitimate way to teach. The Department of Education implemented the system statewide in 2012, and I have been evaluated three times.
Today, I earned a second failing score. Waves of anger, remorse, frustration, even melancholy rolled over me. And then I felt a wave of relief as one simple word rang through my head.
Stop trying to adapt to an inept, invalid system. Stop trying to match a mold designed by people with so little classroom experience. Stop trying to parrot Utopian fantasies that don’t meet the realities of my classroom.
What clarity. I originally thought that I was giving up, but I realized something else. I am defending myself. I am standing up for my honor as a teacher and a professional. I will no longer submit myself to this farce, no longer curb my teaching strategies that work, no longer allow myself to feel inferior based on a faulty system. I must be evaluated every year, but I hold no value or respect for a model that cannot even recognize the good that I do.
I have taught approximately 3,000 or more students. I have watched you grow up and grow older. I have attended your multiple graduations, your weddings, and watch your children grow. I have traveled with you to foreign countries, have kept up with you on Facebook, have witnessed extraordinary acts of kindness and bravery, and have hopefully contributed in some small way to you becoming productive, loving human beings. I will continue to teach, no matter how COMPASS ranks me. I refuse to lose another minute of sleep over it. I would much rather have my students become healthy, happy individuals with a love for learning and life. I already know the impact I’ve had on some of you. As long as I have breath in me, I will continue making positive contributions to your lives.