In January I had the fun experience of visiting Winslow, Arizona and I was able to “stand on the corner” that The Eagles made so famous in their song Taking it Easy! As my friends, know… I LOVE that band and since I have not been doing much standing for the past month, I am really happy that I had that opportunity. As I was thinking about this week’s blog and talking with some of my principals, I realize that this is the time of the year that really does not “feel easy” to educators. There is a sense of urgency about year-end assessments, graduations, meeting expectations, finishing the year and for leaders, planning the next year. I remember, as a school and district administrator, feeling like I was wearing more hats than I could during the spring season… part of me was in the current year and the rest of me was thinking and planning for what had to happen to get ready for the next year. It was not the time to take it easy.
Student by student/skill by skill… that is what educators are working on in schools that are improving and especially right now. For example, at Jan’s high school, (which I have told you about over several blogs), collaborative teams of teachers are well aware of the students who still need extra support and more time to master key skills and concepts and they are living an “all hands on deck” mantra to meet their needs. As much as we educators don’t want to talk about “teaching to the test”, if we are authentically ensuring that students are being given every opportunity to be knowledgeable about what are the essential learnings, they should be well prepared for end of the year assessments.
These assessments are sometimes referred to as the autopsies versus the ongoing assessments (formative assessments) that really are the check ups all year. As important as these end-of-the-year summative tests are, the real information that educators and students need, is the evidence of what they know or do not know throughout the year. Great teachers know that by using this information all the time and making adjustments to their instructional practices, they are able to give students timely and immediate support where and when it is needed. Of course, the student has to know what is expected and what the steps are that will make them successful. To a student, it should not feel like a moving target. The bulls-eye should be clearly in sight. So, as important as this time of the year is, it really is an accumulation of great educational practices all year… the right steps have been taken to help ensure student success. What is happening now should only enhance the learning.
As I write this, I can not help but think of my own circumstance right now. I have had several “check ups” to determine why I had so much pain and immobility from my left hip and leg. I have had a forced “take it easy” and I have had to rely on the information and evidence of the assessments to know what possible next steps to take. As I continue to have support and gain more understanding of my injury, I learn more about what I can and can not do. The most frustrating times for me have been when I could not see the target…when I didn’t know what was wrong or what I could do to improve the situation. As the steps were clarified for me, and as I took this to heart and followed the steps, I could start to see progress. It might not be as quick as I would like but as long as there is an improvement, I can see that I am working on the right work. Isn’t this how we want students to feel? Doesn’t it make sense for the steps to success be made very clear to them and for every opportunity to be given to them for them to be responsible for their success? I am pretty sure that the chiropractor and orthopedic specialist that I am seeing are expecting me to do the work necessary to continue to improve and, of course, I need their leadership, guidance and support. And, I know that a long-term plan of healthy habits will be necessary to prevent this injury again, just like how year-long great instruction and assessment practices really pay off for both educators and students at this time of the year.
So, as I continue to take it easy, I know that this is not the situation that my friends in so many schools are facing. The sense of urgency, overwhelming exhaustion and the mixed emotions that come with saying good-bye to students who are graduating, moving on to other classes and schools is all part of spring season in schools. Drama and musical productions, art shows, science fairs and end of year sporting events create unending energy and excitement and so many students and educators will feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Do not let this be lost during this assessment time. Even though you can not take it easy right now, you can continue to take the steps necessary, follow the plan and support what matters the most- student success. And, you can take a few minutes and consider this wonderful profession that you have chosen. You make a difference. This eighteenth blog in my series on school improvement is dedicated to you- the educators who I learn from each and every time that I am with you. In my absence, know that I am thinking about you. Until next Saturday…