Accountable to Whom?

I wrote this post in the spring and never got around to publishing it. As I get ready to start back to school tomorrow, I think this one is definitely worth sharing. It's not about infertility, but about something that is just as much a part of me: teaching and the students in my classroom. 


I know lots of you out there are ready for summer break, but  I have to share one little, tawdry truth: I hate the end of the school year.

The beginning of the school year always brings promise and excitement, not knowing what the next 180 days will hold as I get to know my students. What new things will we discover together? There's just so much possibility!

As we move into fall, we establish routines. We get to the business of learning and we get to know one another. I start to customize my lessons to the students I have instead of "typical seventh grader." 

As winter takes hold, we get into the meaty part of our year: big novels, Shakespeare, research and more. I also get to hear about how students feel when the first few flakes fall on us in North Carolina. Conducting a lesson on imagery after the first snowfall always makes me happy in a deep, fundamental way.

When Spring shows up, sometimes too early and sometimes too late, but rarely right on time, I am excited to see the writers and thinkers my students have become. I am glad I know them, but also aware that our time together is growing short.

That is when it happens. Summer starts to creep in. When the first 90-degree day passes, I know the dreaded time is right around the corner. 

You guessed it, ladies and gentlemen. EOG time. 

For those of you outside of North Carolina, the EOG is shorthand for End-of-Grade Assessments students take in core academic subjects from 3rd through 8th grade. 

I watched ten young women spend nearly ten hours each taking four assessments over the last week. 

Each of these young women worked tirelessly to put their best self inside those bubbles.

Wait... that's absurd. How could they ever put themselves inside of those bubbles?

I watched these children work and re-work math problems, needing extra paper because they filled up the sheet they were given in the beginning. Not a single girl in my testing session finished her exam before the 3-hour mark.  Not one.  These weren't the overachiever, do it just because you teacher says so students, either. These were young women against whom the deck was often stacked and the hurdles were plentiful.  But every one of those young ladies showed up and tried tirelessly that day.

Then, after taking 7 hours of tests, I watched my students come into my room and take their reading exam. I'm not allowed to know what is on there, how much literature, how much informational text, but I do know there was enough material to keep the students reading for nearly 2.5 hours.  Again, they poured their heart and soul into those A B C D responses, bubbling furiously. They all tried with everything they had.

Then, a few days later, I watched them receive their scores, scores which were supposed to demonstrate their "college and career readiness." I watched young women crushed when they realized their best was yet again far short of the goal. I saw tears, anger, and eventually, resignation.

Why do we do this to our kids?  Accountability for me? For them?  For our school as a whole?

I don't know a single teacher who walks into the classroom thinking, you know, this year, I'm just really going to phone it in. What I teach isn't that important. The kids don't really need to know this.

Instead, what I see are teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach, who design innovative and engaging lessons.

Why isn't that accountability enough?

In truth, I know who I am really accountable to. I am accountable to the 100+ faces who come into my room every day, ready to try whatever crazy thing I throw their way. I am accountable to the community in which I make my home, to provide an education for the children and a listening ear when they need it as well.

Ultimately, the tell-tale sign of whether or not I am doing my job is whether or not my students can engage in their community and sustain-- no grow-- the industries and services we have here. If my students become productive members of our society, that is my accountability measure.


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