I have some great students. I would compare them to the best and brightest that anyone teaches. They are intelligent, happy, inquisitive, involved, caring, and dedicated young adults. I feel privileged to know them and to teach them. They have blossomed and flourished in my flipped classroom and blended learning environment.
I also have students that come from very troubling environments. As professionals we are limited in what we can say, but unfortunately we all have these students in our schools. We have students that have suffered physical, sexual, and mental abuses. We have students whose families are severely dysfunctional – there may be drugs, alcohol, or psychological problems at home. There are absentee fathers, parents that are illiterate, parents in prison, parents who do not value education; the list is long and disheartening. In my school over 65% of my students are classified as low socioeconomic status. The truth is many of these students will not pass a standardized test. They never have and probably will not in the future. There are larger issues and real demons in their lives bigger than some test.
No Child Left Behind expects me to have 100% passing – in physics by 2014. It ain’t gonna happen folks. So what do we do – quit? No - far from it.
I see a few of these students that come from these troubled environments making truly heroic and inspiring efforts to change their lives. They are in a wave pool of their own. They fight against family, and “friends,” trying to make the leap from a life of poverty to middle class values. I show up every day to support their efforts in every way I know how. I may be the only positive male role model they know. I may be the only adult that sets high expectations. I may be the only adult that watches their basketball game and brags on their efforts. I may be the only adult that tells them they are smart, and special, and valuable. I may be the only person who tells them they are wanted and needed and loved.
I know we will not save every troubled student. For those students that continue to fail, hopefully I have been a positive rather than a negative influence on their lives. I hope that even the students that resist all of my best efforts will remember something positive from the time we spend together. For the students that are successful and graduate from high school, I will be there to congratulate them on their success.
Can a standardized test measure that?
Some government agency may deem me unsuccessful as an educator. Well, maybe so – just come show me how to do it better. In the meantime you will find me teaching the best way I know how - every day.