Monday, December 27, 2010

Forget Value Added Assessment of Teachers - Just Use Snow

I was talking with my wife this morning about, what else, the Blizzard of 2010. (See more snowpocalypse2010 photos). My sister in California mentioned that her youngest daughter, who is five, had never touched snow. OMG! We live in New England; our children were born in snow drifts (or something like that).

My wife then remembered a high school student of hers from a few years ago. The girl was new to New England, and one day it started snowing while she was in math class. Somehow the word got out the girl had never seen or touched real snow. The whole class was amazed. The teacher only said, "Well, go outside now." Right in the middle of class, he sent her outside just to touch snow. Right away, I knew...

"He was a pretty good teacher," my wife added. I knew he was a pretty good teacher. You see being a good high school math teacher surely includes understanding trigonometry and calculus. It definitely includes skilled use of pedagogy and mastery of classroom management. To be a pretty good teacher you need one more ingredient.

The math teacher listened to his students. He cared about them as people, not just numbers. He even took their needs into account. Follow me here: at that moment, gone was the high school teenager; in her place was really just an excited child thinking about playing in snow. The teacher could easily have gotten the class back to math. Instead, he honored what she needed and told her to go see the snow.

So, from that one incident, I know that the math teacher added value to his students' lives. He taught them math, but, more importantly, he treated them with respect and cared about them as people. They learned.

So, instead of a multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble test, just let it snow and you will know who are the pretty good teachers.


cross posted to Connected Principals
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