So…I’m Back, I Guess

After a semi-prolific summer of blogging, I just stopped in September.   My list of excusy-sounding reasons is enormous, spanning the gamut of excusedom, but really I was sort of in a blog-funk.  I was ignoring my feed, and simply didn’t feel like the bloggerly life was calling to me anymore. 

Then a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had gotten back into the blog-reading habit, and for about a week now, I’ve been feeling like I should renew my practice.  So here I am.

And I think I’ll start with a perenial struggle.  My district has two initiatives they are trying to get off the ground.  The first is creating an Individual Potential Plan, or IPP, for each student.  This involves taking a student’s individual assessment data, then setting specific goals for that student in reading and math (other subject areas to come later).  These goals are inputted into a program designed by the district to track student progress.  This initiative sprang from our Board of Ed, which loves to micro-manage, and apparently is convinced that additional paperwork (digital paper, but paper nonetheless) will promote differentiated instruction.  Clearly, the underlying assumption is that differentiated instruction isn’t happening.  But I digress.  To sum up:  IPPs emphasize differentiating to the individual needs of students.  Beautiful idea.

The second initiative involves using a web-based grading program, with the goal over the next few years of having standards-based evaluation/report cards.  This springs from our intermediate school district and the higher-up administrators, as far as I can tell.  Ultimately, it pushes teachers toward being more accountable for teaching the Grade Level Content Expectations they are responsible for teaching.  Maybe the underlying assumption is that standards-driven instruction isn’t happening.  Again, I digress.  To sum up:  Standards-based instruction and assessment to guarentee students the education they are supposed to receive at a given grade level.  Lovely concept.

I suppose there are fruitloops out there spouting about how the creative tension between differentiation and standards-based instruction is positively inspirational.  I wouldn’t be surprised to here the magical thinkers of the world start spouting jargon like “subject integration” and “spiralling instruction” in answer to the question, “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TEACH 30 10-YEAR-OLDS ALL THE FIFTH GRADE CONTENT AND INDIVIDUALIZE INSTRUCTION TO THEIR SPECIFIC NEEDS AT THE SAME TIME?!?”

Because this is my issue–as a conscientious, talented, driven professional, I am limited by time (and other resources) and must make incredibly tough choices, all of which involve opportunity costs.  Peter is robbed this week so that Paul might get paid.  I know that I can do a some differentiation within standards-driven teaching/learning.  But not always, nor as often as would be necessary to meet the oft-competing goals that my district (which is surely not alone) has for me, and for my students.

Is there a real way to be a good teacher and a good employee in this scenario?

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