Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Few Thoughts on TESS...

The children are off to a great start!  We jumped right in to our first book study with The Diary of Anne Frank this week.  It was quite a change of pace from our bright and cheery first week of school fun last week to discussing the Holocaust this week.  I was really impressed with the amount of prior knowledge that this group of students brought to our discussion!  Thanks, sixth grade teachers!!  Each class period added something different to our conversation, and it was so fun to see how each class seemed to focus on different key facts and ideas.

As this year began, I was hopeful that I would find all this new "free time."  With no more grad school to take up my evenings, I just knew I was going to be able to insert all these new, fun things into my post-school hours... So far, those post-work hours have been filled with more work; mostly, I feel like I have TESS to thank for my new work duties.  TESS is the new teacher evaluation system in Arkansas. I know that programs like this have been in existence in other states for many years, but I also know that for many teachers in Arkansas, it's totally rocked their world.

For me, I just feel like I'm in college again.  The standards by which we'll be assessed are almost exactly the same as those that I lived by in my student teaching.  Today, I picked up my "evaluation timeline" for this year, and died a little inside.  So. Much. Paperwork.  However, I also feel like, even though I find myself occasionally annoyed and trying to decide which days I want to stay late at work to build my portfolio, TESS is making me a better, more reflective teacher already.  I feel like I always make an attempt to use this writing space as a reflective tool for myself, even if it hasn't exactly been consistent.  This year, I've spent at least five minutes at the end of each day writing "reflection notes" on each day's lesson.  It's helped me focus on which kids are succeeding and struggling and which lessons are working or aren't.  Most of all, it's given me a better opportunity to connect one day to the next.  I feel like my process of teaching is becoming more cyclical and connected, and I'm liking the way that works for me and for my students.

There's a great quote that says, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” I'd say this is definitely true of my personal life and my classroom life.  I've learned so much about being a teacher (and a grownup) in the past three years.  Every day is a new lesson for me, just like it is for my students, and I'm looking forward to all the new wisdom from the middle that I'll gain this year.

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