My students have this perfect expression whenever they feel awkward about something--they say, “It makes me feel some type of way.” The first time I heard this, it was in the context of my having (purposely) called out a kid who I suspected had not prepared for class, and asked him to respond to a question. When he did not know the answer, and I pointed out that doing assignments was an important way to reinforce information that might come up in class discussions, he said, “Miss--you’re making me feel some type of way.”
“What type of way is that?” I asked, confused.
“You know, some type of way,” one of his classmates volunteered.
The kids looked at me as though I were from Mars. “Miss, you know--sometimes that’s just how you feel!”
No amount of trying to get them to explain what “type” of way this actually was yielded any more specific explanation. Ultimately, I judged the phrase to mean some combination of awkward, angry, and uncomfortable, in variable degrees.
Our school is undergoing a Quality Review next week--a two-day evaluation process by the state to determine whether our school is “ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective"--and I have to admit that I also feel some type of way. (I also have to admit that this is why my blog is so late this week. Sorry folks.) A lot of this has to do with the insane amount of prep-work involved, above and beyond my actual teaching, grading, and planning work. My colleagues and I spent a lot of time, for instance, packaging our units into the CCSS format for “curriculum maps.” This involves some reinvention of the wheel, in trying to state every objective, method, and standard that I am utilizing in the day-to-day lesson plans I’ve already made for the kids as guided notes. It feels time-consuming, redundant, and kind of pointless to then also make the CCSS curriculum map explaining everything again. I’d rather be focusing on actually planning my lessons, as opposed to re-packaging them. It’s frustrating, awkward, a big aggravating...in short, the whole thing makes me feel “some type of way.”
Moreover, I suppose I feel protective in general of my school and the people in it, and a bit oppositional to the idea that through a few 15-minute visits to classrooms, it would be possible to truly get what we’re “about.” I believe the evaluation process endeavors to be holistic, with the evaluator talking to students and parents, inquiry team groups (groups of teachers who work together to address the needs of certain cohorts), whole subject departments, administrators, etc. But over the course of these two days, the teachers and students inevitably feel like they’re under a microscope, being judged on zillions of aspects of minutiae: Was there a word wall? Were the students working in groups? Was the grading policy clearly posted in each classroom? Was student work displayed everywhere? Were Socratic-seminar sentence starters being employed? Were students reminded that having academic goals is important? It’s so hard to demonstrate every one of plethora of objectives that evaluators look for, especially within such a small window of time. As with all these types of evaluations, our best and worst moments go unaccounted for if they don’t happen when someone is watching.
I understand that school evaluations of some form have to take place. I’m not necessarily disputing this one (though I’d like to see more people with substantial in-class teaching experience, and not just administrative experience, conducting classroom observations--but that’s a subject for a different blog). I guess I just long for next week to be over so that I can finally get back to the real business of teaching--and not just worrying about how I’m going to look and how my school will look to these evaluators. I want them to know how hard we teachers work, and how much the children get out of being in our school, emotionally and academically. I believe it is a lot, and I hope the evaluators see that.
I guess sometimes everyone feels some type of way. Hopefully I’ll feel differently soon, and I can get back to my normal concerns, like making Julius Caesar palatable to the 10th graders.
The opinions expressed in View From the Bronx: An Urban Teacher’s Perspective are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.