Sorry, nothing about Miley Cyrus in this blog post. I am not reviewing the Star Trek episode of the same name, but the uncoincidental use of that as my post title, may not be lost on Star Trek fans that choose to read my words. In reflecting back on this school year, I find myself questioning if I can indeed have the best of both worlds in the education atmosphere we now find ourselves assimilated. Can creativity and standardization co-exist?
Before I can attempt reflection on this school year and attempt to answer that question, I need to paint a picture of my teaching situation. This is the end of my 12th year teaching at the same school, in Fort Myers, Florida. I entered the profession at this Title One School, not realizing what that meant exactly. I just graduated from a university in New York, where I learned how to utilize cooperative learning and design performance based assessments. I was taught to facilitate student learning by helping students’ use critical thinking and creativity, on their own terms. However, that is not the world I transitioned to from New York to Florida, in 1998. I was now teaching students with socio-economic issues, family crises, language differences, and behavior problems, stemming from the poverty in which they lived. These students were not motivated to learn and they lacked the prior knowledge to learn the way I was taught to teach. I had to learn how to manage behavior, teach from scripted materials, and find ways to fill in their prior knowledge gaps. And No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was just starting to work its way into the system. NCLB means standardized testing. It means high stakes standardized testing. I teach third grade, so students failing to pass Florida’s standardized test are retained. One year of their lives hangs in the balance of that test, so the stakes get no higher.
Over the last 12 years I have taken a huge amount of professional development trainings (which is a side effect of working at a Title One School). As it should, my teaching has been influenced by these trainings. I use a bit of Kagan Cooperative Learning, some of Differentiated Instruction, a great deal of Intensive Reading, and much of SINI Math Boot Camp. This year our school had a collaborative training with another Title One School, which rather successfully uses the Glasser-Sterling Model. This approach is proven to increase student achievement, improve behavior, and create an enjoyable classroom atmosphere. It taps into students’ internal motivation to set goals, analyze data, and make changes for the well-being and success of individual students. Fully utilizing the Glasser-Sterling Model was not an option for my school, so as with my other professional development experiences…I used as much as I could. Basically, it is Mr. Souppa’s Glasser-Sterling Model. Tune in Thursday, to find out how that went.
This is a guest post by Ted Souppa.