My first year as a media production teacher in Baltimore City has come to an end and I had good times and bad times, but through it all I have learned some valuable lessons.
- Teachers are reviewed on what we do inside the four walls of the classroom. Other activities are nice, but when it comes to your performance evaluation you better have a good lesson and move student achievement because that is why we exsist. I had some success with extra-curricular activities but I realized closer to the end of the year that moving students toward certification was key. This wasn’t a mandatory requirement for students, but in my Media Production pathway, it gives them options. Two of my students tested and both passed their Final Cut Pro X Associate Certification test. I realize testing can be viewed through many lenses, but I feel that it offers my students options for career advancement.
- Some teachers don’t do many things outside of the union contract. It may sound sad, but I have seen many times this be a block to some progress (and I am part of the union). At the end of the day, I am there for the kids, and yes the union is there for me, but I am not going let that block progress. It’s about teamwork and my administrators understand that.
- Most teachers really care about kids and progress. My school is currently in year two and going into the last year in a turnaround model, which means we have to move student achievement significantly next year or we risk closure or reorganization. I have seen teachers stay extra for help and try to move kids. And, of course, I have seen the opposite.
- Administrators have a daunting job. They deal with issues and concerns from district headquarters, kids, teachers, and parents. I have to admit, being a principal or administrator in our system is a daunting job. It’s like being a middle-manager where everyone is your boss and everyone wants a piece of you.
- Students want structure and most really want to learn. In Baltimore City, you are bombarded with the notion that “the kids are bad and the kids don’t want to learn” and of course there are kids that fit that stereotype, but as I review my class roster at the end of the year, it has to be about 15% of the my kids. Colleagues often tell me my subject is easy because kids are interested in video and multimedia but I often say I have to keep student engaged and busy because some feel like it’s “play-time” on the computers.
- Mentors are there to help. I was fortunate to have a good teacher mentor and run ideas by him and receive helpful feedback during my informal observations. Part of the reason is that you have to be willing to receive feedback, veteran educator and Harlem Children’s Zone Founder Geoffrey Canada said, “When you see a great teacher, you are seeing a work of art.” I feel that we are all works-in-progress as educators and we have to want to be better. Our students deserve it.
- Students want to know that you care. We are constantly giving information to students and trying to get them to be better, but being there for students is key. It may be supporting a student at a sports event, recital or an event outside of school that is not required. I have realized this goes a long way of building trust with my students.
Our CEO, Dr. Alonso says, “The kids come as is.” This is so true. They come with all their baggage, and preconceived notions about teachers and education. These lessons I learned will propel me into the next school year and even though there will be be challenging moments, but I look forward to them as I do my part to move student achievement to higher levels.