Saturday, January 14, 2017

Truths 2-4 My Why & School Roadblocks

What is my why? What brought me into education?

These are questions that I feel I should repeat to myself daily. I don’t spend enough time reflecting on my values about education. When I first thought about becoming a teacher, it was my sophomore year in college. My mom is a teacher, and while she is a huge role model in my life, I struggled at first with going into the same profession as her. I wanted to be different. But the truth is, deep down, I really liked the idea of being a teacher. It was something I knew about - the amount of time I had spent in school, the differences that teachers had or hadn’t made on my life, and first-hand observations of the amount of prep time that went into teaching from my mom’s perspective.

In school, I had been always been good student, good grades, followed the rules, respected my teachers. I wasn’t the loudest, and sometimes I felt looked-over by my teachers. When becoming a teacher myself, this became one of my core values - don’t look over any student. I want every student to enjoy school and know that if they need someone, they can always count on me. I want to know everyone’s name, who they are, and show that I know and respect them in my class. School is about so much more than academics. I don’t remember too much content from my high school English class, but I do remember the way the teacher connected with all of us.

As a teacher now, I never dread going to work. Do I hate waking up early in the morning - sometimes, but by the time I get to school I am ready to go. That’s how I know I am in the right profession. I’m sure everyone has had jobs throughout their lives where they really didn't enjoy going to work. I am fortunate enough that I get to work with kids and see the passion in their eyes when a project excites them, see them learn different lessons in life, and watch them grow to the adults they will become in the future.

School roadblocks.

Roadblocks are just challenges to overcome. When I think about some major challenges in education, the first thing that pops into my head is the ratio between class size and teacher. This is probably not the largest challenge by far, but I know it’s connected to a lot of different roadblocks and directly affects one of my goals as a teacher. I teach a 6-week long class of STEM to each grade level in my school (6-8). Having 32 students in my room is difficult. This affects my ability to get to know each student. I also teach a 9-week long elective class to each grade level. The average size of these classes is around 15. In smaller classes, I am able to sit with each student, spend a good amount of uninterrupted time with them, and really get to know who they are. It’s just not possible in a larger class.

Standards-based grading is a topic that continues to come up in education. We will be implementing it in our building within the next two years. I have no doubt that it is a great way to assess what a student learns. I also think in order to do it right, it takes time from the teacher, both to set up and to integrate into the classroom. Having smaller class sizes would mean having more time to spend looking at each individual student's’ assessments and actually having the time to create plans for improvement and enrichment. I realize class size is something that is not in my control, so I will have to find ways to think “inside of the box.” Any helpful solutions are welcome!


  1. Katie, I really enjoyed hearing about your why of education. I really admire your motivation to get to know your students and love that that is your top priority. Your roadblock on student class sizes is spot on. I would whole-heartedly agree on getting to know your students on a more personal level in order to accurately assess each student. From trying to meet with each student every week I definitely know how hard it is to have quality conversations with each student and also manage the rest of the students. In order to accurately get a clear picture it would definitely help to have smaller class sizes.

  2. Kaite, I love your why and your priority of not looking over any student. It is so easy to look over those students that are "good." As a parent I have experienced that with my girls, and at one point brought it up with one of their teachers (who I very much respected) due to the fact that I felt that for one of my daughter's she could have been encouraged to challenge herself more. After talking to the teacher, the teacher agreed with me, even saying, "Nell was doing fine that's why I didn't notice anything, I'm glad you said something." Knowing that there are teachers out there really trying to get to know and do what's best for all students encourages me.

    I agree 100% that class size does make a difference, and anyone that tries to prove otherwise with any sort of data is just plain wrong. With more and more individualized learning being encouraged, I would like to hope that class size will become more of a priority for all schools, and all grade levels. I get so frustrated with the idea that it's OK to have larger classes as the students get older. Honestly, I could see the argument that those older students are the ones that really need more of the one on one teacher attention than the younger ones do.