I think there are times that really good teachers become a little complacent in knowing that they are good teachers and it takes a better teacher to knock us on our ass a little. Erin Mills is my ass knocker. I am a good teacher. Screw modesty, I am a great teacher. Sometimes stellar. This year, not so much. Epic fail – thanks cancer. But these last few weeks I have been getting my teacher mojo back. That was until the project from hell and all that comes with it.
I will be 100% honest and say that I put about 45% effort into this project with my students. I am completely ashamed to say that and no excuse in the world can alleviate my behavior. But at the time, I was so angry about the project that I completely shut down and hitch-hiked right out of care-ville. Then we were called into yet another meeting about this project. This time it was about the feedback we were going to give the kids based on the convoluted rubric that I wasn’t even sure was actually in English. At least when it came to kids and teachers alike trying to understand it, it might as well have been written in hieroglyphics. (mmm, come to think of it, pictures probably would have been clearer.) After giving “feedback” on the rubric, we were told to give feedback to the kids by next Tuesday.
My “good” teacher mind went to…this means nothing to those kids. They have no skills they can really latch on to from the rubric. I can tell them what they did and didn’t do well in their project or presentation, but what the heck will emotional intelligence mean to them?! Ok, private conference – five minutes tops. Move on.
Then Erin comes to me in all of her hyper and positive glory and goes through the rubric and what she is going to tell the kids. Girl, I am in the middle of a goodbye party for the departing Mormon families. Ain’t nobody got time for this dumb rubric. “But my kids put so much time and effort into this despite the crazy and I cannot look Melissa Eddy in the eye and not give her my time and effort.” Damn Erin…
Then I get an email with a shared file of the written feedback she has compiled for all of her kids. It took her the whole planning period. I seconded Greg’s Ms. Mills wants extra credit! (said in a mocking baby voice.) Until curiosity got the better of me and I opened the damn file. And it was good. I’m talking really good. It was clear and relatable. She had taken the convoluted standards and made them accessible for the kids. She gave them useful feedback that can be relevant for all classes. And I felt like a class A shmuck of a teacher. With my peg knocked down much more than several notches, I reevaluated what I thought will be helpful, totally stole the categories that Erin had created (I was, after all, taught by Dr. Alene Harris – teachers steal and share well), wrote up my own feedback and spent a little more than five minutes with each student. And at the end of the day, it was worth it.
So thank you, Ms. Mill (Superstar) for knocking me on my ass and reminding me what it is all about. We need WAY more teachers like you.