GOOD

The Kind of Evaluation that Matters Most to Teachers

Unless you spend time in a school, you don't really know how tough a public school teacher's job really is.


Debates over how teachers should be evaluated have been at the forefront of the Chicago teachers strike and a part of the national education reform conversation.

At the end of the day on the second day of school, September 5, one of my students, Veronica, pulled my arm down so she could whisper something in my ear. She told me, "Mr. Sajous-Brady, you're the best third-grade teacher in Illinois." As someone who has spent over 17 years in classrooms—with the last 12-plus being in a neighborhood Chicago Public School—I've been able to recognize and deeply appreciate the honor that comes with this sort of praise from 8-year-olds.


Chicago Public School teachers made, as Mayor Emanuel puts it, a difficult "choice" to suspend classroom instruction for Veronica and her schoolmates in order to provide to the greater public a "hands-on" lesson on democratic practice and constitutional rights. The decision was difficult for many reasons, but especially because we value the work that we do, and know that our work is sometimes misunderstood and misrepresented by those who have never seen what we do firsthand.

I didn't always understand what working in a public school is like, either. I began my teaching career in a private school—the kind of school where Mayor Emanuel and President Obama send their children, and where Secretary of Education Duncan attended as a young student. These schools were founded and/or influenced by many of the great minds of our times, including John Dewey, whose notions included instilling democratic principles in students, providing students with opportunities to actively engage in educative processes, and expecting community members to be responsible for and responsive to the greatest needs of the community.

Like most teachers, I wanted to learn as much as I could about schools and teaching practice, so I spent time over vacations and breaks learning about and visiting other schools. After reading Deborah Meier’s The Power of Their Ideas, I was so moved by her arguments about the need to prioritize public education that I decided to leave the relative comfort of the private school I’d been teaching in and take my practice public.

That meant returning to school to obtain a graduate education and teacher certification at Northwestern University—and a $30,000 loan obligation, but that's a story for another time. As is the case in many schools of education, there’s a core belief in Northwestern's program that an effort to properly educate every child must be made. That allowed me to engage in significant conversations with a wide range of folks deeply committed to bettering educational outcomes for all students. Still, even with all that preparation, I didn't fully know what I was getting into as a full-time public school teacher.

In my 12-plus years teaching in CPS, I have been moved to tears many times, both because of the joy of seeing students succeed and the misery of aimless district bureaucracy. I've worked with folks to figuratively untie complicated knots of misguided and poorly thought out Board of Education policies just as patiently as I've untied first-graders' knots out on the playground. The first-graders smile and say "thank you," for what it’s worth.

I've come to know dozens of colleagues and hundreds of students and parents. I have a deep love for these folks. When I've walked the picket lines and canvassed neighborhoods, I've done it for them. I work with the best band teacher in the universe, the best music teacher, the best art teacher, the best French teachers, the best librarian, a tremendous physical education teacher, superb special education teachers, and too many great classroom teachers to name. They all support my work and keep me motivated to be the best teacher I can. Indeed, a student thinks I'm the best third-grade teacher in Illinois because of the efforts of those educators to make it the “jewel” that CPS’ CEO Jean-Claude Brizard calls it.

At a recent teachers rally I came to see something that, due to the fact that I'm teaching, I'm unable to see on a regular basis: Great teachers don't exist in small pockets in random places. Those teachers who were out there striking did so because there are Veronicas—children who think the world of their teachers because they know what their teachers provide them— at their schools, too. That's really the only standard that interests most teachers, a higher standard than any test or evaluation could measure.

Geography class image from Shutterstock

Articles
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics