Who Knows What the Tide Could Bring

Setbacks are a part of any profession. In education they can manifest in a variety of ways. Whether it is losing a teacher mid-year or learning that your students did not perform as well as anticipated on a summative assessment, educators deal with adversity. It is essential to move forward with a positive outlook because sometimes wonderful opportunities arise out of the most devastating of circumstances.

When initially stranded on an island, Tom Hanks’ (Chuck) initial thoughts revolve around survival and rescue. However, as more and more time goes by, those thoughts transition to hopelessness and despair.

After spending four years marooned on an island, Chuck returns home. In this scene Chuck shares how he was able to overcome those negative emotions by focusing on the possibility that he would one day be reunited with Helen Hunt (Kelly), the love of his life. “Then one day that [pessimistic] logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and gave me a sail.”

While maintaining hope in the most dire of circumstance, Chuck was gifted the one thing that could potentially reunite him with Kelly.

Implications for Education

From a Principal’s Perspective

It is inevitable that a teacher will leave mid-year. They will relocate, decide to stay home with their family, change professions, or go back to school.

No principal is ever prepared for it. What are you going to tell the parents? Who is going to prepare the lesson plans? How are the students going to behave? Who is going to do the grading?

You can drown yourself in the negative self-talk. You can allow yourself to succumb to the pressure and stress being placed upon you by the parents or you can move forward, because from challenge comes opportunity.

Two years ago I was faced with this exact situation. A teacher left, parents were upset, students were misbehaving, and there was a looming end of year exam.

But, the administration maintained a positive attitude. We worked with the team to ensure there was a plan for lessons and grading while we searched for a long-term substitute.

And we found that substitute, a gentleman transitioning to education as a second career. He was someone who discovered later in life that he had a passion for working with kids, making a difference, and giving back.

Fast forward two years and that teacher is an institution at our school. What he does for kids and the school culture is immeasurable. And if it were not for a mid-year crisis, he would not be a member of our school family.

From a Teacher’s Perspective

There are a couple of ways in which teachers measure their effectiveness. One way is through teacher observations and feedback. This can be a great tool, but is subjective. A second, and more objective, means is student achievement, or student growth scores. I understand there a lot of factors that go into student test results and there is not a direct correlation between teacher effectiveness and student growth, but it is the most objective measure we have.

Depending on your school or district, when you receive these results will vary. However, no matter when you receive student scores, the feeling you get if those scores are not what you hoped for, remains the same, awful.

Just like a principal who has a teacher leave mid-year, a teacher with less than stellar results will face additional stress. What did I do wrong? What does the principal think? Am I in the right profession?

But, if that teachers moves forward with a positive attitude and a focus on growth, there is much to be gained. A reflective teacher is an ever improving teacher.

Now that the teacher has accepted the results and is determined to get stronger as an educator, he or she can get to work.

Strategies from Reflective Teachers After Receiving Test Results

  • Observing other teachers (focusing on those with strong scores)
  • Having other teachers observe you (again, focusing on those with strong scores)
  • Surveying students about engagement, rigor, feedback, and relationships
  • Delving deeper into your data [what specifically needs addressing (it might be more manageable than you originally thought)]
  • Spending more time with PLCs to discuss results from common formative assessments (this way you are more prepared for future formative test results)

It is not if you will be faced with adversity as a principal or teacher, but when. And when that time comes, how you react, and ultimately respond, will make all the difference. Who knows what the tide could bring?

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