Overwhelmed and optimistic, part 2

At the start of the school year, I felt overwhelmed with all of this year’s requirements for teachers. At our school, we’re transitioning to using the recently released Common Core Standards, the teachers are required to use a district-wide online template for writing lesson plans, and moving toward including results from a growth-model as part of teacher evaluations. Additionally, our principal reminded us that in addition to knowing our students as we always have, that we needed be able to recall each student’s data bank of assessment results. Adding to the stress of adjusting to major changes in how we use data and plan lessons at our school, I have a new teaching assignment. After years of teaching drama and TV production, I now teach US History, which brings different approaches to teaching and being accountable into my professional life.

I had some strong doubts regarding how I would be able to keep up with the pace of all of the changes that were being implemented at our school this year…until I walked through the quad of our campus and noticed some new growth sprouting from an impossible looking location.


The tenacity of this little palm tree provided me with a feeling of optimism, despite an overwhelming concern with this year’s workload. When I noticed the little palm tree sprout, the optimism that usually accompanies each school year finally returned. I realized that instead of feeling misunderstood by our school district’s administration, I felt supported by the administration. These new requirements actually focus more on enhancing the work that teachers do rather than working against our efforts. In light of this revelation, I made out a new list that resolved my overwhelming concerns.

  1. I’ll be new at teaching history this year, but time is provided during the school day for me to create lesson plans and evaluate my work with the other 7th grade History teacher.
  2. The Growth Model, similar to the model used in Denver’s schools, might not be perfect, but because it uses results from more than one test and also takes individual student expectations into account, it might be a more accurate measure of what is happening in my classroom than the single-test that was previously used to determine our school’s AYP status.
  3. Despite feeling boxed in with using a district-wide template for lesson-planning, I like the ease with which I can paste specific state standards into the plan and (if I choose) share the plan with other teachers in the district. I can also view other teachers’ History lesson plans to help guide my pacing.
  4. The school-district’s new data-base makes it possible to access all student data from one site, including parent contact information. The database provides me with one-stop shopping, for state-of-the-art data accessibility.

For the first time in years, I am feeling that this will be a year of learning for me as well as my students.

During the first week of school I smiled whenever I walked past that emerging palm tree. This year is the year of the emerging teacher, and the students will benefit from each teacher’s renewed professional learning.

A minor attitude adjustment occurred last week. The school district gardeners, known for rarely trimming the areas in the quad, had actually shown up after school one day. My little palm tree? Gone – cut down by the mower. Momentary setback! I know enough about life science to know that the absence of the palm tree won’t last long. I might have a few setbacks this year, just as that palm tree. I’m expecting to see it sprouting up through the grate again during the next few days.

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