This past week I had students ask me about STAAR (Texas state assessment) and when it was slated to be given. My first response was the month but that didn’t stop my wondering minds standing in front of me. They wanted to know the dates and whom would be testing them (they are in small group and individual testing locations). You see, my students are in special ed and this assessment creates a lot of unknown and fear for them. It changes their normal, changes where they attend for the day, and changes what they see. It creates a lot of anxiety for them and adults alike and these are JUST ten and eleven year olds.
When I was able to look up the dates, my students started to look upset, rock, and get very quiet (very unlike them). The FEAR and anxiety had started in January. JANUARY! As an educator and someone who struggled at their age with learning, this breaks my heart into a million pieces.
As a Special Education Teacher, my job isn’t defined by a state assessment. I meet my students individual needs each and every day! My job is defined and reviewed by an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and meeting the needs of my students each and every day. Do some of my students take the regular STAAR with accommodations, yes. Some of my students also take the STAAR-Alt due to their disabilities. But the STAAR doesn’t define my students or myself each day!
My students are SO MUCH more than just what is on paper and what a snapshot of the test day gives and brings. The STAAR test is a day in their school year. It DOES NOT define who they are and what they have to offer. It’s not individualized or what level they are on. It’s a standardized assessment. Just a test on a given day that is a snapshot of that day not what all a student can and can’t do!
As the STAAR (or a your state assessment) gets closer and closer, I have to stop, take a breath, and tell my students each day that they are SO MUCH more than a state assessment. It DOES NOT define who they are, what they offer, and who they will become. It’s just a TEST. To them, though, it’s a day in the week that throws their who day and schedule off. It has problems that are too difficult compared to the level they are at and it’s tense. To them, it’s a day that is not routine and scheduled like they are used to. To them, it’s so much more than JUST a test.
In a world that assesses our students, we have to remember that our students are still KIDS who have questions, fears, and anxiety just like us but they don’t have the adult attached to them to be able to breathe and process like us. Our students are SO MUCH more than just a test!
As state assessments get closer and closer, I challenge educators to have those conversations about when the assessments occur, how STATE assessments do NOT define what students are, and how AMAZING our students are each and every day!
Everyday, we as educators, walk into work with a plan in mind. Whether it be to take on the world (one can hope) or accomplish something important to meet the needs of your students and staff, you have a plan. A hope, a dream, an aspiration, or an idea that you yearn to accomplish. A plan that will assist you in meeting the needs of someone on your path for the day. However, it’s not always workable or easy.
Challenges, problems, and differences can stop your plan dead in its track. It’s like a ton of bricks that overpowers the difficulties ahead. The feeling of despair and frustration loom. The thought of “what have I gotten myself into?” The uneasy feeling that you never planned or dreamed you’d have. However, you’ve got a choice on how to proceed. A choice no one can predict or warn you about. You can either own the challenges or problems and make the best of it or give up.
Giving up, for me, is not an option. It’s a challenge. An unforeseen path that wasn’t on the original game plan. Alas, it’s a struggle to accomplish a surprise that is challenging. It can be a discussion that goes aray, a difficult conversation, or an event that derails your plans. Something that you don’t forsee or plan for. There’s no immediate plan, no agenda.
It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s a struggle. You play out how this struggle will go and try to wrap your head around it. However, we all face challenges in our paths each day. It’s unpredictable and real. There’s no agenda or warning but I challenge you to forge through, don’t give up, and to own your struggles professionally.
The challenge may be a roller coaster or a slap in your face but rise up & face your struggles. You can’t predict where the road will lead but you can predict if you will take you on an uncharted path towards tough waters. You’re not along on this journey. Face your challenges head on and own them. Just like the captain on your ship, YOU have the power to steer your course after a surprise attack. YOU have the power to steer head on or around the challenge. YOU have the power to face your struggle head on.
You are STRONGER than you think and can do more than you plan! Be your BEST advocate and rock the unforeseen journey. You never know where it will lead you!
Challenges, we all face them. From the classroom to school to our daily lives, they’re present. They’re unavoidable for the most part and we have to solve them daily. It’s nice when challenges are portrayed as something fun and you can choose to join or let the opportunity fly by.
Recently I participated in a twitter chat that challenged the participants to stay connected and share their journeys that come our way. When I first heard about Lead like a Pirate, I was excited. A book by the Dave Burgess Company (which is amazing by the way) never disappoints and the authors are Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. I participated in the chats that lead up to this challenge and I leave inspired, uplifted, and grateful to have an opportunity to collaborate with people who care about education and want students to be successful.
Lead like a Pirate opened many doors and windows for me while reading and participating in the chats. It provided me with inspiration as well as an opportunity to ditch the doubt. It has also given me a chance to commit to five things I will do differently as a result. The five commitments are apart of the challenge accepted.
Commitment #1: Build up Students: Every students that walks through the doors of our school deserves the best. Whether they’re in my class or not, they must be built up. They deserve the best and my goal is to make each interact the best I can for them. Kids deserve it!
Commitment #2: Ditch the doubt: Doubt goes along with fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of the difference. My commitment to ditch the doubt is easier said than done. However, I am committed to ditch the doubt with my students and colleagues I work with to lead to newer and different ideas to support my students this year.
Commitment #3: Owning my decisions: There are often times I will apologize for a decision I made that’s best for my students. It’s time for this to come to an end and to lead my students to greatness or, at least, the classroom. My students have multiple needs but I make decisions for them. Gone are the times of apologizing for a need being met or a decision that looks different on the outside. I am owning my decisions.
Commitment #4: Spread positivity: It’s a mindset. Positivity meets negativity and goes farther. It’s time to squash the negative feel, if there is one, and spread positivity to allow others to THRIVE. Staff and students know if it’s a positive environment and it’s time to make a change for the better. A smile goes a long way.
Commitment #5: Support: Support has many aspects. Supporting my students, staff members, and myself. Realizing that I have to have some help every now and again and prioritizing tasks to get them accomplished. My passion is to support and uplift all.
Five commitments I plan to take the challenge head on with this year. I can’t wait for the new year to start and to put these into play. Even if I don’t arrive at the greatness this year, I will commit to do great things for my students, staff, and school every year and make an impact on those that I meet daily.