Modern education is a network of tight ropes. The teachers, the aerialists, move from one rope to another.
Today, I'm teetering as usual.
As an AP teacher, my tight rope is often the same, linking day one of class to the exam at the end of the year. To my right is my responsibility to the test - that I need students to perform well. On my left, I feel the pull of my own teaching philosophy. My shoulders bare the greatest weight. My students: their well being, their success, their hearts.
It's an ugly game of chance. Will I make it to the end, with all these things in perfect balance? I'm not sure I have yet.
Unfortunately, the task becomes more daunting each year. With only the weight of my students, I could possibly make it, but we all know the variables. Initiatives, score reports, parents, and admin target you like barnswallows, unintentionally throwing you further off balance.
I should say; it's always well intentioned. Adding score incentives probably pushes the students and/or me to work harder. Engaged parents - as long as they remain just that, not invasive - are an incredible asset! Even admin (the unfairly labelled "bad guys") are only looking out for kids.
Add it up, however, and the pressure is immediately overwhelming.
The hardest part of this circus act - at least, I think - is the foundation of these problems. That everyone wants what is best for the students.
My struggle is this...
My kids need confidence, love, character, integrity, and most obviously, fewer stressers. It's so devastatingly clear with advanced students, who bury themselves in their own impossible expectations. They need fun, kindness, and freedom.
The problem is that, as a third party, I know they won't all pass. Statistically, it's implausible, and therein lies the challenge of this time of year. I've seen enough to guess who will be successful on the exam, but standing in front of that classroom, I am pained to make any concessions. I want to believe that with more practice for the exam - more prompt drills, more timed writes, more multiple choice passages - they can all pass the test. Experience tells me it may be poorly allocated time.
Because the other half of the problem is that there is so much more - beyond the test - that I want for them.
They need to read beautiful novels, but fiction won't be on the test.
They need to be creative, but every moment not practicing for the test is a possible disservice.
They need to practice citizenship and integrity, but no test will ever measure those things.
Essentially, I am zeroing in on our final weeks together and wind from both sides of the tight rope has me hanging midair.
So what now? Do I inch along, servant to two masters - the test and myself? Do I commit to one side (probably the test), forsaking the other?
Both likely end the same - the way they have for my last three years with AP.
Assessment data is necessary. I understand the value in monitoring where our students are throughout the year and building from one year to the next. Each year, however, I am more at war with myself. I think we all are, calloused by years of clinging to wire.