Today our principal opened herself up as she challenged us to ask her the hard questions. She noted that some had been willing to pin her down, but she made a point of saying that we all can and should be willing and able to ask the hard questions. Before we ask the hard questions, we need to look at the hard truths. We are a campus in need of improvement with an academically unacceptable rating. Hard Truth. We almost got out of our AU status last year missing a couple of indicators by just a few points. Hard Truth. Hopeful truth because we know who we need to help and we have some ideas on what we can do to help them. Whereas before we were one of the only middle schools locally who had to deal with not passing all of our indicators, now, other middle schools are in the same position which means that it isn’t just a “what side of town are you on” issue. Hard Truth. Because we have been fighting to overcome our rating and last year we made good progress, we can show the way for other schools who have never been in this position before. (That’s just teamwork!)
I know that in days to come I will have some hard questions to ask my leader. Before I ask her the hard questions, I have to begin asking myself the hard questions that affect me.
Hard Question #1: What can I do to improve my teaching methods so that kids learn the concepts they need to learn? What changes do I need to make. Even though I am an Elective teacher, I am responsible for how my students perform. What can I do?
Hard Question #2: How can I develop appropriate strong relationships with my students and their parents? How can I make them believe that I am a teacher who believes in them? This is an area where I have been weak in the past. How can I improve? What do I need to do?
Hard Question #3: One of the emphases this year has been a reminder that every teacher has the name of their school on the shirt. Why is this an emphasis? To remind us that we are a team. I have been a loner in many ways in the past. How can I be more proactive in helping build trust and teamwork with my colleagues? What do I have to offer them? What do they have to offer me? Can I make suggestions without being abrasive? Can I be a positive team builder?
There are many other questions that have gone through my mind, but it’s late since I had church and time with my wife. When it’s time to ask other hard questions, I’ll ask them. I continue to be reminded that there are many things that I can’t control about my students. What I can control is the quality of the work that I give them and the quality of the relationships we develop. Please don’t think that this section is a downer. I need these hard questions because I am looking forward to a great year. If I’m going to have a great year, my team needs to have a great year. These questions will help define how I work through the changes that I need to make to be a quality teacher. I’m hoping and praying that I can use the maturity of my years in teaching combined with the enthusiasm of a first year teacher to influence students, parents and colleagues towards excellence themselves.