Every Day Evidence #28 for 2014/15
November 17, 2014
Good Morning Governor Snyder, Senator Jansen, Senator Elect MacGregor, Representatives, VerHeulen, Lyons, Brinks, Dillion, Yonker, and Hooker,
Congratulations on being reelected to serve the citizens of Michigan. You have a huge responsibility to consider what citizens care deeply about and then govern appropriately.
: What is the difference between the North Pole and the South Pole?
New Questions for Your Consideration:
As you enter the “Lame Duck” legislative session I am asking you to consider the following questions:
- If third grade reading proficiency is really important to you as a legislator, are you willing to align new operational revenue to the process?
- How many of the bills that you are considering in the “Lame Duck” session are boiler plate versions that were lifted from the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC (http://www.alec.org/)?
- Which Michigan legislators are members of ALEC?
- How do you know if your legislative actions match what people really care about?
Every Day Evidence
Today’s EDE comes from Northview High School English Language Arts teacher Emily Alt. Emily joined our staff this school year. The email was written four weeks into the current school year.
“Dear Dr. Paskewicz
Hello! I know that recently in the Everyday Evidence, you have offered stories from my colleagues, Sheri and Betsy, so if you’d like to hold this one for awhile, so as to not overload with stories from the English Department, that’s totally fine. Thanks for reading!
I wanted to share with you a bit about my experience as a new teacher to Northview after 4 weeks of school. This year marks my 11th year in public education and my 1st year teaching in a public school in Michigan. I spent the past 7 years in Chicago Public Schools, and prior to that worked in a charter school in Holland. I had no idea what to expect when I took this job with Northview, but I hoped that it would be better and more inspiring than my time in Chicago had been.
See, where I worked in Chicago, it was extremely difficult I got very used to people giving me a concerned face and saying, “Oh…you work in CPS…that must be so….awful.” It wasn’t awful. It was wonderful. Most of it. Parts, though, were awful, though, not for the reasons many would have thought–many people associate violence and strife with Chicago Public Schools, rough kids and gang issues. Certainly, I saw that in my time there, so much so that I really became numb to it, but there were 2 reasons I ultimately left CPS–the first was the district’s intense pressure on standardized testing and test results, and the second was the lack of professionalism within the teaching environment.
When I left CPS in 2012, I took a year off from teaching. I was totally burnt out and totally disenchanted with public education. I felt that all I was being asked to do was prepare students to take tests that determined their future, and I was not being asked to expand their minds. I was the ONLY 11th grade English teacher that was talking about literature with kids; my colleagues were talking about testing, test prep and score analysis. I spent nights worrying, “Is this what our public education system is doing to our children? Are we just preparing them to take tests and to perform in high stakes environment, but not creating strong and lasting relationships or supporting their resilience?”
It was heartbreaking and I found myself giving up. I found myself no longer believing in public education and, thus, doubting my place as a classroom teacher. I went into this field to make change, to change lives and to create curious learners. It was time for me to take a break, and so, I did. For 1 year I didn’t teach.
Within 2 weeks of being out of the classroom, my heart ached to be back.
Thus, when I began to look for a new job, I took a long time trying to determine a district and a school that would be the right fit. I met informally and formally with a lot of principals and administrators all over the West Michigan area. From the moment I first stepped into Northview, back in March of 2013, for an informal meeting with Sheri Steelman, I felt as though I had found my place. Sheri was welcoming and professional, but, most importantly, passionate. She talked about educating young people with a twinkle in her eye and a rapid excitement rarely found in life long educators like herself. When I met Mark Thomas for the first time, I thought to myself, “Here is a principal who truly understands teaching and learning.” I was even more impressed and excited when he asked me to define the difference between those two concepts in an interview (Yes!).
When I met the other members of the Northview staff, I realized that this school district was doing so much of the work that our schools need to do–building relationships with students, creating rigorous and relevant curriculum based in skills and content, and, most importantly, providing students with the highest levels of challenge coupled with the highest levels of support. One of the best parts of coming to my job everyday is knowing that I have colleagues and administrators, students and families, who believe in my ability to teach English and to teach writing, without having to measure everything next to an ACT benchmark. I finally feel, after 11 years in the classroom, that it’s acceptable, even applauded, to be excited about books with students. This is a new thing. It’s a wonderful thing.
Public schools work. I’ve believed this wholeheartedly during my time teaching, but I started to question this in my last years in CPS. Now, though, I’ve found a home. What I see at Northview, though, is a public school that is working because every single member of the learning community is involved in its success–from the Superintendent to the new 9th grade student to the hard working parent to the marching band director to the janitor to the timid 3rd grader to the SRC coordinator to the wrestling coach to the graduating senior. We are all in this together and we all believe, together, that every student can leave this school better, stronger, more capable, and, most critically, more curious than when he or she arrived.
Thank you, Northview, for giving me hope again in the public education system.
Fun Fact: During one calendar year, students are in school 17% of their time. They are somewhere else the other 83%. Who is responsible for the upbringing of the children of our community?
Riddle Answer: All the difference in the world.
Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent
Northview Public Schools