Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Teacher Review

Here in the United States, teacher reviews in the public schools have become tied to standardized tests.  If their students did not do well, the teacher is reviewed poorly and may not get an increase in pay.  In my opinion, this encourages teaching "to the test" so that students do well on the test and discourages creativity in the classroom.

This year, my girls asked for grades and report cards, so they knew how they were doing.  Piper is very much like me and needs to have a way to measure her work and know "this is B work, so I need to improve and how can I improve and where can I improve?"  I admit, at the beginning of the year, I was into this, but my interest waned and we did go back to just working on something until we had made it as good as it could be, sometimes that took one edit, sometimes several.  I do not have end-of-the-year report cards and grades for writing or history or science (Math and Italian are computer based, so I do have grades).  But, I did write each girl a letter (as I have at the end of each year we have homeschooled) and told them what I think their weaknesses are and what I think their strengths are, what I was happy about with their effort and where I think they fell a little short (my kids are great, but not perfect).  I also recapped a lot of highlights of our year, because these letters are keepsakes for us.

But where is my Teacher Review?

The other day, Allie was reading on the couch and came across a word she did not know, but she knew two of the roots in the word from our vocabulary so between the roots and context clues, she was able to figure out the word.  She asked me if she had deduced it correctly and I said that she had. That is my teacher review.

Often I lay with the girls at night before bed and we talk.  The other night, I was laying with Allie and she told me how ever since we learned about camera angles in Film Study, she doesn't watch movies the same way, now she picks up on camera angles right away and knows if something emotional is happening or who the filmmaker wants her to suspect or pay attention to.  That is my teacher review.

I made the decision to study Presidential Politics with the presidential election this year because Allie will be voting in 2.5 years and I want her to be able to make informed, educated decisions about our government and leaders.  Piper has astounded me with her interest in this.  She wants to understand all of the ideologies and issues.  She is interested in the candidates and comes to me to tell me that another one declared candidacy and she already knows a little about that candidate.  We were in the car the other day and they were discussing the GOP Budget and she asked me to turn it up, since she has an understanding of the ideologies of each party, she was able to better understand what was going on and discuss it very thoughtfully with me.  That is my teacher review.

The girls are working on history independently.  I followed the outline of the Table of Contents in Story of the World 1: The Ancients and they are researching and writing about each topic and including the websites in a Works Cited document.  Every evening at dinner, Jason asks the girls what they learned about today and they always start with something about history--and then proceed to educate Jason and I on what they learned.  Sometimes they disagree and then one or the other jumps up or gets out a device and figures out who is right and who has incorrect information.  That is my teacher review.

Last week, they wrote about The Great Wall of China, they were fascinated by this and spent quite some time looking at images, discovering that because it was so narrow it can not be seen from space, wanting to know how long it would take to walk it, how long it took to build it, etc.  They dug in DEEP and then informed their father and I all about it.  That is my teacher review.

Jason took over science for a good portion of the year, but when work got really busy for him, I finished up the last couple of chapters.  The curriculum I used built on itself--you had to remember things from prior lessons in order to understand subsequent lessons -- and the girls DID remember things from prior lessons, they understand positive and negative charges and exchanges of gases and release of energy.  That was Jason's teacher review.

I have provided my girls with the conditions to learn many things.  Some facts they will remember, but what I am really proud of is not the fact that they will remember, but the fact that they have trained their mind to learn and to think beyond what they are being taught.  That conversation about the GOP Budget?  It was not just facts, it was educated opinions based on facts.  That conversation about vocabulary?  It was not just regurgitation of a word, it was applying what she knew about the roots with the context of the story to figure out the meaning of the word.  That conversation about film study?  It was not just remembering what we read about camera angles, but it was allowing what she learned to change how she watches movies.  Those are the things I am proud of.  That is my teacher review.