What’s in a Number?

Very soon teachers across the Commonwealth will sit in their library, their cafeteria, or a classroom nervously while their 2015-2016 K-Prep scores are released.  Administrators will sit in meetings identifying their schools weaknesses and planning on how to further help the students that are struggling the most.  Parents and community members will open their paper to read the latest news article comparing and contrasting local schools; praising some while criticizing others.  In a matter of days an entire school year will be condensed into one number.  I am not going to argue tonight about whether or not there is a need for standardized assessments, the fairness in comparing schools even though the demographics are completely different, or about student growth being a part of teacher performance evaluation.  What I will do is remind you what isn’t included in that number we will all see soon.

That number doesn’t include the hours before and after school Kentucky teachers spend with students who don’t seem to be getting the material and need a little extra help.

That number won’t include the students who on the first “Tough Pattern Thursday” of last year stared at me with blank and confused stares and on the last spit out a complicated expression including exponents like it was their job.

That number can’t include the children who got an extra smile, hug, supply or snack from their teacher because there wasn’t enough encouragement, things, or food at home to go around.

That number never measures the refugee students who join our school not only with language and academic needs but also severe social and emotional needs that our staff works tirelessly to address as we welcome them to our school and country with loving smiles.

That number doesn’t see the teacher grading papers on the weekends, buying supplies at 10:00 on a school night for an activity, or laying awake at night wondering how they can better serve their students.

That number doesn’t get to experience what it is like to see a faculty rally together in times of need for students.  It doesn’t see the paraeducator who spends their weekend painting a child’s room so they feel more at home.  It doesn’t see the staff at a funeral home as they help their students say goodbye to a parent or sibling.  It doesn’t see the smiling faces in the stands at a sports game cheering on a student whose parents weren’t able to be there themselves.  It doesn’t see us carrying in extra groceries weekly to send home with students who will be hungry over the weekend.

That number misses a lot of things.  I will take that number this week and I will do what all teachers do.  I will reflect and try and figure out what I could have done better to move just one more student to proficiency.  I will celebrate in the successes and I will internalize my own weaknesses.  I will sit in meetings with other teachers while we ask ourselves where we go from here to make all students college and career ready.  However none of those are the most important things I will do.  The most important things I will do will be to get up the next day with a smile on my face and keep teaching; it will be to give an extra hug in the hallway to the kid that looks like they could use it; it will be to spend another day doing what I do every day, loving kids.

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