#InnovativeMindset: School vs Learning.. . Data in a Square Hole #IMMOOC

I have a dirty little secret I’ve been keeping from the team leaders in my Middle School Leaders’ Meeting every month. I don’t really pay attention in the meeting.

Ok, its very possible that at least one person sitting at the table is very aware of my distraction as I tap quietly on my laptop during the part in the agenda where the words “data” or “policy” are mentioned.  (they’re mentioned without fail, every month) Our principal sends our agenda to us via Google Docs the day of our meeting and I always make a copy of it and share it with my team of teachers.  At least one of them, every month, “sits in” on the meeting with me from the comfort of either her classroom, two floors above, or home, if she’s managed to get there that quickly.

This last meeting, as we got to the bullet point with the term “data” embedded in it, I let her know, in the chat box, it was time to pay attention.

“Oh boy! Data!  The reason we all come to school!”

That’s me thinking to myself.  She typed it out.

“So what trick will we use to pretend to blend student centered learning spaces AND make the data look amazing?”

I smiled. I tried to pay attention.

School.  Data. Compliance. Initiatives. BORING! I just can’t do it anymore.  I am the rogue teacher.  Everyone knows it.  I have been told, more than once in the 8 years I’ve been in this building that “science isn’t important”.  The first time I was told that, someone had to grab my knee to keep me in my seat.  The subsequent times, I’ve accepted the reality that as far as data miners are concerned (everyone else at the table), science, social studies, business and technology, the fine arts and even physical education, are so totally irrelevant. You can’t create amazing data charts from any of that stuff!  Reading, writing and math!  These are the classes we can track and manipulate and turn into fun boards in the hallway!  All that other stuff is just… learning.

Wait.  Did I say, LEARNING? As in, “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?” learning? As in, why did he REALLY sail the ocean blue?  What did his “discovery” of North America really mean to the people living here.  How did exploration and exploitation affect the health and population of the natives? Has that sort of exploitation stopped happening in the 21st Century?  Are there still “explorers” out there exploiting natural resources and abusing natives? Where would we put the answers to THESE questions on a data chart?

(btw, the questions above come from the current social studies and science lessons in my team’s group.  He’s looking at exploration, I’m looking at natural resource exploitation.  The kids connected the two without our help.)

I completed my Student Learning Objective (SLO) worksheet this week.  I used to do a pre/post test for a chapter in the book we’re working on, but I’ve been told, that doesn’t produce enough “data” in a way that can be useful. So, I basically copied the reading teacher’s data (as we don’t do testing for science) and whatever she gets in the way of growth, I get in the way of growth.  This SLO is then used as part of a formula to determine if I get a raise in the fall.  As if I teach reading.

Well, I suppose, technically, I do.  We do a lot of nonfiction reading in the way of current events and we look for meaning in documentaries we watch and then write about it.  It’s all good. It’s school. It’s the part of it all that justifies teachers sitting in classrooms.

The learning justifies the students growing in the classroom though.  That’s the important part to me.  Rummaging through a bag of trash looking for what can be recycled or reused just can’t be quantified on a graph.  Should it be?  Wanting to know why some girls aren’t allowed an education and how that affects population growth just doesn’t have a slot in the chart. Why would it?

I decided long ago not to bother with trying to fit that round data peg in the square hole I’ve cut out for learning.  It won’t fit.  I don’t bother trying to make it fit. While some panic about the data, I giggle with joy at the ‘a ha’ moments when the students connect one content topic with another. I sit in the leaders’ meeting trying to pretend to care about it all.  The rogue and her computer, tapping away the schooling… making a way for the learning.

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