Just for over a year now, I have been implementing Movement Method and been teaching educators around the world how the method can help students in their classrooms. I finally found something that works. Waldorf was too much of a protective bubble, Montessori not quite enough, scripted curriculum too stiff and not individualized, all have great elements, but not combined to perfection.
The idea of Movement Method being a framework allows it to work for all kinds of diversity and adaptability for schools, and other learning environments. In fact, I am sitting at a ski resort right now adjusting our workshop to help ski and snowboard instructors to understand neuro diversity and best learning environments.
They are lucky; they have nature and environment already on their side, however, there is much to learn for them to understand triggers and how to make their teaching even more effective- and oh, do I dare to mention- FUN.
My classroom reflects a lot of successes because of the environment changes I put in place. Behaviors have improved with every class. Parents are supportive and many request their students in my class. The special education department and I work well together and are able to help our student with special needs to grow to their best ability while being truly integrated.
Why than is it a difficult end of the year for me? Why is the 31st of December, in a beautiful ski lodge at Monarch Mountain in Colorado, while beautiful shaped glistening snow crystal fall from the ski, happy people surrounding me waiting for a new adventurous year to begin, and successes to look back on, such a challenging time and the need to write and share?
Before school was out for winter break, every teacher had a mid- year review. Last year, I had an evaluator who 100% supported my efforts, understood where I was heading, and therefore was able to help me grow. This year, the mid- year review looked very different. A new evaluator with a different vision and goals changed the experience. Even though sandwiched between positives, I clearly heard a very negative message: Why are other grades outperforming you? This statement echoed in my head for days…It took intensive reflection and conversation with my mentor to get me over that. He made me see what the statement really said: How come your standardized test scores are lower- and that is a very different statement, correct? Dissecting the message that was burnt into my mind, he was right- different message!
State Standardized testing: students in front of a computer for two to two and a half hours with an hour break and then again- days of instruction lost for an entire week. Questions based on all of elementary years, not just curriculum I taught; one way to test, pure knowledge and perseverance; I am not even absolutely certain that the questions are age and developmentally appropriate or if they were developed for students to fail to eventually support to sell new scripted curriculum for thousands of dollars to failing schools- but that is a different topic. What my mid-year did not reflect were the kids that were out less than previous years having less migraine headaches or stress stomach aches, parents in tears of joy because they now know their son can make it with the right environment, the smiles on kid’s faces to come to school, the growth every individual in my class showed, the curiosity and engagement students found back in their life, developing life- long learners and inquirers what this society so desperately needs.
After my review, I am honest, I was tempted to start practicing CMAS (our state test) on computers over and over, in addition to the 90-100min weekly on computers anyway that are mandatory for our students to follow a reading and math curriculum to fill gaps. I was tempted to teach to the test, even considered manipulating some data like I know so many other teachers do by allowing more tries than one, or test corrections to eventually reflect 100% - but no! I will not give up my principals. I will not follow everybody else who knows that what we are doing is not the right way to educate our new generation. My mentor pointed out to make this a learning experience and share it. He is right!
Was this a downer for me that will be with me every day I will put foot in a classroom? Absolutely, and every day, I will have to make the right choice again for my students. While still struggling with this, I met up with one of my former students battling depression. She lost step dad while she was in my class. After she graduated elementary, I took her on as volunteer and to help her through her rough times. She is doing better, and coincidentally, she mentioned a couple of days ago, that everybody in my class appreciated the creativity and the different style of teaching, and that my class was the first time she could let go of her severe anxiety. She has been stronger ever since- I am not making this up- that statement yet again confirmed- I will stay focused on what really matters!
Being presented with a class that is 80% not on grade level, six students with diagnosed learning disabilities, extremely limited home support, not making excuses, and I know every student has a fair chance, but what are our true objectives here? Data? Sure, eventually down the line. How about getting them to enjoy school and learning again with maybe a chance of them not dropping out of high school because we equipped them with emotional health and coping skills? Focus on what matters in our days!
The compromise I came up with is to look at the practice assessments online for our state standardized test since that is a measure that is being used at this time 9right or not), but how about turning the practice into Movement Method lessons? How about exposing students to the material in a fun interesting way, building their background and exposure to the type of test they will see and then, just like our method suggests transfer it to more abstract concepts on computers- after they had a chance to exposure, hands on learning, fun and inquiry.
A big job ahead of me- but that is the only compromise I see to still stick with my principals and please all the other parties who are putting pressure on us.
Eventually these tests will have to be scrutinized, analyzed, and certainly changed and adapted to new needs. But for today, as a single teacher, I have to ensure I take care of the students I was entrusted with.
Focus on what really matters!