The professional educator: artist, scientist, or superhero?

September 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

I attended the Region 20 Eduphoira customer appreciation event last week, which is basically just a mini conference for Eduphoria users. The opening and closing sessions are run by the CEO of the company, and the breakout sessions are geared toward use of the different modules within Eduphoria.

This is the second year (I think) for the event, and I like going because Colin, the CEO, give everyone a preview of where Eduphoria is heading and what’s coming up for the company. The big takeaway for me this year was the ability for districts that are currently hosted by Eduphoria to have an LDAP sync in the very near (as in, within the next month) future. Districts that are self-hosted have always had the option to sync accounts, and it was a great benefit in my previous job because it was one more account our department didn’t have to create, and one more password the users didn’t have to remember.

After the closing session, there was a brain storming session, and even though less than a dozen of us stuck around for it, I think it was the most valuable part of the day for me.

I love talking with smart people, and brainstorming is a wonderful way to talk about the what-ifs and come up with new ideas, as well as (for me, anyway) bringing clarity to things that may not have been crystal clear.

I brought back two things from the brainstorming session: I finally understood what Pinterest was all about, and how it could be very useful for education and I also came away with a deeper understanding of the challenges we all face as educators.

The big talk nowadays is data. Everything is data driven, and during the course of our brainstorming session, we talked a LOT about data, because data is what Eduphoria is all about. The biggest piece of their software suite (Aware) deals with data disaggregation. The discussion lead toward what Eduphoria is ultimately trying to do, which is look at your data (test scores) and tie that in to professional development. We talked about how Eduphoria could be the “genius” and suggest professional development pieces to teachers based on their data. Colin also talked about how they look at the different data pieces and try to pull them apart to give teachers and administrators a good picture of where students are at.

At the very end of the discussion, a question was posed: what measure effectiveness?

This sparked a response from me, which I wrote down in the Google doc I was taking notes in:

schools are not research institutions…we do not measure students with a control set in a controlled environment, so actual measurement is very difficult because there are so many external factors

So this is where the title of this post comes from. What, exactly are professional educators? We are part scientist, who look at data and try to extrapolate and correlate that with how are students are doing and where they will be at the end of the year. We are also part artist, trying to put together a mural of all of our students and paint a picture that all of them, with all of their different talents and world experiences, will see an understanding in. We are also part parent, sibling, best friend, counselor, and so many other things.

Trying to put all of that into a single test score that an administrator or legislator or board member can look at doesn’t do any justice to all of the things that fantastic educators do on a daily basis. Sometimes, there is just no way to measure a student in the timeframe of a single school year. Sometimes, you just have to wait it out.

Numbers don’t tell the whole picture, and they never will. We need to start describing ourselves as more than the test scores our students produce. We need to make people see us as experts in dealing with all sorts of children, whether they come from rich or poor families, whole or broken homes, and the plethora of other things that teachers have to handle every day before they can even think about getting kids motivated to learn.

Educators really are superheros. We have the unique ability to make a child love or hate a subject with the way we talk and teach about it. If you haven’t lately, go back and watch Talor Mali’s “What teachers make” and see how much of it you’re nodding your head through.

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