When in Doubt, Push Through the Objective(s)

I’ve recently fallen in love with Orangetheory Fitness– an interval-training program that challenges participants to achieve “Orange” status for twelve minutes to show that we are engaging in exercise in a way that challenges us individually.

Watching the colors change on the screen as my workout progresses encourages me to continually meet or beat my goal. At the conclusion of each class, all members are emailed their workout results to evaluate, reflect and develop a new goal for the next class. I greatly value this feedback because it helps me to grow and improve. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m starting to see the results of my hard work.

As I head back to the classroom for my fourth year of teaching high school English, I noticed a connection; if you stay the course despite the discomfort, and continue to challenge yourself to grow, you will see improvement–whether you’re exercising your mind, or your body.

When planning for the new school year, I know that the best approach to increasing student success in my classroom is through data-based learning. I work diligently to plan each day, and each class period tailoring my curriculum to meet the needs of the individual students in the classroom.

We approach each lesson by reviewing our objective, discussing our higher order questions, reviewing vocabulary, engaging in collaborative learning and then reflecting on the class period. Small formative and summative assessments are delivered each day, not only to track student comprehension but also, to reflect on my teaching practices and students’ ability to obtain and retain information.

While the day-to-day and interim assessments over the duration of the school year are an important source of feedback, so is our annual assessment, the PARCC. Annual assessments provide an objective measure for how my students are progressing toward our state’s academic standards. The test also shows how students in our school perform compared with students across our district and New Mexico.

Although no test gives a holistic view of the student background, language or home life, the information from PARCC does help teachers identify the content students need more assistance with. In turn, teachers are able to utilize the feedback to improve their everyday instruction. Annual assessments are only one measure, but they do provide valuable information on how we’re serving all students– particularly traditionally underserved students.

Each school year, my department reviews our PARCC scores with our administrator, and we decide what our focus points for the school year will be. We are not “teaching to the test,” but rather, sharpening our practices in order to further foster the opportunity for learning to take place in our classroom.

As a department, our most recent PARCC results showed a 6.3 percent increase in scores, the largest growth we have seen since PARCC was rolled out in our school district. While we have more work to do, we are starting to see growth and improvement.

Although the journey can be difficult, and we often seek immediate improvement, we must be patient and challenge ourselves to rise to the occasion. Just like going to a fitness class, overnight results are unrealistic, but remaining consistent will foster improvement.

Shantel Dixon is a high school English teacher in Sante Fe, New Mexico.  She has been teaching for four years.