A few life events collided yesterday to send home an unfortunate message. Life goes on. Ironically, none of these things directly impacts my life. That being said, I thought I would walk through them and hopefully intersect somewhere that makes sense.
I get to administer the STAAR test tomorrow. If you happen to be reading this out of state, then just know that the STAAR test is our state exam for students. In the case of high school students, they have to pass five sections to graduate. At least that’s the theory. There are numerous ways around that, but that’s a different story for a different day.
The December test is universally reserved for students that are retaking the test. This always seems cruel after awhile. We have some students that take some of these tests ten times. Students were exempted last spring, so all of these students have taken these tests at least twice because last year’s 9th graders are exempt.
The state has decided not to exempt these students. You cannot take the STAAR test remotely, so those learning at home will have to come up to school. Even students in school haven’t gotten the same tutoring they normally would get. Normally, our entire department pitches in to help these students get over the hump. Of course, like in real life, this story doesn’t have a resolution just yet. So, I’ll let it sit here and fester like a blister in the sun.
A work friend invited me to a Facebook group about safely opening Texas schools. It’s a teacher group where teachers can do what they do best: complain. I have to cop to it. My wife calls me on it all the time. Here, it is complaining on steroids. One of the downsides of social media is the creation of echo chambers. Essentially, that’s a group of like-minded individuals all complaining about the same thing.
In this group, a woman complained that she had difficulty with her upcoming evaluation. Her supervisor wasn’t being helpful and she was about to get raked over the coals. Even in normal situations this isn’t unusual. For all of their posturing, the evaluation process is still a gotcha. If they like you then it goes smoothly. If they don’t like you then it becomes a tool to grease your skids out of town.
Yet, we can’t ignore the fact that these are not normal times. Even in a perfect scenario, teachers have to plan lessons in advance and incorporate aspects that will support students of various learning styles, abilities, and with different accommodations. Some districts are lucky have people like me that can assist with that. Some do not. Add to that having some students in person and some students online. Add to that the fact that students have to remain socially distant, so collaborative assignments become a struggle. Expecting a classroom teacher to be on top of their game seems farfetched at best. Like with the last story, we will come back to this later.
It seems somehow foolish to talk about something like sports or entertainment in a space like this. However, we can’t deny that some people make their living this way. For those that coach, this is their livelihood. They are still measured by wins and losses in a world where you can’t always practice, can’t practice the way you would like to practice, and schedules get disrupted at a moment’s notice.
Athletes have to perform and perform well even when they lose valuable teammates to injury. Covid-19 just provides another excuse for someone to miss time. My daughter’s club team played in a tournament without one of their players. It was the first tournament of the year. So, we don’t know how much of a loss that was. They lost two close matches at the end. Would they have won one with a full squad? I guess we will never know.
If we see one common thread in these three tales it is that we struggle to find a balance between retreating into a comfortable hole and soldiering on in spite of all odds. Life must go on. I don’t know if students really need to take the STAAR test. We’ve wondered that for years even before the pandemic. When you add in the pandemic it seems even more futile. Yet, life goes on.
Our administrative team has ratcheted down the hysteria over teacher evaluations. Then again, we have a lot of good teachers on our campus. Still, everyone knows that one or two that just isn’t up to snuff. How do you justify getting rid of someone? How do you go about building up a case to force them to move on? Can they be salvaged or do you need to cut your losses? Teacher evaluations are one key tool in making that determination.
Finally, you get the tale of sports. Adversity is a common thread throughout sports. No two teams will have the same adversity. Even common conditions will effect two teams differently. So, it’s fine to say that we didn’t have the practice time or we had to play without a key player. Every team can say it had to overcome something. So, while we can acknowledge the difficulty involved, you eventually either produce or you don’t produce.
If there is a common thread in this whole thing it is probably that last sentence. Either we produce or we don’t produce. It’s brutal to break down life to something so simple, but that is probably it. We would probably all love to have a do over, but life doesn’t give us do overs. What we can do is be a little more understanding than normal. Life is more difficult for everyone right now.