With the rise of more stringent rules for schools and teacher growth, teachers are enduring more and more expectations to fill out forms and do other activities for state departments of education. These chores include:
- Logging professional-development activities.
- Completing year-long projects showing perceived improvements in student growth and achievement.
- Analyzing state-required test scores.
Teachers get frustrated with these expectations because they don’t appear to serve a clear purpose related to their work. More importantly, they take away from valuable time that could be spent working with students.
As bothersome as they may seem, these expectations aren’t going away. But there are ways to manage them effectively and with minimal stress.
Get ahead of the work early
Sometime during the year — most likely right at the start of school — you’ll be expected to prepare student-growth forms outlining activities you’ll do this year to help students improve. Rather than wait as long as possible to complete these forms, jump on them right away.
The sooner you complete and submit, the sooner you can move your focus back to working with children. Granted, this is not the deepest piece of advice, but I’ve found teachers enjoy having one less thing to worry about.
Right-size your expectations
With a few exceptions, most of my teacher colleagues were excellent students — hardworking, dedicated and always eager to excel at any expectation put in front of them. Yet these excellent traits betray some teachers, namely the ones who slave over state forms in an attempt to make them perfect.
This is where balance comes into play. You’re responsible for meeting the outlined expectations —not turning yourself inside out to make them “perfect.” Do the job that’s expected of you and move on to more pressing matters.
Work with your colleagues
You are not the only person dealing with these mandates and policies. I’ve found that teachers have had great success, and lowered their anxiety markedly, by working with their colleagues to set expectations, design necessary assessments and find ways to meet all of the mandated activities together.
Walk across the hall and spend the necessary time to suss out just what the expectations are. This is where the experience of veteran colleagues comes into play, as they can offer perspective and share what’s been done in the past.
Ask for clarification
Mandates or policies designed up and away from actual schools typically require clarification on administrative expectations. Ask your administration to offer the necessary explanations and provide time to complete the work.
Don’t be surprised if administrators are as confused as you are, and give them the opportunity to seek clarity from those above and then return to you with more information. The newest mandates always require the most clarification; they become far more manageable as time passes. What first seems insurmountable and unreasonable eventually becomes just another task to complete.
Presume best intentions
As cumbersome as these outside forms, mandates and expectations may be, try not to be too frustrated with them. They are, more often than not, the outgrowth of someone’s best intentions to make a child’s school experience better.
We’ll always have differences of opinion on what that looks like, but do your best to approach these forms with the best attitude, and hopefully you’ll be able to grow from the experience.