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Hands held high reflect a teacher to count on

raised hands-600Chauncey Lane – seventh grade math teacher at Hickory Hill Middle School – stands before a class of eager students with their hands raised skyward. He has a big question about fraction multiplication and the hands are linked to minds eager to answer.

The classroom walls are stripped bare to lower distractions during end-of-year standardized testing. The exception is Lane's TCAP Hall of Fame. It's his way of recognizing students who have excelled in the mathematics portion of the state's comprehensive test, while motivating others.

This week (May 18-25) Lane is being recognized by the district and the Memphis community for his achievement in the classroom. He is part of the I Teach. I Am...an Irreplaceable exhibit. Six hundred teachers in Memphis City Schools will be honored daily through the multi-media exhibit at 75 S. Main from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"Teachers have the power to drastically change the trajectory of lives, overcoming many obstacles in the process," said Michael Neal, compensation coordinator for the Teacher Effective Initiative. "This power makes teaching one of the most meaningful and challenging professions and the entire profession should be elevated given its importance.

Some teachers help children grow more than a grade at a time, Neal said. "These teachers are to be celebrated and honored for their contributions, so here is yet another way that we celebrate these teachers in our community."

The exhibit is an extension of the ongoing I Teach. I Am campaign in which educators known as "Irreplaceables," are recognized publicly on billboards and public transit vehicles. They are called Irreplaceables because it can take 11 hires to acquire a replacement if a top-performing teacher leaves the district, according to TNTP's 2012 study, "The Irreplaceables."

Top-performing teachers have high scores on the Teacher Effectiveness Measure. The evaluation tool scores teaching performance based on classroom observation, student surveys, content knowledge and student growth and achievement.

After a year of instruction, Lane's sixth grade students received the highest TCAP summative scores in the district. As a result, his principal asked that he teach them again in seventh-grade to ensure more academic gains.

Lane, the math department chair, says many teachers often feel unappreciated and that the I Teach. I Am campaign is a breath of fresh air.

"I felt like a star. Like, 'Wow, they're doing this type of thing for teachers now?' ... I'm floored to be able to look around the city on poster boards and see people in my profession, instead of rappers or things like that."

The recognition is motivation, said Lane.

"I think it was a huge boost to my morale, and it made my professionalism go up a little more," he said. "I'm focusing more on accuracy and data and making sure every child achieves."

Lane often introduces his lessons with information on careers that use mathematical concepts. For real-life perspectives, he ushers in professionals such as architects to speak to his students.

"Now, they're engaged. They want to know," he said. "I try to show them how this is going to benefit them in their future."

Student growth begins at the start of the school year, not leading up to testing," he said.

"Through the year, it's just conditioning their minds to be critical thinkers. That's what they're going to need to survive in the future."

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