The Problem with Initials

A couple of weeks ago I had had a particularly stressful day.  That evening I posted the following status on my Facebook:


“Today was one of those days that confirms how much more I have to learn!! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do, but it’s freakin’ hard work!!”

People often ask me what the hardest part of my new job is.  Without hesitation I answer, “Anything with initials!”

I feel like I’m pretty good at several aspects of my job – organization, communication, relationship building, encouraging others, disciplining students, and so on,  but I struggle with issues like ARD, RTI, 504 (I know, not really initials, but still), SSI, and the list goes on (believe me…it goes on!)

I’ve stressed myself out over my inability to really grasp these concepts, and after several weeks of contemplating these frustrations, I think I finally understand why:

Programs like ARD, RTI, etc. are aimed at customizing education for individual students.  We look at data, monitor instruction, and allow for accommodations so the student has the best chance at success in school.  As an aspiring administrator, I always believed that every student deserved this kind of attention.  I truly believed that, when I became an administrator I would make sure every student had an “Individualized Education Program” (IEP – more initials!)

To make matters worse, I think we have the resources to make this happen.  With technology, we could meet every student where they are.  We could monitor, assess, and provide an individual educational experience for every student.  Not only that, I think it would be easy to implement, and cause less stress on teachers!

Here’s why this stresses me out – I don’t think it’s possible to change without a complete transformation of our education system!  We are trying to implement all of these INITIALS in a system in which they don’t fit.  We are trying to individualize instruction in a “one-size-fits-all” system.

In our current system, everyone gets the same information.  If the student understands the information, they get an “A” and we move on.  If they don’t understand, they get an “F” – and we still move on.  If the student who received the “F” is fortunate, he or she gets some INITIALS, and a plan, but most of the others just get labeled “lazy” or “unmotivated.”

With all of the thoughts spinning around in my head at the moment, I am afraid this blog could turn into a book, so I’ll wrap up with just a few comments (and maybe some future blog posts):

  •  In my opinion, we can’t keep putting band-aids on our education system.  Bold changes must take place in order for us to teach every child.
  • We have to rethink this whole “standardized testing” issue.  Students can’t be standardized.  Support Rep. Dan Flynn’s bill for a two-year moratorium on standardized testing!
  • INITIALS should be for all students!  They are all unique, and special, and amazing, and they deserve to be treated that way!