Can the right committee impact student achievement?

My school year started with a scene that might be familiar to many of you; the beginning of the year staff meeting!  I sat through this 2 hour meeting trying not to think of all the things I had to do in my classroom.  For me, it is a huge accomplishment to focus on something that I am not interested in.  After about 20 minutes, it became too challenging.  I began to scan the room.  I noticed signs all over the room.  Tech Coach.  Site Council.  FTO (Family teacher organization) rep.  Literacy Committee.  I then realized that this was the day we were picking our committees for the year. We all know that teachers don’t just work in the classroom.  There are an exorbitant amount of meetings that are necessary to keep a district running smoothly. 

After that point, I could only concentrate on which one I was going to “volunteer” for. Let me point out before I go on that I am very fortunate to work with a large staff.  There are plenty of teachers at my site to spread out this work load.  We are only “asked” to sign up for one committee.  I started thinking about who would sign up for which committee. Who would I get along best with?  Which committee would refuse to meet on Fridays? Which committee might have better snacks?  Which committees might be less amount of work? (I know. I said it. Sometimes, I just want to do the bare minimum and nothing more.)

For the past three years, I have been on my district’s curriculum alignment and mapping committee.  I was responsible for meeting with my staff to discuss the standards we taught at each grade level and also how much time we spent on each standard.  This brought out some amazing discussions across our grade levels and also some eye opening discoveries.  This was the positive side of this committee.  I was also responsible to help coach people how to use the software to map these standards for all educators to be able to see.  Lets just say that its a bit of a challenge for a 29 year old man to try and teach a 64 year old teacher who has been teaching for 20 plus years how to use a new technology that is mandated by the district.  Many of these teachers had seen fads like this come and go.  They were very reluctant to spend much time on this new program.  I worked hard for three years to get my staff to buy into this new mandate.  I was not very successful.  This year when my district began “trimming the fat” to meet budget cuts, one of the first things to go was our license to use the curriculum mapping software.  We had worked for several years to develop master maps for each grade level and each subject.  We now no longer have access to those maps.  Needless to say, I am not very pleased with this experience. 

With this in mind, I began to panic as I looked around the room.  I did not want to have to be in committees like that again.  This past year, I had completed my National Board candidacy year, so I have been constantly thinking about how to impact student achievement.  I decided to apply this to which committee I would select.  I looked around the room and turned my nose up at several choices when I could not find a way to link it to my students’ learning.  I was beginning to run out of options and I could tell that the meeting was winding down.  I needed to pick one quickly so I could jump out of my seat and be the first to sign up. (in instances like this, it is a huge asset to be a young man in this field as I can move much quicker than many of my colleagues.)  I quickly scanned the room and then I found it; a committee that I thought I would enjoy and be good at.  To be sure, I decided to use the expression I learned last year.  “Because I know…. I do….which impacts student learning by…!”  I filled in the blanks.  Because I know many of the venues in this town from working in the service industry for 8 years and also because this is the town I went to college in,  I do provide opportunities for teachers to meet and relax and unwind after a stressful work week, which will impact student schievement by allowing students to have teachers who are relaxed on Mondays and re-energized to deal with the pressures of the new work week.  As soon as my principal said, “All right, thanks for listening. Have a great day!”, I jumped up and put my name on the Happy Hour/Social Committee!  And we have already had two very popular meetings this year!


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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