February 11, 2016
(Roberts map of DC via Michael Neubert; photo below courtesy of Adam Evans)
Inspired Teaching spoke with Mr. Adam Evans, a social studies teacher at Ballou High School (DCPS) and a 2014 Teacher Leader in the BLISS: Building Literacy in the Social Studies program. The following is a condensed version of this conversation:
Inspired Teaching: When you decide you wanted to be a teacher?
Mr. Evans: I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was a college undergrad. I had a really positive high school experience as a student, and I knew I wanted to stay in education. Social studies appealed to me because I have a passion for digging through historical documents, uncovering facts and new information.
I figured out where I wanted to teach when I realized that not every student (especially in DC, especially in Southeast DC) was as prepared for college as I had been. I recognized that this was a right that every student should have.
What’s the most fulfilling part of being a teacher?
It’s the look on students’ faces when they make a connection between what we’re studying and their own lives. There are so many ways current events in our city relate to history and historical figures and seeing students uncover those relationships is powerful.
I was the product of a public education, and I wanted to continue to be part of that. I’ve built strong, invaluable relationships with Ballou staff and colleagues, and I absolutely believe in the direction my school is headed.
How were you connected to Inspired Teaching?
During my first year teaching in DC, someone recommended that I assist writing social studies curriculum for the district. This was in the opening years of the BLISS Middle School program in 2011 and 2012. I got involved and from then on, whenever there was an opportunity to stay connected with Inspired Teaching, I jumped at the chance. When the BLISS program expanded to high school in 2014, I applied to be a Teacher Leader.
What have you gained from being part of BLISS?
Everything. BLISS was a great recharge for me, and it breathed new life into my curriculum and teaching practice. My most important goal as a teacher has always been getting my students to be the ones doing the thinking, so Inspired Teaching’s Instigator of Thought framework really resonated with me. After BLISS, I’ve tried to move away from any type of lecture where students are only sitting and listening, and you can see the results in my class.
My students now are thinking about history. They’re writing about history. They’re analyzing and applying content as opposed to only memorizing it. They’re interpreting information instead of parroting what someone else wrote. As a teacher, I love it when student takes a text or a question in a direction I wasn’t even thinking about.
What challenges are you facing as a teacher right now?
There’s a strong push to have data-driven instruction. I have no problem with that in principle, but the metrics we use to measure student achievement aren’t equitable; they don’t adequately reflect who the students are or their growth. Until we change that, we’ll just be running around chasing information that we can’t actually use to improve how we teach our students.
What does it mean to be a Teacher Leader?
To me, a Teacher Leader is someone who not only identifies areas for growth, but also commits to helping teachers address these areas. Teacher Leaders instigate thought in teachers the same way they would in students; they ask the right questions, provoke thinking, and then provide the resources to help individuals uncover the answers.
What would you tell teachers considering whether to join an Inspired Teaching program?
I’d tell them to jump at the opportunity. It’s refreshing and valuable to your practice. The people you work with – Inspired Teaching staff and teachers from across the city – are going to be your support system in the future. You’re not alone.
In school year 2016-17, BLISS will expand to include public charter schools. Learn more and register to receive more information today.