Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A narrow escape...

Phew! That was a close one...

I almost caught myself thinking that maybe I would enjoy classroom teaching as a career (the beginning of this week was great) --- and then today happened.

It wasn't too bad as far as days go, just one of those, "No. No way. Absolutely not. Never again. The children are better off without me," kind of days.

Each time progress reports go out, I find myself strattling a fence - and it's a very, very, uncomfortable one. On one side of the fence, I'm failing too many students; on the other, I'm passing too many. I spent an hour in a meeting putting my 12+ students who are failing (with very generous daily grades on my part) on Tier 3 Interventions with the Principal, Asst. Principal, and Intervention staff all shaking their heads at me. During the meeting, my principal tells me my daily grades should not be counted so much on effort, but on accuracy, and be better reflective of assessment scores. Legit. But to me, and from what I've heard, to other teachers, the only way to get more students to pass in terms of daily and test grades is to walk them through any independent practice activity and guide them on assessments. So much for data.

Now, I have no intention of helping my students on any test I give, but my failing students will have to receive incredible grades for the rest of the year to have any chance of recovering from those they've received thus far. Regardless of what growth they've shown. For example, I have a couple of students who have made leaps and bounds in terms of number sense and conceptual understanding of basic operations. Little of this growth exhibits itself in grade-level assessments, because even if they now understand that 17 is greater than 15, they can't multiply it by 83 yet. Even if they've learned that addition and multiplication put things together and division and subtraction take them apart (a concept completely lost to them earlier this year), they aren't yet masters at constructing function tables. Who cares that you're working hard and learning content you were supposed to learn between grades K through 3? You're already 10 and you can't do algebra?! FAIL.

Did I mention grades suck? Grades suck.

On the up side, my school is making changes to our intervention schedule. Rather than pulling kids from class, we're going to keep them in the classroom. (What?! Imprisoning struggling students in a place of learning? How cruel!... Sorry, feeling sardonic today.) During my centers with Mrs. W's class, I'll have an interventionist leading a center with my Tier 3 kids. Meanwhile, I get to work with my other 6 students seriously struggling in class. Plus, this woman's tough as nails. I might actually get to teach. PERFECT. Then, a few days a week with my homeroom, I'll have the inclusion teacher working in a group with students from Exceptional Ed. and a couple of Tier 3 students while I work with my other low-performing students. Again, LOVE IT.

We may take a while to reach a logical conclusion at school, but once we do we dive in head first. :)

As soon as we take a break to eat some turkey. ;)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blogging before Thanksgiving: A Good Sign

Don't get me wrong, I hate my life right now.

Clarification: I hate work right now. And work is my life. Ergo, I hate life.

But I am optomistic that it will get better. And my kids DIDN'T bomb the 9 Weeks Test (from what I could tell from walking around and reading over their shoulders). So, yay?

*Sidebar vent: UGH! J. P. S. ?! The pacing guide does not have us covering division or function tables in the first 9 weeks... but of course, there were 4 division questions (all word problems), and at least one input/output table on the test. DUMB. At least my homeroom babies are geniuses. And we're not even going to discuss the children of the corn right now. And don't think I'm not aware that the fact that I think of them as the children of the corn totally influences our interactions in the classroom.*

So... life/work. I'm revamping management (management, what's that?) and setting up stations to better utilize my awkward and limited instructional time in the afternoons (1:15 - 1:55, and two of my students peace out at 1:30). My homeroom students will visit four stations (writing, social studies, conceptual math, and science) by the end of the week, with tiered math groups on Thursdays. On days that The Doc is in from 1:15 - 1:45, she'll work with my inclusion students and students who need to complete make-up work for reading and language, and I can pull students for remediation of daily objectives based on that day's data (FINALLY assigning Exec. Assistant jobs!) AND to update students on their academic performance. It's going to be chaos for the next couple weeks until we get used to it, but October sucks anyway.

Also, I'm assigning classroom jobs to every student. Like the aforementioned Executive Assistants, I'm going to have Facilities Managers, Materials Distributors/Collectors, Behavior Trackers, Team Leaders, Science Blog Editors, Bathroom/Hand Sanitizer Monitors, Carpet/Overhead-Time Assistants, etc. I've designed a set schedule for each day of the week (down to which days, and at what exact time, I'll use the overhead vs. carpettime for INM, which days we do centers, who's team leader on what days, and which days we'll ACTUALLY HAVE TIME FOR SCIENCE). And I'm getting a large, digital timer so when I say "At 8:25..." it actually means something because my students CAN'T READ ANALOG CLOCKS. I'm supplementing PBIS with a clearer list of classroom rules and procedures ("The Answers to Academic Success!"), and a stricter, clearer, consequence list that is coordinated with my team teacher. Who, by the way, is as AMAZING as everyone says.

I will have a Student of the Week from BOTH CLASSES, which was a huge oversight on my part because I developed the display before I knew we were departmentalized. My 3 students from each class who ACTUALLY FOLLOW our procedures the first time, everytime, are going to be rewarded by putting their names into a raffle for awesome prizes (Make Ms. Dorman Do Tricks & Math Man CDs, anyone?). AND I'm tutoring my two most difficult students (ironically, from my homeroom) every week, so maybe I can make some personal gains there. One of them was my second student of the week, and has completely fallen apart since. *Sad face.* Another student wrote me a note saying that she was acting bad because her mom is in jail and she's upset about it. Life is too much for my kids, too...

AND (taking-on-too-much-at-once, what's that?) I want to have once-a-month Saturday meetings with my Proficient-Advanced students to make sure they're getting the enrichment they deserve, which means on top of Pro-Sat, MAST5, and meeting with students from Mrs. W's and my homerooms, I have very few open Saturdays for the rest of my life. BUT it's awesome, 'cause I'll finally be working as hard as I expected of myself when I joined TFA.

And I will be compensating for that hard work on weekend nights... ;)

IN OTHER NEWS... our parent coordinator had one of the only white girls in the school dress up in a fancy dress for School Lunch Week (the theme was Personalities or something), called her Sarah Palin and had her shout to the cafeteria that, actually, "Alaska is CREATIVE! Alaska is CREATIVE!" :) Also...

ANNA BANANA IS COMING TO MISSISSIPPI!!! I have the best friends in the world.

And with that wild update, I'm going to return to drinking and watching HIMYM with my roomies on a Saturday night.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Because apparently 4 hours of sleep is just too much...


I'm blogging!

Lol. I should have just left it at that.

This is how tired I am.

Ah! I forgot how quickly the exhaustion catches up with you! Leaving at 6 a.m. and getting home at 8... and now on top of it I feel guilty 'cause I haven't written 30 minutes a day like my action plan told me to, I've gone to the gym once (though it was an awesome workout), and I'm compromising (& procrastinating) by blogging now. At least I don't have to plan for tomorrow because my plans for today were scrapped when we decided to issue two diagnostic tests in a row (one test usually takes students about an hour). Anyway, about my kiddos...


Now, I know we're in the honeymoon period, and I thought all my kids we're great at the beginning of the year last year, but all my kids WERE great last year- they just occasionally punched each other out. But let's get real. My principal knows I'm better with content than management, so I'm the inclusion teacher for 4th grade - meaning, I get an aide (she's more than an aide, she's a rockstar) a few moments a day to have more adults in the room. BUT, my principal also put in a lot of sweet, minor misbehavior students who might just need some extra help in class. Also, my student's parents have been at least receptive, if not necessarily enthusiastic; and again, my kids are the BEST. I am SO IN LOVE with all of them, I can't imagine how my heart will break when they all leave me at the end of the year. At least they'll still be at John Hopkins! For real. I'm going to miss them on weekends. Nights. While they're in music class.

Another thought: I LOVE HAVING A HOMEROOM. I'm almost self-contained at this point, but I think when we actually start rotating classes, the kids and I will appreciate the break from each other. But I still have so much control over what we do in class! My kids already know the steps of the composing process because during morning work we were actually generating writing we were going to display. I have hands-on activities for practicing math that they're excited about and that they can take out to work on when they're done with their tests, and...

*this is where I passed out last night*

Aaaand I'm back! Right, hands-on activities for math. I gotsta go plan some of those now, seeing as lesson plans are due tomorrow.

Key Takeaways: 1) I'm going to try to go to bed before midnight and wake up after 4:30. 2) My kids are awesome.

Sorry for the frazzledness, but this is what you get when I blog while teaching - the alternative is no blogging at all! Gasp!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wait. I have a blog?

Welcome to 2010.

Yes, it's July, but I figure a welcome is still in order seeing as this is the first time I've blogged since... oh, that's right. November.

I can't possibly give a recount of the past seven months.

I can only tell you I've changed entirely- as a teacher and as a person. I've had to come to terms with the darker fragments of my identity. I've gotten to know the me who is quick to anger. The me who accepts blatant injustices and abuses of power. The me who, after a long day, might choose a lazy drink with some friends over preparing myself the best I can for class the next day. I've encountered the me who sincerely wishes that I didn't have to deal with the issues that arrise in class because I'm white and all of my students are black. And I'm devastatingly familiar with the me who chooses to ignore those issues for the sake of teaching the next day's objective.

But I am more confident in my ability to contribute than I've been all my life. I'm fiercely loyal. I'm quick to learn. I can exercise "tough love" if I must. No more soft-spoken indirectness - an eleven-year-old's tears WILL NOT stop me from communicating that I think she's brilliant, that I expect better, and that she deserves better. I am blessed with the ability to see and bask in the positive qualities of my environment. I've formed relationships with people who are better people than me, better teachers than me, better caregivers than me, and who, for no better reason than love for the students, are willing to help me become better, too.

I feel incredibly similar to the way I did at this time last year. Stressed: because it's a month before school starts and I'm already behind. Thrilled: to control EVERY hour of EVERY day with my students. Terrified: to be responsible for EVERY hour of EVERY day with my students.

There's just one difference: I've already done it.