Day 49.5 of 180 2017 – 2018

Today my heart hurts for my students.  I’m looking at the selections for tests and I think I’ve realized the problem.  There are not pieces of writing in the public domain being used that have any language that begins to resemble language my students would understand.

Grapes of Wrath, O! Pioneers, selections from Bleak House.

My students are level 1 and level 2 WIDA scoring students.  They have been in an English speaking part of the US for less than two years in most cases.  They’re trying to understand English spoken in the year 2017.  Why are they also being asked to try to comprehend 19th century British accents and slang completely a-contextually?  How is that relevant or fair?

I understand that teachers need to not just educate but illuminate.  In my perfect world, I teach students to read and write because some day I hope they’ll learn to love literature as much as I do.  However, I’m troubled by what I see in front of me and by how much it feels like students are being asked to set up students to fail.

We differentiate instruction for ELL, SPED, CP, Honors, and AP.  We teach different materials.  We instruct our classes differently.  Why are the tests we are required to give the same tests?  How is that in any way acceptable?

And more importantly, what do I do when it is no longer acceptable?  All I’ve ever wanted to do is teach.  What do I do if I can’t do it anymore?

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Day 23 of 180 2017 – 2018

Today it has been a month since we started school.  So far, I’ve felt more or less like a hot mess that can’t quite get everything organized.  Pretty much this means my year is starting as expected.

The second week of school – our classes alternate between A and B weeks because of vocational training on the opposite weeks from the traditional academic week – I gained a new class.  Surprise!  You’ve been selected to teach an SEI ELA 10 class to WIDA level 1 and level 2 students without any warning whatsoever! So even though we chose to not give you SEI classes for two years (thus allowing you to infer that you were doing a shitty job with those students) we’re going to give one of them back to you because someone else whined about having too many preps. That’s the essential sum up of the insanity.

What I wanted to write about was this, however.  School supplies and students, especially in light of natural disasters.  At the beginning of the year (Either August 28th or September 5th, for those playing along with the home edition), all students were told they needed the following supplies:

  • a binder and paper for it
  • a composition notebook (or just a small notebook – even just a one subject, as long as it was separate)
  • a pen (preferably two in two different colors, but just one would do)
  • a pencil
  • a highlighter

At the beginning of the year, this would have cost a student approximately $3.  Very few of my students picked up the requested supplies.  Now, post hurricanes in a city with many students with Puerto Rican roots, requesting supplies feels like a crap request.  Family that may be dead versus school supplies.  I get it.  I’m not a completely cold-hearted woman.  Priorities shift.  However, if my students had followed instructions at the beginning of the school year, these priorities would not need to have shifted because they would have their supplies.

So how do I balance the fact that students failed at the requests, but now those requests seem trivial versus if they don’t get these things, I’m going to wind up paying out the nose for them.  It’s frustrating and feels petty, but isn’t.  I don’t have the money to buy 100 binders, 100 composition notebooks, 200 pens, 100 pencils and 100 highlighters.  Nor should I have to do so.  But how else are these kids going to get the necessary supplies?

Next summer, I’m going to pick up the supplies, plus gallon plastic bags.  I’m going to have students buy them off of me for $4, and use the extra money to fund the supplies for students who can’t buy them.  But that’s next year, and right now, students keep losing their stuff because they didn’t buy what they were supposed to.

 

Day 1 of 180 2017 – 2018

Morning started with Low Blood Sugar and then I left my regular glasses in my car, so then I had to go back to my car and get those before starting classes.  Computers weren’t working, so that made Read 180 classes difficult.  (Fortunately, the IT department has now hooked me up with a laptop cart, so I’ll be set for tomorrow.)

It’s been super nice to see all these students who I don’t teach this year.  I’ve been getting enthusiastic hugs from kids I missed a ton.  That’s definitely the most rejuvenating part of coming back.  I miss my kidlets something fierce when I’m not here.

Onward and upward.  On Tuesday  (no school Monday because of Labor day) I start to see 9th graders.  That will be exciting.

Day 180 of 180 2016 – 2017

Today is the day!  Wheeeeee!  Today is today is today is today!  Day 180 is almost done for students.  This has been a quiet blog year as I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out who i was outside of teaching.  However, I feel like this year – most likely due to that very process – has rejuvenated me.

Also, and this is terrifying in many ways for me, I’m not teaching summer school this year.  It’s been fourteen years of summer school for me.  Fourteen years of working with students who need extra help, extra company, extra something.  I can’t believe I’m going to take an actual break.

I think I’m finally starting to accept that it’s okay not to do everything.  I’m 41 not 21, and if I am to be the best teacher that I can be, I need to rest.  I’m so grateful that I’ve found some younger teachers that have the enthusiasm when I’m tired.  It’s been a solid year.

Day 117 of 180 2016 – 2017

Hold on to your hats everyone, Storm Stella is coming our way!  Panic in the streets!  Make sure you have all the bread and milk in the store.  Mug others for theirs if need be! Run!  Panic!  Freak out!  AAAAAAAH!

or, y’know, something like that.

As is always the case at this time of year, the MCAS is imminent and my heart is hurting for my students.  Many of them will do fine.  They know how to organize their thoughts; they understand reading comprehension.  They have this.  My students who are lower-level English language learners have me worried.  They try so hard, but their English grammar is not good yet.  It’s getting there, but … not yet.

Some of my teacher friends and I started a creative writing club after school.  So exciting!  There has been an insane amount of positive feedback from the students.  Students are producing great works.  I’m hopeful that this is the start of something great for them and for us.

Day 102 of 180 2016 – 2017

Breathe.  Just breathe.  My poor students are gearing up for their MCAS next month.  Between breaks and the A week / B week classes, without any snow days, we see kids 10 more days for my 45 minute class and probably the same for their 90 minute ELA classes.

A lot of them act out as soon as I mention testing.  It’s understandable, but so much of what is going on is about them not feeling confident in their own abilities.  Dear students, you are smart.  You are.  Period.  End of sentence.  Why do you doubt yourselves?

We have made it 102 days.  We will complete our next 78.  All will be fine.

Day 93 of 180 2016-2017

We’ve made it past the half way point!  Yay!  Things are moving along here in leaps and bounds.  That always happens in January and February.  It slooooooooooooows down in March, and then BANG!  Hello April, May, June.  Peace out, All.  Craziness.

I’m fairly certain my work wife will be leaving me for a new state at the end of the year.  She and I will have shared a room for four years.  And, honestly, the location is the least of it.  Food runs, birthdays, laughter, tears, gossip, anger, love, sadness, peace, pride, and every other emotion.  All of that will be gone at the end of the year if she does move.

It makes me wonder if I should take that as a sign to transfer schools, or if I should try to stick it out another year.  Realistically, with everything going on in the US, I feel like staying where I am is probably the better choice.  Technically, as long as I move within the district, I don’t lose years or time in.  However, I can’t help but think ‘last one in, first one out’.  So here I stay, and sit, and try to be the best me that I can be.

Clean cup!  Move down!

I don’t post a lot to TeachersPayTeachers.  I love the site, but I haven’t put up as much as I’d like to put up there.  What I’ve learned from the experience, regardless, is that it makes me more brave.  I have done a lot more to put myself out there in other parts of my life.  I think it has to do with taking these first steps.  I can’t say enough positive about plans and activities that I have gotten from there, and the pleasure of adding my own pieces to this great site.

And finally!

I’ve started a creative writing club with some of my fellow-teachers.  It met this past Monday.  I thought, “Maybe five students will show up.”  Thirteen showed, with more saying that they would be at the next one!  Craziness.  I’m in the process of capitalizing on this momentum for my own writing, and to create a writing retreat for twenty-five to thirty students over April break.

Over all, though the hit of possibly losing the work wife is a major hit, I’d say the ups outweigh the downs.  Not a bad place to be at the half way point.