Graduation is tonight. The students who greeted me on my very first days teaching here at Putnam are parting ways with Putnam. This class started as the first class in the new building and now they’re departing. I’m so proud of them. These are amazing young adults. Watching them grow from confused kids, just out of middle school, to who they are now is beyond comprehension. They have job skills from their vocations. They have diplomas. They’re going on to trade schools and colleges, some are going full time into jobs that they’ve had for over a year and a half through the school.
Last year my first set of tenth graders graduated, and I was all kinds of emotional. They were smart, talented, and as a class extremely driven. This class, the class of 2016, got lost along the way, but they figured it out in the end. It took them – as a class – longer to figure out what they wanted. It took them longer to focus. But they got there. In the end.
And I can’t wait to see them walk across the stage.
Oh em gee! We are almost there. And I know this because … wait for it … there is testing going on. Math MCAS is complete, so now we’re doing District Determined Measures and finals. Finals need to be in insanely early because of shop/academic schedules and MCAS and all kinds of craziness. It’s a 4 day week next week, but 2 of those days are Science MCAS. And while doing that, my ninth graders also need to take the DDM and Writing-to-Text.
I was right. All Enrichment classes with a partner from Mathematics that I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind if it weren’t expressed as a lesser class so often. I’m feeling so defeated.
Tick, tick, tick, tick. I’m in a room proctoring the Math MCAS for the 10th graders. The kids are well behaved, but you can see confusion on their faces. Some of these students know already that they’ll be taking a re-take come November of next year. Our most academically fragile students, pulled out of classes for more tests. How does that make sense? Others will have no problem getting near that 260 that they can get. They’ll wonder why they’re in school with such knuckle heads. This is not solving anything.
If our classwork is rigorously designed, and we’re meeting the standards, why the testing? It kills staff morale; decimates student morale; APs and principals get money based on the scores. This is no way to run a school system.
In other news, the theory is that I’ll know what classes I’m teaching by day 159. My boss said to stop by and Friday and he can tell me. I’m anxious. I might stop by earlier. It feels like some weird set up for failure. I’ve had a lot of anxiety dreams about classes, and I think I know what I’m going to wind up teaching. I suppose I could be wrong, but I don’t know. My tarot cards seem to be saying that I’ll be doing the same thing I expect.
My babies are taking their AP Literature and Composition exam as I type this. For mostly obvious reasons, I can’t be one of their proctors, but I wish I could! I don’t want to give them answers, honest. However, my school first asked me to take on AP Literature because they wanted someone who would nurture the students, build the students’ confidence. I’ve always done my best, but now I wish I could be with them.
As far as I know, it’s the last time I’ll teach AP Lit here at Putnam. At least for the foreseeable future. While I like teaching the books, and I enjoy pulling out knowledge from my English Lit major, I never took an AP test. I don’t think I could pass one now. It seems hypocritical to then try and teach them how to prepare for this test. Also, unlike the MCAS, which requires students to learn skills they should learn anyway, AP is more specific testing strategies. I don’t have those.
They’ve been testing for about an hour. The multiple choice should be about done. They’ll be going on break and then back for another two hours to do three essays. I’m going to bite my nails down to nothing and pace a new groove into the floor. Sympathy stress for the win.
The email from the superintendent came out today! Last day of school is a half day on June 21st. June 21st is a Tuesday. This means that unless students have a ton of absences and absolutely need to be there, most kids will be leaving on the 17th of June. I’m not sure when Summer School begins, but I’m excited about this. The end is coming. I have so much to do.
I need to make a new collection in my BulletJournal about how I want to end the year.
- The seniors graduating are from the first class that I ever taught at this school. It’s unbelievable that I’ve been here 4 years, and more unbelievable that these students that I still think of as babies are about to go out into the world as young men and women. Most of them will be more prepared because this is a vocational high school and they’ve been learning a trade since 9th grade. Still, I can’t help but worry. It’s what I do.
- I need to clean the room. At least my part of it. I share the room with my work-wife and sadly, we are both total slobs. Creative chaos is all well and good, but not when it’s time to pack up for the year. The last two years have been packing nightmares, and I really need that to not happen this year. It’s too stressful.
- Grading, grading, grading! Seniors grades are due this month. Finals must be given to all grades. I need to make sure I have all my materials for final projects and make sure that I have clear instructions/rubrics for students to follow. Grading should be easy, and, honestly, obvious. I don’t like there to be secrets. I want kids to know what they’re getting as often as possible.
- Finally, I need to lesson plan. I’d like to have these last two months (four weeks with each class, really) planned by the middle of next week. That’s my immediate goal. If I know what I’m doing (or at least roughly know), it allows me all that time to grade and breathe.
- Research meditation/guided visualization. I’ve been doing that with my students and it seems to be helping a great deal.
Thirty-six days, actually, thirty four and a half at the end of the day! Crazy!
PS. I now have three things posted to my TpT store! Two things for interactive notebooks, and I just added some journal topics for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Those prompts are some of my favorite things. I love learning about my students as they reflect on life, and reflect on the book.
Eight weeks left! Eight weeks! In my school that means 4 more weeks with each class, as we work on a two week rotation for shops. Unbelievable. Can I get through everything in 4 weeks? What will I accomplish? What should I accomplish? As my students and I run down the clock, what will we be able to complete? How will we prepare for future years? How will we close out this year with dignity and grace?
Finding strategies for working around my ADD without meds has been challenging. I’ve incorporated two planners into my life; my standard teaching one, which I love, and a bullet journal. They are keeping me on task, mostly. I empathize with my non-medicated students even more since I went off Concerta. I cannot imagine hearing that, “Real men don’t need meds” or “Don’t take meds, Honey, think about your future children” and having to chose between the messages of your family and what you know will help you to succeed. Sadly, however, both quotes are repeated to me frequently by kids parroting their relatives. (Also, extra sadly, this does not just apply to ADD/ADHD meds.)
I’m not necessarily preaching meds for everyone. I think that the US public school system needs more breaks, more recesses, more times to get up and move every day. If our students were allowed to do that, they probably wouldn’t have such problems sitting still later on. Probably they could differentiate between times to play and times to concentrate. Another thing about recess is that I’d like to think that if students had enough of it, that it would stop meaning that teachers were supposed to be entertainers as well as educators. I hope my lessons are engaging and educational. Engaging does not mean entertaining all the time. I think those two are often confused.
So where does that leave me? It leaves me back from break with one set of students taking their AP Lit exam May 4th; another set taking the second part of their MCAS on the 17th and 18th, and then we roll into final exams. It leaves me hoping that I have enough time for students to be prepared for district based finals. It leaves me feeling distracted like them.
It’s been a rough week. On Thursday, many students and staff were out for a funeral. The funeral was for one of the ninth grade girls in our school. Apparently, her boyfriend, her friends, and she were playing with a handgun. She went into the hospital last Thursday, and died on the Friday morning. She was fifteen years old.
This morning, one of my former students – a junior in high school this year – told me that one of my other students from his class last year is going to be a dad. He and his girlfriend, a FRESHMAN, are going to have a baby. Perhaps because I’m perpetually immature, even at 40, but the thought of children freak me out, and the thought of children having children SUPER freaks me out.
In other news, I have to evaluate my goals. I make the BIG GOALS but forget about the baby steps. What’s that adage? I don’t mean “look before you leap” but that’s what keeps coming to mind. It’s not “don’t count your chicken before they hatch” either. Anyway, I keep saying I’m going to do this! but whatever this! is, it’s a lofty goal. Drink All The Water! Walk all the steps! Do ALL the something! And then I get overwhelmed because I’m not doing all of it. Instead of planning; first increase your water intake and step count. Next; do it again. Next; again do it again. I need to learn this lesson. I don’t want to keep making myself crazy and overwhelmed and depressed.
Silly me. Why would I think he wanted to actually review the observation? Not really. Instead he wanted to tell me that my classroom was a mess and it was upsetting other people. Not the two of us who teach out of this room, and prep FOURTEEN CLASSES out of this room, but Biggies from “Down Town” weren’t pleased.
Seriously? Why is this a thing? My desk is a mess right now. It’s been the worst it’s been in the four years I’ve been here. I can admit that. But I’m going to say this again. Over a two week span, the work-wife and I teach 14 classes. We are prepping constantly, and we just throw stuff on our desks because we’re overwhelmed.
Waah, waah, I’m whining and giving excuses. I do that a lot. However this is a huge trigger for me because where the students learn is not messy. Where I lay my lap top is. So why do they care?
Today has been a long day. I missed an alarm, dashed to school, checked my email, and I found a note about an unobserved observation from my assistant principal, and another message saying that I needed to meet with him. This means that I got a Needs Improvement for my observation. Comments on the observation included some that were valid – I had absolutely forgotten to put up my agenda, but others that were not. And those are the ones that are hurting my feelings, that are making me wonder why I teach. Apparently I was “relying worksheets” and the kids weren’t learning a thing.
Those worksheets are not just any old worksheets. They’re from a packet I bought off TpT for Gatsby, and they’re common core aligned, and they’re awesome. And, he chose to observe me during the last week of the quarter as I was asking the students to finish any odds and ends lingering from the worksheets so that I could grade them. Of course my WHOLE lesson wasn’t just this packet and me saying, “Here, do this. No I won’t help you.”
Here’s my truth, and thus the the problem. I first knew that I wanted to teach as a first grader, no joke. So, that means I was approximately SEVEN when I knew this was what I wanted to do. I cannot brush off criticism because this is all I’ve ever wanted. Instead it winds up feeling, to quote my students, like this guy is “coming at my life”.