Day 96 of 180

It’s the countdown to day 100!  And I completed day 3 of night school!

I’m working with this concept of Partner Reading/Pair Reading at the high school level in my English classes and my Integration classes.  I’m doing this by asking students to partner, with a friend for now, read a passage (or a page) aloud and then have the other partner look for a quote to prove a point or to summarize what was just read.  On one level it scares me because my students aren’t always the most fluent, as they are primarily English Language Learners, so they struggle to read aloud, understand new vocabulary, and interpret text.  On the other hand, it’s pretty cool to see more of them getting involved with the language and doing their best.

I’m watching today to see how they do with it, naturally, with role instruction but not much more.  I don’t know my Integration classes well enough to highlight high and low readers.  Here’s what I do see.  Students in this first class are NOT good at following directions.  They would rather work alone.  Frankly, I don’t blame them.  I was the same way in high school.  However, they’re not even pretending to try.  Which is not cool.  As I look around, and ask groups what they’re reading, or how their summaries are going, or what they learned … I’m getting some blank stares and even some open hostility.   To the drawing board again, to make this more organized.  I think, in a room this small, I need to look at doing this just as partners with one group of 3 or one “group” of 1.  So while it would be more voices reading at the same time, it would easier to maintain and monitor.

Have you tried Pair Reading or Partner Reading in a high school classroom?  Were you successful?  What worked for you?

Day 95 of 180

Why is it that some classes are so much more challenging than others, especially when doing the same work and when the classes should be approximately the same student make-up?  I had one of those poor timing moments when one lesson lasted the whole class period, and then I did it the next period and they were done about ten minutes earlier.  I didn’t review their work at the end of class, but I suspect (as the second class is directly before lunch) that the students didn’t do as much work.  I could be wrong, but I’m going to put my money on it.

In other news I ran into a co-worker in the hall today, and it’s one of the first times that we’ve actually been able to talk.  It’s such a shame that we don’t get time to collaborate.  I hope we get some soon!  We have a Professional Day (PD day? Professional day day? Anyway, I digress.) and I’m hoping that will give departments time to co-plan or even just discuss how our year is going.  It’s critical to our students and to us for us to have this time.  I can’t express that enough.

At our school, the first Tuesday of each month is supposed to be a faculty meeting.  The third Tuesday is supposed to be a department meeting.  We keep having our department meetings usurped for “brief” faculty meetings that go on for far too long, and, in the way of so many meetings, could have been an email.  While I can appreciate the point of faculty meetings in that they keep us all informed at the same time, department meetings mean so much more.  Bonding, growing, stretching and teaming are critical.  I wish we had more time.

Day 53 of 180

I’m mentally preparing myself to go meet with my supervisor so he can tell me that my latest observation was terrible.  He’s going to have another assistant principal (AP) with him.  He’s going to lecture me about what I should have been doing, what I didn’t have on my boards, and where it should be.  I don’t expect him to ask me what was going on and why my class was the way it was.  I don’t expect him to acknowledge that when he stopped by with the district head of English that I said that not much was going on in the class, and that perhaps there was a reason I was saying that. What he will tell me is that I was teaching tools in a vacuum and not explaining what the purpose was.

The truth is that 6 out of 12 students were missing.  Of the 6 that were there, a full 100% had not done their homework.

The truth is that the reason they were filling out the TPCASTT sheets was so they could write essays on themes in poems.

The truth is that when introducing new concepts, it seems really crappy to do that when over half the class is being required to retake a state mandated test, and the other half is not prepared.

However, I will agree with some of it.

The truth is that I did not have my agenda posted.

The truth is that I did not have my objective posted.

And here’s why.

The truth is that I was so frustrated with my students that I wanted to cry.

The truth is that my students had thought, “Oops, I forgot it” was an acceptable excuse.

The truth is that when a teacher says “we aren’t really doing much”, she might be trying not to shame her students by saying that they colossally effed up her carefully constructed plans.

The truth has many sides.  I don’t want to go and hear any of this, even though I can own my part of it.

The truth is that my AP did this and so much more, to the point where we use the APs last name as verb to describe when a teacher is barely phoning it in.

The truth is that I am embarrassed to be caught in being lame, but I’m equally frustrated that I acknowledged as much, and my AP and the district head went on with their observation.  At that point it stops feeling like an observation and starts feeling like they were out to get me and prove how I was failing.

The truth is that I wish I didn’t have to go upstairs and be told that I suck.

Day 49 of 180

How do we improve time management and urgency?  I don’t mean for the adults in the school, though I’m sure we could all benefit from that.  No, I mean the students’ senses of urgency and their time management skills.  Having to give kids that faux-MCAS two weeks ago re-emphasized that for me.  5 X 45 = 225 minutes or 3 hours and 45 minutes.  They did not work with any sense of urgency.

And yes, I know that this was a test to see what they know, so we can assess that and figure out what we need to teach them, so that they can take a test to prove that they know what it is the state thinks that they’re supposed to know.  However, I feel like they’re taking their time because they have no sense of time, not (only) because they don’t know or they’re thinking about the answers.

So, without actually setting their hair and/or chairs on fire, how do we make children feel that things need to be completed by a certain time, and that time isn’t going to change?

Day 46 of 180

Had all day, all staff PD on Tuesday.  On the downside, this means today is only day 46 and not 47, on the plus side, it means today is only day 46 and not 47.  In the middle of PD I was so angry.  I didn’t understand why we were all suffering through this CRAP.  What was the point?  Why should we care?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

Part of that, no doubt, has been my negativity about my school in general.  Another part came from – once again – getting conflicting messages about what we’re supposed to be doing.  The last part definitely came from my colleagues.  What is it about being in PD that makes teachers want to prove their smarter than the presenters, and want to attack them?

However, it’s a new day and I have a new outlook.  I’m trying to remain positive, because the truth is always that I love my students and they deserve me to be in as good a space as possible.  So I tried some new group work patterns and roles today.  It was … clunky … at best, but hopeful.

I love to see that my groups all want to support each other, but I want them to be honest in their reviews of each other.  That honesty is what will help them grow.  Instead, every single student said that everyone in their group did WONDERFUL, PERFECT, A PLUS PLUS PLUS work.  Uhhh, sure they did.  That’s why you were complaining to me about so-and-so not working the day before.

I got around some of that by having them reflect individually in their notebooks, but we’ll see.  I might have to change up the rubric to have more specific questions, or make each student fill out the rubric for homework and return it.  Maybe the fear was that someone else would see it and have their feelings hurt?  Silly sensitive students and their silly sweetness!

Day 39 of 180

Obama’s education administration acknowledged their part in making our public schools testing factories.  Only 2% of a year should be high stakes testing, apparently.  Okay, so in my state our students take the MCAS or the PARCC.  My students still take the MCAS.  Right now, in tenth grade it takes up five days between English and Math.  Seven days if you include the two days of Science the year previous.  Five days is one week, or approximate 2.78% of an 180 day school year.  However, I only see my students half the year.  So really, it’s 5.56% of my academic time.

That doesn’t include two district determined measures – that the state insists on currently. (2 days)

The six unit exams that I’m supposed to give – that the district insists on currently (6 days)

So in total, for my tenth graders, that’s 5 + 8 = 13 days of testing that I didn’t create to show mastery of the materials.

Today, some of my students began a 5 day (45 minutes/day) abridged mock-MCAS.  That’s another 5 days of educational time that I’ve lost.

Remind me again what the point of teaching is?

Day 37 of 180

I made a decision earlier this year, that I wouldn’t be returning to this school in the Fall.  I’m scared, and I’m sad, and I’m so very angry.  Is it me? My innocent naiveté that “that’s the way it is here” isn’t a good answer seems to back me into corners where I can’t stay.   I love teaching.  I love watching students’ brains at work.  I’m not good with the educational politics of quantity over quality that are dominating the schools.

For P-Diddy it was all about the Benjamins.  For Weird Al it was all about the Pentiums.  For schools it’s all about the numbers: numbers enrolled, numbers graduating, SPED numbers, SEI numbers, MCAS numbers, school level numbers, this test numbers, that test numbers, numbers numbers numbers.

And so I find myself counting.  Day 37 of 180 with the kids, and 183 for me with built in PD days.