Monday, August 31, 2009

Again.

I suppose this might be a yearly post, as I blogged about this before, but here we are again, feeling blah about today's staff meeting. We didn't make AYP.

We teach a very transient population, our kids face numerous road blocks in their personal lives that obviously seep and flood into their days at school, many of our students arrive with zero English skills, parents are often absent in the evenings, and the list goes on. But listen to me. I am not making excuses for us. I am trying to shed some light on the complexities of our school. "We didn't make AYP" does not fully explain what we ARE doing. And that's why it bugs me.

Some of you are very familiar with how kids are counted under NCLB, but some of you are not. Let me give you an example: a low-income, Hispanic student with a disability takes ONE test. This test score is counted FIVE times. Five times because this student is 1 - low-income, 2 - Hispanic, 3 - LEP (limited English proficiency), 4 - special education and 5 - she is part of the overall population. Under each category (they call them subgroups) her test score is listed. So let's get more specific... this wonderful student walked in our doors 2 months before she had to take the SOLs. She takes the test and she misses it by one percentage point. She fails. Her failing score is counted 5 seperate times. Let's cut her a break and take away her disability. She's counted 4 times.

You can certainly see how a handful of kids, and it's truly a handful, can make the difference between balloon dropping celebrations and downtrodden sad staff meetings.

Our administration does a great job at reminding us that we do excellent work and to keep our heads up and to push forward and to yadda yadda... whatever, it still blows.

I'm all for accountability. I'm all for striving to help every child succeed. I'm all for every child to be counted. But why 5 times?

By 2014, 5 years away, each and every child must pass. Every. Single. One. We are working our tails off and can't get all 29 benchmarks (this year was 26) when the benchmark is 81% passing. How the hell are we going to get 100% passing???

I think of some of my favorite friends over the past few years... and I'm not thinking of the ones that will always be fine test takers. I'm thinking of the boy who went home everyday and told his mom that "kindergarten is just so hard." He's in his 2nd year and we are seeing progress, but not SOL-passing progress. I'm thinking of a boy that was abused emotionally and physically, never potty trained, and has huge emotional disabilities. Sitting in his chair for more than 30 seconds was a daily challenge, let alone learning his ABCs. I'm thinking of a girl who just didn't get it. She seemed to have zero ability to retain information. We worked daily with her and she's doing it all over again with another K teacher. They will all be counted multiple times.

Again, this isn't excuses, but come on people, we are not magicians. OF COURSE I believe that every child can learn. OF COURSE I believe that every child should not be "left behind." But when you give us limited time and limited resources, and you pack our classrooms full, and you don't demand the same out of parents that you demand out of me, well listen donkey, the truth of the matter is that there is no way you're going to get your 100%. Put that in your pipe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Really

Dear Mother Nature,

I'd like to express how PLEASED I am that you chose to dump a huge thunder and lightening rain storm on our school precisely when it was time for kindergarten to start their lunch and recess. On Friday. After a long long week. Seriously, awesome. Thanks. I hate you.

Love,
Me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Apologies and Funnies

I've been "off-line" for longer than normal... I'm our team leader this year and so far it's been much like a mild yet nagging headache. It's difficult to blog about my thoughts and experiences because I am bound to hurt feelings, or to say something unprofessional or inappropriate and I am trying my hardest to do this job as best as I can. So... I have chosen to talk to my husband instead. He's thrilled.

BUT! Yep, there is a but, I had lunch with two of my kiddos today and something happened that I run into with my large group of Spanish speaking students. On many occasions, a student will be searching for a word and will inevitable say, "I don't know the word, only in Spanish." AND EVERY SINGLE TIME it's a proper noun. Cracks me up.

"Where is your family from?"
(Picture the child struggling...) "I only know it in Spanish."
"Okay sweetie, what is it in Spanish?"
"Argentina."
"AH! It's the same in English."

OR...

"I heard you have a new baby sister! What's her name?"
(Again... obvious and painful struggling...) "I don't know it in English."
"Well tell me in Spanish!"
"Diana."
"AH! It's a beautiful name and it's the same in Spanish and English. Just like YOUR name!"

Poor kiddos. I suppose I shouldn't find it funny but I do.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to School Night

Sigh... (this is a happy sigh!)... 17 out of my 18 families came to Back to School Night. 17 moms and dads listened politely as I rambled on and on, they asked really good questions and they even were kind enough to laugh at my lame jokes. They all signed up for a fall parent-teacher conference and each one of them shook my hand and said, "thank you" when they left.

It's the little things...

I think this year will be great, regardless of my grumbling this past week. Frankly, I think most of that grumbling has been misdirected. Don't get me wrong, sitting in pee deserves grumbling and reading depressing articles about beat-down teachers does too, but somewhere between the Starbucks and school this morning I reminded myself that I am pretty lucky to work where I work and my kids -- even though I don't really know them yet -- are pretty great.

For those working moms out there, I think my funk is more about making it work at home and school, something I have blogged about before, rather than beginning year blues.

Onward. It's Thursday. It's an Art Day. Rock on.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

feeling blue...

Organized Chaos blogged about this article and it got me feeling blue... then my husband sent me the same article the next day with the subject line, "this is why I love you so much." Normally that kind of subject line would make me feel every color of the rainbow but blue, but I can't shake the content of the article. The author loved her job, felt purposeful, understood the great need, yet still couldn't do it. The barriers just became too much. She's not a quitter. She was beat down.

I am not thinking about leaving my profession, but it's hard not to contemplate it at times, especially in the beginning of a school year with more children, seemingly longer hours, less supplies, less money, and a baby at home.

I do love my job but on days like today, I feel like I am asked to do the impossible. Or the very very very hard. I feel like the teacher, the parent, the friend, the mentor, the guide, the grandparent... you name, I see the need and try to fill it. Our kids have huge needs and it's hard to fill all of them (or even some).

I try to remember the days when I relish this challenge. There are many, they're just not recent.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Justifying

So I put a movie on today... on the 4th day of kindergarten... but it was based on Rosemary Wells' book Timothy Goes to School and Yoko and I explained that stories come in many different forms and it was only 20 minutes. I can justify the heck out of it can't I?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

too fresh

As a self-described foodie, there is no such thing as "too fresh," unless you are talking about my classroom.

Others have blogged about this but it really resonates with me and is also the cause of my funk this week. My class is just too fresh. I don't know them and they don't know me. We haven't set routines and they haven't really grasped the rules yet. We have the beginning of the year incessant talkers (usually my preschool graduates) and the bizarre behavior issues (usually my kids who have never been in any type of a group setting).

Nothing gels, nothing flows. The day is choppy despite my best efforts. It's like the jar of hot fudge in your refrigerator. When you pull it out it's a bit grainy and solid, but give it time, some love and some heat, and you have a chocolaty river of goodness.

I'm just waiting for the river, or even a trickle.

I know there are fabulous kids in this room, I just haven't gotten to know them yet. I'm still looking out the door as my kids from last year pass by -- 2 inches taller -- confident first graders -- and wish they could come back in.

It's the blessing and the curse of this job. You get to start fresh every year, but you have to start fresh every year.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I hate the first week

I sat in pee. I SAT IN PEE. (Insert a SLEW of curses here).

Monday, August 3, 2009

Woosh!

That's what it felt like today.... WOOSH! Here is what we accomplished as a class:
  1. unpacking
  2. walking to music
  3. learning the playground rules
  4. finding our carpet spots
  5. participating in an abbreviated and heavily modeled version of morning meeting, but not in the morning.
  6. eating lunch
  7. recess
  8. packing up

As I began the list I assumed I would be making the point that we didn't get to much, but now that I see it listed it's clear we did A LOT. This is a short day (8:40 - 12:50) and included in this day was a 30 minute music class and a 20 minute lunch (that actually took 30 minutes because kindergarteners are just that slow). I feel accomplished. I wonder how much we'll get to tomorrow?