Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tests are such great measurements of knowledge...

Raise your hand if you got even a hint of my sarcasm.

So one of the tasks on our big-deal fall assessment asks the kids to choose the word that rhymes with the initial picture. Turns out, if they simply choose the last choice every time, they make benchmark.

Sort of like answering "C" every time.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Something to chew on

I was chatting with our school psychiatrist the other afternoon. We were having one of those, "what is going on with these kids?" moments. In multiple classrooms, we have multiple kids, whose needs seem to be above and beyond what we are capable of meeting. We have runners, we have screamers, we have biters. Thinking quickly, I can count 4 classrooms that have more than one child in each room that routinely needs to be restrained.

The school psychiatrist said it's not just us. Other schools she works in are experiencing the same thing.

"Shut up" I said. No one has it like us.

"Oh but yes, they do." she says.

My mind immediately starts thinking back to 5 years plus or minus 40 weeks ago. What world event was going on that caused people to shag, and then bring a child into a world where the environment was so stressful that might have caused this?

She immediately said, "it's the lack of play, don't you think?"

Hmmmmm. Yep, I can see that.

I've only been teaching kindergarten for 5 years. In those 5 years alone I have seen the elimination of nap time, a decrease in play within the classroom, a decrease in free play outside, and in turn an increase in structured time like Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Math Workshop. I am testing more this year than last. Last year I tested more than the previous. We talk about common assessment (TESTS), results (TESTS), and remediation for kids based on those assessments (PREP FOR FUTURE TESTS).

I like the structure of all the workshops because I am a structured person. That doesn't mean it's the best for 5 year olds. I do think our day lacks play, and while I do try to make centers in the workshops fun and hands-on, it's certainly not play.

Is this our fault? Are we creating these little runners, biters, and screamers?

But what does a classroom teacher do? Defy the rules and close the door?

Something to chew on, no?

Doing the math

We have parent conferences coming up. Many, actually most, of our students have Spanish speaking parents. In my classroom alone, over the past 5 years, I have had only 3 - 5 students whose parents speak English each year.

This is the message we received from our office staff: The school district is only providing us with two Spanish speaking translators for both parent conference days, and two more that will only be here for a half day. FOR THE WHOLE SCHOOL. We have around 900 students.

We have 9 kindergarten classes alone. Each conference is 20 minutes which is never enough. Each class has 20 - 22 kids.

We have three fabulous instructional assistants in kindergarten who speak Spanish. They have been asked to help the entire kindergarten. The math alone on that doesn't work, but it's a step in the right direction.

Everyone else has to request slots and we're already receiving emails from staff saying, "there are no more slots, can anyone help?" This is not the fault of our school, there simply is not enough support to go around. Two full day and two half day translators will not come close to meeting our needs. The math simply doesn't work.

When discussing parent-teacher communication, parent involvement, home-school connection, etc., keep in mind that if translation resources aren't made available, none of those things are possible.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Looking for the humor...

Depending on the day, my mood, the weather, you name it, I will give you a different answer if things are on the upswing with our needier kinder kids.

Friday was a good day, and even though I had to accompany a colleague carrying a screaming child to the office, I would admit, the screaming is less frequent (still daily, but less frequent). Another special friend spent his lunch crawling around the carpet roaring like a T-Rex causing his classroom teacher to miss her own lunch, again. Other special things happened that I don't have the energy to share with you. On Friday, I laughed a lot with my colleagues and looked for humor in everything. I mean, how can you not laugh about a child who spends his entire day being a puppy or a T-Rex? He's having a good time, why can't we?

Today, at 9:15 a.m., I am currently barricaded in a classroom because another special friend has been trying to run out. The classroom teacher has already broken out in a sweat trying to get this child to stay in the classroom safely, and teach her other students. She said, "I'm too old for this." I told her her pay scale is too low for this. I'm not seeing the humor today.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The New Colossus and Horse Lips

I've been a bit of a smart ass lately sharing my thought that our school seems like the Ellis Island of public schools. I've been saying, "you know, give us your sick, your weary..."

So I decided to actually look that passage up, because I really only know a few words.

Turns out my smart ass isn't that smart.

The passage is actually a poem, and it's not at Ellis Island, it's mounted inside the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Island is near Ellis Island, but it's not the same thing.

So I am adjusting my comments.

Our school should have it's own plaque with The New Colossus posted at the door. (That even sounds smarter.)

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

Am I being a bit dramatic? YES, of course I am. But this week has been so hard. This week has just wrecked me, and some of my colleagues. Our school, and I am speaking specifically of kindergarten, has enrolled some very special friends. If you teach, you know that's not a positive label. I'm not talking about actual special-needs friends. I am talking about the children that require astronomical amounts of time, effort, patience, physical strength, etc...

We have so many special friends right now, that I truly feel like we have a sign on the door that says, "GOT CRAZY? GOT DEFIANT? GOT DISRESPECTFUL? COME ON IN!"

My yoga instructor just taught us "horse lips," deep breath in, floppy horse lipped exhale.

I just horse lipped.

I know our doors are wide open to every child. Please don't post a comment reprimanding me for being exclusive. I'm just feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed and flabbergasted.

Yesterday I was sitting in the hallway with a child who was screaming "NO! NO! NO!" and kicking anything that came near. He wasn't allowed in the classroom until his body was ready. Clearly his body was not ready. Two other teachers joined me. This child is what we call a frequent flier and this is a daily occurrence, so everyone pitches in when they can (that's just the kind of staff we have). Another colleague walked by and pretended to take a picture, "CLICK! Your tax dollars at work."

Horse lips.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

I miss it.

I'm a full month into being a resource teacher and have now developed a strong opinion of the position. It's not for me. I really miss my classroom. I miss having my own community, I miss having a strong relationship with 20 kids, versus having a weak relationship with 80+. I miss the rhythm and routine of a classroom. I miss having the control to change plans on a moment's notice based on the needs of the kids, or my needs.

I'm still enjoying being in my colleague's classrooms - it's giving me fabulous ideas for next year. But, BUT, I just miss having my own room and my own kids. I miss having Choice Time and Recess. I miss being in control of my lesson plans and routines. Right now I am co-teaching Writing Workshop three times a day. Writing is definitely not my favorite thing to teach in kindergarten, and now I do it three times a day!

Breath.

I am still grateful and know I am lucky to be in the position I'm in. It's just been a good experience to show me what wouldn't work for me in the future.

Off to Writing Workshop!