Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I feel human again

I guess that's why we get vacations.  It is amazing to finally see family and friends and remember that I am not just a teacher, but also a sister, daughter, friend, girlfriend, all of those roles I had been neglecting.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A glimmer of hope

I was absent from school on Wednesday. I hadn't planned it. I got really sick and couldn't get out of bed. So, I called my favorite substitute (avoid SubCentral at all costs!!!) to see if she was available (which she was), and told her where my emergency sub folder was. Since I hadn't left any specific plans, just the generic activities that were in the emergency folder, I didn't expect much when I came back to school today.

I opened my classroom door and immediately started vacuuming, sharpening pencils, cleaning, the tables, etc. Part of my normal morning routine now includes planning the guided reading lesson for the day, so I took out my little bin and noticed that the last set of guided reading books, the ones I had planned to use on Wednesday, weren't there. Hmmm? I thought. Then I looked at the reading chart to see which group I would see that day and I noticed the clothespin had been moved to the next group. Hmmmm? I thought again. So I checked the "Just Right" baggies of that group, and sure enough, the book was in each of their baggies. I really couldn't figure out how the substitute would have known what to do. Oh well, I thought, and started planning for the next group. A few minutes before I had to pick up the kids, the substitute came into my room to get her things (she stores her stuff in my room) for the class she was subbing for today and I asked her about the day yesterday.

She said "Oh, yeah, we did everything. We did the word sort and the kids said they were supposed to glue, then they wanted to do the calendar, so we did that. Then they wanted to read their "Just Right" books so we did that, except that a couple of kids insisted that they had to stay on the rug to do a reading group. I asked them, 'What am I supposed to do?' and they showed me the [guided reading] bin and the set of six books. They told me I had to show them the book and then they would read it to me."

Needless to say, I was beaming with pride. My students had guided the substitute through our entire morning routine including the guided reading group. Maybe all of my efforts are paying off. It seems that they have really internalized the structures.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We just became a "Corrective Action School"

Whatever that means. It kills me. I love my school and my students. We (meaning everyone: teachers, parents, school aides, janitors, and yes, even administration) work so hard to make a difference for our students. Just because we are a community school and we take EVERYONE who walks in the door, including children from a transitional shelter that is in our catchment area, we suffer the consequences of having low-performing students. It is not a reflection on the actual teaching or achievement of our "home grown" students, the ones we keep from Pre-K through 5th grade. What do they want schools to do? Shut their doors? Only let in a select few? I am proud of the fact that we educate everyone equally. I am proud to have over 80% ELLs in my class. The media always puts down these "underperforming" schools and it's so sad that my school has been categorized this way. I actually think that some of these schools are actually the best schools in the country because of all the hard work and dedication it takes to keep everyone learning. Talk about differentiation!!!. I won't give up. I just hope that we can at least maintain our "Well-developed" rating that we got on last year's quality review, I feel that this recognition at least helps us keep our heads above water and have faith that we are doing our best every day. The British guy said so!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Illiteracy update

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I am really concerned about literacy with my first graders. Some of you who have followed my blog from the beginning might remember a post where I talked about being trained for a one-to-one tutoring program that we were supposedly going to implement for at least 30 first graders this year. I remember when I posted it, feeling so hopeful that maybe, just maybe we were finally going to do something to help our strugglers. In the back of my mind, I worried that it wouldn't happen, that it wouldn't get scheduled. Everytime I had my doubts, an administrator would say "we're still ranking the kids," or " don't worry, it's all taken care of," etc.

It's December. This program was supposed to start the first week in October. We still haven't started. I am so desperate to get it off the ground that I have repeatedly inquired about when I am tutoring and which kid I will be tutoring. I even made up a possible tutoring schedule using times when a school aide could be with my class (like right when they come up from lunch), which I now can't even offer because I need to use that time for oral storytelling. I offered for them to pay off my preps and tutor then. I have tried all I can so that this training, which probably cost at least $15,000 can actually be put to some good use. Why does administration waste our time and money like this????? It's ridiculous. It makes me so angry. I can't count on administration to do ANYTHING for my students EVER!!!! It's all up to me. That's the honest truth.

Is this in my job description?

I spent about 30 minutes today chopping 3 inches off about 500 copies of reading logs, writing paper choices, homework assignments, etc. You see, we are having another copy crisis at my school. I was told that this crisis is city-wide. Apparently (according to my AP), the chancellor has put a "freeze" on all new purchases, including copy paper. We have been without white paper for almost a week right now. At first, no one said anything (communication anyone?), so the aides were doing our copies on colored paper, which is a complete waste of precious resources, plus a waste of paper since I can't have the kids doing their writing workshop pieces on pink paper. The copy machine for teachers, the one that is still my nemesis (This one), has been making really funky copies lately. They are all messed up and scrambled. Anyway, I discovered that if you choose "Tray 2" with 8 1/2 X 14'' legal size paper, the copies come out normal, plus I have plenty of the legal size paper. So, I spent an entire prep making all of the copies I need for the week on legal size paper and then I had to chop off the 3 inches to make all of those copies usable. Don't worry, I saved the 3 inch extras to make little mini-books for the kids to write in during choice time. What really gets to me though is that we are expected to have ample writing paper and reading logs and consistent homework, yet we have to jump through so many hoops just to provide the basics. I feel like I need to be a magician sometimes and make things appear out of thin air. When my "office" friends ask me what my job is like, I tell them, imagine being the CEO of a small company where you are expected to oversee employees, communicate with associates, and make a profit without email, copies, a phone, or any office supplies.

I'm writing a letter to the parents this week asking for a donation of a reem of copy paper for those families who can help. I hope I get at least 5.