Posts Tagged ‘indecision’

Square peg, round hole

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Our district is moving to standards based grading on report grades, which means that instead of giving one big grade for Math, one for Reading, one for Science, etc., we’ll report how students have done on each of the state’s standards of learning.  I think it’ll take a bit more documentation, but in the end it makes a lot of sense – if we studied time and fractions in one quarter and your child bombed one but rocked the other, does it really help you as a parent to see that performance averaged out to “on grade level”?

So, I’m in support of the change. But. My team decided to get ready for the change by starting to track our students’ achievement using checklists and rubrics measuring their level of mastery.  It’s been a valuable experience, but now I have about 45-50 data points on each child that still need to be boiled down to a single, old-style grade.  And I’m not sure how to do it.  In this last grading period we taught units on time, money, fractions, and measurement.  Some kids did well on all of them, some did well on a few of them, and happily, no one did poorly on all of them.  Because so many kids did well across the board, I’m worried I’ll create a Lake Woebegone effect, with (almost) all of the kids being above average.

But then if a child did really, really, really poorly on two of the units, but really well on the other two, should they get the needs improvement grade?  Or should that average out to show them on grade level?

My likely solution: put off math grading for several more hours by working on science and social studies, then make whatever choice feels right in the moment, knowing I have the data to back up whatever I decide to anyone who’s interested in understanding it.


Well, that was a day

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

To start: we did a lot of good things at school today.  Reading, math, social studies, music, writing – they all went well for most of the class.  Lots of learning happened, kids were happy.


One of my boys is working to “stay in his bubble” (keep his hands on his own body and off of others) during the day.  For each part of the day he does this successfully (or mostly successfully), he gets a sticker.  7 stickers and he gets a reward from the counselor at the end of the day.  Usually he gets 5-7 stickers a day, but today he got 0.


That means he was touching (or rolling on, climbing on, jumping on, or holding on to) other people all day long.  And it wasn’t just that.  He was so upset about not getting his first choice of reading buddy that he kicked over his book box and pegged the books at the floor – but was startled, scared, shaking like a leaf and sobbingly apologetic when I said he had to go the office.  It’s not an act or manipulation (though I understand if you think that’s wishful thinking); I believe he truly does not realize what he’s done until I say he has to leave the room because of it.

At recess something set him off and he stalked away across the field, bringing his best friend with him.  I had to call on all of my dog training skills to get them back.  I stood my ground instead of moving towards them, and used my voice and body to project absolutely confidence and authority.  “Come here NOW.”  It was touch and go for awhile – I almost signaled a coworker with the walkie-talkie to call for an administrator  – but once I got his friend to turn around he eventually came sulking back.

When I picked him up from music he was sitting in the corner (he’d gone there on his own), throwing his shoes at the floor and crossing his arms saying “Music stupid.”  I do not know what happened (he wouldn’t say and the (patient, awesome) music teacher seemed surprised and baffled, and another of my boys was sobbing facedown on the carpet (that’s another story), so it wasn’t a time for deep conversation), but when he finally, reluctantly, left the music trailer he refused to go further than the bottom of the ramp, and stood kicking the side of the trailer repeatedly while the class stood waiting to reenter the building.  It probably lasted almost two minutes – an eternity with a class waiting in line.  I had to send two of my students to the teachers on the playground for help (but they were too busy talking to each other and my kids were too polite to interrupt so no help was forthcoming); but suddenly, he was at my side, holding my hand, avoiding eye contact, sullenly silent and relatively calm.

We came back into our classroom for quiet time, which is how we transition from specials to math.  The kids are supposed to stay at their table spots and read or rest for 2-4 minutes in quiet.  He, of course, was neither staying at his table nor being quiet.  After pinballing around the room and being told to sit down he finally headed back to his spot, but first swiped another child’s plastic hair clip as he went by.  Shouts, of course, ensued, since he’d taken it right out of her hair.  I went over, told him to give it back, he refused.  I repeated the direction.  He refused.  Repeated the direction. He put it in my hand, I closed my hand over it, he shrieked, grabbed at it again, pinched hard, and shattered it.

And that, of all things, was what made me cry.

I didn’t say anything, just walked back to my table and put my head down on my arms.  I cried because I had worked all day to protect him and protect the kids in my classroom, but I couldn’t even keep a hair clip safe.  I don’t want him to leave, I don’t want him to be hurt, but he can’t hurt other kids and still stay, and hearing that cracking plastic made me feel like I just can’t do it.

I didn’t cry for long – you can’t with a classroom full of kids – and the rest of the day was okay.  But we can’t have more days like this, and I’m not sure what else I can do to ensure that.  Yes, the recitation of this day seems to scream out for a counselor’s intervention, but he already spends more time with the counselor than any child in the school, and she actually does have responsibilities other than him.  I can’t call every time he’s upset or she’ll never be able to do her job and he’ll never be in the classroom.  So we’ll all keep trying our best each day, and I’ll keep telling the counselor, the administration, and anyone else who will listen what’s going on, and I’ll hope against hope that the next committee I bring him to gets how much he – and I, and our class – need help.

A new normal (kind of)

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

After spending a few weeks in absolute crisis, my classroom is feeling calm and stable again.  It isn’t until I discuss my day with someone else, though, that I realize our room is not normal, and probably never will be.

For instance, describing this morning, I told a colleague “it’s been a good day.”  By this, I meant that we had a good morning meeting, the class calmly made their independent reading choices, got started right away, and didn’t interrupt me while I was teaching a good lesson to a guided reading group.  They had a great time “putting a poem in our heads” (memorizing a poem) during our first reading lesson, and did a great job on their second reading choices.


This doesn’t take into account that when we came to morning meeting, one of the boys didn’t get his preferred spot and stood, sobbing, outside the circle.  Another boy shrieked randomly throughout every whole group meeting and lesson of the morning, sometimes throwing himself backwards and hitting the carpet repeatedly with his arms.  A third refused to do any reading choice, instead kicking a foam block around the room, saying “I don’t do NOTHING! It so BORING!”

All three boys are on behavior plans, have daily updates sent home, meet regularly with the counselor, have well-established relationships with me, both assistant principals, and other first-grade teachers, have been observed by the county behavior specialist, and are being jumped to high-level intervention committees.  And as crazy as their mornings sound, it is so much better than before.

And as crazy as their mornings sound, I would still prefer to have this class, hands down, than last year’s class.  This group is so bright, has such a (relatively) strong grasp of English, and they’re so curious and willing to explore with me.  Almost every one of our days is good, even when our days are awful.  And these three boys are tough, to be sure, but they’re genuinely good kids, and I have to believe we will eventually find a way to help them be happier.

Passing them along

May 10, 2011 Leave a comment

My quietest, most enigmatic child suddenly transferred to another school on Monday after her family moved.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to contact her new teacher, or if it would even be appropriate for me to do so, but here’s what I’d say if I could.

Dear Emily’s new teacher,

I know you’ll only have her for six weeks and you probably weren’t expecting a new kid at this point in the year, but Emily’s pretty special if you figure out how to let her show it.  It took me awhile, but here’s what I’ve learned about her.

1. She seems really shy and you’ll probably never hear her in the whole group, but if you get her into a small group she can be irrepressible – and loud!
2.  She doesn’t say much if you ask her a question, but she has a lot to say on her own schedule.  Be prepared for long stories about her family that must be told while you’re cleaning up for lunch. Take the time to listen, even though the time is never right. It’s when she tries out all her English words.
3.  Slip her some extra snacks.  Her family doesn’t have a lot.
4. Let her pretend to be a princess and order you around.Or have her reread a book like a rock star.  You’ll see a whole new side of her.
5.  Don’t underestimate her. She’s quiet and seems so unsure, but she’s become a great reader, writer, and mathematician.

Most of all, take care of her. She starts with so little but she works so hard. She could be a star but she needs help to get there. I know you’ll enjoy her even if it’s just six weeks.


Miss R

Change of plans

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Tomorrow was supposed to be a holiday (making this a lovely three-day weekend), but because of our snow days, it’s going to be a full day of school.

A full day of school might not sound awful, but Mondays are supposed to be early dismissal days.  It’s the way the county deals with not giving us enough planning time during the rest of the week.  So instead of a four-day week, or even a regular week with Monday planning time, we’re going to have the only five-full-days-with-no-planning-time week of the year.  Combined with the frustrating conversation with my principal and assistant principal on Friday afternoon, I am feeling pretty cranky about the upcoming week and about school in general.  I’ve been enjoying my class more each day and feeling more drawn to keep teaching, but at the same time I feel less and less interested in actually working in a school next year.

I have no idea where this leaves me, other than obsessively researching long vacations to exotic destinations as soon as school lets out.  (If anyone has any recommendations in Latin America or the Caribbean, I’d love to hear them.)


First snow day!

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

We had a wintery mix fall most of last night, but all of the weather predictions indicated it would be cleared up by morning.  Still, I checked the county’s website at 5:23 this morning, just in case, and wow – school was cancelled!  I didn’t actually believe it (thought I might be dreaming still), but my facebook feed was filled with other teachers’ excitement.

I probably should have gone back to sleep, but I was so surprised and excited that I couldn’t imagine it.  Now it’s 6:39, I’ve read the newspaper, had breakfast and two cups of tea, and am wondering what on earth to do with myself the rest of the day.  Part of me wants to just sit and listen to the radio all day (one of my favorite sick-day indulgences), but maybe I could read, or watch all of Pride & Prejudice, or find a new show on Netflix, or work on my knitting project…so many options!

Categories: Teaching Tags: ,

All dressed up…

October 2, 2010 1 comment

I decided to be more proactive about making friends and getting to know the area.  My plan tonight was to get dressed for going out, walk down to the local bar that both of my siblings have recommended, and have a drink.  It sounded really good as a plan, but I probably should have predicted the reality.

The reality is that busy bars overwhelm me even when I’m meeting someone.  On my own I can’t even go in.  So I turned the corner and decided to walk to a different bar to try my luck there.  I did that for about an hour and a half, walking all the way to Clarendon and back, passing dozens of bars.  Many of them looked like great places to bring a date, grab dinner with a friend, or hang out with a big group.  None of them seemed particularly good for hanging out on my own.

So now I’m back home, looking great, with sore feet and a tired spirit.  I’m not upset with myself – I know I did my best tonight, even though my best is just walking by fun places.  It’s hard to figure out how to make friends though when it seems like the only way to go out is to already have friends.

%d bloggers like this: