Another jot in “This is not my job.”

I’m struggling with the thankfulness, though talking to my youngest sister about her struggles helped. At least I understand when I have a panic attack what is going on and I have the freedom to help myself that a high schooler doesn’t necessary have.
Anyway on to things that are not my job.

We have this gifted class here at our school.  Currently there are 46 kids in that class.  It is too big.  My wonderful AEP teacher is so stressed and so overwhelmed she’s having health issues!  She’s a warrior, so it’s not her over reacting.

Well, we had a meeting today with our Principal, Union Rep and director of Human Resources as well as the AEP teacher and all of us on the 4th grade team.  Our Union Rep was appalled that nothing had been done (though they’d had 2 years to plan).  We stated under no uncertain terms this was unacceptable.  The principal and HR then turned to us and said, “You come up with how to fix it.”

… My job is not to fix staffing issues.  That is the District’s job.  That is the principal’s job.  My job is to teach, my job is to grade, my job is to plan collaboratively with my colleges, my job is to do duties as necessary for the good of the school.

My job is not to come up with a plan to solve this issue.

However, since we are professionals we did solve it.  Republican is going split the AEP class with AEP teacher, and her kids will be distributed to the rest of us. (I did ask if they would set a date for it to be fixed or at LEAST give us updates regularly about what is happening and they (HR and Principal) were VERY snippy about it.)

That means, if we do this fair so class sizes remain equal, I’m going to be getting 9 new kids in January on top of my little girl coming back from Thailand and another whose suppose to transfer over.

Going from 20 kids to 30 in one fell swoop in the middle of the year?  Nightmare…

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A Thanksgiving Attitude

Maybe I should’ve called this post “An Attitude of Gratitude.” —> But I guess President Thomas S. Monson already took that in his April 1992 Talk.  (See Here)

 

“Like the leprosy of yesteryear are the plagues of today. They linger; they debilitate; they destroy. They are to be found everywhere. Their pervasiveness knows no boundaries. We know them as selfishness, greed, indulgence, cruelty, and crime, to identify but a few. Surfeited with their poison, we tend to criticize, to complain, to blame, and, slowly but surely, to abandon the positives and adopt the negatives of life.”

 

I’m recalling this today because my principal told us today to “Live in Gratitude.”  So, let’s see how I do:

 

1. I am thankful for my husband’s new job.  Not only does he HAVE a job, but it’s doing what he loves.
2. I am grateful that duty went stress free this morning.
3. I am grateful that my Book Pal order went through perfectly. Now I have a wonderful stack of The Phantom Tollbooth Books to run a unit on with Teacher Next Door.
4. I am grateful that my allergies are mild.
5. I am grateful that Art is 40 minutes today.
6. I am grateful that when I walked into my classroom this morning the kids were well ordered and behaved, thanks again to Teacher Next Door. ❤ ❤ ❤ (I had duty so couldn't be there right as the bell rung.)
7. I am grateful that the kids were so excited that I wasn't sick! (A few even came to give me hugs!)

I guess I do have a lot to be grateful for, and I've just run out of time. I'll what I can do about clinging to this greatfulness and maybe today will be pretty good despite indoor recess. *shudder*

Assessment for the sake of assessment

I love data.  I’ll spend hours staring at numbers and seeing what trends pop out.  I just enjoy it!  However, I do not enjoy giving my kids tests.  I’d rather grade a project than a test, but tests are just plumb easier to grade and take less time.

So, I give tests.  I keep them as short as possible so that I can get my data and the kids use their time wisely.  Now that we know I’ve got nothing against tests or data, I do have an issue with something our district is doing.

 

Every Wednesday is early release.  We then have an hour and half to meet with our grade level teams and talk about what we can do as a team to increase student achievement.  We usually do some collaborative planning, share resources, or take care of things like planning field trips, spelling bees or other such projects.

This year, the distrct felt that it had a better idea.  Instead of meeting with our grade level every time we are now meeting with our District grade level.  The objective for these is very fuzzy too- “Create a formative assessment to give to all 4th graders in the district.”  What this assessment was suppose to be about, or on, or like was left up to us.  We have spent HALF of the meetings just deciding we’re going to do math, and base it off of the Common Core Standards.  (This took us 4 sessions.)  Today we actually sat down and wrote questions for the standard we’d chosen.  They’re good questions, and I’d be happy to use them on a test to see if my kids can do that skill.

I’m not happy with what the distrct is asking us to do with this data.

They’re asking us to do……. nothing.

I’m going to give my kids a 5-question assessment, get it graded, submit the data to the district and then…. nothing will happen.  I taught this standard a couple weeks ago.  I’ve already had my own assignments they’ve completed to show me if they are able to show this skill.  I’ve worked with the kids who struggle.

Why must I give this “test” if it doesn’t produce data that I’m going to use to help inform my data?

The things that influence us

Life outside of teaching plays a huge role in how I teach.  Here’s a list of things that affect me:

1.  My religious beliefs.  I believe that every child is a child of God.  I believe that the children I teach are closer to him than I am.  I also belive that since my kids are over the age of eight (they’re nine and ten respectivly) that they have the ability to make clear choices between right and wrong.  Sometimes this makes me come down a little harder on them because they ought to know better by now.  (Yes, I’m talking to you little California girl who decided to kick other children today!)

2.  How much sleep I get the night before.  If I don’t sleep well, it’s all down hill from there.  ‘Nough said.

3. How the first few moments of the day go.  If the kids are wild the moment they step into the door, then the day doesn’t go so well.  However, if the kids come in with smiles on their faces, and a normal pitched voice, I can usually count on a fairly good day.

4. How much my voice hurts.  I try to talk as little as possible, so that the kids can then fill up the empty space.  Sometimes I talk too much. :/ That’s a problem because as a teacher… I DO need to talk sometimes!

5. If I got to eat lunch.  This one isn’t as much of a problem as it was last year.  I’ve learned my lesson and I tend to bring SOMETHING for lunch these days.  I’ve also taken to keeping a snack in my desk so that I can chew on it on the sly if necessary.

 

My new favorite question

I’ve been getting pretty frustrated lately with my kiddos, so I went back and reread a part of Love and Logic. I was reminded that part of my job is empowering kids to do their own thinking.

 

In this vein I’m trying to switch from giving kids answers to insead asking them, “So, what are you going to do?”  I’ve used it a half dozen times this morning alone with amazing results.   The kids think, and then they do.  It didn’t work with one little girl, so I had to do more prompting, but in the end she got it.  I pulled her aside to say,  “Seriously?  You KNOW what 2×6 is.  Don’t even say you don’t. You’ve GOT this!”

 

Of course… I’m not perfect yet.  Especially when they come up with a question out of the blue.  IF they’re raising their hand I’m better prepared.

A Smile Makes Everything Better

School Portrait (2011) from Michael Berliner on Vimeo.

Never doubt the power of a single smile.

Skype with 29 kids

We have a lovely little girl from our class who is over in Thailand right now.  I read her blog regularly, and she seems to be doing alright. (She didn’t want to move.)  Her mother and I keep in contact so that she can know that I still care about her education and am excited for her to come back, (she’ll be back just before the AIMS test in April.)  Yesterday I surprised the class by “skyping” her in.

Now that I’ve done it I have a few things I’m going to do differently.

1) Forwarning!  No more surprising the kids for me.  We’re going to come up with questions to ask her, so that some of the sillyness doesn’t show up as much.

2) Learn about the pace we’re skyping to!  The kids didn’t even know where Thailand was!  We had to do an impromtu lesson right in the middle so the kids had some context!

3) Set ground rules.  Things like- one person talks at a time, make room for the person talking to be able to be on the screen.  Things like that.

4) Know the limits of your camera/mic.  Just because it works with 2 kids, doesn’t mean it will work with 29!

I’m glad that despite the confusion and noise (I’m going to call her Asia for now, though she’s not at all Asian) Asia still loved the call.  I guess the two friends she HAD made there just moved away to be closer to their school, so she’s feeling pretty lonely right now.  We’ll do this again before it is time for her to come home.

With me being more prepared of course!!

Kids say the darndest things…

We’re building circuits in my science class.  Today we were trying to make series circuits and for some reason it just wasn’t working!  I finally packed it all up and sent it to the district office to figure out.

I then told my class the truth.  I was going to put a movie on about electricity, and if Principal walked in, they were to tell her that they were writing down things they learned and that I’d collect them at the end (which I did do!  It was education AND aligned, AND on topic.  So, still useful!).  However, they heard “Only work when Principal is present.”  Unfortnatly, PLC Leader walked into the door RIGHT when Anxiety boy raised his hand and said, “Just to make sure, we only have to work when Principal is here?”  I quickly said, “No, you have to think the whole time.”  Afterwards I went and explained everything to PLC Leader and he just laughed.

 

 

 

 

Awards…

There are some things in teaching that my education degree did not  teach me about.  One of them is the heart break that comes with issuing awards to students for achievement.

In my school 4th grade is the last grade in elementary school.  This means we hold a ‘continuation’ cerimony so that the kids feel like they’re really leaving.  We also give out awards.  The music, and art teachers give out awards, and the PE teacher presents the Presidental Fitess award.  The principal hands out the perfect attendance awards.  Us fourth grade teachers also have an award.  Typically we’ve given the Presidental Award for Educational Excellence.  It’s always been a source of contention because the wording is vague.  Last year we were so upset that we decide that THIS YEAR, we were going to change it.

Well.  It’s the end of the second semester of THIS YEAR.  All year we’ve discussed it off and on and every discussion ends the same.

PLC Leader demands that the award be based soely off GPA from all core classes, which includes Art, PE and Music.  His opinion is because he’s had parents complain in the past about not getting it, and he has felt powerless to answer them with complete authority.

Former Principal demands we use the Presidential award.  (I found out this morning that he was the one who suggested we start using it in the first place.)

Group Leader just wants a decision and peace to be made.

Republican sides with Former Principal.

Then, myself, Gifted, and Reading Group just want a decsion so we can stop arguing about it!!

It’s getting frustrating.  I don’t care about the award.  I’ll use whatever criteria and deal with parental complaints when they come by showing them to Principal’s door.

 

*Though I do like the idea of having a way to recognize extraordinary growth… because for some kids making a c is an A……

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