Common Core and Movement

Another school year has been upon us for many days now.  We’re slowly slinking our way towards another Thanksgiving Vacation, followed quickly by Christmas and the official half-way point of the year.

I barely know what is going on most of the time.  I just hope my students don’t realize how completely unaware I am of everything around me.  Between the Common Core,  a new schedule, and a move to be International Baccalaureate, things are a bit crazy.  I’m trying to really keep it together, and on most fronts, I’m doing okay.

I do love how the Common Core has changed math.  It won’t help my students much this year, but my kids have much more confidence with fractions than ever before.  They still don’t quite get mixed and improper fractions, but they’re doing much better than either of my previous classes.  I’m afraid of all the things we’re leaving out that WILL be on AIMS this year (I know coordinate plane is one of them, but cannot recall the rest), and just pray that it’ll be close enough not to matter.

It’s reading that’s really throwing most of us for a loop.  I recently found one resource: Readworks that is helping me structure my thinking.  Another one I’ve been hooked into, but haven’t used much, is ReadWriteThink  I’ve also started up some literature circles that I HOPE are good.   I’ve  got two groups reading Snow Treasure, two groups reading The Long Winter, one group reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and one group reading Woodsong.  All of them have something to do with Winter, though Mrs. Frisby’s connection is only barely there.  The kids do seem to enjoy them, though my lowest group is struggling with Snow Treasure, and my highest group is trying to coast through Woodsong.  (Not letting them though, they had to redo ALL of the work from last week because they’d really put no effort into it.)

Things have changed in our classroom too.  In the last two weeks I got two new students.  Once I haven’t learned much about except that he’s a math wiz, reads VERY well, is chatty, chatty, chatty, and loves football (especially the Packers.)  The other I /really/ know nothing about as I’ve only had her for one week.  I do know she’s very intelligent, but stubborn, and doesn’t have a very high self esteem.  I see myself working hard with her on that, because intelligent children often struggle the worst with self esteem any time anything happens.  I mean, she got a 60 on a test that killed four others, even though she’s had exactly one week of fractions and the rest have had four weeks.

Another change occurred on Friday, though I knew it was coming.   I had a very special child in my class with very special challenges.  He came to me late, and I’ve felt badly all year about the challenges he’s had.  I won’t go into specifics here, but I’ve worried about him.  He has more assistance in the school than most kids get, but he still wasn’t getting the best education.  It wasn’t anything in particular that I did, it was simply that I couldn’t do as much for him because I did have to care for the other 29 kids in the class also, and that he spent over 50% of his time outside of my classroom.

Now, on to the change.  It was decided in a meeting that his parents and advocate would tour another setting for him.  A few days later I found out that they loved the alternate setting and would transfer him.  I got to meet his new teachers, and was impressed by their attitudes.  I expressed how I knew this child was special, and that I believed in his ability to learn and wished that I didn’t have to give him up, but understood that he needed more assistance then I, and my school, were able to give.

On Friday, he left half way though the day.  I knew he was leaving, but expected it about two hours later than it did happen.  Because of this I was caught off guard, and hadn’t had a chance to have the kids do anything for him.  We had an impromptu good-bye party (just during snack for 10 minutes) before he was whisked away forever.

Part of me is really sad about the change.  He was a good kid, and I’ll miss him, and will always wonder if I COULD have made a difference in his life.  On the other side though, my work load has been halved in day-to-day scheduling.

I just hope he makes friends.  And is happen.  I’ll always wonder if he’s getting on well.

I also found out that the father of one of my students from my first year died suddenly.  I need to try to reach out and see if I can’t contact them and make sure they know how much I care.  Because I do care.  I want all my kids to be happy… even if they aren’t my kids any more.

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I forgot

There was no competition allowed in the school (Quail Run.)

I rather like that at a school wide level. I wonder if it happens at the classroom level too, because I DO so love a game of academic football every once in a while….

Visiting the IB School

AFter I decided to stick my foot in it at a PTO meeting last month, I offered to go reexplain myself to the parents this month. This involved me going with a group of people to visit an IB school here in the City.

The school is called Quail Run. When I compare our AIMS scores to their AIMS scores we’re basically in a dead heat and we both have about fifty percent of our population from out of district. Size wise we’re a lot larger, though they have more grade levels. We’re K-4 and Quail Run is K-6. Class size is roughly the same- between 29-32 kids in each class in the higher grade.

The environment of the school is what is really different. I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly what is different, but I’ll put down what I have found.

1. Peace Table. The school has an initiative called the Peace table. From Kindergarten on up the kids are taught how to solve problems between two people. They are allowed at any time to call another kid to the ‘peace’ table either in the office or in their own classrooms. There they follow guidelines that go Person A talk, Person B listen, Person B talk, Person A listen. Then they come to an agreement, then agree to it. The principal says that his behavior problems have gone down dramatically since then. The teacher can keep an ear out just in case they need to intervene.

2. The PYP Central Themes. The themes seem really thought out and fit well with the standards that we have to teach.

3. So Quiet! All of the classes were so quiet, even when the teacher was saying that the kids were going to “anarchy” because she’d left them alone for a while to talk to me. They were nothing like the anarchy that my class descended into when I got back.

4. The emphasis that not everything fits into the themes and not everything can be constructivist. That really resonated with me. I love constructivist teaching, but not everything works with constructivist teaching. When it comes to interventions for our lowest learners it is so important to deliver instruction in clear direct instruction ways.

5. It is going to be really hard. There is a lot of time that is going to be spent on this project. The principal of Quail Run said that on average the grade levels spent two hours a week setting up their themes and their lesson plans over a three year period.

There is so much more, and I’ll blog more as we keep going. I’m still very concerned that we’re going to lose a couple of teachers here at Simis because of the time commitment. None of us are lazy, but we do have a lot of people with families and it’s hard to meet outside of school.

Keeping you posted- PIO Phase!

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