This is my 27th year of teaching, so it was with great surprise to find myself working with a class filled with students who make instruction a challenge on a daily basis.
At first I tried to use the tools I have gathered over the many years of working with the hundreds of students who have been a part of my teaching journey. I have reflected, revised, talked to admin and mentors and occasionally resorted to assuming the fetal position under covers where I feel like an absolute failure.
Hyperbole aside, I am thankful because these students have forced me to really think about teaching and how I can best help the needs of my students. And for most part while many of the things I have implemented or revised have not been as successful as I would have liked with these students, they have definitely had a positive impact on my other classes.
So, I continue to read other’s blogs, find books with best practices, dialogue with peers, and be pragmatic. While I may never find the way to help this particular group of children, I have grown as an educator. Most of my classes are benefiting by this growth and for that I am thankful.
Wow, I just looked and February was the last time I posted here. Preparing for state mandated assessments and the end of the year seemed to have filled my extra time.
I thought I’d reflect on some of the highs and the challenges of this school year.
I fully implemented the Common Core standards. There was some initial push back from students and their parents but as both began to see improvement that lessened. Tennessee has not initiated the PARCC assessment yet so this may prove to be a challenge in years to come.
The students and I worked hard to be ready to complete a Writing Assessment based on the new standards. While I was unable to see the prompt, they seemed pleased with the first writing but thought the second piece difficult. Today is the final day of school for teachers and writing scores have not yet arrived. The students also did not receive their quick scores for the state ELA assessment. I am discouraged for them as much as me. How do you rationalize spending so much time prepping for something that everyone seems to think is so important but be so cavalier about reporting results? To say the students were disappointed is an understatement.
The journey while challenging reinvigorated my teaching. I had to rethink the explicit teaching model and decided how to correlate it better toward things like a close reading lesson. That kind of deep reading takes time and I discovered that I can adapt the model but it will cover several sessions of instruction vs. a daily lesson.
I am also rethinking my choices for anchor books. I have two advanced classes next year and realized that they need more challenging material. I am looking for text complexity in ideas every bit as much as vocabulary and sentence structure.
When I made the move to middle school ten years ago, I was open to teaching anything. The principal was impressed with my background in computers and placed me in that position. It was soon very clear to her where my passion was (hint – not the work stations) and she encouraged me to integrate literacy skills wherever I could. Before long, I began to pick up overflow classes in ELA. I have tried hard to make this situation work. I truly believed I could not teach the way I wanted to unless I had the computers. All of that changed this year. I realized that none of what I thought was important mattered. What mattered was my students and helping them learn to become better readers and writers. So.. I am moving out of the lab to a full time 8th grade ELA position and couldn’t be happier. An added plus is my daughter coincidentally teaches at my school and will be right across the hall. We are giddy with all of the possibilities!
I am writing this from the airport, ready to fly to my vacation home in Italy. I hope to rest, eat good food, and investigate some new places. When I return it will be for numerous trainings and planning for the wonderful (and challenging) school year to come.