25 Days

This second semester has really flown by so quickly.  Right now, we are in testing season.  It started two weeks ago and will continue for some students in one way or another until the very last day of school.  Over the course of this semester I’ve been able to make some significant progress with some of the classes but there are others that I’m still trying to reach and get a few of the more challenging students to buy into the importance of their own education.  I know it is critical for the students to be involved and actively engaged in their own learning. 

As we wrap up this school year, I’ve made a major change in the organization of my classroom and the student’s work in their folders.  I recently discovered a binder organization method that seems to hold real promise for next year’s students.  I started it a week ago, and after just one day, I absolutely love it!  I will be using it next year and combined with my new discipline procedures for the students (and myself), my new systems will dovetail nicely together which will provide me with so much information as I strive to make the best educational decisions for my students.

While there is still 25 more days of school, I still remain optimistic that my more challenging students will eventually buy into the importance of being well educated and come around to putting in the work necessary to learn new things and change previously held misconceptions.  The next 25 days will tell if I get through to those remaining few.

Semester ending

December 12, 2016

This first semester has been one of my most difficult in a very long time.  Students in the classes have little respect – for themselves, for each other, and for the material things in the room.  What is going on?  I’ve been told that this group of 8th graders has been the worst in the last 3 years at the school…. starting with their 6th grade year.  They are the lowest readers I’ve seen in a long time in a content area class.  I have one class with 20 of the 24 students (83%) below proficient in reading.  That same class has 14 of the 24 students (58%) classified as ESE or on a 504 Plan.  Is it unreasonable that my expectations for this class remain high and that I want them to have some level of respect for themselves, their classmates, and the classroom?  I feel like I’m a janitor when this class leaves.  I’m cleaning up scraps of torn paper, candy and gum wrappers, and water bottles.  They leave the room a disorganized mess.  Discipline procedures mean nothing to the students who are constantly disrupting lessons and interfering with their classmates’ learning.  I get disappointed that I’m not able to reach them and make positive changes in their behavior so they can get out of their own way and learn.

Second semester is going to have to get better.  I’m going to have to be even more organized and take away precious class time to move their behavior to something that I can tolerate and that won’t interfere with their own learning.  Winter break can’t come soon enough!!

My first year in 8th Grade!

It has been just over a quarter of the year completed… and I’m teaching 8th grade now.  US History has always been my love in history.  It is a bit of a change from the last couple of years.  I’ve also taken on more responsibility and have stepped up to the PLC leader for the 8th grade History teachers.  I’m trying to go slow and make changes that are easy to adapt to instructional practices. One of the major changes is the use of common assessments throughout the year.  We’ve started slow but have used two common assessments so far so that is seen as an improvement.   Next up is to start talking about student performance based on standards that are tested and in using more informational text type of questions.  Baby steps!

First Quarter Reflections

At the end of this first grading period, I have two classes that I am so thankful for teaching and two classes that really put my patience to the test.  One class is just so disruptive and they make me feel like all I am doing is telling the kids to be quiet when someone else is speaking!  It is still so amazing to me that I have to teach common courtesy to 8th graders!  One class is primarily ESE and the students are almost all low level readers.  That class has me teaching in a completely different way and I am spending a tremendous amount of time preparing for that group.  I know what I got myself into because I offered to teach them.  I understand why more experienced teachers decline these kinds of classes.  I don’t agree with that way of thinking but I understand it.

What to change?  I want to still work on incorporating more technology into my lessons!  I am actively looking at how to bring Twitter into classroom as part of our discussions or to deepen student knowledge of the topics being covered.

What worked?  My use of Comprehension Instructional Sequence was a success.  It is a great way for students to do more work on the topic and have a self-paced learning experience.  I was able to build to a full CIS lesson recently for the lower performing students and my cardiac assessment says it worked.  I need hard data to support that claim so that will be the next step.

Summer “break”

Summer break feels like such a long time ago now.  We are 27 days into the new school year and there have been lots of changes.  Most of the changes erased what I spent my summer working on to prepare for the 2015-2016 school year.  Ugh…

I keep reminding myself that change is good!

Testing

After three weeks of crazy bell schedules, we return to a more normal schedule but testing isn’t over!  Our kids are now preparing to take the state’s EOC exams or the district’s Standards Based Assessments (SBA) in those classes that do not have an EOC.  It is going to be another two weeks of testing!  With the disruption of the regular schedule, we have lost hours of instructional time and have turned classrooms into movie rooms or worse.  

In the middle of all this, we still have teachers who are getting their final evaluations by administrators!  I was one of them.  Fortunately for me, my evaluation was highly successful and my overall ratings were highly effective or effective.  I’m actualy happy that there were a couple of “effective” areas because this is a growth model plan after all and I need to be able to show growth for next year!  Isn’t that a strange way to look at an end of year review?

As I sit here writing this, there are only 14 instructional days (and 17 school days) left in the 2014-2015 school year.  I still have NO idea what the students are doing for a final exam.  The district announced that teachers have 3 options about 2 weeks ago.  Our PLC can’t make a decision.  We are waiting to hear from the principal about if we even have an option.  Overall, this approach is not helping me make instructional decisions.  I feel the need to put together an exam on my own because I have a feeling that we are going to be told it is up to us and then we won’t have enough time to put together an exam and will be forced to use the county’s SBA.  The disadvantage to that is that my school had NO ONE on the writing team because our adminstrator dropped the ball on sending someone to the writing team.

I just keep thinking…. 17 days!

45 Days…

This weekend is the last weekend of Spring Break… meaning there is only 45 instructional days left in the school year.  Within those 45 days are the new Florida State Assessments in reading, math, and science; new Standard Based Assessments – which includes the District’s World History exam; and any other courses giving a Semester Exam.  Those 45 days also include 3 days of early release for students so the number of instructional days is down to 42 at the most.  Depending on the FSA/SBA schedule, we could lose another 5-7 days.  

The sense of urgency is getting high!  The number of instructional days is getting smaller!

First month of 2014-2015

I’m thrilled that we are 5 weeks in to the 2014-2015 school year.  There have been some changes in our administration and Origin Call has joined us from Pine Crest where she was an AP for two years.  I’m also thrilled with my classes.  I have all Pre-IB/Advanced classes and have 11 students who are below proficient in Reading.  I’m going to be able to use CIS a lot with the classes.  We are also being required to use the DBQ project as often as possible. Sanford was selected to be a part of the district’s study about the use of DBQ’s.  The stated goal is to measure student achievement but I’m not sure how you can do that as a researcher without looking at implementation but the district is saying they are NOT looking at implementation.

Progress reports came out this week.  My kids all have good grades, for the most part… There were a few kids who had an “F” in one of their classes.  At least the Homeroom class is at the end of the day so I can spend some time with them and help them raise their lowest grade.

Summer Learning

I’m at a summer workshop to learn about DBQ’s. Interesting idea and I like what is asking the students to do. It also lends itself nicely to using Reciprocal Teaching and can be infused within CIS too. I’m wondering how much is too much? I have too many instructional practices that I want to use and need to narrow it down to no more than 3. The question that remains – which ones to use?