Saturday, May 31, 2014

At the beginning of the school year, we are all like fresh eggs, just gathered from the hen's soft nest, still warm, full of nutrition and potential.

By June, we are like burnt fried eggs, beyond anything anyone would want to eat.

ALL OF US.. students, teachers, everyone....

Friday, May 30, 2014

I had an absolute meltdown this morning.. in class... I am so beyond frustrated with the behaviors of my students I am at the end of my rope. I know we are at the end of the year and they are ready to be done, and some of the behaviors are to be expected.

But on the other hand, we've come so far together. They've grown up dramatically, or so I thought.

Guided Study class starts the day, an hour for special ed kids to get extra help on assignments, or just a quiet time and place to work. They are ALL failing AT LEAST 2 classes, with tons of assignments due, overdue, exams to study for, projects to finish, etc... But all they can do is giggle, chat, complain - about everything from A-Z - one day this week it was how stupid the dress code is when I sent 2 girls to office for ripped jeans - one of which had been called out on EXACT same pair of pants by principal LAST week. But instead of taking care of the problem, it became a HUGE argument/heated discussion about how stupid the dress code is, how this school is going downhill, how they are ALL going to Community School (alternative high school) next year. The more I tried to refocus them, they more obnoxious they became - to me, to each other, to the entire school. Another day, it was simply a refusal to work - I gave them study guides for their history exam, but they didn't want to use them - refused to look for their notes, get a book, etc.. Another day, it was a battle over getting their math assignment that SHOULD have been homework, but none of them take work home, but they wouldn't find it so we could even try to tackle it. Another day one girl insisted she had to type her science notes, only for me to find her playing a video game online instead.

The saddest part isn't the defiance, or the disrespect... it is that THEY have given up on themselves. They know they are failing. They know there is no hope. They know that by in large, they aren't going to get a high school diploma. The one girl announced today that she's just going to get one of those "FREE CHECKS like my mom does - $1800 a month - so I can stay home and not do nothing." She went on to brag she "don't know why nobody ever wants no job. That's just crazy! Stay home, do what you want and the FREE CHECK comes in the mail on the 3rd of every month."

and she's right.... why would they want to show up, do their work, struggle, try hard.... get a diploma -  which they ALL could do if they actually tried.... when FREE money comes in the mail for doing nothing.

But don't worry, I will keep showing up, doing my work, struggling, trying hard.. for them and the ones who will follow them.. so that FREE money will land in their mailboxes for generations to come. Heaven forbid we try to change the system, break the cycle, and teach responsibility. Do I sound angry and disgruntled? Maybe I am...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gather 4 data points to prove my worth, my effectiveness....

Let's examine my possibilities:
-MEAP tests that students took last October, which tested them on content from the previous year
-GLAD tests which are supposedly aligned to grade level standards but even the program itself shows that 14 of the 44 questions on the 8th grade GLAD are actually testing high school standards
- pre & post tests in class
-EXPLORE test (kinda like a ACT for middle school kids) that predicts college and career readiness - wait.. Many of my kids won't even get a diploma from high school, and even if they manage to do that, are certainly not college bound. At least half of them have no intention of even getting a job some day. Their grand plan for life is to live off the system one way or the other.
-STAR reading -which in theory would be great but when kids score higher on this test, their AR point goals get raised, so why would anyone WANT to score higher on it?
-whatever else I can pull out of my hat

For students, none of these tests hold any level of accountability. If a student has parents who are grade motivated, the pre & post tests do hold some accountability on their parts, but otherwise, students don't understand or see correlation between their scores on these tests and ANYTHING in their real lives.

As students took the GLAD today, they finished 44 math questions - long, hard word problems - in less than 10 minutes. GOOD kids, kids who usually CARE. But kids who look at that computer screen and see too many words, too much work, and feel defeated before they even start. They know their score on the test won't keep them from going to high school. It won't mean repeating a grade. It won't mean summer school or remedial work to bring them up to speed. It just means they are done with one more test.

So here I sit.. trying to compile data to prove my worth as a teacher. Trying to figure out a way to make the dismal test scores look less bleak. Trying to find a way to make it look as if my kids have made progress. Trying to make THEM look good on paper so I look good on paper.

In reality, I KNOW that they have grown, and learned, and made progress. I KNOW without a doubt they are leaving with more skills than they came to me with. Some of those skills, in theory, should be able to be measured. But so many more of those skills could never be measured with a click and click and click test.

The skills that should be able to be measured? well.. I could make a million excuses why they won't meet their benchmarks - they are reading at a 2nd grade level in 8th grade... they don't know even their multiplication tables, much less how to balance an equation.... they don't want to do any work independently, preferring, insisting even, on being hand fed answer by answer, step by step... they have been beaten down for so many years they have lost any and all confidence in themselves so every step forward we slide 10 back.

But in the end, does any of it matter? No matter how well I teach, no matter how hard I work, no matter how many hours and how much of my heart I pour into them, all that matters in the end is some number on a piece of paper.

No one will know how far they've come - no one will see the girl who now volunteers to read aloud, even though she struggles with most of the words.
No one will see the boy who aces every math test in class, but is too overwhelmed and anxious to give that same effort when it really matters.
No one will see the girl who missed 50 days of school this year.
No one will see the girl who comes to school hungry most days.
No one will see the bruises hidden under his sleeves.
No one will see anything but a useless test score.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Why I hate cell phones in the classroom..............
Dad texts daughter to tell her her cat died.
REALLY??? SERIOUSLY???????????
#1 Don't you think that could wait until school is over?
#2 Don't you think you daughter is supposed to be learning during language arts class?
#3 SERIOUSLY???? Now I have a crying 13 year old, who now has the entire class distracted because YOU, her FATHER, decided the news her cat died couldn't wait 3 hours until she got home.

I can't believe that education has taken such a back burner to EVERYTHING else for too many students. They, their parents, they don't value education. The students 'show up' but other than that, school is just not a priority. School is where they have to spend time each day, but forget them doing anything outside the school day, even read a book. When they are absent, and they are absent A LOT, they never would even consider making up the work.

Some of the burden falls on the school, the teachers, the system. We need to find ways to reach and teach every child. But reality check - we can't when the rest of the world is against us.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The countdown to summer calendar says 26 days left. 26 days to finish teaching these 8th graders everything they  need to know to be successful in high school..... I have had them for 3 years. Ups, downs, good days, bad days, just days... laughs, and tears... yelling and laughing.........

What do they really really need to be successful in high school, to earn that oh so important diploma?
It isn't about balancing equations, or infinitives and gerunds, or the Union generals of the Civil War... in the scheme of life, NONE of that really matters.

The things that DO matter?
~knowing someone cares enough about them to set limits and enforce them
~knowing they care about someone enough to challenge their limits with the confidence that person will still love them no matter what
~knowing that they and they alone are in control of their choices, the implicated consequences. and how those choices impact their success or failure

Those three things matter much more than anything book "learnin'" I could ever try to pour into their brains...