Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Ms. FF, will you be here next year?"

"No, I won't be. I'm going to go to a different school."

   "But why?"

"It's just time to go."

   "But you've only been here for a year!"

"When it's time, it's time.... Your loss though!" :)

   "Yeah, you're a nice teacher."


1. It's summer break! Sleeping in now is just as, if not more, satisfying than when I was a middle schooler myself.

2. I am currently taking professional developments for Special Education Summer Institute and through all the PD's this year, I feel that I have learned one thing: teaching is kind of common sense, for those who have it. I'm not saying that anyone can do it (after all, not everyone has common sense!) or that it is easy (read any post I've written and you will know that that is the last thing I think about teaching). I'm saying that there is no "magic spell" that is going to instantly improve our students' academic skills and close that pesky achievement gap. What it takes is old-fashioned communication, consistency and hard-work. And nobody likes those things because they take time. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy learning new things from different perspectives from my own. But I believe that NONE of the "raising student achievement" PD's I have been to have truly taught me anything significant that I did not already figure out on my own from a year of fighting in the trenches. I could be wrong, but I feel that it is a little bit silly that we are contributing a large sum of money on education research which often validate what we already know about students and learning, in the hopes that we will find some easy answer (as in, "this is how your get your students to achieve more in the classroom...") to solve our educational woes. So why do I continue to attend these PD's? 1. In hopes that I will learn something useful (though I strongly believe that the absolute best way is to shadow other excellent teachers) and 2. I'm a first-year (or is it second-year now?!) teacher who shamelessly needs the money.

3. I am very excited to resume teaching the nuggets again in the fall. :)

Okay, so let's talk about how I closed out the year. I met with my principal in early May. He told me that I was probably going to be impacted by the budget reduction for the upcoming year. I took the news and reminded him that he only had one month left to carry out my final observation for the year. He had totally forgotten about all of the last observations he had to do. I left his office kind of upset, but I had to go to my next class. A couple of weeks later, my principal came to do his final observation of me. I had four students that day and was teaching how to identify the slope and y-intercept of a linear equation given slope-intercept form. My students had participated in a warm up based on finding slope using the slope formula and we reviewed what an "intercept" was. Then, I handed out graphs of linear equations (of varying difficulties) to my students. Their task was to find the slope and intercept of their individual graphs. They did their math on a white board. This is when my principal walked into the classroom. As they continued to work, I passed out post-its for my students to write down the slope and y-intercept that they had calculated for their graph. On the board, their linear equations were written in a chart, with corresponding columns for their slope and y-intercept. The students posted their results on the board and those who finished sooner moved onto watching a review video on slope and the y-intercept. Eventually, everyone watched the video and we came back together to review the chart. The students, pretty quickly, realized the trend: "the number to the left of the x was the slope and the number to the right was the y-intercept." Students then went to play, in pairs, a game similar to The Weakest Link on the computers in order to display their knowledge of finding slope and the y-intercept given a linear equation. Then, my principal left. For closing, we reviewed the rule for finding slope and the y-intercept using the slope-intercept form. Using a chart of equations, we called out the slopes and intercepts. Then, each student got a linear equation and determined their slope and y-intercept.

The next day, my principal had me go to his office for a post-conference. He told me that he didn't have a clue "where I was coming from" or "where I was going." I said that that may have been because he came to class after I had come from there and before I got to somewhere else. He told me that he didn't feel that the students "got it" at the end of the lesson. I told him that was because he did not stay until the end of the lesson and I showed him my students' work - every single one (well, to be fair, there's only four of them) "got it." He didn't seem impressed. He seemed to still doubt that they "got it." He told me that I wasted too much time and energy. I asked for an example. I felt that the lesson was very well organized and carried out. One of my best organized and carried out, actually. His example? (And he only provided this one:) "Well, you had to log into the computer..." True, I said, I could have logged in during warm up. But the log in had to have taken less than a minute! In short, he didn't provide me with a lot, or any, constructive criticism.

And then, he handed me my reassignment letter. The letter stated that due to budget constraints, I would be reassigned to a different school for the 2011-2012 school year. At this point, I was frustrated (after all, I have had good observations!) and I took the letter and signed it. He made a copy for me and I left his office to go to my first class of the day. (My school is very considerate, they always give me the bad news at the start of the day, like back in March when they called me up during 1st MOD to tell me that I was not a good teacher, "did not belong in this profession" and that I neglected my teacher duties.) Of course, the show had to go on. My students needed to prepare for their finals and it wasn't their fault that my admin was mean.

Fast forward a couple of weeks later, literally the last three days of school, my principal called me up for my end of the year evaluation. I was satisfactory in all areas (like on my mid-year evaluation). He asked me what areas I felt I succeeded in and needed work in (building relationships with my students and differentiation, respectively). And that was it. He thanked me for working at the school and wished me good luck with my future.

He didn't look over my students' MSA scores. (Which he had asked all teachers to bring as evidence of their impact.) He didn't mention the insensitive manner which I had been treated with by my vice principal. He didn't mention what an unsupportive first year he had subjected me to: three grade levels, two subjects, three different curriculums, three department meetings, three intensive sections, two poor co-teachers as "mentors", five "problem" children in a single MOD... Yes, I'm complaining. But I did with what I got. And I did it damn well.

I don't think that test scores are everything (but my school sure seems to think so!), but here are my numbers: only three of my students went down in their MSA scores (from basic to more basic). My proficient children stayed proficient and even two formerly basic students, who had never before moved out of that category, reached proficiency. This year, I have mentored four proficient students. More experienced, equally awesome, colleagues of mine who teach the same kids, have three.

YES, I know that there are things that I could have done this year in order to better raise student achievement in my classroom. Consistency. Organization. Planning. Consistency again. But I think I did pretty awesome this year. My five biggest accomplishments for the year?

1. Building positive relationships with each and every one (all 24) of my students this year, not including those in co-teaching (I love them, too, though).
2. NEVER giving up on my students and this year. Until the last day of school I continued to rethink and revamp my class to make it more efficient.
3. NEVER being unfair with my students. I apologized when necessary, I worked tirelessly to be sure that I was giving my students what they needed and tried my best to defeat bias.
4. NEVER letting my negative admin's opinion and treatment of me affect my ability to teach my students.
5. Keeping my class fun. Points. Music. Prizes. Harry Potter. Games. My witty quips. And applicable to my students and their needs... as much as 8th grade math can really be, anyway.

Anyway, so now the waiting game begins. Will I be reassigned for sure? HR says yes. Supposedly by the end of this month. I don't really care where I go. I have learned a TON this year and hope to continue to learn. I hope that wherever I go, I will create positive change. I hope that I will be a better teacher than I was this year. Admittedly, this rough educational environment is forcing me to become the best teacher I can be as fast as I can be it. It's a good, gradual, important learning experience. Even if I don't want to stay when it's over. Unfortunately. Because the kids are really fun to work with. The worst part about this whole thing is that I can't finish up with the 7th graders from this school year... but...

Crossing my fingers to be placed soon!

Happy summer!

And I leave you on a happier note:

"That is so creepy. What a stalker." - my colleague on my vice principal "watching me" from her office window :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Year 1 Done in 1 Week

Will be back to post on closing out for the summer!