Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I gave my fourth graders their reading comprehension diagnostic today. I had planned to go through the diagnostic question by question alligning each one to the standard that it was testing. From there I would make a mastery chart and start focusing my instruction on the questions that they got wrong. Then I graded them . . .

Three fourth graders took the diagnostic. One only answered eight out of twenty eight questions and got none right. The second answered all of them and got six correct (But I know that he must have guessed on at least most if not all of them because the diagnostic was really long and I didn't expect any of them to finish today and he finished early). The last student refused to answer any questions because he was rebelling in response to my not letting him go to the bathroom after we clearly discussed my bathroom poilicy last week and I let him use his emergency "pass" already).

So basically, all the tracking of questions that I was going to do is useless now as I just need to teach them everything.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Weekend Planning Plans Derailed by Toothache

Friday I got a lot of work done at school. I tied up most of the loose ends with paperwork and finally decided on my official schedule. Finally knowing what my schedule and groupings were, I had planned to spend the weekend writing lesson plans.

Then, the killer toothache set in. I had felt it coming on earlier in the week and went to the dentist but it was so bad that I was told I needed to see a root canal specialist. Due to some incompetence on the part of the dentist (which I won't go into details) and problems with insurance (I was covered but not yet enrolled) I didn't get to see the specialist. I finally resolved everything Friday at 5pm, unfortunately too late to see a dentist. So there was nothing left to do but stock up on pain killers and suffer through the weekend.

And suffer I did. The Tylenol with codeine wasn't even strong enough. I spent the weekend on the couch alternatively crying, banging my head against the wall, walking in circles around the room and not sleeping at all.

I finally got the root canal this afternoon. I still have to go back for another visit but thankfully the pain is gone. Needless to say, I got zero planning done. And tomorrow I have my first day with a full schedule of kids.

Monday, September 19, 2005

You've got to be kidding me . . .

Today in our weekly PD it was mentioned that the region doesn't want us to use the term "bullet points" anymore because it has a negative connotation.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

First day of graduate classes

My Saturday just disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Today was our first meeting at Pace for our graduate classes. It was actually pretty good. I'd heard from a lot of '04 corps members that the Pace classes were a waste of time. Well, they revamped the whole structure of the program and from what I saw today they did a pretty good job. Instead of meeting for classes twice a week after school, we only have to go one Saturday a month from 9:00-5:30 and then complete online assignments during the week. Our Saturdays essentially consist of three classes that we are taking: Curriculum and Instruction, Child Study, and Learning Teams. We're grouped all day by our content area so that we are always talking about things in the context of what we're teaching, which is nice. I think that the best part of the day is the Learning Team. The Learning Teams are led by TFA curriculum specialists. In this part of the day we have the opportunity to really discuss what is going on in our classrooms and ask specific questions that we have. I also like that this part of the day is led by TFA because I think that it helps to refocus on our goal of significant academic gains. In our training with the DOE, which was only two days, I already started feeling disconnected from the movement. Now we will be able to come back to that every month.

In other news . . .I found out today that we have a new addition to our corps. One of the displaced corps members from New Orleans has joined my region in Brooklyn. She's been through so much and now she's starting all over again here in New York. She's from Brooklyn so it was easier for her to come back home than to move to Texas (where a lot of New Orleans CMs have gone) or wait for the schools in Louisiana to reopen. I wish her luck.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

One step closer to having kids in my classroom

I finished testing the last students today.

Students get into the ESL program though a series of steps. First, their parents fill out a Home Language Identification Survey (HLIS) when they register their children for the first time. If they answer a certain combination of questions (such as "Which language does the child write?" "Which language does the child speak with friends?") with an answer other than English the student then takes a English language test called the LAB-R. If they student scores below a certain number on that test, he/she goes into the ESL program (or bilingual or dual language if they are available). Today I finished the last of the LAB-R testing. Of the six kids I tested, only one will be in the ESL program.

Now I have my final count (pretty much) for my classes: 14 students. I made some tentative groups by grade level. There are four groups: 4 eighth graders, 3 fifth graders and a fourth grader, 4 third graders and a second grader, and one kindergartener. Now I have to work on making a schedule. I started talking with some teachers today about how I might schedule this. For now I'm thinking that I'll take the eight graders during their writing block and work with them on that since one of their teachers expressed a need in that area. For the third/second graders I'm thinking about taking them during their morning literacy block and doing pretty much them same thing their teacher is doing with the class but modified for ESL. I talked to the kindergarten teacher today about pulling her student out for some periods (he needs work on English vocabulary) and for other periods pushing into his regular class. I haven't had time the chat with the fourth/fifth grade teachers yet so I'm not sure what the focus there will be. Hopefully I can make a final schedule tomorrow and then start meeting with the kids on Monday. Yea!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Not getting any better

I've already broken down into tears several times and it's only the third day of school. (And I haven't even started teaching yet!)

Today I went into school ready to talk with the teachers sharing my room so that I could finally get my space organized. One was really understanding and was ready to move everything around. She also agreed with me that I should take the back of the room so that when the teachers come into the room to talk to them they will not be crossing through my lessons. Then the second teacher got there and flat out refused to move any of her stuff. She said that she was already set up and she wasn't moving and that she had to be by the window and she didn't have to explain her reasoning to me. I finally said, OK, so I'll take the front of the room but you still have to move your stuff so that the other teacher can move her stuff over. She said that I and the other teacher could figure it out but she was going downstairs to do whatever. She came back ten minutes later and demanded "Well, did you figure out what you two are doing?" I should have had nothing to do with it. They were the two sharing half the space and therefore had to decide how to move their furniture. I just left the room (and that was the first time I started crying today).

It finally took the Principal to come in and help mediate and help me and the one cooperative teacher figure out a plan for THEIR stuff. The other teacher never came to help. So finally (!) I had my half of the room to myself. Then the cooperative teacher argued about my placement of my filing cabinet. She said that if I didn't move it she would. I just wanted to wait until I had my desk to see if there would be room to move it. She shoved the filing cabinet across the room and into the tiny corner that was meant to house my desk. I just couldn't take it anymore and started crying once again. I just don't deserve to be treated this way. I haven't done anything to make them so awful to me. As I was trying to eat my lunch (and still balling) I was seriously thinking of calling my Program Director and telling him that there is no way that I can do this. How am I supposed to get through this year sharing a room with these two ladies who are so nasty to me. I really don't know how I'm going to do it but I know that I'm not going to call him either. It's only the third day and I haven't even seen any kids yet.

I can already see that this room situation is going to be terrible. There are teachers coming in every five minutes to talk to the math and literacy coaches. Every time they will have to cross my chalk board. Every time the other teachers need supplies they will have to come to my side (and possible move the desks) to get to the cabinets. Whenever they decide to eat lunch we are going to smell their food since they have a fridge and microwave in the room. It really sucks. The only thing that I can think to be thankful for is that I have a permanent spot to be in and I don't have to travel to random classrooms or work on the stage in the auditorium.

I hope things get better. I finally got started on the Home Language Identification Surveys so that I can start to figure out testing and scheduling and start teaching.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Not what I'd expected for the first days of school.

I've been wanting to write a post since Tuesday night but I haven't had internet access. Sooo much has gone on in the past two days that I couldn't even recount it all now so I thought I'd go with the brief recap . . .

Tuesday I got to school armed with my fun decorations. I tried to start setting up my classroom but it was nearly impossible because the math and literacy coaches still hadn't moved out of my room. I only put up one border and then spent the rest of the day helping them move their stuff so that I could get to my classroom which was buried in books and furniture. Rather than being super grateful to me for all of the free manual labor that I was doing for them, they would yell at me for putting a box a books in the math area and not the literacy corner. The day ended with the custodians putting all the furniture I moved into the hallway (which belonged to the coaches) BACK in my room. Then I was forced to leave at 4pm because they were waxing the hall outside my room. I left feeling sooo frustrated.

Wednesday was a MUCH better day. I finally decorated my room, got all of the coaches' stuff out of my room, set up my filing system and worked on all of the little details. I put up paper and borders on almost every inch of wall space. I especially liked how I decorated the door and space above the chalk board with "Welcome" in 20 languages. I took quite a lot of work to find a rug and tables and chairs but by 730pm I left school with my room looking great and totally in order for the first day of school.

The first day of school was kind of a weird day. I didn't have any students so I worked on some more details for my room. Later I took a field trip to the school across the street and met with the ESL teacher who has been there for eight years. She was so helpful. I finally had someone sit down with me and explain exactly what I have to do as far as figuring out what kids I have, testing and forming pull-out groups. My administration told me nothing. Everything was going great until 2 o'clock. That's when they called me into the Principal's office (along with seven other teachers) and told me that they were taking away my room. My beautiful room that I loved so much and spent so much time on. They decided that due to space issues they were moving me into the room with the coaches. (I should mention that the room with the coaches is the exact same size as the classroom I'd previously had to myself. Small and cozy. I'd say a third of the size of a regular classroom.) They said that I'd get half the room and they would put up a partition and the coaches would share the other half. They said "Sorry about the inconvenience but it's not about you. It's about the kids. Just remember that." Can you believe they tried to use "It's about the kids" in this situation? Needless to say I was really upset. I walked out of the building at 3pm because I just couldn't deal with taking down all of my hard work just then.

Today I just worked on moving all of my stuff up to the first floor. So many teachers passed by my room today giving me sympathy for having to move and telling me how great my room looked. (and then telling me about the year they had to move four times). Every time I wanted to break into tears. When I finally got all my stuff moved the AP came and told me that I had to cover two periods of social studies. When I asked her what I was supposed to do with them she handed me a huge American History book and said "Is there anything in this book that you're more familiar with than another? You have an hour to prepare." I did get something prepared for them to do on the fly (not American history) but both classes were so wild and out of control that we never got past the "Do Now." I got back to my new room at three o'clock and the coaches STILL hadn't cleared out a space for me. It seems like the might be trying to renegotiate the half/half arrangement. Basically the last two days have sucked. And all this is not to mention the absurd bureaucracy that I'm just now starting to understand and the rumors that if my ESL case load isn't big enough I'll be sent to a second school.

It's hard to believe that I'm wasting so much school time with all this moving and BS. I haven't even had time to go through the cumulative records and figure out which kids are mine and start testing them so that EVENTUALLY I can form classes and start teaching.

I hope things get better next week . . .

Friday, September 02, 2005

My Classroom

I finally went to my school and got inside of my classroom today! Very exciting. It's small but I'm only going to have small groups of kids with me at any given time. It's really cozy--I love it. (There are other teachers who have the same sized room for 15 kids and that is really cramped.) When I got to my room it was still jam packed with books, supplies, desks, etc. My room used to belong to the Literacy Coach and Math Coach and they hadn't moved their stuff out yet. I met the Math Coach and she was the first person from my school who I've been able to talk to and ask school specific questions (I hadn't had any contact with my principal since my interview). I offered to help her move her stuff up to the second floor and I think she really likes me now because of that. She was introducing me to all of the staff and telling them to take care of me and give me supplies. She donated a few things to me already. I'll take anything I can get. The Literacy Coach still had tons of stuff in there so I couldn't really organize my room at all. Now that I know what the space is like I have a sense of how I want to arrange it. I want to have a carpet area but there's no rug in the room. The Math Coach said she'd try to find one for me. Yeah!

I FINALLY talked to the principal and it turns out there's an explanation for why he didn't respond to any of my emails over the summer. I found out this morning that the principal who hired me is no longer at the school. It's funny because I had gotten an email the other day saying when I could come into my classroom but I had no idea who it was from. Now I know it was the new principal.

I found out some other news about my classroom. So, we have some after school program at my school three days a week (M,W,F) and the coordinators need a place to plan and get organized for the kids after school. As luck would have it, that place is my room (my small, cozy room, remember). I asked my principal what I should do if they were going to be in my room but I had students. She said that they are only two adults and space is tight. Maybe sometimes I would have to take my kids to the library or sometimes they could go to the library. Doesn't it seem like the two adults should be the ones to go to the library rather than my group of kids who have a classroom. Why give me a classroom if I don't get to use it all the time? It doesn't make sense to me at all. I'm hoping that as things progress it will become obvious that the only thing that makes sense is for the the kids to stay in the room.

I was also told today that I should be having an ESL meeting on Tuesday. I'm sooo excited. I'm thinking that this could be the answer to all of my questions, though I know that I've wrongfully assumed that before (ESL training with TFA, Region 5 training). I still have to be hopeful. I really don't know what I'm supposed to be teaching!

After going to my school I went to the teacher store. I was so overwhelmed by everything there that I ended up only buying a few things (some borders, letters and a calendar). Then I went to Staples and spent $100. I was mostly focusing on buying stuff to get organized (file folders, hanging folders, file boxes the students can access, etc.). It's hard to know now how I will want to organize all of my paperwork, student paperwork, etc. In college I always started out with one spiral notebook where I took notes for all my classes for one or two weeks. Then when I got a sense of how I wanted to organize myself for each class I would go out and buy binders, notebooks, dividers. That's kind of what I want to do now (wait and see) but I want to have a start so that don't get bogged down with paperwork. I love organization so I have to get it just right. The other thing I bought at Staples was such an indulgence that I feel so guilty for spending $30 on it when I am so poor--a label maker. I love to label everything. I'm so excited but I'm having a bit of buyer's remorse.

So, things are progressing. Hopefully I'll be going to my classroom tomorrow to get some more work done. I still have to move all my stuff to my apartment too. I'm dreading having to make several trips on the subway with all of my bags. And it doesn't help that Williamsburg (where all my stuff is) is soo poorly connected to Park Slope (where I'm moving). Aargh.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The housing search is over (fingers crossed)

I don't want to speak too soon but I think the apartment search is finally over. I found a place yesterday in Park Slope with a girl whose roommate cancelled at the last minute. I contacted the landlord today to get my credit check, etc. I haven't actually moved my stuff in yet, but all seems good so far.

As this relief comes (I can finally start focusing on planning the first weeks of school) I am reading about the devastation from hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I know that was somewhere on my ranking of cities. That could have been me. I can't even imagine. I think of all the work and preparation that I've been doing to get ready for the year and I can't fathom what that must be like to now not know if the house I just set up is still standing let alone if I would be going back to my classroom. Here's a link to the blog of a New Orleans corps member who is currently displaced from his new home.