Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The first of many glitches to come

Today we passed out letters to certain students in the school telling them that they were mandated to attend the 37.5 minute sessions M-F. (Every teacher submitted a list of 10 students that they wanted to "target.") We also gave letters to students selected for enrichment programs such as yearbook and drama (they didn't get to choose what they wanted to participate in).

The first thing that I noticed about the letter was that it stated that we were switching to a new schedule. School would now be in session from 8:30 a.m. until 2:50 p.m. The 37.5 minutes would begin at 3:00 and finish at 3:37 1/2.

Hmmm . . . This is not what I remembered reading about the new contract. Somehow my administration is trying to get an extra ten minutes a day (40 minutes a week) out of us. They say that this time is for dismissal. Still, it is time that we are working.

Luckily, our union rep is all over this. Usually he doesn't push too hard for things but this, he says, isn't right. He said that he already mentioned it to the administration but they didn't agree with him. Now he has to take it to his people.

I was so glad that I heard him talking about this in the teacher's lounge today because I brought it up to some teachers and they didn't even know that school was supposed to end ten minutes earlier with the implementation of the new schedule.

Anyway, now once this all gets sorted out we're going to have to send out new letters most likely resulting in everyone being more confused than they already are about the whole situation.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Starting to Plan a Yearbook

Wednesday my yearbook co-adviser and I met with the rep from Herf Jones to discuss getting our yearbook started. One of our AP's (previously mentioned in testing posts) insisted on being in on the meeting. She came late and interrupted what we were discussing. She started asking about prices and telling the rep that the prices he was giving us weren't as good as they got with the previous company. She then told him "Well, these ladies will be entertaining other companies as well so they'll get back to you and let you know." She then stood up and shook his hand and basically pushed him out the door. We weren't done talking to him but she decided the meeting was over. Luckily I had warned him in advance that she was a bit abrasive (to put it lightly) so hopefully he didn't take it personally.

After the rep left she went through the yearbook that she advised in 2003 and told us exactly what she wanted us to do in this year's book. She kept saying that things were a "tradition" when to us they looked more like page fillers to waste space. When we offered up ideas she said "Oh, no that just won't work." One particular suggestion was to take individual pictures for "Senior Superlatives" (rather than a group photo with no names attached) so that "in twenty years they can look back and remember who was who." Her comment was "THESE kids won't keep the books for twenty years. They have them for a couple years and then they'll get rid of them." That really irked me. When you created a yearbook you're supposed to go into it with the mind set that you are capturing memories to be treasured for a life time.

I didn't know that I was signing up to recreate the exact book that our AP made two years ago. I think I'm going to be pretty frustrated at times having to work with her (she's not my immediate supervisor so I usually don't speak to her) but we're still planning on implementing most of our ideas and in the end our book will be a hundred times better than anything they've had in the past.

Friday, January 13, 2006

We are so not ready for this

I read this article after seeing it linked to Nancy's blog.

Here is an excerpt I found interesting:

The city has mandated that 290,000 of the city's nearly 1.1 million students attend the tutoring, and 40,000 more have been asked to attend voluntarily, city officials said yesterday.

All of those students and their parents have been notified, officials said, but many parents of children not selected for tutoring have yet to get letters explaining the new schedules.

Really? That's funny. The TEACHERS at my school don't even know what kids will be attending.

We don't even know what the new schedule will be. A lot of schools got to vote but we haven't even heard anything about it. I know that they are at least discussing something though because I was in the office today working on the computer and I heard the principal telling one of the after shool program directors about some possible scenarios. I guess as usual the teachers will be the last to know.

All I know it that I am signed up to do yearbook. We're having our first meeting with the Herff Jones rep on Wednesday. The AP (mentioned in previous posts) said to make sure she gets to attend because she wants to be there to negotiate the best price. As you can imagine I'm not too thrilled that she's going to be there.

So hopefully doing yearbook will kind of leave me out of this chaos a bit. (Probably wishful thinking though). It will definitely take more than 37 1/2 minutes a day to get a book published by spring so I'm in for a lot of work. I'm just glad I won't have to teach these "small group tutoring sessions" which will be more than double the size of my regular groups, by the way.

When does this thing start again??

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Day two wasn't much better

Today was so disorganized.

It's hard to believe that things can get so confused when our AP has been talking about this test and how she has been making plans for it since the first day of school. Really what she's all about is not having to take the blame for anything. The biggest take away from the info session on Monday was that we better not go calling the region about any problems during the test. She told us the two phone extensions that she could be reached at during the test and made sure that we knew letters would be in our files in no time if we did anything wrong.

So back to today. There was a lot of confusion with what I was supposed to be doing with my group of 4th and 5th graders this morning before the test. First, the teacher that I was proctoring with said I was to read to the 5th graders in my room and then bring them down to the testing room (as per our AP). Then, another teacher with 3rd/4th special ed said that (as per our AP) we were to take her 4th graders down to our testing room so that she wouldn't had to read for two grades. We scrambled to find enough chairs and desks for all the kids. When I finally saw the AP she had changed her mind yet again and told me to take the 5th graders to my room and keep them there. So then I had to run up to my room and cover up all of my posters before the kids got there and then tell my co-proctor that chairs and desks were no longer a problem.

Of course, the plan that I presented to the AP yesterday was well thought out (and at least one day in advance). But she said no and so caused all this confusion this morning moving people around (which is exactly what she said she didn't want to do). This is just a prime example how, with her, nothing is a good idea unless it comes from her. The good news is that our kids didn't have to take their tests with two simultaneous read alouds which was the most important thing.

As if this sounds bad enough, there was still more chaos to come.

When we finally had all the kids where we needed to be we had no answer sheets. The testing gong went off at 9:15. I asked our hall monitor if I was supposed to wait to start until we had them and she said yes. She made a call to the AP who hung up on her when she asked where they were. Our monitor sent people looking for the answer sheets. As it turned out, NONE of the kids had them.

Finally, at 9:40 the AP comes by my room and yells at me for not having started the test yet. A few minutes later I'm told by someone else to start the test with out the answer sheets and they can record later. Ten minutes before time is up I tell our hall monitor that I still don't have our answer sheets. She leaves and comes right back with them.

Still no one knows why the answer sheets went missing for so long.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Testing Day

I have heard that there were schools that had the logistics of administering the EL*A all worked out. I heard that these schools had a plan for how kids entitled to extra time would leave their classrooms and where they would go. I heard that they worked all this out at the beginning of the year and have practiced it every time they took a practice test. I heard that all the kids and all the teachers knew just what to do.

Here's how it happened at my school.

Two days before the test:
*Our AP/testing coordinator asked that a master list of kids entitled to extra time (special needs, ELLs, 50*4s) be compiled.

One day before the test:
*We had a meeting about the procedures for administering the test in which little mention was given as to how these extra time kids would get to where they were going. *We had to rework the entire pull out schedule because the AP scheduled all grades 3,4 and 5 to take the test in the same room even though there were over 50 kids.
*We had to rework the schedule again because no one took into consideration that some kids getting pulled out for extra time would already be getting extra time in their inclusion classes and therefore didn't need to be pulled out.

The day of the test:
*We scrambled to get all kids where they needed to go.
*Somehow, one teacher's kids didn't get picked up (or he didn't send them-no one is exactly sure what the procedure was supposed to be). Those kids missed out on an extra 15 minutes to answer questions.

All of these things could have been taken care of had we planned this just a little bit in advance. It is very unfortunate that those kids missed out on extra time that they are entitled to.

Looking at the schedule for tomorrow another teacher and I foresaw a problem with the grouping of the extra time kids. I have the 4th and 5th grade ELLs in one room and she has the 4th and 5th grade resource room kids in another. We were concerned about this because tomorrow is the listening section and each grade has a different read aloud passage. We wondered why we couldn't split it up so that I take all the 4th graders and she takes all the 5th graders. I went to the AP and proposed this to her and she told me no. She said she didn't want to make more changes to the schedule and move so many people around. I told her about our concerns. How are the kids supposed to concentrate on a read aloud when there is another being read on the opposite side of the room? She said she didn't understand how "two adults couldn't read to a small group of kids so that their voices don't project to the other kids." I told her that we are just thinking about giving the kids every chance to succeed on this test and we didn't want to take any chances that they may get distracted. Her final answer-No. She doesn't want to make changes to the schedule.

Why is she willing to sacrifice the success of the students? Would she rather take the chance that they don't hear the read aloud than let anyone know that she didn't think through her planning for the test.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The things kids say

Today a little kindergarten girl who is in the same class as three of the boys that I pull out asked me, "How come you never pick up the black kids?" We had a little conversation about which kids I pick up and why. Then she saw the Speech teacher, who also picks up kids, across the hallway and pointed to her and said "And she picks all the black kids."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A day in the life of an ESL teacher

Today was a prime example of why it's so hard for me to get anything accomplished with my kids.

Just before the start of 7th period I went to go pick up my 4th graders for the last two periods of the day. The lesson plan for the day involved introducing a new book that we were going to be reading aloud.

I walked up to the third floor and went to the first classroom where I had three kids to get. Only one was there. Two had been picked up by the AIS teacher because she didn't come in the morning at her usual time. The one boy who was there was busy writing "I will not walk on the cafeteria tables" 100 times. Apparently he had gotten up on the table and walked the length of the lunch room. The security guard (who is a scary, scary lady) demanded that he turn in the 100 sentences to her by 3pm. His teacher told me that he had already finished his essay for her so she was letting him do it. I told her that I needed him to come to ESL and participate and besides it would be more punishment for him to do it at home. She agreed to give the security guard the 50 that he had finished and tell her that he'd finish the rest at home. I left the room, with him in tow, off to make two more stops.

I got the 5th grade room where I had one girl to pick up. My usual procedure is to open the door and wait in the doorway. The kids see me, grab their folders and come to the door. Neither I nor the teacher have to say anything. Well today the teacher (who I should mention has really weak management skills and is the third teacher to take over the class this year) starts yelling at the student to sit down she is not allowed out of her seat. She says that she is coming with me. The teacher yells at her again and then comes to me to tell me that kids can't just be getting out of their seats whenever they want. I explain to her the procedure but she doesn't get it. I say OK and ask her what she would like me to do. She decides I should ask her and she will tell the student to leave the room. I agree (I don't want to argue) and then she starts telling me about all the problems she is having with this student. Then she gets out her anecdotal log to show me all the times she has misbehaved today. I ask her if she can please give permission for the student to leave now because we are wasting class time. I leave the room with two students now, on the way to pick up the last two from the library on the second floor.

The two students wait in the hall as I go into the library. The AIS teacher was more than happy to give me two of her ten students. Then she asked me if I had them 8th period too. I said yes and she said "Oh, but they have gym. You can't deny them gym!" Even though this is the same schedule we've had for the better part of the year, the kids started getting all upset and saying "I hate ESL. You always pick us up."

Twenty minutes later I finally get to my room with all four kids. I open the door to loud music coming from the other side of the room. I get my kids seated and ask the coaches to turn off the radio. They turned it down but not off. (They also continued a loud conversation and cooked their lunch in the microwave).

I got started with the lesson. It was partially saved when I introduced a soft ball to toss around during conversation (only the person holding the ball can speak). They had participated well and mostly wrote to a prompt for ten minutes. The entire time they were counting down to two o'clock when they could go to gym though. At two I gave in an let them go back. There was no way I could do a read aloud with all the noise coming from the other side of the room, let alone how antsy they were.

I took them back to class. When I got back to my room the coaches had left and I had the room to myself for 8th period.

I can't win.

* * *

Oh, yeah. Happy New Year. I had a great break in sunny Arizona!