Saturday, September 27, 2014

I'm drowning! (and loving every minute of it!)

Well, well, well!  It has been a couple of weeks, but I'm still alive.  I seriously thought for a few days that I wasn't, but it's all good now.  I have a few rants and raves today to share!

Thought #1 - Teaching is harder than ever!
We are moving into our 6th week of school, and I don't feel like I have taught the kids anything!  I know I have, but they just aren't getting it all.  Every day, I leave thinking how I can explain it differently - I'm stuck!  In addition, the kiddos are having a hard time transitioning.  I had to explain 5 times yesterday how to cut and glue something.  I sometimes wonder, "Are they just looking at me, or are they really understanding what I'm asking them to do?"  Many times, the answer appears to be they are just looking at me.

I've been really trying to incorporate the Whole Brain Teaching models, and they love it.  However, if I'm not chanting or waving my arms (and having them mirror me), they aren't 100% engaged.  Evidence of this is the following:

     In reading, we have been studying and practicing comprehension of fiction texts.  Specifically plot and character analysis (FOR 3 WEEKS).  I gave an assessment over plot yesterday, and they performed poorly.  The text was on level, but they just don't seem to read for comprehension.  Is this normal???

     In social studies, we have been studying America - the Declaration of Independence, founding fathers, the flag, the pledge, etc.  We acted out the signing of the DoI, and had lots of "mirror with words" discussions of what our country stands for and meaning of symbols.  I gave them an assessment, and they did WONDERFUL!

So, what gives???  I know they can read, but they aren't thinking while reading.  I asked one kiddo yesterday if he was "fake reading or real reading."  He said, "I'm not fake reading."  So I proceeded to ask him if he was thinking while reading.  He said, "I don't think so."  I then explained to him that fake reading is when we aren't thinking about our reading - we are just reading the words OR pretending to read.  We can't do well with reading if we aren't thinking WHILE reading.

Thought #2 - The New Math Standards in Texas are hard!
They are hard for me to teach, and hard for the kiddos to understand.  We need some direction as to WHAT the standards would look like in the classroom, and the lesson progression for teaching them.  I just feel like we aren't getting ENOUGH support with these new, more difficult standards.

In addition, the district has set our sequence of skills.  It appears that the HARDEST skills are being taught first when their little minds just aren't ready for them.  They repeat after me, but have no idea what it means!  Also, we know that we shouldn't be teaching tricks to the kids, as they should have a strong concrete understanding of what it means.  Like rounding - we don't teach the little song, we use the open number line and think if it is closer to one landmark value or the other.  We also have to be sure to use more complex academic vocabulary, such as multiples of 100 (instead of rounding to the nearest 100).

I get it - use the language of what it really means, but it's a lot!!!

Thought #3 - Why is there NOT enough time in the day?
I'm supposed to get to three guided reading groups and five math groups.  That's not happening.  My mini-lessons have been short - they aren't maxi-lessons; however, the kids can't transition quickly or I have to explain things a "million" times.

If I could get to my 3 guided reading groups, then perhaps my kids would be comprehending while reading.  If I could get to my 5 math groups, then perhaps my kids would be able to represent numbers and round them.  It ain't happening right now.

I was just reading another blog, and the teacher said something that hit me.  "The days of having a little bit of 'extra' wiggle room during the day are long gone."  Really???  In four years, those days are gone???  Yes, we now have 30 minutes of intervention block during our day 4 days of the week, 30 minutes library time 1 day a week, and 1 hour of PLC meeting 1 day a week.  That uses up precious instructional time.  There is no extra time to fit in brain breaks (which are 100% necessary), no time for recess, no time for fun, no time for art, etc.  It's all HARD WORK!

So, as I sit here on Saturday morning, what am I thinking about??? Not my massage this afternoon or going shopping before for some much needed clothes and makeup.  I'm thinking about what I could differently next week to MAKE IT WORK!  That is something exceptional teachers do ALL of the time.  They know what best practices are, what the non-negotiables are, and we know we have to fit it all in.  So we are constantly reflecting and rethinking how to get it all done.

I commend all of the wonderful teachers on my team and the ones out there that are constantly in reflection mode!  We are the reason kids are successful, and I know in the end, mine WILL BE (do or die)!!!  Have a great weekend, and I will hopefully post again this weekend with what instruction is taking place in the classroom.  :)

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