Sunday, September 30, 2007

Exit 3rd Grade

In the last 2 weeks my 3rd graders were taken out of my room and put in another 12:1:1 room. I knew it was only a matter of time. I told them in June they couldn't put 3 testing grades in 1 room like that, and they finally figured out it wasn't a smart thing to do and they magically created spots for my 3rd graders. It was sad. Joshua cried. I almost did, too. He wrote me letters every day for the first 3 days. Jose has been creating as much chaos as he possibly can, and Elvis has been making himself known as the class bully. They are, after all, 11 year olds in a class with 7 year olds. My babies, now with real babies.
They're too smart for that class. The 12:1:1 where they were placed has kids that read on A and B levels. My 3rd graders read on L, J, and Q levels. Yeah, they're gonna be bored and drive that teacher crazy. Math wise, they blow that class out of the water. If there's one thing about special ed kids, they need to be challenged. Put them in an environment where they feel like their time is being wasted and bad things will happen.
Oh, and did I mention they got sent back to the teacher they had before me? Who hates them?
So all I can do is tell them to work hard so they come back to me as 4th graders. She tells them the same thing. (When she's not telling them how much she liked her class before they came.)
6 of 1 half dozen of the other, I know they had to go, and my class can advance much faster without them, but in my heart they're mine, and it feels weird to know that someone else is teaching them.

Week 5

Going in to week 5 and I can't find the words to describe to you - we are a class reformed.
My kids wear their uniforms. Everyday.
They do their homework. All of them. All of it. And if they don't, they write me a note that says, 'this is too hard', and they stay in during lunch and I help them finish it.
They're invested in the class points competition (although we still haven't won....they're reformed, but not perfect, and we had a bad week a couple of weeks ago).
But even more so they're invested in their learning. They want to know what objectives they've mastered (they have self tracking sheets for math where they get a sticker each time they demonstrate mastery of an objective on a test or quiz). They want to be tested in reading to see if they've moved up a level.
I sense in them a hunger to do well - to learn - to be something, and while I always knew it was there, last year I felt like I believed in it much more than they did.
But they're different now. A year has changed them. A year has changed me. And the best part is that we experienced it all together, and now we get to come back and take the best of last year and magnify it, leaving the worst behind.
I still think about the ones that left everyday. I worry about them and wonder if they're really in a better environment or if it's just different. My principal says all the time, "Sacrifice 1 for 12," meaning that I can't worry about the 1 we pushed out because of his behavior. But isn't that was special ed is? My 12 were once another teacher's 1.
But still....everyday we succeed because he's now gone.
Hopefully somewhere he's part of another teacher's 12.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Maybe We'll Be A Teacher Movie After All

Happy Rosh Hashanah to everyone! (Hence why I'm posting when I would usually be teaching Reading...) In NYC we get Jewish holidays off, too, which is part of the reason why we have a 10 month school year. (3 or 4 extra days off = a month more of school)
Things are still going well, and I must admit, all of this political restructuring (which seems to ALWAYS be happening in our school system) is making a big difference in our school this year. An important thing to know here is we share our building with another school (common in NYC). In the past this has been a big problem because our kids fight all the time. They couldn't even go to lunch when the other school was at recess because they would fight. The 'our school is better than yours' attitude is so contagious that when I see yellow uniform shirts on the street (our kids wear white), a little part of me thinks, 'ew, ps (fill in the blank of their school number).' Bad, I know, but true. It's part of our school culture.
That is, until this year, when the regions are gone and the principals have much more power over their schools (and are, supposedly, going to be held accountable for their decisions). All of the sudden they're stressing unity. Our school goes down, basically we're going to bring down the other school too, and their principal won't have it. So over the summer they got together and developed a plan to turn things around. Now we have this behavior system that's building (not just school) wide where the kids get points for every period and the class in each grade level that wins at the end of the week gets a free period. They've provided us with all kinds of board games and money for pizza parties at the end of each month. I keep waiting for a camera crew to jump out and be like, yeah, this is a joke, this isn't your school. I asked for this last year, and they actually did it, and the WHOLE SCHOOL is buying in to it. Our kids actually wear uniforms every day. That NEVER happened last year, even though it's a city wide policy. Kids keep each other in line for POINTS. They care about learning. They do their homework. Don't get me wrong, it's not a hunky dorey suburban school. There was a fight during lunch yesterday between Elvis and Malik. But my AP broke it up, told me to go eat my lunch, and it was put in the system (for suspensions) THAT DAY. They're not playing around this year. I still can't believe it. They're serious about turning things around, and I don't even care what their motives are because it's good for the kids.
It's going to be a different year and maybe we'll be one of those teacher movies after all...with the crazy beginning and the music montage and the happy ending?
Probably not.....but my kids are finally getting what they deserve, and that's an incredible feeling.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Year

3 grades
3 TEST PREP grades
Minus Mario
And Iran
And Kevin
And Amanda
Plus Brianna
And some others that are still in limbo. The roster has been a mess. I had a kid for half a day yesterday. Today I was told I had a new student. Then his old teacher asked if we were an inclusion class. I told her no. His IEP is for inclusion. You can't put in him a self contained room. So no new student. At least not today.
Administratively it's a mess. Thank goodness I deal with that for about 45 minutes a day, and that's if I can't avoid it.
Classroom wise, it's amazing. The shuffling of a few students has made a HUGE difference. Kids came back with a new focus. I came back with a new focus. Yesterday we walked in a line for 30 minutes because they were crazy at recess. Today when I came to pick them up they looked like soldiers :) My babies. They listened. I wanted to pick them up and twirl them around and say THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT!
Instead I said, "Very nice line!" I privately praised those who I knew were responsible for the line for their leadership and let them knew it was what I expected from them.
We were playing a game today and 2 students came back from speech and Yahkemp - yes, Yahkemp - said, "Everybody take 2 steps back so Elvis and Brianna can fit in the circle." Again, a can I pick you up and twirl you around? moment. Too bad he's as big as me. Instead, I gave him a wink that only he saw. He also got a super star note home.
My class dynamics are complicated. 4 5th graders that have a history of being my biggest behavior problems. 4 4th graders that are low academically but don't have many behavior problems except if meds are forgotten. 4 3rd grade - learning disabilities and lots of behavior problems. I'm relying on the 5th grade to be leaders and keep the 3rd grade in line. I'm counting on the 4th grade to encourage the 5th grade to be leaders (so far it's working great). I'm also counting on the 5th grade to be tutors. So far the 5th grade is totally eating up this "I really need your help" attitude, and from experience, they'll continue to.
Keep your fingers crossed for purposefully different dynamics, a calmer school, and for me figuring out how to teach 3 curriculums!