Monday, December 3, 2012

Paging Danny Tanner

My family has always been a Full House family, and my youngest brother is no exception. He's ten now, and when I was home for Thanksgiving, we watched bunches of DVRed episodes. They were the really old ones, from when the Olsen twins were babies, and everyone's problems were still pretty tame. (Did the problems on Full House ever stop being tame? Probably not.) Anyway, just in case your family didn't happen to be a Full House family, here's how every episode goes: Things start off okay, but someone invariably tries to skip school/ wishes his music career would take off/ doesn't get a part in the play/ has a fight with a friend, and things look pretty grim for a few minutes. Luckily, the episode always ends with a touching heart-to-heart in which Bob Saget lays down little nuggets of problem-solving wisdom.

I came home today emotional and frustrated. I love a lot of things about being a co-teacher (getting to pee when I need to, not having to plan every subject, the variety of students, learning from another teacher, another adult to look at, etc etc), but I also spend a lot of time wondering whether or not I am actually valuable in the classroom. Are my kids actually learning anything they wouldn't if I wasn't there? It's a double-edged sword. If I pull my kids out or pay too much attention to them, I'm doing that bad-teacher thing where I embarrass "my" kids or make them obvious to the rest of the class. If I leave them alone, why bother hiring me? A lot of the time I feel like one of my kids. I'll be the one who raises his hand halfway through a worksheet and says, "I forgot how to do this. I know I was just doing it but I forget. I think I'm doing it wrong." I can't even put my finger on what exactly I don't understand; I just feel unsettled.

So I keep waiting for Danny Tanner to come in here and drop a wisdom nugget on me. I can't imagine what's keeping him.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Testing, 1, 2, 3

I am a public school teacher who doesn't really like standardized tests.

Original, right?

Over the past 6 school days, my grade level took a practice writing assessment and a fill-in-the-bubble standardized test of skills. There are lots of really legitimate reasons that standardized testing isn't a good thing, and you've probably heard them all. My reasoning is less reasearch-based and won't make any scholarly articles.

All of my special education students get small group testing accommodations for tests like this, as do a few regular education students with 504 plans. I got to take 7 darlings with me in the mornings to test away from our class.

I love these kids. They have huge, funny personalities. They are creative, bright, silly, and sweet. They have so many talents and gifts to offer.

Writing an essay in 3 hours isn't among those talents, and neither is taking a multi-hour test. Watching them test is an exercise in watching them struggle, guess, and be distracted by everything on earth.

During the writing assessment, my most rambunctious friend was an angel. He wrote the whole time. He raised his hand and whispered when he needed help, instead of yelling in my general direction like he usually does. When he finished, I read his paper, and it was so good by the standard of what he usually produces. Yes, one paragraph had only 2 sentences. No, the final body paragraph did not make sense. But he did it by himself, and I was so proud I could have burst.

[Will that be reflected in a score by a "standardized" rubric? Nope.]

My most quiet, unobtrusive friend was a mess during this test. He couldn't sit still. He couldn't be quiet. I finally broke down and asked what he thought his score was going to be like if he kept up the way he was going. He said, "I'll fail. I failed last year." It makes sense, if you think about it. Do your best and fail, or fill the whole page with the letter z and fail. One takes much less effort than the other.

I understand why we have these tests, I really do. I know that we need to have a general writing goal for all fifth graders, and I know that for most kids, this test is probably a pretty good way to measure how they write. I know that it's important to see what kids need to work on. It's valuable to see what my little buggers can do without help.

I'm just a softie and I hate to watch them struggle. That's the moral of my story. I'm ready to go back to our regularly scheduled daily programming.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rationale and Farting

I. Rationale

Now look.

Let's be clear. The real reason I'm blogging is to hear my own voice more, albeit in my head.

That being said, there's another reason. As a sparkling new graduate, I spent a lot of time this summer on teacher blogs and, of course, Pinterest, trying to figure out how this teaching thing was going to work. I wanted (and still want) so badly for it to go well. I wanted organizational ideas, classroom management ideas, and creative lessons. Who wouldn't want all of that, really? I found all of those things in spades online.

I have to make a confession, though. Pinterest sometimes makes me a little nauseous. It's not that I don't like to look at it. It's just that the projects are so cute. The quotes are so inspirational. The meals look so delicious. Are these people for real?

I moved 700 miles to my first-ever teaching job this summer. Moving was an adjustment. Being new is still an adjustment. Despite that, though, I am so confident that teaching special education is exactly what I am meant to be doing with my life.

9 weeks into my dream job, though, I can look at those blogs and pins and know with absolute certainty that I will never be those people. No magical switch got flipped when I reached Tax-Paying-Insurance-Holding-Rent-Making-Adulthood-Status. I still can't produce attractive crafts. I still eat mostly tacos. I am still disorganized. I have not led my class through a single cute project. (We made number lines in math, and they were truly ugly. Our handwriting needs WORK.)

I have to imagine that there are a lot more people who don't have it all together than people who do.* This blog is for you, person-who-has-only-some-of-it-together.

And really? Despite the project-less-ness, the kids are learning. What we are doing may not be cute, but it's meaningful.** Despite my tacos, I don't have scurvy. Things are okay.

(*If you do, in fact, have it all together, this will just make you feel more successful)
(** More on this in a guest post my wonderful co-teacher didn't know she was really going to do)

II. Farting

On the subject of farting, I will let this text to my sister speak for itself.

Is it bad that I accepted that explanation as fairly legitimate? Is it weird that I just saved that picture to my desktop as "Fart Message"? I have all of the questions and none of the answers.