Time For A Change?

I am a 1984 graduate of our local High School. While there, I was involved in “all things musical” and I played field hockey. I was also a member of the Student Counsel all four years. As a loyal member of the school, I was the head of the spirit committee. I designed special days to encourage my classmates and to show class pride. These were the highlights of my (K-12) education. It wasn’t the long exhausting debates in Jr English, or the intricate math problems that we solved in calculus. The best times were interactive, creative, and exciting.

From High School, I followed the footsteps of my parents, and attended our state university. The first day was spent signing up for Marching Band. It was this team, this unit, that brought me the most joy: a community within a community, and they became my family away from home. Members attended our wedding, and sat in excitement in the waiting room of the hospital as our son was born. To this day, we keep in touch.

No matter where I have worked, it was the community, support staff, and fellow teammates that brought me the most joy and the most success. For twenty years. I have been filled to overflowing in the small town that I have worked in. They have been my extended family and I have been so grateful for all they have taught me about commitment, spirit, and pride.

I am a highly organized and efficient employee that is constantly looking to improve my teaching. My primary focus is to meet the needs of every child in whatever way possible. Working together with support staff, my goal is to create an atmosphere of learning, in an environment that is quiet and inviting. This year was particularly challenging, with four tricky children in my classroom. I didn’t hesitate to set up unique and individual plans in order to create success.

Movement breaks have been key to my classroom routine. Gonoodle, yoga, and activities to stimulate both sides of the brain have been extremely helpful to my students’ growth.

As a result, I traditionally have significant improvement from my students from Fall to Spring. This year my focus was to create differentiated spelling lists that follow strategic skills. I used progressive Diagnostic Spelling Assessment (DSA) scores, weekly tests, spelling tasks on the iPad, and evidence from independent work to determine whether children needed a grade level, advanced, or a below level list. They also had an individual set of words taken from the Fry List. My goal was to have 100% of my class increase total stage scores by at least 10 points by May, 2018 as measured by the DSA. I am pleased to report that 90% of my students either met or exceeded their goal by as much as 24 points. The key was to involve them.

My Student Learning Objective focused on math this year. I noticed a weakness in the area of math in the fall, so I used the NWEA data to determine individual goals for my students. I utilized an on-line program called MobyMax to help differentiate for students and made it a goal to spend 20-minutes a day on the program, which would reteach and enrich. I involved children with goal setting, and as a result, they were more motivated with seeing the end result of their Spring assessment. 60% met or exceeded their goal, 10% missed it by 1 point, and 10% missed it by 2. The remaining 20% were identified students receiving extra services through Title 1.

I’m proud to say that I get results, but it isn’t without a whole lot of help from a whole lot of people using a whole lot of strategies.

However, I’m not perfect. One of my weaknesses is that I come across very business-like. I don’t waste a single second of my day. As a child who grew up on a large dairy farm, we were programmed to be working on a project at all times and using our every moment wisely. Sometimes I buzz around at such a speed, that I forget to interact with the people who are around me. I have to remind myself to make eye contact and to speak to others. It isn’t that I am snobby, or that I don’t want to be part of the conversations, I am just focused on what needs to be done. Another, is that I absolutely HATE confrontation. I am sensitive and hold myself to a very high standard. As a result, I often find myself compromising what I want or need in order to keep peace. This is a work in progress, as I learn to take the time to listen, reflect, and respond with possible solutions without getting an ulcer.

Twenty years ago, I interviewed and was offered a third grade position in the community that I grew up in. At that time, I was also offered a fourth grade position in the neighboring district. My husband and I had a “pow wow” with the children and asked them what they thought. At that time, our oldest was in the Fifth Grade. His input was, “When you come to school, we just want you to be Mom.” That was all we needed to hear. In the end, we had three children go through the school district, with the full support of Mom- not Teacher/Mom. Just Mom.

I have lived in and been a part of the area for forty-two years. It’s a place that my husband and I returned to after college, and where we have chosen to raise our three children. At this time, we are helping to raise a third generation and are here to stay.

I am not unhappy at my present place of employment. I just wonder if now is the time to be more accessible to my family, but more importantly, for a new challenge and a fresh start. My desire is to stay energetic and to keep the fire burning in my belly. Teaching is my passion. There is nothing like the feeling of a well executed lesson, with fantastic end results that we can all cheer about. I absolutely adore the community that I work in, the people I work with, and the administration that I work for. I simply wonder if it is time for a change and a new challenge.

My greatest accomplishments have been seeing the success of my students as they progress through the grades. Nothing brings me more joy than when past students visit. My heart sings when I see the accomplishments of older students, and to know that I played a role in their journey. I know that my role is foundational, and many children won’t remember me or my contributions. Instead, they will remember that they enjoyed coming to school, and that they felt safe, and loved. They will remember that they felt like they were treated fair and that no matter what, every day was a new day.

The most difficult situations in the workplace are extreme behavioral challenges in the mainstream classroom. This year I had four in my classroom. Typical behaviors included ripping assignments, throwing items that ricocheted off bookshelves and walls, climbing on bookshelves & desks, overturning chairs that were balanced on a student desk and trying to sit on the top. Classroom furniture was moved around and they refused to do academic tasks, by yelling, swearing, and kicking. They ran around the classroom, refusing to join classmates, interrupting during instruction, running in one door and out the other, slamming, hanging on, and kicking doors. In fact, the glass in my door, handle, and lock were broken. In the hallway, they kicked the heater, yelled in the entryway, flicked the lights, and ran up and down the halls. They tore and ripped items off the walls, and threw classmates’ personal items down the hallway.

Some strategies that I used with these four were preferential seating, a class behavior program,  and ”treats” when caught doing what is expected. I provided extra snacks, break times, and a nonverbal cuing system that indicated that they needed a break. I tried stress balls, and sensory calming tools. I paired them with peers and verbally rehearsed responses and graphic organizers before doing their work. I stated directions a variety of different ways and provided visual supports. I encouraged risk taking and pre-taught lessons giving children a chance to do assessments in a small group. I provided extra attention and verbal encouragement, placing them near a friend when they felt anxious or unsure of the academic expectations. I reduced work expectations. I allocated spots to take space, and worked tirelessly through Class Dojo to report to parents when children were accessing a safe place, staying in the classroom, and completing class work.

In the end, the best thing for these four were to separate them. They fed off each other and once one started to spiral, it was too easy for the others to join. It makes me wonder about what other districts are doing? My largest fear is that the remaining children do not get what they need.

I cannot imagine myself doing anything but teach. As challenging as the occupation is, I don’t see myself moving into any other field. At 52 years of age, I have at least 10 more years before I can even entertain the thought of retiring. Even then, I come from a long line of women who lived to be a ripe old age. I’ve still got a lot of life in me and a whole lot to offer.

As we continue to venture forward with the Common Core and standards-based reporting, my desire is to continue to provide opportunities for inquiry and allow for choice in how students demonstrate mastery of their learning. As the educational pendulum continues to swing, my goal is to remember that children need varied strategies and methods to attain the same common goal while maintaining rigor, recognizing that a whole lot needs to be accomplished in a very short amount of time.

So, the question is: Is it time for a change? If I’m truly to live a “palms up” life, I need to be willing to go where I need to go, and do what I need to do, trusting that it will be the best thing for me and my family. Maybe my Maker needs to see whether I would move and I would change if He asked me to? Maybe I needed to hear some really kind words from my supervisors and coworkers because it’s been a very challenging year, but I’ll never know until I put my pole in the water. I guess we will wait and see.

“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I (hope you) have had the time of (your) my life (Green Day)”

 

 

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