Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Monday

Feeling fed up on a Monday is never a good sign for the rest of the week.

My frustration has been growing lately because I feel like I spend more time doing paperwork than actually teaching. When I meet with my students for a mini lesson, I have to fill out a checklist where I note whether they have "mastered, attempted or not attempted" the strategy I am teaching that day. When I meet with my students for guided reading, I have to fill out a checklist where I note whether they have "mastered, attempted or not attempted" a list of about 15 behaviors. I also have to fill out a sheet where I write down what I observed, what I coached them on, what focus question I asked them before they read and what teaching point I left them with after they read. When I meet with my students for strategy lessons, I have to fill out a label where I write down what I taught them and what I observed. This is besides all the data from our assessments and running records, which we're starting to do again next week.

I absolutely understand that keeping data is a necessary part of teaching, but it's really hard to fill out all these checklists and labels and teach at the same time. If I'm meeting with four kids in a strategy lesson, and I'm trying to write down everything that's going on, some of my attention is being taken away from those students.

My frustration is also coming from the fact that I don't actually decide what I'm going to teach my students. All of the teachers on my grade got together and planned our teaching points based on the Teachers College curriculum. Some days, as I'm teaching, in my head I'm thinking, "I hate this teaching point and I find it completely irrelevant to my students' actual needs." We're trying to get permission to use teaching points from other grades -- for instance, I'm teaching second graders, but all of them are reading at a first grade level, so doesn't it make sense for me to use the first grade teaching points? That's not dumbing it down; it's just tailoring the curriculum to their actual reading levels. For example, next month's unit is all about characters, and one of our teaching points is something about noticing when the characters in our books "go on internal journeys." Like, am I really going to teach these kids who are reading C level books (sample text: "I kick the ball. I pass the ball") about their characters going on internal journeys? How on earth are they going to apply those strategies to their own texts?

But anyway, for right now I'm using these ridiculously high-level teaching points. And then if my kids don't master the skill -- which they don't because some of the skills I'm teaching them are totally irrelevant to their particular needs -- I have to base my strategy lessons off the checklist I completed for my mini lessons. Which means I'm spending all this time trying to make sure they master the skill of, say, "capturing their ideas on a post-it," when what they really need is, like, "how to get our mouths ready to say the first sound in the word." Grrrr.

Meanwhile, while all this is going on I keep getting pulled from my classes to do coverages of other classes, so my actual class time is becoming all fragmented and choppy and I can't keep track of what I'm teaching when or what I'm teaching to whom. Next week we're starting running records again, which is nerve-racking because (a) it's taking away more instructional time, (b) TC just gave us all new running records, which means I killed 8,000 trees making copies of the old running records that I can no longer use, and (c) I have a sinking suspicion that most of my kids aren't ready to move up, and my administration always gives the whole grade a list of which teacher's students made gains and whose didn't. Glargh.

9 comments:

Ms. M said...

I am frustrated for you!

Angela said...

I feel your pain! Hang in there. The longer you teach, the easier it will become to determine which pieces of 'mandatory' paperwork are, in fact, being closely examined and therefore must be completed accurately and on time. Usually, that list of things you "have" to do is much smaller than what you were originally intimidated into believing.

You'll also learn how to give an overview of ridiculous teaching points/skills to your kids and document on paper that those points are being taught...while keeping the majority of your actual instruction focused on needed skills. This will become second nature after awhile.

It's unfortunate when things that were devised as safeguards against poor teaching become deterrants to good teaching. Don't get discouraged. And keep blogging! :-)

17 (really 15) more years said...

Angela- I beg to differ. We are TOLD that we must keep this ridiculous amount of paperwork. G-d help you if administration or "they" as we're constantly threatened, come in to your classroom to check your logs. Something's got to give with this system. Suddenly, it's not good enough to write some occasional anecdotals on kids- like Miss Brave said, we have to kill loads of trees writing down every single interaction with the children- and it absolutely detracts from instruction.

teach5 said...

What reading system is this. It has to be one of the "research based" systems that satisfy NCLB......

our happy family said...

Angela is right- My high school has instituted an enormous load of paperwork as well- but in my department our boss runs interference and so we are not required to do it.
Next year, when interviewing for a new position I will have VERY pointed questions about this sort of thing for my prospective schools.

Lori said...

just wanted to say i'm enjoying your blog, i empathize with your situation, and i'm rooting for you!

teach5 said...

I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY would like these people who think this stuff up to actually try to do it for more than 5 minutes. Do it for a week. Geez, I thought I had it bad, with mclass math and dibels, and Reading First......

Anonymous said...

You remind me why I left teaching in NYC...

Anonymous said...

Angela
I just have to tell you that I recently discovered your blog and have found it to be so soothing. It is so nice to hear someone else who has the same struggles, triumphs and emotions. We just had a (completely pointless) professional development the other day which was similar to your frustration of the powers that be having us all teach the same way. It's infuriating, really. Thank you for this. it will most certainly be one of my new "old standby" websites to make be feel better about my teaching. Thank you!