As I valiantly finished up my running records this past week (I say "valiantly" because I managed to do it in the face of being off for Veterans' Day and being pulled out of six of my classes this week to proctor a fifth grade exam), I was starting to feel really pumped about the future of my reading groups. I'm losing some kids who have progressed enough that they no longer require intervention services, and I'm gaining others who have stagnated and who will hopefully benefit from being in my group. I had already decided to rearrange my reading partnerships so the kids could work with fresh new partners (I have maybe one partnership that works beautifully, but the rest are sick of each other and need a change -- plus I'm not entirely sure that it's the best idea to pair kids who are on the same reading level, because if both of them happen to be on the planet Jupiter then they're not helping each other move, so I tried to pair kids I thought would work well together even if they might be one level apart). I had even written up goals for myself to organize my small group planning -- my greatest ambition is to plan more strategy lessons based on the kids' running records rather than on our monthly teaching points checklist, since that's really what showcases their deficiencies and what they need to work on.
So I stayed at school until after dark two days this week, planning and organizing my strategy lessons and guided reading groups until I was sure everything would run like clockwork. I pored over those running records and really got down to the nitty-gritty of the weaknesses we needed to tackle -- I even felt like a bit of a rogue, planning strategy lessons that included Fundations work, but I was all, "The only thing holding these kids back is that they're miscuing all the words that include vowel teams and blends, so let's do it!" I felt really energized by the latest round of running records and ready to get down to business tackling my students' weak areas one by one to help them move to the next reading level. Third grade, here they come!
Or so I thought. Because you know what happens when you get really energized by planning, don't you? Your administration comes along and !@#$s with you, that's what happens. And so, for the first time in recorded history, I enthusiastically swore out loud at school (in the privacy of my office, when no children were present, of course). Because on Friday, just as I was wrapping up another full hour of planning and organizing my small groups for next week, a colleague dropped THE BOMB.
"You heard we're starting assessments again on Monday, right?"
My brain went like this: ASSESSMENTS -- MONDAY -- NO ONE TOLD -- I NEVER HEARD -- I JUST PLANNED -- WTF?!?!
Yeah, so, the memo was addressed to "classroom and AIS teachers," but did the AIS teachers actually get this memo? No. (OK, it's not like the classroom teachers knew about it and never told us -- they didn't get the memo until Friday morning either.) Meanwhile, the memo is all, "Kindly do this Monday and turn in your results by 11/24," despite the fact that no one bothered to let us know in advance. Meanwhile part two, there are certain parts of the assessment we don't have to administer if our students already demonstrated "mastery," only I don't know who did and who didn't because they took all my data to input it and never gave it back to me. And the data comes in booklets that are supposed to be re-used with each student so I can't assess anyone because I don't have those booklets. And everyone at my school passes the buck, because it's all about who you take your orders from and who issued the rule, so when I timidly went to check with my administrator, she said she would refer my question to the literacy coach, who never got back to me because she never gets back to anyone and then blames it on TC. Meanwhile part three, the memo (because the memo is gospel, and we all stood around trying to analyze it like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls) said that the assessment was to be administered "during independent reading time," which makes it sound like we're supposed to conduct a mini lesson, which is -- how do I put this delicately? -- effing ridiculous because that spelling assessment takes, at minimum, one full period to conduct. And oh, woe, do you remember how long I spent grading these things last time? The horror!
I told one of my colleagues that I think our administrators think our time is like those cars and tents in the Harry Potter books that look normal on the outside but magically expand on the inside to fit, like, a palatial suite. Like, a typical week in reading may appear to be five days (with interruptions for announcements, crying children, bleeding children, fighting children, field trips, days off, fire drills and being pulled out of the classroom to cover other classes, proctor exams, and go to professional development, and other various emergencies) and 50 minutes each, but actually we should be able to get thirty weeks' worth of work during this time! My colleague told me that as long as all these interruptions were documented, then administration would understand why it looked like I hadn't actually taught anything in weeks. And I was like, "But aside from that, I care that I'm not getting to teach, no one is actually working with my students during this time and they're not learning anything, but they're still being expected to magically progress in reading," and she told me that unfortunately, I would learn to live with that feeling (it was a very "I used to be you" moment reminiscent of old Mafia movies), which stinks, because -- what am I doing here? All I want to do is teach my students. It would be a bonus if I got to teach my students using a tiny bit of my own professional judgement. Is that too much to ask?
Meanwhile, part four, poor Azul has taken to hanging around the desk where I am conferencing with other students, wearing his best puppy dog face, clutching his B books and saying, "When you teach me? I want be C!" Hmm, does anyone know how to say, "I'm sorry, Azul, but I can't work with you individually to give you the help that you need in English and in reading because my bosses at this school just told me I need to listen to your classmates read long lists of high-frequency words for the second time in two months even though it's highly unlikely that their skills have improved in that time because I haven't gotten the chance to actually teach them anything" in Arabic?