Thursday, September 27, 2007

164 more days to go

Today I quit my job.


About eighty times.

The upside to quitting my job mentally is that I'll still get paid tomorrow. The downside is that I still have to go to work -- mentally, physically and emotionally.

Before we commence with the misery, here's a quick overview of the curriculum plan followed by my school, where we conduct reading and writing lessons according to something known as the "workshop model." The workshop model looks like this:

  • Each period is 50 minutes long.
  • Each period begins with a 10-minute "mini lesson" conducted by the teacher, which consists of multiple parts: Connecting the lesson to something the students have already done; introducing the "teaching point" for the day, which is outlined in very specific language that always includes the word by ("Good writers use correct punctuation by ending each sentence with a period"); modeling the teaching point; actively engaging the students in trying it out; and then sending them back to their desks to write for 35 minutes.
  • Students write on their own for 35 minutes while the teacher "conferences" with individual students.
  • The lesson concludes with a 5-minute "share" and review.
The kiddos at my school participate in this writers' workshop every day. I see them once a week for an extra period of writing. So I envisioned my time with them to be supplementary to writers' workshop. I pictured a happy-go-lucky period full of grammar games and activities in which I would make capitalization and sentence structure fun for everyone! La la laaaaaa --

OK, yeah, that's not exactly how it's working out. The mandate from administrations says: Follow the workshop model. I have oodles of issues with this, including:
  • Some kids hate writing. Sad, but true. They are not happy about having an extra period of writing. Behaviorally, this is challenging. I hear whining, I hear sighing, I hear outright defiance -- and I don't get to play fun games like "Capital vs. Lowercase!" (which went over pretty well with my second graders) because they're supposed to be writing. Again.
  • Some kids hate writing. Sad, but true. They are not happy about having an extra period of writing. Mentally, this is challenging. A lot of them use half the period just thinking of an idea -- and by then, I'm literally wresting the paper out of their grimy hands because I have to run off to another class. Because I only see them once a week, they don't get to continue it another time -- and if my lesson is "Good writers use correct punctuation by putting a period at the end of a sentence," like it was today, and I'm in a first grade class, like I was today, some of them won't even get to the end of a sentence by the time class is over.
I have much, much more to ruminate over (Jonathan Kozol's Letters to a Young Teacher; the fact that everyone from the ESL teachers to the literacy coach is confused about what my position is supposed to be), but it's late and I have to go to bed. Because as much as it sends me into a panicky, crying tailspin -- I still have to go to school tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying your blog and I just wanted to say that you should stick it out because when a student (or students) has a breakthrough it will feel amazing and totally worth it. On a side note, the UFT blog, Edwize, is always looking for good teachers to contribute and I think you'd be great.

Anonymous said...

what's up with the crazy mini-lesson script? I work in a middle school and I've never heard ANY of this... and we have a kick-ass literacy coach ... it's hard in NYC not to lose the forest for the trees, sometimes. keep your eyes on the prize: are they learning? not on the presence or absence of the word "by"