Saturday, November 22, 2008

Losing it

Yesterday, for only the second time this school year, I cried in school. Wait, it gets better! I cried over a big ol' pile of data. Wait, it gets better! I cried over a big ol' pile of data in front of a science teacher!

OK, let's back this train up. For reasons unknown to everyone outside administration, our school assigned a science teacher and a technology teacher to input all our...literacy data. As you might recall, we administered the first round of assessments (which consisted of a spelling test, which we gave to the whole class at one time, and a list of sight words, which we gave individually) at the beginning of October. Then we sat on the data for a month (in my case, I literally sat on the data, because I had nowhere to keep it but in a pile under my desk, where I hoped the roaches wouldn't get it), when we were told it needed to be graded and turned in by the end of the week. Which I dutifully did, even though it meant grading 100 spelling tests round-the-clock for days.

I handed in all my data, and it was given back to me with a post-it stuck to it that read, "Keep these results." Then one day, in the middle of first period, we heard an announcement on the loudspeaker: "Please send all your assessment results down to the main office immediately." So I scurried back to my office to get all the data, quietly steaming about it because my big pile of papers still had that "Keep these results" post-it stuck on it!

So now someone else had my data. And apparently they sat on it for a while, because last week we found out that we would need to administer the second round of assessments...even though we had never (a) entered the data from the first round, (b) looked at the data from the first round, (c) analyzed the data from the first round or (d) used the data from the first round to plan our instruction in preparation for the second round.

The problem with this (well, besides the four major problems outlined above) is that I needed my data from the first round to give the second round! So I asked for it back, and shocker of shockers, I actually received it! Except then the science teacher and the technology teacher kept coming after me and asking for it again, which was puzzling to me because (a) what was being done with it all the time I didn't have it? and (b) what kind of genius minds would expect three different teachers to be able to do different things with the same data booklets at the same time? (Hmm, let's not even attempt to answer that question.) One enchanted afternoon during my prep, the technology teacher and I actually almost came to a physical tussle over the stupid sight word booklets:

(Scene: My office. Seventh period. Players: Miss Brave and Mrs. Impatient, the technology teacher.)

Mrs. Impatient: "Hi. I need your word lists."
Miss Brave: "I know, it's just that I'm using them this week, because we're using the same booklet for this round, so I can't test them if I don't have the booklets."
Mrs. Impatient: "Okay, are you using them now?"
Miss Brave: "Yeah, we're doing it this week."
Mrs. Impatient, giving me a 'duh' look and indicating the room around us: "No, I mean...are you using them right now?"

I let her have them, but I practically made her swear an oath in blood that she would return them to me by the next morning, and as I did so I thought: Dear God, what have I become?!

Anyway, I'm getting to the part with the crying! So all week long, Mrs. Impatient and the science teacher (let's call her Mrs. Condescending) have been coming after me (usually at wildly inopportune times like while I'm pushing my easel of doom down the hallway or while I'm -- no lie -- in the middle of teaching a class) to ask me for, say, Edmund's spelling assessment or Dara's word list. I have more than 50 students, so of course I have no idea off the top of my head, so I have to go searching through my giant pile of data, which is wildly disorganized (as you may guess, as a teacher, I hate feeling wildly disorganized), and sometimes I can't find what they're looking for. To be honest, we gave those assessments almost two months ago, and it's been through so many hands since then, that I'm not sure whether it was never administered in the first place, whether I had it and then lost it, whether they had it and lost it, whether the classroom teacher has it get the picture. And to be further honest, it has yet to be explained to me how this data is going to be used to help us drive our instruction, because our school is like a crazy funhouse where we're constantly being asked to do things without anyone bothering to explain to us why they're necessary, as if administration has some secret master plan that can only be revealed to us a little at a time, so I don't think anyone is exactly feeling doubly motivated to get it done.

Anyway, yesterday Mrs. Condescending launched into one of her helpful suggestions about how this time around I should make sure that all my students are given each section of the assessment and how I should consider making copies of the assessments before I hand them in and...I lost it. I just broke down and teared up in front of my giant pile of paper: "I understand that, but it's just that I have so many students, I cannot make copies of all of this paper, and then it amounts to doing the same work four times, because first I have to grade it on these individual sheets, and then I have to add all the same information to the classroom composite sheet, and now you're telling me to keep another separate grading sheet, and then you and Mrs. Impatient enter all the data, and we're all doing the same work, and some of my students were absent during the spelling test, but it takes a whole period to do the re-test, plus I have to test all my kids again on the word assessment because none of them mastered it the first time, but it's impossible to do that and the spelling assessment when the information is due on Monday and I haven't filled out the composite sheets yet!"

And then, to my surprise, Mrs. Condescending vented right back at me: "Look, I'm a science teacher, I don't even know why I'm doing this, Mrs. Impatient and I are going crazy upstairs trying to enter all the data and track down every piece of missing information, and all the work I have to do has to be done outside of school, and you're not the only one missing information, so don't feel bad, every class has missing information, and I'm just the messenger, I'm just saying that when the data gets entered and the administrators see that there are students missing information..."

You get the picture. Basically, it boils down to everyone at school losing their minds. Where is our literacy coach while this is going on? No one knows! Where are our administrators? They're walking around the school launching surprise observations on a Friday the day after everyone was at school until after 8 pm for parent-teacher conferences! (Which, side note, comes on the heels of the world's most depressing faculty meeting this week; there were three items on the agenda, and it boiled down to (1) The school neighborhood is getting more dangerous, so don't park too far away after dark, (2) We have no more money in the budget for anything, so don't expect any paper and don't get sick because we can't afford subs and (3) Remember how we thought our school would be well-developed on the Quality Review? Well, they changed the Quality Review standards and surprise! We're actually underdeveloped.) I was so fed up that at lunch I went out and spent $22 of my own money to buy color-coded file folders for each class and then stayed late at school creating meticulous checklists to ensure that my data is well-organized and my behind is well-covered in case of mix-ups.

I have already sworn up and down that I am not taking that data out of its folder for anyone. If Joel Klein himself wants to see Alejandro's latest sight word assessment, he can come to my office and comb through the whole beautifully arranged folder. He would probably have to go through Mrs. Impatient and Mrs. Condescending first, though.


Anonymous said...

LOL, well, I'm not REALLY laughing, but number three of your staff meeting agenda is SO, (I was going to say bureaucratic) TYPICAL. We have state standards that we teach to, and have testing three times a year. We teach to the test, in the sense that we need to cover the material in the order that the tests test it. It doesn't do any good to teach something (at least for the purposes of the test)in the third trimester, if they only test the kids on it in the first trimester. Well, we aligned all of our math instruction to the power standards, only to find out as it became time for the first test that they had changed the sequence, thus changing the material we were testing on. Naturally it didn't match what we had taught so far this year....

Ms. Peace said...

You have captured the utter chaos of working in an NYC public school so brilliantly. Don't worry, we are all in that dark place right now. All you can do is take a step back and laugh(a nervous one) about the fact that they want you to copy all of your data, yet there is a hold on all copies indefinitely (that's my case at least). But somehow, we keep trucking on, and you will too. My BIG question is: Why can't we imput our data into a computerized database????? That would solve so many problems and bring us at least into our current century. All we really need is an excel spread sheet. Since my classroom computer (I have only 1) doesn't perform even basic functions such as microsoft word, I'm at a loss. Good luck.

Nacho Lover said...

forget crying--why aren't you screaming yet?! how endlessly frustrating this all sounds. ugh, i'm sorry you have to deal with such ridiculousness.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Always keep copies of anything you give to the adminstration and to colleagues. Trust me it is the safest way!

17 (really 15) more years said...

All I can say is- OMG- and if I didn't know better, I would say you worked in my school (especially the part about don't get sick cause there is no money for subs and the surprise Friday AM observations- that's classic "my school").

All I can say is- I feel your pain, and you are not alone.

Miss A said...

I completely understand. Completely. I teach bilingual and I have been feeling SO bogged down by all the testing and forms and retesting and lack of useful data and....

Oh, it could go on and on. I just hope your situation is improving!

Also, you've been tagged: