Tuesday, January 5, 2010


In addition to the sixty lessons I am dutifully planning (ahem) each week, I'm also supposed to be taking notes on all the strategy lessons I'm doing with my small groups during independent working time in reading, writing and math. I have a sheet for every student in each subject that lists their three goals for the unit, and every time I meet with that student for a strategy lesson, I fill out a little box with the date, my teaching point, my observations of the student, other "things I notice," and whether the student has "mastered, attempted or not mastered" the teaching point.

So, let me break it down for you. Let's say I have five students who share the common goal of developing strong conclusions to their stories. And my teaching point for the strategy lesson is "Writers develop strong conclusions by writing how they felt at the end of the story." That means for each one of those students, I'm taking out their piece of paper and writing that same teaching point in the little box. "Writers develop strong conclusions by writing how they felt at the end of the story." "Writers develop strong conclusions by writing how they felt at the end of the story." "Writers develop strong conclusions by writing how they felt at the end of the story." "Writers develop strong conclusions by writing how they felt at the end of the story." "Writers develop strong conclusions by writing how they felt at the end of the story."

Did that just drive you crazy to read that five times? Imagine how I feel writing it five times. I feel like Miss Brave the Trained Teacher Monkey, that's how I feel. Not to mention that I still haven't figured out how to write notes on my observations and other "things I notice" of five students while simultaneously trying to, you know, teach the lesson. Plus, keep in mind that this is one strategy lesson, for one subject, and I'm supposed to be doing two strategy lessons per day in three different subjects, which means that if each strategy lesson has five students, and I'm doing six strategy lessons a day (in an ideal teaching world, of course), I'm filling in little boxes of observations and things I notice and teaching points thirty times. Per day.

The point of all this is that I detest that sheet full of boxes that we use for writing, so I attempted to redesign it to make it work better for me. I basically took the same sheet we use for another subject, which is slightly more manageable, and modified it for writing. Then I sent it off to my AP in a groveling e-mail in which I asked permission to use my sheet instead because I thought it would work better for me. Note italics.

First let's set aside the small indignity that I had to ask permission to modify my own note-taking procedure (hello, Miss Brave the Trained Teacher Monkey). My AP e-mailed me back that she would bring it up at the next cabinet meeting (um, whatever that is) and get back to me.

Rrrrrghhh. It literally has to go before a committee before I can use it, and if the committee decides it's a good redesign, they will probably foist it upon every teacher in the school. One of my co-workers recently redesigned our reading sheets, and she said it took about a month before her design was "approved," and when it was, it was handed down to us like Moses receiving the Ten Commandments -- this was The Reading Sheet We All Had to Use.

As my colleague dryly noted, "They want us to differentiate instruction...but they don't." Seriously, all I'm trying to do is organize my own way of collecting my own data in order to drive my own instruction, but God forbid I'm not doing it in the same little boxes as everyone else. I'm starting to feel like that dude in Network.


Miss A said...

I. Feel. You. Dear god, do I ever. I deal with the same sort of stuff and it just SUCKS.

It's funny how they try to push things on you to improve learning, but they make it THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT by doing so.

Ms. Peace said...

I'm frustrated for you! I can't stand all of this BS that these APs regurgitate to us. At my faculty conference on Monday, I couldn't help but feel disgusted by not only the administration, but all of those teachers that sit there nodding their heads and writing down everything so they can make sure to carry out every command. This year, I have totally checked out from it all. I just stopped doing everything they tell me to and no one bothers me. I use my own reading logs, conferring template, guided reading template, etc. I decide what I'm teaching and when and I don't do ridiculous things like pull 6 strategy lessons a day. No one has noticed yet. I try to think "Who is this for?" every time I am told to do something and if it's not for the children, I simply don't do it.

Miss Eyre said...

I really feel your pain. Hoops to jump through at my school are getting ridiculous too. Today I was told that there is not enough "evidence of learning" going on in my classroom, so clearly we just chill for five periods a day, five days a week. You're right. No learning here.

Anyway, before I rant further, I guess I just wanted to say that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Ms. M said...

I feel you. This sounds SO familiar. Why are schools run like this? Why?

Independent George said...

1. Is there any way for them to know that you're using your own sheet instead of theirs?
2. Could they do anything about it even if they did?
3. Does that 'anything' involve actual work on their parts?

Clearly, I think you should send your AP a copy of each sheet your prepare so she can review it before each of your classes. In fact, I like this idea so much that I think ALL of your fellow teachers should send her a copy of each individual sheet they have to prepare.

Mimi said...

Oh man does this sound familiar!! Thank goodness we were able to just make a change. Good luck and I hope you pass your "committee" review....(sigh) if only they understood what it's like in the classroom...