I just had the most interesting and unproductive PD ever. Pre-K teachers in this city are M-A-D spells MAD about the new expectations being put on our grade level. I’ve never seen so many 30-year veterans and first-year teachers united about anything. They really let the Early Learning office facilitators have it about how it’s outrageous to be expecting 4 year olds to be adding numbers, understanding tens frames, and writing sentences with proper capitalization, punctuation and spelling, on lines. Like, uh, DUH! We were supposed to be learning about Common Core and how “it’s coming” to pre-K, but there aren’t even common core standards for pre-K since not all districts have it, so I think it’s really ridiculous. The standards are basically the same as for kindergarten and even those are, some of them outrageous. I listened to several 20+ year veterans talk about how unhappy they were with the new curriculum and the changing expectations for early learning. There’s hardly any time for play and everything is just… so… serious. I have seen when play goes too far in the opposite direction, but there is an in between and people were happily meeting it before NCLB came along.
We, as the teachers, shouldn’t have to rise up and basically stage a revolt to get people to hear us. No one has ever asked us, just, generally, what works or doesn’t work for us with our age group. The people who design the curriculum seem to read all the latest research and then instruct us to do the exact opposite of what it says. Some people are lucky enough to have administrators who can take this grain of salt, who have some understanding of ECE, but most of us aren’t that lucky. Including, of course, me.
These unfounded, rising expectations, when coupled with the lack of evolution or reform when it comes to what designates children as deserving of special services, along with the lack of focus on social development and life skills, makes me not want to be a pre-K teacher anymore. I don’t know what pre-K is like in other places, and teachers in my PD group were saying that other pre-Ks are not so absurdly rigorous and pencil/paper/assessment/test/high stakes/preparing for the standardized test Bmore kids take in first grade. But I just don’t know.
All I know is, for once, I wasn’t the most outraged person in the room. It felt awesome to have people with 20 years experience on me voicing my exact same opinions. Makes me think there’s some merit to our struggles.
My AP was giving me a hard time when I made my latest board (“O is for octopus”) because my highest group was asked to phonetically spell out octopus.
Obviously, this a very difficult task. I got “oktopas, “octapus,” “oktopos” and “octopas.” And one brilliant, amazing, incredible little darling who had to repat this year (had her last year too) spelled it: “octopus,” bless her heart. They did this independently which is ~INCREDIBLE~ for a group of pre-K students, especially since most of them came in not knowing their letters at all. All I did was stretch the word, make the sound, and then they wrote the letter they thought it was.
My AP wants to know… “Why did some of them spell octopus wrong?”
So this is what I made in response to her idiocy and it’s going smack up on the board as soon as I get back to work tomorrow:
Downside to being an ECE teacher (especially in a transient community)
Becoming really, really attached to students who unexpectedly move/transfer/disappear. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I cannot even imagine my class without the darling who apparently moved to Miami last week (with no notice and no goodbye). At the risk of sounding REALLY dramatic, losing kids like this makes me want to put a wall up around my heart. It is actual emotional pain. In a weird way, it’s almost like a break up.
What am I going to do… :(
Teachers: How do you deal with unexpectedly (or expectedly) losing students?
Welcome back to work!
Our school’s heat appears to be broken, so we’re all wearing our parkas inside. You’d think there’d be some kind of law against this (jk, there probably is). I love my kids, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to actually go to work in order to see them.
I’m having a really terrible time at work lately.
Basically, my school got a new curriculum this year and the pre-K program is absurd. It pretty much has them playing all day. I can’t stand it. So I don’t teach it. I teach the city curriculum that aligns with the benchmark tests my students have to take. They called me into a meeting today saying I need to be teaching the new curriculum “with fidelity,” and nothing else. I’m not allowed to infuse it with anything. So while the city has pre-K students discriminating all initial consonants, organically creating rhymes, discriminating syllables, counting on a number line, doing addition/subtraction, and writing complete sentences, my kids are supposed to be having a 90 minute nap time, go outside twice a day for 45 minutes each, and have choice time twice a day for a total of almost 2 hours. They aren’t supposed to learn any math (not even calendar time), learn letter sounds, or practice writing. There’s no pencil/paper work… at all.
I actually called the union today, for the first time ever. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not going to let a class of academically dysfunctional students (none of my students scored proficient or advanced on their BOY test) go through my class without learning anything. I’m just. not. and that’s what I told them in the meeting today. I would rather quit than implement this program. And I told them that, too.
Any pre-K or K teachers out there experience fine motor delay with left handed children?
I have a kiddo in my academics based pre-K class (4) whose fine motor (tracing, drawing, writing, activities like gluing beads in the shape of a letter) is at the bottom of the class, but other than that he’s academically mid-to-high. His mom said that her other sons who are lefties were also way behind with their writing, but her right handed child had no difficulty at all. As an ambidextrous person myself, I’m sympathetic to this and wondering if I can facilitate him in some way. Since it’s pre-K, he doesn’t need to be doing anything too extreme with his hands, but he can barely even draw a picture without just scribble-scrabbling, and can’t trace any letters or draw lines or shapes whether with markers, crayons, or jumbo pencils.
If it were up to me, in pre-K, if he weren’t developmentally able to write yet, I’d have him doing other stuff, but my district expects that he should be able to free write numbers, all letters and his first/last name as well as a number of sight words by the end of the school year.
Portrait of a Failing School
Today was a pretty rough day. Actually, they’ve all been pretty rough days. I’m waiting for my new class to grow on me, but as it is, I miss my old kids. This class is SO academically low. It’s actually shocking. I didn’t realize that a small portion of my class last year was so advanced—I just assumed there’d always be, like, 4-5 kids who were kindergarten ready in a pre-K class. I can safely say that none of these kids are even close to that. Well, I definitely have my work cut out for me.
But it’s not just that. As my longterm followers (who put up with my longwinded text posts) will know, Baltimore City decided to shut down my school’s middle school at the end of last year, but surprised everyone with a decision to keep the elementary school open—at least for this year. Why? It’s not clear, because only two students in the entire school passed the Standford 10 last year. There wasn’t a lot of promise in the elementary school either. Maybe it just seemed like there was because kids in the elementary side, by and large, weren’t setting fires in hallways and smashing in the rear windshields of teachers cars in the parking lot. We now have a new principal, new curriculum, and many new staff members. As a second year teacher at that particular school, I am basically a veteran—that’s how many new teachers we’ve got. Teacher turnover at my school has obviously always been a huge issue. No one wants to stay in a toxic, hostile, dangerous work environment when they have other options. As a TFA teacher, I didn’t.
I really had hope for this year. I suppose I still do, but only because I’m trying to remain as positive as possible (always a struggle for me). But I’m so disappointed. You have to understand, last year, there was no support. I wasn’t observed for a full lesson ONCE ALL YEAR. As a new teacher with no teacher training, that is an abomination. I had no idea what I was doing and no one to assist me. I only had my federally mandated para, and if it weren’t for her, I sure as hell wouldn’t be posting in the #education tag right now because I would’ve quit by last November. But even with her, it was overwhelming to have so much responsibility on my shoulders because the school wasn’t doing its job. I was in charged of 25 (yes, 5 over the legal limit for pre-K) little humans with no idea what to do. It was like being thrown into the deep end after never having even taken a bath. It was… indescribably difficult.
This year, things are different. This year, people have been sent to watch us. There’s the people in charge of the implementation of our new curriculum, who have a particular way they want things. There’s the early childhood office, who also have a particular way they want things, which happens to be the antithesis of what the SFA people want. There’s THE NETWORK, which is basically a group of people who come to observe us and report on us and are essentially in charge of whether or not the school stays open after this year. There’s our new principal and AP, there are liaisons, helpers (spies, not kidding), and all kinds of random people around at any given time. The only people who haven’t made a peep yet are the union representatives.
Because I teach pre-K, I’m pretty much ignored at any given time. To be quite honest, after struggling but ultimately surviving last year, while I consider myself open to constructive feedback, I couldn’t be less interested in all of these observations and all of this crap that they are now putting us through. The Network was at school ALL day today, taking notes on every little problem they had with everyone and then reporting on it to the principal. They never made it into my classroom (it’s pre-K, so it’s just daycare, right? Who cares?) but the principal claims they’ll be back tomorrow. During the second week of school, they’re taking notes and creating files over “management problems” in pre-K and K classes.
Every day, I am humbled by the people at my school who have stuck with this system for as long as they have. I can’t believe I’ve even made it over a year sometimes, because it’s so ugly and so despondent and so unchanging out there. It will never change. It’s desolate. As long as the school systems can save themselves money, they will put the needs of our children last. I hate to be so trite, but essential human greed has ruined the lives of millions of American children. Every day it seems to get worse. People can stand up at the DNC and preach about how important pre-K is all they fucking want, day in and day out, but I’ll believe it when I see it. There’s no revolution coming. If you work at a school like mine, perhaps you know what I mean. Maybe you can be more optimistic than me. But this is it for me. I’m not sure I am gonna make it past this year, or if I even want to. Because as much as I love teaching, and as much as I love children, and as much as I love working in the community I work in, the dysfunction is enough to drive a person crazy. I’m not strong enough for that.
the kindergarten TFA teacher at my school just got her class list
she texted it to me and it’s like 3/4 of my class last year… i’m so jealous of her. i should have looped! my little babies aren’t mine anymore! this is weird. :( i want them back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! she doesn’t even have the one kid who instilled my secret fear of looping. dang. i’m really excited about being able to help her and making sure she takes good care of my kids’ needs though, especially one who really needs special attention and a fast-tracked IEP now that he’s not in pre-k anymore.
I just set up my first donors choose project!
Donors Choose is a charity that helps teachers in high poverty schools receive supplies that they would otherwise not have access to. To be honest, my classroom and students are so in need of basic supplies that it was quite difficult for me to even pick things out. Do I go with tables, when all of ours are broken and virtually unusable, or try to get things that will help assist them with their learning? I decided to mostly request items that I know my students will love, and that I suffered a real lack of this year, like phonics literacy centers, a number line, and more math/counting and basic skills activities.
Please consider donating to my project or signal boosting it. I don’t post a lot of stuff like this, but it would mean so much to me to know that people are at least considering my little ones and how they suffer so unfairly in a struggling school that allocates the majority of its resources to older students.
Donors Choose said not to put specifics on the request site, but since this is tumblr, I can say that I work in Sandtown, where 99% of my students are on free lunch, and where a huge portion of them are homeless. Not only that, but our MSA and Stanford 10 scores just came back, and our school scored as one of the absolute lowest in the state, in part due to our lack of resources and poor facilities. My students deserve the most welcoming, well-equipped learning environment possible for them, and, since the government, school districts, and school officials will not provide it, we could really use your help.
May I wax sentimental for a moment?
Tomorrow is my last instructional day (graduation is on Wednesday!) of my first year teaching. I have to say, a huge part of me was very unsure as to whether or not I would ever make it to this point, whether due to quitting or checking myself into a mental hospital (I don’t mean that in ableist way… I am dead serious). But, here I am. After a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and toil, it is finally June and it is finally, really, over. Of course, it doesn’t feel over. It’s hard to believe that these little people who showed up in my classroom every morning will just… stop… doing that, come Thursday. It’s hard to believe that the majority of them will be transferring to zone schools, moving, or, for a lucky few, switching into a more, uh, competitive academic environment by choice, such as the charter school down the street that doesn’t offer pre-k. So, basically, it’s hard to believe that I’m probably never going to see most of the 21 faces that I’ve come to love ever again.
Not to be dramatic, but when I think back to who I was at the beginning of this year, I feel like a COMPLETELY different person. It’s a cliche, but the experience of Teach For America broke me. I suppose I just didn’t realize, at the beginning of the wholeeeee thing, that part of the experiential value in my membership in this organization would be ultimately putting pieces of myself back together. People ask me why I joined TFA, and I’m never sure what to say. My politics are very extreme and TFA does not align with, well, any of them. Ideologically and in praxis, Teach for America is a very problematic organization, and one that, as I’ve continued throughout my tenure I’ve come to realize, does not encourage its corps members to critically examine the role of the teacher as a political, philosophical entity, who does more than just shape and disseminate temporal knowledge into the brains of students. To be a teacher is to be complicit in a system that fails our students who need its successes the most. To be a teacher is to be complicit in the organization and brainwashing of a willing, submissive working class. These are aspects to this career that I never thought about until I was actually in the trenches, and, for me, they were the truly depressing parts of my first year teaching pre-k. I feel that these are the areas that TFA’s most vocal critics completely miss the mark. These are the true failures of the organization—its arrogant neo-liberalism, its tacit union busting, its privilege and whitewashing and entitlement and its complete unwillingness to even envision a system that is different, that doesn’t involve privatizing public education, but involves completely overhauling it instead, or overhauling the state entirel—…
Well, never mind. I was just gonna say, that I’m really going to miss my students, and I really love them, and it’s been a great class, and of all the problems and traumas and dramas and bull shit that I experienced this year, the problem was never the kids, not even close. But of all the things I learned and the times I felt joy and a sense of purpose in what I was doing, it was always the students who prompted that. Also, my kids went from a 17% proficiency (reddddd area) in August on our literacy benchmark to an 89% proficiency (green as grass) last week. Considering I work in one of the most disenfranchised communities in this entire racist, classist, disgusting country of ours, and also that I am no miracle worker, just an undertrained, decent (but not amazing) first-year teacher, let it be a lesson to anyone who doubts the academic or emotional integrity and capacity of our poorest children. Despite what any report card might have you believe, it is not the students who are failing.
the pledge of allegiance and other things that i don’t want to do
since no one ever comes in my classroom or checks on anything i’m ever doing, i pretty much have free reign to kinda do whatever. this includes NOT saying the pledge of allegiance. we don’t even have a flag in our room. but i just found out we are required to say the pledge of allegiance at our pre-k/k graduation ceremony next month, which means i need to teach it to my kids now because they’ll need a month to practice. here’s how the conversation went:
Me: ”So, we’re supposed to say this thing… it’s kind of a chant… it’s called the pledge of allegiance… it’s like a chant that you say to show that you love your country, or something, I think, well actually, I don’t even know what it is exactly. I mean, I know how to SAY it, but I mean, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, really, but, um, we have to… learn… it.”
Kids: Blank stares
So I taught it to them, after like a half hour of trying to get them to put their right hand over their hearts (unbelievably difficult), except I decided to leave out the “UNDER GOD” part because i’m a fucking atheist but even if i weren’t i don’t think it’s right and i never thought it was right and this is a public school and if they’re going to be forced to say the pledge they’re not going to say that part because a lot of americans exist not under god, obviously, i mean for obvious reasons, that line needs to be omitted.
but of course, i barely even know the pledge since i haven’t been forced to say it since middle school, so i fucked it up and taught it to them without the “to the republic for which it stands” part and had to reteach it.
and then when it was over, my kids INSISTED on saying “AMEN” even without the god part, and even though i told them it wasn’t a prayer, which should tell you everything you need to know about the pledge of allegiance. it’s the perfect combination of three things i typically revile… patriotism, religion, and spirit.
then ezekiel wanted to know what does “justice” mean, and i said it means fairness instead of telling them the truth (which is, basically, nothing), and then i reminded them at the trayvon martin rally how everyone chanted NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE and then we chanted that for like 10 minutes.