Saturday, March 1, 2008

Teaching
When I decided to go into teaching back around 1990, I recall my dad saying something to the affect, “I thought I raised you better than that…..” Now it was said mainly in jest, but it carried a certain element of truth to it. He was pretty jaded by then. He could see where education was heading.
Well I teach kindergarten. And this is the amazing part, I really love it. Kindergarten kids are the most amazing things. For the most part, they are so excited to be learning. Sure, they love the social aspect of kindergarten, for many it’s the first time they have really been around a bunch of new kids. But they love to learn new stuff and it is amazing to watch and participate in. I mean, HOW do they learn that ONE stupid part in the ABC video (from LeapPad) and NOT learn the part they are supposed to? It’s so fun to be around the quirky way they see the world……
But the establishment is a different story. And right now, the establishment means No Child Left Behind. It drives everything we do. And what ever we do, it seems like it isn’t enough. And some of it is being driven by the wrong premises. The kindergarten of today, at least at my school, is not the kindergarten you went to. It’s the new first grade. And one of the parts my dad says he saw coming, is that they are dictating more and more, everything you do. Making it all the same across the country. It reminds me of “A Wrinkle in Time” where everyone is like a clone of everyone else. You have the kids all standing out on the front sidewalk bouncing the balls in unison. The round kid that doesn’t fit in the square hole gets sent to brainwashing. Listen to this.
Three years ago when I got back into kindergarten it wasn’t too bad. Last year it got a little worse. It started with the new basal reading series. It’s OK, in fact, I mostly like it, it’s just that with it they gave us a “pacing calendar”. On any given day, we have to be on the specific lesson scheduled for that day; all 180 days, no deviation from the calendar, none. This year they extended that out even more. They provided us with a daily schedule, every minute of every day scheduled for us. Even the bathroom breaks. Have you ever tried to get 23 kindergartners to pee on schedule? Right. And it’s not just getting 23 kids to try to pee at the same time, it’s 6 classes of 23 all trying to use the bathroom at the same time. If it worked, they still don’t have enough stalls.
And this year they’ve added extra small group instruction targeting specific groups. Oh, yeah, they took away the aide we had last year to help with the low kids and the testing, they did that because they added a kindergarten teacher this year, so that instead of 25-26 kids and an aide, we get 23 and no aide. Give me the aide. There’s the “bubble” kids that would materially raise our test scores (and NCLB is ALL about test scores) if they got just a little better. And then there’s next years bubble kids, you know, because the bubble kids this year won’t be the bubble kids next year, and you have to have somebody that can raise your scores next year……..
That means I have to find time in the day to teach two groups of small group instruction. (What are the rest of the 5 year olds doing while I’m teaching the small groups?) And if I’m teaching them, then they have to be progress monitored. Every week for one group, every 10 days for the other. Thats 14 of the 23 kids in my class getting three assessments one-on-one every week or 10 days…. But don’t deviate from the pacing calendars, and don’t stop the small group instruction while you progress monitor.
Progress monitoring assessments, common assessments, Interim assessments, assessments for report cards. There are assessments going on all of the time. But they can’t take away from instruction.
Right.
Then on top of all of that, they want to throw extras in, like Reading Week.
Monday, we had to meet and go over writing samples, The specialist said that when given a prompt “draw and write about something you like to do” that they shouldn’t write, “I like to….” The drawing counts as much as the writing, stick figures have to have clothes, the ground has to have grass, the stick figures can’t just be in the “air” nothing should be in the picture that they didn’t write about. No squirrels in the trees, no trees…….. This from a lady who couldn’t even carry on a conversation with a 5 year old. Oh, and the writing sample we were looking at was taken in mid November, they had been in school for SIX WEEKS. Some of these kids had never held a pencil before. I told her I would go back to the kids and get right on those quadratic equations, since obviously they had to know how to do EVERYTHING before they got out of kindergarten.About half my kids are currently drawing like this—it’s DEVELOPMENTAL

Tuesday, we had an author visit, that the kids went to instead of PE, but it messed the routine up, PE is in the afternoon the author visit was in the morning.
Wednesday, they had Breakfast With Books, which made about a third of the class 40 minutes late to class.
Thursday, ID picture day, another fine messed up morning. and a story dance assembly in the afternoon.
Friday, Assembly in the morning where the teachers had to act out a storybook. We were also supposed to decorate our classroom door to be judged, and make a train car out of a Kleenex box for the reading train.
Oh, and don’t forget the pacing calendars for all that stuff I’m actually supposed to be teaching….. I had a chance to look at the interim test that I have to give next week, (now the pacing calendars are supposed to have us teaching the skills in the order that has them actually taught before the test…….. Right…… for math I taught the stuff on the test LAST TRIMESTER, two months ago.
So now we are doing review for the test……. and the pacing calendars.
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2 thoughts on “Saturday, March 1, 2008

  1. I taught kindergarten for 19 years(mainly Hispanic children who did not speak English). Last year they were expected to know everything a middle class student knew. Needless to say, most did not know what they were expected to know when they entered school. Most of their parents only completed 8th grade if that. The parents were illiterate in Spanish much less English. I think we’ve gone crazy! These children need more pre-school activities. They are not ready for the kindergarten curriculum we are expected to teach now. I believe we are doing these students a big dis-service. Children today are expected to grow up too fast. No childhood is allowed.Karyn Watson

  2. 70-80% of my kids are Hispanic, some know little or no English when I get them. Most are still behind by the end of kindergarten, but catching up fast. It would be nice if the pressure wasn’t there, but I really think, at least from my own experience, that all we are really trying to do is get the ones that didn’t get it at home caught up with those children who do come from a literacy rich environment. I know teachers who have moved from our at-risk school to more middle class schools and they do NOT have the struggle with their kids to get them through the grade level material that we do. One friend had her whole first grade class through the entire 1st grade basal reading program by Christmas break. She could do that because of what they came to school with.I do think that they should measure a child’s growth over the year and take into account where they came in at, NOT just expect us to cover the grade level material with kids who do not yet have the resources to do it.

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