Not Exactly a Walk in the PARCC

parcc

It’s been a while since my last post, mostly because my school schedule was inconsistent. We were on spring break for a week and then had two weeks of PARCC testing. For those of you not familiar with PARCC, I will quickly break it down for you. PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The tests are brought to us by Pearson, of course, and are designed to do just what the title states – assess students’ readiness for college and career through math and literacy assessments. Students have three math tests, which average around 110 minutes, and three literacy tests, which average around 80 minutes.

During the two weeks of PARCC testing, the students’ schedules were rearranged to accommodate those with special needs and procedures as well as the overall quantity of students testing. Since I am a long term sub in a supplementary role, I was a 1:1 proctor for a 6th grader in the mornings. The rest of my days consisted of homeroom monitoring and lunch duty. Given the inconsistent schedule, student behavior was less than desirable over these two weeks.

My biggest take away from this was my lunch duty. I was covering two lunch periods during PARCC, which was two too many. Aside from the overall NOISE in the lunchroom, the students are quite possibly at their worst. Many of them are disrespectful to each other as well as to teachers and staff. There are set rules and procedures that the students do follow, but their attitudes are on full display. And this had me questioning my ability to handle middle school. Additionally, the overall dynamic in the lunchroom is a little depressing. I was quickly transported to my own incredibly awkward youth. There are such defined boundaries in the lunchroom. It is easy to identify the different cliques and outcasts and the students are quite vocal about who sits where in the lunchroom. I also saw many students sitting alone, which had me wondering if their isolation was their choice or not.

Lunch duty had me longing to be in an elementary school. I began to focus only on the attitudes and misbehavior of the students at lunch, convincing myself this is how all middle school students behave. Then I ran into the 6th grader I was proctoring and he smiled and said hi to me at lunch. And the 7th grader from my 8th period said hi and asked when we would be having class again. I saw a few of my other students throughout the days during PARCC and they were all nice and friendly, unlike the unruly mob at lunch. I then began reflecting on my experience so far at this middle school. Things have been going well so far. Sure, it has been a little difficult and it has been a little outside my comfort zone. But, that was the plan, right? Explore my options, broaden my horizons, and so forth.

This week we are back to our normal routine, thankfully. I have taken the time to reiterate the day to day expectations for all my classes. I have reviewed my classroom rules and consequences for those not following the rules. For the most part, all my classes fell right back into the routine we had prior to PARCC, which has made me happy. Hopefully my turbulent two weeks was simply because of the scheduling changes and the testing. Hopefully things will return to a semi-normal state and I can really begin to reflect on my middle school experience. Just like with elementary, there are positives and negatives. I want to make sure I am weighing everything accurately so I can confidently apply for various teaching positions for next school year. And that in itself is an overwhelming and intimidating thought.

End of a Chapter and Beginning of the Next

Last week was my last week of student teaching in 4th grade. In all honesty, it was all very bittersweet for me. I really liked the school I was at…. I liked all the staff and I adored the kids. They are all such great kids. So, it was hard for me to leave, especially since the school year is not over for them. It’s hard explaining that I am done with school while they are still in school. On my last day, all three 4th grade classrooms went on a field trip to Legoland. Let’s just say, whatever the salary is for the employees at Legoland, it is nowhere near enough. There were kids, toys, and chaos everywhere you look. Sensory overload does not even begin to describe what it’s like there. But, the kids had a blast, so it was all worth it! When we got back, they had a little farewell party for me. The kids made cards and some even brought me gifts. My cooperating teacher and the other 4th grade teachers gave me gifts and everyone wished me the best of luck. It was a wonderful send off that made me feel like I am well on my way to being a pretty good teacher!

While I was sad to leave, this week also marked a lot of extremely happy things for me. I officially passed the edTPA. I earned an A in my final class, solidifying my 4.0 GPA. I will be graduating in June, complete with the honor of Sigma Alpha Pi due to my grades. And I am transitioning to a long term substitute teaching position immediately after student teaching. All in all, it was a pretty good week!

Which brings me to this week. Yesterday was my first day filling in for the Reading Specialist at a new school. It is a middle school and I will be working with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders through the end of their school year. It is considered a pull out program, with the goal of helping students improve their literacy comprehension. Because of this,the class sizes are small. My largest two classes have a total of eight students and the smallest two classes have just four students. The school is also testing a new program called Achieve 3000 which I will be rolling out with these students.

My first day was in a co-teaching setting with another Reading Specialist. But, as of today, I am officially on my own. The environment is completely different than an intermediate school, to say the least. My overall size and stature does not exactly demand authority, so I feel I am entering this experience at a disadvantage. Navigating the halls during transitions is quite similar to a cattle drive. The students seem indifferent, displaying their best “whatever” faces and attitudes throughout the day. After the first day, I felt confident in my skills navigating the classroom and conducting myself as a teacher but was still weary about the students.

This morning I returned for day two. One of my 6th grade students was waiting outside when I got here and mumbled a “G’morning Ms Daley.” Progress. She actually did remember my name, so she must have been somewhat paying attention yesterday. The troublesome boy in 2nd period seemed to be in better spirits today and I chalked that up to another small victory. In homeroom, several of the students referred to me by name and at the end of the period several of them said “Have a good day, Ms Daley”. Another victory. I smiled to myself as I managed to get back to my classroom without getting trampled. And then the four 8th grade boys in my 6th period walked all over me. Figuratively, not literally. Although literally is possible since they are the equivalent of football players. Minimal work was accomplished and I spent most of the time checking in with them repeatedly to see just what the frak they were working on (yes, that is a BSG term for all my fellow sci-fi nerdies). Clearly those boys will be a handful…. little do they know more busy work is in their future. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, aside from the 7th grade boy who insists on speaking in a British accent. It’s actually quite entertaining watching a struggling reader attempt to read aloud in a faux British accent. Might be beneficial to lose the accent in my class, Mate. 

Short Weeks, Long Hours

First, let me say I can NOT believe this week is finally over! We did not have school on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. day, but somehow our four day week felt like it lasted a month…. 

When we came back on Tuesday, I rearranged the seats. My cooperating teacher said I could do whatever I wanted, but I was concerned that no matter what I did there would be problems. At open house this past fall, most of the parents mentioned how this particular group of fourth graders were pretty close. While that has made for a great group of kids, they tend to be a little chatty and occasionally lose focus. My goal was to try to break up some groups but also to try to help struggling learners by placing them with students who tend to be more focused. To accomplish this, I went back to the small groups. They started the school year in small groups, then pairs, then long tables. So far it seems to be working out the way I wanted. Only time will tell. 

In addition to the social studies block, this week I began taking over the morning literacy blocks. For some reason, this part of the day has been most confusing to me. I think it’s mainly because of all the moving parts. Their Daily 5 assignments are posted on the class Schoology page and they utilize a variety of websites that include Scholastic, Night Zookeeper, ReadWorks, and Actively Learn. I’m sure there’s more, but I’m still trying to get the hang of these. Even though I am overwhelmed, I love how much technology they use every day!

That being said, I was observed by my university supervisor this week. It was the first of four observations this quarter. I opted to have her observe the social studies lesson since I feel pretty confident with the content. I have even managed to navigate the technology (finally!), since the lesson is interactive with the iPad. But, of course, we were having connection issues when my supervisor was there. Rather than the audio playing, I had to read aloud to the class, which was fine, just not what I planned. After going through the lesson we had this pretty cool activity planned and the kids were really into it. Things were going really well and I had a pretty good sense of confidence. Until my cooperating teacher said we were about to have a lock down drill and she was leaving to assist the principal. Ironically, my supervisor was here for a fire drill last quarter….

Although the drill went fine, it was kind of eerie. When the announcement came over, the kids all knew exactly what to do. I locked the classroom door and the kids all huddled on the floor behind the teacher’s desk, in a corner where they could not be seen from the classroom door or the exterior windows. I stood in front of them and we waited silently for the all clear. Part of the drill is to make sure the door is locked, so about halfway through the drill someone came by and loudly shook the doorknob to make sure it was locked. And that’s when I felt the sinking feeling in my stomach. I mentally took a step back and assessed the situation. Here I was, all five foot nothing of me, standing between a would be shooter and twenty fourth graders. I smiled down at the kids, who were squished against each other and squirming around impatiently. They wanted to get back to the activity we had been working on just before this. I wondered how many of them, if any, really understood why we were doing this. I quickly shook that thought from my head too. I didn’t want to think about that either.

After the drill, which they completed perfectly, we went back to our social studies activities. The kids were loud and having a little too much fun…. And I let them. After spending just under ten minutes thinking worst case scenario thoughts, I wanted see happy and carefree students. At least until my cooperating teacher returned and I had to assume the tough guy role again, that is.