Not Exactly a Walk in the 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.

Spring Break is Here! 

I have officially completed two full weeks as the Reading Specialist at my new middle school and now it is time for spring break. 

It has been an interesting and informative two weeks for me. Three days a week the students work on this program called Achieve 3000. The school is testing a 90 day trial and thought it would be best to roll the new program out on my first day so it would be new for everyone. The students took a pretest to determine their current lexile levels. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday going forward they will read an article that I push out to them at the beginning of the day. The article is automatically adjusted to their lexile level, which is really cool. So, all of my students, regardless of grade level or lexile level, can read the same article because it automatically adjusts to their individual reading and comprehension level. How’s that for awesome? The students then answer ten multiple choice questions and one short answer question to assess their understanding. The other two days of the week, Tuesday and Thursday, we do novel studies. Those two days work more like a book club. We take turns reading aloud from a book each class selected and discuss the book whole group. Across my six classes we are currently reading five different books: Stand Tall, Something Upstairs, The Lightning Thief, The Wave, and The Tale of Despereaux. For the record, Tuesday and Thursday are my favorite days. 

Throughout the day I have small groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I struggle every day with one of my 8th grade groups and I have an especially unfocused group of 7th graders. But,  I just love my 6th graders, even though one group is a little chatty. And I like my morning 8th grade group as well. So, as of right now, this would-be elementary teacher is still on the fence about middle school. But, it’s only been two weeks, so I still have to give it a little more time. 

And now we are on spring break for a week. When we come back, they will have two weeks of PARCC testing. With all that, it’s going to be about three weeks before we get back into our routine. Either this will really throw everything off kilter or it will help develop a better rapport with the students. I’m honestly not sure how this will turn out. 

This past week the other Reading Specialist and I created these bulletin boards for their reading called “Reading Worth Tweeting”. The students are supposed to “tweet” interesting facts or things they have learned during our readings. I’m excited to see what they all come up with to tweet. I had a few kids that really liked the idea and wanted to do a few tweets before break. I’m hoping once break and PARCC is over we will be able to fill the board!