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! 

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. 

Three Day Weekend… Finally! 

Monday was President’s Day, so there was no school. I have been so busy lately, I didn’t even notice until last week. I happened to look at the school’s schedule and there it was, that color-coded day to indicate there was no school. And that made my morning! I was definitely ready for a three day weekend!

We submitted edTPA just about two weeks ago, and that was an exhausting process. And now we are in the purgatory known as waiting. Our scores should be available by March 9th, but I am hopeful it will be sooner. So hopeful, in fact, that I have already begun checking the website each morning, which is probably contributing to my restless sleep the last few days. I just really, really believe I will not receive a passing score. I felt so rushed during the process that I have convinced myself I either forgot to upload a file or maybe didn’t answer a question sufficiently. What I did wrong is irrelevant, I just have this lurking feeling that I will not pass. As much as I try to chalk it up to jitters, I just can’t. I have accepted the thought that I may have to resubmit part or all of the edTPA and I am ok with that. I just want to know, ya know? And hopefully, I am wrong. Hopefully, there will be passing score and y’all can say “we knew it!”. I really think it’s the unknown that is playing with my head. I guess time will tell.

Aside from edTPA drama, student teaching is going well. I have found my niche in the classroom and I have become much more comfortable. And I really do love the kids! Every morning in the hall, I greet them as they are chattering with each other and scurrying to their lockers. I feel very Tami Taylor a la Friday Night Lights and it’s wonderful. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were struggles. I can’t seem to get through to them with comparing fractions and it’s bothering me. Is it me? Maybe because math isn’t my strong point, they can sense it? Should I be doing something different? How can we move on? I worry that we are spending too much time on this and I want to move on to adding fractions. But, that’s tricky; too soon and everyone will be lost but if I wait too long, I’m going to lose the interest of the ones that do get it. Decisions, decisions. I am glad math will be the last class I give back to my cooperating teacher because I’m hoping to see this fraction dilemma through. 

On to breaking news, I have a job! It’s a temporary, substitute job… But it’s a job, aka income. Yay! Immediately after student teaching I will fill in for a leave of absence through the end of the school year. It is as a Reading Specialist for a middle school at a different school. I’m glad to be gainfully employed for two months but I’m also looking forward to the additional experience at a middle school. Can’t hurt the resume, right? I’m also on the lookout for a summer job. Oh, and also one for next school year. So, if anyone has any leads, you know where to find me. 

Lesson Plans and Haz-Mat Suits

I officially completed my first week of student teaching. And I survived. Although, for the record, it was not much different than what I had already been doing with my cooperating teacher – some assisting and some co-teaching.

That’s all about to change. As of this week, I will begin to take over the class, one subject at a time. Tune in later to see if I survive the week!

My takeaways so far are pretty simple:
– Planbook is worth the $12 annual fee
– Flocabulary is one amazing website and I hope my future employer is a subscriber
– Even though I think I’m speaking loudly, my voice is not carrying throughout the class
– I need to toughen up, Buttercup!

Planning is a LOT more involved than I thought. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s the way the teachers at my host school handle their planning or if it truly is a great undertaking. I suppose I will figure that 0ut as I find my way in this career. I would like to think I may be able to find a more efficient way but, if these seasoned teachers are taking a great deal of time planning, I may have to change my mailing address to my future school.

I also need to be more of a disciplinarian. These kids are like wild animals and can smell fresh blood a mile away. I am too nice, too patient, and too kind. Somehow all the traits I saw as strong points are rapidly becoming weaknesses. Why am I giving the students multiple chances when I know they are not listening? Why am I phrasing comments to students as questions? I need to be firm. Tough. Intimidating. All the things that I am absolutely not. That said, I am open to any suggestions how to become the class meanie overnight.

Lastly, I am beginning to fear that our school is being consumed by a plague of biblical proportions. Fifth grade has been hit hard with strep. Second grade is battling the stomach flu. And there’s pink eye in third grade. In the fourth grade, there is an ever fluctuating amount of students absent for a variety of ailments. And I won’t even begin to discuss the projectile vomiting. At this rate, I am not sure I will survive student teaching due to health issues.

I currently have a pineapple scented hand sanitizer attached to me at all times. The other day I used it multiple times in class, after the second student went home for vomiting. One student said to me, “It smells like a tropical island in here.” I hope they enjoy island life because I plan to sanitize like crazy!

New year, new me, new blog

Some of you may remember I had a blog before. I say “some” because, let’s be honest, I am pretty sure it was just my husband and bestie reading my blog. I wrote about fundraising and volunteering and all the other things a do-gooder would do. I considered deleting the old blog, but there were a few posts that held quite a bit of meaning to me. I also considered just moving forward with that blog, but things are quite a bit different now. So, I opted for a new blog with an equally cheesy name. (for those that are bored and looking to read old blog posts, here you go: http://www.daleyperspective.wordpress.com)

While I was looking at the old blog, I noticed that my last post was on March 3, 2015, thanking supporters for a recent fundraiser. Just two weeks later, things turned upside down and I was laid off from my job. After the emotional roller coaster, I decided (with a lot of encouragement from my husband) to go back to school to become a teacher. I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. Then life happened. There were a million things that crossed paths with my dream and, quite frankly, I settled. I opted for comfort and safety. I took the easy route. But now I decided to be brave and have totally vested myself in this new career path.

And I am terrified.

What if I fail? What if I am the worst teacher ever? What if I can’t keep all these little people in some sort of orderly fashion? What if I am overrun by them all?? I often envision myself duct taped to a chair while my students run amok all around me. My very first day as a substitute teacher was a nightmare. The 30+ third graders were doing everything BUT listening to me. I came home exhausted and feeling somewhat defeated. And yet I plugged along. My own classes left little time for subbing, but I did try to sub whenever I could to not only get some experience but also to narrow down what grade levels I preferred.

And here I am, embarking on student teaching in the 4th grade. I have opted to return to blogging at this particular point in my transition because I feel there is so much for me to learn – hence the cheesy blog title!  I wanted to document this, mostly for myself, but also to hopefully prompt feedback from others. I think education is a constantly evolving field and I wanted to create a place where I can learn from my mistakes and remember my accomplishments.