Saturday, December 14, 2013

What KEEPS me from RW and WW?

With 5 schools days until Winter Break (yes, I AM counting!!), I am wondering why I am not ready to have the kids publish their personal essays (Writing Workshop goal) and why I am not ready to have the kids share their nonfiction presentations made using their stop and jot notes after reading multiple books on one topic of interest (Reading Workshop goal)??

Here's what I think got in the way of meeting our goal:
1. SNOW!!
It snowed some and in Northern Virginia that freaks everyone out so schools close. Monday and Tuesday were snow days and then Wed was a 2-hour delay (it was blue sky but still cold and schools got 2 hours to get the sidewalks salted and cleared!) So no chance of teaching RW or WW for 2.25 days.

One of my student spends his summer in Japan (his mother's family lives in Kyoto) and he attends Japanese school there. At conferences, the mother asked if we would be interested in exchanging cards with this school to help those students work on their English. I said YES because I loved having the opportunity for students to write authentically with friends across the globe. The plan was to make these cards on Monday but that got pushed due to the snow to distributing the cards on the shortened Wed and then more time was needed to write on Thursday and a few stragglers were still working on Friday and now they are in the mail! Due to this worthwhile distraction, I realize that only ONE writing workshop essay writing lesson occurred this week. But so glad we did the letters. One unexpected success - it allowed my student who reads at a DRA2 18 (beginning of 2nd grade level) to successfully write 10 simple sentences back to his Japanese pen pal without any assistance needed from me. I reminded the class to write using simple sentences as these students in Japan were just learning English. (It was even requested that we only use capital letters as they haven't taught the lower case letters yet - interesting!) This child wrote the most in one sitting that he has ever written and no prompting at all was needed from me. I love unexpected outcomes!! 

Unfortunately, I am not at a school or on a team that is fully invested in teaching using the workshop model to teach reading and writing. Daily I am realizing this is not ideal as I don't have much support. I feel a bit like an island and it is hard to stay motivated. Then teammates will suggest doing activities that I am constantly wondering WHY. There is a large bulletin board in our hallway. I suggested that I AM poems be written and hung for Back to School night in September. It was a quick writing activity to help build community the first day of school. So that went up and mine around the corner outside my classroom. Then as soon as the 1st personal narratives were written by my students, I hung these up. Then the 2nd and then a "___ is for Jamestown" page to share about something learned on our trip. And as soon as our essays are done, those will be displayed. This bulletin board - the I AM poems stayed up until Nov. Them a 3-D drawing of our house and an Indian Longhouse fan-like activity got hung. (WHY?? This seemed like a coloring activity so I didn't take time to do that) and now it was highly suggested that all the kids make a quilt square and add names of friends and add these squares to cover this board. (Again, WHY??) These activities are busywork in my opinion and I am never in need of just something to keep my students busy. Instead, I am trying to fit in strong RW/WW. But because all on my team are not on the the same page (or even in the same book) as me, I sit in team meetings (more time not used as wisely as it could if we all were on the same page) and listen and wonder why? So why did I choose to return to the classroom at THIS school? I ask myself this daily!! It seemed like a good idea last Spring. I worked at this school 12 years ago and the Principal welcomed me back and had a 4th grade opening, a grade I have taught before. I would not need to learn the SS material and I can do 4th grade math. And I knew he would not stop me from teaching RW and WW. I also came because the Reading Teacher is on board. She is a support. We have learned at TCRWP for the past 3 summers and attended a coaching institute together. I thought her support would be enough. Now I daily wonder WHERE I should be a teacher? I love being back in the classroom. I know I want to remain a classroom teacher and not return to being a Resource teacher. BUT I am not sure if it will be at this school? Unfortunately, the workshop model is not encourage in my district so maybe I need to change districts. Time will tell. I do think that a supportive team would help NOT take me away from workshop work and isn't just a "grass is always greener" mentality.

I was told that all in 4-6th grades were to administer a GEO-BEE, 7-rounds of questions, each child answering one question and me recording the results. The high scorer will represent our class in the SCHOOL Geo-Bee. This had to be done on Friday. There was also a Music Concert on Friday morning so finally at 1:30pm (after our one of two 30-minute weekly Spanish classes), I could start the BEE. I had planned it taking 30 minutes and then having an hour of Writing Workshop. I arranged the 27 students in a semi-circle and I began the questioning. All 7 rounds took 80 minutes!! So much for WW! I only had time to announce our winner and we packed up to go home. Is this a good use of time?? So many of my friends could NOT sit still and quietly listen and participate for 80 minutes. But really? They are 10 years old. So often, I had to stop, redirect, told those having trouble that they could leave the semi-circle and quietly read at their seats. Finally, all Round 7 were completed and one student answered ALL 7 of his questions correctly. It was the same student I talked about above in #2 who reads the lowest in the class! (My highest reader scored 6 out of 7 correct and I was so expecting him to win.) It was fun helping this winning student get into his car at Kiss and Ride and tell his mom, "You are driving home our class Geo-Bee winner!!" As I said before, I love unexpected outcomes!!

I also LOVE Reading and Writing Workshop expected outcomes...
While on break, I will reflect OFTEN to see if I can fit in enough teaching time to reach my expectations!

This is my last posting of BACK IN THE CLASSROOM in 2013.
Next Saturday, I'll be driving with my husband and 2 amazing daughters to Ft.Lauderdale to hop on a cruise boat stopping at four ports in the Caribbean. I am so looking forward to having so many days to talk and be with a team that I love (an architect, a public policy grad student, and a Drama major/French minor almost- graduate) and who DO give me support!! 

More reflections to come in 2014!!

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