Because I felt like a plastic bag…

February and March are brutal months and recently I’ve found myself going down a negative slippery slope where the negativity just cycles. As I began reflecting on this feeling, for some reason this song popped into my head and I don’t think I have ever connected my life as a teacher to a song so strongly. So strong, that I’ve accompanied my reflection with some visual aids.

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Screams but no one seems to hear a thing

I feel like a plastic bag!

Yes, Katy Perry…I feel like a plastic bag! When not teaching, I can be found running all over the building trying to accomplish 73652 things during my preps. I teach on the 4th floor and make at least 5-6 runs between the 1st and 4th floor each day.  I find myself in self-preservation mode trying to make it through the end of the day, end of the week, to a 3-day weekend. YES! I want to start again. By February of this year, I’ve been ready to start the new school year with a new set of students and a revamped curriculum. We finally have all three grades in the building (6-8 since we’re a new school) and I look forward to tweaking vertical alignment. I am so ready to start again! I’m buried deep in papers that have to be graded. I have one section, where I am so drained and feel like I am wasting my breath (I hate the fact that I dread walking into the room some days…I constantly narrate the positives, I set clear guidelines and expectations, etc. and I’m drained and exhausted and feel like a first year teacher with them sometimes). I’m definitely not screaming at children…but no one seems to hear a thing.

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I’m a firework DAMMIT!

I’ve had to check myself on that point. It’s not true. There are students who are listening and working really hard. There are students who are trying really hard to ignore the usual foolishness, which I need to acknowledge. There are good things that are happening. I’m working my butt off. Students are engaged and excited about math. They are persisting and engaged in math conversations in class.

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That’s clearly how I need to enter a room and begin teaching. #highlyeffective #danielson3c

‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, “Aah, aah, aah”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

…..

You don’t have to feel like a wasted space
You’re original, cannot be replaced

Thanks, Katy, for reminding me I’m not a wasted space. I need to remind myself that everyday I show up to work, it makes a difference. It makes a difference to Student B. who craves maternal attention and his dad is so emotionally detached that he doesn’t realize that his son just wants him to say “I am proud of you” and doesn’t realize what an intelligent son he has. So he responds by acting out. It makes a difference to Student M. who is moving through transitional homes and mom while there are some domestic issues, so she misses a lot of school, but she manages to catch up by speaking to her peers and getting help outside of class and has one of the most genuine smiles on her face. Makes a difference to student J, who probably has gone through most schools unnoticed because she is really quiet, usually does well, but is super shy and doesn’t mingle as much with peers. But then she asks to come up with you during lunch with a small group of students and forgets she’s an introvert. I might not be original and maybe I can be replaced, but then again maybe I am. Either way, I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do and there is always at least one moment every day that reminds me its all worth it. Bad moments and bad days are just that: a sliver of time when things seem to be the worst and we deal with it (or decide to not deal with it — learning to choose my battles) and then we move on. And then it gets better. And then…

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So thanks Katy Perry, for reminding me that I don’t have to feel like a plastic bag, because I’m brighter than the moon and I have it within me to deal with it. Just got to let it shine from within. 

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Data, Data, Data…

I work at a data driven school so we collect and look at data ALL the time. It drives our instruction. There’s definitely acknowledgement of qualitative data as well and we pour over student work, we conference with students, so we do make informed decisions using both qualitative and quantitative data. However, sometimes the sheer amount of data overwhelms and bums me (and the students) out.

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Case in point: my advisory/homeroom class. I’ve seen their math growth with regard to the math practices (as well as math content), but that is not really evident on their mid-year benchmark (which probably isn’t the best benchmark to begin with). Thankfully, we’re a SBG school so I can show them their math growth, but I can’t take the look in their eyes when they see that they haven’t made growth based on this one mid-line benchmark. I’ll be the first to admit my students are not where they need to be. Many are 6th graders reading far below grade level. The same is true of their numerical fluency.  So….I get it, but then I don’t. I know the mid-line is just a snapshot of how they did on that one particular day. So, I have a lot of feels about the message that they get when they see that. It’s a conversation that’s developing at my (fairly still new) school about how best to measure student growth, specifically in math. There’s fairly straightforward DRP (Degrees of Reading Power) to measure their reading growth. And when the DRP doesn’t give us helpful information we do running records, an oral assessment that accurately tells us students’ decoding, fluency, and comprehension of text. We have a pretty well developed rubric for argument writing, so we can see their growth and for what it’s worth it actually means something. Measuring math growth isn’t comparable to the other two. Growing 12% just means you got 12% of the questions correct or you guessed 12% better this time around. We’re using SBG and it just “feels right” to somehow incorporate that when we are trying to analyze student growth in math. And it would give me back teaching time…