Today the report cards for the First Quarter went out. Since I would like to use this blog as an opportunity for reflection, here’s a summary of some of the things that went on in my classroom. I’m basing the format to some degree off of the great Gamasutra postmortem pieces on video game development. As an example, here’s the postmortem for System Shock 2, one of my all-time favorite games.
I went into this year with my head spinning. We got tons of new programs coming into my building this year, and very little time to really wrap our heads around them before implementation. For the first time in years, I got a completely new class of students. Normally I maintain at least a few 7th graders in my class, but this year there were so many incoming 6th graders they just moved everybody out and plopped the new kids in. It made me realize how much I came to depend on those older students to help show new students around the building and provide a good example of behavior in the classroom. After two years of having two PCAs in the room, it’s now back down to just me and my classroom assistant, which means less adult eyes on my students all day long. With that in mind, here’s the breakdown:
What went right:
- The Class Blog – I got permission to post pretty much everything for all of my students…work samples, pictures, audio and video. So far I’ve just stuck to work samples and pictures, but am looking to expand. I use the website as a springboard for linking the students to activities we’re going to do. Every week we hit the computer lab and they go to the website and then follow links to their activities on Spelling City.
- Ramp-Up Literacy – our new reading program is actually really enjoyable. I previously wrote about my Summer training for this program. We had a followup training last week, and, while I still have a lot of kinks to work out of my routine, I think I’m starting to see progress. I’ve been floored in the past week when one student asked, “Can I have a sticky note? I have a question to write,” and another has asked if it’s ok for her to write a reading response in her journal while she waited for other people to finish up their work. After reading When I Was Young in the Mountains, today my students went through and found the different things she wrote about, then started their own lists of memories for memoirs we’re going to create. I’m already thinking of how I can use TikaTok to actually publish the books the students are going to create…you know, zazz it up a bit.
- Response to Intervention – I’m really very impressed by how my school started their RtI program up this year. Overall things seem to be running smoothly, in no small part due to the supreme efforts of our literacy coach. The Special Ed teachers all split up our students into different groups based on skill level for SRA Corrective Reading. I took B1, the lowest SRA group we offer, and it’s been a delight. I have five students who are actually motivated to learn. They work their tails off, and we move at the ideal lesson a day pace. It’s working out great.
What went wrong:
- Classroom management – I have a couple of students that have been especially challenging this year. For one child, I’ve already written more referrals this last quarter than I think I have in the previous 5 years combined. This places me in the awkward position of having to deal with that child frequently, which means I haven’t been able to really hammer in the kinds of behaviors I expect into all of the students…all of those little things that fall by the wayside when dealing with a child with a history of severe behavior issues. Recently had a meeting with a parent, and things have been looking up a bit since then, thanks to great supports from the Behavior Consultant and Social Worker. The child has been better behaved to some degree, and we’re getting more done now.
- Math – I was told I might be getting a new math program, waited to find out, was then told to go with an older program instead, needed to order supplies but they took away all Special Ed budget money this year, had to order through Admin office, supplies only finally arrived in my room yesterday. Have been in a holding pattern basically until today. Kids were so excited to get their books it wasn’t even funny.
- Paperwork – Our district is in a Special Ed paperwork compliance monitoring year. It’s really going to make me regret not getting moved to a new position this year like I hoped for.
Overall, I’m pretty hopeful that things will get better as the year goes on. Except for the paperwork. Nothing will get better about that. This might turn into another one of those years where I dread every e-mail I receive and every meeting I have related to Special Education, because they will only mean more paperwork for me. More than anything else, it is the part of the job that roasts my soul.