Saturday, September 12, 2009
A Teacher's First Days of School
I drive, twenty miles per hour, in front of the school. The white bearded crossing guard, looking more like an old biker than Santa Claus, steps into the crosswalk, sign brandished, bidding me to stop. I look upon the kids, "my kids". Some stand alone, others run around with or without a soccer ball. The 6th graders, in groups of either boys showing-off or girls posing flirtatiously, eye each other.
It's the first day of school and I tear-up a little, as I do every year. I love these kids. They touch my heart in an inexplicable way.
I have a new job and title. I am now...wait for the herald trumpets... Literacy Facilitator. (Please read that with a British accent.)
I have my own office, a small room with no windows that is hotter than blazes. My tiny fan runs constantly, stirring the hot air like a convection oven. I joke that if I left a small roast there over night, it would slow cook to perfection for my lunch!
So far, as Literacy Facilitator, I have facilitated test after test and we are still testing. There are the D.I., the C.B.M's, the G.R.L's, the SRI's and finally the Iowas. Education loves an acronym: DOL, PE, TAT, ESL, ELL, YPP, and so forth.
Unfortunately, as we conduct these tests, it can get pretty disheartening. I try to keep a "glass half-full attitude". Most of our students are at least 2 years behind, many far below that. Many are EnglishLanguageLearners, 98% are Free Lunch, and some are recent immigrants from Burma, Africa and "south of the border". These circumstances present the "elephant we must eat, one spoonful at a time".
Our Kindergarten teachers are miracle workers. Our little children come in with none of the skills that most middle-classed Kindergarteners enter school with. Honest to goodness, out of 16 children in one class, all but one scored less than 5 on Letter Recognition and that was the norm. Worse than the lack of knowledge, is the attitude a few of the kids have already developed.
I ask in a gently, upbeat manner, "Tell me the name of this letter"
"Phh! I don' know!" came the flippant reply with a slight, beligerent shrug.
How do you get that attitude as a 5 year old?
But then there were others whose knowledge, of even a few letters or sounds, was delivered with a smile, large brown eyes shining with pride.
I don't mean to discount our other teachers when I praise Kindergarten! They all work tirelessly and conscientiously in an old, hot, crumbling building. They spend many hours off the clock and their efforts pay off.
We finally made AYP, another acronym for Adequate Yearly Progress. In fact, our school gained 13% on the CRT's. While this percentage doesn't sound like much, to those unfamiliar with No Child Left Behind or NCLB, it is a considerable achievement. The announcement of our no longer being "a failing school" was met with tearful whoops of joy! The bad news is, we will now lose some funding for the very programs that helped us make the grade.
So as the new school year begins, with the glass half-full and keeping our chins up , we will keep plugging along. We can only go up from here!