September 5, 2010

Starting my Second Year!!

Three weeks into the school year: memorized my students names; classroom procedures are getting to be more familiar (at least to me); I finally have my classroom set up; already got a cold from somebody at school; my apartment looks more organized now that I have purchased book shelves; and my cat attacked my face (That last part was due to me rolling over her while I slept).
It’s been quite a while since last I wrote and many, many, many, many things have happened, all of which are extremely important to me, but which might put you to sleep should I list them all ;-) Here are the drop-your-jaw-too-cool-to-pass-up things. I am now an aunt and my niece Monica Rose Elder is the cutest little, or rather large, baby. I traveled 7,653 miles from one coast to the other, to visit family, friends and beautiful places. And now, in my 23rd year of life, I am teaching for my second year.
So far it has been a year of big changes and a reassuring sense of ‘I know what I’m doing more than I did a year ago.’ I now teach 53 students (26 in one and 27 in the other), which is less than last year, but strangely, I teach more. I teach two 100 minute reading classes, and then the same students for 50 minutes of writing. I believe that this schedule will REALLY increase the students’ scores on the MAP (Missouri’s standardized test), and I’m enjoying teaching the same students twice. I really enjoy my classes this year, and so far, have only had two major problems. Out of 53, that’s pretty good odds.
Speaking of MAP scores, in August I received the scores of my students from last year (cause getting the scores 5 months after they take the test makes a whole lot of sense ;-). While my students gained an average of 1.4 years of reading growth, the MAP scores were kind of…depressing. Two years ago, 20% of the 6th graders at Busch achieved an advanced or proficient score on the MAP. WHAT?!? 20%!?! Well, thinking to myself, my students must have done better than that right? Um...I can say honestly that the score did grow, but it makes me grimace to acknowledge that they only grew 6%. Yes. Only 26% of my sixth graders passed the state standardized test, and I was told that I did a good job. Ugh…ugh…ugh…
Who knows how much my students actually grew from last year, because they all came from different schools and data does not follow students. There are no files. So, honestly, the MAP average I received only tells me that I did 6% better than the 6th grade teacher from two years ago. Whoop whoop. On average, the entire school of Busch did better and we actually met AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) this year in every subject except special education (we’re working on that). However, if 26% is considered ‘good enough’ then I am sorry, there is something wrong. This year, I KNOW deep within that this score is going WAY up this year. I’ve got a great group of reading loving students and a huge amount of time with them every day, so there are no excuses.
For every good change (such as more time with students), there has to be something given up. Art, music, shop and computer classes don’t exist anymore at the elementary and middle school level and in only limited amounts for high schoolers. Students simply have to supplement their education outside of school, if they can. The staff this year is awesome and very positive though moral in the district is pretty low due to budget cuts and layoffs. Out of the entire St. Louis Public School District, Busch Middle School of Character and Athletics (yeah, yeah, the name is interesting to say the least) is the BEST place to be teaching. There are many days when I stop in my tracks and thank God for my job at my school. It really is, amid all the bad, a very great place to work.
I’ve included a few cartoons with this post that seem to capture everything I’m feeling right now. A picture says a thousand words, but a cartoon says it with a smile. I just made that up myself.

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