Tuesday, April 26, 2005

before and after

8 this morning:
I'm going to xerox the list of questions and approach the assignment with the children today. Interestingly, yesterday LG (who asked me to sign her folder so she could remember me) said, "Ms Plesh. This poetry shit isn't working." That's first period. No truer words were ever spoken. She said why can't we write about school and your class and what we think about shit. And I told her that's exactly what I was intending.
My plan is to keep it informal, that they attempt to address most of the questions in a big piece of writing, that they can if they want break the writing up into 5 categories, like I did with the questions. Then after they get this down as best they can that they look at the questions again and see if most of the points are addressed, and so revise the writing accordingly and give me a fresh rewrite, front only, loose leaf, not stapled, so I can copy everything and give them their papers back on Monday (exam day). That's the plan.
One thing that continues to become more and more clear to me is that time is a good thing to give to students with writing. Sometimes for sure they have to toe the line and produce a piece of writing in an hour or two days, but not usually. Time. Good.
This morning I was looking on the blog for Clay's questions that one of the unsung inspirations of this story told me she liked, and realized that the archives wasn't present. I had to go into the works and republish the whole blog! Which scares me because I write this blog at the machine and it is the only draft of the book I expect this is leading to and (you'll cry) the only place it's written. The ONLY place. So this evening my job is to copy the whole thing into a word document and burn it onto several cd's and bring a cd to school for safe-keeping.

Yesterday I stepped into Ms Holliday's office and told her I wanted to stay at Douglass, that I love it here and my work isn't done, etc., and she said she was "crucified" this year for keeping on so many English teachers, and she looked sad and fidgety, and I'm pretty afraid that she was trying to tell me something. I have to find a way to keep myself there. It would be a colossal waste if they were to put me in another school. Anyway, I don't know if I have what it takes to do a first year at an inner city school again. It almost did me in this year -- twice -- but I was able to make it through, mostly because I knew I was in the process of paying my dues and that next year things would be different because people would know what I'm about. Because I've been accepted.

6 this evening:
I was telling a fellow teacher at school (we were sitting on the tailgate of my truck, smoking) about my dread of having a first year again at a new inner-city school, and she said it's not like this at other schools. So that's a thought. And a little relief.
Except that I believe I belong at Douglass and I'm going to do whatever is necessary to stay. Still, the system has the power to stymie me. But surely, and I really do believe this (I'm 52), I'm bigger than the system. Karen reminded me about the idea, "ask and you shall receive," and I think she is right and that is undoubtedly the answer.
Today I caught Ms Hollilday in the hall and told her that not only do I want to stay at Douglass, I believe if she looked at the LEAP writing scores of my students she'd see quite a rise. Saying that to her made me think to myself that if that's not true, that they rose, then I have a lot of reconsidering to do. So she said I should look into that and I'm thinking, wow, this is a cool thing to do. Also I think she is trying to help me put together evidence that I should keep my job, no matter my tenure. I know she wants to keep me. So I'm going to do that. I'm going to look at my students' scores, pre- and post- me, and make notes. I know that one of my students had a 75 on her writing score this last time but, otherwise, she appears BY NUMBERS to be completely illiterate. At the beginning of the year her writing was gibberish. That's the truth. She was a write off. (what an ironic term)

I just re-read this blog and realize that Ms Holliday is the one telling me how to establish and retain my position in the system. And in doing this, she's causing me to look at the numbers and determine if I really am affecting my students. I have never never looked at the concrete in regard to my efficacy. It will be enlightening. I'm grateful for her.



Blogger Clay said...

"she's causing me to look at the numbers and determine if I really am affecting my students"

Interesting. I was coming to the following thought at that point in your blog:

{NOTE: I probably sound a little strident in these comments. I recognize that they're just MY OPINION. So take 'em with a grain of salt).

As you know, I write speech therapy software. Speech therapists have to show EFFICACY data to justify insurance continuing to pay for speech therapy.

They have to show QUANTITATIVE PROGRESS. ( Patient went from 40% to 50% in Task XZY).

Imagine how much more respect you, as a teacher, would get if you could:

a. Find a measurement that the people in authority care about (SATs, whatever).

b. Show a measurable improvement.

It's interesting to me that the teacher's UNION opposes measuring teacher performance. So, you've got a union composed of teachers, who GRADE students regularly, and it's opposed to grading itself (or it's members).

This is not a black and white issue. There are significant downsides to grading as it's done today. (Just read Punished By Rewards. Great book on that subject.)

But if you want respect for the work you do, you need to ADVERTISE what you've done. The Students know this, but the students HAVE NO POWER.

Parents sometimes know this. But they don't usually have a lot of power either.

Find out who affects your professional life. Find out what they really care about. Find out how getting them what THEY want gets you what YOU want.

BTW, I suspect that this whole Essay writing addition to the SATs could be a big boost for you. It SEEMS like a test that is difficult to teach-to. So, it just may actually be measuring true learning better than some of the other SAT aspects.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Joshy said...

Found a lot of useful info on your site about speech therapy - thank you. Haven't finished reading it yet but have bookmarked it so I don't lose it. I've just started a speech therapy blog myself if you'd like to stop by

3:01 PM  

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