Thursday, January 31, 2008

Resource Redux

The next big crisis (according to the ptb) involves Resource classes in our school. Review: a resource class (at least in our high school) is a 'for credit' class for those students with an IEP, who are struggling in their coursework. The IEP team for each student decides at the annual review of the IEP if a resource class is appropriate. Then, each core class teacher (English, Math, etc) and the resource teacher communicate regarding what assignments the students need to be working on. Good concept, I guess, but here's where it breaks down: 1) the students have not been told about the concept, evidently. They, for the most part, view resource class as a time to do nothing. 2) Even when I email the core class teachers, asking for assignments or suggestions for work for the students, I get no response. 3) This is an assigned 'duty' period, not a class I'm supposed to teach. I'm not supposed to have to prep for it. So, when a student has no work to do, he does no work in resource class.

The ptb are just now realizing that resource classes, across the board, are not working. About a month ago, we got spreadsheets that the resource students were supposed to fill out each day. They were to fill out what assignments for which classes were worked on during resource, how much time the assignments took, whether or not they needed the resource teacher's help, and any anecdotal comments they cared to make. We (resource teachers) were specifically told "Let the students fill these out, this is their responsibility'. These spreadsheets covered 10 school days. Needless to say, the data was crap. One student (not in my class) filled in everyblank with the initials 'BS'. One of my students, after working on a crossword puzzle from his History class, put in the comment section "Easy peasy, lemon squeezy'. Pretty funny stuff. Except...our principal announced to the school board during this 10-day 'data collection' that he was on top of the resource issue, and was, in fact, collecting empirical data about how the program was utilized. The very next day, he collected the spreadsheets. He had a heart attack. A new crisis begins....

So, for the last week, my principal stops me every time he sees me in the hall and says, "I need to talk to you." Never talks to me - just tells me of his need. Finally, on Monday of this week, I see him after school, and he says, "Can we meet during your planning tomorrow?" Sure, I say - I'll be in my room. He gives me a look, and says, "I'll be in my office. Come there during 8th period." Ohhh Kaaay. So I do. Go there during 8th period the next day. He's busy, can't meet with me. Says, 'Go on back to your room. I'll come to you when I'm finished here.' Which is what I suggested IN THE FIRST PLACE. Did I meet with him that day? NO. He never came to my room.

The next day, he informs me he wants to meet with me and several other resource teachers during planning. Now that there are other people involved, we actually get to meet. In the meeting we are given new, revised spreadsheets for the resource students to fill out over the next 10 days. This time, however, we are responsible for the information put on the sheet. We're also told that not working during resource class is no longer an option for the students. If they don't have work to do, we are to find work for them. Good concept. This is where it breaks down: 1) I don't have copies of the relevant textbooks in my classroom. When a student walks in to my resource class with nothing in his hands but air, I don't have the resources to assign him something to do. 2) I don't have copies of the relevant pacing guides. If a teacher does not let me know what they are working on in class, I can't come up with a pertinent assignment. and 3) the students don't get why they should have extra work to do in resource, if they truly are caught up in all their classes.

In any case, starting today, my resource students are put on notice that no work is a no go. They are happy to hear that the ptb and their teachers are looking out for their best interests, and are eager to begin this new chapter in resource class.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday was not good.

I start out with high hopes, a positive attitude, and a heart full of joy that it is Friday. The best part of my day is my drive to work. Nothing special, just my usual 15 minute drive, but it turns out to be the least stressful, most enjoyable part of my day. That's telling...

Remediation starts yesterday morning. The schedule calls for remediation to run from approximately 8:10 until 8:45 once a week. We usually do it on Wednesdays during school club time, but the ptb decide to have remediation on Friday this week, when there were no clubs, kind of as a dry run to detect and fix any snags. My group is the same group (with the exception of 3 students) I teach 6th period every day. One girl makes the very astute observation that she will be in my class twice on remediation days. Anyway, the class goes fairly well - mostly just an overview of what they will be required to know for the SOL. They are entranced.

I'm able to teach 2nd period, with no interruptions, until about 10 minutes before the end of class. A student runner comes in the class, and tells me I'm needed in guidance right away. No explanation, just that I need to go right then. Luckily, my assistant is in class (a rare occasion), so I stop my PowerPoint lecture, and give the kids a book assignment. I'm thinking - something really horrible must be happening with one of the kids on my caseload, to be called out of class like this. Nope - nothing like that.

Back story: Our report cards are coming out on Monday. They were supposed to go out on Friday, but we had snow last week and were out of school for two days. As a result, teachers didn't get the scheduled work day last Friday, and had to scramble to get grades done and exported to guidance. In our staff meeting Thursday afternoon, guidance reported there were some problems with the grades, and would we please check our printouts for errors. I did so, saw no apparent errors, and went on my merry way.

My summons to guidance is regarding my grade print out. Two (gasp) student grades are calculated incorrectly (not by me - by the electronic gradebook that we use). The head of the guidance department proceeds to give me a 20-minute lecture/tutorial on using the gradebook, and I am told to recalculate my grades, write in the corrected letter grades (if any more were found) and re-submit my printout. Right now? Yes - right now. But, I'm supposed to be co-teaching a class next period. No - recalculate your grades. ( I should say - I was one of many teachers summoned to guidance for this same issue yesterday. It was evidently a system-wide snafu) Ok. I go back to my classroom, log in to the electronic gradebook, re-check all the grades for the 1st 9-weeks, 2nd 9-weeks, and semester. Make changes ( only a few found) and resubmit my printout. Done, right?

Fourth period is my resource class. A group of juniors and seniors, who are in this class for lack of another class available. Most days, they have nothing to do. It's kind of a study hall for kids with IEPs. During this time Friday, I work on refining, printing, and collating the IEP I need for a meeting that afternoon. I have to refine, because the Speech Therapist for the school system decided to dismiss this particular student from speech, and informed me of this decision that morning. After I'd printed out 4 copies of the IEP, after I'd submitted one of those copies to my administrator, after I thought I was done. So, I have to go in and make the necessary changes, add a few new forms for dismissal from services, print out the new pages, and insert them where they need to go. Ok - done with that.

At the end of the next period (my lunch, and my Channel One group), the principal does a drive-by. Did I get my grades fixed? He's hearing there's still a problem. I need to go to guidance - right away. Problem - I have a class starting in 2 minutes. He asks if I can go during my planning. No, that's when my IEP meeting is scheduled. Can I go during my next collaboration class? (7th) Sure - I guess so. He careens away. All of a sudden, a commotion erupts from the direction of my classroom. I go in, and two students are trying to fight each other. My assistant and another student are trying to keep the combatants away from each other. I hit the button (2nd time this year -a record) and call for assistance. As soon as I do that, the two students calm down, and my assistant takes the instigator to the office. Two ptb show up a minute later, and take the other fighter and a witness off to the office. My class of 11 is reduced to 8, with no assistant. We're 10 minutes in to a 45 minute period, and I have to take another 5 minutes to get everyone calmed down. Wonderful.

The next period is my collaboration class. I tell that teacher I will be back ASAP, and head, once more, with feeling, to guidance. When I get there, I find my grade problem has already been fixed. I am once more subjected to a mini-tutorial about the gradebook before I'm released. As I head down the hallway, the principal does another drive-by. This time, he wants to talk about the general mess that is Resource. Can I come see him during my planning? (Wait - didn't I tell him, less than an hour ago, that I had an IEP meeting during my planning?) No, I have a meeting. OK then, he'll catch up with me on Monday. At this point, I'm sorta hoping I'm in some big trouble that will land me in ISS for a day. I'd bring my book and veg out for 7 hours. Bliss.

My IEP meeting is scheduled to start at 1:30. All the players are in place, the copies of the IEP are printed, my day is going to get better. No, wait... the administrator who is to be in the IEP meeting has gone home sick. Another administrator agrees to fill in - but he has NO CLUE about what's going on with the kid, because he didn't have a copy of the IEP to review beforehand. The guidance counselor who I've worked with on some issues regarding this meeting is out with a sick family member, and the speech therapist who wants to dismiss the student from her services is not able to make the meeting. So, the meeting that should last 45 minutes lasts almost 90. I get out of there at around 2:50, just in time to head to the 9th period collaboration class (yes - missed all three!) in time for afternoon announcements and the dismissal bell.

It just doesn't get any better than that! I guess that's why they pay me the big bucks...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Things that make me go grrr...

It's remediation time again! For the last few days, the powers that be have been in high, frantic gear trying to get lists together of those students who are not proving to be successful in their SOL classes. Teachers submitted lists of those who did not pass respective 9-week tests, and have been asked to revise those lists AT LEAST 3 times. Each time, we get a memo to the effect of that there are too many kids on the lists. OK - if they didn't pass the test, they didn't pass the test. If the criteria for remediation is not passing the test, then the students on the lists should be in remediation, right? One would think so. Instead, we hear "We need to remediate those students who we think have a chance of passing the SOL." Shouldn't we be thinking that ALL students in our classes are capable of passing our course SOL? What happened to the old self-fulfilling prophecy?

In any case, the remediation list has been pared down. I have 11 kids scheduled for remediation, starting tomorrow. Of those 11, seven are kids from my classes. Here's a thought: If they didn't learn it from me the first time around, what are the chances they will learn it from me in remediation? I suggested that maybe, just maybe, we should mix up the groups. There are two of us doing Earth Science remediation, so we could mix up the groups so we are not necessarily teaching our own kids.

My principal loves to do drive-bys. He adores coming up to us in the halls and having impromptu meetings that last about 3 minutes. Very productive. Anyway, he entertains me yesterday (while I was on morning duty) with a run down of the 'best practice' theories for remediaton. Turns out, according to him, it's 50/50 whether remediation of your own students is better than letting your students hear it from someone new. Either way has proven to be effective. BUT - he thinks we should remediate our own. We know where the deficits are, we know the behavior issues (yes, that's the crux of this situation. The implication is that my SPED students do not behave well enough for other teachers), blah, blah, blah.... Yesterday afternoon, he pulls me and the other remediation teacher in to an empty classroom during class change to 'discuss' (read 'mold') our thoughts about the remediation groups. We both say we'll remediate whoever shows up, but we wouldn't mind mixing up the students a bit. Way to make a strong statement! (Meanwhile, our classes are starting without us) This morning, during class change from homeroom to first period, he has a meeting with us in the hall again. He shows us the list of students, tells us who we have, and says "OK - we're good to go tomorrow morning." I have my own kids, Leah has her own kids. After the principal leaves, we look at each other and say, "We'll swap kids around, after we see how the groups work out."

I just love it when I feel administration is hearing what I'm saying. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.