25 in the collection
The arts are marginalized because the voice offered by the arts for poor children means what, asking for opportunity and fairness? It is to what end? What I offer has lost it's value as surely as the potentials we are contemplating shipping back to down to Mexico. And my kids are citizens damn it. Ones I see as necessary for our survival.
My daughter sent me this tonight to further focus my ever kudzu creeping writing. I hope she will allow me to use it. She titled her E-mail, One of the Maddest Things I've Ever Heard.
Bill O'Reilly is 90% ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous, but really. The number of people who watch his show leaves me dumbstruck, as do the guests he can reliably get on there to talk with him. I mean, this is a serious presidential candidate agreeing with a man who, not three seconds before, essentially said that his platform is for a theocratic, racist patriarchy. I dunno. I think if I were running for president--I might interrupt, right there.
Again I never felt more unwanted or abandoned than this year.
Just tape scapegoat on my tail. Nor have I seen something just suck like this has, a word that has no place in any teacher piece.
I used some really awful mandated materials this year. As a teacher, this was reflective of many shifts in teaching universes. Hailed as "same page", "standards based", "directed". There was no personal way to pull through and feel the creative, love based happiness I used to feel teaching. Here is a pricelist of my reading materials. Each child had 5 anthologies a piece. I had most of this list, ( just not the lower part of the list- the literature) another Avenues program, new Social Studies, math... look at these prices.
What I had to say this year was viewed sytematically through a lens of distrust and intimating poor intention on my part. But I asked myself to 'step up to the plate' this year, at least speak to teaching very aware that my flaws outweighed my truth for a great many. Me too. Wanted to try to be someone who expanded horizons, reached out. Tried to be there. Was "transparent" in mind and heart. Did my actions speak louder than the words? Neither was apparently worthy enough that I could be seen through this smokescreen going on. When pseudo-science created a notion/rule that by 2014 all children will be proficient or advanced, or else, it was believed and adopted in my world as " a way". What utter nonsense. On it's face.
Because I'm not so well physically and I like to do more positive things than actually writing about canned workbooks and losing teacher control, I also shared regularly about books I like to use in teaching this year as an escape, on daily life things, kept a blog and my usual field notes teaching, and wrote to things from my roles as mom, teacher, friend and person very much adrift being a human being.
But I just don't have any magic left. I have to turn to face some things.
It's the end of the year, my head is pounding. What happened today is I let myself feel/see, I'm harried and worn. My end of the year papers on the kids aren't finished yet and their portfolios not quite done. I tried to enrich their 1st grade year, it always felt like I was cheating or might get caught instructing around my own sensibilities, caught with a pumpkin in my hand or a paint set. My energy is about to shift so that I can illustrate a book this summer with a friend who I've worked with 24 years, teach Migrant summer school, write and I'm going to try and forgive my own chaotic stupidity. Because if what I did as a teacher this year resembled integrity....that might have just been my resistance to this overwhelming mess of contradiction that took over my world. But still I cling to my truth, shutting down the arts, narrowing, looking at education through these lenses was compelling me to try to name it. Appealing to someone to care with me, care for me. But I think I struck out and may agree with a few folks that maybe we're going to lose this game, go down with the ship.
And it's symbolized by something rather trite. I have a Follow Your Dreams Key chain. It's old and worn a gift from a student years ago. It now reads Follow You after an accident with my book bag one awful morning in December.
But I don't need that much memory to crawl you back to December yet, because I've been in the moment trying really hard to resist too much reflection for a good while. Running fast away from looking even at just one day in my life. But I will return to December in my next post later tonight. There is a nagging truth there I have avoided facing.
If I got reflective and if I considered too much, the keychain and I would be exactly the same, broken dreams that can hold keys to future roads to be taken, once I'm told who to follow. It was a year my job was redefined to me as needing to serve it their way.
So this said, today was a very strange Friday. My change at Jersey Mikes (and I've left school for lunch probably 30 times in my 25 years doing this job), was $200, 117. Really, except they didn't give it to me. I did get to keep the receipt.
On the surface fortuitous my friend said.
I left the school in the afternoon to see the most awful car wrecking "situation" with a careening speeding maniac that sounded hell bent to kill or die racing down the street directly in front of my school. Really bad. A group of furious guys I thought would kill this maniac that wrecked into them crowded in to bodily pull him from his truck. I know closed in fails to define the gravity of this for you and in a moment it was clearly going to get way worse. Things like this are "moments of clarity" for me. At year's start with the police chase and lock-down, and later the next week or so my severe fall at Open House I had clarity moments about this year, how it felt to be teaching now in a poverty school, just on a gut level.
He drove so fast in the front part of the school I thought a child was going to die. Really.
The sound of the screeching and crashing was incredible. It was so long. But I was disoriented anyway from writing today, reading something so sharp it seemed a razor, and submitting my evaluation and teaching, relating. I waited watching awful things evolve out of a neighborhood activated and on fire. And finally in impotence just drove to get my own kids to get away from it all. A symbol of how it felt trying to effect the train wreck of issues in my kids this year. It was bad in the hood this afternoon. It's actually the human edge I know, walk on, and just deny everyday. And I'm afraid I'm not the only one with a healthy set of blinders, nationally we seem to excel in the ability to look away and call it reality anyway.
I read a very good article this week The Gift of Bleak Research By Mike Schmoker & Richard Allington on Susan Ohanian's Site about actually looking at teaching to talk about teaching. It pointed this out, italics are mine:
I thought about my evaluation project due today. It was something I could barely summarize for the forms. So I wrote the following. I was in an Alternative Evaluation year in which we do a "project".
I don't know if I'll pass, I think it will. It was as honest a summary as I could write.
But on three different mandated language assessments to "place" my students in a very canned ELD program next year AS AN EXAMPLE of this project, (some of the pieces I work on understanding till 2 every night), I had vastly different scores on kids such that they could simultaneously be Advanced, Beginner and Intermediate Levels. The scores that far apart in our 5 leveled system in where to instruct the student. Just using their "required" data.
How does one use this. It requires "thinking".
So just on one child (reflected like this on all my kids) allow me to restate, data measures I was mandated to use as scientifically based state o art gave me not a range, but essentially contradictory information. And every time this happened, in every instructional area, I was personally compelled to do some analysis about why. Also looking at what to do with this to help our kids. Does it help? I'll share one of those pieces in a conversational way. It felt ridiculous, but this is the kind of thing I do.
I actually think I know why it happens there are so many levels on a child with such vast differences in their levels- at least as it affects our figuring out language development on our kids so that we can group them at levels to instruct them in a program of seemingly workbook-y scripted dubious merit. That portends great things. A practice we are required by law or politics to do. One I think is written in a kind of stupid zone for 1st graders anyway, but hey, no one pays me to look at language acquisition.
I told my Principal today the reasons why I think our most recent testing, a thing called Adept, appears to drop every kid right down to the floor level wise as a speaker of "English." Even if the student has only spoken English and score Proficient or Advanced on our state exams in reading, and on other measures, No matter, they were all Adept tested and placed in ELD (English Language Development). Anyway. That's something vaguely spoken to as a function of the language needs in poverty. After all Adept now shows them lacking. Okay. I find that rather patronizing, but okay. Science is, after all, science. Data, data, data, data.... There it is in black and white. Give them all this test, place them all in ELD levels to give Systematic ELD so they can score Proficient, even if they are already scoring Proficient or Advanced and speak no second languages. That just makes a ton of sense.
I looked at the tests. I see how they function. I know how to more effectively do this ELD placement. I know my principal is aware I know data inside out, (maybe even teaching). But almost every child we have will be put somewhere they don't fit next year no matter what I do unless I really do my work with some magic. And mine died today, with many other things, just too tired at years' end to be able to explain another damn thing. I will try to forward this truth so that those above me can consider it, but relating back to the first quotation. My God what a mess. We are whirling in a stew of stupidity. Does nothing matter?
In brief we have a CELDT score, not a perfect test (written, oral) but the State requires it yearly until you are FEP. To assess the state of affairs in getting a child into English and by the time you see a student it's 6 months old, hard to level a child's oral language from this and be aware of recent language growth highly significant in 6 year olds as their language blooms rather expansively.
So now we have Adept. Hailed to give us precise information to use in daily Systematic ELD instruction. (Did your child learn to speak English in a Systematic English program? Mine learned in a sloppy life-based exposure to parents, books, people, places, themes, human living.) And indeed this is a grammar test. Not really about application into content. But as language is driven through content that begins to get hazy especially in 1st, but no one is allowed those thoughts. That's not systematic and focused thought. We are narrowed on believing these tests MEAN SOMETHING BIG. And their uses DO SOMETHING.
My issue with ADEPT is it is the same test K to 6. And same scoring rubric for any age. Imagine if you assessed your 6 year old and your 12 year old for language usage grammar abilities with a test with 5 levels Beginner to Advanced.
Same scoring. Have you talked to kids at 6 and 12 lately and expected their language to be matched up? I thought there was a paradigm in our Standards and work implying deepening, growth through time, developmental issues and something called maturation of the brain, acquiring of oral language reflective of a multitude of growth processes. So that what a 1st grader does looks and sounds very different from 6th. It did to me teaching the two grades. Well not now. Not in our school.
Young kids by and large can't demonstrate the tenses and complexities of the language consistent with EO peers on this ADEPT test due to age. No matter .....at 6 future tenses, verb forms, Subject / verb agreement, and other pieces of grammar are yet to be learned/used in regular communication. I taught simple verb agreement months after the testing when the introduction of the construct fell in the curriculum. This test demands this be the way they speak. . Fine. So all kids go in lower levels in 1st. Everyone. This means all my at level speakers, many EO kids never coming from a 2nd language and not running around in Ebonics or vernacular English nothing hampering them, now all are level 2 or 3. Early Intermediate speakers. So after our ELD program and implementing the canned Avenues program an hour daily sacrificing art, science and social studies, their level dropped two or three from the Avenues test or CELDT we used originally to assign kids to teachers to trade classes so they could have their mandated leveled ELD. No one is saying anything now. It's all Babel.
In 1st grade because we are looking at skills tested on Adept that are contained in much later years, oral language standards not a part of the first grade taught "discreetly" for years. So of course they will not score high enough to land a level that may well represent what an EO peer would be doing age appropriately elsewhere in a place not doing this. Again we made our EO kids also do this test so that all students were put in an ELD group, no matter what. The test vehicle assured this by nature of asking 1st graders to do what 6th graders were also asked to do. Insane. Sorry. That alone I still find mind boggling. Great. No one gets it and it's fundamental.
Next test to think about in Oral Language Development is in a workbook called Avenues. It's written. Chunky workbook test. How a 1st grader tests that is 6 years old in a workbook test must not really be a greatly reliable idea, even our state says it's too unreliable to State Star test them at this age. Yet we did this to "level" their oral language. Written test in 1st for oral demonstration of language and comprehension. This was truly chicken/egg stuff. 130 of them sitting in a cafeteria with bubble tests. Teachers asked to leave. Yes, I did get a test written this time specifically for 1st graders, good. Very good over the rest. Was there an oral part to this test that was to judge their oral language? No. That's worrisome.
So that kind of invalidates it. Maybe you get this, maybe not.
The best way to level the children probably is to average these three tests (CELDT, ADEPT, AVENUES)and add in the most significant piece , instructor judgment. We were told this was a "bad" idea as teachers give kids too much "credit" for language ability. not understanding real academic language.
I'd like to see some "data" on that.
I suspect giving a first grader a test given K to 8 on grammar with the same set of expectations to get assigned levels, not looking at language development in English for a Native speaker related to age appropriateÃ¢€Â¦it might be teachers give a lot of credit for conversational ability. . . but placing all your children, even EO children with outstanding scores, into Beginning or Early Intermediate 2nd language learning ELD groups smacks of the asinine.
So there you have but a piece of my data analysis work. I'm sure you are bored right out of the post. Scientifically researched based is on the ground detonating. I'll have excellent students in groups next year spending an hour a day learning the nouns in the rooms in their house that are presently writing paragraphs based on literature they read like Ramona the Brave. with me hiding undercover my temerity in still doing things like this. Makes sense. Sure.
I have on my computer enough material now to talk more fully about what canned instruction does. To speak to what embedding children in literature and within literacy contexts with teacher judgment operating does.
This year I spent 37 hours of instructional time in Mandated Skills Themed tests. Ten tests in a fat workbook on the themes. Houghton Mifflin. That amounts to about a little over a month of the teaching time in reading. (a ten month year) Would you like your child to spend that much time on workbook tests that are mandated? During their reading instructional block?
Next year our District has "decided" to mandate doing only two of the ten tests. Had they listened in the first place to info from instructors the rigid pacing might have pointed out another foul up, no re-teach time. And the very shaky basis for so many pieces I am not wasting time with it here. In short, looking at data, working with what I saw the one thing I needed was trust in my work, ability to make decisions, support in this and way less canned mandating.
I do in fact ultimately blame the structure on NCLB failure. And after listening to the interview with Margaret Spellings, the most unqualified education Secretary I can imagine. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. here) I am not advocating teaching to "other stuff" over reading. Hello, I want to actually read and to teach reading, Margaret. Reading your credentials alone I'd like every parent in my room to do the same. I think a PHD is the least you can do for your country. Go get in a night program like 90% of the teaching workforce did and earn some education while working "very hard".
Call it the pursuit of higher expectations and begin inside your self.
Canned programmatic nonsense surely is bogging down a teacher who certainly knows the value of reading. And who has, and this kills me, more degrees than the Secretary of Education, and in and out of the subject area.
I'm now stepping off my teacher soapbox, even stepping off my personal soapbox, pulling off some blinders that keep me from talking these things much of the year and going back to Dec 19th. The day I had so many blinders in place I almost missed something that has come to be my nickname here in family and with my partner teacher. The White Christmas.
Poetries is nots for all the peoples, it is for the ones that listens."
Ã¢€”Gabriela, first grader in Sarah's classroom
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883
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