Friday, June 15, 2018

A Year in Review

Now that our school year has ended I've been doing a lot of reflecting on how things went. 

I left my old school where I had worked for 13 years to start in a new school this year. Change is hard for me but sometimes in life, it's just inevitable. I worked for the principal of my new school before and knew that he would let me be me-which was the most important thing as I looked at schools to become my new home.

95% of our students come from economically disadvantaged homes. I've always worked in Title 1 schools, but driving through this area your heart really breaks for conditions these kiddos live in.  My students didn't know what a bagel was, but they could tell you that you go to jail for dogfighting. They came into Kinder definitely on an emergent level. Many couldn't tell you what an A was or count past 3 or write their names. It was really overwhelming thinking about the standards and where they were supposed to be after their short time with me. I need to try some new strategies next year and I will be more prepared with my lessons. 

So our year started with a 2 week delay because of Hurricane Harvey. Houston got hit hard-many families are actually still living with damages from that storm. The district policy was to take any students regardless of zone because so many families were displaced.

Another new thing to get used to was my campus uses a behavior program called Conscious Discipline. I completely agree with the concept behind this program-teaching students how to manage their anger, identify their feelings and kindness are all components. I am a rule-follower but I just found it difficult to implement this program with my students. There are no consequences for actions beyond the natural consequences. We are not supposed to contact parents, no notes home. I found that not all students were motivated intrinsically and it did nothing to curb unwanted behaviors. Especially with these little ones.

About 3 weeks in, all our admins came in to do a walkthrough. And for literally the first time in my life, I did not have control of my classroom. I made a decision that day to implement certain components of the program but to also be me and be tough when I needed to be. When we had assemblies and many kids were loud and impolite-my kids were not. Walking through the hallways some classes stampeded, my kids did not. I waited for someone to come fuss at me for "doing it wrong". But no one ever did and we could finally get our act together and learn something.

Looking at my data, my kids did not make the progress I had hoped for. Some were still on an A reading level (they are supposed to be on a D). But I see the progress they made, particularly in their writing. Students started the year just making scribbles on the page, now they are writing sentences. They use vocabulary words we learned in class and have a favorite poem. They are passionate about books-I let them check out books to take home and read (they just don't have those resources) and they would load up their backpacks. I posted 1,800 artifacts to parents on their Seesaw accounts (all but 1 parent ended up downloading the app).

Working with a new team is always challenging but my team I think understands where I'm coming from and did not question my thought processes-at least not to my face. :) My principal asked me to share ideas for stepping up rigor and I did that in PLC's with many of our grade levels. It was hard, but I'm glad I did it. I had teachers sharing with me activities where they tried some of my ideas.

Overall, I was happy with the way my year went. I have some changes to make for next year and some new goals, but it was a good year.

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