I’m sorry I haven't blogged much recently. As if being a first year teacher is quite challenge enough, my partner and I have been planning a wedding as well which only adds to the time and stress load. As we approach the end of the academic year, I’m in the process of completing some of the contractually agreed tasks associated with the profession. This is also the time of year when teachers find out if they will have a job next year. With the economy in the state it is, there are quite a few teachers in Washington State who won’t have a job next year. First things first though, I have to make it through this year.
I had my second official observation and post-observation conference. I felt a bit better about it the second time around knowing what to expect. I did come away with good feedback on how to improve my teaching, but I’d like to share some observations I had which may seem obvious to some seasoned pros out there. First of all, I don’t think doing an observation on a Friday is a good idea as far as catching students at their cognitive best. I wasn’t surprised that they wouldn’t be in top form but the degree of apathy was a bit shocking. I thought that the lesson was engaging, though perhaps I was wrong. We had made “fraction kits” and were working on understanding how fractions relate to each other and fraction equivalencies but the students lacked the motivation to use the fraction representations to justify their mathematical thinking. I think had it been a Tuesday through Thursday this might not have been the case. Though, it could just be that they were bored with the game, didn’t find it interesting, or had not transferred the meaning to the manipulatives that I had hoped. Another little lesson for myself was that I should have at least two lesson plans. At some point, about half way through my lesson, my lesson plan disappeared. I’m not sure where it went, perhaps my principal was looking at it, either way, I was without it and was going off of memory. My lesson lost quite a bit of momentum towards the end as I struggled closing it. In retrospect I think I could have planned better closure, and perhaps that would have alleviated that problem lesson plan or not. I don’t think I should be teaching from the plan anyways, it’s just that sometimes there are some very helpful notes or reminders written down.
I also recently finished a document we have which is a professional development requirement. We set two data driven goals at the beginning of the school year and implement a plan to accomplish those goals. At the end of the year we collect data which tells us how we did. We then analyze that data and write a reflection paper. I have yet to have my follow up conference, but a couple of things stand out to me. One of the goals I set this year was difficult to assess, or rather because of my lack of understanding of the process, I didn’t do a good job of pre-assessment. Upon reflection, next year I want to make sure that my goal is concise, easy to assess, developmentally appropriate and attainable. I will then make sure that I pre-assess the specific content knowledge of skill ahead of time with a tool that yield data that can be easily analyzed. I think it would be fair to say that this particular goal could have benefited from all of those insights. My other goal was a collaborative effort with my 4th grade math team and that process has left me with similar insights. What I learned from that experience was the degree of complexity which some of these goals may take on. If I collaborate again, I will do my best to make sure the goal is well defined and has a clear pre-post data collection plan. The reflection paper was somewhat challenging to write, and I’m interested in getting feedback from my principal. I’ll share additional insights later.
Another interesting thing that happened to me this week is I thought I had lost my position do to a reduction in force (RIF), which is a nice way of saying lay-off. The state budget has hit the schools districts quite hard with many around the state laying off a significant amount of teachers. One district has sent out notices to almost 10% of their teachers. We had been fortunate in the Seattle School District to avoid those types of cuts up until this week when it was announced that there would be a reduction in force of 150 teachers. As many of you know the decision as to who stays and who goes is based on seniority, and as a first year teacher, I don’t have much of that. In fact, my name might have been on the list of who is to go. Our school however has been designated a status as a Flight school which helps to ensure the stability of the staff in those communities. I believe the justification is that the greater staff stability will result in increased student achievement, which may be shown through data, but I have not seen the data. To be honest, I wasn’t that aware of the status until now, and boy am I aware and grateful now. I’m not out of the woods yet, as this matter is a topic of negotiations, but I believe I should know by Friday.
I hope all of you are making it through your year and seeing your students achieve at the levels to which they are capable. I hope you all have continued employment where you are at, though if that is not the case, may your current challenges bring you future fortune.
All the best