Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nine Thoughts on My First Year Teaching 5th Grade


1) This is where I'm meant to be. I loved my years teaching first grade, and covering those early reading skills will always hold a special place in my heart, but the energy and independence of 5th graders is a much better match for my personality and skill set. It was a tough change to commit to when it came up, but it was the right change for me.

2) I'm not a fan of the LASER science kits we use here in Washington. A year of 5th grade teaching, and an experience giving the statewide science test, has done nothing but reinforce my view.

5th grade is the tested year for science in the K-6 band--i.e., we're the ones who's scores get reported to the state--and the science test covers *everything* that they're supposed to know. The trick is that the LASER kits for 5th grade cover variables, earth science, and nutrition, and the way they do it is very, very poor.

We need a proper science curriculum. That's not what LASER is, and I doubt that's what it ever was intended to be. The goal of hands-on science is absolutely the right one (I taught a dissections unit, for example, that was the highlight of the year), but if it's not properly balanced with vocabulary, diagraming, and the like, we're never going to get where we need to go.

3) I spend way too much time during the year reacting--hence the way my amount of blogging went in the tank--but I'm really looking forward to using this summer to reflect on the year. Part of the beauty of K-12 education is that you get a sabbatical every 9 months, and there's an incredible amount of power in that.

4) I'm obsessed with the state budget, but that pays off--I'd been talking to my members all year long about where things are and where they could go, and after everything was fleshed out we were in a position as a district where no one was RIFed, no provisional will be non-renewed, and the only one of my 125 members I might not be able to bring back is a half-time retire/rehire teacher at my middle school, and that said I think I might have a way to save her, too.

My end line is jobs--if we're saving jobs, we're doing the right thing--and for this year at least, my district was able to do the right thing. I'd also note that I get incredibly pissed at those districts that tell the public "Hey, we didn't have any layoffs!" when at the same time they're sending away provisional teachers in droves. We saved every position. That should always be the goal, no matter the sacrifice.

5) I had three kids get sick during the dissections, particularly the star fish--I think it was the smell that did them in. Oddly enough, they were all boys--my girls did great. Breaking down gender roles FTW!

6) The people who hated my science teaching style the most were.....the custodians. Happily, when you have the kids on your side, you also tend to have the parents, and that can carry you a looooooong ways.

7) I had a teacher get terminated this year. It does happen. It is doable. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

8) I've really, really got to lose some weight. I've really, really got to find a way to work exercise into my day during the school year. I've really, really got to cut the Red Bull and Monster Energy drinks out of my diet.

9) My daughter is doing absolutely amazingly well since getting the cochlear implant in--phrasing words, asking questions, and doing everything that we had hoped she would do. Stressful at the time, but the right decision.

See you on the blogs!

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