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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The School Day, Part VII: Wrapping Up

I make it down to the cafeteria by 3:35 and head toward the back to stand in the massive line for Cheetos, cookies, chips, and vegetable dip. There are those massive Post-It sheets stuck to every pillar and numbers at every table. Everyone is making polite conversation as the administration turns on the microphones and starts up the overhead projector. I begin preparing to feign interest in an hour's activity that will undoubtedly provide me with much less utility than what I could accomplish on my own in my room, which is not to say that staff meetings should not be held, but that their time should be limited and they should NOT be held merely for the purpose of holding one (which I'm afraid is often the case.)

"Hi Mr. RE. Take a number please."

I smile and select number six from hat. I make my way over to table number six and have a seat. We're given a short speech on the importance of DC-BAS.

"Make sure your welcoming to all students. Make sure to give out all of the calculators and explain to students when to use them. Make sure to follow all distribution and collection protocols....."

I look around and see three people typing on their laptops (almost certainly trying to finish up some paper they have due for graduate school), a few groups of people talking, and the rest either watching Ms. Administrator reiterate all of the things we've all heard 100 times or thinking about what they could be doing rather than sitting here.

Next we get the results of a survey that was conducted the previous year.

"The first thing we'd like everyone to do in their groups is decide what you're looking at, just the bare basics. What do you notice here? Don't make any inferences or judgements. Just tell each other what you see."

Table number six stares at the paper for a little while. It shows how three groups of respondents (students, staff, and parents) replied to survey questions concerning the school's effectiveness, it's safety, and it's climate.

"I see that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to engaging parents."

"No, no. Say what you see. Don't draw any conclusions based on the data in front of you."

"Oh, okay. I see only thirty-five parents responded to this survey"

"I see that only sixty-five ESL students said they feel safe at school."

"I see that a majority of teachers say that the climate needs improvement."

One of the administrators comes to hover over us the same way I monitor my students in class when I think they might be off task.

Ms. Principal brings everybody back: "Now draw some conclusions and connect your observations to your conclusions on the Post-It note at your station."

(Why are we doing this? I wonder if this is the administration's way of letting us know that they're aware that every staff member thinks this is a horrible place to work. Or is this to help us build our data-analysis skills?)

Ms. Principal brings everyone back again.

"Okay, let's share out. What did you notice and what conclusions did you draw? Mr. S."

"Our group noticed that the parents were overwhelmingly happy with the safety and effectiveness of the school."

"Excellent. Thank you for that excellent comment. How about you, Ms. Q?"

"Well........our group noticed that not very many parents responded. So maybe we need to continue our focus on parent involvement."

"That's very true. Mr. R, what did you see?"

"Well, it's not so much what I saw. I just wanted to say that of the staff members surveyed in this study last year, only fifty percent of them are here this year. That should be a cause for concern."

"Well, that's kind of beside the point. I think this still provides us with enough data for this exercise to be effective."

(And exactly what would make this exercise effective? What's our objective? I still don't know why this is more important than grading papers.)

The meeting ends with many of the staff members disgruntled by Ms. Principal's downplaying of our concerns and I get back to my room at 4:35. I take about ten minutes to organize my desk. A day's worth of teaching will inevitably lead to a messy desk that I need to clean before I can get any work done after school. I grab second period's Do Nows and go through them assigning points if they met my objective and deducting points if they didn't. I keep track of each student's progress in a matrix I've made to satisfy IMPACT's requirement that all teacher's keep track of student progress. When I'm finished, I grade a few projects, and by that time it's 6:00. I take fourth period's Do Nows and throw them in the trash. They're worthless since I didn't actually get to teach that class.

After gathering my stuff, putting on my coat, changing shoes, and signing out in the main office, I manage to leave school by 6:15. I get to the gym by 6:30, shower and begin to walk home by 7:45, arrive home at 8:00, eat dinner and begin working on tomorrow's lesson plan at 8:30. By 10:00 I've come up with a decent lesson plan for the following day and head to bed.

(I worked for nearly twelve hours today and I'm still ridiculously behind. I don't have a test for this unit yet. I don't have my objective calendars for both classes. I haven't called many of the parents I need to call. That reminds me that I forgot to call the parents of the kids who came in tardy today. Also, we still don't have any idea what we're going to be doing the rest of the week or what our next unit will look like. I need to read the textbook and figure out where to go. When the hell am I going to find time to do that?)

I try to remind myself that the school day is over and go to bed, but it stresses me out for a little while longer until I manage to close my eyes. Maybe the roller coaster will be back up tomorrow. Here's hoping.

3 comments:

  1. Mr. RE: Your day sounds a lot like my days at the beginning of my teaching career (I taught junior high and high school for 4 years before switching career tracks and becoming an attorney). A tip I got from an older teacher was to severely limit the amount of grading I had to do; Give students journals or other assignments that only need to be collected once a week (or less often). Use quizzes, classwork, long term projects and other methods to evaluate students. I found that this was a good strategy: The students often don't read the teacher's comments on daily low-point homework, and grading 5 or 6 periods worth of students' work each day is exhausting for any one teacher.

    Don't know if you're still teaching (I was a little confused as to what you're doing now that you left DCPS) but wanted to pass this along.

    I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the interesting posts (they're a trip down memory lane...)

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Attorney DC. I agree. You've got to be smart and organized when it comes to grading. It can suck the life out of you.

    I do plan on continuing teaching. Just hoping to find a decent school to do it at this August.

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  3. Good luck finding a good school for this August! There are definitely schools in the DC area (VA and MD suburbs) that are easier to work in than DPCS (if you're staying in the area). Keep on posting!

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