Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 03 2008

Planning Things and SSTs

On Monday at about 8:10 in the morning, I was in my classroom preparing for the day. All of a sudden, I heard lots of screaming coming from the playground. At first I figured that it was just some game that the kids were playing, but the racket grew. I opened my door and realized the reason that everyone was screaming was because it had started hailing. Now, as a Colorado native, I am quite used to hail storms. Not necessarily in January, but still. The teacher next door, though, is from southern California and was standing under the hallway-roof completely captivated. It clicked with me that the reason the kids were all running around in the hail instead of having the good sense to take cover was because none of them had ever seen hail before. I ran down the hallway and blew my whistle, shouting at the kids to come inside. They all paused for a moment, staring at me, then started walking towards their respective classrooms. It was as if the shrill sound of my whistle woke them up from a weather-induced trance and they realized that running around in the falling ice is actually a bad idea. My own 6 students who had already arrived at school swarmed around me, talking a mile a minute about the hail.

Them: Ms. Bennett, what is that stuff?
Me: It’s called hail. It happens in Colorado all the time.
Them: But why does it hurt?
Me: Because it’s little tiny pieces of ice falling down.
Them: But why?
Me: Because it’s too cold for it to rain right now.
Them: OHHHHH, so it’s like snow?
Me: Yes, snow that hurts your face when you stand in it.

I talked to my trainer about the hail later that day and she told me that she’s seen hail maybe 6 times in her whole life. It makes me sad that my students don’t get to experience the full joys of the four seasons. All they know is rain and not rain (and now, hail.)

Jess and I are still in the heavy planning stages to get our students to master the standards before the CST. We spent several hours yesterday figuring out how to plan for the ELA standards. We’ve pretty much figured out math, and the Language Arts standards are the last frontier of things we need to plan. I think if we are very deliberate about the next few months, our students will do well on the CST. It’s going to be tight, though. We figured out we only have 51 instructional days until the CST. That’s 408 instructional hours. Which, when you consider how much the administration and school district waste our with other silly things, is really only like 300 instructional hours. 300 hours to bring students who came to us 2 grade levels behind up to proficient. I told Jess today that I’m thinking of this as a fun challenge. It’s like on American Gladiators when they have those race-against-the-clock challenges where the Gladiators are throwing things at you to try to make you fall off. That’s what I feel like in my classroom every single day.

Finally, I was supposed to have my SST meeting for M, my student who can’t read, on Wednesday. This process of getting him help has been going on since October and they have just now scheduled the meeting for it, which was frustrating in and of itself. What is more frustrating is that at the last minute the principal canceled all the SSTs for January because she needed to do her unannounced observations of the teachers instead. This kind of thing happens all the time. My students are suffering because of a lack of planning on someone else’s part. Now we have to wait until the end of February for the next round of SSTs for M. There is some bureaucratic nightmare at the district where there are only so many roaming subs for SSTs, and if you miss your one day a month to get that sub, you are SOL until the next month. Need I remind anyone that M is so far behind that every day he sits in my class is one more day that he’s not getting the instruction he needs. I have tried many of my own interventions to no effect. His DRA level did not change at all in four months of school. This is almost unheard of. He has never been tested or given an IEP, and since I really have no support at all, I don’t know what to do to help him. This, folks, is why we have the SST process: to figure out how to help kids who don’t respond to basic classroom intervention. And now I have to wait another month to even have the initial meeting. It probably will be another month after that before he gets tested, which means it will be the end of the school year before we even know what M really needs. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why the achievement gap persists. Because school districts like mine drag their feet when it comes to actually helping their students.

2 Responses

  1. Jerry

    Dear Miss B,
    Have you considered getting a doctorate in education so that you might affect more than just your classroom? In my line of business the best reps were in retail before they became reps. They know what is necessary to do the job right. I think you would make a great administrator. Think about it.

  2. Jennifer

    If the student you want tested has a supportive parent you can drastically shortcut the process. If the parent writes a letter and requests their child be tested, the district has 15 days to come up with an assessment plan. Once the parents sign the papers for testing it must be done within a certain amount of time. I’m not exactly sure but I think it’s like 2 months or less. Be aware that just testing doesn’t guarantee help. Sometimes they play the “let’s try some other interventions” game.
    They really don’t want to have anymore kids qualify more kids for special ed because it costs them more money. And DON”T LET THE ADMINISTRATION FIND OUT YOU TOLD THE PARENT TO WRITE THE LETTER! You will be in big trouble! Yeah, pretty sad when you get in trouble for being an advocate for your kids. Make sure to tell the parent that she says it was her idea.
    Here’s a web site link for the parent that has a sample letter on it. It’s called Parent Helping Parents. Good luck!

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"All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

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