I can now say that I am on vacation! I plan to take care of myself tomorrow. That means No Alarm Clock Day! I will not waste the day in bed, but I will sleep in. I will also go for a run. I really wanted to do that tonight, but it started raining hard :-(. I did manage to take a nap though. I truly believe that naps are important and help fuel our bodies, too.
My quote for today reflects my feelings for today. I knew that today was going to be “interesting”. I also knew that I had to be brave and face the day. I was going to be honest and stand up for myself and my teaching philosophy. I feel that I did. I truly think that I handled the day quite well, and I am pleased with myself. As a side note, the book Boundaries has helped me tremendously with this. I highly suggest that you read it. One of these days I will blog about it.
I am a teacher who does NOT like worksheets. I think I have said that in earlier posts. I also do not like workbooks. In my opinion workbooks are just lots of worksheets bound together. I find that students do not like them either. Another name for workbooks and worksheets in my mind is…”busy work”. Yes, worksheets have their place, I agree. However, we need to make sure that the worksheet actually helps our students become better, and where it is going to help them. Many times my worksheets are graphic organizers to help them organize their thoughts and thinking. They are not just fill in the blank from copying a missing word out of the textbook, etc. As a matter of fact, we do not even have textbooks. I strongly believe in using authentic literature, magazine articles, etc. rather than a textbook.
I knew that the topic of worksheets and workbooks was going to come up today. It seems to come up all of the time when I am at work. It did! However, I felt I was mature. Today was a professional development day where we had a speaker talk to us about our Common Core Math Modules. I want you to know something. This year, I really liked the math modules. Last year, when I was teaching another grade level, not so much. However, moving down a grade level, I can see more of how they are scaffolded and I can see connections. As I went through the year using them I reflected on what was happening. I am a sticky note lover – haha. I put sticky notes in the modules where I thought I can maybe omit the module lesson, or maybe teach the lesson after another, maybe how I can change it to better fit the students, etc. As I have said before, ADAPT so that the modules fit your students. Every student is different. What you do may or may not work for another students or classroom. Individualization is the key.
I enjoyed the presenter today and it helped me open up my mind and to really dive into and think about how I will go about teaching math next year. Some of what the presenter said I agreed with and some I did not. I was quiet for some of it. However, if I felt strongly about something I did speak up. I did not start any arguments or conflicts..rather I was just professional and said my piece. After that I was quiet. I really enjoyed how I was being respected today. That was nice. That has not always happened this year.
This is what I have learned this year. Sometimes it is best to just be quiet. Do NOT let people walk all over you, that is NOT what I am saying. But rather, be quiet and do what you feel is right in your heart. Is it really worth shouting over? Usually no. I have learned this year that you have to do what is right for you – do not be selfish but do what you strongly feel is right. Listen to that gut instinct. It is not going to be easy, but it will keep you sane (or as sane as I can be 🙂 ) Also, surround yourself with people who are positive and have the same philosophy as you. That has been a BIG, HUGE help to me this year. It is when I was with these people, that I felt more confident knowing it was not just myself, but others felt the same way. We helped each other to do what we felt was right. It helped us to feel confident.
Anyway, the topic of creating workbooks came up. Oh, they were so happy that the presenter had a workbook for every module. I thought they would have all grabbed at it at once. I did not. I could tell that maybe this was going to be one of my uh-oh moments. But, I was proud of myself. I was quiet. I didn’t grab at them like the rest and go this is great! When the presenter said how she had all of the worksheets from the modules bound into a workbook to save time, I just smiled. However, when she said that she does NOT grade the homework I did a somewhat happy dance and a yeah – I think that was heard. I also do not believe in grading EVERYTHING! Homework is practice. It has a purpose. Also, you will find that many times the homework has been done with parents, older siblings, etc. If I ever graded anything, it was usually work done in class where I knew it was done by the students. Who are we grading and assessing – the parents or our students? Children are very honest. They will tell you who did the homework. I always thank them for their honesty. As a side note, I NEVER sent home new Common Core homework. Everything was done by the students in class. I gave them the work time. The reason – so that I was getting a true picture of the students and I could find out where they were struggling so that I could form small groups, maybe reteach a whole lesson or concept to the entire class, etc. I will be blogging about homework soon. My thoughts on homework changed dramatically this year. I changed my whole philosophy and do feel that I will stick with what I did. It made sense and it was authentic – guess what? It was not all worksheets, but it was great practice 🙂
Back to today. I went to get some papers from the printer. I came back and it happened. Another teacher said, oh we sent those workbooks over to be copied. I knew I had to say something. The reason, I hate killing trees and I wanted it to be known that my feelings still have not changed. Believe me, they know my feelings. I knew it would be a waste. I KNEW I WOULD NOT USE THEM. So, I did it in a professional manner. I said, ” oh.. well you can take my name off of the list. I don’t need them. If anything give me one, but I do not want 25 of them. I don’t use all of the worksheets from the modules. I will just make copies of the ones that I use. I won’t use the workbooks so it would be a waste.” I got “the look” do not worry. I got the eye rolls. But, then I was quiet. They said , “Really? You do not want them?” I said, “Yes really. You know my thoughts and I am sticking to them. I find that my students get overwhelmed when presented with huge workbooks. They feel defeated. I just made my own copies of what I used in the modules so they only had one piece in front of them at a time. I have no problem doing this, it is okay. I am fine being different.” That was it. No arguing… nothing. Okay, I was starting to get that icky feeling inside of me like here we go again. I could have had a squirelly moment, but I chose to just say it and move on. I then went back to working on the pacing calendar. The moment was over. I didn’t have to fight, I just had to be mature and then it was over. Okay, honest moment, I checked at the end of the day and my name was not removed from the workbooks list. But I checked when everyone was gone and I was walking out. I then said to the principal, take my name off of the list to have the workbooks made. I won’t use them. I will do my own copying of anything that I use. DON’T waste the money. She said okay and that was fine. She then crossed my name off. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Hopefully, she did not feel the gust of wind – haha.
Earlier in the year and for most of this year, it would have been a battle. Seriously, we teachers would have fought. But, as the year went on I learned to go to meetings and just be quiet. I would just say things in a professional way – say what I felt needed to be said, then be quiet and listen. You have to understand, that was difficult for me. I blame it on me being German and Italian haha. But, they were battles not worth fighting. My goal is to teach my students. I want them to learn. They did learn. I am proud of all of them and they made gains according to my data scores. I did it without using big thick workbooks. I did it using authentic learning. I did it going through many, many MANY dry erase markers haha. Rather than doing worksheets, I used dry erase boards and dry erase markers. They work wonders! The kids drew their own tape diagrams, number bonds, pictures to solve word problems, arrays, etc. After they understood the concept, yes I did give them a worksheet sometimes. The purpose was to then gather it up and to use it for myself. Not to grade it to put in my grade book, but to then look to see if indeed most seemed to understand the concept. If most did, I knew that I could go on with the next lesson. If not, WOAH! I had to reteach it another way. The students also needed to see how they would have done if I had graded it. They need to know where they are struggling. Like I said, you do have to grade some things. I did, but not every single piece of paper. Education is a learning process. They need practice before you start taking a grade. As teachers, you need to constantly reflect and look at your students. Don’t get me wrong, some students are just going to struggle. I would get frustrated with myself because it seemed as though the same students were missing everything. However, I would work with them in a small group to try to help them. Did they always get it? No, but then I had more documentation to bring with me to meetings when we would discuss whether or not to test the child, could it be a learning disability, etc. Yes, we have to grade assessments and some work. I did, and yes some students failed. But we, as teachers, also need to be honest with the parents and the students. Life is not always happy, happy, happy.
I always start the year off with talking about how for some people school is easy, for others they struggle. Some are great at math, but need more help with reading, etc. We are all a team and we will all help each other. I also have a talk about grades. It is a number. For some a 70 is wonderful! For others, not so much. What you have to look at is did you do your best? Did you study for that test? Did you proofread and check your work? We focus on being honest with ourselves and striving for our personal best. If you are not doing well, that means you just need extra practice and we will help you. I also need to be honest with your parents. So if we have to have a conference, or you have to get a paper signed it is because we need to be honest. For the most part, the students understand. I always find a positive comment to write first on the report card. Then I talk about something that needs work on. However, I always end with keep trying or I believe in you. Focus on the positive.
I think this has turned into a babbling blog tonight. I could have gone in many directions. What I wanted to focus on, was how I have changed and learned to just “let it go”. Speak up for what you believe in in a professional, respectful manner. Then just be quiet and go on. Don’t dwell on it. I survived the day. I learned about how I can get through more math ( I hope). I learned where we need to make changes. I learned about how the presenter has managed to streamline her teaching so that they get through more. That was important to me. That is what should be important to all teachers. We only have our students so long during the day. We need to make every second count. For me, I want it to be where they are being creative, thinking, thinking about their thinking, talking to others about what they are thinking about while learning, etc. I do not have time for busy work. I need authentic hands-on learning. Worksheets do have their place, but I can’t be doing worksheets every minute.