I'm sitting down to plan and I'm dreading the week. And oddly enough it's not because break will be over, but instead it will be my first day back in the building since the "wonderful" meeting with the administration that sickened me on Tuesday.
Our school went through a complete change of administration this year and apparently our new principal has no trust in reading/writing workshops. I got pulled into an hour meeting with both the principal and assistant principal on Tuesday afternoon and neither approved of my teaching.
If I'm not using the exact wording of each of our state standards, then apparently I'm not teaching them. Best I could understand from the principal, her view is that the only way to teach is to take one standard, teach directly that, immediately assess, and then move onto the next. Every day's lesson must be targeted to specific new learning that every student should have mastered by the end of the period. Anything that I do that doesn't tie to that, should be dropped.
So in other words, students aren't really gaining anything from independent reading, because instead of asking specific targeted questions like, "What is a synonym? Give me an example. How are you using it to expand your vocabulary?" (the way our standard is worded), I happen to normally open with "How's it going?" and let the student's response guide the direction of the conversation.
And her disapproval continued into other areas as well: For instance, I grade my students' progress and performance in reading and writing workshop by asking each of them to compile a portfolio at the end of the quarter. It's worked successfully for the past couple years, BUT it doesn't work for her. Quote, "It's too late to wait until the end of quarter to assess." For instance if, as I did for first quarter, I am evaluating how well my students draft, revise, edit, etc., I should grade them when they finish each step. Even though I explained that there is constant monitoring, informal assessment and checklists being kept all through the quarter, those explanations were completely not trusted by her (i.e. "How do you really know??").
For most of the meeting I felt I was simply getting viewed as an untrusted, rookie teacher who wasn't really focusing on my students….which is sooo far from the truth. I won't claim to be an expert at workshops — I'm always going to have new things to learn — but with parents who aren't complaining, students doing what is needed, and last year, good test scores achieved, I think I'm doing something right.
But apparently because not all my students currently have A's and B's, that represents failure. Her repeated question, "If workshops aren't working for ALL your students, then what else have you tried? There's so many other ways to teach…." "What about the kids who don't like to read, how are you going to reach them? After all, there's always going to be kids who will never like reading, so what can you do to engage them?"
I left on Tuesday feeling hurt and upset. The old administration was so supportive, and now I'm apparently back in a position where my teaching skills are no longer trusted. I once again find myself hating being the only one in my building teaching through workshops because there's no one else to come to bat for me.
I was a given a formal letter with 3 things they want immediately put into place —
1) A rubric specific down to the last detail specifying how students are assessed (and where student participation isn't allowed to count for anything).
2) A portfolio grade taken for progress reports, as well as the end-of-the-quarter.
3) An objective in state standard terms posted on my board each day tied directly into the new learning for the day.
Teaching 105 students each day, I've already been at my near breaking point in terms of my current workload (I sadly live and breath school many hours of my day…both in AND out of the school building), and I feel like that these new pressures are just going to take me over the edge. I firmly believe teaching through workshops is the best way for my students to grow as readers and writers, but how in the world do you deal when an administration simply doesn't get it???
Closing my door and ignoring the situation I don't think is going to work….