Friday, September 4, 2009

Catching my Breath

I have been back at school with students for two weeks now and I am just beginning to catch my breath. I've not had a chance to read as many books as I would like or to write reviews. There have been several changes at our school this year. This summer we were notified that we have met all of the qualifications to become an IB World School. Once we had made this accomplishment we pulled out our lesson plans ready to start the new year and we were greeted with "New" lesson plantemplates. No problem, just take the material and fit it into the new design. We got those all ready to turn in and they put on the brakes. It seems our New Principal has designed a different lesson plan template. In addition to Unit plans, and Daily Plans he now wants us to create and digitally turn in to him each week, "weekly plans". We have not seen these template as of yet. He has come in and turned our world upside down with some of his changes. His whole goal is to take us from a "C" school to an "A" school. We start all of our teacher meetings with a "pep rally" of sorts. Principal: Who are we?! Teachers: "Insert name of school" Principal: "What's our goal?!" Teachers: "A" School. At lunch time he grabs the bull horn and we can hear the chant in our classrooms. I am not saying this is bad. I am saying that it is different. Our last principal was effective but more laid back in a no nonsense way. This principal is an "in your face" type of motivator. The kind that wants action and wants it now.
Other changes: I came in this morning and realized I had no second period class listed in my electronic grade book. They had to move my second period students into my other classes so that I could take on another teachers second period students due to an endorsement problem. Not a problem. for me. It is one of the programs I am teaching. I will have to come up with the information for them regarding the minimum books required for my class. I had a student ask me if I was going to grade them for reading the books. I told her yes. Her reply was, "Well I guess I have to read some now." They must read books from 7 different genres (I gave them the genre list) and then pick 3 more books from a genre of their choosing. This is a total of 10 books. Four of their books will come from their Language Arts class. I even posted the list of required LA novels adn the quarter they will read them on the board.
I am already seeing some miracles. At open house a mother told me her son hated to read because he could never pass the AR (Accelerated Reader) tests. He was unable to join in parties etc because of this and became discouraged. I told her we have AR at the school. It is not mandatory and that students are not required to take AR tests for my class. The kid has read his first book and he did it in 5 days. He checked out another book for this 3 day weekend. and had me divide it so he can read it in five days. He wants to read a book almost every week. One of my girls told me the first week I was nuts if I thought she was going to read 10 books. She is on her third book. Remember this is only the end of her second week in school. One of my boys told me there was no way he could read 10 books. I told him I agreed with him, I believed he would read more than 10. He figured that would be one a month. Since I told him that I believed he could read more than 10, and showed him how to divide his book up to read it within a particular amount of time he has set a goal of 2 books minimum each month. He said he read 1 book last year. He didn't read the books in Language Arts because he didn't like to read. I still have those who have not found their niche but I am hoping that we will get them there soon. So they can keep track of the books read and genre, I have a notebook on my chalk tray. Each student has a form with 20 lines on it. They write the title, author, genre and date finished. They must also write a book review which they file in another notebook under the genre of the book. This is so other students might find an interesting book recommendation. I have always told my students and fellow teachers that I believe in modeling things for them. I was called on this statement yesterday. One of my students asked if I had a form in the notebook so they can see the books and genres that I read. Mine is now at the front of the notebook. They also wanted me to write up my reviews like they do so that they can read my reviews. I have one in the review notebook already.
Two things made me laugh and almost cry with joy today. While completing our workbooks in one of my classes I had to threaten to take a student's novel away. It killed me to say it because I would much rather have my students reading books they enjoy instead of doing workbook pages for their county mandated reading program. I thought, "If our principal were to walk in and see her not doing what the rest of the class was doing, he would nail her good". So I made the decision to make her put the book away until my work was finished. She put the book away. The minute we had finished she had her nose back in the book. The other item that made me laugh was a student, (whose mother told me he had read a total of 2 1/2 books last year), asked me what would happen when he filled up all twenty lines on the "Books Read" form. He wanted to know if he "had " to stop reading or if he could get another form put read more. I loved it. One of my Limited English speaking students checked out her second book because of the long weekend. She is reading a book approximately every 2 weeks. Her reason? I give out a ceramic eagle (our school emblem) at the end of the year to the person in each class that has read the most books. She didn't get one last year. My husband and I make them and she wants one. The side effect of her getting started so early in the year is that she has finished a book and she was discussing it with another ESL student who checked it out. I am truly seeing some miracles here. Part of it is because they are choosing their books with recommendations from other students and myself. In addition to writing reviews I hope to keep you up to date on the progress my students are making this year. Remember, Keep Reading!


  1. Love the stories about the kids reading! My sister teaches middle school and she has a large "library" of books she has added to her classroom for kids to check out. I think it's great to get young kids reading for fun!!

  2. So do I. If I can help turn one out of 100 kids on to reading for pleasure then I feel I have accomplished something. I have a group of supportive parents this year. My personal library at school has close to 1200 books now. They can't say they can't find anything good. I have books from every genre imaginable and all reading levels

  3. That is awesome you will be giving up another ceramic eagle. Even better than that is she started discussing it with another student. Wow, what a way to start the year off, I just hope things get better for you all with the new boss and his freakish nature.