Today is Sunday. In general, I try to post lighthearted, fun, happy things about teaching on Sundays. Sunday is the end of the weekend, many people are not looking forward to Monday… sometimes we just need a little pick-me-up on Sundays. In general, I look forward to Monday (I hate waking up and I hate leaving my husband for hours at a time but that’s nothing new), because I have an awesome job that challenges me and makes me smile each day.
Unfortunately, today, I just can’t do it. I can’t post something silly. I am sad and discouraged today. Today, I am frighteningly aware of my own limitations. Today, I am at a loss, because my kids have been finding equivalent fractions, reducing fractions, and changing mixed fractions into improper fractions (and vice versa) like champs — and then today, I graded their quizzes.
So… many… Fs. Today, I’m heartbroken.
I don’t understand what happened. I’ve seen A+ work on those three topics from 80% or more of my students — the ones who aren’t earning A+s are correcting mistakes and earning them the second or third time around. I’ve given specific feedback, watched students make corrections using said feedback, and seen SO MANY smiles when students earn my A+ stickers and show them to me. But the quiz? I just can’t figure out what happened…
I know that this year, my students are having a hard time with individual work time, so I’ve been working on that with them. (I’ll do 8-9 minutes of individual work time, and then a 2 minute break, and then repeat that process, trying to slowly help them adjust to that quietness that can make us all crazy).
I know that this year, my kiddos are dying to know where exactly they messed up, so I’m taking every opportunity to give very specific feedback — highlighting mistakes, writing the same long comments over and over again, and then addressing the common mistakes the next day in class.
I’m grouping my kids by ability level — a couple of SPED homogenous groups so that I can hover around them, and then heterogeneous groups so that there’s aways someone who can help when I can’t.
I’m assigning online practice at the students’ grade level so that they can fill any holes in their learning with a parent or an older sibling close by.
I’m showing fun movie clips, singing little songs, and making up ridiculously silly memory tricks to help kids remember the steps necessary to complete a problem.
I’m going painfully slowly through my curriculum. We’re taking several days to practice one single (5th grade) skill.
I’m sending home letters to parents asking for help, asking for advice, and asking for what they would like from me (tutorials at lunch? staying after school? more assigned online practice?). When (or should I say, “If”?) the letters come back, I’m creating little groups, I’m writing long responses and emailing/calling parents left and right to do what I can to help my students be successful. I’m staying at work until 7, neglecting my own family and friends, and losing sleep in the process.
The letters are also revealing angry parents (“Um, why aren’t you helping my kid? Clearly, he or she needs help!”), supportive parents (“We had no idea — we’re taking away video games until ___ can add decimals.”) and confused parents (“What does ‘unsatisfactory’ mean?”). I’m trying to explain what I can — “I know your student needs help, but every pass I’ve written for him/her to see me at lunch for extra help is ignored,” and “Thank you so much – let me know what else I can do to help your student learn how to add decimals,” and “Unsatisfactory means your student is not performing at a 6th grade level in math.”
But today, I feel like all that I’m doing is for naught because of these quizzes. I feel like I’ve failed, like I’ve let my administrators, my students’ parents, and (most importantly) my kiddos down, because clearly, what I’m doing isn’t working.
I know I can’t give up, because my kids need me. But today, I’m in need of some inspiration and guidance.