Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I use my blog as a way to reflect, share, organize, and re-conceptualize my views as an educator. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post, disagree, and share your opinion. The more perspectives, the better!

Monday, January 30, 2012

"In what other profession"

An interesting editorial that gives a new perspective on the pressure our society puts on educators.


Read it. Think about it. Make your own opinions.

My personal favorite quote from the article,

For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world. Crime happens. Fire happens. Illness happens. As for lawyers and coaches, where there’s a winner there must also be a loser. People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education.

If a poverty-stricken, drug-addled meth-cooker burns down his house, suffers third degree burns, and then goes to jail; we don’t blame the police, fire department, doctors, and defense attorneys for his predicament. But if that kid doesn’t graduate high school, it’s clearly the teacher’s fault."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Miss Prinzo, I'm Learning to Read."

The title says it all. One of my most difficult students said this in a very sincere tone today during Literacy Rotation. I almost cried. The best part is that he is right. Things are starting to click for him and I couldn't be happier. His attitude has really improved over the past few weeks. He even has started filling out his reading log with "I RDBK" ( "I read a book" for those of you who are not fluent in first grade writing) every night . I didn't have a chance to check his folder for it yesterday and he reminded me at least 4 times. This is what drives me. You cannot bribe this type of motivation--it is a real desire to learn.

"We need talented and committed people"

I had the opportunity to see Wendy Kopp speak at Vanderbilt tonight. I typically do not do much on weeknights, but I am really glad that I made the choice to go. Hearing Kopp speak really helped to reaffirm my choice to join TFA and to find my role in the larger education movement.

I have spent much of this year feeling incredibly frustrated. As someone who typically does well in her endeavors, it was/ is increasingly frustrating to put ALL of my time and effort into something and STILL only see mediocre results. My anxiety and feelings of not being good enough have been heightened by seeing and hearing things my TFA colleagues are doing in their classrooms. I, and I know many of my fellow CMs, feel a lot of pressure to be extraordinary teachers. We are pushed to be the best. We are pushed to do whatever it takes for our students. This is a great thing and a huge personal burden. Over the past six months I have been overcome with the feeling that I am not good enough--that I do not have what it takes.

Tonight Kopp acknowledged something so realistic (and probably common sense to most of the non 1st year CMs in the audience) that has even in a few short hours helped reaffirm my choice to be a classroom teacher. Kopp told the audience that she knows that not everyone will be a teaching super star. She told us that yes, we need superstars, but we also need just as many talented and committed people to the cause.  Her belief is that if we can put extraordinary leaders into a position in which they have access to teams of committed and talented teachers/administrators we can begin to make systemic change. This is a belief I support. It is also a comfort. While I am going to keep striving to be great at my profession, I felt a release in the pressure to be great. I know I am committed. I know that I am a capable teacher. I believe that my capability will refine a talent for teaching.

Kopp also said something in the Q & A session that resonated with me. She talked about the 2 year TFA commitment and the goal that TFA alumni find their niche in the larger education movement. She spoke of how alumni take their TFA experience and make a critical decision about what is best for them in the movement and their personal lives. This is an experience that without a doubt changes you. I cannot imaging anyone coming out of this program affected in some way.

Up until recently, I had not really considered my role as an alumni of the program. I intended to stay a classroom teacher for at least 5-10 years after my commitment. As of lately I am not so sure. I plan to teach for at least 4 years, but I have already started to think of other roles that I might be able to play in the education movement. For me it is almost like the difference between my experience as a Peer Leader vs. a Peer Leader Captain. I enjoyed being a PL and was a decent PL, but I was far from extraordinary. I was a much better PLC than PL. As a PLC I had more of an opportunity to effect programming, curriculum and resources in our program. I feel similarly about being a classroom teacher. I really enjoy the planning aspect of teaching. I like creating and modifying resources (as my Pintrist and blog clearly illustrate) and I feel like I have been a valuable asset to my grade-level team. I also feel really connected to higher education and have a lot of ideas on how to enhance teacher education programs. These are areas that I want to pursue. It is a long way off, but never too early to start thinking about!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The ultimate goal

Today I read this in the comments section of this article.

"At 72 I am just as interested in learning as I was at birth." 

I want this for myself. I want this for my students.

I will take "D" for Differentiation for 1000 Please

This past week was probably the best overall week I have had so far. While far from perfect, I was really able to put in place some differentiation strategies for my students. Gone are the days of whole-group hell and in are the days of independent, partner, cooperative, and skill groups!

My students adjusted really well to the changes and really showed me that they are more capable of independent learning than I have been giving them credit for. While I have not given the majority of my assessments for this past week (thanks to a snow day), I am confident that I will have data that is at or above this past quarter's data. We shall see.

Break Down of the week:
Low point- being called into the principals office after Monday's surprise observation and told that I was "not awful."

High Point- Being observed by the director of my TFA region and receiving both positive and constructive feedback with more to come.

My goal for this upcoming week is to build routines that will continue to give my students opportunity for peer-scaffolded and independent practice. I also am hoping to get back into the habit of posting more resources and units on my blog. I get so much from teaching blogs and I want to do my best to contribute to this community as well.

My first "snow day"!

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's all about the data: Semester Review

My first semester as a teacher ended right before winter break. Since I took the majority of winter break for relaxation, family, friends, and a very good football game, I am just now getting to really look at and analyze my data! The nerd in me REALLY loves looking at data so this is a fun post for me.

First up, my running record levels. Running Record Reading levels rule pretty much everything at my school (DIBELS and DEA coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively) so running records are always the first thing I look at. I use my running record levels to determine my guided reading groups, student partnering, seating and beginning next week my word study instruction. Here is a look at the reading growth my students have made:
Running Records Growth
TFA Benchmark Goals
I am proud of the progress my class has made, but there is definitely room to grow. I have a few all-star students who have grown over 10 levels so far and several students who are on pace to make at least a year's worth of growth. What worries me is that I have a few students who have shown little or no growth. 

My other major concern is that only 7 of my students (less than half of my class) are reading above the first grade benchmark for this time of year. This means that despite growth being made, they are still reading below a first grade level. One of my driving goals for this year is that my students will make 1.5 years of progress (or grow 15+ levels) so that they are adequately prepared for second grade. This is seeming like a long shot for many of my students which is really frustrating. 

Once I had the data I realized a few things. While I am proud of my progress (especially considering the amount of time during the first semester I had to spend on classroom management and routines), I have a lot of work to do if I am going to meet my Big Goals. The teaching methods I have been using need to be revamped.

I am spending to much time teaching to "the middle." The middle is typically a safe place to teach to, but if you look closely at my data you will see that my students are divided into "high" and "low" groups. The low group consists of students who are all under a level 5 reading level. Students are actually supposed to enter first grade on a level five so these are students who have not yet mastered kindergarten reading skills. When I teach to the middle I alienate these students or find myself asking them the lower-order questions so they can feel successful. My higher students are not being challenged enough and often answer questions so fast that they students who need to think about it cannot get a chance ("wait time" is difficult in a first grade classroom b/c inevitably someone will whisper of shout out the answer). 

With this divide in mind I have decided to revamp my schedule so that I am spending more time working with small groups of students who are working on specific skills. I have dedicated my math block every Wednesday to be an intervention hour. I will have my students playing math enrichment games, using an online program called https://www.xtramath.org/, and meeting with me in small groups. My table will be a combination of math re-teaching and hopefully also time to address some reading skills my students need. I am also going to try to work with some of the third and fourth grade teachers to have a few student volunteers in my classroom to help my students with AR testing and even tutoring a few students.

I am also going to divide my word study instruction into two ability level groups. As I was doing report cards I realized that my low group (the below 5s) did not pass a single spelling test this entire quarter so I am going to go back and re-teach some of these skills as well as do some vowel sound remediation with them. My higher group will start word study independently while I teach the low group. The word study routine is something these students have mastered so I think they will be able to handle it without the lesson first and then the two groups will switch. I built in a 3 minute transition time so that I can check the high group's work in between sessions. During this same time I have one student who will be going to a kindergarten classroom to get additional reading support and one student I have developed an independent word study lesson for.

This student is so high that even when among my other high readers she is not being challenged. So starting this week she will be going to a second grade classroom in the morning for reading and then during word study I have her set up on http://www.spellingcity.com/ with her own differentiated word list based on the Words Their Way spelling inventory. I have created a checklist so she can study independently and on Friday I can give her an online quiz. 

Click here for a copy of the differentiated spelling checklist

So begins a new 9 weeks. I am trying a LOT of new things. Right now my only concern is if I can handle the preparation and time involved with setting up so many new systems and procedures. It is a new year and for me it is really a "now or never" type of thing so ready or not, here I come!