Okay, so the first three weeks of school have kicked my behind! How about all of you?
I've been busy with all of the beginning of the year stuff, and have been keeping up the blog for my classroom/students/parents better than I have this one!
Anyway...I thought I'd share some of the highs and lows of the first few weeks of kindergarten with all of you, who, I am sure, have gone through many of the same things.
Let's start with the lows, and get those bad boys out of the way...
The first one, and the biggest, is the amount of assessment I've had to do in the first three weeks of school. It is overwhelming, and it bugs me. I have to do: rote count, letter names, letter sounds (yes, letter sounds in the first three weeks of K), rhyme choice, rhyme supply, DIBELS Initial Sound Fluency and Letter Naming Fluency, and a writing sample, scored with a complex rubric (basically, all of my K students are guaranteed to NOT meet the criteria for success on this rubric). Oh, and we also had to spend time doing the online Early Star Literacy test. On top of this, I am supposed to be doing shapes, colors, and just taking stock of where my students are in general. I have spent the past three weeks feeling overwhelmed by assessment. I want to spend the beginning of the school year getting to know my students, getting to spend time with them, to put routines and procedures into place, and, more than anything else, to build relationships with my students, and to help them build relationships with one another. We've worked toward that, but we've also been bursting with assessments. Sigh.
Second...our new math series. We moved to My Math, by McGraw Hill, a Singapore math based program. I will say, in the interest of clarity, that I was one of the individuals who selected the program. I will also say...we were moving to Singapore math regardless of my choice, and My Math seemed like the best of the three programs we were presented with. That said...it is taking a crazy amount of time to do math lessons that I really believe my students could "get" better in different ways. However, we are implementing with fidelity this year...I love the sequence of it--our first few lessons were understanding what counting is, and being able to count and write the numbers 1, 2, 3. We are now working on 4 and 5. My problem is that trying to do this program in whole group is highly ineffective. My students who are on or above level are spending time sitting while I try to get my students who are struggling caught up. I think I need to do the math in small groups, but I have no idea where or how to structure it. I am NOT the best workshop or center-based learning teacher...and so this is killing me. I have to figure it out.
Speaking of center-based learning...we are being required to use Daily Five/literacy center based time during our "Panther Prowl" this year. This is the time when we deliver our interventions to students. We were given six weeks to implement Daily Five in our classrooms. I'm three weeks in, and I've implemented read to self...kind of. My students don't have book boxes/bags/bins, and have barely begun being allowed to select their own texts. I am overwhelmed by it all. To top it all off, I bought the D5 book two years ago, on my Kindle, and I somehow switched kindle accounts, and have no access to the actual book. WHAT? It's driving me crazy, but we are doing the best we can. On the plus side, my kinders built their stamina for read to self to almost seven minutes the other day. Then we had to take some time off to do Early Star during our D5 time, and THEN I had to break from D5 to finish assessments (and I still need to do so again tomorrow). Anyway...I have to work on building Read to Self more, and begin to introduce and implement the other parts of D5 I am going to do this year. We will do read with a partner, and word work, for sure. Work on Writing may come later in the year, as well as listen to reading. Listen to reading SOUNDS easy, but when you have NO books on tape/CD, and no way to really build a listening center...it's quite challenging.
The final "low"...just remembering how tough the management is at the beginning of the year. I LOVED doing Whole Brain Teaching last year, but I either haven't implemented it well this year, or it just isn't gelling with this class. I am keeping with it, and hoping it will work. I had an amazing class last year. This year's class is wonderful, but the personalities are very different from last year's group. Not in a bad way, just in a way that has different needs, so what worked last year may not be successful this year...which is what makes teaching an amazing challenge.
Now, really... there are highs this year, too!
First...I've been keeping up with blogging on our classroom blog! Yay! This is a big deal. There are other things I need to do better with it, but I've had a new blog post each week, which is amazing for me!
Second...I have two "new" paraprofessionals for our Title I time, and I feel like we will (sooner than later) work together well. I felt much better about my school day once I really went to using my Title I time the way it "should" be used.
Third...We really are getting into a routine, and learning our procedures more and more. Thank goodness! I'm getting that structure back together, and we are making progress.
Fourth...We have worked out many of our beginning of the year kinks. Yay!
Okay...my highs are kinda weak right now. They will strengthen and grow over the next few weeks, I know. Oh, and here is a HIGH. I have a GREAT group of students! They are going to be wonderful this year!!!
One final thought...I have been really inspired by the social media I follow...the teachers who are out there, sharing and creating, amaze me regularly. and keep me inspired to keep trying, even when things get hard, and the lows feel bigger than the highs. They also give me new places to go to read, learn, and build my strategies. Awesome!
Hope you all are having a good start of the year (or maybe you are already two months in, and feeling like things are FINALLY settling in). We always tell parents to give their child six weeks to adjust. I suppose I really need to give myself the same leeway! Wish me luck!