SLO

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One Voice United: NYSUT Rally in Albany!

Published June 8, 2013 by Susan Woodward

I think everyone who is in any way involved in the field of education in New York State will get the following picture:

Hiking and Teacher Rally 020Yeah… remember, pineapples don’t have sleeves.

Well, when it comes to the over-testing of our students with flawed assessments, Jeremy Dudley of Albany says it all:

“Stop this Madness!”

And that’s what thousands of teachers from across New York State shouted from the crowds: “Stop this Madness!”    Pre-assessment, Post-assessment, Final Assessment, SLOs, APPR, CCSS… testing, testing, testing, and cutting into our time to TEACH!

Hiking and Teacher Rally 014Here’s the REAL SLO!

Hiking and Teacher Rally 016

Hiking and Teacher Rally 017Because it was forced on us and we had little time to digest and prepare before being held accountable for its content!  It was a Race to the Top… of our stress levels!

I sweated all last summer to change my lesson plans for every unit so that they aligned with the Common Core.  I lost a LOT of time for the pre-assessment (three days of classes to administer, and HOURS to “rate,” not “grade”… and then more time to individually upload each student’s scores that didn’t count for anything).

Stop this Madness!!

Since the English teachers in our district knew that our SLO and APPR scores were driven by persuasive writing, we were compelled to teach to the test or risk our APPR score and face the possibility of being put on a TIP (Teacher Improvement Plan).   And that’s not an idle threat…

Stop this Madness!!

I wish I’d seen this video about a week or so ago…I’d have posted it to get more folks to join in!

Here are some highlights courtesy of the NYSUT website (click on the pics for links):

rally_130608_nichols_01

John Nichols: “Every teacher is a hero…”

rally_130608_teachersoftheyear_01Teachers of the Year

Hiking and Teacher Rally 035Rich Ognibene taught my kids in Fairport!

rally_130608_iannuzzi_crowd_01Dick Iannuzzi got the crowd chanting, “Get it right!”

rally_130608_weingarten_01American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was a real firecracker to listen to!!

Hiking and Teacher Rally 034 Hiking and Teacher Rally 033 Hiking and Teacher Rally 032  Hiking and Teacher Rally 029 Hiking and Teacher Rally 027  Hiking and Teacher Rally 040

And let’s not forget Evidence Binders!

Hiking and Teacher Rally 031Commissioner King, you may click on the picture to see MY Evidence Binder.  Let’s see yours!

Stop this Madness!!

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Still Emerging… Bit By Bit

Published December 3, 2012 by Susan Woodward

I haven’t written anything in a long, long time.  For some reason, I have found it hard to sit and do the thing that I actually love to do… write.  I’ve felt unmotivated, dry, and actually a bit dead inside.   Maybe a part of me has died.   I spent the entire summer working on rebuilding an entire curriculum based on the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework.  It was completely unlike what I have done in the past with my students, and seemed as if it would be so overwhelming to them and to me.  And my heart sunk.  My creative spirit felt sucked out of me, and I wondered how I would be able to inspire myself to keep going, let alone inspire kids.  With that went my personal spirit.

My heart has not been in the things I have loved for so long, and I am not sure how to overcome that.  It has been dark and dank inside that cave, and some of that darkness has crept inside me as well.  I want and am trying to emerge from it, but every time I reach that entrance, I run into a situation that sends me scurrying back inside– usually a situation of my own doing.  I say and do the wrong things and then feel guilty or angry with myself, so I retreat.  It’s a hell of lot easier there.  With a few exceptions, I have spent most of the past six months inside not reading, not writing, and not really connecting.  Just existing.  And worrying.  And fearing that I wasn’t going to be able to meet the demands that I knew were waiting for me in September.

At first, I was just taking a break from the hectic end of the school year.   I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was rest.   I told myself that I was going to finally write, write, write… and then nothing.   I’d open the files and my heart wasn’t in it.  And so I just shut it down…and after a bit, shut myself down.  The re-boot button came with the new school year, and I have thrown myself into this new mess of APPR, CCSS, PARCC, SLO, PLC, and a host of other acronyms.  All those capital letters are like someone shouting at me, screaming across the screen, and I push and I push myself to try to live up to what “they” in Albany want.  I have managed to do what I need to in order to be in compliance with all that is required of me, but at the cost of my spirit.  Compliance.  Not the best word to describe someone who really is passionate about teaching… but I felt the life getting sucked out of me in order to meet these new demands.

All I really want to do is teach literature.  I want to teach poetry.  I want to do all the things that I have done in past years that have gone successfully with the kids.

I’ve tried my very, very best to take it all in stride and make the necessary adjustments.  New lesson plans for new units, all being presented in completely new ways.  Non-fiction, informative texts as prescribed, with as much literature as I could weave in and still be in compliance.  I modeled everything I did after the PARCC framework and made sure that I hit as many of the Common Core Standards as humanly possible with my lessons.  The first quarter was daunting and exhausting.   My lessons were meticulously aligned, but it didn’t feel like me at all.  I felt robotic, and even though I tried to be enthusiastic, I felt so overwhelmed.  The amount of writing assignments I gave fit the PARCC to a “T” and I tried to be diligent in grading them; however, the harsh reality is that with the 4-6 analysis pieces, the research paper, the narrative writing, the persuasive writing, the routine writing, the vocabulary work, and the reading quizzes for over 120 students, the paperwork turned into an avalanche that buried me.   Evenings and weekends became practically nothing but papers, papers, and more papers.  I pushed myself to finish by the deadline, and I was nearly dead inside myself.   I didn’t see the meaning in making kids jump through all these new hoops and I found myself crawling through an ever narrowing tunnel that threatened to squeeze the very life out of me.  And I began to shut down even more.

And now we are in the second quarter.

I know from past years that I have done good work with my kids.  I know that my passion for the work of Joseph Campbell has fueled my lessons, and I know that I have had kids come back in later years to tell me that I did a good job.  So this quarter, I am going back to what I know.  I can tweak things to make sure all the Standards are being hit, but I am not going to put my kids or myself through those PARCC hoops again… at least not until it becomes mandate.  For right now, I am trying to reach in and bring forth the teacher that I have been in the past.

And fortunately, good news has arrived.  It’s possible that NY State might reject the framework after all!  Oh happy day!  I can finally see a ray of light at the mouth of my cave, and maybe, just maybe I can re-emerge.

But coming out of that self-imposed darkness isn’t as easy as I’d hoped as it has crept into my soul.   When I do leave the house other than for work, I find that I am anxious to just go home again.  With the coming of advent, I have once again inched toward the door, hoping that with the coming of the light will be the coming of my lost spirit.

 

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