Thursday, January 12, 2023

A Day in My Life - Day 11 @RRBC_Org 2023 #RRBC 30-Day #Blogging Challenge #GetToKnowMe @YvetteMCalleiro #ADayInMyLife #RWISA @RRBC_RWISA @Tweets4RWISA #teaching #teach #intensivereading #affirmations


Hello, beautiful readers! Today is Day 11 of the #RRBC 30-Day Blogging Challenge, and I haven't missed a day yet. I woke up to see this beautiful certificate in my e-mailbox. Who doesn't enjoy getting a little recognition and motivation! Thank you, RRBC!


My body seems to have adjusted back to my teaching morning routine: wake up, wash up, make breakfast, slowly enjoy my meal while reading/commenting/promoting fellow author/poet blogs, wake up my son, get ready for work, drop my son of at his school, arrive at work, get in an hour at my online part-time job, and teach until 4pm. So, what do I teach?

I have been teaching for 26 years, and though the grade level and materials have changed over the years, I have always focused on reading, writing, and test preparation. When I first started my career, teachers had autonomy to teach what they wanted and how they wanted, and our students became functional and productive members of society. Unfortunately, for the past twenty years, we have had governors who have decided to use education as their punching bag. They claim what we do is never good enough. These governors have turned our state exams into high stakes test. Our students are now expected to be college ready, even though not all students need to go to college to be successful in life. Student scores are used to grade teachers and schools, lowering the morale of everyone involved. Test anxiety is at its highest ever.

Because tests have become so important, districts have adopted textbooks that teach the skills on the test. Teachers have lost their autonomy in classes, and the fun, exploratory lessons have almost been eliminated. My class is one of those that has been affected.

I teach intensive reading, which is a class that was created to remediate students who have failed the high stakes state exam. At the surface, one would think it's helping students who truly have difficulty reading. The reality is that students who are great readers are stuck in my class simply because they don't test well. Yes, I have many students who truly struggle with reading, but I have another large group who read at, or above, grade level.

To assure that the schools get good grades in their state evaluations, the district has adopted a reading program to use. It is very structural and leaves no room for the teacher to bring in his/her own unique lessons. I do miss that autonomy, but I have to say the program we are using right now is the best one so far (every five years, a new program is adopted). It uses a whole group-small group rotational system that allows students to work on their individual levels and progress at his/her own pace. Here's how it works.

The class has four 20-minute rotations. I start the class as a whole group to introduce the skill being taught/practiced during that day. After twenty minutes, a timer goes off and the students rotate to one of three groups. One group goes to the computer station where the online reading program teaches them skills at their reading levels and provides them practice activities. One group goes to the independent reading station to read a book of their choice (at their reading level), write daily summaries, and take a book quiz when they finish reading the book. The last group is a small group with me where we continue practicing the lesson for that day. The timer goes off every twenty minutes to move the students from one group to the other. We use the last five minutes to wrap up the lesson and clarify any misunderstandings. And then, I repeat it again for the next three classes that day and the four classes on the following day. I am nonstop all day every day.

It is very structured. It is also scripted, though I do not use the script. I focus on what I know my students need. I also incorporate stress-reducing strategies. I teach them how to manage their breathing and stress levels by practicing a one-minute meditation at the beginning of the class. We also read aloud positive affirmations, statements that many of them don't fully believe yet but I'm hoping they do before they leave my class (see my affirmations below). 

I love what I do. I love watching my students learn a new skill or expand their understanding of skills they've already been taught. I especially love reading with them. The hardest part of my job is trying to convince them that reading can be enjoyable. For their whole lives, they have been told that reading is connected to failure because of their inability to pass the state exams. By 8th grade, that message has been ingrained in their brains, but I refuse to allow them to leave my room thinking of themselves as failures.

I share with them my love for reading and writing. I also make my classroom a safe place for them to take chances. I have competitions between the classes to keep it fun and interesting. My students know I genuinely love each and every one of them, and they know I accept them as they are while still seeing the potential of all they can be. I set my expectations high so they can learn to reach even higher, and every year, they do. :-)

As for the rest of my day...

I got home at a decent time since I didn't have any after school obligations. I spoke with a friend who needed to vent and knew I would listen. I worked out, stretched, and caught up on blogs and comments. Then, I cooked and had dinner with my son while we watched our show. 

Does your state have the high stakes exams that my state has? Do you have any children suffering from test anxiety? I'd love to hear from you.

10 comments:

  1. What a blessing to get to influence young souls, Yvette. I love your thoughts and attitude about it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Yvette,
    Pat here.
    Tonight, your blog did not not accept my name and url. Why, I don‘t know.
    Here‘s my comment.
    I can tell you love your job and I believe you have a great influence on your students. Keep up the good work. We need more teachers like you.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Pat! I appreciate you leaving a comment. :-)

      Delete
  3. Yvette, you have found a way to work with your students within the strict limits imposed on you by those ridiculous testing requirements. I'd like to know if ANY states don't require testing the way ours does. In one way, it's sad that good readers are in your class because they don't test well. In another way, they're blessed to be in your class because of the great teacher you are. I feel your frustration, and applaud you for creating an environment where they can learn to love reading.

    Blessings,
    Patty

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Patty! It is very frustrating to see their confidence in themselves dissipate because of a ridiculous test. I hope we one day have a governor who puts reward and recognition over punishment.

      Delete
  4. Tests always increased my anxiety levels. I studied hard because something inside me pushed me to do well. Standardized tests terrified me to the point where I had problems concentrating on the tests. I did much better on regular tests. It wasn't until college and graduate school that I tested the top of the class. But if you gave me an SAT right now, I'd freeze.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most adults could not pass an SAT, and yet we expect kids to do so. They don't truly measure a child's potential because many students now have test anxiety and freeze up during those tests. I honestly wish they would just get rid of them and just pay attention to how a child does in their classes. Thanks for sharing today, Susanne! :-)

      Delete
  5. Hi Yvette! I can tell that you are an amazing teacher, I'm so happy you are able to touch the lives of so many children! To answer your question, yes, we went through all of the testing (and anxiety) you've described. My daughter is out of college now but I remember hearing about how teachers were unable to allow the natural exploration that can flow out of learning. The rigidity of the classroom was challenging for my daughter, and even though she was/is very bright, she has never enjoyed reading. By the way, great post!

    Best wishes,
    Donna M Atwood
    D M Atwood
    https://www.dmatwood.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Donna! It really frustrates me that politicians think they know more than teachers in the classroom about the best way to engage students in authentic learning. Then, when their way doesn't produce the results they want, they blame the teachers. I used to teach so much more before they made us use a scripted program. Granted, I love the program we are currently using for students who truly struggle with reading. I just wish we didn't have high stakes tests that used reading as a punishment. :'( Thanks for sharing your experience, Donna! :-)

      Delete

I love comments, so please share your thoughts with me! :-)