Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 07 2011

The beauty of half days is…

…that even your toughest kids can sometimes make it through the whole thing without melting down. Today was a half-day Friday, which kind of sucks because it means all the time is taken up with testing, but it was also awesome because this kid, who is my toughest behavior kid and generally does not make it through a morning without ending up on the bottom of our consequence chart, kept it together for the whole day. A few snapshots of our day…

Morning homework turn in: he didn’t do his reading log (parents sign saying the kid did their reading) because he didn’t have a reading log, and I was pulled for a meeting yesterday afternoon so he couldn’t ask me about it. I misunderstood what he was saying about why he didn’t do it (which is really easy to do because it seems like vague pronouns are my kids’ main mode of communication…you forgot that thing. OK, which of all the things in the world did you mean?). Typically he would melt down and mouth off and land himself in trouble. Today he got a little frustrated, I apologized and said I was confused, he explained the situation and we found him a new reading log for tonight. This is conflict resolution without anger and despair!

Reading test: he doesn’t understand how to go back to the text to find an answer (which is news because this has been our strategy all year and today is the first time he’s admitted he doesn’t know what I’m talking about). He gets a little frustrated, but I tell him how smart he is and how much he can do it, and we walk through it together, finding the right paragraph and rereading it, then guess-and-checking all the possible answers to see which one fits. He doesn’t mouth off, doesn’t melt down, and gets the right answer. And maybe learned something about test-taking.

(Note to the authenticity-of-assessment-conscious observer: I’ve kind of decided that since 3/4 of my kids’ difficulties with tests lies in test language and format, not content, I’m much happier taking the time to walk through HOW to solve a problem with my kids, even though it all but gives them the answer and invalidates their test score, because then they might actually learn how to take the darn things. So sue me.)

Math test: he actually requested to take the test at the back table instead of his desk, “so I won’t disturb anyone.” This instead of insisting that he never disturbs anyone. He rushes through, circling random answers, but gets into it on the show-your-work word problems and does a great job (with some helpful reading aloud from me). He says he’s done, and I ask him how he got one of his answers on a multiple-choice question. He looks at the paper, then says, “You know, I just guessed on these. I’ll go back and do it right.” AND DOES. In the interest of full disclosure, he still got most of them wrong, but he self-assessed, knew he hadn’t done his best work, and actually wanted to fix it. Brilliant.

Last but not least: when he finished with tests early, he worked on creating his own word problem (a project we started yesterday). This is super frustrating for a few of my kids because it requires revision and making sure you have all the pieces (we need, for instance, both information about a situation AND a question we have to solve). He was struggling with his emotions a little, but he was more frustrated because he couldn’t finish it since he had to go to Walk To Read. So frustrated that he threw what he had done in the trash can. But when he finished his next test, he walked back over to the trash can, fished out his paper, and finished his word problem. And then, for good measure, wrote another one and worked with me to make sure it was perfect.

He was not perfect today, and I have no doubt that by (early) next week I will once again be pulling my hair out over this child. But you have to live in the little moments. Today he had a fantastic day, and I was so proud of him.

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    In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

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