Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 19 2011

The Second-Year Teacher Act


My plan to Make It Happen wasn’t exactly the raving success I wanted it to be. I may have swung a little more toward the “play” side of the work-play spectrum than would have been necessary to make the changes I wanted to make. Maybe I was over-compensating since I finally found the ability to play, or maybe I under-estimated the amount of work it would take, or over-estimated the amount of will I’d have, or maybe I met someone and had some hedonistic priority problems for a while. I mean, it’s just really hard to say.

It didn’t completely flop. Checks for understanding definitely happened—just kind of awkwardly and not really as quickly as I wanted them to (By that, I mean I literally said “okay, now we’re going to do a check for understanding. You have 30 seconds to answer this question on your papers, and then I’ll come around to see how we’re doing”). Not quite the elegance of the “fist-to-five,” but hey.

Tracking was a win. Every kid has a tracker for their TEKS, one for our daily objectives, and one for the full-length TAKS benchmark they took in March. The back wall IS a tracker—a line graph with each period’s mastery score plotted versus days left of school. I also have a grand ol’ public individual TEKS tracker with student numbers hanging up… too bad my kids don’t know their numbers OR what that big orange thing with stickers on it is… I ran out of stickers, okay?

Behavior has been steadily improving, and I think I haven’t really celebrated this as much as I should. My specific behavior problems are somewhat more muted, just because expectations are clearer and the environment is more focused. I still write lots of kids up, but I never feel like the class is out of control. Ever. I get frustrated with them, but sometimes we’re actually on the same team. BALLER.

Grouping/Targeted tutoring didn’t happen. It just plain never got off the ground. Don’t know why that was so hard… the kids are grouped into A, B, and C lists, I blocked out A, B, and C time slots before and/or after school, and my to-do list has been the same for months: 1) Call parents. 2) Tell kids. 3) Plan A, B, and C lessons.     … I just never did it. I can’t even think of an excuse for this one. Sigh.

This post is way overdue: the third nine weeks has been over for three weeks now, and I’ve been operating in no-man’s land doing TAKS prep and thinking the end is nigh.    Well.    I reveal to you …

*drumroll, please*


The Second-Year Teacher Act

The decree that I’ve affectionately nicknamed:  “IT AIN’T OVER YET.”


This mandate doesn’t have specific tiers or components or headings. The rule is merely to phase in as many of the systems and policies and tactics I’ve been listing in my little do-this-your-second-year notebook (my now missing notebook, mind you) as possible.

The rationale? … because I can. Because I can either close my eyes and hold my breath until June 7th and dream of next year, or I can start now and give this year’s kids what they still deserve. AND, while I’m at it, practice so that next year’s implementation goes more smoothly from the start.

From re-vamped restroom/nurse/music/cheating policies to new incentive systems to new plans for parent contact and a new system of documentation; from finding a math grade-level diagnostic to finding a problem-solving model and sticking with it; from homework online to a classroom economy (yes, you read those right); we’re fast-forwarding four months and giving it a go.

I owe it to my first batch of kids to give them everything I can while I’ve still got my hands on them. I owe it to my second batch of kids to minimize the number of mistakes I make, right from the start.   It might be crazy to imagine I can piece together a whole new classroom starting in May, but they’re supposed to be squirrelly after testing anyway, and I might as well take advantage of the fact that I don’t know better. My kids can only benefit from the trial-and-error of being next year’s guinea pigs, so to speak.

AND, testing means no planning—so after Thursday I basically have until May 1 to get the first wave prepared.

It ain’t over yet…  punk.

6 Responses

  1. You rock. Good luck with this :-)

  2. elsa

    I love this.

  3. YES. LIKEWISE. I have SO many “2011-2012″ lists for next year that I don’t even pretend I’m ever going to find (or look for) them. I kept holding off, but then realize this the PERFECT practice time. The state test is over, blahblah, why not make more mistakes while I have the time…..

  4. mathlovergrowsup

    I think any time is always a good time to try something new.

    Also, I’m glad you played. You needed it!

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“The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on so long.” - John Maxwell


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