I teach ESL Kindergarten in a Title 1 school. In 180 days, the district in which I work believes that 80% of my students should read at an end of first grade level. Yes, you read that right. Someone in a central office actually believes that it is wise and appropriate to expect one teacher in a classroom filled with children who live below the poverty level to ensure that the majority of their students can and SHOULD read at an arbitrary level by a specific date.
As I type this, I think of the majority of classmates my 13 year old son has had over the years. The majority were upper middle class, their parents were highly educated, the families had access to resources, they attended a school with ratios between 7:1 and 10:1, and many of the boys did not begin Kindergarten until the year they turned six. Not the year they turned five. The expectations were developmentally appropriate, and the curricula focused on the mastery of concepts that a student could apply across the curriculum instead of mastering specific sills. The children were taught to problem solve, not solve or answer specific questions. The parents had/ have the ability to pay tutors when they can't or choose not to want to help. So in case I have not done a good job of connecting the dots, children with limited resources are expected to do more with less, while others have appropriate supports to guide them through developmentally appropriate expectations.
Well anyway, about two months ago I submitted the documents above for approval and copy. Yes, someone has to approve our copies. We are also limited to 1 set of copies per day with the exception of printing sets of books. Isn't that ridiculous? My request was denied because the papers were considered busy work. Okay, so look at the papers again. Look at them closely and consider the expectations and the skills required for my class to read.
Eighty percent of my class should read at an end of first grade level by the end of kindergarten.
The worksheets above are a Phonics activity designed to reinforce the lessons taught in the classroom. It is practice and review that supports the development of the skills required for successful reading in addition to fine motor development. Something else my children lack.
The copies were denied. Instead I was told to laminate one copy and use it for work in a work station. Oh yes, that's right. You want me to give my children an activity to complete in a work station while I am working with another child, and don't forget the children aren't supposed to ask me for help while I am working with my small groups. Also, who is helping/ monitoring the students to ensure that the work is done correctly. Oh yes, that's right. I am also supposed to get up and walk around to ensure that the work is correct, while working with my small group. What about evidence to support learning. Well apparently I should use the laminated sheets in my small group. Yes, sure okay. Did I also mention that it took over 30 days to have one poster laminated, and that if I need something laminated immediately I have to use my personal laminating machine and my own laminating pouches? So now I need to submit work over a month in advance to have it for my class. Yes, um, that is not going to happen.
Well anyway, yesterday at a PLC meeting (a giant time suck that results in the assignment of yet another mundane task that I KNOW the technology exists to complete instead of requiring me to hand enter data from an electronic file) I and the other teachers in my group were given a class set of worksheets by the reading specialist to support phonics instruction.
Of course I did not allow the opportunity to pass without sharing the fact that I submitted a similar activity months ago that was denied for copying. So this tells me two things:
1: Someone in an office is clueless teaching five year old children
2: Teachers are not credited with the common sense to know HOW to choose materials that support instruction.
Last night I called a grandparent after her grandchild missed three days of school. I should have called after the 2nd day, but I forgot. I was informed that the child won't return because she is returning to her mother. Grandmom is coming to pick up her granddaughter's belongings, so I decided to make her a shirt. I did not have any T-shirts in the girl's size so I made a blanket instead.
I am sure that some with feminist inclinations will ask why I told a girl that she is beautiful instead of smart, and why I used pink bows. Being smart is wonderful, but in a world where black girls don;t always receive the message that they are beautiful, I wanted to tell her myself. This blanket won't silence the background, but hopefully it serves as a reminder that her short kinky hair, and her brown skin are worthy.
As for pink. Black dolls are rarely dressed in pink. They are attired in purple or some other non pink color. Pink is reserved for white dolls as if to say that only white girls are feminine. So I made the bows pink. This child is beautiful, and she is a girl worthy of wearing pink.
From August until November, a five year old female student spent the majority of the school day sitting on the rug or at her table destroying her shoes and hair bows. Everyday. Not one or two days a week, but everyday. Piece by piece, this child would tear embellishments and rubber from her shoes while chewing on her shoelaces. Another teacher told me that she was low performing and misbehaved. When this student tired of destroying her shoes she would then turn to unraveling her hair bows, before taking her hair out of the well gelled ponytails placed by her grandmother. Every morning this child returned with a brand new hair bow and new inexpensive boots or maybe another pair of modest name brand shoes. Even inexpensive boots cost money to be replaced. Every day she arrived clean, so cleaned she shined, but by 10 AM she look disheveled and unkempt. I could not help but to wonder about her home life and why this child destroyed her clothing everyday. Oh, I forgot to mention that she would chew holes in her shirt. I just knew that something was wrong. Well something was wrong.
Because I lack the desire to play the role of dictator to a room full of 5 year old children, and because I had quite a few behavior problems, and because I refuse to use negative reinforcement for classroom management, my class was reduced to only my ESL students, with the understanding that all new students would be placed in my class. I was left with nine students. During that first two weeks, four new students arrived and they settled into newly established routines of my classroom. During this time, the female student blossomed. One day I realized that her hair was intact, and her bow and shoes whole. She begin to show interest in her work. I had time to teach her what she did not know, and realized that this student who was in a PK classroom the prior year with 34 students was not low. Last year she spent the entire year destroying bows, clothing and hair. She soon became a student who consistently made good choices or was easy to redirect. (those who know me know that I abhor the idea of redirection, because it does nothing more than delay addressing the real issue).
After the holiday, 5 new students were placed in my class, raising my roster to 18. In two short weeks she has begun to chew her shoelaces, and fail to follow classroom procedures. One morning I arrived late due to appointments and her hair bow was partially unraveled. As I write this I hold back tears of emotion and frustration because I HATE TEACHING. I hate that my day is so full of useless activities that I can't focus on what really matters. I almost laughed out loud the other day when someone said children learn social skills in pk/k. No, they are told to walk a line, but their hands behind their back and to be quiet and to wait until they are told to speak. They are called babies in a mocking way by their teachers, those who are supposedly good teachers that I have been told to observe. Good teachers are not necessarily good people. I don't want to learn anything about education from anyone who believes that shaming is the way to "command" respect and to gain compliance. I REALLY HATE MY JOB.
This is a child that is just two years older than my youngest son. I would not allow him to endure what I am required to implement, and I just want to quit. I want to walk away from it all and say fuck it, but there is another 5 year old girl who cries when she thinks that I am not coming to work. But then again I am doing a disservice to them, because somewhere in a 1st grade classroom a teacher will expect my low income, ESL students to arrive reading at an end of first grade level and my children most likely won't have that level of skill because pushing them beyond a certain point is another kind of disservice.