Going back to school last week kicked my butt! I am still tired from the week! But, I will have a couple more days before I have to be "on" again. I am going to our district training for Common Core. And I don't want to go! The people in the district who do our training aren't the greatest. 3 of the 4 trainers we are having are administrators and haven't been in the classroom in a very long time. One of them is a 3rd grade teacher and everything she shows is geared to 3rd grade. I went to a writing training last month and kept hearing "You'll have to go and tweak this to make it work for your grade level." Argh!
Last week when we got back into learning, I began to realize just how not with it my kids are. There are some areas that they are still really low in and it got me thinking. Over the last few years when the focus has been on the testing, we have been told to basically cram it all in, move on and follow the pacing guide. Everyone should be on the same story and same math lesson all the time. So I did that. And sometimes we were ready and sometimes we weren't. Sometimes we had good understanding and sometimes we just glossed right over it.
That's how I felt about this last week. We officially introduced digraphs this week. We have gone over them with sight words and stuff, but we were really to focus on them. After the initial day of instruction, I didn't pay much attention to them because I figured we had it. We knew them all. We could hear the difference between /ch/ and /sh/. We knew that "thumb" starts with /th/. And then I gave them a picture sort on Thursday. And I realized we don't know our digraphs. HOLD THE PHONE! We have to stop for a bit and review. Only I won't be there this week to help them review and I can't let a sub start the next story and teach them long a! It's not going to happen. So then, using my best teacher judgment, I looked at my own personal pacing guide that I spend weeks on over the summer and update it through the year to make little changes and thought "Screw it!" I will need to update it again as I decided to NOT go ahead this week and just move on to the next story. I will give it another week of review. Actually, it'll be 2 days of review and I will give them their spelling test on Thursday. We will begin the new skills on Thursday and take next week to cover them as well...and maybe even the week after that. I want the kids to understand what it is we are doing and not just gloss over it anymore!
This year, my class is lower than my classes in years past. They don't get it as easily as other classes have gotten it. It doesn't click as well. My kids are moving and making progress, as there are more kids in my "higher" groups than in the "lower" groups, but they aren't at a "higher" level necessarily. They are "high" for this group of kids. With the testing pressure off of, I now feel I can take a little more time with things and slow down. Stop and smell the roses if you will. We've always been so concerned with finishing the curriculum by the end of the year that we move on when kids aren't ready. Now, before you go and say I'm a horrible teacher for moving on and leaving kids behind, please know I didn't. Every year, I have a group of kids who don't get it no matter how slow we go. I still have kids who are at a beginning kinder level in first grade. They should be in kinder this year and they will repeat first grade next year (as long as I have my way!). I work with them in reading groups and give them as much extra help as I can and try to pull them up as quickly as possible, but sadly, they get 0 help at home.
So today, as I was taking my daily walk (with my new little puppy!!!), I decided to stop pressuring myself to go so fast through the curriculum. I have decided to stop worrying about where the others are. They haven't worried about where I am, so why do I worry about where they are? I have decided that even if we don't finish the basal readers, that's OK. I can give them the phonics, reading and comprehension skills elsewhere. I know that's one of the goals of Common Core, but it's hard to move away from my comfort zone and give up what I have done for so long. It worked before, but it's not working now. I need to change, as I see this wave of lower/more needy students continuing. I need to change my ways in order to help them better. It's going to be hard for me, but I need to be better for them.
And, maybe along the way, we can take a different path in our learning and do something different for all of us. Who knows...the possibilities are endless and my mind is racing!