Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why I Left

I left the Junior High. At times I feel like I ran back to the comfort of the first home I knew at this district; the upper elementary school. But why would I run when last year was one of the most rewarding I've had teaching? Why run when I had carved out a nice little niche for myself? I didn't run, nor did I bolt, but I did leave without thinking everything through. 

I don't regret leaving 8th grade English for 5th grade. I missed the innocence and the sweetness of littler kids. I missed parental involvement. I missed the deeper connections and opportunity to work more intimately with my students. But I had forgotten how deeply involved you have to be to teach elementary. I forgot how little time you actually have to plan and prep. I forgot how much I would miss the tribe I was part of at the Junior High. 

Last year was rewarding but exhausting. I was sick a lot. The pain of RA was constant and I contracted two infections. I mentored a new teacher and helped two more settle into the department. They were all amazing! I was the co-operating teacher for a wonderful teacher-candidate and that was a lot of work, but so rewarding. I was team leader, department head, and a member of the leadership team. I was co-sponsor of a service club. At any moment I felt I had more balls in the air than I could handle. 

Then... there was the state writing test. We found out in November we would probably receive a prompt for argument, a form our students had not been exposed to yet. We worked hard to teach these kids something brand new and they worked so hard to learn. When I received my student samples back after the test, I was so proud of them! I felt most had done everything I'd asked of them.

Then... the scores came out and they were lower than I imagined. They were the lowest scores ever. My shining starts were "limited knowledge" and papers that did not make sense were "satisfactory". I felt I had been slugged deep, hard into my stomach. I didn't want to face the kids. I couldn't imagine how I would handle having those scores attached to my name for an entire year. 

So I left...  But, I learned over the summer the scores statewide were poor. Teachers connected by social media shared thoughts and theories. We were at a loss. We thought we had done all we could. I wasn't alone in that gut-punch. A few days ago the state Superintendent announced the scores would not be factored into the Schools' grade ratings. I'm pleased, but I still feel I did not do enough and failed those kids. 

Like 8th grade, 5th grade is a high-stakes year as far as testing goes. I'm not worried. I'll be responsible for writing and reading scores and I will do all I can, just like I always have, to get my kids proficient. It is what it is. 

What is different this fall, as I dive into 5th grade reading and social studies, is that I feel more deeply attached to my curriculum and these children. I feel like I am home, truly home. My welcome back was sweet and humbling.

And then there are the kids. Fifth graders surprise me every day with their sweetness and desire to please. They are so funny! And when I ask them to place their exit tickets on the door they line them up in order, nice lines, with nothing out of place.