Sunday, August 30, 2009

teacher & learning framework

As a lot of the blogs in this town are politically minded, I won't comment too much on politics. But, since politics affects how I teach (indirectly), and that the Chancellor here is wicked into working her way into how teachers teach (obviously...she's trying to make this place the best the District can be) (though she's everyone's favorite person to hate on, it seems), Michelle Rhee has developed a new "Teaching & Learning Framework" which has its main focus on three basic ideas:

Plan-->Teach-->Increase Effectiveness

The idea is that you plan first, teach next, and increase effectiveness through formal and informal assessment or formative and summative assessment and data, which then allows you to plan effectively and therefore begin to teach better. And the cycle goes on.

It's not so novel, but it's novel to a city where education has been pretty lackluster throughout the recent years. It's a lot of reflective practice, and a look at data, which is not necessarily classified as number-driven data, rather anecdotal, personal, and observational as well. Which is nice to know, since I always thought data meant numbers, which I struggle with. Good thing we did tons of reflecting in my grad program!

Anyways, it's good to know that this kind of practice is at least trying to be implemented throughout the District. Also, the behavioral policy's been modified a tad too. I wonder how that's bein implemented. We'll see how it goes, as the news in blogs keeps rollin!

the first week, encapsulated in one blogspot

Each day brought its own challenge, but each day built upon itself. My first day was quite the adventure, as I never really knew whether or not I was going to receive students and, subsequently, have a class to welcome into my arms--this is because the previous week, I never got a roster, so I was pretty clueless about the student-getting process. Now, I'm all ready to go, and then, suddenly, the scheduling person, E., comes in and the conversation goes:

"So Mr. R., since you don't have students, then you'll be down in room 148 on the middle school side, helping the middle school Read 180 teacher."

"You mean, like, share his class?" says I.

"You'll be splitting his class, because there's an overflow of students. Ok, bye!"

Obviously it wasn't exactly like that, but it seemed like that to me. I was in utter and complete shock, because I had just set up this lovely, lovely (and it really is--I still haven't had time to take a picture, so maybe tomorrow I will) classroom and put my heart and soul into cleaning out the shite that's all up in there; I thought I was no longer going to be in this room, and was relegated to sharing a room that had nothing to do with my class (148 is a social studies room, and not mine...which is a big bummer, cause we have to set up the library, etc for the students!). I'm still a little upset, and confused about the configuration, but it's worked out so far. In truth, I love middle schoolers--they're freakin hilarious and fun to work with. I'm sure the 9th graders are, but it's still fun to work with 7th and 8th graders.

So, that was that. I'm now a first period MS Reading teacher! As for the 9th graders, I'm still workin on that. The story is, since I had all these free periods, I spent the majority of it going around and gathering spelling tests (arguably not very accurate when talking about ability, but it's an entryway into judging whether students need my reading test, because it judges their phonemic awareness (I think...haha) and word recognition (this is true) for stuff like normal sight-words like "mine," "alike," or "red." As well as grade-level vocab (although lieutenant is in there, and, I mean, common, it took me a minute to think how to spell that one). Anyways, so after the correcting, I took kids in all Thurs/Friday to have them tested for my reading class. I now have about...40 some-odd kids, so like, two periods, which is perfect.

Tomorrow I have some more testing to do (but only two kids). The rest of that time will be me heading down into 148 and setting up the library during our lunch period.

Here's to week two! I'm excited!

Friday, August 21, 2009


The end of the week of stressful hell. I finally put together my room after a long week of professional development (great) and cleaning my room (interesting and stressful).

I don't have a picture yet, but I'm sure I will tomorrow (yes, I'm going into the school tomorrow--the janitor let me borrow an umbrella because it's pouring out*). It really does look like a classroom, which is wonderful. The room set up is interesting because I finally have much more space.

To give you an idea: the space is incredibly symmetrical on a diagonal line. Imagine tables fit enough for two kids, all situated not facing the board, necessarily, but facing each other. It's tough to explain the set up because it's different. But it'll be so that the kids will be turning sideways to turn towards me and the board. There're four desks in a separate fashion, and two pairs of desks doubled up to make squares (the actual desks are rectangular). So that essentially you have two groups of four students, and four groups of two students. I'll post a picture tomorrow.

So i finally got semi-accused of being racist...or at least my accused of being insensitive to black suffering, i suppose. That sort of took me by surprise. i've had such good luck recently with talking to people on the bus, and I said, "Long Day..." to the guy next to me and he just looked at me and said, "We've suffered 3000 years and all you have to say is long day? I haven't gotten my three acres." Which, I didn't really get too much, the last part that is, but...I felt pretty bad. I guess that was the goal. Has anybody ever experience this before? I mean, I don't feel bad now...but weird, man. Gives me chills...

*the lightning is awe-inspiring it's so lengthy and huge. It hasn't yet thundered, but I'm just waiting for it. Oop, just thundered. It's long over-due...DC's been muggier than what you put your coffee in. Good to dispell the humidity, no?

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Tomorrow brings the first day, er, eleventh day, of training for me. The school really wants teachers (especially new ones) to be well-trained; but, this time it's with all the teachers, and not just the new ones.

I've been advised to both be friends with new and non-new teachers for reasons both in the way of mentorship and also so that you can compare to how things were "before" if you know what I mean. Either way, they apparently are great, so I'm pretty excited to be a part of their staff, too.

My most anxious thought: how the hell am I gonn' get prepared for a whole a week??? Yes, ladies and gents, my planning has not yet begun due to the stupid scheduling of our all-staff training and welcome back professional development. Ridonc in the badonkadonk.

But, all my questions (as I have many) will be answered as we start our planning...I'll probably bring a lunch tomorrow--tuna fish, anyone?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

quick house-keeping and an important question

To those of you who have just come in, it must be a little bit confusing this layout and the switch-over from a blog about Springfield to a blog about DC. So, I'll lay it all out for ya:

Two days ago, I began the DC part of this adventure and changed my moniker from Suddenly, Springfield to Reading the District. Before, I thought I was rejected by DCPS--but it turns out that I wasn't rejected 100%, rather (like everything in DC, complications) put off the "preferred list," which meant that I wasn't invited to get the triple-threat panel interview, the phone interview, and the case-study. Which, to be honest, I'm pretty happy about.

That was the blog post before I started this job. Since then, I was interviewed, and dropped off the face of the blogosphere to enjoy the life known as job hunting and "finishing the end of the year." Thus, the posting lackage for a long while. Anyway, I've been hired and have gone to two productive, overwhelming orientations and workshops (they sent me away to Nashville (say what playa???) with my Read 180 team (that's the program I'm working with)). Now I'm onto round three and next week is round four before school (like, gulp, Scoob!) starts the 24th.

Speaking of which, something that caught my eye in my reading on my "first three weeks" as a Read 180 teacher (they have a little booklet for that complete with absolute instruction as to what I should do, etc, which is great, though a little dry and the "get to know each other" games are more boring than a cage match between a potato and a zucchini (which by the way I did not know how to spell.) So, anyway, what caught my eye was setting up expectations. They have room for us to talk about it, but not much in the way of setting up the groundrules day one. Instead, they begin to have on day four, which seems odd to me. Why not begin your class by introducing not only each other but also the rules of engagement, as it were?

The main question I have is: what should my rules and expectations be? According to my Adolescent Growth & Developoment teacher (shudder), I should have no more than five norms/rules. And no more than five consequences to breaking those norms/expectations/rules. Now, my question is: what the hell're my norms going to be? Shall I break the mold and dispense with the "thou shalt always raise your hand" norm? Go hippy-dippy and talk about RESPECT and what that means to us? I was thinking of adopting the ol' character targets: RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, COURAGE, QUALITY and COMPASSION. Those can be spinned pretty well; but how, in God's great earth, can you make norms out of those?

These are my questions world--any answers or alternatives?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

my hope of hopes

is that I will be discovered by fellow DC teacher posters Dee, DCTC, Harry Potter, and New Teacher on the Block.


the new teacher blues

Hello true believers! I'm still here (as in alive and still in the teaching biz), and still interested in blogging. Apologies for not posting, as life has been rather hectic as of, oh, i don't know, the past two months or so.

I also have to apologize just now for the true believers reference (if anyone can get it, you get a star and a ten)--I am reading a book about a nerd (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, an excellent book) that is rife pero rife with nerdly references all over the place. Consider it bad influence.

So, as of now, the blog has been rededicated and I've been renamed as Reading the District. To begin: I am now a Reading teacher at a DC public school. This means that the brunt of posts will be about not only tales of students (as usual), but also reading strategies, interesting tidbits about the program we're using, and what I've been learning as I help build academic and otherwise interesting vocabulary and reading comprehension and fluency skills in the kids I'll be teaching. I can't wait to start, though my planning hasn't yet begun (it will start, apparently, on Monday, which is only a week--yes, a week--away from school's start. This is not because of procrastination, rather, no knowledge of what the curriculum according to the school will be (our school has an interesting backwards planning method, which is great and focused--except I haven't been privvy to any of the previously planned projects that've been set up)). Blues #1.

Blues #2: DCPS New Teacher Training is tomorrow, and, because of a fluke (I hope) or because I hadn't been contracted yet (more likely), I had never gotten the email to sign up for it. So, I can't attend. Boo. Luckily, someone called me today just to make sure all my papers were in order, and I asked her about it and she gave me some emails, etc. At least some aspects of DC bureaucracy isn't all that effed up. So, hopefully the person'll get back to me in time, and I will be contracted soon, like tomorrow. Hopefully.

As for the rest of it all, I'm hoping to head to a training tomorrow and Friday about Advisory, which is something that I did at my old school back in Springfield. Then, Monday I begin Professional Development (again), and the 24th is the first day of school.

Here's to a new blog, and a new school year!