Ask The Principal

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Good morning! Good morning!

I start my day at school doing my assigned yard duty by the bus drop-off. I help students make the trek in the right direction to the playground. During that 15 minute assignment I go out of my way to give these kids a "Good Morning!" and "how are you?". We're not that big of a school so with a little checking with my colleages I can find out what big assignments are due for the different grade levels. I ask "how's your biography going?" or when they bring their projects by I always give an admiring encouragement.

At first only a few kids would give me an acknowledgement to my good-mornings. Now though many make eye contact with me first in anticipation of the friendly greeting. It's a time where I can give these precious ones a quick prayer (silently) and an encouragement.

The first period of the day I have a "prep" time where I do everything from run copies, to grade papers, to enter scores on the computer, team meetings with the grade level teachers, parent conferences, etc. It never seems long enough.

The next period I teach math (32 students). The students at my grade level have been ability grouped by their test scores from last year. I have the group that measured in a category that was below being proficient according to state standards. Of the five teachers at my grade level only one is teaching a class to students that are at grade level according to state standards. The rest of us are playing catch-up.

The next period we (33 students) are reading "Acorn People". It has the word sh!t in it, and a few others. Some kids aren't comfortable saying those words in a read-aloud. I let them say "hmmmm" in place of whatever word they are not comfortable saying. Not my choice of books, but part of a "course of study" for the grade level in the district I work for. It has been taught in the district for more than 10 years at that grade level. It's a mainstay and on the state "adopted" list.

4th period is History (34 students), or as the public schools like to call it, Social Studies. I'm teaching about early man, the progression of evolution, paleolithic humans used simple tools and were hunter-gatherers, etc. This is all presented as factual. No words in the text like "theory", or anything else that suggests that these suppositions are anything but factual. There is a section on interpretation of data and how it depends on a scientist's background and amount of evidence found, but it seems to only relate to the way that hominid society lived. No questions as to whether or not that hominid was, for example, a neandethal man, because the strata that evidence was found in was determined to be during the time period that neanderthals were said to exist. We don't question that, but we can question what sort of tools the neanderthals used.

5th period (36 students) we do a combination of silent sustained reading (SSR) and Spelling during a 35 minute period. We want to create a culture and a love for reading (treat a student like a reader and they will become a reader, to which I reply 'treat a student like a pianist and he will become a pianist?') When I was the principal we used this time to teach students to read. My premise being that a love of reading doesn't come by osmosis, but by knowing how to read. The scores improved for everyone that year, even the minority and lower socio-economic status (SES) students. We met all our state and federal goals last year. Never the less the pressure to go back to the quiet reading time w/out guidance or instruction has pervaded. At my grade level we include Spelling because we still want our kids to know how to spell the words they are reading.

6th period is my 35 minute lunch and the SSR time for other grade levels. Hooray! Straight to the restroom before anything else. I think teacher bladders stretch with time. If not, well, maybe that's another reason why half the teachers leave the profession during the 1st 5 years. Then quick lunch, make some more copies of hand-outs for the afternoon.

7th period(32 students). Language Arts and writing. I don't know the research, but I think there is a close correlation between a student's reading level and his/her writing level. We are doing grammar, sentence structure, paragraph building. I find myself all over the place with the wide level of abilities in the classroom. Frustrated I cannot give enough time to the low students and really stimiulating the gifted. Inevitably someone gets cheated out of my direct instruction at his/her ability level.

8th period(33 students) is Science, and the last period of the day. The kids are wired and hard to settle down. We are working on the Scientific Method and the book starts right off applying the Scientific Method to the determining the age and situation of the earth and the dinosaurs that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Hmmm. You are supposed to ask a question before making a hypothesis, and then testing it. I guess to be politically correct there are some questions that you are not supposed to the age of the earth and the origins of life. Yes, that must be it, because a couple of lessons later we learn about global warming and the flooding of coastlines due to shrinking glaciers, ice caps, etc.

Well that is my day. I don't have the same group of kids all day. Some are in more than one class, some only once. My intent is not to remind people why they are glad they left teaching, though I don't condemn them at all. Not one bit! It's a tough profession, but remember that God's grace is sufficient for us wherever He has us. If you're not in public education then you don't have the grace for it. If you are, then you do, if you'll lay hold of it and acknowledge the sovereignty of God. That actually goes for everybody regardless of his/her station in life.

Being a teacher is one of the best ways to show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. These demonstrations of the fruit of the spirit I suspect are ways that the goodness of God that draws men to repentance are demonstrated. Your reflection of Christ in a hurting world cannot help but bring glory to God and spread His love to the lost, even if you cannot verbally express "God bless you" without a letter of reprimand.

The hard part is to reach the educational needs of all the students in your charge in good conscience. I spent all day (yes, Saturday) grading, assessing and diagnosing and thinking of teaching strategies. I'm pretty sure that a mom with a loving heart can do as well, probably better than I can, in educating her child(ren) than I can, and in half the time, at home. In fact, I'm sure of it. And I'm a really good teacher, even if I do say so myself!