Learning The Art of Teacherly Love

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 16 2012

PM Disappointment Becomes PM Pride

Let me begin with a brief snippet of a conversation you would have heard last week in Room 306:
Student: “I keep thinking you’re my mom…”
Me: “I’m only your ‘School Mom’.. I can never be as great as your real mom.”
Student: “Hmm.. I know.. But… you’re pretty close!”
On a day I was feeling less than great, my boys can always lift my spirits and encourage me. :)

Now to the real content of this post.
In the world of education we live by the ABC’s, literally.  We have an acronym for everything, and in Special Education, we add about 50-60 more of our own special (of course) ones.  So, let me explain… By “PM” in Special Education we do not mean the time after 12 noon, but instead we are referring to, Progress Monitoring; the routine assessing of a student’s progress towards his or her IEP goals, the collection of data, and tracking of their academic and functional growth.

For me, Progress Monitoring has been everything from a thorn in my side, to a great source of joy.  From setting up all the students’ binders and graphs to record their data and track their progress, to actually getting them to focus on the assessments.. Progress Monitoring has not been an easily executed aspect of my job.  However, it has become a great way for me to check not only my students’ progress, but my effectiveness, or shortcomings, as a teacher.

There seems to be so much hinging on Progress Monitoring; like making sure my boys are making appropriate growth towards their goals, and tracking the data accurately to report to their families, and then there’s my own personal feelings of success as their teacher… And the fact that I have to assess them every 2-3 weeks, for every single one of their individual goals, in every academic subject… Let’s just say it is a never-ending Progress Monitoring cycle, and roller coaster.

The outcome of each PM assessment can really show me a lot, too.  While there are only 2-3 weeks of instruction in between each subject area assessment, I still feel a sense of disappointment, and even failure, when one of my boys does not improve even by one point… And if they do worse, if they get fewer math problems correct or read fewer words per minute… It really weighs on me.  I feel as if I have let them down.  I forget to take into account how distracted they were taking the Minute Math assessment this time, or how they were already frustrated by the class before this and now I’m making them do stuff that’s hard for them, or how we actually missed 2 days of instruction because of a Hurricane, or we didn’t get to instruction a few days because of school events… Forget all of that.  The fact that they did not improve, that’s all on me.

When I began to notice that my boys’ scores were not inching closer to their goals, and some, on occasion, were even worsening, I developed my plan of attack.  Now, along with their Progress Monitoring binders where we track their data, every boy has a “Green Work Folder.”  Green means “Go!” And we are going to Go! get after our goals.  I organized their Green Work Folders to include math worksheets, reading passages, and writing practice, all at each of their individualized levels, so when I say “Green Folder Job!” they know what to do.  We set the timer, and get to work.

Since enacting our Green Folder Jobs every other day, my Progress Monitoring feelings have turned from disappointment (in myself), to incredible pride (in my boys).  With our extra ten to fifteen minutes a day of really targeted and individualized practice, we have started to turn Progress Monitoring into a time to show off our improvements!

Let me just brag, like the proud “School Mom” I am, about how my boys have made great strides:

  • One student actually met his Minute Math IEP goal!  I had to write a new one for him, and amend his IEP… A great deal of paperwork.. that I did with such pride and excitement for him.
  • My quiet, and extremely sensitive 5th grader, when reassessed today using the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Continuum, the same assessment that was administered at the beginning of the school year, and he jumped from a B to a D reader!  He went from a Kindergarten reading level to 1st grade in just 10 weeks.  If that wasn’t enough, he was so close to becoming an E that I let him move his marker on our F&P Reading Mountain to between D and E… And called Grandma!
  • Then there is my other student, who I am not even sure hears/listens to a single word I say because the longest amount of time he can sit still without talking or distracting himself or others is approximately 30 seconds.  No really, we took observational data.  He also got to move up the F&P Mountain!  He went from an E to an H reader!

Let me first just say: NONE OF THAT WAS ME!  I cannot take credit for a single accomplishment my boys make.  I simply provide them with the opportunities and resources they need to make all these things happen for themselves.  They do the work.  I cheer them on.

With these great joys, my attitude towards Progress Monitoring is changing.  I have now come to value, and even look forward to my PM time with my boys.
With all the daily chaos and small tornados I am constantly whirling in, it is very easy to lose sight of what we are working towards, and essentially, why I am here.  We had, for a brief time, forgotten what we were doing… We had resorted to survival mode; going through the motions of school.  But the way my boys proudly moved their names up the Mountain shows me that they really do value and care, deeply, about their learning.  They want so badly to be better readers, writers, and mathematicians.  I will do everything I can to help them push themselves.

And now, it feels like we are back on our bikes, racing.  While we never completely crashed, I will admit, and take blame for the fact that we had gotten off and started walking beside our bikes… Now, it feels more like we are using our tools the right way, and we are on track towards our goals.  I am not saying it will be smooth sailing now.  I am expecting some tough hills, and a lot of bumps.  But I think we are becoming better trained, and developing greater academic endurance and perseverance… We can reach that finish line.

Philly Photo:

The views that make me love my daily commute:
Boat House Row, MLK Drive, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Schuylkill River, Philly Skyline, Fall Colors

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    Dare to Teach with Love… Never cease to Learn.

    Greater Philadelphia
    Elementary School
    Special Education

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