Monday, August 27, 2007

Star Polisher

As most of you may already know, today was my first day of school. In a new school, with new people, and new students. Deep down inside, I was really excited, and my anxiousness kept me from getting a good night's sleep.

The school district I am teaching in is growing. And fast. They have just finished building two new schools, an elementary school, and a ninth grade academy which is big enough to be used as a second high school if deemed necessary. The school I am working in is one of many elementary schools, grades 1-5 (as they have one school designated for Kindergarteners) and has a student population of about 500. For North Dakota, this is the most diverse school I have worked in. We will lose and gain about 100-150 students through the duration of the school year.

Along with the growing size of our district, there have been many major changes. Not only has the high school switched to block scheduling (consisting of 90 minute blocks), but so has all the elementary schools, with eight 45 minute blocks. There are multiple reasons for the change to block scheduling.
  1. One, it is "supposed" to help make scheduling easier. For example, if we have a group of fourth graders who need supplemental help in the area of reading, we "should" be taking them out of their reading time in the classroom. Makes complete sense. But, where it gets tricky is when we have 6 groups of kids that need supplemental reading help, with only 4 special education teachers, and most of their "scheduled" reading time in the classroom takes place at the same time.
  2. Our week is no longer Monday through Friday. It is day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 5. That way, we can pick up where we left off when it comes to shorter weeks. And it works with the rotation. Rotation works in such a way that for example, grade 5, will rotate their first two blocks for specials, and this allows the classroom teachers to sit and collaborate with special ed and ELL teachers. That is if the special ed teachers are not already busy with other groups of students.
  3. Third, we have incorporated into the schedule what we call "I/E" time. It is a 45 minute block that each grade has that allows the teachers to break their students into groups based on similar levels of learning to "enrich" their learning. This gets tricky because special education teachers are "supposed" to be present for this time. Hmm.
This has put a lot of stress on not only the classroom teachers but the music, pe/health, art, ELL, SLP's, Title, and special education teachers. It is a huge change for a school to take on. As great as it sounds, we are struggling immensely with scheduling our students for special services. It has been so stressful that a couple classroom teachers are having a hard time understanding why we are struggling with scheduling, and have been quite negative towards us. As a result, come Friday, our Director of Knowledge and Superintendent will be coming to our school to look over our schedules to see if they can figure out how to best use our time. It is so crazy.

On top of scheduling difficulties with the block scheduling, we as special education teachers have had new requirements rested upon our shoulders. Now, for me being fresh out of graduate school, this comes as no surprise to me and in fact I am happy, for the most part. Most IEP's consist of goals and then objectives to coincide with each goal. Well, the state will be changing this soon (and our district is piloting it during this school year), requiring just "measurable" goals and NO objectives, unless the student is receiving alternate assessment. I know that this may not mean much to y'all, but it is a big change to special ed. But, I was told of this in my graduate classes, and have learned how to appropriate write objectives to meet the states standards, so this is not too much of a big deal to me. With that, they want us to chart each goal and objective for each and every student. Now that is going to be a lot of paperwork, but if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing with your students, it doesn't take that much work. I know this change to make more special education teachers accountable for their work, and to have visuals for parents. I don't mind it. I kind of like that kind of stuff. But, when we have a few special education teachers and speech/language pathologists that have been teaching for 20+ years, this is hard for them. Very hard. And a huge adjustment.

Today, on the first day of school, I did not see any of my students. It just wasn't possible. We were still working on our scheduling, and mounds of paperwork. I was attempting to put together materials to use with my "groups" and then some placement tests for reading and math. I want to make sure my groups of students are grouped according to their ability, otherwise we are just wasting our time. So, come tomorrow, I will be introducing myself to my students and hopefully completing these placement assessments. I hope the students are grouped accordingly. I would hate to have to change our schedule further more.

I may sound as if I am complaining, but I am really not. Okay, I am. But I know it is part of the "new year stress". It's just that it is a little bit more difficult than it really should be! This is something we all have to deal with and all of us educators need to be understanding of what the others are going through. I really look forward to working with my students. I know the day will just begin to fly by once that starts....

I will leave you with one of my favorite poems.....

The Star Polisher
Leah Becks

"My job is to take the stars in, and shine them and buff them
and then send them out into the sky"

I have a great job in the universe of occupations. What do I do? I'm a "star polisher."

It's a very important job. If you want to know how important, just go out at night and look at the stars twinkling and sparkling.

You see, I'm a teacher. The stars are the children in my class. My job is to take them in - in whatever shape they come - and shine and buff them and then send them out to take their places as bright little twinkling beacons in the sky.

They come into my room in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're bent, tarnished, dirty, crinkly and broken. Some stars are cuddly, soft and sweet. Some stars are prickly and thorny.

As I buff, polish, train and teach my little stars, I tell them that the world cannot do without them. I tell them they can do anything they set their minds to do. I tell them they can be the brightest, shiniest stars in the sky and the world will be a better place because of them.

Each night as I look at the sky, I'm reminded of my very important job and awesome responsibility. I go and get my soft buffing cloth and my bottle of polish in preparation for tomorrow and for my class of little stars.


Wes said...

To be a new teacher under such conditions is really really tough. I admire you. I smiled immensely through the beginning of tears when you talked about being a star polisher. You have to know a little bit about being a star in order to "polish" stars....

Randy - Maniac #788 said...

Wow you have an awesome job ahead of you...just remember...always remember that you are formulating young minds, that you are an important part of these young growing minds, and that with your positive attitude you can make a difference in how your kids turn out, how you can impact the motivation they may have later in their school life.

I can look back so many years ago and still remember my 4th grad teacher, Mrs. Smith and her wonderful attempts to teach me Spanish...well I can count to 10 today, and I can add an "o" to the end of words to make them sound Spanish....LOL....I remember Miss Raymond, my 6th grade teacher who taught us about science and in some rudimentry ways about physics though at the time it didn't make alot of sense, but it did help me later in college....Mr. Pfeil in 5th grade for convincing me that I could play basketball, giving me that competitive nature that exists today even when I run.

You can and will make a difference in your kid's lives....make sure it is a positive have the right attitude for it...just as you teach them....never forget or lose sight of the fact that you can do anything you set your mind AND heart to do!!!!!

Good Luck Teach :)

PS: The poem was so wonderful...

hepsmom said...

And you know what the best thing is? Your day can totally suck, but one student will say something to you so sweet and so meaningful that you will want to run out of the room and cry. 412 negatives can be undone with one comment. Lots of times it's from someone you never dreamed you had an affect on. Sometimes it's from students you never even taught. One time I had this one student tell me that she could always rely on me to have a smiling face or a silly comment. You have powers that you don't even know! I know your students will fall in love with you and benefit from your teaching! Sometimes we are the only good they see.

Unknown said...

i'm sure it will take time to get used to things, but it will work out.

our schools have block scheduling and i believe it serves the kids well.

now go out there and polish some stars. :)

L*I*S*A said...

You have such an important job, and I commend you for doing it. :)

akshaye said...

that was so great to read. wes just said everything I had in mind. Have a fabulous school year ahead!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you sound like a wonderful teacher! Those kids will be lucky to have you.

As for block scheduling, I had that in HS and as a student... I *loved* it!

jahowie said...

Have a great school year!! It looks like you have a great plan put together there.

Unknown said...

As Wes said, "You have to know a little bit about being a star in order to "polish" stars...."

The district I worked for switched to block scheduling at the high school... a few years later, they switched back. I was at the elementary level, so it didn't affect me. Tough!

psbowe said...

Wow, nice post, you'll sure make an awesome teacher. I have a cousin who's a special ed teacher, he's said some of the same stuff you post here. You'll have a great year.

Mendy said...

Sounds like it's going to be challenging at first for you, but it will all work out for you. You have been placed in this area of the young children's lives for a very special reason, and it shows you were meant to be there.

Anonymous said...

Great poem! I'm going to have to send that to my teacher friends.

I know scheduling is difficult, but your job is so important. Once things settle, it will be great. You'll be polishing like a crazy woman. ;) You are going to do great this year - I can tell.

Unknown said...

My last semester of high school was in the block schedule. In fact, my alumni was the 1st H.S. to do in the country and gained national cool! It was an awesome schedule made school much easier for me.

I hope that the new scheduling gets easier. Well, it's only the 1st day. Many more to go.

J~Mom said...

I think Wes said it all. I love that poem!!

Unknown said...

Hi, My school district would like to put the star polisher quote on tote bags for new teachers this year. Do you happen to know how to contact the author Leah Becks or the title of the book, publisher etc that contains this poem?