Posted on January 12, 2010 by Big Universe in Uncategorized.
Tags: alternative assessments, assessment, Big Universe, hydrocephalus, learning disabilities, NCLB, Online Children's Books, Portfolio Assessments, Reading Comprehension, Special Needs, Standards of Learning, VGLA Worksheets
I didn’t go into to teaching for the money. No one goes into teaching for the money. I love children. Ask any teacher that stays with teaching why they do it and they’ll tell you it’s because they want to make a difference in children’s lives.
Way, way, way……..back when I first wanted to be a teacher, when I was in high school, we were being told the market was going to be over run with teachers so it wasn’t a good choice. That was all I truly ever wanted to be so that threw me into a sort of inner turmoil. I started college going towards a medical degree, changed that to English and finally left after two years when I was 20 giving up a full scholarship.
Fast forward to a husband and three beautiful children all in their teens now… when the youngest went into first grade, the first year of all day school, I returned to college to get my degrees. First my bachelors, then my masters, with a double major in elementary and special education.
I always knew that I couldn’t just teach in a regular classroom. I love all children but I have always hated to see the “special” child taunted and teased and left behind. As a teacher I hate to teach to the masses and leave that small percent behind. I wanted to be the one to teach the small percentage.
So here I am today living my dream. I wanted you to have the history so you can see that I did not just choose teaching and go into it straight out of college without giving it any thought. I knew what I was doing. I even substitute taught while my little ones were in school when I didn’t have classes. The graduate program I took was a hands-on program where I spent a full day co-teaching and then took my classes at night. I knew what I was getting into. I knew. But, the lack of respect by my leaders is something I wasn’t expecting.
The Council on Exceptional Children has identified the top 10 Critical Issues Facing Special Education. The number one issue they’ve identified is the “National Special Education Policy.” Included in this is No Child Left Behind. Under NCLB all children are expected to show their achievement at grade level. While there are some alternative assessments those assessments are still missing the point. In order to show progress we as special educators need to be given a format to show that our students have shown progress commensurate to where they began, not that they are making grade level progress. When I can do this I will be doing my students justice.
Currently I am working with the Virginia Grade Level Alternative Assessment. That means I need to show that my student who is reading on a first grade level (thus the term “special education”) is able to read and comprehend on a fourth grade level. I also need to be able to show that this student who has poor short term memory is able to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. Does anyone else besides me see the problem here? The alternative to the alternative assessment is they can take the Standards of Learning exam at the end of the year and most probably fail.
So why did I give you the history of my journey to teaching? Because when you here about the high turn over rate of teachers you may think these are all young new teachers. But, they aren’t. There are many seasoned teachers being pushed to the brink and beyond.
I know everyone is facing poor economics these days. I’m looking at the total package. As a teacher there’s a feeling that as a whole the profession is treated poorly. Next year again, in my county at least, there will be no pay raises and no cost of living increases. As teachers in the county, more than the lack of money, we see this as a lack of respect. At the same time there is no money, the work load is increasing. This year alone my duties at work have increased and the paperwork has grown tremendously in special education. There are beneficial training classes being offered to help with the alternative assessments, after school.
I’m not whining. But sometimes I do want to cry. I get thirty minutes of planning time a day. That’s barely enough time to print out what I need to use that day. I go to work two hours early every day. I stay late. I work at home constantly. I have mandatory parent meetings with each of my student’s parents annually and now that’s just been increased by an extra meeting triennially. I now have an extra extensive assessment that I need to give my students. The alternative assessment is an extremely time intensive portfolio for each subject and I’m doing 10 portfolios this year. Doing these assessments with students who really don’t get the material is so… hard because the teaching is excruciating. The kids may get it for a minute. I can assess it for a minute…. . But is this learning? Is this teaching?
Luckily while I’m building the wheel everyday to teach my students there are a few websites that are helping me with my students. Big Universe is one of them. The majority of their books now have assessments that go with them. This is a great way for me to judge my children’s knowledge. For example, I have to do a biography with my students. I’m going to use Martin Luther King Jr.’s biography which has an assessment on Big Universe. I’ll show it on my Smart Board, read it aloud and have my students take turns coming up to answer the quiz questions. Along with anecdotal notes and some other work this will become part of my portfolios.
Teaching can be painful. The constant search for resources is very time consuming. If it wasn’t for the occasional gem like Big Universe, teaching would be even more difficult.