I am so grateful that you took time to visit our school today and that you were able to share some valuable time with the students. I hope that you enjoyed your visit, and please know that we would love to have you back any time! I wanted to mention some specifics of our day that may be easy to miss. Feel free to share this information with any of your colleagues who may be interested. I think that typically this information is not known to the general public but is important for them to understand.
All day long, teachers have the daunting task of instructing students on their instructional level. As you saw, we have a reading range of A-Q in our classroom (Kindergarten to fourth grade). It can be quite challenging to ensure that we are giving the best instruction to all 25 students, regardless of their “academic level.” Parents expect that their students’ needs (academic, social, behavior, emotional, physical) are being met, and it is our job to do that.
The center rotations structure (what you observed) is an effective way to ensure that I am meeting as many academic needs as possible. During this time, students are grouped by reading level which is determined by the iPad assessments I was telling you about. At the beginning of the year, we spend a lot of instructional time assessing students to determine their reading level. During this assessment period, we often have to have someone cover our class so we can get the assessments finished. (Herein lies the importance of teaching assistants.) You can imagine that it takes a long time to assess 25 students! Plus, it is very frustrating to do all the assessing AND teach all the standards we are expected to cover AND set up rules and procedures at the beginning of the year. We will do another round of assessments in January and again in May which means even more instructional time will be lost. Unfortunately, the expectations for what the students learn do not go away.
I also think it is important to note that this system of center rotations that you observed took a lot of practice on the students’ part, and it took training on my part as well. I can assure you that had you come to my classroom the third week of school, my room would have been much more chaotic because the students did not yet know the expectations. Likewise, if you’d visited during my first three years of teaching (this is my 7th), you would have experienced something very different as well. This is one reason it is important to keep good teachers in the profession; experience is valuable, and with more experience and more (good) training, teachers will have better results. I will argue that the best “training” I ever received was my Master’s degree. In my experience, standardized professional development mandated by the county/state is often less effective and meaningful.
As you know, the current issues I care most about are class size and master’s pay (well, pay in general!). I’m so appreciative that you are taking time to listen to these concerns and see first-hand how they are playing out in public schools. I would love to have you back to visit again, and if any of your colleagues would like to come with you, I know our principal would love to have them as well. As you know, I am mostly interested in keeping the conversation going, and I'm so happy that you are participating.
Thank you so much again; the kids and I enjoyed having you! I’ll be in touch.