Priorities and Time

I can’t think of a school year where I didn’t wish for more time with my students. I find myself thinking “If we just had a little more time we could…” But I know as each semester and each year ends, that I must realize that the learning process is ongoing and no matter much time I spend with them there will always be more for us to learn. That is part of what I love so much about this job that I do.

I’m finding myself in a quandry this week in regards to this subject of time. Perhaps it is more about priorities and expectations than time, but it is the looming of the calendar that has me stressed. Or perhaps just questioning.

We are in our 10th week of the school year. Based on our schedule, that means I have 8 more weeks with my students. I’m over halfway through my time with them. Halfway through and I haven’t taught them nearly what I had hoped to. Granted I teach in an alternative school where the students have trickled in by ones and twos. Most of my current students didn’t arrive until the 4th week of school. And granted, they are a tough group, behind in skills, lacking focus, surrounded by walls they have built to protect themselves from a world that continually assails them with negativity. So, in reality I have had about 6 weeks with them.

What have we accomplished in 6 weeks that will insure they pass the end of course exam? They have read every day. They have fallen in love with books. They carry books all around the school with them and sit and read without prompting. They have written. They have journals and poems and literature letters. And one very pathetic attempt at an essay. Their teacher must not have done a good job teaching that one. So we are starting anew on that next week. They smile. They laugh. They no longer storm out of the school building when they don’t like an answer or just feel like it. They share their thoughts and ideas. They have produced the first ever school newsletter and are currently working on their second edition. They have given me grey hair and a reason to get to work in the morning.

What we haven’t accomplished? We haven’t taken one multiple choice question test. We haven’t cracked open the hundreds of dollars of test prep books. They still make mistakes. They still get attitude. We haven’t accomplished perfection.

Yet, that test will arrive in just a few weeks. Will what we have accomplished be enough? Part of me thinks it will. Part of me wonders if I could have used our time more wisely. Instead of giving them a few extra minutes to read, perhaps I should have asked them to write a response to the book. Or answer some multiple choice questions about the book. Instead of taking a few minutes to chat with them as they transition in from their weekend (always a tough time for them) perhaps I should have had them answer a well developed writing prompt.

Did we use our time wisely enough? I guess only time will tell.

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8 thoughts on “Priorities and Time

  1. It seems like you’re buying into the idea that their performance on the test will tell you whether you’ve accomplished enough. I know that passing the end of course tests will be important in terms of students ability to graduate, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of a diploma. But it sounds like to me that you have moved mountains in the past 6 weeks. That love of reading and sense of accomplishment from creating a newsletter is a great gift you have given them.

    • Thanks Meredith. I know the test is the ultimate indicator, but it is difficult to be cavalier about them passing a multiple choice test, but the truth is, if they don’t, then they don’t receive credit for English and have to take it again. As much as I know the power of reading and a lifelong love of reading, as much as I know the power of helping them find their voices as writers, there is still the small part of me that fears this one moment of judgement and my role in their success. Not because I care what the powers that be thnk of me, but because it is so high stakes for my kids.

      • Ooops, meant to say I know the test is NOT the ultimate indicator. Sorry, Phineas and Ferb is blaring in the background, brain waves being interrupted:)

  2. You have some bloody nerve, treating those students as if they were real people, and intelligent ones at that. And, reading?! How is that supposed to help prepare them for the real world?

    • Thank God for friends like you who make me laugh when I need it most! These thoughts came out after the experience I described elsewhere (see our other blog spot!) I know what is right for kids, just every once in while there are moments of doubt. It feels cathartic to put them in writing and move one:)

  3. It’s good to read stuff like this Teresa. And comments like Karen’s! There’s a spirit about what you do (and write) that shines. (Let me know how the multiple choice goes, the holy grail of hard data. Did you see Gary’s comment on the EC Ning? ” I also can’t find any data that says I should tie my shoes, but I know it’s a good idea anyway.

    • I so appreciate your kind words, Steve. I had not seen Gary’s comment! Thanks for sharing that! I am definitely tucking that one away to use:) I am so thankful that there are amazing educators like you and the others here who I can turn to to remind me of the importance of what we do for kids.

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