There's been a lot of changes taking place. First off, my son is now a Kindergartner at another school. I couldn't be prouder of him, but have been struggling a bit with him shedding his "baby blanket." There's been staffing changes, good friends moving to new buildings or new grades, and then there's the numbers...
I have a high enrollment of 29 students in my class. But I felt like this was the first year I was ready for it. Seeing that I have enough Kindergartners to field two classes, my district has been looking for class-size relief. In the interim a wonderful retired Kindergarten teacher / sub rose to the challenge of the first days of school to come in and help with all the bloody noses, the kid who bonked his head falling off the monkey bars and ended up needing stitches, sick kids in the office and the morning task of emptying ALL the take-home folders (and so much more). She has all the qualities I would like to have more of: nurturing with the children where I can be a bit punitive, organized where I am flighty, and optimistic where I am cynical. But with her support I've been able to actually teach lessons and do plans.
The kids have also been great. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they just start to "get it" despite all the commotion going on around them. To minimize the commotion I have pared down my room to about as minimal as I can get it...and it looks and FEELS so much better to be in there.
Before our open house next week, we were asked to do a photo collage of ourselves "by the numbers" meaning we had to make big numbers and say why those numbers were significant. The only number I kept coming up with was 1... I have 1 son, I have 1 job. I am 1 teacher... it really didn't say much about myself or what I had to offer the kids, so I went with prose. Plus, I felt like it minimized what I have to offer. I'd like to think I am a little bit more than the sum of my parts.
I think part of the reason I've been feel so positive, despite the giant challenge of teaching nearly 30 kids to read and write, is that this is the first year we haven't dedicated the first week or two to baseline testing. I've been getting to know my students, ironing out behavioral problems, and letting the students play to get to know each other and observing them. I feel so much calmer not trying to rush through 30 alphabet assessments just to count letters and crunch data on a rubric.
However, we haven't tossed the data piece overboard. Next week my Kindergartners will have a computer program measuring their early literacy skills while I troubleshoot and try to make sure they have enough technology skills to operate a mouse to click on the answer they want. Since this data piece is still something that is being required, I'm happy to let a computer do it so I can use classroom time to interact with the children and planning time to plan lessons instead of crunching numbers. I think that is one of the main reasons I feel like I am finally getting a grasp of what is happening in my classroom.
I have finally been able to assess my students qualities before their quantitive data. I am quickly learning what makes them tick, relax, excited or just plain happy to be at school. And if they are happy to be there, they will be learning. Our students, however many in a classroom, are so much greater than the sum of their assessments. In Kindergarten I have the opportunity to see struggling learners grow into curious, creative, studious minds all as they develop from barely 5 years old to 6.