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Topic: The Nine-Weeks Blues

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Subject: The Nine-Weeks Blues
Date Posted: 10/22/2008 6:00 PM ET
Member Since: 7/13/2008
Posts: 1,145
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My daughter, 23, is a first year teacher (5th grade) and she has come to me very upset.   It's time for report cards and out of her 43 students (in 2 different sections) she had 28 F's or D's.  She has talked to her principal and curriculum coordinator and both have basically given her the same advice. 

The curriculum coordinator, in particular, gave her some tips (like small group study, etc.) to help the condition.  Also, the bottom line seemed to be, "no you are not a bad teacher, but you are inexperienced.".  Which, certainly is accurate. 

She's wanted to be a teacher since she was knee-high and she is quite bummed out by the whole thing.  She's thinking if she's not a good teacher maybe she should just throw in the towel after this year.

She's teaching on the SRA ImagineIt!  curriculum.  Anyone else familiar with that?  It's the first year of it. She says she feels it's changing the rules on the kids in the middle of the ball game. This curriculum is written for high-functioning children and the previous one was written more to lower-functioning children.

Any advice, tips, opinions?  What should I advise her?

Date Posted: 10/22/2008 8:26 PM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2007
Posts: 48
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Well, first of all, I am a second year teacher, a year older than your daughter. I know how she feels. Most people feel that way the first year.  It does get better with experience. I am still learning.  One thing that really helped me was to assess my learner's knowledge daily and grade the same night, so I could know who was where in terms of knowledge.

SRA is really hard for new teachers. If its like my SRA its scripted. Thats a great idea in theory but not when your kids can understand the concepts and not the directions.  It will get better.  She may also want to try giving kids more opportunities for success, for example, sometimes all the kids get a 100 just for turning something in, but nto often.

Date Posted: 10/22/2008 8:30 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 9
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Your first year is always hell.  It's probably going to get a bit worse before it gets better.  Every teacher I know considered quiting during the first year.  Things will start to get easier in a few months.

Is her school willing to help her?  Meaning, not just give her advice, but actually come into her classroom, observe her, and tell her what she can improve on?  Also, are they telling her how to set up/implement small groups?  She needs to figure out what is holding each student back.  Is it decoding, or comprehension, or both?  Her school should help her with this.

Has she seen her kids' records from last year?  28 out of 45 with D's/F's seems like a lot, but if they were D/F students when they came to her she cannot magically make them perform on grade level.   As long as she moves them from where they are reading now, to a higher level at the end of the year, she's done her job.


Date Posted: 10/24/2008 10:09 AM ET
Member Since: 7/13/2008
Posts: 1,145
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Thanks for the replies - very helpful - I will pass them on to her.

Date Posted: 10/25/2008 12:48 PM ET
Member Since: 7/24/2007
Posts: 2,269
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Our prayers are with your daughter. My first year was horrible and, even after 6 years, I still pray that I didn't screw up those kids too bad. It does get better. You learn strategies and are able to cope with anything. Tell her to stick with it, all of us went home in tears more than once that first year! This is also the time of year when we all experience a little burn out. Count down the days to Thanksgiving break. It is tough, but tell your daughter we know she is a good teacher just because she is concerned about her student's success.

Subject: first year is a killer
Date Posted: 10/25/2008 10:15 PM ET
Member Since: 10/12/2008
Posts: 467
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Don't give up. My husband started teaching after having only farmed for 17 years (we still farm with him teaching too). I called him on his last day of his first year and said "You will never have a first year again." Just stick with it.


Date Posted: 10/26/2008 9:42 AM ET
Member Since: 7/13/2008
Posts: 1,145
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You all are the greatest.  She's coming over this afternoon and I will share all of this wisdom with her.  Appreciate the encouragement and I am more than positive she will, too.


Date Posted: 10/27/2008 7:00 PM ET
Member Since: 2/19/2007
Posts: 29
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One more piece of advice.  See if she can go observe a master teacher do a reading group or lesson.  It helps to see other teachers in action and then be able to go right back to your room and immediately implement strategies that you see being used.  Every year (I'm in my 9th year of teaching) I think back to what I didn't teach the kids from last year and I have to stop myself from having regrets.  There is only so much you can do in 9 months so you have to do the best you can with what you have.  I wish her good luck and to hang in there. The first year is the worst and prepares you for the best!

Date Posted: 11/5/2008 9:43 PM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2008
Posts: 456
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Samantha C. mentioned having assignments now and then that students can earn a 100 on for just turning in.  I do that now and then and it usually works out well (except the kids who never turn things in anyway don't bother doing it).  I was out of school for last Thursday, Friday, and Monday due to my wedding and left a checklist of election stuff for the kids to do with the sub (no school yesterday so today was my first day back with them).  I explained to the kids that this would be worth a quiz grade and in theory everyone should earn a 100 for just doing the list of assignments (and reminded them that not doing the work will result in not earning a 100).  I still have to catch one class that I spent more time discussing their behavior with the sub (not the best which surprised me from that group), but out of my other 4 classes, nearly every kid in the class earned a 100 except for the kids who were absent (making up over the next few days) and the kids who just didn't bother (but it's the same kids who typically don't hand in things).  What made it nice for me to "grade" when I came back today was that each student had a checklist in their possession and they were responsible for either checking it off or getting the sub to sign off depending on the type of assignment (my sub was also an AWESOME sub who kept a second master list just in case which made it super easy for me).

Tell your daughter not to give up.  This is my third year teaching and for my first year, I only had long term sub positions so I was bouncing back and forth between grades, curriculums, towns, you name it!  The first year for nearly everyone is usually super hard.  Last year I felt like I had much more control over everything, and this year I now teach two different grade levels (6th and 8th) which should make life harder, but I'm much more confident in my abilities so that helps.

My other piece of advice- Make "good" parent phone calls when you can.  I have 100+ students so I don't get to do this as often as I would like, but everyone now and then, I'm able to call a parent just to tell them how fabulous their child is (it's nice for the good kids that never get recognized).  It also makes you feel better to give a parent good news for once then to always be the menacing bad call.  I find that on my bad days, this helps me feel better! :-)

Ok, that was longer than I planned on writing...I'm going to stop now... :-P