Monday, May 28, 2012

Answered Prayers

Jesse got a job.  Not just any job, his dream job.  He has actually looked into this high school for a few years now and even interviewed for a position there previously.  He went in for an interview on Thursday.  The principal said he would let him know one way or the other the next day.  Jesse was really optimistic but I refused to listen to any of the details as I didn't want to get my hopes up.  Sure enough, I got a text on Friday that said, "I GOT THE JOB!!!"  The school is a School of Distinction, has a teacher turnover rate of 5%, and is located in Union County.  It is a 30 minute drive on the interstate. To say that Jesse is excited is an understatement.

Next thing on the to-do-list is find daycare for Jackson Lee! 

EOG Update

Last year,after retests, the 4th graders (aka our current 5th graders) were:
58% proficient in math
34% proficient in reading

Drum roll please


After retests, our fifth graders are...
83% proficient in math 
54% proficient in reading
79% proficient in science (+24 points from the 5th graders average last year)

Our scores showed phenomenal growth and carried the school.  While the reading percentage is still far below grade level, the average was by far the highest among the EOG grades.  Our assistant principal was so relieved and excited that she asked our team to go out for drinks after school on Friday.  She said we are closing the achievement gap by leaps and bounds.

My colleagues and I have put in many late hours and have truly embraced the family model.  We always put the kids first and our scores reflect that.  If our school is able to make this much progress each year, our students will be able to compete academically with their more affluent peers. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Time to Face the Facts

Fact #1
My school is located in a neighborhood notorious for drug use and violence.  In the last two weeks, there have been three different shootings in the neighborhood, resulting in two deaths and one young adult in critical condition.  Many of my students heard the gunshots and knew the victims.  The students in our afterschool program led a silent march around the neighborhood in response to the shootings.

Fact #2
One of my homeless students earned an opportunity to go to the treasure box.  The box contains snacks, water bottles, piggy banks, school supplies, etc.  He dug through the box and was elated to select a pair of socks.  He asked if there were any more so he could give a pair to his brother.

Fact #3
A student I have talked with in depth throughout the year approached me at recess.  She asked me last week if I ever wanted to hurt myself.  Following her cues, she revealed that she cut herself.  After speaking with the guidance counselor and meeting with her parents, we have referred her to a counselor.

Fact #4
One of my Vietnamese boys has been falling asleep alot in class lately and forgetting his homework.  A family friend of his informed the school that the boy's father had a work related accident and ended up having his arm amputated.  The mom has been in the hospital looking after his dad while my 5th grader has cared for his younger siblings.

Fact #5
One of my refugee students has had a drastic change in behavior in the last few weeks.  He is an only child and is the cutest mamma's boy ever.  He and his mother have endured earthquakes, living in fear, and fleeing Cuba.  After making some phone calls, the ESL teacher let us know that his mom is pregnant and our student is simply not transitioning well.

Fact #6
Many of my students have parents that are in jail.  One girl in my class shared her exciting news that her mother was released from prison.  This student didn't get a chance to go to bed early the night before the EOG's because she was helping her mother move into a halfway house and meeting her mom's parole officer. 

Fact #7
Another homeless student of mine smells so bad that we keep switching her desk with a desk in the hallway so that it can air out.  I spray Febreeze and give her toiletries, but she doesn't have access to a washing machine so her clothes genuinely stink.  It was so bad on Tuesday that I honestly thought the foul smell coming from the corner of the room was my proctor's lunch.  It wasn't. 

Fact #8
Our classroom is no stranger to bugs.  These uninvited pests are not here as a result of unsanitary school conditions.  Unfortunately, roaches tend to lay eggs in students backpacks and hatch at school.  We had a serious infestation in our cubbies last week, resulting in several students from the same apartment complex emptying their backpacks outside so the roaches could run free.  Thankfully, the kids don't ever tease one another because it could happen to any of them.

Fact #9
One of my favorite students just moved here from Burma last May.  In a short year she has absorbed so much of the English language and American culture, though she struggles tremendously with reading comprehension.  She earned the lowest possible score on her Reading EOG and cried because she was afraid she wouldn't be allowed to go to middle school.

Fact #10
The following conversation took place at recess:
Student: "Ms. Robinson, I've only got four more years."
Me: "Until what?"
Student: "Until I get pregnant."
Me: "I should hope not.  Why would you say that?"
Student: "Well my mom had my sister when she was 15.  And my sister had her baby when she was 15.  I've only got four years 'til I'm 15."

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Ninety-six percent of 5th graders made 1.5+ years of growth in reading this year.  One hundred percent of my students made expected growth goals in math.  Despite earning high growth in math and reading, only a third of my students are reading on grade level and 70% are on grade level in math. I've busted my ass this year and the results still didn't meet my expectations. It's frustrating and heartbreaking and makes me feel inadequate. 

I am not a miracle worker.  I can't change the facts.  I want a better life for my students.  I want them to feel success and have choices in their future.  But the truth is that they are perpetually at a disadvantage.  Much of their future is determined by their education.  At least half of them will enter middle school behind, then get lost in the shuffle.  As a result, many will enter high school even further behind.  Even those that are on grade level will become entangled with gangs, drug use, violence, sex, poverty, depression, language barriers, and homelessness that plague their neighborhoods.  The odds are against them, though their potential is tremendous.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Unicorn Cake and Bouncy Castle

Jackson and I headed to Gastonia to celebrate my niece's 5th birthday.  Her cake request was a unicorn, so I spent thebetter half of the morning creating this whimsical cake.  The first tier was a standard 2-layer cake baked in 9-inch pans.  I frosted it with green tinted buttercream.  The bottom border and flower decorations are flavored marshmallows cut diagonally in half.  The top tier is a 2-layer cake baked in 4-inch pans.  I frosted it with blue tinted buttercream, then piped white clouds and a simple rainbow along the side.  I topped it with a My Little Pony unicorn.

Birthday parties are excuses to eat, play, and stay up past bedtime. 

Jackson had his first experience in a bouncy castle.  He was very reserved and could only be caught smiling when he was in the arms of his trusted cousin.  Jack wanted nothing to do with bouncing or leaving her arms.

Jackson found much more amusement crawling around the outside of the bouncer and pushing back against the inflatable walls.   

As usual, Jackson enjoyed interacting with his many family members.  He scarfed down baked beans, chips, pasta salad, and potato salad before splitting a slice of  cake with his uncle.  It was well past bedtime when we left the party, so he slept peacefully in the car ride.

Mother's Day

Mother's Day began by sleeping in until 8 while Jesse and Jackson began making pancakes.  I went downstairs to discover a gift at my seat.  Jackson helped me unwrap this adorable photo collage from Jesse.  Apparently Jesse stayed busy this week painting letters, wrestling the letters with Jack, photographing a baby on the move, and learning how to edit photos in Paint.  I had made a similar photo collage for Jesse for Father's Day last year.  I absolutely love the pictures.  Now we can hang the two photos together. 

Jackson was especially silly this morning.  He was cracking up at every little thing.  We spent most of the morning laughing!

Our Mother's Day adventures included church, lunch at Denny's, grocery shopping, an afternoon nap for the whole family, shopping for blue jeans, and dinner with the in-laws.  There were moments where I wanted nothing more than to see my own mom, but there were many more moments of feeling blessed to have a smiling boy to love on and family to enjoy spending time with.  Jesse told me this evening that his goal each day is to make me feel loved.  He accomplishes this every day, and today was no exception.  All in all, it was a lovely Mother's Day.   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

To Care or Not To Care, That Is the Question

Unhealthy Weight

To Care--In the year since giving birth, I have lost and gained weight more rapidly than ever before.  I know weight can affect fertility, mood, and overall energy levels.  Considering each of these factors have been unstable, it's probably time to care.  My family doesn't have the best track record and I should take my health more seriously.  Family and friends are bonding over bike rides and training for marathons while I sit and overindulge.

Not to Care--I get home between 5:30 and 6:00 each night.  I eat dinner, play with Jackson, bathe him, and put him down for bed at 7:30.  I am not compromising my brief time with Jackson to go to the gym.  At this time, I am also unwilling to wake up early (5 a.m.) to workout.  I am not mentally ready to give up processed sugars and carbs yet either.

Upcoming End of Grade Tests

To Care--The stakes are high, working as a strategically staffed teacher at a school of reform.  Our school has one more year to turn things around before the state intervenes.  My kids need to pass so they can show that they are prepared for middle school.  I need my kids to pass so I can continue to have high growth and proficiency.  

Not to Care--Seriously people, what else is there to do in five days that will suddenly cause a child to pass?  I've busted my ass all year and my kids still struggle.  I'm not going to work miracles this week.

Trying to Conceive

To Care--We are on our sixth cycle.  My OBGYN gave me the go ahead to come in for bloodwork and begin taking progesterone if nothing happened after six months.  I wanted our kids 18 months apart, but that window has already passed.  Do I make an appointment for next month?

Not to Care--I would like to try for National Board Certification or apply for higher education next year.  I wanted to try this year, but I thought I would be pregnant during the school year.  Should I just put things on hold and continue with my career goals? 


To Care--One of my major life goals is to get a Ph.D. in education.  The program I am looking at is at UNCC, which is about 10 minutes from our house.  I love being in school and want to be in a doctoral program by the time I am 30.  Applications are due in November to be accepted for the following August.  If I want to do this, I need start getting references together now.

Not to Care--I don't have the money or time to devote to a doctorate.  If I am already complaining about not spending enough time with Jackson and I would like another baby, why would I spend my time taking classes I can't afford?

Finances/Summer Job

To Care--Next month is my last paycheck until September.  We have exhausted our savings and I don't have any income.  Jesse will no longer by caring for Connor, and he may or may not be able to work any additional hours.  I could work weeks during summer school to get some extra money.

Not to Care--Things always work out somehow.  I need a break from students and I really want to spend time with Jack.  I already have some professional development classes that conflict with summer school, anyway.