Friday, September 7, 2007

Thank God, Goddess, Allah, Buddha, Thor, Zeus, Whoever! It's Friday!

Today was one of the single worst days I've ever had in this school. Unless you work there with me, you wouldn't be the least bit interested in the details, but suffice it to say, our principal is a major jackass! He's about to have a handful of grievances filed against him with the union, and I just may be one of them. I really don't have the energy to rant about it, that's how exhausted, physically and mentally, I am after today. I'm going to fill up my tub, turn on the jets, and take a nap. Yes, in the tub! It wouldn't be the first time!

On a positive note, my babies didn't seem to drive me as crazy today. I guess I was too busy being pissed off at the Big Cheese! Actually, now that the first week is over, and they're starting to get into the swing of things, I think this is going to be a pretty good group.

I had to start testing my kids today (oh, yes, really!) with this ridiculous standardized test called DIBELS (the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills). If you're curious about the test, you should read this article by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post. It questions the validity of the test, much like we do at school. The name of the test is goofy enough, but it's even funnier for us to talk about how we "dibbled our kids today." It sounds perverted!!

The testing did give me a couple of good laughs, though. Some of the kids' answers were hilarious! The last section of the test requires the children to use specific words in a sentence. For example, if I give them the word "green," they could say, "The grass is green." We have to record the number of words used in the sentence. Don't ask, I told you the test was stupid! One of the words given, for 5 year-olds, mind you, is "ago." One of my babies said, "I saw the car uh...go!" Too cute!

Another part of the test involves showing the kids a page with rows of random letters, both upper and lowercase. They have to move across the page and name the letters. First of all, tracking letters on a page is not an easy task for most kindergartners, most especially on the 4th day of school! They have to point to the letter, name it, then move to the next letter without accidentally skipping down a row. When they get to the end of the row, they have to know to go to the next row, not just some other random spot on the page. Talk about pressure! I always break the rules the first time I test them, and show them where to go. In some cases, I even point to the letters for them, which is a HUGE no-no. I suppose I shouldn't really give them any help, so then they'll score really low on the beginning of the year tests, and then the end of the year test scores will make it seem like I'm really one hell of a teacher! ;D

So, I was testing A.B., and I said, "Oh, this is a fun one! You get to tell me about letters. Do you know your letters?" Of course she nodded, "yes." I open to the page and tell her to begin as I hit "start" on my palm pilot. (All testing is done with a palm pilot, which is the ONLY good thing about DIBELS. It makes scoring the tests instantaneous, and it keeps track of the scores, as well as other information for us. The wonders of modern technology!) She immediately begins pointing and moving straight across the row saying, "a, b, c, d, e, f,....) I think the row looked more like, "s, T, o, l, D, m, M..." I had to stifle a giggle. I also had to let her get all the way through the row without stopping her. If a child gets the entire first row incorrect, the test automatically stops, and you get a message on the palm that tells you to discontinue this portion of the test.

The other component of the test requires the children to listen for sounds (phonemes) in words. The words are represented with pictures in the test book. I don't know what idiots were paid to put this book together, but they couldn't have picked out worse pictures! (See, this is when I seriously consider a career change, because, HELL, I could put a better book together for this test!) Anyway, the pictures are not actual photos, but are illustrations. One of the pictures is of what, to a 5 year-old, would look like a horse. Sadly, for the test, it's a MULE! Another looks like a bug, but I have to tell them INSECT. Another is a bear up in a tree, and I have to confuse them by telling them it's a CUB. Crazy! There's a picture of a bed, but the test word is QUILT. There's a picture of a dish, but they have to know PLATE. OK, enough!

I have little J.H. out in the hall with me for his test, and I'm trying to go over the example page. I have to say, "This is 'mouse,' 'flowers,' 'pillow' and 'letters.' Mouse begins with 'mmm.'" Right away, J.H. says, "Flowers are for giving to your mom!" So sweet! But, I don't have time to savor the moment, I just have to keep plugging away at this ridiculous test. "Which pictures begins with "fl?" (Already, the stupidest thing I've ever seen. Why would the very first question you ask this baby be about a blended sound?!) The test goes on from there, and I have to say, "Pillow begins with 'p.' What does "letters" begin with?" The picture on the page basically showed a pile of envelopes. Well, little Miss K.C. looks at me, looks up at the ceiling deep in thought, and says, "Um, hmm.... mail.... 'mmm.'" Now why in the world do I have to tell this baby she's wrong? She sees "mail" in the picture, and mail does start with the 'mmm' sound. Ugh! Have I mentioned I hate this test?

Well, nonetheless, I was amused the majority of the time I was administering the test. I have a few more kids to go on Monday when we get back. I almost wish I could videotape them while I test them, and then post the videos for your enjoyment. Just the little faces they make when they're thinking, and the funny things they say, kill me! Yeah, yeah, I know, that's why I'll never leave the classroom. I'm forever destined to be held captive by those little cherub-like faces. Damn my love of children!

While I've been sitting here typing, my "basement guy" arrived and started working downstairs. That would be great, except tonight he's working on moving a pipe, so he had to shut off all the water in the house. So much for my long, delicious soak in the tub :( Maybe I'll just lie down. Can you do that at 6:30 in the evening? I'd better just do something else, otherwise I'll fall asleep and be up at 3am! I might as well keep on writing!

Tomorrow is my sister's birthday, which is one of the reasons I'm going to need to be well-rested. The plan, so far, is to go out with a bunch of friend to hear one of my favorite bands. Ooo, I just realized I can put a link to their website here. Yay! However, this blog is supposed to be dedicated to school only....well, just this once, I'll make an exception. I have many, many friends who are musicians, so we always have someone we can go see on the weekends. My very good friend, Tony, used to be the lead singer in one of my other favorite bands (RICO) but left a couple of years ago to start his own band. I affectionately refer to them as TAB. They were the featured entertainment at my recent graduation bash this past July. It was the single greatest party I've ever been to, let alone thrown! You should check out the link. You can hear samples of their music. They rock! Anyway, we'll be partying with TAB tomorrow night in honor of my sister.

Then, on Sunday, my dear mother will turn 60. The only reason she came home early from her villa in Italy (she came home Wed.) is to celebrate with us. Normally, my mom is gone from May til October. Nice, right? She's had a bit of a rough year so far in 2007. In January she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Without putting all her "business" out there, she had to postpone her departure this year for Italy, and wasn't able to leave until June. Then she came back early, so I think she's suffering a little withdrawal since she wasn't able to spend her usual 6 months away. Health wise, she's doing pretty good right now, so that's all I'm going to say on the subject.

OK, quote time:

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. ---Albert Einstein

This one spoke to me today as I was questioning the lunacy of having to test my babies after 3 days of schooling. Now, I don't have a problem with testing, per se, and I've always done my own evaluative testing to get a baseline starting point every September. I need to know what they know. It's really the whole DIBELS thing that bugs me. I hate to do anything that might squash their love of school and learning. I don't want any of it to feel like a chore or "work." Learning should be fun!!

I hope you all have a great weekend!


Smileygirl said...

I'm sorry to hear about your mom. I didn't know she had cancer. You and your family are in my prayers.

Ok, almost 7:30 and STILL NOT PACKED!!!

Talk to you when I'm back in the states. I'll miss your cute cherub stories!


Anonymous said...

ChiTown Girl,

You are too funny. I love that you started your own blog. The stories are a riot. Eventhough I may talk to you everyday, I will definitely be checking your blog to read all about the "babies".


ChiTown Girl said...

katcra! Girl!! You get the benefit of hearing the stories in person still, so you get the faces and hand gestures that go along with them. When are you coming to school with me for the day?!

Christina Shaver said...

Your stories are cracking me up. I can just imagine their little faces thinking, thinking, thinking.