Saturday, February 10, 2007

stapling them to the wall and throwing darts

I decided to beat prin to the punch this year by getting some displays up early for our parent information night next week (we had another parent night last week too, I have no idea why they can't just combine them). Last year in my first year of teaching art Prin decided to suddenly spring btw the whole school needs to be decorated by you two days before the night. This year I am on my game. Oh yes! Of course since the school is doing a lot of pre-testing at the moment I haven't actually taken the whole school for art yet. I have no art work to put up at all. I've gotten around this by putting up only photos. In order to fill up the mammoth sized boards though I've had to take a hell of a lot of photos. It's been very fiddly and expensive but it's the only thing I can think of that will tide me over until the art program officially starts.

Instead of teaching art I've been back in the classroom subbing for their teacher who is doing pre-testing. It's actually been a lot of fun being back in the classroom. Having one grade exclusively for a few days in a row seems like such a luxury to me now. You can follow up on discipline properly, you can carry work over and there's a hell of a lot more control and downtime. I think I'd like to move back into the classroom in a couple of years. Maybe even next year. I love battling with them through their learning difficulties. I want to teach them to write perfect sentences and how to use different strategies to add. Then again...I love the freedom the art program affords me. I love the excitement in the kids when we learn something new in art and I love the lack of parents being aggro.

I had a taste of it in the classroom this week. Since we are officially only 8 days back the kids are still being tested for reading/writing/maths. Typically what happens with children's reading is that over the holidays they lose a bit of practice and so when tested teachers will find that they move down a couple of levels. This is VERY short lived and the kids are back on track very quickly. In the classroom I was in, the teacher hadn't tested reading yet so for one week she put all kids back one level so they could get used to reading again and then when she tests them next week they will be on their correct levels. Of course I had a bazillion anxious parents in with me complaining that their children were not progressing in this class. I wanted to shoult, we're EIGHT DAYS IN, go take a valium! But somehow managed to channel the spirit of Mother Theresa and was serene and sweet instead.

Kids get stressed when parents are obsessed about their progress. I caught a 7 year old BAWLING her eyes out in the corridor the other day. When I asked her what the matter was she could hardly speak for all the gasping and crying. I'm n-n-not s-s-sma-a-a-art enou-u-ugh! she eventually said. Talk about heartbreaking. I know this child very well. I taught her two years ago and she didn't match up to her peers academically. I wanted her to stay down but her parents wanted to move her up - so she did. The next year the gap between her and her peers widened even more. The damage has already been done. She feels dumb. Never mind that she's a beautiful kid, great artist and great dancer. None of that counts...even though it should.

It's a tragedy for which both teachers and parents are to blame. Kids have way too much pressure on them to succeed in Literacy and Numeracy. Schools put pressure on them because results count these days (I mean they're even talking about paying teachers according to the results they get - ridiculous!). And parents put pressure on their kids by being obsessed with reading scores and how much homework they're getting and their successes in school. Parents compare results in the yard and so kids compare each other in the classroom too. The whole thing depresses me a lot.

Maybe I do want to stay in the art room.

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