Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Do I Deal With Frustration

You know that moment professionally, when you think, "I just can't take on, do, commit to, juggle one more thing? I hit that point 5 minutes ago when I tried to log into our district's new Progress Book to do interims, and it wouldn't let me. I'm home alone right now, so I said a few choice words out loud, and now I need to figure out what my next step is. Do I curl up on my comfy sofa, rent a great chick flick (preferably one that will make me cry buckets of tears) from our cable service, and just quit for the evening? Throw in the towel figuratively? OR, do I suck it up, and figure out what else on my huge laundry list of "to do" items I could tackle next??

I don't know about you, but I would much prefer the former choice. However, I think I'm going to choose the latter. I'm not happy about it, but I need to feel some success, so I am going to choose to move onward and upward.

This morning, I had a great meeting with Katie (Creative Literacy) and Mary Lee (A Year of Reading) about the presentation we're doing together at NCTE in Philadelphia in November. Without giving away the whole presentation, I will say that this moment of utter frustration, 5 minutes ago, made me reflect back to our conversations this morning. We were talking about some global topics, but a teacher's reality in the beginning of every school year is that we need to spend some time reflecting about what our students know, and what we plan to do with that knowledge.

Cutting to the chase, it means:
  • We will give spelling inventories to students and then analyze them to see how we can best help them with their spelling in their writing.
  • We will interview and observe our students in a variety of ways to learn how they interact within our classroom learning environment. If we discover that a student has a difficult time choosing a "just right" book that they are interested in, we need to plan how to best help them learn more about themselves as readers. There are multiple things we do each and every day; things we do because of our observations of students.
  • We will give Developmental Reading Assessments to each of our students and spend hours analyzing what the students' strengths and weaknesses are. This also lets us know how to help each child with his/her reading through strategy groups or individual conferences.
  • We will thoughtfully structure lessons in a way that starts to build a community of readers / writers / thinkers / learners in our classroom.
  • We will look at the data that was compiled before the students got to us. Is there a clue in that data that will allow us to help each student grow?
  • We will prepare interims to allow parents to know where their child stands in all subject areas half-way through the first trimester (**ok, I would do this if the system would let me in**)
  • We will prepare careful, thoughtful conference notes about each child because we know that a solid working relationship with the parents will only assist us in helping each child grow.
  • We will write detailed lesson plans, that will changed on a moment's notice, when we see that the group already understands a concept, or they just didn't grasp what we wanted them to learn. We need to figure out new ways to reach our students.
So, with that kind of list, I need to choose the latter choice from above. I have way too many important things, things that will help children in the long run, to do rather than sulking (and maybe crying) about how technology has let me down.

Thanks for reading my rant tonight. I just needed to get it off my chest.


  1. Focusing on the ultimate goal (helping kids) is the only way to keep yourself going sometimes, Karen. I can sympathize (having spent most of the day gathering/reporting literacy news). But I do wish for you the time for that chick flick, too.

  2. Ruh roh...

    Going right now to see if I can get into ProgressBook. Should we start calling it ProgressBLOCK???

    Attempt #1: Fail. Taking solace from your post. Lots of other (more) important things to work on.

    Walking away, trying again.

    Attempt #2: Success. Breath goes *whoosh*

    Great conversations yesterday. Thanks for the sum up. Now I'm off to interimize.

  3. Karen, Just so you know I made a purchase this summer that I am willing to share if you continue to have interim is a beautiful Underwood Typewriter, complete with black and red ribbon! You know where to reach me :-)

  4. I had my meltdown Thursday when it all came to a breaking point. I couldn't figure out how to get it all done in the time allowed. Overload is a understatement. Thanks for sharing what we are all feeling.

  5. Oh wow, I have been there. Thank goodness for sick days to regroup.

  6. You're doing your job! Diagnostic assessments are essential instructional tools for effective English-language Arts and reading teachers. However, many teachers resist using these tools because they can be time-consuming to administer, grade, record, and analyze. Some teachers avoid diagnostic assessments because these teachers exclusively focus on grade-level standards-based instruction or believe that remediation is (or was) the job of some other teacher. To be honest, some teachers resist diagnostic assessments because the data might induce them to differentiate instruction—a daunting task for any teacher. And some teachers resist diagnostic assessments because they fear that the data will be used by administrators to hold them accountable for individual student progress. Check out ten criteria for effective diagnostic ELA/reading assessments at and download free whole-class comprehensive consonant and vowel phonics assessments, three sight word assessments, a spelling-pattern assessment, a multi-level fluency assessment, six phonemic awareness assessments, a grammar assessment, and a mechanics assessment from the right column of this informative article.

  7. I know exactly what you mean! If it weren't for the kids, I would be considering another career. At some point, we need to say 'Enough is enough" with the data collection and leave us alone! I know that these policies are implemented with the best possible intentions but they are being made by legislators who have no idea what kind of time constraints we have (namely that we cannot or will not work 22 hours a day). The good news is that we are stronger together and we always have the kids to bring us back to reality. The data that doesn't get tabulated or analyzed is not as important as they are.

  8. For anyone following this conversation, I do want to say that I do believe in the importance of all these assessments as I get to know my students each year. It was just the culmination of a lot of bad experience with the technology in our district that put me over the edge on this particular evening.