Ok first off let me start off with a little 4th grade humor. On our morning announcements the last few days they have had our drama club talking about famous African Americans for Black History Month. Well the other day the little girl was doing her little speech, I can't remember who they were talking about, and at the end she said "You might think I am really old but really I'm only 55 years old" well when she said this I heard one of my students whisper "That IS old, that's like saying I'm ONLY 5,000" LOL They just crack me up sometimes. I think I will leave them in the dark as to my age, being almost 43 they would think that is equivalent to quite elderly LOL
Well today was once again a pretty good day. My students have their first math test, since beginning rotations, tomorrow so our rotation time today was spent reviewing. I am once again so thankful that I have started math rotations because it let me see right away who needed some extra help before tomorrow's test. I had them use their slate boards and I would give them a fraction that they had to change into a decimal. I knew my lowest group was in trouble when I gave them the fraction 4/5 and they ALL wrote 4.5. BUT because I was in a small group I could address that misconception right away and we reviewed the process to change decimals to fractions and I think by the time their group was over they were really understanding it. Unfortunately they did not do well on the mini benchmark exam they had to take on comparing and ordering fractions and decimals. Of course the test is only 5 questions and if they miss more than 2 then they are considered not passing. These are the assessments my data meetings are focused on so I am trying not to worry. However, they should have done better because we have been working with this a LOT. So I plan to work with them on that some more in small groups.
On a personal note, tomorrow is a sort of tough day for me. It will be my youngest son's last day of high school. My "baby" is 18 years old, he will be 19 on May 1st and is a junior in high school. He is a victim of NCLB and the state of Florida's high stakes testing. He is an extremely bright young man who has a learning disability that was identified in 2nd grade, after he had been retained in Kindergarten. Then when he got to 3rd grade he was not able to pass our state standardized reading assessment and was retained yet again (which is mandatory in FL). he struggled and struggled all through school. When he entered 6th grade he was reading at about a mid to late 1st grade reading level. That was the year we discovered he suffered from Convergence Insufficiency which is an occulomotor dysfunction. He received 8 weeks of vision therapy and made tremendous gains but by then the gap was just too large to be bridged and he was already 2 years older than his peers. He hung in there for so long but a few weeks ago he came to me and told me he didn't want to do it anymore.Now, he is a VERY smart young man, when he was diagnosed with his learning disability they told me that his IQ score was only 3 points shy of qualifying him for the gifted program as well as the learning disabled program so he is a very bright guy with a processing disorder and I was sure that he would beat the odds (the percentage of students who graduate high school after being retained twice is less than 1%). I was not at all pleased with the idea of his leaving high school in his junior year. I have nothing against getting a GED because I, myself, didn't graduate from high school the regular way. I hated school and I dropped out at the end of my junior year, I took the GED test and passed and got my GED. I now have my Master's degree and am beginning to work on my 2nd Masters degree so it wasn't the GED that bothered me. I told him that I understood and that I wanted him to really think about it, I said to him "Baby, I've been there and I have regrets. I never got to have a senior year, no senior pictures, no senior prom none of that." and he said that he didn't care about that stuff he just wanted out of high school because he's 2 years older than his friends, and he's even a year older than the seniors who will graduate before him. He said he wanted to quit high school, get his GED and begin community college in the Fall and major in Art. I was still really upset I said to him "You don't understand what you're giving up, you don't know what its like to watch your friends all walk across that stage without you" and his response to me shut me up he said "But Momma, I DO know what that's like, my friends all graduated last year when I was supposed to" he was right he had already experienced that. He went on to tell me that he couldn't stand being in high school with kids who were below his maturity level, he said "I can't even just ask a girl out if I think she's pretty because I am 18, almost 19 and I go to school with girls who are 14 and 15 who don't LOOK 14 or 15 and who LIE about their ages" He had a lot of good points and finally he said "Momma I just want to be where I am supposed to be, I want to be in college." So his dad and I gave him our blessing but made him agree to stay at school until the school psychologist could complete his final reevaluation so that we would have an up to date report for the community college so he could have his accommodations there as well. The testing was completed earlier this week and tomorrow is his last day. I have bittersweet feelings about it because I feel like I failed him by not finding out about his visual issues earlier when the gap wouldn't have been as tough to bridge and in the same breath I am also so very proud of him that he has a plan, he's not quitting school to get a dead end job or lay around the house, he is leaving high school so he can start college. We have gone to the local community college to see what all he needs, he has decided to start off by taking just 2 classes at a time so he can acclimate himself to college courses and then once he is more comfortable he may move into a full-time schedule of 4 classes and he is so excited about his decision and I am so proud of him. He has grown into a wonderful young man. He has always been a remarkable guy with a huge heart. When he was in 6th grade and we discovered his visual issues no one we knew had ever even heard of these types of issues so when he started having major success with vision therapy I felt that it was important to tell his story. I went to him first and asked him if it was OK for me to write an article about him and his story. At first he said no he didn't want me to do that, then he came to me and said "Momma, do you think if you write that article someone might read it who has a kid with the same problems as me and they might get them vision therapy to help them when they're little so they don't fall so far behind?" and I said that I hoped that was what would happen and he said "OK,,then you can write it. Will you tell me if you find out about it helping someone?" I told him he would be the first to know. So I wrote an article about him and his journey and it was published in Educational Leadership the journal for ASCD in October 2007. About 2 weeks after the article was published I got an email from a principal whose 6 year old grandson exhibited many of the same issues Garrett had when he first started school and because of my article they had an appointment with a developmental optometrist the following week to have him tested to Convergence Insufficiency. I couldn't wait to tell my son. Of course he acted all cool when I told him but there was no hiding the smile. I have received multiple emails since the article was published and I share everyone of them with him and he always just smiles and then asks me the same question... "How many is that?" I think we are up to 8 or 10 kids that he has helped by letting me write his story. If you would like to read my article of Garrett's story let me know. My copy of my article is on my school computer so I will post a link to it tomorrow for anyone who wants to read it.