Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Frustrated, Fed Up, and about ready to give up...

For the first time in 12 years I feel like I hate my job, and I feel like I am a complete failure as a teacher. I haven't felt this bad since my first year teaching. This is my 2nd year in 4th grade and I love the age group and I enjoy teaching them. I went through a period of time where I wondered if I made a mistake moving from Kindergarten to 4th grade and I had a profound "ah ha moment" that helped me put things into perspective. However,  it seems like every week I get the wind knocked out of my sails all over again. Every week we have Data Meetings, I feel like these should be called Stress Meetings because they do more to add to my stress level than they do to enlighten me about the data. We now have, at my school, a Data Room where everyone's data is posted for all to see. Now, I'm not sure the reason behind this, all I can think of is that maybe they think that if they post our data up there for the world to see it will make us better teachers because, let's face it, who wants to have the lowest percent of students on target for any skill. Well apparently that would be me. Week after week I bust my backside to get through to my students and week after week they continue to bomb the mini assessments being used to humiliate me in these weekly data meetings. I don't know what I am doing wrong! They seem to get it when we are working through it in small groups or whole group but then when they have to do it on their own they act like they have never seen the material before.

 I am just so frustrated because we have what are called FCIM lessons, that we have to do each day. They are a 15 - 20 minute math/reading concept lesson. Basically we focus on one math and one reading benchmark a week. Well that's what it looks like on paper, in reality we are focusing on one math and one reading benchmark for about 15 minutes a day 2 days a week. The schedule for these FCIM lessons looks like this; Monday we introduce the concept and do basically 1 or 2 modeled practice questions/problems, Tuesday we do 2 - 3 guided questions/problems, Wednesday we give a pre-assessment of the skill, Thursday we assess the skill, and then Friday we reteach. Oh and up until last week the order of the math lessons were based on our weakest strand (as a grade level) which were skills we had not yet taught them because they haven't come up in the math curriculum yet. So basically I am being judged on 30 minutes of instruction a week in reading and in math. I see that other teachers on my team are getting 70% - 90% of their students on target and I can not for the life of me figure out what I am doing wrong. When they are asked, in the data meeting, what they are doing to get their scores so high they say the same things that I am doing and I am just so frustrated. I don't know what else I can do. I have stopped teaching science and social studies and have integrated it into my reading block and I still don't have the time to go in depth in these lessons. I am so frustrated and so angry and so embarrassed by the scores that are posted for all to see that I just want to give up and do something else. I have thought and thought about switching to a non-testting grade level next year but that isn't going to do anything to get me through the rest of this year. I always say to myself "I don't care what their data shows because I know its not an accurate representation of my students or my teaching" but week after week it starts to wear on me and it makes me wonder what I am doing wrong. I don't know why I thought I could teach in the upper grades. My speciality has always been early childhood. I was an idiot to think that I could be successful in 4th grade. I need to figure out what I want to do. I just don't know, I have not been this miserable in a very long time. I even sent my resume to a principal opening a new school on the other side of town. Right now I live literally 5 minutes from my school but because I am so miserable this year I actually considered adding about an hour commute (one way) to my day. I don't know if that's the answer but I do know I can not do another year like this. I have to figure out what I'm going to do. I haven't felt this bad about my job in a very long time and it is not a good feeling. Right now I am just so miserable, I don't know what to do.


  1. I understand what you're going through. I'm only a second year teacher, but there is no learning curve. At our school, our AYP relies SOLELY on 3rd grade scores, so our scores, broken down by teacher, are displayed and dissected by everyone. My scores are significantly lower than the others in reading [partially because I have a REALLY low group], and I have the same feelings you do.

    I wish I could give advice, but I have none. Just know that you absolutely aren't alone! =)

    Third Grade in the First State

  2. I feel your frustration and pain. Not all student learn the same way. I teach in a mall Christian school with only 6 fourth graders. Thee 4th graders are very low...almost what I would consider a third grade level.I have brought them quite a ways since I got them in the fall but they are no where near ready for 5th grade work. They are very low in comprehension.I have realized I can only do so much. The students have to be willing to work hard and to the best of their ability. Could you make up a practice test for them to do? Are they poor test takers? Not everyone is good at tests and there should be some other way to demonstrate mastery.

  3. Hang in there. I wish I could tell you that it will all get better, but sadly with the "curriculum police" out there in so many schools, posting data is so common. I'm sorry that you are frustrated. Remember what counts...when you close the door and teach, do you feel effective? If so, the data {test scores} will come eventually. You know, you can't turn apples into oranges. If they came to you with low data, they will continue to show low data. Remember that, too.

    Fun in Room 4B

  4. Thank you all for the words of encouragement and the knowledge that I am not alone in this feeling or this data nightmare. I hate to say it but I think part of my problem may be vanity related. When I taught kindergarten I was always on the top. I was the one with the highest scores, going from being on the top to being part of the bottom has been quite a blow to my ego. I have thought so many times this year that I want to move to a non-testing grade but I am not a quitter, Kindergarten was tough when I first started out but I learned and I became the best. I have to do that now. I am embarrassed that I am letting my vanity get to me but it is just really hard to go from being on the top to clawing my way from near the bottom.

  5. Oh that is BS! I would be livid if they posted our scores like that. It is not a damn competition. I know my grade level team inflates their data and I refuse to. Parents need accountability too. Try not to let it get you too down :(

  6. How much independent reading are they doing? Do they know test taking strategies such as looking for clue words, how to attack different genres, thinking while reading and process of elimination? I have been teaching for nine years and my scores have always been on the lower side, however this year we began implementing a lot of shared reading and purposeful talk. I have definitely found that pairing students up with a buddy to discuss their findings or reteach the skill to their peer has helped to increase scores.

  7. Sunny, thank you for the support. It is very frustrating. After speaking with my teammates today I do feel better that they are all feeling the same way I am. Mrs. Shepherd, its math they are really struggling with. Reading isn't great but the biggest issue I am having is with math.

  8. Cindy, I'm very sorry to hear you are having such a stressful and miserable time. It bothers me so much to hear that maths is being taught in such an old-fashioned, nonsense fashion. Drilling maths like that serves no purpose - other than to fill in data sheets. The children/classes that achieve well are only being tested in the short term - it does not mean that their long term maths ability is being taught. A love of maths and a firm understanding of basics is far more important than the rest of that twaddle they are promoting. Honestly, it really gets under my skin that this is what schools are promoting. Exploring and developing a healthy understanding of maths in a safe, positive and fun environment will do more for those lovely 4th graders than weekly testing of skills being taught in such an unhealthy way. Cindy - I can tell from here how dedicated you are and how much you value the vocation of being a teacher. I hope that when you are in your classroom that you are enjoying being with the children and when you are in your stride that you are loving what you do. I'm hoping that you can not be so hard on yourself - teachers are their own worst enemies when it comes to being look after yourself. The kids will come and go - but you need to keep yourself protected and healthy. It does sound like you need to see if there are other schools out there with a better teaching ethos - one that supports and promotes the type of teacher you are.