School Week Round-Up: Week Thirteen

A coworker pointed out that at the end of October, we had report cards coinciding with Halloween. Then it was the week of the election which coincided with a conference-style district PD day and our first evening of parent-teacher conferences. Then it was Veteran’s Day week, when we spent much of our time preparing for an incredible and moving assembly, you know, around our other evening of parent-teacher conferences. Then this past week we had our Thanksgiving feast, and standardized testing all on computers for the first time. This upcoming week we only have two days, thank goodness, because stop the ride, I would like to get off. I just need a breather, then I’ll be good to go again. I promise.

Lessons: On the one hand, this was the week we were scheduled to do our AIR test practice prompt in the computer lab. But, it was also the week of the AIR test, for real. So I went easy on the third graders, but second graders still did their prompts. Unfortunately, because I was one of the people giving the test, I was not able to keep up with the grading with the same turn-around I had the first time. And then… well, you know what happens with a stack of ungraded papers. It… it gets bigger. And then you do the thing where you carry that stack home, because you promise to yourself you’ll get it done while wearing sweats on the couch. Then that doesn’t actually happen, either, because surprise surprise, when you wear sweats on the couch, your brain starts operating on lizard levels only, caring only about food, warmth, bathroom, and binge-watching The Librarians on Hulu. Then you end up carrying that stack of papers, untouched, back to school, and the cycle repeats itself, possibly extending into the weekend. We’ve all been here, right? Yeah. Yeah…

Support: Oh my gosh, I know I can’t speak for everyone in my building, but I vastly preferred using computers for standardized testing. Maybe it’s because I knew exactly what to expect, but I found it so much less stressful then bubble sheets and booklets. I know some of my colleagues felt differently, but I hope this sticks around as our new normal. So easy and convenient, and I think the kids handled it pretty well too. Problems we had were mostly solved by shutting down and restarting a machine. I did see some error messages, though nothing that I couldn’t solve, and nothing that would have made a difference between a pass or a fail to the affected student. Plus, unlike test booklets and bubble sheets, we can reuse Chromebooks and computers for, you know, other things that are actually instructive.

There was also an issue that arose with one of our carts of older MacBook laptops reimaged to run as Chromebooks. Many kept blinking off for just a second, then coming back on, having lost whatever tabs were open in Chrome. Very frustrating for students and teachers. I asked the tech department what to do, and the response was basically, “It’s going to be super annoying, and take about a half an hour, but you can do it yourself, here are the steps…” I really, really, really appreciated the fact that they told me up front how annoying it would be! Because, well, it was annoying, but more importantly, I knew to anticipate it. That way I kept persisting instead of giving up and quitting too soon. If they had not told me how annoying it would be, I might have followed the steps and then assumed it was even worse than I thought when the issue persisted. It probably contributed to my feeling inordinately proud of myself when I got through a dozen Chromebooks having that issue.

Things I Did Well: I felt pretty proud of myself for fixing all those MacBooks in a semi-reasonable amount of time.

Things I Will Do Better: I’m going with the stack-of-papers-to-grade thing. I am lacking motivation to just focus on it and get it done. I need to get on that. I don’t want it hanging over my head over Thanksgiving break, that’s for sure.

Cold Prickly: We had a lice problem in one of our classrooms this week. I feel bad for kids and grown-ups who have to deal with that. We had a lice problem exactly once when I was a kid; one of my younger sisters had lice when I was already in high school. It is an inconvenient problem, for sure.

Warm Fuzzy: Our principal canceled our staff meeting this week. When she mentioned this to me in passing in the hall, I went, “Woo!” She responded, with good humor, “I won’t take that personally.” (Sometimes… sometimes you just have other things to do. That I still didn’t do. But you know.)

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