A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Approaching Test Prep Month

March 25th, 2014 means three things: 
  1. Staff meeting after school today. 
  2. Time to think about what I'm making (read: seamless.com online food ordering) for our "roomie potluck" night tomorrow. 
  3. Roughly 6 days before "TEST PREP MONTH" commences. 
That's right... I'm into my third year of teaching and I already call April "test prep month." 

Don't get me wrong; April is a great month. The weather finally starts acting like spring, leaves grow back on trees, flowers start blooming, t-shirts start rolling out, graduation is closer, summer is closer, SPRING BREAK is closer... however, test prep is imminent. 

Over the past two years, my team (A "team" is composed of 1 ELA, math, science, history, special ed and Spanish teacher plus a team interventionist for each grade. Thus, my school has 9 teams as each of the 3 academies is composed of 3 grades/teams.) has thought of creative and innovative ideas to motivate test prep in our students. Even though this is the first year the Common Core standards are being applied throughout the nation, this is the second year New York State is using them. Therefore, we are more prepared as to what types of questions students will be asked on the state exam. It is our goal to continue using these innovative strategies to hopefully move ALL our students to Levels 3 & 4 this spring. 

That being said, we still have some material to sift through.  During my first year of teaching, I never felt behind on the material. The following year, my students came to me with a lower skill set than the kids from my first year, meaning I had to review/bend over more. That, coupled with the days lost from Hurricane Sandy, meant that our entire school, and many other NYC middle schools, did not finish the state curriculum in time for the late April test. This year, I am ahead of where I was last year, and finishing the curriculum is in plain sight - it will just require cutting a few lessons out for the sake of finishing all the material. My goal is to have 2 weeks of pure test prep: review days, activities, games, practice tests, practice extended responses, strategy days, etc. leading up to the April exam. 

Test Prep Month is extremely hectic for all teachers. I can't even imagine what it's like for administrators as their entire job performance is judged by how well their schools do on the NYS and/or Regents exams. It is a month characterized by anxiety for everybody at school and lots and lots of #2 pencils, scrantron bubbling and direction familiarizing. 

But we will overcome it. Second year is the charm with these new standards :) GO NEW YORK STUDENTS & TEACHERS! Happy almost test prep month. 

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