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The major testing for our grades 3-8 is over, and we still have one more round with select grade levels for writing and science to go in April.
We also have ten weeks to go in our school year. While the pressure has lifted some, there is still work to be done. However, I find that right now, we seem to think that with testing over, we can all turn our focus to next year, rather than concentrating on what is still right in front of us.
Once the writing test is over for me, this becomes the best part of my year with my Pre-AP students. We still have The Miracle Worker, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, and The Five People You Meet in Heaven to read together. We still need to write about our personal heroes and reflect on our middle school years by choosing our theme songs. We need to travel to Gettysburg to walk the battlefield with the 8th graders. The end of testing doesn't mean the end of the year, it just means that we can all take a deep breath and get back to teaching.
I know that we have to make plans for next year, and we are making a lot of changes in my building, so people are becoming anxious. We are going to a semi-block schedule and extending the time for ELA and math instruction into double what it has always been. We are adding in an academic support period for tutoring and forming grade-level teams. There will be staffing changes, and room re-assignments. All of this takes planning and meetings and packing and more meetings.
As a literacy coach, a department head, and a union president, I have to constantly be planning for next year, reflecting on what I've done, planning what I want to do, budgeting what I will need. There are MOAs to write for the changes that we need to make to contract language to accommodate the new adventures in scheduling and staffing. There is professional development to plan, and consultants to book. There is still data to collect to drive placements for next year.
It’s like this every year, but this year just feels different than others. Maybe it’s because the winter has been so long, maybe it is because we are getting out later this year after a late start in September, maybe it’s because next year is a year of huge changes, or maybe it is because we focused so much attention on making sure we were ready for the state testing that now we aren't sure what to do next.
Whatever the case may be, I’d like just a little more time before we throw away this year and move onto next in our minds. I want to enjoy my 8th graders before sending them away to high school. I’d like to reflect on what I've accomplished and finish up all the books I haven’t had a chance to read yet and need to share with my students. I’d like some time to go back and really look at what we've accomplished so we can make the right decisions about where we need to go next year.
Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. This coming week is filled with meetings about all of the changes for next year. I have people asking me to help them plan for next year, and I have to get the final budget numbers in for the purchase of next year’s novels. I am hoping that, with all the looking ahead I have to do, I don’t miss what is right in front of me in the here and now.