The longer I spend blogging with my students, the better I understand why I do.
I am a 4th grade dual language teacher. We are just a few weeks shy of taking our first STAAR test, our first of three State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.
In addition to preparing students for the genre of testing in writing and reading, this week I prepared to rate over 150 writing samples for TELPAS (Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System), another Texas assessment. The total number of writing samples came closer to 266, which is the result of collecting one writing sample each day, from each student, for the past two and a half weeks. This collection is accomplished just a few days after giving students their first experience with a writing benchmark. While grading 38 fourth grade writing benchmark compositions, giving individual feedback through student conference, we began preparing students for their first 4th grade reading benchmark. With that preparation, we again worked to assure that each student receives the specific individualized testing accommodations required by law, in addition to making sure that students who are testing online have had enough practice testing online to understand the intricacies of online testing. At the same time, teachers must continue with the individualized attention needed for every student, to be accomplished both in small groups and individual student-teacher conferences, which then must stop mid-swing to complete a 2-3 week period of running records or testing of reading levels each 9 weeks.
Aside from TELPAS testing, in a dual language classroom, all of this is done in two languages.
The list of responsibilities noted above are only a few of the big ones. There are many, many more. And sometimes the challenge to accomplish that insurmountable “to do” list goes well beyond the physical limits of one human being. It can be enough to drive a teacher out of the classroom. And for many teachers… it does. When schedules are overloaded and precious time to inspire students cannot be consistently cultivated, no amount of “working smarter” applies.
After all that must be accomplished during a school day, two days a week, I have Hour of Blog.
Hour of Blog
The best way to describe this time of the week is… magic. Hour of Blog is our after school writing club, our writing community―a time to cultivate our writing and blogging abilities. During this unique academic time, we practice 21st Century skills without the confines of testing and grading. Here, we learn for the sake of learning. Nothing else.
These are my favorite days of the week.
Just a Bit of Our Blogging History
In the spring of 2017, my class and I discovered blogging. Grown out of a desperate attempt to find a novel learning experience, before the intensity of test prep inhaled the classroom, we found Kidblog (@Kidblog), and it changed our lives.
Since then, each year, a few of those kids, those first Hour of Blog bloggers, return to their old elementary school classroom for Hour of Blog. Watching them become is an incredible part of our blogging journey.
A Matter of Becoming
Now in the sixth grade, with schedules fully loaded, these bloggers dedicate time to come back. They are in the process of becoming the kind of leaders, which for us, may not yet exist. As writers, they have grown a powerful passion and understanding for the value and freedom of choice, purpose, and agency.
Their level of learning and the uninhibited speed in which they maneuver through it, is at times foreign to me. There are moments I feel ill-equipped to be their guide. They are the outliers, the dreamers, “the rebels… the ones who see things differently… “ They are, each one of them, different. Each one of them, equipped with the skill to reflect and adjust in a world now rooted in continuous change.
There is raw treasure in these, sometimes messy, learning experiences. I see that now. And, so… just as my Hour of Blog bloggers continue to plant their feet onto new ground to continue learning and growing, so do I.
They, my 21st Century students and bloggers, are not the only learners in the room.
Marina Rodriguez (@mrodz308) is a California native, dual language teacher, National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Kidblog Ambassador, and co-author of Two Writing Teachers.