Wednesday, January 7, 2015

So Little Time. So Much Intervention.

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One of the challenges of being a part-time writing interventionist is that I'm only available to students twenty hours a week, and not even all of those hours because of their class schedules. Since I started this job, I've fallen into the habit of comparing my current position with my former one as a full-time classroom teacher. One of the luxuries of being a full-time teacher is being able to experiment and try out new ideas, knowing that there's always another period, another day, to reflect, take stock and decide what direction to go in. When I see a student for 20 minutes a week, I don't have the luxury of time and getting it right feels more critical, more urgent. As a teacher, I'm used to developing my own materials and drawing on my own experiences to create meaningful lessons and opportunities for learning. As a writing interventionist, I'm learning to rely more on materials that have already been published. Instead of using my creativity to construct materials, I focus on delivery and engagement.  Even there, I feel pressure to get it right the first time. Maybe that seems unfair, to put that kind of pressure on myself, but with only 20 minutes a week for each student or each group of students I see, it feels imperative to stick my landing, so to speak. And I'll admit, I am less amenable to the idea these days that I should take my work home. Quite frankly, for the money I make, I am going to leave my work at work. When I was a full-time classroom teacher, my job occupied so much space in my brain, and I spent hours upon hours outside of work thinking about my students, developing materials and planning delivery.

My secondary task as an interventionist is monitor the progress of my students, and when it comes to writing, that can be a bit of a challenge.  First, I have to figure out what skills my students need to improve, then I have to figure out how to quantify or measure those skills, in order to show an improvement of those skills over time. For some skills, like spelling, that's pretty easy. Using a Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) approach, I can simply count up correctly spelled words (CSW). Other things, like organization, are more open to interpretation and require a qualitative analysis, such as looking for logically ordered ideas. In that case, there might be more than one answer, so I have to decide whether the student grasps the concept of organization in an essay and point to specific lines in the student's writing that demonstrate this, and of course, this will be different for every student.

In my school, we are following an Response-To-Intervention (RTI) model, which is new to me so that has been another challenge in this position. Not only am I learning about this model but I also have to figure out how it applies to writing. There is a wealth of information online about using RTI with reading and math intervention, but less of it for writing, I'm finding.

But as I've said, I'm really excited about these new challenges, and I'm happy to have been able to find a position doing what I always wanted to do when I was a classroom teacher--work closely with students and give them the attention they need and deserve.

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