My goal is to finish my entire GAA before Christmas. It’s a lofty goal, but it is totally possible. In order to have any realistic shot at it, though, I need to have all of collection #1 finished before the end of this month. So how am I doing?
I’m over half finished, but I’m being reminded as to why it is a serious mistake to wait on data collection for these things. Murphy likes to set up camp right in the middle of one’s plans. The more urgent, the more likely things will go wrong. In this case, it happens to be the flu. The same thing happened last year with one of my students. He missed more school while I was working on GAA activities than in the previous 2 years combined! And so it is this year as I have a student who has been out a couple of weeks due to the flu. Plus we had a flood day, and who knows what other natural disasters, delays and issues will crop up?
This is why a body has to ruthlessly hack, chop, fight and claw through this process with as much speed and efficiency as practical. Stuff happens, and the longer things are put off, the more stress that will visit later.
I’ve written my basic outline on a planning sheet, and am busy checking off as I go. The lesson plans feed into the GAA tasks and follow the outline I’ve mapped out. Next month, while waiting for the 3 week lag to pass before laying into collection #2, I’ll do some alternative activities that also fit the GAA plan. so in a sense, I’ll have a parallel portfolio of other tasks to use in the future, if necessary.
With my present numbers and the severity of my students, it is difficult to do anything outside of a couple of tasks per day. Every student needs changing, every one needs feeding and most of them need to be positioned/repositioned throughout the day. Plus I have 2 new paras to train and an old para who came back after it took 8 years to get rid of her. So it is a major challenge just to keep the fires out.
So when it comes to nailing down a given GAA task, it is best to plan on doing the same task multiple times. It’s unlikely that all students will be there for a single take, and it is also unlikely that you’ll get a decent or usable collection on the very first trial. so I generally schedule 2-3 tasks over 2-3 days in order to have multiple opportunities to get it. I’m also an opportunist when it comes to grabbing data and using resources. This is another reason to get all over a basic collection. Sometimes, something better comes along and you have a chance to jump on it.
For instance, I was doing some listening/speaking/viewing activities with the Gotalk with a student, when the SLP came in. I quickly got her to work with my GAA students on the required task, and got pictures and data to go along with it. Things just clicked into place. I like to get a variety of people involved, including OT’s, APE teachers, and other therapists. The idea is to incorporate a lot of diversity into the mix so there are several options and pieces of evidence to choose from. It also looks good on the final product, because it illustrates that this isn’t just a one-time deal and reflects superior teaching practices. If you are all stressed about just getting the thing done, you may miss these opportunities because of sheer stress. What the knobs who are pushing for “accountability” fail to see is that no one performs at their best if they are overly stressed. This assessment is not assessing students, it is assessing teachers. So get it it done quickly and then keep improving it as time passes. With increased revisions, it does get better, but you can not revise and improve what you have not already finished! I find that having a time line and calendar helps. It keeps me focused on daily goals and tasks rather than being overwhelmed by this big, huge thing hanging over me. It’s easier to make progress when it isn’t looming so large.
That being said, it is looming large! And having a student absent fir a long period of time does derail my little calendar. At first, I wanted to hold everyone up, so we could all move through together. But I couldn’t wait forever, so I tried to do some of the easier tasks that were most differentiated across participants, which for me is the ELA speaking/listening tasks. Science and social studies seem to lend themselves to more group work, but I’m not waiting anymore. We’re going to go ahead and plant our plants and move on.
And remember as Murphy is fond of saying: As bad as things may seem at the moment, they can always get worse, and they probably will. So you might as well enjoy the moment!
Hopefully, the rest of you teachers are progressing along! Good luck!