We are a week into school, and changes are afoot. You may recall that one of the classes I teach this year is 6th grade Math Lab. Note: Math Lab classes used to be called “Math Support” and are designed to serve a dual purpose: 1) to support students in meeting standard on the state test and 2) to support students in their current math class by previewing & reviewing.

This afternoon I met with R (the 7th grade Math Lab teacher) and our administrators to discuss collapsing our respective lab classes into one, effective Wednesday.

As it stands right now, I teach 8 6th graders and she teaches 8 7th graders. Despite our requests to add more students (identified through the use of a pre-test), there is nobody left to add, really. I have all 8 of the 6th graders who did not meet standard on our state test last year and are not enrolled in another support class already (ie, ELL, School Skills, Reading Lab). R’s class is in a similar predicament. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that the kids who need extra help in math tend to need extra help in reading/English/school skills, and yet every year we have the same conversation. We have spent HOURS over the past few days looking at pre-tests, state test data, MAP test data (oh, by the way, we are changing to the STAR test this year, too – it’s cheaper and shorter – but my students won’t take that until September 28, so forget about using it for beginning-of-the-year placement decisions), trying to identify the correct students for these classes which were populated by counselors based on state test scores from last year.

So now I am faced with the task of combining the two classes. Both R and I have worked very hard to establish a strong sense of community and develop good routines to help these students achieve success. Now, a week into school, I get to start over. One of my kiddos won’t be staying in, due to a scheduling conflict (did I mention that my current class is moving to 2nd period, when R’s class currently takes place?), R’s class is losing two who have tested out due to their hard work this summer and we are adding up to 6 new students, pending scheduling conflicts.

I am feeling a little overwhelmed. How can I support the 7th graders who need to review integer operations without exposing the 6th graders (who have never seen integers before) to material they aren’t ready for? How do I keep the 7th graders engaged and actively learning while I work with the 6th graders on 2-digit multiplication? They all need to work on division, but my 6th graders haven’t learned how to divide with fractions or decimals yet, so I will have to sort that out as well.

This isn’t quite what I signed up for, but it will be an adventure! I’ve been guaranteed a laptop cart in my room permanently, and am looking at various online math programs to use as a component of instruction to try to buy myself time to work with each group of students independently, and I am excited about that potential. It will be a learning year for us all…