Jun 30, 2012

VIDEO: Vi Hart

Okay, so I happened to watch a video by Vi Hart one day. It came up again today, so I searched for more videos. She has quite a few and they're on the Khan Academy website! In many of them, the math is complicated and I feel like someone whose brain has atrophied, forgetting all of his Calculus II lessons but extremely confident about prime numbers and simplifying fractions. Oh, how I've fallen.

Anyway... I really enjoy listening to her. I'm going to embed three videos for your enjoyment. 

SITE: Yummy Math

I haven't spent too much time looking at all of the lessons, but I'm definitely interested.

From the site: We’ve created Yummy Math to provide teachers with an easy way to bring real-life into their math classrooms. It is our belief that when math is explored in contexts that are familiar and of interest to students, students will be more engaged to do math, reason, think critically, question and communicate.  Our activities are written to correspond with the NCTM Process Standards and the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice.

The categories of lessons are Algebra, Data and Probability, Geometry, Number Sense, Sports, Holidays and Annual Events, Math and Science, Math and Food, Math and Social Studies, Math and Art, and Movies and Entertainment. Intriguing. 

Write it on your communicator: Yummy Math.

Jun 29, 2012

GIBBERISH: Questions about Homework

Homework has been a great source of frustration for me, so I hoped Rethinking Homework by Cathy Vatterott would help. It has, but I'm still considering my plan. Before reading, I had some questions.

1. If studies have shown that homework is ineffective at the elementary level, why should I assign it?

2. What types of assignments might be effective as homework?

3. If a student struggles with a topic, what good is homework? I would argue that it only frustrates and fuels an attitude of inadequacy. Further, what good does it do to give that student five problems instead of twenty? I don't believe it's the number of problems preventing that child from completing the assignment.

4. If differentiated instruction and learning styles are important, why do we give the same assignment to all of the students?

5. What good does it do to give twenty problems to the kid that gets it?

6. Do we know when we're grading the student or the parent?

Again, this book is helping me with my questions. I'm not finished. So, I'm sure there's more to talk about.

BOOK: Rethinking Homework

Rethinking Homework: Best Practice That Support Diverse Needs
Cathy Vatterott

There's so much to this book, but I'm going to control myself and ask that you read it. The author takes a balanced approach to homework, stating the strengths and weaknesses of the pro-homework and anti-homework research and arguments.

There are only five chapters to the book.
1. The Cult(ure) of Homework
2. Homework in the Context of the New Family
3. Homework Research and Common Sense
4. Effective Homework Practices
5. Homework Completion Strategies and Support Programs

I picked up this book because of those chapter titles. Before we start assigning homework like we've always done, I think it's important to consider the research and best practices. 

One thing the author asks us to do is renegotiate the parent-school relationship, which "will require teachers to compromise, respect parents' wishes, and relax a bit" (46). She offers several steps...

1. Get real. Teachers are not in control of the child's free time.

2. Resist the temptation to judge. It's too easy to blame or judge children for lack of homework--there are lots of factors at play.

3. Revise expectations of parental support. We can't expect parents to teach the children--we simply want their support and feedback.

4. Suggest (do not mandate) guidelines for the parent's role in homework. We should expect parents to observe, give encouragement, and set expectations.

5. Establish formal methods of parent-teacher communication. The author suggests a feedback checklist or a homework survey.

6. Set parents' minds at ease about homework. To develop trust and a healthy relationship, it's important that students are not punished or embarrassed over incomplete homework. Plus, a student should not fail a class because of missing or incomplete homework.

7. Endorse a set of inalienable homework rights. The rights would include time spent on homework, help for misunderstood assignments, no homework on holidays or weekends, etc.

Ms. Vatterott discusses each point in much greater detail, offering explanations and examples. It's extremely important for a school to establish a homework plan.


Texas students post high passing rates on first round of STAAR tests

"Statewide, 87 percent of students who took the Biology I test passed, 83 percent passed Algebra I and 81 percent passed world geography. On the English I reading test, 68 percent passed. On the writing test, which required students to write a literary essay and an expository essay, 55 percent passed."

Some of that sounds good, right?

"[S]tudents taking the Algebra I tests were required to answer 17 of 54 questions correctly, or 31 percent, to pass. English I reading test takers needed at least 27 of 56 questions correct, or 48 percent, to pass."

Hang on, then, that title is a bit misleading.

"By 2016, students taking the algebra test will need to answer 31 of 54 correctly [or 57%] to pass, and English I students will have to answer 33 of 56 [or 59%]."

I keep asking some questions, but I don't have answers... Why is the passing rate, even in 2016, so low? Are our expectations low or is it an unreasonable test? If a student made a 57 in Math, but I passed him, someone would question my low expectations. And if I gave a test and a majority of my students made a 57, someone would question the validity of my test.

Is the STAAR testing the TEKS? Are we teaching the TEKS? Do we need to teach only 57% of the TEKS?

I'm not trying to be funny--really! This is extremely frustrating to me. I wish I could call Agents Mulder and Scully to investigate. The TAKS and STAAR tests don't show growth. They don't have a permanently set passing rate. They don't guide instruction. They don't test basic skills. Except for funding and ratings, they are absolutely pointless to the education of students. I know, those are big exceptions. And that's insanely messed up.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/06/08/4019141/texas-students-post-high-passing.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/06/08/4019141/texas-students-post-high-passing.html#storylink=cpy"

ARTICLE: Stipend

Interim chief of Arlington school district to get stipend plus salary

"Interim school Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos will receive a $4,800-per-month stipend in addition to his $140,112 deputy superintendent salary for his extra duties as the district's temporary leader."

First of all, that's not a stipend--that's more than I make in a month. And, secondly, I'm guessing the "pay increase" covers additional time and effort--much like a teacher with ESL or G/T certification. I'll expect my stipend this year. Heck, let's compromise--go ahead and take off the four.
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/06/28/4067476/interim-chief-of-arlington-school.html#storylink=cpy

Jun 28, 2012

ARTICLE: That Makes Sense

Bob Kingsbury, New Hampshire Republican, Says Kindergarten Leads To Higher Crime

"Rep. Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia) told the Belknap County Convention that research he's been conducting for the last 16 years has led him to believe that kindergarten programs leads to higher crime rates..."

Anyone else smell an ulterior motive? Or severe head injury?


Time to Re-think School Award Ceremonies?

"June 1, 2010 marked the end of a tradition at our school - a tradition that awarded a select few top students not for their efforts and learning but for their grades and achievements. Based on powerful dialogue with our Parent Advisory Council around a strength-based versus deficit-based focus, the staff at Kent School decided to abolish the' awards' part of the year end ceremony."

"Grades are extrinsic motivators while learning results in more intrinsic motivation.  So, do we want students to motivated by grades or learning?"

"Carol Dweck, in her book, Mindset, talks about the difference between praising students for their effort and ability. If we praise students for 'being smart' or 'being athletic', research says that we create students who are afraid to take risks and usually shy away from challenges. What kind of students do we want - those that rise to the challenge and take risks or those that believe that what they can or cannot do is 'fixed' and based on how 'smart' they are."

"There will be no honour roll, no academic winners (and losers), no athletic award winners (and losers) and no recognition that one student's talents are better than another.  The focus will be on EACH student and not just CERTAIN students. In addition, all students would be recognized daily in class and throughout the year at our monthly student assemblies."

I like the idea of no award ceremony--I don't think it motivates a majority of the students. For many students, they don't even understand why they earn the awards. I simply sit in my class and make up grades and conduct and attendance records. Recognizing all students seems like overkill. I hate to break hearts but not every student earns recognition for every period of time. I guess it helps to put the emphasis on learning and growth rather than grades. Something to think about.

Jun 27, 2012

ARTICLE: Engaging Underperforming Students

Ten Tips for Engaging Underperforming Students
LINK: edutopia

I watched the How to Engage Underperforming Students video again. It's packed full of essential ideas that I'm going to consider when writing my lessons. Part of my homework this summer was to create a lesson plan... plan. I've gotten lazy and tried to tell myself that, with years of experience, I don't need to spend lots of time on my plans. With ESL objectives, differentiated instruction, G/T students, technology skills, learning styles, and a truncated year with students testing at the end of March, every minute counts and I need to prepare complete plans.

At Cochrane Collegiate Academy, in Charlotte, North Carolina, the teachers include ten non-negotiables in their plans. Visit the site to read explanations.
1. Essential Question
2. Activating Strategy
3. Relevant Vocabulary
4. Limited Lecture
5. Graphic Organizer
6. Student Movement
7. Higher Order Thinking Questions
8. Summarize
9. Rigorous
10. Student Centered

VIDEO: Tracking

At first, it looked... odd. And I thought, Oh, not one more thing. But, you know, this is an important skill. How many times have students asked a question that another student or I just answered? If I honestly expect them to teach each other, I need to expect that they listen to each other.

And she called them, scholars, which is a cool word.

SITE: Wallwisher

Many moons ago, I used CorkboardMe in class. It really grabbed their attention and we had fun with it. Unfortunately, one night, before we were finished with our group observations and the lesson, one of my super-sweet students deleted all of the notes. Purposefully. In fact, the culprit left one note--a letter of apology from another student. A nice touch.

Here's Wallwisher--a similar site. Here, though, you can post videos. I think this would be great for class and workshops or faculty meetings. I'm so tired of using markers on giant Post-It Notes. Also, it's useful for collaboration. In fact, I'm getting ready to create a wall, post a video, and e-mail it to my faculty--try to create some dialogue... They don't read my blog.

Write it on your communicator: Wallwisher.

Jun 26, 2012

ARTICLE: More Tests

As exams move online, students spend more time testing

"Giving students more tests is something the online test developers are encouraging. They say teachers will be able to receive results immediately, which can help them change their teaching methods if students are not mastering the material."

Research is clear--teachers should regularly assess their students. Let's learn that from books that I picked up on Amazon, in Half-Price Books, and at the public library--not from online test developers making millions of dollars from their tests!

The article describes one school in Delaware--the students take the state exams and they take the MAP, an online test. Together, the students take as many as seven standardized tests a year.

"It’s a lot, but it’s worth it, teachers and the Townsend principal, Charles Sheppard, say. 'We want to know where they are,' he said."

I'm going to toss you some stone-cold crazy ideas... The teachers could use daily observations and white boards with dry-erase markers!

ARTICLE: Online Testing

New online tests hold promise, perils

"Some education reformers and technology experts are hailing the move, which has the backing of the Obama administration, as a revolution. They are promising more well-rounded tests, less frequent cheating and immediate feedback for both students and teachers, as students’ answers are transmitted quickly over the Internet to states and the results are then sent back to districts."

Okay, immediate feedback sounds pretty good. At my school, we have two computer labs. How in the world do we get all of the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students to a computer without taking weeks to do it? Instead of three four-hour tests, Texas might have to make it one thirty-minute test.

"The online format allows states to give standardized tests—once just a weeklong ordeal at the end of the year—as often as four times a year."

Nevermind! Scrap the entire idea!

ARTICLE: Too Much?

Duke Study: Homework Helps Students Succeed in School, As Long as There Isn't Too Much
LINK: DukeToday

The Duke research supports the idea that homework is more effective in middle and high schools. It also supports the 10-minute rule.

"Duke University researchers have reviewed more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and concluded that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and director of Duke's Program in Education, said the research synthesis that he led showed the positive correlation was much stronger for secondary students --- those in grades 7 through 12 --- than those in elementary school... Cooper said the research is consistent with the '10-minute rule' suggesting the optimum amount of homework that teachers ought to assign."

The researchers mention that homework is less effective at the lower grades because elementary students have weaker study habits, aren't able to resist all distractions, and simply burn out.

What does "as long as there isn't too much" mean? Does "too much" cut into family events, extracurricular activities, hobbies, or run-around-and-act-like-a-nut time? And when did we earn the right to cut into any of that? More importantly, who thinks they've earned the right to cut into my family's time?

The 10-minute rule is a farce. Is ten minutes the same for every student? Sure, if I give the students multiplication facts to study, ten minutes is ten minutes. But, if I give the students twenty equivalent fraction problems to complete, ten minutes is six minutes or three hours.

ARTICLE: I hate homework!

The Myth About Homework
LINK: Time.com

This article is a bit dated, but it points out a few ideas mentioned in The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn and The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish. 

I'm reading another book right now about homework--soon, I'll add a post about it. It's a topic that's on my mind and I'm still trying to balance the research and parent expectations. I tried a couple of things last year that I hoped would end the torment forever, but, of course, they didn't work to perfection. And, yes, I'm looking for the perfect plan.

SITE: Remind 101

This site allows you to send text messages to your students' and their parents' phones. It's easy to set up a class and it's free.

Write it on your communicator: Remind 101.

Jun 24, 2012


Color-Coded Student IDs Issued Based On Standardized Test Scores Shot Down By California Lawmakers

This was a galactically stupid idea.

"The controversy began last October when Orange County's Kennedy High School mandated that black identification cards be issued to the top performers on the previous year's standardized tests, gold cards be issued to students who scored proficient, and white cards be issued to students who scored below proficient."

I know that we feel desperate sometimes when it comes to standardized tests. We hate them, but so much rests on good scores. I get it.

This isn't incentive. This is punishment. A year-long punishment. For the smart student who freaks out on tests. For the student dealing with divorce or death. For the student working long hours to help her family. For the sick student.

I have a better idea. Let every decision-makers in the nation--the president, principals, legislatures, superintendents, school boards, etc.--take their state tests. Heck, give them a fighting chance--make it the fifth grade test. Based on their scores, they would wear a black, gold, or white jacket for the rest of the year. Even if all of them "earned" a black jacket, they couldn't deny the pressure of failure and embarrassment.

It would force them to remember that students are people--not scores.

ARTICLE: Tests & Rewards

Study Finds Chicago Students Motivated To Perform Well On Tests When Promised Money, Trophies 

In the Freakonomics documentary, the researchers studied the effect of monetary incentives on averages. If I remember correctly, junior high students received a certain amount of money for A's and B's. By the end of the study, they agreed that the incentives did not affect behavior, but other questions needed answering.

In a study lasting from 2009 to 2011, the researchers found that a high financial incentive ($20) worked better than a low financial incentive ($10). It seems like a no-duh finding, but it's important to treat education as a research-based science rather than running it with "common sense."

Also, a reward promised a month after the test showed no effect on motivation. Kids need immediate compensation. So, ice cream rewards and water balloon fights at the end of the year would make no difference on test day.

"Furthermore, incentives framed as 'losses' rather than 'gains' elicited significantly higher effort. For example, if students were given $20 and told it would be taken away if they performed poorly."

ARTICLE: Autonomous

High School... To Be Run By Teachers, Union 

"New Haven's turning one of its low-performing schools over to its teachers and the teachers' union in an experiment that shatters traditional definitions of American school reform... All 31 teachers at the school had to reapply for their jobs. On Wednesday, some 21 teachers won the right to stay; the rest were guaranteed jobs elsewhere within the district."

Some teachers did not reapply for several reasons. One teacher did not believe that he should have to "beg" for his job.

A comment from 10YearTeacher: The re-applying for their jobs is not a bad thing in my eyes. It was meant to weed out those that were not "on board" and had believed in the mission. I'm glad those teachers that did not re-apply or didn't make the cut got jobs elsewhere in the district. They are good teachers I am sure, just not the right fit for that school. 

The teachers have plans for new ideas, including an interesting promotion plan. The students will not simply promote from freshman to sophomore at the end of the year. They will earn their way from stage to stage.

"At the end of each stage, students will compile 'portfolios' of their work. When those portfolios are deemed indicative of mastering their level of education, the students will then move to the next stage. They may be in high school three years, or six years, instead of the usual four. They'll graduate when they're ready."

The hope this school is revisited in the future--I'm curious about this model. It's similar to Finland's schools--they are autonomous with a Head Teacher acting as principal. 

Jun 19, 2012

COMIC: Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Watterson
March 21, 1993
LINK: GoComics

April 25, 1993
LINK: GoComics

August 15,1993
LINK: GoComics

SITE: Share My Lesson

From the site: Share My Lesson is a place where educators can come together to create and share their very best teaching resources. Developed by teachers for teachers, this free platform gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other. Share My Lesson has a significant resource bank for Common Core State Standards, covering all aspects of the standards, from advice and guides to help with dedicated resources that support the standards. Share My Lesson was developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect, the largest network of teachers in the world.

Write it on your communicator: Share My Lesson.


School trustees signal support for staff pay raise
Arlington Citizen-Journal
Shirley Jinkins
June 13, 2012

"Trustees' budget discussions during two board meetings last week indicate a strong probability that teachers and staff will see an across-the-board 2 percent pay raise. Last year, there were no staff raises."

Now, in light of last year, this is good news, so I'm not going to offer a sarcastic remark. If we can get insurance under control, I'd let out a cheer or dance a jig.

While others raise the price of a jar of peanut butter, a gallon of gas, or a premium, teachers and many other professions cannot raise their rates. We don't make money for shareholders and we don't offer a valued service, so we can only hope to keep our jobs and pray for raises.

MATH PROBLEM: If the Edumicator makes $4,292.27 before taxes, insurance, and other crap are sucked from the paycheck, how much is a 2% pay raise?

ANSWER: A 2% pay raise equals $85 before taxes, insurance, and other crap are sucked from the paycheck.

Jun 18, 2012

VIDEO: Gradual Release Model

Improving Practice with Sarah Brown Wessling

I really liked the small sheets of paper for group ideas and stickies for individual ideas.

SITE: Math Snacks

A bunch of well-done math mini-games and animations. I played Monster School Bus for a minute or two--kids would definitely go for it.

Write it on your communicator: Math Snacks.

VIDEO: Shift Learning to the Student

Engaging School Leaders in a Culture of Learning

ARTICLE: Showing Work

To Show Or Not To Show (Work) 
LINK: Byrdseed

For many years, I've insisted to see math problems solved with work shown. Because of the complexity of math in the future, it's important that students take time to organize and detail their work. That's not something that fifth graders can possibly understand--there's no sense of future in their minds. So...

"Rather than wrestling with students to 'prove' solutions with 'work,' simply increase the complexity of the problem so they must do the work out to get it right."

In Texas, we spend a great deal of time leaving no child behind, but that really means that we spend a disproportionate amount of time with the low-ability students. In itself, that's not a bad thing--if a student can learn but takes five-times as long to do it, we remain patient and do our job. Did we sign up to teach kids or to teach bright kids? Unfortunately, in spending that time and effort, we tend to neglect other types of students. So, like me, you vow to give as much time and effort to the high-end students. Therefore, for every lesson, we must be prepared to push those students, having problems or challenges ready to go. Heck, we're smart enough to anticipate the ease with which some students learn the material, so we owe it to them to have something ready.

SITE: Free Rice

A vocabulary quiz. This one's a bit different, though.

From the site: Click on the right answer in the middle of this page. If you get it right, you get a harder question. If you get it wrong, you get an easier question. For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. 

After finding the link, I wanted to pop back over to the blog and write a post. But I couldn't. I just had to stay and earn some rice. I hope you will, too.

Write it on your communicator: Free Rice.

SITE: National Geographic Education

Hey, Science teachers, check it out. The site from National Geographic includes Resources, References, Mapping, Media, and more. I've not delved too deeply, but it's worth checking out.

Write it on your communicator: National Geographic Education.


With the popularity of iPads, this directory is a fantastic resource. 

From the site: APPitic is a directory of apps for education by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) to help you transform teaching and learning. These apps have been tested in a variety of different grade levels, instructional strategies and classroom settings.

Write it on your communicator: APPitic.

Jun 17, 2012

BOOK: Almost Unbelievable

The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck
Ron Clark

After reading only a few pages, I knew it would make a difference. The book is broken into sections: Ron Clark Academy's Core Principles and Values, the Role of the Parent, Creating the Right Climate and Culture, and Reaching Out Beyond the Classroom. 

If he made suggestions without experience, we'd think he was insane--his school does amazing, meaningful things, and the students learn. I'm almost halfway through and I'm already contemplating the potential changes in my own class.

I don't want to spoil anything--read it yourself, but I want to tell you one thing.

From the Introduction, Mr. Clark makes a point of clarification. His school is a mix of students. Yeah, it's private, but "...about 85 percent would qualify for free or reduced lunch in the public school system" (xxii). Plus, "a third of our students have never had success academically, a third are performing at average levels, and a third are already doing quite well in school" (xxii). Instead of taking an easy road, Mr. Clark and the faculty of RCA want to show the world that his methods work--with any group of students.

ARTICLE: Class Size, Again

Class Size Increases Should Focus On Higher Grades, 
Smaller Classes Critical In Early Years: Study

I know I just added an article about this topic, but this one speaks to a bit of research.

"'Research shows that students perform better in small classrooms, especially in kindergarten through third grade' according to the news release."

Uh... no doy.

"While figures pulled from the U.S. Department of Education show that teacher-student ratio declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 15.3 in 2008, nationwide reports have indicated a surge in class size in the last couple years, since the onset of the recession. A Texas teacher reported a high school class with 50 students last year. A Las Vegas elementary school kindergarten class had 41 students."

In education, there's a push for authentic learning with teachers acting as facilitators. Students are expected to interact with one another, discussing their learning. Before the lesson, the teacher must consider learning styles, group arrangements, IEPs, behaviors, activities, etc. A halfway intelligent person can agree that all of this is considerably easier when the class size is manageable.

A comment from failureofreality: If teachers really cared about the students, they would accept pay cuts to allow for smaller class sizes. Class sizes are rising for budget reasons. This problem could be easily resolved if teachers would put the interests of students ahead of their own interests. Also, retired teachers could accept lower pensions payments to allow more money to go to teachers who actually teach. 

Yep, education isn't the responsibility of our society--it rises and falls with teachers only. Unlike other professions, there is an expectation that teachers should give up their own money, or just zip it! So, starting in August, I'm giving up my entire paycheck to help the students!

Nevermind, that's just a stupid idea. My kids need to eat and they're constantly growing out of their shoes. Can I borrow some cash, failureofreality?

Jun 15, 2012

BOOK: The Differentiated Classroom

The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners
Carol Ann Tomlinson

I've had this book for eight or nine years, I bet. This summer, I made a point to review it.

"[Teachers] accept and build upon the premise that learners differ in important ways. Thus, they also accept and act on the premise that teachers must be ready to engage students in instruction through different learning modalities, by appealing to differing interests, and by using varied rates of instruction along with varied degrees of complexity. In differentiated classrooms, teachers ensure that a student competes against himself as he grows and develops more than he competes against other students" (2).

"Healthy classrooms are characterized by thought, wondering, and discovery. Says elementary teacher Bob Strachota (1996): 'Unless we go through the complexities of struggle and invention, our knowledge is empty. If this is true, I cannot transfer my knowledge and experience to children whom I teach. Instead I have to find ways to help children take responsibility for inventing their own understanding of the world and how to live in it. To do this, I have to struggle against both my training and my instincts which strongly urge me to be directive: to tell children what I know, to tell them what to do...'" (33).

Sixteen years ago. He said that sixteen years ago. And I missed it. Or ignored it. It's easier to just tell them how to do things or tell them what things are. Plus, if you tell them everything, you can blame them for not getting it. Blame it on missing homework, or excess talking, or wasting time. When you lead them to learning, it's a little scary, takes time, and leads to complaining and uncomfortable conversations with parents. Ah, but it's fun.

ARTICLE: Class Size

Teachers Respond to Mitt Romney on Class Size

"In late May, Mitt Romney said fewer students aren't really the key, citing research that indicated some smaller classrooms performed worse."

The following are bits of the teachers' responses.

From Laura Sauer: (1) Smaller class size means more personalized instruction. (2) Smaller class size means faster, more detailed feedback. (3) Smaller class size means better teacher-parent communication.

From Jennifer Wolfe: In a typical 52-minute period, I take the first three and the last three minutes for business. That leaves 46 minutes. With 10 minutes of direct instruction, that leaves less than one minute per child to check for understanding, make connections, and assess their learning.

From Brad Boeker: I am not terribly interested in what the "research" says, simply because I have done my own research over 21 years of teaching. 

From Calvin Wolf: When you get more than 30 teens, it's considerably harder to teach and monitor the social scene at the same time. Each student is faced with more distractions, knows the teacher is also more distracted and busy, and therefore feels a greater urge to stop paying attention to the subject material and start paying attention to gossip and horseplay.

Listen, I wouldn't think twice about disputing these teachers. Their experiences are real. However, I would argue that we're not dealing with common sense--I believe it's a cultural issue. The classes in Japan and Korea, for instance, have larger classes and great success. We can speculate all day long about the reasons, but we don't know why. 

There's something about American kids, though, isn't there? Without a cultural revolution or a drastic increase in teacher prestige, we have to fight for small classes. Fight on!

ARTICLE: Seniority vs. Performance

Sacramento ‘Teacher of the Year’ laid off

Yeah, that makes sense.

"The Sacramento City Unified School District has suffered approximately $143 million in budget cuts in recent years. School spokesperson Gabe Ross told News 10 that who gets laid off is mandated by state law and is based on seniority, not performance."

First, I agree that the government overspends and needs to balance the budget. However, it seems to me that we need to cut everything possible before flicking off the teachers. Second, I do not agree with seniority over performance. When the TOTY of an entire school district loses her job because of seniority, how can we not stop to think? 

Taken together, these prove to me that the system is not working on behalf of the students.

I want to address my second point. If this is a profession, we need challenge. From the system, from each other, and from ourselves. We need to improve and seek knowledge about our craft. We need to experience evaluation after evaluation. We need to work together, share, and observe each other. We need to know that, like other professions, we have to work for our spot.

I know that we'll have to debate about performance. How do we decide who deserves the job? Who is best for that classroom? But that's just something that we have to settle. Taken alone, time on the job means absolutely nothing. Seniority is just the easy choice. Unfortunately, it can cause complacency, laziness, and indifference. 

Performance is about teaching. It's about the kids.

Ms. Apperson was let go because seniority is lazy and decision-makers don't care about educating children--heck, larger classes save money anyway.

SITE: Psykopaint

You gotta love the name... Upload a photo or use one of theirs, and then paint it in a variety of styles, using a variety of tools. Check out the gallery for ideas--there are some talented folks out there.

Write it on your communicator: Psykopaint.

SITE: Avatar Generators

"Here are 16 websites that you can use to create fun avatars. Some allow you to save the finished creation as a jpg for free. If not, then use the print screen button to copy the screen, paste into a paint program, crop and save as a jpg. You could also use the Smart or Promethean camera tools to capture these images to your IWB files."

Write it on your communicator: 16 Avatar Generators.

SITE: Keemix

From the site: Keemix allows you to gather loved content from the web, mix it into your own custom designed pages, and share it to inspire your friends and colleagues. Keemix makes curation fun and accessible to everybody.

Doesn't that sound cool! The uses in the classroom seem endless. Kids would love to create their own magazine about their favorite topics. Regardless of the content area, we can use this site to generate excitement and pride.

From the site: Become an editor-in-chief ! For each of your passions, create a dedicated page, design it as you want and showcase your favorite topics with editorialized content.

It requires the download of a bookmarklet, and, for now, you must receive an invitation. I've applied but I'm still waiting, so I can't tell you the wait time.

Write it on your communicator: Keemix.com.

SITE: Nathan Hall's List

Mr. Hall has listed a kajillion sites that kids can use without needing to register. That's crazy convenient.

Write it on your communicator: Nathan Hall's List.

ARTICLE: Crappy Teachers

10 Ways to be a Terrible Teacher

"Teaching is a noble calling. That is why when a teacher doesn't behave nobly it breaks trust and we get upset. I have to admit that I've had days as a 'TT' (Terrible Teacher.) If we're honest with ourselves, we all have. It is usually when we're tired, grumpy or were woken up by a parent calling to complain about something we don't really agree with. But there are no excuses..."

A nice checklist. If none of them apply to you, good job. If you came up short, that's okay, too--everything on the list is quite easy to accomplish.

SITE: txt2pic.com

Easy to use--just fill in a few fields. I like to use stations in Math and projects in Social Studies, so I could easily incorporate short, creative technology assignments like this.

Write it on your communicator: txt2pic.com.


Standardized Testing Protests... Growing Nationwide

"A backlash against high-stakes standardized testing is sweeping through U.S. school districts as parents, teachers, and administrators protest that the exams are unfair, unreliable and unnecessarily punitive - and even some longtime advocates of testing call for changes."

Thank you, NCLB!

"Pearson's North American Education division, which last year reported sales of 2.6 billion British pounds ($4.03 billion) and operating profit of 493 million pounds, up 5 percent from 2010, designs tests for many U.S. states and scores hundreds of millions of standardized exams each year."

"In Texas, assessment costs will hit $99 million in 2014-15, the state projects."

I know that's not enough to save every budget and every job, but it's irresponsible to continue spending that kind of money year after year.

"Standardized testing used to be about understanding and addressing students' needs, he said. Now it's become a quick way to judge kids, teachers and entire districts, Kuhn said. 'It's no longer really diagnostic. It's punitive,' he said. 'That's all it is.'"

Tests are meant to guide instruction. It's simple. Give a test at the beginning of the year. Give a test at the end of the year. Compare. The first test guides instruction while the second one confirms the growth.

"In Texas, the state plans to gradually raise standards on its new high school exams. For now, though, algebra students need score only 37 percent to pass."

You only have to listen 37% of the time. You only have to complete 37% of your homework. You only have to attend 37% of the year. Ridiculous. If my students did that poorly on an exam, I would start over--I wouldn't congratulate them for passing.

"The Obama Administration is also pushing states to develop standardized assessments for first- and second-graders - and even for 5-year-olds entering kindergarten, to test what they know of the alphabet, colors, shapes and other basics."

They don't trust us. We're children needing constant supervision and rules. Obviously, kindergarten teachers, who are untrained and incompetent, need an exam to test the children over those topics. There is absolutely no way that they could do that informally, observing the children every moment throughout the day. 

Jun 14, 2012

VIDEO: Summer Reading Program

Gwinnett County Schools Teachers Work For Free...

Teachers... they're all about the money!

Jun 9, 2012

VIDEO: You're not special.

A high school English teacher in Massachusetts gave a commencement speech. 

When he illustrates the meaningless of excessive awards, I can't help but think of my own school. We give out way too many awards. Does Perfect Attendance need to be an award? I can't imagine that sick fifth graders are telling their parents, "But I have to go to school today [cough] [cough] I want the Perfect Attendance award." 

I also hate the Super Citizenship award. One might argue that we quantify it by using marks on the communicator. Yeah, but each teacher is making subjective choices about what to sign, how often to sign, and who needs signing. 

Even honor rolls need an overhaul. Given the choices that teachers make regarding types of assignments and their philosophy of grading (by the way, participation grades should be burned at the stake), A's in one class aren't necessarily the same as A's in another.

Anyway, my ranting is delaying the enjoyment of this video...

Jun 2, 2012

ARTICLE: Positive Parent Relationships

Twenty Tips for Developing Positive Relationships with Parents
LINK: edutopia

I'm good at a couple of these and horrible at others. Intellectually, I know this is a great list--full of reasonable and positive suggestions. Deep down, though, I'm angry with having to song-and-dance the parents. And I know why it's important. Trust me, I'm professional and informative. I make a point to communicate. It just seems to me that, in many cases, teachers are expected to take up a great deal of slack in this partnership, catering to demanding parents, calming unreasonable parents, and educating the confused parents. What I wouldn't give for a personal assistant.

VIDEO: Engaging Students

How to Engage Underperforming Students
LINK: edutopia