31 January 2008
As for me? I'm looking forward to having more time and headspace to do my doctoral study. I am working on collecting data and analyzing data this spring. There is more literature to read and insert into my drafty chapters. All of this will be a lot simpler without the additional 60 students...plus all of the adult drama to be had at that school. I have sought out a bit of part-time work to supplement the bank account, something that will also feed and nurture my educator's heart and soul.
Mr. McNamar recently posted the need to feel some sense of ownership in a school. I know exactly what he means. I see the sneers when people refer to "my school." I usually jump in and remind them that other than showing up to teach, there is nothing of myself there. It is not mine...not a place I would ever claim on a resume or be proud to say that I was associated with. My afternoons from now on, however, will be very different---and very positive. There will be a building where the needs of children are considered to have the utmost priority. It is a place where there is intellectual curiosity among the staff and ideas have value, even in the face of great odds for its students.
Raise your glass tonight. Make a toast with me. Let us not be gleeful over the passing of first semester, but hopeful in the coming of Spring.
The theory I'm grounding my doctoral work is achievement goal theory. It's one way of looking at how motivation operates in the classroom---and the lens through which there is the greatest amount of research.
Earlier in the week, I piloted my survey tool with my own students. I'm not going to use this data for anything in my doctoral study. The main thing I wanted was some data to practice with in terms of how to manage coding and statistical manipulations before I go out and get the "real" stuff.
The survey was pulled from the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Study (PALS)---a well-validated tool. It has several scales to use, depending on who you wish to survey and what the focus is. I selected items relating to student goals and the goals they perceived my classroom to have. Its existence makes my methodology a lot simpler to defend.
Anyway, I asked my students to answer the questions and also to be sure they provided no identifying information: no name, no class period, don't write gender or ethnicity, etc. Out of the 100 or so kids who responded, all but three appeared to have taken the questions seriously. (Why did I think some hadn't? They had just circled a "3" for every answer.) After they answered, I talked with them about motivation and different ideas behind it. We discussed ideas of intelligence...and ability...and goal theory. There were comments about the connection between the motivational values they had and the academic behaviors it could lead to. I asked them if they would have answered the questions differently if they had taken the survey in another class. Most said that they would have. Why? Ah, because the goals within any given classroom are different---and many students will adapt their personal goals to fit the environment the teacher sets.
So, what does my data show? I'm not done playing with it yet---and really, there isn't much I will be able to surmise. It's a small sample of kids...and one teacher's classroom. There are no generalizations that can be made; however, I can't help but be interested in what my students are after in terms of personal learning goals and how well those match my classroom philosophy. I have worked very hard this year to set up a mastery goal environment: one which values learning and improvement over grades. Research shows that students with mastery goals cheat less, use more learning strategies, take risks with their learning, and show deeper cognitive engagement. (Performance goals are associated with the opposite---kids who procrastinate or skip school, choose the easiest assignments possible, cheat, etc.) Here's the first bit of information I have from what my students said. On a scale of 1 - 5, students averaged a 3.95 in terms of claiming mastery goals, and 2.54 for performance goals. Yea! Kids in my class have a stronger affiliation with learning for the sake of learning: a beautiful thing, if I do say so myself. And how do they perceive my classroom? The average for mastery was 4.13...for performance 2.75.
Are the results statistically significant? I haven't run the tests yet. How do the results compare to a similar group of students who have another science teacher? I'll not be able to tell you that---nor if those results are meaningful. Can I say that the way I've structured my classroom has led to the stronger reporting of mastery goals by students? Nope. The numbers correlate, but there's no way to make an argument for causality.
All of that, for me, doesn't really matter at the moment. My main goal was to learn to use this sort of data and I'm getting to do that. The bonus is seeing that so many kids identify with the mastery environment I've worked to create and nurture with them. I can hardly wait to take the PALS survey out for the real run.
30 January 2008
Some other points of interest from Education Week:
- Participation in high school contact sports (football, wrestling) greatly increases a boy's likelihood of getting involved in a fight.
- Young children who are asked to explain concepts out loud before being tested on them perform better
Expand your horizons this Wednesday!
29 January 2008
Some of you are no doubt old enough to recognize parts of the opening of "The Outer Limits," which I've plagiarized for this post.
After nearly three years, this blog has some new togs. The ladybug may make a reappearance at some point in the future; but for now, I am very excited to have a new layout to use. Although events of fall and winter did their level best to prune me back, they have only succeeded in ensuring I will grow back better than ever. Much like the tendrils which now surround this blog, it's time to bloom where I'm planted.
- If I don't grade homework, students won't do it.
- If I don't penalize late work by taking points off or putting zeros in the gradebook, I'll end up with a ton of last minute assignments to mark at the end of the quarter.
|Image Credit: Unknown|
- If I let students retake tests, I'll spend all my time giving and grading tests.
- This type of grading is too different for kids to understand.
- This type of grading is more time-consuming and difficult than "traditional" practices.
So, there you have it. Jump on into this pool of best practices in grading. I'm telling you, the water is not shark-infested and you won't end up with swimmer's itch, but you will find your classroom a soothing environment.
Update: If you've reached this post from a search engine, you can access all standards-based grading information for this blog (and there's quite a bit) by clicking on the grading label. It's greatly appreciated if you would leave a comment as you look around! Also, I am available for presentations and workshops if you need more resources and information on best practices in grading. Contact me for more information.
28 January 2008
- When I started my M.Ed. in '93, part of the requirements included a class on multiculturalism. It was taught by Felipe de Ortega y Gasca, an expert in Hispanic studies. At the time, the concept of "multiculturalism" seemed new, so much so that the focus of the course was more about the nature and purpose of education in general---rather than looking at how to understand the needs of diverse learners in order to help them achieve the educational goals.
- There was a recent outcry by Jay Greene that schools of education were requiring more hours of coursework in diversity than mathematics for teachers in training. Nancy over at Teacher in a Strange Land has an excellent commentary on this, and her point is well-taken. Without the ability to build relationships in the classroom with students of varied backgrounds, there's not much of a chance to help kids learn math. It's one piece of differentiating in the classroom. The ultimate goal for every child is the same (meeting the standards), but without understanding the point each child must start from, teachers cannot construct the necessary scaffolding to move kids forward.
- And then there's this article published in the Washington Post last week about studies that show that most diversity training is ineffective. In fact, in the business world, places of work end up becoming even less diverse after training has been implemented. The article does not reference ed schools or the working world of education, but there may be some lessons from it. Voluntary training does yield positive results; forced training does not. "Marc Bendick, an economist who researches diversity at Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants in the District, said his surveys suggest there is a role for conventional sensitivity training. But he agreed that the training is likely to be effective only in the context of an organization genuinely interested in cultural and structural change. 'If you ask what is the impact of diversity training today, you have to say 75 percent is junk and will have little impact or no impact or negative impact,' Bendick said."
- There are a few people pushing a diversity agenda in my school district. Two work in my building, and one in particular is likely part of the 75% junk training. While he has bullied other staff members into participating in lit circles around diversity issues (teachers are genuinely afraid of this man, therefore they feel that they have to participate), he also managed to work his way into a training for admins and counselors. I think my favourite comment that resulted from that was the presentation set the school district back at least three years because he alienated so many people with his program that people shut down and don't want to talk now. Great. There is a new "diversity specialist" with the district, as well---and while the district is giving this person some high visibility at the beginning, there are already rumblings that she, too, is a terrible presenter and has no skills for working with staff. Chalk up another trainer to the 75%.
- We also have a "diversity question" that must be asked in every interview. It is something along the lines of defining diversity and explaining how it affects you in the workplace. While there is not a specific right answer for the definition part, the second piece of the question is looking to see if people understand that diversity is something to be aware of in daily interactions. I like that better than people trying to explain how color-blind they are. Let's face it: we're all different. And while those differences should never be used as excuses or reasons for underperformance or special consideration, they are points to respect. I think that the reason so many diversity training opportunities fail to make a difference is that the underlying message is the reverse of this. People are overwhelmed with all of the things they are now supposed to remember and do (which causes the backlash..."Screw it. I'm not adjusting to everyone else. They can accommodate me."), rather than being helped to see that we just need to recognize that everyone has needs.
- I received Managing Diverse Classrooms as a perk of my ASCD membership this week. I haven't had a chance to look at it much, but I found the timing of its arrival interesting considering all of the other sources of discussion at the moment. It looks like a very practical resource, something I like. I would love to be able to provide a better learning environment for all my students...just tell me what to do. I don't have the time or headspace to figure it all out on my own. This book looks like it might actually have the kind of support that I want. I'll let you know more after I have a chance to do some reading.
27 January 2008
The kid roused himself and started to explain. He hasn't been getting any/much sleep at night because he has so much work to do for his classes. And, he's stressed out about finals. To top it off, he was now worried about the test he would have the next day in the class he'd fallen asleep in. He asked the teacher if he could come in for tutoring.
The teacher never said "No," but what was worse was that he never said "Yes." Instead, he told the kid just to get some sleep (good advice, for sure) and just do his work for the class. I think the teacher meant well, but the bottom line is that he wasn't hearing what the kid was trying to say. The kid wanted to actually learn the material, not just fill out the worksheets---even though that was enough to satisfy the teacher. The student tried asking a couple of different ways to no avail. I did tell the student that if wanted help to find me after school. I meant it, too. I was angry with the teacher, but just smiled and counted to ten. "If you can't be bothered to help a student," I wanted to say, "then just send him/her to me."
(As an aside to this story, the kid also made a comment about how the teacher who sent this e-mail makes him feel like crap all the time. Gee kid, I thought it was just his co-workers he treated that way.)
I didn't see the student after school that day. I did see him again the morning of the test. He was still working on answering questions when I arrived in the room for my class. His teacher left him with me to finish his work, so I sat him off to the side and did some cheerleading for him to get things completed. What I learned in talking to the kid to prompt his thinking is that he's pretty bright. He had a good handle on concepts and vocabulary---but after yet another night without sleep and stressing about things, answering questions on paper was not going well. I told him to relax...to move onto the remaining items he knew and to go back to the others later. He actually did okay once I got him calmed down. We'll see what his teacher thinks about the test.
As for the kid? He's coming in after school on Monday to get some tutoring before finals. I think I can help him acquire some tools for studying and test-taking that will help him make the most of his smarts. I can't claim to be superteacher---I don't have success with all of my students, much as I might like or how hard I try. But this kid is one I can make a difference with, even if he isn't one of my own students. In the grand scheme of things, I always hope that for those in my own classes that I am unable to reach, that there is another teacher there who does have a strong connection. Obviously, it won't be the teacher next door.
Update: The kid saw me on Monday morning and gave me a big hug. He was very happy with his test score. I'm happy for him, too.
26 January 2008
I wish I had something profound to share for this particular post. As I've seen its possibility creeping up, I wondered what I should do to mark the milestone. The number would appear to deserve some consideration, but the simple fact is that I'm a bit awed by it. I can't claim that the previous 999 posts contained fine literature or earth-shattering revelations---anymore than I know what lies ahead for the next 1000 or so. What I can say is that the record of my career that I've constructed here is one of the most meaningful experiences I've had as an educator. We talk a good talk in education about the need for reflecting on our work and constructing meaning, but most teachers don't get the time or opportunity to actually do this. Classroom work is a constant barrage of planning and evaluating and a million small decisions each day. Who has time to think about what happened today when tomorrow will be here with all new problems to deal with? Without my blog, I don't think that I would have grown the way I have as a professional in these last few years. It has made me look at my beliefs and practices as an educator with a depth I never made time for in previous years. In short, to steal from "As Good As It Gets," this experience has made me want to be a better teacher.
I wish I could say that I remember all of my posts. I don't. I have to go back and read through the archives now and then. Some things make me cringe while others bring smiles of remembrance. A few times, the intervening time period has brought some understanding or resolution to a problem I had. There are posts which are more popular with "teh Googles" than others---especially the ones with a double entendre in the header, While I'm certain that those readers were frustrated and disappointed with their choice in clicking a link to here, perhaps others have been able to find some quiet companionship or help in checking to see what's fresh (nearly) each day. My main goal is to write for myself, but my hope is that others can gain from these experiences, too.
I am neither the eldest nor the most prolific edublogger out here. I'm hardly unique in the sea of the edusphere---and I haven't a clue as to whether or not there will be a bigger, better thing than blogging for connecting with people 1000 posts on. I was on-line for the early days of bulletin boards and listservs on the internet and would not have imagined blogging 15 years ago. This form of communication may well be outdated a few years from now (if it isn't already), although I hope that the record will live on in some form or another.
In the meantime, I'll still be here. I'll still be writing and creating. I still plan to have many new experiences to share. I'm not dead yet, even if the number of posts is older than Methuselah. Stick around for the next millennial milestone, eh?
25 January 2008
Overall, I'm happy with the format. I think it was good to have something different for kids each day. The mini-lessons on study skills were very well received by students. It will be good reinforce some of this learning next semester and help kids develop some new habits.
If I were to make some changes, there would be two. First of all, while five days of review are not too many, five topics for a kid is. So, I would likely add a day and then have students take two days to explore a particular topic, for three total. Secondly, although my kids do fairly well at managing themselves, I need to do much more frontloading of group structures. Yes, my kids do regularly work in groups, but not quite as I'd laid out here. It was difficult for them to adjust to a different format and most of the groups were not successful at completing their tasks. One way to also help solve this would be to physically separate the classroom into three areas, one for each group, but I'm at a loss at the moment as (a) I'm sharing a room and (b) it has many large immovable lab tables and nearly 50 desks (the other teacher has large classes). There's just not a lot of space, but I have some time to ponder this and see what creative solutions I can find before taking this on again.
Most teachers are using their finals as a separate of assessment of student learning---a way to test everything presented during the first 90 days of school. I'm being non-traditional this year in the sense that I'm using a final as a second (or third) opportunity for students to show mastery on those standards they struggled with the first time around. The kids are happier with having the power placed in their hands about what they do and I'm pleased with this dynamic, as well.
Finals are next week. Students who chose to do alternative assessments have them due on Monday. Regular testing starts on Tuesday. I am anxious to see how my students do. I wish them much success.
These tales have left me wondering about how many teachers equate the rigor of their class with the number of students who fail it. Is there an assumption in our schools that "good" teachers are ones whose results with students strictly follow a bell curve?
Personally, I would love it if all of my students earned A's. It would mean that they had all met the standards and learned what the state has asked that I teach. Does that make me an "easy" teacher if every student can do this? Would my grades be considered "inflated" because I strictly evaluated students on their learning?
I'm just shaking my head at the moment, confused by the stories I'm hearing from kids. I try to give them some helpful suggestions about how to prepare for the Herculean tasks others are assigning to them. I feel for their stress levels, although there isn't much I can do about them. Maybe over time, their teachers will realize that notching off their belts with numbers of failed students does not make them look good, only irresponsible.
23 January 2008
- A school in Georgia is paying select student $8/hour to study. My basic reaction to this is one of horror. Extrinsic motivators have very negative effects in the long term. If you pay a kid to study now...will the kid still study when you take away the money? Probably not. A small part of me, however, thought it could be money well spent if the studying was documented as being done at home. Instead of paying a teacher $30/hour (salary/benefits) to work with the kid, you could pay three kids for that time. Still---thumbs down for this.
- Meanwhile, over in Texas, a vendor has been chosen to do random drug testing for steroids in high school athletes. I know that many people may be shocked that high school kids are using steroids or that this is something new. It's not. When I was in high school (20+ years ago) in Texas, my friend was all hot and bothered for one of the football guys. In fact, she was ready to lose her virginity to this young man...only, he'd been taking steroids and couldn't get an erection anymore. At 16 years of age, for cryin' out loud. (And yes, people were still talking about this at the 20-year reunion this summer.)
- Click over to Edutopia and take their poll on whether or not you think US students can compete with their global peers. Sure, there's lots of testing data out there. Maybe it's not so cut and dried. Comments there are welcome.
- Finally, an article in the WaPo that most diversity training is ineffective. This article deserves a full post, in light of what happens in this district...but I may not get to it until the weekend. So, go read and ponder and we'll talk about things later.
22 January 2008
More than one-third of workers — 54 million Americans — say they have experienced workplace bullying, according to a 2007 Zogby International poll commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute.
A workplace bully may shout, swear, call employees names, intimidate, humiliate, tarnish reputations, sabotage and destroy workplace relationships. And unless the victim is part of a protected class (defined by gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability) or covered by an employment contract, such behavior is legal.
"There is no law that says you can't be a bully," says Chris Young, an employment attorney with Peterson, Young, Putra, Fletcher in Seattle.
Psychologists Gary and Ruth Namie, founders of the Bellingham-based Workplace Bullying Institute, want harassed workers to have better options. They're pushing the "Healthy Workplace Bill," sponsored by Rep. Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham), which would give employees the right to sue their employer if their health or economic livelihood is harmed by an abusive workplace.
While the bill doesn't use the term "bully," Gary Namie defines it as "repeated nonphysical, health-impairing psychological mistreatment that falls outside discriminatory harassment."It's interesting that while we have laws which protect our children from being harassed and bullied while at school, there is nothing to prohibit teachers from similar treatment. How many of us, I wonder, are in unhealthy workplaces---ones which cause us to seek medical treatment or take as many "mental health days" as stress breaks as we can? (An article last summer suggested that 2 out of 3 workers had experienced a bully as a boss.) I've worked for one. And while I don't miss the boss's comments about how boring I am, seeing my work (and the work of others) presented as being entirely the boss's idea, knowing that I (or others) are purposefully being ignored by the boss, or suffering other forms of mistreatment...I do miss the job.
How many teachers, I wonder, would sue under such a bill? Discrimination suits require a lot of documentation which is often hard to come by. Bullying in the workplace could be just as difficult to prove. The article also mentions the potential to commit career suicide by suing for something like this. Will an HR department in another district let your file move through their process if they can Google you and find out about the suit? Unfortunately, doing what's right isn't always the same as what's popular. But if that one person isn't willing to stand up and be heard, how many others will continue to be hurt?
21 January 2008
I spent a good chunk of yesterday revising an assignment that was due and then constructing all of the work for the next three weeks. My goal in that was just to take something off of my plate so that I can concentrate on my dissertation---which I really am interested in working on. At this point, my qualitative research course just feels like so much hoop jumping. It's not that this type of research wouldn't be an interesting way to conduct an educational study, but it feels like this course is too late. Last semester was all about the dissertation. Doing a methodology course now feels like a step backwards.
And I am really tired of "canned prompts" at this point in my program. It makes the reading less interesting, if that makes sense. Instead of being able to make connections between the text and myself and my research, there is a constant stream of regurgitation of basic ideas found in the resources. It's kind of insulting at this time, especially when the discussions could be richer...and time is so precious as it is.
Ah, senioritis. Here's hoping this latest bout passes quickly.
20 January 2008
To give you some background, let it be noted that the student population at this school is mostly from privileged families---privileged in the sense that there are two-parent households and middle to upper income. And white. The school, however, takes a great deal of pride in touting its achievement scores, very little of which has to do with the instruction provided at the school. The faculty delights in trashing other schools in an effort to make themselves look even better.
I think my favourite recent example of this was a teacher who went on and on about how the other high school should get an alumni association, too. You see, the pretty school (with its wealthy background) has one, so it gets all manner of technology for the classroom through the funds wealthy graduates provide. But now the pretty school isn't getting as large of a chunk of the district technology pie because they don't need it. There was a great deal of whining about how unfair it all is. The real kicker is the guy who went on and on about this is an alumnus of the other high school. Um, if it's that meaningful to you, how come you don't get off your butt and change things?
And then on Thursday, everyone at the high school was treated to this e-mail:
Greetings!!! Over the past year or so, I have noticed a pattern of disrespect that seems to be aimed at [our school]. Whether it is comments made by staff in other buildings, district administrators, or parents and students from other schools, there seems to be an attitude of putting down the accomplishments of [our school] and using terms like "arrogant," "AP High" (and much more) to describe this building.
We have seen examples of a 'leveling' process in operation. Instead of providing the leadership to help other buildings to improve their academics, or work more diligently with their alumni, or to encourage their students and staff to work harder to build a program unique to their building, we've seen areas of unfairness directed at us from the same folks who trumpet [the district mission statement].
I have specific examples and anecdotal items that suggest a very disturbing pattern. Do any of you see the same? Are any of you bothered by the behind the scenes disrespect that seems to have been in operation for quite some time? If a new principal comes on board next year are any of you concerned that we may see changes that may imperil accomplishments and improvements we've made over the past years?
I could be way off in my perception, but I've heard many of you voice the same concerns. With Finals coming I am not suggesting we do anything right at the moment. I believe a staff meeting down the road may be in order for us to come together and see where we are with respects to what we see happening. It may be much ado about nothing, but we won't know unless we meet and dialogue [sic]. Maybe our building reps can give us info on what they are hearing at Rep Council meetings or invite union leadership to our building to give us some insight [on] what they are seeing........
With the possibility of big changes next year it is important that we at least know where we are all coming from. I can honestly say that I do not have any faith that the central administration will make decisions about [our school] that will be in the best interest of [our school]. While I know that they have to consider the larger interests of the district, I do not believe any attitudes or policies that try to promote equity by stripping away working, productive and proven strategies that we have implemented (and continue to improve upon) is the best solution.
Anyway, just some thoughts and concerns.......Maybe sometime early-February to mid-March would be a good time to get together. The only time now would possibly be next Thursday (not sure what is on tap for [meetings]).....and need to meet before the WASL, AP TEST time period hits us..........
This is wrong on so many levels, it hurts my head to think about it. I don't know where to start describing my reaction. I did share this message with others outside of the building who, like me, are tired of this sort of thing. I asked the author to please not include me with any future messages...and I am counting down the days (there are 8 left) until I am no longer a full-time teacher at that school.
19 January 2008
- an individual review sheet for each student, with the target, a series of "I can..." statements to help kids inventory their learning needs, and a note-taking structure
- a study group protocol
- a final assessment (for those who choose to take the final during the allotted period for their class)
- an alternative assessment option (including holistic rubric)
- and, a sign-up sheet for students.
We have only had one day of the review sessions and will do the others next week. It's a bit crazy, but I have to say that I have great buy-in from the students. Destiny has been firmly placed in their own hands and they're not afraid to do the driving. I expect that by next Friday, I will have plenty to share with you in terms of my reflections on the whole experience.
Without further ado, here are the tools I'm using (note: you can download samples of student work with annotations from the OSPI website for use with the Investigative Design and Writing Conclusions work):
- Goal-setting sheet
- Cell Energetics
- Cell Reproduction
- DNA and Protein Synthesis
- Investigative Design
- Writing Conclusions
16 January 2008
I chatted with a friend yesterday who is a recent convert to standards-based practices in grading. He is frustrated with the conversations he's hearing other teachers have with kids. Basically, the teachers are abdicating any responsibility that they have in the grading process. "Gee, kid, it's too late to get a passing grade. There's nothing I can do." My problem with this is that although students do indeed have a responsibility to do their work and engage in learning, teachers also have a choice about how they use their gradebooks. A child's irresponsibility is not a reason for an adult to follow in that direction.
I can understand the ambivalence a bit. Isn't it "fair" that a kid who has struggled to complete work on time and has been so obviously unprepared for tests fail the class? Maybe---if the grades in the gradebook reflect progress toward learning and nothing more. If there are other things mixed in (penalties for late work, zeros, extra credit), then the answer is "No." As a teacher, maybe it makes you uncomfortable that a kid didn't bother to try to reach the learning targets until the last minute, but so what? Is it not more important that the student has learned what you asked than when the student did it? Good working behaviors are important, but they don't belong in a grade: They are behaviors...not learning. We need to treat them as such.
We'll see how my young charges do with their review and final attempts. I am down to my last 10 days with three of my classes, and then they'll be off to new teachers. Some are already making plans to move to my morning classes and stick with me until the bitter end of the school year. For now, we'll see what we can do with how we've kicked off our last attempts to reach the summit.
15 January 2008
|Buy it here.|
The book is a showcase for some of the most beautifully written prose I've run across in a long while. It is as unfurnished as a novel as the convent it represents---each word carefully chosen, each image simply, but elegantly, constructed. I chose to reread many snippets, just to soak them in another time. I wanted to make some remarks here about the book, not for its content or style or ideas, but because of the parallels it offers for teachers and schools.
All remarks about vows of poverty aside, there is something about the structured and ordered life of the convent that I see reflected in the schools. The bells that signal the events of the day. The times to gather. Opportunities for thought, work, and play. The influx of new energy is disconcerting to the old guard. The parents with uncertainties about their children entering the cloistered atmosphere---and how a town and social order hold a certain reverence about the institution, with expectations that those inside will be role models. Indoctrination will occur and questions will be raised.
Maybe it is part of being human to have these constructs---to order our time and develop ways to create meaning...some order from the chaos. We pattern our days and hours along the same lines as other organized bodies. We use stories to connect our own experience with that of others. We may not all find ecstasy in this, but perhaps we find some comfort in the parallels.
13 January 2008
I have felt the same as I explore the realm of Motivation. To some, the most important factor is a student's self-concept of ability. To others, how intelligence is defined by the student weighs heaviest. For my research, I'm exploring how student goals serve as motivation. And my doctoral study chair has introduced me to yet another concept of it. I find myself drawn back into that same state as reading The Republic: everyone is right. Is that possible, however?
Certainly, I have decided that one is a best fit for me (Achievement Goal Theory), mainly because of its predominance in the research literature. At this point in my academic career, I would do well to follow the crowd and build my own understanding over time. But as I grow as an educational researcher, I will be looking for some version of the Grand Unification Theory for motivation.
All of these competing ideas remind of a quote from James Hilton's Lost Horizon. If you haven't read the story, a bunch of people are in a plane crash in the Himalayas and are rescued by people from Shangri-La: a timeless place. The western and Christian philosophies held by the survivors are at odds with the eastern traditions of their hosts, although the hosts don't seem to mind. One of the monks at the monastery eventually explains that "There are many facets to the same jewel." In other words, it is possible that each of them didn't really have different ideas; instead, they were all looking at the same idea through different perspectives. Maybe broader concepts---such as Justice and Motivation---are like that. We each have a lens to describe the idea, all the while thinking that it is the right one, but needing to acknowledge that we all have a bit of the same picture.
12 January 2008
I wish I could say that I have the whole science/literacy meld figured out, but I am still learning, too. I am finding a lot of pleasure in teaching students to read and write about science, even 17 years into my career. This old dog has plenty of new tricks to learn. You may find some of the links below helpful/interesting to your own investigations in science and literacy.
- My students are learning that "but" and "because" are kinds of characters in expository writing. But-Man has been a great addition for my teen charges.
- Like many teachers, I've been frustrated at times with students who don't write to the prompt they are provided. With some help from a former literacy coach, I developed some tools to help teach students to construct written responses in science.
- Between reading and writing is thinking. You can give kids a framework to capture their thoughts when doing an inquiry with these tools for investigative design as well as investigate my own thoughts about teaching thinking skills.
I wish you all much success with your course and hope you will stop by here from time to time to share your learning with all of us!
I resisted Google Reader for awhile. There was something very satisfying about working through the links on my sidebar and other bookmarks to see if anything new was posted---the possibility of surprise behind every URL. But as my interests have expanded and more and more blogs of interest were discovered, I needed something more efficient than opening a bunch of tabs in my browser. I have close to 100 different blogs in my Reader now, and I appreciate that it automatically updates. (Side note: For those of you wanting an RSS feed for this blog---that feature is now working!) I also like that it can be a repository for some blogs that haven't updated in ages, but I don't want to lose track of. I'll know if/when they resurrect themselves. Another benefit is being able to access all of my regular reads without having to bookmark a huge set of links on every computer. One other thing I like about using Reader is that every once in awhile, I get a list of recommendations based on what others subscribing to blogs on my list are reading. I would say that I run across more misses than hits, but that's what panning for gold is all about, right?
One very cool item I ran across was Simile: Timeline. Designed by MIT, this is a widget for creating timelines that work for the 4th dimension in the same way that Google Maps works for the other three. What a fantastic idea---the mind boggles with possibilities. I can see great potential for classroom applications, but also for reimagining one's calendar.
As you might imagine, I don't have just educational blogs among my feeds. Science and other items of personal interest mingle with all my favourite edubloggers. One of my new discoveries is The Superest. "The Superest is a continually running game of My Team, Your Team. The rules are simple: Player 1 draws a character with a power. Player 2 then draws a character whose power cancels the power of that previous character. Repeat." The imagination and skill which goes into the drawings delight and spark my own imagination.
Where else, but through blog feeds, might I have discovered a Dead Bug Funeral Kit? "The Dead Bug Funeral Kit comes with a 32-page Illustrated Buggy Book of Eulogies with Ribbon Bookmark, Casket, Grave Marker, White Clay Flower, Burial Scroll, and Pouch of Grass Seed. The Buggy Book of Eulogies contains 15 eulogies and 15 buggy illustrations for your Ant, Bee, Beetle, Butterfly, Caterpillar, Cockroach, Cricket, Doodlebug, Fly, Grasshopper, Ladybug, Lightning Bug, Praying Mantis, Spider, or Stickbug. The poems are eulogies told by children who have lost their pet bugs to fate. Each book is handmade one at a time. The Kits are assembled by hand as well. The Burial Scroll comes tied with a ribbon and deposited in the Casket. The Burial Scroll gives instructions for conducting burial ceremonies. Mourners may bury their loved ones outside in the garden or inside the tin box itself, filled with soil and planted with the grass seed provided." What a kick!
My only dislike about using Reader is the plainness of the delivery. So many blogs have wonderful templates and design, none of which is apparent when you look at things with a feed. However, if you've been reluctant to become a Google Reader, I still recommend giving it a try. You'll never know what you'll find in order to fend off your To Do List. :)
11 January 2008
I told my afternoon classes that very soon they will have a new teacher. While I'm sure that some kids will either welcome or be indifferent to the change, the most interesting part of the discussion was simply that their biggest concern (and the first one voiced) was "Will s/he grade like you do?" And they weren't asking in a please-for-the-love-of-Mike-say-"No." kind of way. I explained that they should not count on that. It will not be a big adjustment for them in the sense that they already have 5 teachers every day who have traditional approaches to evaluation. I'm not saying it's the right thing to do or that they will be well served by the difference, but they will understand the rules.
Secretly, I had to smile about two things. The first was simply that the new teachers had expressed the same concern to me. "I can't grade like you do." Hey, it will be your class and they are going to be your kids, you do what you have to. I don't have any more say about what happens. The biggest reason to be glad, however, was realizing that the outcomes to my doctoral work could have some very important implications. My interest is in how teacher grading practices impact student motivation---and anecdotally speaking, my kids are positively motivated by what I have tried to implement this year with them (especially the kids who struggle the most with learning). How intriguing that traditional grading practices caused anxiety for students...and standards-based practices made the teachers break out in a cold sweat.
My dissertation advisor and I have turned in our paperwork to the school district asking permission to do research...he is downright enthusiastic about what I've written so far, as well as the project I have in mind...and while I am sure that there will be some fears and tears on the road ahead, I am looking forward to a spring full of learning opportunities and other chances to conquer my own fears and dreams.
09 January 2008
So, I'll be back in a day or two. Peruse the archives. Talk amongst yourselves. Tell some jokes and share some gossip over the back fence. When my mind finds a spot of calm, I'll join you.
07 January 2008
Life is crazy at the moment. It is a real struggle to manage the end-of-semester demands at school...while pondering teaching a brand new class starting in February. Plus my current grad class with its neverending posts and essays and reading. And then my other grad class which has me revising chapters 1 and 2 and working on chapter 3, as well as the IRB forms and other necessities. And data collection in a couple of months. And more.
I know, it's about this point when you start asking me if I want any cheese with my whine. :)
I'm hoping for some changes to my working schedule which will allow me to have the time and headspace everything deserves. In the meantime, I'm going to have to work hard to not answer "Bite me!" to any requests that come my way.
06 January 2008
We have five days set aside for intensive review. I originally wanted to do five mini-lessons, but as you will see, I only planned for four. Why? Because we have a day each week when classes are shortened. This would have made the rotations that day about 10 minutes each---and I already feel like 15 minutes is pushing things. So, I won't do a mini-lesson that day.
I have packed more into each mini-lesson than I probably should have. Each one has a 5E base (engage, explore, explain, extend, evaluate) to support a Big Idea. The day prior to beginning the review, I will have kids take a learning styles inventory. Although every brain benefits from having information presented in multiple formats, my goal with the inventory is to raise student awareness about ways information can be learned.
- Day One focuses on learning and memory. I kick things off with a great demo from "How to Teach So Students Remember" in which you can "trick" kids into creating a false memory. This will be a great jumping off point to talk about how memories are stored and reinforced.
- The goal of Day Two is get students to think about the why of using graphic organizers (store learning in both sides of the brain) in order to take notes and learn vocabulary.
- On Day Three, I'll model my own metacognition as a reader using some of the informational text they are using that day. Beyond that, I have some bookmarks adapted/plagiarized from Jim Burke that I want to hand out to them so that they have a reference for monitoring their own reading.
- The final day is set aside to talk about test-taking strategies. Some kids have good skills...and others don't. I'm hoping for a good discussion and giving the students a sense of empowerment in terms of managing a test.
05 January 2008
I'm including one example for you today. If you click on the link, you'll be able to take a look at the following plan for remediating information in biochemistry:
- Pages 1 and 2 would be xeroxed and provided to each student needing remediation on this target. On the first page is the target, relevant vocabulary, and a list of skills using the content which students can check off. I am hoping that this will help them inventory what they already know...and what they need to focus their time on. The second page is a tool for them to use to support their work in these areas.
- Page 3 contains the directions for the rotation where kids will work in a group with others who are studying the same topic that day. There is a brief Q & A period and then a short activity.
- The directions for the activity (The Question Game) are on page 4, followed by the master set of questions/answers on pp. 5 - 7. These need to be copied and then pasted onto index cards. Even though the questions and answers are next to each other on the masters, they would need to be on separate cards when prepared for students.
I have the general plan for my study skills mini-lessons drafted, but not ready to share with you quite yet. Maybe tomorrow?
I am keeping my fingers crossed that all of this will fly in a couple of weeks. It's a lot of work at the moment, but once it's done, I'll have two weeks at school to just teach and not have to worry about anything else (which is when I have a ton of things I will need to focus on for grad school).
As always, any feedback on the work to date is welcome and appreciated. I'll keep uploading documents as I finish them in case anyone else can benefit!
04 January 2008
Operates like a footballer's agent: fixing deals, arranging contracts, smoothing out local difficulties. It's the Agent's job to represent his or her client at events which, for whatever reason, the client feels are simply too tedious to attend. Having an Agent helicopter parent is like having Max Clifford working for you round the clock. For free.
Accessible online, face to face or via personal hotline, the Banker is unique in the world of financial services for charging no APR, asking few if any questions, expecting no collateral, and being psychologically inclined to say 'yes' no matter how illogical or poorly articulated the request. The Banker is also resigned to never seeing loans repaid.
The White Knight
Imbued with an almost semi-mythical status, the White Knight parent appears at little to no notice to resolve awkward situations. Once resolved, the White Knight will fade anonymously into the background. Intervention is accomplished silently and with minimum fuss.
The primary function of the Bodyguard is to protect the client from a range of embarrassing social situations - such as cancelling appointments and soaking up complaints on behalf of their client. Particularly skilled in constructing elaborate excuses. When not protecting life, limb and reputation, doubles up as a chauffeur and personal assistant.
The Black Hawk
Named after the military helicopter, and dreaded by teachers and educational administrators, the Black Hawk is unique among helicopter parents due to their willingness to go to any lengths - legal or illegal - to give their offspring a positional advantage over any competition. Particularly lethal when elected to parent-teacher associations.Can you think of any others we should make note of?
03 January 2008
By law, schools have to have balanced budgets. We can't be like the feds and run up a deficit and exist on credit. Districts must live within their means. In the case of my district (and others in the area), declining enrollment and property tax fatigue mean smaller coin amounts in the coffers. We can't ignore budget issues. We have to make hard choices and stakeholders in all programs and walks of school-life have to be involved.
But does The Budget have to be the focus of every conversation and meeting that takes place? Isn't it time that we got back to talking about kids?
02 January 2008
Today is my last day of winter break. Yes, we have a 2-day work week this week, beginning bright and early tomorrow morning. Between end of semester activities and the 14-page to do list for my grad class, I'm going to be one busy little Goddess this month. It's a good thing the weather is unpleasant so I won't be tempted by my gardening. :)
Speaking of new and old, the blogrolls have been updated. I know I should do this more often. I am always adding new feeds to my Google Reader, but don't always remember to place them here, too. Also, a few edubloggers have now gone MIA. I miss them, and if they return to the edusphere, I'll be happy to add them once again to my blogroll.
01 January 2008
I remembered this story when I was reading an editorial in the Tacoma News-Tribune about offering higher pay to math and science teachers. The main reason offered is that "there are more opportunities to make more money outside of public education for those with math and science skills than for those with other skills. How does public education respond? It must pay those teachers enough to keep them in the classroom, for a few years anyway."
Okay. As a science teacher, the promise of more money is appealing...as it would be for anyone (and not just teachers). But what I think the author of the editorial hasn't considered is that more pay is not going to lead to better teaching. For example, I know of a teacher in the district who is very happy at his school. He talks about teaching there until retirement...which is 25+ years away. But just because he likes picking up a paycheck there doesn't make him a good teacher, does it? Lesson plans are constructed no more than an hour in advance, and consist of lecture and bookwork. Tests a couple of hours before he gives them (and just uses a test generator to spit out something). No feedback is provided on assignments. There are few labs or cooperative activities ever done. Students in his classes consistently underperform others in the district, while he brags about how uninvolved he is in professional development and so on. Should we pay him more simply because he teaches science? More pay is not going to equal better instruction from this man. And a full generation of kids is going to suffer in the meantime.
I suppose that this post could quickly evolve into one about merit pay...but I'm not interested in going there at the moment. What I do want to think about is separating the concept of "quality" from "quantity." These are not interchangeable terms and in educational matters, we need to stop using them as such.