Repair Kit Study Guide: Feedback, homework, assessments

Ok so time to get back to a post on Repair Kit for Grading, you know the reason I began to blog in the first place 😉

8) I provide detailed comments to students about strengths and weaknesses in their work.

I didn’t do this on everything my students turned in, so my answer is sometimes.  I mainly provided more feedback on big projects and tests, especially on rough drafts of projects.  Even then looking back I feel like I didn’t provide enough feedback.

The daughter of one of my best friends has written her first book, she was 14 when she finished it btw and it is good.  I read it for her and when I read it I popped it up in Microsoft Word and began adding comments. I really concentrated on giving her feedback that would help her improve, if I had a question about what was happening, if I was confused, if I just had to say something in response to a character I put it in a comment.  I’d love to be able to do that for every student I have but I’m just not sure how to handle that in the time constraints teachers have.  I’ll be interested see what the book says about this, how often to give feedback, what kinds of feedback, how much feedback.  Guess I’ll find out when I get to that fix.

9) I include performance on homework into final grade.

I imagine you can already guess my answer to this is almost always.  I have a hard time fathoming it any other way, especially when you take into consideration what must be coming across as my biggest concern: test anxiety.  Let me make this clear, I have other concerns about this but I have had students who I knew were prepared and yet were reduced to tears or nervous tics before a test.  It makes no sense to someone who doesn’t suffer from the problem but teachers see it all the time.  I worry that if we did not ever include homework performance in final grades that the grades of students who do struggle with this fear would not be an accurate representation of their knowledge, the main reason for this book. I will definitely be looking for some answers to this concern and if I don’t find any in the book I may have to find a way to contact the author.

10) I keep separate track of information from formative and summative assessments.

I don’t know if I’ve ever tracked formative assessments other than notes I’ve taken during reading/writing conferences and homework grades.  Those would be separate but are they the types of formative assessments they refer to in this book.  I guess I’ll find out, for now I’d say sometimes is my answer.


High chool student suspended for accidentally bringing beer in lunch

Here is another recent news story that leaves me wondering.  Zero tolerance policies that are completely strictly enforced always seem to end up in the news.  One of the things that parents and teachers tell kids frequently is “life’s not fair”.   Most children when asked feel that fair means treating every kid the same but that’s not fair.  You have to look beyond, you have to look at more than just the behavior before assigning consequences.

I know that I worked with an assistant principal that did just that.  When two students were in a fight they didn’t necessarily receive the same consequence.  The person that started the fight be it physically or verbally often had a harsher punishment.  He made an effort to make the punishment fit the “crime”.  I really respected this.

My first year teaching I had a student with a sore leg, he had hurt it the previous weekend he told us all about it at the beginning of class.  Towards the end of class as students were packing up to leave another student came up behind him and kicked him in the sore leg.  His response was to curse “Sh*t!” came out of his mouth and my heart sunk, I knew I had to write him up because that language is not allowed and other students had heard him.  I also wrote up the student that kicked him.  I hand delivered the office referrals to the assistant principal and explained to her what had happened trying to emphasize that while the language was inappropriate it was at least in my point of view understandable that it slipped out considering the situation.

Another time I had a female student in class call me a witch except with a B, you know.  No sooner had the word left her mouth than her hands flew up over it and her eyes got huge.  She then immediately apologized.  Again I had to write her up but when I turned in the referral I spoke the principal and shared her reaction and that she had already apologized profusely.

I looked on the school website to find the student handbook to find their policy on alcohol at school.  Under the heading Mandatory Placement: Misconduct that Requires DAEP (Disciplinary Alternative Education Program) Placement is this bullet point

  • Sells, gives, or delivers to another person an alcoholic beverage; commits a serious act or offense while under the influence of alcohol; or possesses, uses, or is under the influence of alcohol, if the conduct is not punishable as a felony offense.

This is I’m sure the basis for the student’s 3 day suspension and 60 day placement at the alternative education center.  From what I can tell 60 days is the maximum the student could be given for this particular offense.  But why when the student realized the mistake and essentially turned himself in would you give the maximum rather than allow some leniency to recognize that he took responsibility for his actions.  What are we teaching the other kids in that school but to lie and keep things like this to themselves.  If their punishment will be the same whether they turn themselves in or get caught what’s the point in telling the truth, being forthcoming?  Not the message I want to send to my students I know.

What do you think?  Did the school do what it should or did they go too far?

Teacher takes video of child stuck in chair

I came across this story yesterday in my Facebook news feed.  A fifth grade teacher decided to take video of a child with autism in her classroom who got his head stuck in a chair rather than help him out.  She asks him if he wants to be tasered.  I tried to watch the video and just couldn’t.  I could not believe that anyone in charge of children would do that to a child, especially in front of other children.  I just wanted to yell at the screen “What is wrong with you?”  I understand that there are children who repeat the same behaviors over and over and it is possible that this has happened before, the story doesn’t give any of those details, but no matter how many times a child does something like this it is NOT ok to make a video and joke about it.  Take care of the issue, contact whomever you need to to address the situation and move on!

I’m even more amazed that parents are supporting this teacher.  Maybe they don’t have all of the details, but really I want to ask them “What if she had done this to your child?  How would you feel then?  Would you still want her to keep her job?”

I don’t know this just really leaves me near speechless.  What do you think?

Black History Month

My friend Amy’s review, she’s used all of these books in her classroom, college history, they could also be good for high school or personal reading

What Will She Read Next?

9780679763888_p0_v1_s260x420 This week we’d like to take a slightly more serious turn and focus on African-American history month, before February slips away from us.  Because we’re all about books, we’d like to share some of the books we think are important and notable in black history.  In the few years that I’ve been teaching American history, I’ve used some of these books in the classroom.  Others I read while I was still in school.  Don’t be daunted by heavy subject matter, or indifferent to the history.  These books represent so much in black history and culture – each for different reasons.

9781595581037_p0_v1_s260x420The Warmth of Other Sons, Isabel Wilkerson – Focusing on a few individuals and their own experiences, she tells the tale of the Great Migration, which involved millions of African Americans moving out of the rural south.  In order to escape the segregated south, they endured so much –…

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Brain Breaks are good for teachers too

When I was a kid in elementary school we had three recesses every day.  As the years have gone by most elementary schools have moved to only one recess a day either before or after lunch.  This has resulted in lots more seat time for little kids than there used to be.  The solution now is to take “Brain Breaks” throughout the day.  Go to Pinterest and search Brain Breaks or Classroom Movement and you’ll come up with hundreds of options.

I have a Classroom Movement board on my Pinterest page.  While my fifth graders don’t seem interested in doing the videos on there (Just Dance and Just Dance kids videos from various sources) the K-2 and 4th graders love it, they ask to do them each time they come to class.

I’ve discovered it’s great for me too, for a couple of reasons.  First it’s great to get up and get active.  Working in an elementary school I find I spend much less time on my feet than I did when I taught middle school, lots more sitting for small groups or one-on-ones.  I’m sure some elementary teachers are more active, and not just PE teachers, but I’m much more sedentary and it bothers me.  So I get up and dance with the kiddos, it’s fun for me, gets me a little bit active, and they love to see the teacher dance along.  The other big benefit besides for my physical health (and no dancing with the kids is not my only physical activity for the day) is for my mental health, there’s just no way not to smile or even giggle when you watch a class of kindergartners or first graders dance to Call Me Maybe or What Makes You Beautiful while singing along to every word.  It’s just so cute!

If not us then who?

So while it’s not something I make a big deal about I am a Christian.  I try to show this in my actions though I don’t always succeed.  I’m not one to talk about my faith so much as to try and live it, lead by example, again not something I always succeed in.  This past Sunday the sermon focused on Jesus’ sermon on the mount from the book of Matthew.  Specifically it was about the Matthew 5:38-42 “38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

The minister shortened this in to the phrase “If not us then who?” This struck me especially as she began to tell stories of her ministry in another location reaching out to those that others might not.  Teachers do this every day!  Good teachers do so much more than impart knowledge, they care, as simple as that.  In classrooms all over the world today teachers are reaching out to children who for any number of reasons don’t feel loved.  Children who are our biggest challenge are often those that need the most care, some teachers are better at connecting with students than others, some connect with different types of students better than others.  For some reason I’ve always been the one to reach out to those in need.  My mom joked she thought I’d grow up to be a social worker.  She and my dad were the example though.  My siblings and I had several friends between us from family situations that were not the best but they knew our door was always open to them, we were the “Do Drop Inn”.  One of my best friends to this day was having big issues at home and she walked several miles to our house to stay the night with us because she knew my parents would throw open the door and welcome her in.

This shaped me more than I think I realized.  Kids that other teachers can’t seem to get to behave or connect with, I’ve been able to build a relationship with.  I have no idea why.  There have been students that I haven’t been able to connect with as well, but I try, teachers try every day!

Yesterday I wrote about how the 1,2,3 Magic program worked so well for me, in that post I mentioned the class that I decided I wouldn’t give up on.  It was exactly that thought “if not me, then who?”  that spurned me into trying again and again with that group and finding some measure of success.  I’m still in contact with some of those kids today.  I’m fortunate to actually be in contact with several of my former students who are now adults moving into the world of adulthood going to college, getting married, having kids and there are still one or two who reach out to me to ask a questions, even if it’s just to edit their papers for their English classes 😉

I had a principal for several years who really spoke to this idea.  We struggled to find that line between motivating the apathetic misbehaving student and sending them to ISS or OSS.  I think every teacher and principal can tell you there are days when a class has a totally different feel and you realize it’s because a certain student isn’t there.  When a student doesn’t care about their learning, nothing you do seems to motivate them in any way, and they are a disruption to those that do care you fight with yourself as to the best choice for them.  You don’t want to give up, you to fight for them to the end, but then you wonder while you’re fighting for them are you losing the fight for those that care?  It’s a tightwire act and you never quite know if you’re going to make it to the other side.  At a meeting one day this principal said part of his struggle with this problem is going to a fast food place and having a student that had so much potential wait on you and wondering “what else could I have done?”  See he’s was thinking “if not me then who?”

I’ve seen it so many times in so many classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, and playgrounds school staff of all levels reaching out students that others might pass by.  They’re living the same life I try to live each day.  When I grow frustrated with a student especially with that student who so frequently acts out I have to ask myself “if not me then who?”  If I give up on this student how will it affect them?  What does it say to them?  I want my students to know that I care, that I am here if they ever need me.  To me this is just as important as the knowledge I share with them day in and day out.

I hope this made some sense and wasn’t just rambling as it all just kind of spilled out of me into the keyboard.  If not well maybe I can make more sense of it later. 🙂

1-2-3 Magic for Teachers

This book saved my sanity!  That may sound overly dramatic but it’s true.  The second year I taught in my last district I had a class that challenged every teacher in the building.  They had been told at some point that they were the “worst class to ever walk through the doors” unlike so many teenagers who want to prove adults wrong this group students wanted to prove the adults were right, seeming to go out of their way to behave completely unacceptably.  They bragged about lunch or Saturday detentions.  Parents seemed to just brush off reports that their student was talking in class, during instruction.  I cried and screamed, gritted my teeth and nearly pulled my hair out at the roots that year from frustration.

At the end of the year a third grade position came available in our building.  I went to the principal and expressed interest.  He told me he’d be happy to consider me but I should think it over to be sure.  That night we had our eighth grade graduation.  I sat there watching the eighth graders recognized, seeing my seventh graders in the bleachers.  I had had that class for two years already and if I stayed in my current position would be the only core teacher they would have for three years due to teacher turnover in the middle school.  I didn’t want to leave that class, my kids.  Then I saw the sixth graders in the bleachers and realized that if I left I would just be proving to them again that they were the worst class ever.  This was not an acceptable choice!  I would NOT give up on that class.  I told the principal I was staying where I was.

That summer I checked out every book on classroom management I could get a hold of from the library, in all about 20 books.  I read book after book, some ideas sparked my interest but nothing really caught me until I read 1-2-3- Magic for Teachers.  I wasn’t very far in when I knew this was the classroom management program for me.  The emphasis on no arguing and no yelling was exactly what I wanted, that was the teacher I wanted to be!  I hate yelling, I feel out of control not the teacher I want to be.   (Now this doesn’t mean I never yell, it still happens unfortunately but I do my best and I try to remember to apologize if I do and explain my frustration.  I do this better with my son than in my classroom I think but I’m still working on it.

My book is filled with highlighted lines and notes in the margins.  The simplicity of the program makes it easy for anyone to implement and the kids need little to no explanation.  So many parents, day cares, and baby sitters use the 1-2-3 method that as soon as you begin counting in the classroom kids pick it up and know what’s happening.  While it is simple to implement I would highly recommend reading it to get more information.  If you are a teacher trying to find your classroom management technique, an education teacher, or a principal looking to help a struggling teacher this is a great book.  Parents there is a 1-2-3 book for you as well.  For anyone interested you can get more information on the 1-2-3 Magic website.