Repair Kit study guide: purpose of grades, group grades, and limiting number of A’s given

The next six statement are all on a scale of agree to disagree.  Some I disagree with rather vehemently, just a warning.

14: The ONLY purpose for grades/marks should be to communicate student learning at a point in time.

I somewhat disagree with this statement.  I believe grades/marks should be used to demonstrate progress or lack thereof.  They can be indicators of struggles with a concept or with something else in life.  Years ago we had a gifted student in the middle school where I worked whose grades were suddenly dropping.  We knew she was capable of the work but it wasn’t getting done.  When we sat down with mom to express our concerns we learned the problem was not school or her abilities, rather it was life.  Mom and Dad were getting divorced and Dad had already moved in with someone else whom he was planning to marry as soon as the divorce was final.  This was a major shake-up in the students’ world.  Things like this happen all the time and believe it or not grades/marks can be a good indicator.  It is well publicized that a drop in grades is one indicator of drug use as well.  Grades are so much more than just a picture of student learning at a single point in time.

 

15: One should NEVER include group scores in grades for individual students.

Agreed, I think everyone remembers being part of a group project where one of the members did not pull their weight, then the whole group lost points due to that.  Now in the interest of disclosure I have not always agreed with this statement.  I have in the past given group grades that were included in the final grade.  To try to make it more fair in my first few years of teaching I include a peer assessment section to the group grade. Each student was given 100 points to distribute to their groupmates how they felt was appropriate according.  I added these up and they were part, a small part but part of the final project score for that students.  Looking back I’m appalled that I did this with so little direction to the students on how to actually assess their groupmates work.  Even then it left me feeling a bit uncomfortable so I tried just grading the parts each student did but that seemed to defeat the purpose of giving a group project: cooperative learning. Maybe this is where grading by standards comes in would come in handy, awarding not scores but marking on a checklist of standards covered?  Definitely something to think about.

 

16: There should be a limit to the number of students who receive marks/grades of A.

DISAGREE!!!

In case you can’t tell from the above I vehemently, emphatically disagree with this statement.  We as educators do a disservice to students when we allow only a certain number of As.  Grade distribution according to the Bell Curve needs to disappear, NOW.  I would jump for joy, shout from the mountaintops, dance in the streets (OK you get the idea) if all of my students earned As.  One of my goals as a teacher is to help my students achieve to the best of their ability, if I limit the number of As my students  can earn I fail.  It’s simply not fair, and yes I know that life’s not fair.  I’ve used that phrase in my classroom many times but if a student earns an A that is the grade they should receive.  To say to a student well you did good your final score was in the percentage range for an A but since there were 5 people who scored higher than you and I only give out five As then you get a B, usually followed with “next time try harder” is infuriating and ridiculous.  There are students for whom a C is a major accomplishment, those who study day and night and just barely get the A, so if they end up with a B what’s to stop them from saying why bother spending that extra time studying if (pick 5 names of the smartest students in the class) are going to get the As anyway.  See, yeah, NO!  This is a bad, bad idea!

Ok now you clearly know how I feel, what do you think?

 

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My love hate relationship with snow and snow days

I’ve had enough snow for this year thank you very much!!!  Father Winter and Mother Nature please get it together I just can’t take it anymore!!!  Yes the snow day we had yesterday was a freebie but still it’s just too much!   Ok now that I’ve gotten that out of the way LOL, this has been an unusual winter.  So far more snow that I can recall since 2011, and that was the most snow since I can’t even tell you when.

I know everyone loves snow days right?  Yeah maybe not so much.  Every school/district handles snow days differently.  My current district builds the required six snow make up days into the calendar for the year and we attend on those days whether we have snow days or not.  So basically in a year with no snow days we attend school six days more than the state requirement, not necessarily a bad thing.  I remember in high school if we didn’t use snow days we got those days taken off the end of the school year.  In my last district, a small rural district, we had random days throughout the year built in as snow make-up days including MLK Jr Day and President’s Day.  My last year in that district we started school late due to construction then had so many snow days that to be able to get school and summer school in during the fiscal year (the only way it worked financially) we had make-up days on four Saturdays.  Yep, we came to school for half days on four Saturdays.  The first was well attended by students, as they went attendance did drop even though students knew they had to make up any work missed.  We had a large number of students on sports teams outside of school though and they had tournaments and games they just couldn’t miss.

We are at ten snow days and counting, which means we have used all of our built in days and two of the extra labeled snow days on our school calendar.  The last day of school is now a half day the Tuesday after Memorial Day.  UGH!!!  Ok so there’s one “hate” about snow days.  I don’t think a single teacher in the district is happy about this, even though it would not have been safe for us to come in on the snow days.

Snow days are not all bad, I enjoy the occasional day, the occasional unexpected day to sleep in, well when I can get back to sleep after the phone rings at some crazy time in the morning, or if we’re fortunate enough to have it called off the night before as we have had a few times so far this year.  When I say this year I don’t just mean this school year, I also mean this year you know 2014, we didn’t even get to come back to school when we were supposed to after winter break.  Winter break this year was extended by a week from snow days.  Coming back we had to almost completely start over with routines, another “hate” about snow days.  What’s worse is when snow days happen in the middle of a unit.  If it’s one day you can usually get the kids back but as Tony Danza noted in his book I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High, (I was just rereading this on a snow day coincidentally) if you lose several days you often lose momentum that you’ve worked so hard to build. Invariably it also seems that you end up with the same day of the week as a snow day time after time, this often puts one class or several classes (if you’re a specials teacher) behind the others, then it’s a struggle to somehow find a way to get them caught up so that all of your students get the information they need.

I guess I really haven’t mentioned many things I love other than sleeping in, I do enjoy the bonus day home with my son and occasionally also my husband.  I enjoy the break that I can use to catch up on work for school or maybe read that book I’ve been wanting to read.  Not having to nag the kiddo to get up and get dressed so we can head out to school is always a bonus.  Shoveling snow can be a great workout, but it can also eat up the whole day sometimes.

So how about you?  What do you love or not about snow days?

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?

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 https://i1.wp.com/media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/4e/35/dd/4e35dd96dce722f8eace5786e7625e2d.jpgwant 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. 🙂

Why I Became a Teacher

This is a question asked in almost every teaching interview and by a lot of curious people as well.  So what’s my answer?  Well it’s not a short one that’s for sure.  I think it started when I was just a kid.  I remember being nine years old and trying to help my sister learn to read, playing school, teaching her the letters and their sounds, then at eleven doing the same with my brother who didn’t take to it quite as well. 🙂  Yet even with that I didn’t even consider teaching when I first started thinking about my future career in eighth grade, yes I’m an overachiever.

In eighth and ninth grades I was sure I wanted to be a journalist, specifically a broadcast journalist.  Yep, someday I was going to an anchor on the local news.  To that end I took Beginning Journalism my freshman year then I joined the newspaper staff the following two years.  I discovered that while I enjoyed writing editorials, hmm yeah that’s really no surprise to anyone who knows me I’m sure, and I loved seeing my name in the byline I was just not comfortable doing interviews for any other type of article.  I got incredibly nervous and for no real reason.  That wasn’t the only reason I dropped the idea of becoming a journalist however.  One evening I was watching the news, to this day I can’t remember the topic of the story but I remember that the person being interviewed had a dramatically different opinion than mine and that they were very smug about it.  I was amazed that the reported who did seem a bit uncomfortable was able to maintain objectivity, which I had been taught was key to be a quality journalist.  Ok I realize that seems to have gone by the wayside for many journalists, newspapers, news channels, or news programs but at the time it seemed to still be a goal of most journalists.  I was just unsure that I would be able to maintain that same level of objectivity.  So with those things in mind I began to think about what else I might do with my life.

Babysitting was my first job, I watched all of the kids in the neighborhood at one point or another.  So naturally I began thinking that teaching could be the career for me.  At that time my mother was a school nurse, she arranged for me to come spend the day in her building for a special disabilities awareness day they were having.  I then assisted her school’s team when my high school hosted the local Special Olympics.  For a while I thought I might be a special education teacher, ultimately I decided I simply didn’t have the strength for that.  Having worked with some wonderful SpEd teachers I can safely say I made the right call.  I am in awe of teachers that work with students with so many disabilities.  They are amazing!

Still thinking about teaching but trying to decide at what level I went to see my counselor while enrolling in classes senior year.  I was trying to decide between teaching high school English, my favorite subject, or elementary school specifically the younger grades.  At that time I wanted nothing to do with middle school, wow looking back that just makes me laugh.  To try to make that decision I signed up to cadet teach Honors English II with Mr. Hopkins, one of my favorite teachers.  Actually if I list my favorite teachers many of them were my English teachers, it really should have been no surprise I ended up teaching Communication Arts.  I also took but Child Development and Advanced Child Development that year, meaning I spent a few days a week in the pre-school in our building.  My counselor added me to the tutoring list as well.  I enjoyed both cadet teaching and working in the preschool but it was the tutoring that sealed the deal for me.

I began tutoring a third grader in late October, early November.  We worked on his language arts and math work.  One evening he had an assignment on pronouns and simply did not understand how or why to use them.  I decided to tell him a story to try to demonstrate why pronouns are needed.  He had previously told me a bit about his Aunt Sunny so I asked him to pretend he had told me a story about his aunt and this was the story:

Aunt Sunny went to the grocery store.  Aunt Sunny got a cart.  Aunt Sunny put groceries in the cart.  Aunt Sunny went to the checkout stand.  Aunt Sunny put the groceries in bags.  Aunt Sunny took the bags outside.  Aunt Sunny put the bags in the car.

At this point I asked him if he would tell me the story that way or would he tell me some other way.  Obviously I was trying to get him to tell me that he would say “she” instead of Aunt Sunny; instead I got a blank look.  Ok time to try something new.  This time I said “What if I said the sea is green?”  I have no idea what I was going to say next because he immediately replied, “No it’s not it’s blue!”  Ah ha! “What did you say?” I prompted, he started “No it’s not it’s…” that was it, that was when the light bulb go on.  He was thrilled and I knew I wanted to spend my life helping kids get those light bulb moments.

Light bulb moments don’t come every day, sometimes not even every week but they are so exciting when they do hit.  Sometimes it takes even the student a while to realize they’ve learned something new or changed their attitude about a subject they previously “hated”.  I absolutely love hearing my former students say to me “You know I hated reading until you made me read ____________”  makes me grin every time.  There is another moment that gets me every time, haven’t come up with a name for it yet so if you have a suggestion let me know, when you explain something to a student, help them through a struggle and then they turn around and help another student with the same problem.  Hmm, pay-it-forward moment maybe?  I like that.  This happen frequently in one of my kindergarten tech classes.  One of the little girls will raise her hand with a question I’ll go help her then move on to the next student.  Without anyone asking or any prompting I’ll see her slip quietly across the room to help someone else.  I have kiddos who will yell out “I can help, I can do it for you, I can show you” not this little one, she simply helps quietly then goes back to her own computer.  It’s just so sweet.  Moments like those are the others that make my day.

I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else.  As I continue searching for a classroom position, this being my fourth year, there have been people who ask me why don’t I switch careers, find something else to do.  The simple answer is there is nothing else I want to do.  Teaching is it for me.  Yes, there are times that are incredibly stressful, not long ago I was having the same issues over and over with the internet and technology in my room and had been unable to find a reason for them problems, calling tech help hadn’t helped either.  I got so frustrated I literally stomped my feet, the kids looked at me kind of funny.  I apologized and told them I was really frustrated because I wanted this work for them and I hadn’t found the answer yet.  They laughed.  There are times when children push my every button and I have to stop and take deep breaths for a while because I know the majority of the time they’re not doing it on purpose, well not my kiddos now anyway some of my former middle school students on the other hand LOL.  Still l wouldn’t trade this career for the world.

So fellow teachers, what was your moment of realization?  Why did you become a teacher?  Everyone else why do you do what you do?

Editing to add this video of a poem by Taylor Mali (‘ll be posting my other favorite of his at a later date but I came across this one and it summarizes my post to so well) I Teach for the Fire

Who Am I?

So who am I?  What do I know about education?  Why should you bother to even take the time to read my opinions?

apple wordleI am a 16 year veteran of the Education profession.  I have spent ten of those years in the classroom as a teacher and the other six in support staff positions.  I have worked in large districts and small districts, rural and suburban, schools with highly diverse ethnic populations and those that are significantly less so, private and public school, students from kindergarten to eighth grade, all socioeconomic levels, struggling students, gifted students and everything in between, student with learning disabilities, behavior disorders, emotionally disturbed, children of divorced parents, parents married for a long time, parents never married, adopted children and foster children coming out of some truly terrible situations, children who barely speak English, students who love school, students who hate school, children who love reading and those who loathe it.  I have attended almost more conferences and workshops than I can keep track of.  I have taught in a block schedule and an hourly schedule, class sizes from 6 to 40, taught by myself, as a lead teacher, and team taught.  I have written and revised curriculum, participated in preparation for the Missouri School Improvement Plan review, the institution of Professional Learning Communities and intervention time, the interview process for an assistant principal, and co-chaired the district calendar committee.  I also sponsored the Student Council, assisted with the building spelling bee, assisted with volleyball intramurals, helped to plan National Children’s Book Week activities, covered for other teachers when they had meetings and couldn’t get back to class on time, attended IEP meetings, participated in MAP testing week (state standardized test) activities, contributed to the writing of a Building School Improvement Plan, and tutored students before and after school.  I’m sure there’s more.  All this said I’m your average educator, there are those that do more than I have and those that do less.  My experience may be more varied than some teachers who spend their career yet I’m positive there are teachers who have even more varied experience than me.

 My present position is technology classroom assistant, in my district this means I teach technology classes to kindergarten, first, second, fourth and fifth graders.  I am essentially a specials teacher.  I work with 300 students, and bow down to the other specials teachers who work with all 600 in our building, I have enough trouble trying to remember all of the names of the kids I work with much less if I have all of the students. I am seeking a classroom teaching position but the competition is fierce right now, though I am incredibly lucky to be in my current position in my current school.

 So why should you read my opinions?  I’m not afraid to share stories of my experience including times I’ve made mistakes, or royal screw-ups as the case may be.  I’ll do my best to answer any questions honestly or refer you elsewhere if I don’t have an answer.  As I am a parent as well I think this gives me yet another perspective, I understand things a bit differently than parents without the educational background.  There are a ton of great educator blogs out there so it’s really up to you if you don’t like my style keep looking I’m sure you’ll find someone else to follow, no harm no foul.

So now you decide do you want to stick around and see what I have to say or not.  I’m going to be here sharing my thoughts no matter what which means it’s all up to you now. 🙂