The purpose of this law (No Child Left Behind) is to discredit public education so that as many middle-class parents as possible will move their kids out of public schools and reduce the public expense.
–Andy Hargreaves, educator, author and researcher in “Younger vision could change high schools”, California Educator, April 2007, Vol. 11 Issue 7
But don’t forget. Private schools generate a profit, public schools just eat up money. Public schools are an affront to all right-thinking businessmen and women in America.
Some of you may have noticed that some of my posts are now password protected. That is because I have learned that teachers are being fired for what they blog publicly, even though they have taken every step to assure their anonymity and the anonymity of their students and school.
I started this blog as a way for me to vent about you know what and you know who, but now I find I can’t even do that. I am terribly disappointed of course.
I have password protected some of my old posts. I will probably search through and password protect more. Only people I personally know will have access to the password.
It is devastating to me that I cannot speak my mind at school, and now cannot speak my mind through my personal blog. My wife is tired of me ranting to her. And my friends have no conception of what it is like.
Thus censorship wins out again.
While I was away on vacation, I caught the news once and saw a quick blurb about high-tech cheating. Apparently, students are using some pretty sophisticated equipments to cheat. It used to be text messaging on cell phones. Now, it’s iPods! Students would download answers to their iPods and get answers while pretending to listen to music.
High-tech cheating is now a great concern for teachers everywhere, particularly in high-school and middle-school.
Since I’m a big fan of lowering affective filters for students, I’m not going to be one of those people who automatically say “BAN the iPods!”
My question to these teachers and parents who are concerned with high-tech cheating is, “How is your assessment formatted?” If a test is well-crafted, how can you cheat? If a lesson is well taught, why is there a need for cheating?
What is the purpose of the test anyway? To guide the teacher’s instruction? To determine a student’s needs? To grade students according to the bell curve and rank everyone? To have a mark in your grade book so you can put it down for their report card?
I’m really hoping that teachers are still not giving out tests with multiple-choice answers, focusing on recalling basic facts. (I’m not talking about standardized assessments here. You know, The Big Test. Since I feel that they are a big waste of two weeks of everyone’s life, I say, hand out iPods to everyone! Except they’re not permitted in the testing room.)
Here’s an easy way to prevent cheating in the classroom, high-tech or otherwise. Give students questions and projects that require them to to use higher level comprehension skills. Allow the students to use their textbooks and notes during the test if necessary. Heck, allow the students to work together in pairs and groups, and have them orally defend their projects/answers individually.
Using graph paper, draw a floor plan for a one-bedroom home, complete with a kitchen, a dining area, and bathroom. The total square footage of the home is 750 sq. ft. What are the length, width, and area of the bedroom, kitchen, dining area, and bathroom? Here is your rubric.
Draw a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the Revolutionary War and the Industrial Revolution. Write a well-crafted explanation of your Venn Diagram. Here is your rubric.
You are a doctor. An underweight patient prone to illness asks your advice for staying healthy. With a partner, create a 6 month, healthy-living plan for your patient that will ensure a healthy weight and reduce risk of illness. Be prepared to orally defend any part of the plan. Here is your rubric.
Any other ideas for formatting assessments so that high-tech cheating is impossible?
I’ll be gone for a week, finally taking that needed vacation to recharge before heading back to school. There will be no new posts as there will be no ‘net connection where I’m going! Imagine that!
In the meantime, please leave a message! *BEEB*
Writing with Thinking Maps
I wrote a series of blogs on writing using Thinking Maps and this quickly became a favorite for many readers. So, I decided to organize the blogs onto one post to make it easier for people to find all the articles and to clarify the sequence of our process.
The writing process was taken directly from a supplementary program, Write from the Beginning, from Thinking Maps.
1. How we do it in our class – an explanation.
2. The pre-writing process part 1 – using Circle Maps
3. The pre-writing process part 2 – using Flow Maps
4. First Draft – some samples
5. Flow Map – explanation of the parts of the Flow Map and how we use it for writing.
6. An example from my Special Ed student showing success for all students – The Pre-Write
7. A first draft from my Special Ed student – The First Draft
8. A second grade, friendly thank you letter – The entire process
Please leave a comment to tell me what you think! Thank you!
Originally uploaded by cityteacher.
Here’s a sampling of my daily report cards. I try to make the objectives as targeted as possible. You can see which objectives my inner city students all work on. 🙂
I find that daily report cards are invaluable tool of communication with parents and a great aid to help students monitor their own behavior.
Here’s how I do it. I’d like to hear more examples of effective use of daily report cards!
- Determine first if the student really needs a daily report card or a different behavior management plan.
- Conference with the student and the parents, state the situation, explain the daily report cards clearly, state the measurable goals of the daily report cards, state teacher’s role, parents’ roles, and student’s role.
- Limit daily report cards to four explicit, measurable objectives. Don’t be general, as that sets students up for failure. If student has difficulty starting work immediately, then one objective may be, “I began my work within two minutes of the teacher telling the class to begin.”
- Give student a score for each objective, a happy face, a medium face, and an unhappy face is how I do it.
- Be consistent in sending home daily report cards. Do not skip any days!
- Meet with student every once in awhile to discuss their progress.
- A s student shows improvement, meet with student and parents to adjust objectives or possibly to transition student out of daily report cards.
Usually, I would have four or five students who need daily report cards. These are students who need more than the regular classroom management rules and consequences. Everyone else works well with the regular classroom management plan. This year I transitioned one student out of the daily report card. I offered the parent of another student the possibility of transitioning her son out, but she requested that he continues the daily report card. So we did, but we adjusted his behavior objectives.
I ‘ll post examples of my daily report cards in another post.
Now, how do you do daily report cards? Do you do daily report cards? What’s your classroom management plan like?
Originally uploaded by cityteacher.
Toward the end of a hard day, we like to head on out for P.E.! Yeah!
I just about fell out of my chair when I saw that in my e-mail box this morning. I guess my blog is starting to reach some people.
The purpose of my blog of course is to have a space for ME to communicate to ME all the good things and all the bad things that happen to me as an inner city teacher. Amazingly, I’ve made contact with some awesome, positive teachers out in the world, which is very encouraging. But the reason why I started this blog is because at my inner city school, I am surrounded by some very negative, pessimistic, and awful teachers.
And the big question with these teachers is, “Why can’t these kids learn?” Their attitude is clear. They delivered the curriculum. Why can’t these kids learn? They’re just not motivated, or they’re born with crack in their systems, or it’s their parents’ fault, gang bangers the lot of them.
At a “professional development” meeting three weeks ago, the conversation once again turns to “Why can’t these kids learn?” even though we were supposed to be discussing methods of positively motivating our students.
I finally just said bluntly, “Actually, I don’t see these problems with my students. They’re not perfect, but they’re fairly well behaved and we work hard, but we learn.”
Moment of awkwardness. Then, the conversation turns to how to keep these unruly kids from getting out of their seats constantly or tattle-telling on each other.
Why Can’t These Kids Learn?
There are many reasons why these kids can’t learn. I shall just list the reasons I personally have witnessed at my school among my colleagues.
- The teacher sits at her desk and yells at the students. Nothing is written on the board as the teacher never leaves her seat or points generally in the direction of the chart she’s referring to, thus confusing the students.
- The teacher humiliates students. The teacher yells at students things such as, “Why can’t you learn?” or “Didn’t I just show this to you?” Student immediately shuts down and refuses to learn.
- Teacher shows up late to pick up the students in the morning, late to pick up students at recess, and late to pick up students at lunch. Teacher yells at students for being tardy. Teacher demonstrates lack of commitment, so why should students be committed?
- Teacher spends much of class time looking for materials that she hasn’t prepared for the lesson. She leaves class to work on a quiet activity while she goes to the copy room or to another teacher to borrow materials. She yells at students for not being quiet while she’s trying to get her act together for the lesson.
- Five minutes into a lesson, the teacher is reading the teacher guide to see what she has to teach. Students have to wait quietly while she figures out what they’re supposed to learn.
- Teacher doesn’t know the purpose of a lesson, so teaches an entirely different lesson (probably due to her unpreparedness). I love this one as its very prevalent at my school. Here’s an example. The lesson is a 20 minute lesson in our reading program that’s supposed to teach students comprehension attack strategy. The teacher spends an hour forcing the students to read the entire passage one table at a time in order and shooting rapid-fire on-the-surface recall questions at five kids (ignoring the fact that everyone else isn’t paying attention) in an attempt to make sure that everyone understands the content of the story. Then, there’s the teacher who, when it was time to teach the content of the story, instead of focusing on the theme of the unit, money, spends a week on segregation and wonders why her kids didn’t focus on the writing prompt in the assessment. Funny!
- Students do one worksheet after another that the teacher finds valuable in one of those books you find at the teacher store and gets upset when advised by the administration to focus on the standards and the curriculum. The reason why she’s upset is because education these days don’t allow teachers creativity. The students get more worksheets nonetheless while she sits at her desk or beautifies her classroom. These are all true stories! Honest!
- Teacher puts on a video in the last hour of the day because, you know, the kids are getting unruly and needs a break. The videos are not even tangential to the students learning. Fridays are the worst.
- Everyday is drawing, art, and music day. This is particularly cruel and prevalent in the younger classes and the Special Ed classes. You can always tell which students come from these teachers…It’s very sad because they are far behind all the other students academically and in second grade have to learn skills that they should have learned in Kindergarten.
I can go on and on!
I mentioned that I substituted five days in another third grade teacher’s class about a week and a half ago. At the end of the five days, the grandmother of one of the students asked me if he can transfer into my classroom instead because “I’m not saying Mr. XXX is a bad teacher, but XXX did so much work when he’s with you and he didn’t get into trouble at all, but Mr. XXX is always telling me how XXX is bad and he ain’t with you.”
I had a frozen smile on my face and can only assure her that her grandson is actually quite capable and just needs motivation to stay focus on his work. Her grandson definitely has a focusing problem, but that’s my job, right? To motivate him to learn.
NPR has an article on an amazing inner city teacher at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4608476
. Rafe Esquith is an inspiration to me, a devoted teacher who goes beyond what’s in the state standards, what’s in the union contract, what’s in the district memos to teach
his students. He’s done so for 24 years. I’ve only taught for 5 years. I certainly hope that in 19 more years I would come close to doing half what this amazing teacher has done.