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Archive for May, 2007

We talked about this, you know? Four classes, four discussions.

Four times I told them a student in Washington had been suspended for 40 days and invited speculation into his crime. He stabbed somebody? He hit a teacher? He sold drugs?

Four times through that video, which was pretty cruel in some places and probably didn't do enough justice to the utter lameness of the teacher in others. Four times I told the class, look, you're going to find this funny but this isn't like the other times we play videos in class. Four times I told them I wanted their thoughts on What All This Means.

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I made a four-day weekend out of it, drove down south, and cleared my head. We still have two-and-a-half weeks out here at SLVHS so keep your crowing low, 'kay?, but I've got a good exit strategy and inspiration struck me several times on my way to Los Angeles. (Better inspiration than a semi in the oncoming lane, I always tell my kids, nyuk.)

Here's the fun stuff that's been happening since:

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Introduction

Jonathan, Jackie, and Sara have been asking sharp questions in the comments about how I assess students. They've found a lot of soft spots on an otherwise leathery-tough assessment strategy and I'd like to address them here.

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The Excuses I Gave

  1. I only play for cash stakes.
  2. I failed the pee test.
  3. I'm too old to mix it up with you kids.

I may have left readers of a previous post with the impression that I've arrived at this place of "total, psychological, and emotional self-control." Sorry about that. Part of me figured I had. However, as much as I've reckoned with my own high schooling and its effect on my classroom posture, I realized on Wednesday that I have never reconciled the stigma of growing up real tall in high school while lettering in varsity tennis.

That was weird.

I'm gonna get over it, though, and play in the student-faculty basketball game next year, if only because all those teachers crashing around out there against most of the senior class, chasing loose balls like greased pigs after headless chickens (or something), looked like too much fun to let decade-old insecurities interfere.

Postscript: Also underscoring the difference between the teacher I want to be and the teacher I am is one of my earlier posts, a post from back when my readership was well contained by the walls of my childhood home. I wish I had waited to post it now, because it was and still is, as the post's please-kick-me title states, The Truest Stuff I've Ever Watched or Written.

Thanks, Rich.

'While back, Rich linked a 3D exercise which is pretty well appropriate for any age. You start with a paper circle and at the end, after a fair amount of collaboration, team-building, and discussion, you've got this sweet icosahedron. Along the way you review a couple hundred geometry concepts and their properties, tattooing down names, facts, and figures, anything that comes to your class' collective mind, anything from "isosceles trapezoid" on to "snowcone" and "taco."

My first period, I got too excited as the icosahedron grew and took too central a role in the connecting/taping process. During the second class, I didn't touch it. Instead, with ten minutes left in class — just enough time to finish if the class was motivated — I scooped some errant stack of papers off my desk and announced, "I've got your homework assignment for Memorial Day Weekend right here. I'm willing to cancel it [reluctant pause] IF you guys can make the icosahedron before the bell rings." [cue frantic team-forming, leadership-role-assuming, fun-having, and homework-canceling].

So thanks, man.

If you're dying like I am here, it's a low-stress and low-impact way to fill a thirty minute bloc without falling prey to the pro forma time wasters: games, movies, and parties. I extracted the relevant bit from a larger pdf.

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