Month: May 2007

Total 23 Posts

The Soft Touch

Several weeks ago, Greg Farr posted some anecdotes from his personal disciplinary files, situations where a sense of humor and a light slap on the wrist made for better discipline than a fit of apoplexy and a suspension would’ve. (Toldja I’d get to this, Greg.)

He concludes with the advice to kinda chill out, loosen up, enjoy the job, and watch as discipline becomes easier. In his own words:

I’m calling on all administrators to remind their teachers:


To which I reply, yeah, but for most new teachers, it’s easier to shoulder press a Buick.


Assessment Part Deux Redux

The blogosphere’s been buzzin’ about assessment. (Not the NCLB kind.)

First, Marie, Rich, and Jackie have been asking some sharp questions on math assessment over in an earlier post.

Second, the Teacher Leaders Network blog is picking through the question, “How do you handle a student with an A on tests and an F on homework?”

My answer there, without even a little equivocation, is to pass her and then figure out why your homework is so totally inessential to class success. If you’re gutsy, you give her an A, but regardless you evaluate what it means to pass a student. Does it mean she did her homework, attended, participated in class discussion, raised her hand x times, wasn’t a discipline issue, brought baked goods on her assigned day, etc. etc., getting increasingly petty here. Basically, which of those behaviors is worth sandbagging a kid for a semester who knows the material, knows how to compute fractions, write persuasive essays, identify continents?

Third, Todd wrote an extraordinary post awhile back called “The Shrinking Educational Middle Class” which I’ve been meaning to pick up.

Todd sez, back in the day, you’d have histograms like this, with a bell-shaped distribution of grades (the graphics are his):

But that nowadays, the middle class is shrinking: the good grades get better, the bad grades get worse.

He’s right on; it’s a phenomenon that seems particularly exaggerated in low-performing populations. I’m going to proceed totally anecdotally here.


CST Aftermath

Many of you right now are in the middle of the annual string of testing that takes nearly six weeks out of the last two months of the traditional school year. There’s test prep, test drills, bubbling exercises for younger students and finally the testing itself. This testing mania, driven by federal mandates, is the biggest challenge to finding the joy of teaching and learning in our classrooms.

Barbara Kerr, California Educator, April 2007

A few weeks ago we took the CSTs, our year-end standardized extravaganza. Judging by the released questions and the rubric, the Geometry CST was an extremely fair measure of what my students learned. Students also came back and claimed they felt well-prepared, which may or may not mean anything come next fall when we get our scores and I find out exactly what kind of teacher I was this year.

I take this thing seriously, a fact which left alone would lead the anti-NCLB coalition to believe my classroom is something it’s not. So, in order to set the record straight:


Administrators I’d Buy a Beer

or: I’m Serious.

I’ve been meaning to make good on a commitment I made awhile back and Scott McLeod’s recent Great Commenter commencement ceremony reminded me to get out the lead.

Certain administrators have demonstrated a heartening interest in my development as a teacher and deserve more than just a great commenter badge. So to them, and for as long as our interests don’t conflict (i.e. as long as I’m not begging one of them for a job) I say: first round’s on me, as well as this digital IOU.

And here’s the link, in blog-sidebar-friendly 150×75.

Chris, Scott, Greg, Brian, and Rick, thanks a mil.


[Mr. Moses added 26 December 2008.]