Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Too much reality for a Tuesday night.

"9 teenagers are charged after classmate's suicide."

I don't know if the link will be free forever, but here it is.

I feel terribly, terribly sad by this.  How do you prevent something like this?  What anti-bullying policy could the school, could the state have put in place that would have caused the students to act differently?  The DA said, “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome.”  What actions should they have taken?  What inappropriate actions did they take?

More to the point, what do I do when this happens at my school?  We were really dangerously close to something like this for a few weeks.  (The fact that it was only for a few weeks belies this statement, as the event in Massachusetts happened for most of a year.  But it was a pretty tense few weeks.)

I have never been especially in favor of courts getting involved with school bullying incidents.  It would be a tough thing to regulate, and I don't believe in "teacher as police officer."  More to the point, I guess I don't believe in "police officer as teacher."

I don't know that I believe in it now.  This is a precedent, to be sure.  I'm going to try and keep track of this.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deep thought

It's difficult to type a research paper when the cat continually leaps from the computer table to your lap, all the while licking your hand.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Teaching teachers to teach

I'm taking an online course, and as one of our projects we have to find an article abstract on a number of different topics.  One of these is the impact of class size on teacher hiring practice.  While I'm having a hard time pinning down an article that addresses this specific issue, I am coming across a great deal of discussion about the impact of class size CAPS on the quality of teachers.  For example, after implementing rules that cap early-grade classes at less than 20, Florida was going to have to hire 30,000 new teachers.  Researchers expected that the quality of teachers was going to suffer because of it.  (Kingsbury 2005.  US News and World Report.)

It trips across my brain because Marzano's research suggests that class size does not have the biggest impact on student learning--effective teachers in big classes do better than poor teachers in smaller classes.  It's more worthwhile to have teachers who know how to teach than it is to have a bunch of incompetents teaching smaller classes.  (At least from an administrator's point of view.  I LIKE my small classes, thank you very much.  And I don't remember the exact research, but it probably doesn't go on ad infinitum.  It probably only works up to, I don't know, 40 or 50 students in one class.  Infrastructure limitations become a concern at those numbers, too--where are you going to sit 20 classes of 50 students?)

This suggests that the greatest good we can do for our students is dump a bunch of money into making sure that their teachers we have (and the teachers we'll be getting) are really good.  This starts with university teacher prep programs, but it probably doesn't end there.  I know there's been huge movement in this direction since I started teaching, and it's something that my school district has been working towards like mad this year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bad wisdom, vol. 3

Entertainment == motivation.

I believe the correct statement is

Motivation == entertainment.

But I might be wrong about that, too.  Anyway, kids having fun is not the same thing as kids enjoying class.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Everybody's gotta have 'em.  I woke up feeling self-reflective.  And whenever I feel, I have to make it stop.  So here we are.

1.)  I want to be the husband my wife deserves.  I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.
2.)  I want to exercise more.  I'm not overweight--far from it--but I'm not as active as I like being.  Spring is coming.  Maybe this will be the year I get a bike.
3.)  I want to be interviewed by Robert Siegel or Melissa Block for doing something whimsical.  I debated this one--Morning Edition or All Things Considered?  Truth be told, I'm just not coherent enough in the morning.  The other sticking point--do I want to do something whimsical, or something heroic?  But heroics means that something bad is happening to someone else. 
4.)  I want to publish a short story, a novel, and an e-textbook.

1.)  I want to be the teacher my students need.  I'm almost to the point where I'm the teacher I need to be for me--now I need to do things that work for them.
2.)  I want to teach in el/middle/high schools for 30 years, then teach in a university until I'm 70.  I want my colleagues to miss me when I go.
3.)  This previous goal can be altered slightly, especially if some future president offers me a job as Secretary of Education or an ambassadorship.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Workflow management

1.)  Establish a learning goal.  Have a mechanism for communicating the learning goal.

2.)  Develop learning activities.  Write rationales, which include whether the students will be learning procedural or declarative knowledge, and whether or not the activity is intended as a formative assessment.  Communicate the activity's objective, necessary materials, procedure, parameters for expected final product, and, if necessary, grading rubric. 

3.) Have a system for communicating the results of the activity.  Provide feedback on both the results and the process of the activity.  If it's an assessment, have a method for recording the results.

4.)  Hand back student work.  It does nobody any good sitting in the bottom of your briefcase.

You have 23 hours.  Go.