Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another book to read someday

Wormeli, R. (2003).  Day One and beyond: Practical matters for new middle-level teachers.  Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

It's like a "First Days of School" with practical advice for middle school teachers.  The first chapter is available online here.  Wormeli proposes NCB-style self-reflection, washing your hands after every class, and keeping a box in which you keep every positive note, comment, picture, etc., that you receive in your time as a teacher.  He suggests giving yourself, as a new middle-school teacher, 12 really big mistakes each day--if you stay under that, you're doing okay for now.  It would be great to see how my current practice stacks up against his.  For the first chapter, I'm doing all right, I think. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

TPRS information

I've been hearing a lot about TPRS since time immemorial, and have had my share of doubts about it.  But if the goal is to conduct class mostly in Spanish, TPRS seems to be a method with a pretty high degree of success.  So I've been looking into it occasionally, and it bears further investigation.

Via Naomi Graham, in an e-mail to the ACTFL Language Educators Digest e-mail group (listserv? whatever those things when people you don't know e-mail a message board (or whatever) and you get to benefit from their wisdom right in your inbox), a variety of links about TPRS.

Quotes from the e-mail between the stars:

***   Blaine Ray is the "father" of the method  Susie Gross presents workshops around the country in TPRS methods  Ben Slavic has a blog you can subscribe to, he is still teaching and using the method, and his blog is a wonderful introduction to what happens in his classroom and his mind.  He's a thinker!  Carol Gaab is another teacher, but I think she is mostly making presentations now and developing materials.  Karen Rowan teaches and organizes workshops around the country called "fluencyfast" for adults to become proficient in a foreign language in very intense short time (like a weekend!)
One of my classmates in my brief online learning adventure also directed me towards Susan Gross's and Ben Slavic's websites, and I looked at them at the time.  I don't know anything about the others, but I assume they're good, too.

In the next week or so, I'm hoping to hear on a job (and I'm hoping to hear good news!).  In the meantime, I'm having kind of a hard time focusing.  So soon I'll get back to these web sites and try and come up with some sort of action plan to implement this (plus the 90 other things I want to do in my classroom) in the theoretical job I'll have in the fall.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer reading list

Time for a little light beach reading.

Good, T. L., & Brophy, J. E. (2004).  Looking in classrooms.  9th ed.  Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

In her review of Art and Science of Teaching, Dina Strasser suggests that this is required reading.  She also suggests that, with a cover price of $118 on Amazon, most teachers won't be able to afford the 10th edition.   Abebooks has a good-condition used copy for $80, but the 9th edition seems to go for somewhere around $22, much more in line with the price of most teacher-improvement books on, for example, ASCD.  At any rate, it's a classic study of doing things right in classrooms, evidently.

Buffum, A., Mattos, M., & Weber, C.  Pyramid response to intervention.  Bloomington, IL: Solution Tree. 

I got to see Mark Mattos speak, and we were given copies of this book.  The subject of his talk was "Fulfilling our Moral Obligation to Students."  It was pretty heavy duty stuff, all about "winning the education lottery" and the like.  It's related to the "Failure is not an option" idea.  The book is about getting everyone the support they need to meet the learning goals.

Hill, J. D., & Flynn, K. M.  Classroom instruction that works with English language learners.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

The premise of this book is to teach English learners how to speak English.  My premise is that we teach our classes in Spanish, and the same tactics and strategies should kind of apply.

Marzano, R. J. (2010).  Formative assessment & standards-based grading.  Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

I have one question for this book: How do formative assessments fit into a traditional grading system?

Sprick, R., Knight, J., Reinke, W., & McKale, T. (2006).  Coaching classroom management: Strategies and tools for administrators & coaches.  Eugene, OR: Pacific Northwest.

This was one of the most exciting trainings I went to last year, and the thing is a.) I wasn't really supposed to be there, and b.) it wasn't supposed to be a training.  It was a coaches' meeting, and I'm only sort of a coach.  But it was my first real introduction to CHAMPS, which was one of the more immediately exciting parts of the whole MiBLSi project for me--"Wow!"  I thought.  "Really useful classroom management skills!"  After this coaches' conference, all the things that overwhelmed me about The First Days of School suddenly made sense.  They gave us this book.

And the perennial favorites, The Art and science of teaching, and Making communicative lLanguage teaching happen.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

...and that's a year.

Yesterday was the last day of school.  As last days go, I thought it was a great one.  The students participated in a wide variety of really fun, creative activities, designed, set up and executed almost single-handedly by my friend and colleague Preston.  Jeff the Science Teacher and his Experiential Sciences class built a trebuchet and spent a good chunk of the morning throwing softballs the length of most of a football field.  There was a slip-and-slide 60 feet wide and 80 feet long, a dunk tank that the principal dutifully sat in, face-painting.  The superintendent grilled hot dogs.  It was a real carnivalesque occasion.  (Hopefully I'll be able to steal some pictures from people with more foresight than me, or at least students who had their cell phone cameras on.)

It was also very sad for me and for several of my colleagues.  My position has been suspended, and I was laid off.  Kris, our instructional coach, will return to being our high school ELA teacher, which means that John (whose position was funded by ARRA money) is out of a job.  Jami, an amazing teacher with whom I've worked closely on the MiBLSi project, and was deeply loved by the students and parents, will be doing education outreach and missionary work in the Dominican Republic.  Gregg is continuing his education; instead of hiring another full-time art teacher, the administration is looking for an art/music teacher (or a part-time art / part-time music teacher; I was never clear on which).  Another colleague won't be returning for reasons which aren't mine to share.

I'm still writing a post to my students, thanking them for the four great years and encouraging them for the future.  The landscape of the school will be very different for them next year.  Children and young adults are flexible, but at least 5 and as many as 8 people they know and love (to varying degrees) will not be there. 

I'm also drafting one to the staff of our school, which I will probably never share with them.  I want to tell them to make the most of the time they've bought themselves at such great sacrifice.  I want them to know how good things are in their school, and how great they could be.  I want them to know what an honor it was to work with them.  But I couldn't tell them anything they don't already know, so maybe that little blurb will be enough.

There will, of course, also be a great deal of hand-wringing self-reflection over the year once the dust settles.

I have a great deal to say to our state legislators, and I have been saying it at length in a variety of formats.  I'll continue doing that until things improve.

I'm looking for a position now.

And at the end, there's nothing to say, except, Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Burr Oak Community Schools year of 2009 and 2010.