Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Reflective Blogs/Induction

Reflective Blogs/Induction

Spring Fever

The year has passed rapidly and is now winding its way to the end. Seniors are pushing the boundaries, frantic to leave the confines of who they were to become who they are destined to be. Freshmen itch to run the grounds, begging for outside activities and "free time." If I hear another student suggest that the class play "heads up - seven up," I think I may "to a nunnery go." (What is that game, anyway?)
At this time of year I find over-planning beneficial for several reasons. One has to do with the short attention spans that spring fever deposits in student desks. Another has to do with the inevitable abundance of material remaining to be taught. A more subtle reason is my own desire to push the boundaries, leave the classroom, and run free through green fields and fresh air. I love Colorado!
Do you have any suggestions concerning classroom management / teacher patience during this time of year? Feel free to share!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Extra-curricular Activities

I started working as a speech/language therapist in August of 2002. I taught for the first three years out in the Elizabeth Schools in Elbert County...38 miles, each way, from my house. One of the most difficult parts of working so far from home was not being able to attend or participate in many of the extra-curricular acitivities of my students (if I did attend it took all of my afternoon/evening time away from my own kids). My knowledge of them was limited primarily to therapy time. When I was chosen for this job with LPS, I couldn't wait to figure out how to get involved beyond providing therapy. Even though I have been finishing my masters degree this year, I have been able to do quite a few things - including band concerts, Special Olympics basketball, plays, and athletics events. It may be my first year at LPS, but I already feel like I have built relationships and trust with my students beyond my role as teacher. What extra-curricular activities have you participated in at AHS? How has that impacted your role as teacher and your relationships with the students?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Life Long Learning

Over the past three years I continue to hear the phrase "lifelong learner". I understand lifelong learning to be the ability and desire to learn after conclusion of formal education. It is a passion to know more and go beyond what is required in a classroom.

An article from Educational Leadership (Dec03/Jan04), titled A Forecast for Schools by Marvin Cetron and Kimberley Cetron stated that, "Tomorrow's citizens will need and expect to engage in lifelong learning. A career used to last for life. Once a carpenter, always a carpenter. Today, new technology could redefine or replace almost anyone's job-even the industry in which they work. Today's students will pursue an average of five entirely different occupations during their working lives. Both management and employees must get used to the idea of lifelong learning, which is becoming a significant part of working life at all levels."

I believe that the majority of teachers are life long learners. We value the process of learning and are excited by it. Of course, we must take classes to keep our teaching license but the majority of educators take classes to increase their content knowledge and enhance the lessons they teach.

I have kept this phrase in my mind during the school year. I want to encourage my students to be lifelong learners. I want them to understand that when they graduate from a university or trade school they are not finished learning. So my question is, what learning formats are more likely to encourage life long learning? How can these ideas be incorporated into a classroom? How do you encourage students to be lifelong learners?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

After a nine year sabbatical from teaching I am back in the classroom and doing what I love, opening the minds of my students to the world around us and showing them that what we teach in the classroom has real life applications. Since I have been back I have noticed many changes in how we need to teach, but the basic student profile has not changed. There are students that strive to learn and make the most out of their school experience and on the other hand there are students that don’t. I know teachers that work very hard to reach students and provide them with the best educational experience they can give, but some students seem to have or take very little responsibility for their education. I have been struck by how students just want to get by, or just get things done with little or no effort to actually learn something on their own. I don’t see my class as a means to an end, but a door for them to open if they choose to. How can a teacher move their classroom from teacher centered to student centered? What is our responsibility as teachers? What role should I expect my students to take, in their education?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Suspensions...who do they punish?

After hearing my deskmate talk about another student who will be absent due to suspension, I began thinking about the concept of suspension as a punishment in high school.
In my experience, the vast majority of students who have been suspended in my classes have been "D" or "F" students who miss class quite often as it is. I find myself wondering why we (and by we I mean ALL schools) choose to further remove these students from school as a form of punishment. I emphasize the fact that I am not sure what the answer to this question is, but for most of these students it seems that a more appropriate punishment in their eyes would be to make them spend more time in school! After my rambling, I suppose my question is threefold: 1. What are the origins of this punishment? Why has it proved succesful in the past? 2. Have you had the same experience in terms of the demongraphic of students who are typically suspended? and 3. What alternative punishments could we provide these students where we could still "punish" them without further hindering their academic experiences?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Amazing

Imagine if you will a day that goes a little something like this….You show up to school every day in order to go to six different class periods with six individual teachers, each with a set of rules, instructions, assignments, different personalities, even different ways to write your name on the top of a sheet of paper in order to receive credit for that assignment. Imagine that you do this day in and day out, working as diligently as possible only to barely manage a 1.5 grade average. Only to feel every single day that you just aren’t smart enough or that you aren’t working hard enough. Only to feel as if you really don’t fit in socially either? Only to feel in your own eyes that you are “stupid”. How many of you would sign up for that job?

This is a day in the life of my students in Special Education and yet…And yet, they show up every day to give everything they have in order to be educated. To learn as much as they possibly can before they go out into the “real” world where things are even more confusing. And they amaze me every single day with their resiliency. They are the reason that I wake up every day at 5am and drive 20 miles. They are the reason that I work as hard as I can to help them achieve their dreams to be the very best that they can be in life.

So tell me, who amazes you?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Critical Thinking in the Classroom

As a member of the Critical Thinking PLC I have been doing a great deal of thinking about how to get my students to question, infer, and apply the knowledge I teach in various ways. Lindsay Donaldson and I have had various discussions about rigor, and high expectations and what these look like in our classrooms. How do we challenge students to not only study and memorize the content, but really engage them in using the content to help them become better problem solvers and thinkers. I always reflect back on the saying, "give a child a fish and feed him for the day, teach a child to fish and feed him for his life." Yes, the facts and vocabulary are essential, but I think my end goal is to teach them to fish (or so to speak). I would like to give my students tools they can apply to all aspects of their lives, tools that expand beyond foreign language, and far beyond my classroom. So my question becomes HOW? How do we teach/grade thinking? How do some of you do it?

Monday, March 13, 2006

My Ears are Ringing

Does anyone else think that high school-aged kids should know when they need to be places without bells ringing throughout the day? A bell ringing every hour does not help prepare kids for life. When was the last time an adult at his or her job (other than those of us in education) had to respond to a bell? It doesn’t matter if you’re a plumber or CEO, being on time is a vital piece to success… and after high school nobody is going to be ringing a bell to remind you to get somewhere. I propose high schools around the country post clocks and daily schedules in their hallways, then get rid of the bell and expect students to show up on time!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Knee of the Curve

One of the issues I think we need to look at as educators is the accelerating pace of change. I’m reading a book right now that makes a compelling case for the amazing changes that are going to happen in the lifetimes of our students (and, more specifically, within the next 30 or so years).

The books spends some time talking about exponential growth. For those of you who may have forgotten some of your algebra, a simple example of exponential growth is doubling. Start with 1 of something, then double it and you have 2. Double it again and you have 4. And so on. The famous exponential growth example in technology is “Moore’s Law”, where an industry executive predicted that the “speed” of computer chips would double every 18-24 months. The thing with exponential growth is that at the beginning, the growth doesn’t look all that spectacular. While it’s true that going from 1 to 2 is doubling, the absolute increase is only 1. And from 2 to 4 is doubling, the absolute increase is only 2. In fact, at the beginning exponential growth is barely distinguishable from linear growth. The author makes the case that humans are conditioned to view things as growing linearly, because we naturally take a fairly short-term view of things. But the thing about an exponential curve (when you graph it), is that suddenly the curve seems to shoot up – almost vertically. The author argues that we are currently in the “knee of the curve” and that even though we give lip service to the idea that things are changing rapidly, we don’t really have a good intuitive sense of how quickly and how much things are about to change. So, for example, if you have 1 million of something and now double it, you have 2 million – or an absolute change of 1 million.


If we are in the “knee of the curve,” then we are about to see explosive changes in just about everything because of the capabilities of technology. My daughter is in Kindergarten. By the time she graduates from high school, the typical household computer will probably be at least 100 – and maybe as much as 1,000 - times faster than current household computers (and most likely one-tenth of the cost). The Internet – in terms of mass use of it and also broadband access – is still in its infancy. It’s already had a massive impact on all areas of our lives – and we’re still just figuring out how best to use it. Imagine what it’s going to look like in 12 years. At the current pace, the fastest computers will be able to simulate the human brain in 2013. He predicts that between 2025 and 2030 we will be able to upload ourselves into computers. This sounds like science fiction (and there's much more in the book - especially the nano technology stuff), but he has shown a remarkable ability to predict change in the past.

Even if you don’t buy all the predictions, I think there’s no question that the pace of change is itself increasing (that would be the second derivative for all you math folks), and that should have a powerful impact on what and how we are teaching our students. Do you believe that school as we have typically defined it is going to prepare our students adequately to be successful in the 21st century? As David Warlick says:

Never before in the history of the world has a generation been better prepared for the industrial age.
Or, from Tim Wilson:

    • Old teaching methods don’t work with today’s kids. I raised a few eyebrows when I suggested that the act of a teacher consciously deciding not to use advanced technology with his or her students might be considered educational malpractice.
    • The value of factual knowledge is plummeting. I showed how quickly basic facts can be accessed with Google and looked ahead to a day within ten years when all students will carry an Internet-connected computing device with them 24×7.
    • We are in a relevance race. If we fail to utilize new technologies, we risk alienating our students. It won’t be many years before students can homeschool themselves and earn a high school diploma without setting foot inside a traditional school. If schools as we know them are to survive and prosper, we’re going to have to adjust to a world where we’re not the only game in town.
I tried to come up with some choice quotes to leave with the group. Here are two that seemed to go over well:

If your work can be automated, it will be.

And the question of the day:

What are you doing right now to prepare your students to collaborate seamlessly across cultures in jobs that probably don’t yet exist?

So, what are you doing right now to prepare your students?

How Much is Too Much?

Being the math geek that I am, I recently attended a CALCULATOR CONFERENCE! How exciting huh? The conference was held in Denver this year, so it was a great opportunity to be able to attend T cubed.
These sessions gave me an understanding of how to teach using a constuctivist approach and a calculator. One particular session brought up the relentless question of how much "technology" use is too much technology use?
unfortunately, in some of my classes I ask the students to add 19 and 12 and the first thing they do is grab their calculator. I don't know how many times students have come to me and said, "Ms. Korn my calculator doesn't have a fraction button so I cannot do this problem. Or, well my calculator said that that was the answer, it MUST be right!"
I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want to utilize the thought provoking technology lessons and live in the 21st century, but I don't want to give my students the understanding that they don't have to think for themselves. Do any of you have any suggestions as to how much is too much?

Cross-Curricular

I'm curious to know to what extent other departments are cross-curricular. The recent push is for all departments to read and write within their content area. I see great benefit for students to be able to express themselves mathematically. For someone to be able to teach or explain a math concept clearly, they really have to know that concept at a higher level. As a math teacher, if I give a writing assignment, I'm a little out of my comfort zone in grading this in the same way a language arts teacher would grade it. Instead, I look for understanding of the ideas, not so much the punctuation, spelling, structure, or other elements of writing. Honestly, I have a hard time with expressing myself concisely and elegantly (as you can see from this post).

Mathematics naturally lends itself to using science applications or historical references, even music, as a theme for a lesson. But, to what extent can other departments use math in their lessons. I know that at the college level, social sciences use high level mathematics to model data. I just don't think most high school teachers would be comfortable using math at a high level, just like I'm uncomfortable grading a written assignment. How much are we expected to do? Is it enough to just have the students write (or do math) outside of their normal settings?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Technology At Its Finest

Hello all! I hope everyone is having an Excellent 2nd semester. My question for all of you involves technology. As you may or may not know I teach technology classes here at Arapahoe. Specifically Intro. to Computer Apps. and Computer Apps. 1. I might also be picking up Computer Apps. 2 next year. I'm planning on spending my summer looking at the Curriculum for these classes and improving what and how I teach the classes. What I want to know from you is how you use technology in your classrooms. I would like to know what programs, if any you use and what types of assignments you give. I'm all for using technology across the curriculums, and I think that knowing how it's used in other classes will help me improve what and how I teach technology in my classroom. Your input would be greatly appreciated!

The Big Break In

I heard something interesting the other day shared by someone in a fairly high position in the district. Basically, this person stated that until a teacher (or anyone in a new job) has experienced something that really shakes them to the core, they haven't been "broken in". Lets look at a hypothetical situation. Suppose a student makes personal attacks on other kids as well as adults while using a popular teen website. The person in the position of authority takes what he/she believes are the correct steps to address the situation. In no time at all, the situation has drawn the attention of the media and a civil rights group.

Has anything happened to you this year that has really made you question your teaching or decisions you have made? Possibly difficult conversations with parents? Students that fail to take responsibility for their own behaviors? How have you dealt with those situations? What did you learn from them? Were you able to get resolution? This can be from a past teaching experience or job.

Please list the problem itself in very general terms (as this is a public forum). However, share in more detail how it affected you as a teacher

If you want to share something confidential, please use the journal format and email to Ray and I.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Student's thoughts on grades

After last week's meeting, I decided to ask my students their thoughts on grading and motivation for learning. After all, we are doing all of this for them, so why not get their opinions.
The comments are starting to roll in. Check it out here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Non-graded assessments

While reading the article for last week and listening to Tony's presentation, I was once again struck by the conundrum of how to adapt my grading to better facilitate student learning. Indeed, the paradox of learning and grading has always been a point of concern in my own classes. Because of this, I was grateful for the insights offered both by Tony and by the article. What I want to address, though, is the educational value that I have found in the use of non-graded assessments.

I suspect that many of you, like me, use non-graded assessments in your classrooms to try to assess learning in creative ways while sidestepping some of the problems that come with grades. I like non-graded assessments, because when I read them, I don't have to worry about critiquing individual students. I can spend more time assessing my own teaching through student feedback. One technique that I use in my classroom is the "one-minute paper." This assessment technique is more frequently used by colleges and universities and is succinctly articulated by Tom Angelo and Patricia Cross and is explained more indepth by Steven Draper of the Universtiy of Glasgow. Basically, I ask students to take out a 3x5 index card and to spend one minute writing as much as they can reflecting on a prompt question that I give. I might ask students what they thought was the point of class that day to see if I am doing a good job articulating my learning objectives. I might ask what lingering questions students have or what they thought were the most important two (or three or four) things they learned that period. I love the instant feedback that they give me. I usually can read about 3-4 minute papers per minute.

Has anyone else used this technique or a similar technique? Did you find the two links that I provided helpful? What other forms of non-graded assessment do you use? What are some of the strengths and/or drawbacks of this form of assessment? I am excited to get your insight.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Beat me

Hello fellow first years........

Since Ray and Missy have already touched on the concept of grades, lets blog about being immersed into second semester. Embarking on the 6th week of school what concerns, celebrations, frustrations, strategies, helpful hints or anything else could you pass on, that together as a PLC we could help one another with. I think, at times, we get so caught up with out fast paced busy lives that we forget to breathe, settle down, and celebrate and reflect on what is working and what isn't. Here you are "forced" hehehe to have the opportunity to reflect and share they way you feel.

Grades

The induction meeting that was held last Tuesday really made my thinking change a bit concerning grades. I love how he has grades in the academic focus as well as the non-academin focus, however I am having a difficult time with understanding how the way I grade is different from his (to some degree). Right now I grade with the regular categories: test, warm-ups (daily quizzes), homework, and participation. I think that kids would get a different perspective if I changed those names to: content knowledge and responsibility grades, however how are they different other than the titles? If a student demonstrates content knowledge they should be doing well on the assessments given. If a student doesn was on the responsibility grade they should be turning in all their homework. So I am a little foggy in that aspect of changing the names of grades.
Another issue I have questions about is the issue focused on no zeros until the student really gets the content. I have had no problems with letting student redo an assessment if they earned a D or lower to be able to bring that grade up to a C at best, however if I let any and all students retake their test or assessments to prove to me that they learned that material how are the students that study for the assessments the first time and do well going to feel about that?? Also, regarding teacher time, where are we going to find the time to reassess students to determine if they get it now. Don't get me wrong I would love for all my students to walk out my classroom door with all my content knowledge by the end of the year, however I feel there needs to be some time accountability as well. What are your thoughts??

Reflections on Tony's presentation

As always, I love the the conversation Tony's presentation generates. My only regret is that we began with the "O Alternatives" article we chose to start our meeting with. Although it prompted great discussion to begin with , it may have clouded Tony's message:" What are grades intended to communicate and what should they measure?". We also appeared to to get stuck on how could we make his grading system work within Infinite Campus.
Let's go back to his premise that grades should be a reflection of what, and how well, students are learning. All he is suggesting is that for the sake of communication we make a distinction between the knowledge and skills we want all students to know and learn, and those non-academic things we choose to look at as well. We should simply put those two concepts under different headings and give them a weighted value based on our best judgment. When you have a conversaton with a parent or student, you are able to change the focus to "this part is about what you have or have not learned, and this is about how well you have or have not met your non-academic responsibility. It is about changing the conversation away from "what do I have to do to get an 'A'?" to "how well have I learned something." This also leads us to explore what essential learnings all students should leave AHS with and how do we assess it? It is the journey we are about to embark on at AHS,if we haven't already begun it in some departments. These are excitng and difficult challenges for all of you/us.
I'd like to leave you with this thought:
"When we no longer know what to do, we come to our real work and when we know which way to go we have begun our real Journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."
Wendell Berry
Thanks for all the hard thinking you've begun to do.

Ray

Friday, February 03, 2006

Perceptions

Do we treat our students differently based on our perceptions of who they are in the school community? You enter your classroom on the first day of school and to your wondering eyes appear 35 individuals. Do we treat them as individuals or do we classify them based on the way they look, who they hang out with, what sports they do or don't play? Some of them may have been in your class in previous years and we know exactly who they are. But are they still that same person the following year? How about siblings?...you had Karen two years ago and she was such a diligent student. Her brother is now in your class and is he the same diligent student as his sister? How do you combat against judging your students based their looks, siblings, sports, etc.?