Monthly Archives: October 2012

finding the time

Somehow time really flies in schools. I was told “there’s always enough time for what’s important,” but I’m beginning to think there’s “there’s never enough time to scratch the surface.”


There’s a debate (somewhere) about whether we want to cover more ground (broad) or less but more solidly (depth). It appears that in schools, it’s often not that much content and not very in depth. There’s about four hours or real learning time in a school day, subtracting for lunch, recess and other specialists (there’s learning there).


Sometimes you want to explore a subject more deeply – but then time runs out. Math and reading/writing take an insurmountable amount of time – and they’re required for good reason, but even in those subjects, time is fleeting. With standards and test looming, it’s up to teachers to cover everything the best they can, but that can be to the detriment to real learning. Sometimes there are things that the students are on the cusp of learning, but need some real world hands on experience. Sometimes they get that – but usually at the expense of something else that would be invaluable.


So, maybe we can mix every subject at once. Math with social studies, science with art, technology with writing. But’s it’s never enough time. But that’s more down to the fate of being human. I don’t know if I’ll have time to learn five languages, live all over the world, become the world’s greatest teacher, chef, writer, husband – and someday father, and open an awesome sandwich shop. I’ll just have to make time for the important stuff. Sometimes that’s everything.

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evaluating teachers

It seems that there is another swing in education toward teacher evaluation, as I caught up it in the NY Times.


One person put it succinctly: “Are they going to be giving us true feedback?” she asked. “Or are they just going to be filling out a form?”


I think that really sums up my feelings. When I heard about the TPA (postponed indefinitely), I was worried about the test for many reasons, but a big portion of it is how they’re doing it, and how I can use that information. It’s the same with standardized testing. There could be a lot more use out if it than evaluating teachers/schools. What about a test that we can use to gauge where students are at the start of the year, something valid for teachers and students.


It’s the same for teachers. Is it just going to be a checklist? What do all the prompts mean? How can an evaluation be truly objective? I honestly think most teachers want to be better teachers. And evaluations, if done right, could work just for that purpose. But it won’t be an easy or cheap (in time or money) to properly evaluate teachers to make them better, and live up to the professional standard for which we all strive.

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Writing to write

There’s a thing I have been involved in, though never “successfully” complete, called NaNoWriMo. Basically, it’s national novel writing month. The goal is basically to write a novel starting and ending in the month of November (around 50,000 words to be complete). The point is to just write as much as you can and edit later. It’s fun, and it get’s me motivated to write.


What about the classroom? Most of my students aren’t even reading novels. A good portion of the students avoid reading like the plague. But what they do enjoy, as weird as it sounds, is writing. Kids love writing about themselves, about anything really. Kids are natural storytellers, and are way more creative than we ever give them credit.


So, I saw this on twitter, basically a (free) class kit for NaNoWriMo. I don’t really think the kit is necessary, I think I could fashion some way to track students’ progress that would be fun and non competitive. I would like to use October as planning, November as writing, and December as editing. We can do typing lessons simultaneously during the editing stage so they could transfer their handwritten work. The best part would be the sharing. They could read excerpts to the class and share their work, maybe even create a compendium of their work like with Seattle 826  (something I’d also like to do as a field trip). Everything is still in the early stages, but I see that kids like to write, and I want to see that continue.

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A tale of two schools

There is a big difference in the number ten, more than I could have imagined.

Having ten more students in a place that feels a tenth the size (of my previous classroom) makes it all the more difficult. Thinking back to Ayers, I agree that a quiet classroom doesn’t equal a learning classroom, but it sure is hard to transition with the level of noise in the classroom at any given time. When you don’t have the physical space to create an environment for learning, you just sort of make-do. The classroom doesn’t even have enough space for students to sit around for a read aloud. There isn’t space to work on projects bigger than a desk. Clutter is an issue. It seems like everything is an issue.

The students are clever, very clever. I’m still trying to learn their names. The students seem to “feed” off the chaos. When it’s time to pick up off the ground, some students just hide under their desks. When it’s time for silent reading, a line forms up to use the restroom. The environment isn’t the best for them, so it’ll take something more. It’ll take engagement to a new level. That seems like the only way. The class is diverse – but using the diversity could be key to engaging the students. No one said this would be easy.

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