Tag Archives: 423

TPA – Terror preview almost

So the TPA, teacher performance assessment is coming soon. I knew about it, but didn’t really think about it too much. When I was a teacher in Korea I had several lessons that were recorded, or the Principal and many other teachers would come in and review the class. I even had the district review my class that I was co-teaching with a Korean teacher (for her national accreditation). I’m not afraid of this. I’m even excited to come up with a lesson, but it’s, as it seems, do or die.

It’s very arbitrary at this point (the review process). We know what we’re assessed on (assessment, reflection, etc.) but we haven’t seen the criteria. We won’t get help (at most guiding) throughout the process. Yes, it’s a test, but not like any test I have ever taken. I agree it should be this way (or something like it) because how else can we truly assess teachers without seeing them teach and having them reflect on their own teaching. But it’s 50-70 (!) pages, it’s over the course of a week, and if you fail, you won’t know why and there’s not much you can do at that point. I’m nervous. I’m scared. I’ll be ready (I’ll check back in) in 7-8 months.


Knowledge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Who do we seem to take more pride in: A jeopardy winner or a famous inventor? Obviously it’s the latter (though Ken Jennings has probably seen more fame then the person who invented toenail clippers), at least in terms of respect. Those that create, not just regurgitate facts or knowledge, hold not only respect, but have much more fulfilling careers (a bold claim, perhaps). I think it’s because of the sensation I feel, elation perhaps, when not only do I learn something, I do something completely new with that knowledge. It doesn’t happen all the time, in fact it’s quite rare, but when I do, it’s like magic.

So what are we mostly teaching? Knowledge and understanding. Lower orders of thinking (not bad, but not enough). There’s a whole other realm out there. Going through Bloom’s taxonomy, I like to look at a simple task. If we’re teaching addition, it’s one thing to remember that 5+7 = 12, it’s another to understand it. Applying we get to in mathematics a lot, through activities and word problems, which is definitely a step up. Once you get to analyzing, most teachers don’t follow through. If we can look at addition and break it down (perhaps we do this when originally teaching) but for the student to be able to break it down and apply it to the structure of mathematics, that’s a lot better (and I don’t have a good example for that). Evaluating would be taken it further. Is addition the best way to represent a grouping of numbers? Finally, is there another way? What if we had to reinvent addition? What would it look like? I take this from a great book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, where he partially reinvents mathematics for illustrative purposes. What about showing numbers a little more visually. 2+3 = 5 or SSO + SSSO = SSSSSO is a quick example, or to reinvent the modifier SSOSSSO=SSSSSO. There’s so much more (time permitting!) that we could do with students to take them into higher level thinking – which will ultimately make them more well rounded, more interested in subjects, more likely to be inventors, someone who doesn’t just follow the status quo.


A Lesson Learned

Anytime I get a chance to teach a lesson (in a group or otherwise) I jump on it. I was one of the firsts to go. I like to get it out of the way, but even more so, I’m eager to put theory into practice (which on a side note, reflects quite well with my ‘converger’ learning style).


I’m very critical on myself though, especially if I find it important, as I do teaching. I know in the moment I might want to change things, but usually I stick to the plan (which is rather open anyway), unless improvisation is called for.


Watching the other lesson first gave me a chance to call in other ideas that I’ll most assuredly use when reevaluating. But the biggest thing that I know I will always have trouble with is time. I know in the future when I actually have a year to work with, I can be a little more flexible with lessons if someone wants to continue a bit longer until they get it. I’m not sure everyone memorized or understood why I brought up certain things (the muscle groups) that I would have liked to go into further. Reflection, reflection, reflection. That’s what I’ll do, and that’ll make a better teacher. Also experience. And theories and ideas from other teachers. AND…


Detective and Reporter

As much as I’ll try to create a safe environment in my classroom, when my students leave, it may be far less than that. I know that I’m going to need to learn much about my students to be a good teacher, but I’ll also need to know much about them to protect them or rectify a most troubling situation. As much as my emotions might get me caught up – I’ll need to be cool and collected, and build a trusting environment so the student at least can feel safe in the classroom.


I hope I never have to do this – be a detective, report on what’s happening to the appropriate authorities. What’s worse is missing the signs and not reporting. Maybe I can’t prevent terrible things, but I should at least be able to stop them from persisting.


Planning to Lesson Plan

There a lot of different approaches to lesson planning, and I’m far from an expert, but I feel, at least at this stage, that it should resemble the scientific method. Since learning about Objective and Assessment as the starting point, I have worked through the process to see that it’s like forming a hypothesis -> creating an experiment -> testing. The classroom is going to be like an experiment. The students are the subjects, the lesson is the catalyst, and the activities the apparatus. I haven’t thought this metaphor through too much, but I know that some lessons will work, and others won’t. I’ll get better with experience, but still, every lesson won’t be able to engage every student into learning the objective (or how well they learn it).


Still, lesson planning is only the blueprint. Notes in the lab book. All the research, all the schooling, all the previous lessons, each new one will bring unique challenges. I’m sure at first I’ll ‘over’ plan my lessons. Leave no possibility out so as not to be left stuck with not knowing what to do next. The ultimate goal though, besides getting students to learn, is getting them (and me) to understand why what we’re learning is important. It starts in the lesson plan.


Foodie role model

So I’m going to be a role model?


That’s true. I’ll be there. I’ll be a big impression either positive or negative. The students will look up to me, quite literally. So now I’m starting a food log (not really to be posted on my blog) just so I’m aware of the choices I make – that should some way reflect something about me. I’m not going to pretend that I eat healthy, whatever that is exactly, but I will say I eat good. Even when I grew up poor, we always ate well. My mother taught me a lot about cooking, and I have found a passion in it. My wife is coming along too, though baking seems to be her love.


So I eat bread. I eat butter. I eat rare red meat. I eat ice cream. I never skimp. I don’t eat light, diet, sodium/sugar/fat free. I also eat meals that contain whole grains, fresh vegetables, and a cooking process that’s from scratch, because, well food is more than just sustenance. It’s part of how I was raised and who I am. I will occasionally take corners when I’m tired, lazy or cheap. That’s when I feel bad. I never feel bad after a good home cooked meal paired with a glass of wine. Yesterday it was chicken spezzatino. Later this week I’ll make salmon en papillote. My wife and I want to make chocolate cake, croissants and other goodies.


I’m not stubborn (overly), because I know what I like. I know (generally) what is good and what isn’t, but I feel if I keep a balance that is most important. Scientific understanding of nutrition and health is at by no means at a consensus, though there are a lot of important studies worth investigating. It’ll be a process of learning, but I’m not ready to throw out my dry aged prime porterhouse.