My name is Lindsey, and I change schools every three years…..I said, it. It’s about admitting the problem.

My mom will retire from the same school she has been with for the last 30 years. 30 years! I can’t even begin to imagine what ebb and flow happens within a school during that time frame. Not only do you go through multiple administrations but also various groups of people, teaching methods and “hot” new things.

I won’t ever really retire from a district because like I said above, I am only there for 2-3 years before the military uproots me again. In many ways, this is beautiful for my resume, but also takes a bit of explaining. As teachers, we aren’t supposed to move, it’s a stable career and you should stay there or at least most people do. Sometimes it feels like a mind game and I wonder if that is why at year 8, I finally feel like I figured this teaching thing out. Only to turn around and realize that in another couple years I will start over, in a new state, a new district, and potentially a new grade-level. It’s all so strange.

I choose to take it as a blessing. I’m teaching at a local college because of these experiences and I am thankful to have them. However, learning the ropes every few years and trying to figure out who is who, how things are run and where my support lies is always an eye-opening task.

Do other people do this? Is this just a military thing? If you get it, I would love to hear!

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Trust the Kids

So the husband and I chat regularly about my faith in people. I want them to do no wrong. I know that sometimes, even when I don’t want them to, they make the wrong decision. I believe this in all parts of my life, but why not with students?

I believe that kids are good. I believe that even the turds that drive me bonkers are good people and are attempting to do their best. I also believe that part of teaching is looking past the failures of both action and character to the little golden nugget inside. This isn’t to say that some days I have to mine a little harder to find that nugget, but I believe it is still there.

I realized in the Letters to Teachers that I am in the minority. It seems that many of my colleagues are looking for ways to punish students and by proxy themselves. Some teachers spend all of their time trying to punish students for perceived misbehavior and miss out on the good things they are doing.

I saw this glimmer when my student teacher wanted to immediately fix the talking problem with a seating chart. Is talking in ELA so bad? Are they still getting work done? A student talked about a teacher who took a photo of students in order of the amount of books they read. He was last even though he read several thousand pages more than the kid in first place. He read fewer books but many more pages. I asked if he said anything because as a teacher, I felt like if a kid actually did the reading, shouldn’t either pages or number of books be a qualifier? Apparently not?

I’m amazed at the amount of times we refuse to bend as teachers. I see myself doing it when I want to give a kid a 0 for a paper turned in weeks late. I want to punish you for annoying me with this paper that SHOULD have been turned in weeks ago. Yet am I grading the work or promptness. On the other hand, the real world doesn’t give us second chances….or does it? Is a second chance always a bad thing or is it indicative of a practice that should be considered from time to time. Using the regimented response that a boss won’t treat you that way goes against most of the bosses I have had.

I’m supposed to be here until 3:10 but need to cut out early, a boss gives me that flexibility.

Student computer crashed but he/she has been waiting at your door since before you arrived to complete the work on time. They get no credit for making accommodations.

I was frustrated because my student teacher couldn’t make the lesson she was supposed to so I improvised, why couldn’t she? The truth is we make do with what we can and the value we put on things will not be an equivalent value to others.

Overwhelmingly students explained in their letters that they really are good kids, they just get bogged down with all they are expected to do. They wished teachers talked more to each other so they wouldn’t end up with loads of homework and then a week off. I believe as teachers we often think the same thing! Ever go to a faculty list with your to do list only to find that you are adding things throughout the meeting you didn’t know you needed to do?

Affective Teaching Response Letters: It’s all about the one.

Each year I ask my students to tell me what to change and improve for the next year. I make sure that I have created an area where they can be truthful and honest and they know their grade won’t be effected. I also know that I will get some “you suck”s and that I will take those the most harshly.

This year I used this as an argumentative writing piece. I gave each student a copy of this article by Affective Teaching and the response by Angela Millar (here). I wanted students to emulate what Angela did, and write a response to their teachers. The stipulations were that they could bash me by name if needed, but all other teachers must be addressed generally and we discussed slander and constructive criticism.

If you tell me I suck, I can’t get better at that, what’s something I can get better at?

So I told them to be truthful and honest. Another teacher did this as a socratic seminar article and her students explained that it was weird that a teacher would care so much and that school was about the grade and being pushed to their breaking point for success. Needless to say, I was a bit scared about what mine would write. I explained to her that my kids are pretty truthful. I spend all of my time telling them to make their point and back it up. You had to come to that conclusion for some reason, even if it isn’t the same reason I did.

My kids rocked. And while they rocked I became sad. Not because of anything I necessarily did, but that some teachers just still don’t care. They catalog teachers playing phone games or picking favorites, or just plain being rude. I know that some days, I am rude, but I apologize, and I know that some days I have my favorites, just like they do.I was proud that they really felt like they could say what they meant and I felt myself pondering the one and only one written to me.

I actually expected several more to be written to me directly because I feel like this year more than any other I have failed at building relationships. I feel like I don’t know as much about them as I want to but at the same time I still seem to know so much more than other people. I was surprised when some of my students shared that it’s eighth grade and the first time they have ever had a relationship with a teacher. I had a couple that had parts directed at me, but ultimately I felt like I could take something from each.

Our hope is to take excerpts from these letters and use them as teacher motivation in the fall. To show that there is very much room for improvement and growth as a teacher even in a “premier” district. We need to step it up and do what we know we should be doing.

Rubric BeGone

I whined a bit here about my beef with rubrics. Yet I think I have found a solution.

The bottom of the rubric is easy. You didn’t do it, but how do you differentiate the top, especially in English. Let’s take my teacher subjectivity and you just try and hit the right area for “extensively creative use of unique words and phrases.” Just do it. Figure out what I am thinking will be extensively creative and unique. Hell figure out what I am determining as a word or phrase. Is it one word, a couple? How many have to be extensive or creative.

And before you get all on my back about “rubrics can be good!” and such, I don’t disagree, but sometimes the rubric just needs to be a matter of Did you get IT? 

Yes or No?

Yet, I find myself almost constantly caught up in the I need an A!!!!!!!  discussion, although their work is good, I don’t often consider much to be exemplar, unless after I grade 70 others I can remember specific bits of yours. Not having spelling errors and meeting the requirements are just that, MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS, that should be the norm not the exception.

So I think I am going to make my kiddos who think they deserve exemplar credit justify their reasoning. So I am thinking a simple:

Should any part of your work be considered for exemplar credit?     Yes           No 

Explain in detail how you went above and beyond the requirements of the rubric and assignment. 

I want my students to really go above and beyond and some of them need a little reality check in reference to what ABOVE AND BEYOND is. I am interested to see what this looks like in practice. I am hoping that it eliminates some of the rubric ambiguity without creating further ambiguity. 

Rubrics, rubrics everywhere

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I understand the beauty and benefit of the rubric. 

That being said, I hate them. They are such a time suck, make a rubric to create concrete data for a subjective standard. If I make the rubric and the rubric tests creativity I already know what I think is going to be creative before I read a single paper. 

If you follow my Instagram @roathlindsey, you saw the stacks of papers I was grading. The rubric which was pretty basic still took forever and I think the more time I spend marking boxes the less time I spend making quality worthwhile notes. Before the “every thing must have a rubric” craze I commented a lot, giving specific reasons why I docked points, now I’m supposed to rely on checking a box to make that choice. The boxes fit, but are never quite perfect. 

Plus they take forever. If you make a good one it’s a labor of love and if it’s bad it doesn’t actually measure anything. The whole process is whack. It takes away from the benefit of quick feedback because the grading process takes so long. 

That being said I’m going to have to break things down and test on smaller bits of standards but no one ever wants to have a Let’s Make Rubrics Party…..I need to make those people my friends. 

Idea Dump

I read the text Pay It Forward at the beginning of the school year because it was a Scholastic Book Freebie and I thought I might be able to use it in my classroom. My students are many wonderful things, but often I question whether giving is one of them. The mentality here for giving from oneself is to throw money at the problem and make it go away.

Pay It Forward is a fictional novel (sadly) about a teacher who challenges his students to an extra-credit assignment where they have to change the world. So a student decides he will help three people and those three should help three more etc.

I have a couple of implementation problems. First is that I don’t want to give a grade for doing nice things. Because really, they should want to do them. I also don’t want to force kids necessarily to be nice.

So here is what I am thinking. Students will have to complete a random act of kindness and send a picture of it to an email. The student will not tell the other person what they did but simply write a short description of the task in the email and send the picture each week. The goal will be to be stealthy and not let anyone know you did it. Then my plan is to grade the fact that they did it and then post the pictures to a blog to showcase all of the cool things they are doing. I’m thinking we do this until the last few weeks of school.

Then because this is an argumentative unit, they write a paper discussing whether people have a moral obligation to give unto others.

I am still trying to decide whether we should read the text. Simply because it’s a good book and that may aid in the process or if I should let that particular part of the assignment go, or if we do an excerpt etc.

I’m a sitcom.

  Found out my headlight was out this morning in freezing rain. Then I spilled coffee on my pants.  Talked to the broker who will rent our house for my  entire plan he sounds like Billy Bob from Varsity Blues.  Came home and tried to change the light bulb myself and tore up my hands trying to loosen it.  Dogs crapped in the house.  Well Comet did.  So I picked it up and tried to flush it but since it’s huge it clogged the toilet.  So I got to plunge that.  Went to make sloppy joes.  Meats still frozen. …