Sunday, January 01, 2012

Teachers on the Edge ....of insanity!

I don't know about other teachers out there, but I am often at my "edge" these days. I find I can't do as good a job as I want to do. I am being harrassed to do more and more paperwork (being in Special Education in a monitoring year doesn't help!). And testing duties don't help, either. It is pretty crazy and it's making me tend that way also. I wish someone would make a movie like "To Sir with Love" or "Up the Down Staircase" about what it's like to be a teacher in today's schools. It seems like the public doesn't really know how schools really work right now. If they did, wouldn't they protest, if only to keep their children safe from it all? Are there any careers out there that are NOT crazy? I'm guessing most people have their own tales of how bad the workplace can be. Maybe we could share some stories. Hope all of us have a better 2012 than 2011 has been! Shalom. Karen

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Testing Dilemmas

I feel for people who want to measure how their kids are doing! It can seem important to see their test results, to reassure ourselves that they are learning what they should know.

On the other hand, as a test-giver for low these many years, I recognize that many variables influence testing. The student's mood, their confidence, their skills, the relevance of test questions, the motivation, the ability to withstand pressure, and even the time of day can all affect how students do on a test.

I used to take reading scores as gospel, but I've found that reading, especially, is very difficult to measure productively. Someone's background in the area read is crucial. I used to do demos for teachers where I showed them a "college" level text and asked them questions. In some areas, they could read at a college level, but in unfamiliar areas (such as nuclear physics) the same reading level seemed incomprehensible. Why should our kids be any different? When people say there is a racial gap, couldn't it possibly be partly because of the subject matter and the background of the students? If so, isn't it the TEST that is partly at fault? It makes testers immensely powerful if they can determine the types of questions that are defined as "good" reading levels. Do we want to give them all that power? People used to say that tests were biased- what happened to that concept? Now they just call the teaching bad.

I wish I could teach in a democratic school where only the STUDENTS could decide when and what they would test on. Let's try to develop more of these. It would disempower the testers and empower students instead. A much more worthwhile endeavor!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

No More Testing!

I am already tired of state testing and it hasn't really begun! The thought that THIS is the thing we should emphasize, getting EVERYONE to come and put out their best effort , is ridiculous.

There are lots of real problems in the world, things that would behoove our adults and children to work on solving. But here we are all worrying, instead, about how to answer certain kinds of questions in the exactly correct way so as to be judged as fit to graduate from high school.

Maybe we should be asking- graduate to what purpose? What do I REALLY want to do with my life? What if that were the whole and complete test? Nobody could graduate until they gave a complete answer to that question. And their answer would have to be somehow connected to making the world a better place to live. And they would have to demonstrate that they had ALREADY done this, to some extent!

At Sudbury Valley school this is just the graduation requirement- they defend the thesis that they are a responsible person.

Now THAT would be a worthy graduation test :)

GOod luck on this wonderful testing week :(


Thursday, July 29, 2010

NCLB changes!

I was very excited last night when I got a request from Fair Test to contact my congress person about NCLB (No Child Left Behind) changes. I have been waiting for some organization to help me focus my frustration and make a difference in this cause.

I feel torn. On the one hand, I want kids to have more skills than they often end up with from their schooling. On the other hand, testing doesn't seem to me to be the best way to get there. The tests being given in Minnesota are long, boring, way too difficult, and have actually increased the dropout rate. That's not the direction we should be going!

I will be looking at the recommendations on Fair Test website- let me know what you think. The recommendations are here:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Innovation is hiding all over the place!

I was very impressed with stories from Summer Institute. There are lots of cool, innovative teachers out there making a difference in kids' lives! I'm glad to have met them, and I hope to continue the dialogue as years go by. Project based learning is a great addition to the world, and EdVisions has made some wonderful contributions.

I was reminded that I really want to recognize and honor all kinds of activities, and not just things that look like "work". Just as much of the best learning happens during informal sessions at conferences, so does much of student learning happen informally, when kids are chatting or surfing web pages. In fact, one student said "this project started because I was off task" and it was a very cool learning experience.

I truly wish there were people in Minnesota interested in starting a democratic school with no requirements except attendance and following the school rules. These schools recognize all these different types of learning. That would add one more choice for Minnesota families.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sharing our stories

I'm presenting at a summer institute next week. I'm not one of those people who is good at lecturing- especially to adults, whose needs I have trouble reading (kids are easier- you can tell in a second when they are bored or confused!).

My goal is to find ways for us to share success (and failure) stories so we can get help from each other. I lke making solid connections with other people, where we are peers and become empathic and caring toward each other. Then we aren't as worried about impressing people or looking stupid as we are about just assisting each other to the best of our ability.

I know this goes against the grain of an "institute", but hopefully the spirit can come through even a different format. Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

End of another school year

I notice that I only post at the beginning and end of school years. I guess that's one way to see how much "progress" I have made- look at beginning goals, see if I met them.

Our school started its own facebook fan page, so I guess that's interactive. I never figured out how to sort through twitter regularly- there's sooo much stuff out there I don't know about or use! But in some ways I realize that lots of it isn't all that wonderful. It still comes down to relationships- student/student, student/teacher, teacher/teacher. I like that our school emphasizes this. We do field trips, morning advisory meetings where we really talk about our interests, and build projects around things students love.

I had a student graduate who never thought she would make it. She did a project around having a baby- pregnancy things, child development things, purchasing things (she said comparison shopping was one of the biggest things she learned from the project). She learned about smoking effects on her baby and quit smoking even! So- maybe high tech isn't so much necessary as interesting and novel. Maybe we are "education on the edge" because this relationship strand is the backbone of our school.

Thanks to all who came before me in this project-based line of schooling. I'm grateful!