updates for 02.14.2012
I pulled aside one of my 8th grade boys for playing in the lunch room in front of me. Mid-conversation about responsible choices he blurts out, "Mama, I didn't know Austin Rivers was Doc Rivers son! I like him a lot more now!" It was a valiant attempt to get out of trouble and change the subject. =) At least I know he was paying attention the other day in class when we calculated the deceleration of Austin Rivers when he took the game-winning 3-point shot against our rivals UNC. =) DUKE <3
I don't know when the first time I took a bubble test was, but I don't think I was aware of them back when I was in 3rd grade during the 1977-1978 school year. At the time, though, I was part of another failed reform 'The Open Classroom' where about fifty kids were in a room with 2nd and 3rd graders with two teachers and an aide. As you can see from my class picture, I (front row, 3rd from the left) was already unhappy with poorly conceived school reform. Nine year olds should not have to take tests that will determine the fate of their schools or their teacher's jobs. NCLB mandates that they do, so I decided to take a look at the New York State 3rd grade math test from 2010. I should admit upfront that I have never taught 3rd grade so I am not an expert on child development for this age group or what they are ready for in math. Some might accuse me of having low expectations and that 'our kids' should be able to answer these 'easy' questions. Part of what has made me a good math teacher, I think, is that even the most basic concepts in math intrigue me. I don't think math is easy at all. I've spent more time than I should admit pondering statements like: "If nine plus two is eleven then eleven minus two must be nine." Looking at this 31 question test, some immediate concerns come to mind. I'm sure I didn't learn the word 'congruent' (same size and shape) until I was in 8th grade. The answer to this question is 'A' and I bet that many adults would get this wrong. If they want to check that a kid knows that anything multiplied by zero is zero, why not just ask 9*0=?. "What number belongs on the line below to make the number sentence true?"?? I've been doing math for my whole life and I don't think I've ever used the expression 'number sentence.' My guess is that this is supposed to be laying the groundwork for Algebra. I could see a kid not being able to answer this question despite knowing that when you multiply something by zero you get zero. I just think that this is a confusing question for a 9 year old. The commutative property of multiplication does say that you can switch the order of a multiplication problem and the answer does not change, but how important is that concept really, at this stage, and does this question, with the garden in there, really serve a big purpose? None do. The answer is 'D', but 'A' and 'B' are close. It is hard for me to put myself into a third grader's head, but I feel like a kid can fully understand the concept of symmetry yet still get this wrong. This is a very poorly worded question. None of the statements, in my opinion, "is an example of the fraction 1/3." Just like the earlier question, if they want to check that a kid knows that 10 * 1 = 10, why not just ask 10 * 1 = ?. I guess they are trying to lay the groundwork for what is known as the multiplicative identity, something used in the theory of algebra. 5x=10, 1/5*5x= 1/5 * 10, 1*x= 2, here it comes ... x=2. For the second question, why not just ask 'How many points would you earn if you read 6 books?' Wouldn't that test the same concept? So a kid is supposed to write, I guess, "Lea would be incorrect. Six books would earn 30 points, which I got by multiplying 6 by 5. Lea got 35 which means that she either inadvertently multiplied 7 by 5 or that she multiplied 6 by 5, but forgot her times tables." If they want kids to be able to identify a trapezoid, I suppose that it is a fair thing to ask. But when you have the dog treats and the dotted lines, it seems like a pretty unfair question, particularly for kids who are learning English. Part of my criticism of this test is really a criticism of the whole school math curriculum. If this is what 3rd graders are supposed to know, I can see why most people hate math.
I realize that it's Monday, which means I'm breaking my firmly-established tradition of updating only on weekends, but this needs to be said. As a teacher, it is so easy to find things to complain about. The work day is too long. Lunch is too short. The copy machine never works. Certification coursework sucks. Administration is unreasonable. Students are out of control. Faculty meetings are pointless. Observations are too frequent. Observations aren't frequent enough. Classroom technology is outdated. The pay is too low. I could go on and on and on with such grievances, as anyone whom I've spoken with recently for any extended period of time could attest. But I'm tired of negativity. And I'm tired of being tired of negativity. I miss having the ability to effortlessly "rejoice in hope" and be "patient in tribulation" (Rom 12:12). I think the worst part is that my complaining affects not only me but also those around me, so it's both unproductive and selfish. Yes, teaching is hard. No, it's not so hard that I can't be a joyful, grateful servant of God while I'm at it. Thus, with a little inspiration from one Jonathan Edwards, I declare the following. Resolved, to live by the exhortation of Ephesians 4:29 by not allowing corrupting talk to come out of my mouth, but only such as is good for building others up, that my words may give grace to those who hear.
Happy Snow Day from Kansas City! What I did today: Caught up on bills. Ate Lamars Donuts and drank coffee with fellow TFAers. Learned to use Excel. Bought new pens. It is now a two day week for our district. No students Thurdsay, Friday or Monday. Will my kids be crazy or will they learn? Muahahaha!
overheard today, in the middle of a discussion about scatter plots: "Do moles have cancer? Do they affect your life?" I don't know why I found that funny, but suddenly everything my students said was hilarious. Sometimes when I'm tired, I get really cranky or really loopy -- either one, not both. Today I was just really loopy. We're short on subs, so I had 2 classes in my room, which was interesting. I don't know how teachers in one-room schoolhouses did it. Anyway, I think the dust is settling with teaching/school. Things are calming down, and I am finally getting into a groove with school (6 weeks after break). I'm realizing that as a beginning teacher your effectiveness goes like this: Rather than this: There are some days (and class periods) that I'm a rockstar, and some days that my students wouldn't really notice if I weren't there. At Pro-Sat on Saturday (ugh), I realized that school is actually going okay. Usually Pro-Sat makes me feel like I'm a horrible person and that I need to overhaul everything on Monday, but I don't really need to change anything right now. I just need to be patient with the changes I've already made. I used to believe that one's development as a teacher was a destination you could reach. One day you just "got there". But I've realized that it really is a process. As cliche as it sounds, it really is all about the journey. You have no choice but to keep moving forward. I'm still having BIG money problems. As in, spending more than I make. Given my salary and living situation, if I didn't have any debt, I would be doing fine. Money would be tight, but I would be okay. As it stands, I owe TFA $1500 and my credit cards $6000, all from the transition of moving here and getting settled. With my minimum credit card payments and paying back my TFA loan, I'm spending more than I take in. Cool. I feel like TFA really let us have a misconception about how expensive this experience would be. Right now I'm going to tighten up my budget even more, but I still have to look at summer jobs and other ways to make money. I'm going to probably start baby-sitting on the weekends. Just to warn all of you 2o12 CMs: make sure you have savings!! The countdown has begun: 5 weeks till Spring Break, and after Spring Break only 8 more weeks of school!
I need to get this off of my chest... If I ruled the world, teachers would be compensated fairly for the work they do. Teachers would be treated as the professionals they are. But...it would be easier to get rid of the bad apples that give the profession a bad name. School funding wouldn't be based on local property taxes. Teacher evaluations wouldn't be based standardized tests, but teachers would be evaluated. Teacher education programs would be rigorous and well-respected. I know there is no one-stop ticket to making public education "work". But there are so many ways that I wish I could snap my fingers and fix these glaring holes. I'm young and idealistic , so I'm sure there are complexities and essential issues facing education that I don't even understand. But sometimes, it seems like it should be so simple. I've been quite interested in looking at ways foundations and school districts are trying to work to put good, well-prepared teachers in the classroom. I'm fortunate to be selected as a finalist for a Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship and looked at teacher residency programs and Math for America (not saying I would get in...but they looked VERY cool). There are AMAZING ideas as to how to get and keep great teachers in the classroom. Giving potential teachers support (both financially and professionally) is a great way to begin changing how the profession is viewed. It may be odd to be plugging these programs while I start my TFA life, but I'm worried about being under-prepared, and I haven't even been to institute yet. I'm excited about KSTF because it provides avenues for collaboration and professional development that can dramatically alter a teacher's effectiveness (and ward off burn-out). There are ways to get and keep great teachers in the profession. I just wish these strategies were used more widely. Think of the students that could benefit! I'm so excited to start my TFA adventure. But I'm more excited to start my teaching career, knowing that TFA will only be the first step for me.
I feel like that's all I'm doing right now. Waiting for spring break, waiting for this semester to end, waiting for graduation, waiting to move down to NC, waiting for head out to Tulsa...waiting, waiting, waiting. I'm also STILL waiting for my Praxis scores. I took them about 3 and 4 weeks ago, but because both tests (5015 and 0069) had constructed responses, the return rate for the scores is slower. Which sucks. The two boys from my school who were accepted the same round as me both have already found out that they passed, and I'm still...yup, you guessed it, waiting. I'm also waiting for all of this (in my opinion) pointless school work to end. It's so frustrating to be forced to read articles about the wage rates of NYC cab drivers, or papers about the profitability of airlines in the 70s and 80s when what I SHOULD be reading are books and articles about being the best teacher possible. Speaking of trying to be the best teacher possible, another thing I'm waiting for is for a local school district to get back to me with specifics about classroom observations. They gave me the informal OK to observe on Tuesdays (me free day just so I can observe, go me!), but they still had to get the formal approval from the school and teacher I'd be observing. I'm hoping to find out this week, but in the meantime...more waiting. However, it's crazy that even with all this waiting, time is still flying. I remember when it was 6 months until I graduated...and we just hit the three month mark this weekend. As much as I want my life to move forward...am I really ready to leave my friends (and two dollar Tuesdays!) behind?
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