tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-138575192009-12-13T22:36:47.375-07:00a voice from the middle...the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.comBlogger130125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-66958778135043589302009-09-06T09:06:00.002-07:002009-09-06T09:33:46.362-07:00the framers got it right again...education is a state issue.<div class="separator" style="CLEAR: both; TEXT-ALIGN: center"><a style="CLEAR: left; FLOAT: left; MARGIN-BOTTOM: 1em; MARGIN-RIGHT: 1em; cssfloat: left" href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SqPdoR58gfI/AAAAAAAAALA/GQxlod2sWV8/s1600-h/PresSpeech.JPG" imageanchor="1"><img src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SqPdoR58gfI/AAAAAAAAALA/GQxlod2sWV8/s400/PresSpeech.JPG" border="0" lk="true" /></a></div><p>Normally I am not surprised by things that get people’s hackles in an uproar when it comes to politics. This nation has become so polarized between Left-Right partisanship that things have taken on a master level of a playground battle of “I know you are but what am I?”<br /><br />So when (mostly) the Right started going into convolutions over President Obama’s speech on Tuesday directed towards K-12 school children, at first I could not figure out what the big deal was. Then I started reading more about it and the more I read the more uncomfortable I became. Did I believe this was our equivalent of Stalin trying to brainwash our youth in believing that the only path to happiness was through the State? Of course not. But on a philosophical level, it just did not seem right the way it was set up.<br /><br />Let me first go on record in saying that I am all for the President of the United States speaking to children especially on the importance of education. But this was turning into being much more. This speech actually came with a set curriculum designed by the Department of Education that teachers were supposed to use in conjunction with the speech.<br /></p><p>From the reports that were leaked, not only was this a “welcome back to school” talk, but also a plea for school children to take on their part in civic responsibility for such things as global warming. Maybe that alone might not have been that bad, but one of the curriculum assignments for the elementary grades was to write a letter to themselves on ways that they could help the President make this a better country. And K-3 teachers are supposed to engage their students in talks about why it is important that we always listen to President.<br /></p><p>Frankly I believe that the topic of civic responsibility would make for a great classroom discussion for the upper grades and debate the merits of the options the President talks about. But children from yournger grades are not cognitively able to use critical thinking skills. These young children are taught to simply follow whatever authority figures say – and no authority would be higher than the President – so they would have to take everything he says as the way it should be.<br /></p><p>This is what I have concerns with.<br /></p><p>Of course as soon as these things were leaked out, the curriculum was quickly changed to try and calm people down. At this point, I have no doubt that what the President will be saying on Tuesday will be incredibly watered down and to focus solely on the importance of education and staying in school. Then of course when it turns out to be non-controversial, the Left will be able to crow about how the Right was just blowing things out of proportion not taking into account the original plan. But we will see.<br /><br />So from where I am sitting, the controversy was not that the President was speaking to school children but rather that it came with a set curriculum designed around the vision and philosophy of the President. Whether that vision is good or bad does not matter because it sets what could be a scary precident. I wonder if the people who are in favor of President Obama's speech would feel the same way if President Bush wanted to speak directly to students on his vision what makes a good citizen. (I think we all know the answer to that one)<br /></p><p>The sad part is that I have no doubt that a lot of what will be said on Tuesday will hold a lot of merit and cover things that we could all get behind. But the very fact that there is a polarized controversy goes to show why this speach is probably a bad idea because now the actual message is going to get lost. This uproar show why the Framers did not want a Federally run education for this country. What is taught in our classrooms is and should be a local concern decided by each state and the by the individual community through their school boards.<br /></p><p>Because this has caused so much controversy is why we need to shield our children from the ugliness of politics as long as we can – I just wish we were all that lucky.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:x-small;">[Photo taken from http://www.whitehouse.gov/ where you will also find more specifics on this speech]</span> </p><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-6695877813504358930?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com6tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-35403971835787845992009-04-21T20:18:00.007-07:002009-04-21T20:34:07.228-07:00iPhone + Facebook + Twitter = total time suck<a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6L1jXN77I/AAAAAAAAAJg/gS3G08bA-s8/s1600-h/iphone_in_hand.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img style="width: 156px; height: 179px;" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6L1jXN77I/AAAAAAAAAJg/gS3G08bA-s8/s200/iphone_in_hand.jpg" border="0" /></a>It just hit me that I have not posted to my blog in months!<br /><br />I think a big reason happened last October when I got my iPhone which became a quick addiction. My iPhone is with me everywhere and I am so glued to being connected with information. Sure I always had the internet but now I have the internet in my hand to surf while I am, say, standing in a long bank line. It just blows me away all the new applications that keep coming up that are just wicked cool. I love my little baby!!<br /><br /><br />Then around this time, I also got hooked on Facebook. I started off slow but then kept <a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6PYwFpsiI/AAAAAAAAAKo/POD28YxFU9I/s1600-h/facebook_sqaure_logo.gif"><img style="margin: 0pt 10px 10px 0pt; float: left; cursor: pointer; width: 46px; height: 46px;" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6PYwFpsiI/AAAAAAAAAKo/POD28YxFU9I/s200/facebook_sqaure_logo.gif" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5327353064614113826" border="0" /></a>finding more and more friends I lost touch with and it was just so cool to "see" them again and chat just about silly, little things. As a part of this addiction, I also slipped into the Mafia Wars time-suck...who knew stealing and fighting and whacking people could be so much fun?<br /><div style="text-align: center;"><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6PAKulwJI/AAAAAAAAAKY/sQ-sZBw0fg0/s1600-h/facebook_sqaure_logo.gif"><br /></a></div>And now I have found the third leg to the technology stool....Twitter. At first I could not figure out what the big appeal was because I was already chatting with all of my Facebook friends. But then I found out how much fun it is to be a groupy and follow the simply ramblings of stars like Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau and (it is scary I am admitting this) Miley Cyrus.<br /><div style="text-align: center;"><a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6PtljGnoI/AAAAAAAAAKw/E3Jcdz2hx30/s1600-h/twitter.jpg"><img style="margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer; width: 140px; height: 94px;" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/Se6PtljGnoI/AAAAAAAAAKw/E3Jcdz2hx30/s200/twitter.jpg" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5327353422562107010" border="0" /></a></div><br />Well since I am such a newbie on Twitter, I need to build up my "following" so anybody interested in keeping up with MY ramblings (not that I am as interesting as Ashton), please feel free to follow me at my handle which is: <b><span style="font-size:130%;">SciTeach3</span><br /><br /><span style="font-weight: bold;"></span></b>I cannot wait to see what is coming next!!<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-3540397183578784599?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com10tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-13441175113444055912009-02-28T11:36:00.007-07:002009-03-11T20:35:24.463-07:00sexting...unintended consequences.<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SamBgptt4SI/AAAAAAAAAJM/ARf7WMLwqKE/s1600-h/Sexting.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SamBgptt4SI/AAAAAAAAAJM/ARf7WMLwqKE/s400/Sexting.jpg" style="cursor: move;" /></a>Sexting. Probably a term that most people have not heard of before but unfortunately it is something that is going on in alarming rates. Sexting is where teens (primarily) are taking naked/semi-naked pictures of themselves with their phones and sending them to others. This is another example of how incredible technology can be misused and how it can have massive unintentional consequences. <br /><br />There really is no argument that we live in a very sexually charged society and this is a very big driving influence to our children. Because of this many adolescents feel it is necessary to engage in shocking behavior just to be noticed, to fit in, or even to win the affections of somebody who has caught their eye. As a form of "flirting" they are taking scandalous photos of themselves and sending them various people. Naively they think those pictures will just stay with the person they sent them to but realistically "hormonally challenged" teenagers tend to spread things like that around to everybody they know. <br /><br />What these teens are finding is that this simple slip in judgment ends up resulting in massive amounts of embarrassments, broken friendships and even physical fights and school suspensions. But what most do not realize is that there are potentially much more serious implications for sending naked pictures over the phone: child pornography charges. <br /><br />A group of students in Pennsylvania have been slapped with child pornography charges by simply sending naked pictures to each other over their phones. Here is the story from CBS News:<br /><br /><embed src='http://www.cbs.com/thunder/swf30can10cbsnews/rcpHolderCbs-3-4x3.swf' FlashVars='link=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecbsnews%2Ecom%2Fvideo%2Fwatch%2F%3Fid%3D4723169n&partner=news&vert=News&autoPlayVid=false&releaseURL=http://release.theplatform.com/content.select?pid=xFOaEUlYPd9_D_maSczrmyQQhJlczQ9p&name=cbsPlayer&allowScriptAccess=always&wmode=transparent&embedded=y&scale=noscale&rv=n&salign=tl' allowFullScreen='true' width='425' height='324' type='application/x-shockwave-flash' pluginspage='http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer'></embed><br /><a href='http://www.cbs.com'>Watch CBS Videos Online</a><br /><br />As I have posted several times on this blog, actions have consequences. I am sure these kids, like the thousands (which is a vast understatement) of others doing the same thing never considered that they could be arrested for just trying to titillate a friend. But the fact is if charges like this stick, these children can be branded with a life-long label of “sex offender”. <br /><br />According to an article from <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=6864809&amp;page=3" target="_blank">ABC News</a>, Bill Albert, the spokesman for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reports: <br /><br /><blockquote>"It's more common than parents think and certainly more common than they'd probably hope," said Albert. "Our research suggests that one in five teens freely admit that they have either sent or posted electronically nude or semi-nude images of themselves."</blockquote>I teach at a very upper-middle class K-8 school and so far this year we have had two different incidences of these types of pictures being spread around. As Mr. Albert said, without a doubt, this is happening more than people realize....and unfortunately, most parents are clueless.<br /><br /><br />I ask that if you know any teenagers or even parents of teenagers, please pass along this frightening information. What I find is that most kids do not intend for bad things to happen but sadly they really cannot see beyond the moment...it is up to us to help teach them how. <br /><br /><span style="font-size: x-small;"></span><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1344117511344405591?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com7tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-11626512689287235212009-02-12T08:57:00.011-07:002009-02-12T09:01:12.456-07:00what truly made Lincoln a great man...With today being Abraham Lincoln’s birthday there are lots of people who are expounding on his great accomplishments. But the thing that stands out the most to me are not all of the wonderful things he did do, but rather I want to celebrate all of his failures. Here is a list of “highlights” that lead up to his presidency:<br /><br /><br />Age 7 – his family was forced out of their home and he had to go to work to support them<br /><br />Age 9 – his mother died<br /><br />Age 22 – he failed in business<br /><br />Age 23 – he ran for the Illinois House of Representatives and lost<br /><br />Age 23 – he lost his job. Later that same year he decided he wanted to go to law school, but his application was rejected<br /><br />Age 24 – Lincoln borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business, but by the end of the year he was bankrupt.<br /><br />Age 25 – h ran for state legislature again and lost<br /><br />Age 26 – he was engaged to be married, but his fiancé died and it broke his heart. He spent 6 months of that year confined to bed from a total nervous breakdown.<br /><br />Age 29 – he sought to become Speaker of the state legislature and was defeated<br /><br />Age 31 – he sought to become elector and was defeated<br /><br />Age 33 – he ran for Congress and lost<br /><br />Age 36 – he ran for Congress again; this time he won.<br /><br />Age 38 – Lincoln ran for reelection to Congress and lost.<br /><br />Age 39 – he sought the job of land officer but was rejected<br /><br />Age 44 – he ran for Senate of the United States and lost<br /><br />Age 46 – he sought the vice presidential nomination at his party’s national convention. He got fewer than one hundred votes and lost<br /><br />Age 48 – he ran for the United States Senate again, and lost again<br /><br /><br />And then in 1856 at the age of 50 Abraham Lincoln ran for President of the United States and became our 16th president.<br /><br />Reaching for success is never an easy thing and every person has faced failure at one time or another in their life. But think of all the setbacks that President Lincoln faced and yet never gave up on himself. How many of us would have simply stopped trying after only a few of the things that happen to him? To me, this is why Abraham Lincoln was such an incredible figure.<br /><br /><br />Happy Birthday Mr. President.<br /><br /><br />[Information taken from the book <em>“The Rhythm of Life; Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose”</em> by Matthew Kelly - I cannot recommend this book highly enough!]<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1162651268928723521?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-18525832884682889422008-12-10T12:54:00.003-07:002008-12-10T12:58:38.786-07:00the power of peer teaching...Sometimes we teachers just get in the way of learning. Unfortunately it is very easy to fall into the trap that we have to grade everything that we give our students to do and this really is not the best way for our kids to learn. If you allow the kids to try and work through the problems on their own and then let them peer tutor themselves, there is a better chance that they will actually learn the concept.<br /><br />Case in point…<br /><br />Earlier this week I gave my students a worksheet that consisted of sample word-math problems relating to various Physics formulas. This is information that we have been going over for the last couple of weeks and it was simply putting math to the concepts. My instructions were for them to do as many of the problems that they could on their own and if they get stuck, try their hardest to work through it. After 20-minutes I then told them that IF they absolutely could not do anything more on their own, they then could pull out their notes and the book to see if that helped. I gave them another 10-minutes to have them try and figured out the problem with additional resources and then I told them that IF they were still blocked on some problems then they could get help from ONE other person. I then had the answers taped to the back counter so they could check to make sure they got it right.<br /><br />The key to this was that I emphasized over and over again:<br /><br /><strong><em>“This is not for a grade! Simply copying an answer from somebody will not help you at all so LEARN from your friends, do not COPY from them.”</em></strong><br /><br />Two days later I gave an actual assessment on the material and the results were incredible! The comprehension was much higher than in the past where I was just doing “drill and kill” graded assignments. Once I took the pressure off the kids about not worrying about getting the right answer compared to learning the process, they learned the information much quicker.<br /><br />Sometimes teachers just get in the way of learning…<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1852583288468288942?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com9tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-23651679243826728862008-11-17T13:39:00.002-07:002008-11-17T13:46:01.444-07:00time sure does get away from me...It just <span class="blsp-spelling-corrected" id="SPELLING_ERROR_0">occurred</span> to me that I really have not blogged in awhile. I will admit that it would be easy for me to say it was because I have been so busy with school and committees and my Masters classes but that really is not the complete story. To be honest, I have been so addicted to playing on my iPhone and with <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_1">FaceBook</span> that all my extra time has somehow just disappeared.<br /><br />You know how boys do love their toys...<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-2365167924382672886?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com7tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-15765693635805463552008-11-01T11:06:00.000-07:002008-11-01T11:08:50.132-07:00why this election needs to be over...After 18-months of this presidential race, I am ready for it to be over on Tuesday (and sadly that is not always a given). The thing that just kills me is I am so tired of the soundbites....these guys keep saying the same things over and over again and here is a great example of it:<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center;"><object height="344" width="425"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/wfd5g8Y_Jqo&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/wfd5g8Y_Jqo&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object></div><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1576569363580546355?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com22tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-11151063748311091842008-10-18T11:30:00.003-07:002008-10-18T11:41:28.133-07:00definitely NOT an 8-5 job...What an incredible week this was.<br /><br />The 10<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_0">th</span> of October was the last day of our first quarter and so on the 9<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_1">th</span> I gave my big end of the unit test as well as collected a huge lab report we had been working on for the past month. Well since grades were due first thing Tuesday morning, the 14<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_2">th</span>, I had basically only four days to grade:<br /><br /><br /><ul><li>1,560 short answer test questions which included a lot of detailed math problems</li><li>585 pages of lab reports (130 reports which had on the average 4.5 pages)</li></ul><p> </p><p> </p>Oh but the fun did not stop there. For reasons unknown to the common teacher, our district insists on having parent/teacher conferences the first week of the second quarter. So from Tuesday through Friday morning, my team held 35 conferences before and after school. On Thursday the kids get out early and so we had conferences from 1:00 until 8:00 that night with only two 20-minute breaks.<br /><br />I must say I am a little <span class="blsp-spelling-corrected" id="SPELLING_ERROR_3">brain dead</span> right now....<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1115106374831109184?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-58595355525749794842008-10-03T14:00:00.005-07:002008-10-05T08:09:13.756-07:00non-verbal survival tactics of teenagers....Now I know for a fact that there is a lot that goes on in my class that I have no clue about but at the same time I know so much more than my students think I know.<br /><br />I love giving my classes book work to do and then pretend that I am engrossed in doing something else and then watch them from the corner of my eye. Then, without warning, I will look over to two students who are talking but only one of them can directly see me and they say to the other one:<br /><blockquote>"DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!!!! He is looking at us right now so you better try and cover your tracks the best way you can...sorry but you are on your own as I am going to pretend like I was working all along and just hope he is as dumb as we think he is and will not notice that I was indeed talking. And again, I am sorry but if he mentions anything about us not working I am going to quickly throw you under the bus and say that you were the one talking to me but I definitely was not talking to you - GOOD LUCK!"</blockquote>All of this is&nbsp;said non-verbally by a simple glance, the darting of the eyes, a slight flinch, a twitch of an eye brow or any other very, very subtle form of communication. And the really cool thing is that the other student clearly understands what is said and they then scramble to look like they were not turned away talking but rather picking up a piece of paper or some other innocent activitity. <br /><br />Teenagers are a riot!! If you cannot laugh doing this job, you just have no business being a teacher because this is funny stuff!!!<br /><br />My fellow teachers, what are some of the non-verbals that you see in your classes?<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-5859535552574979484?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com10tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-32631959109432145722008-09-23T19:38:00.001-07:002008-09-23T19:53:37.691-07:00master multitasker....Definitely being a middle school science teacher is not for the faint of heart. I just finished up a density lab that would make mere mortal men (i.e. non-teachers) run away screaming and wish they had their mommy close by. In each class I had around 30 kids broken out into 8 groups going in all different directions, mixing liquids, measuring things, whipping around glass beakers like pros all while I am wondering around making sure nobody is stupid enough to actually take somebody's bet to try an drink the corn syrup.<br /><br />I remember being in the corporate world and having so many people brag about their "multitasking skills" - and frankly I was one of those arrogant bastards. But you do not know multitasking until you are in charge of a room full of teenagers who are just waiting for you to be looking away so they can get away with doing something they know they should not be doing.<br /><br />It is almost like an Olympic event with my opponent trying to get away with something and me trying to catch them....pitting skill against skill....will against will. And the fact that the odds are 30 against 1 tells you just who the professional is in this game even though our side does not always win.<br /><br />People are always getting hurt at work like getting carpal-tunnel syndrome for typing too much or getting a thrown out back from lifting heavy objects. I am just surprised that teachers do not get "eye sprains" from having to look at sooooo many different things in the room all at once. Come to think of it, this is probably why I sleep so well at night because my eyes are just so happy not having to look at anything for 8 hours.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-3263195910943214572?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-55620266920965213442008-09-21T11:30:00.000-07:002008-09-21T11:36:51.565-07:00that just cannot be....Ok, it is Sunday so where else would I be but the coffee shop grading papers. I am planning my lessons for next week and so I broke out the calendar and it totally freaked me out. There are only 3 weeks left in our 1st quarter!!<br /><br />I guess the fact that this school year is flying by is a good thing because that means that I am having fun and things have been goinig well. The only down side - as happens every quarter - I am running so far behind in where I want/need to be. The thing that threw me for a loop was that my principal sent me to 3 days of workshops a couple of weeks ago right at the time I should have started my first quarter lab and so now I am playing catch up. <br /><br />But let me not focus on the negative....the fact still remains that this has been a really good year and I am having fun [outside of what caused the previous post of course - hehehe].<br /><br />Now if I can just learn all of my student's names!!!! [it is kind of getting embarrassing saying "Hey....you!" all the time]<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-5562026692096521344?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-61279939977491984492008-09-18T17:41:00.000-07:002008-09-18T18:00:28.422-07:00wanting to strangle children....Today I experienced a really dark side of being a teacher. People who are not teachers really do not fully understand just how difficult it is to be "on" for an entire day. In order to be an effective teacher you really need to project a calm, exciting attitude about learning in order to coax the most out of your students. I know at least with middle school students, it is impossible to bluff being in a good mood - if you are having an off day, they know it. <br /><br />So I hope I do not shatter the image of teachers being super-human beings with these mythical powers of greatness but from time to time, we have off days and are just not in the mood to teach. As much as we love what we do, there are those days that when a student justs asks a simple, valid question, you just want to scream. <br /><br />Today was one of those days for me. <br /><br />I am happy to say these days are very few and far between but in the past when they have crept up, I have simply changed my pre-planned lesson and my kids have just done bookwork. But sadly today, I am right in the middle of a lab where they are learning a new concept and what they are doing is very meticulous requiring very precise calculations. The questions firing at me were non-stop and I had to physically remind myself with each&nbsp;one that they are simply trying to learn and were not wanting to drive me over the edge. The day definitely could not end soon enough for me or for my students but I found my answers were getting a lot more terse and sarcastic. <br /><br />Thankfully the day is now over and I have to believe that tomorrow will be an awesome day where I will not be wanting to strangle any children. With out a doubt, I will fully apologize to all of my classes for my bad mood today and hopefully I have not squelched any of them from asking their questions because that really is what I live for.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-6127993997749198449?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-40347971476227254702008-09-17T20:19:00.001-07:002008-09-17T20:53:05.985-07:00being at the ground floor of greatness...A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I created an account on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. I got everything set up and then did not think much about it until I started hearing from people in my past wanting to get on my friends list. Well I have been having a blast getting caught up with these people and tonight when I was going through my growing list of friends something really jumped out at me. Regardless of what I remember of these people from high school and college, they are no longer those same people that I have such fond memories of. These people have moved on to lives that I never saw in them when we were just hanging out being young and stupid. In my mind they will still be the same old crazy young kids but now they have become:<br /><ul><li>a published author</li><li>a philanthropist</li><li>a political advisor</li><li>a documentary film maker<br /></li><li>a priest </li><li>an environmental activist </li></ul><br />This got me thinking about what I have chosen to do with my life. I have stopped focusing on what I can become and instead it is now my job to (hopefully) inspire greatness in others. I soooo love being a middle school teacher and watching my students get excited about different things and starting to to serious think about what they want to be when they grow up. Many times I think I am just as impatient as they are to see how their lives turn out. If I ever stumbled upon a magic gene in a bottle who wants to grant me some wishes, one of them would be to have special glasses which would allow me to see people's futures. I would love to look at my students and see the people that they will one day become.<br /><br />I am definitely not enough of an ego-maniac to presume that I will inspire all of my students to become the next group of world leaders. And I am not Polliana enough to think that every one of my students will be the next pillars of industry and all be honored icons of society. But there is no doubt that many of them will go on to accomplish many incredible feats in their lives . I can see the seeds of great things in their eyes just waiting to break out and grow. Regardless of whether or not I ever find out what my former students become, it is pretty cool to know that I at least played a small part of their life stories and that I got to see them at the ground floor of greatness.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-4034797147622725470?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-53010300882869135932008-09-13T15:11:00.001-07:002008-09-13T15:49:34.892-07:00in the den of lions...This morning I attended what is known as "Committee Day" for my state's teacher union where we come together and put together a general direction and more of a focus of priorities for the office for the upcoming year. Well I have been to a couple of these in the past and it was always a joke how I am one of the few Republican union members (I am actually fondly known by our lobbyist as the "token elephant boy" which is a badge I wear with honor). Well I found that today, not too many people were laughing at the joke. It never dawned on me in what this meeting would be like a couple of months before a presidential election.<br /><br />The board room was plastered with "NEA for Obama" posters and various placards for other ONLY Dem candidates. On all of the tables were packets of information talking about just how evil and bad McCain is and how Obama will totally reform and save public education single-handedly (okay, the verbiage was not exactly like that but it was close). Then every time I turned around there were people trying to put Obama stickers on my shirt.<br /><br />The <i>piece de resistance</i> was when a US Congressman who is running for reelection came to speak during lunch. He gave a standard partisan talk but some of it really rang true so I found myself applauding every now and then. BUT he ended with something that initially stunned me and reminded me yet again just how devisive politics can be. He said: <blockquote style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">"To be honest with you I do not know how you can be a teacher and not be a Democrat"</blockquote> Well I tried to make eye contact with the only 3 other "outed" Republicans in the room and we just gave each other a knowing glance of solidarity but we soon lost sight of each other when people got up for the standing ovation from the comment.<br /><br />....I just sat there and and took a slow drink from my glass of water.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-5301030088286913593?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com8tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-9132408956652725722008-09-03T20:51:00.009-07:002008-09-04T11:05:04.269-07:00a brief step into politics...<a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SMAjHRdshqI/AAAAAAAAAG8/7NS7ydH8bWU/s1600-h/Palin.bmp"><img id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5242228574113269410" style="FLOAT: right; MARGIN: 0px 0px 10px 10px; CURSOR: hand" alt="" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SMAjHRdshqI/AAAAAAAAAG8/7NS7ydH8bWU/s320/Palin.bmp" border="0" /></a>Okay, I cannot resist. It is no secret to readers of this blog that I am one of those rare breeds in education....a Republican school teacher (talk about your endangered species!!). Well I just watch Sara Palin give her acceptance speech at the RNC and was totally blown away. Everybody always talks about what a great orator Obama is but he has definitely met his match in this feisty governor from Alaska.<br /><br /><div><div><div><div><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none">What I found very funny was that all the talking heads pretty much unanimously mentioned something to the effect of "that was not her speech as she had somebody write it for her". Who in the world actually believes that Obama writes his speeches? Few can touch Barak in his delivery of reading off of a teleprompter but he certainly does not write his own material. </div><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none"></div><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none"></div><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none"></div><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none"></div><br /><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none">But what a great story she has and there is no doubt that she embodies the whole concept of "change" because she is not like ANYBODY that is already there. </div><br /><div style="BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none">John King of CNN actually said it best when he described this as a "how dare you" speech - how dare you disparage small towns, how dare you discount the executive experience of a mayor and governor, how dare you attack my family. And she did it all with poise and a smile. </div><div class="preview tr_dialog-section"><br />We always hear that the vast majority of jobs in this country come from small businesses. Well it is also true that this country is supported and has its soul in small towns throughout this country. Obama better watch his step if he dares to down play the importance of small town America.<br /><br />I am very excited for this ticket!<br /><br />And now back to our regularly scheduled educational program....</div><br /><span style="font-size:x-small;">[Photo from the AP]</span></div></div></div></div><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-913240895665272572?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com9tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-84648613578464524022008-08-25T14:12:00.001-07:002008-08-25T15:06:17.705-07:00i guess accountability is not that important....<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_0">ggggggrrrrrrrrr</span>!!!!!!<br /><br />I just learned that the Democratic National Committee has voted to allow Florida and Michigan to have full voting rights at their convention that starts today. As I understand it both of these states were told in no uncertain terms that if they moved their primaries to a date before New <span class="blsp-spelling-corrected" id="SPELLING_ERROR_1">Hampshire</span> (or some other predetermined line in the sand) they would loose voting <span class="blsp-spelling-corrected" id="SPELLING_ERROR_2">privileges</span> at the <span class="blsp-spelling-corrected" id="SPELLING_ERROR_3">convention</span> but they went ahead and held their primaries early anyway.<br /><br />So the lesson learned from this is that rules really do not matter and if you whine and cry and shout loud enough, you will get your way. I pretty much loose credibility with my students when I talk about how important it is for people to be held accountable for their actions when they see examples like this on a daily basis.<br /><br />Let me say it again.....<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_4">gggggggggrrrrrrrrrr</span>!!!!<br /><br />[Note that my criticism of the <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_5">DNC</span> ruling has nothing to do with the fact that I am Republican - what is wrong is wrong regardless of who is doing it. But in this case lets just say it does not surprise me that the <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_6">Dems</span> made up the rules as they went along - <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_7">hehehe</span>]<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-8464861357846452402?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-58243768189094669872008-08-23T17:23:00.001-07:002008-08-23T20:38:35.036-07:00NOW it has begun...<div class="separator" style="border: medium none; clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SLCtbudfXdI/AAAAAAAAAGU/ReyWZvZlMVg/s1600-h/grading+papers.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" fd="true" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SLCtbudfXdI/AAAAAAAAAGU/z1d7c8aCpvk/s320-R/grading+papers.jpg" /></a></div><div style="border: medium none;">Even though on the calendar it shows that I have now been in school for 2 weeks (3 if you consider all of the countless meetings I had to attend before the kids showed up), it was not until today that it became official. Here I am on a Saturday afternoon as my friends are off having pool parties and going to movies I am here at my favorite coffee shop grading papers. </div><br />As if I needed more proof in how this is a true vocation for me, I really do enjoy grading papers. Yes it is a lot of work but for me it is tangible reflection on how well I taught the information. If they did well, I feel satisfied by the results and if I find that they struggled, then as I am grading I am thinking of ways to go back and reteach the information. Regardless of how good you feel about your teaching skills, what it really comes down to is the results you achieve.<br /><br />[But I will admit that a nice cold "adult beverage" would taste pretty good right now]<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-5824376818909466987?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com5tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-17916597567482038982008-08-17T08:37:00.017-07:002008-08-17T12:21:25.243-07:00pursuing victory with honor in the Olympic pool<div style="border: medium none ;">With a title like this I am sure you are thinking this is yet another Michael Phelps article. It is not. Oh sure I am just as blown away and proud of what Phelps did in this Olympics but believe it or not, his 8 gold medals is not what I will remember the most from the "Water Cube" in Beijing. </div><br />What I will remember are the actions taken by Dara Torres.<br /><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SKhSOXdz8aI/AAAAAAAAAFs/C-_PurE8FL0/s1600-h/DaraTorres.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img fd="true" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_O31SYCtpqvY/SKhSOXdz8aI/AAAAAAAAAFs/DeYpFXyl3nI/s320-R/DaraTorres.jpg" border="0" /></a><br />My admiration of Dara goes well beyond the fact that she has won 3 medals in her fifth Olympics and that she is doing what she is doing at the age of 41. What impressed me the most was what she did on Saturday in the semifinals of the 50-meter freestyle and it had nothing to do with the time she reached.<br /><br />As all the swimmers were coming out of the ready room for the heat, Therese Alshammar from Sweden noticed that her suit had ripped and was hastily trying to fix it but just made it worse. As she raced back into the locker room to change, Dara frantically waved the other swimmers down from the starting blocks and explained to the people in charge that one of the swimmers was having to change. She was pretty adamant that it would not be fair to race until everybody was ready to give it their all. When Therese emerged with her "wardrobe malfunction" fixed, the race commenced and Dara came in first.<br /><br />Here is this 41-year old athlete who put all of her individual medal hopes into this one event and would have been justified in totally being "in the zone" and only focused on the race. But instead of thinking only about winning, she was more concerned about doing the right thing. Therese Alshammar may not have been a major threat to Torres but in a sport where people win (or loose) by only one-one hundredth of a second, having one less competitor always improves your chances to win.<br /><br />Even though Dara came in first at the semis, she ended up with a silver medal in the finals missing first place by that mind-blowing .01 seconds. For this event, though, a silver represented the true champion of the race.<br /><br />So yes, I am very proud of Michael Phelps and all of the gold medals he won (you should have heard me yelling and screaming at the TV last night cheering the American team on). But when I talk about the Olympics in my class on Monday I am going to make sure all of my students are aware that the true Olympic "gold" was won by a 41-year old mom and it was represented by a silver medal.<br /><br />Dara Torres is an athlete who truly knows the importance of <a href="http://charactercounts.org/sports/team-approach.htm" target="_blank">pursuing victory with honor</a>.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:85%;">[For a great blog on Dara Torres and everything she has accomplished, visit the </span><a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/olympics_blog/dara_torres/index.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-size:85%;">LA Times</span></a><span style="font-size:85%;">. Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune]</span><div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1791659756748203898?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-33640814166072750312008-08-16T08:42:00.003-07:002008-08-16T18:10:47.034-07:00a great way to start the year...Well there is now one week in the history books for the 08-09 year. Here on Saturday morning I am kind of in a daze in just how exhausting this week was. My team has 1st hour prep which I have now learned is the worse possible thing to have because it makes the afternoons sooooo long. Another factor adding to feeling beat up is that I am teaching 5 periods of Science this year and having to give the same lesson five times a day is very mentally draining. <br /><br />But when I checked my email this morning I was given the most incredible inspiration I could ever imagine. Here is the email:<br /><blockquote>Hey Mr. S, I just wanted to take a moment to say Thank You. My son James is in your second period class and on Friday he came home from school extremely excited. It seems you gave an in depth chemistry lecture about atoms and elements. Oh boy was he super interested. He in turn gave me and my wife the lesson all over again to tell us how cool chemistry is. I have to say that this is the first time ever he came home from school actually thinking about what he wanted to be when he grows up. Thank You Very Much!</blockquote>I teach to hopefully inspire and if I was able to already do that the first week of school then I cannot wait to see what I am able to do for the next 175 days.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-3364081416607275031?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-19475299888854935072008-07-29T17:37:00.008-07:002008-07-29T22:51:54.199-07:00its the most wonderful time of the year...Probably one of my most favorite commercials is an old one for Staples where the father is all excited because it is time for school to start again. He is running and jumping and loving life that his kids are now going back to school and the best part is the look on the faces of his kids.<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center;"><object height="344" width="425"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/mPIIMbG9R4w&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/mPIIMbG9R4w&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object></div><br />Well this is exactly how I am feeling right now but for totally different reasons. As if I needed another example of just how much I love my life as a teacher, I am totally giddy right now at the fact that school starts in a couple of weeks.<br /><br />Before the kids actually enter the classroom for the start of another year, there is such a purity of why we became teachers. Right now there is all the hopes and dreams and wonders of what could actually happen this year. We can actually visualize with crystal clarity how we will be the one who will get these kids excited about learning. Our minds are filled with all the things we want to do differently this year, new lessons to teach, new ways of capturing student attention, and knowing that we will seemlessly implement every one of the philosophies of Marzano, Jones, and Wong into everything we do.<br /><br />And the best part is that we will also have the best kids imaginable who will not be disruptive, who will always listen, be quick to ask questions when they do not understand something, and who will consistently tell us throughout the year how we positively impact their lives.<br /><br />There is no doubt THIS will be that "perfect year" that we will refer back to for years to come....the Nirvana year of education.<br /><br />Oh sure, I will admit that in a month or so the posts you will read here might have a slightly different tone. But right now it is a happy place in my mind and I do not want to ruin it with a boring sense of reality because this is the most wonderful time of the year....<br /><br />[The funny thing is that most non-teachers who read this post will think I am being sarcastic...but this is really what I am feeling right now]<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-1947529988885493507?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com14tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-28586221940777670402008-07-27T11:22:00.010-07:002008-07-29T22:04:39.333-07:00a new grading system - fair and accountableAs teachers we tend to lock ourselves into doing things in a certain way and find it very hard to change. We might be quick to try a new lesson but the structure and procedures our classes tend to be sacrosanct – and how we grade assignments would definitely fall into this “holy” category.<br /><br />Well in the spirit of having no "sacred cows", before the last school year started, my team sat down to seriously look at our grading system to make sure we were doing all that we could in the best interest of our students. The starting premise is that we passionately felt that as middle school teachers we should not accept late work because it did not hold the students accountable [see my previous post on my rationale of <a href="/2007/02/grading-total-student.html" target="_blank">grading the "total" student</a>]. But at the same time, kids are kids and so we did not want a student’s overall grade to essentially be destroyed for simply forgetting a paper at home. We also saw that there was a ripple effect in that many time when a grade got so low, a student simply gave up trying to improve it because they did not think it was achievable.<br /><br />So now we had to objectively look at what we wanted to do and what kind of effect it was having. Even though we all felt very strong about not accepting late work - basically entering a "0" for anything not on time - we also realized the down side to it based on the traditional grading scale. The percentage difference between the grades are:<br /><blockquote>Between B and A – 10%<br />Between C and B – 10%<br />Between D and C – 10%<br />Between a “0” for a late assignment and D – 50%</blockquote>So we came up with a new, simplistic grading policy that emphasized accountability and fairness. On the actual assignments we would only write down the letter grade they received (no + or -, just the letter) but for the computer grade book we had to come up with an actual value for every grade. The following was our new “grading scale”:<br /><blockquote>All A’s = 95%<br />All B’s = 85%<br />All C’s = 75%<br />All D’s = 65%<br />All F’s = 55%<br />All Late/Missing Work = 45%</blockquote>Okay, here is where I initially had problems because I could not get over giving a 45% to somebody who did absolutely nothing. What it took was having to really change my way of thinking because in order for this to make sense <span style="font-weight: bold;">y</span><span style="font-weight: bold;">ou cannot think of their grades as percents.</span> This new system is simply letter grades - the student either gets an A, or a B, or a C, or a D, or an F or, in essence, an F- for late work.<br /><br />Originally we wanted to put this on a 0-5 point scale and forget the percentages all together but our electronic grading system would not allow that - everything had to be a point system. So how we handled this was that we entered every assignment with a worth of 100 points and then simply gave 95 points for all A's, 85 points for all B's, etc. But of course the only way this would work is if we weighted all of our assignments because an “A” on a worksheet does not have the same importance as an “A” on a test. For my Science class I had the following breakdown:<br /><blockquote>Test/Quizzes = 40%<br />Labs/Projects = 35%<br />Classwork = 25%</blockquote>We saw many benefits to this new system:<br /><ol><li>If a student does not turn in their work on time, they still fail the assignment but their overall grade does not drop them so low that they cannot recover</li><li>There is still enough incentive to turn something in and get a 55% instead of just blowing it off even if they were totally lost [remember that all F's count the same so if on point value a student got a 32%, we would still enter it as a 55% in the grade book].<br /></li><li>Then there was the unintended benefit - there was no longer the nit-picking of the difference between an 82% and an 86% - a B is simply a B. This made grading such things as essays and projects sooooo much easier as it fits really well into a rubric and you do not get buried into the minutia of trivial details.</li></ol><br />Being a very “left-brain” kind of guy, I wanted to know how this would really turn out before I subjected my student’s grades to a mere experiment. Well I sat down with my grade book from the year before and picked out several students of mixed academic successes and differing amounts of missed work. I then applied this new grading system to their work and compared it to what they had already earned under the traditional scale. What I found was that for those students who had missed some key assignments, their grades ended up going up by a full letter grade BUT it actually put their grade in exact alignment with their average test grade. And for those students who did not have any missing work, their averages were almost exactly the same.<br /><br />The conclusion that we reached is that this new grading system allowed for the occasional mess up – which let’s face it, even the best of students will have – while still holding the students accountable. And more importantly we found the emphasis was put on what the student actually learned and not just on a certain grade.<br /><br />Nobody likes change and so we really thought we would have found a lot more push back from students and parents. But everybody really got behind the new system. What we were worried the most about was the over-achieving students who have to have a 100% on everything because on this new scale, the highest you can get is a 95%. Surprisingly not one student (or even more surprisingly, not one parent) complained.<br /><br />At the end of the year when we analyzed the results we honestly could only thing of one problem - we gave the same importance to missing and late work. We found that there was a VERY small group of students who would consistently blow off assignments and, because of this new system, ended up with a much higher grade than they really deserved. They DID see percents and so for them getting a 45% for doing nothing was a pretty awesome gift. Also, the emphasis should always be to get students to turn in work even if they did only forget it at home. We needed a tweak.<br /><br />For this upcoming year, if a student does not turn in an assignment we will enter a “0” in the grade book for missing but if they do submit it within a set period of time, that grade will be raised to a 45%. Their grade will still be lower than somebody who had turned in the assignment on time and failed but a 45% increase should be enough of an incentive not to blow it off all together.<br /><br />Like I mentioned, we all felt this was a HUGE success and we are excited to use this new grading procedure for the upcoming year. If anybody has any questions, please leave a comment here on the blog or you can also send me an email (my addy is along the right hand column).<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-2858622194077767040?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com12tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-85304296141979574452008-07-24T16:26:00.001-07:002008-07-24T17:08:00.671-07:00mixed messages on accountability...I just got back from a road trip to New Mexico to visit my family and so I spent a lot of time in my car listing to the radio. The more I drove, the more I listened, the more and more I was getting pissed at the sheer number of commercials that are out for companies that will help "dramatically reduce your credit card debt". They keep pouring out these examples in how they were able to eliminate thousands of dollars of debt for their clients.<br /><br />What really annoys me is that the message this sends is that people do not have to be held accountable for their spending. <br /><br />There is no denying that the economy is experiencing a bit of a hicup which of course means that many families are struggling to make ends meet. But if people use their credit cards to buy things, they are obligated to pay what they borrowed at the agreed to interest rates. Now before anybody starts yelling at me that I do not understand what people are going through, don't even start. Before becoming a teacher I was unemployed for 2 years which also included me going back to school and I built up close to $30k in debt just to get by. Well I worked like a mad man to pay this back and even took the equity out of my house to pay all of this off. I am now happy to say I am totally debt free with my good name intact.<br /><br />No matter how bad things got for me, it NEVER occurred to me not to pay what I honestly owed.<br /><br />One of the biggest messages that I teach in my classroom is that every student will be held accountable for their acctions. I lay out all expectations ahead of time and then hold my students to those expectations. The way this is tested the most is when a paper is due I will not accept it even one day after the deadline. I get soooo many sad stories about broken computers, printers out of ink, and lost emails but I tell them even though I can empathise with their problem, I still will not take late work.<br /><br />I think it is critical to teach students that rules mean something. When a person is obligated to perform a certain task, their word and their reputation is on the line no matter how difficult that may be. But it is so hard to drive them point home when they get mixed messages like the fact that when you borrow money from somebody (which is what you are doing with credit cards) you do not always have to pay everything back.<br /><br />It is a shame that honor seems to be a dying trait in our society but I will try my hardest to fight this trend one student at a time....<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-8530429614197957445?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-9496962685174247192008-07-18T10:12:00.002-07:002008-07-18T10:37:59.222-07:00practically recession-proofI will admit that even though I am mostly an optimist, our economy is really going through a rough patch. I have no doubt that we will come out of it stronger than ever (hey we survived the Carter years after all) even though it might take awhile.<br /><br />But in listening to the news, something hit me that brought a little smile to my face. I spent 8 years in the high tech industry, specifically in sales and marketing, so when there was a down-turn in the economy, it had a <b>huge</b> impact on me and on more than one occasion I was even laid off (3 of the last 4 companies I worked for do not even exist anymore). Well now here I sit as an 8th grade science teacher and I have to say this brings a whole lot of comfort to me in the fact that my job is extremely secure.<br /><br />Teacher always tend to bitch and moan in that they do not make enough money - heck I even organized some picketing this year on that very subject. But I would soooo rather complain in the fact that I did not get a big enough raise this year than having to figure out where my next paycheck was coming from and trying to decide which bills I would pay this month and which would have to wait until I got the nasty phone calls.Yes, been there, done that.<br /><br />Oh sure, teachers do get laid off from time to time but it is not something that happens a lot. And I must say it feels good that I have a lot of "plusses" going for me that really moves me away from that pink-slip:<br /><ul><li>4 years seniority (maybe not a whole lot but there is a huge pool of "baby teachers" below me on the totem pole)<br /></li><li>Middle school teacher (and halfway through getting my masters in middle level education)<br /></li><li>Science teacher (I teach science because I love it - and then there is the side benefit that a lot of people do not share that love)<br /></li><li>Being male (yes there are benefits to being a part of a "minority" even though it is not publicly talked about)</li></ul><br />Now since I have been through numerous layoffs I can totally feel the pain of these people who are loosing their jobs because of downsizing. But for once, I can at least sleep a little better at night not having to worry about my boss coming up to me asking that gut-wrenching question:<br /><blockquote><i>"You got a minute?"</i></blockquote> [Note: for anybody who has been laid off, you just got a chill to run up your spine after reading those simple four words because you remember the conversation that followed.]<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-949696268517424719?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-76710627719189072852008-07-08T21:36:00.000-07:002008-07-08T21:45:39.581-07:00i miss school......yes, you read that right.<br /><br />Okay, I know most of you fellow teachers out there will groan when you read this, but it is true...I am looking forward to school starting again. <br /><br />I am not sure if this is just a carry over from my old corporate days but having this much time off drives me crazy and I can feel myself easily slipping into "lazy mode". I remember all too well in getting only 10 DAYS a year to do with what I wanted so having 13 WEEKS off is still a strange concept. <br /><br />Yes I know I have only been teaching for the last 5 years but I truly love what I do and after a few weeks off of not doing it, I really start to miss teaching. And the funny thing is that whenever I engage some students in some serious one-on-one conversation, most of them admit that they too were glad that school started up again. Definitely the first few weeks are always fun with staying up late, sleeping in and playing hours and hours and hours and hours of Halo on xBox (boy am I getting good at that game!!). But ten weeks is an awful long time to try and fill with meaningless stuff. <br /><br />Oh well, as of right now, there are 34 days to the fist day of school....how exciting is that?!?!?!?!<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-7671062771918907285?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-13857519.post-64315979445034854502008-07-03T21:42:00.010-07:002008-07-03T22:46:19.689-07:00memories through music...[I know that I really have not been blogging that much about education-centered topics...but hey, it is summer, and it is nice to stretch out my brain muscles on other things] <br /><br />Last night I ended up watching 4-hours worth of VH1's <a href="http://www.vh1.com/shows/dyn/the_greatest/106857/episode.jhtml"target="_blank">"Top 100 Songs of the 80's"</a> series. I just could not turn it off. Now understand that the 80's were the critical foundation years of my life - in 1980 I was finishing up 8th grade and in December of 1989 I graduated from college. All of my formative years were during this time period. It was amazing that EVERY song (and I am not exaggerating there) they played, I had some memory of doing something to that song. <br /><br />Just some of the memories that came flooding back to me were: numerous school dances, couple skating at the Roller King, road trips with friends, breaking up with a girl, playing in my friend's pool, my first concert, all night study sessions, my first solo ride in my first car, cramming for an impossible final, <a href="http://www.cassettefrommyex.com/" target="_blank">numerous mixed tapes</a>, BS-ing with friends around a camp fire, hanging out at an under-21 club, proms, homecomings, my first day in high school, my last day in high school, and even my first trip to a "gentleman's club" (trust me, if you have ever been to one of these places, you will NEVER be able to hear "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard the same way again). Every one of these memories were chronicled by a song and all of this well before there was such a thing as an iPod. <br /><br />Music is such an emotion-stirring catalyst. I have always heard that our brains are so powerful that they actually have stored every memory, experience, conversation and words read that we have ever had - the problem is we just do not know how to tap into it. And with all the wild flashbacks I was having last night, I completely agree that it is all stored up there somewhere. <br /><br />Wow...I sure did love the 80's!<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width='1' height='1' src='https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/13857519-6431597944503485450?l=www.avoicefromthemiddle.com' alt='' /></div>the teacherhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05817869898020539537noreply@blogger.com5