Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Just received an email from the administration. Our grades are to be posted a week after midterms. But, if students want to recover work from the first semester after that time, we are to let the administration know.

And deadlines mean exactly what?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Page 56

lovethejourney http://lovethejourney.blogspot.com) had this posted from Discussion Forum - Book Blogs
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
*Post a link along with your post back to this blog.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

My contribution: Pochemu means "why" in Russian, so pochemuckla is kind of like a "why-man" or "why-woman." (Uncle John's Slightly Irregular Bathroom Reader - it was sitting next to me on the couch, honest!!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seeing the truth

How do you get them to see the truth when they've been lied to in the past?

According to the state's policies, you cannot be promoted in middle school if you fail two classes and you cannot go onto high school if you fail the standardized test given at the end of the year. All of my students have failed the standardized test (that's why they are in my class) , 50% failed one class and 40% (of the total) failed 2 or more. I have students who failed all of their classes last year, and the year before that, and the year before that . . . .

So, here we are in high school telling them if they fail a course for the semester, they will need to repeat that semester. Am I surprised that they don't believe us? Not really, but I do point out (at least weekly) that in high school, we will let you take a course however many times you want to take it - until you pass it. And if you hated it the first time through, it doesn't get more interesting the second (or third) time.

Add the grade recovery policy, and I cannot get them to understand that time is running out. I build in graded items to help them learn the material (keeping a journal where I write instructions on the board that they are to copy, daily warm ups that are collected biweekly for a quiz grade, etc.) AND raise their grade - but a certain contingent refuses to do this. I think if I look, they are they ones who failed 3 or more classes.

Some learn by observing others, some learn by listening, and some, after reading the WET PAINT sign, just have to test it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Teaching for mastery

Thomas Sowell writes:

Some of us were raised to believe that reality is inescapable. But that just shows how far behind the times we are. Today, reality is optional. At the very least, it can be postponed.

Kids in school are not learning? Not a problem. Just promote them on to the next grade anyway. Call it "compassion," so as not to hurt their "self-esteem."

Can't meet college admissions standards after they graduate from high school? Denounce those standards as just arbitrary barriers to favor the privileged, and demand that exceptions be made.

Can't do math or science after they are in college? Denounce those courses for their rigidity and insensitivity, and create softer courses that the students can pass to get their degrees.

Once they are out in the real world, people with diplomas and degrees-- but with no real education-- can hit a wall. But by then the day of reckoning has been postponed for 15 or more years. Of course, the reckoning itself can last the rest of their lives.


In our district we do grade recovery. Constantly. The students have learned that deadlines mean little - so when we come up against a real deadline (like the end of a semester) they don't believe it.

And if they only do grade recovery, we are not teaching for mastery and they never learn the material.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another teacher in the crosshairs

One of the teachers in my school is finding himself in the crosshairs of the administration. Obviously, you don't sit in each other's classrooms to see how someone teaches, but you hear people talk about their philosphies and what they do for their students. This is someone who knows the material - and really cares about the kids - cares enough to se the bar high and help them achieve it. This teacher has some of my non-achievers from last year - and I will talk about them more later. They don't want to learn the material. They don't even want As. They want a 70 with no work, leave me alone, let me talk to my friends and DON'T BOTHER ME.

The teacher has been told he will be held accountable for their grades, he cannot set a limit of the number of times they do grade recovery and cannot set a deadline for any grade recovery.

I see him shutting down and fear he will be looking for a position in another district come spring. What a waste.

The administrators do not feel that we are training the kids for the future. I have heard them say what happens to these kids after they graduate is not my (the administrator's) problem. I believe I am training my students for the future, not for the next test. What a disconnect.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It may be the students I teach or the area, but IDK seems to be considered a reasonable answer.

Last year, I sat for a test to add science to my certification, having studied all summer. One question dealt with the way a battery worked to convert potential energy to energy. I couldn't think of the actual reason, so I wrote everything I could think of related to batteries or energy - and managed to pass the test.

I brought this to my class as a teaching moment and pointed out that IDK would have bought me nothing but my (mostly unrelated) answers did get me some more points, and the number of IDKs on my quizzes and tests went away.

A friend currently in college gave me this story: an undergraduate student answered IDK on a test. When the test was returned, there was no grade on it. He asked the professor, what's my grade, and the prof smiled and answered IDK.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I teach 9th grade math in an old school in a small county in The South. My students aren't motivated (for the most part) and don't like math (for the most part) and MAY plan on graduating high school (for the most part), so it is a challenge.

I don't have a warm, huggy personality but I work hard to help them succeed at whatever their goals are. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes, I fail. But I "get knocked own, I get up again, ain't nothin' gonna keep me down." I had a horrible experience with an evil principal. It leaves a mark on you. No matter what I do, I am afraid the current Head Honcho will find me lacking, so I overcomensate.

I love the kids I teach, even when I don't necessarily like them.

I love math. Doing math. Teaching math. Thinking of how to translate other topics into math. I was geek before geek was a word. That's ok too.

Warm Fuzzies beat Cold Pricklies

I don't blog often (paranoia) but had a wonderful experience Friday. A student from last year came into my room for help in Geometry. He told me that he always looked forward to 1st period last year because I broke the math into small pieces and made it make sense.

My current students were watching - and listening. He came into my worst class. I hope they learned that I do care and want them to succeed. In any case, it felt good.

And a current student (who gives me grief) told her mother that she knows I care and I work harder for her than other teachers.

Merry Christmas!!