Sunday, May 31, 2009


"Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast." Viktor Frankl

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just learned that my 4th student this year has been expelled

They make stupid choices - and I don't know how to help them make better ones.

Another teacher, working on his EdS, was discussing how the most important factor in determining a student's success is their parents. *If anyone knows that study, please let me know.* OK, I can't change their parents. I can't change their choices. I have to learn to let go.


My goals for next year:
1. Be more positive.
2. Be more clear in my expectations.
3. Raise the bar - whether they join me or not.
4. Help them learn to take better notes.
5. Take less STUFF to my room.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last days

Finals are rapidly approaching. It amuses me that this year's students are as appalled as previous classes that they have a final on the last day of school. I have prepared them all year - but they are still expecting a party on the last days.

The boy who will not take notes is expelled until the final. He didn't take his work. I can read the outcome, even if he can not.

I do not understand how to teach them that they cannot park their grade at the minimum passing grade - and expect to pass when they have a final coming that they will not prepare for.

I need a vacation.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Unnoticed Students

Great op-ed on unnoticed students - and the ones who don't fit in - at

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lowering the bar

Most of my students do sports, so I use a lot of sports analogies. I have pointed out that no one ever gets better at their game when less is expected of them.

Having said that, their exam is more than 10% of their final grade, meaning they need about a 78 in the class going into the final in order to pass. Most of mine don't have that.

In order to ensure that they pass (after all, that's my goal if not theirs), I am trying to figure out how to make the final easy enough and yet thorough. I think I have a strategy I can live with.

I will hand out a study guide 2 days before the final and then go over it for 2 days. They need to write the answers down on the guide. They must turn the guide in that 2nd day.

Then I will give them back the study guide with their final.

It galls me to do this, but I can't see how else to give a reasonable final AND meet the administration's passing goal.

Check out

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Destructive behavior

Several students this year decided to destroy things that belong to me. It wasn't a game or even done in anger. It was done just because.

I don't get it.

I keep telling myself that fewer than 5% of the kids I have ever taught ever do anything like this, but it is disturbing.

I know the studies that show if you want to rebuild a slum, you fix the windows and gradually the rest will take care of itself. Is this the inverse? That if you treat everything like crap we gradually reach a lower denominator?

There are stories about crab buckets (someone trying to better himself encounters others who want to drag him down) and maybe these kids honestly don't know any better. But they also accept no responsibility for anything - including their own destructive behavior.

If the families would spend as much time HELPING

I have a student who is failing several classes. He is quick to tell you he doesn't know anything because teachers from middle school wouldn't teach or help him. I cannot get him to copy notes from the board - neither can the teachers in the other classes he's failing. His mother will tell you it is because he doesn't understand it.

What do you have to understand to copy notes?

I build in a grade boost because I am a hard grader and cannot figure out how to change that. So, if they do the warmup every day (and I make sure the correct answer is on the board) and turn it in at the end every fortnight (love that word) you get a quiz grade that should be an easy 100. In the course of a semester, they're worth about 15 points on your final grade.

This student will not do that.

But, his father is buying him a car for his 16th birthday and his mother is encouraging him to get written up again so he'll get expelled. And when you meet the parents, they will tell you they have no idea how to get him to work. I am no genius, but I know how to reward him for not working.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Contracts tomorrow and the budget looks dire

Tomorrow we finally get next year's contracts - and the district is poor-mouthing the money it'll have......

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rigor part 2

So I do my review for the state test today and get interrupted in the middle. "How do you spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?"

"It is not on any of the tests we are reviewing for."

"But how do you spell it?"

I looked up and grinned. "Correctly."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

So how do you reward them in order to get rigor?

I keep looking for things I can do to give them an incentive to think. As someone who wanted to know everything, I am baffled by those willing to stare at the wall rather than do something. I will buy that they have had poor instruction in the past, but I don't think I am giving poor instruction.

I cannot give them candy as a reward. I cannot afford much above that. It has been suggested that I give them library passes for doing the work. This strikes me as "do my work and I will give you a pass to do something completely unrelated to what I am teaching as a reward."

I figure fewer than 10% see getting a good grade as a reward. Most are content with a 70. It's passing, isn't it? No wiggle-room, but it's passing.

And if they are willing to do the absolute minimum, how do you get rigor?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

You can lead them to the information but can you make them think?

I am really pondering that question.

I have had a student come to me for help with her math class. We've been doing permutations and combinations. My question for each of her problems has been "Does order matter?" If it does - it's a permutation. If it doesn't, it's a combination.

I know she wants me to do her work. (Thanks, but no thanks). I finally told her that she was guessing at easy answers but had to do some work or she was wasting both of our time. I handed her three books and said "how many ways can you line these up" and she was able to see that the order mattered.

But I know that I haven't changed the fundamental problem. She is unwilling to think - she wants to go play instead.

And that's what her teacher said when I mentioned she was coming for tutoring.

We (teachers) keep getting told we have to add rigor to our instruction. These kids are capable of thinking and they are capable of learning but they choose not to.

I am reviewing for the state testing. I have one kid reading The G Spot instead (yeah, like that's on the exam) and another who said "don't you want me to increase my vocabulary [by reading]?" She didn't find it even amusing when I handed her a math book open to the glossery.

We are having walk throughs next week. I am trying to figure out how to 1) do my review and 2) get them engaged. I am thinking about splitting them into groups and having them compete against each other working the problems. But I need to practice this before the walk throughs.