Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Common Core Standards

This little picture was posted on Twitter.

20 percent

In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink describes what he calls "Fed Ex Days."  I'd call them Google Days, but the premise is the same.  Employees are given 20% of their work time to work on whatever projects interest and excite them.  In the Google world, this 20% time has resulted in lots of new products for Google, like Talk, Gmail, to name a few.

Pink advocates for such days in a school setting.  I've heard of various people putting it into action at the school wide level, but just discovered a teacher who is documenting how it's working in his classroom.  It just so happens that this particular teacher is implementing this in an 8th grade classroom, with the rules of it must relate to the topics considered "Social Studies" and they must be using skills included in the curriculum.  Check out 20 Percent blog.

I'm very curious what they come up with, how it works out, how it impact the teacher's ability to "get through" his curriculum, and I'm particularly curious how I might implement it on a block schedule (because while I have no problem giving up a 40 minute period a week, giving up 83 minutes every two weeks seems daunting!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Grading with Less Paper

I've begun in recent weeks to move toward using less papers in my assessment.  Previously, I've set up a bin each year with a folder for each student inside a folder for each class.  Work would be returned here and students were responsible for "homework buddies," and would collect work and let their buddies know what they missed.  It failed.  Students didn't collect their work, some not even looking at it all year, and they wouldn't take care of their homework buddies, so I had to catch the person up anyway.

So, I've set up Google Docs.  Each class has a folder (still) and each student has a folder within his/her class (still).  But it's digital.  I grade their work on rubrics, which I save to my computer, then upload to Google Docs. Students can only see their own folders, so when I upload work and share it with the individual folder, only that student can see the rubric.  I followed the steps outlined by this teacher to do the same method for midterm (project) grading.  Students get much more immediate feedback--they don't have to wait for me to put things in their folders, remember to check, etc--and it saves tons and tons of paper.

This is not to say this process has been without its problems; students forget to check it (it doesn't sesem to send an email when there's new forms shared), forget how to log in, forget the process altogether.  Some students simply don't like the technology.  Overall, though, it seems to be a successful method by which feedback on their work can be shared and with less overall paperwork.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I am the anti teacher of the year.  Some days, I like to think I'm doing a pretty good job, but I'll never be teacher of the year.  I've come to accept this, but that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed anyway.  I'm hard on myself, and as much as I'd love to say I'm all about Dan Pink's Drive, it's a realized fact of my life that I'm after the gold star.  The external motivator drives me, just as much (if not more) as wanting to do a good job because I want to do my best.

This year has been a tough one for me.  In addition to it being my first year back from maternity leave with a second child, I'm teaching a course I haven't taught in more than 10 years (and it was my FIRST year teaching to boot), a course I haven't taught in 4 years, and a completely new, online course.  To say my days are spent trying to keep my head above water the next day is an understatement. 

Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, I've made attempts to incorporate the Flipped Classroom into my US History 2 course.  Thus far, I've done two attempts, using both The Flipped Classroom and Mastery Learning.  It has, by no stretch of the imagination, been easy.  I feel like all my homework assignments are crap, which means what the kids are doing in class is crap.  I feel like in order to give fast feedback so students can make corrections, I spend all my time in front of a computer or at my desk marking papers so that they can be turned around and handed back.  Of course, the point of the Flipped Classroom is so the teacher has more engagement time with her students, but I feel like I have substantially less on those days.  And, for some reason, my students are frustrated but not telling me about it.

In short, most days I feel like my implementation of the Flipped Classroom gives the Flipped Classroom a bad name.

I believe there have been successes, though, and they're big ones.  I think my implementation has gotten students thinking bigger about the content--many of them are thinking more and memorizing less.  I've also been using essential questions to frame my units, and these essential questions, or elements of them, have become my test questions.  I believe students are thinking deeper and making more connections across time, whether by the lessons I've designed or because of something else.

My principal has asked me to write a reflection on what I'm doing here, and since the likelihood of me losing anything I write on paper is high, here's that reflection.  In my compartmentalized blog world of six blogs under this account alone (most of which haven't been updated in months), I hope I can remember to post at all.