Saturday, March 31, 2007

No Child Left Behind

How would you respond to this:
"I really don’t care if I can write well or not, all I want to do is pass this class with a good grade and take my chances in college"?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tall People Have Feelings Too

This is a general observation that I promised a good friend I'd blog about. My friend is 6'6", and I am a mere 5'9". The other day I went golfing with him. As we exited the clubhouse, headed towards the first hole, a middle-aged man quipped, "Well, I think you exceed the height requirement." These statements boil my friend's blood, so I told the man that I appreciated finally getting recognized as tall.
What makes the story even more interesting is that we have another mutual friend who is 5'4". I can guarantee that the middle-aged man would have remarked about that friend's lack of height. So, why do people feel it is acceptable to comment on height when someone is tall, but no one believes it is acceptable to quip about someone who is short?
If you are much taller than the average for your gender, do you feel the same way as I do? And if you are, I'm not going to lie, I am jealous that you have to deal with that problem.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Test Prep

Here in the edusphere, we've discussed, to the point of death, the merits of state exams that inform the public about what students learn in school. NCLB created the need for accurate measurements of student learning. And while I don't wish to debate that particular corner of the subject, I would like to bring to this page a viewpoint I had not thought about.
A student of mine, a senior, recognized that our district will go to extraoridnary measures to ensure that students have the training necessary for the WASL--our state exam. We offer summer school sessions and support classes intending to help every student meet standard. This is the reality in which we opperate, and I can't say that I don't support the premise.
However, the student then noted that our district does not do the same for other equally important tests like the ACT and the SAT. Sure, we all understand that the SAT or ACT do not affect whether or not the schools receive Federal funding--the WASL does. But if we are truly about preparing students for the worl after high school, then shouldn't we put as much effort and money that we put into a minimum competency test like the WASL into a test that will determine college acceptance.
My student is correct. We should care as much about the SAT's and ACT's as we do about the WASL.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Dose of Reality

In my post "Experiment A," I told of my scientific experiment to determine if my grading scale was in line with what students will experience next year at college. This week, I showed the results to my students.
The professor who scored the essays marked the first page of one essay before quitting. She quit because she knew she would be marking the same mistakes throughout the essay. The professor marked mistakes like missing commas before coordinating conjunctions, missing commas after introductory clauses and phrases, pronoun disagreement, tense switches, and illogical connections. She also noted that the student often left thoughts unfinished, creating confusion.
I didn't take the "I told you so" approach; I merely explained the importance of adhering to the grammatical rules as well as the importance of expressing oneself clearly. I thought that my students would appreciate what I had done for them, and also what this wonderful professor had done as well. Here they were, seniors in high school, having an essay scored by a professor at a private liberal arts university. The information they received should benefit them greatly.
Apparently they all don't see it that way:

When we read over the essay that the college professor graded it really stunned me how hard she was. I thought that the essay was above-average, obviously she didn’t. I really began to think that her grading was way too extreme when she began ranting about how to use the word “they.” I have had many english teachers, but none of them have told me to use “him or her” instead of “they” when talking about someone. I’m not saying that she was wrong, I’m just saying that she was being way too picky.
Another thing that stood out to me was how she said replace “a kid’s” with “child’s”, and the reason was becasuse it “just sounds better.” That is pure opinion, and she should keep that to herself and not just add it to things that were wrong, because it wasn’t wrong. I also didn’t appreciate how she used terms such as “MCCC, MCI, UFP, and UNC”, because it seems that she was just showing off her knowledge of english grammar, instead of just grading the paper. If I have a college professor that grades that picky when I’m in college, I would probably drop the class and get another teacher.

I'm not sure how to respond to this. The saying seems more true than ever, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Madness

Shhh. Can you hear the squeaking of shoes, the thumping of a rhythmic dribbling, the swish of the net? There is no better time of the year, other than MLB playoffs for the sport nut. However, NCAA tournament games, unlike other profession sports' playoff games, happen during the workday. For millions of people, trying to sneak a quick glimpse at the television or masking their internet connection becomes a necessity in order to keep track of their brackets.

For me, I just create a lesson plan around the tournament, providing a great reason to check in on my picks.
Here's how to create a lesson plan that includes March Madness:

Pre-College English: This one is simple. Students are in the process of deciding where they will attend college in the fall. Hand out the bracket, give them time to research their choices, and then ask them to pick one of the 65 teams to explore further. The students should find out the following information:
1. Where is the school located?
2. Is it private or public?
3. Tuition.
4. Enrollment numbers.
5. Degrees offered.
6. Campus Life opportunities.

Reading Support: Okay, a bit more difficulty. But, trying to figure out those dang brackets--specifically, where to write the winner of the games--can be complicated if you've never seen one before. You must teach the skill of deciphering text features. Second, you should give time to your students to compare and contrast the teams playing. Having the students read opinions and facts about each team gives them the confidence to pick their teams with evidence.

And just like that, you've created the opportunity to check in on game scores. But really, the actual learning doesn't seem like learning because even kids who couldn't tell you the difference between Naismith and Namath want to get involved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Three Letter Words, Alex"

For 200$: When a parent disagreed with a teacher's late work policy.
"What is sue?"
For 400$: When parents disagree with team placement for their son.
"What is sue?"
For 600$: The best way to get rid of Wi-Fi access in school.
"What is sue?"
For 800$: If your child is asked to think critically about scientific evidence.
"What is sue?"
For 1000$: This three letter word causes school districts to take disciplinary--or preventive--action if a parent even mutters the word under their breath--regardless of the validity of their claims.
"What is sue?"

Here's where the current administration went wrong. They didn't fire every attorney who has ever accepted a stupid lawsuit by a stupid person.
If parents are allowed to bully schools, teachers, and coaches by threatening to sue, we are no longer capable of living without fear. Lawsuits are expensive. Even if the parents are wrong, and will be proven wrong, it is far less costly to districts to acquiesce to their demands--regardless of who they hurt in the process.
I propose, then, that all teachers, coaches, and like-minded district personnel join together in a class action lawsuit against parental stupidity. Let's make them pay for all of the times they signed a bogus excuse note or took their child to Disneyland during state exams. Let's give them a tab for all of the "pain and suffering" we must endure because their child is a selfish brat. Let's charge them with "malparenting."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Mr. Beetest's Physical Education

Sacramento, Calif.--When Sacramento Public Schools hired Mr. Beetest to head their Physical Education Department, they had high hopes for raising the level of activity amongst the student population. What they didn't expect was a violent tempered man ready to lay "the smackdown" on all their "candy asses." It began a few years ago-- the first signs that Mr. Beetest might have an anger management problem, or at least a sense of "untouchable superstar." At the time, Mr. Beetest was teaching in Indiana. He had become upset that a few of his students in class were not doing sit-ups fast enough. When he stopped class to demonstrate the proper technique, one student lobbed a jelly donut at Mr. Beetest. The donut splattered the gym floor with jelly, some landing square on Mr. Beetest's neatly pressed warm-up suit. Mr. Beetest exploded with fury. He charged the students and took a few swings. The other teachers who had been on staff with Mr. Beetest also jumped in the mix to protect this rising star in the district. Baffled by the outburst, more students entered the fracas, also hurling donuts and eclairs on Mr. Beetest and the other teachers as they exited into their office just outside the locker room. School officials recognized a media frenzy was about to descend on their school, so they quickly suspended Mr. Beetest for the remainder of the year. He would later apologize by writing poetry for the local coffee house. Eventually, Sacramento Public Schools came calling. They were in need of a marquee teacher that could thwart the rising levels of obesity in their students. Mr. Beetest, despite the baggage that came along, clearly was the answer. With his reputation on the mend, Mr. Beetest went about his business. Until one day he allegedly slapped his wife. SPS was forced to suspend him; but soon they realized that the California State Fitness Exit Exam was fast approaching. If they didn't have Mr. Beetest, they might not make AYP for reducing the number of fat kids in their district. So, despite inciting a riot at a school in Indiana, and allegedly slapping his wife; SPS accepted Mr. Beetest's apology for face value--something his wife allegedly has little of--and brought him back. Only time will tell if SPS will meet AYP, but with Mr. Beetest back in the gym, the prospects look good.

*Inspired by a true story.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I am going to have difficult time expressing my thoughts in this post. So if you are looking for a well-organized post, this one isn't it.
I have supported, in principle, the idea of merit pay. I believe that some teachers are more valuable to a school than others and should receive compensation for that value. Many who oppose merit pay cite poor leadership as a reason for avoiding merit pay. The fear exists that a principal, for a host of reasons, may make bad decisions about who exactly deserves the monetary value.
In my naivete, it never struck me that principals would sacrifice a deserving individual based on the pressures of a strong central office or simple dislike of an individual. Perhaps my naivete is based on the profession I have chosen. When we receive our certificates, we are held to a high standard of ethics--and we should. When we stand in front of our classes, we face students who look to us for consistency and integrity.
If I were to make an uninformed decision about a student's grade, I wouldn't last long. If I were to violate protocol in dealing with a student, I wouldn't last long. Or, if I were to treat students with a lack of dignity and respect as human beings, I wouldn't last long.
These realities make me wonder why central offices and administrations get away with these behaviors. It isn't because they are bad people, is it? They have a mom and a dad; a brother and sister; a son or a daughter. I blame power. The same people who will point to our current President and claim that he has misused his power and authority, run school districts with little oversight of their actions. Power corrupts. And when educated people, ones who are in this expected ethical profession, fail to live up to those standard, I have a hard time wanting to be a part of it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Masculinity vs. Femininity

I am a man--who happens to like Oprah, teaches literature, uses hair products, and goes to a salon once a month to have my hair styled. No, really, I am a man. I watch football, baseball, basketball, hockey, paintball, NASCAR, bull-riding, or any other quasi sport put on ESPN.
Once in a while, I get moody and bloated. Other times, I feel the urge to hunt down my own food by pillaging the meat section at Safeway.
My seniors are writing essays about these two themes; they will attempt to keep me interested in a subject that should pose little difficulty in holding ones attention. But, somehow my students will find a way to bore me to tears with introductory sentences like, "What does it mean to be a man?" Umm, maybe it means not writing that sentence to start an essay? Ever think about that?
I wish that these students would take a risk, you know? Really let it all hang out there--their real thoughts on what it means to be a man or a woman. I wish they would inventively humor me with quips about the genders that expresses both the holiness of each gender and the unholiness of each.
One student said she planned on writing about how men think only with a certain body part. Now that would be an interesting essay; a bit irreverant, but much more interesting than, "I think that women can be equal to men." Really? You do? I can't wait to read why.
I'll let you know some of the deep thoughts on the subject that come out of these essays. I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Experiment A

Observation: The teacher observes that students are dissatisfied with grades on essays. After listening to the student concerns, the teacher recognizes that self-reflection is in order.

Hypothesis: Teacher believes that current grading system is in line with preparing students for English 101 at the colllege level.

Prediction: Teacher will find that current grading system is actually below English 101 level.

Experiment: Teacher provides four Pre-College (grade 12) essays to a university professor for grading. The assignment sheet is also provided. The university professor is asked to score the essays as if each essay was the first essay turned in for English 101.

Results: After one essay, the prediction has come true. The teacher, who graded Essay Sample 1 as a B, received the sample back with a grade of F.

Three essay samples remain to be tested.