Sunday, August 24, 2014

Curriculum Improvement is slow work, Just going one step at a time....

So another nice day out, and I am making boards about Algebra 1 and Calculus.  These are the two classes out of the seven I teach that I am trying to flip.  It simply taking steps during summer to be slightly better each year - just 2% each year I joke and next thing you know you are making real substantial progress.

School in-service starts in 2 days - and I have done a lot of reflecting and working this summer on curriculum.  But I will admit the ugly truth - I have not made the best lessons and videos I could have.  That's because there is never enough time, I am always delivering less than my best (it is my best for the time available).   (Note - I know I read about this ugly truth in another article or blog  - but cannot locate it to cite - but I am joining that author and admitting the ugly truth.)

And sometimes that can be a weight on me.  I want to do the best - not just the best I can within my workload, or the best I can in some amount of time.  But that is not truly possible and something I rarely discuss - I talk about working hard, and making choices that maintain sanity.  I cannot spend 4 hours prepping a 45 min lesson - cause I have 7 different ones that day (7*4>24).

So another nice day - and I worked on curriculum - not all day, but part of my summer day and that is the best.

Friday, August 22, 2014

No more paper/pencil homework --- Using Donors Choose: Post thoughts, find solutions

Like many teachers the ideas I have do not match the budget of our school.  And when the story becomes interesting - I tend to chase the projects  -- one of the places I use is Donors Choose.

I have just used it again to help fund four Chrome Books for my room.  This is not the first time I have used the site - it is the third.  It helps close the gap between what the school can supply and things I want to do.

And now the Gates Foundation is matching funds - so all projects are "half-off."   And like so many things in this world it just takes promotion to cause motion - I think the project has real possibilities in making my class different.

My plan is to use the Chrome Books as a workstation with Khan Academy versus traditional homework.  The station is to get students to practice concepts and ideas correctly that are targeted to that student's current level -- allowing brave students to get ahead and helping others be secure in their concepts.  And I remember being one of those students who really did not care if I got the right answer - just that I had one -- Khan does not allow that (and what hypocrite I am too!).

So if you have parents/community/businesses who will support your school and you have a good idea & story try Donors Choose.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ed Camp - PD done differently

So Wednesday I went to Ed Camp for professional development in Oshkosh, WI -- a one day "un-conference" where all the sessions were figured out at the beginning of the day - no experts, all presentations by the participants.  A networking and sharing day.  As a rookie it was hard to follow at first - but as we gathered in one large group things started taking shape.  About 150 of us received instructions and started setting the sessions for the day.

So the sessions were a blank grid - 20 rooms - 4 sessions during the day -- so 80 blanks to fill in.  The plan seemed too big to work at first - but it was well-thought out and UW-Oshkosh Sage Hall was great.  They handed out post it notes and people wrote what they wanted to learn or what they could show.  They filled in the grid and the session titles into a google doc.  Then what would ensued was at the will of the people in the room.

For me personally it meant two good sessions and two that just did not work.  Sometimes ideas or problems were posed for a session and if no one knew the answer or an expert did not come the session would not flow well.   And that might be too polite - the session really just would not go -- the problem or open-ended idea really would die a death (like a fish on land flapping around).

So I picked up some flipping and homework ideas - but not 100% sure how to apply into my class.  So a okay event but the drive made it too little return for the hours invested, 5 hours of driving for me that day.  I need more items to put in the classroom things from my PD, more structure in the deep thinking sessions.  If it were closer and had just a few "bedrock" sessions  (Bedrock meaning having some experts to help, some session topics set prior to the day for attendees to "pre-reflect" on)  I think it would fit me better - but I also know it worked for some - just not me.

Just like a real classroom - everyone needs something different.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

CCSS in jeopardy in Wisconsin

So Scott Walker has called on the legislature to repeal the CCSS, and put in its place our own rigorous standards, "set by the people of Wisconsin." A politcal move - perhaps/surely, a move for the good of education - doubtful, a move we should make - I don't think so.

To be clear I am not a CCSS fan - there are too many standards in high school and we drive down too much math too soon in middle school.  We are not training teachers properly and it is causing problems.  But....

We need to realize, that Wisconsin is not single nation but a state in this nation which is a collection of states that make a republic, a democracy.  And it is the populate that makes that democracy - an educated populate.

And we, the teachers in all states, need to have a guideline that we run to - that is the CCSS.  Now am I hoping for version 2.0  (we should have 2.0 done already and should be looking for 3.0).  But just calling on Wisconsin to remove themselves from the CCSS is not the solution -- we have made 3 years of investment, we should be tweaking - not throwing it out.

Personally - it is hardest for me when I get the emails saying "see, another program started and not finished."   And they may be correct.  Heck, we did not even get to testing (not that standardized tests prove anything). 

And here we are quickly moving down the path of making the ROD teachers correct (ROD = Retired-On-Duty).  The "We have seen this before" gang - no need to change it will go away.  No need to use data or worry about improving.  [Lucky my school is void of RODs]

It is a sad for education, it is sad for our political system -- we are making children's education a pawn of politics.  We need to stop having new documents and programs and just have continous improvement on what is there.  We need standards - but they should be living - not cut in stone.

But here we go again...