I Had The Strangest Dream…

Here we are, teaching fans, counting down the days until we’re back in the saddle again.  New year, new class, new goals and hopes and dreams.  Speaking of which, check this out.  It’s weird, right?

The credit goes to my mom who passed this along to me.  Thanks, Mom!!

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It Makes You Think

Yes.  I admit it.  I’m a big cheeseball.

Today we had a Professional Development presentation about inclusion in the general education classroom.  It was actually Part II of a two part training.  At the end of the session, the presenter played this video.  I think everyone in the room found it moving and thought-provoking.

Now I’m passing it along to you.  No, I’m not kissing up.  Promise.

Because Geniuses Run the World

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the Common Core State Standards.  For the uninitiated, they are the instructional standards for kindergarten through grade twelve, the core math and language arts content that students should have mastered by the time they graduate from high school.

Initially, Common Core was adopted by most of the fifty states, including the great state of Florida.  As with anything new, it was greeted with huge controversy and there was a lot of loud protest against the Common Core.

I had no problem with Common Core, per se.  I mean, doesn’t it seem reasonable to say that first graders in Maine, Oregon, Iowa, and Texas should all be learning the same thing?  If only so that if Johnny moves from Freeport, ME to Portland, OR in the middle of the year, he’ll be up to speed?

I think the visceral negative reaction was more due to the fact that once again, standards were tied to big, high-stakes, standardized testing.  I prefer to think of these tests as “Gotcha!” assessments.  If Johnny has a head cold and didn’t get the right amount of sleep the night before, or, heaven forbid, he’s just not feeling it on a given day, Gotcha!  You, the student, fail, and you, the teacher, are incompetent.

At any rate, mucho dinero  and ridiculous amounts of time were spent in the pursuit of retraining teachers and administrators on the Common Core State Standards.  Whereas previously, Florida teachers were required to teach to the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), now we were being required to teach to the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  I know what you’re thinking.  Six one, half-dozen the other, right?  That’s where you’d be wrong.

You see, FCAT is owned by Pearson, and they have been getting millions of dollars for years for administering and scoring the test.  Ironically enough, they also get millions of dollars for selling intervention materials for students who score poorly on the test.  Well, that’s convenient.

PARCC, however, is a consortium of participating states, and according to the website, not affiliated with a publishing company.  The process of developing the test is described in this way:  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.

But alas, none of that matters, because despite having spent the last three years gearing up for the inaugural launch of the PARCC this coming spring, the great state of Florida decided, in its infinite wisdom, to opt out of Common Core State Standards.  We were informed of this mid-May of last year.  We will, instead, be teaching the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Florida Standards (MaFS).  I shit you not.  And, obviously, there will have to be a new standardized high-stakes test.  Do you suppose someone’s brother-in-law will get the bid for administering and scoring it?

And oh, by the way, said the powers that be, here’s a list of concepts you haven’t covered yet, but you need to cover them by the end of the year so that next year’s second graders will be up to speed.  I’m sorry.  Your emergency is not my emergency.

Which brings us back around to the the present.  We’re being asked to revamp our math block.  Must prepare for the new test.  Which my first graders won’t take for another two years.  Or at all, if the powers that be change their minds again.

We’ll need to add math centers.  Which we used to do, then were told we couldn’t do them, now we’ve gotta again.  Sigh.  I wanted to share a picture of a manipulative my girl Miz O Postrophe made.  She gives credit to Teacher Tipster for the idea, but it’s a really good thing.

wpid-20141003_133819.jpg

Ten frame made by Miz O Postrophe, from an idea by Teacher Tipster

You’re looking at a Dollar Tree baking sheet, painter’s tape, and two-color counters with magnetic tape on the back of them.  Boom!  You’ve got a ten frame.

Here’s what I think.  Regardless of which standards we use or what standardized high-stakes test we are expected to teach to, the truth is the truth.  At the first grade level, we’re teaching the nuts-and-bolts foundational skills of reading, writing, addition, and subtraction.  All the rest is smoke and mirrors.

Zero the Hero, 3; Mountain Math, Zip

wpid-20140929_164419.jpgTomorrow is Day 30 of school.  Zero the Hero is bringing everyone thirty pieces of chenille stems.  We used to call them pipe cleaners.  To-may-to, to-mah-to.

At any rate, we will count them by ones, twos, fives, and tens before we write about them in our Zero the Hero Journals.  Zero will also direct us, via his e-mail message, to use them to create “something cool.”  It should be interesting.

And, I have yet to actually break out Mountain Math.  Ah, well.

When the Name of the Game is Improvise and Overcome

wpid-20140918_063950-1.jpgMeet Bob Marley.  He’s a necessary evil in my daily work life.  As advertised on the sign written by a witty colleague, the thing is a master at jamming.  Here’s what the photo doesn’t show.  This printer, which is connected to my computer, is located three buildings away from my classroom.

So picture this–you want to print a report to show a parent, an alternate running record form, or any other document.  You have to choose ‘Store Print’ from Preferences, choose a user name, name the document, give it a four-digit code, send it to the printer, leave your room and walk three buildings away through rain, sleet, or hail (just kidding, we don’t get sleet), and hope that it was actually sent and that no one else happens to be on the machine at that time.

Do you suppose the Superintendent of Schools has to do this?  When I first started at my school in 2004, I actually had a printer in my classroom.  But a couple of years later, when my toner cartridge ran out, I was told to throw the machine away.  The District was no longer providing printers or toner for classrooms.  So I was hooked up to Bob Marley.

Well, not actually Bob Marley.  He was new last year, replacing an equally unreliable behemoth.  One day last year, I received an email about a flash sale held by a national office supply company.  For a mere $89 I could have my very own laser printer/scanner/copier in my classroom.  I jumped on it, refusing to ask the question, In which other profession would someone even contemplate purchasing office equipment out of their own pocket?  Obviously, I wouldn’t use it for entire class sets of papers, but for single documents that I then take down to Bob Marley, it’s perfect.

One thousand pages later, my toner ran out.  I discovered that the replacement toner cartridge is about $120.  Seriously?!  Then someone turned me on to buying toner and ink on eBay.  I was able to get two replacement cartridges for about $50.

Oh yeah!  Happy dance!  Come on, District!  Hit me again!

Bizarro Generation Gap

electric_company_mainHey, you guys!  Do you remember The Electric Company?  Not the dumb knock-off recently shown on PBS.  I mean the brilliant original show.

Ok, I get it. I’m old.  No, really, I’m staring down the barrel of the big 5-0.  Many moons ago I learned to read by watching The Electric Company.  It was like Sesame Street for the elementary school crowd.  We’d already learned our letters.  This helped us put them together so we could read.  EC was fast-paced and featured sketches illustrating various phonics concepts like the two sounds of g, actors in profile silhouettes pronouncing word segments (c, at, cat), and the amazing silent e.

The show featured some very big talents.  Check out the photo.  Second, third, and fourth from the left are Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Bill Cosby.  The Adventures of Letterman was narrated by Joan Rivers.   Mel Brooks even had a few voice-over segments.

Years ago I purchased The Best of The Electric Company on DVD to use in my classroom.  I like to show it sometimes when we have the time with the stipulation that if there’s a word on the screen, you need to read it.

That brings me to one day this past week.  We had a Professional Development Day, so the students were dismissed at 11:30.  We brought our lunches back from the cafeteria and I put on the next episode of The Electric Company for the kids to watch while they were eating.

I have 25-year-old intern with me this semester.  Enthusiastic Intern was clearly unfamiliar with the program and she was as excited as the kids to read the words on the screen and to sing along with the songs.

“Wait!  Is that Bill Cosby?” she at one point asked, incredulously.

They all, Enthusiastic Intern included, watched in rapt wonder as Bill drew something on a large poster.

“It’s a square!” shouted Enthusiastic Intern.

Bill added a few more details to the square and one of my short-fry friends said, “It’s a tv.”

“It’s an old tv,” quipped E.I.

At that point, 6-year-old Preciously Precocious turned around in her chair.  You might remember her from the post Progressive Children’s Programming (Or Not) https://notyourmamasteacher.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/progressive-childrens-programming-or-not/ .  She’s a delightful old soul masquerading as a small child.

“This was made in, like, the 1960s,” she patiently explained to Enthusiastic Intern.

In, like, the 1970s, actually.  But who’s counting?

So Happy Someone Has It All Figured Out!

You know, snark just doesn’t translate satisfactorily through text.

This article was shared on Facebook by Just Let Me Teach.  It’s from The Onion.  It’s funny because it mocks the typical kinds of things proposed by those so far out of ‘the know’ that the light from ‘the know’ would take a thousand years to reach them (Thank you, Mr. R., for the description!).

http://www.theonion.com/articles/tips-for-fixing-the-nations-education-system,36919/

My personal favorite is the fourth suggestion: Maybe get some underprepared, overconfident recent college graduates in there to figure things out.  That made me laugh out loud, perhaps because once upon a time, I was that person.  When I think back on my first year of teaching, it’s a marvel that none of those parents slapped me silly.  I was an idiot.

The thing about education is, everyone’s been to school.  Therefore, everyone feels like an expert on how education should be done.  And they feel entitled to enlighten those of us in the trenches day in and day out with their armchair expertise.

To repeat an oft-quoted line from my favorite show: You know nothing, Jon Snow.

I’m not Miss Beadle.