Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quiet Celebrations

I learned earlier this week that I have been successful in earning my National Board Certification.  After hundreds of hours of filming, writing, thinking, and rewriting it was a relief to get my test scores and portfolio grades back.  I feel really good about the work I did, the scores I earned and the quality of my portfolio; however, when I learned that my mentor didn't get awarded the NBC, I was devastated. She was going through the process at the same time and I was sure that she would get it and I would have to try again. 

How do I celebrate now? How can I talk up the process of serious professional iteration, reflection, and critique when she is struggling to figure out what happened?

I wish there was a simple answer. I will let my principal and the building leadership team know but I will not advertise.  I will have to keep this accomplishment to myself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Growing a Pair

I have given money to the 2012 Obama campaign.
I will vote for Obama.
I would love to volunteer but I refuse to do so.

The President needs to step up, acknowledge the Occupy Movement in a positive way, and defends the First Amendment Rights of those protesting and condemn the actions of those who want to trample on the less powerful.

He needs to start talking about why there are so many people out of work and underemployed while the few make millions, pollute our planet, degrade free and public education, and maintain a status quo for energy giants who are dragging their feet to move towards sustainability.

Many of us understand we are moving through an adjustment period where we must learn to live with less. I have no problem with that but there will be increasing political unrest as long as the people in this country perceive economic injustice.

The campaign can call me when he addresses these issues.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Giving up, giving in or just moving forward?

I had all these big ideas and big challenges for this year: rewrite my curriculum, learn how to use my SMART clickers, develop a STEM program at my school, work as an instructional coach, live without a classroom for half the day, and completely revise my grading system,

While rewriting my curriculum takes a lot of time, I love doing it.  Next to working with my students, planning my curriculum is the part of the job. It is just a really big job. I am figuring out the clicker system - it is just babysteps. I have time to work on the STEM program but it is going very slowly, building relationships with teachers first. Instructional coaching is also a slow-go but as long as it is going I am o.k. with it. I have places that I can "camp" during my off periods.  I just can't settle anywhere just yet.

Then there is the grading system.  I wanted to move towards a "standards-based" system that measures students' mastery instead of just giving out points.  So my students completed activities, worked on labs, did homework, recorded notes, and took quizes. They handed in their work, I graded it, then I sat in front of my computer trying to figure out how to enter the data.

And, I sat there.

Sat there, thinking, looking at the screen, paralyzed.

I realize now that I am not ready to assess my students this way.  I have been grading work and assessing student progress the same way for so long it feels nearly impossible to change.  Meanwhile, my students are waiting to get their work back with quality feedback.  I feel like it is time to just get the job done. I am going back to my old system.  Homework will count for 10%, classwork 30%, projects 15%, quizzes   15%, and tests 30%.  If I drop the lowest scores and give kids the chance to revisit the content, their grades will reflect what they have learned....I hope.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Keeping it Simple

My blog's name came after a long conversation with my 15 year old daughter about why solving the economic woes and getting out of Iraq and Afganistan are taking so long.  We talked about that again yesterday.  Here's what I learned from her.
  1. We must clearly communicate the history of a problem so that people can understand it fully
  2. Once the history is laid out and clear, we must listen to ideas. Listening is so much better than talking.
  3. Kids are smarter than we think they are.  They can handle the truth about war, politics, religion, and sex.  Why do we feel like we must protect them?
  4. Her take on things:
    1. When my school district handed down a 3% paycut across the board, I picked up summer work to make ends meet. Therefore, our government should raise taxes.
    2. When we got jobs, we started saving for retirement. When we had kids, we started saving for college. This is how to prepare for the future.  Social Security and Medicare fill that gap for some but these should not be paying for the wealthy or upper middle class.
    3. Anytime our family is feeling a little pinched, we all give up something to get through. Cutting programs should not be out of the questions.
I realize that the President, Senators, and Representatives at the bargaining table are worried about getting reelected but they need to do their damn jobs. Raise taxes, trim SS/MC benefits for those who can afford it, and trim expensive programs.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Time

"Oh, you must love not having anything to do in the summer!"

 "Ummmm, yeah, that would be nice?"

How else should I answer that question?  So I have taken off a lot more than I can chew this summer and I am wasting time blogging about it.  I need to sort it all out.  I am hoping that I can find some reason in it all:  2 CLEAN reviews, CLEAN resource collections, IGES-NASA Reviews, Learn More About Climate work, ESSEA, ICEE, and the Rain Garden Project.

Sure, all these "gigs" are a great way to make up for the 3% paycut that Jeffco handed out.  Now I can continue to save for retirement and the girl's college.  And I really think I could make it all work if all the deadlines weren't the same. As it is, I am working in my sleep.

'Nuff complaining! How many people can sit in the dappled shade of aspen trees in their back yard and make money?  Not too many!!

O.K. So, life is good: good family, good friends, good opportunities.  I just need to practice a bit of self-discipline so I don't burn out.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grading vs. Assessing

I love finding out how my students are learning.  I love talking with them, listening to them problem solve, and helping them shed misconceptions.  But, I hate grading.  You may think that this doesn't make sense. Grading doesn't feel like it really makes much of a difference. Maybe it is the way that I do it? Maybe it is because I feel like many students don't care about the comments or the feedback because the papers end up in the recycling bin before they are ever examined.

Standards-Based grading seems like a possible solution to this problem.  Can I develop a method of grading that truly assesses what my students know? Can this system help students retain their learning for a longer period of time? Can assessment motivate my students to learn rather than motivating them for a grade?

This is my quest!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Robins at -16 F

An arctic cold front has moved southward, encompassing the plains states and making everyone question the concept of global warming.  Three days ago, it was 62 degrees outside and people were hiking in shorts! Today I woke to -20 and wondered how all the critters that spent the night out could ever survive.

Then I saw him, a big beautiful Robin, sitting on my deck railing and eating the bits of bird food that had spilled when I filled the feeders.  Where did he come from and how could he survive these frigid temperatures?  What a paradox to stand outside, a weak sun shining without heat, listening to a robin sing.