Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

Okay, Spot, you little smoochy, cutie-pie! I know, I know. That red leash is way too tight. Tell your mama to loosen up a bit. You are a big boy!! In fact, you, my friend, are a "tween-ager!" 

Tonight all the Mamas and the Papas came for Intermediate School Orientation Night. Sometimes...they are so nervous, they can barely sit in their chair. All the big shots at school talk at them, but they're not listening. You know what the Mamas and the Papas do? They stare at us...the teachers! They are one big checkin'-out-the-teachers-2-C-if-we-gonna-take-care-o'-their-babies group!! I don't blame them. I'd wanna get a feel for the people that are really gonna be on the frontline with my kids too!

We have to tell them, though...they've gotta lighten-up a bit. No hovering, no over-controlling. We really do know what we're doing in that school up on the hill. The intermediate model is a great thing for you, Spot! We ease you off the leash, but we keep our eyes on you too. You get to become a social being. I like parents to stay in touch, though. You are not off the hook, Spotty boy. Parents should never, ever stop watching, talking and snuggling you...because we want you to do well in this world. So Spot, you are growing up--but tweens always need the big people in their life to be a part of their life. Congrats, there little are movin' on up!

Oh...and if anyone remembers Junie------she was the tour guide from heaven, leading those Mamas and Papas too, on the tour of their life! She kept them on a quite the tight leash. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A New Principal?

Okay, Spot...I know, I'm upset too. Good old, Mrs. Principal-from-Heaven is retiring. But, relax Spot! I'm going online tonight to find the DREAM Principal! 

Here's my criteria...are you ready? I know, you want more time out on the playground to run around, cause chaos, mark your turf and all that rot. Well, forget that. We're in the business of learning here. And you? You're already far behind. In fact we're tracking your progress (or lack there0f), keeping data, discussing your data in our data-teams and oh yes, making changes in your program every time you move up one tenth of  a percentage point. That's fidelity! (No, it's not a stereo unit!) 

My criteria: The DREAM PRINCIPAL will let me TEACH. That's it. Give me feedback. Ask me to reflect on my teaching. I don't care about that. But start getting me pulled out to identify this and manage that and create a new gameplan to solve every individual problem in the world? Go away...those are the nightmare principals that need not apply. The dream principal understands the complexities of the job, and he/she is just around the corner on Craig's List, I'm sure! So, adios Spot! And a Happy Cinco de Mayo to you!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Classroom Rigor-Just Another Day in the Trenches

As always in education, there are buzz words...and then there are BUZZ words! Academic rigor has been around for a while now, so I thought I'd gnaw on that for a while. I'm to be observed this week for ten minutes with the bulk of the administration walking through the building, entering and exiting my sixth grade classroom in groups of four for ten minutes at a clip. Sounds like the stuff of nightmares, right? I don't mind. (Although that may change after the fact!) When they're done, they reconstruct the lessons they've seen around the building. Boy, would I love that job! Imagine the mosaic: math, science, social studies (me), band and technology. 

Their number one coveted item: Rigor...with differentiation and engagement not far behind. I figure I'll give it a shot before the effects of the budget cuts when class sizes could soar to 28 or so.

So here's the plan: Kids will read and attempt to interpret (using all they've learned about China up to this point) the quality of life in China today, based on their own lives here of course. Using a variety of leveled readings and a previously viewed video (no...I'm not that nervy!), they'll compile a gallery related to topics such as everyday life, modern improvements, the environment, education...and China's place in the world today. What my kids want to know most about China today is the One Child Policy, a topic that is a bit R rated for my very naive students, and  a bit risky to handle under these circumstances. We'll gnaw on that one another day. 

Rigor to me is a deep desire to dig into the deepest and darkest recesses of a topic. No matter how challenging, kids will push forward. I know from our classroom work last week...laptops in tow, that this group of kids will rigorously follow a trail of websites to find meaningful information on their individually selected China topics. Often the problem in teaching with texts, though, is that the material has no portal, no way to drop down into that rabbit hole and tumble until you find the pay-dirt you're looking for! Isn't it about time we provide a laptop per kid in every school and skip these archaic texts for learning? Or perhaps Kindle could help us out...iPhones? Well, now that's a risk!

Arne Duncan talks about schools failing...scary that he uses that kind of sweeping rhetoric. Many more kids are going to college than ever before. Some schools are failing--most schools are struggling to survive in a world that is predominantly digital with only a few paltry laptop carts passed around once/twice a year. Schools need modern-day resources, but that's a discussion for another day.

I'll find the varied type of reading I'm looking for. I'll use my Mimio to demonstrate mark-ups on the screen. I'll move my kids around and then shuffle them back together just like I always do. And the hope-is that it'll all work out in the end. The 'seasoned crew' is covering this visit. Certainly none of our newer, pink-slipped partners would ever dare take the hit!