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!


  1. It never ends, does it? You'll do fine. As you said, just do what you do. I'm sure they've selected the 'best and the brightest' for these observations. I hear Donna is retiring. Don't you have admin and super certification??? Hmmm....

  2. I wouldn't want to be an administrator for all the tea in China. Love working with kids, besides when I pick up my phone, I only want to hear the happy voices of my friends!

    Okay,'s what I'm up against: after reading a bit of text info today, I asked my astute students---why would the Dalai Lama be exiled from China? Answer: Because China is an overpopulated country? (That was just one too many mouths to feed!!!) Fortunately, there were a few others that helped out in the conversation!!! :) I love 6th graders!