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Teacher or Score Whore? August 13, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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6 comments

 

“All perceived underachievement by students is entirely the fault of teachers.” 

I’ve been mulling over posting Rewriting the Attack on Teachers from The Last Word on The Lawrence O’Donnell Show for over a week now. The show featured a clip of Matt Damon and his mom, who is a teacher, speaking out against this national obsession with standardized testing. The comment above is taken from the show. (And yes, if you click on the link, you have to sit through a commercial first. ^#^&8&.)

But in the meanwhile, MY students’ STAR test results came in. I was elated to learn that four of my 28 third graders scored a perfect 600 in math on the standardized STAR test given in May! Even more exciting, 24 scored Advanced and 2 at the Proficient level. I wasn’t surprised about the two students who didn’t make the grade. They struggled all year and scored Basic, but it could have been worse. There ARE sub-levels of failure including Below Basic and Far Below Basic.

It helped that this year I taught a cluster of GATE (Gifted and Talented Students). They made up half of the class. The four previous years, I taught an ELD (English Language Development) cluster where the test scores can sometimes make you wonder if you’ve been talking to yourself all year.

My students’ English Language Arts scores were less stellar, but that’s always the case. Whereas, math is black and white, the English Language is a moving target for my students. Still, if I taught in one of those districts that handed out money for test scores. Ka-ching! My initial reaction was, “Woo hoo!”

But then I got to thinking, something that teachers are prone to do. Though my class tested well, most of my students have difficulty writing a coherent paragraph. And with all that test prep, we barely touched on those two subjects that begin with S – Science and Social Studies. But these things aren’t “on the test” which is code for they must not be that important.

But what about imagination, passion, and creativity? Matt Damon asked. “None of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested.” Sssh! The elephant in the room has stirred!

In Not Your Imagination: Kids Today Really Are Less Creative, Study Says, Ron Beghetto, an educational psychologist at the University of Oregon, posits, “The current focus on testing in schools, and the idea that there is only one right answer to a question, may be hampering the development of creativity among kids,” adding, “There ‘s not much room for unexpected, novel or divergent thought.”

Amen.

When it comes to talking not just about educational reform, but educational Revolution, I can think of no one as articulate and downright funny as Sir Ken Robinson. In his 18-minute talk at TED Bring on the Learning Revolution!, Robinson urges us to scrap the outdated industrial/manufacturing/fast food model of education where the goal is standardization and success is based on the standardized test in favor of a model where kids’ natural talents can flower. He also debunks the myths that “Everyone should go college” and “College begins in Kindergarten.”

It’s rousing food for thought, especially as a new school year awaits. Score whore no more! I’m a teacher. Period.

Credit: Score: Score Whore merchandise (yes, that’s the front of a notecard for the teachers in YOUR life) available through Urban Dictionary.

English as a Foreign Language May 25, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Language, Travel.
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6 comments

chucks&tea

I’d like to think I’ve got Culture – only it’s spelled with a “K.” So that’s how Lesley and I ended up having a posh lunch at The Swan in Southwold on the Suffolk coast.

The bartender explained that we could have a drink OR if we wanted to eat in the dining room, we could have two courses AND a drink for a bargain price.

Lesley literally sprinted to the dining room where I enjoyed gammon (think thick ham) and mash (as in potatoes) and a glass of wine. Everyone was wearing a suit and tie and looked frightfully proper. But when you’re wearing Converse aka Chucks in the UK, you can just pass yourself off as eccentric. We had the most lovely lunch and convinced the waitress (who confided her nickname was “The Rottweiler”) to take our picture.

Though we share a common language, I confess that when I’m in England I feel like I’m an English Language Learner. Just when I’d gotten used to “car park” and “pegging out the wash,” I was inundated with a barrage of new expressions that bear repeating.

Take “bovver boots.” While in Southwold, Lesley and I popped into Daddy Longlegs, where I sprang for a pair of red boots. There were Doc Martens on the shelf above, but I loved the cherry-stained color of the ones I bought. The clerk informed me they were handmade in Spain. (I asked if a man named Manuel had manually caressed them, and she rather fancied that idea.)

Back in Fram, I put them on to wear out to the pub. As we walked down the street, Lesley informed me I looked like a “bovver boy.”  Huh?  “They’re “bovver boots” she replied, and then seeing my blank stare, informed me that “bovver” is the working class equivalent of “bother.”

When we got home from the pub, us giggling Googlers found “bovver boots” and “bovver boy” in the Urban Dictionary. I learned that they (and yes, Doc Martens are the ultimate bovver boots) are worn by undesirables looking for trouble. Moi? I’m flattered, though to achieve the real bovver boy look, I’d need to shave my hair and wear braces (suspenders). There’s also a lot of saying “oi” involved, as it’s Cockney slang for “hey.” (Thanks again to the Urban Dictionary.)

I’ll leave you with a few English expressions that will add spice (and not just curry) to any conversation:

I’d like to p%ss on his chips!
I don’t know whether to take a p%ss or to comb my hair.
AND
I don’t trust her.  She’s got one eye on the pot and the other up the chimney!

 


Acronyms Are Da Bomb October 26, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Language, Teaching.
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1 comment so far

I’ve recently rejoined the living after a 21-day Teacher Cold, so I’m tempted to say that ASAP stands for Antibiotics Sudafed And Prednisone, but that could be the meds talking. 

Forget Navajo code talk.  When I was growing up my father was a master of acronyms.  My brother and I often qualified as a PITA (Pain In The Ass), a distinction we still proudly claim.  So it’s only natural that I introduce my students, most of them English Language Learners (ELLs to civilians), to the English language’s many acronyms – some which are endemic to a certain third-grade classroom.  

When I first taught my students that FYI means For Your Information and ASAP means As Soon As Possible, you’d have thought they’d deciphered the Rosetta Stone.   My students know the difference between 12 o’clock noon and 12 o’clock midnight because at noon it turns to pizza munching time and Cinderella had to be home at midnight.  My personal favorite is XYZ, which I explain in a hushed tone of voice, means “eXamine Your Zipper.” The boys particularly appreciate this snide aside and quickly zip up.

This year we have a new math program that my students are less than enthusiastic about.  I got tired of their disgruntled mutterings every day when it was time to pull out the math book, so I christened it Da BOMB (The Big Old Math Book).  Now when I say it’s time for math, I simply tell them to take out Da BOMB. When we’re done with the lesson, they “diffuse” Da BOMB and put it back in their desk.  Hey, it keeps me entertained, and if the teacher ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

If you’ve got a problem with that, you need to MYOB (Mind Your Own Business).  When a student from two years ago came up to me the other day and discreetly whispered “XYZ,” I knew my work was done.  My kids might not be able to tell you what NCLB means, but even if their scores aren’t up, their zippers are.  Since they’re only in third grade, I spare them KISS and they can figure out IRS (or in some cases INS), when the time comes.  

If you’d like to decipher cryptic text messages, or catch a glimpse of the English Language which is evolving as I write this, you can go to the Urban Dictionary and find more information than you ever wanted or needed to know.  WTF?  But that’s IMO.

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