Saturday, November 21, 2009

tragedy in the bungalow on a Tuesday

Oh little birdie
I will keep my blinds lowered
In your memory

Bye Bye Birdie

Note from my sub: "Toward the end of the period, a little sparrow flew into the classroom! I saw it & quietly walked toward it, so as not to make a scene. It flew in an arc across the room & smacked into a window, and dropped to the floor, dead. I grabbed some paper towels & carried it outside. I put a little cross ...on the window as a memorial for the poor little birdie : ) So much for not making a scene."

This just happened to happen in my big ol' huge toughest class.

So now there is a yellow cross on one of the windows, inscribed: "R.I.P. Little Birdie". So sad. School is supposed to be a safe place.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Scantron: love/hate

Normally the tests I give have a smattering of matching, some "use the vocabulary word in a sentence that demonstrates you know its meaning", and an abundance of short answer and mini-essay questions. They take HOURS of brutal boredom to score. Such a test is a snapshot into a kid's brain--I can see what they comprehend and where they make connections and where their thinking is fuzzy or their understanding is lacking.

With a Scantron™ test, students bubble in responses. The tests take minutes to grade, and I can see which questions were missed most. But I can't see how they interpreted a question to arrive at a "wrong" answer that actually does best align with their interpretation.

Worse yet, I can't tell with a Scantron™ test if my questions are well-or poorly-designed. See, I try to design even multiple choice tests expecting kids to think about their responses. I do not believe much in rote memorization, and even my Scantron™ tests reflect that. They are not generally straightforward; they require making inferences.

Well, the kids BOMBED their first Lola Scantron™.And now the tension in my head: did I do a poor job teaching this? Or did they blow off studying because I told them it would be a multiple choice test, or did they rush through it without deeper thought?

Can't tell. It's hard to go forward without a diagnosis...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Club: The Global Achievement Gap

Our professional book club starts soon. We will be reading a book that posits that our schools are failing to teach students the skills they need to succeed in the best jobs around because we are too busy "teaching to the test", the Almighty state standards test that NCLB mandates.

Before I go further, have any of these critics seen the tests that are being taught to?

Is it possible for a multiple choice test to measure critical thinking?

I really want to know. In my class, tests always have a healthy portion of short answer/essay questions, and the homework I assign/design requires originality and thought. Hmmm...

Monday, November 9, 2009

swine flew....

Oh H1N1
Take your filthy snout and fly
Far away from here


It's here. It's nasty. It's H1N1.

Yet I am not worried; I am likely immune. Oh, I wash my hands, use Clorox™ wipes on desk tops, make any kid who sneezes wash hands, even kids who correctly sneeze into their elbows.

See, I work daily among the least hygienic demographic in the universe, beat out only by dirt-eating babies and poop-throwing chimps. Last week I was grading one set of a test while another class was taking it, when in dismay I found SOMETHING, something organic and bloody and gooey on a test. I let out a shriek--involuntary, I assure you--and when the class saw what I saw, they were just as appalled. "Is that a BOOGER?!?" one gasped. My stomach flopped.

I am not making this up.

I stopped and considered. This was something gross that was visible. What about all the microbes and freaky germs that crawl around that we can't see? A person could go crazy dwelling on the unseen. So I'm not going to do it. I will offer prayers for mercy and grace during this outbreak, I will offer love and service and support to the afflicted, but I will not allow it to consume my thoughts.