Another educator I follow on Facebook posted a link to an article on this topic. I want to thank him for posting it. Since a comment would have been too long for Facebook, this is my response:
“I think in any profession there are measures that professionals aim for. I have enjoyed the state test as a target most of my 14 year career (I say most because when I first started down in Santa Ana in 1997 it wasn’t yet such a polarized focus). Anyway, I wrote a song called “Get on Board the Standards Train” and did a countdown every year et al. It’s not such a bad thing, you can see it as a sport. When you are running your classroom with that as a corporate goal for improvement, you don’t want parents to opt out. I wouldn’t (and won’t) opt my three kids out because It’s a measurable goal we can celebrate the results of and/or use them to improve given areas. Anyway … I dig all your posts and links so keep em comin’ – just thought I’d give you a perspective where the test is kind of cool and may even be missed. Having said that, I am really looking forward to the transition into common core and the more holistic sort of assessment on a computer that will bring. I agree that the test can produce stress for some kids, that is where the teacher as coach idea comes in. The relaxation of the classroom is just as important as the rigor. A great teacher needs to work at fostering both throughout the year.”
Below is an excerpt from the article that prompted my response:
A small but growing number of local parents are deciding to have their children opt out of the state standardized tests in English and math.
Some parents say they don’t want their children subjected to the stress tied to the tests. Others say they are protesting a school climate they say has become too focused on standardized tests, at the expense of critical thinking, hands-on learning and nontested subjects — from art to social studies.
And some say they don’t believe the tests are even reliable.
“It’s all about the test scores. I’ve seen so much time and so much money spent on this. And they’re not really a valid measure of student progress,” said Chris Cerrone, a social studies teacher who kept his own third-grade daughter home from state tests last week.
via Opting out of testing gaining favor with parents – City of Buffalo – The Buffalo News.
Like any other professionals, teachers get stressed. Here are some links that can help get you back and feeling good again.
I wonder if most people think about teachers as being stressed. I think they do. Ironically, we teachers think it’s not necessary to worry about the health effects of stress? This could not be further from the truth. As teachers, we deal with big stress levels each day. We need management stress training. These levels are proven to cause physical problems like high blood pressure and a slew of other problems touched on in the pages below. As a teacher, I owe it to my family and my students to take my health and stress levels seriously. Prioritizing that can prevent a lot of life complications. These links below are all ones I have read and recommend to you:
Identify Stress – Buffalo Counseling offers this excellent resource for teachers or any other person trying to manage stress.
In planning instruction toward a dynamite lesson plan, one extremely effective form of CFU is called curriculum mapping. It is referred to by many teachers as: “backwards mapping.” This can be used to strategically work toward test goals.
Backwards Mapping Requires Reflection
A Dynamite lesson plan is great, but we musn’t forget that assessment is a key part. In a given lesson plan format, such as EDI, it is often called CFU (Check for Understanding). As teachers, we need to know what stuents know when they know it.. EDI is a form of instruction. Today I am writing to you about planning instruction which is a “whole different animal,” as they say. Before the lesson plan, there must be backwards mapping.
Curriculum Mapping Requires Testing
Backward mapping requires a test. The test becomes the “data” for use in making a “backward map.” The test ideally is calibrated with the same standards as you plan to master with the students. Once you’ve given the test you can analyze the data by noting the percentage of accuracy on each standards. Depending on the teaching situation, you might decide standards that 70% of the class got correctly are no longer needed in your instruction. Whatever your lesson plan format, since we know the brain needs review you can always review that throughout the year.
Make the Map and Take the Road
The items where the students had less than a proficient percentage now become part of your instruction “map.” You then take those standards and create your instruction going forward. Let’s face it: no one wants their students to fail. This is an excellent way to focus on the toughest standards and guide your instruction to mastery of the concepts. This is a big job when you really get into it. That’s why I recommend doing it on a trimester or other periodical basis. Don’t do it nightly or even weekly. Wait for the data to be relevant, over time.
No Instant Gratification but …
Remember also that the brain likes small bites so resist the urge to re-teach it all at once. Teaching is a job of patience and tenacity not instant gratification. However, through setting goals and using strategies like backward mapping, we can experience the rush and satisfaction of seeing goals achieved.
If you use backward mapping or plan to implement it or something like it into your teaching, please let us know in the comments.
Most teachers I talk to agree the beginning of the year is the time to establish authority, rules, and expectations. What they don’t all agree on is how to do it.
Classroom management and expectations are a teacher’s best friend or worst enemy. It depends on how well a teacher conveys them to the kids. Research I’ve read shows that the beginning of the year is the best time to declare your classroom rules and expectations. If you fail to get the point across at that time, you have exponentially less control in the classroom until year’s end. You might say it is the most crucial learning objective you’ll have. Most teachers I talk to agree the beginning of the year is the time to establish authority, rules, and expectations. What they don’t all agree on however is how to do it.
I knew one teacher who believed in passing out a handout with the rules and not going over them. I knew another who would would take the entire first week of the school year modeling, explaining, and getting the kids to act out every scenario imaginable. He actually used puppets and the kids would “ad-lib” scenarios with him such as: “Hey, imagine the puppet is a kid outside and he says: ‘Your momma is ugly.'” The kids would horse around and make the puppets fight. Then, that teacher would take the teaching opportunity to talk about how silly it is to fight over words. What he’s really doing is setting the stage for child discipline. I feel the second teacher had a much better approach. Believe it or not, puppets are excellent classroom management tools.
I don’t focus solely on behavior management the whole first week, but I use most of it to set the curriculum aside and teach rules and expectations. I had kids the first week holding up crossed fingers and I had no idea why. I found out their teacher last year used that as a signal to go to the restroom. This is an example of why teachers should take time establishing new “grooves” of activity in the classroom. There is something called the “affective filter” that hinders kids from feeling comfortable learning and taking risks in the classroom. When the rules are unclear, an anxiety permeates the room. This anxiety can keep kids from learning to their potential and cause all sorts of mayhem.
I don’t recommend an entire week of nothing but rules and expectations but I think at least half a week with time for followup is a must. You can look into the classroom management books on this one.
Last week I noticed on Thursday that my kids were still not quite sure how I check for understanding. My method is different from many teachers as you may know if you’ve read my pieces on that. To summarize it, I say the question, wait, and then call on a random non-volunteer. This breaks with the traditional method of checking for understanding by forward questioning. I decided I would review and practice it until the kids were “awake” and answering when their number was called. They eventually did get it and we are ready to start the year strong. When things like this work, I share them here as teacher tips.
Have you thought about your style of class management? Is there a way you could convey it more clearly at the beginning of the year?
These are five things I value above and beyond financial compensation that make me want to come to work as a teacher every day.
Being a teacher is a wonderful career choice if you value the intrinsic rewards it brings. There can be a place for you and there are also online teaching job openings as well. Before you seek employment however, you should examine the reason people become teachers and the nature of the job itself. I’ve always thrived on seeing a student grow in academics or social skills.. This is what I think of as the “human-profit” margin. For example, one of my goals is always to see each kid improve scores over the preceding year. There are many altruistic values of teaching that motivate and keep us on track in our job. If you are a new teacher, take a look at these occupational traits. They are five things I value above and beyond financial compensation that make me want to come to work every day.
Kids are now what we once were and they will one day run society: This can be both exciting and daunting. Knowing one day the child I am teaching long division may one day perform open heart surgery on someone. On the other hand, they could become homeless and jobless if I don’t do my part to give them the skills and motivation to succeed.
Many times you are the only role model of a normal life: I had a parent conference a few years back where the parent had told me right there at the table that all 5 of her kids had different dads. That alone is staggering. I grew up in a house where my dad was always there fore me: tucking me in, coaching my soccer teams, teaching me guitar … I know not everyone has it that good but this was a lighter shade of pale. I felt sad for the confusion the child must live with each day. I couldn’t be that child’s dad (who wasn’t in the picture) but I started paying more attention to him and giving him the best advice I could during that year about life and academics. I hope I made a difference. Each day I have that opportunity as an educator. This one reason you might look for teaching opportunities as your career.
Students need a frame of reference to understand art: We forget sometimes how much kids do not know about the world. Most adults can tell you the difference between classical and pop music … most 4th graders can’t. Unless someone explains the difference between an 18 century painting an something modern my a cubist such as Picasso, or Andy Warhol for that matter … it’s all just blurs of sensation. A person may go their whole life and never appreciate art until someone tells them about it.
Students don’t always know how to be nice: We as adults get a million thoughts in our heads daily that are negative and self-defeating. If we are lucky (as I was lucky) we learn about positive self talk and talk with others. A person can go their whole life and never learn how to speak positively. I get to teach that every day (not always a walk in the park let me tell you).
Finally, kids need to learn respect for authority. A person can get to 15-18 or even 80 without that and suffer greatly because of it. As a teacher you are like a “soft” police officer, or judge. You represent authority and if you don’t teach then what respect is, chances are they will not have it when they are older. I like to think that every child who passes through my classroom in a given year knows how to respect her/his elders and her/his superiors. I know this will save them much trouble.
To close, these are 5 reasons I come to work each day. I am not rich by monetary standards but the reason I don’t feel poor is because each day I get to act on altruistic values. They are what give me the most satisfaction in my career. As a final note, I have found keeping an online teacher journal very helpful in measuring my progress toward altruistic goals, I highly recommend it. At the same time, it isn’t for everyone. Please note there are more online teaching opportunities manifesting daily. This new “tech” kind of teaching may really be worth looking into for the right type. Is teaching for you? Share why in the comments.
Below is an excerpt taken from an article I wrote, published at Blogcritics.
With economic woes at the forefront, young people choosing a career have their work cut out for them. A job like teaching, which once seemed to this Gen-Xer to be a solid choice, is now in question because of budget cuts. Not only could it prove difficult to keep a teaching job in the future, but even more likely, the pay could deteriorate below survival amounts. How can a government pay its teachers when it can’t even keep its books straight? The upside of this may be that only those who love teaching and feel “called” to it will apply. That, of course, would benefit the students of America.
Then again, maybe I am wrong. Maybe teachers will retain the decent position they have now on the food chain. Maybe the trade-off of teaching as opposed to working in business will remain a medium income with the security of a contract year after year. While some of my friends after high school sought business degrees and big salaries, I chose education. I have seen some of my friends crash and burn in their quest for the almighty dollar, and I have seen others flourish beyond what I ever believed possible. As for me, I am happy as a teacher, but some months are harder than others at just making ends meet.
Like most of you, I’ve been very concerned about the bailout crisis in American politics. I know we have a deficit in the trillions, and now Bush and others say we must write a $700 billion check from the future to the failed banks. Scary. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to teaching as a career. Our salaries come out of that empty pot from which they are pulling the $700 billion. But isn’t teaching a need of society? Won’t our government make sure that the children have the teachers they need and that the teachers are taken care of?
Below is an excerpt from a longer article I published on another blog. I think this concept is highly valuable to teachers.
It does a teacher no good to hang on to methods that are decades old when they don’t produce value. Some examples might be cursive or silent reading time. These have proven of little value in many people’s minds. Today’s teacher needs to use tech to teach explicitly and directly. As an innovative and creative teacher, I must prepare my students for the jobs and create data toward value. It’s not an easy job, but I know I will continue to be successful. I am willing to consider the data and ALL tools be they tech or tradition. The extent to which they add value toward my goals is the extent to which I use them.
When it comes to our brains, less is more and quality is better than quantity. Slow down and take more breaks, you’ll be amazed how much more you retain for life!
Whether you are learning or teaching, it’s important to not over stuff your brain. Studies have shown that the mind cannot absorb more than three things at a time. So, if you are writing, don’t make more than 3 main points or they will be wasted on over-fed minds. If you are looking to read and understand something, break it down into three or less main categories. Yellow pads are great for this. You’d do well to “space out” the time you have to study as well. The theory of time spaced learning got me through College Algebra at the junior college. I have always struggled with math and a teacher shared with the class about it. My life has been improved ever since!
The theory goes like this: instead of studying to absorb new material over the course of an hour, break up your time into 15 minute increments. The data shows that memory is strongest when you start and stop a study time. Therefore, instead of having strong memories only twice in an hour, you will have them at the start and stop of each mini session. This equals more knowledge retained! Now this was great news to me, because I loved taking breaks from math!
When it comes to our brains, less is more and quality is better than quantity. Slow down and take more breaks, you’ll be amazed how much more you retain for life!