September 2005 Archives

Newoldschoolteacher has opted to get a graduate degree in education. "Unfortunately," she writes, "I am also smart and care about education. You see where I'm going with this." If you don't, consider her reaction to two classmates' defense of constructivist techniques. Suffice it to say, she's not a huge fan: The question I pose to them is this: what the hell are you talking about? I went to a public school. My teachers lectured. We didn't do group projects. We didn't really do any projects, except a big research project in 10th grade. And yes, mine did involve making paleolithic ...


It's safe to say that teaching high school in the Bronx could make anyone pretty jaded. So it's not surprising that Mr. Babylon says he'd never cried about any of the insurmountable problems his students faced. That is, until the day he confronted a student without an ID card. I’m pretty sure Jorge lives in a shelter. I know that for awhile last year he had been sleeping in a stairwell until some man took him in under what I can only assume were not the most wholesome of conditions. This all came to light last year sometime after ...


Dale, a middle school teacher from North Carolina, found a way to deal with a pet peeve: kids who blurt things out during class. I told them the story of when I was a kid and worked on a hog farm. At feeding time, I would dump the bucket of feed in the trough and open the gate to let the hogs in. When the hogs start to eat they snort, and when one snorts all of them snort. I have been telling my class that they remind me of the hogs. When one starts to talk, all of them ...


When elementary school teacher Pigs talks about being accident-prone, she's not kidding: This lesson was about grabbing your reader's attention at the beginning of a piece of writing. We had covered the usual dialogue, sounds, and description....I had moved into action. My kids are heavily into tetherball when the temperature allows us to go out to recess, and I thought it would make a pleasing example for an action beginning. I should have stopped with the writing of the beginning, instead of the acting out of the serving of the tetherball. "I tossed the ball high into the air," ...


Mrs. Riz, a veteran special education teacher, writes about her initial puzzlement over a student's sudden cycle of emotional ups and downs. Then she found out from the student’s grandmother that the girl had been on and off her meds since the start of the school year because her mother hadn’t gotten around to getting the prescription refilled. Though a gentle-seeming woman, Mrs. Riz has harsh words: When [the student] is "off," our school day is often horrific. She certainly doesn't learn a damn thing on those days or weeks. ... I should not be made to babysit kids ...


What do you do when 150 middle schoolers eat lunch in a space designed for 100? At the school where First Year Teacher (actually now a second-year teacher) works, the solution is simple: install a stoplight. They mechanically judge the noise level, turning yellow when the level is getting "too loud" and then turning red and making a screeching sound when it judges the level officially "too loud". When I got to the cafeteria on the first day of school I watched the teachers circle this thing curiously. We all eyed it suspiciously and waited. Sure enough, it was another "system"...


Why do so many young teachers leave the profession? TeachWonk argues that the problem starts right at the top. None of our administrators seem to care about teacher morale. After all, it was our superintendent, Dr. Evil, who set the tone when he famously said, "Professional educators are principals and above" and went on to refer to teachers as "Service providers." Even given the not-so-pastoral relationship between administrators and teachers, that quote is so baldly hostile it's hard to imagine that it was taken in context. But perhaps the proof is in the pudding: TeachWonk says that new teachers in ...


Ramblin' Educat came up with a new way to keep her students engaged -- turning handouts into would-be paper airplanes, with kids answering one question, folding the paper and launching it in the general direction of a classmate, who'd unfold it, answer the next question, and so on. Of course, the best-laid plans... You just can't ever pick what part of a lesson will fail, do you? You'd have picked the throwing of airplanes, no? No. We can't fold airplanes. They asked if they could just throw the paper. (From Ramblin' Educat.)...


Even as their enrollment numbers soar--and their influence grows--AP courses seem to be coming under growing scrutiny lately. The workload is impressive, sure, but is this really the most constructive approach to secondary education? In this vein, Dan McDowell of A History Teacher offers a thoughtful post on the internal dilemmas of an AP teacher. A number of the students in his AP World History class are already “feeling the strain,” he says, and this has got him thinking about the pressures facing students today and his own role in reinforcing the framework of meritocracy. On one level, I feel ...


The Mad Teacher recently went to the first faculty meeting of the year. As a career-changer, long, tedious meetings aren't anything new to her, but there's one big difference at her school: You can't bring your knitting. Twenty years in social work, with people's lives sometimes literally hanging in the balance with what we figured out in our meetings... Two thirds of the therapists in the room would have some crochet or knitting or something in hand during the meeting. But it is just out of the question at Smallsville High. Is it every school in America that feels like ...


Another career changer, North Carolina writing teacher Waterfall, points out what she wryly calls "another teaching 'plus'": On days like today, when I'm really tired and my sinuses are acting up and my patience is short, I tend to shuffle off into my own little dark corner of the world and feel sorry for myself. In Cubicle Land, it was easy to do this. I would wallow in my depressing little stew for days on end, feeling miserable and hating my life. When you're teaching school, it's next to impossible to behave in such a self-absorbed way. This is a ...


At English teacher Awkward Silence's high school, everyone's preparing for an outside visitor: Tomorrow a big-wig comes to school. Her appearance is to observe us, because the second week is always a good time to see teachers at their best. (from Suspension of Ego.)...


When Pigs Sing is struggling with kids -- or as she puts it, kids' hands -- that simply cannot remember where to turn in assignments: "Don't you want my paper?" it insisted. I kindly took it by the hand and walked it over to the wire basket. I pointed. It deposited the paper and walked back to its chair. That was when I felt another paper being thrust at me. And that's when I went off the deep end and personally carried the wire basket from child to child introducing it to each student. And that's how all the children ...


As school year moves beyond ice-breakers and seating assignments, reality—or at least a sense of "What in creation have I gotten myself into?"—is no doubt hitting many idealistic young teachers. Take the example of Jessica Shyu, an aspiring East Coast journalist who, on a Teach for America gig, is teaching middle school special education on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. She's apparently spent a lot of the past week crying, with good reason: Despite working 18 hours a day, I am always behind. Each day I am a little more behind. Who am I kidding? Each day ...


EduWonk points out how little time it's taken for the discussion about schools affected by Hurricane Katrina to turn to everyone's favorite topic: NCLB, or more specifically, whether schools who take in displaced students will be eligible for waivers. Leave it to education's hysterics and hucksters...There is a real crisis in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast... But now, along come the anti-NCLB hysterics to create a three-ring anti-NCLB circus around the relief efforts... There are a lot more immediate things to do for the kids there than worry about this -- it's gotta be like #344 on ...


With just days left before her school opens its doors, New York City teacher Mildly Melancholy shares her to-do list. It's not for the faint of heart, though one item caught our eye: "Decide on train whistle use." Given that she teaches 6th graders, we just have two words to offer: All. Aboard. (From Mildly Melancholy.)...


NYC Educator seems to have gotten the tone just about right in this fictitious back-to-school missive. First of all, lateness. Lateness is out. We want to see the kids on time this year. What? Well, yes, we wanted them on time last year, too. Yes, I know what happened last year, and I’d rather not…no, let’s not talk about the year before that either. So, remember, lateness is out, right there with portfolios…yes, I know I said portfolios were necessary, but that was the old paradigm…what’s a paradigm? (From NYC Educator.)...


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