I had a tough time keeping track of my students last Friday because some were silent and others were invisible. Both groups of kids were participants in activities I sponsor at TJ. The silent ones were members of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), who held a day of silence to protest homophobia and then a “breaking the silence” party to go with it. The hard to see ones were members of the UNICEF club, who sponsored a presentation from an organization called “Lost Children” that promotes awareness and education for Ugandans suffering under that country’s twenty-year plus civil war. Why ...


Stealing a few strokes at the keyboard as students behind me murmur lines about schoolboys going to school with heavy looks while they comb Romeo and Juliet for motifs. Later in the period it’s a quick review of the 4th quarter calendar with due dates for upcoming projects, and then we’ll watch as ill-fated George Clooney and Marky Mark climb the big wave for the last time at the end of a movie we didn’t find time to finish last quarter. Tying up loose ends, choreographing weeks to come… must be the end of April, that pause ...


Let it not be said that the NBPTS gods don’t have a sense of humor, albeit twisted. Retakes are due on April 15. I just put the finishing touches on my Reflective Summary, the final part of my do-over. I will soon send off the blue box for the second time. Here I mark the occasion by breaking my own promise not to write about this anymore. Why not? After all, I also colored outside the lines on my strictly drawn resolution to recycle the same accomplishments as I used last year. Then I wrote about the flaming canoe, ...


I played hookey yesterday for 30 million dollars. (Technically, I was lobbying for federal funding for the National Writing Project on Capitol Hill.) The experience made me feel a lot closer to our government than I ever have before, even though I’ve lived nearly in sight of the Washington Monument for much of my life. I also figured out where all those smart girls named Sloane and Jordan who took perfect notes and graduated five years ago ended up. The NWP, at least its Northern Virginia site, is a professional development organization that has changed my teaching life. Going ...


Turns out there’s a name for all that weird stuff I make my students do like creating games about the Odyssey or reviewing their writers’ notebooks to make observations about their own learning. It’s called formative assessment. This is not to be confused with summative assessment, which, like a summary, occurs at the end. The very end, as in, after all the learning has taken place. It tends to look like a standardized test. There are right and wrong answers, and it is meticulously scored. Bubble tests may, in some cases, measure learning. But they certainly don’t ...


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