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Not My Favorite Things


Eating liver. Grading papers. Doing the dishes. It’s not that there’s nothing to be said for activities like these. It’s just, most of it isn’t good. Especially when you’re at the beginning of the process, feeling put off by the idea of the work rather than the work itself. Which sometimes isn’t that bad (except for the liver). In the spirit of one bite at a time, here is a list of just three little things from the first five of the ten standards which apply to Entry Two. After all, I’ve only got 16 double-spaced pages to go.

I. Knowledge of Students
1. I know a student in this class who is both intellectually precocious and wears provocative clothing, and is emotionally vulnerable because she lost her father about a year ago.
2. I know a student who patiently raises his hand all the time instead of blurting out answers because he is from a culture where he needs validation from the teacher.
3. I know a student who is extroverted and verbal and would rather take a short-cut than go through the assigned steps of an assignment.

II. Knowledge of the Field
1. I know that even gifted students with high reading levels need help navigating primary source articles from science journals, which is why I did a lesson on this before going to the library.
2. I know that students will find it easier to write “idea papers” about topics related to water quality for an authentic audience of their peers and for the purpose of finding a personal research topic rather than just for me and only for a grade.
3. I know that students can benefit from a writing workshop guided by a fairly specific set of criteria when writing a technical paper using APA format, with special attention given to how and when to use parenthetical citations (new to most ninth graders).

III. Engagement
1. I captured the interest of my students at the outset of the lesson by using the smartboard in the media center’s interactive classroom, letting them guide me in navigating to the school’s databases.
2. A student volunteer was “the researcher,” and got to sit at the keyboard and make choices as I guided the class in a sample search to review limiters and Boolean operators.
3. The class and I had a healthy give-and-take as we discussed ways to narrow our search results and evaluate the quality of those results by scanning titles and reading the first few lines of an abstract.

IV. Learning Environment
1. I listened carefully when students offered their ideas about whether or not the aforementioned abstract was a good potential source for the assigned research task and guided the class to consensus about its applicability.
2. I let students know that during the work period I expected them to complete their search ladders, zero in on a research topic, and record two sources in their notes or on Noodelbib (an online bibliography writer).
3. I managed the class and resources efficiently by moving through the review in ten minutes, then letting students work individually while I circulated to offer one-on-one instruction as needed.

V. Equity, Fairness, and Diversity
1. I was proactive in selecting a girl to be the sample researcher and in calling on girls in our whole-class discussion because I am aware that in mixed gender classrooms, particularly in science and math, boys may feel more comfortable speaking out than girls, and do so more frequently.
2. The first individual I helped after the min-lesson was a Latino boy who I know is sometimes hesitant to begin an assignment if he doesn’t feel comfortable, and whom I had observed sitting in his chair without moving when other kids were already at their computers.
3. Only later in the class did I approach another student, one that was extremely comfortable with reading scientific literature and fully capable of doing this assignment, at which point I nodded my head as if I understood when he explained to me an utterly fascinating premise he’d just uncovered in one of the journal articles.

Note. For those of you keeping score at home, these are the standards still to come: VI. Instructional Resources; VII. Instructional Decision Making; X. Speaking, Listening, and Viewing;XII. Integrated Instruction; XIV. Self-Reflection.


Just another NBCT watching your progress:

Happy to see you immersed in one of the classroom entries. The great danger of starting your portfolio with Entry 4 is that it's ALL ABOUT YOU, and thus a magnet for obsession. I have seen candidates labor and labor over their Documented Accomplishments (Does this really impact student learning? Eight items or five? What are the anonymous and increasingly ominous "they" looking for?) then turn--finally--to the classroom entries and discover that they have to start all over.

The great benefit of starting with Entry #1, 2 or 3 is that the structure of the guiding questions forces you to look more at student learning than your teaching (no matter how impressive it is), and it's pretty clear that the goal is providing credible evidence your students are learning something. Preferably the things you identified as your learning goals.

What you've posted here is a wonderful collection of insights. Remember that there are 3 places for scorers to find evidence--in your commentary, on the videotape, and in the student work. Pack your entry with as much evidence as you can.

And about the writing--well, writing is pain. I clearly remember a couple of Saturdays where I didn't get out of my pajamas, and I went through the process 9 years ago. However. Imagine a world where every teacher would have to defend their practice by providing standards-based evidence of student learning. I'd rather live there than TestPrep World.

Hang in there.

Thank you, Emmet, and Congratulations on what you've accomplished thus far. We found out yesterday that 2 of the 3 teachers in our building GOT IT!!!! They are now NBCTs. One is an English teacher! Your posts are wonderful, and they are usually the springboard to my getting to work on entries.

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  • Beth from VB: Thank you, Emmet, and Congratulations on what you've accomplished thus read more
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