Testing, 1-2-3…

13 05 2013

947248_10200548670712995_142350548_n





Teach to the tests…

24 01 2013

312433_10200206169018844_1617123993_n





Weapon of Mass Instruction

22 10 2012

 





The Secret Teacher writes an honest letter home

29 05 2012

From UK Newspaper The Guardian:

The letter that can’t be sent to your pupils’ parents is published here: “I’m part of the this system. And I had to confess”

Dear Mr and Mrs Parent,

I’m sorry I have to write to you, but it is important you know that your daughter is not progressing as well as she could at school. This isn’t her fault, it is the school’s.

I only teach your daughter one subject, RE, which she is forced to do and she isn’t terribly interested in it. I see her once a week for 50 minutes. As there are 30 other students in the class this means that, if I did nothing else all lesson, I could spend about 100 seconds with her as an individual a week. To teach her, to get to know her, to understand her as a young person. But, as you well know, there are some children in her class who demand much more of my time. This inevitably means that some students will be left with nothing. Unfortunately, that applies to your child. I’ll be honest, I haven’t held a proper conversation with her in weeks.

I teach 400 children. Slightly more, actually, but we’ll call it 400. That means your daughter counts for 0.25% of the children I teach. It is difficult for me to honestly and accurately tell you anything about her, so please forgive me if I speak in vague generalities at parents’ evening and try to avoid using your daughter’s name. I might have forgotten it.

I teach twenty five lessons a week. Despite my best intentions, some of these lessons are boring. To plan an outstanding lesson can take hours. I can’t do that for every lesson I teach. Sometimes I stand in class delivering a lesson I know isn’t as good as it could be. I know how to make it better. I just didn’t have the time to do it. I don’t think the children notice, they are used to this.

Schools are full of middle-management types. They like to take “learning walks” around the school and “quality control”. They sit at the back of my class and want to know if the students have been told their “learning objectives” and if they are sat in a “seating plan”. They believe that learning simply cannot take place if the students haven’t been told what to do and where to sit.  What you might consider real work: comprehension, creative writing, silent reading or a class questioning the teacher about the topic being studied is considered hopelessly old-fashioned and slightly abusive by my superiors. Instead they like almost anything involving power-points, scissors and glue. All work for students needs to be scaffolded. That means be done for them. The very notion of giving a student a task they might fail is considered child abuse. Every task must be completable within about ten minutes.

The school needs to improve, but I’m not sure it can. Common sense and trust in human communication is being forced out of the profession. A lot of teachers seem to like being told exactly what to do and how to do it. The status quo is just fine for a lot of middle and senior management too. It allows them to wield power, justify inflated salaries and be recognised by their peers as being “outstanding” teachers. A recognition the children in their classes would never give them. Never mind. They never really liked teaching children that much anyway.

I’m sorry to have to write to you like this and tell you that your daughter is under-performing. But I’m part of this system. And I had to confess.

Yours

Secret Teacher

(Original Story)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2012/may/19/secret-teacher-letter-home?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038





NYT: Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher

6 03 2012

William Johnson is a teacher at a public high school in Brooklyn who writes on education for the Web site Gotham Schools.

By WILLIAM JOHNSON – Published: March 3, 2012

I AM a special education teacher. My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances. I love these kids, but they can be a handful. Almost without exception, they struggle on standardized tests, frustrate their teachers and find it hard to connect with their peers. What’s more, these are high school students, so their disabilities are compounded by raging hormones and social pressure.

As you might imagine, my job can be extremely difficult. Beyond the challenges posed by my students, budget cuts and changes to special-education policy have increased my workload drastically even over just the past 18 months. While my class sizes have grown, support staff members have been laid off. Students with increasingly severe disabilities are being pushed into more mainstream classrooms like mine, where they receive less individual attention and struggle to adapt to a curriculum driven by state-designed high-stakes tests.

On top of all that, I’m a bad teacher. That’s not my opinion; it’s how I’m labeled by the city’s Education Department. Last June, my principal at the time rated my teaching “unsatisfactory,” checking off a few boxes on an evaluation sheet that placed my career in limbo. That same year, my school received an “A” rating. I was a bad teacher at a good school. It was pretty humiliating.

Like most teachers, I’m good some days, bad others. The same goes for my students. Last May, my assistant principal at the time observed me teaching in our school’s “self-contained” classroom. A self-contained room is a separate classroom for students with extremely severe learning disabilities. In that room, I taught a writing class for students ages 14 to 17, whose reading levels ranged from third through seventh grades.

When the assistant principal walked in, one of these students, a freshman girl classified with an emotional disturbance, began cursing. When the assistant principal ignored her, she started cursing at me. Then she began lobbing pencils across the room. Was this because I was a bad teacher? I don’t know.

I know that after she began throwing things, I sent her to the dean’s office. I know that a few days later, I received notice that my lesson had been rated unsatisfactory because, among other things, I had sent this student to the dean instead of following our school’s “guided discipline” procedure.

I was confused. Earlier last year, this same assistant principal observed me and instructed me to prioritize improving my “assertive voice” in the classroom. But about a month later, my principal observed me and told me to focus entirely on lesson planning, since she had no concerns about my classroom management. A few weeks earlier, she had written on my behalf for a citywide award for “classroom excellence.” Was I really a bad teacher?

In my three years with the city schools, I’ve seen a teacher with 10 years of experience become convinced, after just a few observations, that he was a terrible teacher. A few months later, he quit teaching altogether. I collaborated with another teacher who sought psychiatric care for insomnia after a particularly intense round of observations. I myself transferred to a new school after being rated “unsatisfactory.”

Behind all of this is the reality that teachers care a great deal about our work. At the school where I work today, my “bad” teaching has mostly been very successful. Even so, I leave work most days replaying lessons in my mind, wishing I’d done something differently. This isn’t because my lessons are bad, but because I want to get better at my job.

In fact, I don’t just want to get better; like most teachers I know, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I have to be. Dozens and dozens of teenagers scrutinize my language, clothing and posture all day long, all week long. If I’m off my game, the students tell me. They comment on my taste in neckties, my facial hair, the quality of my lessons. All of us teachers are evaluated all day long, already. It’s one of the most exhausting aspects of our job.

(Full Story)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/confessions-of-a-bad-teacher.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&smid=fb-share





College Really Isn’t Necessary. O, Rly?

15 02 2012

This one’s for my wife, who teaches English Comp at the college level. I tutored students in writing while working on my teaching credential, and this was the norm… both in attitude and output.

– dEV





No Animal Left Behind?

14 02 2012





I’ve Been Tempted.

12 02 2012