not education, but worth sharing.

Flocabulary Essay

Here is the published form of an essay I submitted four or five months ago, it was fun to read it again.


Teacher Quality and Classroom Success

I just read one of the most encouraging and equally depressing articles by Bill Ferriter.  The article is written with an unusual honesty.  It was written by a teacher who has won teacher of the year in North Carolina.  A teacher that went from the suburbs to the urban school and quickly retreated. 

In his post, he says that working at the lower socioeconomic school (30%+ lower se - my elementary school is 90%+ lower se) crossed the line from "career" to "calling".  That encouraged me, because I definitely see my job as a calling.

It encouraged me because he is an accomplished, quality educator.  And guess what, his class in the urban school wasn't performing at the exemplary standard that his class in the suburbs had met.

It made me feel good to hear the two schools called the "easy" and the "hard" schools to teach at.  Too often I read about general educational policy and the language in those articles has to treat all schools and teachers as the same.  Meaning that a successful teacher in one school would be successful in any school.  I've always known that to not be true, but it does eat away at a teacher striving to help his students.  My first year I managed to get 80% of my students to pass the test, and that school was 40% lower se.  Then I improved professionally but moved to the urban school - where my students' scores are markedly worse. 

It was depressing because the conclusion of his experience was that the plight of the urban child was failure.  I know his call is to change policy, a call for equity.  But I don't have time for that to happen.  Nor to I have time for excuses.  It was depressing because he attempted to pull out the only chair I stand on; hope for a difference.  He honestly and accurately portrayed a poorer school.  Then he quit. 

I would like to adjust his conclusion to what I would have preferred to have read. 

So I quit.  I went back to the suburban school.  I learned that year that it takes much more than a good career teacher to be successful in a poorer school.  I'm not sure what it takes.  Some luck?  Great support?  Definitely a calling and an intrinsic drive that doesn't get deterred by outside criticism.  All I know is that we on the outside, those who haven't been there, the legislators and taxpayer, the suburban teacher and educational policymaker, need to understand what it is really like.  So let's stop blaming the teacher, let's not blame the student because they deal with extreme situations, let's not blame anyone.  Let's do what we ask of our students and children, let us take responsibility for what we can control and figure out a way to help.  Let's fight for equity, because if you're blaming the teachers then you'll have to retract my teacher of the year award.

I mean no offense by that alternate conclusion and I know that it is more like a childish rant than a real conclusion to Bill's post.  I simply disagree with the statement that not all students can achieve academically.  Let me believe that, even if what you say is true. 


On Being a Good Teacher

I appreciate this post by Steve Davis. Philosophically I agree with performance pay. Too many bad teachers keep their jobs. Although, I think it's foolish to believe that every person who has a job outside of a union or outside of teaching is a quality employee, even though they technically work in performance-based jobs. It's important to remember that the employee, no matter the job, is not the only variable to success.


I love my job. I devote many hours beyond what is contracted. My instruction is driven by data. I tutor students before and after school. I make home visits. I don't make excuses. I do much more than would be required of me if I worked in an "better" school. Yet, if I worked in that "better" setting, I would receive more accolades and higher performance pay (if it were in play).


Developmental, Tested, or Proper Foundation?

This is only my second year teaching 5th grade. I just finished introducing geometry to my second group of students and I have reached the same tough question for the second year in a row. Upon assessment and reflection, I find that my students are having similar struggle this year as they did last year. They can identify the shapes, but they can't explain the rules of that shape.

For example, they know what a square is, but they can't explain why a square is also a rectangle. Or why a rectangle is a parallelogram, even though they know what a rectangle looks like and what a parallelogram will look like on the test. I taught the rules, but I focused on the vocabulary and the nomination of the shapes.

Should I reteach the rules of the shapes even though they are not tested?

Why I should - it is important that they know why a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square in terms of creating a solid foundation in geometry. I am not only preparing my students for the upcoming test, I am preparing them for middle school. I know that most students really struggle with the abstract parts of math (algebra or trigonometry or calculus) because they often learned the how but not the why.

Why I shouldn't - maybe that part of the shapes is not tested because it's not necessary at this developmental point in the students' learning. I ask this question with almost every lesson I plan. Teachers often teach shortcuts that are often, in my opinion, not healthy. Some teach lattice for multiplication. Some teach that an estimation is a guess. Some teach the trick to finding common denominators without ever teaching why it works. Sometimes it is good to not go too deep, sometimes it is important to spend time laying the strong foundation.

How do I decide when to teach them just enough to get the question right on the test and when to spend time on things that may not be necessary for the test this year but will provide a good foundation?


New Rules

New Rules

What do you think? I resonate most with the attack on the constant comparisons to "past scores". I would add a rule about international comparisons, unless we're all taking the same test. And if those international comparisons would show data for ALL STUDENTS IN THE COUNTRY, not just all students who took that test.

Prefixes and Suffixes for 5th Grade - Word clouds - WordItOut

Prefixes and Suffixes for 5th Grade - Word clouds - WordItOut