Posts Tagged ‘research’
April 15, 2008 in Reforms in Education, The Way It Were
Tags: administration, administrator, based, callous, complain, cynicism, department, district, funny, lead teacher, master, master teacher, meetings, new, optimism, proposal, reading, reform, research, science, silent, slc, small learning communities, social, ssr, story, student, student teacher, sustained, teacher, teaching, tirade, wide-eyed, wilting
I can’t imagine department meetings as fun as those of the social science department at my high school.
We had an administrator come to air the administration’s case for Small Learning Communities, a worthwhile educational structure that wears the guise of one of the many research-based almost-fads that pass as reform around here.
The cynicism comes via my master teacher, who aired her grievances freely and with a sarcastic, out-of-the-corner-of-her-mouth tone.
In reference to Small Learning Communities, she said this multiple times and loudly enough for the department to hear:
It’s only the fourth time we’ve tried this since I’ve been here.
New Administrator wilted. He heard what she said, too.
Though not wet behind the ears, New Adminstrator is at least uncalloused. He made his case, and I thought he was very well-spoken. The proposal — recently district-approved — seemed well-organized to me, but our veteran teachers lacked my wide-eyed optimism.
Lead Teacher was as skeptical as my master teacher, and would refer to Silent Sustained Reading during his particular tirade. He was in favor of SSR overall, noting that his students had been able to sustain concentration for longer periods of time when SSR was up at a full 30 minutes. He was not in favor of how it was used this year.
What follows is parphrased.
It seems like we implement great-new-ideas every year. SSR is one example, as is Advisory. But, every year, we start up a new great-new-idea and let the others fall by the wayside. We cut back just a little on the time we spend on the old ones, and eventually we cut back on all of what makes them worthwhile.
We cut SSR to 15 minutes this year, and we’re always interrupted by announcements halfway through. Next year, announcements and SSR are seperated, and SSR is up to 20 minutes. I guess this is better, but it’s still down from the half-hour we had it before.
We need to either improve it or get rid of it. Doing it halfway like this is worse than not doing it at all. It wastes time. I notice that we tend to keep the framework of these reforms with none of the follow-though, and therefore with none of the effectiveness.
My master teacher piped in:
I worry that we’ll have Small Learning Communities with all of the costs but none of the benefits of Small Learning Communities.
New Administrator wilted some more.
A third social science teacher vented for a full 20 minutes about how there was no Small Learning Community for athletes, who should be organized into leave-friendly afternoon physical education classes, and why they should all take classes together.
Nobody else cared. He coaches baseball, and likes the sound of his own voice. He rants all the time.
New Adminstrator didn’t wilt this time, though he was more visibly tired after this tirade; I have a feeling New Adminstrator is used to nonsense.
March 6, 2008 in Lesson Plans
Tags: american, becomes, bill, department, government, history, how, law, lesson plan, library, master teacher, research, seniors, simulation, social science, student teacher
Government can be boring and abstract, especially if my students lack an understanding of the fundamental basics of American history.
That’s where fun little simulations come in handy. My master teacher and the department have a wonderful one on how a bill becomes a law.
For a week, students are to research the provisions of an almost ludicrously far-reaching bill that would limit tobacco usage, advertising and acreage.
As part of the fun, all students have roles to play.
Some represent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a bureaucratic agency against tobacco use but also against the bill because the agency would rather focus on fighting terrorism than smoking. Some represent the DARE prevention program, a group lobbying in favor for the bill almost as aggressively as the students representing the advertising industry lobby against it.
These lobbyists and bureaucrats speak to a student-led committee. These students are graded on how well they present their information, and on its relevance and abundance it has. Committee members are charged with hearing the testimony, and those students are graded on how often they speak and how much sense they make.
Once everyone has testified, students begin work on their essays and committee members begin work on revising the bill. Then, once we’re done with that, our class suddenly becomes a general assembly of representatives who debate and eventually vote on the bill.
Students learn by doing and speaking. There’s a no shortage of either here.
On a side note, the funny thing is that there was quite a lot of lecture involved — without explanation or background of the material, they would have had no idea how to even do the activity.
After all that, though, they’ve pulled it off spectacularly. I’m going to hold on to this one.
Moral of the story? Solid simulations take weeks of preparation and execution. Years of practice also help.
In yesterday’s “Understanding by Design” department group collaboration sessions, my department group did the absolute minimum, while retaining our signature quality.
I say this because they said it first, if not in so many words.
The format requires seven elements. We provided exactly these seven, the whole lesson format shorter than a page. I like the way this department thinks — the shortest lesson plan I did in the credential program was at least three times that.
This format jettisons a minute-by-minute outline, listing state standards, assessment guidelines and listing of our students’ individualized needs in favor of a two-column format that favors brevity over verbosity.
Neato. Here’s how it broke down. Continue Reading »
Every day, we experience a thousand moments, each of those moments setting in motion a thousand slightly different possibilities in the future. When we make these choices, we are thrust toward another day's crossroads, where we have another thousand choices.
Given the infinite number of choices we make in a lifetime, why do we choose so many of the same routes and make just as many of the same mistakes as our parents and grandparents?
I plan to learn from their mistakes. Let's see how far I get.
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