Monthly Archives: September 2013

English for all – where is the math?


Yes, the little kidlets need to know how to read and write.  But they are 5 grades behind in math. Are we really going to have to give up 5 of our 180 math days to teach 5-paragraph essays? They why are the English teachers not having 5 days of problem-solving from math problems?  Fewer than 10% of our kids pass the 11th grade test – many of them pass the English part, very few pass math. It would seem to me that we would improve their lot in life if we improved their math skills.  Just a thought.

I think the big whiteboards are working well – individual think, followed by group think, followed by share seems to be improving. Some students are willing to learn from others. And then students are working on the boards in the class time. Now that i have students willing to work together, some students are noticing that I say they can work in groups to turn in work – hey we don’t all have to write down the same thing. Yes! Work together, figure it out! So I think we can start to work on “big problems.” A little scary, but I’m going there. with no support from the principal. Sigh.


Week 4 – stability?


circlesI think we are at week 4. I hope they have stopped moving kids in and out of classrooms. I hope that all those kids who decided to come back way after everyone else have come in, because some of the late starters last week looked pretty shellshocked when I gave them their catchup work. I am pretty mean – just because you decided to take an extra couple of weeks’ vacation doesn’t mean you get to skip work.

So this week  I decided to join together triangles and circles in the wholemovement way.  Seriously, if you get a chance to see Bradford  in action, do so. He’s in Ann Arbor in October and it is sooo cool, if a bit whacky (oh, like you’re not!). One of my former student’s dads runs this conference, which is how I found out about the circle thing in the first place. I have no vested interest.


Butting heads with administrators


I’ve had 6 years of indoctrination with “discovery learning.” MiTEP, Common Core, dy/dan, now the Stanford course. Every time I try it in my classroom the administration go ballistic. No, you have to lecture. No, you have to answer children’s questions immediately.  Where is the scaffolding ( on which they will hang themselves?) We can’t have them struggle. we can’t have them feel bad.

prisonLook, guys with no experience teaching math or science, the kids are 10th graders operating at a 4th grade level. And you want more of the same? What do you expect will happen? Instead, let’s read what is being done elsewhere and give it a try. Let’s support the teachers who try to read the research and are willing to try something new(ish).

Honestly, I don’t know if this works. Will I get kids to start thinking on their own? Is it possible for students who are 6 years behind, who have sat stultified for 9 years of lectures, to start working and thinking for themselves? I don’t know. But I have to say that it can’t possibly make things any worse.

Thank you, special ed.


blue_boyI’ve worked a lot with one special ed. teacher.  She’s been great – learning along with the kids. She’s been great at saying “no, we won’t ” do more. Oh, we have 10 minutes left, let me just squeeze in one more thing – no, we won’t. She taught me to slow down, and remember the learner. She reminded me to get back into learning myself, to take classes, to remember what it feels like to be bewildered.

This week I got someone new.  And I got a compliment. The new special ed. teacher said he liked what I did. He felt that he could be successful, and that starting off on lines and shapes was great for the kids.

I suppose I should have enough self-assurance to always feel as if I know what I’m doing is okay, but I am so, so pleased that he said all this, and in front of the kids. Hooray! I have learned something about teaching in the last 10 years! Thanks, special ed. teachers.

All Grand Rapidses are alike


2013-07-16 16.14.39 This summer I went through the other Grand Rapids. I took pictures of their Central High school (okay, it’s not in use as a school any more, but it still looks delicious).

So imagine my surprise when I got an email from the other Grand Rapids asking for help in setting up the use of their on-line book. I spent about a month getting ours set up for kids to use. The book company created a lot of extra work for teachers, which makes me sad. But we used it today, and it worked, so hurrah for technology (sometimes).2013-07-16 16.21.11

Here’s my question – how did they find me? It’s a little creepy. Is my school email address hanging out there somewhere as a resource person for the book company? Are all Grand Rapids secretly connected?

Sometimes the internet is just weird.