Category Archives: observation cookies

Just try – not to get totally depressed


It seems there are more people in blogland honestly considering whether students want to struggle. All the time. sisyphus-happy

I just completed the “game theory” Coursera course. And I decided I didn’t. There’s scant satisfaction in pushing a boulder uphill  and then starting over the next day/week/section. Consider behavior when teachers are faced with 87 ways they can be graded as “unsatisfactory” on a subjective rubric: I am telling teachers to ignore it, because if someone wants to mark you as unsatisfactory, they will.

Now consider that students in my high school are doing this in 6 subjects a day, relentlessly, whether they like those subjects or not. Why would anyone think that this is how people thrive? I know that when I learn something, I like time to do it over and over again, until I get really good. And if I don’t get good, I like to be able to give up. I certainly wouldn’t like to have someone who is good tell me “oh, this is easy, just keep going.” Ridiculous. Students get 540 times a semester that they can be judged a failure. I gave up at 87.


Oh the shame.

Standard daughter moved back home ( yes she and her boyfriend have jobs, but in this economy…). She grew up in this house. She knows that every big bag of M&Ms, all the Skittles, every box of pink tissues, every load of spaghetti and tiny marshmallows, is going to school. Her boyfriend does not.

Last week he opened the giant bag of mini Snickers. Two days later, they were wondering where the giant bag went. And then Naomi found this, from somewhere in her memory.

Yep, that’s her life.  Sorry, kids.

Slowing it down… maybe the wrong move?


Film Title: Despicable MeWalking with kids on a field trip, I observed that they will always be 20 steps behind you. I urged the leader to speed up, as he was walking at a snail’s pace and clearly was frustrated (being the fit and healthy guy that he is). Sure enough, the kids sped up, but were always 20 paces behind.

I wonder whether we slow down and cover less material only to have the kids slow down too. Will they always be 20 paces behind? I plan to have the same argument as last year with my principal, when I continue to accept work from the first marking period after they close out the district grade-book ( because I know how to run a spreadsheet). He did not seem to understand the argument that I don’t mind if the kids learn it in September or December, as long as they learn it. It seems to fly in the face of U.S. High School philosophy.

Meanwhile, I have started the Corusera “game theory” course that was sent as an advertisement after Jo Boaler’s course. I’m drowning. Clearly, I am not about to become a master manipulator. Drat. I have already given up any idea of getting at least 70%, and that’s only after the first problem set.

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.

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.