Thursday, December 29, 2011

11 in '11 Linky Party

Most of you know by now that blogging is one of my "study breaks" when my typical study breaks (work as a break from grad school and grad school as a break from work) and the snippet of exercise/ dog walking no longer work for me.  Today, I thought I'd participate in this linky party from another teacher.  11 things from 2011.

11. Favorite movie you watched:
10. Favorite TV series: Bones
9. Favorite restaurant: Applebee's-- not for the food, but for the many affordable, enjoyable dinners I've had there with some of the world's greatest company in 2011
8. Favorite new thing you tried:
Teaching at an Alternative School
7. Favorite gift you got:
A plane ticket to see my brother in Italy
Terrible Picture, but it's in the Sistine Chapel, and we had to snap a shot quickly.
6. Favorite thing you pinned:
5. Favorite blog post:
4. Best accomplishment:
Making significant progress towards my life's goals.
3. Favorite picture:
2. Favorite memory:
Italy.  The wine tasting in Florence was a great night.
1. Goal for 2012:
Finish my Masters!

All in all, I'd say it's been a pretty great year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

what your teacher REALLY does for winter break

- Sleep.  After the first couple of nights, generally more than six hours, preferably 8 or more hours a night. :)
- Read books for fun.  Although, some of them are related to the classroom/ designed to be used in the classroom.

- Go to the beach.

- Watch the sunset.

- Play.

- Go out for a night.
- Shag dance to live music.
- Write lesson plans.
- Mostly forget about the classroom.
- Research things for school.
- Think about her students on Christmas day and wonder if they're having as enjoyable a day as she is.
- Watch the snowfall, and dance in the snow.
- Have a snowball fight.
- Keep thinking how quickly this break is flying by.
- Catch up with old friends. :)

Sorry I don't have pictures of all of it. :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thank You, Pinterest

As a girl, I love pinterest.  As a teacher, my relationship with pinterest goes beyond love.  I have tried a few things from pinterest in my classroom before and have seen things there that I've already done/ currently do.  Today, I did something that makes SO much sense.  I made an absentee work spot.  I've been keeping everything for the kids that were absent on my desk or front table, but it's too much for me to remember who wasn't here which day and what they missed.  Instead, I made a "Were you absent" crate.  I've warned all the kids that this was coming, and they already know that they will be making up their missed work in the morning (if they ride an early bus), at lunch, or during their gym time.  I have so many grades in the grade book that aren't filled in because the kids were absent.  They're all pretty amenable with the idea of an absent work crate.  Now comes the true challenge-- getting them to accept responsibility for what they've missed.  This is what I made today.  There's a folder for each of the 6 periods I teach, and in each folder are the assignments with kids' names on them.  I went ahead and put some things in there from today, even though I won't fully implement until we get back from Winter Break.  2 more days!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

People to Make Friends With in a School

1. The Custodian.  Free supplies, an extra clean room, help moving things, and in our case, free castoff fresh bread/ veggies/ fruits in mass quantity from the soup kitchen that operates out of our school's cafeteria.  Two thumbs up for free groceries!!

2. The secretary.  Always find a time for a smile and a quick hello to the woman who keeps your life in check.  Want a heads up when somebody's heading to your room to observe? Make friends with the secretary.  Want a little warning when there's a parent on a mission heading to see you or calling on the phone?  Be friends with the secretary.  Unfortunately, I found out today that our bad 277 secretary is leaving to go to another school, where she will be one of many secretaries and will have about 15 hours a week instead of 40+.  I can't blame her too much.  She's been working a lot of hours for a lot of years.  But she's so sweet! It's okay, I'm relatively certain I will greatly enjoy her replacement.

3. Anyone with an administrative position.  'Nuff said.

4. Your coworkers.  My wonderful teammates have my back, and I have theirs.  Can't help but love it.

5. YOUR STUDENTS!!!!!!!!!!!  Although here, the term shouldn't be friends, but make positive teacher-student relationships with them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is Instruction Interfering With High Stakes Testing?

Longer Standardized Tests Are Planned, Displeasing Some School Leaders

Students across New York State will sit longer for high-stakes standardized tests in language arts and math this April compared with past years, education officials indicated Friday, drawing criticism from school leaders and parents who believe that lengthier tests are a move in the wrong direction.
A new Web venture featuring news, data and conversation about schools in New York City.
A week after David Abrams, the state’s longtime testing director, was forced to resign after he sent an unauthorized memorandum about lengthening testing to school districts, officials declined to specify how much time they planned to add. Mr. Abrams’s memo said the tests would grow to more than four hours — over several days — for reading, from about two-and-a-half hours now, and to three hours or more for math, from an average of two hours now.
Top officials disavowed the memo and said the increases would not be so drastic. They said Friday that they would send the new times and other details to districts next week.
The annual tests, given to students in grades 3 through 8, will factor into teacher evaluations for the first time this year. Extending test times, state officials said, would enable them to field-test new questions that would not count toward a student’s score but could be used to develop future tests.
Currently, new questions are tested in practice exams given in selected districts. That has raised the concern that students, knowing the tests do not count, do not try very hard, resulting in misleading data. Such inaccurate feedback, these officials say, has contributed to the state’s score inflation in recent years.
The Board of Regents discussed including sample multiple-choice questions in the actual tests at a meeting in December 2010, and the State Education Department issued a memo in March notifying districts that the change would take effect next spring.
But some school administrators and parents say it was not clear from the memo that a result would be longer tests.
Critics assert that more time spent on testing cuts into time for classroom instruction. They also say that lengthier tests penalize younger children who cannot concentrate for long periods, giving an inaccurate assessment of their abilities.
“I think the last thing we want is a test of stamina,” said Richard Organisciak, superintendent of the 11,000-student New Rochelle district in Westchester County. “The thought of a third grader sitting there for three hours — it boggles my mind that he would stay as focused or perform as well on a high-stakes test.”
The stakes are particularly high in New York City, where a top score can help a student gain admission to some of the city’s most coveted middle schools.
Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, the union representing 218,000 public school teachers, said the state should be trying to decrease testing time, not increase it.
“If it becomes a burden on the student and teacher and it takes away from instructional time, then we’ve missed the point altogether,” he said. “We’ve moved away from an instrument that measures and improves student growth, and gotten wound up in the concept of how much data we can collect.”
Nationwide, most states already blend field questions into actual exams taken by students because doing so provides more reliable data about questions, said Brian Gong, executive director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, a nonprofit group that provides support to state education departments. “That’s a very common practice; the SAT also does it,” he said. “It’s the best way to get real data.”
New York’s tests are shorter than those given in some other states: third graders take a 150-minute test in language arts, and a 100-minute test in math, compared with 150-minute to 270-minute tests in other states, with sample questions typically accounting for 10 to 20 minutes, Mr. Gong said. “There are many people asking tests to do more things,” he added, “which technically requires the test to be longer.”
Kathleen M. Cashin, a Fordham University education professor who joined New York’s Regents in March, said there should have been more discussion in the state about increasing test times.
“I think we have too much testing now,” she said. “I mean, is the purpose of education just to identify weaknesses through accountability measures? Or is the purpose to expand the child’s learning with knowledge and vocabulary, and give them the opportunity to discuss and think at a higher level?”
Lisa Siegman, principal of Public School 3 in Greenwich Village, said she would like to see evidence that increasing the length of state tests would help schools like hers to better educate their students. “They’re trying to measure something,” she said, “but I’m not quite sure it connects to what we do.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Last Shot

I often tell my students some variety of "This is your last shot."  Sometimes, this means, "I'm about to document your inappropriate behavior in writing."  Sometimes (and I usually hate these times), this means "You're on the verge of expulsion.  Don't mess up."  That's a side effect of working at an alternative school.  Today, I tried something new when picking up my last period class of sweaty, smelly 8th grade boys from their PE class.  They're so gross by the time I get to teach them science.  Anyway, the kids that finish their assignments early sometimes get to play basketball.  They really enjoy it and get very competitive, but burn off a lot of excess energy, so I can't complain.

The day that I started writing this blog (sometime earlier this week), I tried something new.  I gave them "one last shot" on the court.  It took less time than it would take me to coax the ball from their hands and get them unwillingly lined up.  This little, teensy extra bit of respect for them and their interests instead earned me a chorus of "Yes, Ma'am"s and a quick, easy line up.  Well, that little change will become a part of my daily classroom procedures.  I'm also looking into a way to put some basketball into my review games in the classroom.....suggestions?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Oxford Comma

So, I'm putting the finishing touches on my last final of this semester of grad school.  Almost exactly one year until I'm done with school (hopefully for a long, long time!).  I've always loved commas.  The debate of the night: to use or not to use the oxford comma????  You tell me....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Just A Typical Day At School?

Bless it.  The Assistant Principal's 5 year old son was on our campus not too long ago, and this was the end result.

Drop and give me 50!! Don't talk back!


Teaching 6 classes a day (3, sometimes 4 preps every day) gets exhausting after awhile.  There's no time to transition between grade levels (6, 7, & 8), so it takes its toll on my mental capacity now and again.  On Friday, I did a lab in seventh grade and another lab in eighth grade.  This means I led labs in 5 different classes.  Talk about exhausted and brain fried!  In seventh grade, we're testing the effect of soil quality on grass growth.  This is a hard, abstract concept for many of them to understand.  Luckily, I've got a few farmers, so I have some that I was able to relate to that way.  Hopefully, this lab will do it for the rest of them.  I just wanted to brag on myself.  I built a plant light house all by myself as a demo for my kids!!!  It's one of those things that looks deceptively simple, but requires high levels of coordination, especially hand-eye coordination, which anyone who knows me well knows I lack.  Here it is! I hope the kids continue to enjoy is as much as they did on Friday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

As a teacher, this is the truth.  Although, I don't at all pity my graduate school professors.  Finals weekend. stinks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Hopefully, you all know what a MILF is.  Once upon a time, I had a boyfriend who referred to my mother as "the MILF." It was incredibly awkward, but entertaining to watch the realization hit my mother.  Anyway, one of the male teachers on my team and I were talking about the things our kids say about us.  He informed me that the kids said that one of there academic teachers was a MILF.  There are only four of us.  One of us is a grandma.  Two of us are male.  That!  Hahahahahhaha.  Then he informed me that he had to tell them that in order to be a MILF, you have to be a mother, which means "have children."  By that correct reasoning, then, the only one of us that could be a MILF is the grandma.  I would've loved to see the realization hit their faces.

But Don't Get Crazy

I still love quoting Bonquiqui to my students, especially my seventh graders.  Today, one of my boys was off his meds.  He decided to sing that song about it being a great day to be alive...the country one.  It's a good song.  He gets to the line "Got a three day beard and ...." I cut him off with this snappy retort: "I'm pretty sure you won't need to shave anytime in the near future."  Oops.  Sometimes, my sarcasm just escapes.  Luckily, this has only happened with students who are also fluent in sarcasm and find it amusing rather than insulting.