Sunday, May 31, 2009


People communicate primarily through metaphor because it draws attention to the patterns we see in our world.  "Hey!  This......looks/feels/smells  like...."  We can't help ourselves. We are comparison machines. 
I think humans learned to talk and write so they could find a way to stop pointing at everything, always yelling out to each other, "Look!  Look!"  My little granddaughter (that's her two posts back on Mom's day) does this all day long: point! point! point! look! look! look! When the words come it'll be one comparison after another that we'll scrabble to write down because of their adorable truths.  
That's just the way we roll.
Here's a metaphor I start thinking about this time every year:  Ritual as punctuation marks. About ten years ago I decided I really like the ceremonies that center around big moments - a wedding, a funeral, a baptism, a graduation.  They are the  punctuation marks of our lives.   And if a funeral is a period (.), then a graduation is an ellipsis (...)
I've lost count of the graduations I have been party to - as participant, observer, interested relative.   There have to have been over 30 by now.
But I never tire of them.  They are the most hopeful days of the year and a chance to celebrate with our students a major transition in their lives.  Our jaded high school students get weepy and then turn to the adults in their lives to give honest thanks.  And even though none of us are ever out of contact anymore thanks to non-stop twittering, texting,and facebooking, they begin to act as though they will never see each other anymore.  I remember one class clown declaring, "This has to be the saddest thing I've ever done!"
But we do see each other.  And this is the gift most teachers cherish.  If you live in the community where you teach, you see the whole continuum.  Students move on to the other phases of their lives: parenting, working, often serving their former teachers in health care, the armed services, or other public service.  Many don't forget their teachers and years later the teacher is surrounded by good friends - people you have had the privilege to help develop.
Its graduation week.  Time to watch another group head off to enrich the fertile fields.

On testing...

OK.  Like I promised.  Here's my take on the day long scoring of student portfolios.  
  • I liked doing it because I wanted to learn the process so I'd understand it from the classroom side - especially if I were to have to collect for a portfolio myself.  (I picked up a number of time saving tips from looking at various methods.)
  • I'm glad teachers were the scorers.  We all learned about our students and the teachers who work with them.  We all will be better at evaluating and collecting work down the road.
  • A lot of money was spent that day.  
There were about 30 teachers, some of whom worked the whole 8 hours.  All of whom had to go through mandatory training prior to the scoring day.  All of whom had to be paid for the training time and scoring time.  (Hey, I don't mind making a little extra money....)
There was a lot of material provided by the testing company.   More money.
There was a computer program for collecting, checking, aggregating the scores.  More money.
And then all those computer collected scores go on to be verified at the state level. got it.
I kept imagining the program being reproduced all over the state and the money spent kept piling up in my imagination.   
And this is just a small part of our end of year evaluations. There are End of Course tests in most classes that my students sit in - and all of those tests have to be bought and paid for. (Note to self: upon retirement check job availability at Pearson or College Board.)
Is this the best way to spend our education dollars?  
In the old days we trusted our teachers to evaluate students.  Were teachers different then? Maybe yes, maybe no.
I know teaching and learning was different then. (I've got my old report cards to prove it. We spent years of class time on handwriting in elementary school.  It was called Writing and had nothing to do with essays.  It was penmanship. We've got other things to teach these days.)
Ironically, as we sorted through the samples of student work the one comment that kept coming up was that student work was always easier to score when A TEACHER wrote a comment of her/his own on the paper to describe what was observed.  Hmmm, narratives by teachers - still the strongest bits of evidence.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Like December all Over Again

In the Ed world, May is a crazy month.  Almost as crazy as the run up to the winter holidays.  And so my weekends - writing time for me - have been crowded with other activities.
One weekend - scoring portfolios.  More on that in another post.
One weekend - visiting. A luncheon, a shower, a graduation party.
One weekend - memorials of all sorts.
And on the weekdays there are things to be tidied up for the year. Preparation for big end of course tests, presentations, dinners, awards banquets, meetings over next year's schedules, and preparation for the Summer Institute.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mom's Day

Sunday is Mother's Day.  A new group I stumbled across came via an email that turns your favorite mother into "Mom of the Year" in a CNN-style news video.  Pretty cool technology. 
You can make your own here and send a personalized greeting to the mom of your choice.  I sent off a bunch to my favorite moms.
The video is fun and one of those times where I conclude that computers totally rock!  
(The day I really fell in love with computers occurred when I was able to choose a wedding present for a friend in Florida while still in my local Virginia J.C. Penney's, pay for it with my credit card, and have it wrapped and sent from the local Florida store!  Awesome! That transaction took a half hour vs. the previous shopping, wrapping, packaging, mailing that would eat up the better part of a day/week.  I try to remember these happy  moments when that annoying paper-clip guy in Microsoft interrupts my powerpoint to ask me what I'm doing!)
The group producing the video is Mom's Rising.  And since the video might just go viral its a great vehicle for getting the word out.  
I hadn't heard of this group before even though, according to their website, it's been around since 2006 and came out of the model. 
But I am with them on their issues, listed as: Maternity & Paternity Leave; Open Flexible Work; TV & and After School Issues; Health Care for All Kids; Excellent Childcare; Realistic and Fair Wages; Sick Days Paid. (Look! The issues spell MOTHERS)
The marginalizing of mothers through policy ultimately affects all of us - and schools and their effectiveness.  Here are a few facts from the site:
Check it out for yourself.  
And this year really honor your mother by making her more than a second-class citizen.