Friday, December 10, 2010


This is going to be a short post this time. I don't know if you have run into this at your school or place of employment, but our school has put up a firewall. It blocks any adverse information from coming in. It stops the big, bad, evil meanies from infecting us with viruses...right?

Freaking wrong! This is what I have found:
It blocks GLBTQ novel descriptions and ISBN #s
It blocks Huffington Post
It blocks the website for Banned Books Week

But it DOESN'T block:
Stupid Flash games
Instant Messaging

Hmmm...discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


As I am absolutely sure you are aware, many kids have taken their lives in recent weeks as a direct result of bullying. The only question I have that surrounds this devastating loss is purely, "why?" We are EDUCATORS! Part of our job is to ensure that our classrooms and schools are a safe place to not only learn, but survive. We are their advocates, their cheerleaders and often their role models. So, why do so many kids still feel unloved and unappreciated...let's just face it...hated enough to take their lives?

I like to put myself and those around me in this lovely little setting of puppies and rainbows. I delude myself into thinking that because I love my students and do everything in my power to make sure they feel accepted, that everyone else does too. Sadly this is not the case. My classroom last year became all but a refugee camp for our GLBTQ students in a huge campus of intolerant individuals. These kids told tales of being called names, beaten up, looked down upon and told many of the same things as those who have recently taken their lives. They even told me of teachers looking at them with disgust in the hallways and turning a blind eye when they saw these atrocities happen to them.

I have to admit, I didn't believe them...about the teachers. I brought it up over lunch in a room of faculty. Choking up I explained what these kids had articulated about the adults on our campus. I was expecting matched rage with mine. I could not have been more wrong. One teacher quipped back, "Well, it's disgusting!" Another chimed in, "I don't want to see them making out in the hallways!" Still others echoed, "Well, if they choose to be 'out' at school, they have to expect that sort of treatment."

WHAAAAT?! I was TEACHERS! I mean, we don't take the Hippocratic Oath...but I have always felt that when I shook the dean's hand and accepted my teaching certificate that I swore to protect kids and educate them whatever the cost. Do no harm, right? So, why is it that the people our students are supposed to look up to are turning their backs? Why are we allowing this sort of behavior to happen from their classmates? Why is there no one these kids feel safe enough with to talk to them about the scary and deep stuff? Why as a society are we not screaming for justice?


Some links that may help continue this dialogue:

Friday, October 8, 2010

E for Effort?

I went to a teacher training today regarding the six-trait writing scoring guide. For those of you who are saying to yourself, "six whaaah?" let me explain. This is the form that is supposed to allow for teachers to grade student writing objectively. The six traits of writing are: ideas, organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency and conventions. Stick with me non-teacher-folk. I promise to not continue in Teacherese!

Part of the training included us scoring three student samples to determine what samples of each score would look like. We then were asked to discuss our scores with a small group of other teachers. In my group, the comment was made, "Well, it would help to know the student. If this is the student's best work I would grade it higher than if this wasn't." I brought up my understanding that the scoring guide was to take the bias out of scoring this writing. This teacher continued that if a student's absolutely best work only brought him/her up to a C, then that should become an A.

Let me propose a scenario. A student works really hard to write a paper. He/she goes through the editing process and turns in a final product. Using the scoring guide, the student only scores a 3/5 (not proficient). However, you know this kid worked his/her tail off to turn this in. Do you give them an inflated grade for effort? What about when this kid goes to the next grade or college? The kid does the same caliber of work and gets the lower score. Is that fair? The kid has potential...but has the teacher provided the potential to be blindsided later?

So, my question is: Should students be graded on potential? Is the "E for effort" style of grading helping or hurting our students?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Wild World of Blogging!

So, I've started a multimedia elective at my school.

Woah, let me back up! For anyone who hasn't heard, I got the job I previously blogged about. Beating out over 200 applicants. Woot! Ok, back to my current topic...

Since we are definitely lacking in the technology department, we are improvising with the equipment we DO have...the internet. The kids have spent the last 3 classes planning out and starting their blog pages. I pretty much gave them the reigns and let them pick any topic they felt was important that others would be interested in. The topics range from skateboarding to piercing, crazy news to (shocking) medical marijuana legalization. These blogs are in their infancy, but I'm hoping that they will continue to develop as my students do.

So, why teach blogging? I've decided that every person has a voice, whether others think that voice is important or not. Teenagers in particular are victims to the "who cares what you think, kid?" mentality of our society. Therefore, I'm giving them their voices back. This is their time to talk about what is important. What others should know about them and what they can learn about themselves.

I think we will all have a lot to learn from this project.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Practice what you preach

I was inspired by fellow teacher and friend, Mr. G, when he started his blog about teaching. I am constantly harping on my students to ask "why?" and really get to the heart of the matter. This is what I hope to accomplish with this blog. It is not enough to just take everything we learn at face value. We as teachers especially need to practice this lesson.

As I have just moved back to the Rose City (Portland, OR), I am going through the interview process to find a teaching job here. One of the questions I was asked was, "what is the best way students learn?" I stared blankly at the screen thinking, How on Earth do I answer that? The real answer is, there is no best way kids learn. Every student learns in his or her own way. How many times did I have teachers in high school and college who just assumed we all were tracking when he/she was up front lecturing to the chalkboard? However, I had to take pause and think, how often do I practice what I preach? I know that every kid learns differently, but when CSAP (standardized test) is looming on the horizon or finals are breathing down our often do I really stop and make sure every kid is learning how he/she learns best? Better yet, is it even possible? I cannot even begin to count how many times I've had a kid in my class who is either so apathetic or stoned he/she does not even attempt to do the work. What then?

Therefore, my questions today are: Do we practice what we preach? and How do students learn best?