Sunday, March 24, 2013

Teaching THROUGH the Tests

A post on my Facebook news feed led me to this teacher blog post and it made me think of an incident that occurred in my classroom (then 10th grade all day long) last year.  I had a student have a panic attack in my class after the state standardize testing that day.  I repeat:  I had a student have a panic attack after (and I would hazard a guess, because, of) state standardize testing.

Public Education has been freaking out over these tests more and more in the seven years I've been teaching.  People who do not know much about education, yet have the power to make decisions about education, have decided that just about everything should ride on the results of these tests.  A teacher should be measured on his or her worth, or the new jargon, Value Added Measure (VAM), because how much value is added to a child's education by a teacher is easily calculated by how well a student does on what is usually a poorly written multiple choice test (please don't make me explain verbal irony to you; if it wasn't blatantly obvious to you in that statement, read this definition). 

The value that was added to my education as I went through the public school system (cough, cough) thirteen(ish) years ago had nothing to do with how well my standardized tests scores where (and they were pretty good, but they always had been so there wasn't much more value that my teachers could add).  It had to do with the ones that cared and nurtured me in a myriad of different ways (even those that taught me how to handle rejection and move on).

When students are having panic attacks and having violent episodes because of the stresses of taking these standardized tests, something must be done.  Adding higher stakes to these tests is NOT one of them.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Head Over Heels

There is a bad word amongst many of the faculty on campus.  That word is flipped.  And, I've decided to add it to my vocabulary.  I'm going to slowly start to "flip" my classroom, or at least, one class.

For those that do not know what a flipped classroom is, you may want to look here.

Many students and teachers on campus are tired of hearing about the flipped classroom and sigh dramatically or roll their eyes any time it's mentioned.  I, myself, once made the joke that we could turn our staff meetings into a drinking game every time the terms flipped or flipping were mentioned.  It seems to be be all and end all for the administrators. But, after attending a three day long conference on education and technology, I've been a bit inspired.

I definitely believe that we need to use the tools that students have at their fingertips.  And, I mean this literally.  Their phones are a powerful tool that be used for the greater good and not the dark side in the classroom.  Many students also have iPads, Chromebooks, and other technology that can be harnessed to make them learned, and (gasp) make them want to learn.

I've already started some flipping in one of my classes, an honors class.  The students do the reading at home and we begin the activity in class with their peers and their teacher (me) to assist them.

Now, I'm going to do this slowly, very slowly, because I'm already overwhelmed with all I have to do and how far behind I am with things that need to be graded.  I'm going to do as Catlin Tucker suggests and acquire one tool at a time. 

I tried a little BYOD with my honors students today, and signed them on to my WiFi, but I'm now concerned that they will try and sign on when they shouldn't.  This will definitely be a learning process for me, but hopefully it will improve student engagement.