Tag Archives: Education

A work in progress: A Slice of Life Story

30 Sep

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They warned me they might show up, but when my principal and her supervisor came to my class to do an observation, I couldn’t help wishing they’d gone elsewhere.

My kids this year have good hearts, but they are stream of consciousness impulsive puppies. Some of them are a lot of work, which is why we have 2 classrooms of 22 instead of 3 classrooms of 29. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve come a long way in the 4 weeks I’ve had them, but a few of them still have a long road ahead.

We were sitting in a circle during reading differentiation time when they came to observe. I have about 15 kids in my group, all of whom are reading at grade level. We were about to begin reading Number the Stars and I was surprised, but pleased, to find to no one had read it before. I was giving them background information about the book. One boy chimed in about the fact that his ancestry was Lakota and how their land had been stolen and turned into Mount Rushmore.  I joke with people that the  kids in my class put their hand up and say “I have a connection” but it is often a very tenuous connection. Here was living proof.

As we looked at the description of Annemarie and Ellen, trying to build a picture of the two girls, we were discussing the words stocky and lanky. We had come to some conclusion about the words and I mentioned that one of the most impulsive boys in the group was lanky and he stood up and mimed a slam dunk. Another boy had to be asked to remove himself from the group until he could participate positively. He did rejoin the group on his own later and did a better job.

Needless to say, I was sweating while my principal and her supervisor  were there. I wonder if they laughed, because there were some really funny things said, too. After they left, the kids wondered why they were there and what they were doing. I told them the truth: they had a new online tool to use for observations and wanted to practice. The funny thing was, the kids thought they were the objects of the observation, which of course they were, but they didn’t see ( or had no idea) that it was a performance observation of a teacher.

It might not have been my best teaching ever, but they got to observe a  slice of my teaching life, warts and all.

Chance Meetings: A Slice of Life Story

16 Sep

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Walking back to class from a meeting, I ran into two of my students who were on their way back from the resource room. The girl had done a karate kick just before stepping out. She looked a little embarrassed, but I didn’t say anything. She is not a native English speaker and has a communication disorder, but told me that although she doesn’t take karate lessons, she really likes to do karate kicks. It is probably the longest conversation she and I have ever had and I’ve known her since she arrived about 3 or 4 years ago.

The boy is a more serious fellow. Even in kindergarten, I knew him to be a thinker. We walked on a moment or two more in silence then he said to me “I used to think school was not interesting, but you make learning fun.” Whoa! I thanked him and floated back to class on a cloud.

Just a random little moment in my day, but I probably learned more on that short walk than I did the whole rest of the day.

The 2014-15 Numbers: A Slice of Life Story

2 Sep

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Today, I return to the regular classroom, so I thought it would be fun to look at some stats.

26  years I have been a teacher

6     years since I’ve been a classroom teacher

22   number of students in my class

12   boys in my class

10  girls in my class

4     kids on an IEP

13   ESL students

8    speak English at home

10  speak Spanish at home

3    speak Nepalese at home

1    speaks Pashto at home

12 met or exceeded the 3rd grade Math/Reading benchmarks

12 did not meet  the 3rd grade Math/Reading benchmarks

I know most of the kids in my class, some better than others. All were at our school last year, a school where 85% receive free/reduced lunch. We also have 9 new teachers and 12 new staff, if I have counted correctly.

I don’t know exactly what this year will bring but I am ready to embark on this new adventure. Wish me luck!

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Stephen Krashen on the Common Core

26 Jan

WOW! Stephen Krashen really doesn’t like the Common Core. His article in the ALA’s Knowledge Quest, and published in his Friday blogpost The Common Core: A Disaster for Libraries, A Disaster for Language Arts, a Disaster for American Education blasts the whole idea. Here are his main points:

1. There has never been a need for the common core, and there is no evidence it will do students any good.

2. The real problem in education is poverty (Food insecurity, Lack of health care, Lack of access to books)

3. We need to protect children from the effects of poverty.

4. We can improve school funding and address the effects of poverty by reducing  testing.

5. The nature of the language arts standards (especially Reading: Foundational Skills, Writing, and Language) make it hard for teachers to do anything but direct instruction.

Those of us working in education are adapting to the new demands of the Common Core, whether we like it or not. It seems to be a done deal. I’m glad to know there are people beyond the reach of a school district, asking questions and making demands. Just to let you know, Stephen Krashen and Alfie Kohn are two of my pedagogical heroes. That alone tells you a lot about me. Krashen  has a lot of other posts about the Common Core, among other things. You can read them at

http://skrashen.blogspot.com/.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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