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Can We Really Change The World

April 22, 2009

So for our first “public” posting. I decided to challenge my kids with a question that I’ve always wondered about. As we were researching and looking up the answer to the question. I was affected by what a student asked during this time. I told the kids that we really need to make sure we can back up findings because you guys can change the world.
“Mr. Smith do you really think one classroom can change the world?” (If you haven’t seen Paper Clips I would suggest the rental)
That in itself was enough to knock me back. I tell my kids this all the time, but I’ve never really had a student call me out about it.
“Of course Wade, One person can change the world” As I then proceed to rattle off all the great men and women in history.
“Yeah, but I’m talking about us.”
“Of course you can.”
Sure you can see the eyeballs rolling, as they did and the sighs of whatever. They were however still psyched about the assignment though because this was a time we can tell the grammar guru’s to shove it and that is always a good feeling. Sorry Miss Cowen. Which we did and posted.

Fast Forward to the end of the day. We check the blog to see if anyone has commented from the #comments4kids tweet I had sent out earlier. This is what we saw

comments

(They haven’t seen yours yet Carey but they will in the morning :))

“Whoa A seventh grader is going to know now.” “She was told in high school” “Guys look she said thanks for the grammar help.” “We really did help people” Mr. Smith let’s see where they are from so I can tell my mom I helped someone in another state today”

Thanks for helping my kids see that they really can change the world even if we are just one classroom!

Thanks @wmchamberlain and @capohanka For what I truly believe will be a powerful twitter tradition. If you haven’t had a chance to read what #comments4kids is all about then might I suggest taking a peek at Wm Chamberlain’s post on the subject and get to commenting. You can change the world!

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Post Numero Dos

April 20, 2009

Dean Shareski wrote this great letter to his students in his blog Ideas and Thoughts which I humbly suggest you read if you, like me, spend a considerable amount of time “adjusting” grades to better reflect what I as the teacher know over that of which my grading program says the students know. Is there a better way to tell our students’ parents and the students themselves (not to mention all the other people who put weight on report cards) how much our students know. Is it even necessary if our goal is to foster learners more than earners?

I was on a committee at a school, a few years back, that went around to other schools to look specifically at how others were doing grades and assessments. This assignment took me to this one PreK-12 school in the Hamptons. The school was gorgeous, top of the line. Hardwood floors, skylights, walls of glass, artwork, student projects everywhere. The students took off their shoes and wore slippers when in the building. It was surreal. Everyone had a laptop. We went to a music class that was composing a piece with students in Japan and the Netherlands and a conductor from Australia. After school the teacher meeting was a video conference with Howard Gardner, who we were told was a regular collaborator with them. You get the picture they were web 2.0 when we just called it computers in the classroom. Well, they prided themselves in the fact that they had done away with letter grades. They said they had true assessment, which they did. If you asked a student to show you work, they would pull it up on their computer and boom (we’ll miss you John Madden) it was there. I had sophomores pull up papers and projects that they had done in fourth grade with teacher and parent comments attached. It was amazingly incredible.

The problem came when we went to talk to the dean and college counselor. First up she began to tell us that it is true that they don’t have letter grades but they had to go to a number system (1 – 5) because their parents wanted to have something that they themselves understood and that showed how their child was faring academically. Secondly they were having trouble getting good schools take a look at their kids. The school was only 8 years old at the time and they were having their first senior class. She told us they were having trouble because universities like grades and numbers because it makes it easier to rank their applicants (the exact thing we were trying to get away from -right), and their students tanked on the SAT’s and ACT’s because they didn’t know how to take those types of tests. She said it was great in theory to have this body of work that the students could present. The trouble was that no college wanted to take the time to look at something that they themselves would have to figure out how to asses and give a ranking number. As an aside I should say that they did have a couple of students (if I remember correctly) that got accepted to a couple of nice art schools, portfolios are great for the arts.

So where is all this going? I ask is there a better way that will make all of us happy or am I going to have to keep adjusting grades and telling my kids and parents as Dean says “if you look at that number and it doesn’t make sense to you, I apologize. I try like crazy to make it meaningful…”

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My First Post

April 19, 2009

So here’s the deal, I’ve been sitting on this blog for months now wondering what it was I was going to blog about. What is it that I think I can contribute to the already plethora of educators out there hosting fantastic blogs? I’m getting ahead of myself, let me back up a bit.

My mom (@joy49) – nice twitter plug for my mom who is an amazing middle school educator/media librarian- sent me this article back in early February. It’s about how educators can use blogs and Wikis as a source of continual professional development.

That article started me on a search for blogs that interested me and people that I thought could help me in educating my fifth graders. Wow! I thought I knew, but I had know idea of how this simple endeavor would affect me (and my students). I started finding all these wonderful blogs about what other teachers were doing in their classroom, fantastic tools that they were using, great books and articles that they were reading, etc, etc, so on and so forth. So of course I thought what a great thing this blog stuff is, I wanna try writing some of that with my class (theirs is still on the back burner simmering – and it smells delish) and have one as well for myself.

Which brings me back here. What is it that I can contribute to the world of blogs? The answer to that question is not a whole lot I’m afraid. Not a whole lot. But rest assured the cake is not all dough. I have decided to use this space to write my reflections on other and posts I come across and quite possibly, maybe guide you to some bloggers and posts that you wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Let’s see how this works out and Welcome to my journey and log of becoming a better teacher!