Saturday, September 12, 2009

Facilitating a Habit

I love this post by author Justine Larbalestier. In the post, she's talking about how some people would say you "have to" make time for writing, and that if your writing really matters to you, you won't sacrifice that time, even if it's "just" half an hour a day.

Those people are full of it.

Sometimes, yanno, life gets in the way. You do what you gotta. Writing should come first? Really? What about family? What about your health?

It's very reassuring to see that I'm not the only one who struggles with this - not so much as a writer, but as a teacher. I care about what I do. Really! And it is so easy to get caught up in shoulda-woulda-coulda. But that way lies madness, my friends.

Oo, boy, this may get lame. It is almost 11:30 at night and I am going to finish this because I decided last week that Saturdays would be one of my updates. No time for revision, Doctah Jones!

So, this year, our district asked teachers who have the same classes to create common "benchmark tests." The idea is that this way, it's more consistent. Students who have different teachers can still help each other out. It's a more reliable way to measure student progress (though I'm not sure why, since students don't teacher-hop after the first week or so). Whatever.

I don't really see the benefit to this, to be honest, but I really do enjoy sharing instructional plans and batting ideas around and being challenged by other professionals. So I'm in.

The problem is that we weren't given the same period for planning, so getting together to create these benchmarks is ... problematic at best. We do have our after-school time, sort of. (Teachers are required to stay for about half an hour after students leave.) However, that's also time that we're supposed to use for giving make-up tests and other help to students who request it. Fortunately none of us is a coach!

And I have to draw the line somewhere. I take papers home to grade all the time - in fact, right now there's a box of research papers behind me. I do unit planning mostly outside of school time. My prep period is usually taken up with publications and/or what grading I can crunch in and any parent calling that needs to be done.

I feel like Captain Picard in... was it Generations? The one where he's talking about the Borg: "The line MUST be drawn HEAH. This fah, NO fahthah!" He was so adorably emphatic.

I don't want to be assimilated, even if it's by something I love.

Bill Ferriter of The Tempered Radical hosted a Voicethread discussion about PLCs. I think this is what our administration is going for... sort of. And I like the idea. That makes it even more frustrating not to have the support we need to make it feasible.

(Anybody able to help me understand what possible use there is for common assessment?)

Image thanks to


teachin' said...

We have common assessments - not all, but some. An important part of them, though, is that the actual assessment is done together; the other 8th grade Language Arts teacher and I get together to grade them. It helps us really dig into the rubric and tease out different pieces to create a shared understanding of what our kids should be able to do. That way, no matter what teacher they have this year, they are aiming at the same expectations so that they can go on to be successful in high school.

I will say that this only works if you trust your fellow teachers and if they're committed to the process; two years ago, my counterpart had no interest in doing this and so we didn't. It also works better if you plan together as well, at least to some extent, so that you know you're teaching the same standards.

It can't stop at the assessment, either - it requires going back and looking at the results to determine which kids learned what, and if your kids learned something that your partners' didn't, talking about what your methods were to get them there so that your partners can try incorporating those strategies and dropping ones that didn't work.

Does that help at all?

Clix said...

So, in reality, it's not common assessment - it's cooperative assessment. AND planning. See, I like that. But I really don't see how it's possible unless we're given the time to do it.

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