Thursday, January 22, 2009

ADEPT Police????

Several students have used the term "ADEPT Police" either in class or in replies to this Blog - and it brings to light something I believe in: by changing our attitudes, we can change how things affect us. Looking at ADEPT [the assessment system for teachers in South Carolina] as something enforced by "police" it makes the program into an enemy, which casts the assessment into a role it was truly not intended to have. ADEPT replaced the APT [assessment of professional teaching, I think] which was much more formulaic in approach - I remember using the APT assessment instrument where you had to have humor in your lesson. Now, that's not a bad thing, but it can be misused. Imagine that a teacher is conducting a lesson on the Civil Rights movement - does the teacher tell a joke about THAT?? Clearly not. When I used the APT instrument, I gave credit if the teacher smiled! But I know that others interpreted that item differently. I also remember sitting through lessons that scored very high on the APT scale, but that were really really boring. 

At least with ADEPT three lessons are observed and de-briefed - in the old APT days it was just the observation, a number score and out the door. With the de-briefing, teachers can provide a rationale for any changes made in the lessons, or reflect on something that didn't quite work the way it might have worked earlier in the day or perhaps reflect on something that worked much better than expected. There is a conversation about the lesson -- and the standards for ADEPT are nothing more than just good teaching. The crux of the problem is how ADEPT is used, and how observers use the guidelines. As usual, the devil is in the details.

On another note, I'm planning class for next Tuesday evening and hoping that I can provide an experience in which students grow as professionals and leave class refreshed and inspired rather than more tired than they arrived. We'll see . . .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Drinking from a Firehose

I guess sometimes I forget that as hard as teaching every day is for me, it is also hard on students, who are on information overload. I could see it today - that sort of glazed look. We need to stop for a minute and take stock of everything we've experienced - in content focused parlance everything I've "covered" -- and I need to stop pushing so hard!

I wonder how many times in this Blog I've mentioned covering less information in more time . . . hmmmmm

Thursday, January 08, 2009

How lucky can I get??

Every now and again, I get lucky with little or no effort on my part. Tonight as I was planning for tomorrow's class, I was getting ready to save the power point file as a PDF handout . . . and remembered I had assigned students to create a personal Biopoem as a get-to-know-you activity but had not planned to use it in class -- big mistake [lucky I caught it]. At almost the same time, I remembered the Book Clubs. I need to get students together in their book clubs for at least a few minutes - students need to know which book to order and they need to decide how they will "meet" for their discussions. Voila! I can have students get into Book Club groups and share their Biopoems. Then it occurred to me that it would be great to have them create a coat of arms for their book club groups because it would provide a venue through which students can get to know each other and at the same time will show MAT students yet another way to begin to create a  supportive classroom environment. Of course, this will take time - so I had to carve off a couple of topics I had planned to discuss in class - but the trade off is worth it, I think. I sure have a packed three hours planned for tomorrow. Here's hoping it all works!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ready, Set, GO!

The beginning of another semester - and for once, I think I'm organized and ready. I say I think because there is always something that crops up unexpectedly. Like today -- I forgot to make sure my USB gadget that advances my power point slides was packed, likewise my timer. I never realized how much I relied on the USB gadget or that timer! I’ll not forget them for the next class, that’s for sure.

Students are taking a Strategic Content Literacy Assessment right now, so I have some time to do this - I'm hoping that by taking the assessment themselves, they will better understand the assignment they are required to complete - assess one class, analyze the data, and reflect on what this tells them with respect to learners in that particular class. Anyway, as I listen to the rain pounding on the roof of the University Center [or is that the air conditioner?], and watch these students concentrate on their reading and responding to the text, I realize just how much I love teaching this course. This group of students seems far different from the last group, which was sort of a mixed bag. With three or four exceptions, students last spring were serious about teaching and will be excellent additions to any middle school; but those three or four . . . well, I hope they either learn fast and become good teachers or move on to another career. I’m looking forward to a semester in which we all become a community of learners. Last spring, a small group of math students formed a Wiki and it’s still going strong – so maybe we’ll do something like that this go ‘round.

This morning, I got a late start from home and therefore did not have enough time to go by Starbucks, which I greatly regret right now; I could use a shot of caffeine – better yet, an intravenous shot of the legal addictive stimulant. I grabbed a regular cup of coffee at the little cafĂ© here at the University Center, but it just isn’t the same. Oh well, tomorrow is another day!

Once again, I’ve over planned – I have about 4 hours worth of stuff I’d like to get done, and less than an hour left in the three hour class period and haven't gotten to everything [big surprise]. I’ve never tried this – having students complete an SCLA themselves, and I’m not sure whether this will work or not – but they’ll learn something, I hope. The reading I'm using is one I want them to read anyway, so at least that's a positive outcome. I should walk around and see how far they’ve gotten with the SCLA, maybe we can squeeze in just one more thing into this class . . . but then again, I often make the mistake of trying to do too much in one class period. We’ll see . . .

LATER- after walking around and collecting a few of the papers

Reading through a few of the initial responses [quite a few students have finished already – in only 20 minutes when I allotted 30 minutes for the task – a conundrum all teachers face – what to do with “early finishers”] will help me see their initial ideas about literacy, which will be a good thing to know, but I’m realizing now that this also means that I will have to actually grade all these things now, too. There’s always a down side, isn’t there? I’ve inadvertently given myself homework on the very first day of class – was I completely insane???


Home again, home again – after a stop to get a Starbucks [I feel alive again] and a trip to the bookstore. I should be shot – I picked up Twilight [I dare not begin reading it until after next week is over] AND found another historical novel on the sixth wife of Henry VIII – which I could not resist and now can see a whole lot of procrastination coming on. Will I ever learn??? I have four books going now – I’m listening to a non-fiction book about the US and the Middle East [Power, Faith, and Fantasy] as I drive back and forth to Greenville, reading Thomas Jefferson: American Sphinx, and listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the sixth time as I get read for work each morning, plus the additional book about Katherine Parr I bought today and couldn’t resist beginning. I’m in some serious trouble here.