Friday, September 27, 2013

Equalization, equality and life.

Equalization kicked in this week.
Like everything else in education it isn't anything like it sounds. What it means is students get their programs switched around so that class sizes are supposed to be equal.

What it means to me is that new people show up in the Resource Room at the exact moment I think I've gotten through initial assessments.

Monday Simon showed up.
Me:  What year are you in?
Simon:  Sophomore year.
Nina:  Weren't  you a junior last year?
Simon:  I mean senior, I'm a senior.

And I think no one ever pays attention to my questions.

But I assure the group that it is okay to count backwards sometimes.   I , myself, have that plan for birthdays I tell them.  I will subtract a year at each birthday until I reach 39.  Then I add, I wonder who will make it to 39 first, them or me.

Nina:  How old are you?
Me:  Its not polite to ask a woman her age, but we should reach 39 about the same time.
Simon:  Then you're 61.

Now why is "What year are you in?" a difficult question, but when it comes to calculating my age he can do it with lightening speed?

Fourth period I teach geometry to a  self contained class. The theory is we give the same  "rigorous, college preparatory,"  curriculum to all classes.  Even the ones that by definitions are composed of students testing way below grade level.

And I am told a  highly effective teacher closes that achievement gap.

I am not sure exactly how to digest this information but thanks to such wonderful blogs like,Math= Love and i is a Number I've have a few new tricks up my sleeve.. This week we did the line segment addition postulate.  I had students cut out rulers, paste them in their notebook and paste various line segments underneath to illustrate the postulate.


When I taught early childhood special education, we did almost the exact same activity with Cuisenaire rods.

After we finished I sat with Efraim and worked these problems.

Efraim told me he had no idea how to do them.  Unlike the my  blog writers mentors (who just to continue the algebraic  age  puzzle)  are probably about the following age:

Mentor blog writer = My age
I was not having a lot of success.

Maybe I should have gotten out the Cusinaire Rods

Meanwhile Kenneth was  sitting behind us calling out the correct answers to the more complicated equations , and insinuating that this was  "f*******" kindergarten.

So what equations can I use to describe this situation?

None at all.
Forget equalization.
There is nothing equal about any of this.

You can equalize class sizes- maybe

But you can't equalize brain cells.

Efraim and I will work more on the equations.
I will speak with Kenneth about appropriate language, and give him something harder to keep him busy.
I will make sure Nina and Simon apply the same speedy calculations to their current math classes as they do to figuring out my age.

That's just what special education teachers do.

But it won't be equal.
Life just isn't that fair.

PS:  I'm not quite 61, yet- I said  about  the same amount time - not exactly.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Epigraphs and evaluations

Once, a long time ago my mother returned from the funeral of my kindergarten teacher.  The good teacher had long since retired from the teaching. My mother was impressed by how beautifully the cantor sang.  "I wonder if he will sing so beautifully at my funeral?" my mother pondered. "The good thing," she added, "is that I will never know,"

Will someone place on my tomb stone that I spent forty years teaching school?

The good thing is I will never know.

Maybe they will etch  in my Evaluation score.

New school year, same old stuff.
Except now it is piled higher and deeper. We had two days of staff development which involved almost meeting the new principal. The well liked, very capable "old" new principal (he was there for a year) was replaced over the summer by an even younger, greener new principal for reasons that were never explained.  The new one was only allowed to address the staff for 7 minutes surrounded by a cadre of "network" people who made sure he didn't say too much.

The rest of  time we spent learning about the evaluation system.   NYC Educator and Diane Ravitch do so much better of job of explaining it, than I could, that I won't even attempt to.  Suffice it to say I sat on the committee that was to determine the Measures of Student Learning method  our school was to use.  Here is what I learned:

  • There really aren't any choices (the city? state? only allows certain "third party" measures)
  • Everyone will be measured by the scores of students on state exams whether or not   
    •  the teacher actually teaches the subject being tested,
    • the student placed in the rigorous high school level course can actually read or has the prerequisite skills for the course 
    • the student attends school more than 5% of the time,
    • the exam has ever been made public, evaluated by anyone but the publishing company who wrote it, or field tested it before being administered to the whole state
  • Trying to impose reason or logic on any of this will do nothing other than make your head hurt.
So I started teaching again.
I have a "Tinkerbell" schedule.  I fly into one room and forty-five minutes fly out to the next-eight times a day.
And the attendance office wants to know why I can't ever find my attendance folder?

I teach two periods of  resource room, the program that is predicated on the idea that you can solve the problems of a student who is three years below grade level in reading and math by sitting in a hot, stuffy, sub-divided  room with seven other students for forty five minutes a day, and help them pass a "rigorous" college preparatory program in five different content areas.

This year I thought I would begin by evaluating reading skills individually.  
And so I found myself sitting with Matthew  a tenth grader who "read" through a seventh grade passage and barely got 70% of the words correct.  I got to the last  comprehension question of the long list that followed the passage.

Me:  What is the difference between touch and pressure?

Matthew:  Touch is when someone puts his hand on something and pressure is when someone asks you too many questions.

I guess Matthew and the rest of us are feeling some pressure.

PS:  I could not find the cantor that sang at my my kindergarten teacher's funeral when my mom died.  The cantor we had did sing beautifully, though.