Saturday, March 30, 2013

#Frameworks for Learning and Teaching

This is a request for material and ideas.

What I have come to find in my 10th year of teaching is that, although I am continually reflecting and revising my practice, I feel I have lost sight of the connecting threads. I feel lost in a maze of activity, but without the guiding structure of a solid, logical, educationally sound framework.

One problem I have is obvious: my district has not provided me with these tools (hence, this post).

A second is more clear to my #PLN: I have found the most valuable PD on and through Twitter.

In the absence of an "official" dogma to follow, I am turning to my PLN for help: what frameworks do you use? What frameworks codify "good teaching" and "good practice"? What are the best practices out there?

Perhaps an example will help: my District uses Danielson's framework for classroom observations. I was observed last week for the second time in six years (the observation went well). In this time, I have never been provided with PD on HOW I would be observed, nor was I provided with information about WHY Danielson's ideas are sound.

While preparing for the observation, I spent a lot of time reading through Danielson's words, and I came to realize two things: it is incredibly overwhelming to try to digest that in a one-week period and, it made sense. It actually fits together and provides a common ground to discuss teaching.

Now, I am not claiming it is the best method, but it is the one we have decided to use, it is the one our APPR will utilize next year, and it is one book I will study this summer.

What else? I plan to study this summer to figure out this common core implementation (again, no PD from the district). What else is out there that I should be aware of?

I'd love to find out "big picture" resources (like Danielson and Common Core) and "small" picture resources that pertain to HS English (like Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This or Carol Jago's With Rigor For All)

Please leave a comment below or send a tweet to @acelini. Let's keep this conversation alive and well and share what we know.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big Data...Big Concerns.

Lindsey Own (@LindseyOwn) posted an interesting read titled "How Big Corporate Marketing Analytics Can Disrupt Education - Crazy, Right?" - totally worth checking out. Here is my comment on her post, cross-posted here for reference.

This is one of those crossroads moments for me as an educator and tech enthusiast - I see so much potential in how tech can be applied to actually increase student and teacher learning and, I believe, change how we learn (in terms of both how we learn and how we structure learning). And then my department tells me today that in two years, the infamous and almost existent PARCCs will be administered in NYS to 9th, 10th, AND 11th grade ELA. That, and they will be given in two sittings: a three-day and a two-day (not full days, but double the length-wish of the current Regents exam). I hear this, and I have to ask myself if this a best practice to collect this data. I say no, there has to be a better way, a way we can use tech to give standardized formative assessments often, with real and lasting feedback for both student and teacher. shift the funding away from the pockets of the test-maker and use it to provide the test-taker (i.e. the students) with a viable way to create their learning. The politicians are sorely misled here.

I love the concept of using "big data"in my practice, and I hope that the right people get their voices heard soon.

On a related tangent, I found out about this tool at the Harvard Future of Learning session in 2011, but haven't followed up on it yet. Has anyone had experience with Disco tests ( I remember being blown away by the idea of using multiple, small, frequent standardized tests that provided real time data.

Cultural Reference of the Week: #SheRatchet

My students have been throwing this term around class lately: "ratchet." Being an English teacher and naturally curious, I asked my students for the context of the term. As they say, ask and ye shall receive.

I went from this (half serious):

To this:

With an additional this, thrown in for flavor:

(I, of course, found much more context with this)

I find it very interesting how the "slang" spreads and shifts its context. I teach in an relatively-affluent suburban area, one in which you are not likely to see that sort of behavior/attitude in the local drug store. Yet it appears in the school.

I completely understand how adolescents adopt pop culture references and adapt them to their own living (witness my own experience twenty years back with Grunge - double flannels for life!). What I still don't understand, though, is the adoption of the "gangsta" mentality in suburbia.

I'm no historian, but I assume that the roots of the hip-hip would came from a group of musicians that were experiencing a really tough life. That idea, of course, got bastardized once it became popular. Now, it seems, my students live such an "easy life" that they feel the need to toughen up by "living" a "ghetto" life (I can assure you, there is no ghetto in Clarkstown). The phrases "fake tough" and "phony brave" come to mind (from Full Metal Jacket).

I've seen the baggy pants, the abundance of tattoos, and the rise of "girl fights" happen at my school, and I need to ask - where do they go from here. Is the "ghetto phase" something to be expected these days? Do we idealize a "lifestyle" that emphasizes easy money, easy girls, and easy solutions (bang)? Is this some insane bastardization of the American Dream?

Or is this yet another iteration of the vapidity that seems to be oozing out of high schools today? What do we teach that is lasting? That is enduring? That is meaningful?

To come full-circle: the ratchet conversation continued into my extra help session, where a student working on the literary magazine (and certainly NOT the person who would use the word ratchet), told me that it's just a derivation of the word "wretched."

I'm not sure if she's right, but it is a bit scary that one of the kids' go-to phrases is, simply stated, wretched. Is that some subliminal expression of their psyche?

(P.S. A: I realize they don't use it that way and B: totally reading into it. But hey, that's what I do.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My comments on #NYSED 's survey on the new #APPR

I received am email from NYSED asking for feedback on the new APPR process. Most of the questions were standard fare, but the last one was open-ended commentary. I took the opportunity to rant/vent, and had the presence of mind to copy my comment before I hit submit.

Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:
The new APPR makes sense in theory. In theory, we should all be collecting data about our practice and our students, and using that data to improve our teaching and their learning. However, in practice, making a change this massive, and without any organization from the state, will create an organizational nightmare. For instance: the talk regarding the pre-assessment for the SLOs is to give an incredibly difficult exam on content the students have not learned yet (with the expectation that they will do poorly on it). Then, after you spend the year teaching that content, they should shine and show outstanding growth. Jobs saved! 

This is a ridiculous predicament you (NYSED) have put us (teachers) in. Why should anyone take the pre-assessment seriously, knowing the the objective is failure. The students are aware of this as well - what will their motivation be? And how does that bode for the start of a school year: let me set the tone for the year of failure. Not education. Not improvement. But pre-planned and intentional failure. From a socio-emotional perspective, that is suicide. 

Add in an INCREASE in tests, which equates to a DECREASE in available teaching time, and Gov Cuomo's tax cap, where will teachers have the time to teach. When will administrators, who are already strapped for time today, have time to administer? How will districts afford more unfunded state mandates? By cutting teaching staff? Because that will improve education, right? Larger classes, more preps, less time. Sounds like a party. 

In theory, this all makes (some) sense. In reality, it will destroy education for a good long while. Has anyone at NYSED considered what the fallout will be? What will teaching and, more importantly, learning look like once the proverbial dust has settled?