April 24, 2014

What I'm Thinking About Today

Today, students took a big science test over cells and classification. I know this unit was difficult for them because it included a lot of new concepts and vocabulary, but as I graded the tests for two classes, I was lamenting their scores.

This lead to a conversation with the classroom teacher about the idea that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink.

And the more we talked, the more I felt her frustration with the new teacher evaluation system, which starts next year. At this point, student scores will be a direct reflection of teacher success.

I know this post isn't bringing to light anything new, but I really want someone to give me a good reason as to why this is the solution to our education crisis in America.

Since I started working in education, I've been taught to be a facilitator of learning. Therefore, it is my job to provide the tools necessary and the encouragement needed for students to become lifelong learners.

This is great, in theory, but what are teachers supposed to do when students lack the initiative to take any ownership of their learning? We spent 3 DAYS making Cell City, which is supposed to be a metaphor for how each organelle operates within a cell. The day the submitted this project, they took a quick pop quiz to check their understanding of the functions of each organelle.

We had a good number of students who performed better on the PRETEST than this pop quiz.

We gave them notes. We reviewed the notes. We offered an extension activity for them to further grasp this information.

What else are we supposed to do?

I genuinely wish I had the answer.

I can't follow them all home to make sure they study. I can't even make them do their homework! You can't force someone to care about something they deem unimportant.

I think some of our students believe they can learn through osmosis. Like the information is just going to seep into their brains by being in the classroom... even when they're not paying attention.

This is the reality of education. Every teacher knows this.

So why don't our policymakers?

April 23, 2014

Chinese Dynasty Amusement Parks

In social studies, we recently finished studying Ancient China. With this, we learned about the various dynasties, which students were asked to characterize by designing amusement parks with various attractions that tie specifically to the dynasty they were assigned. They were asked to consider what was invented during that time as well as how life was different for people based on who was in power.

Here are a couple of examples from this year's groups:

I especially like the slide made of silk for visitors to surf down and the lazy river that represented the use of irrigation systems in this park! Some of our students were very creative!!!
While roller coasters are always a popular choice in amusement park engineering, some of our groups included torture devices to reflect the way leaders ruled with iron fists and punished anyone who spoke against them.
I've also seen this project done at other schools in my district (remember, I subbed here for two years) where each group had to make an amusement park that represented ALL of the dynasties. They simply had different sections of the park. I like this twist because it allows students to demonstrate their learning on all the dynasties and they can see how they are similar and different on one poster.

April 21, 2014

Weekend Recap and IMWAYR: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Happy Monday, friends! What a glorious three-day weekend! I'm sorry I'm not sorry about being away from my computer and this blogging world so much recently, but I've been out enjoying life! Now that winter is behind us (I say this with a chuckle since it was just a week ago that I had to scrape snow off my car before work... Chicago springs feel a lot like cruel jokes.), we've been itching to be anywhere but inside the house.
Joel's birthday was this weekend, and we were on a mission to celebrate with some fondue. We visited SIX stores before finding a set (seriously... is fondue a seasonal item? If so, for what season?) at Bed Bath & Beyond (and, of course, I didn't have one of the ubiquitous 20% off coupons with me... story of my life). At about 4:30, I suggested we pick out our groceries because we had skipped lunch with all of our shopping, and I know how long it takes to prepare all those bite-size morsels for dipping.
Flash forward to 8:30 PM when we were on batch #2 of cheese fondue. Yes, we had to go BACK to the store because we couldn't get the right consistency. I don't know what we did wrong, but we got the consistency of the cheese inside a mozzarella stick instead of a dip. I know that sounds amazing, but that's a LOT of chewy cheese on each bite of broccoli. I gave up and started dipping my bread and apples into a jar of Nutella. So we're calling our fondue a fondon't!
On Saturday, two of our friends from Baton Rouge flew into town for the weekend, so we met up with them at the Drake and gave them a tour of the city. We walked all along the Magnificent Mile and through Millennium Park and Grant Park. This part was fine... but then we had to walk back! And let's just say that this girl doesn't always make the most sensible choices when it comes to shoes, so my feet STILL hurt! We went to Gino's East for some delicious deep dish pizza and a delicious brownie in honor of Joel's birthday.
Yesterday, we spent the day with my family for Easter. We had a delicious brunch, and I made my favorite Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake. We also had pumpkin pancakes, egg salad croissant sanwiches, spiral baked ham, island pie (my grandma's pineapple whip dessert), quiche, and fruists and veggies galore. It was YUMMY! We were blessed with the most beautiful weather of the year, and got to eat on the deck and play some boccie ball in the yard. We were outside until the sun started to set last night, and it was wonderful! It felt like a vacation!

For this week's book talk, I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. The book seems to have some mixed reviews, but to be honest, I didn't even look at them before I downloaded it. I'm really into autobiographies and memoirs, especially when written by funny women. I've read everything by Ellen Degeneres, Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin... I just love them!

Although I was never a regular watcher of The Office, I always thought it was pretty funny, so I was willing to give this book a shot just from seeing the cover. I think Mindy is the kind of girl I could call a friend. She's just quirky enough to be endearing without being annoying, and I actually enjoyed getting a glimpse into her mind in this book. I found her to be relatable and interesting enough to hold my attention in the car. It was a cute book for someone looking for a light, summer read!

**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.
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