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Posted by on in Assessment

standardized test

Today was our second of four days testing kids.  Keep in mind that this is only the ninth day of the new school year. 

I know that teachers must have an idea of the abilities and skills of their students in order to proceed with appropriate instruction during the year.  But, with the number of times the computers froze and crashed, with the rising levels of student frustration and burn-out, and with the disruption to the regular school day, exactly how reliable are the results of this round of assessment truly going to be? 

This will probably be viewed as heresy by those teachers and administrators groomed in an era proud of the art of “drilling down” through data, but I’m going to be honest:  Most large-scale assessments are not an accurate assessment of the ability of our children. 

One would think that a person who has been in the profession for more than three decades – fifteen of those years as a school administrator – would be joyfully embracing the overabundant piles of data points gleaned from each onslaught of testing.  But, at the risk of sounding like an old codger, I proudly assert that there are much better ways to know what our students are capable of doing. 

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Posted by on in General

Whether you are a first-year teacher or one who has been in the profession a while, a new school year is always a promise of a new beginning.  You are given a chance to reinvent yourself and the things you do for your students.  You are given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many. 

As a veteran now embarking on year thirty-six, I have learned a thing or two about being successful and being happy in the profession.  I have certainly realized that there will be many days that are difficult - so overbearing that you just don’t know how you can ever return the next morning.  But I have also learned that these moments are there to teach us about ourselves, our craft, and our students. 

Griping in the teachers’ lounge can be cathartic, but carrying the anger, despair and frustration beyond its doors will surely be detrimental to your well-being and that of your students as well. 

A few years ago, I decided that I was going to start a “Fresh Start Journal.”  I vowed that, no matter how difficult my day happened to be, I would write about something from each day that made me smile or laugh or stop and ponder about the life of one of my kids.  Some days it was very difficult – but not impossible - to find that ray of sunshine.  Other days, I had several stories to record.  The point is – for the past five years – I’ve never gone a day without finding a moment that made me grateful for being a teacher. 

After a while, I found myself actively looking for those moments – listening for the funny things kids said, watching for the kind or goofy things kids did.  I didn’t have to think so hard at night when I would turn to my journal because I was purposefully watching for “moments” during my actual time interacting with the kids.  The net result was that I was now looking for the good in my students more than for their faults. 

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Posted by on in General

The kids had only been gone for three days but, now that the Memorial Day long weekend was over, my work as an assistant principal was ready to begin again.  It was time to clear out the old year and prepare for the next one, which would begin in two months whether we were ready or not. 

Fortunately, this first day back, there were no district meetings planned, no professional development “opportunities” scheduled, and no parent conferences expected.  I began my day sitting with the principal and developing my “to-do” list from his requests and then adding a few of my own chores as well.

A few teachers had returned as they had not completely checked out for the summer break the Friday before.  I visited each in their classrooms, inspected the walls and floors for some sense of cleanliness and signed their check-out forms for the secretary.  I helped them move desks and boxes and bookcases out of the way so that the custodians could easily clean the carpet before fall. 

There were also many teachers who had been told that they would be teaching in different classrooms during the new school year.  All of their personal belongings had been boxed and labeled and placed with the furniture they owned near their classroom entrances.  For most of these individuals, long-time veterans in the field, the collection at the door was massive.  You amass a great deal over the years and, in true teacher fashion, you never throw anything away.  (Personally, I still have ditto masters and overhead transparencies in my files despite the fact that the “technology” to use both is no longer existent). 

As I moved in and out of classrooms, I ran into our day custodian, Maria, who had her own list of things to do for the day.  I had worked with this wonderful lady for several years and knew her to be an extremely hardworking individual dedicated to the staff and kids on campus.  If I even hinted that something needed done, she was on it in seconds with nary a complaint. 

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Posted by on in General

Jack and His Plans for Next Year:

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I try hard to ignore goofy Jack who, at 13, still doesn't know how to raise his hand to get my attention.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I grit my teeth. Don't give in, I say to myself. Don't even look his way.

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Posted by on in General

I began teaching at age seven.

I gave my poor siblings handwritten worksheets with simple addition problems to solve and letters to trace. When they were done, I graded their work and planned the next day’s lesson.

A few years later, all of my friends were begging their parents for walkie-talkies so that they could play army games. I begged as well. But I had no intention of running around an imagined battlefield.

I wanted an intercom system for my little private school.

The minute my parents gave in and handed me my new handheld devices, I promoted myself to the position of principal and allowed my younger sister to take over the classroom. She set up instruction in her bedroom while I set up my office in my own room. Each of us had a walkie talkie. Oh, how I delighted in interrupting her classroom with multiple announcements.

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