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Posted by on in General

 Our country truly needs to re-examine the way it views education. 

A boy in my homeroom class was packing up at the end of the day. He walked up to me and asked quite bluntly, in pure seventh grade manner, "Mr. Ramsey, was your father ashamed of you for becoming a teacher?" 

I was truly taken aback and hurt a bit by this question. But, in true seventh grade teacher manner, I remained calm and asked, "Why would you even think that?" 

"Well, like he was in the Marines..." 

"Air Force," I corrected. "So?" 

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Tagged in: teacher

Posted by on in General

At school, we have a new program that allows teachers to monitor students as they work online.  One cool feature allows us to simply shut down a student if he is not on the assigned site for the day.  It is fun watching their reactions to being instantly blocked.

Another great feature allows me to go directly into the document that a student is creating and to join the student in the writing process.  I can add feedback, and I can also help guide a student’s writing in real time.

“Joaquin” is one of my best writers.  I’ve known that since he was a little kid in my fifth grade class.  One of his stories that year was about having a superpower.  The boy wrote about being able to capture all the terrorists in the world and then making them all work at McDonald’s.  After a few days of working the fryer, they all surrender and promise to go home.  Joaquin, the superhero, is celebrated as his neighbors throw a party with ponies and pinatas

Much to the boy’s dismay, I think I shared that story with every teacher at the school.  At the start of this year, I asked him if I could read his story to the class.

He looked at me in disbelief.  “No!” he squeaked.  “You still have it?”

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Posted by on in General

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On the first day of school, Ronaldo entered my fifth grade classroom, a few hundred decibels louder than his peers.  I asked him to quiet down and find the seat I had already picked out for him.  He looked at me, smirked, and sat down. 

The boy was a restless child who had yet learned where his on/off switch was.  He needed to be reminded often to not shout out, to not get up and walk around the room, to not pester the girl sitting next to him.   He also needed to learn that I had twenty-five other students, some of which had more important needs than his. 

Ronaldo drove me crazy with his many interruptions during instruction.  One day, I noted 17 interruptions in about as many minutes.  Most of those were simply attempts to get attention or laughs from his classmates. 

“Mr. Ramsey, can I get a drink?”

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Posted by on in General

The next person who comes to me with the latest, newest, cure-all packaged program designed to meet the needs of all kids - fully equipped with glitzy strategies, charts, worksheets and data charts that must be utilized in a prescribed, lock-step fashion with “fidelity” - better be prepared to stand before my kids for an entire day – alone! On top of that, they’d better prepare themselves for the five hours after school that they will need to subtract from their family’s life to grade papers, call parents and plan for the next day.

 I guarantee they won’t last an hour. 

Because kids don’t work that way. Schools don’t work that way. There are so many variables…nothing is predictable. Much is unplannable.

Today, my morning plans included reviewing the four types of sentences and giving kids time to write their final drafts of a story they started two days ago. Within the first hour, one boy, whose life is a mess, slipped into a temper tantrum because he didn’t get seconds for breakfast. He chucked his first breakfast against the wall and shoved his desk to the ground. Counselor referral #1. 

Thirty minutes later, another boy began rocking in his seat, sobbing uncontrollably. He told the boy next to him that he was having flashbacks and couldn’t stop the memories from coming. Counselor referral #2. 

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Tagged in: fatigue

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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