Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finishing BTSA and Talks with Administration

Wow...Talk about a intense couple of weeks I have had.  This last week the culmination of everything that I have been doing this year as an educator seemed to collide.  First my BTSA binder was due, which changes a teachers preliminary credential to a cleared one.  I couldn't believe after I first started teaching that I had to basically do an additional 2 years of busy work just to get my real credential.  Perhaps my frustration came from the fact that I had an awesome experience with Cal Poly Pomona's department of education preparing me so well.  So 3 years into teaching and I finally finished the BTSA requirements to get my cleared credential...YES!  

Ok... so that was thing number one.  This week has also reminded me of why back-ups are so crucially important as my computer went BOOM  I found out the logic board was dead.  Well no big deal right... it only had what... my 3 class projects and a lit review.  Well unfortunately I was able to pull some of the stuff from the hard drive before it went completely dead, but it has meant that I have had to play catch up this week on top of the BTSA stuff.  There was one good thing that did come from the destruction of my precious imac, I got to go to the apple store for its replacement.  Apple Store + ME = (kid in a candy store).  So I ended up getting the computer I have been thinking about since I entered the EMM (educational multimedia program), the Apple Mac Pro

Ok if you thought it was over guess agin.  On top everything I also had to keep up on teaching and getting grades entered into the computer.

Whew this has been a non-stop week, but at least it'll be behind me soon enough,  I just hope that I'm caught up on everything by the time it gets here. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Woes of Standardized Testing

Every year the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at my school take the dreaded CST's (California Standardized Tests).  The test that will determine weather a student gets and elective or is placed in an extra math or language arts class.  The tension leading up to the test is extremely   intense as many students stress about doing well.  Being their teacher, I do my best to help calm them down before the exam and give them as much guidance as I can before we start the testing process.  Yet, is there more that the schools and teachers can do to help students succeed?
This was the question poised to our staff months ago, and an overwhelming majority of educators suggested that minimum days would be excellent for students.  It would let the students relax after completing a stressful exam and provide them with time to prepare for the following one.  The only complaint that  was brought to the attention of the staff was that minimum days after testing would result in 15-20 minute classes (not the ideal for teaching in middle school).  So the suggestion was made in leadership council to suggest to the staff the idea of a minimum day where the students would only go to 3 of their classes one day and the other 3 on the following day.  The plan sounded awesome, more time was alloted for instruction, and students still had the minimum day.  It was presented to the staff and no complaints were made.
Now that testing started the attitude amongst many of the staff has completely changed.  Teachers who were for the schedule were suddenly complaining that they lost their prep period and how it wasn't fair, when in reality they never lost a prep it was just instead of two short preps in two days we would receive 1 long one in two days.  Despite the argument and the benefit to students teachers continued to complain even bringing the collective bargaining agreement into the discussion (THE UNIOIN).  Most of the disagreement was due to the Friday and Monday schedule of testing where teachers with a first or second period prep would receive an extra 15 minutes of prep for two days during the school year...  Suddenly there are arguments and the parking-lot conversations with irate teachers.  Am I the only one that says, "Who cares!"  15 minutes during 2 days out of the year, give me a break.  Sometimes I am amazed at how unprofessional some teachers can be.  If a school was like a business that kind of unprofessionalism would result in termination.  So anyways on with the results.
The outcome was that the schedule was rearranged so that all prep times matched, and students continued with the minimum days.  It sounds like it all worked out, but the administration was completely frustrated with all the bickering and childish behavior from teachers.  If there had been a problem with the schedule the administration was wondering why teachers didn't bring it up in the months leading up to the test.  This one was a complete lack of professionalism on the teachers part.  I wanted to find out more and so I set up a meeting and talked with the principal to get his point of view of the whole debacle.  I found out that because of all the problems that arose due to the minimum day schedules, the unprofessionalism from the teachers, and the extreme lack of communication between teachers and the administration, that it is extremely unlikely that minimum days will be used in the future.  
Way to go Team!  
What happened in the end... Students will not receive minimum days in the future, teachers will teach shortened classes, and no progress will have been made to move students towards success.  Sometimes I truly wonder why some people became teachers.  We should always ask ourselves what we can do for our students, not I am on lunch don't bother me.

Links for testing:

HISD | Student Assessment Home. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2009, from  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hello and welcome to my first blog.  My name is "The Mad Scientist" (at least that's what my students call me), and I have been teaching middle school life science for the past 3 years.  In the 5 following weeks I will be conducting a social experiment where I will document and reflect on the various teaching practices of not only myself but of fellow educators at my school.  I will talk and discuss my lesson plans, classroom management, and school politics that I see every day around me.  Hopefully as future educators you can find some useful information out of my mad ramblings to use in your own classes.  So enough with my babbling and onto the blog...

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction." -- Albert Einstein