Friday, February 8, 2013

Maintaining High Expectations

I know of classrooms where the teacher goes over every assignment with the class and holds it in a folder for the students so that it is not lost in their notebooks and then on the day of the test, the teacher allows the students to use any of the materials in their folder to answer the test (including the study guide).

I'm sure you can imagine what the grades looked like. If you are imagining all A's your way off. The students still failed in embarrassing numbers.

This can leave a teacher feeling completely hopeless. If you give the students the answers to the test and allow them to use those answers while taking the test and they still have major issues...then most educators are out of ideas that can help the students pass.

"They can't even cheat to pass!"

They throw their hands up with frustration and sit in the corner of the lunchroom during faculty meetings rolling their eyes at the administration who proposes new ideas to help the students.

If you have been in education very long you can probably imagine a similar scenario. This is an absurdity on a college campus where bright young educators are preparing to change the world.

They have such high expectations. They would never allow students to go through their class without being challenged.

The level of expectation is generally higher for a new teacher than a veteran teacher who "knows" what the students are capable of accomplishing.

The difference is that the new teachers haven't failed to meet their expectations.

The general trend of a teachers career is to start out with high expectations only to fail miserably, then to lower the expectations. That trend continues until at some point the expectations level off with the results.

The inherent problem is that we stigmatize failure to a degree that we expect less in order to succeed. (tweetable)

I tend to agree with the new teacher mindset. I know that it can be difficult to always fail, however failure is only bad when you do not learn from it. Make adjustments,  tweak the way you teach, or your classroom policies, but don't give up.

If we shoot for the stars and land on the moon...did we really fail?

If we shoot for the status quo and make it, did we really succeed?

Maintain your high expectations in the face of failure

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Years Themes

I normally try to make resolutions for the new year that look something like this.

I have since been introduced to a new concept by +Chris Brogan for New Years Resolutions. Instead of making generic resolutions that fall apart weeks into a year, you set a theme/vision for your goals.

I really like the idea and plan to give it a try this year. You simply choose three words that make up your vision and help you narrow or focus your goals.

My Three Words:

Drive - Motivation, determination, will power, endurance. This year I want to focus on doing more with the time that I have. I want to stay in drive mode...I don't want to have to gear up for everything that I do. Driven people are more passionate about their work and are able produce better quality. (here is another kind of Drive)

Finish - I am tired of not getting completely done with the projects I start. I want to finish things and move on to new tasks. This is probably going to be the most difficult theme for me. I start so many different things that I leave unfinished. No more. I would be ashamed to tell you how many "draft" posts I have started and not finished. I am going to focus on my tasks until I get them checked off.

Enjoy - This is an easy one and yet so many people struggle with it. Life is not worth the effort and work you put into it if you do not take time to enjoy those sweet moments that movie directors are able to capture. You know when the violins start playing that slow music full of harmony? Anyway, I am planning to enjoy life because we are more likely to do the things we plan to do.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chrome Apps Package

 This is another addition to Technology Thursday. On Thursdays we will be highlighting a different online technology that Teachers can put to use in the classroom. You can find more articles on the Technology page.

Teachers are very busy and don't have free time to test apps to see if they are suitable for their class. It is hard to know where to find the quality apps for education that can really enhance your class without digging through a ton of coloring pages apps.

Google has created "packs" of apps that are best utilized in each school setting elementary, middle, and high school. Follow this link to take a look at each.

The page was designed for schools that are considering or have purchased Google Chromebooks for the Classroom. The apps listed range from free to freemium (free but costs for premium features) to paid. None-the-less, it is a nice place to look to find quality web apps for your class.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Course Evaluations...Now Not Later

This article is a part of the Pedagogy section on the "Philosophy" page. The intent of these articles is to help teachers use proven methods of teaching to improve student performance.

At the end of a semester it is common on most college campuses to give course/instructor evaluations.

It is an opportunity for students to voice their unbridled opinion of the course they just finished and the instructor who taught it. 

The typical questions look something like this:

  • What were the strengths of this course?
  • What were the weaknesses of this course?
  • Did the professor treat the students fairly?
Here is a sample evaluation from Glencoe.

Colleges do this to think reflectively on the effectiveness of a course. Evaluations allow schools to improve courses and determine if staff is doing a good job.

I think that course evaluations are great for reflection. Students are able to voice their opinions and give real feedback on their education. That is powerful.

Just one problem. 

They are given at the end of the course. 

This tool is so ill timed that it basically defeats its purpose. If you want to make changes to your course do it now. 

If your on a sinking ship, don't wait until your at the bottom of the ocean to fix the holes...start repairing now!

An innovative way to do this is through Google Forms. Allow students to give you their opinion of your class and organizes responses conveniently in a spreadsheet.

Christmas break is a great time to get feedback from your students.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Difference a Great Teacher Can Make

Infographics are neat visual ways to communicate a lot of information and data in a concise manner. TeacherAde finds the best ones on the web that deal with education and shares a new one once a month. You can find all of the infographics on the Resources page and under "Infographics".

If you have ever wondered about your influence on the life of children then you will find this research by Harvard to be pretty interesting. They seem to be able to quantify the impact of great teachers.

This infographic was created and shared by Teacher Certification Degrees

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Are You Sure About Makeup Work?

This is an addition to the Philosophy page at TA where we look at common practices in education that may not always be the best practice. You can find similar posts under the "Are You Sure About..." section.

Most teachers that I know do not allow students to make up a test without the proper documentation. A doctors note that has been signed and notarized is what you will need to make up a test.

My question is why?

 Whenever I discuss this topic with other teachers they usually contend that students will take advantage of a teacher who allows them to make up any grade especially tests. The students will not study because if they perform poorly then they just make it up later. Student's do not learn to be accountable for themselves and their actions.

They need to learn the consequences of not studying or preparing for a test. 

I just am not so sure that we are not teaching a far worse lesson. Many of these students who need to make up a test or homework assignment feel like it is pointless to pay attention. They have developed an attitude of failure. 

What I believe:

  • If a student does study and does learn the material for a course, then they should have an opportunity to demonstrate that knowledge and it should be reflected in the students grade. EVEN IF THEY LEARN THE MATERIAL AFTER THE INITIAL TEST. 
  • If a student fails a test and no opportunity exists to improve their grade they will not try to learn what they performed so poorly on! We give students motivation to learn what they missed when we allow credit for it. 
  • Cheating is more of an issue  in classes where opportunity is not given. (cheating still exists when there is opportunity to make up a grade, but it is less likely if you can make it up)
It's not "fair" to the students who do study and who do things "the right way" for everyone else to make up their grades. 

Everyone in the class has the same opportunity. The students who fail are not the only ones who have an opportunity to make a better grade, the students who make a 91 can try for a 100, the students who make a 74 can try to improve for a 96.

This is not a way to get everyone in your class to pass...this is a way to get everyone in your class an opportunity to improve their education.

Ideally student's would have the intrinsic motivation to learn all the material that they are taught but when that isn't the case...Give them a reason to learn what they missed.

Did you ever correct your final papers to fix your errors? Would you if it could have been turned back in for a better grade?

Did you go over the questions that you missed on the tests? Would you have if you could learn what you missed and retake the test?

You will probably have students take advantage of you if you allow them to make up their work, but you will definitely have students quit on you if you don't.

What do you think? Should students be allowed to make up work? If so what do you do to keep them from taking advantage of that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why Bother Leaving the House?

This is a feature at TA, that shares TED talks that can help you be a better educator. These posts will be archived on the Philosophy page.  The general focus is Education but are not limited to that. They can include other things as well.

An interesting question, isn't it? There is no specific need to leave our homes. We could do everything from sightseeing to ordering food all from the comfort of our homes. But does the immediacy of information and resources stifle our ability to imagine and create?

Ben Saunders a modern day explorer describes the imagination with the unknown and the fascination with mountains.

I have to agree with Ben about the need for students to actually interact with the world in which we live (I don't know anyone who is against that)

The reason I bring this up is because of the emphasis put on online education. Why should our students bother leaving the house for school? Is there something about being at school that helps students? Are students that are home schooled missing out on something?