The Road Block

It nears. I’ve been trying to keep the thoughts and worries at bay, but now there is no controlling it. We have March, April, and a week of May to get our evidence together and prove we deserve to be teachers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it is absolutely necessary for us to prove ourselves as being at least somewhat competent before we are handed the humbling responsibility of educating children. And I think throughout our career, we should be given the kind of support and professional learning opportunities to grow in our competency.

But I can’t help but be skeptical of any kind of high-stakes assessment that is far enough removed away from context that we start being worried, what are we really being judged on? What will the assessors of the edTPA be valuing when watching our video evidence? When reading our words we have written to try to prove ourselves as teachers. Any cursory look at the rubrics will tell you that there are certain aspects of teaching being seen as more valuable than others, and it is clear with the use of academic jargon the attempt to “professionalize” teaching in a way that makes me thing: “Are you assessing me on my teaching? Or my ability to decipher what you are telling me to do?”

A while ago, when the mumblings and grumblings of the edTPA first began, I Googled the edTPA and found a blog post from Diane Ravitch’s blog, “What is edTPA and Why Do Critics Dislike It?” I think there’s some valid criticism there, even while I think the edTPA has its value as a way to “award” certification. 

If you read the blog post linked, and think about what you know of teaching, do you think the edTPA is the best possible way to judging competency? Can you think of a better, plausible way? 

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Inspiration From a Teacher…in Illinois?

So I was browsing Twitter the other day, and as always, Twitter had some suggestions to make, trying to widen my social (media) circle. I was particularly intrigued by that of a teacher, and as I browsed his feed, I got really excited because he’s got a blog with a TON of resources about using technology in the classroom, and not necessarily in a 1-to-1 program (of course this makes it easier and more accessible), but really the powerful way the internet can change how students learn and how students show us what they have learned–in the classroom. It seems like schools still have this idea that the internet is relegated to the world outside of school, that sure, it’s a useful tool, but not much more beyond that. In my own experience, this is what I see in our schools today. It’s exciting to see that the kind of innovative education we talk about in our program is being done, and that the teacher is talking about it!

I particularly like the idea of ePortfolios as a way of assessing student learning, because it puts the power in the hands of the students. It’s not a test, where I hold all the knowledge and now you show me what I’ve taught you. Instead, it’s an authentic way for a student to show me, and her friends, and her family, and her community, and the rest of the world, what she is now knowledgable about. But don’t just read my opinion on why ePortfolios are great and actually work; read my new favorite blogging teacher’s, replete with examples of students’ ePortfolios, and a video describing how students make them.

As I learn more and more about the work real teachers are doing in their classrooms, and as I become inspired by the ways they use technology to improve the learning of their students, I can’t help but keep myself from dreaming too big, because I think we all know that sometimes, the things we want to do as teachers can be very restricted by the school we are in and the resources available to us.

Oh what the hell. I’ll keep dreaming. And then I’m going to do it.

Writing, Writing, Writing

Everyday, my kindergarteners have Writer’s Workshop. And I mean, everyday, unless there is some extenuating circumstance. As much writing as they do, they never tire of it. Sometimes I get the, “I don’t know what to write about,” but it’s usually easy enough to ask a question or two about something the student has done recently, and their writing starts pouring out (or, as much as it can pour out from a kindergartener. We’re aiming for 2-3 sentences, with a picture, right now). I haven’t seen such excitement for writing than when my CT changed one of our Choice Time stations to The Post Office.

Students writing Valentine’s letters:

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You can see the “mailboxes,” which are labeled alphabetically. Students who have written to a friend in class can put the letter in the box that their friend’s name begins with, and the CT “delivers” it to the friend. Also, POSTMAN HAT:

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The reason for all the writing goes beyond just helping students learn and practice doing it, but it’s also to build stamina. My CT is constantly thinking about ways to build motor skills and strength in the students so that they have the mental and physical strengths to continue doing these academic things, for longer periods of time, which they will be expected to do in their academic career. It’s eye-opening for me to see this building of foundational skills at such a young age; people who don’t think academics take place in kindergarten need to think again.

Not to mention, watching ALL of our kindergartners rush to the Post Office to write each other letters and put stamps on the envelopes is very adorable.