How do you prove you can...

What is something at which you KNOW you are good? Anything... cooking, golf, keeping house, your job, soccer, reading.... got something in your head?
Okay.... how do you know you are good at it? How do other people know you are good at it? How many times do you have to do something well to prove you are good at it? Were you always good at it... or are you constantly improving (or getting worse) at this skill?

I've taken on the awesome challenge of proficiency grading. This means that, along with the traditional grade (and don't get me started on how awful those are) I will have a list of ten 8th grade math learning targets (determined by the state and the district) from this term with a judgment on my part reflecting the student's current understanding of that target. I base this judgment on collections of evidence, multiple opportunities to prove mastery, and my daily workings with the students. I am, in theory, letting students and their families know at exactly WHAT they are good.

What does this mean tonight? Pouring over my records of students attempts at things like simplifying square roots, justifying a choice of graph for a data set, and using the Pythagorean Theorem. From this I determine , at this moment of time, on the continuum from Novice to Proficient, where each student is performing.

Someday I hope I can just send out the proficiencies. A list of math skills that every 8th grader should know and then a note explaining to each parent which targets (skills) his or her child has mastered. WHO CARES about a grade? When students comes to my class I want to know what they know, I want to know what they DON'T know so I can help them. A, B, C, D, F tells me none of that. Proficiency reporting does.

Grades are due tomorrow.

So what I'm doing writing this? I have work to do!


Like any job...

Sunday nights, I can't imagine leaving the weekend and jumping back into the chaos of work. After three years I'm learning not to bring as much home (yes, I still grade papers at home... ). For two whole days I am separate from my life as teacher. I talk to grownups about grownup things. I drink wine. I take my time eating lunch (it can be hard to break the 20 minute lunch shovel). I do laundry... slowly. I see my family.
As I sit on couch, blues music in the background and a kitty in my lap, tomorrow seems so far away. To get through a day of teaching my brain and body move at full speed ALWAYS, so, to cope, I think I've finally found a way to slow myself way down when I'm out of the school environment.
I rest, I recover, and I let myself forget (in just 48 hours) the stress I felt Friday afternoon. In this way, I am able to get myself back in the classroom Monday morning energized and optimistic, ready to start the race through the week again.



I have never (Never!) and so many impulsive students as I seem to this year. And all in one class (perhaps the behavior becomes exaggerated in students because of being in a class with others like this?)!
How do I describe it? It's constant noises, blurts, blahs, humms, eeks. Random words, bits of songs, a short thought.
Today I introduced a short movie clip about the Pythagorean theorem. I talked about the song, the movie, the actors, etc. All over, the constant buzzing this class always has. I pushed on:
Me: "So, this clip is from an older movie..."
Student: "Leave it to Beaver!"
Student: "Beaver?"
Student: "I like TV!"
Me: "No, an old movie, in fact it has an actor that was also in the film White Christmas"
Student: "Snow!"
Student: "For white people?"
Student: "I love that movie!"
Me: "Okay, let's just start"

The strange part- it really seems to just be an inability to filter from their brains to their mouths. I've had the mean kids that want to run the class, I've had the kids that just want to goof off... but that's not it this year. This is one of the nicest groups, this group is always enthusiastic about learning and ready for just about anything I throw at them. They just don't stop making noise. EVER. EVER. So, I keep it to a dull rumble or buzz about the room and I move on. But GOODNESS, it can wear a gal out.


Meaningful Feedback

Right now my challenge is getting work graded and back in student's hands quick enough for it to mean something to them. In theory, when students take a test or turn in work they should have it back within 24 hours so that they can see where there are gaps in their learning and then we can work together to fill those gaps.
But I have a life.
I bring home projects and they sit all weekend, untouched. I have a new home, an unfinished kitchen, limited time with my husband, and the weekends go by so quickly. And the time SHOULD be mine- but if I try to fit all my grading, planning, teaching, etc into my actual work day it just simply won't all get done. It is my professional responsibility to get these things done. So something needs to come home with me. Or I need to stay at school late (very late). And just when the grades are all caught up, the next project will get turned in, or the next test will happen, and we're right back to where we started.
But there is hope, I'm learning how to design assignments that are easier to grade. I'm learning to put some of the responsibility in the hands of the students. This year I have only 100 students instead of 120. I can get through it. But, as I sit here, looking at that pile of projects and looking out the window at the beautiful October sun I have trouble getting motivated to lock myself away with the projects for the next five hours.