Showing posts from November, 2010

Grades: Understanding, not Obedience

The New York Times got me thinking, in its November 28, 2010 article "No More A's for Good Behavior."  The Potsdam, NY Public Schools, led by Superintendent Patrick Brady, are right on.  As I concluded in a previous blog post, "Extra Credit: The Downfall of America?", grades must be a reflection of knowledge learned, information synthesized, skills demonstrated, not a reflection of behavior.

I have opened up the following conversation individually with teachers, but have not yet taken it on with the staff of the whole school in which I work - yet.  Grades must not be a reflection of behavior, but of understanding.  This includes the a big piece of student responsibility: homework.  The excuse that "if students do not homework and are not penalized for not completing it, then won't ever learn to do it!" is simply hogwash.  We should be creating homework assignments that are essential, and if it uncomfortably illuminates our own homework policies, t…

Extra Credit: The Downfall of America?

I feel dizzy from the number of times I have flip-flopped on the topic of extra credit in schools.  As a middle school educator, I am flooded with requests from students, "Please, Mr. G.  Is there any way I can do extra credit?  Pleeeeeeease?"  Some years, heart strings were tugged in September, and my policy was made for me.  Other years, however, I stood strong and tall, feeling a bit like an ogre, saying "So sorry, I don't do extra credit," but unsure about the WHY behind this statement.  Once I thought long and hard about extra credit, and its potential damaging effect on my classroom, and exponentially my school, my state, and beyond, I decided that extra credit was a dirty little secret, and simply had to go.

Why?  Extra credit, sitting innocently enough by itself, doesn't sound so sinister, right?  I found that more often than not, extra credit was being requested by students who wanted to raise their grade.  What a fantastic situation: eag…

#masscue reflections...a bit late!

I attended the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (#MassCue) Conference in October at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  Besides being able to simultaneously watch outstanding workshops and progress my own learning, I also was able to watch the Patriots practice from the luxury box in which I was sitting...pretty awesome!  (But: no pictures allowed!)

I collected lots of links, attended several workshops, and gathered resources from presenters and colleagues alike.  Below you'll find a plethora of disorganized links, essentially in chronological order of when I learned of them at MassCue.

Back at school, my goal: deeply explore one resource per day, considering ways to incorporate into the classroom.  I've also decided that in lieu of a traditional grade level meeting, we'll have a knock-down, drag-out, down-and-dirty Exploration Party of the links, giving staff members some time to work with their "content buddies" to discover, explore and create, br…

Middle School Homework Tips for Parents

Prioritize homework assignments.  Based on difficulty levels and due dates, created a numbered to-do list each afternoon/evening to help your child efficiently complete their homework.Learn to advocate for themselves.  If an assignment is confusing to your child, they need clarificaiton, or additional support from their teacher, discuss with your child to whom they should speak and about what, including specific questions to get the help they need.Create a calendar for long-term assignments.  It is helpful for students to use a blank monthly calendar to plan time they will need, backwards, from the due date of assignments.  Try color-coding for various classes; this will help students better chart out their after-school time.Have a consistent work time.  Everyone deserves some down time, especially after a long day at school!  Allow your child some time to relax and unwind, encourage them to stay hydrated, and have a consistent start time for homework.  There's not…

Middle School Teaming

Two researchers from Northern Kentucky University, Christopher Cook and Shawn Faulkner, conducted a study of two middle schools in Kentucky that had effective teaming at the middle grades level.  This study clearly listed the benefits of having common planning and meeting time at the middle school level, a crucial time for students in their educational career.  In order to support students at the middle school level, it is important for common planning time and meetings to occur.  Although this model can be costly, when properly implemented with tight-loose leadership from the administration, the benefit to student learning and support is nearly endless.

Cook and Faulkner make the argument for three types of meetings at the middle school level:
Interdisciplinary Teams: these teams, made up of adults that teach different subjects but the same students, should meet regularly, to address:
Scheduling changes
Student concerns
Students receiving services
Behavior issues in classrooms
Team activit…