Thursday, October 18, 2012

Missing Class

For the second day in a row, we have not had class during second hour. Three hours worth of class time gone.

Yesterday, the sophomores took a field trip to Flint Hills Technical College to explore options there. This is important. Technical colleges are not what they used to be. And that is a good thing. Most people, when asked, will give a pretty negative review of a technical college even if they have no idea what goes on in one. Welding. I would venture to say that is the first thought that comes up. But it is not an accurate one. So it's a good thing that kids get out and explore those options.

I'm okay with letting kids go.

Today, we had an assembly featuring the Butler County Community College Headliners. I had never seen them perform before. Mostly I was upset to lose another class day to go watch singers.

And then they sang.


It was impressive. I couldn't find a video anywhere to share and to be honest, I can't even find a link to the Headliners on Butler's site. This is as close as I could get.

We got back to class and the kids couldn't stop talking about the show. These are kids that don't talk about anything in a good way. They were as impressed as I was.

One kid, one who is in danger of not getting a degree, now wants to join our school singers. Unfortunately, he will not be able to. Even if his schedule allowed it, our administration probably would not. He was not proficient on the state math assessment. So he gets pulled out of his "unimportant" classes to take a refresher math course. Maybe he will pass it this time around. He was also not proficient on his state reading assessment. Same thing. There is no chance this child will be able to take a class that he might enjoy and maybe even excel at.

What are we doing for our kids if we take them out of those things that they really are interested in?

How do we convince them that we are "doing this for your own good" when they hate every second of the day?

How do we make education about the kids and not about the adults?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Calling an Audible and Adjusting My Grading

Okay, so I have had some major shifts in my grading this year. As we start thinking about closing out this trimester, kids are really, REALLY starting to panic. And to tell the truth, I am getting a little nervous. As of this moment, out of all of my classes, I have one B. And that is as high as it goes. A smattering of C's. Lots of D's and a few too many F's. While it is not uncommon for my principal to comment that I have the lowest grades out of anyone, I normally don't care how my grades stand up against other teachers'.* But even for me, I feel like this is a bit on the low side.

I love the grading out of two. If I could just get my kids (and some teachers) to let go of the percent thing, all would be well (well, better anyway). I didn't realize how stressful and time consuming it was for me to have to decide whether or not a question should receive a 2 or 3. Oh yes, this is the way to go.

But not all is well. I am rethinking how I have set up my chemistry standards. This summer, I loved the idea of having a few overarching ideas that were non-negotiable in terms of understanding matter. Actually, I still do like that idea, but it is truly driving everyone crazy. This whole system has been a much larger shift for my kids than I anticipated, and adding in the extra step in deciding your grade is about to push some of us over the edge. It just seems like too much to decode at this point. So I have changed every standard to a gold standard and adjusted my figuring accordingly.

       F = 3 or more 0
       D = Any 0
       C = Any 1
       B = All 2
       A = All 2 plus 3 successful capstone projects

Capstones in chemistry are turning out to be a huge challenge. I knew this would be true, so I have not been surprised at my kids really not knowing exactly where to start. Physics is, I think, a little easier to come up with something to test. Go outside and observe nearly any phenomena and you can turn it into a physics project. In chemistry, even if you have an idea what it is you want to test, there are so many unknowns to take care of that really aren't common sense-type things. How much sodium hydroxide do we need? Should we do this in the fume hood? Will it blow up?**

At first, I told the kids that their capstone had to be in the form of a lab investigation. I still prefer this, but I have also opened up on that requirement. Students can, of course, still do the lab investigation, but they also
have the option to write a research article, create a podcast or a KA style video. I am also allowing them to work in groups of up to two, but each student has to have a separate write-up.

Really, though, I have only had two groups even attempt a capstone. I have one girl (who stares out the window a lot) who keeps saying her parents are soooooo mad that she doesn't have an A. In the same breath, she tells me a capstone would be too much work. I guess we'll see how that turn out.

Tomorrow is an early release for us. My plan is to show everyone what their grade would be at this point and talk about what can be done to show what they know. Maybe getting everyone on the same page and reminding them of the deadline will put a fire under them.

We also have parent conferences next week. I have this strange feeling that I will have a better turn out than normal.

*This was a BIG deal when I started teaching chemistry with SBG.

**This is more often than not said in an extremely hopeful tone.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why My Kids Don't Want Me to Be District Attorney: An SBG Tale

So today in some really weird tangent in my ocean science class, we started discussing our district attorney. Now, several students in that class have direct experience dealing with this particular lady and not all of those experiences have come out in what you would call an equal ending. They don't like her and think we should get a new one.

Last election, she ran unopposed, so there really was no other option, and my kids suggested that I should run next time.* They would vote for me!

Then someone piped up and said, "but, wait a minute, you only grade out of 2!"

This really caused some concern, especially with some of the kids that had gotten off lightly. Apparently, should I get to decide, you would either be a yes or no case. They weren't so sure this was a good idea.

Someone else jumped in and said, "well, even if you were perfect, Mrs. Schroeder would still make you do three hours of community service to get out of jail!"

At least they seem to be lightening up about the new grading and capstones. While they still aren't happy about the changes, the have decided to accept it and move on. I have had a couple ocean kids and one chemistry who have come up with some type of extension activity. So far, they are not as in depth as I was hoping for, but I am thrilled that they are trying.

*Not gonna happen.

**I realize they were not exactly clear on the difference between a district attorney and a judge. I'll leave that to the government teacher.

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