Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Old School (Steely Dan)

May 12-18

Ok, I admit I have been negligent in my postings. Where has the time gone?  People ask me often how things are going and my response is "Well...I think".  It seems like an odd answer, but I have been so crazy busy that I have not had the time to properly digest anything.  At this point in the TOY schedule, we shift into high gear because it is awards season.   Problem is, I feel like I have been running in high gear since October.  Read on and you will see what I mean.

The week after Teacher Appreciation Week, I decided that I didn't know nearly enough about designing assessments.  Although I have been a teacher for 16 years and have been designing assessments all along, I will be the first to admit that I don't know the science behind assessment design and if what I have been giving my students has been valid.  This becomes particularly worrisome in light of the fact that a large portion of my teacher evaluation will now be based on scores for assessments in areas that do not have a standardized test.  We in the non-tested subject areas will have to create our own pre/post tests that have some validity.  I don't quite know how it is fair to judge a teacher-designed test by the same standards as the large state-wide tests in math and language arts, but they will be.  I knew I needed to learn more.

I gave my friends at ETS a call.  They are kind enough to sponsor my sabbatical and have purchased the laptop which has allowed me to give presentations all over the state.  I owe them a lot, but was now asking for even more.  I needed help getting to the bottom of this assessment stuff.  I had appointments where I talked to different groups of people about how tests are designed, the difference between testing for skills and testing for content, formative assessment design and PLCs (professional learning communities - they use student data to look back and figure out how to help the students), and the idea of a TLC (teacher learning communities) which focuses on teacher practice and looks toward the future.    I admit, ETS was great and loaded me up with information to help me answer the many questions I have.  I am hoping to get together with some people who specifically work on history assessments in the future.  Designing big stakes assessments for non-tested subject areas is causing a lot of angst in NJ right now and I am hoping to be able to help my fellow teachers in this area soon.  Stay tuned.

After ETS, it was down the shore I went to give a presentation to Richard Stockton College's (my alma mater) alternate route class.  When I became a teacher, I changed careers and went through the traditional route classes at Stockton, so I don't really have a grasp of what alternate route entails.  I called on some experts, my fellow County Teachers of the Year, many of whom are alternate route teachers.  I wanted specifically to work with some alternate route programs this year because they are largely ignored or looked down upon for not getting the same training as traditional route teachers.  I can tell you that the alternate route teachers I have met have been amazing educators. Often coming from another field, they make the conscious decision to leave their jobs and enter the world of education.  They are determined, focused, and often display a maturity not seen in traditional route students.  Because they have some real world experience, managing a classroom is not as daunting a task as it is for some traditional route students. 

This day, I coerced fellow CTOY from Ocean County, Michael Dunlea, to come with me and talk to the students.  He gave them some valuable advice and the realities of what they were about to experience.  Then I was on.  I like to make sure I can share some things with new teachers that they may not learn in their education classes.  Things I have only learned from years of experience in a classroom.  It went really well, and I have already been asked to return for next year. 

Michael Dunlea doing his thing talking to Stockton's alternate route students.

Michael, Me and some alternate route teachers from Stockton.

It was a great way to start the week.  I needed to rest because I still had the lingering effects of the flu, including losing my voice (especially in the middle of speeches) and an ugly cough, so the next day it was off to the doctor's I went.

Tuesday, before the doctor, I popped up to Mercer Co College for a workshop by the NJDOE's Holocaust Commission.  The workshop was on using primary sources to talk about the Holocaust as per the new Common Core Standards.  We heard how someone traced their family tree via primary sources and then we had Christopher Zarr from the National Archives come give a talk on sources and lessons for the classroom.

After getting prescriptions for antibiotics, steroids and in inhaler, I was back at the DOE for a meeting about an education think tank that was looking for members.  Of course I suggested the last two year's worth of CTOYs, a very capable group of award winning teachers who had already filled out 16 page applications and had video of themselves teaching.  Wouldn't it be great to have more of a teacher voice in policy making?

After working on model curriculum for world history at Hunterdon Regional HS on Thursday, I was up at the crack of dawn on Friday to get to Union County.  I was to be the keynote speaker at the Union County Teacher of the Year Ceremony at Kean University. 

I was terribly excited because one of my friends, Courtney Carmichael was one of the winners.  I got to speak to her at the lovely breakfast sponsored by the university.

I have to say that I was on fire that morning.  My voice even gave out at one point and I soldiered on through, inspiring and motivating to the best of my ability.  When I was done..... a standing ovation!  The superintendent told me later that in 15 years of TOY ceremonies, I was the first to get a standing "O".  Thanks so much Union County, YOU ROCK!!!!!! 

I had three more events that day, a meeting in Monroe, scoring some monster applications that needed to be finished by the end of business, and my own school's 50th anniversary celebration, but I was walking on air all day because of my reception in Union County.  I even managed to have two superintendents in the audience want to book me for their opening day of school in September. 

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