Friday, January 19, 2007

Hiring Teachers by Multiple Choice

I'm a little torqued off.

I received an e-mail today from Poudre School District, asking me to complete a survey by the Gallup Corporation as a step in the application/hiring process. I'm happy to take any steps they ask me to keep my application at an active status.

I was expecting some essay questions that one might be asked in person at an interview. Instead, I'm asked to answer somewhere around 50 multiple choice questions.
Is the teaching profession the best profession on the planet? [worded more eloquently]

a. Yes.
b. Teaching is one of a few noble professions.
c. All professions are equal - each one serves a purpose.
d. It depends on the professions being compared.
Is this supposed to show how dedicated I am to teaching? I have to think that I'm better than everybody else because I teach? I think teaching is pretty cool, but I don't have the authority to say it is the most noble profession of all.
I am always positive.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Neutral
d. Disagree
e. Strongly disagree
I'm sorry, but human nature isn't going to allow me to be positive about everything, all the time. Yes, I'm going to be bummed out when a student fails - or when I fail a student. And I'm not going to blindly follow the decisions of administrators if I disagree with them. But yeah, I like to be positive and have a positive outlook in my work.
I like working with negative people.

a. Strongly agree
b. Agree
c. Neutral
d. Disagree
e. Strongly disagree
Oh, very clever. I feel great now.

I wish I had taken the time to copy some of the questions down, but since I was only allowed 15 seconds to respond, it's probably good that I didn't. What bothers me the most is that my abilities and attitudes as a teacher have been reduced to a multiple choice quiz. I don't get to ellaborate at all about why I might "break the rules so a student can achieve" or what rules those might be (district wide required reading lists). And yes, there are times I "don't like calling parents on the phone" - like the one who told me it was my fault his child was failing and that I should have called him sooner - but I do it anyway, and I continue calling that parent every Friday like they ask because I want my students to succeed. And yeah, sometimes "it is difficult for me to talk to new people" because I'm shy and a little bit of an introvert - but I force myself to open up and be louder and wilder and zanier because I'm a teacher and I have to and I want to. I want to be a good teacher and I'll do what is necessary to get there. Somebody in human resources is going to judge me by a multiple choice test that doesn't say anything about how I teach or what my philosophy is - but they're going to think it does.

Whew! Complain, complain. Doesn't he ever shut up?

I guess with the number of applications PSD probably gets, they need to narrow it down somehow. But I have half the mind to send them a letter of "disappointment."

(Gee, a lot of personal tagged posts recently. I'll finish my Glasser book and post something more pedagogical soon.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Writing is Alive and Well

In this week's Newsweek, Anna Quindlen writes a social commentary on the movie Freedom Writers. She states:
Ms. G, as the kids called her, embraced a concept that has been lost in modern life: writing can make pain tolerable, confusion clearer and the self stronger.
She goes on to say:
The age of technology has both revived the use of writing and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace. E-mails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u. And the physical isolation they and other arms-length cyber-advances create makes talking to yourself more important than ever.
If not writing (whether it be e-mails or blogging), the internet has made more creation and sharing of stories possible through YouTube, podcasting, and the other forms I'm forgetting. The same reason Time named "you" the person of the year for 2007.

A Little More Job Networking

I'm in the substitute teacher pool. If you're a teacher in Poudre School District or know one, I appreciate any recommendations you feel comfortable giving. My substitute id # is 5818841. I sub all grades in English, ESL, and social studies.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blogging as Journaling

Recently I've been thinking more and more about how my own blogging will act as influence to me later on. I wish I had posted something about each of my lessons everyday, because the few notes I did make on my lesson plans at the end of the day are insufficient now as I look back. Plus, blogs are searchable and tagable. It just might not be as entertaining or useful to readers (not that it necessarily is now, what with me not currently teaching).

Here's one post I read today that I want to look back on when I try to do writing workshop again (not that you wouldn't enjoy reading it too).

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Book Clubs Handout

I opened up my lesson binder from student teaching today with the thought of looking over and maybe rewriting some of my lessons and handout now that I've had 8 months or so for everything to stew.

I got past my syllabus and found my handout attempting to explain book clubs.

Needless to say, it's a little sparse. Here are some thoughts on what I need to add:
  • Club members choose the books (or other texts) they are going to read. I think I originally left that out since the district required us to read The Pearl and Night. Both good books, but if I was in 8th grade, I wouldn't choose The Pearl. I'd probably choose House of the Scorpion. Clones rock! I also wouldn't do book clubs with books required by the district. I'd probably resist teaching books mandated by the district, just to stir things up a bit. Ultimately, I think the best course of action might be to check out the books, tell the students they won't be tested on the material, and let them read it during Sustained Silent Reading and at home.
  • Club members use cognitive strategies (taught in mini-lessons) to understand difficult pieces of text. My lessons early on didn't focus enough on how to discuss in book clubs. We modeled using sticky notes and think alouds, and I had bookmarks with discussion prompts, but there needed to be much more practice with short pieces of text (I think there was one day?).
  • When club members choose a book or text they for the most part strongly dislike, they abandon it for something better. A lot of groups would have abandoned The Pearl. Actually, a lot of groups did, just without my permission. During my actual book club unit, there were some books that a lot of students disliked, although it wasn't as bad as it had been with the district required texts. Since my book club unit was centered around a common theme, do I need to have other books that cover that theme that students can choose? Or, if they abandon a book, should they be able to choose anything? Winnie suggested that I take students to the library and tell the groups that by the end of the period they need to all find a book they can agree to read. I want to try this idea, but the problem I see is that tastes will differ within preselected groups, and I'd be curious to see if students could make loose connections between the books read by other groups. Maybe connections aren't important. I don't know.
  • Club members discuss things they read that they find significant. Members ask each other questions, they don't answer questions that are teacher generated. My book club discussion guides were too loose in my first unit, but they also had a section where I asked a question. I'm not sure if this belongs on the discussion guides. As I'm moving from group to group, I think it's fair for me to ask the occasional question, but I think my students were able to ask each other good questions when they got better guidance. Still, I never really breached the point where students had more stuff they wanted to discuss at the end.
  • Students choose how they will present their book to the rest of the class (from some sort of list or assignment sheet). This part worked out in class, but it was something that needed to make it on to the initial concept sheet.
I'm not sure if I can fully convey the idea of book clubs just by putting all this stuff on a handout and discussing it in class, but at least this gives me a jumping off point.

What else do students need to know about book clubs?

OLPC to Launch in June

The One Laptop Per Child program is continuing to move forward.

Apparently, files will be organized a lot like a blog/log of everything the student has worked on. It's a neat idea - I just hope there's a search function.