So here it comes: 2012. For those of that have been teaching for a
Last night I attended a presentation of the re-release of a book that students from my high school produced in the 1975- 1976 school year. Their US History teacher was looking to do something for the Bicentennial and had thought for years of having her students write a book about local history. She asked the students on the first day of school whether or not they were interested in the project. Many of the students thought this would be a small 100 page informational pamphlet that wouldn’t take much time. The teacher explained to them that this was something that would be done mostly outside of the classroom as they still had to complete their normal US History studies. The students agreed and were assigned various chapters in groups ranging from one to six depending on the topic. The book turned out to be a large project that students researched by looking through old newspapers and interviewing old-timers in the community.
One of greatest things that came out last night was that this teacher had empowered her students and made them feel special. They believed that they were handpicked by the teacher and that they were expected to have the ability to do something that they may not have felt they had the ability to do in the first place. Another plus to the book is that the people interviewed for the book have almost entirely passed away now and the book is a record of their stories.
The students of the Class of 77 have kept in touch all these years and consider themselves family. They call their teacher their adopted mom. It was really wonderful to see such a great group and such a fine presentation. The local museum has reprinted the book and produced a video about the making of the book. If you’re interested in reading Ferndale history you can get your copy from the Ferndale Museum.
So now state testing is causing some teachers to cheat? Now that is extreme. I’ve heard about teachers giving away answers and correcting some answer sheets before they turn them in but 60 teachers cheating in Atlanta? Unfortunately teachers like that give teaching a bad name. I assure you that most teachers are very dedicated to their profession and are great mentors to their students. The few that choose to cheat or do other illegal acts are the exception to the rule. So why do teachers cheat on the state tests? Although it is inexcusable, teachers are under a lot of pressure to show improved performance on these tests by their students. Funding is tied to these tests, states can take over school districts if they don’t perform well, and there is increasing talk of tying testing to teachers’ salaries. Now there is pressure. I’ve yet to have an administrator come to me to ask why my scores were low the previous year but I can imagine that it isn’t a pleasant conversation. If a teacher is new and in their probationary period of employment, their job could be in serious jeopardy. Teachers sign affidavits before they begin administering the state tests saying they will not cheat in any way but when nobody is watching, they could easily think they could get away with a few erasures and corrections. What can be done? Do we need these tests? Are they really accomplishing what we want them to accomplish? I think that the younger students can be realistically tested and they will try to do their best. The high school students are not easily convinced in any real benefit for them if they succeed in their tests. Tying testing to teacher pay may give a reverse benefit to high school students. Do we really want students knowing they can lower their teacher’s pay if they collectively do poorly on a test? Sounds like a good chance students might start blackmailing their teachers to get better grades. State tests are a huge expense as they take at least a week of instructional time to administer, they take many people to score and distribute, and many hours are spent analyzing and disseminating the information they provide. I propose these tests get cut like all of our budgets are getting cut. Tests should be given to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. In each instance students must be proficient in each area before they can move onto the next level. The students would then have real incentives to succeed on the tests. Teachers that have a high failure rate at that point should be scrutinized to find out why their students are failing. State exit exams can be eliminated since they’ll be useless (not sure they really have any use now).
There are many variables that have to be dealt with to carry out the changes I propose. For one, you must have a plan for students that are unable to pass the tests. I’d like to see vocational training for non-college bound students. Students that don’t pass the test their senior year could get a certificate of achievement instead of a diploma. These are just ideas. I’m sure there are better ideas than mine out there. Or maybe you can tell me what I’m missing. I just know that something has to change. A climate of teachers living in fear and being tempted to cheat is not a healthy situation.
It’s getting close to end of the third quarter and students are scrambling to get their late work in. This weekend marks the beginning of Spring. Golf season is well under way. Baseball and softball will be playing games soon. If it wasn’t for the snow level falling and the cold wind blowing, I’d say that summer was just around the corner.
Soon students will be taking AP tests and their standardized tests. Hopefully they’ll be prepared enough for the AP tests to succeed. Hopefully students are motivated to succeed on those tests as well.
This time of year is a fun time as the Seniors get it all figured out what their doing next year. They find out what college has accepted them. They decide even what career they will head towards. Soon they’ll be receiving their scholarships and awards. Students that seem to have hated high school finally figure out that they really did like it there.
I’m always excited about summer starting but also feeling a little melancholic about the students leaving the school. I like to stand in the empty classroom toward the end of school and reflect on the past year. I still remember where some students sat in their desks from years gone by. I can’t remember where everyone sat (I’ve forgotten many names even), but there are some I can say where sat 27 years ago.
I’m still in touch with some but have lost touch with most of my old students. I have to say that my memories are good ones mostly. I’ve had so many great students in my classroom. I love to hear from my old students.
Ok, so this post has gotten a bit drippy. There is still a lot of work to do this year so I better stay focused and get it done. Tomorrow I’ll be back at my desk doing grades and posting them online.
Civics, Classroom, Current Events, Economics, Education, Geography, Government, home school, homeschool, Lesson for home-school instructor, lesson plans, News, social studies, Student, substitute lesson, Teacher, Teacher Lesson Plan, Uncategorized, United States History, US History, World History
I’ve taught History, Civics, and Economics for 27 years. I love teaching social studies because you can constantly relate the past to the present and it makes teaching new all the time. I have always taken time to insert current events into my lessons. Students like to come to me with news that maybe I haven’t heard yet when they return from lunch and early in the morning. News can be exciting! The students love to have a topic of conversation and these topics invariably come up in classroom discussions.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine and I decided to start making a game that would help teachers bring current events into their classrooms. After more discussions we decided it would be even better if we could help teachers increase test scores of their students on standards based tests. So we came up with a game that has both current events and social science questions that can be used in any classroom or home-school environment. This can be a stand alone lesson or as a filler when you have those few extra minutes at the end of a class period. We will be including United States History, World History, Geography, Government, Economics, as well as current event questions. The current events questions will be a mix of politics, national news, sports, and entertainment. We want the students to have fun as they learn.
I have found that competition in the classroom is a great motivator. So I like the competition of the News-Ed Game. I also reward first, second, and third place finishers with extra credit. This is a great game to play when you have a substitute! The sub will have fun along with the students and the students will be learning. Just think, a lesson for a sub that you don’t have to prepare!
I’m confident that you will find the News-Ed Game to be a great addition to your curriculum. We have made it very affordable and free of any extra planning on your part.
Let us know on the contact page if you have any suggestions or comments.