A Failed Experiment

child's storyWhen I stand up at the front of my intro class and tell them they’re not getting regular grades on their writing, they look worried. When I show them the revision system, they freak out a little more.

If I put a grade on a kid’s paper, they’re done. But I don’t put grades on the papers. I use check plus, meets all objectives; check, meets most objectives needs correction; check minus, needs revision; X, needs tutorial session because there’s a complete disconnect with what’s supposed to happen and what happened.

Students must revise until they reach a check plus.

I usually end up with a lot of As in my intro class because of the system. They do until they do it right.

Last semester I added a new component to the system. I required the students to use Google Drive to create documents and turn them in. It seemed like a no-brianer. Moving to paperless was a responsible decision, students wouldn’t lose their work, we met in a computer lab so technology wasn’t a problem. Yay Google Drive.

Enter the real world of constant connection. Two big things happened. One, students were easily distracted by the Internet. That’s relatively easy to address, but it required constant supervision. If that were the only problem, I wouldn’t be revamping for this year.

The biggest problem I found was kids did not respond to Google edit comments the way they do to written comments. I thought they would love edit comments. No more worrying about my handwriting because the comments were typed. No more forgetting to address an issue because the issue is clearly marked on the paper.

What I found was students did not respond the same to edits on screen as they did to edits they can touch. They did not respond to my words as something I clearly took time to work on. Even when I added notes to the bottom of the page and did individual conferencing after each writing assignment, the process felt cold.

In the end, last semester’s intro class did not perform to the level of past classes, and I worked a LOT harder.

I’m going to use Google Drive again this semester. But instead of having them turn the story in there, I’m going to have them print the story and I’ll comment the old fashioned way. I’ll still have them share their stories with me while they’re in the creative stage, though, because I can see the work in progress. The class will help come up with consequences for Internet distraction.

I thought about throwing Google Drive out for the intro class, but I don’t think that’s the right answer. It didn’t work, but instead of tossing it, I’m adjusting the system. Students NEED to understand Drive. It’s part of the world we live in today. They NEED to know how to work on the computer without getting distracted (Shoot, I NEED to learn this!).

We’ll see how it works. :)

It’s going to be a GREAT year!

DGD Makes An Appearance

It happened. Actually it happened quite a while back now. I’m a grandma, and I finally understand all the talk about how amazing and wonderful that miraculous journey is.

People have always told me nothing beats being a grandma. Now I know it’s true. For future reference on the blog this will be DGD (Darling grand daughter). You can see from the photos that we’re kind of in love with this sweetie.

<3

Thank You: Teacher Appreciation Week

apple-256262_640Teacher Appreciation Week means it’s time to say thank you.

There’s no way I can say thank you to all the teachers who’ve impacted my life, but I want to at least point out a few.

Mrs. Tagee from Valley View Elementary. It’s crazy to think back to the lost little kid I was when I moved to Columbia Heights, Minnesota. I don’t remember a lot from those days, but I do remember not reading and how desperately I wanted that to change. Mrs. Tagee helped that wish come true.

Anne Gillespie from Burkburnett High School. Mrs. Gillespie crushed my dreams when she told me I couldn’t be in yearbook. Thank God for that because instead she helped me fall in love with journalism, advising and all things UIL. She changed my life, and I can never say thank you enough for that.

Dr. Thomas Hoffman from Midwestern State University. Dr. Hoffman made me believe in me. He helped me believe in my words and my ability to excel academically. He encouraged me to continue with my education when I finished my BA, and he didn’t laugh at me when I freaked out at that first paper I had to write while pursuing my MA. I’m not sure if I’d still be writing today without Dr. Hoffman’s encouragement and support.

Sandra Scheller, Rider High School. I met Sandra during my first semester working toward my teaching certificate. She taught journalism at Rider, and she was willing to let me observe her class. From the moment she informed those kids I was her probation officer to the last few months while I’ve watched her prove she is one of the strongest women I know, Sandra has been a true inspiration. She leads her classes with laughter and gentle guidance, and her students know she truly appreciates them. She makes connections that last a lifetime, and I’m proud to call her a colleague and a friend.

Sheila Curlin, Birdville ISD, (but still a Raider). I’m not even sure how Sheila and I first became friends. I think it might have been fashion/shoe envy on my part. Sheila has always inspired me to be a better teacher. We spend hours talking about education and actually enjoying those discussions. One of my first critique partners, Sheila constructively criticized my fiction and called me out when I took shortcuts with it. Sheila helped mold me into the writer I am, the teacher I am, the person I am today. When we see each other now, it’s as if we are still right down the hall from each other. I miss her, but she’s just a phone call away. :)

Debbie Begley, Keller ISD, (but still a Raider). I suffer from a serious issue: I’m a shy extrovert. I desperately want to talk, but I’m terrified to do so. For years I wanted to be an education advocate, but that meant actually talking in front of my peers. It took a few years, but Debbie gave me my voice. I’m not sure she even knows that. With her constant encouragement I finally spoke up at a faculty meeting. Since then I’ve spoken at board meetings, marched in Austin, spoken at local rallies and Lord Help, if you ask me a question about education reform. Thank you, Debbie, for helping me claim that dream. I hope to do more with it, and every time I speak, I will say, Debbie Begley helped make this happen.

Scotty Coppage, Rider. How incredibly cool is it that one of my former students now teaches with me?! But that’s not why Scotty is on this list. Scotty is an incredible teacher who challenges me to be better and do more. He teaches from the heart and runs his classroom the same way. But even that isn’t why Scotty is on this list. Scotty’s on this list because when he came into my classroom all those years ago and asked me if I was still writing and I said, well, I’ve been kind of busy and not really, instead of letting that stand he asked if I wanted to workshop The Artist’s Way with him that summer. That summer I learned Scotty was more than an incredible teacher and writer. He was Rock Star. That summer changed my life. I was miserable when I wasn’t writing. Scotty helped give that back to me. He didn’t have to do that, but I’m incredibly thankful he did!

Nikki Looper, Burleson Centennial (but still a Raider). Nikki was the first teacher I ever mentored. I’m not sure why they had me mentor her that year. I think it was because I was across the hall from her. Since that time (a million years ago!), Nikki has challenged me to be a better teacher time and time again. I don’t see Nikki often, but I did at the last UIL Regional meet in Lubbock. Once again she spoke truth about education. Life changing truth. She helped me remember that comfortable isn’t a good thing when it comes to teaching. Those years we worked together changed me as an educator, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

There are so many others I should mention. Jan Adams, my cooperating teacher who was here for two years and then moved back to Arkansas, helped me understand the power of revision and how simply doing the work and giving it a grade wasn’t enough. Mrs. Bo who made English fun. My eighth grade English teacher–I cannot remember her name and that is awful!–she taught us step by step how to do a real research paper and refused to let us write a word without a complete outline. I used those lessons from then through my MA, and I use those research lessons when I’m writing today. She also told us not to get rid of our favorite clothes when they went out of style because style was cyclical. She was so right. Mr. Brown who told me every day that I could do math, I was just afraid of it. He showed me the power of encouragement and believing you can. It took me several years to understand that lesson. Rhonda Arnold who made me see the importance of loving your school not just working there.

Looking back, I could go on and on and on with this post, the first I’ve written in months, but at some point it has to end. I know I’ve left names off this list that should be here, but I need to push publish. :)

The one thing I see again and again in these names is that these teachers changed my life. Teachers hold so much power in their hands. Yes, teaching is a job, but it is so much more than that. I need to remember that every time I walk into the classroom. <3

John Oliver on Testing and Pearson on HBO

marybethlee:

The best analysis I’ve seen about everything that’s wrong with standardized testing as currently implemented.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Be sure to watch this segment about testing and Pearson on John Oliver’s show on HBO:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=J6lyURyVz7k

It is fantastic!!

Enjoy! This is a huge help in telling the public what is happening and how our schools are diverting hundreds of millions of dollars–billions–to testing instead of instruction.

View original

Gratitude Affects Attitude

thanks

I did less this break than I have in years. I don’t regret that. I needed to breathe. To just be for a bit. So I did, and I feel better right now than I have in months. It’s funny how I was dragging all this negativity around with me all semester and how doing that led to something heavy building inside me. Whatever that was manifested itself in sickness that stayed with me until the bitter end of December. It’s funny how taking the time to breathe actually made me physically able to really breathe.

I’ve always believed in mind over matter, that a positive attitude creates positivity, in the laws of attraction, in letting go and letting God. But believing and acting on those beliefs are two different things.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

I’m going to dedicate much of my blog time to reinforcing my life affirmations.

Thankfulness is one of the keys. I’m incredibly thankful for so many people who have been in my life. Without others I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’m thankful for my students over the years who gave so much of their time and talent to the Rider media program. I’m thankful for family members and for my small group. I’m thankful for my old writing group that challenged me and taught me and inspired me, and I’m thankful for my new writing group…even though it’s so far away. I’m thankful for my daughter who has always shared her life with me and for my incredible husband who is my best friend and my love.

I’m thankful for BBC and their incredible mysteries and Gilmore Girls and Netflix. I know that seems silly, but my break of nothingness translated to time spent with Netflix, George Gently, Phryne Fisher and the Gilmores.

I’m thankful for Zumba. I forget how much I like it, and then I get started again and it makes me so happy…two days and counting this time.

I could go on, but I think I’ll save the rest for later. :)

Thanks

Such a little word

That means so much

And so little

At the same time

A word full and empty

Like all words but not

Because thanks

Matters.

It seems

Like a word for others

But in reality

It’s a word for you.

A Happy New Year, THANK GOD!

NYE 2015I love new years. Each one makes me sigh in relief. Even if the year before was great, the clean slate of a new year shines like my classroom’s waxed floor in August before my classes stars.

This last year was NOT great. It should’ve been. I saw plenty of personal successes. But it wasn’t. I saw this image on Pinterest yesterday. It seems appropriate for what was 2014.

lost

I’m glad the minute that was 2014 is over now. It’s easy to find yourself at the end of a two-week break. I look forward to continuing that journey. And if I lose myself, I hope to do it in a way that is fun and fulfilling instead of a way that leaves me sick and tired and demoralized and up two sizes.

Here’s the thing. No person or entity or schedule or dashed expectation can make me lose myself. I know that. In the moment, though, it’s easy to forget that. It’s easy to place blame and waste tears and sink into the morass of dejection and powerlessness. But the deal is I’m only powerless if I cede my power. I did that in ’14. That’s over now. :)

I’m looking forward to 2015 and all it’s waxed floor shininess. I plan on moving the furniture of my life and expectations around a bit and scuffing the floor of this year. I’m going to be a grandma–sometime in the next month–and I’m getting rid of these two sizes I’ve gained and I’m going to write more Liz Lee romances (those are the steamy ones…proceed with caution). More than anything, I’m going to surround myself with positivity. That doesn’t mean I’ll accept the awful in education. I’ll still fight for fixes there. That doesn’t mean I’ll be okay with hate and misogyny and inequality. I’ll still post stories that expose those behaviors. It does mean I won’t let those things take away my joy.

I’m looking forward to 2015!

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Leggings From Hell and Other Nonsense

2 I'm a touristI blame the cold. Before I write anything else, let me make that clear. See I couldn’t stop coughing last night, so I started the night in the recliner.When I was in that recliner with the old comforter my husband’s grandma made him that he loves but I just sort of like (the comforter, not his MeMa. I liked her just fine), I thought I’d reached the low end of suckage for 24 hours. Thought. I had no idea.

It was the last day of school this semester so no way was I missing today. Not unless I spiked a 102 fever or some such nonsense.

No problem. I coughed all night, enough that my voice sounded like a lifetime smoker and my abs felt like I’d used the Pilates DVD I bought a billion years ago then promptly stuck in the movie box for use later, BUT no fever. So school was a go.

I might have felt like crap, but I figured I’d at least attempt to look good. I grabbed the new leggings I’d spent real money on instead of the shiny less than five bucks ones from Walmart.

If you’ve ever gone to battle with a pair of leggings you’ll understand my next few lines.

I tugged and pulled and jumped and hollered and swore and started sweating…and coughing…and finally wrung those stupid non-pants into submission.

I found my ancient Christmas Santa sweatshirt and pulled it on over my dress. Last day, so Santa is a must. I zipped up my boots and looked in the mirror. Yeah. Looked good. If I used my cough drops wisely, no one would guess I was actually sick.

When I sat down in the car, I should’ve understood. But no.

I ignored the strange feeling that my leggings were starting to slip. And I continued to ignore it as I made my way up the stairs to my classroom. And I continued to ignore it as I started class, but about ten minutes in ignoring it was no longer an option.

My leggings that I spent real money on looked like an old man’s long johns. The butt was sagging, the knees were somewhere around my calves, the waist barely held on to my hips.

And I couldn’t stop coughing, which only made it worse. Because I’m 45 and coughing non-stop when you’re 45 is one of the seven levels of hell on the bladder, let me tell you.

Somehow I made it through the class.

I still can’t stop coughing. The leggings I spent real money on are in the trash. This semester is over and I’m sure I’m not alone in praising Jesus for that favor. It’s kind of funny when I think about it tonight.

Those stupid, god-awful, who the heck thinks leggings should STRETCH OUT WHEN YOU’RE WEARING THEM?!, leggings are a metaphor for my year.

I’m teaching a new class. It’s a new add-on to an already crazy schedule, and instead of rolling with it, I’ve tugged and pulled and jumped and hollered and swore A LOT and started sweating and thought way too much about the loveliness of losing myself in tequila (that last one is teacher hyperbole, Ma, don’t freak out). After 21 years, I should know better. You can’t FIGHT a class. You will lose. Or at least that’s been my experience. You also can’t throw a class in the trash and say good riddance–they’re kids and they deserve a teacher, but thank God, we get do-overs next semester.

Here’s hoping for a better 2015. And a healthy 2015. I’m kind of tired of this cold. Happy holidays!

Contest looking for READERS!

It’s that time again that The Carolyn Readers Choice Awards (CRCA) from the North Texas Romance Writers Association is gearing up and we need Readers to judge the newest, hottest, up and coming books.

Judge for the CRCA

So if you like free books, and who doesn’t?, are willing to read and then fill out a short questionnaire, go to the Carolyn Readers Choice site and sign up. It’s as easy as that.

Happy Reading!!!

The People Spoke, We Must Too

640px-Constitution_We_the_People

It’s no secret who I voted for, but I believe in The People. We live in a country where that means something. I know in 2011 educators met with Dewhurst and he listened. I know others did, too. I know when I wrote my blog post, A Plea from a Teacher that was viewed a bajillion times around the world politicians from all sides commented on it and sincerely wanted to hear back from me. The People spoke yesterday, and it was a resounding defeat for Democrats, but just like the R‘s don’t own Jesus, the D’s don’t own education. Don’t let an election stop you from fighting for the kids, the classroom and what we know is right. Education can not be a partisan issue now. If people let it become one, it gives the testing companies and their lobbyists more power. Most politicians are parents. They want what’s best for kids, too. They just don’t always know what’s best. They won’t ever know if we don’t speak up. Tell your classroom stories. Tell about how the cuts have challenged you as an educator (not just teachers), tell how testing affects your kids, educate the public. If we go around being angry teachers and parents all the time, those “reformers” sound like they’re on to something.

(Another cross posting from my Facebook wall. Sorry if you’re seeing this twice.)