Category Archives: teacher life

Substitute life

So I’ve just finished a day and a half stint substituting in a local first grade classroom. While I’ve worked with the younger grades ever since I semi-retired, this is the first time I’ve done a straight stint with younger than fifth grade students. The experience was inspiring, affirming, and exhausting.

It probably also helps that this was a small town K-12 school rather than a larger school, with a class of nine students. Nine is just about the perfect number for this age group–enough to have a spread in student ability, but not so much as to be overwhelming. The teacher left me lesson plans that were somewhat more than babysitting, with the opportunity to do some actual teaching instead of cruising through worksheets, catching up, or something like that. Additionally, unlike my previous sub stints this year, I was working with reading, writing, and math–all areas of comfort when it comes to teaching (Art is not necessarily a strength, nor is live PE, though I don’t do too badly with the online PE classes). I got to do a little bit of problem-solving in working with students, and I think I might have helped them learn a new concept.

Basically, I had to introduce the associative property of addition transforming 3 number problems into 2 number problems (such as 1 + 2 + 3=6 into 3 + 3=6, 4 + 2=6, and so on). The students had been easing up to it but I ended up starting them out in the concept. The first day was…challenging, to say the least, with even the strongest students struggling with the concept. Tears didn’t flow but they were close.

On the way home, I thought about it, and decided to use manipulatives to help work through the concept. We spent about fifteen minutes and yeehaw! It clicked with most of the class. Seeing the understanding flick on was inspiring and affirming. I am a good teacher, and it wasn’t that hard to figure out–then again, back to the concept of nine students. Plus I had an aide, and we were busy going from student to student as they worked through the understanding of how the process worked. Plus we struggled through a word web for a writing project yesterday–but everything flowed nicely today, and students wrote good stuff.

The other thing? Happy, comfortable first graders have absolutely no filters, especially when first feeling out the new substitute. At this point I am really grateful for my past middle school experience because that means I have no problems being strict, firm, but also unthreatened by kiddos looking for boundaries. That lack of filters means that spotting the attempts to derail the sub were easily spotted and countered. And because these students were used to firm boundaries, when I held firm, they yielded. But I also listened because, after all, the first grade lack of filters allows the savvy sub to figure out who’s pulling your leg and who is honestly telling you about a classroom routine that got left out of the sub notes (no one can get everything down!).

Still, it was fun to listen to the kids as they worked. The whole group started singing while working on a couple of projects–once, the school song, and then, later, Jingle Bells. This was a harmonious group of students as well. Oh, there were dramas, but all the same, they worked well together, they played well together, and it was just plain fun to be around them.

All the same–we are talking about first grade students. OMG. The sheer energy they throw off, plus the energy it takes from the teacher to anticipate and guide that intensity? Exhausting.

It’s a lot easier to run herd on 25 grumpy middle school students, in many ways.

But it was fun–in small doses like this.

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Getting on with it

Part of the reason for writing this post is to get myself over the hump of my last few weeks at work. I counted down the days today and tomorrow is Day 30 with less than seven weeks to go; okay, now I will let myself count down the days on the board rather than let them silently slip through my fingers.

Not that I will be in the classroom this week. This week is Round Two of reading tests, so I will be in the computer lab instead, wrestling with the computers. Because of course today had computer drama. My work laptop does not talk to any printer but my personal confidential printer. Even when I ran the other drivers, it didn’t want to talk to it. Sigh. That presents a problem when you are printing out passages and needing to manage them in test site confidentiality. Nonetheless, that problem got solved. A minor glitch, but one that still caused some issues.

There are other things going on that I won’t talk about, but suffice it to say that not all is paradise in Narnia. In fact, things appear to be…well…sigh. Deep sigh. I had hoped….

Isn’t there a proverb somewhere out there about hope and foolishness? Or the foolishness of hope? I remember how the unease came over me when I fielded a summer call from work while driving through Illinois. I excused the unease, of course. Wrote it off to experiencing big changes. But what I didn’t realize was the effect of those changes.

Not that I could have done anything.

Anyway. Time to get on with it, to stop letting the pains of body and soul drag at me and slow me down. Time to do what it takes to survive these thirty days. Seven weeks.

I can do this.

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O.M.G. Teacher is ANGRY. Sickened. Sad.

Over this.

TL:DR on the link (though it is short and a must-read): in a nutshell, the Department of Education (nationally) is proposing to eliminate the 2% exemption rule for the most seriously impaired special education students, holding them accountable for the SAME “college and career-ready standards” that the remaining 10% of special education students must fulfill.

What the DOE is talking about here isn’t your neighbor’s kid with ADHD, or even kids with moderate to severe learning disabilities. Those kids aren’t the 2% being exempted here. For one thing, there’s a LOT more than 2% of those sort of kids, and those are the kids who struggle even now and are getting culled out academically in the name of “college and career ready” rather than giving them the support and training they need.

No. We’re not talking about those kids.

We’re talking about what those of us in the special education business call the “low-incidence disabilities.”

We’re talking about kids who may not be verbal.

We’re talking about kids with a functional IQ way below the 70 points required to classify a student as intellectually deficient (the new term for mental retardation).

We’re talking about kids who may be medically fragile ALONG with a cognitive impairment.

We’re talking about kids who may not have the life skills to functionally care for themselves, whose entire academic life is centered around teaching them those skills in some form so that they CAN be functional at their level as an adult. Whose academic learning focuses on safety words and signs. Who struggle with counting change.

The learning of THOSE skills is what those modified assessments have been all about. Measuring growth through the learning of the necessary skills these kids will need to possess in order to become functioning and contributing adults in society.

I’ve administered those modified assessments in the past. I’ve watched this 2% struggle. I don’t regularly work with kids at that level, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know about the challenges.


Because, make no mistake, that’s what Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, is advocating for.

Direct quote from Duncan, lifted from the link:

“We have to expect the very best from our students and tell the truth about student performance, to prepare them for college and career,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “That means no longer allowing the achievement of students with disabilities to be measured by these alternate assessments aligned to modified achievement standards. This prevents these students from reaching their full potential, and prevents our country from benefitting from that potential.”

Make no mistake, I support the notion of high expectations for all students. But this proposal, and the absurdity that Duncan’s quote represents, doesn’t move that 2% of students forward.

What it does is shove those kids out of the public system and back into the bad old system of separate, non-public, non-education in church basements. Make no mistake, what is going to happen is that some unscrupulous districts and states will quietly find a way to shed those kids who bring those test scores down, and by implementing value-added evaluation of teachers based on test scores, ensures a revolving door of special education teachers as they continually get sunk and dumped because none of their students can meet assessment goals.

Dear sweet mother of God, has this man EVER, EVER, seen or worked with that 2% of students? Or been the teacher struggling through the alternate assessments with these kiddos? Hell, has he EVER seen what forcing some of the other 10% of special education students through unmodified assessments does to their interest in learning?

I’m thoroughly sickened by the cynicism in this proposal.

This is immoral.

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And so another school year begins

It’s always a nice feeling when the teacher’s first week back results in a sense of getting stuff done to get ready for the job of teaching. Those systems that get set in place during teacher workdays before school starts can make or break a teacher’s year sometimes. The ability to work out plans with colleagues, develop themes, share some common discipline techniques for consistency–all are little pieces which can contribute to the possibility of a great year ahead.

But that building of a consensus can’t be forced, or administrated, or driven. It thrives when there’s been a bit of continuity, when the team has a history of relationships and experience and is not afraid to try new ideas. Add in a range of ages, gender and experiences, and…stuff can happen.

I’m holding my breath because, of course, sometimes the magic doesn’t work. But there’s a delicate bubble of a school year ahead with potential.

A lot of my feelings also come from several major changes I’ve made in my setup as well as some successful planning time. First of all, the rattly old overhead with the dying and loud fan (which replaced the overhead that didn’t focus) has been replaced by a projector and document camera, cobbled up from various sources. This means I have a wider range of visual materials to use without scrounging around for transparency films (and praying that the copier will cooperate). I rearranged the room to accommodate and protect that technology plus create a teaching work center in the front of the room. I can have a more accessible active teaching center and a more private sped work center.

The tables got replaced by desks. I prefer using desks, but when you have to crowd a lot of kids into a room, tables are easier. Well, I don’t need to crowd kids now (our population is dropping) so it’s back to the desks. They’re less clunky, more flexible to configure, and the kids have a place to put their binders out of other peoples’ way.

There’s an entirely new grading, attendance, and IEP program. The learning curve on this one is HUGE, because it’s an extremely powerful database and can do a lot. I can see the potential with this program, but wow. Figuring it out is going to take some time, and it’s also a complex one to develop. I spent six hours this week in training and…wow. Lots of pieces, but it’s an easy program to work with.

I brought prep work home for the weekend. But when I walked out of my classroom this afternoon, I felt comfortable about kids being in there soon.

That’s a dang good feeling.

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A rainy April Saturday–horse and union stuff

The brief flirtation with warm and sunny here in PDX went wandering off the past few days. Being as it’s a set of spring storms, though, the weather fronts come through as intense showers rather than anything that can last for hours (except up at work, where the cold driving rain seemed to go on all afternoon). Last night I took advantage of the time and the relatively mild early evening to finish off waxing skis and getting them loaded up for skiing on Sunday. It’s nicer to scrape skis with the garage door open, and it’s almost like being outside.

Today was about seven hours of Pre-RA meetings–preliminary introduction to the various issues we’re going to discuss at the OEA Representative Assembly (the governing body of the Oregon Education Association–teacher union stuff, IOW). It’s my second year doing this, and it’s somewhat like watching sausage being made. I’m watching some future political careers develop, and it’s…interesting in the mix. But–controversial and sobering stuff. We’re balancing our own budget and talking priorities. Arguing over various procedural situations. Looking at a loss of 500 members next year–ouch, that could very well include me.

Yeah. Makes the recent brief flirtation with the idea of Something New even more of a wistful dream.

Afterward, I jumped in the car and drove out to the barn. It’d been light showers out there with heavy rain and lots of puddles at some point. The indoor had good footing but was a little slick, and fortunately I had the place to myself. I threw the snaffle on Mocha, hopped up in the Crates, and we went for a good hard forward schooling ride.

March and April with The Girl are times where I really can’t expect much except mileage from schooling. She’s very distractable, even when she’s not in heat, and quite goofy for her (which is more like mildly goofy in most horses, except that she can get goofy at speed.  Um. Not Fun). I tried her back in the full bridle with the romal last week, and she was pushy, difficult, and not listening. But…the pony stallion is now getting worked in preparation for driving this summer, and she was in full heat, so….

This afternoon was about mileage. The latigo leather reins on my Western snaffle setup are seven feet long, and I cross them over her shoulders.  If I need to, I can flick the dangling length of rein from one side over to pop her on the other–pretty easy flick for me, a move I’ve practiced from childhood. It’s broad, flat, and stings a little, but tends to make more noise than anything else.  The crossing of the reins means that if I want to kick her up to a long two-point extended canter set, I can get her started, pop up in my stirrups, brace my hands on her neck, and off we go. She likes these canter sets, especially in spring, and I just plain like doing them in this bridle set.  The latigo leather has just the right mix of flexibility and thickness in my hands. It takes a lot less pressure to establish contact because it has a bit of signal to it and carries a little bit of its own weight. Gregg introduced me to these reins and I love them to death.

Galloping or extended canter work is also pretty nice in the Crates Reiner. I just dropped my heels hard, got up, and let her go, pushing her into the steady rhythm. Mocha was on edge and wound up after a set of countercanter, tempi changes where I really started asking her to come back to me and not speed up, two tracks, and random direction changes at the trot and canter.

We’re not doing a lot of arena loops just yet. Eventually, we’ll get to the point where we do these canter sets between fussy work, especially as she gets back into the romal and we have to work on the more precise control of the curb. Then she’ll rack up a bit of canter time, including speeding up and slowing down the canter in preparation for large fast circles and small slow circles. What I’m doing right now is just straightforward fitness sets, shooting for a fast, extended, rhythmic canter or lope with me in two-point. Once we get back into the romal, I’ll sit down and we’ll do them like that. I don’t tend to do this sort of work in winter because of footing and other issues–but once spring hits, it’s a lot more canter sets.

It was nice doing the canter sets this afternoon, hitting that smooth extended canter, hands resting on Mocha’s withers, feet braced against the broad Western stirrups, balancing on my legs and working on my leg strength as well as hers. Mocha sprung along smoothly, snorting in her rhythmic highblower pattern (strong exhales matching her hind footfalls, the mark of a horse moving efficiently at canter or gallop). Just sending her forward, seeking a steady, consistent movement. Cantering in two-point also does wonders for the hamstrings.  Just sayin’.

Then drop down to walk, switch directions, long rein big swinging walk to air up, then pick it up in the other direction.

The canter sets work not only for fitness but they discharges Mocha’s tension after a bit of fussy collection work. She has little patience for this type of collection work in the spring, but she needs the work during this season as well.  I finally discovered that letting her blow off her pent-up tension afterwards with a good hard extended canter in both directions not only led to a horse who didn’t get as sore, but she was a lot less fussy about the collected work if she knew that we were likely to have the hard canter sets as part of our final routine. So we do a lot of canter work after the bending, flexing, and collection schooling.

Finally, we took advantage of a break between showers to hack out along the road. She got a bit anxious about the big puddle–bigger than she had ever seen before–and we spent a bit of time splashing through it at walk and trot. Then we ambled down the road and back. Coming back, we took the big puddle at a trot and she calculated, trotted in two strides, then popped off a respectable jump across the deepest section of the puddle, neat as can be.

And afterwards, after a nice roll, she had a good hard grooming while she relaxed and mooched treats. It’s nice to have a horse who likes to get out and do stuff, and Mocha is one who definitely likes to go and to work.

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Every step I take at work is a reminder.

I heard the news before I left for work.

Rehearsed lockdown strategies for both my classrooms on the drive. Climbed out of the car, gathered my stuff, including potluck food, and made sure my scanner badge was secured around my neck.  Passed the badge by the sensor, and as the bolts shot open, I thought about Sandy Hook.

I unlocked the locked door of the now-closed middle school office.  K, one of the aides, was working in there.

“Did you hear?”  K asked.

“Before I left home.”

“Me too.”  We exchanged worried, grim looks.  Then she described her fears about not being able to round up the littlest kids quickly enough in an emergency at recess.  I shared my fears about being able to keep the middle school boys from doing something stupid.

When I walked into my first classroom, one kid asked, “Mrs RW, did you hear?”

“Yeah.” I told them what I knew.  Then added a rap about safety and why it’s important to be able to keep them safe.  One kid said he’d break out a window and run.  I suggested that might not be the best course because someone else could be outside.  He stopped and thought about it.

So did I.  And not for the first time.

Every day in a school setting is a reminder.  And Sandy Hook, coming this soon after Clackamas, is a real slam in the gut for every school staff member out there.  Besides the formal lockdown practice, we talk about what we’d do and how.  When we have a scary experience with adult or kid, we talk about what happened, both formally and informally, and how we could do better.  I’ve been through two lockdowns as a teacher, but there’s been other touchy situations including a minilockdown.  None have involved live action; they’ve been preventatives.

And all that could change on Monday.  Or any day of the days remaining in my teaching career.

In the case of a lockdown, if it happens when I’m in my regular classroom, I have to go outside.  My room is in an outer wing of the school, near a central door.  While the other exterior doors can be automatically locked from the main office, those doors can’t be.  I have to lock those doors.  Then I have to lock my classroom door from the outside, making sure that my curtain is closed and my door window covered.  With any luck, I haven’t just exposed myself and any students in that room to danger.

It’s a strategy I think about pretty damn regularly, really.  It’s part of my job to do that.  I have nightmares about it sometimes.  I probably will have a nightmare about it in the week ahead.

And all of this is a roundabout way of saying that Sandy Hook hung over a lot of my day today, simply because that’s what my day job is and so many of my routines evoke what I’ve been able to read of the nightmare that happened there.  I’m a teacher.  If some idiot with a gun, a knife, or other weapon invades my school premises, it’s my job to keep the kids under my supervision safe.

This is one of those days when that reality slams home.


Argue about gun control and mental health all you want.

Meanwhile, every day, the shadows of Thurston, Columbine, and now Sandy Hook walk with me as I go about my daily work.  For me, it’s not a theoretical construct.  It’s a daily reality, one that I practice against with a certain degree of regularity.

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An unforeseen advantage to teaching US History….

….means that golly gosh gee whiz, that so absolutely means the Abigail Adams biography that I’ve been wanting to read for a few years (but always putting aside because of other priorities) has now become a Priority Read.

(Dramatic hand to forehead).

Oh, the agony!  Oh, the hardship!  To be forced to read….

oh heck.  Yeah.  Right.  Considering the period of US history I’m teaching covers Colonial to Reconstruction, this is so definitely a case of don’t throw me in that briar patch.

Methinks it’s time to get serious about researching that steampunk novel.

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Whew. First week back.

The first week of school for teachers (no kids) passed in a whirlwind, and I’m still not ready for the first day with kids.


Actually, that’s a productive panicky noise.  As in, I still have boxes to unpack (mostly books).  I have file folders to put together for easy use.  And I need to devise a scope and sequence plan for the first semester.  Um, guess what’s happening this weekend?  I’d be more panicky but I know that the first week is more about establishing routines, figuring out schedules, and setting up patterns.  We changed school start times, consolidated offices, and put in a new phone system that is of course being cranky.  Plus I picked up a class I have never taught before but will be fun (8th grade US History).  I am part of a team, so that’s also helpful.

What a difference a change in leadership makes.  I’m still overworked and overloaded, but I have a boss who is putting in lots of hours and sincerely cares about the kids.

The biggest challenge will be pacing myself and not letting me work myself into a frazzle.  I know myself.  I’ll be going gangbusters into health problems if I don’t remember to write, see Miss Mocha, work out, and take care of myself physically and mentally.  My bad foot is already hollering at me.  Time to take a deep breath, pace myself for the long haul, and stop bouncing like Tigger.  As it is, I’m in a seriously ADHD phase and I’m probably more hyper than some of my students.  Ah well, it will pass as I settle into the year.

Last night was open house and I got to see a lot of my kids, plus have some productive parent conversations.   Dang, I’ve missed seeing them.

I am so looking forward to this school year.  But it is going to be a wild and crazy adrenaline run.

Off to the races now.

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Moving ahead with things; teaching, horses

The first thing that is notable about this upcoming school year is that I’ve had a surprising lack of beginning-of-school-year stress dreams (a norm for most teachers, and a feature of all my previous teaching years).  Now whether that reflects changed circumstances (new principal who I worked with as a colleague, some changes in my schedule and tasks) or whether it reflects the reality that my summer has been both horrible and wonderful simultaneously (as I have been describing it to colleagues and friends/parents as I run into them this fall), I don’t know.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

I’ve had to tear my room apart to find where I hid my staplers when packing up last June (or where the kids who helped me pack put them), and needed to request a new password for my grading/attendance program.  Usually I know what that puppy is or else note it.  This year I totally blanked when I first tried to get in, and I couldn’t find where I put my password note.  After a few tries, I requested a reset rather than risk getting locked out.  That usually is more complicated to fix.  In any case, I’ve had some indications that yeah, one of my reasons for not getting anywhere with much this summer and being down flat has probably been a need to rest, which suggests significant brain burn from both summer events and from three challenging years with difficult building leadership.

(Granted, my definition of not getting stuff done this summer probably looks like getting a lot done to many people.  But I digress.  For me, I didn’t get a lot done.)

Conversely, I have a principal who I actually know fairly well.  I taught with her for six years and have a great deal of respect for what I see of her vision for the building.  I’m eager and engaged in doing what I can to support and promote what she needs and wants to do.

Additionally, for the first time I am an equal member of a teaching team.  Not a specialist member but someone who is teaching part of the content.  It also helps that all three of us are specialists in addition to our general education responsibilities (Sped, ELL, and literacy).  In some respects, I think this may be reflective of where education specialists need to be moving (more on this later as I think about it).

I am also looking forward to spending this year teaching Social Studies as it gives me much-needed experience teaching a content classroom which is not a resource classroom.  Plus I just plain like the content area.  Had I not gone into sped, I’d probably have tried to get into teaching Social Studies.  In any case, this gives me the experience in following content standards while differentiating instructional levels, and I will be coordinating what I do with my two colleagues.  I’m really excited by this challenge as well, as teaching a content area which is not a resource class is vastly different from teaching either resource content area classes or study strategies classes.

My other classes are also going to explicitly be intervention classes.  Not Study Strategies, not electives, but flat out intervention classes designed to help the specific students I will be working with.  That also makes me happy.

So there are several good things there.

As for the horse bit, I am still wavering about the next round of hock injections for Miss Mocha.  It’s been nearly a year but she’s still not demonstrating significant steady symptoms of needing injections.  There are occasional days where she’s funky on spins or rollbacks, but I have a serious question as to whether that’s caused by my own ouchies (rehabbing a hip muscle right now which is a big thing in cueing her) or if she’s just getting experienced and more inclined to take shortcuts.  Yesterday I picked up a bat (crop with a spanky hand on it, I prefer those sometimes to the sting of a dressage whip because it’s a broader tingle with a louder popping noise).  A couple of well-timed pops with it and she was much sharper with no discernible off feeling as she did her spins and rollbacks.  Plus I’m not getting the sense of her lope deteriorating and she is doing some very nice and springy rounded lopes using her hind end.

Last night was one of those nice quiet workmanlike schooling sessions.  Snaffle, western saddle.  It took a while for her to warm up but that’s pretty standard for her when the temperatures start to cool.  She can be a bit of a slug in cool weather but once she gets warm she does well.  She two-tracked without resistance and started working through intricate flying change patterns (essentially, random changes of direction where she needs to change with no clue about where I might send her next or when she needs to change).  I didn’t feel any signs of developing hock issues in that work.

At the end, we had a long rein gallop in both directions.  She nearly dropped her nose to the ground in order to stretch out and relax.

Not an intense schooling session.  Quiet, workmanlike, and steady.  I’m hoping this is the pattern for the year ahead, not just for horse but for teaching and writing.  I Can Haz Plans…and something like that would be very, very nice.

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Winding down the school year and a skill development rant

8th grade promotion is always one of those defining moments of a group of kids.  No matter what, when you look up at those kids on the stage getting ready for their big moment, or when you watch the class video (if, indeed, your school does such a thing), you realize that sense of potential in a manner entirely different from a high school graduation.  Or an elementary promotion.  The changes that go through a middle school class from sixth grade to eighth grade begin to foreshadow the kind of adults that group may turn out to be.  High school may polish off the edges, but still…those nervous guys guiding the highly dressed girls teetering on their heels are still going to be who and what they are four years later.  As are those nervous but poised girls.

Our little middle school is somewhat traditional in that many of the teachers attend promotion.  The interim principal was pleasantly surprised when she asked how many of us planned to be there, and the entire 7/8 team plus two specialists told her we’d be there.  The much larger school she used to supervise didn’t have anywhere near that degree of turnout.  Oddly enough, I remember some teachers at my son’s middle school promotion.  But even though that was a bigger school in the main city, it was also a middle school with a strong associated community.  Part of that community association means that the teachers are there to help celebrate a landmark in the lives of kids they may have spent anywhere from one to three years supporting and guiding.

The school year winds down.  It’s been a rough, rough year this time, not just personally but throughout the district and state.  Financing coupled with major ideological attacks upon the nature of public education takes a toll not just on staff but on the kids and their families.  The new Common Core standards will require, for example, that eighth grade algebra will become the norm for a regular diploma.  That’s going to be rough on kids who are moving at a slower cognitive developmental pace than others.  Algebra readiness isn’t just about numeracy, it’s the ability to think abstractly and understand that the placement of the variable does not always have to be to the right of the equals sign.  As adults, we think that’s simple.  But as adults, we’ve also acquired at least the rudiments of abstract thought.  Middle school kids are only starting to move into the ability to think abstractly.

Do I think we should be less rigorous?  Oh no, hell no, absolutely not no.  But what worries me about demanding more and more higher level thought from these kids is that we end up spending less time on the fundamental basics underpinning that higher level thought.  Those holes show up later with a desire for quick results (including only wanting to learn only what’s on the test), taking short cuts, and dependance on tools such as calculators and spell checkers.  Automatically practicing skills has the purpose of ingraining the knowledge/skill until you don’t have to think about it consciously.  It’s a lot easier to think about the multi-step processes that go into solving algebraic equations or determining the volume of a cylinder if you don’t bog down on the math that goes into them.  It’s much simpler to write an essay if you know how to construct a sentence and paragraph correctly without having to puzzle it out.  Understanding an assigned reading goes more smoothly if you don’t have to puzzle out the meaning of several words per paragraph.

Why do we think it’s okay to spend the time developing the skill set needed mentally and physically to be a professional football player but turn around and expect high academic performance without sufficient years of practice beforehand?  Yes, there are differing needs and skill levels cognitively, but you also encounter that in athletic performance–and those guys still spend hours in practice and conditioning, no matter what their athletic talent is.

I don’t know what the answer is.  It’s easy to reach back into the past and hold that up to be perfect, when in reality it wasn’t.

But what is encouraging, is that I went to bed last night thinking about ways to make my classes better for next year, and looking forward to sharing that somehow today with the kids I’m planning to have as TAs next fall.  I’ve not had that energy for a long time.

I’m happy to have that back in my life.

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