Friday, May 8, 2009

Sometimes it happens that way

It happens every so often that I will give an exam that, for whatever combination of reasons, the students are not universally prepared for and, whenever I try to grade such an exam, it will be apparent almost immediately that something is amiss. I see a lot of mistakes (and not consistent ones), for example, or there are a lot of doodles or scribbles or “AAACCKK!!” notes on them. There are other tools that I think all teachers use, as well. For example, many of us teachers have students that we use as benchmarks for the rest of the class. We look to them to see if what we’re doing makes sense to anyone. Sometimes they’re the adepts in the group, but I’ve found that it is often just as valuable to pick the student you know will struggle with whatever I’m showing them. If the struggling student gets it, I can be fairly sure the rest of them have it down, as well.

Last week’s exam was on days of the week, months, seasons and how to say, write and read a date. As units go, this is a simple one in my class; there’s not a lot of vocabulary to memorize, and the concepts involved in doing dates are fairly straightforward. I reviewed these on Monday, and said, “Here’s the vocab. Go, and memorize.” Lest you think this might be harsh and unsupportive, I should add that this is not normally a directive outside their abilities. They have been trained since October to do exactly that, and to come and find me if they’re having problems. On the whole, my students have no troubles with my handing them something and telling them to put it in their brains.

Not so this past week.

It could be the fact that spring is here. It could be that we’re reaching the end of the school year (7 weeks isn’t really the end in my mind, but they’ve already got Short-Timer’s Disease). It is also possible that, with everything else going on in their other classes, Spanish just slipped their minds (it happens, trust me). It might also be that on this occasion, I needed to hold their hands a bit more than normal. That’s when we go back through the exams, and we look at the performance of the benchmark students. It took me a day to review all 65 exams (only 2 of which hit the “B” level standard that is passing credit), and another couple of hours to look more closely at the benchmark exams. After all that, I came to the conclusion that all of the reasons described above probably had something to do with the spectacular crash and burn of last week’s exam.

So, what to do?

There are a couple of options: I could…

1. Yell at them and tell them to get on the stick and do their damn jobs, lest they fail my class, not graduate on time and be forced to endure the eternal wrath and ridicule of the adults in their world.

2. Tell them it’s my fault that they didn’t learn it well, take responsibility for their failure and reteach the unit.

3. Say to hell with it, pass them all and move on.

How many of you teachers would be tempted to go for #3? Go ahead, you can admit it. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.

If a poll were taken among those of you who know me, however, it would show overwhelmingly that I would follow the first option, and you would be partly correct. Only partly correct, though. I did, in fact, talk with my classes. I explained what happened with the exam, and asked them to be honest in telling me how many of them felt like they’d prepared for it the way they should have. There were a few who owned that they’d slacked, but many were surprised that they hadn’t passed. They wanted to see the exam, to see what they’d done wrong.

This is a good signal that I need to follow option two, and so I’m going to go back over trodden ground next week. Do I mind doing this? A little, but not because they didn’t get it right the first time. Truly, it has more to do with the fact that I’m running out of time. I still have 3 units left to cover before they start their Exhibition presentations, and I’m down to less than 1½ weeks to do them all. I’ll have to sit down with my calendar this weekend to strategize about how to fit everything in.

Sometimes, it just happens that way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

10 Things Tuesday--Late Night Edition

What do you do when you’ve come back from a 5k run at 10pm, and there’s no way you’re going to sleep for the next 3 hours because you’re high on adrenaline and the caffeine you had at 7:30?

1. You put in a load of laundry to wash all the nasty wet clothing you’ve worn running, cycling and to play softball. Phew!

2. You log your running time. I’ve been keeping records of such things for the last 4 years, and I get excited to see that I am getting stronger and faster every year! Tonight’s run (fueled as it was by a nap and some coffee) was the second fastest 5k time I’ve ever run! And that it comes so early in the season can only mean my tri times will be better than last year. That’ll be great!

3. You start to review a DVD called The Practice Project, which is wonderfully connected to my research from last year (see the paper [HERE])

4. You listen to the Red Sox beat the Yankees for the fifth straight time this season. Go Sox! (Sorry, Kizz)

5. You pull your old computer off your racing bike. It’s 17 years old, and it’s the only one I’ve ever used. It’s still in decent working order, but I got a new one for my anniversary so it’s going to SiSi so she can log how far she rides. I’ll put the new one on sometime this weekend.

6. You check your Facebook messages to make sure that Ruth and Wheeler are still coming up tomorrow. Ruth is home from college in Florida, and Wayfarer House is excited to welcome her back! Hopefully, by the time we see him, Wheeler will be employed at a new (and less stressful) job.

7. You check your email to find out how Katie’s doing with her schoolwork. Katie is supposed to be emailing me an update on her progress through the last quarter of the 6th grade, as part of continued monitoring by the adults in her world to promote responsibility and transparency. I sent her a separate email earlier in the week, just to tell her I love her and (hopefully) to encourage her to stay the course. She needs some love as she pushes to make it through the year in relatively decent shape.

8. You look at the grading you need to be doing and say, “Fuck it. Not tonight.”

9. You think about taking a shower and say the same thing (opting instead for the quick rinse because you’re really already wet from running in the rain).

10. You post all this to your blog, and wait anxiously for replies! Happy Tuesday!

PS: The water last night was from the toilet upstairs, which just took a lot longer to fill than it should have when it was used in the middle of the night. I'll have to look into that...

Monday, May 4, 2009

What’s that sound?

[Drifting up from consciousness…]

Ugh! Why am I awake?! What time is it, anyway?

[Looking at the clock: 3:35]

What the crap? Why am I awake at this ungodly hour of the morning?

[The fog begins to clear]

OK. I hear a sound. What is it?

[Sitting up in bed, listening intently]

It’s not the water heater. Is it the furnaces? No. It sounds like running water, though.

[Getting out of bed, pulling on robe and heading toward the bathroom at the opposite end of the house]

I can’t hear it over here. It must be just at the front half. I should pee while I’m here. It’s gonna suck for me to be playing with water in the middle of the night and have to pee at the same time.

[Taking care of business]

Hey, the noise I heard sounds distinctly like a toilet running. That can’t be good. It means that the toilet upstairs is either running (and has been for, like, hours) or it’s leaking and the ceiling is going to come crashing down on Suzanne any second.

[Going back to the bedroom, breathing a small sigh of relief that the ceiling is still intact]

The noise is still there. Crap! Maeve and Caleb are going to be hard to wake up at this time of the morning.

“Suzanne, are you awake enough to hear my voice?”


[Explaining problem]

“Should I call up there?”

(still sleepy) “Yeah, you should.”

[Searching in the dark for a phone; dialing]

7 - 7... “Brian.” 3 - 7... “Brian, it stopped.”



“Huh. You’re right. It stopped.”

[Lying in bed, spending the rest of the night listening for water…]

Sunday, May 3, 2009

“Write something in your blog, so I can read it.”

Karla said this to me yesterday. Here you go. A Pulitzer prize winning blog entry coming up.

Truly, the reason I haven’t written anything before now is just that, well, I’ve been feeling this odd need to disconnect from the on-line collective. I’m not really sure why. Have you ever had those times when you just didn’t feel like talking to people? Well, it’s exceedingly rare that I’ll feel like that with people in real life (I get way too much out of in-person interactions). Blogging, though, feels like talking without the interaction (although I love those you who take the time to comment; it’s the closest thing to it in the blogosphere). This past week, I didn’t feel like just talking.

Life at Wayfarer House has been good. I’ve been busy at school with grading and Written Elements. I’ve been motivated well to get out and train, and I’ve even managed to get some yard work done. Wifeness has been reading on things teacherly, but also took an evening to go over the hill for a craft night at a friend’s house. The girls have been playing outside a lot (stay out of the compost!), and they had their first recorder concert—complete with program, flowers and reception—yesterday. NiNi wore the customary black dress. SiSi wore her “good jeans” and a buttondown shirt. The video has been converted for uploading online, but I don’t know when/if that’ll happen. I’ll post here if it makes it that far. Otherwise, you’ll have to ask for it when you come to visit.

Karla’s been getting stronger every week. She’s started volunteering at the local library a couple of days a week, and she says that it’s going well. It’s not exhausting her as much as she thought, which is (I hope) telling her that she can stretch out a bit to do more physical things like walking and riding her bike a bit. These things will increase her metabolism, as well as her appetite, and will promote the good kind of weight gain she needs. Not that I’m using my blog to reinforce what I’ve been telling her all along or anything.

Dani and Joe stopped by spontaneously last night, and it was wonderful to see them. They look happy, and sounded as though things in their world are well. They are clearly happy parents of a toddler, and that brings my heart joy. Every baby deserves parents that are attentive and joyful and loving, and Dani and Joe are all of these and more.

I’m not sure what the day holds in store, except for softball practice in the afternoon. I’m ok with not figuring that out just now. Frankly, I’m going to be content just to sit outside, drink my coffee and listen to the sounds of a cool morning in springtime.