Getting Around

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Smartpen is Mostly Dead

I'm sad to say, my Livescribe Pulse pen has become hard to use. While the pen itself appears to be working, the screen is not. It's hard to tell if I'm recording or doing anything with it. The battery also doesn't seem to hold a long charge. I've had it for only a year and a half, though it did get quite a lot of use while it was working. After my student teaching semester was over the pen sat for a couple of months and now, when I need it, it's not working for me.

This is so sad. I really liked having the smartpen and I envisioned using it with my students when I get my own classroom.

Where's Miracle Max when you need him???

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mastery Learning in the Science Classroom

 Master Learning in the Science Classroom: Success for Every Student, by Kelly Morgan, is a quick read. But that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. We hear a lot these days about standards-based grading and teaching to mastery, but there aren't very clear guidelines on how to do these things except what some brave teachers have blogged about. This short book gives a quick guide on the whys and hows of mastery learning.

What I liked the most about this book was the chapter that used research to back up the teacher's experience. I realize that such information is often dead boring, but when you're challenged by a colleague or a parent about the choices you've made, it's nice to be able to point to research outside your own records. I really feel that teachers should have easy access to research, and this book makes it very convenient to have that information right at your fingertips.

One of my cooperating teachers has decided to go with a mastery model for one of her classes this winter. She admits that it's a huge amount of work. But she now has students who used to be failing not only passing, but really understanding the material. She's also looking forward to next year when she won't have to do the same level of prep work because it's already done. She's chosen to try this on a small class during a time when she has resource teachers available. She's not sure if she'd try it with a larger class or not. When I stopped by the class this week, I was amazed at the transformation. Instead of a class full of clowns trying to derail the lesson, everyone was working hard at their own pace and getting the support they needed to be successful. If I get any more news about the teacher's thoughts, I'll pass that along.

My only concern about this is the current trend toward district-wide scope and sequence plans. With mastery learning, students go at their own pace. That pace might not meet the district pace. I agree with the notion that it's more important for students to understand what they've supposedly learned than for teachers to be able to say they've covered the material (whether the students actually learned it or not), but I'm not sure how that plays out with requirements for each semester or quarter. I also agree with a list of requirements for courses. I find that some pacing guides are useful and others are not. I suppose the building administration will make a difference in the level of mastery learning that can take place in a classroom.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Preschool is Good for the Soul

I spent most of my week subbing at the preschool where I used to work. It was very good (and important!) for me to be reminded to focus on the process rather than the product. Even though I don't have a classroom of my own just now, it's amazing how this NEED to have things learned and checked off really permeates one's thinking after being in elementary schools for awhile.

At preschool, I'm reminded to be present for the doing rather than the done. It's good for the kids and it's necessary for me.