Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A little of this...

He's back!

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Raise your hand if you know where the word "meme" originally came from? (Just curious).

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Tomorrow, the 8th graders go to Manhattan to the studios of the American Ballroom Theater to kick off our ballroom dancing program a la Mad Hot Ballroom. I'm a little sad that I don't get to be a part of this in any way (since I don't teach those kids), but I'm also proud of myself for having set it up, and proud to work in a school where a teacher can have an idea and everyone else will run with it and make it happen. I'm also curious as heck to see how this is going to go over with the kids!

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There's a new teacher blogging from the South Bronx. She's having a rough time of it (I can so sympathize with the panic attacks) but writes well and with a lot of spirit.

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Another super Carnival of Education!

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The tree that fell on the Metro-North line this morning? That was visible from my school's windows. Well, I didn't see the tree, but I saw a whole bunch of fire and police vehicles. I guess it says something (cynical) that I assumed a really serious crime had been committed...

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It's not too late to celebrate National (Belated) De-Lurking Week. There are at least 100 of you who have not properly acknowledged this holiday with a note in the comments. Thanks to those who did, though, and for the music suggestions, and here are answers to the burning questions...

"What do you see as the most pressing general issue in NYC education at the moment?"

Eeeee.... questions like this are so HARD. I may be biased, but I think middle school education is a huge weak spot in the city's schools. I think things are beginning to improve a little in the elementary schools - whether this is meaningful improvement or just blips in test scores remains to be seen, of course. The kids get to middle school and fall apart, academically, behaviorally, etc. Study after test score after anecdote shows this. So many important things happen in middle school. This is the start of serious education in science and social studies (these areas should not be neglected in elementary school, but we notch it up a lot in grades 5-8); if we could provide a strong foundation, I think the high schools would be well-equipped, what with the Regents curriculum, to build upon that and provide a world-class education. The high schools have lots of problems - overcrowding, safety, resources, etc. - but they are relatively straightforward to solve if only the city and state would commit the resources. Anyway, if we sent them kids who were truly prepared for high school, imagine what they could do! If I were the city, I'd be putting a lot of time, energy, and resources into making sure all middle schools were providing rigorous academic content, engaging enrichment opportunities, lots of health and psychological and family services, and lots of targeted behavioral interventions. But really, I have no idea. There are lots of issues. Class size, though reducing it isn't a panacea. Wasted money. Micromanaging administrators. Burned out teachers. Poverty. Shut your eyes and point in any direction.

"I'm currently student teaching in middle school science - to learn more, I wanna watch videos of great science teachers / lecturers doing their thing. Any idea where to find any? Drop names and I will google like mad."

Hmm. I can't really help you here. I think there are some videos of science teaching in different countries among the TIMSS data.

"Also, we were taught constructivism in teacher ed, but now I find myself going totally traditional, as in give a lecture, demonstrate, then pass out worksheets. Every. Day. Is this wrong?"

Not per se. Dear god, my first year teaching, I reached a certain point mid-winter when I was basically just reading the textbook with the kids and having them answer questions and then do worksheets for homework. But aspire to better, and don't let lecture-demo-worksheet become a rut. Try little experiments - don't try to do a whole constructivist unit, just try to do a couple of days when it seems appropriate. Anyway, there's lots of middle ground between "real" constructivism and lecture. Teach them a skill (using a microscope, measuring, etc.). Find an experiment with a bunch of possible variables, have each group pick one variable, and guide them through the process of designing an experiment, then doing it, and reporting the results. Do the demo first, then the lecture.

Sometimes, I will hear an idea for better teaching, recognize that it has some potential, try it once, forget it for a few months, and then all of a sudden, find myself doing it completely naturally a year later. That's what's happened with so-called "Accountable Talk" - last year, it felt like one more thing to introduce to kids who were graduating in three months anyway. This year, with sixth graders, I've been playing with it... Okay, there are three questions that are on the overhead that I want to talk about, but instead of me calling on you, let's see if we can have a discussion where you talk to each other. You don't have to raise your hands, but you do have to be alert to the little signs people give that they want to talk next. I'm going to be listening for comments that respond to other comments, for linking phrases... The kids like it, it works well sometimes, other times things slide back to hand-raising, teacher-centered talk, but either way, it doesn't seem like a big deal any more.

The point of that tangent was to keep yourself open to new ideas, play with them, see how they go, add them to your teaching spice cabinet...

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That's all.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My class is also involved in Ballroom dancing. It's fun because I get to learn the moves too. The people who run it are great. An instructos comes to our school 2x a week. My students love it.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny moment - I read "he's back" and immediately thought "Is Mr. Babylon back?!" before I even checked the link. Clearly I have spent too much time reading teacher blogs.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

In the spirit of de-lurking...

I'm a big fan of your site. Thanks for publishing it.

I have a question (and I don't mean any disrespect): Being a non-blogger, I don't understand the reason behind de-lurking week. I can imagine that you get lots and lots of hits (you mentioned there are 100 of us who haven't commented?). Do you really want everyone who reads to comment regularly? Wouldn't that get overwhelming? Just curious.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Miss Dennis said...

Dear Ms. Frizzle,

Thanks for the links to my blog. No panic attacks in a year and a half! My post dates actually aren't accurate - I kept a diary during my first two years of teaching (I'm now in my third year) and am just now getting a lot of the writing up on a blog.

I've "only" had two panic attacks - during one particularly insane week, but it really freaked me out b/c when I first moved to NYC from CA people commented on how calm I was. Then the NYC teacher neuroses set in. For good reason though. Here's what I'll be blogging about next: I got written up for insubordination for not doing what I knew to be competely illegal during an IEP process. I'll post the principal's actual letter (which was so ridiculous that I didn't even have to go through the union process to get it out of my file. I faxed it to a superintendent who later fire the principal.)

Here's how it all started:
http://madtedious.blogspot.com/2006/01/dear-principal-you-want-me-to-do-what_10.html

Did teaching drive you to panic attacks too?

Hope to meet you soon.

Miss Dennis

3:44 AM  
Blogger Miss Dennis said...

Oh, but as you can see from the time, I still have the insomnia.

3:45 AM  
Blogger Amerloc said...

Thanks for the heads up on Mr B.

And mad props to Miss Dennis for MadTedious.

12:52 PM  
Blogger An Educational Voyage said...

Ooh! Ooh! I'm raising my hand!!!!

In regards to origins of "meme:

The Memes List - I Am Pariah
Project: The Memes List
. "In Blogspeak, a meme is an idea that is shared and passed from blog to blog, ..." www.memeslist.com/

Wikipedia, here , says "The term "meme" ([miːm] in the IPA; rhymes with "dream"), derived from the Greek word mimema, "something imitated" often refers to a piece of information passed from one mind to another." Click the above link for more background than you'd really want on it :)

Interesting post! Lot's to think about from you and your commenters. Thanks!

~JRY

6:04 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

See! Only one person knew what a "meme" is!... I feel dumb anyway.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

I always thought 'meme' was a Richard Dawkins contribution having to do with the social/cultural evolution of humans. Meme and Gene are analgous terms, as are memetics and genetics, I think.

10:21 PM  
Blogger jessica said...

Hey im in 7th grade my nane is jessica i go to dayton jr high my school it is pretty cool. What about yours o.k well got to go.see ya _jessica!!!!!!!!

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Teacher Books said...

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7:26 AM  

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