Saturday, August 16, 2014

Monday is Day 1. And Close Reading is Ebola.

Monday is my first official day back at school.  It’s my fourteenth year.  And the first three hours of my fourteenth year will be sitting in a large room discussing the enthralling topic of Close Reading. 

Again.

Excuse me for a second…..

/lights match

I’m not usually one to burn books.  In fact if you look at my home you’ll see that the den of my house looks more like a used bookstore than a den.  We have stacks of books.  Books everywhere.  Close reading just does something to me. 

For those of you that are uninitiated, Close Reading is basically hyper-analysis of a small text or a small piece of a larger text.  Kids identify first impressions, vocabulary, main idea, points-of-view, contextualization, and so on.  The goal is to get students to not only have a greater understanding of the literary passage but to also be able to apply it to something else.  It’s actually a very effective method of analyzing text. 

Ok then, what’s the problem?

The problem is that we’ve had in-school professional development for this strategy all the time, every year, forever and ever, Amen.  Close Reading has now become the buzz phrase that makes a teacher say “Are you kidding me”, and then begin the charge of the iPad so they can read a whole lot of Tweets during the presentation.  I could go on-and-on except that John Spencer has a better grasp of why I hate Close Reads.  In summation:

-It’s consistently forced because of bad policy.

-You are told you must use it.  A lot.  And damn the fact that you are a professional.

-It’s not really good for all subjects.

-Advanced students hate it.

-It’s often done within the context of itself, not with a bigger idea in mind.

-It’s horridly overused.

-It’s something teachers have done before.  Many times.

-It’s boring.

-Teacher’s chose bad literary choices.

-The skill becomes the important part of the exercise.

I even know and like the presenters and I’m still prepared to use my three hours of human capital in a more efficient way.  One of these days teachers are going to be able to figure out there own professional development and not cop out to the schools to rescue them from laziness.

In the meantime, Angry Birds is here somewhere….. 

School hasn't started but I’ll go back anyway.

I don’t have students until August 25 but I’ve already been to my classroom three times in the last few days.  It’s therapy time in the Coach Brown classroom and over the course of my first few hours I’ve purged many old projects, dumped an old television cart, and got rid of a massive bookshelf.  My classroom space has now become cleaner and more simple.  Textbooks found there way into enclosed locations, old supplemental materials found their way to the warehouse, and the recycle bin became my new best friend.  It felt good to purge.
*****
The varsity boys basketball team played 47 games this summer, and thanks to a very hard working staff, it went off without a hitch.  Now the question is whether or not this season will go off without a hitch.  A lot rides on our gym, which is currently a mammoth, gutted cavern that stands to be a pain in my side if not done by basketball season.  It’s supposed to be done by basketball season.  Being me, I’ve already got back-up plans in motion but the season would flow much better if I didn’t have to play in other gymnasiums. 
*****
This is going interesting start to the year if for no other reason than that I don’t teach AP U.S. History this year!
/dances around house
It was the ultimate pro-con class; I got to teach very driven students a very hard subject in a very rigorous manner.  And it was successful.  The bad part was that the class nearly took over everything and it never felt totally complete.  Now it is gone and I can drop the guilt of APUSH, moving forward with my AP Comparative Governments class, and my American Government/Economics class.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Four: Analyzing the data; 2014 edition

photo

I haven’t the slightest damn clue how I received a high score from kids, or how I received the Distinguished Educator Award from the Senior Class.  I am not being a fisher here, I honestly think that this was my hardest year and maybe some of my poorer teaching.  I was often stressed beyond all belief for the first time maybe since I began teaching.  Why was that?  And what connection does it have to the data I just listed?

*****

Notice the problem of keeping grades updated, again.  This time the updating of grades went for long periods of time and therefore I really tried the push the “don’t worry about the grade, concentrate on the learning” concept.  Yea it didn’t work.  Fat chance that you will get Seniors that have been told their whole life to care about grades to suddenly not care about grades.  So what to do?  Simple.  I need to get it done. 

*****

So I allowed a policy of making up any assignments, even if you did poorly on it initially and the result was just plain lame.  The Advanced Placement students took advantage of it almost exclusively.  The only other students that took advantage of the make-up policy were those that might fail at the end of the year.  Those that cared tried to relearn the information.  Those that didn’t….didn’t. 

*****

I’m mean to office TAs.  Get over it.  They are annoying and seemingly unending, and most have no sense of humor, no spine, and some even have the gall to engage my students while I’m teaching. 

*****

Remember this?

  “I don’t think it’s necessary to give recommendations because Silva-Brown does not treat his students with respect so I don’t think my opinions would be valued.”

First of all, I wouldn’t be giving out the surveys if I didn’t value opinions.  It would be a total waste of my time and the students’ time.  But this comment is one that I do ignore, not because I don’t value my students’ opinions, I just don’t value this student’s opinion.  Know you might be thinking “Shouldn’t you value every students’ opinion?  Doesn’t that make your class better?”  Um, the answer is no.  Lest we forget that we are dealing with homo-teenagerous, and the input they give is often laced with teenagisms that they believe are correct.  For instance, someone (like this) that has a horrid rate of attendance should not be complaining about the lack of detail of in-class instruction.  Someone who openly disrespects other students should not be giving grand seminars on the lack of respect that is afforded to themselves.  In Economics there are terms for these kinds of people.  Outliers.  When I read this information every year I look for patterns.

-Do the lectures still work?

-Do I have the right balance of interactivity?

-Does my sarcasm go too far?

-Does basketball season impact my instruction?

-Do people use online programs? 

-Does the tardy policy, dress code policy, cell phone policy, waste basket shooting policy, all seem fair?  (notice you saw nothing about tardies and cell phones, and I am hard core on both)

When I see trends, I need to act.  The grades thing is a now beyond a problem, it is actually something that is eating away at me becoming a better teacher.  It must, MUST change.  The teacher aide comment shows that my sarcasm might have been a little far this year.  I’ll blame stress and lack of rest and work on it.  But “lack of respect for students” is an outlier.  Period.  Therefore, I keep it like I keep all the surveys I’ve ever passed out, yet I don’t really act on it because its an inane analysis. 

*****

The great national nightmare is finally over. 

No not the school year; teaching APUSH.  AP U.S. History was the hardest class I’ve ever had to teach.  It wasn’t the students at all.  It was the content.  The meticulous, idiotic minutia of the content required for the class.  It could easily make someone really dislike history.  It was the writing and the grading and the grading and the grading.  It was extremely hard to engage students and get them prepared for the test at the same time.  I took the class about five years ago because no one else would take it.  My scores were good, I worked to create and evolve good content, and eventually I got to the point where now sixty people are signed up to take APUSH next year.  Well, I’m not teaching it, and I’m ok with that.  It’s pretty much a relief. 

*****

  Basketball created a massive amount of stress this year.  I coached both the Frosh and JV teams, there were personnel issues, the old varsity coach was removed, I took his place, and I have a posse of people that are really hoping that Ukiah Basketball fails.  That stress won’t be there this year because now it’s all my responsibility, which isn’t really as stressful as you might think.  The buck now stops with me and I’m more than willing to take that on.  Although it is new to me to have people writing against you in the local paper, especially when the season is months away.

*****

I think this year worked because I love what I do.  I love to teach, and Seniors are amazingly patient when you show them that you care about them and you care about the job.  I’ve been hard on myself this Summer and upon reading the student surveys, there is always room to get better.  But the fact that I wake up every morning and get to do this still blows my mind.  I get tired, I get cranky, I lose energy sure.  But it is all worth it to have this feeling every day.   

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Three: What were things that Mr. Silva-Brown did well? 2014 edition

Next, all the things, word for word, that the students thought that I did well.

-Explaining the subject.

-Has lessons and keeping me awake.

-He was organized and was not always in a crap mood. He made it fun to learn subjects because of how well it was taught.

-Humor and taught me in a memerable way.

-Organized and straight up. Teaching different subjects that we learned well.

-Class interaction, catching students' attention, teaching the material, letting us know that it's our choice to be here.

-Per Se Courts were helpful, along with Jeopardy.

-Pretty cohesive all around.

-Per Se Courts, Jeopardy, and quizzes.

-Per Se Courts were helpful in formulating information into a thesis. Practice FRQs were a lot of help.

-Videos and presentations.

-Watching and discussing news, Politica, Current events in all the countries we discussed.

-Everything worked. You are perfect just the way you are.

-Per Se Courts helped a lot even though I lost all my rounds. The debates really helped me understand the material.

-Per Se Courts and Jeopardy.

-Watching the news helped to understand what was going on around the world. Playing Jeopardy before tests.

-Per Se Courts, FRQ practice, videos, simulations.

-Politica was enjoyable but the country involvement was not equal.

-Organization, explaining himself and examples, answering questions.

-Each day was planned out well. The quizzes kept us on track.

-I highly enjoy your class because it actually taught me valuable life lessons. You are a well organized teacher and you know how to explain information well. You made us practice hard, then made the tests easier so we had higher chances of passing them.

-The news and Per Se Courts.

-Per Se Courts.

-Lecutres and debates.

-Per Se Courts worked well and boosted excitement in the classroom as well as knowledge. The little projects we did on specific people or events or documents were also fun.

-Lots of things.

-Per Se Courts, group presentations, group quizzes.

-Power Points and note taking, in class projects.

-Class discussions on news were interesting. Although I was terrible at Per Se Courts they were useful in studying the subjects and practicing debate skills.

-Per Se Courts were rad.

-The more creative lessons.

-Open discussions and Per Se Courts.

-Brown is a good teacher who knows a lot. Jeopardy.

-All of the things we did had good information that helped evolve my understanding.

-Jeopardy, news time helped connect to what we studied.

-Per Se Courts, Lectures, News, Edmodo.

-Per Se Courts and Jeopardy are the best ways to review chapters.

-Per Se Courts

-Funny discussions that were actually interesting and we actually learned useful things. In a lot of classes you forget everything you've learned when you leave. Not this class. Enthusiastic and positive.

-Always taught me how things should make me prepare for the world and how to handle life's annoyences.

-Mostly everything.

-You made everything clear and it wasn't boring.

-Answered even the dumbest questions. Also spoke about other situations outside of class, such as world news and the drought.

-Made the class interesting.

-The class overall worked well. Jeopardy helped a lot.

-Organized class well, taught the subject and answered questions.

-Taught, made us laugh.

-Lectures. I loved lectures.

-The lectures really weren't a bad way to do it because you're funny.

-Per Se Courts, APPARTS

-APUSH Wall of Fame, pretty much everything.

-The quizzes we took at least once a week kept the most relevant info fresh in our minds.

-You have a knack for keeping students' attention with humor, videos, and stories. This makes your lectures fun.

-News every day was nice.

-Killer vocab was really helpful.

-Per Se Courts, News Watching, and most importantly was the reading being assigned the night before we learned and then we went over everything in detail in class.

-Lessons. Some of the activities were tedious.

-Per Se Courts were a good addition.

-Per Se Courts helped develop and back up arguments.

-You make it very involved, unlike other teachers, and you genuinely care. Thank you.

-Jeopardy, Killer vocab, daily quizzes, propaganda, the Ten Rules of Economics, Econoland, Diminishing Marginal Donut Game, video clips, daily news, and Per Se Courts.

-Did examples and explained things and didn't move on until it was mostly understood.

-Answer all questions very thoroughly.

-I enjoyed the stories and the atmosphere of the classroom. I looked forward to the end of the school day because of this class.

-Able to explain things that were on the news. Able to be chill but loud enough so we didn't sleep.

-Make econonmics interesting.

-Prepared us for quizzes and tests, made things exciting and humorous, made good and easy notes for us to take down.

-Teach the lessons.

-I feel you made learning interesting and fun and I like how involved you were with the class.

-You made the class fun to be in. You never got to serious to where students would start spacing out.

-You made your lessons interesting and you were easy to talk to and humorous.

-Presentations were really good, projects and activities were helpful, Jeopardy was great. I really like how you stay neutral and let us express our opinions with wedge issues.

-Discussions and keeping kids awake.

-Make the class fun while teaching.

-He taught us well.

-Taught us about life after school.

-Actual face-to-face teaching with the class, confident and authoritative.

-Did a great job at helping students grasp certain concepts.

-Make-up work was useful.

-Videos, Power Points, allowing lots of students to ask all sorts of questions.

-Lectures, Per Se Courts.

-Per Se Courts.

-Everything but the Per Se Courts. (That's a new one)

-Less video, more notes and assignments.

-Poster presentations and APUSH Wall of Fame.

Per Se Courts, lectures were interesting and well done.

-Per Se Courts

-He presents material in a way that is easy to understand and makes the class enjoyable. Also gives a lot of quizzes which helped me get ready for a big test.

-Pretty much anything interactive. Per Se Courts are a highlight.

-Per Se Courts and vocab tests.

-Everything.

-Politica, Per Se, Killer Vocab helped so much, being about to make up quizzes.

-Quizzes every day was great. Reliable system and kept us accoutable. Personal favorite was the Per Se Courts. It made class topics interesting and forced us to look at them in new ways.

-Per Se Courts.

-Per Se Courts really helped with FRQs.

-Per Se Courts and Propaganda Posters.

-I love Per Se Courts. They work well and that infomation seems to stick the most.

-Per Se Courts. Helped me become more familiar with topics and improved my level of confidence.

-Lessons about love and respect. Liked the Barbie lecture and just the smile on your face. Econoland!

-I like how he tried to get on our level and make things easy to understand.

-When he spoke, you could hear him, that's for sure.

-Awesome at being a smart ass and getting us to pay attention.

-Talking and overall teaching.

-He did everything real good.

-Made things understandable by showing videos related to the subject. Very passionate about Economics and demonstrates it in many ways.

-Incorporated learning material in engaging activities making the class fun.

-Quite liked the news and how we talked about world events.

-Was very real and straight forward and was patient when it came down to teaching us difficult lessons.

-Taught the information very well. I understood everything.

-Hands-on class projects.

And there you have it!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Two: “What recommendations would you give Mr. Silva-Brown”, 2014 edition

Here are all my recommendations, live and uncut, from my students. I'm leaving none out, however some students did not fill out every category, which is why the numbers will not be the same. My comments are in italics.

-Try and make quiet, non-active people active. Print out practice packets and have people do it if you cannot spend a couple of days practicing for the AP test.

-From a sincere perspective, I honestly believe you are teaching in a flawless manner. You have taught me life lessons that I will forever keep in my heart.

-I think you do a great job but more Per Se Courts would be nice. (Once again Per Se Courts were massively popular.  I think I need to expand it to one every ten days in AP, maybe one every three weeks in College Prep)

-Nothing really.  This was one of my favorite classes.

-Have a better last round.  (This is in reference to Politica, my post AP test activity.  I changed the last round to be more collaborative than confrontational, and it was met with irritation.)

-Would have been helpful to learn more about how to write AP FRQs with specific examples.  This was done but I’d like more of it.

-More practice FRQs.

-Keeping up on grading is key. That’s the only thing besides lowballing us. (Running joke in one of my Comp Gov classes was that I “low balled” students that gave questionable answers.)

-Keep doing your thing, dog.  You’re a hell of a teacher.

-Don’t call a girl an umpa lumpa, even if she is orange.

-Stop giving TAs a hard time when they are handing out passes. (I hassle the hell out of office TA’s that bring in passes.  It starts out with a simple “hi” and the reaction from there determines the amount of terror I’ll inflict on them. Those that are kind and professional get the love. Those that act like I’m not cool for school face the full power of my snark.  Classes get a kick out of it.)

-Keep it up!

-Stop insulting the poor, innocent peoples of Ukiah High School, and let us eat in class because a growing kid needs food.

-Keep doing what you’re doing!

-I have no recommendation.

-Keep up the good work.

-Nothing really.  I think you’re a great teacher.

-Less depressing news.

-Bring us donuts.

-Don’t have any.

-Pronounce my name correctly. 

-To not be as tough.

-Nothing.  You’re a great teacher.

-Update grades on time or regularly.

-Be a sports commentator instead.  Your voice is more suited for that job.

-Listen to country music.

-Stop hating brown Mexicans!  (Another running joke in my Comp Gov class was that there was a difference between light Mexicans and “real” Mexicans.  BTW, this comment was made by a girl who called herself my Mexican daughter.

-Nothing. Maybe be careful of some students. Some can be sensitive every now and then to your harsh sarcasm.

-Make your own rules for Politica instead of folling some else’s rules.

-Rethink Politica with some minor changes to allow for some wiggle room as opposed to only zero sum games all the time.

-Do more Per Se Courts.  At least 3 times a month.

-Be quieter.

-“All Too Well” – Taylor Swift

-Per Se Courts aren’t always fairly judged.  People sometimes allowed their friends to win and I didn’t fine that fair, although I did find the info valuable.

-Be yourself like you were and everyone will have fun.

-Stop procrastinating on grading assignments and tests.

-If you wish to get along better with sensitive students, admit your sensitive side more.  But I assume you know that and I don’t mind.

-I can’t think of much except be a little more nicer to office TAs.

-Chill out with hitting of the desks with the large stick.

-A bit too sass for professional setting, stop hitting desks with your stick, make ur trash slam dunks.

-Stay awesome

-Be nicer.

-Stay based.

-Stop being so handsome.

-Be nicer to the TAs.

-More accurate and updates on Edmodo.

-None

-Update grades.

-Give more opportunities or make opportunities more clear for students to make up work who are looking for second chances.

-Keep it classy.

-Fewer quizzes.

-More review worksheets before a test.

-Update grades.

-Lay off some of the harsher jokes.

-More group quizzes. And I wanted to do a stock project.  We learned nothing about stocks.  (We did do a small look at stocks but the focus on a serious project is gone. I instead do a unit on financial literacy that is much more important.)

-Go over tests before and after.  Make practice test for Finals or something like a homework sheet for us to study at home.

-Grade fairer

-Keep your great sense of humor in the classroom.

-Don’t make people cry so much.

-Control yourself when it comes to the stick.

-Don’t rely on students to check the Internet for days they missed or tests not taken.  There are excuses for missing assignments.  (It’s not my grade and if you can’t be accountable for your own grade, that’s on you.  Excuses aren’t the issue. You not following through is.)

-Be nicer to people giving passes.

-More updated grade book on Edline would be nice to make up quizzes.  Also, having a weekly make up day at lunch would work better for planning purposes of busy Seniors.

-Do more of the Math part of Econ.  And more looks at the Stock Market.

-Your grading system drives me crazy.

-Keep it up.

-You did good.

-Update Edline so we don’t go crazy!  And return tests/assignments early.

-Update grades more often.

-Keep grades up to date.

-Can’t think of any.

-Keep it real.

-Be more efficient with grades for APUSH.

-None.

-I can’t think of any.

-A bit more on top of grading and specific info.

-None.

-Probably invest in Bitcoin, maybe some morality.

-Updating grades more often.

-Grades, grades, grades.  Keep up!

-An easier way to take notes. There weren’t many that could write and study.

-No.

-Don’t wait so long to enter grades and update them.

-Keep on track a bit more with the lesson plan.

-None come to mind.

-Stay funny but be nicer.  Sometimes you come off a little mean.

-Don’t show Persepolis and have more FRQ practice.

-Grading faster if possible.

-Update grades more often.

-To get all the quizzes in.

-Less quizzes.

-Grade more stuff.

-Maybe not target individual students.

-More essays.

-Tease everyone.

-Assign more essays and quizzes and grade promptly. Update Edline more than once a month.

-Don’t make fun of short people.

-Spend more time working on the grading system and making it more available to students.  More essay practice.

-Grade papers and post online.

-Be nice.

-Greater clarity on grades and make-up opportunities. 

-I have none. I feel you did a good job.

-I don’t think it’s necessary to give recommendations because Silva-Brown does not treat his students with respect so I don’t’ think my opinions would be valued.  (I’ll deal with this comment in the analysis.)

And there you have it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part One: “Ratings Game”, 2014 edition

I present to you, part one of a four part series that looks at the "graded" Mr. Silva-Brown. At the end of each year I give out a report card with questions about my performance during the year.

The questions are:

-One a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), rate Mr. Silva-Brown's teaching this semester.

-Was I well organized?

-Did you understand what was going on?

-Do you think I have improved since September?

-Did you feel safe?

-Were students treated equally with respect?

-Describe your overall experience in the class

-What did I do well?

-What recommendations can you give Mr. Silva-Brown?

-Give one piece of advice for next years students.

Today, I'll give you the numbers rating. The rating is first, followed by how many students rated me at that level.  .

Here are the results:

Ten- 48 

Nine- 33

Eight- 28

Seven- 7

Five- 1

No Rating Given- 4   

My average is an 9.0, an A-. This is the highest grade I have ever received.  Here are the contrasts from past years.

2005-06: 8.3

2006-07: 8.9

2007-08: 8.3

2008-09: 8.7

2009-10: 8.2

2010-2011: 8.5

2011-2012: 8.5

2012-2013: 8.8

Out of the four evaluations that had no number rating, three were positive and one was negative.  They were not calculated into the above formula.  The one negative gave many of the standard complaints that a student makes when they miss a lot of class, and then added in that I discriminated against women because I enforced the dress code.  Six of the seven “7” ratings came from one class (AP U.S. History).  It was probably well deserved, as I will discuss in posts later this week.         

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Not something you see every day

It’s not often that you see a teacher’s union president throw the membership of a high school campus under the bus….

….then back the bus up to run over the wounded educators….

….then dump the bus septic tank on the mangled remains….

….then light the corpses on fire….

….then Riverdance on the ashes of teachers that were supposed to be represented.