Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Four: Analyzing the data; 2013 edition

So what does the data tell me?

“Consider prompt grading and more opportunities for students who miss school.  I had trouble with attendance, and thus my grade suffered in this class, while not in others.  This is not because I didn’t work hard in this class, it’s because of the difficulty I had in understanding when we had quizzes and/or make-up work.  This is the only aspect of the class that is distinctly high school, not college prep.  In accordance with this, I would hope you would consider changing this policy.”

This is from a very high achieving student and a good overall kid.  It’s also a monumental problem.  So, go back to that phrase “I had trouble with attendance.”  Let that swirl in your mouth a little bit.  Kinda bitter, huh?  Yeah.  And this student even admitted that it was a choice not to go to class because something else came up.  I actually admire that and I totally respect the student telling me the truth.  The student expected to be able to miss a high level class and simply do fine, and I don’t understand that frame of mind except that it has been engrained by other sources.  The make-up work is simply knowing your stuff.  You either are on top of things or you aren’t.  And notice the “distinctly high school” comment and the hope that I change the policy to be more like college.  Excellent!  I want to be more like college!  So let’s amend California Ed Code to leave make-up work (including whether to give it at all) to the discretion of the teacher.  I don’t know about you but my college career had no make-up work.  At all.  Ever.  If you missed a test day you better pray that you have a saint for a professor because that make-up is not happening. 

The one thing we have now lost is the parent that says “you have consequences for your choices.”  Instead the dominant theme is “you can do whatever you want”, which is not nor ever has been true.   


  On Twitter I lurk within the realm of #flipclass, which is dedicated to the concept of pedagogy that maximizes face time with students.  It is often full of teachers that insist that lectures rank right up with clubbing baby seals as one of the worst things ever invented.  I chime in on occasion and try to temper the conversation with the commentary that lectures that are done right (including method, time, visuals) are a very valuable part of teaching.  Here’s the reaction:

no lectures ever - Mommy Dearest

You think I’m kidding. 

When done right, lecture is a very legitimate tool that has the ability to impart important information to a wide swath of students.  My evaluations show that time and time again.  Make the lectures inclusive, less than twenty minutes, relevant, and make them worth something by including information on assessments.  People that totally ignore it are just leaving a certain population of students behind that want clarification and discussion.  Moderation people. 


I will not take credit for the Per Se Courts.  They were the invention of Kathy Williams, a teacher out of Mesa, Arizona.  I learned about them from an AP U.S. History training at Cherry Creek High School in Denver, Colorado.  I do them for my Advanced Placement level classes and they have been a massive success.  Total engagement.  Competition.  Creating new questions.  It’s a hit!  I don’t do it with my college prep classes because the variety of levels is too diverse (future Cal students to students who can barely read English), and thus they don’t have the same academic competitive drive.  This might not seem like much but it really matters when it comes to how much you expect students to learn from the Per Se Court exercise.  I’ll still work on incorporating it some how.


I primarily teach Seniors.  I don’t know about other teachers but a hint of sarcasm, quick whit, and the ability to laugh at one’s self is a must with Seniors.  I’m also aware that sarcasm in today’s public school can be a tad bit dangerous as today’s child is often seen as God-like by their parents, totally immune to a classroom with a sense-of-humor.  Maybe you see something different but I’m getting the feeling that kids like teachers to be real, and thus I notice that kids like that the class (including the teacher) can be a little lite on occasion. 


Worse and most legitimate criticism by far; returning work.  It’s gotten worse this year than it is ever been.  As I tried to keep some semblance of the weekend to myself the work suffered.  Lack of multiple choice scantron tests made for very long grading sessions and when I reviewed the grading with students, more chances for errors.  I’m not going back to scantron so I’m going to have to get at the tests more diligently.  There is no other way around it.


Basketball now has a serious marginal benefit/marginal cost analysis going on within my brain.  My love for the sport  versus the hours, the driving, the money spent, the politics.  I’ll be around for another year, then we see what happens.


Overall, a pretty good year.  I ended it on an up note and a sense of optimism for next year; always a good thing for a teacher.  Next year’s line-up looks like two Gov/Econ, two AP Comparative Government, and one AP U.S. History.  I’m already preparing. 

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