Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Grading Student Papers

I have seen over my time reading teacher blogs, and of course, in talking to teachers, about the problems of grading massive amounts of student work.

While I am not the answer man who can solve this age old issue for teachers, I can try to share with you what I do to help lighten the load and pass on a tip or two that I have seen.

First, I consider that I am teaching two subjects at the same time, history and social studies to seventh graders and how to be a student for these kids. I have had my students writing more this year than I have had them do in the past. Part of the reason is that I was going blind trying to decipher 160 somthing to 180 something student writings. This year, I found something in the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) Program, of having history students write something (short biography, text section summary, a/v lesson summary, whatever, then create three to five illustrations helping explain what they wrote about. I really like the part about students creating some sort of illustrtation to help them explain their learning because I have found my students in recent years "art deprived" due to NCLB's pathetic emphasize on math and language arts. Ok, so now there is all this student work that needs evaluation. Note the term, "evaluation". So, I go back to my old, very long ago days of teaching a high school journalism class. I need not evaluate every one of their papers; their peers can evaluate them. First of all, I have students exchange papers for the puropse of providing feedback on the quality of the writing, data and illustrations. They are to offer positive feedback. This helps them see various errors in grammar, spelling, etc., see the data that is being written about from another perspective and offer their peers constructive critism to improve their work. After students have had a chance to make changes, re-write their work or whatever, then we grade them......does the paragraph have a clear topic sentence to introduce the subject? Is their data correct and sufficient? Did they conclude their writing in a neat manner? Do their illustrations help you understand the topic and data? I usually use an evaluation sheet for students to make notes, etc. on about the work they are evaluating. After students go over the evaluation sheet with the owner of the assignment, I then collect these so I can record the grades.

I also collect assignments and "grade" them on completeness. If they did all the work, they get "full" credit for it. Ah, but what about the accuracy of their answers? It is then the students responsibility to make sure they have the correct answers when we go over them in class. Never, never wait until just prior to test/quiz time to go over the work that is being tested/quizzed.....IMO, students need time to study it, go over it as part of the daily review they are supposed to be doing as part of their homework. So, when it is time for a test or quiz, they should have learned the material.

Another tip I saw for dealing with massive amounts of papers to grade is to only collect a small percentage of the assigned work. For example, randomly collect the work from one or two rows of students per class. The next time you collect work, collect work from students whom you did not previously collect their work. This can also be done by collecting from every other student, by alphabet, or some other means of scrambling up how you collect student work. I have not actually tried this myself, but if any of you have used this method, please share your results with us.

And lastly, just because you assign something does not mean you have to collect it and grade/evaluate it. We teachers cannot grade/evaluate everything ! There just is not time to do so and get the results back to our students in a fairly quick amount of time. And, most of us teachers wouldn't last long trying to do this; can you say "fried-out" ?

Thanks for reading my blog ! Your comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


There are a couple of things going on with my school that are getting very frustrating for me. A couple of them involve students. Why do we seem to get a number of newly enrolled students JUST before state test time? I have had three new students enrolled in my classes the past week. One has been in class one of four days, the other two show up, but do absolutely nothing of an academic nature.

Another student has changed tremendously over the past two months. This student is, I'll call this student "Chris" are up to it, very bright and can have no problems with any assignment I have for him/her. However, mentally, this student is GONE. Gone far away. Gone to the point where "Chris" will start humming, then singing, then blurting out nonsense words and phrases. "Chris" is on medication, for a condition "Chris's" teachers are not privy to. "Chris" has had to be removed from my classroom the past four days. "Chris" is usually reluctant to leave my classroom and I end up trying to call the office to get an administrator down to my room to coax "Chris" to leave. "Chris," it seems, won't take his/her meds. Or, since I have an idea of the conditions at "Chris's" home, doesn't have the meds he/she must have to maybe function in a classroom. "Chris" has pushed away all other students and they gladly avoid him/her. In fact, they tend to be scared of "Chris." "Chris" has become a major annoyance to the other students in his/her classes and regularly disrupts class. "Chris's" parents cannot help him/her. They have no education or the income to get "Chris" the help he/she must have. Big trouble is brewing with "Chris". "Chris" has the potential to become violent. It is just a matter of time before "Chris" punches one of his/her teachers or fellow students. Our administration, so far, does not seem to know what to do with "Chris". Several times, they have driven him home because he just is not able to deal with school.

Any suggestions from your ( my readers ) vast experiences ?

I'm also frustrated with our local teachers union and our lack of a contract for almost two years now. The latest chapter in this pathetic story is that teacher negotiators met with district negotiators to get a tentative agreement, solely involving money for salary and insurance. However, one of the districts negotiators took it upon herself to unilaterally add a few things to the tentative agreement. This was given to the teachers negotiators at a school board meeting. When one of our teacher negotiators read the addition, they put the T.A. back in the envelope and allegedly ( I didn't personally see this ) threw it at this district administrator. It was promptly thrown back at the teacher negotiator. THIS at a public school board meeting ! And teachers want to be considered professionals?????GDit, why cant' the petty powers that run schools treat their teachers right? Why do teachers have to grovel and beg for state provided COLA ? Why can't what has been agreed upon be left the ---- alone and get these &^%$#@! negotiations over with for this round??????

Ok, enough venting for now. My beautiful wife almost has dinner ready :-)

Thanks for reading this blog. I welcome you comments and suggestions ( sorry, invoking a popular Shakespeare ditty about what to do with lawyers won't work for these district administrators and our teacher negotiators.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Standards and End of School Year Reality

Well, this school year is rapidly coming to a close.....we have the scrambled schedule of testing looming ahead of us, and the gross student apathy that always shows up afterwards.

And, like just about every year I have taught, I am not close to having covered the ton of California State History standards for seventh graders. But then again, those state History standards were developed with the idea, odd as it may be in reality, that our students would come to us having learned at least some of the state History standards for grades five and six. So anyhow, I will do the usual "pick and choose" standards for what I haven't gotten to yet; choice lessons in the histories of Japan, Medieval Europe, and the American Native American Civilizations.

So, why is there so much to cover and why is it that students did not study history in grades five and six? From my perspective, the course of study for World History is too broad. We should be focusing on a few narrower topics, such as Contributions of China to our society and culture. Lets face it, while it is history, how important is it for students to "Describe the commercial developments during the T'ang and Song periods" of Chinese history ? As for why there is so much to cover, my guess, meself not being a member of the educational bureaucratic machine that does not teach or deal with students on a daily basis, is that there is this utopia theory of educational standards design. In a perfect world, with no ELL, Special Education, apathetic, lazy, unmotivated, undisciplined, and hormonally unstable young people, all the material in the history standards for each school year would be covered and students would learn tons of stuff about people and what they have done on planet earth. But in reality, at least in the school district where I teach, teaching history standards (and Science, PE, Art, Music) are abandoned by the wayside in preference to teaching students to be ready (hopefully) for what they are tested upon and by what your school is judged upon......Math and Language Arts.

So, between now and the end, my students will get Samurai, Castles, Vikings, the Black Death, the Reformation, Mayans and Aztecs. Maybe if we have a bit of time, a taste of the Scientific Revolution and Incan Civilization.

How are you doing in relation to covering all of your standards ?

Thanks for reading my blog. I welcome your comments.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What a waste.....

I don't know how or why someone woke up this morning and killed 33 people. It is betond my ability to comprehend. I pray for this country and for the families and loved ones of those people at Virginia Tech who lost their lives today. How long can this nation keep losing its young people to such senseless actions ?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

End of Spring Break......

Spring Break, formerly known as Easter Vacation, is soon to end. For me, Monday morning, sometime prior to sunrise, it will be ended by some oldies tune spun by a real dj on our local "old fashioned" radio station. The tune will quickly be silenced, so not to wake up Mrs. Polski3.

I know what I will be doing Monday with my dazed, sleepy, zoned out seventh graders the day after Spring Break. After quietly filling in their history lines in their daily planners, our opener activity will be a DOL using the definition of "TUMEN" ( the name of the units of 10,000 soldiers of the Mongol Army- accordign to wikipedia, "Under Genghis Khan's military system, a Tumen is constructed from units of 10, 100, 1000 soldiers and commanded by a noyan." ), jotting down some new vocabulary terms from the chapter section we are beginning and noting if they "know" the word or "do not know" the word on their vocabulary survey sheets, then we continue with our lessons about the Mongols and China. I will also catch up those who were not in class the Wednesday prior to Spring Break, which was our last teaching day.

Do you know what you will be doing with your students when you blow back into your classroom from Spring Break ? I find that it helps to know what you plan to do prior to departure from school for Spring Break (or any other extended time off from school).

Thanks for reading my blog ! Talk to us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Religion in Public Schools: Do you know what is allowed???

As a public school classroom teacher, do you know what is allowable when it comes to you or your students practicing religious beliefs at school ? In San Diego, the San Diego School District "folded" a charter school which featured a class in the Arabic language and made prayer time part of their daily routine, with a nearby "regular" elementary school. Apparently, this charter school had primarily served the children of San Diego's growing Somali immigrant community, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. A substitute teacher, Mary-Frances Stephens complained to the school board that this elementary school where she was assigned had her teaching a "segregated class" of Muslim girls and that according to the lesson plan she was given, it included prayer time, in "violation of administrative, legislative and judicial guidelines." The prayers were led by a teachers aide. ( you can find the article in the San Diego Union-Tribue online at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/education/20070411-9999-7m11sdskul.html )

FYI, devout Muslims pray, prostrating themselves toward Mecca, five times daily. At least one of the suggested prayer times falls during what can normally be school hours. And, IIRC, public schools, if so requested, are supposed to find a quiet, private place at the school for Muslim students to preform their prayer.

The SDUSD said they set up the class following U.S. Department of Education guidelines, and that the Federal Government has recently granted school districts more freedom in offering single sex classes. According to USDOE guidelines, it is permissible for students to pray in school "during recess, the lunch hour or other non-instructional time." Public school employees may not encourage, direct or discourage prayers of actively participate in them with students, but teachers "may take part in religious activities where the overall context makes clear that they are not participating in their official capacities."

IMO, this sub-teacher, Ms. Stephens, was way out of line. Perhaps she hasn't heard of something called the First Amendment, or perhaps she is under the impression that it excludes everyone except Christians? I wonder about her purpose for complaining. Are there not other substitute teaching jobs in San Diego? If she didn't like this subbing job, why not go to another? Did she discuss these issues with the school principal?

Thanks for reading my blog. Comment if ya want to. I like reading your comments.

Monday, April 09, 2007

No matter what their size......

From his hiding place near the spring, the stealthy panther could see his prey up on the ridge, peacefully grazing. With nary a quiver of a whisker, the stealthy panther made his way up onto the ridge, the prey quietly remaining in place. With a mighty leap, the panther was upon his startled prey, claws digging for traction as his fangs sank deep into the haunches and neck of his now helpless prey. Satisfied that the prey was dead, the panther dragged it off the ridge and back to his hiding place near the spring. Some of the prey was eaten on the spot, the rest left for another meal (or ten).

Does the above scenario happen in your house? If you have a cat, it has probably happened. Apparently, "someone" failed to fill the cat cereal bowl prior to retiring for bed last night. We awoke this morning to find a bag of cat cereal on the floor of the dining room, not far from our cats cereal and water bowls. Corners of the bag had been ripped open and cereal spilt. There were also other fang marks puncturing other parts of the bag. One of our "panthers" had to hunt down his prey, in this case, this bag of Friskies that was left sitting on the kitchen counter. No matter what their size, they are ferocious beasts inside, aren't they !

Hope your Spring Break is going well !

Thanks for reading my blog. Comment if you feel like it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's here....