Monday, May 27th, 2013
For many teachers in the profession, the one of most inconsequential actions that is part of our assessment as a teacher is the evaluation. Most teachers are subject to routine observation in which an administrator comes into the classroom once or twice a year with a checklist and checks off the agreed upon part of the evaluation. For many there is little follow up in regards to our teaching or even a discussion on how we can improve. Of course this would require administrators who are true instructional leaders as well as teachers who are willing to address their respective areas of need. As a disclaimer I have had both administrators who can recognize good teaching and maintain a professional conversation about teaching and those who have simply checked off the list in a couple of minutes and put the evaluation form in my box to sign. As a educator I would be thrilled to have a discussion about my teaching that would allow me to set goals to improve. For one I may not be aware of these weaknesses unless pointed out by a keen eye.
Thursday night the San Jose Unified School District along with the San Jose Teachers Association signed an historic document which will push the typical teacher evaluation to a new level. EdSource featured this agreement in the article by John Festerwald that outlined the basic tenets of document. Here are some highlights. It is important to note that no part of the evaluation will include student test scores as teacher evaluation piece.
New positions will be created in which teachers will be trained as evaluators who will work in concert with principals in evaluating new teachers and if requested veteran teachers. Teachers selected for these positions will undergo a rigorous training and will be rewarded with additional pay for their work. The key component of this is that administrators and teachers will working in concert to improve the quality of instruction.
Due to the complexity of the contract there will be no changes to teacher pay as it will continue on current step and column process, However, if a teacher is deemed as unsatisfactory and does not make a marked improvement there is possibility of a salary decrease.
There are many teachers who aspire to take on leadership positions but do not endeavor to be administrators. The San Jose agreement provides an opportunity for these teachers to advance as instructional leaders with salary incentives of $15,000 for model teachers to 25,000 for master teachers.
Many teachers including myself have longed for this type of change. My hope is that teacher unions and districts will put aside the animosity that has poisoned many of the conversations about teacher evaluations and look outside of the box to innovative agreements such as that of San Jose, San Juan Unified School District and other districts who are true in their attempt to improve the profession. Forcing teacher evaluations tied to student test scores is not an answer.
For those truly interested in a groundbreaking policy report on teacher evaluations and how to improve the profession I would refer you to the Accomplished California Teachers site. Their report has detailed information about teacher evaluations, career ladders, and an innovative approach to salary advancement.
Saturday, May 25th, 2013
Students in my class are quite used to using studying primary source documents in both written and pictorial form. So as I struggled to come up with ideas for a year-end project a decided to look on Edmodo for some ideas as the projects from previous years were too time consuming at this juncture of the school year. I am also restricted by the fact that I have to implement a Common Core lesson as mandated by district within the next week.
Upon my search on Edmodo, I came across an idea from an AP World History teacher who had his students utilize their historical interpretation skills by creating a set of primary source documents that answer the question,What was it like to be in Mr. _________ classroom. The lesson combines the skills of creating a text-based document, a graphic, and a chart or graph in the hope that student next year could interpret the documents in order to build a sense of what the class is like.
My students embarked on the task by creating a picture using PhotoBooth on the classroom MacBooks. The photo was then imported to a Google document in which the students had to write a heading along with a description of the photo. Because the students posed for the pictures, they had the liberty to create innovative headings that reflected some of the activities that were completed during the year.
The next part of the task was to create a chart or graph that would be a snapshot of the class such as how much homework did students complete, how many times did each student take the district mandated Constitution test before passing and a variety of others. I provided brief instruction on how to use Google forms and the students quickly were able to send forms out the their classmates and obtain responses which were put into a chart.
The third part of the task was to create a tex-based document that described what the class was like keeping in mind the question, what was it like to be a student in Mr. Miraglia’s class? The students did quite a job of describing the various aspects of the class in regards to homework, the type of work required, the technology that was utilized and a host of other descriptions that summarized the class.
The final task was for each students to create an autobiography that summarized who they were as a student. This could include what was their favorite class, their work effort, etc.
For a year ending project I am satisfied that students were able to apply the skills that they have built along with the fact that they were truly create a historical document that could transcend future years of students.
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
With the cut in funds and living on the West Coast making the Civil War come alive for students is challenging. As many teachers around the nation and worldwide, I decided to bring the history of the war to the students. Yesterday’s virtual field trip via Skype brought the National Civil War Museum to one of my US History classes. Bryan Guerrisi from the museum provided a overview of what it was like to be soldier.
From the weaponry to the food students were able to see an actual uniform of both a Union and Confederate soldier along with the accessories such as the haversack, the mess kit, the sewing kit and of course the weapon of choice, the Enfield rifle. Bryan also talked about the loading process for the rifle and the types bullets that were utilized which piqued the interest of students who had a fascination with military weapons.
The discussion of poor sanitation and medical conditions also brought student reactions as most students had no inkling that medical instruments were used and reused with out any type of sterilization taking place. Although the presentation was only twenty-eight minutes in duration, students benefitted from another perspective other than a history text or video. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the presentation was Bryan’s explanation on the causes of the war. Most of my students know of the issue of states rights and slavery, but Bryan introduced them to the economic and culture clash arguments.
I feel this is the way of future when it comes to field trips, especially in the area of history. This being said I am in constant search of other learning and connection opportunities. If you have participated in anything history related whether a Skype session or a web conference with a historian feel free to forward me the information.
Check out a segment from yesterday’s session below.
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013
Last week my students were able to link to Andrew Jackson’s home at the Hermitage through their educational outreach program. This opportunity which took place via video conferencing facilitated by their outreach director, James Yasko gave my students a glance into the life a controversial president. I prefaced this lesson by having my student examine a variety of primary and secondary source documents that presented Jackson in a both positive and negative light. The web conference allowed for students to ask questions about Jackson’s that were not answered through their research of Jackson.
One of the avenues of engagement we used was the use of Twitter. Through my teacher Twitter account students sent their questions to James as he also presented. The students had the option of either asking questions via the webcam or using Twitter. As each session progressed many students gravitated to the use of Twitter, maybe due to the fact that it was relatively anonymous in the way that they were not being seen, but only were using their name. It was an interesting experiment in the use of Twitter as I definitely see further explorations with this type of interaction. The only deterent to the whole process is that Twitter is blocked through our district and I had to receive special permission to access the site.
Sunday, February 10th, 2013
I have always wanted to use an iPad in my class as we study history through the lense of primary source documents. This past week two opportunities presented themselves. We used the American Progress picture created by John Gast in 1872 to dissect the various messaages revealed in the picture. As I traveled around the classroom untethered with a borrowed iPad (thanks to my science colleagues) students jumped at the opportunity to show what they found in the picture by circling the object and then having it projected via my computer to the screen in front of the class. The class was alive with students of all learning levels willing to show their individual interpretations of the picture.
Now as I contemplate purchasing an iPad I am aware of how powerful such a device might be. I am currently finishing a proposal to bring iPad minis into the classroom. Obviously there are many more uses than what I noted above. I have read about teachers who use it to have students make their own observations about a historical document, then record it as a movie and finally upload to either DropBox or e-mail it to the teachers account. A great way to get a true authentic assessment. So check out the short clip below in our brief but rewarding use of the iPad.
Thursday, January 31st, 2013
If you have followed us this week you will see that my classes were involved in a series of discussions involving political parties impact and government suppression of public opinion. The opportunities to use the live blogging platform allowed my students to voice their opinions on topics which probably would not have surfaced during the course of a regular class session. Moreover, I was able to see that all students were participating as they posted comments relative to the discussion.
Perhaps one of most rewarding parts of these sessions came when one of my honors classes took my original question that I input as a discussion starter and continued with the forum without me adding but one question, a time of 25 minutes. Clear evidence that when provided with the opportunity students can generate academic discussions. Although other classes needed some prompting with questions, all in all it was a very successful experience. You can check the conversations by clicking on replay button on the CoverlitLive icon.