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A Classroom with a View

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all" –Aristotle

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The Human Faces of High Stakes Testing

I spent the weekend with my baby sister, and during the course of our girl’s weekend, we discussed her 14 year old daughter who was struggling in school. Because I am an educator, my sister is able to discuss with me the kinds of modifications and accommodations her daughter is receiving in school, knowing I would not only understand all the coded language of education but also that I would be able to provide her with advice. Unfortunately, the area she lamented the most was the dreaded STAAR tests, Texas’ measure of learning and “college readiness.” The absurdity of that particular statement is neither here nor there and is a subject for many past and future posts, but suffice to say, her 8th grade daughter must take an ELA Reading test, along with a Math, Science, and Social Studies test later this school year. This is, of course, on top of all the eleven other standardized tests she has taken since 3rd grade, and doesn’t include the 5 standardized tests she must pass in high school in order to graduate.

While my sister doesn’t necessarily disapprove of the tests altogether, she does have issue with the immense pressure and anxiety these tests place on students as a result of the test-intensive environment of Texas public education. My sister was overjoyed by the possibility that she could opt her daughter out of state-mandated testing, which would help alleviate the anxiety and illness that these exams cause my niece. I had to break her heart: no such thing exists in Texas.

To understand the human face of high-stakes testing, you must first see the human, something the state has forgotten. You see, Masie is a beautiful, funny, witty young girl. She has the deadliest blue eyes, an infectious smile and laugh, and skin models would kill Continue reading “The Human Faces of High Stakes Testing”

What does “college-ready” mean anyway?

here-and-now-413092__180Discussions in education have become a veritable Tower of Babel with enough acronyms to make any bowl of Alphabits soup a solid summary of every school’s August professional development. Amidst the calls to revise standards (CCSS), reduce the impact of testing scores on students and schools (ESSA, NCLB), or to eliminate standardized testing altogether in favor of more authentic and reliable means of gauging student learning, terms such as “college and career readiness” (CCR), “21st century skills” (21C), “EQ v IQ,” “critical thinking” (CT, HOTS, DOK), and “grit” (well, that one didn’t change) seem to lose their meaning for anything other than keyword Google searches and SEO development. Continue reading “What does “college-ready” mean anyway?”

Differentiating Instruction through Reading Choice

IMG_5112In my previous post Building a Culture of Reading through Choice, I discussed how teachers might create more avid and willing student-readers by offering multiple texts from which students may choose rather than one compulsory text read by the entire class. I received many emails asking how I implement this in my classroom, how I choose books, and how I facilitate student learning when there are several different texts. Since so many people were interested, I thought why not just write another post? As any teacher knows, if one student asks a question, there’s probably 8 or 9 others who were wondering the same thing but were too shy to ask. So–to those of you who emailed: I hope this helps; and to those who were too shy to ask: don’t be! (I know–completely unhelpful advice).

As I stated before, I don’t like being told what to read, especially if I’m told to read it because it’s a “classic” and “canonical.” On my own, if still a bit begrudgingly, I decided to read Moby Dick and David Copperfield because peer pressure still has some power and I had to see what Continue reading “Differentiating Instruction through Reading Choice”

Correlation between Critical Thinking and Developmental Levels of Critical Writing

As students develop the cognitive ability to analyze, evaluate, and create, their ability to articulate their thinking in increasingly complex forms of writing also evolves.
As students develop the cognitive ability to analyze, evaluate, and create, their ability to articulate their thinking in increasingly complex forms of writing also evolves.

A Pinch of Peace, A Dash of Joy

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a pretty busy woman. Between teaching 150-something students, leading an English department, coaching 6-12th grade ELA teachers, directing our district’s AP programs, advocating on behalf of students and teachers at the state and national level, completing a dissertation, blogging, consulting, scoring, mentoring, and enjoying my precious little downtime with my (very patient) husband, people are always surprised when I say that I cook dinner. Every night. And that I enjoy cooking. They’re even more surprised when I say I have it ready and on the table when my husband gets home from work. Strange looks are cast my direction, women have visions of placing a plastic bag over my face, people tilt their heads as if asking, “Are you for real, lady?” Even my students are astonished: “Bailey, you cook?! Real food??” Continue reading “A Pinch of Peace, A Dash of Joy”

Shakespeare: To Teach or Not to Teach, That is the Question

IMG_4995Speaking from experience, I can honestly say there is no job, area of study, or political camp more bloody than an English department. If you want to instigate war and ensure a battle to the death Roman Gladiator-style, simply state loud enough for four or five people to hear, “There’s no point in teaching Shakespeare anymore.” Then sit back with your popcorn and your body armor, and let the games begin.

As a scholar and PhD candidate, I’ve seen my share of in-house feuds among professors and within areas of study. You have the Renaissance and Victorians on one side of the divide and the Post-Modernists and Literary Theorists on the other. Somewhere in there, the Folklorists and Rhetoric guys are wandering the desert like the Israelites, trying to find the Promised Land. The vitriol within a university English department is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the battle for research money is indeed a nasty one. Thus, it’s no wonder there are so many turf wars; but the major battle is in deciding (or rather lobbying for) which works should be included in the Canon, and thus, which works should always be taught. Dante? Chaucer? Shakespeare? Milton? Of course. Pope? Swift? Jonson? Johnson? Yeah, okay. Barrett-Browning? Austen? the Brontes? Eh, they’re women, but I guess they can join. Woolf? Auden? Plath? Wait a minute. Let’s fight about this. Continue reading “Shakespeare: To Teach or Not to Teach, That is the Question”

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