Thursday, June 5, 2014

To Thrive: Why I Retired

I have not written in a while. Too busy closing up the school year as well as my life as a classroom teacher. I am now in a space of in-between-ness, in which I can write. Inquiring minds want to know, how did I come to the decision to retire? I am taking an early retirement, which means I am too young to take my full pension. So, it does come at a cost. 

Those who know me well know that this was not a sudden decision. It's been years in the making. At a Super Bowl party this year, a friend, a retired educator, reminded me that we had this same conversation at the last Super Bowl party. 

My students, bless their hearts, were worried that it was about them. My teaching partner and I had to assure them, like children of divorce, that when adults make decisions like this, it is not the children's fault. I told them that yes, it has been stressful, but it always is and always has been. One of my former students who was helping on the last day of school concurred that it was challenging her year too. In previous years, I would know that a new school year brings new hope with either new kids or just a new grade because we looped from 4th to 5th. If it was about the kids, I would go back with that same attitude of new beginnings. Perhaps I would try to transfer to a school more sedate, with less poverty, less diversity. No, I love our kids - trials, tribulations, and all. It wasn't about the kids.

The obvious inference would be it is because of the new Educator Evaluation System (EES). That is only part of the reason. I loathe meaningless expenditures of time, energy, and resources. I loathe hypocrisy. So when the DOE higher-ups say it's about improving the teaching profession and I know that this is not the truth, I feel like I'm swimming against a sewer-filled current. In the end, because the administrator assigned to my evaluation is fair and kind, the process itself was as painless as she could make it. The worst part of my evaluation was the Student Growth Profile, a number based on the results of standardized testing. There's a mysterious algorithm that is supposedly associated with my effectiveness in increasing my students' scores on standardized tests. There are so many reasons to be critical of this aspect of the EES and I hope the powers that be eliminate this portion, on the basis that it is not fair, valid, and reliable. But I don't hold my breath. If it was only about the EES, I would know that despite of all the waste of time, energy, and resources, I personally would survive, as long as I had supportive administrators. That is a big unknown however, as our school is notorious for having a revolving door of vice principals.

There is a world of difference between surviving and thriving, however. And life is too short not to thrive. Every summer, even on the first day of summer, my impulse to thrive is revived. Last summer, I got the idea for a Good Idea grant on the first day of summer. Every year, I spend the summer reading about ways to thrive. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to attend professional development activities that inspire me to thrive. I start the year anew with the hope that I will be the master of my classroom, that I will not let outside forces get in the way of my visions to be "the teacher I want to be." 

That positive frame of mind lasts about a week, and then reality sets in. This year we had a new math curriculum that we adopted to align with the Common Core. And most of the year was spent in turmoil figuring out the curriculum, the Common Core standards, our pacing, and how the students were doing with it all. This, along with the Student Learning Objectives component of the EES, took over the classroom dynamic. Add to this the confusion over what was actually being tested on the "bridge" Hawaii State Assessment - the result was a very unsettling year. 

Perhaps I should contrast this to where I find my joy in teaching. I love hands-on learning. I love math games. Our previous math curriculum had this in spades. The Investigations curriculum was criticized because it didn't align well to standards, therefore it wasn't good for test preparation. I would find more fault with the standards and the test prep mindset than with the curriculum. What hands-on and conceptual math does is makes math relevant, even fun. "Word problem" pedagogy, which the GoMath curriculum uses to assert relevance, is not the same. 

I also love science. I agreed to be a math and science specialist 8 years ago because I love science.  I believed that science was the one subject where it was okay to be hands-on and fun. Luckily we had outstanding professional development for the Investigations curriculum about the same time, so I came to love math too. But my career highs over the years were because of science, perhaps integrated with math, but primarily science. My former students always remember the science that we did. The best thing I did was the anchialine pond project that started in a small way in 2006, but got bigger and better over time. The last time was a collaboration with Kamehameha Schools 'Ike Pono project in 2012 that included the entire grade level. My best year with the project was in 2009, which was written up in the local paper. We worked on cleaning a degraded pond of alien guppies and removing a lot of the alien pickle weed. 

Sure, I as a teacher, could still fight the system and do whatever I needed to do in the classroom and on field trips to engage students. I could be a rebel. If I was coming back next year, this is probably where my summer brain would be going, making plans to be a rebel.  

But as I was looking for signs, praying on the decision, thinking through the pros and cons, that is not the message I got. A beloved HSTA staff member passed away suddenly and the reality that life is precious and life span unpredictable was brought to consciousness. One of the  most telling messages I got was revealed in a blog piece I wrote inspired by a Ted Talk on the interesting lives of parasites. Gordian worm that is the "system" takes over my will, and there wasn't much I can do to save myself. It wasn't that bad. I willed myself to do more science in the 4th quarter. It was less than I wanted, but more than before. I eliminated chapter tests because I already knew from their classwork and homework what their skill level was. The only "test prep" I did was teaching. Yet- this is not thriving. This is treading water, trying to maintain your sense of sanity and purpose against a strong, whirlpool-like current.  

I told my students that I was retiring because I was old enough to, but young enough to still do other things that I want to do with my life. They don't need to know that I have an impulse to thrive and I couldn't do it within the system. They don't need to know that the expectation to do well on the tests distorts the decisions and choices I make in the classroom. They don't need to know that I don't agree with the Common Core standards and the accompanying testing tied to my evaluation. They don't need to know that I don't believe in standards-based reform, and that my desire to be child-centered instead is an act of rebellion, rather than the norm.

Even though I am going to take a penalty for retiring early, I consider myself fortunate for being able to do this. Yes, I will be poor. But I am healthy and see myself continuing to work, in a less stressful job. I would love to be a tour guide, or even wrap presents at Macys at Christmas time, or help out on my friend's food truck. Wouldn't it be great to be a flower delivery person? 

Writing will be my number one endeavor. I will continue to write about education, in the hopes that writing will inform and strengthen those of you in the trenches. I have a lot of other projects that don't have a lot to do with education, but are creative expressions. I have  other ideas that do have to do with education. I have so many ideas for what to do, I am only afraid of biting off more than I can chew. It is exciting to know that I can do anything I want to do, within the limits of my finances. 

By the way, praise to those of you who CAN thrive within the system. I don't think it's impossible. It's just my personal experience that I couldn't. I don't see myself as a failure for not being able to, although I could easily swing my thoughts in that direction. One of my ideas is to write about how you CAN do it, to tell YOUR stories. There is a thread on the BadAssTeachers Facebook page called "#evaluate that" and I love reading those stories of what teachers do that honor the profession totally unrelated to how we are evaluated officially.

This blog will probably end. I may have a few pieces left to write that are relevant to the blog theme, but I see starting a new one.  Thank you for reading. Stay tuned. Stay connected. Stay strong. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Testimony to the Board regarding Common Core testing

To members of the Board of Education,

My name is Diane Aoki. I am a 5th grade teacher at Kealakehe Elementary School in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. I understand you will be discussing the Smarter Balanced Assessments at your Tuesday, May 6th Board meeting. I am submitting testimony to ask that you seriously consider the harm being done in the implementation of the Common Core Standards and it's accompanying "Smarter Balanced Assessments." 

As you evaluate the implementation of Common Core in our school system, I ask that you consider the reality of life in the classroom versus what you have been told should be happening in theory. I ask that you not base your decisions on what some highly paid "reformer" lobbyist has told you (someone possibly funded by the Gates Foundation), but consider in your heart of hearts, what type of education you would want for your own child. 

Wouldn't you want your child to thrive in a school that offered small class sizes, a well-rounded education, a school with a mission to encourage social and emotional development, that offered art and music, that made sure science was inquiry based, that put a high priority on civics and civic engagement. That's what I would want for my child, and it is not happening in our schools. The reason it is not happening in our schools is because of test-based accountability. Test scores go up when the test is made the priority above all else, above a well-rounded approach to education.

I have seen the released items for the SBAC. I can only imagine, since my school did not pilot the test this year, how most students would have done. Very few would have done well, even my good students. Most would probably have turned off just glancing at the wordiness of the problems. You may say that it is something they need to learn how to do. Who says that these tests correlate with anything worthwhile ?  Who says that they are valid in anyway? And perhaps with enough training, we can get some improvement over time, but at what cost? 

The cost is a well-rounded education. The cost is time, energy, and money going into test prep, when it could go into assuring that all children are valued and nurtured for their individuality, be it in art, music, science, writing, or academics. 

The only people who are advocating for staying the Common Core SBAC course seem to be people who don't have their heart, soul, and their own children in the system. Isn't that ironic? Isn't that telling? People, like business folk, who tell you to stay the course, ask them what school their child attends. If they say a private school, then ask if that private school has adopted the Common Core. If not, why are they trying to tell us what is the right thing to do? Oh, they're trying to make sure they have a skilled work force. If that is their answer, don't take it at surface level, ask them what skills they need. And then think, is this Common Core and SBAC, really relevant to those needs? 

Too many decisions have been made without this type of relevant analysis. What was the debate in the adoption of the Common Core? Was it pressure from the federal government, in securing Race to the Top funds? Or was it the Common Core public relations rhetoric that convinced you? It definitely was not brought to public forums for debate and discussion. 

You, Board of Education, have the power. You have the power to turn this ship around. After a decade of test-based accountability, you must realize that it does not work. You may say that it's not the same as No Child Left Behind. You may say that now that you are making teacher evaluation tied to student test scores, it will be a tactic that hasn't been tried yet, in Hawaii. Yes, it will be different, it will be worse. You will have spent all this time and resources, on something that is doomed to fail. 

End this madness. Open up the adoption of the Common Core to scrutiny. Consider that it may not be in the community's best interests to forge ahead. Standards themselves can be helpful, but tying it to high-stakes testing destroys any possible positive benefits.

Be brave! Make the implementation of a well-rounded education for children the priority. 

Progressive educator, John Dewey, said it best in 1900 and it remains true today: " What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.  Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.“

Thank you for seriously considering my thoughts, 
Diane Aoki
Kona, Hawaii

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Small Kine Protest Regarding the SLOs

Note: This was written on Wednesday morning.

 It's 3:00 in the morning. I woke up with my brain churning with all the things I have to do, deadlines I have to meet, tests I have to prepare for, and somewhere in there, a gnawing insistence that I need to do something to put the joy of learning into the day as well. For the past few weeks, everyone in Hawaii has been going through this stress and anxiety due to the SLO (Student Learning Objective) and Core Professionalism deadlines looming along with the high-stakes standardized testing as the year comes to an end. 

I just finished summative assessments for SLO 1, on decimal operations, which was pretty grueling. It was not a standardized test. It was curriculum-based, standards-based, and grueling for even the best students. The test anxiety was palpable. Yesterday, I did a formative assessment on SLO 2, adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators. Oh, and this after a lesson on volume in preparation for the "test," and also because it's in the curriculum and we have so much to do, so little time. I had set fractions aside a couple of weeks ago to focus on the SLO 1 assessment. So when I went back to fractions, most students appeared to have not remembered anything. Fractions have always been hard, but I have in the past made conceptual understanding a priority over using an algorithm to solve it. This year, I taught according to the Common Core aligned curriculum, which seems to make solving it via an algorithm the goal, even if there is no conceptual understanding. Result: they can not do either, for the most part. 

My dilemma, since the data is due 2 days in advance of my meeting with my administrator, I need to give them their summative assessment today. This I hate - giving a test knowing that most of them will fail, for the sake of the data. Here is the twisted part. We have to do two of these SLO projects,  but only one needs to be turned in. My decision: I am not giving the SLO 2 test at this time. I will continue to work with my students on fractions, and go back to developing conceptual understanding. They may not master it by the end of the year, but we'll keep working on it. My rating for SLO 2 will be "ineffective," and that is just what it will be. I'll use the SLO 1 rating to report to the DOE. 

It feels so radical, but it's really not. Other teachers have done much more radical and braver things like refused to administer standardized tests they believed were harmful to their students. But today, I made a decision that I will plan a day in which the goal will be joyful learning. I want to hear the sounds of students engaged in inquiry, in making things, in collaborating, in problem-solving. Screw the SLO 2, the EES, the data. Let hands-on science reign! 

Update: my appointment with my vice principal was rescheduled to Monday, and I thought I would know the outcome by the time I posted this, but I don't. As you see, I did do science. I blame myself for not doing enough of it. Teamwork and following rules of a lab setting is a challenge, but they are important learning opportunities. One never knows if test prep really helped my students in life, but I will never doubt that team-based science labs contributed to their social and intellectual development. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Caution: Hope Street Group and "Teacher Leaders"

A good friend told me I should look at the want ads on Sunday, that there was a job posted that would be perfect for me.

Here it is:
Hawaii Mobilization and Education Program Director
Hope Street Group
Hawaii United States

Position Summary
As a rapidly growing, entrepreneurial organization that aims to achieve extraordinary goals, Hope Street Group seeks a dynamic individual to become our Hawaii Mobilization and Education Program Director. The Hawaii Mobilization and Education Program Director will report to the Vice President of Education and work with all Hope Street Group staff to implement Hope Street Group’s Hawaii Program.

The Hawaii Mobilization and Education Program Director will be directly accountable for implementing Hope Street Group’s state work in Hawaii by: building, collecting and  aggregating teacher opinion and perspectives; serving as Hope Street Group’s state spokesperson; and ensuring that teachers serve as spokespeople for reform changes

Right? I'm a dynamic individual. I can organize and mobilize. I qualify.  Who wouldn't want to ensure that "teachers serve as spokespeople for reform changes? " So, as I go looking for how to apply, I also go scratching below the surface. At first you are seduced by their grand-sounding rhetoric, then you are enticed by the possibility of traveling to Washington DC once in a while for meetings.  But as I went scratching, I found that a major component of their reform efforts is teacher evaluation, and this is number one on their list of recommendations.

"Objective measures of student achievement gains must be a major component of teacher evaluation." 

That was a huge red flag. I can just imagine if I got past my conflicts about this and managed to bluff my way through, and actually get the job, having to convince teachers that this is number one, the most important thing, nĂºmero uno. I just wouldn't have the words. Or the gall. There is no "objective measure" of student achievement that can reliably be tied to teacher evaluation. There are so many variables that go into any so-called objective measure. There are so many ways that the system can be gamed. There is no way to know if test scores are tied to lasting learning or the influence of an inspiring teacher who may have planted a seed that took a while to blossom. 

I am not saying there is no way to evaluate a teacher. Just as in other professions, you have a job, nd your boss determines how well you are doing your job. That's their job. But tying it to student test scores is problematic in so many ways. Would law enforcement be evaluated based on the crime rates of their beats? If the crime was high, then would they be considered ineffective? If their evaluation was based on how much the crime rate was reduced, then would they find ways to "juke the stats," as was portrayed in the HBO series, The Wire. One season made thematic links between the Baltimore school system and the corruption in the police department. 

A stated principle for this Hope Street Group is that "EVALUATIONS WORK WHEN TEACHERS GET INVOLVED." This would lead you to believe that this is different, that this is respectful of the teacher point of view. But with already defined policies, using "research" that has been debunked by respected scholars, how much room for teacher feedback is there? 

When I go scratching around their website even more, I find that the corporate version of education reform, like support for the Common Core, is evident. Look at their funders (Gates, Walmart), advisors and network  (Joel Klein, John Deasy, Thomas Friedman) and the writing is on the wall. They don't want teacher voice, or teacher feedback. They want teachers to be on board with their agenda. 

As I allowed this blog piece to percolate this week, I started to see this effort of "involving" teachers to be "leaders" in education reform in various ways. Just heard that there is a new licensing category for Teacher Leaders, there is the Teacher Leader Academy that several of my friends have been involved in, there is the Instructional Leadership Team which our District Superintendent has pushed forward in all schools under his domain. 

On the surface, it seems all good, and perhaps it is that, not nefarious as I am implying. In my school, the ILT folks seem sincere in wanting to help. But just saying that there is a trend, and this trend has been seen historically when a greater power wanted to control the masses. Think of plantation days, when lunas were culled from the ranks of the workers and used to keep the workers in line. Think of colonialism, when natives were used by the masters to subdue their own people. Developers recruit locals to help promote their project all the time. It is a strategy. 

Before you dismiss me and this theory, just consider for a second. Is there or is there not an agenda? If, for example, the stated goal of being a "leader" is to raise student achievement (read test scores), then it may be the corporate reform agenda. If the stated goal is implementation of the Common Core, then it is definitely the corporate reform agenda. If the stated goal is teacher evaluation based on student test scores, then it is the corporate reform agenda. 

What true teacher leaders could be doing instead of promoting the corporate reform agenda is promoting a positive, well-rounded education for all public school students. The reformers don't care about that, they don't care about preschool education unless somehow they can make money off of it, they don't care about art, music, or getting kids close to nature. They don't care about social and emotional development, or even decent facilities. We need to get back to what is good for the children, what strengthens and empowers them, not what feeds the corporate monster. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Trampled by the Blind Men's Elephant: A Perspective on the Student Growth Profile

We were recently given our SGP (Student Growth Profile) scores, which is presumably a measure of the effectiveness of my teaching based on whether or not my students made expected growth as determined by standardized test scores from third grade to fifth grade. This will be 25% of my evaluation. My SGP score was a 1, the worst score possible, and I am in the 4th percentile, based on some kind of mysterious algorithm. I have long been a critic of No Child Left Behind and AYP rankings. I was told that the scuttlebutt was the reason I hate NCLB is that I am defensive because of my school's AYP rankings. So, if I rant against SGP, I'm sure the same critics would accuse me of being defensive. 

I can go on and on about working in a high-poverty school, in classes with high numbers of English Language Learners, about lack of parent involvement, about students from broken homes and difficult life situations. I could talk about the inconsistencies between the third grade test scores and these students' actual ability level when they entered fourth grade. I could suggest that perhaps the third grade test is easier than the fourth and how the fifth grade test gets even harder. (This, it seems, is why my SGP is so low; my students' scores declined from 3rd to 4th grade).  My critics would say that I am making excuses.

As long as there is a possibility that I am being defensive, I have little credibility in this debate. Which is why I was impressed by a comment on the Hawaii Teachers Work to the Rules Facebook page, on a post about Duncan's visit to Waipahu, using it as evidence that Race to the Top worked! 

Andy Jones I appreciate your comment, Anne LaVasseur Mullen. We have become decent test prep instructors at Radford HS, and our improved HSA scores have allowed us to climb from the middle of the pack up to a #2 ranking among high schools in the Strive HI rankings. I have very mixed feelings about this "success." On the one hand, I think it has boosted morale of students and teachers. On the other hand, there's a deeper emptiness behind this superficial glee when I consider all that students have lost just so that they can make gains on test-taking skills.

Here is my response: 

Diane Aoki Good job. I had same response to the visit. Andy jones, I appreciate your honesty. This ranking is divisive and perhaps that's by design. Those who get the scores can pride themselves in their rank, and those of us at the low end are depressed. Someone asked me, the one year that we made AYP, shouldn't I be happy about that? My response. Why should I be happy over something that is meaningless? If some thing is wrong, it is wrong, whether or not you come up smelling like roses or poop.

I am looking for a story that honors truth even if you benefit from the lie being told. The closest I can come is about the Blind Men and the Elephant and that truth is a matter of perception. You are not wrong if you happen to be holding the tusk and I am touching the elephant's place of poop delivery. But we do have to realize that this particular elephant is out to trample us both. I guess there are also historical incidences of the days of colonialism and slavery, when the masters had to find an "insider" who benefited from being favored, but who served the masters and helped them to dominate the slaves, or the indigenous, native, people. There are even modern day stories of developers who get a community member to work for them, to be a liaison with the community to convince them to trust the developers. (My play, Ka Ikena, was about that). 

As long as there are winners and losers, which a ranking system is designed to do, the system will be divisive. This does not help children, it does not help schools and it does not help public education. I greatly admire the many stories of teachers in states who are awarded bonuses for student test scores and because they disagree with the whole premise of this program, give it away to charity. The Network for Public Education, a group organized to challenge the corporate education reform damaging us nationwide, received two donations recently from Florida teachers. 

My rants can only go so far. In order to conquer, we need to be united. If a test-prep centered kind of education is wrong, it is wrong, whether or not your students score well. Hold on to the vision of the type of education you want for your own child. I bet it is not based on the strength of the test prep program. If it is, you got it in spades. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Becoming Cynical

I remember when I was in my twenties, I was talking to someone about the purpose in life being making the world a better place. This person told me that by my forties, I would lose my optimism. Well, my forties came and went, and I still believed. 

When I moved to Kona, I got involved in the union. At some point early on, when the HSTA Uniserv at the time (Now politician Mark Nakashima) explained what the convention process was all about - making change - something resonated in me. At the time, No Child Left Behind was beginning to make its ugly presence felt. Over the years, I have sponsored many a resolution or new business item for state convention. The policy statement on high stakes testing was one I am most proud of. I also sponsored an action item that HSTA would not accept any contract offer that tied evaluation to test scores. So much for that. I also had a proposal to reject national standards, which was rejected by the convention. They had no idea what I was talking about, but I had been studying the emergence of the Common Core. Oh well. Win some, lose some. 

This weekend the state convention is being held in Honolulu and I am not there for the first time since 2002 - I think that was my first convention, the year after the strike.

How do I feel about not being there? On the one hand, I'm good. I feel humbled. Life goes on. Other activists persevere and new ones emerge. I don't believe all the work I have done over the years was for nothing. I think I planted seeds and challenged conventional thinking. I contributed to debate. I added to policy. I think my NBIs and resolutions resonated with what was happening in the schools. I tried to voice the concerns of the teachers I represented, not just at convention, but in my role on the Board of Directors. 

On the other hand, as long as I was involved, I staved off cynicism. The belief that I could make a difference kept me involved, and also kept me going as a teacher. Going to state and national convention was a big part of my year. Being chapter president and on the Board of Directors was a big part of my identity. So, on this hand, there is a sense of loss. I miss my union friends, but I also feel a loss of belief. 

I don't believe in the union as being the vehicle for change. I have learned that both the NEA and HSTA are too conservative for me. The HSTA president and executive director signed on to Race to the Top. NEA has been a cheerleader for the Common Core, and Obama/Duncan, even though the current education policies have been even worse than Bush's. Besides providing for due process protections, HSTA's most important role is to secure a contract, but in that process, compromises had to be made. We had to accept this new Educator Evaluation System, but we negotiated a safety net in the Joint Committee. We shall see if that will prove to be effective, or merely a tool to serve the DOE's purposes. 

That paragraph probably reveals a bit of my cynicism and pessimism. However, I want HSTA  to prove me wrong. I will rejoice and admit I was wrong if they can pull off a departure from status quo and make significant changes to the system. I don't know what the convention will call for, and how effective any action will be. But I do wish them well. I do hope they will prove me wrong. I would love to get my union juju back. 

Though I am no longer a believer in the power of the union, I still believe in public education as a pillar of our democracy. I still believe that all children should have a rich, well-rounded education, and opportunities to explore and develop their gifts and talents. They need strong relationships with adults who care about them as individuals. I believe in strengthening weaknesses and building strengths. I believe that making test results the most important thing is detrimental to the system as a whole. I believe the current focus on teacher effectiveness is more hurtful, than helpful. It is a distraction, meant to turn attention away from what is really needed, real true transformation, rather than this corrupt reform going on now, led by billionaires like Gates and supported by current federal policy. 

So you see. I am not cynical. I still believe in making the world a better place. And as long as I believe, I will continue to try. Not necessarily through the union, but through citizen activism. I like what the Bad Ass Teachers Association and the Network for Public Education are doing. I am inspired by Diane Ravitch's leadership. I do think there is hope. But we must awaken. We must not close our minds to the reality of what is happening - a concerted effort to destroy public education. We must realize that the focus on tests is meant to provide data to justify their "reform" and increase demand for their products. We must risk sounding like conspiracy theorists in order to open minds. But always, we must remember the children. 

Even in the pressurized world of high-stakes testing, we must try to practice our values and beliefs about what's good for them, that they deserve a teacher who cares about them, who wants them to know and value their strengths, and not have it defined by a test score. I write this last paragraph as a reminder to myself.

This was the only time I spoke at NEA (San Diego 2009). Can't find any photos from state convention, which was a more typical occurrence. My proposal, to refer to education reform from our point of view as transformation, failed. But big win just to get up the courage to speak in front of thousands of people. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Happened to my Good Intentions?

I recently watched a fascinating Ted Talk  by science writer Ed Yong, about parasites that specialize in "subverting and overriding the wills of their hosts." For example, there is the case of a suicidal cricket, who swallows a larvae of a Gordian worm, that grows to an adult within the cricket. When the worm needs to mate, it needs water. So the worm releases proteins that makes the cricket jump into water, committing suicide by drowning. The worm wiggles out of the cricket carcass and continues its life cycle. 

I think this is an apt metaphor for what happened to my good intentions. I was taken over by the Gordian worm of pressure to perform well on the "test." 


I have realized, after working on third quarter report cards, that I have not been the teacher I want to be. I do not have enough grades to justify a grade in science for the third quarter. That is a humiliating confession to make, but I'm sure others can relate. 

This will change in the fourth quarter, for sure. On the one hand, when testing is over, real teaching and learning begins. On the other hand, maybe I should just, as much as possible, without being limited by preparing for the "test," do learning activities that engage students and know that there will be learning, even if it is not necessarily test prep. 

I would love to be that radical. And that is the whole purpose of this blog, to be the teacher I want to be. Baby steps. Last week, I was determined to get science in at least once. We are studying the human body, system by system. For each system, I plan some kind of inquiry lesson. For the skeletal system, we made cylinders and rectangular prisms (geometry - integration ! ) from index cards and tested to see which could hold the most books. This was a very simple inquiry, but the joy of learning was evident. Students asked questions and proposed ideas of why the cylinder held more books. They made connections to why the cylindrical bone shape makes sense. 

It was a refreshing change of pace from the angst of fractions, even if it is with licorice whips (Oh, yeah, that was a good lesson too.) And I did pi Day with Ritz crackers and bits. So, I have not been totally manipulated by the worm. 

I'm still alive.