Wednesday, April 2, 2008

165th Carnival of Education: Testing Season Edition

The midway is open... welcome to the 165th Carnival of Education!

Despite the hilarity you endured (or dished out) yesterday, the joke is over: it's April. It's the beginning of testing season, that time of year when teacher and student stress reaches its perilous apex. If you're anything like me, you need a little inspiration, a bit of levity, and some good ideas to keep you going towards the end of the school year.

The submissions I selected concern several themes that interest me greatly: inspiration, standardized testing insanity, amusing myself, ideas to help your students inside and outside your classroom, and quality professional development. I hope that you find these as interesting as I did, and that afterwards you explore the rest of the site. Thank you for visiting, and enjoy!

We have to start with my favorite music teacher, Joel from So You Want To Teach?, who dug out 50 Reasons To Love Your Job As A Teacher from his archives. I also have to give him props for catching me hook, line and sinker with an April Fools' post that said exactly the opposite!

Todd Goldfarb
presents How To Find Your True Purpose posted at We The Change, saying, "A wonderful and personal article about finding your inner purpose...enjoy!"

eduwonkette presents eduwonkette: Cool Teachers You Should Know: Joel Blecha, The Neighborhood School posted at eduwonkette, who writes:
"I heeded your call for inspirational stories by submitting this profile, which is part of a series called "Cool Teachers You Should Know." The goal is to profile and celebrate the work that exceptional teachers are doing in schools every day; often, the profiled teacher will also provide advice to other teachers. Please nominate one of your colleagues in the future..."
Visit eduwonkette to nominate someone for future editions.

Dave Saba reminds me of one of my favorite parables in Starfish, change and data posted at DoE- Dave on Ed.

Fruitpunch, a student studying in Curacao, keeps things positive in Winners make things happen, Losers let things happen posted at Fruit Punch Diary. Read some of the other recent posts there, you'll find the same theme of hope and positivity.

kellyc found inspiration in a special program called Destination Imagination posted at Pass the Torch.

Finally, let's make sure to recognize more great teachers: Linda Bress Silbert, Ph.D. and Alvin J. Silbert, Ed.D. presents Special Ed Teacher Gets ‘em Talking posted at Our Educational Books, saying, "This special education teacher gets kudos from parents and students for her dedication."

...And a Much Needed Laugh!
While we may have just missed out on April Fools' Day, here's an April Fools poem to share with students entitled Good Morning, Dear Students posted at The Median Sib.

NYC Educator
presents When You're Having Fun... posted at NYC Educator, saying, "Time flies when you're having fun." I have a clock in the back of the room that is permanently set to 1:25 pm. I thoroughly enjoy debating my students about its accuracy:
Students: "Sir, why don't you get some batteries?"

Me: "What are you talking about? I just put some in there yesterday!"

Students: "But it says there's five minutes left, and there's like an hour!"

Me: "Sometimes math is so much fun that minutes seem like hours." presents Oh, Crap. An English Teacher Who Can?t Spell posted at Lorem Ipsum, saying, "When you get a student teacher who can't spell, you know they probably shouldn't become an English teacher." This reminds me of a story from my friend Dave. During a department meeting one day, the chair was so excited to share "a great new word: genray!" Dave couldn't figure out what genray was, especially since no one else knew they were actually talking about genre. He made it a point to teach his students the real word by using it as much as possible with added emphasis, "we're going to read a new GENRE today... what GENRE is this story from?".

This isn't exactly the type of student engagement I was thinking of, but apparently tutoring English in Hong Kong is all about sex appeal (thanks to Matt Johnston of Going to the Mat).

Finally, here's our obligatory adorable student story, courtesy of Mister Teacher of Learn Me Good, called Oh, the Corners You'll See!.

Testing Madness
The insanity of this time of year touches everybody:
  • Bill Ferriter presents It's All About the Benjamins. . . posted at The Tempered Radical, saying, "In this post, Bill Ferriter at The Tempered Radical tackles teacher evaluation and compensation----and admits to being fed up with the single salary schedule!" Bill discusses how test scores are tied to evaluation and, in turn, how teachers are paid. My high school received a grant from the state that was tied in part to test scores and was the subject of a heated debate.
Things to Teach Your Kids (besides your curriculum)
Alvaro Fernandez presents Sleep, Tetris, Memory and the Brain posted at SharpBrains, saying, "Why sleep is so important for learning." I tell my students about this constantly, despite the fact that I don't properly use this knowledge myself.

I like to talk to my students about scams and ripoffs in the real world as frequently as possible, so EdWonk's post about his daughter receiving an avalanche of "Who's-Who in American High Schools" and other such solicitations is worth a read: 'Tis The Season For Parents And Kids To Be Scammed is posted at The Education Wonks (not coincidentally, the home of the COE).

Debt Freedom Fighter presents How to Pay For College without Borrowing on Student Loans posted at Discover Debt Freedom!.

Raymond presents Student Credit Card Rewards posted at Money Blue Book. Children don't learn enough about financial planning in or out of school, so both of these last two articles can form the basis of some great lessons.

Five Cheap Lessons From Other People
In January, I published a book entitled Ten Cheap Lessons: Easy, Engaging Ideas for Every Secondary Classroom. My goal was to provide ten ideas that could be used on any topic in any subject. Most of my best ideas over the years have been adapted from or inspired by other teachers and other subjects, so here's five good ones for you and/or your students (in no particular order):
  1. Jeremy Zongker presents 90 Low Cost or No Cost Activities to Entertain Your Kids All Summer Long posted at Destroy Debt.
  2. This lesson will work for homeschooling and traditional schools: Joy Miller presents Teaching About The Workplace posted at Homeschooling for the Real World
  3. Larry Ferlazzo presents ESL/EFL Sister Classes Project posted at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites Of The Day For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL, saying, "This post discusses, and links to, a collaboration of students spanning seven countries. I thought people might find it interesting, and maybe provoke some to think about how and if they could do something similar."
  4. char breaks down how to write an essay in language your students can understand in Preparing for an Essay Exam posted at Psych Matters.
  5. historyiselementary thinks about how we try to engage students in Repeat After Me...Multimedia Modality posted at History Is Elementary, saying, "In light of a recent article published online at ESchool News I'm going to be reviewing all of my teacher-created handouts and slideshows to see if they conform to research findings."
Conversation Starters (*not for use during department/faculty meetings)
  • rightwingprof presents Zeroes Matter posted at Right Wing Nation. At most schools in my area, the lowest grade a student can receive for a grading period is a 50. I once met a teacher who decided this meant they shouldn't give any grades lower than a 50, even for assignments they didn't turn in! Not surprisingly, it was extremely difficult to NOT pass the class. This teacher actually argued with me about how much this practice skewed the students' grades!
  • Katie Beals presents Right-brain biases against school boys posted at Out In Left Field, saying, "OILF is a blog for left-brainers and parents of left-brainers. It discusses left-brain needs, promotes left-brain strengths, and monitors right-brain biases (esp. Reform Math, Constructivism, and cooperative learning) in education and elsewhere."
Professional Development and Ideas to Bring to School
Those of you who have read my site for a while know that I haven't had the best luck in finding quality professional development. So while you won't get any stipends or free food for any of these submissions, you get to read them at your leisure and pick and choose what's relevant to you.
  • If you read nothing else here, please read this submission. Our female students are so often the victim of so much inappropriate behavior, even while in school. Every teacher should read this and consider their reaction to even seemingly minor incidents: Marcella Chester presents Socialization Which Sets Up Sex Predator/Passive Victim Model posted at abyss2hope: A rape survivor's zigzag journey into the open, saying, "So often when adults are trying to smooth over conflict they ask girls to passively accept violence or disrespect of their personal boundaries without thinking about how that pattern of response can be used against the child."
  • Denise presents In between sneezes? posted at Let's play math!, saying, "Went browsing on YouTube, found three math videos. One cool trick, one really good laugh, and one sparked a comment discussion about how to teach."
What The Media Says About Our Profession
I often feel that our profession is presented, like most things in the news, in the most negative way possible. There's not a day that goes by without a story about student/teacher relationships, verbal and physical abuse, or other inappropriate behavior. Sometimes the administrators or district officials themselves are the problem, but it gives our entire profession a bad name.

Archvillain presents Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (part II) posted at A Dark and Sinister Force for Good, saying, "What can we (the People) do to stop this nonsense?"

Laura Huertero presents Aren't teachers awful? | Huerter0's Xanga Site - Weblog posted at Teaching (or at least trying to), saying, "A recent string of Pre-Teena comics has cost me my daily chuckle at the expense of silly youngsters and cast an unjustly critical glare at the teaching profession. Herein, I object."

Dave Johnston presents two recent news items painting the whole system as corrupt and broken in What's Wrong With This Picture? posted at Friends of Dave.

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That concludes this edition. Please take a look around the rest of I Want to Teach Forever and check out my book before you go! I welcome comments below or email me at teachforever [at] gmail [dot] com.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Education using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. The next edition of the Carnival will be hosted by The Elementary Educator, so stop by today!