The main character lives on a very boring, uniform street. One day, a bird drops some paint on the roof of his house. Instead of painting over it, he supplements the Big Orange Splot on his roof with lots of other beautiful artwork all over his house and yard. His neighbors, one by one, become persuaded to take similar steps to make their own houses “look like all their dreams.”

I think this story provides a useful lens through which to view current efforts at education reform. Here is an allegory of the current education reform movement through the perspective of The Big Orange Splot: The Education System Needs a Seagull Carrying a Bucket of Paint

]]>I have a strongly differing interpretation of a story she shares about her son solving a division problem. He gets an answer only after several minutes have elapsed and he has created his own (correct) method for solving it. She thinks this is an epic fail (why didn’t he just long divide?!), but I think this is an epic educational victory!

Here is my full response: http://havingneweyes.com/2013/01/26/adults-can-calculate-with-fractions/

]]>On my way to the airport for winter break, I saw public recruitment advertisements both for TFA and for City Year.

The City Year ad was on the public bus I took to the airport. The TFA ad was glued to the bottom of all of the bins at airport security.

I wonder if these are purposeful efforts to target distinct demographics of potential recruits…

]]>

My school’s current algebra 1 textbook takes this to a whole new level. For many of the problems for students to work on, there is a box in the margin that lists the exact page number and example number for a worked-out problem which is structurally identical to what is being asked (just with different numbers).

This explicit encouragement to just plug new numbers into a worked-out problem is pretty disappointing. This kind of thing doesn’t encourage students to actually understand what they’re doing.

Even when trying an “I do, we do, you do,” there has got to be some novelty in the later problems that students will be working through. Students need to learn to expect that in EVERY LESSON they will need to apply the procedures they are learning in a NEW way in order to solve deeper questions. Thinking they understand the material when they are just able to replace the old numbers in the problem with new numbers is NOT a good sign. This particular textbook worsens this issue!

Here’s my rant: http://havingneweyes.com/2012/11/29/just-mimic-the-example-in-the-book-thats-learning-right/

]]>

I’ve recently been thinking about broadening the use of this student data beyond the typical “Oh, <student 1> has not mastered this objective, I need to make sure he gets some extra time/support to work on this some more,” or “my classes’ scores aren’t where I want them to be, I need to figure out how to get them to increase.”

Neither of these is a bad way to use data, but I want to try to break the assumption that data can only be used for assessment (formative or summative). Student data can (and should!) also be used to try to find patterns in your students’ progress, in your classes as a whole, and in your whole school.

If you organize data in useful ways and analyze it to try to find new patterns, this process can often provide new insights into how to improve teaching and learning at the school.

Here’s my latest thinking on how to link your data in useful ways and use it not just for tracking progress, but also to uncover previously unobserved patterns and trends among your students….

http://havingneweyes.com/2012/09/03/student-data-for-pattern-seeking-not-just-assessing/

After reading the post, please let me know if you know of schools that are doing a particular good (or bad) job of using data in this way. I’m curious to find some more examples of this in practice…..

]]>There is actually a pretty straightforward reason for this: early on in the loan period, the principal is still very high. At the end of each month, you’ll be charged a large amount of interest on that large principal. Maybe that month you are charged $600 for interest. If your monthly payment is $700, most of that just pays off the $600 of interest, while only $100 is left to reduce the principal.

However, with a (slightly) smaller principal next month, you’ll also owe slightly less interest next month, so slightly more of your payment can be put towards reducing the principal (maybe $103 this month).

Towards the end of the loan period, when there is much less principal left to pay off, the interest on that principal is a smaller dollar value (even though it is still the same percent), so your fixed payment will cover a very small interest payment and much more of the principal.

Whenever you take out a loan, the based on the principal, the interest rate, and the length of the loan, the bank must calculate a monthly payment such that if you pay exactly that amount each month, there will be exactly a zero balance on the loan at the end of the loan period.

It turns out that geometric series play a big part in this calculation and form the basis of the formulas bankers use to do these calculations.

Exploring this in more depth with your students provides a cool opportunity to connect geometric series with a very concrete application. It is also a good opportunity to help your students practice using spreadsheets. Finally, at the end of the lesson, have your students call a bank and see if the students’ numbers match the bank’s!

Here are some more details about the math:

http://havingneweyes.com/2012/08/19/lesson-idea-for-geometric-series-loan-amortization/

1. A curriculum purposefully designed to cycle back through topics or skills students have seen in previous courses.

2. When a college student ends up in an intro class when they have already (to some extent) taken that course already through AP classes or through Coursera or something similar.

Here are my thoughts: Effects of Repeating Content in Future Courses

]]>

Here is my response:

]]>Instead of renewing my contract for next year, which usually happens pretty much automatically, I was told by my school that I could reapply as a new applicant to the district and find out maybe sometime over the summer whether they would rehire me for next school year. This was not directly due to the ever-present budget problems at the school, but rather because I was not very good at my job.

Instead of reapplying and waiting an indefinite amount of time to see if I would be rehired, I decided to start applying to other programs. It is likely that my second year would have gone better than the first, but since the first year was pretty miserable and since my school didn’t really want me back (as evidenced by not immediately renewing my contract), I’m going to try something new for next year, with the hope that I’ll be able to have as much or more of a positive impact on kids.

Next year, I will be a City Year corps member in Orlando. I’ll be working in a middle school or high school doing tutoring, mentoring, classroom support, afterschool programs, etc. I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue working to change students’ academic trajectories in this new way. I’ll be working one-on-one and in smaller groups with kids, which is a more natural setting for me, and will help me develop deeper relationships with my students, which was a struggle for me last year with 100+ students who I saw for only 50 minutes a day (in groups of ~28 at a time).

It is sad to say goodbye to TFA, but I am excited to now be doing work which I feel prepared for, which feels more natural, and which seems more likely to enable me to actually impact a large group of kids in a significant way.

More information on my City Year experience can be found at my new blog (which will also be a bit broader in scope, including not just my City Year experiences, but also some commentary on lots of other things I’m thinking about): www.havingneweyes.com

Thanks for everyone’s ongoing support, and I look forward to seeing you at the new blog!

P.S. The only thing I am dreading about City Year is the endless icebreakers and hand signals. Sigh. So far, everything else about City Year seems pretty wonderful!

]]>However, apparently, I cannot go do my observation that day for the following reason: SUBSTITUTE TEACHERS ARE NOT QUALIFIED TO ADMINISTER THE TEST! People need to go through some kind of training on how to administer the test; substitutes have not had this training so, therefore, substitutes cannot administer the test.

Hilarious reality that seems to epitomize much of modern public education:

Subs who are giving a test have more requirements they must fulfill than subs who are actually TEACHING A LESSON!

I was given the option of “inviting” one of the other teachers in my cluster (a teacher for LA, SS, and SCI) to administer the test that day and have a sub in one of their rooms instead. I declined. I’m going to try to just switch the day of my observation, which will mean I miss an actual teaching day with my students, but this seems (slightly) more fair than making another teacher miss an entire day of teaching their own class so that that they can administer my interim test….

2. In the middle of class, a (male) student yelled to me across the room: “My <rude word for breast> hurts. Will you rub it for me?” He got a referral.

3. A student stole a large amount of candy out of my desk drawer, and got a referral. Teachers who walked into the counselor’s office that period were apparently somewhat upset that they were not able to eat any of the stolen candy that had now been dumped on her desk, as it was considered evidence.

“Evidence is not a snack.” ….words to live by.

4. A student stole my paper where I keep track of who has misbehaved in class. I remembered who had gotten detentions, but I can’t remember exactly who had gotten some of the lesser consequences. This is particularly frustrating, because the kids have now finally started getting a little excited about the chart I put on the wall to keep track of students’ behavior and the prizes associated with this. Now I have to either give all of them their points for yesterday for behavior, or give none of them their points for yesterday…..neither of which seem very fair.

5. After school, there were some workers in my room installing new wiring for some reason. One of them saw the math problems left on the board from school today and started asking me questions about them. We had a really good mini lesson on using cross-multiplying to solve a proportion. One day, I’ll figure out how to get all of my students to be as excited about learning math as that guy was.

]]>