March 22, 2011

Speak Up!

Did you see that post that took me three days to finish? The one about my students who were too shy to record their voices for their public service announcements during class so they decided to come to an after school work session where there were over 40 students with the same idea?

Didn't see it?

It was hilarious.

And frustrating.

Oy, this gig is rough sometimes.

That was the topic of the post, but now it's how much the technology gods must hate me. Seriously, where did that post go? I saved it--actually hit the SAVE button despite the fact that Blogger automatically saves--a few times this afternoon. When I finished, I pushed the bright orange PUBLISH POST button. I've done this before.

Yeah. Seriously. Technology gods have not been smiling on us this week, but I blamed my students for procrastinating. It hasn't been terrible, but I can tell you that live without wireless Internet is just not as much fun. Sometimes it's crippling.

In anyway case, podcasts are over. I'm thinking about blogging with my yearbook kiddos the rest of the year, but it's been a few years since I tried that, and it didn't go very well. I have a different group, though. A great, interesting, creative bunch of students who will be back next year. I'm going to take a leap of faith. Or stupidity.

That's the news from HappyChyck's World.

March 10, 2011

Test? What? Pshh. A Memory.

Wahoo! The testing madness is over for the year!

There have been so many times in the past six months when I felt I was just not doing enough as I felt that cloud of testing doom looming over my students and me. The year started off rough with a change in the writing exam. My students had been so well-trained on narrative writing, but then the test switched to expository. For years, I've been helping seniors who could hardly write paragraphs pass the high school writing proficiency exam. You'd think I'd have it dialed in, but the difference is that my middle schoolers can write paragraphs, and I expect then to do more than barely pass. They still have their high school careers ahead of them--most of them in magnet or accelerated programs.

So, you would think it would have been easy teaching my brainiacs how to write thesis statements. Or the importance of a creative lead, which they should have been able to do with their excellent narrative skills. You might expect that they could learn to organize a basic essay with actual transitions and everything. My principal is expecting that they'll all pass the exam, too, but on the day of the test, all I could do is shrug my shoulders and hope for the best---

And then I started doubting myself. Although my students wrote about 20 essays before they took the test in February, I starting doubting my other moves. Maybe I should not have taught that long novel. I wish I hadn't spent time collaborating with the science teachers on the science fair reports. Research isn't a benchmark for me until 4th quarter. I should not have done it in the 2nd quarter. Did I give them enough instruction to help them with their practice? Ack! I don't know.

About three weeks after my students took the writing exam, we had the state reading exam. I had some packets of practice tests for them, but then I started worrying that it wasn't enough. Why didn't I talk more about this literary term, or that literary term. Did we read too much literature and not enough expository writing? How would they do on the constructed response? I mean, I did have students doing more literary analysis than ever before, but what if they didn't make the connected to how they did that to what they needed to do on the test? I started stressing about how I might have given them too much writing and not enough reading.

You see the madness, right?

Is there enough time for me to have balance?

I can only hope.

The testing is over. The rest of the year will be just as rigorous, but perhaps I can beat myself up less. In between all the testing mania this week, my students started researching for their public service announcements, a cross curricular project related to their foreign language classes. You know, thinking, creating, the IB design cycle? Good stuff! Next month, we'll be celebrating National Poetry Month with a unit on spoken poetry, a unit that still needs to be created, but I'm ├╝ber excited about it. We'll wrap up the year with an awesome Anne Frank unit that includes some creative writing.

Learning still going on the rest of the year? Oh yeah. Testing mania? Been there done that.