15 July 2010

Assessment, Session 5

The next to last session of the final module in Semester number 2. Then only one more semester!

The time has really flown by and my thoughts on my education have certainly changed over the last year, even over the last few months, the direction of my educational plans has changed. This is due in large part to the infinite wisdom of our legislators. Their actions have driven me to make some decisions I had previously thought undecideable. They decided that the National Board Certification for Teachers isn't important enough to fund. Meaning, they ceased funding the scholarship for the application process ($2500) and they suspended the yearly stipend for at least the next two years. Because of this, I have reconsidered my decision to sit for the National Board process. I know, that sounds like I was only doing it for the money, but that's not the case! I am reconsidering because of the timing of the process. The intent was for me to do it next year. SNU awards 6 hours of Master's level credit for mentoring during the application of National Boards. This would be the last six hours I would need for my degree in Curriculum and Instruction. However, since our legislators cut our funding, I would be doing the National Board process over the next six months, a full year early. If I apply this year, I would be eligible for reimbursement of the application fee and would be eligible for the stipend, if certified.

But, because I wouldn't be going through the mentoring process I would have to find six other graduate level hours to substitute for the mentoring hours, as mentioned earlier. The timing is the problem. If one wants to get into a doctoral program, one must have a Master's degree (usually) in hand. Because of stuff at @mishelleyb's place of employment, the time for her to do her doctoral program has arrived. This just so happens to coincide with me finishing my Master's. We got the bright idea to do a program together and found one that suits both of our needs, which begins in the Fall of 2011. Before I can be accepted into a program, I must have the degree conferred for my Master's. This means, I would be doing Nat'l Boards, while being a part of the lives of two fantastic teenage children, while taking 6 graduate hours online, while finishing the MACI program modules, while teaching full-time, and finally, while teaching some adjunct hours in SNU's bridge program (which I committed to before the Nat'l Board stuff came up). Can you see my dilemma?

Anyway, I'm supposed to be reflecting on class. Last night was a night for group project presentations. We worked on a selected response assessment (a pretest) for 8th grade mathematics vocabulary. We chose selected response simply because we were the "experts" on this subject. It was the chapter we had researched and done extra study on. It also lent itself well to our preferred use of technology, the Clickers! We chose clickers because they are able to give quick feedback to students. Questions in the assessment would be tagged with the particular concept and could give students (and teachers) a quick view of which concepts/words students needed more help on. Teachers can even print out a spreadsheet with the answers, notes, and concepts listed so students would have a visual representation of which areas they need extra study.

I've been impressed with this class, simply because it has been the class which has made the most connection with me for my personal practice in the classroom. I have realized that I have been cheating my students and myself by not putting enough work into my assessments. Sometimes, especially when you other obligations, its easy to just put together a bunch of questions out of the textbook test-bank and throw a test at the kids. This does them a disservice. Other than assigning a grade, student get no real feedback on their learning. They have nothing other than a report card grade to show for their efforts. This is especially true if students have not gotten any buy-in into the class already. They have absolutely no motivation to further their learning. Particularly so if they are not being successful in the class. By the way, I'm constantly thinking about how this is going to play out in August when I begin teaching adults, as well. I suspect somethings will be the same, but I also think much will be different.

We also conferenced a little bit, since one of our chapters deals with this practice. I was simply an observer for this activity since I had an alternate assignment. I never cease to be amazed that folks depend so much on me for technology ideas/practice when it seems to me that these skills should simply come naturally to people. I've been struggling with this issue for quite a while and I'm still not sure how to take the "attention". I don't always have a great self-image so when people give me compliments or depend on me to accomplish something, I'm not always sure how to take that. I do know this: when I started teaching 3 years ago (holy cow!) I didn't really set out with any kind of goals in mind. I didn't think I'd go back to school, I didn't set out to be on the "cutting edge of technology" in my district. I didn't think I'd be teaching technology classes to the best teachers in the world. I did simply follow my passions. Science and technology. Those two things are what I am interested in and teaching them to others comes naturally.

Who knows the plans that are in store for you? I certainly didn't think I am where I thought I would be. In the words of the great Douglas Adams, "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." Teaching is definitely one of my gifts. Although its hard sometimes to think of what I do as work (doubt you could tell by all of my complaining). I'm so thankful to be given many opportunities to simply share things about which I am passionate. If you have anything to do with those opportunities, Thank You!

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