Classroom Procedures 2011-12

Student Entrance:  Students will meet the teacher at the door.  Students should only enter the room if the teacher is at the door. If the teacher is not at the door, students must line up against the wall near the door and wait for the teacher to receive them.  Students should enter the room after being greeted by the teacher.  Once inside, students are to start independent reading immediately.

Getting Student Attention:  Teacher will count aloud backwards from 5.  Once students hear the countdown, they are expected to be prepared to listen in complete silence once the countdown ends at 1.  At other times, when student volume is higher than it should be, the teacher will turn the lights on/off three times to signal to the students to quiet down a bit and lower their volumes.

Hallway Pass:  Students will raise their hand with their index finger pointed at the ceiling to signal they need a hallway pass. The teacher will nod yes/no to indicate if it is an appropriate time.  When permitted to go students will silently walk up to the front of the room and sign-out in the hallway pass book, collect the pass, and walk out.  Upon return, students will enter silently return the pass to its place and sit in their assigned seat.  Hallway pass is a hallways pass, regardless of the destination (office, water, or bathroom).  Each student only gets one pass per-day regardless of the destination.  Students will indicate their destination on the hallway pass log.

Headings on Paper:  Each page of the notebook and each piece of paper submitted, published or in draft, should have: Name in the top left corner, date underneath it, and class # below the date.  Page number should appear on the top right corner.
Example:

Mr. Maqsood                                        1
9-8-11
702

Turning in Work: Any type of work that is should be submitted to the teacher must be dropped off in the appropriately labeled bin near the front of the class.  “Turning in” time is ONLY the last 1 minute of class.  Before exiting the room, students should drop off their work – never before, after, nor during class.  Teacher will inform students when it is the last 1 minute, to clear their desks and drop off work before lining up for dismissal.

Pencil Borrowing/Sharpening:  Students will need a writing utensil every single day of class.  Grab a pencil if you need one as soon as you enter the room without comment.  The pencils are in a container at the teacher’s desk.  If you have a pencil, sharpen it as soon as you walk in.  If a point breaks, raise your hand with the pencil and wait for the teacher.  Teacher will either replace the pencil or give you permission to sharpen your pencil.

Participation:  Student will raise his/her hand and speak when permission is granted by the teacher.  If permission is not granted, student should write down his/her comment to turn in to the teacher later.  It is not always possible for each student to have a go during discussions as they will be timed.  Teacher will do his best to allow all students equal opportunity to have his/her voice heard.

Independent Reading:  IR is a daily part of class that is a school-wide Humanities practice at UNMS .  Reading begins as soon as a student enters the classroom.  Students will have ONLY their reading logs and independent reading books out on their desks and begin reading.  When teacher calls time, students will finish reading their last sentence and record progress in the reading log.  Students will clear their desks of independent reading materials when finished updating the log.
Independent reading will take place in the first twenty minutes of class each day.

Dismissal:  Regardless of which period of the day it is, class is dismissed by the teacher according to the teacher’s time.  When the teacher announces clean-up time, all students should clear their desks and collect all their belongings.  At this time, students should come to the front to drop off any work that they wish to submit and line up against the closets.  Teacher will dismiss students as they line up at the closets.  If the dismissal is for the last period of the day, students must put the chairs up on the desks before lining up against the closets.
If the students are coming to Humanities after lunch, then they may come to the room during the first 3 minutes of lunch to drop off their belongings.

Consequences:  Teacher will enforce school rules in class with regards to inappropriate language, attendance, and behavior.  There will be awards for positive behavior at the end of each month.  Teacher will keep anecdotal record of all behavior.  Teacher will use a “checks system” by which a studet will be awarded “checks” each class period.  Checks are awarded to students that demonstrate model behavior.  At the end of the month, the top three students receiving the highest number of checks will be recognized in some way (pizza party during lunch, movie and snacks during lunch, extra computer time, etc.).

Before we begin…

*Current Educational and Teaching Philosophy

I believe that each individual should have the opportunity to receive an education.  Everyone should have the right to this opportunity.  There is no perfect teaching model; however, there are a number of teaching practices that are effective.  I strive to master the teaching practices that are proven to be effective.  I believe students learn best when they are taught by teachers who show they care to learn about them and care to teach them.  I need to show my students that I believe they can learn and succeed and my primary job is to help them master the skills that they are expected to master as outlined by the state.  In teaching with this purpose I must create opportunities for students to experience success.  Teaching is not easy and it requires a lot of work.  At the micro level, a teacher has to remain positive, take calculated risks in the classroom, reflect back on the choices made related to teaching practice, and make changes to future practice based on the results.  A teacher must come prepared to school every day and track personal growth/areas of improvement as well as the students’.  At the macro level, a teacher must actively participate in school initiatives, s/he should work and cooperate with fellow teachers, and make him/herself available to the school as it relates to student success.  Lastly, a teacher must make every attempt to keep him/herself up-to-date with the latest research in his/specialization to maintain a high level of knowledge about the field, which is then shared with the colleagues. A teacher should be dedicated to student achievement and every choice s/he makes should reflect that goal.

*Work in progress…

Reflection on the 11-12 school year

During the last school year, I taught Humanities to two groups of students: 6th grade group and a 7th grade group.  I will be teaching the same groups during the upcoming school year and need to rethink some of my practices.  The year started off very strongly (my strongest yet) with both classes.  There were good procedures in place and a decent seating arrangement.  However, as the year progressed the two groups went in the opposite directions in terms of academic growth.  Below is the breakdown by grade in terms of what I think did not work well and needs improvement for each group.

The 6th Graders:  The 6th graders were an average group of students with “varied but not so varried” academic and emotional levels.  A big area of concern regarding this group is community building (seating and group work).  These students never really got along with each other.  They followed all my directions and worked in pairs and triads when I asked them to but I had to generally group them according to their social compatibility rather than academic needs.  So, I must incorporate community building exercises for this group especially since this will be the group that new students will most likely be added to.  Homework also failed last year.  The independent reading homework that I gave on a daily basis was just not satisfactory.  Kids seemed to have no incentive to read at home other than the 10% grade.  They weren’t practicing, for the most part, anything for homework that I was teaching them  in class.  Another weak area is collaboration with the paraprofessionals.  Although I used the paraprofessional’s services a great deal with this group, I was not as systematic and deliberate in this area as I can be.  The para and I did not clarify our roles and responsibilities in the class at the beginning of the year, which resulted in the shifting of roles and responsibilities back and forth, throughout the year.  Technology is always an area of concern.  I feel I could have managed the use of laptops much better with clearer procedures on the handling of the laptops, signing in and out, what to do when a laptop stops working, when the use of laptop is not permitted, and distribution of usernames/passwords which kids never had.  I had to give the students this information daily.  Only a few of them memorized it but none of them would write it down in a place where they could find it later, which also points out that I have to improve in the area of holding students accountable for their responsibilities.  Lastly in terms of computers, I need to develop strategies for creating work for students who are not permitted to use the laptops for whatever reason.  Both groups used computers and internet heavily last year and this year I am expecting an increase in their use.  So, a system that wastes no time needs to be in place for next year.  Lastly, I struggled with time management a lot. Time management in terms of planning my lessons and in terms of their execution.  The pacing of lessons was off.  This carried over to the unit planning too, as I had a difficult time covering all the social studies material that I had initially set out to cover.  In terms of individual students there is one student I need to prepare more for this year. He did not participate in a lot of the work we did in class.  He refused to attempt work of any kind in the second half of the year, no matter what it was, broke computers, and did nothing.  Some strategies for him are crucial to a positive year for him, for the other students, and for myself.

Things to focus on next year: 

  • planning
  • pacing
  • tech systems/procedures
  • para collaboration
  • community building
  • engagement (student specific).

The 7th Graders: The seventh graders were majority boys with only 3 girls including one who is dyslexic, another who was an 8th grader actually and a beginner level English language learner, and the last who wes an 8th grader as well.  The biggest area of concern hear as I look back is meeting the needs of these students, which I feel I fell quite short on last year.  I will continue to have ELLs and Dyslexic students.  So I have to figure out ways to give them content and skills that they need to get as close to mastery as possible.  Its the skills that are difficult to teach students with more severe academic needs.  There are many ways to give them knowledge but skills is where I need to provide more supports for these students.  There are some high level students in this class that also need some additional attention.  These are at same three students that were extremely bored majority of the school year last year and showed a lack of interest and motivation.  The students’ needs are much more diverse in this group and far apart from one another.  In the area of assessment I fell really short.  I did not assess enough.  I did not use pre- and formative assessments to as well as I need it.  Overall, the two areas that sum up what I need to focus on with this group are “engagement” and “differentiation.”

Things to focus on next year:

  • Planning
  • Pacing
  • Engagement
  • Differentiation.
  • Para collaboration
  • Tech Systems
  • Assessment and Grading.

Goals: The things to focus on I’ve listed here are simply too many.  Outside of classroom, I want to seriously invest some time in reading the current research in the field of special education.  However, to keep my goals achievable I need to narrow down my focus.  I feel planning will be addressed regularly through the Humanities team meetings at school (since we plan together) and through collaboration with the other teachers  through the weeks so I will not list it explicitly as a goal for me.  Pacing is another issue that does not need to be prioritized because we have chosen a new template for lesson plans, which pre-determines the duration of learning activities at a broad level.  I’ll have to just hold myself true to it by timing myself more. Lastly, tech systems is a procedural issue.  As long as I develop solid system, communicate it with the paras, and enforce it consistently, I can manage technology well. 

The biggest area of improvement for me is “assessment and grading.”  Then, I need to set goals for para collaboration, differentiation, and student specific engagement.

Goal 1:  I will create pre-assessments for each new unit.  I will use at least four written formative assessments per unit.  I will track Keep track of the data in the gradebook.

Goal 2:  I will create portfolios for students who demonstrate a lack of interest and motivation in the lessons by the end of the first marking period.  Then I will check in with these students at least once during each unit to monitor progress on their individual portfolio.  For the subsequent units, I will involve students in creating their portfolio assignments.

**I’m going to approach differentiation from the lens of engagement  as well as providing the necessary scaffolds toward unit objectives throughou the unit.

Goal 3: I will meet with the paras on a weekly basis to discuss the upcoming week and its objectives.  I will provide paras with consistent feedback (at least one time each unit) and give them a chance to give me feedback as well.

Goal 4: I will use the school grading policy and grade on the basis of achieving mastery in specific standards.  I will update grades biweekly and use a system that will allow the students to monitor their own progress in-between the summative assessments.

 

Headboys, Headgirls, and Valedictorians

Something came up in the professinoal literature I’m reading, about the issue of “valedictorians.”  This made me wonder about the idea of a veldictorian.  Do we really need valedictorians in our schools? 

Do we really need valedictorians in our schools? I don’t.  I never did.  I don’t even recall who my high school valedictorian was?  When I think about it, I recall a couple of students make a comment about the girl in passing.  In college? Don’t remember…

In middle school, when I was in Pakistan, there was no such thing as a valedictorian.  But there was, and probably still is, this title of a “Headboy/Headgirl” there.  I went to an English school.  In our building (a big building with internal separations), we had elementary, middle, and high schools.  They were separated for the most part almost like a college campus if one can imagine a compus comprised of a group of buildings that are seperate but still physically connected.  The elementary was completely cordoned off.  But the middle and high schools were only separated by floors.  So, as a middle schooler you interacted with high school students frequently and as a result, all kids were familiar with the idea of a headboy/headgirl. I wanted to be a headboy one day because I would see the headboy with his headboy patch on the chest of his headboy blazer. We were a uniform school with blue blazers for the winter – green for the headboy, grey vests – green for the headboy, and dark grey slacks or dress pants, and black dress shoes for everyone including the headboy, although it’d be hillarious if the headboy wore green shoes.  

The headboy/headgirl designation was very prestigious in the sense that they were role-models chosen by the school administration that dressed them differently to show everyone that they were different, may be better, and high achievers – certainly the ideal students.  They had in-school jobs – special jobs.  They seemed to be doing teacher stuff and it was just super cool because teachers in Pakistan (in the school I attended) never allowed students to see their real personalities.  But the headboy/headgirl got to see them laughing and joking; they worked with the teachers.  It certainly was a reward in so many ways.  So how were they “rewarded” with the title? Well let’s see…

The Pakistani public high schools go up to tenth grade – no eleventh and twelfth grades.  The Headboy/headgirl at my school was chosen before the end of school at the end of ninth grade (sometimes at the beginning of tenth grade) because all ninth graders took their boards (their first-ever standardized test since they started school).  The key determinants of the candidacy of the headboy/headgirl were the score s/he received on that test, his/her marks earned in the current grade, and an overview of the student’s academic record (almost like a background check). Beyond that, the principal and the faculty decided which student among the top scorers on the boards should be awarded the position.  What other factors they took under consideration in making the eventual decision is a mystery to me, but they did, and that chosen student started his/her tenth grade as a headboy/headgirl in his/her green blazer with a special patch on the chest.

This is very different from a valedictorian who receives the recognition at the very end of school.  My point is that I cared about the headboy/headgirl idea more than the valendictorian idea as a student.  I think this is because of attached value of “prestige.” The headboy/headgirl meant more to kids since you got to enjoy a full year of the special distinction. But, did the headboy/headgirl maintain his/her excellence over the next year?  They sometimes did, sometimes not.  A question comes to mind: is hunger for prestige something that has a place in education? I think not, because prestige can lead to pretentiousness. But at the same time seeking  prestige can lead to something good: a goal oriented, dedicated students who is relentless in his/her efforts to achieve mastery in school overall.  It’s very difficult for me to dismiss either argument right now.

I don’t think we need valedictorians/headboys/headgirls.  However, as a kid, if I had to chose between the two I’d rather have a headboy/headgirl than a valedictorian awarded at my school.  It’s like earning a one-year term of presidency, which comes with respect, honor, responsibility, and well, special treatment. For this last “perk” I sometimes think the valedictorian is better to have than a headboy/headgirl; they don’t walk around the whole year, dressed in special uniform, making other kids jealous and angry.  I also hear a voice in the back of my head that says, “There are headboys, headgirls, and valedictorians in every field everywhere in the real world; so, why not have them in our schools as well.  Nearly every work place has the best worker, the best teacher, revered doctor, distinguished researcher, etc.  Aren’t these people the equivalent of valedictorians and headboys in schools? May be we do need them.  Our society values headboys and valedictorians in every field, so why not continue having them in our schools?”  I haven’t yet been able to give a counterargument to this voice.

Reflections on Chapters 1-3 of “Fair isn’t always equal: assessing & grading in the differentiated classroom.”

Chapter 1:

Differentiation is not a “new” idea.  Before thinking about grading, it is important to understand and accept differentiation as it is meant to be: good teaching with the ultimate goal of student growth. It entails approaching students in different teaching ways that are appropriate for their needs and that will help students reach their potential.

Chapter 2:

The simile example in this chapter is interesting.  I have trouble with one assumption the author makes from the student’s response.  The assumption that students understands the difference between a simile and a metaphor because he did not circle any of the metaphors does not necessarily mean that the student knows what a metaphor is and can there differentiate it from a simile.  I feel that the one thing that the student demonstrates is that s/he knows that some similes contain the word “like” in them.  The student identified the part of the the sentence following the word “like” as a simile not the portion before the word.  Well, it doesn’t matter because hat is not the point of the chapter.  I agree with the author’s take that mastery can only be assumed if a students demonstrates success multiple times in multiple ways (by multiple ways I mean in different circumstances, for the lack of a better word). So, what is “mastery” for me?

Mastery is…when one is able to retrieve information about a subject, state/express explicit and implicit information about it, does not require assistance in dealing with problems in the subject, is able to deconstruct the subject into foundational ideas, and use the learned information in applicable situations when its most relevant.

Understanding is like…an onion; it is composed of layers of information, neatly stacked and appropriately organized.

My students are literate in my subject when they… can tell the difference between fact, fiction, and opinion, find information independently from an appropriate and legitimate source, can back up claims with appropriate and legitimate evidence.

I found the author’s idea of “mastery” difficult to understand at first; however, he stresses that mastery depends on the objectives of the lesson as well as the enduring understanding.  The standards do not tell us where to start the lessons.  They tell us what the students need to show mastery of.  Therefore, teachers have to “unpack” the standards thoroughly to ensure that students will be taught the “idea/knowledge” in depth, which can then be assessed for mastery.

 

Chapter 3:

What does grading mean? What is its purpose and how do I use it?  I strongly feel that I have a lot of work to do in terms of grading.  I’ve traditionally been the “categories and percentages” guy.  The categories and percentages system I’ve used is based on four-point scale.  Without going in depth of my grading system(s), let me just admit that it does not work.  I’m always bogged down by grading and putting assignments in the computer under their proper categories.  I have also always graded vague things like participation and effort.  And, I’m not even talk about the homework, which is 10% of the grade.  The whole thing is just overwhelming, hard to keep up with, and it fails, fails to produce accurate data about a student’s progress in terms of mastery of the content being taught.

A grading system, like the author suggests, should serve some very vital functions.  My student’s grade should tell me how much they have learned, how much more do they need to learn, and how well have they mastered what I think they have indeed learned.  It should communicate the same things, for the most part, to the parents and the students themselves.  The pass/fail numbers that students get (95, 85, 75, etc.) do not communicate.  They don’t give insight and they don’t give me, the teacher, the information I need to raise my students’ mastery of the subject I teach them.  Consequently, teachers have to create separate data sheets – writing data, reading data, math levels, etc. – to get the information they need to teacher more, teach better, and teach to raise student achievement.  This is a lot of work. (Tangent alert: I tell people that a teacher can perform pretty much any job they can think of.  We have to statisticians, engineers, doctors, psychologists, actors/comedians, computer programmers, and everything else on any given day in a classroom.  This is not to say we are masters of each of these arts but we employ, have to employ, skills and strategies from all sorts of professions).

Wouldn’t it be nice if my grading system accurately reflelcted the needs of my students and helped me identify the things I need to do for to get the student to achieve standards? It would be nice.  

I hope that with the help of the very intelligent group of coworkers, we can arrive at such a system: a system that measures mastery, proficiency, and competency (more on these three categories later).