Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Have GOT To Be Freaking Kidding Me

Did you ever have a student who really struggled with a concept?  I mean really struggled.  We're talking this child pushed you to explain things more ways than you knew was possible, asked you for example after example, spent countless hours practicing over and over and over with you cheering them on from the sidelines and then looked up at you day and said, "Huh?"  Yes, that child. 

It happens.  We cover some tough stuff in elementary school and some friends are bound to struggle, right?  


Of course, that's normal.  That's to be expected.  That's what we signed up for.

I had a student (okay, several students) who had a tough time distinguishing and using the hour hand and the minute hand on an analog clock.  Throw in the cluster f*ck that NONE of the clocks in their homes were analog and therefore they had no true real word connection or purpose for this learning except to draw little crooked hands on a worksheet/test and you've got yourself one little educational conundrum.   We practiced and practiced and they still didn't understand why the two hands weren't interchangeable. 

"Why can't you use the short hand to tell the minute again, Mrs. Mimi?"
"Because it just doesn't measure the minute, honey.  It shows us the hour."
"Why?"
"Well, that's just the way it is.  The minute hand shows us the minute and the hour hand tells us the hour."

Eventually, these friends figured it out.  They learned that the short hand is the hour hand and it shows us the hour.  It's related to it's friend the minute hand, but it looks slightly different and serves a different purpose.

Kind of like standardized tests and evaluating teacher performance.  They sound similar and yes, they are in fact related to each other but ONE DOES NOT MEASURE THE OTHER.  Teacher performance is teacher performance and it doesn't tell us absolutely how a child is going to perform on a standardized test.  And standardized tests are standardized tests and they don't truly indicate the how well a teacher did his or her job with said student. 

Now if my little friends can grasp a concept as abstract as telling time on an analog clock, certainly well educated adults can understand the difference between a test that was designed to measure student's ability in one narrow aspect of their learning and the complicated task that is evaluating a teacher's performance across an entire school year. 

Right?

Right?!?

Um, evidently not.  Yesterday I saw this little piece of a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/la-times-rates-teachers-again-unfortunately/2011/05/09/AFA2TNZG_blog.html#pagebreak">unfortunate bullshit floating around the internet.  Okay, the article itself is not bullshit, but the fact that the LA Times has YET AGAIN published teacher effectiveness scores based on some crap filled formula that THEY DEVELOPED (because OF COURSE they can do the impossible...which is turn complete ridiculousness into truth by putting it in print) despite the fact that a) standardized tests are not designed to measure TEACHER performance b) standardized tests don't even accurately measure a STUDENT's true ability c) many smart people have demonstrated that this math simply does not add up and d) it is unbelievably irresponsible and will bring nothing but trouble upon educators who are trying their damndest to teach in some of the most constraining conditions in history.

Now I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't be evaluated at all.  That's insane.  Of course we should be held accountable for our work and of course we should have a formal evaluation process.  However, when are the Powers That Be going to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths?  Publicly, they say things like, "We have respect of teachers," and "Teachers are responsible for our future.  It's  a big job," and blah blah blah but then, THEN.  Then, behind closed doors they devise plans so quick and dirty, so disrespectful, so illogical like tying a teacher's evaluation (and possibly PAY) to the score a student receives on a test!

Are we educators or are we test prep tutors?  Do the Powers That Be REALLY have any respect or understanding of the scope of what we do?  EVERY DAY.  Because if the Powers That Be did have a shred of respect for us or possess an ounce of understanding, I'd like to think they'd take the time to design a system of evaluation that honored the complexity of our work and the context in which we do this work.

Friday, May 6, 2011

This Idea May Knock Your Fabulous Peep Toe Pumps Off!

Friends. Mrs. Mimi has been around the block. (An observation which should not be taken out of context, you dirty birds!).

Because I will literally beg, borrow, and steal to get new ideas from colleagues, I have a lot of tricks in my back pocket. I mean, let's be honest. Teachers, in addition to being a little hoard-y...not TLC hoard-y, but pack ratty...are scavengers. We are constantly on the look out for a great trick, a hot little tip, a new idea to try, and, you know, maybe a little acknowledgment, but that's a conversation for another day.

(Teacher Appreciation Week Alert!!! That means let's get the ball rolling by appreciating ourselves- find a Super Colleague who has rocked your educational world and give them a thank you, a high five, some chocolate- we are all whores for chocolate come 2:00, no?)

Back to the issue at hand. Basically, what I'm saying is that Rockstar Teachers are always on the lookout for something fabulous they can use. And, being the personal horn tooter that I am, I consider myself to be fairly Rockstar. That's not to say I know it all, however, far from it. Because last week, last week, I heard an idea so fabulously simple, useful and seemingly obvious that I nearly passed out from all the screaming and high-fiving. I did manage to pull myself together in time to run (and I can move in heels, people) to the nearest office supply store before they closed.

(On some level, you had to know this would involve a trip to Staples, right? If only just to visit the Sharpie aisle?)

Have I kept you waiting long enough? I hope my revelation isn't too much of a let down after all this waxing and waning...I have always struggled with knowing when to reign it in, particularly when we are talking innovations in organization.

Ahem.

So, this new idea, this revolution is related to getting our little friends to use the high frequency word wall when writing. Or when encouraging them to refer to the flarking editing checklist you have been talking about for the last hojillion months. Or when you have the anchor chart to end all anchor charts filled with strategies that would make their lives SO MUCH EASIER if they would just turn their heads thirty degrees and look at the flipping thing.

Yea, this idea is for then.

You need writing folders that have those little brad thingamajiggies in them and sheet protectors with binder holes along the side. Then, you shrink down your word wall, checklist, strategy chart to a standard 8 1/2 by 11 page and slide it into the sheet protector you've secured I the middle of their folder. You can even insert several of the aforementioned bits of genius into their folders and really teach the crap out of them.

KA BOOM!

Did I just drop some organizational knowledge or what?!

I kind of want to drop the mike and walk away or something, what with my flair for drama and all.

OK. Maybe this idea will not solve the world's problems (or get your friends to spell "beautiful" correctly) but all we can do is lead the horse to water, right?




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 5, 2011

SOMEONE GET ME A COCKTAIL....STAT!

I can totally shout things like, "Stat!" now because ...

(drumroll please)

I am officially Dr. Mimi! (And doctors get to say stuff like "stat" which makes the years of schooling and hojillions of dollars in tuition totally worth it, right?  RIGHT?)

Let me say that again, just for ha has.

I AM OFFICIALLY DR. MIMI!!

To be totally honest, it's actually been about 16 days (but who's counting?) since it became official.  Those of you who follow me over on Facey heard first hand as soon as my oral defense was over.  (See what you're missing if you're not cyber stalking The Mimi?)  It's taken me a few days to write a post about this because I have literally spent the last 16 days crying tears of relief, feverishly making minor revisions and clearing up formatting issues and sleeping the sleep of the dead (minus nightly interruptions from you-know-who...Mini Mimi, mommy is looking at YOU!) 

But now it's turned in.  It's over.  O.V.E.R. 

Seven years ago, an envelope arrived that changed my life.  In my usual overly-dramatic fashion, I refused to open it and insisted that Mr. Mimi do the unveiling (although he was just Boyfriend Mimi back then...it's been a loooooong time, people).  In those days, Mr. Mimi had just moved to NYC, had yet to find a job and I was trying to support myself in a fabulous apartment on a teacher's salary.  (Translation: We was po.) He barely got out the words, "You got in," before I started screaminig.   After much high-fiving, hugging, and some more screaming, we went out to celebrate.  We went to a cute bistro around the corner and, after pooling our resources, realized we had enough to split one cheeseburger and get one drink.  Clearly, I drank the whole cocktail myself...it was the most delicious bellini I think I've ever had.  (Don't ask why I chose a bellini...they were probably drinking them on SATC at the time and I can be a bit impressionable.) 

In the last seven years, I have spent countless nights reading articles, writing papers, preparing for study groups, going to class and banging my head against the wall.  (Bet you didn't know that was part of the process, did you?  Well, it is.  A very big part, in fact.)  Boyfriend Mimi turned into Mr. Mimi and friends, that man deserves a medal.  He has brought me more dinners, talked me off more ledges and supported me more completely than I could ever ask for. 

Sixteen days ago, he came with me and sat outside in the hallway, while I defended myself and my dissertation.  He stood by me as we waited for The Decision.  And before I had a chance to barf in a nearby trashcan (again, the drama friends, the drama), the door opened and I heard the words, "Congratulations." 

(Cue more hugging and crying. I managed to hold it together and not scream.  Snaps for me, right?)  After thanking my amaze balls committee, Mr. Mimi and I headed back to that same bistro and ordered TWO cheeseburgers and TWO bellinis.  And can I just say: Best.  Burger.  Ever.

So, while I may make you all call me Dr. Mimi for a little while, I think I'll stick with Mrs. Mimi.  Because even though I am a fancy-pants DOCTOR now, I always have been and always will be a TEACHER and Mrs. Mimi just seems to fit, doesn't it?

Thanks for all the cyber support and understanding.  It's meant more than I can say.

xo,
Mimi

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week?

(Notice the question mark, friends.  It is very intentionally placed.)

If I could, I would personally appreciate the sh*t out of each and every one of you!

In years past, I have noted that this WEEK LONG EXTRAVAGANZA often goes unnoticed in many schools.  Seriously, non-teachers, at least show some appreciation on one day, a morning, or an afternoon maybe...something!

Now I get to spend my time in a lot of different schools, I get to see the full spectrum of celebration.  From schools that throw full blown luncheons complete with bottles of water, macaroni salad that does not resemble a soup thanks to a generous portion of mayonnaise, and cookies (the soft ones!)
to schools who not only have lost their manners, but have managed to become all out abusive.

I googled "teacher appreciate week" and half expected the screen to say, "Are you serious?  Um, zero matches, sucker."  Instead, I found these:

* A chance to win $5000 - cha ching! - sponsored by Febreze.  (Can they smell my classroom from their corporate head quarters?)

* A chance to win a gift card for the food of our people (a.k.a. coffee) from Starbucks.  I think the $30 may get you two and half drinks with names that last longer than teacher appreciation week.

* A discount for you to buy more stuff for your classroom because, contrary to popular belief, we are not all lazy SOBs.

* A discount for Mecca (a.k.a. The Container Store) so you can organize until you are grinning from ear to ear.

And if you're still feeling unappreciated this week, if you're one of those teachers who received a rape whistle, a chance at a ream of paper or a glance in the hallway....here's a little something to lift your spirits.

I appreciate you.  For what it's worth.

xo,
Mimi

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