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timeclock of doomImage by eyemage via Flickr

This is a question that is often asked by teachers, administrators, parents, the tax payer and politicians.  Actually it is in my opinion one of those million dollar questions that we in education need to answer.  Who owns the teacher’s time when it is time for school break?

Most teachers are paid based on an about 180 work days annual contract.  The majority of teachers voluntarily choose to have our pay reduced, to be paid year-round, instead of receiving a higher rate of pay during the school year. So they will receive their salary year-round instead of over about 9-10 months.

This means we do not get paid for Federal/State holidays and we do not get paid vacation pay when school is not in session – contrary to what many outside of education believe.  Is it time to look at the time teachers are not being paid – differently?  After all this is considered Non Paid Time-Off (NPTO).

Can you be a good teacher only on 180 days a year?  I don’t think so, but that is what they base our pay on.
So that brings us to the conundrum of when teacher’s are not in school during school breaks, what are the expectations for a teacher to do “school work” or “education” related stuff and they are not being paid to be a teacher?  Is this time for teachers to do what they want or is it understood that this time should be used to do school work, do professional development activities, take classes or other things that are related to teaching?

I believe that is the expectation of most  some administrators, politicians and even other teachers that theses school breaks “should” be used to complete school work or improve yourself as an educator.   In other words teachers are expected to volunteer to do school related work or professional development for free, something that most professions wouldn’t typically do on their own time if it was related to their work, simply because we are teachers.

Why?  What is the reason for those expectations?

I remember my first month as a teacher and my Lead Special Education said to me when I complained about how much work I had to do at home on my own time.  “Get used to it, if you want to keep being a teacher, this is what you will do.”

When teacher’s are not being paid to teach, isn’t their time away from teaching their own?

If the powers-that be – want us to think more like they do in business, i.e. to use a business model to run schools this is also an area they need to consider – the amount of volunteering that teachers do without pay for their schools and students.

When I hear comments like “seriously? It’s all about being on the clock?” in response to a question posed about teachers and what they do with their time off during summer break, from an prominent education consultant on Twitter, it does twist my knickers a little bit.  I can understand the snarky comment, but really, I believe that consultants consider the “clock” important too in how they bill their clients, usually to the tune of much more than most teachers earn while they are on the same clock.  Yes I am being a bit snarky myself here.  I just get tired of the disrespect that teachers seem to get within our own community.

I don’t know of too many teachers who worry too much about being on the clock, BUT sometimes I wonder if leadership and other teachers “forget” that we are not on the clock in the evening, on school breaks and holidays.

How does this relate to Special Education?  It is just a reminder that most Special Education and Regular Education teachers work many, many days beyond the 180 days or so they are paid for under their annual contract.  That when they attend meetings, are working on paperwork, preparing for next year’s class, correcting papers, preparing lesson plans and doing professional development during their school breaks, it is because they believe their students are important enough to volunteer their personal time off to see them improve.

The bottom line to me is:  Teaching is not about the money, otherwise we would not be teachers.


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" Another Brick In The Walls "Image by gmayster01 …. via Flickr

In my WHY WE HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO REALITY post yesterday, I expected some push back and received it in the form of the below Tweet from Joe Bower.

http://j.mp/djH6yT <realismbreedsapathyabout 15 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

I enjoy what this dialogue brings to the table and the best thing it does is make me think about what I am doing to promote a more progressive education system in my school, State and Country than our current educational system is.

But I do not believe that paying attention to reality/realism breeds apathy.

Unfortunately, reality or realism does get in the way of what we want to do in our professional or personal lives.

Until laws, regulation and leadership are changed, the reality is that Standardized Testing, Standards, Punitive Accountability, Grading, etc. are a part of most public school classrooms in many Countries in today’s world, especially the U.S.   While I do not personally agree with much of the Conservative agenda in education, I am working for change in my own ways – maybe more quietly than others might, but I am pushing a more progressive educational philosophy whenever I have the appropriate opportunity.

My style to promote changes that I see as necessary is more behind the scenes and I tend not to be confrontational or inflammatory.  I believe it is better to build bridges to those with differing viewpoints, than it is to alienate them to the point where you are no longer heard even if you may be correct.   Do we need to stoop to the level that some of those who see a progressive educational philosophy as a failure and spout tremendous amounts of propaganda or vitriol to promote their failing system instead.  I personally do not want to, if others do that is their choice, but I have to wonder if we need any more inflammatory words, aren’t there enough of them out there already?

I believe that Joe and I do want what is best for our students and we both would like for all teachers to teach in a more progressive manner in our schools.  He appears to be at the forefront of using and pushing the progressive education agenda and I appear to be more towards the middle ground.  Many of the progressive educational ideas and policies that have more widespread support on Twitter and the Blogosphere where I listen so intently to; in our online echo chamber, do not enjoy the same level of public support beyond it.

The reality is that progressive education (in the United States at least) is not doing very well with those in educational leadership positions, those with money, edubusiness or those that get to make the laws, rules or regulations – i.e. the people who hold the power in the education system  today.  I don’t see (as much as I might like) Alfie Kohn or other progressive leaders being considered as the Secretary of Education or for other important educational leadership policy level positions and don’t foresee that happening in the near future, especially in the U.S.

I believe that until what I see as bad educational laws, rules, leadership, etc. repealed/changed, that we must continue to work within the present system as much as possible to continue to advocate for and teach our students beyond the bubble mentality.

However, as a probationary teacher, if I do not take seriously the requirements that my administrators make of me to ensure that my classes and school meet current requirements, I will not be teaching at my school for very long – that too is a reality.  So is it better for teachers like me to be uncompromising on how and what we teach, be vocal and outspoken about demanding those changes, be labelled a trouble-makers and then suddenly not be teachers.

Or is it more sensible for us to make necessary compromises to remain in the classroom and continue teach?  The answer from my perspective is very easy to make and I have made it, I am not Don Quixote.

In my eyes it is better to face the realities of a situation, acknowledge them, do the best I can within that reality, and work hard to change policies that I do not agree with.

Does my realism breed antipathy?  I hope not and I really don’t believe so, but the answer to that question is a matter of perspective and is in the eye of the beholder.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda


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the case for standardized testingImage bywoodleywonderworks via Flickr

Most of the time I tend to live in the real world, not some make-believe fantastic place where everything goes the way that I believe it should.

Through the web I have been exposed to wonderful people and many ideas on education that I never would have thought of on my own. But sometimes there is a danger to being exposed to too many ideas and not taking the time to properly research the applicability of those ideas to your personal situation. The danger of expectations of what could be if you did X, Y or Z and then believing that you can change things overnight by yourself. Sorry folks that isn’t reality.

The reality is that I have to focus on what I can do and will be allowed to do in my classroom by the administration of my school and District. If they decide that we are going to use Common Core Standards, Standardized Assessments, Aggressive filtering of the internet, assigning and posting grades, and all the other things that some progressive educators speak so negatively about – I will.
The bottom line is that my school district is a rather poor rural district, that is 95% or more Caucasian, rather conservative and has a higher than average percentage of special education students. While I might personally agree with many of the progressive educational ideas the Alfie Kohns, Chris Lehman, Joe Bowers and the multitude of other progressive educators that I follow and read their Tweets or Blogs online and in their books. What is the reality in my classroom?
Homework: I don’t routinely assign homework, unless there is a specific purpose for it – so I guess that fits into the progressive framework.
Grades: No choice here, I will grade students and their grades will be posted to Infinite Campus, so that parents are aware of how their students are doing in my class. Not open for discussion or negotiation. Actually while the idea of not having grades per se is an intriguing way to do things, I personally am not quite ready for it-argue all you want about how great it is and everything, I just am not ready for that yet as a teacher – castigate me all you want, I have broad shoulders. What I do want to do is an actual Standards Based Grading system (if we are going that direction, let’s go all in), not the grade averaging that happens within Infinite Campus now. This will be an ongoing project on my part.
Technology in the classroom. Big believer here, I strongly believe that we need to teach students how to establish a positive online identity and show them how to transfer their knowledge to use other software or applications. I am lucky to teach in a 1:1 school/state for middle school students. Blocking is very conservative, but is becoming less and less of an issue as we move forward. There is a good balance between blocking for CYA and blocking appropriately and we are heading towards that balance. I have been asked to facilitate a 3 hour session on blogging, so there is interest.
Standardized Testing: We do a lot of it and will continue to do a lot of it. That is how the “game” is played under NCLB. In order to remain in the good graces of those that fund us, we need to reach certain scores on our assessments. As much as I may have different beliefs about standardized testing, I need to make it as least intrusive as possible and incorporate teaching strategies for our students to be as successful as they can.
Common Core Standards: When it is approved, we will incorporate it into our curriculum, in fact we already are planning to include it in the English Curriculum that is being developed this summer. This is just the way it is and I will be prepared to incorporate it into the classroom, so that I am not behind the eight-ball when the time comes.
Student-Centered: My classroom is student-centered and admin has allowed this to the maximum extent that I have asked for. I came there with a reputation of being a student-centered teacher and was upfront that that is who I am and how I teach when I went through the interview process. As long as I stay within the parameters of the school’s policies and procedures no one bothers me.
Actually from what I saw last year I am lucky where I work (no it is not a progressive teacher’s paradise) but I actually believe that I we are given a pretty reasonable amount of leeway (within certain boundaries) at our school to be progressive in our classrooms.
Working at my school, just like many other teachers in their’s, means that means that I have to compromise on some of my beliefs and teach in ways that I might not agree with 100% as a condition of my remaining an employee of my school district.
Although I might not agree with some of the policies or procedures in place, it means that I will support them when I am in front of the students or to the public. This is something that I learned from my time in the military, you must publicly agree with you superior, but behind closed doors you can talk freely and I feel that I have that where I work. It might not be what many advocate or want to do, but it is how I do things. I do plan to ask to be part of different school committees that interest me and try to work from within the system on things that I might not agree with to see if I can affect small changes.
If you are vocal in your disagreements with others on policies or procedures be careful of how you voice your opinion. Do not be insulting or close-minded to others because they disagree with your position, even if you know you are correct (but who knows maybe you are not?). All that does is alienate others even further and cause even wider gaps between educators than exist today.
There is enough negativity towards educators today, we need collegial disagreement, not in your face insinuation or accusations with other educators that disagree with our positions.
Am I being co-opted by taking a middle ground or not be out there to advance progressive educational ideas? According to some in the progressive camp I might be, but in my experience it is the right way for me. While I may not be very subversive or in your face in my attempts to get change accomplished quickly, I believe in the long run if enough of us do it, change will happen and will be done correctly.
I will continue to write about my progressive educational beliefs on my blog and learn as much as I can my PLN so that when the opportunity presents itself to advocate for more student-centered or progressive initiative/policy, I will be able to give viable alternatives to more conservative ideas.


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Okay I admit it, I am officially overwhelmed.

I made a commitment to read the Common Core Standards this week.  I have read, marked up, skimmed, read some more, skimmed some more and am totallybrain dead.  The Common Core Standards in the manner they are written is very daunting for me to read or learn more about the standards and direction that I will be teaching in the future.
Maybe it is just me, but I am seriously questioning how I will implement these standards into my classroom over the course of the next few years?  I hope that the Maine State Department of Education provides the teacher in the classroom multiple opportunities for training in implementing these standards.  A single 4 or 6 hour training session is not going to be of much use.  If they hope to do a train the trainers and then have those trainers train their local school district type of professional development for this Common Core Standards implementation it will fail miserably and be implemented poorly at the school level.
While reading the standards I marked up some over-arching points that I have questions or comments about:

“in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.”

This is a great ideal, but is the reality that all students are going to be ready for college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school?  What about students that don’t want to attend college, those that don’t or won’t meet these rigorous standards by the end of today’s typical high school experience?

“The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly. “

I understand the authors’ intent for this to be a good thing, but what protections are in place to ensure that something like what happened in Texas does not take place at the national level?  This is one of the things about the Common Core Standards that scares me the most, who re-writes the standards in the future?

“The Standards set requirements not only for English language arts (ELA) but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.”

These standards are requirements that once adopted by the States become the way it is.  This is going to be a huge change for those teachers to be held responsible for literacy in their classroom and looking back to my previous comment about who re-writes these standards will also get to re-write what our students learn about history and science.

…”In short, students who meet the Standards develop the skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language.”

Again a great generic statement, but what about those students who do not meet the standard and will never meet these standards, what do we do with them?  How does not meeting these standard impact their future?  I guess that is left to the State or Local school district.

“Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade- specific standards, retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades, and work steadily toward meeting the more general expectations described by the CCR standards.”

What happens when students do not meet CCR standards for their grade level?  I understand that Maine’s RTTP proposal discusses lessening the importance of grades and becoming more flexible, but will school district’s go along with that change?

“The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations. No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom. However, the Standards do provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students.”

This paragraph gives me the biggest headache, the Common Core Standards go into such rich detail on where students should be at each grade level, yet they completely abdicate any responsibility on students that will need remediation, they have provided a great deal of documentation on attainment or setting the bar, but only vague encouragement on what is going to be the largest issue with these Standards – how to assist students who do not meet/can not meet and will not meet these very rigorous standards.  That is the reality and that is going to happen.

“The Standards should also be read as allowing for the widest possible range of students to participate fully from the outset and as permitting appropriate accommodations to ensure maximum participation of students with special education needs. For example, for students with disabilities reading should allow for the use of Braille, screen-reader technology, or other assistive devices, while writing should include the use of a scribe, computer, or speech-to- text technology. In a similar vein, speaking and listening should be interpreted broadly to include sign language.”

Similarly, the Common Core Standards are very limited and weak with their assistance to those of us who teach Special Education.  They provide this paragraph and a letter addendum Application to Students with Disabilities that says absolutely nothing to help the Special Education Teacher implement these standards in our classrooms.  Do we teach the grade level standard that the student(s) are at or do we attempt to teach the grade level they are in with accommodations and modifications?  I understand that the writers of the Common Core Standards wanted to stay away, far away from Special Education student needs, but saying:

“These common standards provide an historic opportunity to improve access to rigorous academic content standards for students with disabilities. The continued development of understanding about research-based instructional practices and a focus on their effective implementation will help improve access to mathematics and English language arts (ELA) standards for all students, including those with disabilities.”

is a rather simplistic statement, does a disservice to all who provide any kind of remedial instruction and does not give this reader any warm and fuzzy feelings about how these Common Core Standards will be implemented for Special Education students.  It basically says to meet them or else…what is the or else going to be?
I am concerned that even after many years of having a Standards Based education in Maine that many schools still are not teaching or grading using standards based systems.  How will this change with the Common Core Standards?  Will it?  I actually doubt it very much a lot of lip service has been given to Standards Based Education but not many actually teach that way.

When do we hold our students accountable for the standards?  Do our present Middle Schoolers have to meet these Standards to graduate from high school?

I have many questions about the implementation of the Common Core Standards here in Maine and how we will actually go about it.  I am concerned that proper training and professional development will not be correctly done, due to the lack of funds (after all we are in the midst of a financial crisis in education in case no one has noticed) and that it will be implemented poorly or piece meal at best.

As I said at the start of this post, I am overwhelmed by the number and complexity of these standards.  Perhaps it is only because this is my initial close review of them, but I do not believe that I will be alone in this feeling.  If I as a trained education professional feels overwhelmed by the Common Core Standards, how will most non-educators feel about it.  Most of them will not even read it due to its length and complexity and will rely on “others” to tell them what is in it and how great it is for their children or grandchildren. Is that a good thing?  I don’t think so, but it is the reality as I see it.

Oh well I certainly have a lot more learning to do in regards to the Common Core Standards and I have a sneaking suspicion that it will cause me a lot more work before it is all said and done.  I am not against educational standards per se, having a road map, so that I know what students are expected to know is actually fairly helpful to me in planning for my classroom.

However, there are so many different standards for ELA, that I haven’t been able to wrap my head around all the expectation and how to implement them in a Special Education Resource Room English class.  Who knows maybe there will be a graduate level class I can take that focuses on implementing CCR into my classroom – more money for someone.
Finally, as a Special Education Teacher, I worry that my present and future students are going to be left holding the wrong end of the stick “yet again”.  I agree with the idea of aiming high, but you know sometimes, I wonder sometimes if the people who put these Standards together live in the same world that I seem to be living in?


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Portland Head LightImage by Jim Liestman via Flickr

I have been forcing myself to read the Common Core Standards (CCS) that will soon be Maine’s Educational Standards.   I believe that I need to read the source documents of what I will be responsible for teaching in my Resource Room English class and be ready to discuss, what will be required by the CCS, when we continue our discussions on the Junior High English Curriculum later in the summer.

There certainly does seem to be a lot more pages in the CCS compared to the old Maine Learning Results – it must be a federal government thing, it needs to be a “large” document to be important.  I wonder if the extra pages will result in more learning?  Sorry couldn’t resist being a little snarky there.  This unofficially mandated change (if a State wants to participate in RTTP grand funding opportunities – this is one of the requirements – no matter how much Mr. Duncan says otherwise that the Feds are not mandating adoption of the CCS).

This change is tough for me (especially after all the changes that Maine has undergone major changes in its Standards over in the last 10 years (LAS, MLR, updated MLR and this is just another change), just like most everyone else and I haven’t decided whether National Standards are a good thing or not.  I have written about my thoughts on Standards in THINKING ABOUT FREEDOM AND TEXAS and Alternate National Education Standards.  There I have put my personal bias on the table for everyone to see.

Not that my opinion really matters all that much, because when, not if my school implements the CCS and gives me the marching order to implement them in my classroom, I will to the best of my ability – it is how I operate.  I may not always agree with the direction we are heading, but once the decision has been made I will publicly support it and work to make it a positive thing in my classroom.  Sometimes you simply have to do what you are told if you want to keep doing what you love.

Our State DOE sent out an email which recommended the reading order for the CCS, which begins with Appendix A: Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards / Glossary of Key Terms.

From what I have read so far in Appendix A there has been more than a little thought on the rationale behind the ones that were chosen and what they want students to know when they have completed grade 12.  But there sure is a lot of “paper” to read.

The biggest thing that I really need to learn cold is the vocabulary (which I thought I would have a pretty good handle on), but some of the definition of some key terms is different than I would have interpreted them, without the glossary.  Therefore I have copied the glossary to this blog for you to see what I mean and my quick reference.
I have added some more comments below the Glossary of Key Terms, so if you want to continue reading just scroll through the glossary.

Copied from Appendix A: Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards / Glossary of Key Terms

Glossary of Key Terms
Every effort has been made to ensure that the phrasing of the Standards is as clear and free of jargon as possible. When used, specialized and discipline-specific terms (e.g., simile, stanza,declarative sentence) typically conform to their standard definition, and readers are advised to consult high-quality dictionaries or standard resources in the field for clarification. The terms defined below are limited to those words and phrases particularly important to the Standards and that have a meaning unique to this document. CCSS refers to the main Common Core State Standards document; the names of various sections (e.g., “Reading”) refer to parts of this appendix.
Definitions of many important terms associated with reading foundational skills appear in Reading Foundational Skills, pages 19–25. Descriptions of the Standards’ three writing types (argument, informative/explanatory writing, and narrative) can be found in Writing, pages 26–27.
Domain-specific words and phrases – Vocabulary specific to a particular field of study (domain), such as the human body (CCSS, p. 32); in the Standards, domain-specific words and phrases are analogous to Tier Three words (Lan guage, p. 36).
Editing – A part of writing and preparing presentations concerned chiefly with improving the clarity, organization, concision, and correctness of expression relative to task, purpose, and audience; compared to revising, a smaller-scale activity often associated with surface aspects of a text; see also revising, rewriting
Emergent reader texts – Texts consisting of short sentences comprised of learned sight words and CVC words; may also include rebuses to represent words that cannot yet be decoded or recognized; see also rebus
Evidence – Facts, figures, details, quotations, or other sources of data and information that provide support for claims or an analysis and that can be evaluated by others; should appear in a form and be derived from a source widely accepted as appropriate to a particular discipline, as in details or quotations from a text in the study of literature and experimental results in the study of science
Focused question – A query narrowly tailored to task, purpose, and audience, as in a research query that is sufficiently precise to allow a student to achieve adequate specificity and depth within the time and format constraints
Formal English – See standard English General academic words and phrases – Vocabulary common to written texts but not commonly a part of speech; in the Standards, general academic words and phrases are analogous to Tier Two words and phrases (Language, p 36)
Independent(ly) – A student performance done without scaffolding from a teacher, other adult, or peer; in the Standards, often paired with proficient(ly) to suggest a successful student performance done without scaffolding; in the Reading standards, the act of reading a text without scaffolding, as in an assessment; see also proficient(ly), scaffolding
More sustained research project – An investigation intended to address a relatively expansive query using several sources over an extended period of time, as in a few weeks of instructional time
Point of view – Chiefly in literary texts, the narrative point of view (as in first- or third-person narration); more broadly, the position or perspective conveyed or represented by an author, narrator, speaker, or character
Print or digital (texts, sources) – Sometimes added for emphasis to stress that a given standard is particularly likely to be applied to electronic as well as traditional texts; the standards are generally assumed to apply to both
Proficient(ly) – A student performance that meets the criterion established in the Standards as measured by a teacher or assessment; in the Standards, often paired with independent(ly) to suggest a successful student performance done without scaffolding; in the Reading standards, the act of reading a text with comprehension; see also independent(ly), scaffolding
Rebus – A mode of expressing words and phrases by using pictures of objects whose names resemble those words
Revising – A part of writing and preparing presentations concerned chiefly with a reconsideration and reworking of the content of a text relative to task, purpose, and audience; compared to editing, a larger-scale activity often associated with the overall content and structure of a text; see also editing, rewriting
Rewriting – A part of writing and preparing presentations that involves largely or wholly replacing a previous, unsatisfactory effort with a new effort, better aligned to task, purpose, and audience, on the same or a similar topic or theme; compared to revising, a larger-scale activity more akin to replacement than refinement; see also editing, revising
Scaffolding – Temporary guidance or assistance provided to a student by a teacher, another adult, or a more capable peer, enabling the student to perform a task he or she otherwise would not be able to do alone, with the goal of fostering the student’s capacity to perform the task on his or her own later on*
Short research project – An investigation intended to address a narrowly tailored query in a brief period of time, as in a few class periods or a week of instructional time
Source – A text used largely for informational purposes, as in research; see also text
Standard English – In the Standards, the most widely accepted and understood form of expression in English in the United States; used in the Standards to refer to formal English writing and speaking; the particular focus of Language standards 1 and 2 (CCSS, pp. 25, 27, 52, 54)
Technical subjects – A course devoted to a practical study, such as engineering, technology, design, business, or other workforce-related subject; a technical aspect of a wider field of study, such as art or music
Text complexity – The inherent difficulty of reading and comprehending a text combined with consideration of reader and task variables; in the Standards, a three-part assessment of text difficulty that pairs qualitative and quantitative measures with reader-task considerations (CCSS, pp. ; Reading, pp. xx)
Text complexity band – A range of text difficulty corresponding to grade spans within the Standards; specifically, the spans from grades 2–3, grades 4–5, grades 6–8, grades 9–10, and grades 11–CCR (college and career readiness)
Textual evidence – See evidence With prompting and support/with (some) guidance and support – See scaffolding
* Though Vygotsky himself does not use the term scaffolding, the educational meaning of the term relates closely to his con- cept of the zone of proximal development. See L. S. Vygotsky (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychologi- cal processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

I think that it was very important to include these definitions of how the CCS uses them.  My initial read and mark up of Appendix A hasn’t shown me any real troubling or reasons to embrace CCS.  A lot of what is in there is basic methods/pedagogy.

The biggest complaints that I have so far is the amount of reading that is required to get to know these standards and that how many of my student’s parents will/can read and understand these new standards.  They are not non-educator friendly and certainly are full of edu-speak.

I wonder where on the Lexile Rating Scale that these documents were written?  A lot higher than the “average” American reads – me thinks.

Believe me this is not something that I want to spend some of my personal time on this summer, but I am doing it, and I believe that it is something every teacher should be doing who’s state will be adopting these standards, because of the effect it will have on our classrooms.

How does this relate to Special Education?  The Common Core Standards will apply to all Special Education Students as discussed in this document Application to Students with Disabilities.  We will have to wait to see how it affects Special Education.

“No-Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.”


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My presentation setup...Image by Timothy Greig via Flickr

In a couple of my previous posts, I have inferred that there is a difference between presenting and teaching. I need to explain what I believe is the difference, because it is important to our students and how we teach.

What is the difference between teaching and presenting?  Let’s look first look at the definitions:

Teaching:  education: the activities of educating or instructing; activities that impart knowledge or skill;  “wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn


Presenting:  The act of presenting, or something presented; A dramatic performance;  A lecture or speech given in front of an audience; en.wiktionary.org/wiki/presentation


In my view teaching is much more than presenting, real teaching of something ensures that the student or participant is actually understanding and learning what is being taught.  Whereas presenting to me is one of the activities of teaching that put information out there for their audience to do with as they want, without the presenter ensuring that the participants actually learned about what is being presented. It might only be a matter of semantics, but in today’s world it seems that semantics is a big deal.
My concern is that too many teachers are turning into presenters who are attempting to complete their syllabus/curriculum at a certain pace (whether by pressure from admin or self-inflicted) without regard to the actual learning that takes or does not take place in their classroom.  But by golly gumdrops they got through the entire thing before the school year was done.
Students and staff get many presentations in school, but how many of those presentations turn into learning opportunities?  I don’t believe that enough of them do.
How does this relate to Special Education?  While other students may be able to be successful in a predominately presentation method of instruction,  Special Education students typically learn differently and usually at a slower pace than their peers for a variety of reasons.  Teachers need to check for understanding or attempt different methods of explaining or assessing student knowledge of a subject to ensure whether or not the student “got” what was presented, in other words they need to teach all students in their classroom.
Educational staff need to be aware of how their instructional strategies impact all students in the classroom, not just those that do well on their tests, because it does impact their classroom management.
Presenting can and is a part of teaching, but simply presenting at subject is not teaching.
So which are you – a teacher or a presenter.


THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

GDR "village teacher" (a teacher tea...Image via Wikipedia

As part of getting ready for my 7th graders that I will be with for the next two years – I asked my 8th graders to write a letter to my next year’s7th grade classes about what they can expect in my class next year. I told them to be honest and that I was going to make these letters part of my class orientation slide show. They only had a short time to complete these. They are definitely still first draft quality letters, so please focus on the message not the mechanics.

I am only going to share some of the “best” ones, I know that I got a chuckle and smiled when I read them the first time.
“Dear seventh graders
Mr. Shaw is so mean rotten and nasty because he lets you play computer games, sleep, barley gets you in trouble and is the only one who has student appreciation day. even tho he is an old man he is allot of fun and really funny. His class is fairly easy as long as you do your work.

If you are having a bad day just tell Mr. Shaw and he will let you sit in the safe haven. The safe haven is in the corner by the lockers, ware you sit and do nothing until your mind is set on school work. Student appreciation day, Mr. Shaw byes the donuts for the class then gives the class free time for the rest of the period. Free time is fun because you can do whatever you want to do.

I worn you, almost every thing you will be doing will be on the computers, so if you don’t like working on computers like me your going to have lodes of fun. The funnest projects are the posters just don’t ask why.
Mr. Shaw is one of the best teachers you could have, not just because he knows what he is doing but he is really helpful any questions ask him. the work isn’t hard if you just get it dun you will get good grades.
Mr. Shaw does not ask for much so l hope you give him all you got.”
Dear 7th Grader Who is reading this,

You are now in Mr. Shaw’s class. He is a good teacher because he listens to you. Don’t pee him off, P.S I will laugh at you too if you get in trouble with them because I think it is funny and hard to do. When you get into class bring a book because you read every day for 15 to 20 minutes. If you are good most of the time, the last Friday of every month he will give you donuts from Hillmans. Also he will pick a movie to watch during class even though it has subtitles and that time is called Student Appreciation Day.

When you get in trouble he will negotiate with you if it is not really bad. What I mean by that is if you are having a bad day he will help make it better. He does not give home work out because you will learn it all in class. The only time you get home work is when you make him mad. He gives you lot of warnings so if I was you I would not abuse that opportunity. He rarely gets mad.

Mr. Shaw lets you fix tests when you have bad grade, but you still have to do the tests and they are usually open book, but you have to find the answers. He makes things easier than they should be, some times the answers are in front of you if you know where to look. Mr. Shaw loves using Google Docs so get used to typing.

Mr. Shaw will ask you how you would like him to run the class. He will not give you free time the hole class, but will negotiate how long you read, when you read and breaks and other stuff. When period one ends he might give you a break if you do your work. You will be doing a lot of hands on work. He takes a lot of your stuff that you think is cool and makes you learn about it.

Finally don’t dis him or Mrs Brawn because they will dis you back.

From The 8th Grader Who Wrote This.
Dear 7th Graders

With Mr. Shaw you will not get the average type of teacher. He’s not like any other teacher in this building, he is completely the opposite. Mr. Shaw will not take crap from you, so don’t even try.

You know how you come into class some times and you are tired and upset, he will ask you to go out into the hall and ask what your problem is privately. He might even tell you that you can go and dose off in the safe haven, until you are ready to come back to class.

Almost always you can work out your problems with Mr. Shaw. But he does make you work and then he wants you to work you better – try to do what he asks, he is really trying to help you do better. I’m just saying that you have a chance to do your work and also have fun some of the time.

So that is about it you will find out the rest by your self when you are in class.


What you will expect in this class is not a lot of work, Mr. Shaw is a little pushy to get you to do your work. If you dont do your work or have a bad attitude he will send you down to to the principles office. Other than him being pushy he’s one of the nicest teachers in the school. Just do what he asks you because I didn’t and I had to pay the consequences. You dont want to pay the the consequences because it sucks trust me.


To all the lucky 7th grader may u rest in peace. YOU GUYS ARE DEAD!

But serially he is a grate teacher and he is so funny, but he is vary warped. But not all the time. HE LOVES READING SO U PROBABLY WILL DO A LOT OF THAT IN HEAR. For you girls he hates it when you go to check your hair.

He loves to get work done and right on time. Mr. Shaw does not like it when people swear, even when it not really a sewer word. HE doesn’t like it when you are fooling around. He likes to watch movies then we get to do all of the work. He dooes not like it when you are chatting about girlfriend boyfriend stuff what so ever. He likes to make us laugh at him.(lol)

But he rally is a grate teacher and u will hav a vary interesting year….HAVE FUN!


It is boring you read all the time.

But on sometimes you can go on your computer for 5 mins.
You do some papers if you do them and don’t goof off you most likely go on your computer.
But if you do enything bad you to the office and down to In house.
You can come up to his room at lunch.


The assignment was to Honestly write about next year’s 7th graders could expect in my classroom. I was pleasantly surprised by the comments and the level of understanding of the direction I was trying to take my classes (no I didn’t cherry pick only the ones that said how great I was). Based on these letters there are a few things that I will change/tweak to make my classroom more student centered and have the students “do” more instead of “trying”

I just got a good chuckle from these and it made my day the first time I read them and looking them over again, put a smile back on my face. So those are the words of wisdom from last year’s 8th graders to next year’s 7th graders.


THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

Yoda's tearImage by niallkennedy via Flickr

Over the past couple of days, I have changed a lot of things on my blog and I feel very good about the direction it and I are heading.  One of the things that has always bugged me is when students, teachers, administrators or parents say that they are “trying”.

What is trying? A built in excuse to not do something? “Gee I tried and just didn’t get it, so now I don’t have to do anymore.”  Trying is not good enough.

Below is a clip from Star Wars where Yoda is attempting to teach Luke.

Yes I have been a Star Wars fan since the original came out and this scene of all the different ones has always stuck with me.

Yoda “You must unlearn what you have learned”.

Luke “Okay, I’ll give it a try”.

Yoda “No!  Try not!  Do or do not.  There is no try.”

In education we try things, we have our students try to learn what we are presenting, and we say we are trying to educate our students or make education better.  I for one am tired of the excuse “We are trying.”  Trying is a built in excuse that says we have done enough, we tried.  That’s bullshit and we all know it.
We need to focus more on the “do”.

  • What can we each do to ensure that we educate the students who are left to our charge?
  • What can we do to ensure that our students are prepared for life beyond school?
  • What can we each do to prepare ourselves to be ready when the students do show up in classrooms?
  • What can we each do to make our schools a better place to teach and work?
  • What can we each do to change educational policy at the state and federal levels that we don’t agree with?
  • What do we do with laws, regulations and edicts that we believe are not in the best interests of our students, but we have to do anyway?
  • What do we do to make education more child-centered?

Each one of these questions have been written about, blogged about, talked about, chatted about, twittered about ad nauseum – we have tried to find answers for each of those questions.  Maybe it is time to stop trying and start doing.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO SPECIAL EDUCATION?  In Special Education there is unfortunately a mindset that as long as a student is “trying” that is good enough.

That is not good enough.

Students should be doing at their own individual level or ability, not some artificial expectation.  The “try” is good enough attitude has led to a system that generates learned helplessness in many of our special education students.  The bar has been set to a point where they only have to appear to try and “we” or the system considers them successful or making adequate progress which many times they are not.

That is a terrible disservice to those students, but one that I believe happens every day in many schools everywhere.   Learned helplessness is something that many Special Education students need to unlearn, before they can progress to being able to learn how to do the things they can do for themselves.

We need to remember and ensure that what teachers are attempting to teach our Special Education students is at their “do” level, not the teacher’s try level.  That way they can experience success and be motivated to do more.  The present system of try only builds upon failure after failure which means the student does not usually get to “do”.

Then we wonder why so many who try – fail.

Do means to keep doing until what you need to do is done.

I believe that I now have a new tagline for my blog, while “Have you made a difference today? How? means a great deal, I think that Yoda’s quote is more powerful and applicable to the new direction of this blog.

Try not.  Do or do not.  There is no try – thank you Master Yoda.


THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

I can see a couple of you just shaking your head.
There goes Harold yet again changing things around on his blog.  It seems as though I am always tweaking something or trying out a new blog host.  But I always end up back here at my original blog, it has always been themed/named around My Thoughts throughout its many renditions.

The name My Thoughts has allowed me to write about pretty much whatever I wanted to write about, but I haven’t had a real focus for this blog.  I was getting pretty frustrated and knew that I needed to re-focus myself.

In my DONN QUIXOTE – GO HOME blog post I talked about my need to re-focusing my blog back to a more useful level – for me and any readers that I may have out there, because I felt that I was whining and complaining too much about things that I really don’t have control over or the ability to have those that matter listen to my whining.

As you can see I have changed the theme around a bit, I like the color scheme, but have a feeling that it might be difficult for some to see and if I get any feedback that it is, I will go with a less colorful scheme. (Can I tell everyone how much I like Blogger’s new Template Designer feature and how easy it is to use!).
I even re-wrote what my blog was going to re-focus in my About me section last night:

This blog focuses on teaching. I do not teach a subject or Special Education – I teach students. I plan to provide my observations and/or insights into Special Education, English Language Arts as taught in a Resource Room, pedagogical ideas and integrating technology/Web2.0 tools into the classroom as they are interpreted by a retired Coastie.

So I had what I was going to re-focus my blog on, because I am first and foremost a teacher as I discussed in my WHO DO YOU TEACH? blog post.

Anyway, I was attempting to come up with a new name for my blog that would be appropriate to the direction I wanted to take it, besides “My Thoughts” and had been completely stumped – nothing I thought of made any sense or hadn’t been taken by someone else.  Then today I received a surprise eMail with a link to First In Education Blog which listed my old blog Resource Room 220 as one of the top 40 Special Education blogs to follow.

I thought it was pretty cool that someone had listed me so prominently in their opinion of Special Education blogs.

That email got me to thinking I am what I am – a Special Education Teacher who really does give a damn about kids and am still a Resource Room teacher in Room 220.  Why not go back to using the title Resource Room 220?  I liked the title originally and I still like it.  So the haroldshawjr.com blog has a new name Resource Room 220.
Having the title Resource Room 220 will focus and continue to remind me on what direction that I am supposed to being going in.  I plan to relate posts here (for the most part) to the the topics of Teaching and Special Education.  Sometimes we need to look back at what works for us, in order to move forward again.  I hope that is what I have done and will do here.

That is the story behind all the changes going on here at the newly renamed Resource Room 220 blog.
What do you think, have the changes made sense and what do you think of the theme?  Constructive criticism is wanted, but be gentle, I have enough gray hair.  😉

Have you made a difference today? How?


THIS IS REPOSTED FROM (haroldshawjr.com)

Brack Vocabularius rerumImage via Wikipedia

I have a pet peeve.

All teachers – teach students.  Teachers do not teach a subject or course.

That is what we are certified/licensed, hired to do and should be passionate about – teaching students.
This may only be a matter of semantics for many educators, to me it gets a rather tiresome and does not help promote a student-centered learning environment, which I believe is necessary for a successful school or classroom.

Instead it promotes a teacher/subject-centric environment and atmosphere where teacher needs are being met more than the students.

I do not teach Special Education, Social Studies, ELA or Reading all things I am Certified or a HQT.

I believe that I would get more than a few strange looks from other people in my building for me to tell someone that I am going to teach Special Education how to use the text to speech function on the Mac today or that I will teach Reading a strategy on how to figure out the meaning of a word using context clues, etc.

  • Those are things.

I try to teach students how to do, use or learn those things.

How many teachers identify themselves as Computer Teachers, History Teachers, Science Teachers, Math Teachers, etc.?  I believe that too many do.  These teachers  may focus so much on teaching their subject matter that it becomes the product, instead of student learning.  Are they then considered teachers or have they become Historians, Scientists, Mathematicians, Technologist, etc.?

Those teachers who tend to identify themselves that way tend to forget that they are there to teach students what they need to learn about the teacher’s subject matter, in a manner that those students can learn, not always how it is easiest for a teacher to pass along their knowledge (sometimes I don’t consider what they do teaching).

  • Teachers should all be focused on the idea that they are at their school to teach individual students a subject they have an expertise in.

All trained teachers do know that one teaching method does not work equally for everyone and that they should be ready to try new or different methods to ensure understanding by their students.  They should not blame the students who don’t get it and haven’t totally tuned the teacher out, for not learning what they are presenting.

  • Perhaps it is time for those teachers to realize they are not teaching students, but only presenting their subject material which is a big difference.

In my opinion we are all teachers – teachers of students, not a subject.  This may only a be small shift in perspective, but I believe that it is a shift that we as teachers have to make.

I am a teacher that has Special Education responsibilities and teaches students, what are you?