Florida School District is the First to Fully Eliminate Standardized Testing

The Lee County Board of Education voted 3-2 to ditch state standardized testing, despite the objections of the superintendent.

“Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward,” board member Don Armstrong said, according to the newspaper. “We cannot allow the fear to hold us back.”

Click on the link for the full article http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/28/florida-school-district-is-first-in-the-state-to-ditch-standardized-testing/

One Down, Who Cares How Many to Go!

student

Many teachers and students are wrapping up or have already wrapped up their first week of school. The first week of school is often filled with endless reviews of rules, procedures, and policies. Typically, students also enjoy activities, games, and some outside time as we are all getting back into the routine of school. 

Most importantly, the first week of school is filled with happiness. While I realize we are not living in a utopia, generally students are excited to be back and somewhat looking forward to the school year. I hope the same would go for the teachers as well.

This is now my 11th first week of school as a teacher. I love that first week of school. While exhausting, it just feels great to be surrounded by children once again. I look forward to my first history lecture, my first science lab, and my first religion lesson preaching Christ-crucified. It is exhilarating!

As our first week of school progressed, I made some general observations about what I saw and experienced.

Kids are happy

There is nothing better than hearing that good ol’ belly laugh and giggle from the children in your classroom. We preach that we are a family at our school, and we want to see our students happy, healthy, and motivated to learn.

Kids want to be challenged

So often, parents and teachers, assume that kids will take the easy way out. While true, at times, it always surprises me the amount of kids that love to be challenged. Many students thrive when challenged and held accountable. They want to do well, they want to please. That attitude is a great reminder to me, as a teacher, to always set my expectations high and to not settle for anything less. 

Kids thrive with structure

Without it, they are lost. There is a direct correlation between amount of structure and academic success. In an exceptional essay entitled, “Promoting Academic Success via Classroom Structure” the author points out, “The role of the educator in contributing to a safe and welcoming environment is critical. We are able, and indeed it is our responsibility, to provide a structure that clearly articulates and supports expectation for successful demonstration of appropriate behavior.” The value of structure cannot be understated, and it must be ever-present in our classrooms and schools throughout the entire school year. 

Kids want to please

It disheartens me when I hear teachers say, “these kids are terrible” or “so and so will never learn.” Kids want to make us happy. They want to be happy. The bigger question we must ask ourselves is are we equipping them with the tools and attitudes to succeed?

I pray that all of your first weeks went well. If you made any general observations during your first week, please share them with us in the comment section! We would love to hear from you.

 

Start the year positive, carry that positivity throughout the entire year.  

Overcoming the Teacher Chart of Doom

Boy Reading the holy bible

“If everything was perfect, we would already be in heaven.”

A new school year brings anticipation, excitement, and renewal. For many teachers, the first day of school is one of their favorite days of the entire year. When the first day adrenaline begins to wear, the real school year kicks in. The year often brings various highs and lows but generally it follows a fairly consistent pattern.

 phases of teaching 2

That pattern is displayed in the above graph. While a generalization, and therefore not perfect, much research has been developed by the New Teacher Center for this chart. Furthermore, while the graph is intended for the use of new teachers, it can also be used as a characterization throughout all levels of teaching experience.

Therefore, it is important for all teachers to be familiar with the pattern, to better prepare themselves for the year ahead.

One major area that jumps out at many educators who see this graph for the first time is the drastic dip that takes place in the fall and winter months. I think this could be even more indicative in our WELS setting as we prepare for the rigors of the Christmas service.

Now we don’t circulate this graph to cause depression, quite the opposite. If an educator understands that certain times of the year may be more challenging than others, they can better prepare themselves for the potential hurdles that lay ahead.

I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to assume this same pattern could apply to our students and their parents as well. Through years of experience, I have often found issues coming up in the months of January and February. Maybe some of you can attest to the same thing.

So the big question, how can we better prepare ourselves? After gathering feedback from other educators, I have a few, simple ideas to help keep you on track through the highs and lows of the school year.

Stay strong in His Word

Educator after educator stated this was the most important, I have to agree. Ultimately, He will always be there for us. He will never give us more than we can handle. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, He has called us to the unique settings and situations in which we serve. Mr. Jerome Wolff stated that during he worst times of the year he would find himself writing his own devotions. What a wonderful idea to keep our feet firmly planted in the reassuring message of the Gospel.

Stay Healthy/Make Time for Yourself

Several educators stated that staying healthy was near the top of their list. Getting a good amount of sleep, eating well, and exercise are all part of living a healthy lifestyle.

Perhaps the bigger idea is to make sure you allow time for yourself. Educators can get so bogged down in the day to day rigors of school. Mrs. Rachel Pierson commented that it is vital to carve out a hobby outside of school. This hobby can be anything. We must always remember that we also need time to ourselves. I realize this is much easier said than done. However, big picture is the healthier we are, the healthier our class will be.

My Corny Bad Day File

In my file cabinet in the office, I literally have a “Bad Day File.” This file is there for my worst of days when I knew I blew it, or things just did not go as planned. What is this file filled with? Notes from past students, cards from family and friends, a bible verse, etc. While corny, sometimes it is great just being able to pull that out and look through those reminders when everything else seems to be going the wrong direction.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

Mrs. Brittany Trimmer added that it is important to keep in mind why we do what we do. At the end of the day, we have the incredible opportunity to share God’s Word with the children that He placed before us. Wow. Does it get any better than that?

Ms. Jodi Gilbert also reminded of that bigger picture with a bible passage, Isaiah 40:31. “But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”

Mrs. Brenda Wagenknecht did a perfect job of summing up the Teacher Chart of Doom. Brenda commented, “I think just having the chart would have been nice when I first started teaching. Knowing and going through a schedule and routine gives its own kind of comfort and security. It is like seasons . . . there are positives and negative aspects of every season and it helps to think about the approaching season and what you are looking forward to.”

I would like to thank all the folks who helped out with this article by sharing their thoughts…your support is appreciated!

                                     AVW

FEEDBACK NEEDED: How Do You Overcome the Teacher Chart of Doom?

phases of teaching 2

Many of you may already be familiar with the above chart. After thorough research, the chart displays the general phases of emotion throughout the school year. While a generalization, it strikes a cord with many teachers.

I am considering doing a future blog post on this chart, but I need your feedback to help with my research.

How do you overcome the tough times displayed in this chart? Obviously, there are many difficult times we, as teachers, face throughout each school year. Furthermore, while every school year is most certainly different, many educators can attest to the ups and down that we experience throughout the course of an average year. On a side note, perhaps a topic for another time, is there even such a thing as, “an average year?”

Please leave your feedback via a comment on what gets you through the down times of teaching. We can be a resource for one another, so as we prepare for another school year we can be prepared as possible.

As WELS educators, our greatest benefit is staying connected and strong in His Word. Do you have ideas to help keep our focus on the Word throughout the year?

Please include thoughts on staying strong in Him and/or other ideas that help your through those tough months.

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

The first day of school is quickly approaching all across the United States. Perhaps a little bit of panic is setting in? Excitement? Celebration? Hopefully, not dread.

The first day of school is always one of my favorite days of the entire year. Everyone has a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. Ideas are flowing. Minds are ready. In many ways, it is like that first day of spring up north. After a long, cold, and dreary winter it is time for the rejuvenation and life that spring brings.

Encouragement is needed throughout the entire school year. Encouragement is needed on that first day, that 50th day, and on that last day.

Why encouragement?

Let me tell you a little story about the power of encouragement. I was never a star student. I worked hard, but not a lot clicked for me. I often struggled through math, writing, and literature class in high school and college. My favorite subjects have always been history and science. While at MLC, I took Professor Theodore Hartwig as much as I possibly could for my history electives. While many considered him a challenging professor who had very high expectations, I loved learning from him. I struggled in some of his classes, all of the reading and studying was, at times, very demanding.

The last class I took with Professor Hartwig was on the life of Martin Luther. At the end of the class we had to complete a 20-30 page paper/timeline on Luther’s life. Up and to that point, I had never worked on anything with that much focus in my life. Day and night, for weeks, I worked on that paper. Even though I had spent class after class with B’s and C’s, I did not want to disappoint him.

Professor Hartwig gave me an “A” on that project. However, that is not why I am telling you this story.

I was going to lunch the next day and Professor Hartwig stopped me in the hallway. He took me aside and told me that was the best work he had ever seen me complete. It meant the world to me and my future work.

It begs the question though, why did it mean so much?

   *It was sincere.
I appreciated it because I knew he meant it.

*It was specific.
He could’ve just said, “great job on that paper.” But he didn’t, he made it specific and made it     personal.

 *You had to earn it.
He was not the type of professor who just threw around praise. You had to earn his praise, which made it all the more meaningful.

     *He cared.
Professor Hartwig cared about the students he had. Believe me, I blew many of his quizzes and tests. He would lovingly call you out and get you back on track. That is what a great teacher does really well.

Professor Hartwig didn’t just teach me history. He taught me how to be a teacher. He taught me how to be a better worker. He, in a major way, gave me a life-long example of how to encourage others.

The student who receives the least amount of encouragement and praise in your classroom is probably the student who needs it the most. Who are you going to encourage your first day of school? More importantly, how are you going to encourage them?