Sunday, April 19, 2015

Testing Redux. Just Go Climbing.

Even though the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal included quotes and personal experiences about standardized testing and my family, and even though it's considered a "movement" that my family is a part of, I'm over it for now.

Along with my colleagues we've been inundated with training, test protocols, updates, and directives.  Now that I just finished a week of Badger Exam testing, I have new feelings - not to mention new thoughts, about the entire experience.


what it looks like
One is emotional.  The week prior to testing, my teaching partners and I told the kids with high absenteeism and/or tardies that "it's important you come to school every day for testing."  It kills me that even though in the past, I've strongly encouraged them to be on time and attend school (only to be met with no change or inconsistent efforts), do you know those select kids came to school every single day last week and on time. Psyched they came but also confused.  Why did their attendance behavior effort show up due to testing?  I mean, there was a small incentive but these particular kids would be unfazed by it. 

Related to this were my silent and open rah rahs.  My investment in my students doing their best was amped - I would be disingenuous if I did not admit to feeling concerned that their efforts and outcomes reflect on my teaching.  I swear I did more hugging and gave more contrived compliments in those 2 hour periods than what is typical for me.  You know what that tells me?   It tells me I'm worried.

But the flip side is I feel affirmed.  I looked at just about every ELA test question and know I taught the related standard.  At the same time, I cringed when I watched more than once, and more than one  student select an incorrect answer.  And I couldn't help hearing the silent slightly annoyed mutterings going on in my head: WTF? You proved you knew that skill when assessed in my classroom! 


When you're in the thick of it as a teacher and a parent you're trying to decide what is best for the good of students and teachers, while considering the broader mission.  I find it despairing.  The truth is there are other things I'd like to get my hands on that align with the opt out movement, and in my reality, are more important to address, such as why are grades reported on several sheets of paper as standards, but then on the last page, those standards are converted to letter grades?  Why do my kids teachers use percentages as final scores when we are supposed to be using standard based grading?  Who benefits from these incomplete and inconsistent and inaccurate measures of achievement?

#noonedoes #absurd #shortonpatience 

Okay I'm done and moving on.  I have a favorite cookie I discovered for all of you living here in Madison - it's the oatmeal-raison w/flak seeds at Java Cat.  In other news, I found storage space on my iphone, I'm obsessed with Wu Tang Clan's album A Better Tomorrow, and can't wait for Ana Tijoux's concert tomorrow.  Here are a few documented highlights of my week . . . 

push up challenge #twoonfleek

why i still teach


my dependable spotter

warming up
fun boulder


So much to do, so much light now that it's spring which means we all should just go climbing. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ranting and Roaming Inside and Out (climbing!)

If you live in WI, this is the place to be

I went to bed last night with a rant in my head and woke up with that same rant.  Got it out of the way once I shared those thoughts with two trusted people but still can't let it go.  It has to do with the recent cover page of Time Magazine.  It looks like this:

Does anyone agree with me that this cover is unfortunately a tragic incomplete representation of #Blacklivesmatter?  

What about this one from the Rolling Stones?  This has nothing to do with #Blacklivesmatter and everything to do with mainstream audiences being duped by the media. 

What do you make of this relative to corporate media influences?  Is anyone paying attention to the timeline of events and the construct of race relative to the covers of these two magazines?   Tell me if you do please.  I need to know.

Anyway, some cool things happened this week and weekend.  My students and I are thriving off of National Poetry Month.  We wrapped up the week with our first Open Mic Friday and there were some narratives out there from the mouths of babes that make you wanna create billboards of their poetry, not to mention just give 'em a big squeeze for being so f'in real.   

Misa and John-Pio's opening night for "Snow White" was this weekend and it was packed.  Both kids love their work and are learning how to manage their sleep time, homework, water intake, along with chores, physical activity, and just every day fun.

Some of the Playtime Productions cast - Misa's post was: "The amazing crew.  We did good tonight!"
And Brad and I spent some time climbing at the Lake and inside at Boulders which we can count as day dates since we were kid-less.  Here's what it looked like outside . . .

Capturing the elusive vitamin D

Remembered the beta

Short and quick hike out

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Identity (and Climbing)

April 1st and spring break.  National poetry month and climbing.  Things are ramping up and winding down. The markers are crystal clear on the work and homefront, not to mention other types of involvement race related.  I sat on two different panels in the past month; both focused on race and both were worthwhile.  The last panel was "How to talk to your kids about sensitive topics," which was a little challenging when you're of the direct parenting kind - the say-it-straight-up, be-real kind. In my fam, there's just nothing "sensitive" about race.  When you're in your own skin you're living and breathing that color every single moment.  So what I seem to be re-learning is that it's not an easy topic for a lot of parents - for a lot of people in general.  

As a takeaway to those panels, I wanted people to leave waging a battle with themselves that starts from a place of Identity.   I wanted people to understand that their stories matter.  A lot. And to get to a place of comfort with kids, we have to know our own stories. We have to believe our stories matter. And we have to tell our stories.  Because stories can make the difficult, understandable.  #wagebeauty

One place to start is by celebrating - either by writing, reading, or listening - to the poems people are sharing.  I've been reading from the blog "Woodland Pattern" which features our two Madison poet laureates, Wendy Vardmann and Sarah Busse - both have written for my blog at different times, both wonderful truth tellers.  I've also been rotating through some of Nikki Giovanni's work because she's just so dope, and recently, Toni Blackman's relevance in her music has been speaking to me.  There are so many good ones out there and perhaps by intentionally celebrating National Poetry Month, you'll feel inspired and write your stories down.

Okay so that's that for now - writing has been a little sporadic lately and I haven't been very moved to write anything publicly.  It's been a little like climbing; I love it but sometimes I have to leave it alone for a bit so I can give it my all when I get back to it.  Yesterday I got outside with Lisa and Melissa - super fun and beautiful day!

Here's what we did . . .