Kids Who Aren’t Able to Show Up as Human Are Not Bored Kids – There is More Going On

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61 thoughts on “Kids Who Aren’t Able to Show Up as Human Are Not Bored Kids – There is More Going On”

  1. I didn’t get all the way through the post – I’ll get to it, though (Actually, I’m pretty far behind on reading posts and comments). I got stopped at this sentence:
    It is not that they are tired.

    Ben’s right, of course, for most instances. Sometimes, though, it is that they are tired. Today in second period one of my students went to sleep. I went over and spoke to him but there was no response, so I just let him sleep. Ten minutes before the end of class we all went outside to do some fresh air reading. Just before the passing bell rang we went back to the classroom and stood outside the door. The bell rang – and nothing. After about a minute I opened the door and the student was still asleep. One of his friends woke him up or he probably would have slept well into third period. (I would have written him an excuse, though.) When he woke up he was groggy. He’s a JV football player, and they played their last game today – I figure he was simply exhausted and truly needed the sleep.

    The dynamics of the situation were interesting. The entire class was in on the prank of letting him sleep because I was indicating he wasn’t in trouble. When it looked like there would be consequences (tardy to the next class), one of his friends rescued him. Oddly enough, I think it was a relationship-building moment.

    My comments are, of course, totally Off Topic – I just wanted to share.

    1. Oof course that is true, Robert, but rare. Just recently my 8th period class got together – we had too much fun not to do it although it wasn’t the nicest thing to do but the kid was out cold – and this kid slept into my 9th period class through the break so he woke up in a different class than the one he went to sleep in. I know I know. But this kid also had clearly been up all night. But I think you get my point, which is that all this CI stuff is really all about becoming human, learning to interact with others on the level of heart. I think that comprehensible input, quite frankly, has most teachers petrified. That would be those who went into the profession to get respect, to be looked up to, to control other human beings (young ones are easier than older ones to order around) – that kind of teacher. Those who actually think that using a computer program is better than using language to teach a language. They’ll be at ACTFL next week. By the hundreds. I don’t like them. They are the ones I want to keep off of this blog as well, people with cold and analytical hearts, people who judge. The entire work we are doing here, and the reason we are having to hide, is about warming our hearts and loving and relaxing and not getting carried away on the tsunami of educational debris that is consuming our country. Tsunamis are big and it is hard to avoid getting carried away by them. But make no mistake, this is a tsunami of ignorance we are in. Just look at ACTFL where the most gentle and humane way of teaching that we seek to explore together will not even be represented here in Denver next week. I value this group so much. It’s not about being the best anymore. It’s all about opening up and warming our hearts. That’s all it ever was about.

      1. “But this kid also had clearly been up all night.”

        “MW3-Call of Duty” was released this week. Not that any student of mine would ever stay up all night playing the game after his mother took him to the late night sale, falling asleep and not checking to make sure her son wasn’t on his XBox all night long.

          1. Same here, there were a lot of absences that day at our school. Should we start keeping track of when the big video game releases will be so we know when students will be absent? They’re saying Grand Theft Auto 5 will be coming out in 2012, you can expect a lot of absences that day as well

          2. As long as the adults in their lives continue to call in sick on the day after the Super Bowl, we cannot expect that students will show up the day after a game release. :o) Besides, in many cases, the parents are the ones up all night playing along side the kids.

            with love,
            Laurie

      2. Ben, I know that you and I are really saying the same thing, but I’m going to quibble. 🙂

        You wrote, It’s not about being the best anymore.

        Of course it’s not about being “the best” in the sense of competing with others and stoking my ego by showing them up.

        On the other hand, your blog is all about being the best. It’s about being the best teacher I can be because I am becoming the most authentic human being I can be and inviting my students to do the same. Not all of my students will even begin to understand this, and some who do understand won’t get on board because they are afraid of becoming authentic human beings. They are used to being dragons, and the pain of shedding the dragon skin is just too much for them to continue, so they remain dragons. (Reference: Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

        Or, to use another metaphor, they will be left at the airport with the others who have been left behind because their airplanes never took off. Just think, no child left behind because all the planes are grounded. We offer the real opportunity to become authentic human beings while acquiring language on the side, but it carries the very real danger that people will be left behind – and our society as a whole can’t seem to cope with that. The Enemy has done his work, and the stalks of grain are ready to behead those who grow beyond them. (Reference: The Screwtape Letters; Wormtongue Proposes a Toast)

  2. The check is in the mail Ben. Thanks for clearing the channels of thought once again. Right on with your observations. Your Freak Flag in the form of ranting is what musters the CI troops – at least this soldier, and I am sure most of the rest of us here on the blog.

    WARNING: Increased Level of Human Interaction.

    New poster idea right there. The best kind of humor. The true kind.

    p.s. I’m taking all of your advice – stick to my guns, no extras being added to my CI talk time with the students. If we do not fight for quality human interaction, genuine communication in the classroom, then what’s left?

  3. Yes and Brian it’s just because you’re new at this that those kids aren’t eating out of your hands. You bring much human kindness to your words, and I can’t help but think that, once you get your way round the technical side of CI, which is impossible to learn quickly, you will blend your sense of kindness with a strong technique and there will be no stopping you. Of course things will be a little ragged in these first few years and cold hearted kids will take advantage of that. Like you say, stick to your guns. Many flowers will be fired from them, and soon. Your classroom will become a garden.

  4. Could not read the whole thing, but I can not tell you how many times this week that I have gotten, “Please repeat” when I ask for a comprehension check!

    I think they have already mastered the graduate school stare!

  5. When they are given a book, worksheets, etc. they feel as if they are learning, but when having to do what we ask of them, many of them shut down. We cannot take that personally. It has less to do with what we are doing than we think. It has more to do with their own inabilities and insecurities. Let’s not make their problem our own.

  6. Enjoyed the post. Still, I am on the fence with my 8th graders. There is little cooperation and the class is about to implode. We may have to go back to textbooks and worksheets. They started passing around a petition to have my class rules changed so they are not “hurt” academically for speaking English during our routine PQA and story asking time. I use Blaine Ray´s pagame system which my 8th graders are rebelling against. I hope the school admin backs me up on my classroom rules when the petition reaches their desks. I am going to speak with admin Monday to make them aware of the situation. Thanks for all the insight and support.

    1. “I use Blaine Ray´s pagame system which my 8th graders are rebelling against.”

      I have never been able to successfully use the pagame system because I don’t remember to use it until it feels like punishment but the way Blaine uses it a pagame is not punitive. Students have the ability to make up their points if they so choose, just as they chose not to interact in a responsible way to earn the pagame in the first place. So, technically it is their choice to be hurt academically by choosing to speak English and then not pay their debt. Don’t give them the bail out to the textbook.

      Hope and courage.

  7. Jeff,

    What “chill” said.

    It looks like your students have been thoroughly brain washed by the system into thinking that only the grade counts. Learning isn’t even in second place. If you teach in a state with State Standards that follow the National Standards (or that uses the national standards), your administration has to back you or admit that they do not follow the standards. Your no English rule is simply the application of the Communication standard. (If my administration told me to use English I would have to reply, “So, you’re telling me not to teach to the Standards.”)

    I would also suggest that you have a talk with your class about Standards-Based Assessment. A very useful analogy is learning to ride a bicycle. When you first start to learn, you fall off a lot and get “hurt”. Eventually, though, you learn to ride and go cruising around town. Right now your students are in the learn and fall stage. They will only get to the cruising stage by continuing to try. (As a retired colleague says, “You can’t speak well until you have spoken badly.”) You might find the Prezi at the following URL helpful:
    prezi.com/axzlriy65i7x/daughertys-bicycles-performance-based-learning/

    However, in true Standards-Based Assessment, the mastery of the standard is paramount, and it doesn’t matter when they master it. Once the standard has been mastered, they get the “grade” that reflects it. As a result, some form of “Power Grading” (cf. Marzano) needs to take place. The early “formative” assessments count less than the “summative” (end-of-semester) assessments. This fits extremely well with the philosophy of “teach for June”.

    Your 8th graders are probably so inculcated in the culture of grades and so used to their “success” in that culture that it’s a blow to their fragile (and I don’t mean that sarcastically) egos to get dinged for something that normally gets them ahead; they truly don’t know how to handle it and so are rebelling. I think you can assuage their fears by convincing them that their early scrapes and bruises from falling off the bicycle won’t be permanent if they keep trying. Apply this across the board – once they start participating in the conversation, drop the early grades from their pre-mastery days.

    Just some thoughts.

  8. Jeff, is this the students who are circulating a petition during your class? Call me crazy, but I find the idea of a student petition extremely disrespectful to you as a teacher. Under the guise of “free speech” and “Self-advocating,” a lot of entitled students get away with basically trying to intimidate their teachers into teaching a certain way. This also manifests itself in statements from wealthy students and their parents who say things like: I’m not paying you to sabotage my (child’s) ability to get into a good school.” They have obviously learned this from their parents, who probably encourage them to resist their teachers if they don’t think they are teaching in the best way (i.e. to ensure that their darling child continue to work the system). I had a very bright 4%er student approach me after class to say how much he did not like my new way of teaching. I said: “thank you for your feedback and honesty, but I need you to respect the decisions I have made as your teacher, even if you disagree with some of them.” Had he said this during class in front of his classmates, he would have met with a very different response.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and feedback. There is a certain sense of entitlement among the students at my school. My school district is small and parents have a lot of influence with the administration. The students have picked up on this and are not shy about sharing their feelings in my class.

      This same group of kids had me last year when I used a more traditional, textbook based approach. Maybe the change to new rules, new teaching methods and different types of lessons was too much for them, resulting in the backlash I am seeing. At first I thought their attitude was just because they turned into 8th graders, but now I have doubts. I do know that my CI teaching techniques aren´t very strong so I have to take that into account. I am confident that with practice I will get better.

      Thanks again for all the support. Cheers.

    2. The 4%er then reported your response back to the parents. If you refuse, John, to let the little Fauntleroy work the system (i.e. – you back down and teach the way kids and parents are paying you to teach – so they think – which is the way they were taught), then they will try to get to an administrator and make you do it that way. When parents get involved like this it is just plain ugly. Next, these well off parents will try to tell their doctor to practice medicine a certain way.

      Jeff, keep a big line of communication open on this. We’re going to need it, I feel. The petitioners aren’t done yet. This happens to new TPRS people all the time. Of course your skills need more work, all of our skills do and the method is hard for experienced people! The shift is so big to make! Let’s just keep this thread going as it plays out in coming weeks.

  9. I have a reverse situation:
    My 14 year old daughter is a freshman in Spanish 2 with a textbook-driven English-speaking teacher. I met two weeks ago with her and the dept chair (as a parent, but fully open that I’m a Spanish teacher) and discussed the ACTFL 90% L2 position. Her response was patronizing: “We know what we’re doing, we go to all the conferences, we’re up to date on the latest teaching techniques.” In her eyes I’m the meddling helicopter parent.

    Thing is, I taught Spanish CI/TPRS style to 8th graders last year (9th graders this year) whose parents were thrilled about stories and are now grinding their teeth bc their kid hates memorizing vocabulary lists, etc. It wouldn’t be too hard to round up a group and bring it to the dept and the admin. I’m thinking about it as my next step, fully claiming the terrifying role I get to play: an informed and persistent parent.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    You have more courage than I do. I got back from my first conference with Blaine, it was mid-October, and tried to do TPRS with my first-year students. The backlash was vicious, and I didn’t have enough confidence to push my way through. After 6 weeks of school they didn’t want to change! I started TPRS the next year, with a fresh batch of students. It was way easier.

    1. Anne,
      When I look at the stacked Avancemos texts lining the book shelf, I am tempted. I know it would be easier to just go by the book. There it is, all planned out, each unit with a clear beginning and end. It would make my life easier. But, I can´t stand reading it. For one, it is meant for high school students (we don´t have the middle school texts) and two, there is just too much information splashed on each page that it becomes overwhelming.
      I can see why it would be hard to switch to TCI methods if you are a veteran teacher with every lesson planned out for the year. Since my teaching style is not set in concrete, I might as well start with the best method out there and prevent any bad habits from forming (i.e. using the textbook as my crutch).
      This will be a crusade year for me.

      1. Jeff – I feel your pain and your stress! I, too, am attempting to continue to move forward with TCI this year and am finding it crazy-making (in my mind only, I hope) that I don’t have the text to guide the lessons. I am doing my darndest to make the PQA personal without being boring. I re-read Ben’s book “PQA in a Wink” and realized that I forget to truly focus on the kids. I am going to make an even bigger effort to put the focus on them. Even the ones that are rolling their eyes over everything. I am trying really hard to remember that, “It’s about the kids” and not about the language.
        On a good note, I received a note from the mother of one of my high achievers that said she was really happy he has me for a teacher this year (second year of Spanish) and that he is finally speaking at home! I attribute his speaking to the CI he is getting 🙂 Woo hoo!!

  11. It is completely worth dealing with the complaints of the 4%ers and their parents because you are reaching that silent majority, even if you do not get any feedback. I have been fortunate to get some truly positive feedback from parents, things like: “I thought my child would never get excited about any subject in school, and to hear him come home talking about LATIN!” or “My son has dyslexia, and he’s getting a A in a foreign language, and it’s Latin!” The “squeaky wheels” will continue to screech in the hope that they can control us, but so much positive stuff is happening in our classes that we’re not even aware of, that it’s worth the emotional exhaustion and insecurity that result from even attempting to teach TCI. We have the power to change lives, to convince some kids that they too belong in school. There’s no going back.

  12. I gave the dGR version of jGR to my classes today. I walked them through an explanation of each “type” of student and then had them self-evaluate. My first class was the one that has a few Archies in it and I walked around to place a mark on their papers to show them what I thought. (I’ve seen them approx. 4 times now.)

    One outspoken girl had given HERSELF a C+/C/C- grade and when I checked there and said “I’ll agree” she began ranting that she had never had a teacher do that before. Questioning what kind of a teacher would tell a kid they’re a C student. Questioning how that is supposed to motivate her.

    I think that she is a girl on the edge and all it takes is for an adult to do something that makes her lose trust and she’s ready to wash her hands. I’m not going to share just yet what my reaction was because I’d prefer to read your advice first.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      I don’t think you’re saying she’s “a C student,” but that you are saying (as was she) that her communicative behaviors during that class period were at a C level. I think it’s tough love. It’s saying that she did not yet live out the expectations for your class, the expectations that will help her acquire another language.

      If it helps you — I have (privately) let students who bombed (in my school, kids think that’s anything below 80%) that if they show improvement over the term, I will drop that first low grade. That has motivated 2 boys who are really difficult people for all their teachers. They’ve improved.

      1. I know that I wasn’t saying this but I’m more concerned to hear what everyone thinks about how this girl thought nothing of loudly expressing how she thought I was ridiculous for giving such a mark. How do I handle a kid like that? P.S. I’ve already contact home twice and had some conversations.

  13. DEEP! This is now one of my favorite posts. You (re)posted it at a perfect time because I’ve wondered what to do with those kids who haven’t let go of the vulnerability of being human. It’s awesome seeing this transformation but frustrating waiting on the others. Alas, I wait.

    I LOVE:

    “you have taught the kids something far more important than a language, you have taught them that if they don’t show up for life they will fail at life, which is a very strong message that they DO NOT get from most of their teachers, where it is not about developing listening skills and becoming human, but about grades. Good grades don’t bring success in life. Being a human being does.”

    I never really thought about it this way but it is soooo true! At our school we have A LOT of economically disadvantaged students that give up before they’ve even started. My goal now is to turn those robots into humans and to show them that being human, making mistakes, and taking an active role in their learning will lead to their success even when their situations at home, in life suck. BUT I’m doing my 50%, if they choose not to do theirs they will fail. No more coodling!

    I think I may even make a poster that says, “Good grades don’t bring success in life. Being a human does. NO ROBOTS EN MI CLASE!”

    Thank you for this post!!

  14. Soldier on with CI my friends! Love the post Ben… I feel like I’ve read that somewhere before.

    To use Robert’s term (as much as you all know I agree wholeheartedly with teaching using TPRS and CI for optimal language acquisition and human interaction in L2), I must quibble into the theoretical. I come from a school of thought (even though my upbringing and training often overwhelm it) that the process is more important than the outcome, particularly for young people. So, if there is a considerable group that is unhappy with a method being used, or a teacher teaching it, shouldn’t they have some influence in that? I agree with John that certain students who would have the gumption to pull off something like this are likely the same students who don’t need any more privilege than they already have. But still, isn’t this process of democracy that is being practiced here, however disrespectful or misguided, of great value? Our federal constitution grants citizens the power to petition the government for redress of grievances. So why would we not encourage this practice in our youth in schools where they spend most of their days? A petition would seemingly give young people a taste of this people power, the power to effect change in their lives, which they will be taught subtly until they die that they don’t really have.

    With upmost respect to the conversation and all who are in on it here. And with utmost disgust for language texbook activities. -Jim

  15. And Brian, as far as practicalities go, I am glad you are heeding Ben’s advice. Also, you might try more TPR in the mix for these lethargic/bored/robotic students.

  16. This is excellemt advice Jim. They are bored bc they don’t understand, and they don’t understand bc we don’t TPR verbs enough. We say we’re gonna TPR the verbs and then we don’t. We need to change that.

    1. No and for two reasons. I have levels 1 and 3 this year and so no level 2’s which is a hard level to teach using comprehensible input. And then since I am using totally non-targeted CI this year so far the engagement level is much higher as per that article by Stephen Krashen that I published here again today. Plus we are both going a lot slower.

  17. “Good grades don’t bring success in life. Being a human being does.” That’s my takeaway from this amazing post. If I didn’t believe that line, there is no way I’d be going into my third year of teaching. I realized halfway through my second year of teaching that I despise being a teacher (In the teach and test business model). Luckily I found this blog though.

    But being a human being and standing strong in the face of anything anti-human in the classroom, and thereby creating a little community in every class where a kid’s humanity and need for nurturing love and respect is protected -that’s what I love.

    Thanks for asking your questions Brian -they are my own. And thanks Ben for the reminder that a kid’s not showing up is not a sign for us to better entertain them, but to stand our ground even stronger in our knowledge that showing up is exactly what they need to do for life.

  18. I have a new group this year. They are sophomores and juniors. Last year was a rough one for them…they had three different teachers! All great teachers, but three teachers nonetheless. They are cautious about communicating, cautious about getting to know me. One young man hasn’t cracked a smile once…he’s been totally silent and hasn’t seemed to be very engaged.

    On Thursday I gave a quiz based on a reading of Mira’s novel that we’re piloting (great stuff btw) I told them that it was fine if they weren’t able to get every question right, or even get to every question, I just wanted an idea of what they were comfortable with.

    This young man filled in every question, without a single error. At the top of the paper he wrote me a little message “And you thought we wouldn’t be able to do this well” with a smiley face. When I handed it back I just smiled and winked at him. Holy mackerel. He gave me the biggest smile and was very engaged today.

    You never know…always be ready to be surprised!!!!! I would have had no idea that he was rockin’ the language like that. He needed time…and a little space. I love surprises like that.

    with love,
    Laurie

  19. My backbone just strengthened from reading this post. And yeah, who can deny the notion that our students need to exercise their ability to give a speaker eye contact, empathy, and self-control? Great post!

  20. Ben wrote: you have taught the kids something far more important than a language, you have taught them that if they don’t show up for life they will fail at life, which is a very strong message that they DO NOT get from most of their teachers, where it is not about developing listening skills and becoming human, but about grades. Good grades don’t bring success in life. Being a human being does.

    I have a number of students with IEPs and 504s* in my German classes and so go to many meetings to discuss these students’ progress in their courses. This year in particular I have noted that every teacher begins with the grade in the class. “Joe currently has a D in Biology, but he could bring that up to a C by turning in his homework / completing his lab / doing well on the next test / [name your own inane task].” “Sue is almost at a B, but she turns her work in late [or some other work habits cause].” Everything revolves around bringing the grade up so that the student fulfills a requirement for graduation or college admission. There is no discussion of what learning is taking place.

    When it is my turn to speak, I consciously attempt to avoid citing a grade at all. Instead I describe the student’s behavior and evidence of learning, of meeting the interpersonal communication standard (or not), of acquiring the language. Sometimes I have to explain how the student is failing to engage, but I do this far less with IEP students than with general ed students. Most students with an IEP are actually pretty good at paying attention, and German is the only class that actually rewards them for being there mentally as well as physically.

    Unfortunately, when most students come to talk to me, it’s generally couched in terms of “How do I bring my grade up?” They have definitely been “schooled” and “taught” to think in terms of the system. Sometimes I tell them, “Focus on acquiring German, and the grade will take care of itself.” Sometimes I tell them, “Focus on the class and participate in Interpersonal Communication rather than talking in English to your friends all period, and your grade as well as your comprehension and acquisition of German will increase.” However, teenagers are all about immediate gratification, and talking in English is still easier in a 40-person class than speaking in German.

    I don’t make sufficiently effective use of my Interpersonal Communication Rubric at the start of the year. That is something for me to work on for next year. That grade needs to go in early and often.

    *In California, IEP = Individualized Education Plan and is used with Special Education students. 504 = A similar plan for non-Special Education students who have a specific learning disability. I believe both fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are some differences, but many of the classroom practices are the same for both sets of students. I find, however, that most of my students never need their accommodations or modifications in German – I do those kinds of things as a matter of course (extra time for tests if needed, extra time on assignments, etc. I negotiate due dates with students all the time.)

    1. Thanks, Robert. Nice specific advice for the meeting, namely, focus on learning and details specific to language acquisition. Parents can relate to that. That is why the HW average is so important to parents because for them it is a measure of effort. jGR is the same. Also important is a loose ratio of effort to ability: could they do it? : did they do it?

      Grading and textbooks serve like funnels that drain us into that schooling mentality.

      Your comments reminded me of a theme from a Special Ed course. The professor would say that modifications were not special things for certain kids. They were good practices that work for all kids even though some kids can get along without them. So much of TPRS falls under that rubric.

    2. Robert, reading how you approach achievement during IEP meetings makes me that much happier that I get to engage with you professionally. I appreciate all the honest collegial love that radiates here, and that attempts to subvert the intellectual behaviorism rampant in our workplaces.

      I don’t know where else to post this, but I just got this as an email from my principal. I miss all staff meetings this year at my “home school” because I’m being shared with another district. I didn’t even know this was happening. Well, I’ve expressed enough discontent with testing fever in years past that they probably knew how I’d react anyway. In my opinion, it is the height of buying into the ed-reform idea that standardized tests measure what’s most important. It might raise scores though…


      Rock Music Playing as 7-12 students report to the north side bleachers
      Welcome – principal
      Introduction of State Geography bee contestant
      English Department present
      Math Department present
      Test Result Overview from last year’s scores
      Incentives for increase of scores Individual and Group
      Juniors leave for their test to the MAC lab.
      7-10, 12 report to first period for attendance.

      1. Jim, unfortunately this is very close to standard procedure for schools. It’s part of the whole “cheerleader” and “pump up spirit” mentality. Without being cynical, I see this in the various sports assemblies we have throughout the year. When you stop and think about it, many (most?) students have little or no reason to have an emotional connection to the school they attend. Nonetheless, we appeal to “school spirit” and “school pride” to get students to cheer for the school’s sports teams, drama company, music groups, etc. I willingly participate in this because it supports the students who enjoy participating in these various activities – I’m supporting people and encouraging them in endeavors they want to pursue.

        When it comes to testing, though, I fail to see the good in all the hoopla. With the newest authorization of the ESEA, things may change, but to date, the tests have done students and schools no good whatsoever. The alleged “data” is aggregated so that it is impossible for teachers to use it to alter instruction, and the “data” – such as it is – is presented far too late to be of much use, either. Scheduling, course offerings, enrollment, and a host of other decisions have been made and implemented long before the “data” becomes available to the school. The tests don’t really assess effectiveness of teaching, because they do not compare the same students. This year’s juniors will not be tested again to see if there is growth in knowledge; instead, next year’s juniors will be tested – and this is somehow supposed to be a valid assessment of effectiveness when compared to this year’s juniors? The variables are so vast as to render any comparison absurd.

        When I talk to my students about the testing, I make certain that they are aware that their parents can opt out of the testing (something that is illegal in some states but not California). If they choose to take the test, I encourage them to do their best only because the effort is a reflection of who they are or aspire to be, i.e. people who bring excellence to everything they do. That’s the best I can offer.

        This year I have not yet signed the affidavit that I will not reveal anything about the test, that I will guard it zealously, etc. I’m seeing how long I can postpone a confrontation with my administration over this because I simply will not administer the test and wish to have absolutely nothing to do with it. I consider the data collection illegal because it takes personal student data and puts it into a national database maintained by the federal government – something that goes beyond anything that the Constitution permits and against privacy laws enacted by Congress. Last year when I finally signed the affidavit, I changed the wording in certain sections to reflect what I was willing to do – which is avoid any contact with the test at all. This year my schedule is such that I am not really a candidate for being a proctor or even a “helper” for testing: none of my classes are exclusively juniors, I have freshmen, sophomores, and seniors throughout the testing periods, and my conference period is the last period of the day, when testing has already finished.

        I am not surprised that your school’s administration is trying to engender enthusiasm for testing, but students are often pragmatic and want to know what’s in it for them. When they learn that the answer is “nothing”, pretty much all incentive (except the personal moral code of always doing one’s best) to do well on the test has disappeared.

        I hope you can avoid becoming involved in all of this.

        Sorry for the rant.

          1. oh….and I have always wondered….Where is the data that says that these pep rallies actually raise scores??

            with love and cynicism!
            Laurie

          2. I saw a video clip some time (maybe in here, actually!) of an elementary school getting ready for a barrage of testing of the students. They had a person dressed in a monkey suit dancing around, because the monkey just loved testing! Get excited kids, days of testing are here! Oh my. It is an advantage of teaching at private schools which don’t require all of the testing put upon public schools. We have enough though. The climate of gathering data is a big influence on schools where I’ve taught, too.

        1. “When I talk to my students about the testing, I make certain that they are aware that their parents can opt out of the testing (something that is illegal in some states but not California).”

          You are a brave educator. If you go to Chattanooga, talk to some educators there: they were in the news because 41% of their students opted out, even though it’s much harder in to do Tennessee and almost unheard of just down the road in Knoxville. Enough brave people like Robert and things will have to change.

        2. Robert, thank you for your “rant”. It’s certainly too articulate and tempered to be considered a rant in my book though.

          After 10 years working in schools and more attending them, I’m fully aware of the “school spirit” approach and pervasiveness. But I’ve never seen it go down that way with testing. I do think it is reasonable and perhaps even a positive step (in this environment) that the enthusiasm normally reserved for sports was carried over to academic pursuits (i.e. subject areas getting to present… though I can’t be sure because I don’t know how or what they presented during their couple minutes… I’ll have to ask).

          I respect your bravery and willingness to adhere to you professional ethics and, well, constitutional responsibilities, as a public school teacher. Often I hear that opting-out is an option for parents but it is something that teachers should stay out of. I think your rationale and approach is something unique and could influence many teachers who are opposed to this type of testing in schools.

          I wrote a letter to my school board and admin and shared with colleagues after last year’s positive test results came in. It’s here in case anyone would like to view it. It’s nothing big but perhaps another small dent in this awry ethos. http://www.trippsscripts.com/#!misc-downloads/c1h54

  21. Some of you may find this “quiz” enlightening. I did. I also found that compared to the other scores I’ve seen posted by teachers on Facebook (my score was 71/99) my score was relatively high (meaning I have had more personal experience in/exposure to lower or lower-middle class lifestyles. Many of the teachers posting had scores in the 30’s and 40’s. That is a small sample, and by no means scientific, but it indicates to me that many of us could learn a great deal more about the lives of our students.

    See what you think: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/do-you-live-in-a-bubble-a-quiz-2/

    with love,
    Laurie

  22. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    This is the opt-out letter I sent to my daughter’s teacher and principal in anticipation of her first round of new state Common Core testing:
    Dear ,
    We just wanted to let you know that [my daughter] will not participate in upcoming PARCC testing. She will not take the test. She will, however, attend school on PARCC days. I will send her w/books and other quiet work while her classmates sit for the assessment.
    I know that last year, principals/proctors were told to again invite the non-participating children to take part in PARCC testing. While I hope this onerous policy has been abandoned, I will remind Ruby to respond that she WILL NOT be taking the PARCC.

    We are conscientiously objecting to these questionable-at-best corporate assessment tools.

    Sincerely,

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