I don’t know how many of my students listened to the State of the Union address tonight, but I can help them understand the emphasised points in the speech by showing them this Wordle of it.
I’ve been hanging around after school more than usual lately.
I usually come in very early and leave as close to three as I can, but lately I’ve been having too much fun to leave.
I’ve been teaching some of my sixth grade girls a game.
The girls are part of our popular after-school program and they’re supposed to be in the classroom opposite mine with a teacher who is actually paid to be there, but they hang out with me when they can.
The game I teach is called Petals Around the Rose and the name is important.
If you know the game, skip the next two paragraphs to the crux of the story while I explain the game to everyone else.
In the game I roll five dice and announce a score. The object of the game is to figure out why the score is what I say it is. I keep rolling the dice and announcing scores until you start telling me the scores before I tell you.
The scores follow a rule and you win by spotting the pattern and determining the rule I follow. If a student does they are beholden not to reveal the secret and I give them dice so they can start to teach the game to others.
S got it today.
S is a small, thin serious-minded girl with a winning smile and a huge dose of self-assurance. She is very bright, takes intellectual risks and is an absolute delight to have in the class.
I started playing the game with S and three other girls on Friday. We played for almost three hours. Each of the other girls walked away from the table from time to time. Not S.
S sat there making notes, making charts, getting frustrated, laughing, and shooting me skeptical looks.
I kept telling her the name of the game, Petals Around the Rose and that the name was important. I also told her that she would feel so good when she finally got it.
S sent me an email on Sunday evening telling me she’d been puzzling over the game all weekend and chiding me for torturing her.
As soon as she saw me today she said, “After school we’re playing the game.”
It took me three days of playing two hours a day or so to figure out the game.
It took S another two hours today.
I am so used to students who frustrate quickly and fly off the handle. I really enjoyed watching S struggle with the game but keep going. I admire her persistence, her determination, and her grit.
When she finally got it her excitement was electrifying. At times when she got frustrated I told her she’d feel good when she got it, and she told me she had never felt as good.
I gave her the dice we used as a prize. She immediately went across the hall, she said to celebrate.
When I looked into that class on my way out the door five minutes later, S had a crowd of ten students around her and she was rolling the dice.
Students often ask when they will ever use what we try to teach them, and teachers often wonder why the students don’t use what we’ve taught.
S never asked why I was teaching her the game, and I got to see her use it right away.
News item: Gov. David A. Paterson on Thursday proposed a host of changes in state education law, including eliminating the cap on the number of charter schools, which he said would make the state more likely to receive $700 million in federal grant money. (NY Times 1/8/2010)
If we ever needed proof that – despite all the promises, platitudes and protestations – no politician gives a damn about students, this is it.
From the moment President Obama renamed No Child Left Behind (a giant, expensive race to mediocrity) with the equally catchy and vacuous Race To the Top, governors and state legislatures have been eager to lay down and spread them as any Nevada hooker offered the right price.
Perhaps, but not nearly as harsh as the way those officials charged with making the policies that rule their educational lives treat students.
Just so I am not misunderstood, let me say it loud and clear:
Nothing any politician says or does about education is about children.
Everything they do and say is about money, power, or reelection, usually all three simultaneously.
This Race to the Top is just another attempt to hold the gun of money against the head of state government and attempting to justify it by claiming the gun holds a silver bullet.
I don’t know what races President Obama, Governor Patterson or any other governor shining their red light has watched, but every race I’ve seen has had a small number of winners, usually one, and a much larger number of losers.
Our persuasive President’s education plan promotes there being a large number of education losers.
This is why he, Duncan, Klein and Rhee despise teachers so much. Teachers know there are no silver bullets.
Not charter schools, not standardized assessments. not centralized authority and not union busting.
But also not technology, not better-trained teachers, not smaller classes and not fewer exams.
Some combination of all the above may do wonders, but there are no silver bullets.
Governor Patterson, that gun held against your head holds blanks. Sure it makes a loud bang, but it will not hurt you.
The only ones hurt will be the students.
I guess that’s okay with you.
After all, it is not about them, is it?
Data is the new snake oil.
Look this over carefully folks. Come up close so you can see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, every sight, every sound, of this demonstration.
This is the answer to all your problems.
This is the the way to answer your critics and change them into your champions,
to garner headlines and Major, I say MAJOR Race for the Top federal funding.
This is the stuff you need.
Yesiree! This Gen-U-WINE date can cure all your teaching ills.
Every single one. All of them.
You say your students are falling behind others?
Have you tried data? No? Well lookee here…
This data doesn’t just give you test scores, it doesn’t only give you short-term score trends, this data gives you…
Wait for it folks….
That’s right! Intimate details about every question asked, every answer given, laid out to two-decimal-place precision.
But wait, there’s more!
This data come as raw numbers, it comes in scatter plots, it comes as histograms, and, hold your breath, be still my beating heart….
It comes as bar graphs and pie charts in
Not three or four…
This data comes in five; count them five colors on every bar graph and pie chart.
No extra charge
Yes, you heard it right, all this…
The numbers, the histograms, the scatter charts, the pie charts,
Did I forget to mention the stem & leaf arrays? Yes I did,
So, you get the numbers, the scatter charts, the histograms, the pie charts, the bar graphs, AND the stem & leaf arrays for one low price.
Look at it. Look at it carefully. This data is the answer to all your Ed-you-KAAAAY-shun issues.
Students not doing well? Teachers not teaching well? Or was the test just too darn hard?
Don’t know? LOOK AT THE DATA! Its all there, all laid out for you in five eye-catching colors!
But wait, there’s still more!
Along with every set of full-color data displayed six, count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6, SIX ways we’ll include this handy chart that teaches you and your teachers how to manipulate the data to show whatever you want it to!
You can show gains, you can show big gains, or anything you want just by using this handy, chart.
So let me give lay out the whole package for you ladies and gentlemen. Let me tell you all you get at one time in one package:
you get the numbers,
AND leaf & stem arrays –
all of it for every student, class, teacher and sub-group –
PLUS the handy chart that tells you how to make it show anything you need it to….
All for one easy to swallow price.
Now, you look at all this and I bet you’re telling yourself, ‘this all looks and sounds great, but where am I going to put all this data?’
You look at this and think it must come in a bunch of boxes, enough to fill a storeroom, maybe enough to fill a warehouse.
Ladies and gentlemen, what will you say when I tell you that everything I’ve mentioned,
all of it in five colors, broken-out and aggregated any way you want it;
all that, PLUS the nifty chart showing you how to massage the numbers…fits on this one, little, flat DVD.
Yes, folks, its all on here.
And even with all that stuff squeezed onto this DVD, even as FAT with information is it, its still sharp enough to slice this tomato, to scale this fish, and you never have to sharpen it or worry about it losing one byte of information.
I know. It sounds too good to be true. That you must be dreaming…
Don’t be left out!
Don’t be the last one on the bus!
Call right now!
Here’s how to order….