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Monday, October 30, 2006

Falling Through the Cracks (episode 1)

911 Operator: State the nature of your emergency.

Caller: Yeah. I’m a teacher at Brown Middle School and one of my students…. Oh my god. . .Oh my god!

911 Operator: Calm down sir. I need to know what is happening.

Caller: Okay, I’m okay, but one of my students, he, he, fell through the cracks.

911 Operator: What kind of crack sir?

Caller: You know. The cracks. THE CRACKS

911 Operator: Do you have a safety net sir?

Caller: Yes several of them, but he, he missed them all. Every single one of them. I mean we did everything we could.

911 Operator: Where is the student now?

Caller: In the crack. Haven’t you been listening. He is in the crack. I can hear him yelling for help, but I can’t see him. Oh my god! What am I going to do.

911 Operator: Sir I’ve dispatched an emergency team. They have a battery of standardized tests. It is pretty high stakes, but I think we can handle this.

Caller: I gotta go. You think I pushed him, don’t you? You’re going to test him, and blame me.

911 Operator: Sir come back sir. Sir? Hello?

Through the Crack
Episode 1
Crack an Egg

Theme Song sung to the tune of Gilligan’s Island

Eddie was late to school that day.
He never was on time.
He’d rather skip school and play,
than waste the taxpayer’s dime

The hallway started to rock and shake.
The fluorescent lights did dim.
He knew he had a test to take,
But he was even failing gym.

The corrider cracked open wide,
and Eddie teetered and tripped
Many teachers tried and tried,
but he finally slipped.

Down through the crack Eddie fell
to a world devoid of joy.
A minimum wage living hell
Where no one was employed.

This is the story of his journey back
through the crazy land he roamed.
He tries to climb out the crack,
and find his way back home.
and find his way back home.

"Crack an egg"

EXT. day

Eddie falls from the sky, landing on his back next to a stone wall. A middle-aged man is sitting a few feet away. He has a pronounced crack in his head. Eddie sits up. He appears to be unharmed.

Egg head man
Hey dude. What’s happenin’?
I’m not sure. I was just walkin’ down the hall and a crack in the floor opened up. I must have fallen in.
egg head
Yeah man. It hurts don’t it?
It smarts a little.
Egg head
Ain’t nothin’ smart around hear.
Where am I?
Egg head
Your in the Land Through The Crack man.
What crack?
Egg head
You know the THE crack! The one that all the teachers say you’re going to slip through. You’ve slipped through the cracks, man.
How did you get here?
Egg head
Man, I was watchin’ this commercial on t.v. about some egg on drugs. I was laughin’ because who ever heard of an egg takin’ drugs. I mean I smoke a little, but there ain’t no egg on drugs. Next thing I know they crack the egg, and I wind up here with a splitting headache.
cut to:
Close up of the crack in EGG HEAD’S head.
I got to find a way outta here.
Egg head
Ain’t know way outta here.
How do you know? Have you looked?
Egg Head
Nah. I haven’t moved since I got here. All the schools teachers and all the schools counselors tried to put me back together and again, but they couldn’t. So I’m just chillin’
What about that guy over there?
cut to:
Another middle aged guy rocking back and forth mumbling to himself.
Egg head
Him? All he say is no. He used to say yes, but now, now he just says no.
Yo Humpty, I can’t just hang here. I gotta do something.
Egg head
Good luck man.
Eddie gets up and starts walking aimlessly. He finally settles on what he believes is East and begins his journey.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why Teachers and Students Should Blog

For the purposes of the following suggestions electronic publishing includes but is not limited to blogs, podcasts, video blogs (vlogs), wikis, and message boards.

“The process of teacher evaluation and professional growth should allow for
teacher reflection, teacher collaboration, and staff contribution to the learning
community.” pg. 3

The above is listed as a guiding principle of teacher evaluation in the state of Missouri. In all professions it is important to constantly evaluate practices and share those that are effective. Blogging, or on line journaling, is an effective tool to reach this end.

Teacher On-line Posting
· Reflection is required by the evaluation process and is integral to professional development.
· Collaboration and the sharing of best practices are vital to quality education.
· In order to be a world class school district we need to present our ideas on the world stage.
· The Internet is an effective means for communicating with parents and the community.

Rules & Regulations
· All postings should pertain to educational or content area topics only.
· Confidential or privileged information should never be posted.
· There should be no relationship, implied or otherwise, between the opinions expressed in the blog and the School District.
· On line posting should be non-commercial.
· Internet postings should not be disruptive to the School District.
· All rules of plagiarism and libel apply.

Effective teaching is a process cycling between practice and reflection. Constant questioning, not only of what worked and what did not, but why it did or did not work is vital to providing effective instruction. When focusing on data driven decision making we often neglect the decision part for an over emphasis on the data. The quiz scores were low; the information needs to be re-taught, but why and how? The answers to these questions can often be found upon reflection, but making these reflections public also permits answers to come from our colleagues around the world.

Part of being world class is inviting the world into our classroom. The world starts with parents and the local community, but the power of the internet lies in its ability to instantly reach a massive world wide audience. If we are worried about our test scores lagging behind those of students in other districts, why not solicit opinions and suggestion from those districts. Why stop at the borders of our state or country? If a teacher in Australia has an effective technique for teaching, then I want to know about it. Conversely, a brilliant strategy developed in our district needs to be shared with other so that we may be an exemplar.

There are inherent pitfalls to instant publication so certain precautions should be taken, but these precautions are no different than when we are communicating with the public by more traditional means. Confidential information should never be given out, public discourse should never disrupt the normal functioning of the district, and district resources should not be used for personal financial benefit. These restrictions are no different than those placed on teachers when talking to the press or parents.


Students in Missouri public schools will acquire the knowledge and skills to communicate effectively within and beyond the classroom.

Goal #2 Show-Me Performance Standards

This goal goes on to specify that students “use technological tools to exchange information and ideas.”

Student On-line Posting
· Reflective and meta-cognitive writing are vital to a quality education.
· An authentic audience for these writings enhances the experience, improves writing skills, and provides an opportunity for feedback.
· Student on-line postings will provide parents with a deeper insight into the classroom.
· Electronic publishing is a basic communication skill that will be required of those wanting access to power in our society.

Rules and Responsibilities
· The blog is a cyber-extension of the classroom, therefore all rules of speech and conduct outlined in the discipline handbook apply.
· Though all classroom writing is public, the instant publishing allowed by the Internet requires that students constantly keep in mind their world wide audience.
· Students are responsible for managing all responses and comments to their blog.
· Students are responsible for the content of websites that they link to in their postings.
· All rules regarding plagiarism apply.

Journaling and reflection are proven learning strategies. Blogs not only motivate the students to write, but the authentic audience created by electronic publication adds a realistic dimension to the writing that merely addressing the teacher does not provide.

Blogs would allow an unprecedented window into the classroom. It would provide an answer to the age old parental question, “ What did you do in school today?”

The ability and desire to use Web 2.0 applications is vital for students to have access to powerful literacy. Traditional avenues of access are narrowing. Though students are becoming adept at filling out on line job applications for Best Buy, to be truly powerful they must create their own opportunities.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Our district has begun to address concerns about literacy amongst our students. Literacy of course is a tricky term. A majority of people applies the word illiterate to only those people who struggle with the written word. And though we frequently mention computer literacy and media literacy it is rarely touched upon in practice. An even more intriguing way of seeing literacy is to look at how the word “read” is used colloquially. We can read facial expressions and body language, a situation, or the lay of the land. We can read into a situation which one can assume is an in depth analysis. We can even take readings, which describes the process of gathering hard data. The word “read” is used metaphorically to describe almost any cognitive process in which we are required to decipher meaning.

If we are to look at read as the ability to decode, interpret, analyze, and synthesize data, then literacy is the primary building block of human intelligence and the within the purview of all educators. Since reading is like any other cognitive process we can apply the scientific method. When approaching a text, or any other set of data we must first name the problem or question, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, check and interpret results, and report the results. Of course if the results don’t match the hypothesis, revise and repeat.

Reading is a mental process, not a magical formula, and as such needs to be developed not by rote memorization, but with new and increasingly difficult applications. Failure is an integral part of discovery; yet repeating that failure with remediation only compounds the disappointment. Like an athlete always looking for worthy competition, students need an every increasing variety of opponents to augment their repertory of literacy skills.

It is imperative that we look at the bag of tricks that the students already possess, such as the ability to read a game, song, or reality television show and demonstrate how those skills can be applied in a classroom. Can the skills used to recognize the pattern of zombie movement in a video game be used to analyze the formula of a murder mystery? Isn’t knowing that a contestant on a really game show is lying the same skill used to interpret character? Isn’t knowing that when the music swells and a character has their back to the screen, that the monster is about to pop out the same predictive skills that you use in science?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Good News

Good News! After the last blog you may have thought that things were looking awfully bleak. But, the news of my students’ demise was premature. Many of the students improved their scores on the vocabulary quiz, and some of those actually scored a 100%.
Whether this was due to actual knowledge of the words or increased neuron firing during the testing period is irrelevant. Both knowledge and Gatling gun neurons are desirable outcomes of this first foray into the lexical depths.

The students also brought out their street sweepers for the second draft of their essays. After mini-lessons concerning transitions and conclusion I was pleased to see improvement on both fronts when students revised their papers. They are successfully moving past middle school transitions like first, second, lastly, etc. The conclusion took a few steps toward synthesizing instead of summarizing. At least none of the conclusions started by saying, “in conclusion.”

In conclusion, I guess what I have been saying is that in short, my students can and will be successful this year. They are interested in more than just graduating. They want to improve themselves.