Finished

Having Coffee #2Before Thanksgiving, I turned in my final portfolio for the Instructional Technology Master’s program at Virginia Tech. Once I receive word on how I did, I will share the portfolio here.

Turning in my portfolio was the last thing I needed to do to complete my degree. If it’s accepted, I’ll have a master’s degree. I am happy to be finished, and I feel the portfolio was a great way to show what I’d learned. I do wish that my program had worked in opportunities to build the portfolio throughout the coursework rather than just at the end, but in the end, I think I did learn from the program, particularly during the last three semesters when I took Multimedia Authoring, Project and Report, and Portfolio Evaluation. I had a truly great learning experience in Multimedia Authoring. I learned how to use Flash and built a little grammar game. My instructor for that course was the best instructor I had in the program. Project and Report was great because I was able to create my own project, and I learned a great deal about manipulating digital audio and video and the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law. Assembling the portfolio allowed me to reflect on my learning. I have already begun using some of what I’ve learned at my school as a member of the Technology Committee.

On an unrelated note, I have been meaning to share a former student’s new blog with you for some time. Jake was an absolute pleasure to teach, and I enjoy seeing what he’s up to as he makes his way in college and the world. I was really pleased that Jake not only felt comfortable sharing the blog with me, but also with my sharing it with you. Jake’s an amazing photographer, and I’m very proud of him. Hope you enjoy it!

Creative Commons License photo credit: ReneS.

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Diigo Links (weekly)

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Failure

Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895

Failure is weird. Everyone experiences it, but when it happens, we feel embarrassed and alone. I have been writing this blog post in my head for years, but I haven’t posted it because I have been afraid. I decided after this weekend that it was the right time to share it.

I taught 8th grade language arts in the 2002-2003 school year. Our principal left in cloud of scandal, and we had a new principal. I was on maternity leave when she came in, but she didn’t have a good first impression of me, I’m sure, because I had a little bit of trouble adjusting to teaching that grade level. My test scores were great. Only one student on our middle school team of over 100 students failed the state’s writing test. By the measure that higher ups usually care about, I was a success. But before he left, my principal expressed concerns over the high rate of failure among my students and suggested my team leader was influencing me to be too exacting in my standards, and that perhaps I needed to lower them.

I left work one day and went into labor the next morning. I wasn’t due for a couple of weeks, and I hadn’t expected to be out the next day. I had some ungraded student work. While I was on maternity leave, I received a phone message from the assistant principal insisting that I needed to get the work graded, so I finally managed to do so, but I expected a little more sympathy, to be honest. I had a newborn at home.

The county let me know in no uncertain terms that my contract would be terminated if I didn’t return to work six weeks to the day after my leave ended. That day was the last day of post-planning, by the way. So I came back to discover my long-term sub had allowed the students to destroy some of my personal belongings and had done none of the things we were supposed to do to wrap up the year—filling out information in student files being the most onerous task. No one offered to help me. I had to take frequent breaks to nurse my son. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to leave school that day, but I finally was able to obtain the necessary signatures that said I had finished my work.

When I came back the next year, I was no longer teaching language arts but a journalism course instead. My new principal made it clear it was, in her eyes, a demotion. After her first visit to my classroom, she put me on a professional development plan for classroom management. I can’t even remember anymore all the tasks she had me complete. I know one of them was that I had to receive an observation with all satisfactory scores. She made sure that wouldn’t happen. She observed a perfect class but gave me a needs improvement because I had chosen to read a short article to my students instead of having a student volunteer read it. Suffice it to say that I was unable to meet the demands of my professional development plan and she elected not to renew my contract. The district must have wanted to make sure they were getting rid of a bad teacher for real because they made her observe me yet again. If I had been wise, I’d have tried to find out if I could have had a different administrator do the observation, but I’m not sure it would have made a difference.

I remember very clearly what my principal said. She felt I would never be a good teacher. She felt that I had been in the classroom too long at that point—six years—for anyone to expect I would improve. I am sure she felt that she was doing the right thing by removing a failure from the ranks of educators.

But then my current principal took a chance. I had been honest about the fact that my previous principal would not have good things to say about me, and I know my current principal did call the former one to find out what my issues were. She also talked to a former department chair of mine and another assistant principal who told a slightly different story. She thought about it and took a chance. To this day I’m not sure why she took a chance on me because a lot of people wouldn’t. I am grateful.

In my current setting I have been encouraged to grow. I have not, interestingly enough, had classroom management problems. You can’t insist it’s because I’m in a private school because I know private school teachers who cannot manage a classroom.

By any measure including my own, I was a failure as a teacher. But I learned that with the right support, it didn’t have to be that way. I could not only be a successful teacher but a really good teacher if I were given the assistance I needed from my administration.

I know a lot of folks like to blame others for their failures, but I really have to wonder what my former principal would think if she were able to see what I am up to now. In my case, I really think that I could have been a better middle school teacher if my administrators had given me the support to make it happen. Failure was probably one of the best things to happen to me because it put me on the path I’m walking now, but it stung. It hurt for a few years. I’d like to think I bounced back from it pretty well in the end, though. My former principal would have been completely gobsmacked if she had seen me walk across the room at the Secondary Section Luncheon on Saturday to receive a Secondary Section Teacher of Excellence Award from NCTE.

Creative Commons License photo credit: robynejay

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“To End Where I Begun”: Backward Design and Shakespeare

I am presenting at NCTE tomorrow morning at 9:30 at the Yacht and Beach Club in Grand Harbour Ballroom South. You can download and/or view all my session materials here.

Note: I think if you visit the presentation on SlideShare and download it, you can get the notes.

Here is my handout for my Macbeth performance task that I discuss as an alternative to a performance.

Here is a graphic organizer for my comparative video exercise for Act I Scene 1. I use the filmed versions of Macbeth directed by Jack Gold, Roman Polanski, and Geoffrey Wright for this activity.

Here is a Wordle made from the text of Macbeth that I use to introduce students to themes in the play.

Chris Shamburg’s radio play of the “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” scene.

If you want to explore the UbD Educators wiki (Understanding by Design, ® ASCD) for a variety of resources, feel free to check it out. You don’t have to join to lurk; you have to join to contribute your own work.

Links to my previous work aligning Folger methods with backward design:

Blog posts about Folger/teaching Shakespeare:

Links to other helpful resources:

If you would like to see the Shakespeare Made Easy activity I mentioned, please visit and join A Way to Teach. You’ll find a lot of great resources there.

If I can think of more stuff to add later, I will, so bookmark this post if you’d like to access it more easily.

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NCTE Presentation

NCTE Postcard

In a couple of days, I’ll be Orlando-bound. I’m presenting on authentic assessment in Shakespeare with the Folger Shakespeare group. I do feel like a part of a family with those folks. If you want to check it out in person, come see the presentation on Saturday at 9:30 in the Yacht and Beach Club/Grand Harbor Ballroom, Salon South. It’s session G.46.

Some time soon, I will be posting my presentation and any accompanying handouts, etc. here and at the NCTE Ning.

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Folger Shakespeare Teaching Sessions at NCTE 2010

Love's Labour's LostIf you’re looking for ideas for teaching Shakespeare, you should attend the Folger Shakespeare Library’s sessions at NCTE. Folger will present five sessions, but you need not attend all five:

  • A.44, Friday, 9:30-10:45; Shakespeare Set Free Act 1: How Pre-Reading Strategies and Activities that Focus on Language Will Ease Your Students into Shakespeare. This session will briefly introduce teachers to the philosophy of the Folger Shakespeare Library and then will focus on a variety of dynamic pre-reading activities. Presenters: Mike LoMonico, Susan Biondo-Hench, Kevin Costa.
  • B.45, Friday, 11:00-12:15; Shakespeare Set Free Act 2: How Getting Students on Their Feet and Working with Shakespeare’s Language is Easier than it Sounds. Getting your students up on their feet is an essential way to engage them with Shakespeare. The presenters will demonstrate a variety of activities to ease the transition from seat-based learning to performance-based learning. Presenters: Robert Young, Julia Perlowski.
  • C.43, Friday, 12:30-1:45; Shakespeare Set Free Act 3: How Internet-Based Web 2.0 Tools Can Get Your Students Closer to Shakespeare’s Texts. The presenters will demonstrate several Web 2.0 activities for teaching Shakespeare developed with the Folger Library. Attendees will be given tech tools to assist students in a close reading of Shakespeare’s texts. Presenters: Mike LoMonico, Scott O’Neil, Chris Shamburg.
  • F.48, Saturday, 8:00-9:15; Shakespeare set Free Act 4: How to Use Film and Video in an Active Way to Connect Your Students and Shakespeare’s Plays. We all use film when we teach Shakespeare. This session will demonstrate how using YouTube, viewing multiple versions of the same scene, and creating video trailers can make film an active rather than passive experience. Presenters: Robert Young, Joshua Cabat, Mike LoMonico.
  • G.46, Saturday, 9:30-10:45; Shakespeare Set Free Act 5: How to Create Meaningful and Authentic Assessments for Your Shakespeare Unit. As your unit winds down, you look for activities that go beyond making Globe Theater models out of popsicle sticks. The presenters will demonstrate several strategies that employ higher-level thinking to evaluate students. Presenters: Mike LoMonico, Dana Huff, Robert Young, Carol Kelly.

Yes, I’m presenting that last session, and it would be nice to see friendly faces, so please do come.

If you work with teacher candidates, you might also enjoy session M.39, Sunday, 11:30-12:45; Teaching Teachers to Teach Shakespeare. The panel will present their philosophy and some practical tools for integrating the teaching of Shakespeare into pre-service English Methods courses. The speakers will focus on current best practices developed by Folger Shakespeare Library’s Education Department and teachers who they have worked with. Presenters: Robert Young, Mike LoMonico, Glenda Funk, Peggy O’Brien, Rick Vanderwall.

See you at NCTE.

Creative Commons License photo credit: UMTAD

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