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the teacher asks as question.  The answer the student gives is not what is expected.

What should happen next?

The answer is, it all depends.

Perhaps the teacher should ask WHY the student gave that answer.

It may be the student has a misconception that by asking for clarification the teacher can help correct that misconception immediately.

It is also possible that the way the question was asked pointed the student in the wrong direction, or was misleading.  By clarifying the question (perhaps restating it) the student can be guided towards the correct answer.

Please note - the student is providing the original answer, not selecting from four or five preselected possibilities one of which MUST be correct.

But there is still one more possibility, and it is part of what makes teaching sometimes both exciting and scary.

The student offers an explanation which is based on an insight/understanding the teacher has never considered.  That may be the most important thing that happens in that class for a week, or even more.

Shaping our teaching to have students be successful on selecting predetermined answers on multiple choice items does not require or even encourage deeper learning or understanding.

And if we insist on using multiple choice items, then perhaps we should provide our students with the opportunity to go back, figure out why they got a question wrong, provide a justification for what the correct answer is for partial credit.  After all, should not one outcome of assessment be to help the student correct her misunderstandings, to learn from his mistakes?

It is moments like the student insight that I will miss when I see my students for the last time on Wednesday.  It is realizing that I will not have the opportunity to challenge, to help them take ownership of their own learning, that will cause me to ache a bit when I walk out of my classroom, cleaned up and ready for its next occupant, midday on June 11.

Imagine you are in a classroom.

Imagine the possibilities for excitement, for real learning.

Think what we are doing by our educational policy to those possibilities.

Perhaps now you can understand at least in part why I am leaving?


Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 03:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Oh, teacherken! (14+ / 0-)

    With all respect, you are one of those rare people who just will not stay retired.  One way or another, you're going to find a way to teach, whether in the classroom, as a tutor, as an author (I would snap you up right now if I were ready with my planned literary agency) or as somethig so creative you may not have thought of it yet.

    Like a teaching zombie.

    I can tell.

    Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, Content, and sufficient champagne. --Dorothy Parker

    by M Sullivan on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 04:08:20 AM PDT

  •  Those are some of the best times... (12+ / 0-)

    I loved it when kids asked questions to which I had no answer.  That was when we ALL learned something new.  

    When I first began teaching, I was a little afraid to admit that I didn't know things.  I quickly learned that the best classroom times were when we explored an unknown together.  There was also the fact that their BS meters were always set on "High."  Trying to "baffle them with BS" was both futile and dangerous.  If they didn't trust me, why would they learn or listen to anything I was trying to teach?

    I'm sorry that you are leaving the classroom.  It will be an adjustment for you, but it will be a real loss for the kids.  It's almost impossible for a teacher with an ounce of creativity to survive the onslaught of testing and other paperwork.  

    My best friend just retired, too, at the age of 71.  I know that she wouldn't have done so if so much of the joy hadn't been sucked out of teaching.  She really loved her kids and the challenges of sparking the "light bulb" moments.

    I wish you peace and good luck in future endeavors.  I know you won't be idle or silent because you're just too good at what you do!  :-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 04:19:25 AM PDT

  •  I'm sorry you're not feeling more (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gordon20024, angelajean, BlueDragon

    positive.  When we've made the right decision, it's supposed to feel good because the subconscious certifies it. Perhaps you need to look for another teaching gig in a new venue.  Perhaps closer to home so you can walk and feel more connected to the community. Now you can afford not to care what the salary level is.
    Or, perhaps you should consider running for a public office.  

    The obligations of citizenship:

    to vote
    to serve on juries
    to hold public office
    to propose laws
    to provide material support
    to enforce the laws

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 04:25:26 AM PDT

    •  I feel quite positive about the decision (11+ / 0-)

      I am acknowledging what i will miss, about what I will feel sorry

      but I have absolutely no doubt that I made the right decision in taking the buyout and moving on

      I have no desire to run for public office.  Even if I did, I am in a heavily Democratic jurisdiction with people stacked up to run for every conceivable position, even for school board (which might be the best fit).  

      As Clint Eastwood says as Dirty Harry,  "A Man's gotta know his limitations."  Mine include not running for public office.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 04:29:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you've never tried it, you can't know (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        angelajean, BlueDragon

        if you'll like it.  It's the running that counts. People appreciate having candidates listen to them and ask for their vote. (I've run three times -- was only elected once -- running is definitely better than serving). Public officials have way less influence than they think they'll have.  The advantage of being a candidate is that the information flow from the bureaucracy increases exponentially.  Candidates have a natural platform for issues that the established power structure fears. Candidates that have no burning desire to be elected are particularly bothersome since they can't be suborned.

        People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

        by hannah on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 05:01:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have been involved in enough campaigns (6+ / 0-)

          at enough different levels to know what I like and don't like.

          I have run field in two states (one rather large) in a President Primary campaign

          I have done field, GOTV, been the body man, policy, etc. etc. for races ranging from local government in a community of 6,000 (where I was asked to run for local office) to statewide federal office in Virginia (Webb for Senate, primary and general, 2006).

          I also know enough electeds well enough to know what their lives are like.  That goes from my former Governor and now Senatorial candidate Tim Kaine to numerous members of the House of Representatives in DC.

          I see no office to which I feel strongly drawn to run.

          Thanks anyway.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 05:08:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Campaigning for public office has (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            iTeachQ, angelajean, BlueDragon

            been turned into a corporate endeavor. It's what I'd like to counter. It's what people who want to take money out of the process want to counter, but the fault lies not with the money but with the corruption of the selection process, the perpetuation of the myth that it's about the candidate, rather than the electorate. Media and operatives like to focus on candidates because, being fewer in number, they're easier to control.

            People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

            by hannah on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 05:30:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  This is an interesting take on campaigning (0+ / 0-)

          that I hadn't thought about before. But I can see what you mean - just talking about the issues in a framework that is important to you or to progressive causes can spark more conversation and possibly more change in the future. This is something I will have to think more about.

      •  This is news to me. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        What clinched your decision to retire? Was much of what went into your decision stemming from pressures due to the DC contract, the deform policies that went into effect? Did you see a lot of negative impact on your day to day teaching, which informed your decision? Or do you think you would have retired at this point anyway?

        Havent seen many diaries by you for a while, so this comes as something of a surprise to me when it comes to you, specifically. However, in general, I am not surprised, as it has become the rule - folks wanting to retire, asap, anxious to get OUT... due to the non education that permeates education these days, all the pressure put on teachers that has nothing to do with real teaching.

        Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a lame party, or should it drive a lame party to break out? If it cant, should it break out?

        by NYCee on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:42:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't teach in DC (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NYCee, BMarshall, ladybug53

          PG County MD

          I was beginning to see impact on what I could do as a result of the deforming policies.  Also, students were coming every year less prepared because of how their previous education had been narrowed.   That meant I increasingly was remediating deficiencies rather than challenging them the way I would like to.

          The culture of our building was changing.  7 senior teachers took a buyout last year.  Not including me there were 6 additional this year.  Three more are already pretty committed to leave after next year, even without a buyout.  The ability of the building administration to direct hire had been taken away, we were getting people imposed upon us by school administration, and the pool of students from which we had been drawing was being narrowed.

          So I was teaching in a setting that was changing regularly and not for the better, and there was little that I could do about it.

          I had an opportunity early this calendar year, had I been willing to commit for 3 more years to been in charge of a very interesting program being tried out at our school.  I was in part responsible for bringing it in.  Financially continuing to work for several more years while drawing Social Security could have made a lot of sense, especially if I have trouble finding other employment (which given that I am 66 is not without reason for concern), but I had by then pretty much decided I probably needed to move on.

          So I am leaping somewhat without a complete net.  We'll see how it plays out.

          I am exploring teaching in other settings, several of which involve kids very different than what I have been teaching, but where my impact potentially could be far more meaningful.  Have to see how any of that might work out.

          I should hear about one such this next week.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:57:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for the explanation. (0+ / 0-)

            If you dont mind me asking, are you at the top of your salary 'ladder'? Just wondering how much of a pinch it will be for you, giving up a few more years.

            From what I know of your teaching (mostly AP classes?), or think I know, it occurs to me that your new job possibilities may entail teaching kids with lower skills/achievement and greater needs.

            If it is what I inferred, I think it could prove very rewarding for you... and helpful to them.

            Good luck whatever the case.  

            Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a lame party, or should it drive a lame party to break out? If it cant, should it break out?

            by NYCee on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 08:26:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  In 1968 went from Jr High to college teaching (8+ / 0-)

    took a job for 6 months in Jr. High to avoid draft for Vietnam war.

    when I was leaving, several Jr. High teachers came up to me individuality and asked me in a worried way, "what if they ask you a question that you couldn't answer?"

    my response is that that would be great

    that was in the old days before the corruption of all of our institutions

    then I left teaching at the college level because of the lack of system problem solving because after the world had been cut up into academic disciplines, the interdependence are not front and center and this leads to cutting out essential issues

    you know, like the back and forth between the political parties which leaves the important issues off the media agenda and has fueled ignorant and uninformed "citizens"

    for example, the democratic party walked away from poverty in 1980. That was 30 years ago. Now the issue is the destruction of the middle class and poverty is totally off the table.

    it took OWS to even bring income inequality to the table - well, at least to be talked about a little bit more

    let me say a little more about inter-dependencies. I have put this in some other comments, but it is worth stating again. The systems philosopher, C. West Churchman, at Berkeley, in the late 70's symbolized the world's problems as M P cubed. In algebra M*P*P*P. The letters stand for militarism, poverty, population and pollution. These are interdependent. He would to the French department and say that the main problem they face is MP cubed. They probably thought he was crazy and ignored him.

  •  The teaching profession is empowering (7+ / 0-)

    Teaching requires a complex skill set of organization, determination, effective communication, and caring for others.  
    There are many ways for retired teachers to stay engaged in the art of changing lives.
    My weekly commitments to the food bank and local progressive politics gives me ample opportunity to use my teaching experience to benefit others.  

    Congratulations on your retirement.

    Enjoy the metamorphosis into your next stage of life.
    I'm sure it will have wings.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 06:17:36 AM PDT

  •  questions (6+ / 0-)

    I love it when the students have insights I never saw coming.  I always make a big deal out of them.  When we come across something I don't have an answer for, we make it into some sort of extra credit.  Usually they have to bring me the answer in three credible sources (links are usually fine if they work).  

    I wish you well Teacher Ken.  I'm too young to retire, so I'm going to keep slogging against the ridiculous testing tide.  The kids deserve that much at least.  

  •  I couldn't agree with you more! eom (4+ / 0-)

    And even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah! -Leonard Cohen .................@laurenreichelt

    by TheFatLadySings on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 06:30:44 AM PDT

  •  I have a feeling you will always teach (0+ / 0-)

    it just may not be in the traditional public school classroom.

  •  Some of my favorite moments are when a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, elfling, BMarshall

    student has an insight and counters a question with another question that takes the discussion off at a new angle or to a greater depth.  Most times, it's a thrilling moment where we get to leap to connect to other knowledge or go deeper than the standard curriculum requires.

    However, on very special occasions, my delighted response is, "I don't know.  We're going to have to look into that some more to see if anyone has something on that!"  It's difficult to describe the feeling of shock and joy and wonder at those moments.  I know that I react with my biggest smiles, and students know that they have really done something fabulous.  Which is funny if you think about it ... as a learning community, our biggest most wonder filled moments are when we find something about which we don't know something.  LOL

    Here's one:  (8th grade science, this year.) I was introducing the concept that while we say that electrons are in discreet "levels" around the nucleus, we can't really say where an electron is at any given time ... we just have probabilities ... When I had a student ask me, "if electrons move in quantum jumps from one place to another, how do we really know that time even really exists? Or does the electron just seem like it isn't existing in our time and it traveled from one place here by going elsewhere and just popped up back here. Or are the Conservation of Matter and Energy Laws wrong?"  Um, I don't know -- but wow, huh?

    Interestingly, this student frequently had a great deal of difficulty with MC tests since all of the possible responses seemed a bit wrong -- which is largely the case, really, expecially when it comes to this level of science.  It was difficult for her to find the "best" response.  Usually, she could narrow it down to the 2 least wrong responses, but then guessed with resulting less than stellar results.  On in-school exams, we allow corrections where students provide the correct response with explanation for 50% credit.    

    You're right.  Those are some the best moments of all.  And thank you, once again, for a delightful insight.  I can't imagine how you must be feeling, right now.  I know that I always have bittersweet feelings just getting to the end of the year when the students leave and everything gets packed up for the summer room cleaning.  

    My heart goes out to you as you're anticipating leaving your classroom on the 11th.  You ARE a teacher, so I have no doubt you will indeed have students going forward ... but it's a big moment and transition.  I wish you well, so very well.  And, thank you so much for all you have so brilliantly and lovingly done for so many.

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:53:18 AM PDT

  •  There have been times when (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    during Circle Time, the direction I want to take the kids is not where they want to go.

    Sitting back and letting my preschoolers take the conversation is so ...enlightening.

    This year's class has been one of my brightest.  Right now we are 'talking about' compare and contrast-(they call it same and different) and their examples are those simple things we so often overlook.

    I shudder sometimes when I realize that working toward a goal of independent thought for a four year old will be lost next year when they enter the world of standard tests.

    Oh well- we had fun.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:55:09 AM PDT

  •  "Program Improvement" just frosts me for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, BMarshall, ladybug53

    this reason.

    Teachers in a "Program Improvement" school (in CA) have to certify that they are following the curriculum and pacing guides to the minute.

    There is no room for a student to have an unexpected question.

    It makes me sad, and it makes teachers sad, too, which is why I've seen teachers apply for positions with a substantial pay cut to get out of that scenario. It's one of the reasons low performing schools have trouble holding on to their best teachers.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 08:22:11 AM PDT

    •  I ignore pacing guides (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have the track record even on external tests that has allowed me to teach as I think best

      it is not just in such settings that it is happening.  I talked a school that wanted to grab me when I had signed an open contract for the one year (2001-2002) I taught in Arlington VA - their principal wanted everyone on same page at same time.  I pointed out I could have 6 classes each in a different place if that is what made sense for them in learning, and asked why they would hire me and take away from me what made me successful.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 09:06:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You teach everytime you write (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, ladybug53

    Best of luck in your new life. But you were born a teacher- your venue is just changing

    Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. Mohandas Gandhi

    by onceasgt on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 08:26:39 AM PDT

  •  Thank You teacherken (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMarshall, ladybug53

    I have followed yours posts over much of the last decade on Kos and as a parent and an educator myself have appreciated your insight.

     I was originally Heather in OR, with one child graduating from high school in an impoverished coastal town and the other just entering kindergarten in 2001.   When life changed and I became Heather in Midtown, enrolling my youngest in a New York city public high school midway through freshman year, it was clear to see how the past decade had changed the learning landscape for our kids.

     With curriculums a mile wide and an inch deep, culminating in high stakes tests that seem to reinforce failure more than advance learning, the school year is exhausting for students, parents and teachers alike.  

    I teach gym in a private school, where parents spend the equivalent of what I make in a year on their child's annual preschool tuition.  The goal is to set little Chase or Isabella up for admission into the right private elementary school, the right high school, the right Ivy league school. These schools are not subject to NCLB requirements.

    Nearby, there are two high schools, one public (which I suspect could be yours) that has a reputation of being one of the better schools in the city and a private lycee that seems to be populated with French fashion models in grey skinny jeans.  Getting into the high ranked public schools was not an option for my kid. She hadn't taken the right tests as a transfer student. For the uninitiated, NYC public high schools have a complex admission process not based on neighborhood, but on tests, interviews, auditions, etc.

    Travel downtown 30 blocks and you find the vocational/technical school my daughter got into, with a nice new building in progress, along with an academic train wreck for approximately 40% of this year's graduating class.  The kids can't pass these tests without extra help, tutoring, retaking classes.  If they don't pass the regents exams, they don't get the diploma.

    I have already spent $2000 in tutoring and prep classes this year to help my kid catch up.  She will, in all likelihood, attend summer school again, 20 blocks further downtown where everyone passes through a metal detector to get in. If you fail the tests in June, you get another chance in mid August. Two weeks later, rinse and repeat and hope your kid is not so burned out that they drop out.

    My children had the same Kindergarten teacher, 10 years apart. She took early retirement after my youngest's class because she said she saw the direction that education was going and the endless standards and rubrics and assessments took all of the joy out of teaching kindergarten.  Having done time myself as a high school sub, it's not hard to see how quickly the life can get sucked out of a teacher trying to cram facts into kids who are sick of endless testing.

    I salute your service and know you will keep fighting the good fight.  

  •  It happened to me in grad school. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, ladybug53

    I was a teaching assistant in a big introductory genetics class. I was given one problem to grade on the final- a  calculation involving the probability of a couple having a child with a condition if an uncle had it. The professor gave me the correct answer, which I worked out also so that I could give feedback if someone did part of it right but got the wrong answer.

    About half way through grading over 300 tests I came across someone who had gone about it in a somewhat different way and gotten a wrong answer. I worked through what he did so that I could show him the right way to get to the answer, but I couldn't figure out anything that he had done wrong. I asked the other TAs and they couldn't figure out what was wrong so I went and asked the professor. He couldn't either, so I went and asked the best mathematician in the department. He glanced at it and said that the student's answer was correct and ours was wrong. A subtle wording error had turned what was supposed to be a straightforward probability question into a complicated condiditonal probability problem.

    That student was the only one in the class that got the correct answer- about half the class got our answer and the others got it wrong in a more traditional fashion.

  •  I think I understand why you are leaving... (0+ / 0-)

    based on my own experience in school, that of my own kids and their friends and all you and other teacher and student types have written.

    I will be curious to read about what you decide to do next.  Whether you go more the Gatto or Holt route, or take some other direction.

    Cooper Zale Los Angeles

    by leftyparent on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 09:28:45 AM PDT

  •  these tests concentrate on answers (0+ / 0-)

    Knowing the "right answer" is highly valued by standardized tests and those who make and rely upon and trust them.  According to this framing, more "right answers" equals better educational outcome.

    But I would submit that the quality of our questions is a greater hallmark of a fine education than is the quantity of our answers.

  •  I'll never forget note from parent re: helping 1st (0+ / 0-)

    grader practice basic addition facts:  The note, as best I recall now, after retiring said something like:

    I ain't got time to help little ray learn no math. Math is hard.  It's your job to learn my kid. I work all day and am too tired to learn my kids anything when I get home.

    Follow-up: at the end of that school year I got another note from the same parent saying she was going to homeschool little Ray the following year.  

    By now Little Ray should be through HS if he hasn't dropped out.  It sounds like he could have been like many students you taught, Teacherken.

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