Monday, June 16, 2008

The Gap

As an SAT prep instructor for several years, and now as a high school career advisor, I have always made it a point to encourage any kid who will listen to take a year off after graduating high school to do something totally random before continuing down their career path.

It seems like the editors of the New York Times are of the same mind. Every now and then they'll publish a story about students who take a "gap year" in Ghana before going on to Princeton or Yale to study nanotechnology or microfinance.

I'm being snarky, but I really do believe that taking a year off before college was the best thing I ever did for my post-secondary education and my career. My instant best friend in college (and still one of my closest friends) had taken a year off to live in France. We were both just a little more mature, and a little more ready to get on with the whole college thing.

When I bring up The Gap to parents, they typically look at me like I'm crazy. But once I explain the benefits -- that you're likely to get more out of college when you're more mature, that it gives you another year to save for college, that you can apply for college now and defer your admission -- they tend to warm up to the idea.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Testing testing

I'd be really interested in seeing the Georgia statewide middle school social studies test that was so hard, 70 to 80 percent of students failed, and the state had to throw out the results. (Via ASCD Inservice)

What was so hard about the test? I'm curious. Not just because I'm a social studies teacher, but also because I grew up in Georgia and took plenty of standardized tests there.

Meanwhile, Georgia's lucky that they can throw out social studies scores, since social studies tests are not mandated by NCLB (yet), but they have also "questioned the validity" of the math tests, which are required. What do you do about that in the NCLB era?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Should have, would have, etc.

The last day of school was on Friday, which was also D-Day. has a great series of photos from that time period that I wish I could have used for my contemporary U.S. history class. Sigh.

So I'm done with my first year. All of my seniors were able to walk at graduation, though some will be attending summer school before they can get their diplomas. My grades are entered, and I've taken the college posters down from the career office so they can paint the walls. I've sent reams of paper to the recycling bin. I even had time to sign a few yearbooks.

Now all I can do is reflect on what happened in 07-08, and what I can do differently in 08-09. I feel like as a social studies teacher, I should be scurrying around trying to plan curriculum to take advantage of this historic presidential election year.

But ... that can wait a day or two, can't it?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"Well you give HIM some trouble."

The Department of Ed is now giving my school trouble about the fact that I don't have my Minnesota license. The reason I don't have my license is that the Department of Ed wouldn't give it to me. So it goes ...

I still get emails on my NYU account about social studies job openings at all of these wonderful New York City schools, including both schools where I student taught, for which I would be perfectly licensed and certified. I don't know why I even bother opening those emails.

Meanwhile I'm working on proving that I am qualified to teach social studies in Minnesota. Luckily my school is supporting me throughout this process. But what happens if the state comes down on my school with more than just a slap on the wrist? With their budget they can't afford to keep someone on staff who legally can't teach, and they wouldn't risk having to pay fines or lose funding over it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Students being historians

My contemporary U.S. history students today conducted their oral history interviews. Two groups went to the senior apartment complex next door and came back really excited about the people they'd interviewed, one of whom was a soldier during World War II under General Patton. The Cold War group interviewed one of our school leaders, who told them about being a child in Iowa when Khrushchev made the "We will bury you" speech from an Iowa cornfield.

We'll see tomorrow how much they got out of it. This oral history project has been a huge challenge and a huge learning experience for me ... hopefully the kids have learned a thing or too as well.

UPDATE: Obviously I meant to write a thing or two. And obviously I have been hanging out with teenagers and reading their writing too, too much. They presented their interview data today -- pretty interesting! More in a post to come.