Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Tearing through Crossed by Ally Condie December 28, 2011

Filed under: authors,book reviews,books,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:18 pm
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Even though it did take me quite a while to get into the book, I really liked Matched, the first in the trilogy. I first tried to read it when it came out last year, but petered out during the first six chapters. My daughter then took the book to read and it disappeared into her scary pre-teen bedroom, not to emerge for many months. I then got the book on audio this fall, thinking that might get me past whatever was holding me up.

The audiobook expired before I was done with the book, so I picked up the hardback again.

Read a chapter.

Put it on my to-read stack,

and left it there until last week.

It’s not that it wasn’t good, it certainly got me thinking about a lot of things…the biggest thing being:

“What if no one learned to ‘write’ anymore (print or cursive) because everything was on a keyboard? How easy would it be for your writing to then be monitored? Hmmm….”

Well, I can’t put Crossed down and have almost finished it in the last 24 hours. I love how the chapters alternate between Ky and Cassia. I, of course, love any teacher turned author, such as Ally Condie.


So I’m a Little Sad December 23, 2011


I am in my fourth year of my current position and it officially will not exist next year. This makes me a little sad (okay-more than a little). I usually have a very positive outlook on most things, but I’m having difficulty with this one. I hate to say I knew it was inevitable, but I did. I might say more on that some other time.

So what am I doing next year? I’m trying to figure that out every day. Here’s what I do know:

  • I do have a position within the district I’ve worked in for nineteen years (good news), even if it means bumping one of the new teachers I’ve mentored the past several years out of their position (super yucky news).
  • I do have a licensure as a principal ages 3-14 now (good news)
  • I have been accepted by an international educationn search organization for educators as an administrative candidate (good news)
  • I had a Skype interview with a school in Asia this week (good news) (oh, by the way-I started my career in an International School in Luxembourg and am considering returning to international school education-more on this later)
  • Filling out job applications is a full-time job (bad news)
  • Getting ‘ding’ letters is no more fun at my age than it was when I was waiting on college acceptances (yucky 😦 )
  • I’d really like to be spending my time reading books and cleaning my house, but am a little hyperfocused on what I’m going to be doing next year (bad news)
  • There are very few blogs out there about educators in international education, at least that I can find. I have met several great international educators through twitter, NCTE, and more and they have been very helpful.
  • I could refocus on writing the professional book I’ve been outlining for the past several years (good news)
  • I am partially finished with coursework for my superintendent licensure (good news)
  • I have enough reading material from NCTE to keep me busy for the first half of 2012 (good news)

Holiday Break goal-get a good idea of first steps, second, etc.


A Christmas Tree Made of Books December 13, 2011

Filed under: repurposed books — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:34 am

I need this!

or this!



Lucy Calkins NCTE Notes December 12, 2011

Filed under: Calkins,Common Core,NCTE — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:26 am
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Harnessing the Power of the Common Core Standards Alongside the Engine of Reading and Writing Workshop Across the Curriculum, Grades 3–9 Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth; authors, Pathways to the Common Core (Spring 2012)

Calkins’ mini-lessons for student readers: “What you get out of reading will be different if you approach it like curmudgeons vs. approaching it like the text is gold.”

Same applies for the Common Core.

Complaints about the Common Core (the curmudgeon):

• It will lead people to “beat teachers up” at a time when they are already suffering; accuse them of not teaching what students “need”

• There’s no money for anything already, where is the money coming from for PD and cost-per-child for testing?

• ELA students are unequipped to meet these standards as set out

• Informational text and literature standards for reading are mirrored, which is unrealistic

• Who wrote these, anyway? “Written by committee,” and they’re continuing to write additions that have not been ratified yet (personal opinion pieces) but they appear to be part of the CCSS.

• End points are clear, but the methods of reaching them are not, and these personally-authored pieces are all over the place (but again, treated like part of the CCSS).

However: We have to look at CCSS and see hope and opportunity rather than despair. (Newark, NJ example about young mayor)

Positive things about CCSS (the “gold):

• It’s a “wake-up call” in a system that is “really, really late” in terms of quality of education. The average college grad reads one book a year – this in an age of informational overload. • Will help us offer the “rich curriculum” to all kids at a time when 80% of jobs require “high literacy skills”

• The practices of comprehension are so much more complex than they used to be (definition-wise); so is the practice of writing, and the standards reflect that.

• Streamlined – not “thousands of pages” long

• Each grade’s standards hold other grades accountable; “it takes a village” to teach literacy

• Gives a starting place to help develop kids’ skills. • Asks for kids to do complex work with independence

• Puts an emphasis on reading complex texts • Asks for teachers and principals to make big decisions

Mary Ehrenworth: Looking at the Common Core Reading Standards The reading standards:

• Ask for a high level of reading (text complexity), which is refreshing.

• Build on each other – you can’t do the later ones without the earlier ones.

• Ask “what does the text say, and how does it work”? (Note: This aligns exactly with Junior Great Books activities. Seriously. It’s asking kids to stay within the text and supply details from it.)

Mary walked us through the reading standards by asking us to apply them (using an example from Charlotte’s Web):

• Restate the text (restructuring)

• Determine central idea(s) (and give examples)

• Connect your new ideas back to the earlier ideas and see how they’ve developed

• Determine important and metaphorical words/phrases/language

• Think about structure (time)

• Think about point of view Recommended doing some of this work with colleagues to practice. Looking at the Writing Standards

• Divided by types of writing o Narrative: Personal, realistic fiction, historical fiction, memoir o Argument: Personal essay, persuasive essay, literary essay, research essay o Informational: Nonfiction articles, nonfiction books

• Think about whether your students are getting the opportunity to become good at writing these types of text, and what that kind of writing should look like across K–12 and across curriculum.
• Writing standards are cumulative; they build on each other. Take a piece of writing and see how it would develop across the grades based on the standards. (I was unclear whether she meant a student’s writing or an extant text; I think she means student writing.)

Calkins: How to Make the Common Core Work in Schools

• CCSS asks for institutional buy-in: Everyone agrees on working toward certain levels of ability, and it only works if everyone does it (at all levels and across disciplines) Also, CCSS calls for cross-curricular integration.

• CCSS asks for us to “lift the level of teaching and learning” (which is not new in terms of large-scale efforts, and most of those haven’t worked – see NCLB). It’s not just about standards; it’s a call for school reform. So we have to learn from our reform mistakes and not repeat them. • Most people’s reaction will be to read the CCSS and then add new programs and policies and initiatives to meet the core. However, CCSS is not calling for curricular compliance; it’s calling for an acceleration of student achievement (however that is accomplished). The best way to lift the level of achievement is not to add, it’s to see what strong stuff you already have that “gestures toward the common core” and do it more often with more focus and rigor. • You also need school buy-in to the strongest initiatives: A lot of teachers equate professionalism with autonomy, but to the outside world, professionalism is the opposite (relying on a body of knowledge bigger than yourself, and working well with others).

• To work in schools, the core needs to be “socially supported” in the school. Motivation is the holy grail of school reform. “Most people, when faced with the choice between ‘change’ or ‘die,’ will choose ‘die.’” The only way to motivate serious change is through the creation of support groups.

• Locate the good work being done, create communities in which to share the work, and share it. Groundbreaking Research Lucy Calkins cited Visible Learning by John Hattie: The factor that promotes achievement more than anything else is effective feedback:

• The learner needs a clear goal to work toward that is realistic but challenging.

• The teacher watches and gives feedback that is supportive (informational, not just praise “This is what you’re doing well”) and critical. • The teacher watches to see if the learner improves; this is the teacher’s feedback.

• Kids and teachers both need a clear sense of what it means to “do the work better” and how/where the progress is being made. CCSS lays that out.


What I’ve Been Reading (and Listening to) December 11, 2011

I’m currently reading Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler and have recently finished Bystander by James Preller.

Having spent a great deal of time in the car over the past month, I’ve just finished Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. I loved them all, for very different reasons. I’m one a YA kick right now on the heels of ALAN in November.

I do listen to audiobooks almost every time I’m in the car without someone with me. So even if it’s just a four minute drive between school buildings. I didn’t have much of Whale Talk left, so I thought I could probably finish it on the ride from the office to GIS. I didn’t anticipate that I would start bawling and be unable to go into the school for ten minutes while I pulled myself together. I LOVE Chris Crutcher and Whale Talk is amazing. I do think that any adult who likes to read, really should venture into YA or teen books. There are so many amazing titles that deal with so many different issues that if you don’t, you are really missing out. I love the main character T.J. Jones, his biker father, and the group that makes up the swim team. The issues of race, abuse, hunting, amidst the backdrop of varsity sports and athletic fervor will really make the reader think.

I don’t know how I hadn’t read any of the Larry books by Janet Tashjian. When I go to the library to get audiobooks, I just look for covers that I know have gotten a lot of blog talk over the past several years that I hadn’t gotten to when they first came out. The Gospel According to Larry is brilliant. I really enjoyed Josh’s wry tone as he tells the story of Larry/himself. Consumerism, celebrity, all great messages during the whole Occupy Wall Street Movement.



Dylan Wiliam’s post on Incentive Pay–interesting reading December 4, 2011

Filed under: Teachers — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:02 pm
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Incentive pay for teachers—why it’s a really dumb idea that needs to be abandoned now The idea that paying teachers bonuses if their students do well on tests has been gathering momentum recently, which is alarming because it is an idea that will cost a lot of money to implement, cannot be done fairly, doesn’t work, and has the potential to lower student achievement. First, despite the claims of the value-added proponents, we cannot divide up increases in student learning and allocate them to individual teachers. As Jesse Rothstein’s work shows, good teachers benefit their students for at least two years after they have stopped teaching them, and conversely, the total harm caused by bad teachers takes years to materialize. Second, we cannot use classroom observations to work out who the good teachers are either. While the work of the Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching program, and the work of Consortium on Chicago School Research, has begun to tease out what teacher behaviors are associated with increased student progress, they are still accounting for less than 20% of teacher quality. So if we pay bonuses to teachers who rate highly on one of their observation protocols, we do know that, on average, the bonuses will go to teachers who are more productive, but the differences are small. And then there is a real danger that teachers who are currently highly effective in ways that are not represented in the framework will become less effective because of the incentive to ape the protocol in order to get the bonus. Third, a recent study showed that even $15k incentives weren’t enough to raise students’ scores, which suggests that teacher effort is not the problem. And from what we know about motivation (see Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”), performance-contingent rewards tend to lower performance on high-complexity high-creativity tasks. So what should we do? Pay teachers fairly, and let them get on with it. Create an expectation that every teacher should improve their classroom practice every year, not because they’re not good enough but because they could be even better. And create support systems that support each teacher in lifelong improvement.