Reflection on 2015

That's me.  Just Doing it.I sat down to do a little reflection on the year, and tried  to jot down ten highlights, ten disappointments, and a few other details about the past year. It hasn’t been the best of years, so I was surprised when my list of highlights was just about done, and I was still on number four in my list of disappointments. As I reflected on this, as well as what I had written, I came up with a few things.

Perspective is an amazing thing, and unfortunately we’re often too busy with our daily lives to get any, but one thing I realized is that I need to reflect more on a regular basis. I’ve kind of fallen out of the habit of journaling, but have picked it back up again. I’ve long maintained diaries, starting when I was in elementary school, and this habit of writing to myself at the end of each day is one that I realize I have missed. Besides, writers need to write, right?

I also look back on the crises of the year and realize that time passes and the urgency of the crisis passes. In the thick of it, I am always in panic, unable to see how we can possibly get through it, but after a few months, it’s almost forgotten. I have to try to remind myself of that when the next crisis arises. This too shall pass.

Finally, even if my days are filled with tasks I would deem far from the biggest contributions to society, I can choose to still be relevant, I can choose to continue learning and creating. It’s ok to work a dead-end job, but it’s not ok to succumb to being dead-end. It takes work to create opportunities for myself to engage my intellect and creativity, but it is imperative. Otherwise, I’ll look up in twenty years and wonder where my life went.

Anyway. I hope you have an excellent and safe New Years Eve, and look to 2016 with wonder and anticipation at what might be coming next. Enjoy!

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Common Sense

“Common Sense isn’t so common.”

How many times have you heard this phrase?

How many times have you really thought about it, though?

It seems like every day I come across some situation where someone’s behavior or the string of words that come out of their mouth are shocking to me. “They don’t have a lick of sense!” would be a usual response around here.

When employees are at work at a retail store and are “spoken to” because they are not being discreet with their phones… and there is no one in the store.  When teachers “modify” a test down from 75 questions to 15. When a young man with autism isn’t paid for a year of work at a restaurant. I could go on.

Maybe we are becoming more individual which is a good thing.  I mean, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and thoughts, and heaven forbid we go back to the days where kids were seen and not heard, and women voted the way their husbands did (or even to the days when women couldn’t vote!). Everyone was polite then, and there were things that just weren’t done — everyone conformed. And that’s not ideal, either.

But I think somehow, with all of this “entitlement” to our opinions, we have lost something. Is it the ability to think rationally? to problem solve? to logically analyze what’s going on and make deductions based on evidence? to reflect on ourselves, our own behavior, motivations, and actions?

I’m not one to bash technology.  I think it’s a great tool, I use it every day, all the time. But I wonder if our reliance on technology has turned us into a people that cannot think for themselves. Not just about opinions, but about facts, evidence, and what to do with those facts and evidence to make things better for other people and ourselves.

I saw it when I was teaching, and asked my 6th graders to really research and think about the purpose music had in different cultures. They would simply go to google and type: “What is the purpose of music in South Africa?”

Thinking takes time and effort, and unfortunately, I think people of all ages are doing less and less of it.  And as I always told my band kids, when they weren’t practicing their skills, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

Food for thought, my friends.

The Spirit or the Letter

This post is almost an addendum to yesterday’s. I got a progress report from The Boy’s science class. He has a B-. Great! Except it’s not.  Here’s why: he received 100 percent on every assignment, and a 95 on the one project they have done this quarter. Why a B-? Because he got a 67 on a test last week.

Again, as a teacher, I would look at this student’s grades and say to myself, “Something doesn’t add up here. If my assessment (test) was a true assessment of whether or not this student knows the material, it is not reflecting that accurately. Why not?” In this scenario, either the grading of the homework is not a true reflection, or the assessment is not a true reflection.  And when you add in that the project (which more often shows what a student really understands than a multiple choice test) received a 95, you begin to think the fault lies with the test.

quizAfter investigating, I found out the test had been modified. Great! Except it’s not.  It was only 15 questions. This is a major flaw in test design.  If the teacher made it fewer questions to modify it, she has effectively made it harder to earn an A. That’s a problem.

There’s no easy answer here, and I know in this case, at least everyone is trying to help. But. If my son knows the material, a 67 shouldn’t stand in the gradebook. According to the “letter” of grading, he earned it, but according to the “spirit” of grading, it’s not accurate, and something should be done about it.  I wouldn’t have let it stand as a teacher (you do have the ability to throw out a test and re-do it…), and I’m not sure what to do about it as a parent, except talk to the teacher, and see what we can come up with.  I don’t want to come off as I-know-more-than-you-about-assessment, but at the same time, I’m a stickler for fairness.

What do you think?

Last Day: Looking Back

I think it’s only normal for people to look back before starting something new, and New Year’s Eve is a logical opportunity to do so.  It’s also important.  One of the things teachers benefit most from but rarely have time to do is reflect on their daily teaching to analyze what worked and what needs to be tweaked.  True in non-teacher lives, as well, I know.  At the end of the day, thinking back on what was positive, and what we could have handled better helps us learn from our mistakes, and decreases the likelihood that we will repeat them.

This year, I moved house in a major way, got married, left my career, battled for better schooling for my son, wrote a novel, and got a new job which I love.  I’ve left old friends behind (but never forgotten), and made new friends.  My life has improved, sometimes by sheer will.  I compromise more (a new husband and a blended family make this absolutely necessary), I don’t get nearly as many headaches, I relax (fully) more.

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t see past June.  It was a complete unknown – What would I be doing?  What would my son be doing?  How would our lives change?  Now that I am six months past that point of all that was unknown, I am proud of us for taking this leap, trusting ourselves to get re-married, trusting that we could find a good school situation for The Boy, and trusting that I would land on my feet with a job I didn’t hate, making enough to pay the bills.  I am very proud of us.  It was a big leap of faith, and it has turned out beautifully.

2013 has been a year of great change, of great opportunity, of great hope, and of great reward for me (and us).  I hope it treated you just as well.  I look forward to 2014 with great anticipation for continued growth for all of us.

Happy Old Year, Friends.  And Happy New Year.

English: This came from New Years Eve 2004 int...