MSM Podcast #63 This discussion is anything but Academic

Items, Events, Calendar, Eclectic Stuff (truc et chose)

  1. Book sale!  Clearance prices!
  2. NMSA’s Middle Level Essentials Conference April 23-24, 2009. Robert Balfanz will be keynoting.  He has done a bunch of research on 6th grade transition factors that has been cited by NMSA.
    • “Robert Balfanz is a research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University and associate director of the Talent Development Middle and High School Project, which is currently working with more than fifty high-poverty secondary schools to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive whole-school reforms. His work focuses on translating research findings into effective reforms for high-poverty secondary schools.

      Balfanz has published widely on secondary school reform, high school dropouts, and instructional interventions in high-poverty schools. Recent work includes Locating the Dropout Crisis, with co-author Nettie Legters, in which the numbers and locations of high schools with high dropout rates are identified.  He is currently the lead investigator on a middle school-dropout-prevention project in collaboration with the Philadelphia Education Fund, which is supported by the William Penn Foundation.

      Balfanz received his PhD in education from the University of Chicago.”

  3. NMSA ‘09 Invitation Video
  4. Michigan Association of Middle School Educators Annual Conference March 12 & 13 at White Pine Middle School in Saginaw Township.  Mr. Ron Clark will be keynoting. Approximately 20 days left for the early registration discount.
  5. Ohio Middle School Association’s Annual Conference will be February 19-20 in Sandusky, OH.  Keynote speakers this year include Mr. Mark McLeod and Mr. Ty Sells.
  6. North Carolina Middle School Association‘s Annual Conference will be March 16-17 in Pinehurst, NC.  Keynote speakers include Bill McBride and Rick Wormeli.  Ron Williamson from Eastern Michigan University will also be speaking at the conference this year.    
  7. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform will be holding their annual conference in June.  See the flyer at their website for details.
  8. Teacher Preparation Symposium information at NMSA.
  9. Free Professional Development through Webinars! NMSA is offering previously recorded webinars for free from their website.
  10. Classroom 2.0’s Live Calendar.
  11. NECC is coming this summer!  Here’s an excuse to travel to Washington D.C.
  12. If Mr. Berckemeyer dawdles on getting us the Kindles, soon we’ll want these from Plastic Logic.  “Did you bring pencil, eraser, and epaper with you to class today?”
  13. Classroom 2.0’s Ning Blog:  “The topic this Saturday (February 7th) is “Using Tags” with special guest Jennifer Dorman, author of the blog “Cliotech”, will join us to talk about using tags to save links and resources in Diigo and why it is so important to do so. More information and log-on details at”  Archived content is available.
  14. From the Twitterverse:
  15. Second Life:
    • 1/31 Basic Skills Workshop:  Appearance (ISTE Island 3)
    • 2/10   ISTE Speaker Series (TBA) (Watch the board on the island for the Thursday Socials)
    • Video:  Educational Uses of Second Life

Shout outs:

  1. Paul Nichols, a great for twitterverse links.
  2. Gardenglen
  3. Scott Merrick
  4. The Library of Congress

10 Bad Signs for Good Teachers…

Teachers are trained to watch for signs: signs that the students are learning something, that the students aren’t learning anything, that the students are onto something, that the students are up to something. There are some signs that teachers have not been taught to watch for: signs that could spell disaster. Here is a list of 10 such bad signs – if you happen to see one of them, beware!

1. The principal smiles at you. This is a very bad sign. It means the principal is up to something, and that something somehow involves you. It could mean the principal is about to ask you to volunteer to be the new coach for the girls’ soccer team, or to write his two-hour speech for the Mothers’ Club, or to accept three new students from the local home for delinquent children. If the principal not only smiles but asks, “How are you doing?” that’s even worse. And if he or she then adds, “Could I please see you in my office for a minute at your convenience?” – run for your life!
2. Things are going well for you in the classroom. Many inexperienced teachers take this for a good sign, but more seasoned educators know it means things are going to go bad for you-very bad and very soon. Maybe you are about to change to another class, or smitten by a rare tropical disease, or your classroom is about to be invaded by a herd of wild plastic-eating termites. I know several teachers who believe in this bad omen so firmly that they have peace only when things are going horribly in the classroom.
3. Your classroom is completely equipped with audio-visual aids. If you walk into your room and see a record player, an overhead projector, a tape recorder, and a movie projector-that’s bad. It’s a sure sign that none work-because if they did, they would have been “borrowed” long before this. Just in case you test the equipment and discover that everything does work (you realize, of course, that the chances of this happening are one in a million), that’s still a bad sign. It means that you have just been put in charge of maintaining all the audio-visual equipment for the entire school.
4. Your students tell you that you’re their favorite teacher. If this happens, brace yourself. It means the kids want something. That something could be something relatively small: “Let’s not talk about colons and semicolons today. Let’s talk about football.” Or your students could be bargaining for something bigger: “Let’s not have any homework this year, okay?”
5. You are prepared for all your classes for the coming week. Any teacher who does this is only asking for trouble. You cannot tempt Fate so blatantly without expecting dire consequences. And what could some of those consequences be? Maybe you will be struck with the five-day flu on Sunday evening, or there will be a battery of psychological tests this entire week.
6. You have all your report cards finished a day ahead of schedule. This sign, closely related to #5, simply means that the administration has just introduced a new kind of report card, and the old kind (127 of which you have just finished filling out) is now obsolete.
7. Your students do poorly on your test. This is a bad sign- or at least the administration interprets it as a bad sign-which makes it so for you. It means you are an incompetent teacher who ought to be booted out of the classroom as soon as possible. If your students do poorly on a test sh-h-h!-don’t tell anyone, not even your students. Destroy the tests, give a retest, and hope and pray that the kids do better-but not too much better. (See the next sign.)
8. Your students do very well on your test. This too is a bad sign. in fact, it’s a worse sign than #7. It can only mean one of three things: 1) the test was too easy; 2) you are a stupid teacher; or 3) the kids cheated.
9. You have a few free minutes to yourself after school. If this happens, one of the following events is bound to occur: 1) another teacher will report you to the principal for not having enough to do; 2) some kid will come in and ask if he or she could talk to you for a minute and stay 2 hours; or 3) the principal will ask if you could give the janitor a hand with cleaning the bathrooms after school.
10. You receive positive feedback from a parent. Although this sign rarely occurs, it portends trouble. You can be sure that if one parent is praising you, another one is already initiating legal proceedings to have you removed from the classroom. When all is said and done, it’s a better sign to receive no parental feedback than any kind at all.



Powerhouse School District Reaches Beyond the Elite

After decades of grooming a handful of high school students in an exclusive research class to succeed in the elite national Intel Science Talent Search, school administrators this year, for the first time, required every seventh grader to do original research. With similar goals in mind, the district has added honor societies in English, art and music — for a total of seven — to recognize students whose overall grades may keep them out of the National Honor Society. Since 2003, it has expanded its menu of Advanced Placement courses to 25 subjects and opened them to students who previously would not have qualified. And it instituted a policy prohibiting students from being cut from the orchestra, band and most sports, adding “junior varsity 2” teams to accommodate extra players. The district’s unusual focus on these average students in recent years has pleased many but has also drawn criticism that A.P. classes have become less rigorous, students have been coddled, and music groups and sports teams saddled with marginal players.

Students in A.P. classes say that some teachers, now required to accept students who did not pass a qualifying exam or get a teacher’s recommendation, have been known to weed out the weak with heavy reading loads, daily pop quizzes, and zeros on biology labs.

Joe Barrett, 17, a senior, said his United States history teacher went to the opposite extreme in the 2007-8 school year, presenting “elaborate PowerPoints with music videos to keep people interested.”

Palo Alto superintendent: Achievement gap can’t be eliminated

When it comes to closing the achievement gap, Palo Alto schools Superintendent Kevin Skelly says educators are deluding themselves. And he dares to say what’s become almost unspeakable publicly:

“It’s just not possible for the average kid who comes to this country in seventh or eighth grade, or even third grade, without a word of English and parents with little formal education, to match the achievement levels of kids whose mom has a Ph.D. in English from Stanford and can afford to stay home and spend time supplementing the education of her kids.”

Yet totally eliminating the gap would be “the triumph of hope over experience,” said Skelly, who came from San Diego 19 months ago to take the helm of Palo Alto’s 17 schools. When educators set that lofty goal, “we’re not being honest, and it’s to our detriment,” he said.

‘Capturing Kids Hearts’ is goal of more West Michigan school districts

by Beth Loechler | The Grand Rapids Press

Bobbie Fletcher, a science teacher at Chandler Woods Charter Academy in Belmont, is part of a growing trend at area districts where teachers and other school staff put an emphasis on “Capturing Kids’ Hearts.”

Fletcher believes that even the greatest teachers won’t get through to students unless they establish a personal connection with each and every one.

“It’s not just what we teach, it’s how we teach,” she said.

Academic debates fall short on Twitter
Remember how we were always told that the three things to remember in Real Estate were location, location, location?  Well evidently in the Twitterverse its more about timing than anything when it comes to having an academic discussion on a topic.