Weekly Wisdom

It does no good to teach a child to FIX errors if they don't know how to FIND them. Fountas and Pinnell

Friday Five: Back in the USA

Friday Five: Back in the USA

This is my first summer back in the United States since before I moved to Poland. I am excited but I am going to miss my laidback European summers. I won’t be jetting off to Spain for time on the beach and I won’t be walking down the street for ice cream everyday… although maybe that is a good thing! I am excited to be back for the summer though. I am excited to spend time with my family and visit all of my friends. It’s a summer full of transitions and fun… and one small rant about airports! 

One

Welcome Back- O'Hare Chaos

They need some teachers' help

I have landed in many airports over the years and I have gone through passport control in so many places and O’Hare is terrible. To be fair, O’Hare is the only American airport I’ve landed in after an international flight- maybe all other airports are better. I’m about to go on a small (ok…🙄medium) and very justified rant about this now.

The directions aren’t clear going through. The employees are yelling these directions and if you aren’t in the right place at the right time, you miss out. Non-native English speakers are confused and instead of answering any questions, the employees just continue to yell directions. There are like 2 signs with directions and only in English and then you are expected to know what to do. It is like a lesson in the classroom gone horribly wrong.

I am a native English speaker, I am an American, I have been through passport control at O’Hare several times and it still stresses me out to the max every single time.

I feel so terrible for the people who don’t know what to do, try to ask for help, and just have the same directions they didn’t understand the first time screamed at them.

Then the little electronic check-in or whatever is completely unorganized. There is no one directing traffic and machines that are open when you leave the line and walk over aren’t still open when you arrive. Then those machines are very tricky for older people to use and understand which creates more chaos. AND why is there no expedited line for Americans? I am always envious of EU passport holders going through so quickly in Poland or UK passport holders zipping right through in England and I never get to zip through a passport line.

What O’Hare needs is a few teachers who have handled indoor recess duty for days…maybe weeks in a row. Teachers who have had to repeat the same directions over and over in the same way and rewording the directions different ways. Teachers who understand how valuable a meaningful anchor chart can be on the wall. Who know the value of pre-teaching and laying out clear expectations for what is going to happen. They need some teachers who understand that you don’t need to yell louder at non-native English speakers you need to explain things clearly, simply, multiple ways, and allow for wait time. A few teachers in there and the whole mess could be care  straightened out. 

You know what they need, you have the safety video at the start of your flight you should watch a customs video at the end of your flight while the plane is heading to the gate! See, this one teacher figured out a way to calm the chaos. Let me just run this idea by someone in charge of airport security…

After passport control there was a hilarious luggage situation. Several people, myself included, didn’t see their luggage come out. I had 1 out of 4 suitcases! 😲😧Then the baggage employee started… wait, guess what he started to do! YELL! At everyone! Then he called down and announced these exact words…. that I wrote down because I found them so hilarious! “Everyone! Stop talking to me! I AM TRYING TO TALK TO YOU!!!! They have magically found a luggage thingy that wasn’t unloaded. Your bags will be here soon! I don’t know. It is magical! MAGIC!” That last magic was screamed so aggressively I jumped a little! 😂

Once I got outside and saw my mom and brother I was relieved. So relieved I almost broke down in tears. One I had made it back into the US. Two I finally had someone to help me with all of my luggage… and there was a lot of it. 

Two

Adjusting to America

I will not lie and say I have completely adjusted back to being in the US. Reverse culture shock is real! I’ve heard from many expats that re-entry can be just as difficult (or sometimes more so) than leaving. The biggest shock I’ve had to readjust to is how cold my parents keep our house! I haven’t been in air-conditioning in years. My parents don’t actually even have air-conditioning but they have so many fans. The fans are always on and I am always in a sweatshirt under a blanket! I can assure you in a few weeks I will not be complaining about the chill. It’s all about readjusting.

You know what else I have to adjust to? Being so close to a Target. I cannot even tell you how much I miss Target when I am abroad. The times I miss it most are when I need a specific item for my classroom and I know the exact location of it in Target and have I have no idea where to even begin the search for it in Poland. That is the worst! Although I have to admit I am now able to find lots of things in Poland. I have only been to Target once since being home and I have a new personal mantra for when I think about going to Target. “You are poor. You should not go.” It’s working so far but a girl can only hold off for so long! 

A third adjustment is living with my parents again! I’m almost 30 and moving back home after being so independent is an adjustment to say the very least. People (aka my mom and dad) want to know what I am doing at all times. Where I am going? How much money I am spending on things? Why does it take you so long to get ready? 😂The questions just don’t stop! I absolutely love my parents and I am so glad to spend time with them but it’s weird after being so independent.

The good thing about living with your parents is that my mom makes me coffee every morning and brings it to me. AND… you’re not going to believe this! My dad offered to give me his credit card to go to Target… what a brave man! Then immediately told me, just as he did when I was fifteen, that he expects receipts and I am only authorized to buy an HDMI cable. 😂😂Don’t worry, I only purchased the authorized item! 

Three

Sibling Bonding

My youngest brother is the only one currently at my parent’s house. He and I have had a lot of time to hang out. So far we have gone on an adventure to Target (that was no fun because we didn’t even get to aimlessly wander the entire store to buy things we didn’t need) and the grocery store. We’ve watched a lot of Netflix together and have joked around a ton! I think we’re getting on our parents nerves a bit because we like to cause a bit of trouble but it is so great. I do miss the time hanging out with my siblings when I’m not in the US. We purchased an absurd amount of freeze pops (another thing to adjust to- things come in such large quantities) that we will enjoy together. We are currently in intense negotiations about chores at the moment because neither of us want to mow the lawn. But, just like when we were children, it it isn’t mowed when my parents get home from work we’ll be in trouble. 😂We are also planning on purchasing hammocks and putting them up in our parent’s backyard to chill outside! Should be a good summer for the two of us! 

 

FOur

The Cutest Old Lady

I CANNOT BELIEVE I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT THIS! This maybe should have been number one but here we are at four. 

I sat next to the cutest, old, Polish lady on my flight! She gives tours in Warsaw and part of one of her tour groups was coincidentally behind us on the plane. She must be a very good tour guide because she promptly put herself in charge of us and guided us through the flight. She pulled out pens when they handed out the border cards which I guess you don’t even have to fill out anymore because it is all digital. 

This is one thing they scream at you as you’re waiting in line.PUT THOSE BLUE CARDS AWAY! I DON’T EVEN WANT TO SEE THEM! SIR, I SAID PUT IT AWAY WE DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM. YOU DON’T NEED THOSE! Such high-stress! 

The cards were only in Polish so she helped the ladies behind me fill it out and asked for a card for me. They didn’t give me one because they thought her and I were flying together. Then they still didn’t give me one because I was American and they said I wouldn’t need it. That, thankfully, turned out to be true. 

During the flight she watched the flight screen for the whole trip. I cannot imagine watching that screen for nine hours but she did it. I only checked it when the little boy on the plane would yell out, “only 7 more hours.” Then I would check in on our progress and get antsy about sitting still for so long! She took a little nap and rested her head on my shoulder and I didn’t even mind one bit. 

When I asked if I could get out of our row she told me I had excellent timing. The man on the aisle was also up so I only disturbed her and she doesn’t mind at all. Then she complimented me because I ended up returning from the bathroom before the man on the aisle and she was so impressed with my timing. I explained that I was a teacher and quick bathroom breaks were my thing… she didn’t really understand that but it’s ok! Then every time the man got up she asked if I needed to use the toilet or if I needed a walk around the plane. She was so kind! 

When we landed I explained the electronic passport thing… what is that thing called? to the ladies. Then we stood next to each other in line and I explained how it worked again. They successfully made it through passport control and after picking up her bag she told me to have a wonderful time in the US and gave me a hug. She was heading to North Dakota. I hope she’s having a good time here in the US! 

 

Five

Next Up: Cousins Camping

The Rice family loves nature and the outdoors. My grandma loved birdwatching and the whole family enjoys being outdoors. Cousins camping started a few years ago. Now, I used to go camping a lot but I have not been camping in probably 5-ish years. My vacations have been a bit more glam than camping while in Europe. My sister made it very clear that we are NOT glamping but real camping. 🙄I hope I survive! While you’re reading this I am heading to go camping with all of my cousins. I’ve missed out on a few cousin’s camping weekends while in Poland and I am really excited to get to go to this one. I haven’t seen my cousins in so long and I miss them tons! I haven’t seen them since before I left the US for Poland 3 years ago. I know this weekend is going to be filled with fun shenanigans. I did pick up some Polish vodka in the airport just for this occasion. I have two cousins who are also turning 30 in July so I brought them each back a small gift (read: vodka and a shot glass) to celebrate! Watch out northern Wisconsin, the Rice’s are going to have some fun this weekend! 

How’s your summer vacation going?

What fun things do you have planned?

How do you feel about the airport upon re-entry to the US? 

Is it that stressful everywhere? Is there somewhere worse than O’Hare? 

 

Weekly Wisdom

All reading counts as reading. Graphic novels, audiobooks, poetry, wordless picture books, eBooks-all reading. No one kind of reading is better than the other.

Weekly Wisdom

The objective of education is not to fill a man's mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking. Henry Ford

Why We Need to Stop Giving Everything Points

Why We Need to Stop Giving Everything Points

One of my students recently came back from a different class. She ran right in to tell her friends that they had an assessment and she got 20.5 points out of 20. She was so excited about the points that she had earned.

I said, “Oh that’s cool. What did you learn?” She couldn’t answer the question. She could say that she got half a point extra for remembering to put the date at the top of her page. (What is that even assessing?) It got me wondering, how does this assess her learning? How do these points show her progress toward grade-level proficiency? How do these points show her growth over the course of the year?

A Grading Realization

While I was student teaching third grade many years ago I came to a startling though not surprising conclusion. Kids only cared about their work when they knew what it was worth in points. Before beginning anything they asked how many points it was worth. When they were questioned if the work they were turning in was their best work, they asked how many points it was worth. Before any task, during any task, after any task, the question was always the same. How many points is this worth? It drove me absolutely insane. As a person who loves all learning, I couldn’t understand why they were so obsessed with points. Wasn’t it too young for them to be throwing away learning opportunities because they felt it wasn’t worth enough? Are there really moments in the classroom that can be thrown away? Shouldn’t we do something about this?

And so I did. I stopped telling them points and how much things were worth, much to the displeasure of my cooperating teacher. Once they realized I wasn’t going to tell them how many points they had or what “counted” in the gradebook and what didn’t; the learning started taking off. Not taking off too far, don’t get the idea that I was some sort of genius student teacher. But the investment in learning increased and I was happier and they were learning much more. Instead of investing in their grade they invested themselves in the learning. 

Enough With the Points

I’ve luckily never taught in a school that made me track grades with points. When you look in my gradebook there are assessments but instead of measuring knowledge in points, I’ve found it much more beneficial to measure learning in growth and progress towards grade level standards. This doesn’t mean that my grades aren’t accurate or that I don’t know where my students are it means the exact opposite. I know where each of my students are on the continuum of learning for each of the skills that they need to master. I know where each of them has been and the trajectory that they will likely take to get there. I know them as learners and I know that they value learning. 

Standards Based Grading

I use a system called standards-based grading. I grade my students on their progress towards the end of the year standards. This system determines grades based on a student’s progress towards a standard. Often this method uses a 1, 2, 3, 4 method of grading, please see below. 

Instead of giving everything a points value and deciding that a student has a 97%, the progress is determined based on each standard. If you have a 90% what does that mean? What 90% of the content have you mastered? What 10% do you still not know? Here are a few of the differences between traditional grading and standards-based grading. 

Using a standards based grading system makes things easier for me as a teacher. I can more accurately report on student progress to parents and students. I know where my students are in which skills and know what to emphasize with each child. 

I will say that report cards can take a bit longer because you have to enter more grades BUT isn’t it better to give parents more specific feedback? I know in my heart that it is much better.

In the example below you can see the difference in report cards. I just filled in random grades and numbers and this is not based on a student just on whatever number I felt like pressing. 

Reflection

A teacher I follow on instagram shared an end of the year memory page with her followers. It was so adorable. A teacher asked how she grades to memory page. This blew my mind! Why would you grade a memory page? Unless it ties in with your standards we shouldn’t tell kids they got a 94% on their end of the year memory page. 

Do we stop the learning when a grade is given? I feel that students deserve better than what has always been done. They deserve to know that all learning is valuable. After an assessment, skills learned are still relevant, if they aren’t, then why are we teaching them. Kids deserve knowing that all work they complete is valuable but work while they’re beginning to learn a skill shouldn’t count the same as work completed near mastery. What does assigning points to anything really do? I know it makes it easy to spit out a percentage grade at the end of a quarter but what does that say about learning? Couldn’t we say more? Couldn’t we do better?

Are we filling a bucket or lighting a fire? How does your grading system support or hinder your answer to this question? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!