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The Outliers

Sarah's picture

standardized tests and stress on teachers

I'm facebook friends with my former high school teacher and got a kick out of a poem she wrote refering to the  test students in Massachusetts have to pass to graduate from high school:

Twas the night before MCAS in the city of sin

And I'm stressing bout how my kids will begin

Will they restate the prompt and not overquote?

Will they slow down and brainstorm with copious notes?

Will they stick to the prompt and not go off track?

Will their proctors allow them to have a light snack? 

Will they not fall asleep when they read something boring?

Will they remember the rubrics and methods of scoring?!

I guess now's the time to just let them go...

And forget all the days that we've missed due to snow

They'll tell me I've forced it, they'll say I'm mad dry

But if they get 2s then Miss surely will cry

I'm going to bed praying for 4s they will write

Happy MCAS to all and to all a goodnight!

Sarah's picture

Field Notes

lyoo's picture

field notes 2/25/13

Uninhibited's picture


This post is about my cross-visitation experience at the English School.

Before the class started, the teacher, Linda and I talked about the nature of the class, the students in it, her approach to teaching the classroom, and my own interests in education.


The girls walk in and sit around 3 tables. They immediately take out their lunch, but three girls get up to ask their teachers if they can get spoons. They seem to like standing up a lot

Then as the students eat, the teacher come up to us to explain the lesson for the day, she tells us that the girls are learning algebra and that she's a little anxious about it being too difficult for them.

two girls walk in late

The teacher then goes up to a table where a group of girls are having a conversation and she starts engaging with them, asking them questions etc.

Then she claps and sings (seems to be a class song) to get the student's attention, but she forgets how to do the clap and the students quickly show her how to do it. The teacher tells students that they have two minutes to finish their lunch.

One of the students begins passing out pencils after the teacher prompts her, and two other girls begin passing out a paper with a math problem. Students seem to be a big part of the classroom, not just as students but as helpers.

ellenv's picture

Field Notes 03/05/13

Field Notes 03/05/13


Morning meeting started a little different than usual in class today. I was sitting at the back of the class sorting through student’s reading tests and putting them in piles for each student while teacher B started morning meeting. Usually, Teacher B starts morning meeting by having the students go in a circle and greet each other. Today, however, Teacher B starts by saying “you know, im a little disappointed with you guys right now” and began talking to the students about how they had laughed at a student. Teacher B spoke to the students about had come to her even before the event occurred and had indicated that they were a little insecure that day. Teacher B indicated that while this student may have laughed along with them, it didn’t mean that they weren’t hurting on the inside. At this point, it was unclear to me which student she was specifically talking about since I was facing away from the circle. During class I noticed that one of the students seemed less animated than usual. They were frowning and staring at the desk for the first two periods and were avoiding talking to their peers. It wasn’t until a conversation with Teacher A later that I realized that the student that felt insecure and the student I noticed looked upset were the same person.


Sarah's picture

field notes: workshop 2 and discussions

This week on Tuesday and Thursday night I held a discussion for SJTP participants to debrief the last workshop and to look forward to the next one.  I created discussion questions based on a survey they had filled out after the last workshop.  The questions were how do we develop social justice skills? How do we move toward competence (referring to the path to competence acitivity)? How can we explore both our dominant and subordinate identities? What are problems with categorization? What are pros and cons of separate spaces for marginalized groups?

The group on Tuesday night spent a lot of time talking about how we can get people to talk about privilege from a place of privilege without making people feel defensive.  We also talked about white guilt, the romanticization of oppression, the individual vs. the institution, cultural appropriation, and marginalization.

 The group on Thursday night talked a lot about the recent signs that have gone up around campus that say something like “Do you love your gay friends but feel pressured to be gay?” and the student response that pointed out how problematic those signs were and said “Do you love your straight friends but feel pressured to be straight?”  We also talked about what safe space is and what an argument or disagreement can look like in a safe space.


On Wednesday I had a meeting with Hallie and Stephanie to plan for the upcoming workshop this weekend, which was mostly discussing logistical issues and thinking forward to our final workshop in April.

ellenv's picture

Field Notes 2/26/13

Field Notes 2/26/2013


Today is the “Book Publishing Party” that Teacher A has been talking about for the past couple weeks. This book publishing party is the culmination of their research project that they have been working on for the entire time that I have been here. Teacher A announces that the book publishing party will be happening at the beginning of class, but before the class gets to celebrate, they have to spend first period doing standardized test prep.


During the test prep period, Teacher A has me work with two students who have worked with before, but separately. While this is a 6th grade class, these students are doing the test prep for the 4rth grade level. Teacher A has written a note for me indicating which sections in the packet the students should have complete and asks me to go over the answers to the multiple choice questions for these sections. Teacher A does not have an answer key for the tests and so she gives me a few minutes to read through the sections, the questions, and attempt to answer the questions. While many of the questions were pretty straight forward, there were a few that I felt like were open to interpretation.


Sarah's picture

Cross visitation field notes

Questions/ideas Laura and I discuss on the train ride over: What type of high school school is it (charter, public, private, and magnet) and what are the implications of that? Laura has described the school as very progressive; I wonder how/if social justice is included in the curriculum.  What is the school community like, including, but not limited to, teacher and student relationships?

Arrive at school about 10 minutes before class begins and so decide to walk around/wander the halls.  There are so many cool things on the wall, which range from posters, to students art work, to big pieces of paper with a question and students’ responses.  The topics all seem to be progressive/current in some way: one paper with student responses on it was about the recent election and Romney/Obama debate; one poster advertises the multicultural club; students’ artwork includes, but isn’t limited to, themes of gender and feminism.  These stood out to me because these seem like difficult subjects for high school students to approach. There was also a sign advertising multicultural club, which had prompting questions (“do you feel like you don’t have a culture?”). Laura points out there is an LGBTQ Ally sticker on most or all of the classroom doors.

lyoo's picture

Field Notes 2/25/13*

ellenv's picture

Reflection on Praxis

What Happened? The 6th grade class that I am placed in started a unit preparing them for the state standardized test today. Between periods, the main classroom teacher and the special ed teacher discussed at length the scores, progress, and IEPs in relation to the upcoming test. During this conversation they discussed methods of preparation to use depending on each individual students' needs. While the class will be taking the 6th grade level tests, the teachers decided to give some students in the class the preparation booklet for the 5th grade level test. These were students who the teachers indicated were struggling in class and were not on grade level based on pre-tests that they had administered recently. The next period, the teachers had me work through a a test-prep packet with a group of two students who were going to be given the 5th grade level packet (although the in-class assignment was at the 6th grade level). At the end of the assignment, the main classroom teacher handed out the packets and when John, one of the two students I was working with, recieved the packet clearly marked "5th Grade" he turned to the teacher and said "no offense, but ive already done this one before" to which the teacher responded "I guess then no offense, but you're going to get to read it again."

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