Monday, September 24, 2018

Lunch-duty ditty

To the tune of Van Halen's "Jump"

We head out
A football zings past our crowns
We've got it tough
With tweens running all around
And we know, kids, just how you feel
We've got to roll with the punches until it's dismissal

Ah, can't you see us standin' here
We've got our mouths busy scarfin' protein
Amid this rambunctious scene
Marked by shaky hygiene

It's time to duck (duck)
Safest to duck
Go ahead an' duck (duck)
Go ahead and duck

Ow oh
Hey you
Who threw that?
Kid, what's your game?
You say you don't know
You won't know until you can aim

So can't ya see us standing here
We've got our mouths sipping cold, old caffeine
Amid this rambunctious scene
So far from being serene

It's time to duck (duck)
Safest to duck
Go ahead an' duck (duck)
Go ahead and duck...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Five ways of looking at MTSS

MTSS stands for multi-tiered system of supports, and it's especially on my mind after Monday's in-service sessions aimed at professional learning. With apologies to poet Wallace Stevens who managed 13 ways of looking at a blackbird, I've manage less than half that. However, thanks to the quotable advice of writer Joan Didion -- who said, "I write to entirely find out what I'm thinking" -- I'm going to consider those ways in this blog.

1. Change is abundant where I teach: new schedule, new communication tools fronted by a new website, and what feel like new ways to navigate MTSS. This year, this makes me feel like a camel being heaped with straw. Rather than one reed at a time, the loading is happening by the bale.

2. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and the context for MTSS change is unsettling. Current colleagues I know and respect have already begun crunching practical numbers in their heads and on backs of handouts to estimate what they predict it will take to execute MTSS plans, as we've heard them so far. These numbers feel neither manageable, nor sustainable, given currently available resources. These colleagues reached similar conclusions when analyzing the proposal to change our school schedule from seven periods to eight, and immediate hindsight seems to be proving them right.

3. This matrix showing a calculus of complex change sums up the current dynamics pointedly:

Based on what I heard Monday, I believe we need more of the four elements that follow (and bolster) vision; the sooner, the better, to alleviate the confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration, and false starts experienced with only vision to guide us at this point.

4. Colorado's State Department of Education defines MTSS this way: "a prevention-based framework of team-driven data-based problem solving for improving the outcomes of every student through family, school, and community partnering and a layered continuum of evidence-based practices applied at the classroom, school, district, region, and state level." Meanwhile, a former colleague who shall remain anonymous commented from afar, "’I'm pretty sure MTSS isn’t real. As far as I can tell, every principal in the country is 'going to be implementing it soon, but don’t worry, it’s not actually that different from what we’re already doing.' "

5. A line from a book I've been rereading, Siddhartha, also sticks with me from Monday: "[Y]ou know that gentleness is stronger than severity, that water is stronger than rock, that love is stronger than force." (119-20)

So what am I thinking? I think I'll try flowing with change via curiosity; I can wonder about it, hopefully as I move closer to accepting it. This questioning stance can help me understand where colleagues are coming from, to test their ideas politely and in the process help strengthen or refine them. I can share the Ambrose infographic with school leaders to see how their view of MTSS implementation jibes with these findings and what we might learn usefully from the comparison. I can probe the state's vague verbiage to determine what it might mean for students at the school where I teach; I can also smile at the lived truth resonating through my former colleague's words. Lastly for now, I can speculate how MTSS might differ if one of the S's stood for Siddhartha.

I can also ask educators who read this blog what MTSS-related wins you're willing to share that I can relay to my team. Thanks for any insights or inspiration you can offer...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Spell Czech

Having finished responding this weekend to students' first formal batch of writing, I noticed one unexpectedly frequent feedback comment popping up: "Commonly confused word." For these accomplished eighth-grade writers, my goal was to tap into a phrase they'd likely heard earlier in their middle-school careers in reference to homonyms. I wanted students to look twice at words I'd spotlighted this way in their Google Documents, tilt their heads questioningly, and realize they had the right sounding term, but not yet spelled accurately for the context. (If I'm being honest, I probably did an actual or internal eye roll -- Why can't they see? -- each time I felt compelled to add this comment.)

Cut to class time when a student flagged me down: "Mr. Rozinsky, check this out." She proceeded to type this sentence, "I saw you exit your screen..." By this point, her eyes were on me as Google's auto correct swapped the possessive 'your' for the contraction 'you're.' "It's not my fault," she said. "I'm trying to do the right thing, but Google won't let me."

"Time for us to be smarter than this Chromebook," I said gamely -- or wished I'd said. We browsed the word processor's Tools menu, but initially came up empty. We ran a few quick help searches, eventually finding what we needed; turns out it was in the Google Documents' Tools menu, under Preferences... a long list of automatic substitutions, including several commonly confused words. I advised the student to disable the mindless your/you're correction in favor of her brain's savvier system. I left her to prune the rest of these not-so-smart settings as she saw fit.

Score one, for now, for actual over artificial intelligence.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Slice-ycle, continued

Alternate Title: Flattery (Ahem) Will Get You Nowhere

I had rolled my bike with more difficulty than usual across the grassy field. "You're just tired," I told myself to dismiss the added effort. When I started to pedal homeward an hour later, I realized that the rear tire was -- and had been -- completely flat. Thankfully, a public bus provided adequate back-up transportation.

Having secured requisite repair items a few days later, I set about changing the flat. I located the culprit: a large screw buried up to its head, which I extricated from both tire and tube. I scrunched a new tube home, seated the tire, and pumped in air. I reveled in being back in pedaling business until the next morning when I tested the tire with a squeeze that revealed disappointing softness. I wallowed in a few moments of frustration, and then I repeated the changeover process with a fresh tube. This time, I tried to be more thorough by feeling around the inside of the tube for further vexations. I found one I had not detected previously, when the screw had seemed like the low-hanging (and only) fruit. My finger now felt something poking out, thorn-like, from the inside of the tire. With pliers, I tweezed out what appeared to be a tiny metal hair and finished the fix. The tire seemed reassuringly firm the next morning, so I rode. A quarter mile from my destination, however, the back-end of the bike clanked, followed by the uncomfortable grind of wheel rim on pavement. Another flat.

For the third and proverbially charmed time, I took the bike to a professional, explaining my saga so far. The mechanic set me up with a thicker thorn-proof tube and proclaimed both rim and tire free of any threats. So far, so good -- if only because I now carry a spare tube, pump, and tire irons with me on each commute.

Some morals of the story: Pay attention because the obvious problem may not be the only problem, and, should problems persist, consider inviting in outside eyes. Bringing in a professional, though, doesn't absolve us of responsibility to control what we can control.