Tag Archives: Internship

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-05-28 [40] (301-201-101 Exhibitions, Short Week)

Monday was Memorial Day.  Friday was a personal day.  Saturday was the SAT.

I attended 7 student exhibitions this week from 401 to 101.  I was most impressed by some 301 students that are really finding their stride in time (hopefully!) for their 401 (senior) year.

One student that I have worked with quite a bit this past year had his exhibition this week.  He wasn’t really prepared and claims to not care about that, but I wonder.  I finally came out and said that I was embarrassed when I spend time with him on various things and then he talks about none of that at his exhibition.  So “in defense of my professional reputation” I proceeded to list all the field trips that I had been on with this student and interview him in his exhibition about what he had learned on each of those.  It was no real surprise that he got quite animated as we discussed some of the field trips and activities which we had done.  In one of those car rides together I asked him about why he chose a tactic involving lack of preparation for his exhibitions.  He said that he did it to aggravate his parents.  That sentiment is confirmed by his autobiography, 8 pages of which he cranked out quite quickly (with the help of another staff member, I think) and which contained quite a few things which he would not normally “say out loud.”  Happily, this student is on track to do some classes this summer at PSSC.

The investment contest (www.investopedia.com) which I was running with some students completed on 5/31.  I need to have a mini awards ceremony with my crew and celebrate the winner, who made $24,000+ on their $100,000 initial investment over the course of 30 days.  The next player made almost $2,000 and I lost $6,000.


I created another version (112) of the PDF transcript.  This time I think it is being shared/used widely by advisors since many want to get their transcripts done by the end of the school year (June 18).

I also sent an e-mail to the whole staff on what types of questions might be useful for students that are working with MinecraftEDU.  My goal is to help facilitate useful conversation with students who are playing the game, and might be learning something which we could take advantage of.

A student broke into some computers in the computer lab on Friday and tried to swap out/add some RAM.  We were able to close the computers up again and they all worked.  However, the act of prying open computers will not be tolerated.  I foiled a chance to enrich or make the approach more indirect to the student who we think did it.

The June SAT test day is probably the biggest, and our school facility was full of students taking the test or subject tests.  Proctoring takes a while:  we started at 7am or so until 1pm.  (A little after 7am a student called and needed a ride, so I ran out and got him.)  None of the students that took my SAT Prep course were raving about their performance, they just looked tired.  It has been a long road for them with at least 2 other full test simulations under their belt.  Stan did a great job of proctoring the exam, helping students feel at home and at ease.

After some time at the Seattle Science Festival on Saturday afternoon, I took my son to see how the preparations for the Big Picture Prom were going.  We got there just as some students were arriving in their finery.  I hope they had a good time!

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-05-21 [39] (Final Exhibitions of the Year, SAT Prep Post-Test Data)

It was my pleasure to attend Final Exhibitions for 401s (i.e. seniors) at Highline Big Picture High School this past week.  You might recall that an exhibition functions as a checkpoint, a type of final exam, a student-led symposium detailing progress against learning plan goals.  For seniors, last week was a chance to share their stage of completion for their Senior Thesis Project (STP), Autobiography, and Post-High School Plan (PHSP).  However, they were also asked to present a cover letter to their exhibition panel/attenders on why they should be allowed to graduate.

The exhibition panel was asked to either recommend the student for graduation (congratulations!), or require some amount of additional work to be completed by June 6, or suggest a student plan on summer school or some other “contract” to complete work that is lacking.  Of the eleven senior exhibitions I attended this past week, a bit fewer than half were asked to complete additional work by June, and only one was asked to consider a summer contract.

For many exhibitions, there were some bittersweet tears, as students reflected on their high school years,the magnitude of their growth and accomplishments, and that they were moving on.

The SAT-Prep-Post-Test Data were not as dismal as we had originally thought they were going to be.  Here’s a complete breakdown of pre-test to post-test scores by student (student names hidden).


Here’s another representation of the improvement in each math question topic.


For all problem topics the percent of questions left blank went down, from pre-test to post-test, except for Geometry (flat).  That’s good, but the percentage of wrong answers went up for all topics, except for Geometry.  We are a little worried about people being more liberal in their guessing, but have warned the students to practice the “don’t guess unless you can rule out” rule more effectively on the real SAT.

I’m proud of some of the folks that made the most gains, that they have applied themselves and won some small victory over math anxiety or test anxiety.  I’m running some office hours next week for any folks that want last-minute preparation.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-05-14 [38] (SAT Prep Post-Test, Drag Day)

On Monday the students that I had been teaching in the SAT Prep course, plus a few others, took a diagnostic test donated by the generous folks at The Princeton Review.  Many students that had taken the review course felt more in control, more prepared, more able to understand what was being asked.  We are supposed to get scores back the week of 2012-05-21.  [Note, I am still worried that confidence is not based on true competency.  But keep reading…]

A few students that had *not* taken the review course either needed some immediate accommodations to stay engaged, or were already pretty capable on the topics, and so were taking a true practice test.  Kudos to Stan, the teacher at our school that has now done two sittings of the SAT which followed the official timings and rules.  He also worked very hard a few weeks ago when we learned that the Big Picture SAT testing site (our school!) was already full and could not accommodate even our own students that were going to take the SAT on June 2.  Stan got on the phone with the College Board and arranged more seats at our facility and spaces for our students.

Wednesday was Drag Day, an annual occurrence at Big Picture.  The event this year was organized by the Closet Crashers, a group of students on campus that support LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) youth.  The high frequency of bullying on LGBTQ youth is well established, so to take a day and encourage “gender bending” helps reduce tension and build understanding.  At the end of day we had an all campus assembly where some guests were invited to perform and the students who had come in costume that day could “strut their stuff”.  The general consensus after the event was that this year’s Drag Day was a smashing success.

On Friday, Stan got to talk to The Princeton Review (TPR) folks and get our scores back, quite a few days ahead of schedule.  Results were not encouraging.  Whereas many students would have hoped to have increased their scores, by and large that was not the case, since many people’s scores went down.  TPR says that this is quite typical, namely that relative to the first score, the second score goes down, and the the third score (from a third taking) also may go down or show only moderate improvement.  The fourth (!) attempt—for most students—shows the most dramatic improvement.  Stan was sure to relay the following from the TPR folks “it is not your instructors fault, this is how the pattern goes.”

So allow me to reflect briefly on this news.  First and foremost, I am disappointed, but not surprised.  I am disappointed that I couldn’t have somehow accelerated this inevitable process.  Why?  I am not surprised that “scores go up [more] with [more]practice”  I only wish I could have urged students to practice more. 

I also think that is it not a little disingenuous for an SAT prep company to notice and report.  However, who has the money or the time to do 4 sittings on the SAT?  Many of our students in particular take the SAT on waivers since they are FNR (free and reduced lunch).  And, they only get 1 or 2 waivers (I think).

But when my emotion subsides, I realize that by not enforcing homework, I may have been able to keep people in the course, but I didn’t really push the envelope on ability.  I imagine It was awfully easy for some students to watch me solve problems, or to watch their classmates solve problems, and be lulled into a false sense of competency.

So I’m teaching to a standardized test, by using sample problems from a standardized test.  I see no real flaw with that method, but I do realize that students themselves must own their preparation; must do their own homework; must find questions that they can drill on, and get better (more accurate) and faster at both new and old problems.  I will definitely remember the TPR hints, and urge students to get their 3 practice tests in before their official sitting.

Technology Investigations / Applications / Tools

I describe below some activities or tools I have discovered during the 2011-2012 school year around technology.  I argue that if a technology or tool helps the teacher / staff person save valuable time, then it has indirectly had impact on student learning.  If a technology or tool has been used by the student, then it has directly had impact on student learning.  At least, that is the case I intend to make below.


Description Student Learning Impact Teacher / Practice Impact
Student project check-in form (Google Form).  A method was proposed whereby a teacher could review and record student progress on a project.  Goal was to facilitate the capturing of current state and next steps in a student project. No evidence that student work on projects has been increased or become more rigorous as a result of this work. Was used in April briefly by Jessica.

Samples were given to David, Angie and Steve as well, but this idea has not gained any traction yet.

Field trip calendar (Shared Google Calendar). 

NOTE:  although I didn’t create this tool, my adoption has meant that others can find the tool useful.

Students who need record of field trips to prove hours have found this invaluable.

I would also argue that the list of field trips is P2, H1, H2 and H5.

Although originally created by Megan, the calendar has been useful to both Dan and me, in the tracking of our trips, record of activities, weekly planning, and even keeping track of van usage/reservations.
Big Picture High School Transcript (PDF Form).  How I Made the PDF Transcript. Creating a durable record of student progress is useful for students, parents/guardians and teachers.  Enables quarterly progress reports, helping students know where they are at. I’ve already heard back from our office manager, from a senior advisor, and from my mentor teacher on the usefulness of this tool.
LTI Timesheet (PDF Form).  This was my first conversion of a paper form to a PDF Form. Enabling students to report their internship conveniently and accurately is a significant impact on their learning. I already cited a reply from the LTI Coordinator (Megan) about how the form has been gaining momentum.
STEAM Contact Triage (Google Form and Google Spreadsheet).  At the beginning of the year, as Dan, Jeff and I were brainstorming people and activities that would enrich our students, we decided to create a Google Form that talked to a Google Spreadsheet. By keeping track of contacts that may want to host students for tours, shadow days, informational interviews and full internships, we are having impact on their learning.  Every contact is a potential internship site, is a potential mentor for a student.

Just two examples: 

Fernwood contacts have led to significant interactions with our students.

Criminal Justice Training Center has also provided an internship for our students.

By putting a process into place whereby staff can share contacts and meet to triage new contacts and strategize next steps, I am improving the efficiency of my colleagues, I am sharing information with them and in the end I am making them more efficient at their jobs and our school’s mission.

NOTE:  I do not have proof that Dan or Jeff are using this tool actively, but I am and therefore it is an immediate resource for anyone who cares to see it.

LTI Site (Google Site).  This site is owned by Megan and is being used to store and communicate BPHS processes around LTI.

NOTE:  although I didn’t create this site, I have helped Megan edit/customize the site.

Students are impacted by easier access to LTI documents and a repository for more standardized process that they and their mentors can follow. Helping Megan be efficient at her job in the helps the entire school, staff and students effective.  By unblocking her understanding of how to edit and make the site truly her own, I have unleashed her creativity.
YouTube Videos of guest speakers at Big Picture High School. Students are obviously impacted in the live events, and by having the video available for future events, there is potential for more students to be impacted. Staff sometimes cannot make a lecture, so I have filmed the lecturer and gotten their permission to post on YouTube.  Speakers I have taped include:

Roger Fernandes, Native Storyteller.

Josh Ginzler, Licensed Mental Health Care Professional.

Adele Mitchell, Forensic Specialist / Geneticist.

Google Cloud Connect (Google Docs Toolbar for Word PowerPoint Excel) Since our school relies heavily on Google Docs, this tool that allows native uploading, downloading and sharing of Office Documents has been essential.  Not very many students have discovered it. However, certain staff (Ed first) have been very enthusiastic for the tool and I believe it has changed his whole workflow.
MailChimp (bulk e-mail tool for students, staff and parents involved with SAT Prep course).  Here is an archive of recent e-mails sent for the SAT Prep course. When a parent of a student in the SAT Prep course wanted to be kept aware of what was going on, I created a MailChimp Account Since this tool allows you to track when e-mails are opened, read, forwarded, and *not* read, they would be invaluable anytime an advisor/staff person is sending out bulk e-mails.
BPHS SAT Google Site This was a web site used to communicate between the staff and the students for coordination of the SAT Prep course. By keeping a calendar of activities in the course, I kept students informed of what was happening when, what we had covered, lesson materials, and links to YouTube Videos of class sessions. This web site enabled better collaboration with staff.
PollEverywhere.com (SMS Polling Tool)  By creating an account on this service and using in the SAT Prep course, I was able to engage students in learning activities. Initial results from an Action Research paper that I am producing for EDU6173 is that students rated their mathematics self-efficacy higher on days that we did SAT sample problems (from a sample test) higher if there were engaged via SMS/Cell Phone polling. General opinion of staff is that this service in general and my application on SAT Prep in particular has been beneficial / fun.
Classpager.com (Bulk SMS Sending and Polling Tool)  Used in the SAT Prep course. Similar to PollEverywhere but different, this tool allowed for students to register their mobile device in a virtual course.  Once they did that I could send them messages or take quick polls related to content / activities in the SAT Prep course. When I realized that students were not reading the class e-mails that I was sending, I was able to get them to register their mobile devices and thus have a more direct means of communicating to each of them en masse or individually.
YouTube Videos of me solving SAT QOTD (Questions of the Day) Similar to Khan Academy (person talking while solving a problem on a virtual blackboard / whiteboard), I created 20-30 videos of me solving some SAT Questions of Day, which the College Board puts out daily basis via e-mail. Making the videos was fun.  It gave some insight into Khan’s style and some of the technical challenges which he has solved to create his massive library of videos.
http://tiny.cc for shortening URLs  
Fluid Math from Fluidity Software tool I used to create the YouTube videos for SAT QOTD. Let’s you do math on an interactive whiteboard or laptop projection by using a tablet.
Vimeo This is another video sharing site and one which I had used extensively for my CSI Middle School Elective until I realized that YouTube had more space and no weekly upload limits. I am big on archiving instruction.  I think I have video for almost every classroom + teacher session that I have engaged in, except the Video Game elective I did in the High School.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-05-07 [37] (Minecraft EDU)

Some notable stuff this week.  After 3-4 weeks of waiting my student LD finally has an internship at a local GameStop store.  Like most high schoolers, he is very enthusiastic about games and although he has had other internships, he has not really clicked with any of them.  You will recall that in week 35 we filled out paperwork for him to be mentored by me on Tue and Thu, but in my post for that week I explained what is not ideal about that situation.  We are very pleased that LD has this opportunity, and he will be there on four Thu between now and the end of the year.

This week the last two sessions of the Math SAT prep course that I have been teaching were wrapped up.  Thanks to the class for the thank you card and the gift card to Barnes and Noble!  I was also able to take my last batch of data for my Action Research paper in EDU6173.  Initial look a the data seems promising.  B. was also able to come by and observe the class, and give some feedback.  Pretty cool.  It was an enjoyable class, but a lot of preparation work, collecting sample test sections, writing solutions and handling the paperwork.  I realize now that I haven’t returned the small bit of homework that a few students had given me.  Need to get on that.

Although the class followed the book, and although we did a lot of exam-type questions.  There wasn’t a lot of intensity around homework, or following up on what people were weakest on, and helping them move to new levels of proficiency.  I fear that the post-test that we will give on Monday 5/14 will not show much improvement.  Perhaps for a few, but not uniformly.  I might attribute that outcome to a lack of real differentiation of content among the students, or a mismatch in the learning activities we did and their best learning styles.  If I had to teach the course over I would engage students individually with content more suited to their needs.

This week I was able to secure a copy of MinecraftEDU for our computer lab, and was able to test it on Thu in a small group and then roll it out to my computer gaming elective on Fri.  We started in a survival mode, group cooperation game, and many of us newbies had a chance to learn from the more experienced folks at the school.  Of course, a couple of students are completely hooked, and wanted to spend a lot of their time today playing.  The work will now be involved in harnessing that interest and turning it around for educational or learning plan goals.  Here are some articles / web sites that I am reading as I prepare MInecraft lessons.


Levin, J. (2012) . Gaming teacher case studies. Retrieved May 4, 2012 from http://minecraftteacher.net/post/22352613926/gaming-teacher-case-studies

Millstone, J. (2012). Teaching with Digital Games in the Classroom. Retrieved May 4, 2012 from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/Cooney-Center-Blog-234.html

Watterson, A. (2012) MinecraftEDU: Minecraft for the Classroom. Retrieved May 4, 2012 from http://hackeducation.com/2012/03/15/minecraftedu-minecraft-for-the-classroom/

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-30 [36] (Mentor Appreciation Night)

The central focus of this week, and a major preoccupation for those of us on the planning committee for the preceding 6 weeks, has been the Mentor Appreciation Night.

Recall that student internships is central to the mission of Big Picture.


It therefore makes sense that a night dedicated to thanking the many mentors, who give selflessly to our students and contribute so significantly to their development and their curriculum, needs to be done with class and grace.  Megan did an especially great job on the night, with a little help from the Mentor Night committee on which I served, and a lot of help from other staff and students.

It was fitting that students contributed to the event, including one senior whose interest in catering helped plan the menu and pull off the preparation and serving during the event.

My own small part was to compile thank you videos that were to be used in part of the event.  I filmed students and produced this small video as a tribute to them and to the mentors they wanted to thank.

There were many highlights from the night:

  • observations from Loren Demeroutis, Principal of the Middle School
  • state of Big Picture High School from Jeff Petty, Principal of the High School.
  • songs by students
  • duets by students + staff
  • speech by former graduate

That last speech, by a former graduate, and sibling of a current student really moved all those in attendance.  I myself would not have thought that intra-generational reconciliation would have been a theme that would have come up at a mentor night.  The basic thesis of the remarks was that an internship helped a young woman get on track, graduate, and go to college which in turn has inspired her sister to patch up the rough spots in their relationship, and be proud to follow in her elder sister’s footsteps.  It was a beautiful story and one which resonated with other students that have had siblings at the school.

The night ended quite late for a couple of students that decided to help me unload a van chock full of food and catering supplies, in exchange (not quite fair, mind you!) for a ride home.

But, as is sometimes the case for the tired teacher, when many heads laid themselves down on their pillows that night, they could smile and say, I am part of something significant and special.  Wow!

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-23 [35] (Week of Two Field Trips)

This week I finished mentorship (LTI=Learning Through Internship) paperwork with a student L.D.  He is the third student that I am formally mentoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  You may recall that students at our school intern for 2 days a week, and some do their internships at school with staff there.

Part of me likes this arrangement since I can focus in on STEM topics with this group of students.  Part of me realizes this is a complete dodge of the spirit of the system which is meant to be made up of adult mentors in real jobs doing real work related to a student’s interests. 

In-House LTI has some pluses and minuses let’s catalog a few of them.

Students with undefined interests can do some work to define those interests before getting “any old LTI”  On the other hand, in-house LTI doesn’t push student out of comfort zone. plus / minus
In-House LTI doesn’t have the authenticity of a real mentorship, i.e. a real business with real profit motivation, etc. minus
In-House LTI doesn’t let the in-house mentor (BP Staff) do any capacity-building activities, or lesson planning, or helping other students that are actively seeking an internship. minus
In-House LTI often doesn’t have the richness of project or learning that a real LTI would have.  (In-House mentor could make up for this, but the effort/work required is significant, and even then is it authentic?) minus
In-House LTI is limited by the resources, facilities, and people that are at school, often much less than an LTI site. minus

Well, that was a very interesting exercise, reflecting on what I’m accomplishing on in-house LTI.  The conclusion seems to be “not much”.  I guess this goes back to the “be a fool for the kids” idea that I posted about last time.  Get students out there and get them an LTI, that’s the moral of the story, and if not then keep them working on hard/challenging stuff.  Anything less is not doing them any favor at all, because weak scaffolding is just no scaffolding.

I have been proud this year of the field trips that I have been able to organize to various companies and workplaces.  However, even that under close scrutiny could have been done way more effectively.  One optimization we have envisioned is to somehow be more intentional about the learning we hope that the students will come into contact with after visiting a location.  Here’s my thought experiment on an ideal field trip experience.

1. Students are recruited or have to compete to be on a field trip based on their learning plans, including the recommendation of the student’s advisor.

2.  Students get an extensive briefing / introduction to the site that is to be visited before going.  This can be from the point of view of any one of the Learning Goals:  Personal Qualities, Social Reasoning, Communication, Empirical Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning.  It could be tailored to the interests of the students attending.  The goal of this session is to prepare students for good questions while on the trip.  Another goal would be to put the site to be visited in a broader economic, political, social, etc. context.

3.  Students arrive dressed appropriately and ready to board transportation the morning of the field trip.  Maps and parking instructions are clearly defined for the driver(s) of such transport.  En route the students are provided tablets which have wireless connectivity and which are constrained to display the web site of the company/entity being visited.  The students are instructed to try to find the answers to their questions first on the web site before preparing to answer them at the site.  If the students don’t have questions then some will be provided for them so that they can search for them on the web site.

4.  The tour guide is met, students are paired off, tour is started, students stay close together, ask questions, and appear to be hanging on every word of their hosts and hostesses.  Every speaker is thanked (almost profusely) by the students.  Tour stays on it’s time schedule.  Pictures are taken of students on the tour and if allowed also of the things they have seen.

5.  Lunch is provided, and students are provided some more orientation to the company during the lunch.  Students meet new employees and folks in significant roles from the organization that speak to the requirements for working at that site, and what types of education and training the students would need to work at that site.

6.  After lunch activity is fairly active, and engaging so as not to allow students to get sleepy or disengaged.  Tour concludes, and a final chance for questions and answers is given.

7.  After the tour, students are invariably excited and eager to talk about what they have experienced.  At this point staff from the school step in to teach some lessons based on what the students have just seen.  The engagement in such material we expect would be quite high since students have just seen it.  Perhaps it would a simulation of a problem that is being worked on at the site, perhaps it is some background on the processes or procedures that the company specializes in.

8.  Finally a short quiz would be given to gauge the learning that the students have internalized from the trip.  Handouts could also be collected of students observations or worksheets that they would have had to fill in based on the things they have just seen.

9.  Students board transportation and are transported back to the school.  Students are allowed to watch YouTube or other videos approved by instructional staff that further reinforce or illustrate the businesses that they have just toured.


That would be an amazing tour!  But the impact and learning that such a tour (even if only part of the above were achieved) would be orders of magnitude beyond what is currently being achieved, as far as preparation, interaction during tour, and solidifying learning after the tour.

This past week I took my three LTI students on a tour of www.seattlebugsafari.com.  Students were admitted to the museum and then given a chance to ask questions of the owner/founder/director.  It was very interesting to see the effect large spiders can have on students that otherwise seem pretty tough and fearless.  (In fact, they have an effect on me!!).  The owner Brian is looking to sell his collection of animals, so if you know anyone who might be interested…

This week was unusual in that we had two field trips this week.  The second one was to www.flightsafety.com, to the local Flight Safety International branch near us.  Particularly impressive on both students and adults was a chance to “fly” the simulators.  One of our students had a pretty rough landing, but that was infinitely better than the near-crashes that the other two students experienced on their landings.  In a conversation with one student after the event, I was impressed that they said that it was pretty scary, namely the idea of risking life and limb, while at the same time being responsible for the safety of others, was pretty daunting.

So while I was glad momentarily that none of my students were the pilots of any recent flights I had taken, I was also glad that at least now they had a some understanding of gravity of the job of pilot.  (pun intended).  

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-16 [34] (Week After Spring Break)

Although you might have thought teachers and staff would have been relaxed and recharged after the time away, many commented to the contrary.  Although students usually have fun during a break, for many school provides structure and an escape from the situation at home.  This is the classic dilemma of the American Worker, we have such little vacation time (relative to, say, Western Europeans) that we never get beyond the vacation-is-a-lot-of-work threshold, and really start to enjoy ourselves before we have to start getting back to work.

You may say, “but teachers get the whole summer off, why are they always complaining about the few hours society makes them work.”  To which I would utter the heretical, I would rather work all summer teaching, if I knew I was making progress with a student that would otherwise be making bad decisions, in a bad environment.

Investment Game Starts (Ends on May 31, 2012)

Last week the three students for which I am a mentor, started a game on http://www.investopedia.com.  The rules are that the student who experiences the most appreciation of their $100,000 portfolio by May 31, 2012 will win a prize.  One student has taken a substantial lead, and the rest of us are struggling to catch/keep up.


I believe this activity has potential to demonstrate H1 and H5, if I can show that new learning has occurred.  I also feel as though this activity could demonstrate O1 and O2, if I do some work to connect this game to curriculum standards and content areas.  Other staff at school have said this type of learning activity does go in bursts at the school, the trick is keeping sustained effort.

The End of the Year is Coming

Like all schools, we are coming close to the end of the year, there are some standardized tests yet, both mandatory (MSP, EOC) and non-mandatory (SAT).  Since all students at our school are on individualized learning plans, there are also end-of-year exhibitions which are the culmination of the year.  Some students will have a lot to show, some will not.  For some this lack of effort or results will mean that they don’t move up to the next grade, and that lack-of-progress message, may be something new to them.  For some that have natural ability who have not applied themselves or have coasted through school, they were being carried along on the steady tide of our age-graded system, and regular clockwork of yearly promotion.  At our school, what you learned is about your interests (no boredom escape clause) and how far you took that is related to your own goals/motivation/drive (it’s all on the student).  There may be some students that are unaware of these consequences.  There may be some students that are incapable of dealing effectively with these consequences.

As staff, entrusted with these students for a few short hours each day by the state and by the parents/guardians, we feel acutely the shortness of the time.  These next few days are crucial, and will in some cases will result in messages that are painful, but they need to be honest, straightforward, and compassionate.

For me, I ask myself if I have exerted my influence as adult and parent in a significant way for my students this year.  Have I taken chances and risks, which could have caused me to look foolish, but for the sake of the kids, might have meant a real breakthrough?

There may be summer work ahead for some students, to help catch up.  But I worry there too, that for some, our chance at a more significant, life-changing summer activity is also slipping through our fingers.  Students should have summer learning plans that provide some continuation of learning during those months.

But, the end of the year is coming, and to confess, I have *never* liked that.

Internship Reflection Week of 2012-04-09 [33] (Spring Break)

This week was Spring Break for Highline School District.  I spent much of the time working on my TPA.

Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job?–Revisited

In a prior blog post, I commented on this essay by Wiggins (2010).  As I re-read that essay here near the close of my internship year, I have the following thoughts.

Wiggins starts the essay with a startling confession that he taught for many years without being either having to prove he could teach or being evaluated more than twice.  As I read this again, I am reading it in the context of being an employee of a school district and a member of a teacher’s union.  As I read this again, I read it having spent 8 months in the whirlwind that is public education, bathed in the sometime shrill debates on value added evaluation, and standardized testing.

I still agree with Wiggins, namely that teaching is more than just activity, it is about causation of learning, interest, and confidence in students.  However, I now have perspective that this is harder than it sounds.  Treating teaching as just activity coordination without goals is hard enough, but working toward these goals, consistently and creatively is an extreme challenge.  Thus it comes as no surprise that many teachers don’t like to keep those “results focused responsibilities” in mind, to keep them as the “bottom-line goals.”

As I look back on my internship, Wiggins would prompt me to ask 3 questions.

  1. Have my students experienced successful learning?
  2. Have my students been bored, or engaged?
  3. Have my students discovered new competencies or confidence?

More specifically let’s look at a class I have been teaching since February.  The students in the class are juniors who are looking forward to taking the SAT this June.  They have not taken a formal math class since 8th grade.  Let’s see if there is any evidence in this short time of my moving the needle on those three questions.

Have my students experiences successful learning?  For this SAT prep course all the students (approx 15) took a full SAT, diagnostic, pre-test.  At the end of March they also took a single math section of a sample SAT.  Here are the results for a nearly identical set of students on a subset of questions that deal with geometry.  (More details here.)

Geometry Improvement

I would conclude that based on the improved percent of correct responses that indeed successful learning has occurred.  Or, as always might be the case, more effective test-taking skills have been developed.  That might especially be the case in that the percent of questions left blank has dropped off, and the percent of questions being answered wrongly has skyrocketed.  However, the combined percentages of wrong and blank are still less in the Sample Test than in the Pre-Test.

You may ask given the above evidence, sure, based on a score on a standardized test, but are my students bored or are they engaged.  Here’s a moment of engagement, check for yourself.

[We are discussing the following slide, and the transcript of the video is in the comments]


And finally, have my students discovered new competency or confidence?  Well, I asked them that myself, or maybe not in so many words via a SMS/Text poll.  Here’s what some of them said in reply


Now that is not a scientific poll, and I have some ideas to do some Action Research on things I can do in this class to improve perception of self-efficacy.  However, I am hopeful that at least 2 out of 3, if not 3 of Wiggins’ criteria for what true teachers should be doing in the classroom are being addressed.  But most of all, I am grateful to be at a school which enables some of the flexibility and personalization that Wiggins thinks is essential.


Wiggins, G. (2010). What’s my job? Defining the role of the classroom teacher. In R. J. Marzano (Ed.), On Excellence in Teaching. (10th ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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