Dinner this Week:

Friday, June 23, 2017

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We're having a 1960s, homestyle week. I have a can of pumpkin I've been hoarding in the pantry and an extra store bought pie crust from a quiche a while back, so I've decided to launch us on a one-dessert-per-week initiative. We'll take turns picking the dessert each week, and when we have kids, it'll be a tradition to take turns picking the dessert. Fun. Fun.

M- oven fried pork chops
YUM. I used thin-sliced, center-cut chops ($6.50 from Kroger. Thank you, Krog) I threw in some panko to the breadcrumb mix because I had it. These earned a spot on the permanent rotation.

Hm. I was attracted to this one because it's only 4 Weight Watchers points. Is wasabi always in a greenish mustard form? I don't know if I messed up something in the recipe, but the sauce was a very pungent combination of flavors. I'm a mustard lover, but the soy sauce, wasabi mustard, salmon, and honey combined into something I didn't love. I'd rather throw the salmon straight on the grill and serve with lemon or a Greek dill sauce.

Another trip to Mayberry. This was my first time making salisbury steak. I thought it would be a good alternative to burgers (lose the buns, Margaret). I used Ree Drummond's recipe (with onion powder in place of onions), and I loved it. The layers of flavors from the ketchup, Worcestershire, and beef broth make a really deep and flavorful gravy. When I make this again, I may try tomato paste in place of ketchup.

This is the first time I've sauteed herbs in olive oil to start a sauce. I think it's going to be delicious!

I'm winging it with a version of huevos rancheros this week. We'll see how it goes. 

dessert night (1 night)

I love cloves. I love cinnamon. I love pumpkin! I had some extra filling, so I baked it in custard cups. If I have an extra can of pumpkin in the future, I might just bake the custard without the crust or make some shortbread cookies to top the custard. Yum. Yum. Yum.

emergency desserts:
chocolate almond milk
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Reflections on Standards-Based Grading (so far)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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When you were in school, did your grades correspond with what your subject knowledge? For example, if you completed a lesson on arguing Cavalieri's theory in geometry, could you find a score in the gradebook like A or B?

A. 1-2 Homework
B. Argue Cavalieri's theory

I'm teaching summer school and trying out a version of standards-based grading. The experience promped me to do a little digging to see how far back this initiative goes.

 In 2008, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development proposed seven reasons schools should switch from assignment-based grades (math homework: 100%) to standards-based grading (arguing Cavalieri's Principle: 100%). Though standards-based grading has some benefits, there are also drawbacks that are important to consider.

1. Grades should have meaning.

In her ASCD article, Patricia L. Scriffiny writes that using "A", "B", "C" as grade symbols communicates little about the student's actual mastery level. Instead, teachers should use definitions like "An "A" means the student has completed proficient work on all course objectives and advanced work on some objectives."

That sounds reasonable. I'm curious how this plan would flesh out in the gradebook. Would the teacher input "advanced work" activities available only to students who reached that level? All others would receive zeroes for those scores--reflecting their zero-level mastery?

2. We need to challenge the status quo.

Scriffiny relates how her scoring practices evolved over her years as a teacher, citing her dissolution of homework in practice.

Yes. Homework has fallen out of pop culture. I worked with a former science professor for a few years who related Education to the practice of scientific researchers. Often, Education ebbs and flows along with the whims of pop culture without stopping to study whether the methods we have are effective or not. I don't like homework either, but as we challenge the status quo, perhaps we should be responsible as researchers in asking whether what we're doing (what math program we're using, what standards we're using, how we're evaluating teachers) is working and what grounds we have for thinking that the new method will be effective. Are there people in education using A/B testing?

3. We can control grading practices.

Scriffany offers a pep talk that teachers can lead change in their schools.

4. Standards-based grading reduces meaningless paperwork.

Scriffany vaguely implies that she provides formative feedback but grades nothing but assessments.

I wonder if we would lose something by focusing completely on product versus process + product. How can we maintain a sense of accountability and personal investment in the process for those students who need external accountability? Often, parents are the first to ask "Is this for a grade?"

5. It helps teachers adjust instruction.

This is so true. Being able to look in a gradebook and quickly track which students are "nearing proficiency" versus "expert" in a certain standard would make grouping and remediation a breeze. However, if grading systems move from a relatively consistent four-point scale to a helter-skelter proficiency scale, how will college applications and GPAs work?

6. It teaches what quality looks like.

Sciffany writes that standards-based grading pushes teachers to award scores for something other than extra credit and attendance thereby making grades more relevant.


This article is almost 10 years old. If we trust (and evaluate teachers) based on their standards-based programs, doesn't it follow that whether the gradebook lists the standard or "Expository Essay: Leadership," the work demonstrates practice or mastery of the standards? Are there teachers giving grades for attendance and behavior?

7. It's a launchpad to other reforms. 


As long as the oceans flow to the seas, education will be reforming. What and how we teach our children is a reflection of the evolving face and revolving door of politics, the media, and the experienced and inexperienced leaders of the public (and PRIVATE) educational sectors. Standards-based grading is not a launchpad any more than waking up and breathing is a launchpad. Education will change.

To read Sciffinay's article, visit the ACSD.

I see a few pros and cons of standards-based grading. In my situation, I give students a standards-tracker with a list of standards and corresponding choices of assignments. They spend half a day in a classroom working through the standards at a personal pace. For most standards, students have an option of a few different assignments to use to "prove" mastery of the standards.

Because our day (half a day in one classroom) is so long, I can conference with each student every second day. This gives me time to input scores (Unlike Sciffany, I'm using a traditional grading scale and percentages) and encourage students to retake/redo some work or 

 Standards-Based Grading Pros:

  • Students seem more accountable and "in charge" of their progress. They hold the road map in their hands in the form of the standards tracker, and they can navigate the map as they like.
  • It's easier to see patterns in proficiencies and deficiencies. At a gradebook glance, both the students and I can see all writing standards met or all language standards in the 70s. 

Standards-Based Grading Cons: 

  • It's more efficient in English (and more reflective of actual life experiences) for one assignment to show mastery of multiple standards. If a student writes an expository essay and is scored using a rubric that includes each sub-standard of the writing standard (writing an introduction, using transitions, etc.), it may be that each substandard reflects a different mastery level. Though the score on the essay is an 84%, the student may have written an introduction at a 100% level."
  • One of the advantages to face-to-face learning versus virtual school is the opportunity to collaborate and share a common "story" In a classroom, reading a novel together can build a strong sense of community in a classroom. It's hard to see  how this might work with a completely self-paced standards-based grading system like I'm testing.
  • There are 50+ standards. In order to prove true mastery, a student should complete tasks over a few occasions. This means the gradebook is loaded with hundreds of scores. If better clarity is what instructional leaders are looking for with standards-based grading, they're not getting it.
    • Parents don't understand standards-based grading.
    • Students need training to avoid stress when looking at the pile of standards they're expected to master each semester.

A Compromise to Standards-Based Grading:

Missouri tried something years ago as a compromise between traditional and standards-based grading. Teachers created several key assignments that among them represented all standards for the course. Students were required to reach a certain level of mastery (75%, I think) on these assignments to pass the course and could re-do the assignments if necessary until they demonstrated mastery.

The other parts of the gradebook reflected a more traditional approach.

I like this idea because it's more manageable than inputting and tracking each standard individually. It connects students to the standards, but it also leaves room for courses that are Pre-AP and gear students for work that is even more rigorous than the standards. It is also more real-life. How often does a task represent a single skill, ability, or bit of knowledge? 

It will be interesting to see where this goes.

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Digging my Favorite High School Poem

Thursday, June 8, 2017

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Hey There,

What do you remember from your high school lit classes? I remember in the late 90s, my Missouri high school still did not have air conditioning. What? I'm serious. Freshman year, I remember reading the part of Juliet one September afternoon while sweat poured down my face. A rose by any other name?

Not every experience in lit was so excruciating. I can't remember what year we read it, but one of my favorite poems was one of Seamus Heaney's most popular poems, "Digging." When Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, the foundation granting it "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."

Lyrical beauty.
Ethical depth.
Exalted everyday miracles.
The living past.

Wow. What a legacy. What a beautiful way of seeing the world.

In "Digging," he captures heritage so poignantly. You can tell that the speaker has watched his father digging over the course of many years and that he's noticed the rhythm and care of his father at work. The pride of coming from fine North Irish digging stock reflects in the scatter of new potatoes and the spaded heave of new sod. Gorgeous.

The greatest literature speaks once and speaks a thousand times because you never land on the page the same person. Tonight, I'm struck by the peace and confidence the speaker has with his pen. He's not mad he and his father aren't spending time together planting in the garden. He's upstairs with a pen in hand, contributing to the world in a way he trusts he should. I imagine him in a house like the one off in the distance in the pic (by flight187 on flickr @public domain) above.

Here is Digging as printed by the Poetry Foundation.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds  
Bends low, comes up twenty years away  
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills  
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft  
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.  
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
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Narcissism: Trendy ... but True

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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One day a few months ago, a girl at work called someone a narcissist. To me, it seemed like a pretty bold accusation for someone she knew five minutes. Like calling someone heartless, selfish, or idiotic. The term is trendy in pop culture. Most people throw around the term like a fidget spinner--not really knowing its origin.

People who have encountered pathological narcissists use the term much more slowly--and with the grit of glass in our teeth.

 Ovid's myth of Narcissus was one of a gorgeous hunter who got distracted one day when he knelt down to get a drink of water from a pond. Seeing his reflection, he was transfixed and forgot everything except his fascination with his own image. Narcissus starved to death and died because he forgot to eat and forgot even that drink he knelt down initially to take.

 Echo is a nymph who was punished by the gods and was robbed of her beautiful voice--only able to repeat the last of what she heard someone else say. When she ran into Narcissus in the woods, Echo fell in love with his beauty and the clever way he lured deer into his nets immediately, yet she couldn't tell him. Narcissus called, "Come here!" Echo repeated, "Come here!" When they finally reached one another, Narcissus was disgusted, rejecting her and returning to his own reflection, saying, "Oh marvelous boy, I loved you in vain, farewell." He died destitute and emaciated.

 Some narcissism is natural. Babies are narcissists. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. A pathological narcissist, however, can ruin his own life and the lives of all those attempting to find their voices around him.

 1. A narcissist is fixated on an idealized version of himself. In the narcissist's mind, he is winning financially while the paperwork might show he is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. One of the trademarks of a pathological narcissist is to overspend on nice things. This projects an image of "status."

 2. A pathological narcissist enjoys breaking the rules. Whether it's chronically speeding, lying in court, or utilizing "grey hat" financial strategies, the narcissist gets a thrill from tactics that make him feel like a winner while the rest of the world loses.

 3. A pathological narcissist shows little or no remorse. He constantly breaks promises and fails in meeting obligations, including repaying debts. In his mind, the fault for these failures is someone else's. He cannot reconcile his idealized vision of himself with the reality of his failures. At all costs, he must win.

 4. The pathological narcissist must be the hero and loves to be in charge. He is charismatic, charming when he wants something, and very dangerous to women or men who are in need of being rescued. A narcissist will sometimes work to make others feel inferior to remain in the hero position. Those with a high degree of narcissism are often in leadership positions because they pursue leadership positions, though they don't always make great leaders. Similar to a psychopath, a pathological narcissist often "gaslights"--saying something extreme and then blaming the other person for misinterpreting it.

 5. For some narcissists, everything is personal. Passed over for a promotion? It must be personal. Cut me off in traffic? It must be personal. Quiet narcissists often twist situations so that they are the victim. Not happy? Must be someone else's fault.

 6. Above all, a narcissist is unable to put himself into someone else's shoes. This is such an extreme deficit that the narcissist himself often has no clue he is a narcissist because he is unable to see himself from someone else's perspective. He can only see his reflection--the idealized version of himself he projects to the water.

 Narcissists have a hard time giving and receiving love because they cannot see other people, and they have no empathy. They often confuse loving with winning and will lose interest as soon as they lose saviour status. They may give the illusion of emotional connection but are often much more interested in just that--illusions.

 Narcissists can heal, but they can only heal if they're willing to unravel the illusion and face the authentic self. It takes guts after a lifetime of hiding.

 People left in the lifetimes of wreckage that a narcissist leaves behind can heal--only if they're willing to embrace their strong voices and avoid the alluring call of a false saviour.

Stay safe and brave out there,

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