Category Archives: Inspiration

Distracted by Distractions

Watching students test has become an obsession for me, as a teacher and as a mom. I first began studying The Test about 10 years ago.

I had always held a deep disdain for even the mention of the word “test” while plowing through my school years. I hated tests because I’d shut down and perform poorly on tests. This happened after an encounter with a terrible test at a young age. So, I began to loathe testing.

mctest

It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I felt compelled to study and ultimately understand the process of taking a test. After all, teachers have to create tests so I needed to know exactly how I should start, so I searched different websites dedicated to teaching educators how to create tests.

I began with multiple choice questions and answers because those were the kinds of test items that made no sense to me. I rarely understood why my answer was wrong when teachers reviewed answers with my classes.

The reviews usually consisted of teachers ticking off the right answers and only explaining one or two in a very matter of fact way, as if to say, “Don’t you dare question the logic of the test.”

So, I never did. I only questioned my intelligence, which meant I thought I was an idiot. Until now.

The first question I had

was why in the hell am I creating a multiple choice test anyway? Where did the damn thing come from?

The Washington Post has a great article about the origins of the multiple choice test. The writer also adds some background information about how educators assess students and questions the validity of the act of testing at all. It’s definitely worth the read. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/13/AR2006111301007.html

According to The Washington Post, an educator named Frederick J. Kelly, the Dean of Education at the University of Kansas, created the first multiple-choice test in 1914. From that point on, that style of testing mushroomed into what we find students struggling over throughout their educational life.

So when I sat down to research the very idea of creating the multiple choice tests, I found a mountain of information on the subject. So much information, that I really had to sift through it quickly or I could’ve been reading for months nonstop.

The most surprising and most valuable information was the method of using a distractor in the multiple-choice answers.

Ironically enough, the word “distraction” has become the 21st century go-to word to describe everything associated with everything electronic and has young students drowning in schools.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a student test nowadays, you’d see very quickly how and why students often struggle with standardized tests. First, they see a paper with words on it and cringe. If it’s on the computer, they won’t cringe but that doesn’t mean they’ll concentrate on the material being presented to them, especially if it requires reading.

Most unsuccessful students seem to skim or scan whatever they’re reading and answer the questions by returning to the text to search for answers, which means that they’ve most likely missed the main point of the passage, which then throws off their answers to just about everything.

They end up with low scores and are left feeling stupid, anxious, and defeated.

They go home and become more addicted to the distractions that help them to feel confident, happy, and friendly—gaming and social media.

These are the distractions that reward them. The test drains them. And, we, parents and teachers, feel twice as frustrated and confused.

However, by observing this, every year I don’t begin my multiple choice creations with distractors. I begin my journey with my own brand of distractions.

And it works.

Written by Lisa Chesser

This post and others to follow will focus on teaching and helping children succeed in school. I’m working on a book that will have more details on sifting through the minds of children in order to help them find success in a system that often destroys their ability to succeed.

Distractor Rationale

http://images.pearsonassessments.com/images/tmrs/tmrs_rg/distractor_rationales.pdf

 

 

 

Advertisements

Tapping into Anger, Hitler Youth

Youth
The eyes spill anger, the kind that festers.

Love turns to hate so quickly.

There’s a sort of hell inside a young mind. I see it every day at school and all the time at home. It’s the conflict inside all of us, but as an adult, we master it.

We live. We learn. We stop hurting so much over small problems. Most of us work on ourselves. The youth or young people seem to us to have everything while at the same time to lack the essential appreciation of that everything.

They desire too much and can’t control that desire. Some even acquire a collection of iPhones, iPads, and video games that startles the onlooker, the elder who never had anything.

They indulge in outrageous behaviors such as cutting or bullying.

They love too much, screaming and crying for a singer or rock band.

Some adults have the audacity to act the same way. And, all of it makes sense. After all, the young know how to live. Sometimes it even works to our advantage because we harness the energy level they have and use it to invigorate our lives, not harm them.

Some adults, however, know how to just be:  to live without the need to return to the youth mindset.

But, what is it about youth, that age where you’re maybe 14 and you realize that you have a period and/or hair all over your body so you grapple with ways to cope with it? You go from insecure to almost good enough.

A teenage girl might struggle with body image and find a way to control it by exercising more and improving the way she looks in the mirror and to others.

But, the events that led to her struggle damaged her so much so that her hatred for herself and others lingers. No, it festers.

What is it that makes the youth hate so much? Hate everyone they love. Hate everything about themselves. Hate the most beautiful and pleasant moments in life. Then, what is it that makes them lash out—try to destroy themselves or those around them?

I often think of Hitler Youth when I see this in a tween or teen.

He must’ve known just how angry they were and simply gave them permission, encouraged them, to act on their rage.

Read more about this in The Mindset of the Hitler-Jugend by Kyle Frabotta
June 2004.

 

To Warm the Soul

Connection
When I wrote about how my grandmother had suffered through Alzheimer’s disease and my struggle with losing her both mentally and physically, the response from fellow bloggers warmed my soul almost as if they were sitting right next to me allowing me to rest my head on their shoulders.

"I'll make ya laugh."
“I’ll make ya laugh.”

Passing Through Madness

Blogging, changed my life because the connections I made became even more meaningful than some long-time friendships and brought other people with similar depth and interests closer to me.

When I write, I connect to a place hidden from the me who I think I am or the me who I want to be or the me who everyone wants me to be. I may start with an idea or a purpose, but within a minute or so, I find the me who I really am and sometimes that secret me connects to another hidden being, someone I never knew existed.

I know other bloggers feel the same.

When I first started blogging, it was here at WordPress. I really knew nothing else. I just knew that I wanted to write and connect with other writers. I’d been busy teaching after being a full-time mom and my relationships with the working world and friendships in general felt stunted and, well, disconnected.

So when I read through all different kinds of blogs, I found myself laughing, nodding, and often-enough crying. So I thought about the idea of creating my own blog and just knew that I had to open up as well.

Four years ago, I was Freshly Pressed with a post about my children’s “Refrigerator Art” Refrigerator Art Changed My Life and the connections I made have lasted to this day. Even the talented Cheri Lucas Rowland liked my post, and here I am writing inspired by one of her discover challenges.

The same people who “liked” and “commented” on that post also comforted me when I wrote about struggles with Scoliosis Exercising My Scoliosis Demons and the loss of my grandmother .

At various times over the years, life became so overwhelming at certain points that I considered and reconsidered leaving WordPress behind. Being a teacher and a mother challenges the best of us, let alone being married and attempting to continue writing and educating yourself. Then throw into the mix health concerns and the death of someone who meant the world to you.

But, it was and is the connections I’ve experienced here that have kept and do keep me blogging. They keep me brave, smart, bold, and loved.

 

Keep Your Head in the Clouds

Oh, look at that!
It’s a panda. You see it? There’s a ship. Look look look.
Where?
Right there, follow my finger. You see it?
No. Well sort of.
Ooowa! That one’s weird. I think it’s an old man. He’s smiling. See?
Yeah! I see it…

See anything?
See anything?

I lied.
I saw nothing. Really. Just nothing. It was humiliating.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t even see shapes in the clouds. I’m broken.
My son sat for another thirty minutes on the car ride to the Keys pointing out dragons eating ice cream and flying mermaids while I gave up and checked my email on my phone.

Where did my creativity go? What happened to my imagination? I kept asking myself that as I sporadically searched the sky for the latest cloud news flash.

Look, wait, yeah, it’s a turtle! Right there. There’s the head, the shell, it’s moving.

Anything?
Anything?

I saw nothing.

Later, when I walked out on the jetty, to sit and listen to the water pat the rocks below. I watched the fish spring out, the birds zoom overhead, and the clouds float by. I squinted at the sky. I drew images with my eyes.

Anything yet?
Anything yet?

I saw nothing.
I tried again the next day and the next, but found nothing.

And this is what I’ve decided. All literature, the books that have guided me though rough times, the prayers that have steadied me, could never have shown me exactly why I’m so lost sometimes.
But, that boy and those clouds did.
When you look up into the sky…
See something.

Anything.

Religion is in the details.

At the end of the first week back to school in Florida, I stood in a line with moms beaten, worried, and tired. We were from everywhere in Miami. We wore business clothes, jeans, and sweatpants.

The “perfect” mom with the straight, red hair, black V-neck sweater, and pencil skirt raised her eyebrows as the Latina mom in sweatpants rolled her eyes and said, “I finally understand my mom. I used to be so embarrassed when she’d hand out coupons at the counter and now I’m trying to figure out how I’m gonna pay for all this.”

She raised her eyes to the sky as if to say, “Save me! Help me.”

I pulled the plug from my ear, the earphone muffling the depressing music on the speakers at CVS.  “I know. I feel the same,” I said, desperately reaching out to her.

The redhead rolled her eyes again. “It’s crazy. They kill us.”

I looked into their eyes and the week of troubles emptied from my soul. The week of upset, anger, resentment, and fighting left me because I wasn’t alone. I was with women unlike me and just like me.

We knew pain. The kind of pain religious leaders just won’t ever understand.

The kind of pain kids frown at.

The kind of pain only mothers know.

And, my heart emptied.

In those few moments, no one could’ve predicted that my heart would empty. No religious mantra could fix me. But, right there, with women I didn’t even know, my heart emptied.

And, I was free.

Find those moments that free you and recognize them as religious.

They belong to you.

Everyone should have to teach middle school.

Vortex
I’d entered a distorted dimension, splintered and shapeshifting, grew into a full-time stint as a middle school.

The uncertainty and shock of feeling as if I’d entered a distorted dimension, splintered and shapeshifting, grew into a full-time stint as a middle school teacher. Everyone should have to teach middle school. I’ve said this ever since I realized I wasn’t going to quit teaching after all, ever since I got through those first few years.

I usually say it at a disgruntled moment when it seems as if the people who I’m listening to or observing just don’t appreciate the complexity of heartache and the simplicity of discipline.

Those people usually have Bobble Head egos and tell really bad jokes that they laugh at because nobody else will. But, sometimes those people are people who I would normally get along with and they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be shoved into a tween body and told to cheer up and be happy about it.

Teaching middle school reminds me of this on a daily basis.

If you pressed rewind to the day I began, it feels like one of those nightmarish dreams or thematic moments in a film. I’d spent fifteen years as an artist, writer, and editor and then I woke up in khaki pants and wearing a bun in my hair with a bunch of tweens and teens blinking at me.

What’s worse, I had to attempt to entertain them for hours on end, a daring and nearly impossible feat in a society where social media and video games rule the world. So, I didn’t. I did the opposite. I talked to them. I looked them in the eyes and I talked to them. And, it was eerie.

Swirl
The world went winding around into a useless array of clutter speckled with static electricity.

There were moments when the world went winding around into a useless array of clutter speckled with static electricity that reminded me there was still energy left somewhere for me to tap into, even though the exhaustion accompanying my new career left me broken at times.

Teaching hundreds of students that reading still mattered shifted my perspective of right and wrong. It buried my sense of reality and scraped at my soul. Students openly berated me for daring to talk to them about the beauty of reading, for deigning to announce that the written word stands more powerful, more insightful than the latest flick.

Every fear I’d shut away in the dark corners of those storage closets, where you can’t even reach in order to pull down a box or everything tumbles out, those fears fell, crushing parts of me that I had thought were never to be seen again.

It was subtle at first. Sometimes, it was just a simple observation. A girl cried because someone called her a name. I needed to listen. Yes. These things happened. And, it happened to me so, really, I could help her. But, inside me all these emotions arose from somewhere left alone, somewhere kept quiet.

And, I tried to quiet them again.

But, there they were staring at me, waiting for me to recognize their existence. So, I did and what a twisted ride I took from there.

You’re pushed to a point that most of us runaway from and never really address. We simply encounter it over and over in our lives. We have run-ins with the classroom bullies who insidiously stick a foot out while we’re just walking to our desk, but this time, the bully’s a co-worker or even a boss, maybe even the person we love.

When I see kids come to school with their hair cinched into a bun or even disheveled, I chuckle. They don’t know how to just live, just be. If they do, they overdo it. They don’t have a sense of individuality and if they do they hide it. Muted and blended, they try so hard not to be different. But, when their appearance masks missing homework or no pencil or even a missing backpack, I know there’s more to it.

No matter how hard I try to forget, there I am too. I’m sitting in school without my pencil, no homework. My mother had had a fight with my stepfather. My grandmother had too many kids to care for and I had to help. My sister’d thrown a fit. I’d stayed up late doing my work because what else was there to do? I needed something to get my mind off the fighting. But, in the morning, sleep and chaos left my work at home.

I sat in class, reprimanded for not doing my work. It wouldn’t be the first or last time.

I remember that, my past, when I stay with my students organizing their folders. I remember that when I sit at lunch listening to their problems. I remember what it was like to be them when I give them the extra bag of chips I buy because I know one of them will be hungry for many reasons. Someone forgot to pack lunch. They just have no money. Or, maybe they just starve themselves. But if a teacher hands them a bag of Tostitos and everyone else is grabbing some, they might just take some too.

As adults, we get caught up in our problems and forget the kids who came with those problems. As adults, we forget the life we left behind. We forget what’s important in order to chase meaningless wants and desires.

Sometimes, as parents, we look at the social media and general consensus that education and agree knowingly. But, it doesn’t really matter when kids still go to school anyway. We love to justify our neglect, our smug lives, our rush forward. But, we shouldn’t.

How do I know? Well, I’m a middle school teacher. You should try it someday. You might learn something.

What do you think when The President visits your city?

English: In January 2009, President of the Uni...
English: In January 2009, President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Obama visited and I thought, okay, I’m just too tired to think much about it. I wish I had more energy. But because I teach middle schoolers and work until I can’t stand anymore, I couldn’t feel the excitement I’d normally feel when The President visits our city.

How do you react when The President visits your city?

With Charlie Crist as guest, President Obama raises cash in Miami, chats with Cuban dissidents – Florida – MiamiHerald.com.

I Remember My Dream

Digging graves, unconsciously, just digging.

Scaring everyone.

Dream
Dream

Dreams…well…they change.

They morph into something scientific, to be dissected or picked apart. Between disillusionment and the idea that you needed to be more than what you should be or than what you really wanted.

You don’t really dig graves. You dream, like every single one of us.

We dream.

It’s what we do.

There’s an echo in it. There’s a peace in it. It’s more real than reality.

So, when I woke one day to find myself digging my own grave.
I remembered my dream.

It had nothing to do with graves. It had everything to do with love and happiness.

There were diagonals, horizontal, spirals, eyes and lips scattered around a field of purple crayon with push pins and buttons chuckling at the silly behavior surrounding the onlooking scrutiny.

Admidst the blur of sanity came a gaffaw of irony.

We dream.

Then, we remember.

It’s always a little late.

But, sometimes. We remember the most important part.

Love.

So…

when you dream,

remember love.

Just like the man who dreamt that graves should be dug. He remembered love and reminded the mother to stay close.

She did.

Then, he remembered the graves.

There was one less.

The Evolution before the Revolution

Those sinewy blue beings link arms and chant, rocking in unison for love, Avatars who sync into the power of the earth while the “smarter,” more intelligent beings exploit them. I think of this often. I thought of this when I saw the new J.J. Abrams series Revolution. For those of you who don’t know the basics, the premise of the series questions our reliance on technology and asks, what if the lights went out, forever?

Needless to say, there’s a laughable character who once brandished $80 million dollars from his exploits in the Google empire, but now, without lights, he’s just the victim of “schoolyard bullies.”

The Evolving Revolution
The Evolving Revolution

It’s about the loss of power, but more importantly, our loss of true power without electricity, our inability to come to grips with what’s really important to us. Many characters realize at broken moments what that power is, the enduring, everlasting power of love.

I just read a WordPress post about bringing more traffic to your blog. It was an informative and helpful post. I’ve read others like it and learned a lot including some of the posts written by Michelle W. and Cheri Lucas. I even explored these ideas over summer when I had time to write more often and when I even used StumbleUpon for one day. It was bizarre, Twilight Zonish.

But, as I read this WordPress post about traffic, I thought, well, what happens when the lights go out? What happens when there’s no electricity, no money, no this, when it’s just stories and survival and hopefully love?

I thought about this because I’m sick and grappling with the idea of staying home from work and just lying here, trying to get well. These are the times when I’m in highspeed mode but get shut down as if all the lights just go out one day. It’s similar to the opening scene in Revolution when the cars are driving, the TV’s talking, the phone’s ringing and then it all just goes dark.

I had decided that when I started using WordPress that I’d put more energy into writing, like many of you I assume. But, I’ve found once again that loving to write doesn’t mean losing your love of everything else. I’ve spent years in the field although right now my main occupation is teaching.

I’ve seen and read about so many writers and journalists who give up their lives, meaning everything else they love, in order to write. This sounds exciting and even noble at times, but is it, really? Do we have to give up everything else for that one thing we’ve categorized ourselves as being or pursuing?

When I was Freshly Pressed, I wrote about my love of writing. And I slipped quite neatly into this category. I wrote:  I write to breathe to sleep to wake to sing to love.

I do, but only when I can. I actually miss feeling that way, but there are other parts of my life I’ve decided to love more. That is my own personal evolution before any other revolution within any other large-scale change that I or you will ever encounter.

For starters, I love my children a whole lot more than writing. They remind me that writing was something I started doing on a regular basis because I was so lonely and had no one to talk to. Second, my students need me more than they know. I always choose them over anything, even my own sanity sometimes. Third, my sister may be 3,000 miles away but when she needs me, I drop everything and stay up all night with her or even worrying about her. Fourth, my husband, my mom, my grandmother, my in-laws, my friends, even my fellow bloggers and writers, your insightful stories and photographs, your art, come before my writing.

I’ve evolved because before there’s a necessary revolution to this tendency to obsess and ultimately to destroy the beauty around us, I saw who I was, who I can become, and I changed.