Sept 15, 2003
i'm jazzed to be back in my own classroom.. got them all online and writing code... email is a problem.. they are good.
Sept 22, 2003
isabel came and went with narry a ruffle.
email still a problem... but they are flying.
teachers are coming in and i'm lining up their students as mentors and as needed in class to help push the tech out into the community. my commandos. they are doing well, messing with the code, problem solving and getting to the content. peer review is next now that i have some stuff. got to have them archive first thing wed.
maybe took care of email filter
Sept 30, 2003
got email working and accounts made wed 924 and did first archive.
thur clean up and peer review.
we are now ready for peer review and telementoring.
watch out world!!!
peer review has helped get the work done and cleaned up.
announced on lists for telementors.
Oct 06, 2003
went through all scholars, see 10_4_notes.html
set up hconn for her classes tues
set up staff and school see http://teachers.altschools.org/jlevin/100603/
Oct 13, 2003
the juggling act is overwhelming.
spending the weekends reviewing all the scholars' pages and sending them email. it is an overwhelming task. but the results are awesome.
getting peer review going and that helps.

Oct 27, 2003

parents' night and day was great!!
the grades had the right effect. the scholars are paying attention.
Nov 3, 2003
got a good portion of the staff started with web pages.
concentrating on opin01 now and content.
tending to mediocrity and potemkin villages.

i forgot about all computer. the pendulum. all no computer.

gotta take more pics.
settling in now. do it on paper before they go to computers. need to be more conscious of content now especially as telementors are arriving. leaving it up to them at this point isn't working ideally, so must intervene when necessary.

Nov 13, 2003

made list and scholars are joining it.
got rid of wheeled chairs
Giving deadlines as they are needed.
First opinion taking long time, maybe too long.

Dec 5, 2003

Harrison Bergeron is their best work to date.
wed dec 3, i asked them for what grade and why in email
thur i asked for how they were going to earn the 90 they will get in jan, final official grade.
each wrote me a document that was printed that explained how they were going to earn that 90.
now they have to understand the 90.
this shall be an interesting experiment.
in announcing this to the scholars, i told them i had seen glimmers from all of them that each of them could do 90 work. the problem i explained in grades was that as soon as each may receive a poor grade they would slow down or stop thinking that their traditional downward spiral as exhibited by past performances would take over. by giving all the 90 i was acknowledging their potential and was asking them to rise to it and then justify the 90 in how they work and now why. i also explained that in jan they may find the admin or someone questioning or contesting the 90. it then becomes the duty of each scholar to be able to justify that 90 in jan. they may have to defend that 90 with their work. i told them i would not change the 90, but someone else may if the work they do can't be defended. another concern i have will be for those who want higher than 90. that wont be so hard as i can accomodate that with the same strategy of defending the grade. it will be like the portfolio process. the scholar may have a parent, other scholars, me, and whoever present during this defense. rather than having the scholar work for a grade, an expectation, i have chosen to eliminate that stress and anxiety. they all get a 90. now the pressure is off and they can tend to business. i dont want any one bad day or stretch to be the sole determining factor in their overall performance as is the setup of the current system. this may be an important step in the process of cyber english. i've made their work public for years, we have engaged in peer review for years, i have asked them to provide me with the grade they want for years and still i have yet to see a really marked improvement in overall performance from all of the scholars. this project of mine has been very successful for almost all, but not all. perhaps this guarantee of the 90 for a final will be just the catylst i need to get those scholars who havent succeeded to finally succeed. we know failure breeds failure and now i want to see if success breeds success.

it will also put a great deal of pressure on me as i will have to be monitoring much closer and very intently. their journals will become important documents, too in this process.

i'm waiting for the admin and others to comment on this. it may also be important esp in nyc as klein is wrestling with a better form of assessment. the current one is flawed and all have admitted to this, yet they havent found or considered other forms. portfolio assessment is fine, but bulky and paper. cyberenglish is digital and that could make all the difference.

what i'm doing is as much political as it is pedagogical, i know this.

I have warned the scholars, that this is their time to finally show us what they are really made of. if in fact each is a genius, i acknowledge it with the guaranteed 90 and now they have to prove it. it is time to stop talking the talk, it is time for them to walk the walk. i also told them not all 90's are equal just as all scholars who receive a 79 on the Regents or a 85 on a VETY quiz. each 90 will be unique and their defense and journal writing will have to be how they show their work is worthy of that 90, not as compared to another, but as it compares to their prior work and ongoing work. we are in tumultuous times in education and perhaps we need a rather radical move and approach. so far noone seems to be happy with what has been done and leaders are scrambling for new methods without much luck except more of the same, renaming of things, and generally relying on what is known and not cobbling together anything that works. so in this vacuum of leadership, i am taking and making a stand based on 30 years of experience and 20 years of being in this digital environment. i have not been able to explain what i see and know well enough for decision makers to take notice, so i must show them.

i dont think it will hurt the scholars. sure those who have never received a 90 may have that short rise to the top and then fall later, but let them experience it so they know the feeling of seeing a 90 for English on their report card, it may kick in later. it will certainly provide less anxiety for those in the middle of the bell curve to actually concentrate on the work instead of the grade. and finally those who want more than 90, that is easier than the other two groups. it serves as an important benchmark in their first semester of high school english and one they will have to help them in a few years as they apply for college. i want to eliminate the grade and concentrate on the content. it should eliminate the question: "how long should this writing be?" is it 90 work is all we need to say. it will make them more responsible for their own time and work ethic. they know the prize, they have it, that is not the question anymore. the question is are they worthy, it now is shifted to them to show how they are worthy. but they are all guaranteed that 90 so they all know the feeling. lets see if it is as contagious to them as failing has been or as mediocrity is. we want excellence so i'm seeing if this 90 will help them achieve it.

by giving the 90, i am trying to send them a message that i believe in them and that grades dont matter as much as the work they do. i am also telling them that grades are not carrots nor tools of threats. they react badly to that as we have seen. i have eliminated the grade question so we can concentrate on the work and redirect our energies to what is important, their learning.

we shall see, stay tuned.

Dec 14, 2003
On Fri, 12 Dec 2003, Heather wrote:
I will have to chase down that book. I am envisioning my kids thinking they already have an A, so why do anything at all?

On Fri, 12 Dec 2003, Paula wrote:
> Ted...
I am wondering then... What do you do with the student who chooses to do nothing? Or don't you have any like this?

oh yes, paula, i have them.

yes, heather, benjamin zander explains the idea quite well in chapter 3 which is where i got it. the rest of the book isnt bad either.

yes, they already have the A and then they chisel away at it and so do teachers. I'm not sure they really know it so i made it very official and guaranteed. we are talking about it.

we sometimes use grades to punish and chisel away at them for non academic reasons. i think i have to do something by telling them that yes they do have the A and nothing is going to take that away. even though they all may think they have the A, there are some who think they have to earn it and cant so they dont try. i see the psyche of too many scholars as one of looking to the negative of grading rather than to the positive. consider too how they may be doing real well and then get one grade that deflates the A by not being an A and then the level of intensity drops and they assume or know they cant achieve the A so all A work after that is moot, because a grade or two not A's will not allow for the A. one blemish and well it is all over. I dont want them to think that.

by making the discussion open about the A, by explaining on a daily basis right now what that A means becomes the important thing. They have the A period. so experiment, take chances, learn more about yourself and your skills because the A is guaranteed. Sure there are those who laugh and say even if i do nothing i get the A. yup. can you defend it, can you do it again next semester? are my responses. learn now while it is free to do it, so when you are back in another class you can repeat it. have you ever gotten an A in english i ask, them and they say no. well now you have so figure out how to do it again at no cost. you will not fail if you try anything you havent rried beforew and hopefully you will learn how to succeed and this freebie will have been well worth it. if not, then i cant do much more until you are ready to work. it isnt about leading the horse to water and all those variations. i aint even interested in leading the horse to water anymore. that is the horse's job. i will fill the trough up, and be sure it always has water, but that is about it.

another problem with assuming they all have A's here is that they compare A's when they shouldn't. we know one scholar's A is not the same as another scholar's A. Each A is relative to the scholar and not to the class. i have scholars as we all do who are always working at a very high level and when other scholars compare themselves to this one scholar they arent A's, yet they are and dont know it. this very thing happened in my recent fordham class. of course bob was an A student, everyone knew it and some alluded to that in their email to me as they explained why they deserved the A based on thier work. of course they were right and got that A too. but that doesnt mean others cant be A students based on their abilities and rate of growth. just because the other fordham scholars didnt produce the amount of work that bob did, doesnt mean they arent A students. quality and quantity arent to be confused. in my cyberenglish classes i'm also finding those scholars who have never earned an A, working now knowing they got it and will prove they deserve it. so for me that is the first positive effect and well worth it.

as i contemplated the whole idea, i found myself moving from looking at grades as a negative thing to one that is positive. i dont want the grade to be the object of the exercise, i want the work to be and grades seemed to be in the way. i also wanted to eliminate the competition and comparison of grades. in the drive home with my daughter from college this past friday, she was speaking about this very thing with me. in one of her classes a few students got B+ in the class. 2 of the girls were upset that a third girl got a B+. the reason was that they believed the third got it because she is a basketball player and the coach and teacher are friends. the two who believed they earned the B+ did more work that than the third girl. we had the conversation, that yes this may be true. we also have to consider that perhaps for the basketball player, this may be the best she can do and that for her that is B+ work, but not if you compare it to others. arent we concerned with each scholar on hir own level and not as compared to others? isnt education about the growth of individuals and not the competitive aspect? where did this competition thing with grades come from? it is destructive. we had the same conversation that i am having here in the car. she wants to be a teacher one day and said it was an interesting notion and would have to think about it. there was silence for a while. then she simply said after some reflection, it is sorta like me in elementary school. i said yes. i think she got it. or at least i planted a seed and she will wrestle with it as she goes through her classes and esp those education classes and does her field work. i'm sure she will toy with the idea. that is all i can ask of her. now she has to do the rest of it, own it or not. for me it makes perfect sense.

grading is a weird thing, heather. i have been wrestling with it for most of my 30 years teaching and still dont get it. am i doing the right thing? i have no idea. i have seen some positive things emerge and that is some of those who were not doing are doing. all those who did are continuing to do and more consciously and experimenting. those who wont do arent. it is with this last group i have the most concern. in the old system they didnt do and in this one they dont do yet. they are now the only group not doing. so i have increased the amount of doers so that the percentage of non doers is much lower than previously. the guaranteed A has sparked some excitement and action on the majority of my scholars. in each of my 3 classes of 34 i may have 3 non doers as compared to maybe half in the old system. now i have to and perhaps others have to help me. in fact in one class on thur last week one of the non-doers was silenced by some of the others instead of me. i have stopped being the cop in class too as i told them this is their job if they want to do this on their own and show the world who and what they are. it was good to see some of them, these are 9th graders now in a new school, say to the non doer to be quiet and to sit down. transference of power from me to them is happening slowly, but happening. sure they will goof off, we all do, but they are learning to get back to work too without an outside force, me, telling them to. it also gives me lots more time to move about the class and conference, create work groups, and know i can be the guide. it is all a process and gets messy, and we know education is very very messy.

now will those non- doers do in the end? perhaps. i am reminding them too, that this is a time for them to understand how to feel success as i'm sure they know failure all too well. failure breeds failure just as success breeds success, so i'm saying to them they are A students and they can succeed. now go out and practice so you can repeat this again and again. and when they ask is this long enough or other such questions, i ask them if it is A work. they go back and ask a friend to look at it or revise on their own. those questions are slowly stopping. again on thur a scholar asked that and a couple in unison chimed in "is it A work?" hey it is a start and seems to be having more positive effects than negative ones.they are producing with more regularity and determination. they know in the end they will have to defend that A, perhaps to the principal or others. and that i have already set the bar so high for them, and this is the great caveat to them, what will it look like to colleges when they see an A in first semester 9th grade english drop dramatically in the next couple of semesters, while others maintain the high level because they learned how to succeed. this may not be the fair part, i know. so to that scholar who does not do, the next semester will be a reality check as will the sophomore year. perhaps they will get it then. maybe not. it also has provided me and the scholars with a good solid benchmark for all of us to begin comparing the scholar to the scholar over the years. we now will have a true assessment of each of my scholars, for future work on each of their work. i am thinking that this is the beginning of their webfolio at our school and i am in a good position to mold that process. as i have said it is a new school and i have had my way with it in terms of technology. all 300 have webpages, all of the satff of 20 is online and most are using their pages. students in other lcasses are using their pages and the culture of the school is growing. yes, it is easier in a school of only 9th graders, i agree. so i have had the opportunity to take all of those years of practice and theory and put it into play here. it has been the hardest i have worked since my first years as a teacher, and i have to tell you the payoffs and the benefits have been great and i am pleased as are all.

on wed last week, during the morning announcements, the student announcer, praised the scholars' web pages and reminded everyone that they have to work on their pages in this last marking period so they all achieve. it blew me away as i sense the school culture i have dreamed of for so long has finally come to be and we are only in our fourth month of a new school. has cyberenglish begun to produce cyberschool? i hope so.

all i can tell you heather is that i have read the theory and practiced much of it and have not been too happy with it. what i have seen in this short time with this new approach is nothing but success and i like it. i have to be more vigilant than ever, i know, and i will be. i like the noise i'm starting to hear and the results. perhaps they will really believe they are A students and play the part and hopefully this tidal surge will raise all to that level and success will be as auotmatic to them as failure was. i'm just not interested in trying to remodel the old ways as i have tried and now i'm throwing the bathwater out, baby is safe under my arm and drawing new water. i did my PhD work in administration and know about systems and all that, so i'm building on that too. lots has gone into the thinking and practice on this one.

i am simply looking for an attitudinal change by scholars and teachers. i do so hate it when teachers make fun of the students for silly things, so degrading, oh degrading, there's that word again. yes, de"grading." i'm simply looking for a better way, a different way, perhaps and certainly the road less traveled and hope it makes all the difference. i do know the other one doesnt make a lick of difference, merely maintains the status quo and i do hate the status quo, it makes me nervous all that inactivity and stepford like qualities it brings.

hope this helps some, it has helped me by writing it.

Dec 18, 2003
spoke with jeffrey about this and work with QHST and nigel.
had a sort of dept meeting with other 3 Eng teachers.
NCTE list, proposal indy, write for EJ, QHST
they are doing fabulously, janet is coming in too.
some problems with webpages. gotta tend to that. gotta get into the ramp up classes.

April 2, 2004

It has been a long time, as one scholar pointed out.
I have a student teacher, cassandra McLean and she is wonderful. Lots has happened since last I wrote. the classes are moving along fine. Other teachers are getting it and using it. Lots of visitors and changes for next year are happening. All in all a good year already.