My Enemy, My TGDC Evaluator…!

Wow. Cap’s Partner seems to have rougher evaluators than Cap did…

Today my co-teacher endures the most important part of what is called the TGDC Process. TGDC stands for “Teacher Growth and Development Cycle,” but really…it’s the evaluation process. New teachers like her need to do it annually, and there are literally layers of paperwork (now digital) related to it, complete with a timeline of milestones for both the teacher and the evaluator. It doesn’t really do much to make any teacher better, despite the name, but it does generate a huge amount of stress for more junior teachers, regardless of their quality level.

Let’s be frank here. I won the lottery with my current co-teacher. She’s fantastic, and will be in whatever educational setting that she moves on to teach in. It’s irrational that she would get a bad evaluation, bu she is stressed anyway.

TGDC is supposed to be a fairer process than the STULL evaluations that came before it, but in reality, it’s pretty similar. One of the key differences is in the paperwork and reflection on practice that both the teacher an the administrator are supposed to do. Note that I said “supposed to.” The reality is that there is a complex timeline that is contractually based, that both sides struggle to actually complete. It’s a good idea hampered by basic bureaucracy.

My co-teacher got lucky. she has an Edu-Lord that is both ethical, reasonable, and on timeline as her evaluator. He’s been responsible about staying on the timeline, and in reality, when he’s in the class, he’s going to evaluate whether good teaching is happening or not. Also whether she’s doing the lesson plan that she submitted for evaluation. You know that the process leaves something to be desired if those admittedly low standards are something to be cherished.

A number of people that I know are being evaluated by the principal. He completely ignored the timeline and the rules, and basically said that things are going “his way.” This Frank Sinatra style is at odds with his hyper sensitive, crying, “let’s talk things out” public persona. That’s the real “him”, in my opinion. The bureaucrat who just needs to check the boxes, dot the i’s, and go back to his office, regardless of how that might impact the actual employees and students that he governs.

I was pretty happy in that exactly NONE of the teachers that were being unfairly (and outside of contractual rules) dealt with came to ME for assistance. I’ve kept a low profile at the Edu-Mountain as a “fixer.” Technically, that’s the elected Union Rep’s job, even though he seems obsessed only with T-shirt sales and the huge duffel bag of two dollar bills that he carries.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to help out with these issues. Granted, the principal is contractually wrong, and possibly lazy…but it’s not my fight. I really only care that things work out well for my co-teacher, which they certainly will. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in native intellect and enthusiasm. She plans, and then plans again, almost to the point of planning TOO MUCH. She honestly cares about the students under her care, and their achievement, as well as their emotional well being.

I’m proud to be a kind of mentor to her.

Also…she has the DREAM evaluation setting. Since she will be in the “driver’s seat” teaching for most of the period, I will be in the background, maintaining classroom order and discipline, keeping students on task. At other schools, students would BEG to be sent to the office instead of have to deal with me on a discipline issue…so her class will definitely be seen as “well run.”

I’m going to make sure of THAT, True Believers.


You Want Me To Wear What…?

Costume choices.

Black Panther is coming out this week, and I am EXCITED. Black Panther is consistently one of my favorite comic book characters, and he has a rich background of settings, ensemble casts, and antagonists that always make for interesting stories. This post is mostly about my enthusiasm for that film, which from all that I have seen and heard, seems FANTASTIC.

I chose that word on purpose, by the way. After Marvel Comics’ “Civil War,” the Black Panther and Storm took over the Fantastic Four from Reed and Sue. (Reed and Sue had to leave the planet to work on their marital problems, which is a thing that superheroes do). Sometime later, The Panther was no longer king of Wakanda, and his sister took over…while T’Challa was “The Man Without Fear”, basically being Daredevil. I liked the Shuri character as Black Panther (she’s apparently hugely important in the film), but wasn’t fond of T’Challa functionally being Daredevil.

The art, then, is about the long history of T’Challa in Marvel Comics. You see, The Black Panther is holding up one of Sue’s most awful costumes for Cap to wear, and Cap is holding up the WORST Daredevil suit for T’Challa. They both are having exactly NONE of it, obviously.

I’ll be touching base with the Black Panther material a lot in the coming weeks, because as of late, a ton of interesting stuff has been done with the character, the setting of Wakanda, and the ensemble cast. It’s also Black History Month, which seems like a good time to dive into material that I love so much.

It’s Pizza Time!

I wanted to do a very vertical composition, so here it is.

The report card is in, grades are submitted, and the week is over. It’s time for the weekend, and as a result, this somewhat whimsical post. I’ve been pretty lazy so far this weekend, waking up late, drawing, and thinking about pizza.

Many teachers leave school right after the bell, and take work home with them to do over the weekend or outside of school. I just don’t understand that at all, because it is all too easy to think about work outside of the classroom, and honestly, I already go in early and stay late. In order to maintain my energy and motivation, the office needs to stay at the office, and I really should only be sarcastically drawing about it outside of school.

Since grades were due on Friday, a large number of teachers didn’t make it in to the office. This happens every grade period…teachers fall behind in their grading, or forget the deadline, and then avoid coming to school to finish up. Things have gotten a bit more out of hand at the Edu-Mountain, because of the current structure of meetings and leadership. Our principal isn’t out of his office (or on campus) very much, and doesn’t really keep track of the dates for grades. In addition, at meetings he’s committed to to ten minutes of “shout outs,” and a whole lot less committed to letting people know what they should be staying up to date on.

As a result, many teachers just sort of fail to notice the deadline.

Not me! Yay!

I have this advanced technology on my wall, called a Calendar. Using this mega powerful tool, I have marked out key dates on it…like when my grades are due. Unlike the Aztecs, I have NOT carved those dates in stone.

There’s a limit here, True Believers.

The Anime Club Art Contest Begins!

She seems both friendly and kind of threatening at the same time…

Today, my grades for the first report card are in, and Anime Club will meet during lunch. Last week, they had the idea to do an Art Contest as a fund raising exercise for the group, with the Grand prize being a ticket to Anime Expo Los Angeles. That was a great idea, although they had not really ironed out the rules and requirements in full.

Today, we will be finalizing the entry form and the flyer, so that we can have them approved, and begin the process of actually starting the contest. entries will be due in March, most probably around March 9th. That date might flex a little bit, given the need for administrative approval, but by no more than a week or so. My robotic friend in today’s art is most probably going to be integrated into poster art, or flyer art, or some combination of the two. She’s my contribution to getting the thing started.

Art at the Edu-Mountain is surprisingly unsupported. There is a solid, well executed band and music program, but beyond that, the arts are nearly non existent. there are a few elective classes, but not many, and never any sort of exhibition of student artwork, or showcase of it. On an important level, this is pretty much the first “Art Exhibition” of any kind that the school has had in my three years there. I’m hoping to work with the Librarian to set up some sort of “gallery exhibition” of the entries (in the school’s library, or course).

The Mecha American depicted in today’s art is cobbled together from a number of sources. Some parts of her helmet are cribbed from Optimus Prime’s, although her two “wings” on the helmet were intended more like pigtails. Her whole helmet design is much more angular, but referencing the same visual cues…just more segments, and hopefully a “feminine” line. Her shoulder plates and chest assembly are basically a combination of 1950’s era automotive design cues, and a part of the Matrix of Leadership. The intimidating gun is really just a handle attached to sci fi looking parts…I was relieved that I didn’t really have to work out all of the parts. I’m assuming its a huge @#$%ing laser…what else would a Mecha American of Cybertronian descent carry, anyway? It’s cultural.

I kind of imagined that she would transform into a Ford Edsel, although when I was drawing I made NO effort to work out the transformation process. Certainly, many of the design cues are a little off, if she’s supposed to be that kind of car. I was really just browsing visual cues from old American cars, from a time when not all cars looked like electric shavers. The Edsel, in fact (released in 1958) was in part a failure because its design diverged so much (visually) from the other cars of the time. It just wasn’t popular.

I’m hoping that the robot is popular with the students, to use in imagery for the contest. I’ve been trying to not micromanage their club, and let it be all about their ideas, and what they want to do. They have been surprisingly creative and motivated…but sometimes a bit slow to get things together. I wind up reminding them of deadline, putting together flyers, and mostly filling out paperwork, which is an oddly interesting role. It’s really nice to see student come together to be motivated about something, and create their own activities based on it.

I haven’t completely settled on a Cybertronian code name for her, but have been thinking of her as “Fender Bender” while I drew the sketch. That’s probably stress about my daily commute bleeding into the content, True Believers.

Practice Flights.

Cap looks kind of concerned here…

Today, my co-teacher, a partner that I respect, will be running class for most of today. She is in her second year of teaching, so this is a pretty early solot flight for her…hence the art.

This is the first time that this has happened, and is in preparation for her evaluation next week. As a result, its kind of a Big Deal. It’s not that I don’t have the utmost confidence in her…I actually DO. It’s just that…it’s not that easy to hand over the steering wheel, as it were, to something that’s pretty important to you.

This is sort of a “test run” of the things that she wants to do for the evaluation day. for both this, and that day, she will have me to fall back on for management of class, so really…everything should go pretty perfectly. Just like Cap is sort of dubiously looking onward as her partner pilots the Lunar Star Dancer, clearly ready to take over if need be, I’ll be on hand to help correct problems.

I’ve never had a co-teacher do this kind of thing before, so this is definitely a Big Deal. It was worth its own post.

I helped write the lesson plans, but it is entirely her own set of ideas. She has reorganized the physical layout of the classroom, and even made a new seating chart. I’d be lying though my teeth if I said that I wasn’t impressed with all of that effort. She’s really put a whole lot into it…which is part of the reason she gets a cool leather jacket in this artwork instead of her usual Edu-Knight uniform.

Fingers crossed, True Believers.

The Time-Achievement Dilemma.

I guess that the presenter isn’t in her group…since that wasn’t too positive.

Today I have to go to the first in a series of “Mastery Learning” training seminars for the district. The last time the staff met, we were told by a “specialist” that for every time that we say something negative (in the way of criticism), we should be sure that we said four positive things to the same person. I had a hard time choking back that theory, because it was used by exactly none of the coaches, teammates, teachers, professors, or role models that I have ever had. I’m not super negative with students, but I just can’t handle the false praise, “participant trophy” kind of environment that we currently operate in.

When a student, or a colleague, does something that’s clever, smart or useful, I tell them. I don’t keep track of that, or maintain some kind of “praise balance.”

Thankfully, there will be only a minimum of those sorts of shenanigans at today’s training, but I will probably have to endure the principal’s “shout outs”…which are derived from precisely the kind of mentality that this “praise ratio” comes from. I’d much rather get right to business.

The business of the day is something that was pioneered decades ago, but is suddenly very trendy in education, called “Mastery Learning.” it’s a solid theory, that is very good for teaching certain kinds of things, under certain conditions. You would definitely want it to be used for say…driver’s license examinations, for instance. Let’s do a brief overview of what it is, since I’m already pretty well read in in it.

After all…it is decades old, and I’ve been teaching a while. This isn’t the first time I’ve learned about the subject, and that’s part of what makes the training a bit of a waste of time for me. The head of the Edu-Mountain wants EVERYONE to have THIS particular seminar set, so I’m stuck.

Mastery Learning (or, as it was initially called, “learning for mastery”) is an instructional strategy and educational philosophy, first formally proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968. See…DECADES. Mastery Learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery (usually 90 percent on a knowledge test) in a unit before moving forward to learn subsequent units. If a student does not achieve mastery on the test, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information and then tested again. This cycle continues until the learner accomplishes the 90 percent, and they may then move on to the next stage.

Mastery Learning methods suggest that the focus of instruction should be the time required for different students to learn the same material and achieve the same level of mastery. This is very much in contrast with classic models of teaching, which focus more on differences in students’ ability and where all students are given approximately the same amount of time to learn and the same set of instructions.

In Mastery Learning, there is a shift in responsibilities, so that student’s failure is more due to the instruction and not necessarily lack of ability on his or her part. Therefore, in a Mastery Learning environment, the challenge becomes providing enough time and employing instructional strategies so that all students can achieve the same level of learning. It’s legitimately an interesting idea, but only really applies to things that can be tested at certain levels.

On of the key criticisms of the theory is called the “Time-Achievement Equality Dilemma.” Although it sounds like Carl Sagan should be involved, it is actually pretty straightforward. Let’s go over it.

The goal of Mastery Learning is to have all students reach a prescribed level of mastery (90 percent on a test). In order to achieve this, some students will require more time than others, either in practice or instruction, to achieve success. The Time-Achievement Equality Dilemma refers to this relationship between Time and Achievement in the context of individual differences. If you make achievement a constant, (which is the POINT of Mastery Learning…it HAS to be 90 percent) time will need to vary. If time is held constant (as with modern learning models), achievement will vary.

That’s why some people get A’s, and others C’s. Time is the constant for the unit, and students learn at different rates. Makes sense, right?

Mastery Theory doesn’t accurately address this relationship.

Bloom’s original theory assumes that with practice, the slower learners will BECOME faster learners and the gap of individual differences will disappear. Bloom believed these differences in learning pace occur because of lack of prerequisite knowledge and that if all children have the same knowledge base, then learning will progress at the same rate. That makes a kind of logical sense. Bloom places the blame for poor achievement on teaching settings where students aren’t given enough time to reach Mastery Levels in prerequisite knowledge before moving on to the new lesson. That puts them behind for the next lesson, and in theory that accumulates over time. He also uses this to explain why variance in student learning is smaller in the first grade when compared to students in the seventh grade (the smart get smarter, and the slower fall further behind). He referred to this learning rate variance as the Vanishing Point.

A four-year longitudinal study by Arlin (1984) found NO indication of a Vanishing Point in students who learned arithmetic through a Mastery Approach. Students who required extra assistance to learn material in the first year of the study STILL required relatively the same amount of additional instruction in the FOURTH year. In other words, that gap should have tightened up considerably, and it didn’t. Individual differences in learning rates appear to be impacted by more than just method of instruction, contrary to Bloom’s opinions.

That study was done in ’84, and I’m going to be sitting in this training today.

Really Epic Punch.

Pretty straightforward.

The art here was inspired by a recent “Unstable” Magic Card. It was a quick sketch, that I like the end result of.

Last week was rough. As a result, my goal is to hit the ground aggressively, and just find the biggest obstacle to productivity in my way, and barrel through it. That’s the heavy handed metaphor of this sketch, and I’m pretty fond of it.

I have a report card due by the end of the week. Grades look…okay, at best. That’s going to be a big deal in terms of work, and I still have some things from last week to straighten out. That’s the Biggest Deal of the situation this week.

The key is getting rid of more obstacles than not. It can be tricky, because the world, especially the world of education, tends to throw up new ones pretty quickly. The hope, this week, is to barrel through like Cap is barreling through that dragon that seems to be hanging around her office.