trial by paperwork*

*Or death by a thousand paper cuts. 

**This end with ice cream.

Life moves pretty fast, as the young man said.

For my evaluation process this year, I attempted a feat of strength, a trifecta, a hat trick, lessons of amazement and wonder, never attempted before! I would have three observations in one week, walking through the first-run process of a passion project.

Animated GIF-downsized

3/26 Monday: Originally scheduled to be a testing day, but the schedule changed to a normal day. We moved forward with analyzing data on multitasking we had procured the week before and had time to work on the passion projects. Met with my evaluator to go over our notes from a book study, Better Than Carrots or Sticks. (I thought that was my only book study, but alas, there is more to do this weekend I found out yesterday/Friday.) Here is the link to a few of my annotations.

What students read:

Learning Target and Success Criteria:

This week we’ll be finishing and sharing our passion projects. 

A passion project that combines creativity with technology and personal interests can be open-ended, but doing nothing or no exploration is not acceptable.

Creating projects and designs keeps life interesting!

Success Criteria:

By the end of the week, I’ll have my passion project ready to share in a Gallery Walk. I will write my own reflection on the process, as well as receive feedback from my peers. 

What some of them heard: “I can sit and play Roblox all week, I have plenty of time, I don’t know what to do, I NEED HALP, *scowl* *roll eyes* *scowl some more*

3/27 Tuesday: 1/3 observation

(One thing my evaluator noticed was that I read the Learning Targets and Success Criteria to students: for about eight years that is what I was instructed to do by other evaluators. I guess we have something different in place now. Oftentimes I have them write it in their notebooks, turn and talk, and allow photos of the LT/SC. I also put them on the Canvas site, too, every day. There is a triangulation of students knowing what to do. That doesn’t guarantee, however, they do it.)

IMG_7301 (1)

Okay, I loved this lesson, and am going to tweak it for future use.

Each student received a 3″x5″ index card and talked to each other about their projects. This is not the only opportunity students received, in fact, along the way there were 4-6 chances to talk about their project and publically and partner declare what it might be. There was a brainstorming process, a self-interview, etc. Students still asked me “Is it okay if…” questions. Yes, young padawon. It’s okay.

Aside from one girl who fell backward in her chair, and another new-ish student who is often defiant about seating arrangements, and another who just could not control gravity, I chalked it up to fairly typical middle school stuff. I keep calm and my teacher moves include not adding to the stress or drama, but using humor.


March_27_2018 2


March 27 2018

3/28 Wednesday: 2/3 observation. Wednesdays are shortened schedule days, and the students were a little off. My friend Sharon and I share one student in particular who will not work with others, or in class. If we contact his dad he’ll stay after and work, and I think he appreciates the time and attention.

3/29 Thursday: Back to a 3-hour testing block

3/30 Friday: Final 3/3 observation. The final passion projects are due. Rough estimate 70% are in a panic in every class. One girl who made a YouTube video shared with me in a whisper she was nervous about sharing. And one girl in the sixth period quietly told me how much she loved reading the feedback on her Wows/Wonders form. Throughout the day there were many successes.

Almost forgot one of the best parts: give students who didn’t finish the work an out, and help build community. On the Wow/Wonder feedback sheet, students were directed to write encouraging statements and offers of help/support:


feedback types

Gallery Walks for students the first time through are usually mild chaos. It takes a lot of practice to do them well. Did my students during my observation participate wonderfully? Of course not. But I know the pitfalls: even if the expectations and success are clearly stated, that does not guarantee those targets will be met. I wish sometimes evaluators would look at a lesson more like a rocket launch: it takes a lot of experimentation before that thing flies. Great teachers know this.

Here is what how the assessments informed my future instruction:

  1. They still need practice with specific feedback. For their first Wow/Wonder attempt, not too shabby. I’ll pull together some quotes and have them revise and evaluate what they think is helpful feedback and what isn’t.
  2. There will be another passion project/genius hour project soon. This takes repetitive practice. Although this one was all about choice, that left many flailing. As they become stronger with the technology tools at their disposal, their craft will be better, too.
  3. When they wrote their reflections on their rubrics, many struggled on what to say. This is not uncommon when self-assessment is a rote answer and not necessarily about a creative process.
  4. When I shared my observations, the one thing I said from the heart is that to do something on one’s own is scary, that I understand that many of them just want ‘the worksheet’ and fill in the blank, and when a teacher offers choice, the fear of the blank canvas can be overwhelming. Some students are overconfident and think they can make something last minute just to get it done, and then realize that others have things they’re proud of, and it becomes a sour grapes moment for them.

This is the altered rubric I used from PBL:

Creativity Rubric BIE

But the biggest success of all was one student who has barely done a single assignment all semester. He put together a presentation on fun cooking ideas that completely rocked! I am so proud of this kid! That was a perfect launch and landing, and I can’t ask for more than that. Next time the turn-in rate will go from 50% on time to much higher, I have no doubt.

I told you this would end with ice cream:

I will never mark down for late work, but there are some good ideas in here.

17 tips

Oh, and yes: I had a few kids text or call their parents.

This one sounds a little dreamy, but it might work.

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