Thursday, August 16, 2007

UNobservant Principal

As promised, I am exhibiting the lengthy process that my principal has gone through to get rid of me. This blog will show how a principal goes about accumulating enough negative evidence to give a teacher an unsatisfactory rating for the year. The process started on October 24, 2006 when the principal walked into my classroom unannounced while my students were involved in a hands-on laboratory exercise. She subsequently wrote an unfavorable observation report that she placed in my personnel file. The principal's observation is included in my response. I have broken it up point by point and have responded to each point.

December 19, 2006

Dear Principal,

This letter is in reply to your letter of November 17, 2006 in which you criticize my lesson of October 24, 2006. You and I have different versions of the same reality. I will supply my version.

PRINCIPAL'S VERSION: “I entered the room at approximately 10:18 am, the period began at 10:01, and I observed that there was no agenda or objective on the board.”

MS UNTAMED'S VERSION: On October 24, 2006 during period 3, I was teaching class 7A(an honors class) in room 4xx. I informed my students at the beginning of the class that we would be finding the mass, volume, and density of two different bars of soap: Ivory and Jergens. I dictated the problem: Which soap has a greater density: Ivory or Jergens? I explained that each student in the group would have a different job. I told the students that they could not allow someone else to do their job, but they could ask someone in the group to give them verbal instructions. As I described these jobs, I handed out the equipment needed to do the job.
1. Find the volume of the bar of Ivory: Ruler
2. Find the volume of the bar of Jergens: Ruler
3. Find the mass of the bar of Ivory and the bar of Jergens: Triple Beam Balance.
4. Find the density of the bar of Ivory and the bar of Jergens: Calculator

I also told students that they would be evaluated on the measurement skill that they had been assigned. Therefore, this was an assessment as well as a laboratory exercise.

I instructed students to follow the same process that they had followed in the previous lesson in which we found the mass, volume, and density of various cubes composed of different substances: i.e. aluminum, wood, paraffin, plastic. This procedure was written in the same science journal that they would be using during the present lab and could be referred to at any time.

As I was handing out equipment, Assistant Principal X came in and asked for my lesson plan. I told her that I needed to get the equipment out to my students so that they would have time to finish the lab, and I asked her if it would be OK if I brought her the lesson plan later. She did not reply, but went to the telephone and made a call and then went to the back of the room and sat down.

According to you, by the time you walked into the classroom, 17 minutes of the period had already elapsed. I accept this estimate. By that time, all the equipment had been handed out and the students were fully engaged in the hands-on laboratory experience. I was circulating around the classroom evaluating each student on the measurement skill that he/she had been assigned by me. Some students asked me questions, but I directed them to ask their group members for verbal help. I again emphasized that they could not let anyone else do their job for them, but they could accept advice from group members. This gave a very non-threatening atmosphere to the assessment, and students seem to enjoy what they were doing.

PRINCIPAL'S VERSION: “I looked on your desk to see if you had a lesson plan available as stated in the faculty handbook and UFT contract, but I could not find one. So I asked you for the lesson plan again. You looked around and in your bag for about three minutes. I then told you to continue with your lesson.”

MS UNTAMED'S VERSION: I am a traveling teacher and I only teach in room 416 three periods out of the week. I do not have a desk in room 416. Therefore, it is incorrect to say “I looked on your desk….” I do, however, have a cart. On that cart, I transported 8 triple beam balances, 16 bars of soap, 16 rulers, 8 calculators, paper towels, and a large jar full of water. As a general rule, I try to keep all paperwork separate from the science equipment so that papers will not get damaged. I carry my paperwork in a small luggage case on wheels. That day, I was carrying in the case approximately 100 lab reports that my students had given to me the day before. When I could not find the lesson plan I offered to give it to you by the end of the day, but you refused this suggestion. You told me to continue with the lesson, which I did. In your letter you make no more mention of what was happening in the classroom. My students completed the laboratory exercise. We shared our data. We drew the conclusion that Ivory soap has a density that is less than the density of water, and that Jergens has a density greater than that of water. I then demonstrated that Ivory soap floats and Jergens sinks by placing both soaps in the large glass container. The class drew the conclusion that if an object’s density is less than that of water, it will float. I then collected the equipment, and dismissed the class. All of this was accomplished in 45 minutes. The next day we discussed the lab and students wrote up a lab report. I attach one of the lab reports that was created from this hands-on inquiry lesson. This inquiry experience could not have taken place without expert planning, preparation, and supervision. None of my work or the students’ work is acknowledged in your letter.

PRINCIPAL'S VERSION: “At our meeting, I asked you why you didn’t have a written lesson plan, and you stated, ‘ I did not have a lesson plan, but you are always welcome to come into my class. It is very disruptive to stop to look for a lesson plan that I don’t need. I cannot always put my hands on the lesson plan, but I can always give you the plan the next day. Sometimes my plan is at home, but I do plan. What is important is that the students get what is needed. I do not need a lesson plan. I have the lesson plan in my head. I have been teaching for twenty-three years.’

MS UNTAMED'S VERSION: I stated that I did have a written lesson plan, and that I always have a lesson plan. However, I do not always have it readily available on the desk, especially when I am teaching hands-on laboratory experiments with a lot of equipment. Papers can get wet, ripped, and lost. I try to carry my lesson plans with me, put I sometimes leave them in the lab, where the equipment is organized and placed on the cart. That is when I need the plan—to make sure that I have all the materials needed. I don’t need to refer to plans when I have hands-on lessons. I emphasized that I had offered to give you a lesson plan later that day. You denied that I had offered to give you a written plan. I am glad that you now acknowledge that I did offer to give you my lesson plan. I also recognized that you and other administrators can and should visit classrooms regularly, but that, in my opinion, you should not disrupt teaching and learning. Paperwork such as lesson plans can always be requested before or after the visit. They should not be required during the visit. The UFT contract states that lesson plans are for my use, not the use of the administrator. The teaching/learning process did not suffer because my written lesson plan was not located precisely where you wanted it to be located.

PRINCIPAL'S VERSION: I then informed you that a written plan is required as per the UFT contract and school policy. You stated that you think that it is unfair and not a good way to judge what a teacher does. You said” I still insist that a lesson plan cannot be produced on demand’.

MS UNTAMED'S VERSION: I insisted that a lesson plan should not be required on demand. It is rude. It is confrontational. It is mechanistic. In your very long letter, you only focus on the lack of a written plan—not on the wonderful work that was done by my students that day (see the attached laboratory report). I am so proud of them. What is more, I did this lesson (without a written plan on the desk) with all five of my classes—not the honors students only. You seem oblivious to what was accomplished that day. It takes at least five minutes to give out equipment and give instructions. It takes at least five minutes to take back the equipment. That means that my students were able to find and compare the densities of two bars of soap in 35 minutes.

PRINCIPAL'S VERSION: You stated that you provided an inquiry-based lesson to me on November 13th. I informed you that the lesson plan you provided was a template for an inquiry lesson, not a planned lesson.

MS UNTAMED'S VERSION: I provided you with a template that I designed for carrying out an investigation using the scientific method. I have already placed a copy of this template in my personnel file as evidence of my professional excellence. I know that this is not a planned lesson. However, any teacher or student can use this template to plan a scientific investigation. The template is based on the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. It is not meant to take the place of lesson plans.

PRINCIPAL: I am therefore requiring that you meet with Assistant Principal Z every Tuesday beginning November 28th through January 9th, period 2. At these meetings, you will provide Mr. Z. with a weekly lesson plan. Each day must be planned separately. At the end of each day, there must be an assessment whether you met the objective for the day. I do understand that a lab may take place over a period of 2-3 days; this does not exclude the fact that a daily lesson is still needed.

MS UNTAMED: This level of planning is not necessary in most cases. I do not agree that each day must be planned separately when a lab or a challenge extends over more than one day. It is an unnecessary waste of time. However, as of today, I have met with Mr. Z. twice and have provided him with daily lesson plans.

PRINCIPAL: The lessons will include the following:

a) A clear and concise daily objective
b) The five (5) E’s
c) Higher order thinking questions
d) Vocabulary development
e) Homework
f) Assessment

MS UNTAMED: Very, very wonderful inquiry lessons may or may not include every single one of these elements every single day. I am sure that you will be able to find fault with any lesson I teach. This fact will not affect my firm commitment to give my students the best science education possible.


Problem: Can soap float?

Hypothesis: If I place Jergens and Ivory soap in water, the Ivory soap will float.

Materials: Jergen’s soap, Ivory soap, Water, Bowl, Triple Beam Balance, Metric Ruler

Procedure: 1)First, we use the ruler to find the volume of the Ivory soap. 2)To find the volume, measure the length x width x height. 3) Then weigh the ivory soap using the triple beam balance. Find the mass. 4) Repeat steps 1 and 2 for Jergens soap. 5) Find the ensity of the Ivory and the Jergens soap. 6) To find the density, divide the mass by the volume. 7) Fill the bowl with water. 8) Put each soap in the water. 9) Observe the results.

Data Analysis: There were 2 soaps used the the experiment: Jergens and Ivory brand soap. The volume of Jergen’s soap was 48.375 cm3. the mass of Jergens soap was 85 grams. The density of Jergen’s soap was 1.76 grams/cm3. The volume of Ivory’s soap is 90cm3. The mass of Ivory’s soap was 105 grams. The density of Ivory’s soap was 1.17 grams/cm3. Since Jergen had a higher density, it sunk to the bottom of the bow. On the other hand, Ivory’s soap had a lighter density making it float.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the Ivory soap had less density making it float, while the Jergen’s soap had a greater density making it sink. My hypothesis was that if I place Jergen’s soap and Ivory’s soap in water, then ivory’s soap will float. My hypothesis was backed up by the evidence.

Vocabulary: 1)Volume: A math concept found by multiplying an object’s length, width and height. 2) Mass can be found by weighing an object. 3) Density: Density can be found by dividing the mass and volume.

(On Page 2 the student included a data table comparing the mass, volume, and density of Jergens and Ivory. This table is not included).

Moriah Untamed

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