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I’m pouring myself a cup of coffee. I need dairy, so I go to the fridge to get milk.
I not only grabbed sour cream instead of milk, I got so far as to grab a spoon from the drawer before I realized what the hell I was doing.
I may be about to have a long day.
I have, for about a week now, been bouncing around ideas for a way to write a post with that title. I can’t do it. So I’m just going to link to a bunch of YouTube videos for songs that, in my opinion, are perfect. The reasons may not be clear; for some of them I’m not even sure there is a reason. There are lots of perfect songs; this is not going to be remotely an exhaustive list, and it might even be something I return to from time to time. Feel free to argue and/or suggest other songs in comments.
Also, don’t get too het up about the order. I happen to be listening to #1 right now, which is why it’s first. (Actually, as I’m putting this together? Go ahead and pay attention to the order, because I’m fascinating myself with how my own brain works as I choose these songs. This… means something.)
Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta”
Bob Marley, “No Woman No Cry”
Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue”
The Dave Matthews Band, “Ants Marching”
The Presidents of the United States of America, “Peaches”
Pearl Jam, “Black”
Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”
David Bowie, “Space Oddity”
Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”
You may recall, if you’ve been reading for a bit, my post where I declared all grades to be arbitrary bullshit. Yes, all grades. Go ahead and click the link for additional explanation, or just click here to get the whole three-part series. What is also arbitrary bullshit, always, is how we determine what is a “pass” and a “fail” on a standardized test.
Lemme back up.
I didn’t do any teaching today. The first round of the ISTEP test is next week. It’s what they call the “Applied Skills” portion of the test, with the multiple choice part coming in either the last week of April or the first week of May; I don’t remember. Basically, the Applied Skills portion of ISTEP is the story problems part. It’s still paper-based and the kids have to write everything out and show all of their work, which is why it’s so much earlier than the rest of the test– because it can’t be graded by a machine.
I spent all day today with The Hunger Games playing on my class DVD player, calling my kids back for what are called test talks– a brief three- or four-minute conference with me where we went over their ISTEP score from last year, their performance on the three Acuity tests over the course of this year, and– and this was a new wrinkle I threw in this year– their performance, specifically, on the Applied Skills portion of last year’s ISTEP.
It will not surprise you, I think, regardless of whether you teach or not, to discover that kids (not just mine) tend to have a harder time with open-ended story problems than they do with (somewhat) more objective multiple-choice problems. For one, you can’t guess your way through an open-ended question, and just multiplying together every number you can find– the go-to “I don’t get this” reaction– is not often the right response. I had many, many conversations today where I praised a kid on their high ISTEP score, then flipped the scoresheet over to the other side and watched their faces fall when I showed them their scores on the objective portion of the test. My reason for doing this? Those are the money points. Nearly all of my kids can substantially improve their ISTEP scores just by being a little bit more conscientious on the applied skills test they take on Tuesday. It’s literally a matter of moving some zeroes to ones. Individual points on this test count more toward their overall score than a single question on a multiple-choice test will, so if they focus on doing their best on Tuesday they’ve got a really good chance of bringing up their overall score.
Back to arbitrary bullshit: I discovered today, and I’d suspected this before but I hadn’t actually seen proof, that it is possible to pass the ISTEP for mathematics in seventh and eighth grade and get no points whatsoever on the entire Applied Skills portion of the test. I have at least two kids who pulled that off– literally zero Applied Skills points, but a pass on the overall test. No points at all for “Figure the area of a rectangle that is four feet by three feet,” but we’ll pass you if you can figure out that C, 12, is the answer if the problem is 4×3.
You tell me how useful a “pass” actually is under those circumstances.