How do we not give zeros? Voicethread response.


I finally had a chance to check out my incoming links and discovered Miss Teacha’s post on how she creates a podcast. At the same time I am reviewing some voicethreads made by students (actually, trying to. Forgot the reminder about making the threads public so I’m kind of locked out of them for the moment! There goes my Sunday morning grading plan because I am sure NONE of my students are up at 8 am on a Sunday morning to make the changes needed for me to view them!) and it made me think that voicethread could be a neat alternative to podcasting.

This morning I learned that you could use your webcam to make a comment on a voicethread! Ms. McMullen-Dent’s class created a voicethread about Self-Control and it was the first time I saw some movie comments (have I been under a rock? or is this new?).

There are 60 some odd comments, mine is waaaaaaaaaaay at the end.

Getting to the point…

It got me to thinking that I could record a voicethread instead of a podcast for my blog and that commentary could come in many forms. Either as traditional blog comments or typed, audio, or webcam comments directly on the voicethread.

So. Let’s try it out. That very same Miss Teacha left a comment a little while ago on an older post of mine Why I Don’t Do Zeros. She asks difficult questions. Let’s try to address them together, shall we?


I warned you I’d be tagging you…Please invite others you think could add to the conversation.

Dr. Jan
Angela Stockman
Angela Maiers

Dr. Douglas Reeves on Toxic Grading Practices. Getting Things Done.

Voicethread image: Report Card by Divine Harvester on Flickr

Student Poetry 2: ‘Center’ by Kait

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. My students and I are liking this one. Click to view source.

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins. My students and I are liking this one. Click to view source.

We’re reading Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, a novel written in free verse about 3 teenagers at a psychiatric hospital for trying to commit suicide.

I asked my students to write some of their own poetry, as if they were there with them. Here is one that Kait recently sent me. She has agreed to let me post it here.

centered in feeling so unbelievable
unbelievably small.
so here i am
here we all are
wanting, hurting
absolutely nothing
here i am wanting to feel pain
any, any, any sort of pain
to make me feel here, alive
in the center
getting centered in
just desperately wanting so much more.
so much more then this, then ever
confined in the center
of a world that is filled with colors, emotions, feelings
pain and hurts
i see grey, i feel nothing, i am nothing
and here you are
here i am
screaming loud and clear in this sound proof room
here we are in the center
centered in
feeling all sorts of different kinds
of nothing.

If I am only for myself, what am I?

The attacks near the United Nations school really got to me.

Women at a United Nations school after fleeing their homes. Gaza residents faced severe power shortages and other deprivations.  Photo: Mohammed Salem/Reuters. Click for source (NYTimes).

Women at a United Nations school after fleeing their homes. Gaza residents faced severe power shortages and other deprivations. Photo: Mohammed Salem/Reuters. Click for source (NYTimes).

It is hard to write about what is going on in Israel and in Gaza. There is an assumption that because I am Jewish I am automatically pro-Israel in any situation. There is some guilt involved in speaking against Israel. But why is it that because I am Jewish I am intrinsically tied to a Jewish state? I can not be tied to what is going on now, in my name, in Israel and in Gaza. In order to keep my head high, in order to continue teaching with integrity, I must speak my voice against this violence. Against this wrongness, this desperate and utter wrongness.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?” (Rabbi Hillel)

I belong to the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians who issued this Media Communiqué on the 9th of January.

Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians
January 9, 2009

( les versions français et arabe attachés ) [they aren’t actually attached here, but if you would like them, let me know]

The Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians rejects the Israel government’s pretensions, which claim to be interested in peace with the Palestinian People. The negotiations with the Palestinian Authority of President Abbas have achieved nothing at all, and the colonization of 500,000 settlers and 600 checkpoints continue to function and even expand despite the treaties for the formation of the Palestine State.

The cease-fire by the HAMAS-led government during the past year — for 6 months — was respected in spite of the generally closed crossing points preventing the entry of food and medicines by either Israel or Egypt and in spite of the exchanges between the group Islamic Jihad and the Israel military. Previously, there has already been a unilateral cease-fire from HAMAS, over a 16-month period, as well.

The legally elected government of HAMAS is committed to a ceasefire that could be extended for 10 years with the further resolution of outstanding issues for the refugees and Jerusalem, as announced by HAMAS in the News York Times and the Washington Post. Israel and Egypt must leave open the crossing points into GAZA, to allow the necessities of life to enter. The major political parties in Israel have refused to respect the cease-fire of the past six months, supporting closing the border crossings. Israel has sabotaged the prospects for a cease-fire and peace with the Palestinians. The HAMAS-led government has agreed to end rocket attacks when the crossing points are opened.

With the refusal of Israel to negotiate a cease-fire it is now the responsibility of progressive Jews internationally and the Israeli Jewish opposition to voice our revulsion at the irresponsible and criminal leadership of many Jewish organizations such as the Canada-Israel Committee, Jewish National Fund and the Canadian Jewish Congress. The need for a Jewish voice of opposition to declare that Israel does not act in our name is urgent. Protests from Jewish organizations are multiplying internationally, affecting the Jewish communities’ consciousness. The eight brave Jewish women who occupied the Israel consulate in Toronto further exposed Israel’s brutal invasion of GAZA and broke through to the international media in the name the Jewish opposition.

Israel acts in contradiction to the Jewish People’s will and interests.

We speak out now to denounce the intransigence of the State of Israel. We refuse its pretensions to be acting on behalf of Israeli civilians; it acts for the interests of the militarized State. By calling Israel the ‘Jewish State’ the media is giving credibility to that power and does not differentiate between Zionist Israel and the Jewish communities internationally who do not have a vote in Israel.

Israel needs to release the Palestinian political prisoners if the Israeli soldier Shalit, held in Gaza, would be released. Currently there are 11,000 Palestinian prisoners.

It is not the Jewish People who are at war with the Palestinians, but rather the State of Israel and its allies internationally. We are in solidarity with the Arab and Islamic cultures who oppose the attacks from Israel.

While it is questionable that Israeli civilian towns are targeted, this does not explain the mass targeting of the Gazan population. So far, there are 800 deaths, averaging 54 per day, a systematic massacre. Eighty per cent of the Gazan population are refugees, expelled from Israel.

We call for an international organized Jewish revolt against the Zionist State of Israel, publicly rejecting its claims to speak for Jewish communities everywhere.

End the Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank

Peace is Possible — Out Now

To contact the ACJC:

Abraham Weizfeld:
Administrative Secretary ACJC Montréal 514.284.6642

Toronto: Natalie Polonsky LaRoche 416.463.4322

60 years of Human Rights Declaration, eh?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 60. Click image for source.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 60. Image by riacale on Flickr, click for source.

It’s a beautiful document, this universal declaration of human rights we have.

Are we truly committed to its ideals?

Boys of Sudan
Girls of everywhere
Palestinians of Gaza, West Bank
Aboriginal people of everywhere

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 13

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15

1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Article 29

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

The Curious Case of Ped Days in Quebec

Minister for Education Michelle Courchesne flips through the new English history book while visiting École Père Marquette. Photograph by : DAVE SIDAWAY, THE GAZETTE  (click image for source)

Minister for Education Michelle Courchesne flips through the new English history book while visiting École Père Marquette. Photograph by : DAVE SIDAWAY, THE GAZETTE (click image for source)

Apparently Quebec teachers have it made. We have 20 pedagogical (PED) days throughout the school year. Quebec public school teachers work 200 days, 180 of which are teaching days spent with kids.

School’s out, and parents wonder: Why so often?
Quebec teachers have more than those in any other province; say they’re essential
BRENDA BRANSWELL, The Gazette Published: Wednesday, September 24

Reader response to the article (and these are some of the…nicer…ones):

…I understand that teachers need a few days to learn new material and teaching techniques but do they really need so many of them when they have 2 weeks off in December and 1 week at March break? I know of one school that has 4 ped days in November…. 4 days!! Whats that all about? Cut out the field trips, movie watching and general time wasting in school and teach the kids instead. As ZORA wrote, if we had an excellent public education system then okay, but out kids aren’t doing as well as kids in other provinces.

…I’m a teacher and all I’d like to say is that we may have 20 ped days, more than any other province, however, every other province has a set of province-wide standards and curriculum. Québec has no such curriculum. Our curriculm is teacher-created. On ped days, teachers meet with other teachers and not only decide but also create what they will teach next. Parents should inform themselves before criticising their child’s teacher. Parents should also be reminded that school is NOT a daycare. I am so insulted by all these comments for all the care I put into teaching my students. Thank goodness we are rewarded everyday from our students, because adults often seem to forget just how much we do for their children.

Yup, we sure have it made.

Oh, by the way…were you aware of the reform? Or, as it is has started to be called by the Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, Pedagogical Renewal?

This year is the first year that English schools in Quebec have received teaching materials in English for the new courses that are mandated under Pedagogical Renewal in Quebec. Last year our grade 8 (Cycle 1, year 2) teachers received the History and Citizenship student course books in May. For real.

Quebec delivers Grade 10 textbooks
History, Math. Courchesne promises she’ll do even better for English students in September ’09
BRENDA BRANSWELL , The Gazette Published: Friday, August 29, 2008

If you read the article above you will notice that not all of the materials have been made available and that no teacher guides have been made available. The Honourable Minister Courchesne is happy that 2 math texts and one science text have been made. The texts are meant to cover the curriculum up until January – assuming that everyone teaches the same parts of the curriculum at the same time of the year. The other high school in our district teaches their courses intensively over one semester – not very helpful for them. She neglected to mention that there are 3 math courses offered in Sec. IV (aka grade 10, now known as Cycle 2, year 2) In fact, some Sec. III courses (aka grade 9, Cycle 2, year 1), which were taught for the first time last year still do not have teaching materials available in English to support these courses.

Imagine teaching without curriculum.

This could be a very good thing. If one wanted to design curriculum for their students, if the courses being taught were not subjected to standardized testing in the form of 2-3 week long Evaluation Situations (ES) at the end of the school year.

It could also be a good thing if each teacher were teaching one course at one grade level. Personally I teach English, Math, History (to be replaced by Economics in January), Ethics and Religious Culture (formerly SIS, Student in Society) at two grade levels.

Last month the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) wrote an open letter to Michelle Courchesne regarding text books for English schools in Quebec.

On October 1, 2008, the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) sent an open letter to the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sport, Michelle Courchesne, regarding QPAT's ongoing concerns about the lack of English textbooks.

On October 1, 2008, the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) sent an open letter to the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sport, Michelle Courchesne, regarding QPAT's ongoing concerns about the lack of English textbooks.

I am not alone in feeling that we are unprepared to teach our students. I am a constructivist teacher. I create learning materials based on the individual learning contexts in which I work each year. The learning contexts are a combination of student interests, abilities, and styles and course curriculum. All elements of the learning context, or environment, are essential to ensure that learning takes place.

Without curricular support, my task becomes quite enormous.

So, about those PED days… Even with 20 PED days scattered throughout the year (4 of which occur after the end of the student’s school year in June, 3 others are often used up for snow days – we do live in Quebec!) I scramble to design learning evaluation situations (LESs aka formative assessment), problems, worksheets, projects, learning how to report out to parents (we assess with a 5 point rubric, but must convert to % to report out to parents…no comment…), creating rubrics, writing IEPs, combing through 3 different grade levels worth of text books to find material that is suitable for the new Math course I teach… oh, and then the regular day-to-day lesson planning, correcting, communication with students and parents, collaboration with other teachers…

Yeah, we’ve got it made.