Below are questions and answers that, after 14 years of teaching, I have been asked. These are good questions that are often found in or explained on teacher Disclosure Documents. I will not be giving any test or quizzes on the information below. The information provided below is intended to provide clarity on expectations, grading, technology and so forth.
Question: What is your policy on cell phones in class?
Answer: As a school and history department, we have adopted a no cell phone policy in class. There ARE times in class, however, where students will be invited to have them out and use them. At the beginning of class, students will be asked and invited to put their cell phones in their backpacks, pockets, or in the treasure chest to be retrieved at the end of class. After that invitation has been extended, any cell phones taken out during class will be confiscated until the end of class.
Question: What is your grading scale and how do you grade?
Answer: In 2021, the history department adopted a new grading scale, centered around students demonstrating mastery on all the things we study and learn in class. To that end, our grades are weighted accordingly: Essentials = 30% of the students grade; Skills = 50% of the students grade; and Dispositions = 20% of the students grade. The grades in our classes are as follows:
A = 90-100 (*Advanced Mastery) B = 65-89 (*Mastery) C = 45-65 (*Emerging) F = 0-44 (*Intervention*)
With this system, students are expected to demonstrate mastery on the assessments, projects and assignments we do in class. On all assessments, projects & assignments, students are encouraged and expected to redo, redo, redo until they have demonstrated mastery on the concepts taught. There is no reason they don't receive full points in those categories. For the Dispositions grade, students will be given 5 points everyday in class. They maintain those points by following classroom rules/expectations/procedures, turning assignments in on time, remain off their phones during class, remain engaged with the learning and being in the moment and so forth. These points cannot be made up. There will be no extra credit offered due to how we have established our grading system.
Question: What supplies does my child need for your class?
Answer: I will provide everything required for students to be successful in class. Students should come to class prepared with a pen/pencil, but even then I will have a supply of those so that students can be successful in all we do in class. Donations ARE welcome, however. I invite you to consider donating to my classroom through the Alpine Foundation so that I am able to go purchase needed supplies tax-free for the work we do in class. The money donated is used to buy composition notebooks, pencils, pens, colored pencils, technology, books, chalk, posters, etc.
Question: What classroom rules or expectations do you have for your students?
Answer: All school rules and expectations outlined in the student handbook will be followed in my class. When I was a new teacher, I used to have a list of rules that students were expected to follow. Over time, that list whittled down more and more. On my home page, you see the story I put there in relation to Mohammed Ali. In 7 words, I expect students (and I hold myself to the same standard) to adopt the following mantra: Imma show you, how great I am. I've had this expectation in place for 10 years now and as a result, I have minimal behavior or academic problems. In the lessons we have in history, we learn about people who did precisely this and showed the world their light and thereby changed the world. "Imma show you, how great I am" is referenced many times over the course of the year. That's my greatest expectation of students: Show your greatness! Every class is so different and each class ends up forming their own culture, which is something really cool to participate in with the students. As students are committed to showing me their greatness, we don't have issues with hall pass abuse, cell phones, behaviors and so forth.
Along those same lines, I have another acronym that we follow and to most students surprise that acronym is PIRATE. PIRATE is an acronym that stands for the following:
P - Passionate I - Innovative, Impactful & Inspiring R - Respectful & Real A - Accountable T - Tenacious E - Empower, Empathize & Excellence
PIRATEs are not the wild, lawless characters portrayed in books, movies or even in history. PIRATEs are rebranding and this is what it means to be a PIRATE!
Question: What will my child learn in 8th grade US History I?
Answer: We will follow the State Core for US History I. We start the year by looking at the Americas prior to Europeans arriving and we go through 8 different units, wrapping up the school year with the American Civil War and Reconstruction. Click the button below for easy, quick access to the State Core for our class. My website is where many of the lessons can be accessed, with CANVAS being the "go to" location. Both are most excellent resources for all of us to learn and grow together. As you hover over the US History I title, the drop down menu will show each of our units and in each unit parents and students will be able to see precisely what we will be learning in that unit. My website is a "living document", meaning it is constantly being improved and updated.
Question: If we have a family vacation, illness, or any other kind of family emergency and we miss school, what would you like us to do?
Answer: 2020 sure has thrown a curveball and forced us all to be very flexible and accommodating in tough situations. If you are unwell, STAY HOME. I have always been one to work with students and families. I take great pride in that and working WITH families in all the different situations that arise. The most important thing to do is as follows: COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. With Canvas being the district approved system for online learning, I am more easily able to get assignments out through there so students can stay caught up and be engaged in the learning process. Please note that I will NOT publish anything on Canvas BEFORE a lesson is done in class. I cannot do it in a way that will only be visible to one student or a small group that might be absent. I will often be asked what we are doing 4-8 weeks so that a student can get the work done. While I have a very good idea of what we will be doing every single class period from now until the last day of school, there are times where things get pushed back for various reasons. I will not make copies or publish assignments that far in advance. Students should plan to use SHIELD, come before school or make an appointment to come after school to get the assignments done after the lessons have been taught.
Question: What is your policy on late work & extra credit?
Answer: See the grading section above for the expectation regarding grades. With the retake policies and mastery expectations, there will be no need for extra credit. Work that is submitted late (past the deadlines I have on Canvas), will lead to a loss in points on their Dispositions grade. If a student lost ALL points on their Disposition grade but got 100% on everything else in my class, the best grade they will get is a "B."
Question: How can my child stay up-to-date with everything in class?
Answer: At the start of every unit, students will be given a UNIT CARD. The Unit Card gives a day-by-day snapshot of what we will be learning in that unit and outlines when we will have any assessments. At the end of EVERY lesson (and on tests!), students MUST self-evaluate their understanding for the day. They do so on a "4, 3, 2, 1" scale on the unit card. Every day, I have established learning goals on our daily agenda. If the student achieved the learning goals, they should put a check mark in or shade in the box for the 4. If they did NOT understand or reach the goals outlined, they should give themselves a 1. If they did give themselves a 1, they should be coming in during SHIELD to get extra help and clarifications from me. SHIELD time is the perfect time to get extra help in a very small group setting. The Unit Cards are also use to record important people, skills, events and vocabulary. These are turned in at the end of every unit and are color coordinated by Unit. I put them on card stock paper as a way to let students know: THIS IS IMPORTANT. DO NOT LOSE IT. I've also been known to let them use the Unit Cards on Unit tests.
Question: What is the best way to get in contact with you?
Answer: As the boys Varsity Head Coach for Westlake, I have many duties and responsibilities with the high school that pull me from Lake Mountain A LOT after school. While teaching, I am not able to take phone calls and before school I'm often assisting with various responsibilities at the middle school. To that end, if you ever need anything at all, please e-mail me at email@example.com. I check my e-mails OFTEN and I am committed to responding to every e-mail within 24 hours.
Question: How can we, as parents, best support you?
Answer: I have loved getting this question over the years. Donations to my classroom are always awesome as they allow me to get every needful thing we will need each year. It also gives me flexibility to build in different engaging lessons as I come across them when I collaborate with other history teachers. More importantly, though, is having parents engaged with their students learning. I give daily agendas with learning goals for each lesson. Please ask your child about those and what they learned. Understand that as I tell stories, there is a purpose to every single one as it relates to the lesson and the learning goals we work towards. I'm here to support you in every way. Engage with your child and help them see the relevance of what we are learning in history and develop the skills we are teaching so that they can be better prepared for high school and beyond. The skills we are teaching and working towards in history throughout Alpine School District are: Sourcing, corroboration and contextualization. These will be skills they continually develop in Alpine School District from 7th grade to 12th grade.
LAKE MOUNTAIN MIDDLE SCHOOL does not discriminate on the basis of age, ethnicity, disability, national origin, race, religion, or gender in its programs or activities. Please contact a school administrator if you have any questions or concerns.