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  Workshop 3: Public Policy & the Federal Budget  
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Workshop 3

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Teacher Perspectives: Achieving standards

Leslie Martin: Standards are an important part of teaching these days, particularly here in North Carolina. The class that I’m teaching is very, very regulated. There is an end-of-course test, which means that at the end of the year the students will take a test based on the standards. I look at the standards every year at the beginning. I look at the standards from there on probably every month or so and [ask], “Am I teaching this?” Our standards are very specific. They are not a list of vocabulary words. They are not a list of concepts. They literally say the students shall understand, be able to repeat, analyze, and see the impact of government on the economy. So it’s not just [discussing] what the government does to help the economy. They actually have to be able to analyze. For me that is much more hands-on, much more relevant, and also much more difficult to teach. That’s part of the reason that I use the textbook as a jumping-off point. If I haven’t hit something as hard because I don’t think it’s important, at least the students will have heard about it.

Time management and balancing what you have to get done with asking the students to reflect on their own learning is [something] you have to do every day, every week, every month. I have 10 goals and within each goal I have between three and 15 objectives, [e.g.,] “The student shall be familiar with, analyze, provide feedback, and understand the budgeting process.” That’s one of 130 that I am dealing with. I have multifaceted obligations to prepare my students for the test. I try not to teach to the test [but] to prepare my students to understand government and economics, to be good people, to understand relationships, to understand their own learning, to understand other people’s learning, to share responsibilities and understand [that] with rights go responsibilities, and not take things for granted. Every day, I look at that balance of time. Am I teaching vocabulary? Am I teaching concepts? Am I teaching them to get along? It varies almost by the day. The week before we take an end-of-course test, I don’t spend as much time saying, “Tell me about your learning process.” I say, “Do you know this vocabulary word? What is GDP? What is the Bill of Rights?” I just try to pick up on what I think the kids need and sometimes what I think I need.

I do review at the end of the year and I do a traditional review but I’m going to go back to these broad-based activities. I use the words. I ask the kids to repeat and tell me what they mean and I try to tie it together. Sometimes, [if] I hear an important news [story], particularly on the radio, we’ll bring it in, talk a little bit about it, and I’ll say, “What does this mean? How does it relate to what we’re talking about it? How are they interwoven?” So in terms of the standards I think I’m constantly trying to weave them in, rather than saying this is the standard that you have to know. I just connect them and use words over and over again.


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