Re: Susan O's bio
- Subject: Re: Susan O's bio
- From: Susan Ohanian <SOhan70241@AOL.COM>
- Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 16:11:25 EST
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
I apologize for 'crowding' the list with personal stuff, but Deanna asked
questions that maybe I should answer--since I spout off on so many topics,
I am sorry Deanna didn't get my (private) response to her (private) note, but
I did respond. As some people on this list can testify, I am a compulsive
"answerer" of private mail. I have written my parents a daily letter for 30
years, so it is really a habit that has become a compulsion. But I also had a
few bad crashes and lost everything so...who knows?
Born and raised in California. MA in medieval history, Univ. of California,
Long-time teacher: NY City H.S. English (emergency/back door credential)
NJ Neighborhood Youth Corps
NJ Mercer County College
RPI, Troy, NY: rhetoric and contemporary lit.
Troy, NY public schools:
K-6 open classroom
7-8 remedial reading
9-12 alternate h.s.
3rd grade classroom
Somewhere in there, Troy "lent" me to a parochial school for a year--remedial
It sort of looks like I couldn't keep a job, doesn't it? Neighborhood Youth
Corps offered me a bribe to stay, but that's another story. Troy never saw a
government grant it didn't like and so I'd start something, teach it a couple
of years, then they'd get a new grant, trash the first one and get me to
start a new one. The longest I ever taught the same thing was 6 years in 7-8
AND for a couple of years I persuaded my boss to let me transform the
remedial reading program into an Elementary Science Study exploration lab. I
added "Good Time Math" by Marilyn Burns. The experience changed my pedagogy
forever. I did this because a little essay by David Hawkins that was
circulating as a mimeo copy knocked my socks off ("I, Thou, It"). I wish we
could do something to get his "Informed Vision" back into print. NSF has
since paid EDC big money to tart up the original lovely little ESS teacher
guides which were all about possibility. I just mention all this to explain
why I read the California science standards and wonder what the jackass
scientists could have been thinking of. My husband is a Ph.D. physicist and
no bleeding-heart, fuzzy liberal (he's also an unaffiliated, freelance
writer). But he could see the ESS stuff was excellent. And their basic tenet
is "messing around in science." No time lines. No objectives. No assessments.
And, believe me, wonderful wonderful things happened. With intellectual
rigor, too. (AND them remedial readers did great on the Stanford test at the
end of the year.)
I became a freelance education writer about ten years ago. When conferences
ask me for my "affiliation," I state "teacher at large." Some of them put
this in the program.
I learned about math by visiting math classrooms around the country for a
year. The result was "Garbage Pizza, Patchwork Quilts, and Math Magic" (W.H.
Freeman 1992). As we all know, writing a book makes one an expert, right? So
occasionally NCTM asks me to speak here and there. I've also served on some
of their committees. And I am a very part-time math editor at Heinemann.
(Hey, anybody want to write a book?)
After devoting so much time to math with "Garbage Pizza," I found it hard to
"let go," so I've since written 8 little math books for kids, part of a
program about math in the real world. Also three math resource books for
teachers (one involved sitting in a 3rd grade classroom in S.F. for 6 weeks
and taking notes on what the very excellent teacher did to introduce children
to the 'discovery' method of division). I have a new math book coming out in
the Fall. Somewhere in there I won the prize for "best article" in English
Confused? Aren't most elementary teachers asked to be jacks-of-all-trades?
Did I mention I'm a workaholic? Many years as a teacher engrained that habit
in me, and god knows, if a freelancer isn't a workaholic, she'll starve.
I am speaking (for the 2nd time) at the Asilomar math conference (Dec. 5)
because they asked me to do a keynote (on standards) and they sent a ticket.
Deanna, I'll be back in CA in March, not Feb. We can discuss schedules
But hey, I'm speaking to a meeting of people who run the county offices. Does
this mean there's revolution in the air?
I have lived in Vermont for the past 5 years. Ironically, I have been so
buried in my freelance projects, that I know next-to-nothing about schools in
Vermont. But the Internet really has made state boundaries meaningless,
hasn't it? Teachers from across the nation virtually weep on my shoulder--and
I try to console them. I just answered a homework question from a student at
Univ. of Western Michigan. I should have chided her for waiting until the
last minute, but I just answered the question.
To answer Deanna's query about 'debates.' Not my preferred format, because
they often become soundbites. I like to build momentum in my talks. But I've
agreed to do a couple of debates/panels--one with ASCD, one with the
Hechinger Institute--a session they're running in San Antonio for an audience
of political journalists. My preferred presentation style is rather in the
vein of a southern Baptist preacher.
I confess I don't know what NCME is. As I said before, I can't "do" these
things unless expenses are paid. And I'm not the one who has ever said that
"teacher designed assessments are more valid." That's another topic and I've
rattled on too much already. It just shows how stung I am by the thought that
anybody would think I don't answer mail.
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