Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ISTE Day 1 Reflection

Okay, so technically it is already the start of day 2, but seeing as I showed up for day 2 almost two hours early, I'm going to take this time to sit back and reflect on some of the highlights of yesterday.

BYOD: Actively Engage Students in Content and Practices with Interactive Simulations
This session was one of the paid BYOD I was able to get into with my ISTE membership and conference payment. It took a deeper dive into the PhET Interactive Simulations offered by the University of Colorado Boulder. I've used this website before but only for Science Simulations. Since I teach elementary I never found many of them super helpful, but this session opened my eyes up to the math simulations they run. There was a mother lode here of information and these are for sure things I'm going to use.

From Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership, Empowering Leaders through Social Media
Hands down the best session so far. George Couros presented a compelling case for why we need to teach the generation how to use the web and Social Media and not just what not to do. All of our students know what they shouldn't do, and it's time for us to step up and take it further. He spoke about how every child has a voice these days, and we need to teach them how to use that voice and to empower that voice. 

I really loved several of the quotes he used, for example, "Literacy is not just about "reading and writing", it is about creating new opportunities." This is mind blowing for me. Literacy does not have to be a stand alone activity. It can be something we engage in together and an activity which makes the world a better place.

Another quote I loved was, "Death, life, sadness, and happiness. All of which makes us human." Our online personas are who we are. This stuck me profoundly because I have several strong online relationships and connections with people I have never met. These are rich and loving friendships that it would hurt to lose as much as it would to lose a friend I connect with face to face. Couros validated those friendships for me and I want to in turn make sure that my students understand the value of digital relationships and are able to create, maintain, and deepen them in a positive manner.

This morning I was had a brief conversation with some other educators from Jefferson County and they recommended George Couros' book, The Innovators Mindset. I have some reading to do!

I didn't take as many notes for these sessions because they were so fast paced and crowded. I'm also not the loudest voice in the crowd, so I did more listening than talking and interacting. But these are what I hit:
Sometimes you just hear things in passing, here are a few.
  • Big Six Research Method : http://big6.com/ (Something I'm going to look into)
  • Create a portal for students of resources and databases. Then help parents also know how to use them.

Sitting here it's now 8:10 on and I'm excited for a chance to do Day 2!

Friday, May 20, 2016



I don't care how hard up for substitutes we are.

If someone is late every single time they sub the answer is to fire them.

Don't keep inviting them back! Talk about the safety issues involved in having a bunch of kids without supervision. I mean, COME ON.

I ended up pulling the kids across the hallway into my room just so that they would be supervised!

Monday, May 16, 2016

End of Year Division Review

I got really frustrated with my students today in math. I had four doing really well, two trying, three goofing off instead of practicing, three refusing to work at all, and one super unfocused but working when I could get his attention.

It is single digit dividing which we did to death earlier, and revisited in fractions, but they are just out of it! I hope tomorrow I'd better? I think I am going to print the modified sheet for them so they can have some confidence in their answers.

Friday, May 13, 2016

We The People...

I'm going to claim a win in the fact that I have boys walking around singing the preamble to the United States' Constitution.

We'll go into what it actually means later today. Or tomorrow. I hope.

The end of the year is always a little bit funky.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Data Data Data

I'm a little bit of a geek, but I dearly love Data Team meetings. I love being able to sit down with my team (with my administrators in attendance!) and talk over what our students are doing, where they are struggling, and what strategies I could use to help them to understand the material better.

As far as I'm concerned I wish that was what all meetings were like, but sometimes I feel like we get caught in the shuffle of SCHEDULING vs instruction.  Maybe next year as I integrate into a new data team I should suggest that the guiding questions of a PLC are in our norms so if we do get dragged into the SCHEDULING monster we can go back and ask ourselves, "Is this really what we need to be focusing on? No? Okay, pick someone to send an email and go back to where our focus needs to be: Kids."

What do we expect our students to learn?
How will we know they are learning?  
How will we respond when they don’t learn?
How will we respond if they already know it? 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Careful Words

I was forcefully reminded today to be careful how I speak about the kids when they aren't there.

I love my students,  no matter what.  I should never allow unkind words to cross my lips even if I an hurt or upset. I need to also be stronger about speaking up to my colleagues who are using inappropriate language to refer to students.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A draft lost in history

"We would even go so far as to contend that a political vision that has no spiritual grounding runs he risk of becoming totalizing and inhumane."

I found the above quote in my (years) old draft folder. Curiosity piked I looked it up and found this article I must have read during the course of my TESOL class during the 2009 college year era.

The real quote is thus:
"Spirituality offers a unique basis for “justice-making” (Lepage, 1991, p. 73). We would even go so far as to contend that a political vision that has no spiritual grounding runs the risk of becoming totalizing and inhumane. We would also hasten to add our conviction that “spirituality” devoid of political considerations is at best limited and at worst vacuous."

It's in an article from the Department of Education called First-Year Latino Teacher. Must read more soon.

Attitude Vs Achievement

We took our end-of-year assessments (not the REAL BIG DEAL GOVERNMENT MANDATED test) today, and a belief I know has been researched has been reaffirmed.

A good attitude leads to achievement.

A poor attitude leads to very little growth.

My students who walked into the test going, "Well, I can try and see what happens" scored highly.

My students who walked in going, "I can't do this" scored poorly.

Probably my highest kiddo, let's call him Drum Corps, didn't get a score nearly as well because he walked in saying he couldn't do it, and kept that attitude going throughout the entire test.

Now, another kiddo, we'll call her Pegasus, she blew the test out of the WATER. But again, she walked in with the, "I'm going to try my hardest!" attitude and it paid off.

Job for me over the summer:

How can I help kids adjust their mindsets (hello Dweck, let's spend some time together...) so that they can have the 'I-can-try' mindset all the time, not just for testing?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review: Transforming School Culture

For the last few weeks I've been spending a lot of time thinking about school culture. This was brought to my attention because there have been quite a few incidents where I've ducked out of rooms because I don't really want to get involved in the discussions going on.  They're usually about our site administration and they just don't make me feel uplifted and comfortable staying where I'm at.

While perusing my professional library (granted, it's a small one shelf library), I stumbled across Transforming School Culture: How to overcome staff division by Anthony Muhammad. It was a book handed to me in my last school while we were undergoing a huge shift in philosophy. We didn't spend much time with it, but I did read it at this time. Since I was spending time thinking about culture I popped it open and ended up reading every chapter.

The book details four kinds of teachers:

The Believer
These teachers are the ones you want to have to school. They have a sometimes illogical (but awesome) belief in kids and their ability to overcome anything at all. They will do whatever it takes and are often the risk takers of the school because they have this belief in kids. These are the ones you find frantically working all hours to research, plan, and implement new ideas.

At the same time, these aren't always the best teachers in the school. Some of them have the foundational skills of teaching (classroom management, planning, organization, etc) down pat and they then use their belief and risk taking to the advantage. Others have their belief, but aren't quite sure of the most effective ways to bring about the outcomes they know are possible.

Something interesting about Believers is their living situation. Most believers are settled. They're married, they own their home, and they aren't likely to move anywhere soon.

The Tweener
I know this group well! I feel like I spent quite a bit of time as a tweener. 

These teachers are those who are new to the teaching profession or have just recently changed jobs. Often they do not have a set identity for themselves yet, and can be easily swayed by other's opinions. One defining characteristic of Tweeners is that they lack the professional experience to really be able to make the most of themselves. Often these are the teachers within the building who need the most explicit support.

Outwardly Tweeners may seem like they have it. Since most of them are coming out of colleges they have the most recent exposure to the newest research and ideas in education. They are eager and want to throw themselves into the work.

Unlike Believers Tweeners are just that, between. They are more likely to be unmarried, and to be renting. Because they do not have strong ties to the community they can freely move from one school to another if something doesn't satisfy them. It behooves administrators to latch onto their Tweeners and get them engaged and involved in the school so that they want to put down roots and stay forever.

The Survivor
Oh, I know this teacher well. I think I spent about 50% of this last school year hanging out here.

Survivors are just that - they're trying to get through the year with their sanity more or less intact. Sometimes it's just getting to the end of the day. Outwardly these teachers look fine, but they lean back on those things which will get them through like student bargaining. It's really important for administrators to identify these teachers and help them ASAP, and if necessary to get them out of the classrooms.

I'm really lucky. When I showed up at my Administrator's doorway crying and at the end of my rope, she walked away from her administrative meeting (TWICE) and met with me. 

The Fundamentalist
The book describes fundamentalists this way, "an experienced educator who believes that there is one pure and indisputable way to practice: the traditional model of schooling." To fundamentalist, change is taboo.  

He goes further into describing how Fundamentalists try to influence change to not happen withing their schools, but what really caught my attention was the four reasons why someone might be a fundamentalist. I think this is the real power in this book, because it gives administrators (and others) ways to help turn these teachers from their fundamentalist roots and help them to become a stronger and healthier part of the school culture. 

1. They do not perceive clear reasons for change.
2. They distrust the leaders who are pushing for the change.
3. They wonder if the change will cause them more stress and may not ultimately improve how instruction is occurring over what they are already doing.
4. They think that if they give in to change it means admitting they have been wrong and they will lose face. 

With all of this laid out, I'm starting to understand some of the struggles of my present school. Honestly, I believe that we have many fundamentalists among our ranks, but they're not the died in blood individuals who will resist change because it means they were 'wrong' before. Instead, I think that our school lacks a great deal of trust in the administration because of the constant turnover. In addition, they're not sure that that changes which are introduced are actually going to improve student achievement.

Even though I'll be leaving this school after this year, I'm optimistic for the future and for those teachers who are staying. I know that my building administrator has read this particular book, and understands the underpinnings of the culture of the school. (Though, I'm not quite sure he's aware of the level of negativity floating through the hallways.) I hope he's able to provide reasons for the changes he's asking us to make, and at the same time is able to start building the trust he needs to with the individuals.

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