Posted in #Immooc, Learning, Teaching

Starting off the school year

Summer is rapidly coming to an end which means let’s start the back to school work. Time to take all that summer learning from books, blogs, twitter, planning with co-workers, professional learning, vacation, and etc, and put it into practice.

How do you start off your school year? Prep your classroom, make some lesson plans, get those bulletin boards and seating charts ready, etc?  What about the syllabus, class rules, and class expectations? That was something that was at the top of my priority list my first few years of teaching. I felt it paramount to cover every bit of the syllabus and class rules and expectations on DAY 1. 

My first year of teaching, I made sure to really hit those rules and expectations hard. I wanted the students to know I was in charge and I meant what I said.  Big surprise….at the end of the day, I wasn’t inspired. I was exhausted and annoyed with repeating the same rules and answering the same questions all day long.  But I guess I forgot that feeling as I did the exact same thing my 2nd year and again, at the end of the day I found myself bored and uninspired.

By Year 3, I FINALLY wised up a bit and changed my first day into a more fun activity that involved yarn, construction paper, and teamwork with students creating their own maps of the earth and an ‘archeological dig’ (from a paper bag) and then a silly name game icebreaker that we played outside with a ball in the beautiful Texas heat (I mean, the beautiful Texas sunshine).

It was SO MUCH BETTER. At the end of that day, I was PUMPED, ready for a new school year, and I could see the students shared my same excitement.

How do you plan to start your year?  I saw a twitter post from Matthew Arend the other day with a picture of 5 Questions from George Couros. You can read about it on Couros’s blog here: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7552

Here are the questions:

Screen-Shot-2017-07-22-at-8.54.52-PMAren’t these almost perfect questions for starting off your year?  I’m brainstorming how I can use these with the social studies department on my campus as their Instructional Coach. I want to know from the teachers:

  • What are the qualities you look for in an instructional coach?
  • What are you passionate about that you want to share with others?
  • What BIG goal do you have for the year?
  • What are your strengths (luckily, many have completed the Strength Finder, but now is a great time to revisit those)?
  • and then, wow, did you see that last question…

What does success at the end of the year look like to you?

How powerful is that question? It is incredible! It is one that I need to reflect on for awhile before I can formulate an answer. And then, it needs to be revisited throughout the year to see if that success is building or if what that picture of success was has changed.

What questions are you going to ask yourself before the year starts? What questions will you ask your students?

At the end of the FIRST day of school, will you be inspired? Will you feel ready to rock and roll? Will you have gleaned some insight into the personalities of your students? Or will you be without a voice and exhausted on your feet from going over the rules all day long, over and over again?

I hope you make the choice for inspiration!  Which reminds me of some great words from my high school Principal, Mr. Haver: “Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.”
Happy back to school planning fellow educators!

–Celaina

Posted in Learning, Teaching

In the summer swing!

My last post was over a month ago, oops! Time to readjust my goals so that doesn’t happen again.

How has your summer been so far?

I’ve spent some time on campus for interviews (we still have a few openings in the department to fill), and I’ve spent a lot of time on my laptop grading AP Human Geography virtual school assignments. The past few days have been wonderful. I’ve had some lovely family downtime visiting Gma at the lake house, spending time with the kids, time with cousins, and just going with the flow. No real schedule of events. It has been great!

It has only been a week since I’ve researched, read, tweeted, or learned anything new really about instructional coaching, education, students, innovation, etc. My time learning has been consumed with AP Human Geography (which is really fun and fascinating). Now, it is time to get back into the swing of learning about coaching! Tomorrow is Day 1 of the Learning Forward Texas conference. I’m incredibly excited about it. My day tomorrow is all Jim Knight and then Thursday is all George Couros. I’ll be posting more here with my learning from both of those inspiring educators.

Posted in Learning, Teaching

Wrapping up a school year

We are getting closer to the end of the school year. This week we have our EOCs and next week will finish up AP testing.

So what do you do at the end of the year? What lessons are your favorites? What do you try to leave students with to carry into the summer? Are you hurrying to finish your curriculum, or finding times to explore new things and to play?

Now is the time to play, explore, and let the students inquire, right?  If you missed out on that all year because you felt the pressure to finish the curriculum, prepare for the state test, prepare for the AP test, etc, NOW is the time! Maybe closing out the year with some amazing lessons will carry you into the next year so you can begin your year inspired and creative!

Where does Innovation come from?? Why not learn from the best? From Google’s nine principles of innovation.

What to do with that random last 10-15 minutes of class on a testing day? Why not let the students explore Google Earth? Read about it from a teacher here: Turns out Google Earth is Perfect for Students

Enable students to explore politics by taking an in-depth look at the different platforms and participating in the I Side With quiz.

Talk about Controversial Issues.  Or maybe don’t talk, but do a silent chalk talk so everyone has the time to express their opinions. The Atlantic had an interesting article about this last week: The Case for Contentious Classrooms.

Have your students (or your department) go through the Line of Separation. How well do you really know who you work with anyhow?

Organize a fun class around History through the movies! Assign students to research movies that have historical connections, then use IMDB and movie trailers to discuss the connections, misconceptions and how movies change perspectives (Gangs of New York, Titanic, Flyboys, War Horse, Great Gatsby, Amelia, Grapes of Wrath, Cinderella Man, It’s a Wonderful Life, Windtalkers, Schlinder’s List, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Saving Private Ryan, Pleasantville, Goodnight and Good Luck,  Across the Universe, 13 Days, JFK, Mississippi Burning, 42, Cesar Chavez History is Made One Step at a Time, The Help, Selma, Hidden Figures, The Butler, Good Morning Vietnam, Rescue Dawn, Platoon, All the President’s Men, Argo, Frost/Nixon, The China Syndrome, United 93, Social Network, World Trade Center, Seal Team Six, and etc).

Spend some time on a Genius Hour Project: AJ Juliani

Start a Book Club with some summer reading ideas for students. Involve parents and teachers.

Send students to Coursera or Lynda.com (if you have that), to learn something new, find a passion, explore new ideas, then share with their classmates!

Finally, participate in a Mystery Skype!

Play some Survivor with your class!

Inspire students to culminate their learning for the year with a video project.

Explore Google Arts and Culture, inspire students to see new things in their community, or take students on a virtual field trip!

Pick a topic you learned about (or let the students vote on a topic using an online polling software, like Mentimeter). Then put students in groups of 5-6. Instruct students to write the first sentence or two or three of a story about that topic. Have students pass to the right and continue writing the story. Keep going until you have a completed story from each group. Have the groups read their stories aloud to discuss their learning/viewpoint/opinions on the topic.

Let students explore some interactive math puzzles through current events and pop culture with expii solve.

Explore Dollar Street with your students.

Ask students to bring topics, articles, books, things that interest them to class.  Then practice some discussion techniques. Examples here: Cult of Pedagogy Classroom Discussion Strategies

Test your map and trivia knowledge with Smarty Pins!

Give students a chance to experience a real life budget issues with PlaySpent.

 

How are you ending your school year?

 

Posted in #Immooc, Learning, Teaching, Uncategorized

A message of kindness

I posted about Mrs. Eva Mozes Kor last October:

eva-blog-posting-from-october

One of the amazing things that Eva does is spreading her message at conferences, in schools, and around the world.  A program that she hosts through the museum allows you to spend $500 and you will receive 30 copies of her book plus an hour long virtual session with her.  Of course, I jumped at this opportunity for the students at my campus.  I put in the PO, ordered the books, and got started!

We started our meetings in January and these students read the book on their own time and came to advisory once a week.  They are an impressive group of students and they came every week with new questions, ideas, and thoughts about her book and how it relates to history, to their own lives, and to the world we live in today. We did all kinds of activities from quote swapping, to the wagon wheel protocol, to creating slogans and hashtags to represent the chapters.  It was a great experience with the students and really fun for me to get back for a bit into the world of teaching. 🙂

But the most AMAZING part of the entire thing happened yesterday.  Yesterday was the hour long session with Eva herself virtually.   The students were mesmerized by her every word.  She tells pieces of her story in Auschwitz and then gives the students her own message.  A message that is full of kindness, forgiveness, and love.  The students asked her their own questions as well and she was very gracious in her answers.  Ranging from inspiring students to be the best they can be, to be kind to others, to silly stories of how she learned English when she moved to Indiana by watching soap operas and how she was confused when her fiancé (at the time) kept telling her all the females in his family were going to have a wedding shower for her and she just said, um, that’s okay, I can bathe by myself.  She has an incredible strength that surrounds her and what she does every day. A few words of wisdom:

If you don’t give up, you can accomplish anything.

We can improve the world, one person at a time.

Become the best You that you can. You cannot become anyone else.

Be kind.

Forgive others. You have the power to forgive. No one can give it to you and no one can take it away. Forgiveness is a feeling of wholeness.

So today, more than ever, I will work to forgive. I will work to be kind. I will not give up on my dreams. I will work to improve the world.  Thank you Eva–for your amazing ability to survive and how you have used your life to empower others to be better.

Thank you to the students who embarked upon this amazing journey. Thank you for being willing to take part in the meetings each week, to read the book on your own time, to add your slogans and hashtags, share your quotes, discuss the meaning of Eva’s words with your classmates, your friends, and with me. I know you are all so empowered after hearing her message.  I hope that you are a little kinder and a little better each day now from reading Eva’s words and from hearing her message.

students-watching-eva-presentation

Posted in #Immooc, Teaching

The Land of the Book Study

In my previous district, we occasionally talked about what we were reading. I read a lot of fiction for fun, aligned my reading to a host of Young Adult books so I could share insights and hear insights from my students in my classes and in my homeroom class.  I had a group of  big readers in my homeroom and loved it!  But for professional learning books–we really didn’t do a lot.  I followed blogs, keeps up with an rss feed in google reader (before they discontinued it) and occasionally checked out a book about teaching social studies.  Fast forward a few years and move to a new city, new job, no students (but still in education)–now, in my job, EVERYBODY reads professional books.  Or at least pretends to read them, ha!

I started this job in August of 2015. It’s now January of 2017, so 17 months later and I’m looking at a stack of books that I’ve been given either as part of a book study or suggested reading, or I’ve pulled to read myself and the stack is tremendous!  I’ll post a picture next week when I can gather all the books from my home and work so you can see the size of it! I’ve enjoyed most of the readings and book studies, but definitely miss that stack of Young Adult fiction (like Legend, Cinder, Candor, Unwind, etc) and the students to chat with it about.

I’ve posted previously about meeting Eva Kor in October. Eva and her museum do a book study program where you can purchase 30 books for students and set up a Skype date with Eva.  Finally!! I can squeeze in some time with students to talk about reading and about history, my 2 favorite things!! I miss keeping up with Young Adult fiction, but I think Eva’s book is so powerful that it is easily filling that void of talking about books with students. We started our book study last week.  We’ll meet every week to discuss the chapters until the end of February when I will get to experience the students talking with Eva herself.  I’m feeling like the start of 2017 is going amazingly well!

What books are you reading?  For fun?  For work? Share your ideas so I’ll have new suggestions on what to read!

I’m reading:

  • Surviving the Angel of Death by Eva Kor
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • A book by Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of…)
  • And I just finished Sycamore Row by John Grisham

A few of my favorites from last year include:

  • Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
  • The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros
  • Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller
  • Better Conversations by Jim Knight
  • Lemons to Lemonade by Zimmerman and Garmston
Posted in #Immooc, Learning, T-Tess, Teaching

T-Tess and What is good teaching anyhow?

In our return to school today we spent time learning more about T-Tess–the new appraisal system for teachers in Texas (replacing PDAS).  I’m actually pretty excited about it.  It really lends itself to more of a coaching model within schools, and hey…this instructional coach here is happy about it!

It is divided into 4 Domains: Planning, Instruction, Learning Environment, and Professional Practices and Responsibilities.  Read more about it here: https://teachfortexas.org/

The training was heavy on information, but had a few activities built in:

  • Small group talk about what makes a lesson an effective lesson. Teachers wrote down their thoughts individually and then had to come to a consensus as a table.
  • Rubric breakdown involving the differences between each level (Distinguished to Improvement Needed) and what that really means and looks like in the classroom.

To reflect on T-Tess, on those activities, and on learning, I want to think more about:

What is good teaching?

What does it look like?

What makes it effective?

Education is full of buzzwords, and sometimes you read articles, hear stories, talk with colleagues and it all sounds great, but what does it really look like in the classroom? What does effective teaching look like? What characteristics can you observe?

I’m working on a list that covers both individual characteristics of effective teachers as well as observable characteristics of effective teaching:

  • energetic and positive
  • encourages independent thought
  • accepts criticism
  • reflective on quality of their own teaching
  • organized and strong time management skills
  • able to use wit and humor
  • respectful and caring of all students
  • frames the lesson and closes the lesson
  • uses a variety of instructional techniques
  • lessons and assignments are planned purposefully and students can articulate their purposes when asked
  • connects learning to concrete, real-life examples
  • engages students in critical thinking, research skills, writing skills, and internet safety
  • provides frequent feedback to students on their learning
  • uses feedback from students (and other professionals) to reflect upon teaching and adjust methods

What is on your list?

I don’t believe that effective teachers just happen.  Effective teachers are working constantly to improve their practices–through continued learning, coaching cycles, feedback from students, feedback from colleagues, twitter, and more!