Posted in Conferences, Learning

Professional Learning

I recently attended two Region 4 conferences. One was the Digital Learning conference (where I presented a session with a SS IC and a Math IC one easy tech tips to organize and streamline your life) and the other was the Social Studies conference (where I presented a session with a SS IC on total participation activities for students).  Both conferences had some great presentations that sparked new ideas. I enjoyed sessions on using maps to teach broach concepts in social studies, visiting exhibit halls to see the latest in smart board technology, and video hosting platforms for coaching like Torsch, I enjoyed makerspace sessions and I caught a review of a session on warm-ups that I saw in Corpus at TCSS as well, and then a nice perspective on using student backgrounds to maximize their potentials and empathy for others.

What Professional Learning have you attended lately? Was it worth it? Any new ideas?? Sometimes I feel like conferences are good and you get new ideas and other times I feel like I’m inspired by more things by reading and visiting teachers every day in class. Where do you learn your new ideas? What does your professional learning look like?  Do you learn from books, the teacher next door, your admin team, an instructional coach, summertime PD?

Hopefully it’s all of the above and more! Twitter? Blogs?  I wonder if too many educators rely only on campus provided (mandatory)/summer PD?  How many amazing ideas, research, concepts, ideas are they missing? How can we inspire all educators to want to continue to learn and grow every day in different avenues instead of it being just isolated to a single session or day of PD here and there?

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!

Posted in #Immooc

Review time!

Can you believe it is already December?  Many educators are scrambling to finish their curriculum and have time to review before semester exams.

What are your favorite review games? There are so many to choose from, it’s hard to narrow it down.

Tech involved games that we use a lot:

  • Kahoot
  • Quizizz
  • Quizlet Live
  • SuperTeacherTools (to make games)

Non-tech games:

  • DominKNOWS (a new favorite of mine)
  • Hot Seat
  • Heads up Cards
  • ZipZapZop reviewing
  • Bazinga (learned about it from the English Instructional Coach, it’s pretty cute)
  • Snowball fight
  • ABC posters

And many more! I need to organize all of these with directions into one place so they can be shared.

Posted in culture, Politics

Reflecting on the elections…

My last two blogs posts were about Eva Kor and meeting her in Corpus Christi. Stick with me on this post to see how they are connected.

 

In light of the political climate, I have been reflecting a lot on how people interact with each other. I’ve watched a lot of news stories, read a variety of news articles, talked to family members, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. I’ve read facebook posts and facebook comments.  I followed twitter conversations and news article comments. All of those have taken me down a path of reflection–that reflection relates to Eva Kor and also relates to the book the leadership team on my campus is reading (How to Create a Culture of Achievement in your school and classroom).

Relationships and words are crucial to us as people. In casual conversations, heated debates, confrontational arguments, working with students and with teachers, the art of teaching, giving presentations, writing news articles, commenting on facebook posts, retweeting and quoting tweets–IN ALL OF THESE, the words you choose can take a person from feeling like they can achieve their dreams at the top of the highest mountain to the bottom of a deep, dark pit within seconds.  We set the tone. We must be mindful and have good intentions when interacting with each other.  Language is very powerful in building growth mindsets, impacting teaching, growing as individuals, and changing student achievement. We need to teach students how to talk to one another not just at one another.  We need to work on finding means to contribute to solutions and not just contributing to the problem.  The power of your words can shape learning!  

So back to Eva Kor, here’s a bit of her story:

Eva Mozes Kor was only ten years old when she was taken to Auschwitz. She lost sight of her parents and two older sisters within minutes of stepping off the train onto the platform at Auschwitz. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chamber. Eva and her twin, Miriam, were sent to the man known as the Angel of Death: Doctor Joseph Mengele.  She and Miriam survived his medical testing.

Her survival is amazing. Her life lessons are beyond moving, and her forgiveness is extraordinary. The life lessons she shared with us in Corpus summed up:

Lesson #1:

Never ever give up on your dreams.

Lesson #2:

Rid the world of prejudice.

Lesson #3:

Forgive the Nazis.

How do you feel about these lessons?  Do they apply to your teaching? Your learning? Your mindset? Your political views?  Can we achieve Lesson #2 in the United States?  I know we can try.

Posted in #Immooc, Conferences

More Life Lessons from Eva Kor

I posted last about attending TCSS in Corpus and having the opportunity to meet Eva Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz.  Since then, I have submitted the paperwork and have 30 students signed up to participate in a book study over her book and a SKYPE session with her! I’m am very excited about this.  We had over 30 students sign up, but the museum only allows 30 so we had to go based on time stamp of registering online. I’ve talked to a few students already and they are very excited to get started.

So on to her next life lessons that she shared with us in Corpus.

Life lesson 2 was about Prejudice. She said that it always hurts the victim and talked about how societies that permit it to happen are destroyed by it.

“It is the cancer of the human soul.” 

She went on to discuss how it is her obligation to not have prejudice. That everyone has an obligation to not have it.  For example, she talked about how students should wear uniforms as they go to school only to improve their minds! Not to impress others.

“You must judge people on their merits.”

Life Lesson 3 was the one I found the most humbling. Her life lesson #3 is:

“Forgive the Nazis.”

Wow. How amazing is her forgiveness and grace?? She talked awhile about forgiveness and I was mesmerized by her every word. I wanted to remember it exactly. I typed it as fast as I could in the notes on my iPhone (yeah, I know, I should have just recorded her, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time).

“You have the power to forgive. No one can give it to you and no one can take it away. As long as you have someone you are angry with, you are still a victim. Forgiveness is a feeling of wholeness. It is freeing. It works. It has no side effects.”

Are you amazed yet? You can find a lot more information about her with a simple google search, or by reading her book!

I started this blog as part of the #IMMOOC.  I didn’t really follow the assigned blog prompts each week, but I was grateful for the ideas shared by others and the opportunity to challenge myself to reflect and write.  As I reflect on Mrs. Kor, her life, her message, and all the amazing ideas from the #IMMOOC, I think about innovation and society.  How far have we come as a society in education?  In helping others? In ridding the world of prejudice?  In creating, growing, learning, reflecting, and becoming innovative??
In the current political climate, it is really HARD to see positives. A lot of negativity has come out in our society/culture/world.  Can we all take a minute to pause and think about Eva’s message?  I hope I can follow her life lessons in all things that I do in life.  Do you?

One last thing to leave you with from Mrs. Kor:

“What if we created a project where a million tweets are sent to stop the killing and create a safe zone in Syria? Imagine that. The power of the internet is amazing.  This is why I tweet. It is easy. You can be clever. You can be bold. You can make a difference.”

Posted in Conferences

Life Lessons from Eva Kor, Lesson #1

I was granted the amazing opportunity to attend and present at the Texas Council for Social Studies Conference in Corpus Christi (a full reflection post will be coming soon). While there, one of the sessions I attended was hosted by Eva Mozes Kor.

I cannot even begin to describe the wisdom, patience, and grace of this amazing woman. She and her twin sister lost their entire family at Auschwitz and had to endure terrible conditions and medical testing at the hands of the Nazis and Dr. Mengele.  She has spent an amazing amount of her time, energy, and effort on building a Candles Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana as well as traveling to educate others of the Holocaust and really to educate the world on grace and forgiveness.

She was witty, kind, motivating, and inspiring.

In her presentation today, she told her story and then told us some life lessons she has learned.

Lesson 1: Never give up on your dreams.

“Growing up is very hard. Even if you live in the U.S. Even if you have wealthy parents. Even if your parents buy you designer jeans with holes in them. ”

She continued on talking about how life is hard because you have to find your place. Where do you fit in this big world? What are you meant to accomplish? If you give up, you’ll never find your place.

“If you keep trying, it is absolutely amazing what your mind can come up with.”

eva-quote1

Lesson #2 and #3 coming next post!

Are you being the best YOU that you can be?

–Celaina