Posted in culture, Learning, Teaching

It’s been awhile…

So my blogging goals for last school year definitely slipped away from me! So back at it now, as better late than never, right?

Today was the first day of the Cy-Fair Digital Learning Conference. DLC is a great conference that CFISD organizes each year at the end of July. I think today they said about 1700 educators were in attendance–fantastic for summertime professional learning!  I went to a great session on PLCs. It is fascinating to hear about how other districts (and campuses for that matter) view PLCs. Some view it as something to be done and for others, it’s not even on their radar.

I also presented a session today on Blended Learning and how to use academic texts to facilitate discussion in any classroom. It’s my 3rd year presenting at this conference and I’ve enjoyed sharing my learnings each year on different topics. This year, Lindsey, the Science IC at my campus presented with me. It was fun to collaborate on the session and really great to see how no matter what content you teach, having students reading and TALKING about their learning is crucial to engagement, complexity, and deeper thinking and deeper meaning for students. I also was excited to share articles that can be used in Math classes as well as that is often something that is shied away from. But hey, I believe that we are all literacy teachers! Everyone has the responsibility to teach students literacy, and in today’s climate, it is also crucial that we look closely at sourcing and teach students corroboration!

Day 2 of the conference is tomorrow. I’m looking forward to presenting again with Lindsey and then checking out some Google tools.

Keep on learning this summer! What have you learned so far?? The school year is coming soon and it’s going to be a GREAT one!

 

Posted in Learning

Listening to Understand

It is almost November and this is my first blog for the school year, oops! But better late than never, right??

In my conversations, meetings, books I’m reading, and professional learning opportunities lately a common thread has emerged: Listening to Understand.  What does that mean to you? Is that something you think about?

I have am amazing opportunity to work with the Teaching and Learning Alliance on a Lab School Cohort on my campus. Our coach is Cynthia, and she is someone that you can learn so many things from! What I’ve noticed most is her ability to listen. And I mean, to really listen.  Oftentimes, we find ourselves in such a hurry to get through life: run an errand, plan this lesson, attend this meeting, make these copies, hurry up and get dinner ready, rush kids to activities, swing by the grocery store, hurry kiddos into bed, and etc. Everything is GO, GO, GO!  But not with Cynthia. She does an amazing job of really leaning in to the conversations around her. Every time she is on our campus, no matter the audience or environment, you can feel the slowing down in the room. The time to think and reflect and listen is established by her modeling. She takes time to listen. And she listens to UNDERSTAND. She’s not listening to respond.

Is that something you do? I’ve been working on my committed listening and listening to understand for awhile now!

A few years ago, on an Instructional Coach meeting day, we did a mini conference. I presented a session titled: What did you say?  Polish listening skills and practice coaching conversations. The session was about listening as it was something I was working on at the time (and what better way to help yourself improve and learn more than to sign up to present on what you are working on). In my district, we are surrounding by books and book studies! At that time, I had received a book called: Coaching Conversations by Linda Cheliotes and Marceta Reilly. I structured my session around the listening skills assessment and what I had learned from reading that book. The listening skills assessment forces you to really look at how you participate in conversations and guides you into finding ways to improve.

This semester, the book we are reading with the Instructional Coaches, is titled: Thanks for the Feedback by Stone and Heen. The book is about how to receive feedback. As coaches, we need to work on how to deliver feedback/how to coach teachers to reach their potential. But it seems, we also need to take a look at how we receive feedback ourselves.  On Friday, we discussed Chapter 2. As part of that, we discussed listening first to understand. We must always seek to first understand someone’s point of view.  That instantly connected with me!  From thinking about Cynthia in the Lab School Cohort, to Coaching Conversations with committed listening and really leaning in to Listen to Understand and not to respond. So time to dig back in to listening, to coaching conversations, to giving and receiving feedback, and to really listening to understand.

Deep stuff for a Sunday night! Any additional advice on listening?

committed listening

 

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

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, Uncategorized

Strengths

Do you know what your strengths are? What about your weaknesses? Is that something you think about or talk about often? And speaking of weaknesses–I dislike that in an interview question. Do you like it? It is a tough one to answer when attempting to persuade someone to hire you based on your skill set, but then have to explain to them where you have deficiencies.

My husband is currently working on his masters (to gain administrator certification). One of his first assignments was to complete a Kiersey Temperament Survey. It was interesting to read his results as they fit how I view him already, but it made me look at his personality through a different lens when he and I discussed it. That conversation led me to start wondering about personalities and strengths.  In life, in teaching, in your day-to-day, do you know the strengths of those around you? Do you know their weaknesses? Do you use that knowledge to your advantage? How? With my husband, because I’ve known him for 15 years, I have a solid grasp (I think) on his strengths and his weaknesses. And I try to mindful of those when we disagree on things in our lives, with work or with our kiddos.  But for the teachers I coach, do I use that to my advantage? Definitely not enough. I’ve known them for only two years, but that should not be an excuse. The teachers here have completed the Strengths Finders training/survey and I have access to that actual data showing their strengths. That is something I need to start leveraging and using to become a better Instructional Coach.

So then, that makes me think and wonder further.  For teachers and for their students…how does knowing student strengths and weaknesses enable teachers to maximize student learning outcomes? If you know what your students are good at, how can you use that to further their learning? To inspire their creativity? To encourage more problem solving and critical thinking? How can you highlight the areas where your students excel so that you can build their motivation and self-esteem? I think you use it when planning lessons, when picking group arrangements for activities, when organizing reading and writing strategies, when planning interactive, hands-on vocabulary lessons, and etc. You should be purposeful when thinking about how the students as individuals are going to achieve their learning objectives for the day.  Which can be so HARD! When you teach 180 students and have to work hard to plan lessons to engage students, to cover the curriculum, to fit the vision of the campus, to follow the state standards, and etc, it makes it seem impossible to then break down those lessons even further to cater to the needs of individual classes or students.  How do you manage? How do you fit in innovation and use strengths to maximize the learning in classrooms?

It’s in pockets, right? In small pieces? You fit in some creativity here, some new strategies over there. You try new things, take risks, find out what works for you and for your students and what doesn’t. Then you go share! You blog, tweet, go to PLCs. You lean on your colleagues to give you inspiration and you lean on them to push you to keep thinking for new ways to teach, to inspire, to learn!

Posted in #Immooc, culture, Learning

#IMMOOC–The Innovative Educator

Innovation is more than just inventing something new.

Innovation is creative and messy. It is about creating a space for experimentation, failures, change for the better. Critical questions to ask when looking for innovation: Is it new? Is it better? How can you use innovation in teaching? How can students use it to learn?  We have to create an environment of uncertainty and unpredictability.  If you know every day when you show up to class EXACTLY what is going to happen (think about it from the lens of a student–I’m going to come in, sit down, do my warm up, listen to my teacher and take notes, then leave)….what does your mindset become? Is there room for real learning? For experimenting? For failing? For questioning?  Are you looking for new things? Are you learning new things?

If you are stuck in a rut, in a predictable cycle of teaching, how do you get out of it?

Start with some critical questions (from Ch. 2 of The Innovator’s Mindset):

critical questions picture

Have you asked yourself these questions lately? Couros says, on page 41 of The Innovator’s Mindset:  “The innovator’s mindset starts with empathy for our students (which is why the questions above are so crucial). Equally important is the desire to create something BETTER.”

So, what have you looked at with fresh eyes today? Have you asked yourself, “Is it new? Is it better? Is there a better way?”

If you need more inspiration, check out the #IMMOOC hashtag on twitter. Find some new blogs to read! Learn, grow, then reflect and post your own blogs!  Or you can just read The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Or for shorter reading, check out the 10 Commandments of Innovative Teaching from AJ Juliani.

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