Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Math Investigations Take Practice and Protocol

Today I facilitated a math investigation. Years ago we adopted The Investigations math series which really opened my eyes to great, deep math teaching. It's been a while however since we used that curriculum, and we drifted away from investigations a bit. Recent reading and research has turned me back to the directions of investigations and today I tried one.

What I liked about it was the floor-ceiling stretch the investigation of finding the numbers with the most common factors between 1-100 created. I also liked the fact that students were looking for pattern and rules to apply to any group of numbers in order to find numbers with greatest numbers of common factors. One team found an amazing set of rules that could be applied to numbers 1-200 and likely beyond.

What I found challenging were the following points:

  • Students need greater practice with regard to the dispositions needed to work on an investigation with classmates.
  • I need more practice with clearly communicating the challenge to all students and supporting that challenge.
I'll continue to work on this in the days ahead. It's clear that to engage in investigations is a better way to solidify knowledge, skill, and concept, and finding good investigations to match the standards is the next step. I'll use Boaler's book and website as a resource for this. 

Is There Room for Secrets and Surprises?

Secrets and surprises can sometimes make a birthday party or other special celebration lots of fun, but generally secrets and surprises do not support good teaching/learning efforts. Instead transparency and inclusion serves the learning/teaching team well. When we're in the know, we generally work better together and foster quality learning and teaching.

Too often some that lead initiatives, development, and growth are reluctant to include educators in the conversation in timely, consistent ways. Instead information is treated with greater secrecy and surprise. When this happens both time and potential is lost.

Instead, I support ongoing share and discussion. I support open, regular share of initiatives, questions, and efforts to inspire, strengthen, and forward teams. When this information is forthcoming it puts an end to hallway conjecture, and instead uses that time to empower good effort.

Our team uses this approach with families and students. Each week we share what we have done, what we are doing, and what we plan to do in our weekly newsletter. This keeps everyone on the same page with regard to teaching and learning, and it also helps us to anticipate any issues or problems that may occur and remedy those situations ahead of time.

Teachers are always thinking and learning. The more we know, the better we do. When information is not transparent, inclusive, or forthcoming, it hinders our ability to teach well. Don't you agree?

Building and Deepening the Math Program

I want to build and deepen the math program. I am seeking ways to do that.

These are my thoughts:
  • Split the program into two forty-five minute periods. One period would be the differentiated core, and the other period would be a more personalized/differentiated period. 
  • During the core, embed more of Boaler's floor-to-ceiling investigations to promote a richer, deeper, collaborative math learning experience.
  • During the personalized/differentiated block include at least two periods a week for students to learn/use computer programming probably beginning with SCRATCH. 
  • Build in greater math into the STEAM projects/experiences.
  • Look into finding a framework program such as Math 180 to support our work with our most challenged math learners--learners who for a variety of reasons do not have the foundation skills, concept, and knowledge for the grade-level expectations. 
How can we systematically build this program?
  1. Share ideas with system administrators/coaches. Ive been doing this, and have received little to no response. I will think of other ways to share these ideas in the days ahead.
  2. Plan a time for colleagues to discuss these ideas. A date has been set for this conversation and an open document has been created for idea share.
  3. Begin to employ some of these ideas as they fit into this year's curriculum program. 
  4. Study related information during the summer as I look forward to next year's learning program. 
How is your school system deepening and building your math program? What approaches are you using that are making math more engaging and empowering for all students? How are you embedding computer programming into your math program? Are you using Boaler's research and projects as you build your program? I look forward to your share. 

Fraction Study 2017 Begins

It's difficult to employ the kind of project based math classroom without extended support since educators are expected to teach such a large amount of content including lots of vocabulary in the math class. Even though the common core limited the number of concepts for each grade level, it's still a lot to teach between September and April tests. Also there's a depth involved in this teaching that takes time and the numbers of students make it difficult to personalize to meet the many needs.

Greatest Common Factor
Yet, with all that said, I hope to move as well as I can towards a more differentiated, project base math class. I had hoped to teach this lesson yesterday, but a needed review of solid figures model making took precedence, but today we'll try a mini version as we step into fraction study. I'll begin by reviewing factors and finding common factors, then the greatest common factor. We'll use venn diagrams, lists, and discussion as part of the introduction.

After that  I'll have students work in like-skill, friendly groups to figure out which numbers between 0-50 share the most factors. As students embark on that investigation, I'll encourage them to use some or all of the following problem solving strategies:

  • make charts
  • look for patterns
  • consider a systematic strategy so you don't miss any numbers
  • consider eliminating some numbers right away (which numbers and why)
  • can you think of an algorithm or set of steps to easily figure out the numbers between 50-100 that share the most factors?
As students tackle the problem, I'll observe how various groups attack the problem. I'll watch for team skills, mathematical thinking, use of structure such as charts and lists, and systematic process. 

Lowest Common Multiple
Tomorrow we'll look for lowest common multiples (LCMs) by listing 10 multiples for each number from 1-25. Then we'll highlight common multiples. After that we'll look for patterns, trends, and rules related to this with the questions, "What do you notice?"

Practice and Review
On Wednesday we'll have a catch-up day when students organize supplies including scissors, tape, colored pencils, sharpies, and sharpeners for upcoming fraction study and review the concepts introduced with online activities. 

Fraction Vocabulary and Models
On Thursday and Friday, we'll review fraction language and models.

Fraction Operation
The following Monday, I'll introduce students to fraction operations using story and models. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Who Truly Supports Teaching and Learning?

As I think about the education world around me, I wonder about who truly supports quality, student-centered teaching and learning? Who "walks the walk" with regard to what is best for children and their future? Who forwards the kinds of democratic schools that support a strong, vibrant democracy?

These are important questions to ask as you ally yourself to individuals, organizations, and efforts. Time is limited and you want to spend that time supporting the best possible work and effort.

I spent a fair number of my own dollars to attend Educon 2.9. The system I work for allowed me to take a professional day to attend. Was the money worth it? Yes, because to develop my craft amongst invested, bright, and committed educators, students, and leaders means that I can do a better job for my students. Educon is a place where new ideas are born and valuable work is affirmed.

As I move forward in the year, I want to think carefully about my investment of time and effort when it comes to doing my work. Who and what forwards my work with children best? What is it that they do to help me empower, deepen, and intensify my work? How can I also contribute to others efforts in ways that matter? These are good questions as I begin the week.

The Learning/Teaching Week: January 30, 2017

As I transition from a weekend of amazing learning to a week of wonderful teaching, what takes precedence?

Math Investigations:
  • Common Factors
  • Common Multiples
  • Equivalent Fractions
  • Simplest Terms/Benchmark Fractions/Unit Fractions
  • Adding/Subtracting Fractions
Collegial Collaboration
  • Fifth grade play meeting
  • WTA meeting
  • Reading Meeting
Student Response
  • Unit Assessments
  • Student Portfolio/Reflection Prep
  • Continued room make-over
  • Distribute Term One Progress Reports
Celebrations and Championships
  • Swim Meet
  • Faculty Breakfast
It's a busy week ahead. After a weekend of study like the past weekend, I'm always happy to get back to the practice of learning and teaching I think it would be very difficult to study about education and not work with children on a regular basis. Onward. 

Educon 2.9: A Wonderful Weekend of Learning

It always takes a few weeks to embed Educon ideas and inspiration into my craft and practice. For starters, I shared the learning with colleagues in my school system this morning via the posts I wrote and learning events I was introduced to during the weekend and listed below. Today I'll employ a more constructivist math lesson that asks students to discover which two numbers between 0-25, 0-50, +/or 0-100 share the most common factors. I believe a simple start like this will be a good way to make the math interactive. In the days ahead, I'll work with my team of students, educators, administrators, families, and citizens to deepen and democratize the learning more.

Posts about Educon 2.9

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Educon 2.9 Sunday Panel Inspires

Today's panel included amazing educators, wonderful questions, and much to think about and embed into the teaching and learning in the days ahead. Here are some of the highlight's of this morning's amazing panel discussion.

Real Learning is Engaging and Intense

Gary Stager's words from yesterday's Educon 2.9 conversation reverberate as I think about today's learning and my return to school tomorrow. He emphasized students' natural intensity, the fact that when real, natural, and child-centered learning is happening there's no need or interest in behavior management, and that to do is to learn. Putting the emphasis on engaging, inviting learning space where children are encouraged to explore, create, solve problems, connect, and share is critical. I need to continue to connect with educators who make this a priority so that I don't forget how awesome schools and learning can be for every child.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Making Sense and Speaking Up in the Face of Injustice

The news reports tonight are very frightening and worrisome. There has never been a time in my life that I remember specific groups of people targeted for non-entry in the United States. Though as I look this up, I notice that this has happened before, but not too often.

In the first few days of his Presidency, Trump has promoted a number of limiting and seemingly unjust efforts--efforts that target Native American advocacy against the pipeline and now efforts that ban certain peoples from entry into the United States including people who have green cards which give them permission to live here. Further he is working to eliminate health care for many United States citizens, health care they have come to rely on.

Instead of working with the world's people to provide safe homes to refugees, he is denying them entry to the United States and not doing his part on behalf of the worldwide community to share in the tragedy that has left so many Syrians homeless.

What is happening is unimaginable and frightening for many Americans like me who have come to expect that our leaders will support and promote "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" with careful, thoughtful collaborative action that enriches and betters our lives and communities. Yet to lose health care, deny entry, and disregard treaties and our Native People are all acts that lessen life for those that live in the United States. His actions serve to divide us as a people, and it seems that he is unaware of what people need and the positive potential that exists to continue to build and strengthen our strong and wonderful country as a part of the global community and not as an island unto itself.

So many are fooled by sensational news stories and frightening rhetoric, yet when you look at the numbers, you will notice that the world's biggest problem is poverty, not terrorism. Yes, terrorism is a worldwide horrible problem, one that we have to solve with other countries since it is not a problem here alone, but poverty is a bigger problem. Deaths from gun violence, accidents, and health issues like cancer far outnumber terrorist deaths, and are big problems to solve too.

We need to be smart about our time and money. We need to have vision about going forward, not back. We need to look beyond sensational and perhaps untruthful news stories to the truth of our increasingly diverse and interconnected country and world to prioritize together about what is really important.

I was surprised that so many Americans voted for a President who was so mean and demeaning to women, Muslims, and others. Yet I was hopeful that he only spoke that way to win and would perhaps change upon gaining office. Now we see that he is not changing and with his new power, he is much more of a threat to all of us.

On the plane I sat next to both a Trump supporter and non supporter. I tried to keep the peace and not rile anyone up. I wanted to respect both citizens, but now, I can't stay silent. He's disrupting the lives of all of us, threatening our peace, and challenging long held human rights and laws. This is a worrisome time in America, one in which no one can stay silent.

I welcome your feedback on my thoughts. I'm sure many, like me, find it difficult to put into words what is happening and how we should react as it's very challenging. I just keep thinking about what side of history do I want to be on, and I want to be on the side of history that supports human rights and benefits for all people because when people have their needs and rights met, everyone enjoys greater peace, happiness, and prosperity.

Educon 2.9 Saturday 2017

It was once again an amazing day of learning and inspiration at Educon 2.9. I was so happy to see so many educators from more than 30 states who are invested, creative, and doing the big work of teaching children well every day. I was also very happy to watch and talk to the SLA students who were so enthusiastically engaged in leading the event.

The morning began with a welcome by Chris Lehmann who encouraged the full house of educators to teach critical thinking skills in order to provide students with the tools they need to make sense of a bewildering world. He said that we have to work well to sustain our students. Next William R. Hite, Jr., the Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools, gave the keynote. Dr. Hite noted that he wants schools to utilize smart systems and be healthier places for students. He noted that The Science Leadership Academy is an amazing student-powered school, and the staff is a beacon of instructional practice. He further encouraged all educators to keep students at the forefront and energize them in ways that we haven't done in the past.

Stager shared the quote above with us at the end of his presentation. 
Student Dream Project Letter
After the keynote, I attended Gary Stager's conversation which imparted a great deal of inspiration and challenge to make our teaching/learning programs richer. As you'll see in the Storify notes above Stager frequently quoted many leading educational leaders including Seymour Papert. Stager emphasized that young people have a remarkable capacity for intensity and challenged the educators in the room to make school the best seven hours in a child's day. Stager quoted Papert when he stated, "Of course kids should reinvent the world,' and prompted us to allow student to do the learning by making because heads, hands, and heart matter when it comes to valuable learning. My inital active response from Stager's talk will be to reimagine the upcoming fraction unit as a student-driven maker unit, and to let students use coding to demonstrate their mathematical thinking.

Next I attended another amazing presentation by a host of educators from South Bronx Community Charter School. Their dedication to the students, creativity, and meaningful learning was amazing! They described in detail an interdisciplinary Dream project that students were involved in that derived from TA-Nehisi Coates book, Between the World and Me. Students studied the book and responded by writing letters, publicly advocacy, data analysis, movie making and more.

Finally I attended the Spaceship Earth conversation by Brooklyn educators Andrew Zimmerman, Lynn Shon, and Aaron Kazwell. I was very interested in their project since our fifth grade curriculum is focused on the environment and we are currently working to embed new standards and build that curriculum. Rather than using money to order kits, I would like to work with colleagues across the system to create a more hands-on, multidisciplinary approach to our new curriculum, one like Spaceship Earth. It was clear that these Brooklyn educators, similar to those from the Bronx, dedicated hours of collaborative effort to creating this multimodal, inspiring, and engaging curriculum that included expert visitors, many local field studies, a local meaningful problem, hands-on problem solving/creativity, student choice and voice, and final presentations. Their expert mentor for the overall project was Buckminster Fuller and inparticular, Fuller's quote to the left led their year-long study. On the door of their school they have another Fuller quote that states, "We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims."

They recommended a year-long narrative like Spaceship Earth that ties the curriculum together. This idea reminded me of the McAuliffe Center STEAM conference I attended this summer, a conference, in part, that highlighted the film, The Overview Effect - a film that fits nicely with this study. Throughout their study which consists of multiple missions, they use the design process and embed both content and cognitive standards. As an interdisciplinary study, they look at the problem over time and via many perspectives. They sited tools and resources they used including Vision Maker, physical prototyping with cardboard, paper, adhesives. . ., whiteboard tables, NOAH/NASA resources, Manhatta Project, tracing paper, 3D design tools, peer critique guides, and SCALE.  They get students outside and allow students to drive the learning as much as possible.  They generously shared their presentation with us.

It's difficult to capture all the ideas and information shared, but it's impossible not to be inspired by the enthusiasm, experience, and skill the many educators I spoke to and learned from demonstrated. Tomorrow I'll return for Day Three and even more inspiration and learning. Onward.

Educon 2.9 Friday Night Panel

It's always a pleasure to learn in beautiful places such as
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
As usual, Educon's Friday Night Panel at the Science Leadership Academy did not disappoint. It's always wonderful to learn at The Franklin Institute and to attend an event that is organized by students. SLA student, Ella, gave a wonderful introduction, one I asked her to share since it exemplified why The Science Leadership Academy is such a wonderful school.

Jayatri Das, Chief Bioscientist, at the Franklin Institute led the panel discussion with amazing questions. The panelists, Dr. Michelle Johnson: Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania, Christine Knapp: Director of the Office of Sustainability of Philadelphia, and Keven Werbach: Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of Business positively challenged everyone in the room with so many wonderful points about innovation and sustainability.

I offer a few highlights that I hope to bring back to my efforts to teach well below. With each idea, I added in italics how I might reflect that idea in the classroom.
  • Robots are being developed as smarter tools, and robots are currently used and will better be used in time to help with rehabilitation as well as so many other uses. Students in our school are using small robots to learn, I need to access these more and integrate this into math study.
  • Passion matters when it comes to sustainability and innovationIt's important to innovate by connecting to something you're passionate about. We need to make time to let students share their passions with us, integrate those passions into the learning day, and tell students how important passion is with regard to their choices. We can demonstrate passion through story, current events, and projects too.
  • There's incredible richness in digital gaming. In elementary schools, the gaming experts are typically the students. We need to hear them and find ways to integrate this into our learning menus. I believe Minecraft would be a good first step.
  • Gaming motivates because it accesses main attributes of intrinsic motivation via competence (interesting challenges), autonomy (you're in charge), and relatedness--games are surprisingly social, and when you play games you become part of something bigger than yourself. When we design learn with and for students, we have to keep these attributes up front. 
  • Who wouldn't want to be part of the amazing potential that tech innovation was and continues to be. Tech should hold a firm place in every classroom, a place that is integrated or blended with the many other ways we learn and work together.
  • Becoming an expert and advancing human knowledge are good goals as we think about our own development and that of our students. Currently students are becoming experts at a subject of choice during their library time--we need to let them know how important this is and the ways that people work with their passions and expertise later in life. I look forward of sharing the panelists' personal stories with my students as examples of this. 
  • How can we make teaching/learning more game like? I will continue to think on this with colleagues and throughout the learning today and tomorrow at Educon.
  • The line between online and off line has merged. Uber is an example of this. The blending of online and offline increases and becomes more sophisticated. Our continued efforts to promote a blended learning environment and efforts exemplifies this.
  • Innovation pushes boundaries, solves real world problems. Rather than contrived learning events, we can build learning up from the problems students face in their lives, communities, and schools. Making good decisions about the local environment and how we live in environmentally friendly ways is a good fit for this and fifth graders. 
  • Lifelong learning is essential--we need to be constantly reading, learning, building on each others' ideas, and reading about parallel fields, innovations, research, and ideas. Learning is cyclical or spiraling. Students need to understand that with learning you're never done it's a journey, and learning community efforts should reflect that.
  • It's important to be flexible and open to new ideas. As learners we all have to be open to both sharing and entertaining ideas. Too often, in schools, there is no vehicle for good share and discussion with regard to new ideas. 
  • Most companies are looking for things to scale, and scaling requires people who can lead the scaling. Managing the use, share, and growth of new ideas is an area that should be openly discussed in schools--everyone should have a good idea of what we are doing when it comes to ideas. 
  • Maintaining and sustaining innovation requires a willingness to look for new ideas and challenge. Share ideas with others. The intersection of ideas and perspectives is often where innovation begins. We should be constantly looking at our teaching/learning efforts in the classroom, at the grade level, within a system, district, and more to grow and develop our work in ways that matter. 
  • Game makers think of the player journey. I hope to enlist this language with students as they complete their midterm reflections and portfolio. We will talk about the fact that learning is much like a video game, and that similar to a "player journey," there is a learner's journey. 
  • People stay engaged when they feel like they are moving towards mastery. Using the language of "mastery" is important. We can say to students: How will you master this? What steps will you take? Where is the evidence of your mastery? Why is mastery important here?
  • Building something helps people stay engaged. We can ask students, "As a community of learners, what are we building and why does that matter?" This is a good question for any team of educators too. 
  • Ideas for innovation can be found in our complaints, problems, and needs. This would be a great focus of a STEAM Lab. . . .let's start with what we don't like, problems we have, and needs. 
  • Sustaining innovation requires reflection, revision, responding to new data, connecting to something organic. This is a process well supported by educational research, but still a process not embraced enough in school settings. I want to continue to foster this with my team and students.
  • Successful practice is contagious, and it's often advantageous to begin innovation in places where you have control. Then you can invite others in. This is where prioritization comes in--it's a big world with zillions of great ideas, but when you focus on a few important ideas at a time, you can really grow those ideas with strength. 
  • Find your choir, point to others who are making the change, and collaborate to make good change. The need to seek out and work with allies is integral to student and teacher success, inspiration, and confidence. 
  • Collaborating with government agencies, local agencies, other departments and educators can help everyone achieve the vision they're looking for.  Schools need to look beyond the school community to partner with the many amazing educators, agencies, and organizations that exist and can provide support, motivation, and inspiration for quality learning and teaching. 
  • Define what success looks like with questions such as What is success for us? and What does success mean for us? This conversation should happen regularly with all learning community members. 
  • When reading, researching, and creating curriculum ask, What do I want students to get out of this?
  • Rapid innovation is often positive as it wastes less time. Also good innovation paths where you innovate some at a time, test, then more can also be helpful. It's important to analyze the innovation systems in place. Those are are too slow and cumbersome as well as not thought out will halt innovation. 
  • Pilots, if done well, can be a way to try out a new pedagogy, but pilots have to lead beyond the pilot, not stay stuck there. Pilots need support and need to be taken seriously.
  • Create a culture where making mistakes is accepted. Too many schools are afraid to encourage responsible risk and mistake making, and this holds school communities back. 
  • Problem/Project base learning is an ideal way to learn. The research points to this, but many school districts are not listening. 
  • Budget and maintenance costs are looked at as a burden by some when it comes to sustaining innovation, but this is an important consideration. How we spend money with regard to supporting innovation is critical--systems should include innovation budgets. 
  • Innovation that's easy, cheap, and helpful is ideal. I can see this helping us to improve our school "greening" efforts, we can find inexpensive and easy ways to promote this. Right now it's too difficult for many reasons, reasons that could be explored 
  • Often there are costs to keeping up the infrastructure that supports innovation--this part of innovation is not the shiny part, but it's a necessary part of innovation. This is an important consideration of any innovation work 
  • Old informs new and new informs old--sometimes we look back to find ways to innovate today. The example of Philadelphia's greater attention to soil and greening was noted as a less expensive and probably more effective way to solve the some of the city's problems related to sewerage. Currently this is another way to better inform and promote our school's greening efforts. It's also a way to elevate our efforts related to social-emotional learning and teaching.
  • Contests support inspiration, innovation. A colleague employs contests often to encourage students. I will look at ways to do this that involve teamwork and project base learning in math and science.
The panel was terrific, and as I think about it, I wonder how we might use this approach to increase student/educator share in school. Also the fact that The Science Leadership Academy fully integrates their student body into this conference is inspiring too. We need to look for more ways to put our students out front with regard to the daily teaching/learning events. If we adopt the new schedule we've proposed for next year, it will give us more time to differentiate and that could mean more time for student teamwork and leadership. For example, I could imagine a team of students publishing our class news each week.

The panel concluded with the question, How do we create and sustain innovation in K-12 education? This is a question that will be the focus of today's presentations and conversations. I'm sure I'll write more in the days ahead. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Full Brain Leads to Summer Study List

Full brain happens to students and educators. It's that feeling that your brain is at its limit, and there's little room for new ideas at the moment. In a sense, that's where I am now. As far as this school year, my team and I are employing a considerable number of new ideas, ideas we read about, discussed, and planned months ago and now efforts we are putting into place. The details related to implementing these efforts are considerable, and to do a good job with the new efforts we are engaging with takes considerable brain time and energy. Currently those relatively new ideas include the following:
  • Cultural proficiency efforts to deepen our educator, student, family, administrator team
  • Frederick Douglass' Study/African American History Museum Field Study
  • Math/STEAM Lab creation/organization
  • Embedding Boaler research into the math program
  • Use of sensitive accommodations, strategic process, and support to support every child's positive learning. (We are employing a new model of teacher meetings in this regard)
  • Efforts to review and update scheduling as we continue to build our shared teaching model for best impact and teaching
  • Potentially elevating the strategic process we use to create and make decisions by inviting a coach to lead us in "hosting conversations" efforts at our PLC.
  • Updating our blended learning efforts and impact.
As soon as "full brain" occurs during the school year, I start to create the summer study list--a list of topics I'll study when I have the luxury of an open mind and time to learn, imagine, and create. This summer's study will continue to grow, but for now it will include the following:
  • Gaining special educator professional development points at the MTA Summer Conference. This is a state requirement and one that I'll meet. As I take this, I'll focus mostly on the kinds of accommodations we can put into place to better support all learners.
  • Continued reading and study of Emdin's book, For White Teachers. . . This book has much to offer and I will continue to read and study Emdin's words as I think about the school year ahead.
  • Continued efforts to grow our teaching/learning program with regard to cultural proficiency by learning about ways to introduce students to cultures represented in our school community. This year we built our efforts to represent African American cultures, and next year I'd like to develop our inclusion of East Asian and/or Central/South American cultures through reading, writing, field studies, and/or expert visitors. 
  • Continued efforts to update our STEAM curriculum in ways that create responsible planetary citizens. I want to revisit this work in the spring and think about how some tools and resources may help us to better meet this curriculum goal. I started the year with this hope, but then was rerouted due to a number of systemwide priorities that took precedence.
This is a post I'll revisit in the next few weeks and months as I reflect more about the study to come. 

Culturally Proficient Programs: Next Steps?

Our team is working to make our teaching/learning program more culturally proficient. We've integrated greater use of resources and experiences that reflect our collective classroom culture. There are a number of next steps we'll employ too including the following:

Taking a Culturally Proficient Teaching Survey as a Professional Team
We'll use time during PLC to take this survey and discuss our results. I imagine that our discussion will include how we are reflecting the points included on the survey as well as how we might change the program and our teaching more to better reflect the survey points.

Student Culturally Proficient Survey
We plan to use a survey to gather students' thoughts and responses related to cultural proficiency too. This will also help us to better plan the program to reflect the collective and individual cultures of the children we teach.

Field Studies and Special Events
We will continue to add field studies and special events that reflect our cultural diversity particularly cultures that are less represented. We hope these field experiences and special events will deepen our class community's respect, understanding, and care for one another and our diverse world as we learn together.

Emdin's Book
I've read a lot of Emdin's book, For White Teachers. . ." and employed many of his ideas. There's more ideas to employ and more pages to read.

Biography Project
This project takes students inside the lives of many global changemakers from today and in the past. This builds cultural proficiency too.

Multiple Cultures and Perspectives
Through literature our grade level focuses on this, and we have many great agencies around us to also support our work in this area. One organization, in particular, Primary Source, is a great resource that we can tap to deepen our efforts in this arena in the years to come. I would love to work with colleagues to create a math/STEAM project that is more culturally proficient, one that weaves multiple disciplines together in a meaningful way to build math/STEAM knowledge, concept, and skill while also teaching about the world around us.

Dedicated Distributed Leadership

I've noticed efforts to distribute leadership vary from "sounds good on a page" to dedicated work that truly makes a difference.

"Sounds good on a page" is distributed leadership that's on your own time. Essentially it's volunteer work that's loosely connected to system decision making groups and the budget. Due to the lack of commitment, this kind of distributive leadership and sometimes committee work has some face value, but little more.

Then there's distributive leadership that's dedicated. This kind of leadership takes system funds and dedicated, in-school time to engage education teams with important decision making, assessment, review, reflection, and revision.

Often "looks good on a page" distributed leadership is meant to respond to State or Federal guidelines without true investment, whereas dedicated distributed leadership is born out of the belief that distributing leadership is a way to truly empower systematic change and development.

As I think of these two ways to distribute leadership, I realize that, with any endeavor, it's important to look behind the words to find out what's really happening. For example if you have a distributive leadership team, the team should begin with a review of time, support, financial resources, and goals. Using backwards design, the team should have enough time on task to chart their course, and then be expected to assess along the way. In the end, there should be an expectation to evaluate and report on impact using meaningful stories, data, and evidence.

With regard to my own work, I am thinking about the distributed leadership teams I work on. One in particular is very powerful. The team truly has voice over the work we do with and for students. On some other teams there is less impact for a number of reasons some of which are noted above. As I join teams, I want to join the teams that do make a difference--teams where good strategic process is well supported and impactful for children and families. Our time is precious and it is important that we dedicate that time to efforts that matter. The efforts we choose will differ depending on who we are and where we are headed in the profession. Onward.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Friday Musings (On Thursday): January 26, 2018

Sailor, Nautical Map Expert, Student Professor

It was an eventful day in the school house. One highlight was students' opportunity to explore their new BrainPOP accounts--they loved it! I was impressed with how much progress BrainPOP has made since it first started and plan to use it more as part of the regular part of the curriculum.

We spent some time discussing body shaming and the need to respect our many different body types. We discussed the fact that good quotes and songs that make us strong can help us stand up to the prejudice that we sometimes face when people make fun of our bodies. I hung up a number of inspirational quotes in the classroom as reminders.

One highlight of the day was when a young student shared his knowledge and an interactive activity all about nautical charts. It was an amazing lesson. We all learned a lot.

The team spent a long time reviewing Term Two dates and plans, and students completed unit assessments too. Tomorrow I'm off to Educon for lots of learning and solidarity with colleagues from many schools throughout the country. I look forward to the event.

Next week will find the class focusing on fraction study. The team will focus on some individual teaching matters and I'll meet with local union members for our typical monthly meeting.

It will be interesting to see where Educon takes me this weekend with regard to teaching and learning. Now it's time to prep for the trip.

Big Decisions: Trust the Process

Currently I am apart of a number of committees that are making big decisions. On each of these committees, I play a specific role. Also, with regard to each of these decisions, the processes as I understand them now seem fair. Therefore, I will do my part with respect, objectivity, good research, and positive effort. Then as the committees finalize their decisions and plans, I'll trust the work and trust the processes. Along the way if the processes should become confounded, I'll speak up, but I don't expect that to happen since it seems like the people involved are also committed to good work, just process, and optimal decisions. It's good to ally oneself with teams like this, teams who use good process, because it's never as good to make big decisions on your own and without the consult of other perspectives, experience, and knowledge. Onward.

Month by Month Look at the Remaining School Year

To reach the school goals, it's essential to look at the year map. Here's the goals and teaching to come:

January to February Break

  • Math RTI: Number sense efforts and enrichment
  • Math Core: Fractions, GMADE Assessment
  • Student Portfolio
  • Professional: Educon, Strategic Student Meeting, Reading Meetings, Screening Committee, SEL Study Group
March to April Break
  • Remaining Math Units/Standards
  • Parent/Student Conferences
  • Visit to the African American History Museum
  • Biography Project Start
  • Professional: Scheduling review, SEL Study Group, TAC
April Break to June
  • Test Prep/MCAS
  • Fifth Grade Play
  • STEAM Projects
  • Math Practice and Review
  • Naturalist Study/Gardening
  • Boston Trip
  • Biography Project and 
  • Presentation
July & August
  • MTA Summer Conference
  • Reading and Research
  • Prepping and Planning for 2017-2018 School Year
  • STEAM Lab Grant Research and Prep

Catch-Up Day Again

A number of students did not complete the unit test in the one hour set so today they'll have the chance to finish those tests. Since some will be finishing tests, we won't be able to go forward with the next lesson so instead students will have the chance to catch up on a number of efforts to support learning, efforts including a lesson on navigation maps hosted by a student, Brain Pop introduction and use as a study resource, homework catch-up, and more choices listed on the class learning menu.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mentor: The Patient Team Member

Lately, I've been able to learn a lot from observation of a very patient and competent team member. This team member is typically about five steps ahead the team, and the only way I know that is that every time she's asked a question, she knows the answer. She has done her research.

She's a forward thinking, systematic planner, researcher, and practitioner. I know she works with many to improve her craft and learn the latest ways to complete her job.

She's a good listener too. Typically she responds to questions with considerable respect and clarifying questions. She is not judgmental and doesn't use condescending critique or humor either. It's clear that her demeanor, effort, and service to others have earned her trust as I watch many turn to her to ask questions, seek her consult, and share information.

We learn a lot from observation of those around us. We can seek out opportunity to be in the midst of mentors like this admirable team member, and we can learn a lot from them. When we join organizations, it brings us into the midst of many terrific leaders. At last year's MTA Annual meeting, I was inspired by so many dedicated educators and union leaders. Last night I was inspired by Governor Baker's intelligent, warm speech, a speech where he showed gratitude to many and emphasized the need for compromise and collaborative effort/result. There are many educators in my midst who inspire me daily as they teach--I am always humbled by the terrific teaching and care for children I see.

How do you find mentors that inspire you? Do you look online as well as offline for these leaders? What characteristics determine a good mentor for you? Who are the mentors in your midst that help you learn?

I'll continue to watch this patient team member and learn from her expertise. She's a good teacher for me as she has what I aspire to gain. Onward.

The New President

The new President is a point of conversation almost everywhere you go. We see all kinds of commentary, comparison, and analysis online. Since my values and his differ in many ways,  I find myself a bit worried about the future of our democracy, the planet, and services to the common man, woman, and child.

I have an inspiring Facebook group. They continually offer thoughts, resources, and discussion on multiple topics. As I synthesize their words and thoughts, I am moved to meet the new President with the following actions:
  • Respect. If I disagree, I will disagree respectfully. I won't stoop down to the name calling and personal assaults. It's best to model what you hope for, and that's what I'll do.
  • Read, research, and speak up. I'll learn as much as I can about the truth of his actions and speak up about it. We can't stay silent especially if the new President is making decisions that will have a negative affect on many.
  • Do good work. To disagree with another, it's important that you earn respect with your own good work. The more we can all "walk the walk" of our beliefs, the better we will be able to speak up and be heard.
  • Be objective. As much as possible I want to look at new policy and leadership with an objective lens and multiple resources.
The new President is creating a storm of discussion, decision making, and response. I will continue to think about this with care, respect, and response.  Onward. 

Blocked! You Write Too Much!

I know that many feel I have too much to say online and off. I also feel the same way too, but as I build ideas and improve practice, I want to keep those I work with abreast of the effort. I don't think that any valuable idea should go unheard.

Yet, some say I repeat, and I know that to be true too. I repeat often as ideas gain a firm footing in my mind and in my work. I also repeat when I haven't heard any response since it's possible no one opened up the email or that I could even be blocked by some. That's okay. I don't expect everyone to read my words or even give them attention as I know people everywhere have their prioritization list about what's important what is not important.

The good news about the share is that it truly helps to move ideas along, and this matters. The share invites critique which helps to develop ideas. The share invites further ideas which enriches the original idea, and the share also prevents the need for lots of unnecessary conversation since it's in writing and I can spend time working on the actions related to the idea.

If you read about ideas, you'll note that the best way to spread and develop ideas is not in writing, but via conversation amongst small groups of people--this is invaluable. We do have some time for this, but not enough so I'll make the most of those times to collaborate in real time, times like this weekend's upcoming Educon conference, PLC, grade level meetings, and impromptu get togethers.

I'll keep writing. Read if you like. Someday the words will find themselves organized into a book that's more accessible, but for the meantime, these words are mostly the sustenance that helps me do my work every day to serve children well. Onward.

Revisiting and Recalibrating Blended Learning

A few years ago, discouraged, I took more of a back seat with regard to tech integration. I was frustrated that tech integration efforts all around me were not keeping up with my vision. I wanted Minecraft, a 3D printer, one-to-one, varied platforms, tech equity, and more, and it just wasn't happening!

Now, it seems the world is catching up to those desires, and there's better tech access at my school and all around me. This is wonderful. Last night as the Governor of Massachusetts spoke to citizens, he emphasized the need for all agencies to be tech-savvy and up-to-date. Terrific! He also mentioned that he was increasing state aid to all students and school systems in the state. This too is wonderful. This funding as well as leadership support for greater tech integration will help us to better blend learning in ways that support students. Also as I recently did an intense review of the class curriculum program, I noticed the many updates that exist and ways that I could review and embed those updates to recalibrate and improve the classroom program.

Specifically, I'm delighted to be apart of the following initiatives, initiatives led by many educators and administrators in my midst.

Tech Equity
Fortunately most students in my school have good tech access at home. A few don't. Thanks to the efforts of many, we are in the process of providing students without a good tech device at home, that tech device. This will really help those students.

Online Subscriptions
The children now have access to a number of safe and wonderful online subscriptions that will help them to learn about what they are interested in. The job for me now is to organize that potential in a way that's easily accessible. So far, our team uses an online home study list and learning menu to guide students' online independent learning efforts. We will continue to look at ways that we can use these resources better as colleagues and with children to boost our blended, personalized learning/teaching efforts.

Rich Technology Use
I will continue to look for ways to use technology to deepen the teaching and learning. While, workbook-on-a-page tech can sometimes be helpful, it's not the only way or best way to use technology. The best ways involve helping students to work on their own and with others to problem solve, research, and create in meaningful ways. In this regard, I will continue to look for ways to embed and forward coding platforms such as SCRATCH and Code.org, 3D modeling with Minecraft, video/podcast sites such as WeVideo and Powtoon (recently added to Google apps), and global connection accessibility such as using Skype, Hangouts, and more to build greater global connection and collaboration. My talented colleagues have reached for greater tech integration by utilizing Google Classroom, The Global Read Aloud, Padlet, Kidblog, and more to enrich students' blended use of technology to personalize learning, learn with others near and far, and deepen and enrich understanding, questioning, creativity, communication, and collaboration.

Our students this year enjoy one-to-one tech access in the classroom which is tremendous. This has enriched our ability to differentiate, personalize, and serve all students well. I believe this will continue next year.

Learning Menus and Differentiated Learning Paths/Streams
The way we run our classrooms is much like a workshop. There are many choices and paths to follow dependent on what a student needs or is interested in. Continued efforts to enrich these paths will support better teaching too.

Outreach to the Learning/Teaching Team
We see the teaching/learning team as a team of family members, students, colleagues, administrators, and citizens. We reach in and reach out for support, information, and more. We communicate regularly, and the more we find out what the team thinks and needs, the better we'll be able to blend the learning for best effect, engagement, and empowerment.

This is a positive turn in the teaching road. One I look forward to traveling in the days ahead.

The Unit Test

All students will take the unit test. I'll introduce the kind of strategy that works best for this test and then let the students independently show what they know. A few students have accommodations for test taking which they will receive to support their best effort.

As students test, I'll answer clarifying questions and perhaps, in some cases, read some difficult words if asked. I'll notice how students tackle the assessment. Who takes the test with confidence? Who seems to hurry too much? Who carefully checks his/her work? Who becomes dismayed? I'll document any observations that will help me to teach better or support a child more in the days ahead.

Also while they test, I'll prep for tomorrow's fraction introduction lesson, a new lesson using play dough--it will be a nice complement to the dry, seriousness of a paper/pencil test. It will be good to relax the students minds after all this test prep and testing, and begin fraction study in a more playful, open-ended way. Onward.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lesson Progression: Teaching the Same Lesson Three Times

I had thought carefully about the test review lesson. There were a large number of points I wanted to clarify, points culled from a review of student work. I thought it best at first to review the work whole class. Now, I rarely do that because as a child, I hated those all-class reviews and as a teacher I have never found the whole class reviews to be profitable since so many students are just passively sitting and listening, students who fall at all places along the learning trajectory. But, I decided to go with the whole class review because of time.

The first review with the first class went okay, but not great. The expected variability in the class contributed to a less than enthusiastic and invested crowd. With the second group, it went even less well. Finally at the end of the lesson, I asked the students, "How can I make this better?" They had great suggestions. So for the third group I facilitated a scaffolded review where partners checked each others work and helped each other with problems that were challenging. Students checked in with me when they needed help and I checked in with a few children that I wanted to review particular points with. It was a much better lesson.

Teaching the same lesson three times a day really helps me to perfect the teaching. Working with the students to identify desired learning paths helps too. Every lesson won't be the best lesson, but with an open attitude to using your best experience and knowledge, partnering with colleagues and families, and a willingness to adapt, change, and improve lessons when needed helps you to reach the goals you set for yourself.


Sometimes you're on the losing side. You're on the side that has less power, voice, money, time, or supporters.

When you're on the losing side, it makes you think a lot.

First, you think about the winning side and why they are winning. If you can get past losing, you truly have an opportunity to understand who you are and where you want to go. It could be that you actually honor the winning team and recognize that they have something that you want to work towards or on the other hand, you may realize that although they are winners, it's not who you are or want to be. In these cases, losing may actually be winning.

No matter, win or lose, what really matters are the choices and contribution you make and allies you align yourself to. We will often lose and sometimes win. Most of the time we'll be somewhere in between.

Creating the Math/STEAM Lab

Over the past many years, I have been transforming my classroom.

Lately however, I feel the need to update it more to make it a wonderful math/STEAM lab.

Here's what I'd like.

Rolling tables and chairs rather than desk.

Shelving for student portfolios, folders and math supplies. Here are a few options I've noticed. I want to steer clear of plastic, however, due to environment.

Items to enhance our recycling efforts:

Item I already have that I want to keep include the kidney shaped table, one big desk, lots of white boards, projection items, rolling carts with drawers, a STEAM supply center, bulletin boards, rugs, book shelves, and cozy chairs.

I think this would improve what I can do to teach well.


Math: What's the Big Idea?

Play dough lends itself to math exploration.
Soon we'll start the fraction unit, and I feel like we need to bridge that unit with the year-to-date's learning by discussing the big ideas of math.

First, why do we learn math? What's important? We'll talk about how math helps us to think, communicate, and solve problems, and that's why it's important. I'll ask students why they think math helps us to think well, communicate, and solve problems. We'll list student ideas, and in the end, I'll state that math is good for the brain as learning math makes our brains flexible and capable in so many ways. Math is essentially exercise for the brain.

Next, we'll talk about the math we've learned so far this year. We initially learned about the number system including its history, the parts, and how it works. This study helped us to learn how to read numbers, know their values, estimate and round. In a sense, this learning, helped us to learn the language or "letters and words" of math similar to the ways you learned the alphabet in order to read.

Next we studied the operations, and how to multiply, add, subtract, and divide large and small whole numbers and decimal numbers. We also learned to apply our number knowledge to real-life problems that we might encounter.

Further, we looked at ways to use graphs, charts, and models to illustrate number relationships and connections. We plotted points on graphs, created and analyzed patterns, and demonstrated the ways numbers work with both 2D and 3D models.

Now we're going to move from whole numbers deeper into the study of parts of numbers. We already started this with our study of decimals as we looked at ways to write numbers using decimals that equal less than one. Now we're going to study another way of looking at number parts and that's named fractions. The root frac comes from the ancient language, Latin, and means "break; broken." Words such as fractious, fracture, fragile, fragment, frail, infraction, and refraction come from this root.  What other words can you think of that begin with frac?

To begin this study we're going to play with play dough a bit.

Take your play dough ball and roll it into a strip as long as your desk. We are going to consider this one whole and we're going to work to break this whole into many equal parts. As we break the whole, we're going to discuss the parts including their names, what they look like, and how they relate to other parts.

After that we'll take our play dough and create 24 little balls. We'll consider that a whole group. We'll split that whole group into many different sets of equal parts too and discuss those equal parts.

In the end, we'll discuss how a whole can be any one set or item. We will think about "wholes" we live, work, and play with daily and how those wholes are broken in to parts such as a whole year, a whole day, a whole yard, and more.

Later during the introduction period, we'll look at a whole dollar and consider the relationship between fractions and decimals (and percents).

Then we'll start making lots of fraction models, and discuss how to "operate" on fractions using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. We'll apply that learning to lots of real world problems and investigations too.

In the meantime, during RTI and for home study, we'll keep our whole number and decimal computation fresh too.. There's a lot to learn about math as we exercise our brains to become terrific communicators, problem solvers, and thinkers, and hopefully we'll have lots of fun as we complete these exercises too.

Math Test Review

In my opinion we have too many tests, and those tests are especially cumbersome between January and the February school break when students take a number of systemwide assessments. That being said, it's my charge to give the tests and help students to do their best on each test. That's why we'll have a test review today.

Students have completed a number of practice sets for homework. Today we'll review those practice sets, and I'll point out areas for focus. I'll also open up the review to student questions and comments of course. I'll invite students to use their colored pencils to make notes and mark up the homework page as one way to focus their attention on the areas that matter. I'll encourage them to look over their notes at night once again as another way to prepare for the assessment.

In the best sense, an assessment is an opportunity for a child to show off what he/she knows. It's a chance for each child to work independently, concentrate, and problem solve on their own. Looking over the tests tell me a lot about each student.

However, tests can't be the only part of a learning program. We have to make time for rich explorations and deep collaborative learning too, and we have to think about how many concepts, skills, and knowledge points we are asking students to master at the same time. Asking for too much often dilutes the learning in all areas whereas if you focus in on a few areas, the learning is stronger and deeper.

I'll give students every chance to learn good test study skills today as we review for tomorrow's assessment. I'm sure it will help many as they navigate this test-heavy part of the math year.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Reviewing and Correcting Errors

Every educator you meet imparts valuable wisdom. One of my colleague's signature teaching/learning trademark is the fact that she makes the time for students to thoughtfully correct errors.

I made that time today. First we reviewed the common errors on the math assignment, then each child had a chance to look over his/her paper and make corrections to their errors. The conversations were rich as students puzzled over their corrections. There was need for considerable coaching as the assignment created a "brain crunch" for some students. One student, in particular, mentioned that her brain hurt. I empathized since I spent a large part of Sunday on a similar "brain crunching" assignment.

There are so many ways to teach well--it's not a cook book craft, but instead an art and science that relies on data, observation, intuition, education, and relationships. There's lots to know. Many decisions to make, and lots to learn too.

How do you foster students' ability to review their work and make corrections, edits, or improvements? In what ways are students invited to deepen their study in order to make it better, more meaningful and impactful? This is a good point of conversation for any group of teachers as we work together to hone our craft. Onward.


The learner was clearly puzzled. We had reviewed the material, but there was no foundation for it to stick to. The learner is bright eyed and eager--there's no reason why she can't form a strong mathematical foundation. What's the teacher to do?

I'll re-look at the developmental checklist I have for math foundation. I'll move up that ladder with one good learning experience after another. I'll listen carefully to the learners reflections, connections, and questions as we move along.

The challenging part of this effort is making the time. I have to think carefully about how we'll carve out time for this. I've got some ideas to explore.

Clearly when puzzles and needs arise, they challenge us to think differently with colleagues, families, and students to remedy the situation. I like to problem solve, and this will be the puzzle I'll focus on right now. Onward!

This Week's Teaching/Learning Focus: January 2017

As mentioned earlier, many outside-of-school efforts were pushed aside to make space for student teaching/learning efforts recently. Even though this meant spending lots of weekend, evening, and early morning time outside of school on school efforts, I must say that I'm glad I made that time. I finally feel like I'm catching up to the many positively challenging needs in my teaching/learning midst.

The key now is to stay the course so I don't feel the giant weight of not keeping up. In a perfect world, elementary school teachers would not have such extensive outside-of-school work, yet, on the other hand, teaching is one of those limitless jobs--the kind of job where you are always making the decision about how much extra time you'll give your work. Sometimes you will decide to give that giant push of extra work to reach forward to what your vision is for teaching and learning well. Systems can help teachers with this challenge by making the time to think carefully with educators about how they'll use the hours in a day, and particularly how they will build in time for teacher-driven professional work that serves students well. For example, this weekend I've already spent about 10 hours prepping for and working on student report cards. I have another 5 or so hours to go--that's work that is completely done on our own time. Not every educator has to complete report cards, but many do, and it is a considerable time-taker.

So as I catch up to the vision I have for teaching well, I'm focused on this week's teaching and learning. What are the priorities?

Decimal Computation and Problem Solving Review
Today we'll dig into the details of decimal computation and problem solving. Students are making good progress in this area, but we still have room for growth with regard to organization, precision, and problem solving explanations. I'll start with a "think aloud" modeling of that work, and then I'll give students the chance to review and redo a number of the problems I've reviewed in the past few days. I'll take a  look at students' revisions, and colleagues and I will offer support and coaching in this regard.

Decimal Unit Test
On Wednesday students will take the decimal unit test. I'll review those tests next week and use the results to make recommendations for upcoming RTI efforts.

Greatest Common Factor and Lowest Common Multiple
While these specific words are not on our standards, they do arise on an upcoming systemwide assessment. Further reviewing the language helps a lot as we begin to teach the fraction standards. I'll begin this study with a systematic whole class practice and review on Thursday and then an online menu for review for Friday.

Homework Review/Solid Figures Review
I'll check students' homework today. We've got a good home study routine in place and we'll continue that. Again like GCF and LCM, solid figures show up on a systemwide assessment, but not on the standards. Students will have a chance to review that information for homework this week with a packet that they should enjoy and find quite accessible. I make Wednesday mornings and other times available for student help should they need it.

Math RTI
I'll work with my group to make multiplication charts today. I find that if students make their own multiplication charts, it helps them understand how to use the charts and gives them an advantage for upcoming tests.

Reading RTI
My group will continue to practice using One Minute Reader. Students and I both enjoy the short articles this program provides. I'll also complete the mid-year benchmark tests I'm charged to give.

Social Competency
We'll continue our study of Frederick Douglass and our emphasis on character as we focus in on social competency. We'll also soon host the school counselor again to lead us in an open circle exercise. As needed, we have classroom meetings, and I'll continue to regularly embed social emotional learning during the school day. Lately I've been focused on helping all students follow the school routine keeping in mind that a simple, productive schedule helps students feel more ownership, control, voice, and success over their surroundings.

Report Cards
My team and I will complete the report cards which are due on Tuesday (hopefully Tuesday at midnight!).

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Study Group
Finally I've caught up with the group's expectations. It's been a tedious, but profitable, learning endeavor. I'm sure this collaborative effort will serve my teaching well as I work to embed SEL into daily teaching and learning efforts.

I'll spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Educon. While I don't like being away from my family for that long, I am always happy, in the end, when I make the time for Educon. There are few conferences or learning events that live up to the quality and eye-opening learning that Educon provides. I'm ready to be positively challenged and pushed at this three-day education event, one that helps me to keep my work aligned with the best work that is happening in and around education--work that always serves to help me positively serve my students.

Screening Committee
I'm serving on the new superintendent's screening committee. I'm very excited about working with such a dynamic group of citizens, educators, parents, and committee members to participate in this process. I expect to receive information about this during the week since I heard an announcement about it online last week.

School Committee Meetings
As a teacher and representative/secretary of my local union, I've been listening to all the school committee meetings online. I am encouraged by the bright and dedicated work I witness by so many citizens, school committee members, and staff at those meetings. I am learning a lot by watching those meetings. I am especially happy to learn about systemwide efforts that affect my teaching/learning work with lead time and details. I believe that the more we know as educators, the better we can do. When information is secretive or not transparent, good work is hindered. Hence when I watch the school committee meetings, I can share the good information with colleagues and others as needed and act on that information in timely, proactive ways.

Online Scrabble
Okay, not a requirement in any way, but the perfect winter companion when I watch the news or other entertainment--its' a favorite pasttime!

It's going to be a busy, busy week--a week starting with today's schedule:
  • clean bags, coat rack, desks, and folders (weekly organization)
  • pass in last week's homework and start working on this week's homework
  • review homework completion with individual students
  • math decimal computation and problem solving review and revision
  • SEL study group
  • Report Cards
Here's to a busy and successful week for me, my students, and everyone in my PLN! It's time to start turning those wheels. Onward. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Women's March: My Response

I feel a personal responsibility to mirror the Women's March in my own work. What will I do?

Collaboration and Collegiality
In the school house, we are working on a number of issues to move our efforts forward to teach all children well. At times there is conflict as we work together. As much as possible, I will try to respond to that conflict with good collaboration, communication, and compassion. For example, the other day, we discussed and debated about how to solve a teaching problem. There was a lot of tension as people discussed the problem. In hindsight, we could have used a better problem solving strategy. I will think about how I might contribute to better process with this challenge in mind. That is one way to mirror the peace, collaboration, and impact of the women's march. Specifically I outlined and shared a number of possible improvement paths related to our discussion topic and suggested that we invite leaders of Hosting Conversations work in to lead a vertically-aligned collegial meeting.

Elevate Others
As the speakers spoke at the march, they elevated what I know and what I can do. Their words empowered me. I want to do the same for others in my midst. I want to step back more and work to support and elevate the emerging leaders all around me. It would be great to make a list of empowering words that the whole class can use as we work to coach and teach each other.

Use Respect
Clearly a lack of respect creates obstacles. Sometimes when we're impassioned by events, we can lose sight of respect. We see this happening with multiple leaders in our midst today, and it's clear how debilitating this is. On the other hand, those that consistently speak with respect, invite greater development and collaboration. Slowing it down helps with this aim.

We have to make the time to think carefully about the work we do. We can't just talk in circles, speak at each other, and problem solve without process. Good strategy, long term vision, goal setting, and team building support good effort. Writing the blog, reflecting, and planning helps with this.

Focus on what matters and learn more. Education fuels good work. It's critical to seek out the mentors in your midst through courses, reading, video, conversation, collaborative work, and more to learn and do better. Continue to sign up for worthy learning events as well as read books, watch videos, and converse in real time or online to learn.

I plan to follow Moore's advice to try to write and call my political leaders more often with suggestions. I plan to speak up more and act to illustrate my ideals, belief, research, vision, and goals in what I do.

My work as a teacher and my role as a mom, family member, and friend, gives me limitless opportunity to mirror the intent and power of the Women's March in my daily life. I'm excited about this potential, and will make a plan to make it a reality in my life.

Thank You For Marching! The Women's March

Women's March in Washington, Saturday, January 21, 2016
Photo Credit: The Gorrill Family
Yesterday due to a number of personal matters, I did not attend the Women's March. Yet, thanks to CSpan and many social media threads, I was able to follow the March by watching it on television and viewing snapshots and vignettes from friends and colleagues online.

My first reaction, the morning after, is to send out a big THANK YOU to all the women, men, and children who marched. It was awesome to see so many people make the time to march in solidarity around issues of human dignity and welfare. It was a peaceful, energizing, and inspiring march.

As I listened to the many speakers, I found myself smiling, crying, and cheering. Their words awakened in me the "fire" to speak up, collaborate, and act in ways that represent my beliefs for my loved ones, friends, neighbors, community members, colleagues, students, and families.

I jotted down a few notes as I listened. I believe it was Gloria Steinem who said, "When we come together collectively we can transform the world." Her words were wonderful and made me realize that as much as many of the inauguration events were elite and exclusive, this march was wide and inclusive. Steinem quoted Hillary Clinton with the words, "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights." She relayed the information about doctors who have written to question Trump's fitness for office, and cautioned that his "Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger." She said that marchers in Berlin contacted her with the words, "We in Berlin know that walls don't work," and referenced the 6,000,000 women in Poland who recently changed laws by coming out to protest for women's rights.

Steinem focused on "bodily integrity" and the fact that the "goddess is in connections--looking at each other, not up, no more asking daddy." She encouraged the marchers to introduce themselves to each other.

Speaker after speak inspired. They emphasized that the marchers "chose to stand up" and march together. One speaker said, "Courage will not skip this generation" and "We will not choose some of our rights over all of our rights." Many spoke of love and considered the march an "uprising of love." Amanda Nguyen told her own story and asked, "What will you do with your fire?"

Michael Moore advocated for and encouraged us to call our government leaders every day. He wants us to make it part of our morning routine.  The crowd repeated the Capital number, 202-225-3121 again and again as Moore taught everyone how to speak up and act. He also encouraged the crowd to join groups such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, create response teams, take over the democratic party, join regions of resistance, create good laws, and run for office starting with precinct delegate. He further noted that the States that voted for Hillary Clinton have to lead the change in America by passing state legislation that improves the quality of life for citizens in their states. He said that these states will lead the country now as they have in the past with good laws and living. Ashley Judd gave a moving performance with strong words (see below).

As I continued to watch the march and read about so many other marches around the country and world, I had the chance to see Trump address the CIA. It was truly a very worrisome presentation--one that all Americans should watch to make up their own minds about what was said. His presentation brought me back to Steinem's words about his fitness for office since he is responsible for critical information, yet when he was tasked with publicly meeting with the CIA, he perseverated instead about his own popularity telling the crowd that the media was wrong about inauguration numbers and that there were many more people at his inauguration than reported, and that he was on the cover of Time magazine probably more times than anyone--15 times. Further he told the CIA about how bright his uncle who went to MIT was, mentioned something about Tom Brady, and ended by saying that he loved the CIA. Later when his press secretary, Spicer, gave a press report, he furthered discussed the numbers at the inauguration and a seemingly false report concerning an MLK picture or momento in the White House. Meanwhile about 3,000,000 marchers throughout the world were convening to stand up for the rights of people, and he made no mention of that. Later Trump tweeted about the event (see below) projecting his own thoughts about the marchers--thoughts that I know don't represent the truth since I know that many marchers were voters too. All in all, it seemed like a lost opportunity for Trump to focus on the numbers at his inauguration rather than giving an uplifting, supportive, and forward looking presentation to the CIA and affirming the fact that Americans throughout the world were marching peacefully and standing up for what they believe in. He lost a chance to connect with Americans and contribute to his inaugural words which stated that he wanted to work with all Americans. This lost opportunity leads one to wonder about the credibility of his words.

What would lead Trump to believe that the marchers didn't vote?
Many Americans called into CSpan to offer their views. I listened. Most of the Trump supporters found comfort in his leadership--they saw him as a religious man who wanted to make America better. It seemed to me that the news reports, tweets, and coverage of Trump they see provide them with an image of a man who will protect and care for them. Those who opposed Trump seemed to be aware of current trends, news, facts, and information. They feared the fact that Trump was not willing to see America as it is today, a country of diverse people with modern day challenges and problems to conquer. Later at night, the Saturday Night Live host, Aziz Ansari, had a similar perception inferring that those who are content with Trump do not encounter as much diversity in their lives and only get their knowledge from media portrayal which often tends to be negative and sensational related to diversity.  I have noticed a similar difference when talking to teachers throughout the country. Teachers in more diverse settings, in some ways, seem to be teaching a bit differently than teachers in more homogeneous settings. This is something I've noticed at conferences I attend, and a reason why I continue to stay engaged in and learn from social media threads that introduce me to educators with multiple view points and experiences.

It will take me time to really think about all that I observed yesterday. Bottom line is that I'm worried about Donald Trump as President. The fact that he could not rise up and acknowledge the marchers yesterday is very, very worrisome. The fact that he used his first opportunity to address the CIA as a chance to discuss his own popularity is similarly worrisome. In fact, it led me to read a couple of articles about how John F. Kennedy responded to the 1963 March for Civil Rights in Washington, a response different from Trump's, and yet a response that was not as powerful as I would have wished for.

I am so thankful to all those who organized the march and all those who marched. Clearly it's going to be very important for every American to stay aware, speak up, and contribute at this time in history. We have a big problem right now, a problem that challenges our democracy and our ability to support every American when it comes to living a good life. We won't all agree, but we all can work together to forward the best that our democracy can be. Yesterday's march provided hope while the President's response created cause for worry.

How will you mirror the hopefulness of yesterday's march in your own work. Here's what I choose to do: The Women's March: My Response. What will you do? I want to know.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Moving In

While many are moving out to protest, I am moving in to do some deep work that needs to be done.

All in all it has been a very challenging professional year. Most of the challenges are self-driven with regard to professional events and efforts I've committed to--events and efforts that are very challenging and demanding. To do this work well requires substantial research, writing, and thinking time.

What I hope to achieve is elevated service to students and colleagues. Today when I taught I saw a glimmer of what is possible if I do this work well. It was an uplifting, quiet experience, and the kind of experience I am reaching for.

In our professional and personal lives we move through all kinds of challenges and calls. Some are very public and social and others are much quieter and more personal. It's important to heed the calls you hear in order to better your professional contribution in ways that matter, and it's also important to respect the calls of those you work with, calls that will often differ from your own direction and commitment.

I support the outcry for better and good. I support the quiet work too that pushes each of us forward. It's time to move in and that's where I'm headed. Onward.

Friday, January 20, 2017

What We Know About Learning

As teachers debated the best course of action with regard to learners today, I found myself thinking about what I believe to be true with regard to learning. Here's what I know:

  • Learning mostly happens in a step-by-step fashion. Yes sometimes people take leaps and the steps are not always linear, but typically people learn over time in a somewhat developmental way.
  • Learning can happen in many different ways, and it takes metacognition to know what works best for one's own learning. When teaching others it takes careful observation, conversation, trial-and-error, and research-based practice to decide what works best for a child or group of children.
  • Learning demands practice. It's rare that people learn something on a first try, but instead it takes lots of practice to master a skill.
  • Learning requires connection making so it's best to connect new concepts with past concepts for rich learning.
  • Learning requires consistency. Generally it's difficult for someone to learn well if the content and pedagogy is changing too much. Patterns can support good learning. There's a balance here, however, because too much predictability can also dull the mind. Hence, the teachers and students have to be mindful of their learning patterns.
As I work with learners, I'll reach for the following:
  • Looking at developmental learning charts to assess what students know and what is their next best learning goal.
  • Using assessments, observation, and conversation to set good learning goals.
  • Working at those goals in a variety of ways assessing all the time which methods result in best gains and positive learning.
  • Building confidence, engagement, and investment by making students well aware of their good knowledge, goals, and achievements. Celebrating gains and setting just right, achievable goals.
  • Enlisting the support of other educators, students, and family members to help students make those gains in ways that make a positive difference.
Knowing where you are and where you are going is a big part of learning--a part of learning we need to share and encourage with students. We know a lot about learning. And yes, there's still more to learn. Please let me know if you have any suggestions to add to this post in that regard. 

Navigating New Ideas

New ideas are typically born well before they become a reality.

The ideas go through a process of review that lasts for days or even years.

As I listened to Guy Peartree quote Frederick Douglass, he remarked that we're still working to make some of Douglass' ideas a reality about 150 years later.

As I think of problems I'm working to solve that I've yet to remedy, I'm wondering how I might shift direction to do better.

I'll continue to express ideas and work towards positive change.

I'll work to be respectful of those that agree with me and those that disagree with me. I'll share good knowledge that I hear and listen to others' points of view.

There's a lot to learn in this big world of ours.