How Does Your Inspiration Make You Feel?

I had the luxury of visiting a middle school art classroom today.  The question on the board: “How does your inspiration make you feel?”  It was so cool to watch students list what or who inspires them and them discuss how one feels when inspired! It got me thinking about my work and what inspires me! There have been so many positive things in our district that inspire me everyday.

1. New teachers! 3 teachers and a teaching assistant received tenure last evening. They had an opportunity to take about 5 minutes each and share some highlights of their work with our Board of Education. Can you say AMAZING?  These educators blow me away.  Technology Integration, teaching Physics a whole new way, project-based learning, and community connections!  We are SO honored to have them with our students! They inspire me every day and make me feel proud of our district.

2. Our Committees! RtI Committee, PDP (Professional Development Plan) and Literacy Council are three committees that are working very hard to get some major work done.  I appreciate their honesty, their experience, their integrity and their work ethic.  They leave me energized and inspired!

3. Technology Integration Specialists! This group has met almost monthly to capture a K-12 vision of technology integration.  This is not easy work, and they leave me feeling creative and excited about technology!

4. Our students! I just had the opportunity to see the Battle of the Classes.  Fun and enthusiasm everywhere! They leave me feeling happy that I work at this school!

I could go on and on! Have a great Friday, All!

What Makes Me So Proud

We have a lot to be proud about!

1. Today we had our 3rd RtI Committee Meeting. We made great progress, but I am most proud of the teachers who brought information to share and put their ideas on the table. Kudos to them.

2. Today we are one step closer to our new fitness facility.  Our equipment arrives on Thursday.  The floor, walls and ceilings look great.  (Thanks to our Buildings and Grounds crew.)  I am most proud of our Physical Educators who are working tirelessly to fine tune the details. This week we are learning about new formats for logos and special formats in order to get a school logo on decals and platforms. This is not our specialty, but are tracking down the experts and learning!

3.  Last week, we had our Superintendent’s Conference Day. There was so much good work, and there is a lot to brag about.  What makes me the most proud is the leadership of the Literacy Council. They have certainly stepped up to the plate as leaders and are full participants during our Literacy Curriculum Review Cycle.

4.  Tomorrow, some of our administrators are getting technology training. We are working hard to keep learning and staying up with Literacy 2.0. What makes me most proud is that we are learners. There is always a sense that it is important to have conversations and learn and grow.

Coherence, Equity, Meaning, Relevance

Today was the second day of our 6-12 ELA Curriculum Review.  13 teachers, 1 administrator and a facilitator are setting the stage for curriculum work.  In the words of one teacher, “This is the first time we have ever talked about our curriculum 6-12.”  I forget that we rarely get the time to study our practice!  Reflection is so important, and I am glad we have created an opportunity for this conversation.

Today was mostly about establishing our vision.  We delved into what we value and what we hope for our students that is beyond the functional reading and writing skills.  As the teachers mind mapped, I think what impressed me the most is that I could see in their vision the passion of their profession and their desire to meet the needs of our students.

  • They hope for lifelong learners.
  • They hope for kids to value and appreciate reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  • They hope for equity, meaning, relevance and coherence.

Today was also a lot of about questioning what we do, understanding what curriculum could be, and looking at other curriculum models.  Our teachers are amazing, and I look forward to next steps as they study what we currently do and take steps to clearly articulate a 6-12 ELA Curriculum.

Our Literacy Council Began This Week

12 teachers and administrators (K-5) have met for two full days to begin our Curriculum Review for ELA. We are focusing primarily on reading, but we all realize that reading is not in isolation when we think about the full spectrum of reading, writing, listening and speaking. 

We are very fortunate to have with us two great facilitators.  They bring a great deal of research with them, and they are steeped in that research bringing practical examples throughout the two days.

What excites me the most is THE GROUP! Our teachers continue to impress me with their dedication to learning and their willingness to think of how to adapt their practices to meet the needs of all learners.  I know they do this everyday, but it is times like these that I know just how lucky are students are to have such wonderful, dedicated teachers. 

What I wish for is more time for all teachers to have time to discuss and reflect upon their practice. It was hard for them to be out of their classrooms for two days.  The benefit was amazing, however, as they processed at the end and were able to establish and create next steps for our district. We meet again within a month, and  today was the day to develop the next phases in our journey. I hope to share with you more in depth about our work in a future post!

It is a “Feel Good” Day

I am a lucky gal.  Today,  I worked with 5 Physical Education teachers for three hours to discuss curriculum, set goals and work on the Physical Education Plan which is required by New York State Education Department.  The team came to work! They brought their curriculum, gave lots of input and history, and we even had time to work a bit on the PEP Grant implementation.  I know that curriculum work can be tedious, but at the same time, I appreciate every ounce of effort they gave to make this a productive day.

I am also a lucky gal because yesterday I worked with our Technology Integrators.  What a fabulous team!  They inspire me more than they know with their ideas, hopes for kids and their expertise.  We worked on K-12 vision of student expectations, specifically at the high school, and we worked on just a basic job description to help us better understand their roles across buildings.

Tomorrow I work more on budget and prepare some more for our Response to Intervention Committee, which meets for the first time on Thursday to craft our plan and prepare for implementation in July 2012.  It sure seems like a long time away, but we are working with some great proactive teachers and administrators, and I anticipate good things to come from this committee!

Tonight I am going to skip the gym, spend a few minutes cleaning off my desk before I go home, and savor the moment!  It is a “feel good” day!

Just Thinking About Change

It is a new year and all, and I am already immersed in work.  I am bouncing all over the place today and so much unfinished business does not feel “good.”  One of the things that I think about with great apprehension is so many upcoming changes.  I have always considered myself someone who goes with the flow, accepts change for what it is and rarely looks back at how things “were done before” unless reflecting on the impact of change.  This has been my strategy for coping with change because so much of it is rarely of my own doing.  Changes are “put upon” us so often lately that I rarely feel that I have time to change my practices let alone keep up with everything that is being shifted and sent my way every month. I am not complaining because most of what is being asked does need to be done. Changes in New York State Education Department, changes in our school regulations and policy,  and changes in accouting protocols are just a few BIG things that race through my mind.

I always wonder why some people won’t embrace change as easily as I but perhaps deep down, they are feeling what I am feeling.  What am I feeling? – “Please let me be good and successful in one thing before asking me to be good and successful in another thing.”  I feel so watered down lately, an expert at nothing, and that feels so uncomfortable for someone with my personality.  I feel every person should be an expert at something, and I continue to search to find my niche for that “something.”  Perhaps the search is my niche.  🙂

Another Productive Day with Technology Integrators

Today was a great start!  Our Director of Informational and Instructional Technology and I met today with our “technology intergrators.”  We have 5 dedicated, wonderful teachers who support our faculty to learn how to use technology as a teaching tool.  We spent the morning reviewing our Student Benchmarks for Technology. We started them in the past, and this was the second phase as we fine tuned them and prepared them for roll out.

Philosophically, this was a struggle for all of us.  We don’t want to see technology as  a separate item, something more to do, but rather, we hope to see it as a guide of tools and strategies that can be used in every day instruction.  It will be rolled out in the spring with time for feedback as teachers review what we all believe students can know and do at certain stages in their education.  Personally, I just feel that without sharing this work with all teachers, then technology still seems to be a mystery to some. This document will provide some guidance, some thoughts, and hopefully inspire some to continue to ask the questions about how to continue to provide the best instruction for all students whether it is technology or something else. 

What I most appreciated is the fact that these folks work and they work hard.  They have a vision that so few of us can even imagine.  They have worked on this and aligned it to NETS, but with a twist that defines skills as wells as technology literacy. I just don’t even know what I don’t know until I spend time with them and learn little tricks of the trade and great sites for educational use.  One thing that I learned about today was Grooveshark.  This is the same idea as Pandora, but one of our technology integrators likes this even better.  Yes, this is something for me to use during my personal time, and yet another site that I think makes my life a bit better. Thanks to them all!

Enjoy!

I am so proud of our students

Today was a great day for  our students in Erie County.  They presented at our EETT Showcase conference.  I sat their with pride as I watched them share their work and talk about their learning. I could not help but smile as our students discussed WACS news. Not only did they beam as they discussed this, but they told how excited they were to be a part of our Superintendent’s Conference Day.  They looked directly at me and said they hoped they could be a part of the day again!  Everything they showed and discussed was a ton of work and they ate it right up.  WHY?  My thought is because it s not simulated real-life work; it IS real-life, authentic learning and projects.

Students from all over Erie County came to tell about what they have learned and produced over the past year using web 2.0 technologies.  What I loved the most as while they showed what they learned, they credited it to the fact that they had a teacher who was willing to take the risk, try new technologies with them and allow them to become more engaged in their learning.  I saw an English Ning from high school students along with some great video.  I saw video from a middle school student as well as a middle school class project about “going green.” 4th graders presented about their “bullying” blog. WOW!  I am impressed!

The students were SO honest about wanting all teachers to use technology, to give them choice in learning and to not talk “at them all day long.”  It cracked me up!  YES!  I was one of those teachers who loved to engage students but I talked at them a lot too!

I really began to wonder about the technology and what I am most perplexed about it the value of IWB (Interactive White Boards).  I just don’t get the value overall.  Well, I guess I get it.  It is a modern tool that allows for quick access to visuals, simulations, web sites and engagement.  The “engagement” is where I struggle.  Is it just me, but it seems like it only engages one student at a time.  I am not sure how much they cost, but if I can get more laptops vs. an IWB, I would go for a laptop or other portable electronic to engage more students any day….I guess I will have to keep learning and sort this out.

Kudos to the students and their teachers!  You rock!

Pondering About Focus

I can not get focused.  Can it be because I just came back from a wonderful little get-away, or is it because I have so much to do that I don’t know where to begin?

I am a worker bee.  I am and will always be busy every minute of my day.  I scurry to work on lots of different projects, answer emails and touch base with my PLN every day.  However, this day feels like I am getting a little accomplished.

To do – I have to get moving on our PEP Grant. We have finally made our choices for equipment, and now I need to write a letter to our vendors asking for a second set of quotes. The first time around, we did not seem to get what we asked for so I am struggling on how to be succinct in this process and not have the quotes skewed as they try to wheel and deal for our business.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like that there is a competitive process, but I want the facts, Jack. I don’t want to have to weave through all the “free” stuff to find out what I am really getting when the dust settles.  Am I complaining?  Maybe a bit….Just need some focus in this next round.  We are spending $150,000+, and that makes me nervous.  Lots to do to prepare!  AND there are many other things to do for the PEP Grant as well. The pedometers are not working.  The Advisory Board needs to be contacted.  Curriclum work needs to continue.  Yes, the overwhelmed feeling kicked in again today.

To do – Curriculum Review. I am trying to figure out how to maximize time spent with different departments to get moving on projects.  Half a day here and there seems fine at times, but it feels slow as well.  We are working through our first year of our Curriculum Review Cycle, and we all have different ideas on how to focus our work. 

To do – There are lots of little projects….My white board is full. – ESL, Shared Decision Making Plan, RtI Planning and more… Off to work I go.

He Loved Being a Teacher

I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dr. John King, our newest  Deputy  Commissioner in NY, over the weekend at the New York State Teacher Center’s Fall Focus in Albany.

In a nutshell:

  • He LOVED being a teacher.
  • He is looking forward to the continuing challenge to make schools nurturing, challenging and engaging.
  • He wants us to think about how to build an excellent curriculum, top it off with good professional development and then think about an assessment system that complements the curriculum and professional development.  Too often we think about teaching to the assessment as the lone strategy.
  • He briefly discussed the needs of our 21st Century Learners. Why not have classes around Economics, Arts, Technology that part of our mission of a laser-like focus to make teaching and learning better?
  • He believes that data is not to sort kids, but rather using it for US to get better.
  • He referenced the national standards movement.  He said that we may not adopt the common core standards, but it is very important for us to be a  part of that conversation.  He wants to make sure that the adoption of the standards would raise the rigor.  I did not know this but the intent of adoption means if we adopt the standards that would only be 85% of our standards.  Our state would then add some to that (15% more).

I am thinking that this is the first time that I regret forgetting to take a pad of paper with me.  He was inspiring, and I continue to be  excited about education with someone at the lead who cares so much about student learning!