Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From Leading leaders to Teaching Teachers!

From “Leaders Leading Leaders” to “Teachers Teaching Teachers:”

Monday, October 28, school officials from Lincoln County, Warren County and St Charles County assembled a team of presenters, facilitators and a keynote speaker for a day of educational professionalism!  We called it the Three County Professional Development Day (#3CoPD for twitter folks).    Three breakout sessions began the day, with presenters as teachers, administrators and professionals right from our own districts.  Lunch and a national speaker supplied entertainment as well as education during the mid-day transition.  After lunch, we organized into teams of common interest, such as math teachers, SPED professionals or counselors to collaborate to exchange positive and effective techniques from their individual areas of emphasis. Finally, an optional discussion ended the day when representatives from our independently funded and managed retirement organization spoke about the benefits, procedures and stability of our teacher retirement program.  PSRS

When nearly 700 local teachers attend, an event like this are they better equipped, motivated and ready to return to class afterwards?  When they hear from a peer, is there additional credibility?  When they hear form a peer, do they weight words differently?  What does it take to make a presenter an authority or credible?

What follows is a list of feedback from attending teachers.  When asked to list three “take-aways” or lessons from the day, here is how they responded!  These responses begin to demonstrate, however anecdotally, the benefit of collaboration.  They show that teachers can, will and do learn from each other.  It shows teachers are conscientious and do want the best for their students.  Can teachers teach teachers?  This implies we can!

The staff is responding to the following prompt:  Would you email me 3 take-aways from the day?  They could be from the morning break-out sessions, the keynote speaker and/or the round table discussions.  They might be personal for you or classroom ideas or building ideas.
1.)    Some useful activities to use in the classroom when I start teaching them how to write arguments
2.)    An interesting way to introduce a new concept. This was shown and demonstrated in my last session. Concept Attainment
3.)    I enjoyed the speaker during lunch. He had a lot of information that was new to me.    He pretty much kept my attention the entire time and I was anxious to hear what he had to say next.

A.       Reading the same article, but from various perspectives.   (this seems so simple, yet I have never tried this!)
B.      Layering Texts-   Reading a short story, a poem and watching a video clip about the same topic.    (I think I do this a little, but it would be or effective to do this more often)
C.      Keynote speaker-  I really liked the positive message he had for teachers.  Sometimes it is too easy to let the negative press take hold.  It was refreshing to hear that our profession is making a difference!

1. I got great emergency sub-plans for days when we are doing projects that cannot be done with a sub.
2. The keynote speaker was very positive.
3. I got more confidence that I am where I need to be in the art room.

1. I found some cool new apps that can be used in the classroom
2. I learned a new way to track physical fitness test.
3. From the round table I learned that our physical education program here at the middle school goes above and beyond what other  middle schools and some high schools in the area do.  Wright City was amazed about the fact we get every kid to "move" with such large class sizes.

I liked the format and information from the Tri County PD Summit.  For me maybe the most useful professional development I've been to.

1.        In the model drawing for algebra, he used it to solve percent problems.  The book used it as a reference, but I understand the connection more, so I will stress that more for the students to understand it.
2.       Quizlet seemed like a good resource to study, and I will work on setting it up for my students.
3.       I am much more confident about the model drawing after yesterday, so I will incorporate it for word problems.  One the students understand it, I think they will be able to solve word problems much better.

A.  I learned about some great apps/website that I can try using in my class...socrative and polleverywhere are just a couple examples.
B.  I was given a great rubric for paragraphs that I can use when I have short answer questions.  It is a quick way to grade them and make sure that all the key components are in the paragraph.
C.  One of the big things I took away from the keynote speaker was that it is the small things that we do for students that can really make a difference.  We never know when there might be something we say or do that might change the life of a student forever.
1. Keynote speaker was really uplifting and informative
2. I was given some good reading strategies for Science.
3. There are many practical apps our students can use in class for free.

A change that I will use in the next 10 days in my classroom is to implement more of the Kagan strategies into my daily classroom.  Having the students work together to come up with answers and sharing with the classroom or with a partner will help those who are struggling and well as those who are not.  It will also make those students who normally are not focused to be held accountable while reading or discussing what we read.  I would also like to bring more technology into the classroom through the use of apps which the students can use from their smartphone or other devices. 

In the future I loved the idea of a 5 subject notebook for the science classroom. Each subject would be set aside for certain things such as notes, vocabulary, bell ringers, labs etc.  I feel that this will hopefully keep the students more organized in my classroom. 

Three take-aways…
a.       Little things can make a huge impact on students.
b.      Don’t believe everything you read.
c.       Radiate the positive and NEVER trash talk in public!!!!

To make our place a better place to work:

1)      Everything I say and do has the potential to have an impact on someone.  The stories from the keynote speaker were a good reminder of the importance of our jobs day to day, hour to hour and all of the interactions we have with students.
2)      There were several useful APPS that I will refer back to whenever needed from the APP ATTACK session.  I believe embracing technology is important to keep up with a changing world and help give the best to our students.
3)      At the roundtable with other MS PE teachers there were some helpful ideas shared on how other schools do the MS PE/Health combination

a. need differentiation up in reading
b. understand icloud
c. we have it together more than we think in the area of spec ed

My favorite breakout session was the third one I attended about using the Concept Attainment method in lessons.  I remember learning about it in college, but it was a nice refresher.  The presenter had numerous entertaining examples and non-examples for us.

I also thought the speaker was both entertaining and uplifting.  Sometimes all we hear from society around us, is how terrible we are as teachers, and it was nice to see someone recognize reality.  Studies are easily skewed. 

I also really enjoyed meeting and talking with other foreign language teachers from other districts.  I got some really great ideas from them!
1. argumentative - pre essay writing, audience exercise
2. vocabulary work - connecting
3. kids need to read more complex text

Some staff even presented about various topics surrounding school issues.

Standards Based Grading (SBG) addresses the understanding a student has over a various topic.  Here is the Power-point link used by our team of presenters:  SBG in the Middle School  & Artifacts to document

Summer Academy -A High School Transition Tool:  Summer Academy Presentation

Details and schools planning the event:
Warrenton R3 School District -
Winfield School District -
Wright City School District
Orchard Farm School District
Guest Speaker

Assemblers comment: Identifying authors of the above responses was considered.  Two perspectives were debated.  On one hand, the authors should be proud of their thoughts but, just because they responded, that does not imply they will incorporate every feature into their classes.

On the other hand, the staff are trusted professionals.  The intent is not to force people but work with people to grow from within.  Therefore, names were removed but clues were left.      

Friday, October 18, 2013

Leaders leading leaders

Leadership for Leaders 

 Using a screenshot from Google, we planned a trip!  How to get from one spot to another? How can we all travel the path successfully?  How to garner momentum and support to keep the group together while accomplishing our goals?  What if there are disagreements?  What if there are challenges?  What about mistakes?  What do we do as individuals?  What do we do as a team?

These are questions we were faced with during a leadership experience where leaders were given the task of leading! Do we lead by mandate?  Does dictating work?  Can we force others into submission?  Does a leader just say the word and expect others to follow?  Where does gaining trust and establishing relationships fit into the equation?
     Away from the challenges, we all sit and talk great things about leadership.  We ponder the impact of our actions.  We pose theories that seem to make perfect sense in our minds and even in speech, but then we have to actually lead!  Then what happens?   How do people persuade others and prompt them into action?

Lesson 1
Success is not always the best teacher.  Sometimes, in fact often, it seems we learn more from our mistakes and our failures.  We glean the most effective methods, means or techniques for specific situations. For instance, when we continued doing what was working, we continued with our success.   We tried something else and faced an even greater challenge.  Then, we learned more about how our earlier successes had components of luck or fortune!

Lesson 2
Another “take-away” from the experience came from watching leaders lead leaders.  Every one of the participants was an obvious leader, each with their own characteristics, traits and methods that resulted in vast teams of talents, abilities and experiences.  Noticeable by any casual or outside observer were the strengths and attributes brought by every person.  Like a who’s who, each person’s presence influenced the dynamic of the entire project contributing insights, perspectives and understandings unique and cherished by the remaining team.  This diversity and variety allowed teams to focus on goals, tasks and accomplishments while applying discernment and tolerance while working within the given parameters.  Success became both the work and the togetherness!  Working together!  A true understanding of working with others was a favorite unforeseen outcome.

Lesson 3
Those of us that struggle with something often times seem to have a better grasp of the learning process surrounding the concept.  Someone naturally talented has to exert effort to understand another that needs extra effort to master the same skill.  The ability to teach or share seems to rise out of the intimacy with struggles, battles and mastery.  The trite exclamation “those that can, do and those that can’t, teach” ignores the experiences, motives and desires of the master teacher.  It could proclaim, “those who can’t teach it, can only do it!”

Looking at only these three highlights leaves many other nuances left hidden with the actual participants.  Many lessons, insights and applications to real jobs back home were learned in the crucible of challenge.  These shallow descriptions are only rough bearings pointing in a casual direction.  Remembering the night activities, directions, phantom rules, lake, sunsets, group activities, initiatives, sacrifice, meals, pain, expressions, journals, camp fire stories and even fun are personal, individual and intimate to only a few others laying a foundation for future adventures and deeper influences or wasted opportunity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Progress or growth? What do we measure?

Progress or Growth?
These two characteristics are measured by our state MAP tests.  We look at what each cohort does as it travels through the buildings, meeting each team or group of teachers.  They work their way through the system, growing and maturing.  We also compare this group to last year’s group, looking at how well they did in comparison to last year’s group of students measuring the effectiveness of the instruction, calling it progress.

Now that we are finished with the first quarter of the 2013-14 school year, we begin to wonder with renewed interest about our impending scores for this year.  We have made some adjustments in our schedule.  Now, each math teacher has agreed to teach multiple grade levels and abilities.  This allows us true collaboration since each teacher will have a partner, also teaching the same class.  Hence, the term common assessment, collaboration and a true PLC model becomes more than a few teachers each teaching their own content.  Now, these teachers can collaborate.  These teachers are able to look at this individual group of students, examine their area of needs and strengths.  Thus we see what this cohort does as it grows through the system.

Progress, however, attempts to examine a grade level, comparing this 8th grade with last year’s 8th grade.  Growth would be the students getting better and progress would indicate teachers making better connections with the students.  Together, they indicate the health and vitality of a school building.

Winfield Middle School improved in all our areas last year.  Math, English/Language Arts (ELA) and Science all scored increases.  Knowing the efforts in place last year and comparing them with our efforts this year, we can’t wait for July!  #onthemap will really mean something as each of the staff at WMS play their #partofthepuzzle in our students lives.  #sbg