Archive for category Education

#IMMOOC 4 Is Happening Monday, Feb. 26, 2018

Yes, I am a geek!  I admit it, but I love learning and if it is free, that is even better.  It will also get me back writing, which I have put off lately.

If you don’t know what IMMOOC is, check out George Couros’ blog here.  You will have a choice of 3 books.  Join in one or all three.  I am choosing Katie Martin’s book, Learner Centered Innovation.  It is new and hot off the Dave Burgess IMPress.  Sorry John and AJ, I have your book as well, Empower, but this old brain can take only so much! And George, I read your Innovator’s Mindset and it pushed my thinking, thank you!

Come on, do it!  It’s free, plus you get to network with like-minded peeps and build your PLN.  Hope to meet you all!

Vicki

(From George’s post here)

Starting February 26, each Monday night we will have a YouTube Live session at 9 PM EST (6 PM PST), that will be consistent every Monday night based on past user feedback.  The YouTube Live sessions are planned for the following dates (same time weekly, 6 PM PST):

Date
February 26
March 5
March 12
March 19
March 26

We will also have a Twitter chat weekly (#IMMOOC), led by Tara Martin. are on the following dates:

March 1, 2018 9pm EST
March 8, 2018 9pm EST
March 15, 2018 9pm EST
March 22, 2018 9pm EST
March 29, 2018 9pm EST
April 5, 2018 9pm EST
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An Ode to Lisa #CompelledTribe

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I am a member of the Compelled Tribe, a group of educators who write about public school education and all the good in it for our kids.   We want to get better at what we do, we want to be a part of a community, and we find value in collaboration. Our topic this month is to compose and write a tribute about a person in our school, one who lives out the mission of our school and values each of us as humans.

My tribute goes to my secretary, Lisa Sheen.

Never a day goes by that Lisa doesn’t come in with a smile on her face ready to tackle the day.  We have worked together for the past 11 years, and I say to her, she is the reason why I put in a transfer to our school.  She is the rock, the glue that holds our building together.  Lisa is the ultimate service provider, meaning she serves her “customers” with care, patience, kindness, respect.  I am really spoiled with the talent that she brings to our office.  She makes me “look good!”  Lisa problem solves and looks ahead to make processes and products that much better and professional.  Even in tough times, and let me tell you, over the 11 years we have had some times, we manage to get through it and hold each other up, the more she holding me up than me.

I am not sure if others have a Lisa Sheen, but let me tell you, I am blessed and spoiled to the core.  I literally get on the floor and kneel to her because she is that good. I told her I was going to write this and in her usual way, she graciously told me how honored she was to be even considered.

No Lisa, I am honored to have you in my life and work side-by-side with you.  Thank you for all you do for all of us.  Your are the best of the best!  Hands down!

 

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Deep Reading, Writing and Thinking

Reading and writing.  It is said that they go hand in hand, that great readers are great writers.  I love to read – ask my husband.  I have books piled next to my bed.  Amazon Prime – best thing EVER other than the Kindle White.  (Although I am old school – I like the feel of the book!)  If only we had a Barnes and Noble around the corner….

I have been doing very informal walk through’s ofnmy 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers to watch the “Independent Instructional Reading” block we incorporated in our school this year.  So you wonder, what is that?  Based on Jennifer Serravallo’s work, the Independent Instructional Reading  (IIR) block is based on a premise that if we ever want our children to be good readers, they need to build their stamina and be provided with long stretches of time to read.  Ms. Serravallo is on to something!  We have been through many initiatives in my 16 years as a principal, but I haven’t encountered the level of ownership of learning that my students are starting embrace as well as the passion for reading.  Our students, along with their teachers, are talking and writing about what they read.  They are setting goals, taking their Independent Reading Assessment extremely serious, as well as developing comprehension and writing skills.

This is not a “cookbook” method.  This is hard work for every teacher.  Teachers need to know their craft.  They need to know how to model the process of thinking by structuring questioning skills.  They need to help with the organization of student writing journals.  They need to model how to “stop and jot”, how to take notes and journal on their reading.  Very important, teachers need to know the books so they can have discussion as well as know how to help their students choose just right books.

But, like any program or “method”, it will always be about the teacher, not the program.  The teacher will always be the first line of the instruction and it will be about their craft and their pedagogy, their craft, their knowledge, and what they bring to the table.  And, they need a principal behind them to support the structure.  I have to say though, the conversations, the readings, and the professional development by Lea Mercantini Leibowitz, who is helping with professional development and coaching sure has changed the thinking of deep reading, writing and thinking and how we approach the teaching of English Language Arts to a different level in our school – all for the better!

Check out Jennifer’s website here.  She is prolific in her writing and has guest blogged on Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground here.

 

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APPR Gone Astray

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I have been challenged by my buddy, Lisa Meade, to write about the new APPR direction in New York State.  Another good buddy, Christina Luce, wrote about APPR too, so the pressure is on! I have been rather quiet about this, due to the fact that first, I am a little miffed with what is happening in our state with public education.  I guess you would say, SHOCKED is a better word.  The other is that yes, I am a little “gun shy” in that I will get my hands slapped, but I know that I need to do this for our children and for our future.  Let’s face it, our kids need to be productive citizens, not widgets and autobots taking bubble tests.  It’s killing innovation and creativity.

Where did we lose it?  I have been in education for 27 years, 15 of them as a building leader, and I haven’t experienced anything like we are experiencing not only in New York, but within the nation.  Heck, Diane Ravitch called for a national teacher strike last week at the NPE conference in Chicago.  That will go over well.  I totally remember the teacher strike at the Centennial School District in Warminster PA in 1976.  I was in 6th grade and we missed 3 months of prime instruction.  NOT good for a 6th grader who had reading difficulties.  Educators are angry, and boy, so are the parents.  A rally call has been put out to parents, students and retired teachers to not give up and continue the civil disobedience because they are the ones that can really change the landscape because they won’t be fired!  Only in America can we do this and that is the beauty of this wonderful nation. (Check out Yong Zhao’s funny speech at the NPE conference in Chicago here.  It’s worth the time!)

The legislation of our new APPR system has gone astray.  What has happened is that we have lost our compass, what truly matters in education, and that is creating a society of children, who will not be creative and innovative, who will have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, and who will not have a moral compass.  Bubble tests do not do this AND only focusing on Math and ELA will not be the end all be all.  What about the arts, science, civic curriculum, and social and emotional curriculum?

Before I go on, let me be very clear.  I believe in an APPR system that is what it is, an Annual Professional Performance Review that is fair and that will be a coaching model for our teachers and principals.  New York State has had this regulation in place for a long time, but what happened with Race To The Top initiatives has driven New York State education on a spiral path of FAILURE!  It’s time to listen to the wake up call! (Wakey, wakey!!)

So how can we improve this system?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make the test available to teachers, administrators and parents.  Why such a secret?  Do we really think that the ELA and Math 3-8 tests are driving instruction?   Not when we get results back so late.  Even a July 1st release will be worthless because we had so many opt outs, let alone ONLY releasing 50% of the test..  Stop with the insanity of using these high stakes tests for teacher evaluations.  It was NEVER designed for this purpose.  What it is doing now is sorting our kids and schools.  Keep doing the same thing over and over again, and you create insanity.  Oh, and why so tricky and high levels of reading? I would like to see some Regents and State legislatures take a 5th grade Math and ELA test, see if they could pass it, let alone a 3rd grade test.  Why are we tricking our kids?  Give back the test design to our teachers.  We had a system in place, but maybe special interests got in the way. (AKA – Pearson and the $$! Cha-ching!)
  2. Let principals lead their schools.  As a building principal, I am burning out from evaluations and compliance.  Don’t get me wrong, I love walk through’s and the ability to have conversations and coach.  That is my job  as a lead learner, to spark conversation and reflections with my teachers and help them grow.  But we are burning out with the evaluation process.  Like Fullan stated, carrots and sticks don’t work.  The gotchya’s aren’t the answer – teacher capital and capacity is the answer.  Build the core and the group and develop leadership with our professionals!  What we are doing now is wasting time to  hurry up and meet the compliance deadline.  I do it, but I am wondering if it is meaningful for my staff.  They say it is, but I have been doing this for 10 years.  How are my colleagues fairing?
  3. Bring back trust and listen to the “experts”.  The Board of Regents asked to bring in “experts” to their May 7th forum.  What about teachers and principals who are in the trenches?  I love Linda Darling-Hammond and heard she was asked to be on “the panel,” but had declined. (That’s a shame or a sham?)  Why not ask those educators who are recognized as the Middle School principal of the year (Lisa Meade) or teacher of the year?  What about their voices?  Bring trust back – we are educators and we are professionals!
  4. Bringing in independent evaluators is cause for concern, and personally, a slap in the face of a building leader.  Basically, we are feeling that we are not trustworthy in leading our schools, so bring someone in who doesn’t work with the teachers, the kids, the students, the parents, and evaluate.  This is NOT a great coaching model for our teachers.
  5. And then, within all of this craziness and anger with the education system, we truly are having a big problem with the teacher education system and not being able to recruit aspiring educators to the profession.  We want the best of the best in education.  The cream of the crop should be applying for teacher education programs in colleges, but who wants to go into teaching with so much disrespect and such a big morale problem, let alone trying to pass the edTPA that costs $1,000.00.  The profession isn’t really enticing, and this sure isn’t the way to recruit the top students, when they can make much more in the private sector or industry and get much more respect.  I think it’s time to listen and hear the wake up call!

I had the good fortune to sit with a team of educators from our district in a two hour meeting with Regent Ouderkirk.  (A side note – Regent Ouderkirk had my position as East Side Principal in the early 80’s.  Kind of neat I thought.)  She impressed me with traveling her area on a listening tour to get feedback from the trenches –  parents, teachers, administrators, tax payers, you name it.  She heard what I listed above from this team and much more, and I assume, will get the same thoughts while she makes her rounds.  I applaud her for making the time to “listen to her constituents”.  A common theme during our conversation was this – we may have gone in the wrong direction and now, it’s time for a refresh or restart button.  Let’s take what we have in place and make it better!  Adjust and correct.  We know what doesn’t work and let’s improve on what is working.  

I am optimistic that something good can come from the “civil disobedience” from our parents and “friends of public education”.  I know these folks won’t let it go because they believe in public education and believe that our kids are more than a score.  Let’s stop the madness, move back to our moral obligation of teaching our kids, and get back to trusting the professionals who are in the trenches.  They know what our kids need to be the best they can be.  Stop the insanity and let’s get back to teaching our kids!

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The 7 C’s: Kay Toliver’s Principles of Effective Teaching

I am going back in time here, to the 2006 ASCD Conference on Teaching and Learning.  I think it was in Orlando, Florida.  Kay Toliver was th keynote speaker, and what she said has resonated with me for years.  Here are my notes:

7 C’s:  Principles of Effective Teaching

Kay Toliver

  1. Caring:  The foundation of good teaching.  Students will do their best when they have a teacher who really cares about them.
  2. Connecting to Students:  Establishing positive relationships with students.  Respect their diversity and learn where they come from.
  3. Communication:  Have to be able to communicate positive messages to students.  Never underestimate what children know.  It is our job to tap into what they know, they have prior knowledge.  Words can be hateful.  Also, non-verbal action can be even worse.  Let children know that “I believe.”  Know your information and content to be able to communicate to teach.  Powerful teachers know how children learn.  You better know how to teach.  When you communicate to kind you’re interactive, not passive.  Children need to understand the literacy.  It is our job to make them understand.  I they can hold it in their hand; they can hold it in their mind.  If they can hold in their mind, they can write it down.  If they can write it down, they can talk about it
  4. Compassion:  When you have compassion, you can get to know your students.  Teachers, we are all servants of children.
  5. Courage:  Have to be courageous and be a risk taker.  Step out of the box.  Be crazy, you want to hear that you are crazy.  You want to have courageous students.  We don’t want to have students who are fearful.  Have the courage to open the doors to education for children.  Be a little different.
  6. Conviction:  Faith, blind faith.  Faith in student’s ability to do the best.  Have to believe they are doing their best.  We have to expect mastery, we can’t settle for anything less.  We need to build upon student success.  If you believe they can’t achieve, they won’t.
  7. Commitment:  You have to be committed to this job.  Commitment to be a powerful teacher.  When children didn’t get it, don’t blame them. The bottom line they come to school to learn.  All children come to school with big dreams.  Something happens along the way.  Never give up.  Never let students give up on themselves.

Use this as a reminder, daily, every day, when you work with children!

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