Sunday, May 22, 2016

Data Dives & Protocol Police

Yeah, yeah…I get it…you’re tired, perhaps slightly overwhelmed, maybe even staring at a list of activities to be graded during your prep period tomorrow, or maybe you’re even conjuring up the final details on your end-of-year celebration(s) with students. While ALL of those things are important, so is taking time to sit down with your colleagues (all of them in a Critical Friends Group setting, or even some of them before/after school or over lunch) to dive into some data for the sake of identifying growth areas your students have made this year and/or areas YOU have grown in your curriculum design and implementation. SO, I want you to consider a few data sources you might explore based off of your learning focus or what you’re hoping to get out of the “data dive”:
  • Want to take a closer look at what your students currently know & are able to do regarding a particular set of standards? Get your critical friends together and bring some student work samples to the table (with student names removed) and engage in a Learning from Student Work protocol
  • Want to make sense of some student feedback (that you took notes on or recorded during a student focus group)?! Why not find 40min. And try the ATLAS: Looking at Data protocol on for size!? 
  • Not quite sure how “quality” your PBL/PrBL units actually were at the end of the year?! Why not bring a Project Briefcase from echo or a Project Planning Form to your group of critical friends and have them take a look at your work in alignment with the indicators of a quality project using NTN’s Project Quality Checklist
  • Trying to make sense of some good ole’ numerical data (test scores? Attendance ratings? College acceptance data? Etc?) How about using the Compass Points Visible Thinking Routine to determine what you’re excited and worried about, what questions the data raises and next steps/implications for looking at the data!
Who knows…you might even uncover a piece of learning and growth during your data dive that makes that time of working in your class space a LITTLE more valuable! :) 

Peace, love, and structured conversations!


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Are You My Mother?

I think it’s safe to say that it’s no coincidence that Teacher Appreciation Week falls within the same calendar timeframe as Mother’s Day. As such, here’s a shoutout to the educator characteristics I see in all of you which mirror that of effective parenting:
  • We never give up on our kids – Even if they’re still grappling with the SAME need to know/research question 2 weeks from when we did a workshop…we don’t give up on them!  We have hope for them when others may not.
  • Sometimes, we’re harsh on our kids... But only because we love them -  We really just want them to grow and be good individuals. So if we’re strict about meeting deadlines, holding others accountable for their actions, or upholding team or class agreements, we know it’s from a place of love in our hearts. We just need to make sure our kiddos know that too!
  • We are a guiding light for these li’l guys/gals – We don’t need to spew information at them, or spoon feed them information, but the phrase I most commonly hear from all of you is, “I model that (insert skill, piece of knowledge, or attribute here).” They see what we do (both good and bad) and we’re constantly reminding ourselves to be the source of positive, influential light for our kids.
  • We’re inspirational  - Not only are we a source of inspiration and encouragement for our students to follow their dreams, but we stand by them every step of the way to guide their learning and boost their confidence as those dreams become reality. 
  • We’re a lot more than just someone who teaches – We’re a guide, a friend, an enemy, an “extended" family member…
  • We’ll celebrate when our kids rise beyond ourselves – We know, as educators, we’re not really going to become financially rich and famous, but our most proud moments are when our students rise above our own expectations, show off a piece of knowledge or a skill we hadn’t known about, and fulfill their dreams even after they’re out of our care. And why are we so proud?! Because, let’s be honest….we helped make them into who they are!
  • We always put ourselves second – That’s right… just like your mom who ate the burnt hamburger from the grill so you could have the better burger…. We always put our student’s first. They are our priority. Always.
  • We make sure to always do the best we can, admit when we’re not, learn to do better and follow through….
  • We let our kids know when they do a good job…
  • We “baby proof” our classes and schools well early on so we don’t have to say “No” all the time when they want to get into things they shouldn’t….
  • We try to see things from our kid’s point of view. We ask their opinion whenever it’s possible or appropriate….
Obviously I could keep going, but Owen’s waking up from his nap, the rain is stopping (I hope), and we’re gonna go plant a garden (or play “how many times can we try to keep dirt out of our mouths”…we’ll see how this goes…)

Know that from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate all that you do and all that you are for our students across this country (and in Australia).  ;) I hope your week of “Teacher Appreciations” will carry you through these last few weeks of the school year and smile at your kiddos when you get to your classroom tomorrow, just like an effective caregiver smiles at their kids at the fresh start of every new day!

Peace, love, and Happy Mother’s Day!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Practice Makes Perfect

As I sit here typing this weekly blog, you should probably know that my quads and biceps feel like they were just squeezed in a vice grip for far too long. From 8am – 4pm today, I was competing at my first CrossFit Competition of the year, and good grief was it a post-partum wake-up call!!! My teammate and I signed up in January…knew the general skills we’d be demonstrating today, and decided to compete in the Rx (I.e. Prescribed) division (as opposed to doing the scaled workouts). Little did I know that the transition back to work and travel from maternity leave would totally skew any “regular” fitness routine I once knew.  I haven’t been to the gym in 2 weeks but proceeded to complete four beastly workouts today. I’ll keep this brief… I cried, friends. Workout #2, it was only 3 movements of the barbell to see how heavy you could lift and I couldn’t even get 95# to my shoulders. I’ve done these moves PLENTY of times before…even in the last month. And today… nothing. I cried. And as the next tear welled up in my eye, I kept thinking two things:
Luckily, my teammate (in front of me) and my coach (behind me) were shouting louder than the voices in my own head reminding me of the cues that would contribute to a successful lift. And each time I heard a cue, I knew exactly what they were talking about & what it should look like…I just couldn’t quite perform under the pressure (that I’d basically created for myself) and thus, failed my lift. I. Was. Crushed. It took me to a whole different mental place for the other 2 workouts in the afternoon. I did try to focus on my strengths (Pull-ups, deadlifts, running…) and my other gym-mates were completely supportive! At the end of the day, I’m proud of my teammate and I for competing at the level we did, for not giving up even when we knew we were hurting (physically and mentally), for setting new goals for ourselves AND creating an action plan to meet those goals with the support of our coaches. 

We often look at our content standards and find ways to support students in practicing those skills until they have reached mastery in knowledge & thinking. But what about your other learning outcomes: Written communication? Oral communication? Agency? Collaboration? Think about it… in the length of a 3-4 week project, what causes your students the most unnecessary anxiety/stress/TEARS!? 
  • “Teacher, my teammates keep shooting down my ideas!”
  • “I don’t even know what to write my paper about or how to get started!”
  • “I don’t know what to research because I don’t know what I need to know!"
  • “Does EVERYONE in the group need to say something in our presentation?”
Sound familiar?! When is the last time you created a practice opportunity (I.e. A scaffolding activity) for your students around THESE learning outcomes!? How many times do you encourage student practice of these outcomes by designing workshops to teach those skills?! And do you give a chance for them to practice it before the competition day? To really apply their skills and abilities to write, think, own their own learning, and work with others to create new ideas?!? If not…you’re supporting their ability to “pull a Sarah.” SO STOP DOING THAT! Or they’ll feel like they’ve been held in a vice grip too, and it’s not a great feeling!!! 

Think about your project & the performance assessment students are working on. What skills are required for a "1st place finish" at the end of this project? Now, open up your proposed agendas for this week. ….. I’ll wait……… Besides content, How many scaffolding activities do you have prepared for the other learning outcomes you’re asking of your students on “competition day”?  If you answered “hardly any”… Then please, use your prep. Time today or tomorrow to create that learning for your students. AND be sure to formatively assess it as an added practice for them to apply their learning!  Why am I still rambling…you may have work to do, and I need to go find my foam roller…. 

Peace, love, and Kleenex,

Team “Goal Diggers”… Onward!