Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Wonder What 2011-2012 Will Bring

 I wonder how the chemistry of each class period will create its own learning environment.

I wonder what challenges will arise.

I wonder who will work hard, who will need to be coaxed, and who will have an agenda separate from mine.

I wonder how I will reach each student with the ways that work for each individual.

I wonder what I will learn about the students, the content, what to improve upon and how to solve problems.

I wonder if laughter will trump anxiety.

I wonder what new creations will arise from the assignments given.

I wonder what I'll have to say about this year at the end of the semester.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Change is More Than Money Rattling in Pockets

My reflective mode is in full force: the seniors finished May 18th, the underclassmen on May 31.  School starts again for teachers on August 15th and for students on August 22nd, and it's time to use what happened last year to energize and focus this year.

Being a PLC leader for the first time last year helped me understand more thoroughly what each teacher in the Language Arts PLC needs to nourish the rich garden soil of education that encourages strong roots and healthy growth in each one of our students.  We worked hard to piece together a suggested plan to help those who need more get more--and I'd argue every single student always needs more: more time, more challenge, more encouragement, more interaction--and knowing that our PLC will not stop advocating for our students until there is the perfect place for each and every pupil who walks the halls of Storm Lake High School makes me proud to work with our teachers and makes me hopeful for the future of our students.  Each student matters.  All students should be able to get the courses they need to help them reach the goals they've set for themselves during and after high school.

Knowing I need to be more technologically savvy, I asked to participate in a series of professional development  sessions emphasizing technology integration into the classroom. So far my plan is to share information about what is available, and then let the students figure out how to use these tools to accomplish tasks.  One small way students problem solved last year included using Google docs instead of a flashdrive. is another tool that some students have used to help them keep track of resources--one student even kept her phone contacts on the site as her back-up plan. also allows students to organize their lives or notes or to do lists or whatever they'd like to keep track of online while syncing with their smart phones. is a way to organize information somewhat like symbaloo, yet different.  I'm sure more great resources will emerge. I also have a Smart board, which is new to me, so I can't wait to experiment with that resource as well.

One of my favorite changes for the 2011-2012 year is the proposed Tornado Time the high school will be implementing one day a week during SSR time (and eventually we hope to make it more than once a week).  It seems in some ways to be an extension of the AVID program the school has adopted.  The goal is that each and every student is consciously connected to a resource, mentor, and advocate, a.k.a. the adviser.  I am lucky because my advisees are freshmen, and this start will be new in all ways for those in Room 67.

Because of a group of creative, interested students, Wednesdays after school last year opened the opportunity for a Writing Club.  Usually twelve to fifteen students attended, and the chemistry, ideas, and connections were something others have to attend in order to understand.  The protocol is simple:  Any student can come to room 67 from 3:45-5:00 prepared to write, to listen to what others have to share, and to respect all in the room.  We usually do an individual freewrite/story starter, a group share, a partner or small group writing, a group share, and voila, time is up.  We have loads of fun--even if the subject is heavy.  Every week new surprises arose, and for those who liked this outlet, it seemed worth their while.  I hope it maintains its success.

Most importantly, new class lists are ready to be printed and I can't wait to see who will be filling the seats in my classroom.  It's always exciting getting to know students I haven't known before.  I hope that all, including me, will gain much from the classes.  Cheers to a new year!  I can hardly wait.

Friday, August 5, 2011

In Response to "Calling All Bloggers!--Leadership 2011"

Scott McLeod, the author of the blog "Dangerously Irrelevant," has posted a challenge for bloggers at this site:  Calling All Bloggers! Leadership 2011.

In some ways technology is sold like exercise equipment on an infomercial. We cannot buy every product that sells itself as helping students learn, but teachers can be the experimenters and offer testimonials to what seems to work well.  Unfortunately, there is only so much time for the classroom teacher to fulfill daily responsibilities, so in some ways it is up to the administration to solve this problem.

1.  First, administration can give teachers scheduled time to learn, research, share what they have learned, and encourage other teachers to implement what they find being sure to frame this process around the question, "What should students experience in school that will encourage success after they graduate?" This yearlong goal can be revisited at professional development and teacher meetings.    Students need to be effective communicators, researchers, critical thinkers and evaluators; they need a personal organizational system that works for them, and they need to find ways to follow through on responsibilities. So if teachers use these outcomes to guide lesson design that naturally  integrates technology into units, time will be well spent.

2.  It seems administrators can use the time that is already available to help teachers learn about technology.  Professional development is one way.  Perhaps meetings could open with a YouTube demonstration of how to do something or other.  Also, our school has Professional Learning Committees in place, which is potentially a good setting for teachers to develop technological competency by finding, sharing, and demonstrating what works for them.  Another possibility is to encourage teachers to form study groups. Perhaps administration could establish graduate credit opportunities for teachers who choose to further their technological knowledge and classroom implementation built around an expert's book or perhaps a series of exercises linked to Bloom's Taxonomy or differentiated learning, or whatever the school wants to emphasize.  The possibilities are endless, but without direction time gets away too easily and nothing is done.

3.  Teachers are wary of gimmicks, newfangled ideas that seem to go nowhere, and especially of wasted time, so whatever plan administration implements, it is inefficient to lecture teachers on what they need to do because most of it goes in one ear and out the other.  Instead, use that precious time to teach teachers something useful (which goes back to #2).

My mind was stretched as I wrote and rewrote this entry because there are so many levels of technological expertise within a school. I do know that teachers appreciate it when their time is valued by administration which is shown when our leaders think ahead, establish a plan, follow through on expectations, and evaluate how well the process worked--all of these steps, not coincidentally, are also the steps good teachers take in the classroom.