Showing posts from April, 2015

Day 30: Trusting The Gush #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 30 Topic: How has #Aprilblogaday impacted your practice? 

Tom Romano wrote, "Trust the gush". This process has been all about letting the words flow, trusting the process, and the community to embrace my work.

This year at my school, we began the slow and clumsy move to Mastery Based Learning.  It's been challenging, even difficult at times mostly because my (and the staff) understanding of how and why it works was unclear.  We began because, like many things we experience as teachers in schools, because administration brought this to the staff as a school wide endeavor. I am not against it and have tried my best to understand the nuances of MBL.  I don't feel like I have done a great job with this.  All that said, this morning, as I sat on the subway reading Greg Barnes' book Assessment 3.0, my brain was growing and stretching.  When I got to school, I stopped in to talk to one of our CS teachers. As I am learning CS lends itself, not unlike ELA to the feedbac…

Day 29: My History of Learning: 7 Pivotal Moments #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Prompt: Your History of Learning - What has been your greatest learning experiences?

In the first year of graduate school everyone has to take a methods class- a lot of the content is history of education and the building of a personal philosophy on teaching and learning.  One of the projects we had to do was to identify the major leaning experiences of our life to that point and present it in a creative way.  

I brainstormed a long list of learning moments- some  more cynical than others.  I remember reading the list to my husband, who was then my boyfriend of only 6 months, and he commenting on the TONE of the list.  I weeded down to a robust 12 or so.  I cut out circles of colored card stock and wrote each moment on a circle and included the age that the learning moment tool place.  I then I put them together in to the shape of a caterpillar, not unlike this one: 

I remember feeling like I had all these great experiences but I was just at the beginning, as a career changer.  I was not…

Day 28: The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Technology in the classroom? #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 28...The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Technology in the classroom

It's just after 7 on day 28 and I have been thinking about this topic all day.  For the life of me, I could not think of any specific advice I had been given about using tech.  I am one who has embraced tech and often ends up teaching other teachers how to integrate themselves. 

At my current school, we have a computer science department (because we are a CS school) who for the most part are working on an entirely different level of tech than most of us.  I have great aspirations to let better at tech- at least learn some basics of coding so I can talk more with our students about what and how they are doing- but finding the time to sit down with Alice or some version of Scratch is overwhelming for this old lady.  Eric, graciously spent time with me on two occasions teaching me-or trying to teach me- how to use Doctopus but my brain just can't wrap itself around that one.  I do have my mainstays: Sk…

Day 27: Let Go In Order To Grow

Prompt: How to Build a More Powerful Classroom by Letting Go

On Friday, my most difficult class of 9th graders came into class and one young woman was all fired up.  She was going to get into it with a young man.  The tension was palpable.  As they began trading barbs, I stepped in and asked the young woman to walk down to our social work office to cool down and check in with someone there.  I knew she would be pissed at me.  I had to let that go.  Kids get over things.  What I couldn't let go was what it would mean if the two kids got into a fight in my classroom and one or both got suspended... on a Friday.  So, the student grabbed her things, and headed out ready to work independently for the period.  Class went on as planned and I had a surprise informal observation, of course!  Isn't that always the way.  Letting go...
Being a good teacher is often about picking moments to dig in and moments to step aside and let something else run a  course.  Some classes are so fantastic …

Day 26: What's the answer to Spring Fever?!? Projects!

Prompt 26: Engagement/lesson/tips tricks ideas for spring fever- age specific.

Welcome to spring: when the weather gets warm, allergies kick into high gear, hormones go crazy (especially for those of us teaching High School) and the last place kids want to be is sitting in a classroom. For some of us the school year will be ending in just a few weeks.  For others, like me, we go until the end of June.  My last teaching day, before final exams start in June 15th.  So how do I keep 160 teenagers engaged for the next 6 weeks? Projects!  Big ones.

For theatre (9th grade) we are currently reading A View From The Bridge by Arthur Miller.  I start this unit with a readers theatre version of Oedipus I have been using for a few years now, integrating all the things they have learned about dramatic narrative structure, Aristotle's Poetics and playwriting to make connections between the two plays.  I see the kids 5 times over two weeks- so it's a little tricky- but we are pushing through.


Day 25: Collaboration Is Connection #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 25: Why Collaborate?

I feel the most alive, the best at what I do when I am collaborating to create with someone who also wants to collaborate.  I have had time when the experienced has been forced and extremely unbalanced and as a result, I left the experience feeling down on myself, the work I was doing and my purpose. It's not magic but it is able creation and it can be magic.

I learned to collaborate, to really work together to create, making theatre.  There is one show, where everything came together for me and I worked as a costume designer, collaborative with the Directors, a cast of actors, lighting and set designers, drapers and stitchers to all create and execute a common vision.   It took time, effort, analysis, many conversations, listening and pushing or pulling, to eek out the piece that was just right, that was inspired, that maybe the audience didn't know was there but the actor did and it was a little secret they had a kept that just their character got to …

Day 24: I Love My School Because... April Blog A Day Challenge

Prompt: I love my school because...
My school is pretty amazing.  I came in the second year of the school and have helped to build and develop this extraordinary teaching and learning community.  Next year we will have our first cohort graduate, the Class of 2016.  I knew it was something special when I arrived for PD in the middle of August two summers ago and proceeded to spend the next two weeks working with a team of educators and professionals who were passionate, excited and committed to our school and our kids. I love our school because we are an amazing community that is building something special.
I love my school because our kids are amazing.  I like to think that all teachers things this way.  Our kids are here.  We have 94% attendance on average each day.  Our kids show up.  They stay and they are learning and growing and I get better at my job because I am here with them.

I love my school because I get to work Rebecca every day.  She and I are both in the Model Teacher pr…

Post 22/Day 23: Can you see me now? Transparency at the school level. #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 23: How transparent should our profession be?

Financially, 100%.  When public funding (local/state/federal) is being used to find schools, that data should be made available and transparent for the public.  
At the classroom level, transparency had been good for me professionally. Now...I work in a school is has built much of it's reputation on transparency and we are a school that gets a LOT of publicity and visits from movers and shakers from both public and private sectors.  Being in a new school, teaching AP, being a Model Teacher, my classroom is frequently on the visit list.  Our tech classes are first- because we are a tech school- but I get visits.  I think doors being open to anyone at any time is nerve wracking, but at some point  I let it go.  School Happens, as a school leader once told me early on in my career and it is true. We all have good days and bad days. Visitors or not, being able to be vulnerable, releasing the fear and being ok with any outcome meant that …

Day 21- It' Happened on a Ponderous Journey

I write another blog.  I only have one in me tonight.  Here is why:

Day 20: What are we working on NOW? #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 20...

My mind is preoccupied with revamping.  It is that time in the school year where I start thinking about all the things I should have done differently- like next year students will really learn to write MLA citations using a handbook and not Easybib.  It's like learning long devision- you shouldn't get to use the calculator until you can do it on paper.  Tweeks to make things better.  

I want to work with @eallatta to begin developing a ELA/CS interdisciplinary curriculum for 12th grade.

I want to really dig into larger discussions about what PD looks like at our school and now that the SBO is coming up, thinking about new ways to make it the most successful and supportive for teachers while getting buy in at the same time.

I want to read the new book of short stories that came from Amazon today.

I want to find more test prep materials so AP feels confident going into their exam on May 13th.

I want to push hard, and get through and get to June 15th.  

I want to have time for…

Day 19: "I Think In Word Not Excel" or "Tech In The Classroom?" #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 19: Tech In The Classroom?  How? Why? Should we?
When I tell my students that When I was in college... I didn't have a laptop,  and a cell phone didn't come until the last couple years and it was a clunker.  When I started grad school in 2006, the idea of having a laptop in class hadn't even dawned on me.  I like taking notes on paper.  Sitting in grad school, next to Millenials with their fancy shiny new Mac Books and me with my spiral notebook, I felt antiquated. 
Boy, have things changed in 10 years.  Today, I sit in the Starbucks a couple blocks from my house, my Venti Cold Brew (if you haven't switched to cold brew, from anywhere for that matter, you should) my morning pastry, the ridiculous music planing in the coffee shop, and me, sitting in front of a MacBook Air, blogging.  Could I embody a stereotype any more than this?

My laptop is provided by my school and I am beyond grateful.  I have gotten so many hours of work done on this little machine.  When I wa…

Day 18: Pump Up The Volume #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Prompt 18: What's small step are you willing to take to elevate the profession?
I suspect that what Chris meant when choosing the word "elevate" was about bringing the profession to a new level, to rise up.  I quickly looked up the definition of elevate and read: To increase the amplitude, intensity, or volume of.  The first thing that came into my mind was, I need to pump up the volume around my craft.  And of course, being a woman of a certain age, this is what popped into my head next: 

For those of you not familiar with the 1990 movie, Christian Slater (swoon!) runs a pirate radio station that earns a cult following amongst his peers.  At the time it was a lesson in free speech and chaos and continuing to cement Slater as my dream husband for many years to follow.

There has been so much rhetoric, both positive and negative about teachers, unions, charter and public schools over the last few years and its place in social media is achieving a fever pitch now especially ar…

Day 17: Thankful Friday #AprilBlogADay Challenge

This is how today felt.  My thyroid was removed last month in addition to a baseball size tumor in my neck.  In side my thyroid were 4 cancerous nodules that are now gone.  I thought until about an hour ago I was going to have to do radiation (RAI) in June, but that is no longer as my Endo had changed her mind because, "there is no clear evidence or research to show that radioactive iodine treatment has any impact on micro-cancers (cancers less than 1 cm)".  The plan is now to monitor my Thyroglobulin levels and as long as they stay less than 1, (they are currently .3) I will not have to do RAI.  

I am beyond thankful that this is the new plan.  A week post surgery my ENT had told me that this would be the plan.  Last friday Endo changed the plan.  Tonight she changed back.  It's been a roller coaster of a month. 

Tonight, I am thankful that I will not have to miss the last 2 weeks of the school year in quarantine.  I am thankful that I can change to the new thyroid replac…

Day 16: Professional Learning Groupies #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Prompt 16: Why does a PLC or PLN matter? Are they different? What do they look like when they work? Not work? True purpose? 

I went my own way with this one.

I applied to a new program for this fall- it's school, a 2 year program in school based leadership, the nice way to say administration.  One of the questions on the application was about school based teams that I am on or could do work with next year.  Like many teachers, there are many.

Model/Master Teacher TeamELA Department11th Grade Team9th Grade Team10th Grade Advisory TeamSchool Leadership TeamAND don't forget committees...sigh. Some of the groups meet more often than others, some I plan for, lead and/or facilitate.  Being in a small school means there are many "opportunities" for teachers and this school is no exception.  Of these six groups, one has really continued to my development as an educator because in many of these meetings I am the one supporting the growth of others.  
I won't lie, I crave expe…

Day 15: "The Twitter" or "Get Up! Stand Up!" #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Prompt 15:  How has social media changed your classroom?   Personally? Professionally? With students? Families? 
Last year I sat in a parent meeting with one of my advisees, two other students and each child's parent.  The parent was preparing to request what we call a safety transfer for the student because of bullying that had been taking place on Facebook.  It was no joke.  I watched as my principal skillfully facilitated a heated discussion between three parents.  It was social media once again as the chief method for instigation.
When I was a kid...In reality, it doesn't matter any more.  Times have changed and social media isn't going anywhere.
Today, I was talking to my Juniors and I said, "You, know when you are following someone on the Twitter...." and you could see and hear the audible giggles at Ms. Towne's faux pas.  I do it on purpose, of course.  I also use terms like: the facebook, interwebs, and insta-vain.  I do it because it is silly, it'…

Day 14: Why I Teach #AprilBlogADay Challenge

Day 14: Why do I teach...
It's easy to list all the ideals teachers hold about why we teach: For the kidsFor my community For generations that will followBecause I want to make a difference Because I want to touch livesBecause it's my calling (Yes, John Dewey came to you, appearing in a vision!)
We all teach for all or most of these reasons.
I was a career changer. I wrote about it earlier in this April series. Teaching was always in the plan but I had been diverted. When I came back to this original path it was because change was necessary, new challenges were essential to push my growth and frankly, at the time, public health resources in NYC sucked unless you were really poor and I was working poor. I wanted health insurance. I wanted to be able to turn my heat on in the winter (I had been too poor the first year).  I wanted to not be a freelancer any more.  As one ages, these are powerful motivators.
I started out teaching for practical reasons.  I wanted to be able to st…

Day 13: Leaders For Literacy Day! #AprilBlogADayChallenge

Prompt 13: Leaders for Literacy Day Challenge!
How is literacy critical to the advancement of society today?
It was 6:30 and I was still at school, like many of us, I’m sure.Every other week I only have one class on Mondays- AP LANG which is always challenging and wonderful (well, most of the time).I have learned more teaching this curriculum than I have since the boot camp of year one.Despite only having one class today, I am always exhausted these Mondays and I am often at school late.Andrew, who teaches AP Chem came in to check in re: test prep and time going into may.We got onto talking about books and I was relaying a conversation I had with my husband about why he disliked the Game of Thrones series (he knows he is not the norm) after Andrew expressed that he had not liked them.We moved fluidly from idea to idea, talking about literature, authors, genre. Then I told him about today’s April Blog A Day Challenge.“This is what my blog post is going to be about…”
I have never heard my …