mccoyderek

A Great Lesson

 These are pictures and notes I’ve taken from an observation with a new teacher, Mr. Caquias. Caquias is an 8th grade Social Studies/Science teacher. I visited him while he was teaching a lesson on properties. He has been an active co-planner with an 8th grade Science teacher who is impactful with students and instructional planning and delivery.

 There are several things that stand out about this lesson, things that get me excited about seeing a teacher enter the teaching field:

  1. The great noise – Students were up, active, talking on task and about the assignment.
  2. Real Life Connection – Students had to discuss properties of different objects and one of the objects is an automatic air freshner!
  3. BYOD[ish] – Our school has several computer labs, and multiple laptop carts. This year we have also purchased iPad Project carts. But for this lesson, simply allowing any student that had a smartphone, or their own tablet, that’s internet ready to conduct research, not only got the job done but was a best practice as well. At the core, this activity was designed for discussion and that’s what happened. For tech integration, we don’t always need a computer lab or a cart.
  4. Evidence of planning – If you want great learning, maximize your collaboration efforts with teachers. This lesson was about the teacher getting out of the way of the kids and their learning. The activities in the room aligned with the learning learning artifacts in the room, including the vocabulary wall and EQ.

I captured this video on my phone, it wasn’t planned but I had to make sure I recorded the engagement and focus on this lesson.

Great lesson! This is how we get our kids ready, not just for a standardized science test at the end of the year, but also for critical analysis, collaborative work – skills beyond this 8th grade experience

Middle School Schedule [1]: A New Opportunity

   This is an exciting time!

photo (2)   When I first joined Spring Lake Middle last summer, I had a series of meeting with different groups and our School Improvement Team. Our talks covered getting to know the new principal to strategic planning. The SIT and I had several meeting over the summer to review our school improvement plan, preparing it for our upcoming accreditation visit.

   One item that came up regularly was our school schedule. Spring Lake Middle currently runs on a 7 period day. Spring Lake  has realized some significant success on this schedule because of support, teachers and great students. I raised discussion points that a block schedule allowed more opportunity for creativity, focus on reading/literacy, strategic and impactful collaboration and an incredible amount of innovative support opportunities for students.

   I‘ve always liked scheduling, its probably from my days as a math teacher. I’m looking forward to the next months. Building this schedule is not only going to be about building a good schedule, its going to involve having good, transition talks with the staff. For this reason, I’ll be blogging about our upcoming discussions. I’m looking forward to this. This will be instructive for the staff and in the end, really make difference for teaching and learning.

Awards Assembly/PBIS Kick Off

Friday, Feb 2nd our school took the opportunity to take a great practice and make it better.

Every nine weeks, at the end of the reporting period, we have hosted a grade level awards assembly recognizing student achievements. We invite parents and community members to the ceremony. Its been a great connecting piece and has always been a great one of the better ‘feel good’ events of the year.

Innovation

From group discussion and conversations and dreaming, we came up with notion to change this from small, separate celebrations to a big school wide recognition. After some mass reorganization and planning, we put this new plan in motion and enjoyed a tremendous celebration.

The crowd was entertained by our orchestra playing as the crowd entered along with performances by the band and chorus

The Chorus starts off by sharing what they believe..,

Chorus gets them standing

One change we were particularly proud of the addition of guest speaker Val Jones. Ms Jones is a local radio celebrity, speaker and motivator. Her topic fit squarely with our theme of achievement and students striving to get better. Below is a clip of her getting the crowd motivated by showing pride in your name. Val had a great, inspiring message for students and parents alike.

From this great experience we have really learned the value of ceasing every possible moment to connect with, share and educate students and parents alike. This was a great day of smiles and excitement for every person who entered our doors on this day.

iPads and Google Forms for Classroom Observations – Team Solution

 The Spring Lake Middle Instructional Leadership Team had a great collaborative growth experience with the Cumberland County Schools Curriculum and Instruction Team.

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    The CCS C&I Teams makes regular visits to schools to observe classrooms and give feedback to the principal and/or other personnel. For our visit today, our Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum, John Gibbs, visited with our curriculum specialist in math, social studies, science and literacy. They spent several hours in the building visiting classes, having conversations and ended the day with a group share of plus/deltas. These visits are always positive – at the end we all have a clear direction of the successes and work throughs.

   During our conversation, I learned the C&I team capture walk  through data using a GoogleDrive spreadsheet. They set up multiple fields with specific information they want to collect and later review. All the specialists understand how to manipulate the information, including using colors to highlight certain information for various reasons.

   There is a high degree of synchronicity this week with Google Forms and Walk Thrus/Informal Observations. Earlier this week, after a lot of productive work, I made a post on how to send feedback from a GoogleForm [GoogleForm for Feedback Tool]. Utilizing the features of GoogleDrive is a great way to make sure a team is being data driven and all are going in a good direction.

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   I shared our GoogleForm Walk Through tool with them. We started the talk showing the parallels in both spreadsheets – exact same end results and capabilities of looking at data. We next went into a talk about how the GoogleForm streamlines the process adding the information into the spreadsheet. This process is made altogether easier with the use of our iPads. We shared iPads from one of our Project Carts and paired off with the C&I and did more walk thrus using our tool. We wanted the team to compare the experience with iPads vs laptop and reviewing the data at the end.

   This was a great collaborative session for everyone. We got to share our process and tools with a visiting team and we benefited from their feedback on our walk thru tool. This is value of finding the solution through collaboration.

What’s Best for Kids..,

     We’ve recently had our first principal’s meeting with our new superintendent, Dr. Dale Ellis. We heard a lot of great things about outlining our future efforts in reaching and teaching kids. As he talked about making a difference and the importance of good decision making, he spent a great deal of time speaking on ‘what’s best for kids is often not the easiest thing for teachers.’ This really captured some of great conversations I’ve recently had with veteran and new teachers.


     Bell to Bell Convenience [not so much] – Our efforts to design quality lessons for student learning won’t always be done between the opening and closing bells. Planning a quality unit, lesson or assessment won’t look the same every time and it can’t be a systematic or formulaic process. It will and should be different each and every time we sit down because we should be expecting different outcomes. Inspired planning isn’t on a schedule.

    Working out of your zone! – If we are truly designing learning for our students, we should see a significant shift of work from our end to the students’ end. ‘Parking lot planning’ is desperate and last minute – when we aren’t prepared we resort to it. It looks like generic work sheets and reflects the lowest of expectations, for our students and ourselves. We won’t prepare students for their world if we aren’t moving away from the safe and easy plans. It takes inspiration to start the race and determination to stay in it.


     We owe it to students to do more for their learning. Here are two things that will make a big difference.


     Big Picture Planning – We are a Learning Focused school district. There are several planning options from  designed to accelerate and/or support learning on all levels. Student Learning Maps are used outline the key learning concepts, organize them and provide a clear picture of what we want students to know at the end of the unit. Essential questions and Vocabulary are critical to this process. Identifying them won’t happen in the parking lot.

    PLN / PLC – Another killer to student learning and achievement has been solo planning. Don’t get me wrong, individually we can come up with some good, creative activities for students. But imagine how much more impactful our learning efforts can be if increase value added support from our colleagues.  Seeking out input from others could make the difference from having a teacher-centered lesson to a student centered one; a fact-finding reading assignment to an activity that requires analysis and evaluation.


     We signed up to become teachers to make a difference and be a difference for students.  We owe it to them to be the best educators we can, that will mean moving out of our comfort zone and gathering as much support as we can from each other.