Friday, August 22, 2014

Educator Evaluation

Our district has completely redone how educators are evaluated and its quite awesome. I love that it encourages growth for ALL teachers, no matter where they are right now and really aligns with our district vision of transforming education.

One way in which educators in CISD are being evaluated this year has to do with the learning environment.  One domain mentions "displaying learner work", which struck up a lot of conversation this morning at the meeting.  I know that I don't hang kids work on the wall anymore-- and haven't really in a long time.  Most of what my kids create is digital, although we do create models and such occasionally, most is online.

For the last year, I have created an online portfolio for me to share class creations.  My portfolio is used to showcase their work so I can share it on twitter, with their parents, or at professional conferences. While they have their own online portfolio to reflect and share their work through the year, being published in our class portfolio gives them another way to have an authentic audience. I do not always share the best work, I showcase good work, accurate information, creative thinking, innovative ideas, etc. Everyone has a chance of being published.

Giving kids an audience for their work should be something we all strive to do. Authentic audiences = more learner engagement = more learning.

Two more awesome science educators are implementing this idea this year and have just set up their class portfolios as well to be added to this school year.

Angela Barnes --  ESS, Astronomy, and APES Portfolio

Monica Ortigoza -- IB Chemistry and GT Chemistry  

Check out their outstanding work and think about creating your own space to showcase learner creations.  

**We used bulb portfolios due to the ease of use and the ability to create and access from an iPad...and its free. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TOY Reflections....

Today I have to get on a stage in front of my entire district and talk ...about myself. Those of you that know me, know that I am horrified at the very thought of this.

When trying to decide what to talk about, all I could think about was how thankful I am for what everyone else does.  So as my speech makes an odd twist away from talking about me to talking about you, know that it was very intentional.  I could have made it a Grammy/Oscar speech and thanked specific people (who are listed below…), but I know that a few I wanted to thank aren't in the district anymore and I didn't want people to actually fall asleep while I was talking. 

Being TOY has given me a lot of attention, which I am not great at receiving.  I am never sure exactly how to respond or I fear that I come off ungrateful, when really its just my introverted personality.  I appreciate everything and could not be more excited to represent Coppell ISD and Region 10.  I am also kind of excited about being on the sidelines of the National Championship game in January too :)

One thing I was not prepared for when receiving TOY was the negative attention I would receive. While many people were complimentary and truly happy for me, others somehow decided I have created more work for them.  What does this mean for me?  Thicker skin?  Developing the ability to let things roll off of me without getting my feelings hurt?  Probably so -- but more so, it motivates me to really try to improve the culture of my school and the attitudes of those I work with.  Acknowledge everyones strengths and be happy for what they contribute - because everyone contributes something.

But last night and this morning, I was reminded by so many people one reason why I love my job. Getting texts, tweets, DM's, and emails from people I haven't talked to in awhile...all with happy thoughts and wishes for me as I get on the stage.  I could not ask for a better community in which to work and teach.  Thank you all so much for supporting me and knowing me so well.

So here is my convocation video.  I wish I could have included all of the videos that were sent to me by students, but I had a time limit. Some had sound issues, others were grainy, and several had just minor technical difficulties in sending them.  All videos will be delivered to the teacher they thanked over the next week.  

Here is the link if the video does not show up.

My Thank You List:

Dr. Turner - How could I have been willing to try new things and challenge the traditional educational system without his support and encouragement?  Knowing your superintendent believes in you is more powerful than anything.  I have so much respect for him and what he is doing to improve education in our state and beyond.

Tabitha Branum - This woman intimidated me more than I knew possible, but with that, she challenged me to step up and try harder. Her encouragement allowed me to present at conferences and speak with confidence.  I admire how amazing she is at leading people and how well spoken she always is.

Laura Springer - What could I possibly say about Springer that everyone doesn't already know?  Her legacy in this community is like nothing I have ever seen.  When I asked kids to speak in this video, almost every last one of them wanted to thank Springer, and so do I.  Her presence in the room makes the room a happier place and I can not tell her enough how her positive attitude inspires me.

Linda Cook - Her work ethic is unmatched.  She finds the best in all people and I truly admire her for that.  She had helped me see the big picture and helped me reflect along this journey.  I cannot imagine anyone better suited for her position of leading and transforming educators.

There are so many more people that I want to thank -- so I stuck with the ones that were here from the beginning (or almost the beginning)...I appreciate each and everyone of you that contribute to making Coppell ISD a transformative school district.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

1st Day Plans

I have had many requests to explain how I set up my classroom to allow students a voice in what they learn, so I thought I would blog through my planning of it to share with those that want to try.

When I start school, I have no plans for the year at all.  I have goals, objectives, and hopes - but no actual day to day plans.  This is what my "lesson plans" look like as I begin this school year.

Here is a link to the actual schedule if you are curious as to how it turns out :) 

I know this would cause some people stress and anxiety - and I am a high anxiety type of person.  Last year I thought I was going to have a panic attack before the first day of school because I was worried it would fail and I would be frantically planning late in the nights and not being prepared for my kids.

The fact that I am doing this again - and sharing - should convince you that it worked.

First day of school -- I do a quick scavenger hunt around the school just as a fun, welcome back kind of activity.  I also sneak in a little digital citizenship :)  Once they return from the scavenger hunt, they have a link on the board to a Google Moderator (please someone find me something that looks prettier for this...) and the question "What do you want to learn in anatomy this year?"  Each student can submit as many ideas, questions, or topics as they would like and they can vote and comment on others ideas.

After school, I will read through the questions and try to organize into some themes or big picture ideas. Last year I was able to come up with six major themes and one "other" category.  I loosely tied their ideas to topics I had previously taught, for example - instead of the digestive system, I changed it to diet and nutrition; instead of skeleton and muscles, I changed it to exercise physiology or sports science.

Day 2 - They will read the questions from all the classes combined.  They will get sticky notes to write down their favorites or new ideas and then sort them around the room on giant posters with my themes written on them.  I will take the poster with the most stickies and probably make that our first unit, so I am starting the year with the topic they are most interested in.  The rest of the posters will be put away and used throughout the year, hopefully one per six weeks.

Day 3 - We will read all the questions on the one topic and sort into Google-able and non Google-able questions.  Do they really need me to answer basic questions? Nope....they have Google for that. They do however need me to help them learn how to Google and how to judge a source for credibility.

Once we have reorganized and possibly reworked some questions, we then will decide what we do with that information.  What is our purpose? How can we solve problems? How can we ask more questions? How can we impact society with our knowledge?  We start each six weeks the same way - with a new poster.

It really wasn't that difficult for me to do this for an entire year.  They, of course, will not ask to learn all of our TEKS...such as kidney filtration or how a neuron works.  This is now my job - to connect their interests into the state mandated curriculum.  This is way more fun than creating a presentation for power-point karaoke.  It didn't give me more work, it just changed the type of work I do.  

Examples of what they wanted to learn and how I incorporated what they didn't want to learn...

They requested to learn about mental disorders -- we learned about it from the perspective of medication and how medication for mental disorders alters what happens to the synapse.  Final product: a 60 second PSA using science to remove the stigma of mental health conditions published to our class portfolio which is linked to our iTunes U course.

They requested to learn about pregnancy and babies -- I found/developed a case study that walked them through pregnancy as if they were new parents and their baby ended up with a kidney condition. Final product:  a class iBook that focused on various aspects of maintaining a healthy pregnancy that is published to the iBook store.

Options - choices - freedom.  That was the theme of the class.  This year I need to focus in on how to manage all groups at different levels and working towards different products.  The small group team meetings worked well, but it takes a lot of organization, which is not my strong area. :)

I hope you accept this challenge to let your kids design your syllabus!! Good luck! Any feedback or suggestions appreciated!