What’s on Your Stick?

StickWhen Liberty Public Schools Tech Instructional Coach Tracey Kracht asked for volunteers to contribute to our district blog, I admit I was excited and nervous at the same time.  I’m not new to blogging in education.  I maintained a leadership and operational blog for some time now called Ancora Imparo.  My audience was primarily my own high school staff, but it does provide an interesting archive of the journey our high school was taking.

When I began my digital learning journey, I will never forget my dear friend, mentor and building instructional coach Sean Nash (Nashworld) sharing insight on so many different tools that teachers could use to integrate technology into a classroom.  The term he initially used was “23 things on a stick” which is a great Google search to learn the history.  CLEAR-Stick-AtlasIt boils down to 23 foundational activities, tools, or processes that one should absolutely know in this century as a digital learner.  I can tell you honestly that I never hit 23.

On July 9th,  Ian Jukes (Fluency 21/Committed Sardine) authored a post of “9 Learning Tools Every 21st Century Teacher Should Be Able to Use” that provided a more focused and attainable goal for me as a learner.  It’s a great checklist for anyone building a first digital toolbox, and a great reminder for those who have been working on one for several years.  Check it out.  You will be glad you did.

Images from Google images:  ”Stick” and “CLEAR Stick Atlas

Listen Up!

Connection

Continually building your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is important, and  learning from a podcast is one cool avenue (and tool) for teachers and learners.  A podcast (taken from the original location device – iPod added to broadcast) reminds me of listening to a radio show.  There are times when that just really fits into my life like when I’m out for my afternoon exercise or driving to work). I read somewhere that the best way to really get the most out of podcast learning is to subscribe to one through your RSS feed.  My two sons subscribe to an interesting (if not educationally controversial) podcast called “My Brother, My Brother, and Me.”  They are dedicated listeners, often times when they are together,  and I know from the continual laughter that they are the intended audience.  Honestly, that’s where I first learned about getting hooked on podcasts, although my podcast preference runs more along the lines of the “Freakonomics” radio podcast.

Recently, I sent IT Coach Tracey Kracht a link to this great podcast list of “50 Educational Podcasts for Teachers’ Professional Development.”  If you started down this list, you would be sure to find at least one you would absolutely have to subscribe to.  Happy listening!

Quotation image from:  Wisdom Quotes on 7.26.2013

CARE Fool

The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government. ~Thomas Jefferson

CARdinal Excellence is no joke.  There is nothing April foolish about the fact that we are about to enter the EOC testing arena after preparing for this moment all year long.  As the students begin their final preparations and reviews for testing in their Biology, Algebra 1, CA9 , CA10 and Government  classes, it’s important for everyone to remember that each of you also had a part in their testing readiness with your work on text complexity and vocabulary study.  Since we each contributed to their learning, we each will share in the reward of their increased performance.  Take time this week and next to step up the practice before we start the testing.  Help students understand how their strong performance will help them earn A+ funding, improve their grades, and make their school show strongly in state rankings.  It goes a long way with your students that you support them in their achievement, and show them the importance of claiming their hard work with this summative assessment.  Benton students are amazing.  It would be foolish for anyone to think otherwise.

Week 30 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – NHS Induction practice (student list will be emailed) 10:00-11:10 in Auditorium

Wednesday – BLT Meeting Canceled; NHS Induction @ 6:00 p.m. in Auditorium

Thursday – EOC training @ 2:45 for all staff giving EOC in Spring in Mail Room Conference Room

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC on Flickr: “Innerlife” by ecstaticist.

CARE about your Library


“What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.” ~Harold Howe

Another victim of our recent district budget reductions (check your local blogs and news outlets for specific information) is our library budget.  According to the most recent notification, our library budget for next year has been reduced to zero.  After thinking about how to respond to that predicament, I realized others have already said it better.

Doug Johnson, Director of Libraries and Technology in the Mankato (MN) Schools, offered this to consider about library resources: The Blue Skunk Blog.

We need to consider how we will continue to meet the future expectations of Common Core State Standards in respect to literacy.  Doug’s writings will certainly give us ideas to ponder and consider.

Week 28 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – JEPD (Red Day Schedule) in the library

March 26-29, 2013 => Spring Break

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC from Flikr: “Day 106 – I am a Librarian” by cindiann’s photostream

CARE to Intervene

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. ~H. Jackson Brown Jr.

As we enter the final and fourth quarter of our school year, it’s good to go back and examine our priorities from our beginnings.  Each year, we create and then address our school improvement plan, which by nature is grounded in student achievement.  This year, we focused on data teams and literacy.  Those two areas of our professional development focus were intended to make us more adept at helping students achieve academically.  As I look at our progress, I am happy to celebrate that we are indeed more focused in our pedagogical approach with our teams analyzing data for success in our selected Power Standards as well as continually embedding of text in our lessons through which we implement close reading and vocabulary study. That implementation of our PD has greater impact than you can imagine.  Research from the RTI Network shares that, “The expectation is that if the Tier 1 program is implemented with a high degree of integrity and by highly trained teachers, then most of the students receiving this instruction will show outcomes upon assessment that indicate a level of proficiency that meets minimal benchmarks for performance in the skill area.”

It’s funny how often we take our professional development and subsequent classroom implementation for granted, as the results of our work are often not noticeable immediately.  The fact is, if all teachers were to continue to stay the course of best practice implementation and focus on strong classroom instruction each day, the results are not additional, but exponential in a student’s learning.  In the recent Phi Delta Kappan article, “Seven ways to kill RTI,” author Brandi Noll shares that, “Thirty minutes of intervention [such as tutoring] can’t make up for poor classroom instruction during the other five to six hours of the school day.”

As we enter the final weeks of school, with our summative assessments on the horizon, it’s imperative that we all stay strong and focused on our classroom instruction and respond appropriately to the data we gather.  Our students count on us to guide them strongly to the finish line.  There are no quick fixes to student achievement.  It takes hard work and focused effort.  Together, we can all provide instruction – and interventions – that will make a difference for a child.

Week 28 – A Look Ahead

This week we have Parent/Teacher Conferences.  Please make sure all guests sign in to the attendance office and are wearing a visitors badge.  Make sure to keep record of your conferences on the form and turn that in to the Mrs. Fry prior to leaving on Friday.

Monday – Safety Assembly at 1:40 (adjusted schedule)

Friday – 3 hour early out (all students and staff)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available CC on Flickr: “Myrtle Station” by Яick Harris’ photostream; “Impatience” by mdezemery’s photostream.

Carnival of CARE

A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside. ~Denis Waitley

This week we welcome our next class of Cardinals: the Class of 2017.  Thursday night, March 7, 2013 is the Cardinal Welcome for our incoming Freshman Class for next year.  It’s important to remember the reason for making sure of the transition from middle school to high school is implemented with fidelity – to ensure we create an environment and atmosphere for our newest students that create a bond and affection for Benton that will last for a lifetime.

If you are a Senior CAMP teacher, a teacher who has freshmen in your classes, or you are a athletic or activity coach, it’s important for you to be a part of welcoming this incoming class of students.  These students look for us to see what their future is going to be.  They are looking to see if the light is on in the window, and if they are welcome to come inside.  Let’s make this 8th Grade Orientation night one of the best.  Please make sure you have a table or sign ready, and you have materials to share with our future Cardinals and their parents.  We get one chance at a first impression. Let’s show the Class of 2017 what it means to be a Benton Cardinal!

Week 27 – A Look Ahead

Monday – Blood Drive all day/Modis Gym

Thursday – 8th Grade Orientation & Activity Fair (showtime 6:00)

Friday – Opening Night “Sarah Plain & Tall”

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Image available CC in Flickr: “Exploring an idea” from JJay’s Photostream; “Cardinal” by me.

CARE to be the Best

The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt

CARE to be the best.  It’s not an interrogative; it’s a statement.  CARdinal Excellence means working to stay at the top of your game.  It’s pretty appropriate considering we just finished our winter season of Wrestling State Championships (great job, Cardinals!  So proud of you!) and are entering a full week of girls and boys basketball districts.  To be at the top of your game takes work.  Our coaching staff knows this as well as anyone on staff.

To be at the top of your game, you must have the initial drive and motivation to want to be the best.  Do you have that or have you given in to the winter woes and have you decided that what you are doing is “good enough?”  Coach Musser doesn’t draw top baseball players because they are half-hearted about wanting to play Cardinal Baseball.  They come to win, and they know what that means.

Being at the top of your game means you must have a plan for winning.  Do you have a plan?  Is it just in your head or do you have it mapped out?  I know for a fact that Coach Goodwin or Coach Ross don’t just have the plan “in their heads,” they map out their game plan.  They have to share that plan with their assistant coaches and players.  If everyone doesn’t own the plan, then it’s just one person’s dream.  What is your plan for winning for the rest of our school season?  Is it measureable?  Is it achievable?  A good plan must be both.

Being at the top of your game means practice – and lots of it.  The practice comes over time.  Time is a factor in preparedness as much as it is in rigor.  Put time into your plan.

Being at the top of your game means setting goals.  Coach Hubbard set his goals one step at a time.  In the world of wrestling, the outlying factors – from injury to illness – can mess with the best of plans and timelines.  But with a overarching GOAL – achieving that goal is always a focus.  Set your goal.  Start with small goals that add up to a greater achievement.  With only 11 weeks of school left, your goals are easier to map out and achieve. You need to CARE to be the best at Benton.  Success doesn’t come by accident.

And your own personal best isn’t accidental either.  After learning about text complexity, vocabulary instruction, and comprehension strategies, are you implementing your learning to be the best you can be in the classroom?  Where are you as a reader yourself?  I challenge each one of you to read ONE educational journal article per month for the rest of the year.  That’s only three total articles.  You read to be metacognitive about the comprehension strategies AND to learn more about your profession.  It’s a win-win.  It’s what it takes to be at the top of your game.  It’s what it takes to CARE to be the best.

Week 26 – A Look Ahead

Monday – Book Fair (Library)

Tuesday – Book Fair (Library); JEPD on Registration (look for schedule to be emailed)

Wednesday — Book Fair (Library)

Thursday – Book Fair (Library)

Friday — Book Fair (Library)

Thank you for your CARE

The simple act of caring is heroic. ~ Edward Albert

With a short week in front of us, it’s exciting to spend time working on our comprehension strategies.  It will be a good idea to implement as soon as possible in order to set your own learning and new teaching strategies.  Comprehension strategies are foundational tools for all teachers, so I know you are going to love having the information.

Again, thanks to everyone for our fabulous walkthrough last week.  I was extremely proud to show off your efforts.  Our hard work continues to pay off, and it is always great to have that reinforced by educators outside of our building and by people who really know what they are looking for.

Kudos to both Wrestling and Speech/Debate this weekend.  I know Coaches Hubbard and Henson at State Wrestling and Coaches Lafasciano and Michaud have spent countless hours preparing our students for this high level of competition.  Great job everyone!

Week 25 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – District Professional Development at your designated locations

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC on Flickr: “thank you note for every language” by Woodleywonderworks.

Walk with CARE

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts; therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.  ~Marcus Aurelius

It’s RED week!  This is the month of the Red School and the week when we paint the town RED.  It’s also the week of our bi-annual District Walkthrough.  In order to ensure readiness, I have a quick checklist for everyone to help remind everyone of our best practices that we will be able to model this week:

  1. Leading students through a reading passage with scaffolded questioning – text complexity was our fall district PD.
  2. Sharing vocabulary words with your students both formally and intentionally (such as on your WORD WALL) or informally through conversations during reading (such as during Eyes Past Print).
  3. Using connections – make sure you connect important concepts with your students through multiple ways for them so they can make connections to the idea from a variety of ways.  Building schema (their background knowledge) as well as using strategies such as metaphors and similes to explain a difficult concept always makes learning more enjoyable and understandable.
  4. Implementing data teams interventions – small groups, individual tracking with data, remediation, reflection – these are all hallmarks of the work of your data team.

Week 24 – A Look Ahead

Wednesday – Benton Leadership Team at 7:00 Room 106

Thursday – District Walkthrough 8:00 – 12:00 p.m.

Friday – 2 Hour Early for MEC Speech and Debate Tournament at Benton

Monday – No School (Holiday)

Tuesday – District Professional Development Day (No school for students only)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images available in CC on Flickr:  Paths by Pensiero; Me and Chuck in Central Park by Kevin H.

#CARENation

Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community. ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

It was good to see and hear about what it means to join together as a community of learners and celebrate the true soul of #CARDNATION as we celebrated Homecoming last week.  When we take time to recognize each other’s strengths, to celebrate our ability to navigate troubled waters or tough times, when we all pull together for the success of our students – we live in the world of CARdinal Excellence – we are #CARDNATION!

“In communities, writes Thomas Sergiovanni in Building Community in Schools, ‘we become connected for reason of commitment rather than compliance’ (p. 58). ‘People are bonded to each other as a result of their mutual bindings to shared values, traditions, ideas, and ideals’ (p. 61). His thesis: that we might better understand, design, and run schools as social rather than formal organizations and, in particular, as communities. His reasoning: the universal need for a sense of belonging, of being connected to others and to ideas and values too often goes unfulfilled in schools as they are currently conceived. His prescription: reformers and theoreticians alike should recognize that schooling is first and foremost about relationships between and among students and teachers, and that community building must be the basis for school reform efforts that seek to improve teaching and learning; all else will come more naturally when authentic communities flourish” (p.1).

It’s important that we continue this path of excellence. The foundation has been set, and we are seeing the fruits of our labors.  Stay the course and be there for our students and for each other.  We are…Southside!

Week 23 –  A Look Ahead

Monday – ACT Academy (AM)

Tuesday – ACT Academy (AM)

Wednesday – ACT Academy (PM)

Thursday – ACT Academy (PM); Earthquake Drill (10:15 a.m.)

Reminder:  District Walkthrough is February 14th.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available CC on Flickr:  “Strawberry Heart” photo credit here; “Yes You Can” photo credit here.

Westheimer, Joel. (1996). “Building Community in Schools.” Harvard Educational Review. Winter 1996.  Accessed http://www.hepg.org/her/abstract/251; 2 February 2013.