Year 17

I received my 15-year service award from KISD today. This means I’ve been teaching for seventeen years.

17 years.

4 different schools.

6 different classrooms.

7 different grade levels.

At the end of every May, I get energized about the next August. I go through what worked, what didn’t work, and what I should do differently next year. I think because of this tendency, I struggle with recognizing my successes. I know I’m a progressive and always trying to push myself to be a better teacher, but I think I need to recognize what went well rather than just focusing on what I want to improve upon. So that’s what I’m going to do today.

  • I really enjoyed being the team lead this year. It surprised me, actually. I think after spending ten years over at Vistas, I thought of myself as a lone wolf, but I don’t think that is actually the case this year. I loved bouncing ideas off of other people and being able to capitalize on the strengths of the group rather than just myself.
  • I was supported by my administration and team when I introduced some maverick ideas, such as the team policy of buying back late points.
  • I had students thank me for putting so much effort into my class. One student said that this was only English class he didn’t fully “BS” during high school. I know that sounds snarky, but it was honestly a compliment.
  • I learned a lot from my first ear teaching Advanced Placement. Like all discoveries, some were energizing, some were eye-opening, and some were disappointing, but I feel way more prepared going into the 2018-2019 school year.
  • I am loving the way my classroom looks right now. It feels like a place that I want to be.
  • I have a good start to getting my classroom library organized thanks to students!
  • I have so many ideas for next year! Bring it!

Innovator’s Mindset: Chapter 3

I love change. I consider myself a progressive: I want to get better and am trying to be proactive rather than  reactive. For me, time constraints force me to prioritize. Sometimes, I have to go with a less effective or risky lesson because of time.

Since people don’t think they NEED to change, that to change would be admitting that what they’ve been doing is wrong. But it’s not about right or wrong.

Regarding empathy, instead of just asking if I’d want to be a student in my classroom, I also ask if I’d want MY children to do the activity.

I will say that some days I need a teacher-centric day. If every single day is student focused, I get overwhelmed. Again, time management is at play here.

I try to teach my students inductive – that is, I trick them into learning. They often ask what the activity has to do with English class. My goal is that by the end of the lesson, they can tell me.

If best practices dont serve all students, then that’s not really best practices. BP just became a buzz word for vocabulary exercises and glorified worksheets, but there are still Activia that reach most learners. Think Hattie’s scale!

Having an audience is important. That audience needs to be not just me or room 174. I need to help them reach a broader audience.

Q1: I don’t even see it as risk taking. I just do it. What’s the worst that could happen? I lose a day of instruction?

Q2: I don’t let the grade stifle my students. They can redo and fix. I try to have my grades really reflect learning.

Q3: I think I exhibit all of the qualities. My flaws aren’t addressed in those pages, but I have them!  😉

Innovator’s Mindset: Chapter 2

Some things that kept me up last night: the UumiZoomies theme song and my AP Lit class. I’m struggling with how to meet their needs while maintaining AP level standards. I think I need to ask Mr. K. to talk to them about growth mindset, because I’m disturbed they are so focused on a grade/curve. I’m glad that we are an open enrollment campus, but I feel that some students have signed up solely for a GPA boost. I need to think on this some more, but this book made me examine this issue. I don’t have answers, but at least I’m asking the questions, right?

Back to the book: I saw Educating Yorkshire and I bawled. Actually, I think I watched a reaction video target than the original.

I can see how this builds upon growth mindset. I find it interesting that I mentioned it before I started even this chapter. Education shouldn’t be something that happens to us – it shouldn’t be a passive experience. Rather, it should inspire students to take initiative to answer their questions about the world.

While I am a growth mindset girl, I think that we can all fall into a fixed mindset when we are frustrated. Whether it’s about students, faculty members, or just situations. Sometimes it sneaks up on us, especially when we give our all and it falls short of expectations. Rather than someone who feeds into co-rumination or reminds just to “BE POSITIVE”, I need to be around someone who reminds me that I am making a difference even if I sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.

How many times have I tried to convince students that there’s more to life than their grades? It’s the APPLICATION! Who cares about Beowulf? It’s the values that I stress. It’s confidence and social codes and nobility. If I want my students to be able to think outside of the box, I have to as well to create opportunities for them to practice that skill.

All students can learn, right? But they (we) might not all learn the same way or at the same time. I think if you recognize that, you are capable of being an educational innovator.

Page 35 the budget is addressed, but only cursory. :/ Innovating inside of the box sounds a bit like a cop out to me: your time and money go where your priorities are.

Failure. I had a friend in medical school who had a hypothesis. She had a huge experiment with fruit flies and mutations. I don’t know the details. At the end, she was upset because her experiment failed. Her professor Todd her no, it didn’t fail: she proceed that her theory didn’t work. I think of it as she just crossed off a wrong answer on a test.

Maybe I’m considered an “innovator” because I had such bad teachers growing up. I know that sounds like a horrible thing to say, and I did have some amazing teachers in my life, but I have always known that if wouldn’t want to grade the assignment, then a student wouldn’t want to DO the assignment.

“As leaders,  we need to develop a culture that focuses on doing whatever it takes to ensure that we are successful in serving all of our students.” I have heard too many horror stories of administration guilt tripping teachers into working for free with this statements like this. Maybe I react to it because this is how I end up struggling with my work/home life balance.

But that means we have to not take it personally when we fail. Too often, I know I get defensive when I’m presented with suggestions for improvement. I feel like people sometimes offer suggestions critically, not because they want my idea to succeed but because it’s MY idea. I don’t understand the competition in education. Different approaches are needed in education.

“Would I want to be a learner in this classroom?” Or, “Would I want my child to be in this classroom?”

“What is best for this student?”

“What is this student’s passion?” Proud to say that because my students did the planning document, I was able to catch ho-hum topics and help a student use his/her passion to research and about something they really care about. Diesel engines vs gasoline engines? Jordan is the best basketball player of all time? These aren’t MY topics, but they work for my writers. I do have some that just picked a topic for an assignment, and that’s what this is turning out to be for them, but for this who bought into the planning process, this is more like a genius hour product.

“How do we create a true learning community?” For me, it’s by becoming an active participant. I don’t give assignments, I do the assignments. I model. I ask their linings on MY writing. I ask for feedback to help clarify things.

Regarding anonymous feedback, we just did this for Othello in AP Lit. There was legitimate construction criticism, but other comments made me realize 1. Students are used to being given EVERYTHING and struggle with taking initiative and 2. They don’t understand the point of feedback and data. That’s where I got the idea that they need to reintroduced to growth mindset and grit again.

Question 1: I struggle with this. Innovative usually starts out strong, but when stakeholders leave or shift priorities, the vision becomes muddled and watered down. The mission statement at Vistas was shivering the original staff legitimately used. A few years in, there were new teachers who didn’t know it and weren’t talking about it with their students. We assumed they’d be in the same page as the veterans. They weren’t. The result was that we had students who weren’t buying in to the program.

Being innovative within the box requires us to identify all resources and to slay sine of the golden calves. We have to have the same focus. Is it RTI or extracurricular or test remediation? Random idea:  What if I had a student information Center set up in airports? Using my desktop computers?

Q2: I think the PLC questions are essential. Honestly, I’ve only started using then recently. I mean, we had used them before, but we had cop out answers.

Q3: It would start with my staff. I think that’s the most important thing. We’d have technology, but not at the risk of learning. I’d want Genius Hour implemented effectively with a show and tell and the end. I’d want connections and pathways beyond high school. They would graduate with realistic  and a step-by-step plan for how to achieve those goals. I feel add mind as my staff had the same philosophy of education and values, we would be able to get past disagreements in how we reach our goals. I think there would also be grade level plc meetings to solve problems issues with each individual class. But I think the struggle is finding people who aren’t afraid to ask questions, challenge the status quo, and do so to benefit the school climate. I’m tired of an emperor without clothes.

Q4: Reorganization and reprioritizing resources in upper admin. I know Hattie’s list doesn’t put a high value on small classroom sizes, but I lived it. It was amazing.

Innovator’s Mindset: Chapter 1

Regarding Blockbuster: How many times do we hear teachers complain about “today’s” students? We can’t sit and (falsely) remember what students were like 20, 30, 40 years ago and begrudge the students in our classes. Just because it USED to be done that way mean it’s any good.

When I read that BB had the chance to buy Netflix, I’m glad they didn’t. BB didn’t have the vision. If BB had bought Netflix, it would not have been as effective or instrumental in changing the entertainment industry. If you give a reluctant teacher technology, it’s going to get used appropriately (or to its full extent).

I like analogies, but I’m deeply disturbed at the corporate comparisons. BB? Starbucks? Schools *aren’t* business and I bristle at the attempt to brand us as such.

Official school leaders and unofficial school leaders. I think the unofficial ones are just as significant as the recognized ones. Who do you go to when you need a question answered? A paraprofessional. Do we have any paras in this book study? I don’t think we do. Why not? Aren’t they leaders who can change the culture in campus? They may not have the same job/role that I do, but that just means they have a different lens.

Innovation: new and better. Is “better” not innovative? Like Klein Education Foundation grants, it has to be innovative, but once it’s been done, it’s not considered innovative to replicate, right? Why?

Again, another CEO reference. I get that we can learn from the business model, but isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place? Assembly lines? Profit? A part of me cringes each time I see for-profit corporations here, especially when the author seems so anti-test culture. I find it a little puzzling, even hypocritical.

I understand that we are all defining our terms, but how do we support this? I know what I WANT to do, but I physically can’t. I had every intention of gamifying my classroom again this year with quests, adventures, boss battles and game resets. I have the knowledge, the experience, and the passion, but I don’t have the time. So how can I make it happen?

Uh… but a blog post IS an essay. So that question is rather silly, don’t you think?

I like those questions, but people don’t like teachers who ask questions. Troublemakers.

What innovation isn’t: different for the sake of being different. But the example given is missing a lot of other factors: choice, stakeholder buy-in, finances, and laws. I watched Super Size Me and still remember the amazing school lunches one school promoted. The cost of the food was still the same, but I’m sure the cost for human resources would be astronomical. You’d need people to prepare and cook and clean. We may know what is best for kids, but until we put our money where our mouth is, they seem to be empty promises to our students.

Cuurently, I’m struggling with Schoology. I had hoped to only use Schoology as my grade book this year, but I’m learning quirks about the program. What frustrates me is that those who take risks make more work for themselves, while those who play it safe avoid extra stress. While I think it’s worth it in the long run, right now, it’s frustrating.

Discussion Questions

1. I am *really* liking the ability for my students to “buy back” late points. I think eventually I want to move it to a blog, but for right now, I’m trying to get them to focus on the skill. Before, students who turned in late assignments would have their grade penalized, sometimes so heavily that they’d still fail. When a previous school had a no zero policy, students would turn in careless work just to say that they didn’t have a zero. I’d rather have thoughtful and well-done work. Is the assignment a 50 because it didn’t meet the objective or is a 50 because it was turned in late. So if I have a student who is failing and won’t be able to graduate because they have turned in every assignment late, I have a few choices: 1. Fail them even they they may have mastered the material 2. Pass them without regard to their behavior and essential giving them a curve, which is unfair to the students who used their time wisely. 3. Take control.

Gamification gave me an idea. They can redo assignments up to full credit, so I wanted to make a distinction between grades and behavior. So far, it seems to be working.

2. In order to create opportunities, I think modeling is a good way to encourage innovative. When people see  success, they will jump on board. If not innovate themselves, but at least to mimic the activity.

Sometimes my most innovative students are the ones who seem to struggle with completion. Perhaps group work by pairing them up with people who have a different set of strengths? I struggle with this. I truly think innovation is a higher order thinking skill, and you generally need to scaffold to get there. I have a few ideas that would be easily supported in a gamified classroom, but I dint have the time right now to see them to fruition. It’s sad.

3. I think now more than ever, you have to be able to communicate and work with others. Work is made for extroverts, and I think that’s a downfall. But that’s off topic.

Technology has made collaboration and sharing ideas easier than ever. My fear is that it has had a detrimental effect on initiative.

Innovator’s Mindset: Introduction

Before I even started reading this book, I felt a little awkward.

“Am I an innovator?”

I mean, I want to be. I really buy into the disruption theories. I try to keep on top of research and best practices. But do I truly innovate?

I guess my most honest answer is “sometimes.”

“…our job as educators is to provide new and better opportunities for our students.” (2)

Regarding tech, it’s not the tech that makes learning relevant. A tablet in the hands of a classroom teacher who uses weak instructional practices will still use weak instructional practices.

I think the space/student example is a little weak.

Regarding Dan Brown’s comments: I’m an-risk student myself. I failed 2nd grade because I refused to homework. I only succeeded in high school because I found a “home” in room 124. I got kicked out of college for having a 0.0 GPA. So how did I get here? I know where I lost interest and have tried to prevent that in my classroom.

“We forget that if students fail to leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.” Ouch. Do my students leave more curious? I don’t honestly know. By the time I get them, they are just ready to graduate. I find that my curious students are still curious, but I struggle with my reluctant learners: did they learn anything or just do assignments? This is where scaffolding hurts me. If they do the scaffolded assignments AFTER the major work is done, what’s the point? I fall victim to the idea that if I don’t take a grade on it, they won’t do it. But even if I do take a grade, I have a sizable amount of students who don’t do. What’s the solution? If I figure it out, I’ll give KISD a book discount. 😉

I have always called the teachers who refuse to change dinosaurs because they can’t evolve. In fact, I think the word evolve is more appropriate than change.

Time is money in education. It’s sad to me that many times pedagogical practices revolve aid around a budget rather than what creates the most effective classroom environment.

I really feel like in my time in Klein, PD has been making a shift. I feel like the GT program is historically where we spent our time innovating, while the level classes got left with worksheets, bland audio books, and busy work.

I feel like PLC can be the time for innovation, but not always. Your group has to have the same goals and values for it to work.

Be more dog? Be more PIRATE! Dave Burgess stole my shtick!

Students are so used to being told that they have to write a certain page number, a certain word count, to write their thesis WITH THREE REASONS. Why? Is easier for the teacher, honestly. Just teaching one thesis makes it simple for examples and assessment. But writing is not one size fits all. The three-prong thesis may work often, but not always.

We have to support our risk takers and people who actively work against pedagogical golden calves. It’s hard work, teaching and working and modeling and grading and giving feedback and learning and… it goes on and on.

“focus on the learner rather than the administrator” We ask have different roles. We see things through different lenses. It’s not “us versus them.” At least it shouldn’t be.

The adjacent possible. THIS is what frustrates me the most! It is so tantalizingly close, but I’m never able to get there. I know what I want to do. I know how to do it. I just need the time to do it.

I can’t change anyone. I model. I explain. I share my experiences. I talk about control. And I start with baby steps. I push a lot of boundaries and I create a lot of frustrating for myself. Like with Schoology. I want to get the data from tests and rubrics. I learned the hard way NOT to put zeros or mark assignments as missing in Schoology. But I don’t expect everyone to do that. I LIKE figuring things out and solving problems. But if I can get my colleagues to feel comfortable with grading using rubrics in Schoology, I’ll be happy! Then we can have a new goal next year.

I’m buying in after the introduction. I realize that I because I’m a problem solver and always looking for the next door to open, I might focus on I need to fix or improve. I take it personally when my students don’t do the activity that I ask. Why? What can I do? There are days that I feel so defeated because there is nothing more that I can give them except a smile and opportunity to fix their mistakes.

9/27/2017 (Level)

We read The Battle With Grendel today. Hooray! Thank you guys for truly putting your technology away for the brief amount of time it takes to read the section. We will have a short plot quiz tomorrow just to make sure you understand what is going on in the story.

We answered section questions as a group, and you have the majority of the time to work on your Beo-Boast.

9/27/2017 (AP)

I spent the first part of the day doing a reteach: I read a few of the TP-CASTT paragraphs and realize that some of you needed more specific instruction, so that’s what I did.

The biggest issue that I saw was that students were mainly superficially analyzing. It read more like people were answering questions in complete sentences than discussing a poem. So, I showed you two resources:

  1. I found an example of someone’s notes right next to the written analysis so that you see the difference betweem the two.
  2. The biggest resource that I found, however, was the How to Connect Literary Devices to Meaning handout. This gave text structures to use when analyzing. I was able to conference with students and direct them o try rewriting using sentence outlines. Most people left feeling more confident about the assignment.

Remember: I want all three paragraphs turned in by Friday, but circle your BEST one.

9/26/2017 (Level)

Today we talked about Tupac, Biggie, epic rap battles, and flyting. Then, we read about Unferth.

I also explained the Beo-boast today. It’s our second major grade for this grading period. The instructions are in Schology in the Beo-Boast folder, along with one of Beowulf’s boasts, a boast that someone wrote about Donald Trump, and a boast that I wrote about myself. I also put in boasts from history, pop culture, and from former students.

I also showed you guys how I organized MY poem, and then I gave you a simple outline of what you could do if you were struggling with your boast.

Here is what I drew on the board for you –

Another idea that you can use instead of a threat is a promise – a promise to your future or your enemies.

The one in black is MY structure and the one in brown is a suggested one (follow this form to boast about what you overcame as a student, all the changes that you’ve made during your time at Klein Oak, and then what goals you have (graduation and/or career goals).

9/26/2017 (AP)

To give you another tool for poetry analysis, we used TP-CASTT today to analyze Sonnet 18 and the poem Shakespeare, by Longfellow.

On the back of the paper, I instructed you to write paragraph in which you summarized your findings on the TP-CASTT. Do NOT merely summarize the poem! This is the individual practice – I will be available for conferencing if you have any questions.

I showed you an example of what I would considered to be a mere summary (albeit a well-written one), a good example, and a great example.