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Showing posts from September, 2014

Knowing the Right Tool for the Job

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Day 28 of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge from TeachThought...

Respond: Should Technology drive curriculum or vice versa?

This is a great question to reflect on in this day and age of "more technology, more technology, more technology"!  I have thought long and hard about this question over the past two years and have had to answer it countless times for faculty, parents, students and other stakeholders.  In my opinion, curriculum is always the focus and technology is meant to enhance the delivery, application, and/or acquisition.

We are a 1:1 school where our students bring their own laptops.  In addition, we have iPads available for teachers to use in their classrooms when a mobile device seems more appropriate.  We have done a lot of training of our faculty; we have a Tech Committee made up of teachers who have participated in the visioning process and provided a sounding board for me as the Administrator.  We have an Ed Tech Specialist who is invaluable when it comes to h…

A whole lot of edu-awesome

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Day 22 of the @TeachThought Reflective Teaching Blog Challenge

"What does your PLN look like , and what does it do for your teaching?"

My #PLN is one of my favorite topics to discuss with just about anybody who will listen.  Having this as a blogging topic?  Are you kidding?!  How long do I get, again?  Oh, right, a paragraph.  OK, just the facts, then.

My PLN is a collection of educators, authors, colleagues, and professionals from other fields.  They are geographically spread out around the world.  Some I follow regularly while others I pop in and out of their stream as the mood strikes.  I follow leaders from many professions as well as peers because I think that it is important to listen to many voices.  Some of my favorite "go-to's" for inspiration include regular writers for Forbes Magazine like @HenryHartDoss and leaders in our armed forces like @JohnEMichael, as well as edu-allstars like @E_Sheninger. However, the majority of my PLN is made up of those…
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Reflective Teacher 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 21

"Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching?  Explain"

I believe that while there is a professional relationship that is critical to maintain with your students and their parents, there is also the need to allow them to get to know you as a person on some level.  I believe that when students and parents (and teachers in my case) see you as more than just your title, a healthy level of respect can develop which ultimately strengthens the relationship and allows for a smoother educational experience overall.  So I have always introduced aspects of my non-academic life into my job.

In the beginning...
When I was a younger teacher, I would often share my love of salsa dancing with those students who were dancers.  That opened up new opportunities for communication that hadn't previously existed.  When studying Latin America or Europe with my students, I would share some of my personal tr…

E-Portfolio Dreaming

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Reflective Teacher 30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 20

"How do you curate student work--or help them do it themselves."

This is such a great question and is perfect for learning in the digital age since there are so many tools available to do this well.  Having come out of the classroom a couple of years ago now, I honestly didn't do much more than use the more colorful work as classroom "art" to impress visitors.  However, if I were to have the opportunity to go back into the classroom even part-time I would have my students create a digital portfolio (also known as e-portfolio) of their work.  This method is so popular, you can find numerous LiveBinders on the topic and Cybaryman has a page dedicated to e-portfolios.

As a history teacher, their assessments would take many forms so I would envision something along the lines of a website created by the student where they would have writing samples, pictures of more creative pieces, and scanned copies of more trad…

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen!

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Reflective Teaching Blogging Challenge Day 17

"What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?"

Today's question is really big.  It seems like it would require much more than a paragraph but I will do my best to stay brief.  One of the biggest challenges--I say "one of" because I think that there are several key issues faced by education--is the age-old problem of "too many cooks in the kitchen."   Let me explain...

So, What's Wrong...
It is touted in the news how students are being failed by our schools.  Their scores are nothing to celebrate on international exams, our students are behind many other nations in reading and math, we lack enough prepared student to assume jobs in the STEM fields, the United States issues more PhD's to international students than our own, and on and on.  So this education "crisis" has resulted in one plan after another: NCLB, RT3, CCSS, charter schools, home schooling, year-round sc…

My Strengths as an Educator...

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30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 15:

Day 15: Name 3 strengths you have as an educator


We are officially past the half-way point now with the blogging challenge and I am proud of myself for still blogging.  On Sept. 1, 30 days seemed like a pretty daunting task.  Now it is feeling much easier.  Of course, having ready-made prompts to reflect on is a definite plus and one that I appreciate.

But enough of that, on to the topic for the start of this week.  I have to confess, I was ready to write Day 15 Monday night and then started looking at some posts by my fellow bloggers on this journey and got quite intimidated.  Their list of strengths were colorful. They had cool visuals to go with their list.  Eeeek!  I need to do something "cool" too.  Peer pressure.  It can be horrible, but it can also motivate.  In this case, it motivated me to try something new: I made a very basic info-graphic.  Yay me!


Vision: I enjoy looking at the big picture and identifying ways to improve what we d…

And the Super Power Is...

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Day 16: If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?



As I think think about the question: "What superpower would I like?" I find myself reflecting a lot on
the need to effectively differentiate in order to allow every student access to the material.  I have really come to see that more as I have been in Administration looking at the bigger picture, not just my classroom.  So I would like my super power to be the ability to consistently differentiate for each and every student with every lesson.  You know how there are times when you walk in and think "I totally have this!" and then it falls flat?  Or you are really good at differentiating for some learners, but not all?  Being able to completely overcome those challenges would allow such a dynamic learning environment.  My hope is that everyone would feel that they could achieve in my classroom.

Having a child myself who has learning differences, I have become ve…

Why I Am Happy to be a Life-Long Learner

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I don't know if I would technically say that I am "behind" in the +TeachThought #ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge or not.  It is Sunday night and I haven't posted since Thursday.  So in this blog I am going to actually answer three prompts together.  As an administrator, the topics don't always strictly apply.  But I think they can all be adapted.  So this is my adaptaion...

Day 12: "How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years."
Day 13: "Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom , and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness."
Day 14: "What is feedback for learning and how well do you give it to students."

My Changing Role

In thinking first about how my role as an administrator and how education will change over the next five years, I keep coming back to the ever-changing role of technology both in and out of the classroom.  As much as I hate to admit …

Why I Get Out of Bed on a School Day

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Day 11 of the @TeachThought 30 Day Blogging Challenge: "What is your favorite part of the school day and why?"

There are so many moving parts to a school day.  How do I narrow down a favorite part?  For me I don't know that it is a particular "part" of the day because when I think of "parts" of the school day I think of first bell, passing periods, advisory, etc.  None of these are what get me out of bed in the morning.  What gets me out of bed in the morning is the promise of "a-ha" moments, happy students and teachers, active learning, creative  problem solving, unexpected conversations with colleagues.  It is all of these points of contact that I look forward to.   We are in the business of fostering relationships.  Real  learning doesn't happen in a vacuum, it requires give-and-take.  It is only through conversations, the challenging and testing of ideas, and the willingness to be pushed by others that we grow.  This is what I want f…

Who Knew...

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Day 10: 5 Random Facts, 4 items on my bucket list, 3 hopes for the year, 2 things that have made me laugh or cry as an educator and 1 fact I wish more people knew about me

Today's blog assignment is a fun way to wrap up the day so here goes...

5 Random Facts About Me are:

My first concert was JourneyI have completed a few triathlons and look forward to doing more (when my son is older!)My original career goal was to be an astronautAgatha Christie and Laura Ingalls Wilder were my favorite authors as a kid"The Trouble with Tribbles" is my favorite episode from the original Star Trek series 4 Bucket List Items are: Climb Machu PicchuFly with the Blue AngelsVisit TikalRent a Villa in Tuscany for a month3 Hopes for the Year are: I want to clearly define the amazing program that we have at our school so that all of our constituents understand what we do and all of our current community members can talk about it to anyone who asksI want to see our Innovation Lab being used multiple …

A Little Compassion Can Go a Long Way

#ReflectiveTeacher blogging challenge Day 9: "Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care)."

This one took me a little while to think about.  I don't know about you, but for me, the years run together after a while and many students morph together into composites of students.  Sad but true.  Confession: For a teacher I have a horrible memory!  I am one of the teachers using the seating chart until late in the fall just trying to learn all my student's names.  Now as an AP, I don't have the benefit of a seating chart!  I'm sunk!

But this isn't a reflection on my weakness that no one knows about, this is a reflection on something that I want to celebrate about my career.  So here is what I came up with...

Several years ago we had a student, I will call her Jane, who was not on the right path.  She was a student that many of us rallied around to  get on the right path because we were truly fearful…

What's In a Desk

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Day 8 of +TeachThought's 30 Day Blogging Challenge: "What's in your desk drawer and what can you infer from those contents?"

Today's question reminds me a bit of those commercials for Capital One credit cards--tagline: "What's in your wallet?"  Well, as I am sure most people will say, my desk drawers are pretty standard.  They are filled with the standard issue office supplies: pens, pencils, highlighters, post-its, paper clips, binder clips, staples.  There are pads of paper, thank you notes and envelopes, hand lotion, a tooth brush, some hanging files, extra business cards, mints.  Really nothing unusual.  What does this collection of items say about me and the job I do?  I am not quite sure as there is nothing that I would not expect to find in the desk drawers of any of my colleagues.  Certainly nothing here to change the perception of education in 2014 should my desk suddenly be removed from my office and placed in a time capsule.

Ah, but I do …

Sharing the Journey

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Day 7 of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge: "Who was or is your most inspirational colleague?"

Well, there is a question that could take days to answer.  Not because I have to think about who that person is but rather because there are so many people that I believe belong on that list for me.  As a fairly new Administrator, I have to recognize not only those people who inspired me to become an educator in the first place, but also those who encouraged and inspired me to become an administrator, and finally those who encourage, inspire, challenge, and support me every single day in my new role...

I was not always an educator.  I came to this career later in life.  I began in the corporate world and after a few detours ended up in the classroom.  My first mentors and sources of inspiration were a group of high school students that I worked with at my church.  They are now all adults, many married with families of their own, pursuing their own careers.  However, had it not been fo…

Reaching Our Full Potential

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Day 6 of the @teachthought blogging challenge asks us to reflect on good mentoring.  What a great topic!

Mentoring is something that I think about all the time since that is a good portion of my job as the Associate Principal.  We have a year-long program of orientation, observation and mentorship for our new teachers.  And that is in addition to anything that they might be working on for BTSA.  So that is great in theory.  Lots of support for teachers and staff new to our community.  But what exactly should that program entail and what is my role as well as what is the role of the mentors on our campus.  Those are big questions that I have wrestled with since taking on this position because I feel that strong mentorship can be the difference for a new teacher.  So while I have "official" mentors for every new teacher, I really consider the entire staff mentors because they all can contribute something to the growth and comfort level of the new members of the community.

Goo…

Day 4: Why Bother?

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It's Day 4 of the blogging challenge and while it is late, I am working hard to stick to the plan and see this challenge through.  Today's topic is "What do you love about teaching?"  Such an ironic topic for me to tackle at the end of a 16-hour day that included technology nightmares and implosions, angry faculty, Back to School Night, and the obligatory parents who have to corner you and unload because, well, you are there and they are there.  So after that rather depressing intro, I have to  ask myself "what do I love about teaching?" and come up with something positive?  Really?  "Why bother?" some might say.  Well, I disagree!

I think in reality the question is: "What's not to love?"  While today was a truly horrible day:

I nearly broke down in tears several times due to a project that I could not deliver on in time for Back to School Nightseveral disgruntled parents found me to unload their frustrationsmy son lost a tooth and I …

Observing the Little Things

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The topic for Day 3 of the +TeachThought blogging challenge is observations.  As the Associate Principal, observations are ideally what I spend the majority of my time on.  Of course we know that reality is very different from the ideal so sadly I do not get into as many classrooms every week as I would like.  Regardless, I want to make the time that I do spend in the classroom as effective as possible.

I have an app that I use for my walk-throughs (though I am thinking about changing apps so if you have a format that you really like, please share!) which allows me to capture a fairly accurate snapshot of what is going on in the classroom according to the standards.  What I have discovered, though, is that it isn't the check-list, but rather the free-form comments and the conversations that I have after I have been in a classroom that have the biggest impact.

So in order for me to provide effective feedback and engage in meaningful conversation about teaching practice, I need to…

EdTech Integration and Innovation

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Well, here we are with Day 2 of the reflective teacher blogging challenge.  Our topic for today is ed tech.  One of my favorite topics!  This year we have some huge changes with respect to the use of technology on our campus and I am super excited about all of them.  So, in no particular order:

1. we are a BYO-Laptop school this year
2. we are fully using GAFE, including several teachers who are utilizing G+ communities for their classrooms, students who GHO to class because they can't navigate the stairs on crutches (we are an old building so so not have elevators) or because they are home sick
3. every department has ah inventory of iPads to use with their lessons
4. we have a brand new Innovation Lab

For me, the Innovation Lab is the biggest learning curve as we are all exploring together.  Later this semester, the entire faculty will be trained in Design Thinking thanks to a number of conversations that I have had with the Krause Center for Innovation.  I am really excited to …

Reflective Teaching Month Day 1

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This challenge could not have come at a better time!  I want to be committed to blogging because I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my practice.  However, I will agonize over topics for an eternity, and before I know it the moment has passed and another blog is lost.  So thank you @teachthought for giving us a question a day to blog about.  Now no excuses!  So here I go with day one...

Prompt: "Write your goals for the school year.  Be as specific or abstract as you'd like to be!"
As an Administrative Team, we identified our goals a few weeks ago.  I am not going to list them here verbatim as they are very specific to our site.  However, I will gladly share the 30,000 foot view so as to keep me honest and to provide motivation and accountability:
1. Improve communication.  Many of our constituents have faulty perceptions of what we do on a daily basis to help their daughters grow intellectually, spiritually, and personally during their 4 years with us.  However,…