Thursday, August 21, 2014

Week 1 a.k.a. The Longest Week of School

Fenton High School started the school year on Monday, August 18, 2014.  I was in and out of the building all summer long because of various workshops.  I had strangely become accustomed to the quiet of the hallways; the occasional greeting when passing by colleagues as they worked in their classrooms.  When I walked into the North hallway on Monday the sound felt like a physical force.  There is nothing like the energy of the first day of school.

But now?  It's Thursday night and  I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way.  It's been a great week of connecting with people as we roll out many new changes.  Listed (in no particular order):

  1. 1:1 Chromebooks for all the students
  2. an Academic Resource built-in to the schedule called "Bison Time"
  3. the Danielson evaluation model for teachers
  4. a whole new schedule: switching to 45 minute periods-including a 45 minute lunch for teachers and students AND switching from PLN release time from Thursdays to Tuesdays
It's no wonder this week felt like one fire-drill after another - oh yea - we had one of those too.

But do bison run away?!  Well, maybe they do - but like these bison - FHS Bison take care of business even in the face of a challenge.

Day 2:  Students in Algebra I

One of the best things about this week was visiting the Algebra I classes as they rolled out using Khan Academy's Math Missions to differentiate instruction for their students.  If you're not familiar with Khan Academy, check out their mission here.  Our Algebra I teachers approached us in the Spring to talk about how they could use a blended learning model to teach the subject.  They felt full mastery was important because with mathematics, if you do not understand the foundations, the more difficult concepts become almost impossible.  Khan Academy allows the students to work at their own pace, building the skills that they need to work on along the way, earning badges for the content they have mastered.  This also allowed the teachers to trouble-shoot problem concepts with individualized attention that the students needed.  Right now the teachers are having the students work on Early Math (K-2) while the teachers, students, and infrastructure all habituate to the new medium of instructional delivery.  Stay tuned for updates!

I also had a follow-up conversation with a teacher I have been working with to implement the work on Randy Sprick's CHAMPS model into her classroom.  She is a veteran teacher of 10+ years but wanted to make her classroom a community of learners instead of top-down classroom management (Danielson Domain 2).

Over the summer, we talked a lot about the need to be clear with expectations for students - expectations are not what you say you want them to do but what you allow them to do.  We used our school's Be REAL Framework as our basis for her classroom expectations.  We also worked out a warning system ahead of time to help her be more consistent in redirecting behavior.

At the end of week 1, she has reported that it is going well.  The expectations are so simple and clear that it takes her very little instructional time to redirect student behavior.  In the next few weeks, I'll be going into to her classroom to take an behavioral ecology and addressing the major areas of concern for positive classroom behavior:  time on task, opportunities to respond, disruptions and ratio of positive to negative interactions.

Next week, my coaching collaborator, +Michael Berago, and I will be launching "Coffee with the Coaches".  This will be a time for our staff to commiserate but also address the professional development focus for this year:  assessment.  To jump start our discussion, we will be using a great article by Jay McTighe:  Seven Assessment Practices for Effective Learning.

We will also be working with our English I team to conduct an online articulation meeting with our two feeder districts.  This will be our first attempt at this kind of professional conversation and I am piqued to see how it goes.

Passionately Curious

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 ISTE conference in Atlanta (thank you FHS!). One of the keynote speeches, delivered by Kevin Carroll, was about how important it is to follow our sense of curiosity to achieve our highest potential.  He displayed a quote by Einstein that said "I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious."  This quote describes how I look at my own learning.  Since I was young, I have always wanted to know how, when, and my parents' favorite - WHY?  My father will never forget the day he came home to see his Nikon SLR in pieces because 7-year-old Ranjana wanted to know how the pictures were made.

I don't think it's about being just curious anymore:  It's about being curious together.

The opportunity to connect and dialogue grows wider with each new Social Networking application.  I am a sharer (admittedly, sometimes an overshare-er); I love hear the thoughts of others to make my own understanding more clear.  I hope that through this blog, I can connect my questions and thoughts about the huge instructional shifts that are happening to my colleagues at Fenton and the larger educational community.  Some times I will share news articles that I find.  Other times, I will share the professional development and growth that's happening right here in our building.

I hope you enjoy the dialogue.  I know I am certain to!