Thursday, February 4, 2016

Taking a Lead, Be Part of the Conversation

These past few months, I have been busy with teaching, attending professional learning conferences, and preparing for my National Board Certification. I began the quest for National Boards this year and I am working on my portfolio. I am hoping to submit component 1 and 2. I kept putting it off for years and I finally decided that this was the year and so the journey has begun.

This past weekend, I attended the national conference Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) in San Diego, California. ECET2 convenings bring together teachers from across the country in the spirit of leadership, collaboration, and professional growth. This was my first time attending an ECET2, which I found to be similar to the California Teachers Summit event from last summer 2015. Some of the similarities were that educators were excited to collaborate and have conversations with teachers from all grade levels, backgrounds, and teaching experience. I encountered teachers that had from one-year experience to 35 years. The theme in conversations was mainly about teacher leadership and what that may look like at your school, district, or state.
My Friend from Vermont, Sharon Davison, and I at the ECET2 Conference    

I was a Colleague Circle Facilitator at ECET2 and this was my table. They are truly talented educators with fresh ideas and and have a true sense of teacher leadership. I was delighted to able to listen to their perspectives and share ideas.  
          In listening to the conversations, I noted that teachers defined teacher leadership in diverse ways. Some considered themselves leaders, because they were young and innovative. While others because of their experience and official title they had at their school. This led to my self-reflection and how I see myself as a leader. My perception of this has evolved. My evolution as a leader comes from my experience in the classroom, my encounters with strong mentors, and supportive administration. I am in my 16th year teaching and I feel I am continuously learning and developing from every year I teach. Just like I teach my students, I learn from them. I learn about their struggles with learning new content, hence I continuously learn new strategies to modify instruction so that they have access to the content and high rigor, but are still able to feel successful. Through this learning about my students, it leads me to how teachers learn.

This is my perspective on how teachers can feel empowered and then feel compelled to lead in their profession. Teachers need to feel, like in any profession, that they have something to contribute. We need to feel that our professional contributions are valued. When I first started to look at myself as a leader, was when teachers and administrators facilitated a forum where we could come together and collaborate. Although these meetings had an agenda, they always allowed room for teachers to lead discussions, to share strategies, and to discuss students.

It was through these discussions, that I realized the importance of having a place for teachers from all grade levels and content areas to meet and discuss instructional strategies and student needs. This is how I actually came up with the idea for my first leadership project, the Common Core Café. I negotiated with my district and pretty much anyone who would listen about allowing me to have some space at the district to have these meetings. I just needed some space, so that teachers from all over the district could come and learn from each other. I also asked for teachers to be compensated for attending the sessions. After all, teachers are professionals and need to be compensated for their time. This process took time, a lot of energy, and dedication. It was not easy. However, I was fortunate to have an administration that believed supporting teacher collaboration was important. The heart of this project was also to provide teachers with the tools and support from our colleagues as we were implementing the new Common Core standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the English Language Development Standards. These new California Standards were overwhelming and teachers needed to support each other to be able to master the instructional shifts.

            I knew that the only way we were going to be able to tackle this new shift in our professional career, was through strong mentoring, and the sharing of highly effective instructional strategies. This was the recipe to the success the Common Core Café has had. We are in year three of this project and we have proven that teacher-led workshops are they key to having a meaningful professional learning experience. We are the only ones in the classroom actually teaching the new standards. We are the ones writing curriculum, since there are limited materials that are aligned to the California Standards.

            Two years ago, I joined the Instructional Leadership Corps. The project, led by SCOPE, the California Teachers Association (CTA), and the National Board Resource Center at Stanford University, was conceived to build a statewide network of accomplished classroom teachers and other education leaders who provide expertise for the instructional shifts needed to implement the Common Core Standards in ELA and Mathematics, and the Next Generation Science Standards. This project allowed me to build a team. We now have six teachers at my district that lead this work and present at the Common Core Café sessions and at school sites. We have even started a parent component. We have a Café for parents, where they are able to have conversations with teachers about the instructional shifts and how to best support their child as they learn to dive deeper into the standards. We started last year, and this year we have delivered 2 sessions. The community has really appreciated having teacher leaders presenting the parent sessions, since the topics are more about real classroom practices and not an overview of the standards. We just had one last night for Kindergarten through 5th grade parents. We made language arts and math games to make the session interactive and hands on.

One of our sessions was highlighted in this video. The footage is towards the end of the video and you can hear my voice narrating. This was a huge recognition and highlight of our work. 

            What we have been able to accomplish locally is truly an indication that teacher leadership is valued. As educators, we are hesitant at time times to come out of our classroom walls and take initiative. I understand since the vast job of teaching takes up most of our day. However, being a teacher leader is about investing in our profession and ensuring that we are part of the conversation. It's about initiative and talking risks.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 High Desert Service Center Council Fall Leadership

Today's presentation is on Fostering “Academic Conversations” in ALL content areas in K-12 Grade Levels Speaking and Listening Across the Common Core

Click here to access today's slides

What are some ways to include best practices for collaborative learning in our classroom?

Establish group goals
Effective collaborative learning involves establishment of group goals, as well as individual accountability. This keeps the group on task and establishes an unambiguous purpose. Before beginning an assignment, it is best to define goals and objectives to save time.

Keep groups midsized
Small groups of 3 or less lack enough diversity and may not allow divergent thinking to occur. Groups that are too large create “freeloading” where not all members participate. A moderate size group of 4-5 is ideal.

Establish flexible group norms
Research suggests that collaborative learning is influenced by the quality of interactions.  Interactivity and negotiation are important in group learning. If you notice a nonstandard norm, you can do two things:  rotate group members or assist in using outside information to develop a new norm.  You may want to establish rules for group interactions for younger students. Older students might create their own norms.

Build trust and promote open communication
Successful interpersonal communication must exist in teams. Building trust is essential. Deal with emotional issues that arise immediately and any interpersonal problems before moving on. Assignments should encourage team members to explain concepts thoroughly to each other. Studies found that students who provide and receive intricate explanations gain most from collaborative learning. Open communication is key.

For larger tasks, create group roles
Decomposing a difficult task into parts to save time. You can then assign different roles. A great example in my own classroom was in science lab, fifth grade student assumed different roles of group leader, recorder, reporter, and fact checker.  The students might have turns to choose their own role and alternate roles by sections of the assignment or classes.

I prepared terrific freebies for you! Click on the following link to access a bunch of my posters I use to set up collaborative groups and rubrics to measure success.

Rubric for Group Activity or Group Project

Join the NEA Professional Practice Communities!

What is this?
The NEA Professional Practice Communities, a place where teachers, parents, school support and administration professionals, and community members share ideas and resources to improve student success. It is free and open to all!

Click on the following link to join my online community:
Common Core K-5

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Common Core Math Resources and Modules for Eureka Math

This summer my school district bought Eureka math as a supplement to our units of study. Thus far, it has been a good program. I gathered some of these additional resources to go with the program. Scroll down to your grade level to see some challenge tasks for modules, lesson videos, and reteaching resources.

Watch this two-minute video of Stanford Professor Jo Boaler talking about changing the way we talk about and learn mathematics.

Teacher Resources for Eureka Math:
Module 1
Module 6
Grade 1
Module 2
Weather Graph Data
Grade 2

2nd Grade Math Journals contains 90 math journal tasks that allow for multiple entry points and recording techniques, thereby allowing all students in your class to work at their individual level of thinking. Content for all tasks is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. 
Module 1
Module 2
Module 3
2.NBT 1
Module 4
2.NBT 5

Grade 3
Module 3

Grade 4
Module 3
Module 4
Meerkat Coordinate Plane Task
Grade 5
Module 2
Module 3

Additional Resources for parents:
1. Twelve Steps To Increase Your Child’s Math Achievement And Make Math Fun

Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University
2. The Mathematics of Hope: Moving from Performance to Learning in Mathematics Classrooms
Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University
3. Positive Norms to Encourage in Math Class
Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University
4. The Stereotypes That Distort How Americans Teach and Learn Math
Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University
5. Unlocking Children’s Math Potential: 5 Research Results to Transform Math Learning
Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University
6. Addition and Subtraction Situations
Here is a chart that you can use to make up problems to help your K-2 child “make sense” of math. These will be challenge problems for K students. Substitute larger numbers for 1st grade (up to 20) and 2nd grade (up to 100).