ALY MARTINEZ

A CIRCLE IN A SQUARE HOLE: HOW DO WE REALLY KNOW WHEN WE BELONG TO A COMMUNITY?

I think we all remember a time when we felt like we didn’t belong. For me, it’s felt like that most of my life. A circle always trying to find my way in a world of square holes. Middle school was the worst. High school wasn’t much better.

I vividly remember my dad offering to drive a few of us on a field trip in 6th grade. I was so proud. Proud my dad was coming to our trip. Proud I was helping the class. And then, no one wanted to drive with me. And, when I saw all the kids piling into shiny SUVs, newly cleaned, not a ding in sight, I cringed when my dad pulled up in our beat up, rusted suburban. My teacher probably saw it in my eyes and asked me excitedly if she could go with us, maybe? I smiled sideways. We drove awkwardly to the zoo and I wondered the whole way, was she wondering why our car was so old? Did she wonder if I had enough to eat each night? Did she now know I was different too, just as all the other kids did?

I’ve had a lifetime to think about belonging. Recently Dan Meyer posed a question that struck a chord for me on his blog. He wondered if #mtbos, the math community (math twitter blogosphere) hashtag, was an unwelcoming one because of its obscurity as a name and an abbreviation. He noted people feel like it is an exclusive group where one must be invited and he got this idea not from nowhere.  In fact, there were tons of math teachers who applauded his boldness in saying what they’ve thought all along. His recommendation, let’s retire #mtbos and instead become #iteachmath.

It made a lot of sense to me. And then the tweets started coming. #mtbos is a family! #mtbos is just a google search away from understanding what it stands for. Fawn Nguyen posed a great counterargument here.

For those of you who don’t care or lose interest once someone says it has something to do with Twitter….hang in there. Here’s where I get back on track.

I am the hugest fan of Dan Meyer and Fawn Nguyen and tons of other people who are on BOTH sides of this argument. But I think everyone has missed the point on this one. This isn’t as much about the naming conventions. This has everything to do with what a community is and how we form a belief that we are also a part of it.

Take this example. Suppose I was advertising a party. Calling one “TBPITW” or “Party of the year”, I can’t say one is going to be more heavily attended over another, especially if a quick google search of the former would reveal it would be “the best party in the world”. The reality is people attend parties because they are invited. And then once the invitation is received, it’s up to the person to decide whether they want to go. Will it be fun? Do I have time to attend? Will I know anyone when I get there? Will I like the music they play?

In my first year of teaching I worked at a school that decided to change their math department grade level teams to PLCs. Do you think I joined a Professional Learning Community? Does changing the name of the group make it a community?

I’ve been a member of lots of PLCs. One’s that were effective, thoughtful, and transformed the way I teach and understand learning. I also was part of one’s that were effective, but thoughtless, and made me feel muffled and devoid of creativity. I attended meetings to both, but it was only in the ones where I felt seen and heard that I truly became a piece of the community. And in some meetings, it was harder and harder to speak up.

As a perpetual circle a square world, let me offer this advice to all communities searching for members and hoping to make change in the educational landscape at an individual level and a systems level:

  1. You, individual, I’m talking to you! You have a voice. Your opinion, thoughts, and ideas matter. A community will benefit from hearing about your experiences, your perspective and your take on how we teach students. Join a community and exercise that voice. Speak up. Don’t be afraid to agree or disagree out loud. Share your triumphs and laugh with your partners. Share your failures and lean on the shoulders of your community when it is hard to admit it didn’t work.
  2. You, community members, I’m talking to you! You aren’t a community if you are always going with the status quo. We are made of multiple voices, points of view and experiences. They all must be heard. Listening to opposing ideas is the crux of transformation and creating a space for all to be heard is a responsibility of each and every member. Reach out. Invite people to your PLC joyfully and with the same fervor, invite them to take the stage and hear their voice. Consider, how might their opinion or experience teach me.

Perhaps for #mtbos and #iteachmath, we need to ask ourselves, why do people feel like they can’t be apart of a bunch of teachers having fun talking about math? Are those teachers the same ones who are islands in their own teaching sites? Are they alone because they feel like they are circles in square holes? Who is listening to their voice? This is a party! If we want people to attend, we’ve got to send out invitations! And, TEACHERS, when you get that invite, don’t avoid the party because you feel like you won’t fit in. We’re teachers for God’s sake! We’re goofy, nerdy, and the most loving people on the face of the earth! Highlight what brings us together and find ways to grow with what divides us.

This life is…..teaching…..is far too hard to do alone. Buck up, teachers and listen!

Here is what I know:

  1. I got an invite to the party, and I’m going. And on Twitter, it turns out no invite is needed. The great @johnberray shared what #mtbos was when we first met and that was my “invitation”. So, #mtbos and #iteachmath, I’ll be at both parties! And when I get there, I’ve got lots of invites to send out.
  2. I want to attend a real party with Dan Meyer and Fawn Nguyen some day.
  3. If you want to be a better teacher, find a community and ask yourself, how do I honor the members of my network when we work together?

My Math Unicorn Call to Action is: 
Quite worrying about what you’ll say when you finally join Twitter. Just do it! Post something silly. Post a question you’ve been wondering. Join a chat. WHO CARE’s! Just exercise the wonderful circle voice you have in a world of squares. As it turns out, we’re actually all a bunch of circles. We just don’t spend enough time thinking about what we have in common. Rather we waste time worrying about what makes us different. Come to my party. It’s called #mtbos or #iteachmath or #beamathunicorn. You got this. Go find a party you want to attend!

Aly Martinez is a math teacher and induction mentor. She has a thousand children, loves donuts and math, and will always accept chocolate if you offer it. She believes she will sleep through the night one day again soon and is an avid fan of coffee, legos, and her induction candidates.

Teacher Leadership Book Study!

  • Are you a teacher interested in developing as a teacher leader?
  • Are you a teacher leader interested in collaborating with colleagues about enhancing your leadership without leaving the classroom?
  • Do you enjoy discussing professional readings with other teachers in order to impact your students’ learning or your team’s productivity?

  Come check out the SUHSD Teacher Leadership Book Study starting this Fall!

 

For Round One we will be reading and discussing The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros

 

  • This book study is open to any teacher in the SUHSD.
  • There will be two meetings and teachers will be paid extra duty to participate.
  • The first meeting will be an orientation about the expectations of the Book Study.
  • If you RSVP to attend and commit to participate, you will receive a copy of the book.
  • Everyone who takes the book will be invited and encouraged to return for the second meeting, to discuss the book and how we can apply the principles from the book in our work here in the SUHSD.
  • Each meeting will be offered on two different days; teachers wishing to participate may come to either day, as long as they attend one meeting #1 and one meeting #2.

Dates:

    • Meeting #1: 8/23 or 8/24 in the PDC
    • Meeting #2: 10/17 or 10/18 in the PDC

 

  • RSVP here so we will be expecting you!

 

The author will be hosting a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called IMMOOC in October

Last Day of School!

Dear SUHSD Learns Community,

Thank you for sharing your learning with us this year! The SUHSD Learns project was launched to celebrate the diverse ways in which we, the Sweetwater community, learn inside and outside of our classrooms, schools, and offices. We loved reading about how students, teachers, administrators, counselors, and Classified staff members learned this year.  The SUHSD Learns project has branched out to include a monthly district Twitter chat, using the hashtag #suhsdlearns. We will continue the monthly Twitter chat in July (taking June off for summer!) and we will be happy to continue the learning blog if there are participants interesting in sharing their learning.

Until then, we wish you a fun, relaxing, restful summer break that includes at least a little learning!

 

Day 175, Sean Tessada

The focus for my final quarter of induction was to determine a method to give my students quicker and more meaningful feedback on their writing. Like most classrooms, I have too many students to walk through my rows and give feedback to each student. Walk through twice? Impossible.  Further, grading writing after students had turned their sample in lacked the “in the moment” approach that would allow students to meaningfully use the feedback for multiple drafts.

I decided to utilize Google Forms to create a new approach for providing feedback. I created a Google Form with a prompt for my students to develop a claim. They had to answer a series of questions (multiple choice and short answer) that had them solve each step in their claim before finally drafting a full claim. The questions had students determine what kind of claim they would be writing, what the topic was, their position, and the assertions they planned to use to support their claim.

I then projected the live results using my laptop and class projector of the Google Form and used the responses as a model. I was able to answer questions that multiple students were asking.   I didn’t need to answer the same question for five different students, rather they could all get what they needed simultaneously.   The whole period became a conversation about writing specific to the content.   We talked about how each example would be scored and what it would need to score higher.  The students were also able to see the perspectives of their classmates.

Each step and each model that we examined involved another round of revision.  Students would then take that feedback and determine whether their writing needed to be revised for the same thing.  What resulted was that all students submitted multiple drafts as Google Forms allows students to re-submit responses multiple times .    It also provided me a way to filter through the issues in student writing to determine who just needed the modelling and feedback and which students required more one-on-one assistance.

Although using the Google Forms process did not completely solve the problem of giving rapid feedback for large classes it did provide for a method in which students could see multiple student generated models, provide a platform for quickly using feedback to write multiple drafts and act as a filter for me to quickly determine which students would require remediation.

Sean Tessada is a history teacher at Bonita Vista High School and currently enrolled in the SUHSD Induction Program.   His spirit animal is a narwhal and he is the kind of guy who will wear your exact same outfit to school and then expect you to go home and change.   He is also passionate about making literacy in the social sciences accessible to all students.  

Day 164, Dr. Janney

This is my third SUHSD Learns blog entry for this year. My goal has been to share “what I learned in my first year as superintendent” from each stakeholder group during my visits across the district.

In honor of Day of the Teacher, I am reflecting on the voices and messages I have heard from teachers since I began as superintendent. First, I am completely inspired by the passion, compassion, knowledge, empathy, and attitude of our teachers! Our students thrive because of all the time and care teachers give both in and out of the classroom.

I am constantly reminded that our teachers’ desire to support and teach our students is a never-ending reservoir of time, energy, and creativity. Teachers come early, stay late, attend evening and weekend events, as well as sponsor student-centered activities during and beyond the school day. Teachers do this because they sincerely care about our students as more than human vessels in which we pour knowledge. Teachers recognize our students are complex human beings who deserve to be known as individuals. And, the best way to help each student learn and become their best selves, is to know what matters to them, to make connections with them, and to teach them in ways that capture their interest.

Teachers believe that words matter and actions matter. So, when our Board of Trustees approved a resolution that said we advocate and support all students to be in a safe and healthy learning environment, our teachers followed up with action and stood in solidarity to show their support to defend our students and our schools!

I’ve always known that teachers put students first, even during Sweetwater’s darker days. What I’ve learned since I’ve been back is teachers appreciate that the current Board of Trustees and District Leadership join this belief in putting students first. And now, the focus on students is permeating our learning organization at all levels.

And finally, I learned that when a student or parent acknowledges how a teacher has impacted their life, the teacher’s reservoir is replenished and they are reminded why they chose to become a teacher – we are in a life-changing business to influence the future of our world!

So, please take a moment this week to acknowledge your teachers and how they have made a difference for you! They deserve to know!

All stakeholder voices matter! The powerful opinions of our teachers about how our students and schools can be successful are worth listening to by all educators!

 

Dr. Karen Janney is the proud Superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District. With over 37 years of secondary teaching and administrative experience, Dr. Janney brings a demonstrated record for creating and sustaining dynamic organizational capacity and educational equity. Dr. Janney is a consummate learner and she looks forward to reading about other community members’ learning experiences throughout the year. 

Day 163, Ricardo Cooke

I wrote earlier about my love for mixtapes.   One of the powers of the mixtape is to bring together songs that breathe life into our daily routines.  I remember playing my mixtapes every day before practice or a big event where I needed inspiration (again, I had no game with my love interests, so it was usually relegated to sports).  The mixtape always provided familiarity.  I could always anticipate the next songs just after a few bars or even a few notes.  There was always a comfort level that calmed me.   I have found that when we give the mixtape to others, we also find new ways to connect.  Others get to peek into your life and interests.  There is a new connection that you build that allows for a deeper understanding of one another.  I wish there was a way that all of our assignments as educators was met like a mixtape.  I do believe, however, the next best thing we can do is to understand those we serve.  Empathy, in my opinion, is the key to creating powerful learning experiences and opportunities for students to engage with you and the lesson.  Whatever your job might be in education, I believe it is critical to our success that we understand what it’s like to be a teacher, student and community member.

Two weeks ago, I started my empathy project.  I try to do this every year that I am in education.  I might do home visits or in this case, I go undercover as a student.  With a quick shave of the goatee and the purchase of navy blue khakis, I was able to blend in as a student and spend a day with them.  My goal was to see the world through their eyes.  Some students started to think I was actually the assistant principal, but I was able to distract them and blend in seamlessly as an ELD student.  My plan was working.  My schedule looked like this:

1st Period: Science 1
2nd Period: ELD 1/2
3rd Period: PE
4th Period: Spanish
5th Period: Math
6th Period: World Cultures

The first thing I noticed, regardless of class, was that routines are important to students!  Our teachers chunked ideas throughout the class and consistently checked for understanding.  I was relieved to have a set of routines much like the mixtape.  I could predict what was coming.  The other item I noticed right away was the need for structured student interaction.  There was an element in each class that allowed me to collaborate with others.  I found Spanish to be challenging as I was trying to pretend to be an ELD student in a new language.  Now, I know some Spanish, but it was muy dificil when my teacher called on me.  I was actually nervous!  I can’t imagine what a newcomer must feel like on a consistent basis.  I appreciated so much how our ELD teacher and our other teachers supported the students by giving think time.  I knew I would be in trouble in PE.  Back in my day, we mostly played sports for PE. Today would be different and my abs would never be the same.  We actually had a series of workouts.  I kept thinking, Slow down P90X woman!  No relief in sight.  I made it through the class and I found a new appreciation for PE!  Those students are held to high standards!  My abs can attest to that!  That’s the mixtape effect.  I had a chance to connect with the teachers and now I feel that I have a better understanding of what the students and teachers feel every day.  I never want to lose my connection as a teacher.  In addition, I decided that I would be a teacher for a period and I took the same PD (Wilda Storm Vocabulary) that several teachers were taking.  I volunteered to teach a class and be coached by Wilda and be observed by several teachers.  Let me tell you something… Was teaching always this tiring?  My head was spinning several time thinking about transitions, checking for understanding, etc. I enjoyed being coached up and seeing how difficult change can be.  I connected with my teachers and I felt that I was a series of B sides on some hit songs.  Good stuff, but not necessarily radio material.  I need to get into the classroom more and practice my craft as a teacher.


I truly appreciated being a teacher and student for my empathy project.  I highly recommend that everyone consider it.  If you are a teacher, be an administrator or counselor for day.  If you are a classified member, try being a parent for a day.  There are so many opportunities to better understand those we serve.  I would argue that empathy is the most important skill we need to create powerful learning experiences from both the perspective of the teacher and the student.

When I was in high school and when I taught high school, I met many students who lived with many challenging situations.  I marveled at how they made it through life.  If you have ever done a home visit or visit a student in juvenile hall, you soon realize the power of empathy.  This song gave me the chills when I heard it and taught it.  It’s called Runaway Train by Soul Asylum and it captures the power of empathy and the hidden struggles of many students.  And the other song, of course, is Everybody Hurts by REM. This song really made me think as a high school kid about other people.  Made me take the focus off myself and try to understand others.   When you know your kids, you can reach ’em.  And once you reach ’em, you can eventually teach ’em.

When I taught To Kill a Mockingbird, I always loved what Atticus said to his daughter Scout about understanding others:  If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.  

So, let’s climb into the skins of those we work with and for.

 

Dr. Ricardo Cooke is currently an assistant principal with National City Middle School.  He has a passion for teaching, learning and leading. In his spare time, he teaches, reads and makes mixtapes.  He has been in the education field for twenty years. He is a proud Mar Vista Middle and Chula Vista alum as well as a former teacher at Bonita Vista High School. 

 You can reach Ricardo Cooke at ricardo.cooke@sweetwaterschools.org or follow him at twitter @RicardoCooke1 or follow his blog: http://soundtrackstheeducatorsmixtape.blogspot.com/2017/04/runaway-train.html  

Day 162, Trevor Angood

Something out of the ordinary…

Since I started doing observations in Belleville, MI back in 2005, it has been important that my instruction, at times, has something out of the ordinary.  To present about a new (to me, borrowed from my AVID colleague, Andrea Linan) project in my AVID 11 class at Eastlake High School, I decided to make my shirt part of the presentation, my something out of the ordinary.

The project would call for students to make a 5-7 minute presentation analyzing any song that had a social message.  My example to present would be using Annie Lennox’s “Sing.”  The song, a commentary and call to action on the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa,  was inspired from Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Non-Profit Organization – 466/64 was his prisoner number as well.  During a fundraiser, Ms. Lennox saw an HIV/AIDS activist wearing a shirt that said “I AM HIV POSITIVE.”  That is what gave me my out of the ordinary to start my presentation with images and text displayed on my shirt.  It was something a little bit different, something out of the ordinary.

It got my student’s attention.  Through this project, I got to see a bit more of my student’s personality as they picked songs important to them.  We got to hear the Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?,” twice, though with different analysis.  My students were singing along to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel, a song almost twice my student’s age.

I learned that sometimes your need to make things a bit different, a bit out of the ordinary to grab student’s attention, to hook them with a new lesson, project or chapter.  What that is or looks like varies from teacher to teacher and their comfort level.  It affords us the opportunity to show a bit more of our personality.  It gives teachers an opportunity to show why we went into teaching in the first place; to inspire to be extra-ordinary.

 

 

Trevor S. Angood is a teacher (and alumni) of Eastlake High School currently teaching AVID 9/10/11 and Human Geography.  Prior to his hire at Eastlake, he was a 7th Grade World History teacher at a STEM focused charter school, where he was also the EdTech Coordinator, Archery Coach and DC Trip lead.

 

Day 161, Amy Illingworth

Did you know that there are over 250 SUHSD staff members on Twitter? Staff from all across the district are sharing learning and telling the Sweetwater story using the hashtag #suhsd. We even have a monthly district Twitter chat using the hashtag #suhsdlearns (named after this daily blog showcasing our community of learners!). Our next district Twitter chat will take place on Tuesday, May 9 from 7:00-8:00 PM.  The chat will be moderated by three staff members from our Equity and Culture department, Sonia, Mariana, and Molly. We will be chatting about creating a safe and healthy school environment.

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, it’s easier than you think!  We have an entire page of Twitter resources available on the Professional Growth website here, but this is a mini Twitter chat tutorial:

  • You need a Twitter account.
  • It works best if you are on a computer, rather than a phone or ipad.
  • It works even better if you use Tweetdeck.com, which allows you to view multiple columns at once.
  • You type #suhsdlearns in the search box in Twitter or Tweetdeck and you will be in the right place!
  • Our chat follows a Q1/A1 format. That means you will see one person tweet out Question 1 (Q1) and anyone participating can respond with their first answer by including A1 and #suhsdlearns in their tweet.
  • Answer questions and chat (via tweets) with your fellow SUHSD colleagues throughout the hour.
  • Have fun learning!
  • Consider submitting a written or video blog about what you learned in the #suhsdlearns Twitter chat!

https://twitter.com/macias_science/status/859832850241077248

 

Day 151 , Rosette Sowell

What’s in a theme?

The thought of having Dr. Gilbertson of the UCI History Project come and speak about the new History-Social Science Framework is enough to make a self-proclaimed history buff geek out about attending the world history content workshop.  Yet, to my surprise this workshop was packed with so much more.  We learned about The California Way as defined by Thomas Adams, the Deputy Superintendent of California Department of Education.  According to Adams, H/SS teachers need to create inclusive classrooms for our diverse student body and ensure cultural relevancy in order for students to have a more personal connection to what they are studying.  But, my favorite takeaway of the day is the idea of centering our instruction around a year long theme.  Examples given by Dr. Gilbert include: the role of a citizen, or individual versus state. The role of the citizen can be tackled in so many ways with our new framework.   If you are interested in this idea, I suggest you check out the MIT website for visualizing cultures recommended by Dr. Gilbertson.  MIT Visualizing Culture:   Another great resource is the Humanities Out There (HOT) curriculum which is aligned with the California standards, as well as Common Core standards.  Definitely check it out!  HOT Curriculum

We ended our day by working on a framework plan.  If you haven’t checked it out, there are a few new additions for world history teachers to cover.  New sections include: Economic Integration and Contemporary Revolutions in Information, Technology, and Communications; The New Geopolitics; The Impact of Globalization; Rights, Religion, and Identity; and A new Role for the West.  If you want to check out the framework, it is linked here. New CA H/SS Framework

I have to say, I am really excited about these new additions because they will help us make history more relevant to our students with some focus on modern world developments.  Talk about a jam packed and productive day!  If you are a H/SS teacher you don’t want to miss an opportunity to hear Dr. Gilbertson speak.

Rosette Sowell has a Masters in Education and is a world history and AVID teacher at Bonita Vista High School.