05.07.18

PLC Perspective – Teacher response to the recent SLT Newsletter

Mr. Tom Winters recently sent out an SLT update to the entire district staff.  Below is one teacher’s response, from his/her PLC perspective.  We would love to hear from more teachers!

 

Our General Science 2 team has a fantastic and unified team of people.  The history is interesting going way back 15 or 20 years such that, in spite of the normal coming and going of talent, the underlying foundations of the team have persisted in maintaining a high quality professional team.  Stupid me, I thought all other teams on our site and across the district were like this and only recently in the last couple of years have I realized we’re more of an exception.  This realization has become evident as colleagues, district leaders, and our own site team come to observe what we’re doing which really surprised all of us in 8th grade science.

Here are a few things that have helped us maintain our friendships, professional capacity, and outlook to do our best.  (I only share these not to brag but to reflect that sometimes, there’s a gap between what we ‘get’ from reform efforts and what actually ‘gets done’ when teachers get back to their sites.) Each 8th grade science teacher willingly has internalized the following values/morals/ethics.  A few might be classified as soft-skills but each of these translates into a vision and commitment towards excellence.

 

  1. Humility – None of us on our GS 2 PLC believes that we’re better than our colleagues, much less perfect and we make fun of ourselves when we make mistakes.  The bigger the mistake, the greater the cause for celebration during PLC.  We hand out ‘monkey wrench’ diplomas during PLC and have them framed on our team wall.  We especially like share faults that our students catch and we find ways to reward each other and our students when they catch us making a mistake of action or omission.  ‘We know how not to do X, Y, Z, next time’
  2. Forgiveness – Today is the best day to make an improvement.  No baggage allowed, no ‘go backs’, and no gossiping about how someone screwed something up whether it was yesterday or a decade ago.  Each person on our team makes a sincere, immediate, and clear effort to make things right by apologizing.  Almost always, there’s a hug, a joke, or a funny moment.  When things go sideways, it stays in the team and everyone is 100% confident that nobody is going to go outside the team to gossip.

 

  • What we’ve seen is that lacking 1 and/or 2, it’s almost impossible to get anything done, regardless of the organization, team, or relationships among individuals.  Nothing will ruin an effort faster than arrogance and a ‘payback’ mentality.

 

  1. Charity – Show others you care by saying good morning, please, thank you, and I’m sorry every time, every day.  If you have something you created, you modified, you think someone can use, give it away.  No transaction, no ‘you owe me’, nothing.  Freely give of your kindness, your smile, talent, resources, etc.  We like to remind one another that we don’t own our classrooms, we don’t own the lab equipment, we don’t own the master schedule, etc.  It makes it easy to share.  We show charity by rotating the burdens of leadership, section assignments, and so on.

 

  1. Empathy – a principal always reminded us that ‘everyone has a story’ and in a high support / high trust relationship those stories are shared with food, snacks, and sometimes tears.  The fabric that’s woven among our team is strong enough that any professional tasks always pale in comparison to the human needs that we all have.  At the end of each PLC session, we close with ‘Happy Monkey Time’ so we all share some personal or professional success that was significant to us as individuals, no pressure to make any glamorous pronouncements, just honest personal successes and a highlight of the week’s most rewarding moments.

 

  1. Supported Risk-Taking – Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the team, sometimes two, sometimes all of us that are trying something new in either professional development, leadership, or instruction.  No matter who or how many, we all pitch in to make sure that person has every support possible.  Communications, materials, contacts, insights, and a feeling that they’re not alone or that when the process is over their effort is forgotten.  There’s a real importance to embedding that experience moving forward into our daily practice as a way of honoring what other people contribute.

 

  1. Individual but Public Accountability – There are regular checkpoints that we all have agreed to for materials, planning, sharing, supporting, revising, fixing, accepting.  These checkpoints were agreed to in PLC with full consensus and we openly share with each other when we feel we’ve missed the mark.  Nobody picks on anybody, nobody has hard feelings, everyone provides feedback for improvement with the realization that nothing we do is ‘one and done’.

 

  1. Self-Directed and Team-Directed Reflection – Similar to above but we have lots of ‘thinking aloud’ and ‘if we had no limits, here’s what we would do’.  These conversations allow full access to big vision items with pull-back to a tighter focus on the daily instruction.  I’d actually have to say that we rarely – almost never – look at our instruction from a ‘daily’ perspective.  We view our instruction through outcomes and interventions for success because it allows us to focus on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘when’.

 

  1. Continuous Improvement – Think Deming and the Toyota Way.  Lots of lessons we’ve embedded from those foundational models and here again, the concept of human capital as a resource to be developed is at the core of our interactions with one another.  Seniority, rank, educational degrees, financial status, religion, sexual identity, all take a back seat to the idea that all of us have chosen to be part of an active team that wants to improve what we do (relationships, instructional delivery, content mastery outcomes).

 

  1. Direct and Open Communication  — Some of us are super assertive, some are deferential, some are great listeners, some are always coming up with lots of random ideas, some are really good at ‘bean counting’… we openly accept and honor individual strengths by not only recognizing them but by eliciting contributions from those who have a strength that we don’t have.  We work really diligently to make sure our ‘bean counter’ checks NGSS standards, our random idea person generates innovative ways to approach content, our assertive person keeps us on track, our deferential person is listening and points out things we miss by going too fast…. Synergy has never been better exemplified but it’s always there whether we have ‘new interns’, ‘new BTSA’, or 20 year veterans.  Everyone works on improvement of what we do.

 

  1. Willingness to Volunteer – Whether it’s sharing a classroom, travelling on assignments, or covering a class on prep.  Our default position is yes and the ‘no’ only happens in extenuating circumstances. Nobody counts, nobody keeps track, everyone steps up for each other and for our students.

 

I share these with you because oftentimes, even with programs that have a great track record, or processes where things are clear and well organized, or in organizations with superb talent… the outcomes aren’t always easy to produce.  Over time, it’s made me realize that people have to be willing to ‘go in dumb and come out smart’.  Individual Humility –> Organizational Pride

 

 

 

10.23.17

October Trailhead, newsletter for SUHSD Teacher Induction

Dear Colleague,

Please click here to peruse the October edition of Trailhead, the newsletter for SUHSD Teacher Induction.  Inside you will find data on program participants, evidence of purposeful planning and examples of how to implement ELD standards.  You will also find links to professional development materials, updated SUHSD Teacher Induction calendar of events and links to all previous newsletters.

Best,

K

Katrine Czajkowski, Ph.D.

 

Program Manager, Teacher Induction

Leadership Development and Systems Innovation

Sweetwater Union High School District

(619) 407-4995

 

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred.

 

 

10.23.17

Climate Conversations: Cross-Curricular Connections (from Sylvia McBride, CPH)

Hello,

I just wanted to share this link with you: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/climate-conversations-cross-curricular-connections-tickets-37397962312

I’m sending this to you because you either teach a social science or science class, and/or you might know someone else that will benefit from the teacher resources shared. Or maybe you want to check out the OVEE online platform?

I am participating in a national online panel on climate change through PBS education. The reason why I wanted to share this with you is because it’s all online, free, and there will be some clips from the sequel to Inconvenient Truth (“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”) and “The Island President”  shown to the audience. Plus there will be discussion on how teachers handle controversial topics like this one especially in our current political environment.

The presentation/panel is directed towards teachers (especially Social Science and Science teachers) and there always are A LOT of awesome resources that are shared by other teachers around the country that might be helpful in the future. Some of you tagged on this email are so awesome about sharing resources that I wanted to provide at least one back!

The event starts at 4pm on Tuesday and lasts about 1 hour. Hope you can participate and thanks for taking the time to read this looooooong email from me. 🙂

Sylvia McBride

World Geography Teacher

CPH Social Science Curriculum Specialist and Dept. Chair

National Geographic Certified Educator

Twitter: @geomcbride2016

 

09.18.17

Free Stanford GSE online courses! Topics include SSI, Language Development in Math and Leadership

Free Online Professional Development Courses Through the Stanford Graduate School of Education this Fall

Starting October 3, Understanding Language at the Stanford Graduate School of Education will offer three online professional development courses sponsored by the Gates Foundation and S.H. Cowell Foundation to impact instructional practice, programs, and policy in order to create more meaningful learning experiences for language learners. There are two strands available for participants – one focused on instruction and the other on leadership. The courses on instruction are Constructive Classroom Conversations: Improving Student-to-Student Interactions and Integrating Language Development and Content Learning in Math: Focus on Reasoning. The leadership course is California Leadership for English Learner Success. To register or for more information, go to http://ell.stanford.edu/courses or download the informational flyer at http://ell.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Fall2017_UL_onlinePD_flyer_webquality_v2.pdf.

08.29.17

2017 Guide Teacher Orientation: 8/31/17 (4-5 p.m.) in PDC

Are you an experienced teacher interested in serving as an SUHSD Guide Teacher supporting pre-service Student Teachers from universities throughout our region?

See here for information on the process SUHSD will use to identify and support Guide Teachers.

Interested applicants must complete and submit a simple Google Form, obtain a Principal Recommendation and attend a one-hour orientation meeting (August 31, 2017 from 4-5 p.m. in the PDC).

Contact Katrine Czajkowski, Program Manager for Induction, with questions.

08.01.17

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.

07.19.17

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

06.02.17

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!

 

05.25.17

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.