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.  

Day 146, Gretel Rodriguez

What does it mean to advocate for public education? It means being able to advocate not for the benefit of yourself but for others. My father left me when I was two and my mother removed me from my home at the age of twelve. Since then I moved from home to home trying to salvage what was left of my childhood but entering adulthood at lighting speed. I have been working since the age of sixteen and was the first to graduate from college from a family of six siblings. Many made bets that I would end up pregnant or a drop out. I love it when someone tells me I can’t do something.

In later years and deep reflection I realize it comes natural almost innate for me to fight for our schools. This was and is my home. All of the staff raised me for better or worse but mostly for the better. I do not take kindly to outsiders attacking my family or home. I speak for the underdog in almost any situation and especially those that lack the knowledge of their rights.

An education is a civil right that all students and parents must have access to in our lifetime. Teaching goes beyond the classroom but has become a civil responsibility that many of us are brave enough to accept the challenge.

Whether it’s advocating for our ladies, our English Learners, our Black students, our LGBTQ Plus, Muslim, or our Dreamers many of us fight to make sure they are loved and learn at the same time. We often fail and trust me I have failed. There are nights I cannot sleep thinking of whom I didn’t reach and then you receive a loving message from a former student that changes those failing moments.  Students that have died to students that became amazing adults. Each student no matter the experience takes a piece of me with them.  Each year I wonder how much more can I give and I continue to give because there are always those students that refill us unintentionally.

My own two boys have their failing moments and moments that changed their lives because of our Sweetwater staff. Yet, they and I know it’s about forgiveness and love that nurture the love we have here in our district. We harm ourselves and others to allow any trauma or hold on to resentment to cripple personal or academic/professional growth.  My boys and I are honored to be a part of Sweetwater and we all know that in order to seek social justice for our communities it must be in becoming activists.  We all plan to protect public education because we believe it is a civil right everyone should experience.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change,” King said in a speech near the Washington Monument in 1968, on the dangers of neglecting important social issues.

Gretel Rodriguez grew up in Los Angeles and attended SDSU for her bachelors and credential.  She earned a Masters in Education Technology and has taught in the district for fifteen years. She specializes in working with English Language Development students and mainstream English Learners. She is a full time advocate for public education and raising two boys.

Day 141, Sara Chai

Have you ever felt like a celebrity, with constant greetings and smiles?  I admit I had never really understood the celebrity feeling until a few months ago.  Teenagers were constantly smiling at me and saying hello.  Several asked how I was doing, and what was new at Montgomery Middle.  You see, I was surrounded by former students as I participated in SUHSD’s first Family STEAM Night at Montgomery High School!   I shared the scientific process of making ice cream and watched Genius Bar students share about helping with tech and participating in our district’s First Annual Solar Sprint.  This reminds me of why I am a science teacher and have taught for more than single digits at Montgomery Middle.  What I want to express to my former students in this moment is: you make me smile and make me proud!  Thank you for being so welcoming to me and reminding me why I teach!

 

Sara Chai is a science and technology resource teacher at Montgomery Middle School.  She recently completed her masters in educational leadership, with an emphasis in technology.  In her time when she is not at school, you can usually find her tide pooling or trail running!