Greetings from the new kid up on the third floor of the Edison building. While I have been here before, it was not in this role.
This fall, I’m starting my twenty-sixth year with the Rochester Public Schools. I’m very committed to the students, teachers, and parents in this district--I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I have lived in Rochester for thirty years and my children, Ian and Makayla, are both graduates of RPS.
In my time with RPS, I have worn many different hats:
And now, here I am: proud to be the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction! I have learned a lot in the short time I have been in this role, while many other things have been affirmed for me as well. I know we have the most dedicated and hard-working staff around. Just like our students, all of our staff members want to do their best each and every day and I’m going to work hard to get our staff the tools needed to do their jobs and remove barriers that get in their way. I loved being a teacher; yet, I will never forget how challenging a job that is. It’s deeply rewarding, while not being easy. The good news is: our teachers don’t have to do it alone! They are surrounded by team members in their buildings, across the district, and here at Edison.
Student success depends on us, so let’s work together to do this work that is important to our district, our community, and our world.
This post brought to you by Brenda Wichmann, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Feel free to connect with Wichmann via email
The new school year is just getting started and we are beginning the year with a lot of new learning opportunities. Not only is this a great way for us to learn new curriculum, teaching strategies, and skills; but as teachers, this often serves as a great reminder of what it's like to be a student in a classroom before we reverse the roles back into what we are used to (being the teacher).
Below is a short overview of some of the Professional Development opportunities happening this week and next.
New Staff Orientation, Secondary (6-12) Schedule | August 14 & August 15, 2018
In addition to the two days above, new staff will also have a meeting at their home site: at most schools, these meetings are scheduled for Monday, August 12th (today).
Back to School Professional Development Days | August 21 & August 24, 2018
During BTS week, there will be one teacher workday, two site planned Professional Development (PD) day, and two district PD days.
During the district PD days, REA staff, paraprofessionals, MHPs, early childhood, and ABE staff will have their choice of learning sessions that will be taught by district staff or external presenters.
Access the August 21st PD day options HERE, and see the schedule for August 24th.
Sign up for your courses on PD Express by clicking HERE.
Based on job assignments, some staff will be required to attend a certain PD session. For example, math training will be required for all teachers of mathematics. If you are required to attend a specific PD session, you will automatically be registered for the course in PDExpress. You will receive an email indicating that you have been registered for those classes so you can plan accordingly. Other sessions will be self-selected based on staff choice. This guide features elective courses for all REA members, MHPs, early childhood, and ABE staff.
Certified staff are required to attend both August 21st and 24th.
Paraprofessionals are only required to attend August 24th.
Yes! We did it! Another year completed! Students are gone, finals have been completed, grades have been submitted, and now what? Time to celebrate, reflect, rejuvenate, and reenergize.
As the busses rolled away and I waved goodbye to students who have been such a huge part of my life for months, I have always felt a strange mix of celebration and shock. I was so proud my students, but I also couldn’t believe it was all over.
The first week off was always strange for me. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. This is when the first R of my summer began: time to Reflect.
I spent my first few days reflecting on my year. I celebrated my successes, but I spent more time reflecting on what I wanted to change. How could I adjust my classroom set up that would foster more interaction? What teaching strategies did I want to dig deeper into that I just didn’t have the time for last year? Which lessons did I want to modify to make them more successful for all my students? How could I build in more academic vocabulary in my lessons? I would jot down these ideas as I knew that I would forget them between June and August. I sometimes organized my ideas by the following categories:
After spending time reflecting and celebrating, it was time to Relax! Time to rejuvenate and enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of school. This time allowed me to clear my head, rejuvenate my body and fill up my well again. Here are some ideas that could fill your well:
Then, in September, share what you did over the summer with your students in the fall. They love to hear what teachers do in the summer!
After some much needed (and much deserved) relaxation, I was ready to get Reenergized for the fall. I would pick up that list of ideas I jotted down in June. I would reread it and begin making my plans for the start of the year. I would start researching new strategies, read blogs that offered new ideas, or dig into a professional development book that someone told me about. I was ready to get back at it again.
Teachers never stop learning and I saw this first-hand last year at Pages on the Patio. It was reenergizing for me to see these amazing educators reading professional books, listening to podcasts, and sharing their learning with one-another. My co-facilitator and I would have local residents come up to us and ask us what was going on. I’m sure it seemed strange to see 20+ people quietly reading in public. Our response was “we are teachers and this is what teachers do in the summer; we continue to learn”. It was fun to see them looked surprised. They often expressed admiration for what these educators were doing. I took away so many new ideas to start off my year with from these sessions and couldn’t wait for August to start sharing my learning with others. (You can read more about last year's summer learning here.)
By the way, it isn’t too late to sign up for this summer's Pages on the Patio. You can still sign up on PD Express!
As the year comes to a close, my wish for you is to take some time to do the same 3 R’s as I’ll be doing: Reflecting, Relaxing, and Reenergizing.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
How Was Your Year?
The end of the year often brings conflicting feelings to those of us who work in education. There is a sense of excitement for what’s to come next year and what we want to do better but there is also a sense of loss as we say goodbye to a group of students for the year. This is a natural time for reflection and planning for what we’ll tackle next year. How can we harness this natural inclination to think and plan and leverage it to help drive our own improvement as an educator? Here are some tips to help you launch into next year in a positive way:
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SOME COMPLETED STUDENT EXAMPLES FROM PAST YEARS
- An online survey. At our final 2017-2018 new teacher training session, Heather Willman shared this online version, created by teacher, author, and speaker Pernille Ripp, who uses a Google Form to collect her data.
- An essay reflection. I have personally used this type of end-of-year data collection as well. (An added bonus here is that I was able to give them feedback on their writing, while simultaneously collecting feedback on what they took away from the course as a whole!) Here is the prompt I used a few years ago with my juniors in AP Literature & Composition, along with a few examples of student responses:
SOME STUDENT EXAMPLES FROM PAST YEARS
- Small group reflection. Vanderbilt University recommends using a small group approach to collecting end-of-year feedback from students. You can read more about this method here.
- Explain the purpose of the survey to your students. If they know that you are going to use the data, and how, they often take it more seriously and provide you with more precise examples. In the past, I have gone so far as to share will students how I have adjusted which texts I use in the course, how much homework I expect students to do over long breaks, and how I no longer expect all assignments to be typed—all decisions made based on feedback that students shared in the end-of-year surveys in years past.
- Share examples of helpful vs. obstructive feedback. Sometimes students need a quick reminder of what constructive feedback looks and sounds like. If a student writes, “Your class is dumb,” not only does that hurt my feelings as the instructor but it also does not help me make changes for future students. However, if that student instead writes, “I don’t understand why grammar matters, so I hate our Tuesday grammar lessons and find them boring”...well, now that’s information that I can work with. Making students aware of this difference seems to help them weave more constructive criticism into their answers.
- Ensure students have enough time allotted. When students are rushed, they may skip an open ended question or two, misread a question, or even circle answers at random just in order to be done in time. This type of inaccurate data is misguiding later on when you go to reflect on the responses.
- Consider anonymity. Some students will be more honest with you when they know their name is not attached. Then again, without names it can be hard to follow up with any personalized feedback that should be addressed right away. Again, consider what your goal is in collecting the data, along with when you’re giving the survey (if it’s the last week of school, for instance, you might not have time to follow up on responses so names would not matter anyway).
- Look for trends. Sometimes you will have data outliers, but as soon as you have three or more responses that send similar messages they deserve our time and our attention (sometimes the outliers do too, for that matter). Once you notice trends, record them.
Ask yourself hard questions. Take a look at your trend data. What does it say about your classroom, your course, your own instructional practices, the demographic of your students? Frankly, this part of the process can be hard. In the past, trend data has made me turn inward as I wrestled with a wide variety of issues, some of which included:
- Many students indicated not having computer access at home. Can I continue to expect students to type everything?
- Multiple students noted that they struggled with Cold Mountain as their book group novel. What could I replace it with? Could I just eliminate this title and make groups a bit larger?
- Too many students noted that this is the first English course that they’ve taken where reading Spark Notes wasn’t enough—they had to think about the texts. What (likely hard) conversations can I have with my co-workers to ensure that we’re all asking students to think about their reading, not simply recall plot/characters/etc.?
- Make a list of intentions. Data collection often isn’t worth the time it takes unless it helps you in some way. To ensure you take action on what the data indicates, make a list of intentions and then save that list in a place where you know you will reference it as you lay out your plans for next year.
- Share your intentions with your PLC. Ideally, others in your PLC gave the same (or similar) survey, which allows you to share the trend data and merge your list of intentions into one unified set of goals. An added bonus is that when you share your intentions, research shows you are more likely to act on them.
- Preserve surveys that will help you refuel when running on empty. I have a “Why I Teach” folder. I borrowed this from a mentor of mine, Sandy Nieland (teacher at John Marshall), who shared that she uses this as a way to refocus when she starts to get distracted by negative forces. For this reason, I pull surveys that have particularly kind comments, insightful reflections, or purposeful remarks and hold on to them. In times of high stress, I pull these out and remind myself why all the stress is worth it in the end. In recent years, I’ve shifted to an electronic version of this folder, taking pictures of such reflections, as you can see here:
In her first book, Carla Shalaby, a former elementary teacher, introduces us to four “troublemakers”: Zora, Lucas, Sean and Marcus. Her book causes us to question how we identify and understand students who experience school differently. These memorable children allow readers to see school through the eyes of those who are sometimes considered 'problems'.
This book definitely caused me to think about our school structures and what we value in the world of education. Although the children in this book are elementary aged, there are many lessons to be learned within any level of K-12 education.
This book was recommended by Dr. Sharokky Hollie at our last professional development session. The authors of this book explore the hidden biases we carry from a lifetime of exposure to cultural attitudes on race, gender, class, religion, and sexuality. This book is for those of us who want to align our behavior with our intentions.
Full disclosure, I have not read it--yet--but it is on my short list and has been highly recommended by those who have read it already.
"This book is for teachers who have good days and bad — and whose bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something one loves. It is for teachers who refuse to harden their hearts, because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life." These words, taken from Parker Palmer’s introduction, speak to the message of this book. Palmer boils things down to this one sentence: good teaching cannot be reduced to a technique but is rooted in the identity and integrity of the teacher. He says good teaching takes many forms but it shares one thing: good teachers are authentically present in their classrooms and in community with their content and their learners.
JJ Abrams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and co-creator and producer of the tv show Lost, said in a review that, "This extraordinary, wildly entertaining book sheds new light on the Age of Disruption. What does it take to make a meaningful difference? How can you apply this insight to your own life? By debunking myths of success stories, challenging long-held beliefs of process, and find commonality among those who are agents of profound change, Adam Grant gives us a powerful new perspective on not just our place in the world, but our potential to shake it up entirely."
Lately, we have been working hard on social-emotional learning in the Rochester Public Schools and how we might best help every student succeed. Although this book is from outside of the education sector it has great ideas for how we can support every student, no matter their background, to be successful in college, career, and life.
I was introduced to this book through Mayo High School’s “ Best Bits of Books” Staff Development Series facilitated by Peter Dodds. The main premise of this book is that if we are engaged in creative tasks (like teaching) the elements that people need in order to feel job satisfaction are threefold: autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Pink gives readers examples of how organizations can cultivate these elements.
What’s on your summer reading list? If you are interested in discussing some of these great reads or others that you plan to delve into consider attending Pages on the Patio, which begins this June (sign up here).
As you begin to think about your summer plans and how you personally would like to grow in your instructional practices and rejuvenate your classroom approaches, consider enrolling in one or both of the following C&I summer professional development opportunities.
New this Summer...
- Maybe you teach in a specially area where PD opportunities specific to your needs are seldomly offered...
- Maybe you had an internship opportunity come across your path and you found yourself thinking, This would really help me better understand the content I teach my students...
- Maybe your PLC wants to work together on an Action Research project but your team needs an excuse to get started...
Returning this Summer...
Last summer, we rolled out our first five sessions of "Pages on the Patio." Teachers from across the district, E-12, came together to socialize, read, and discuss their learning all while enjoying summer temperatures in a relaxing environment. On average, 25-30 staff attended each session, and every one of them rated this professional development opportunity as on they would like to see offered again.
Will you join us this summer?
So, as you start to think beyond this snow and focus on the new growth of summer--don't forget about opportunities to grow yourself, too. Maybe we can even grow together.
Code Switch: Race and Identity, Remixed
Some recent Code Switch stories that RPS staff have been discussing, and in some cases also using in their classrooms, are:
- “White Skin, Black Emojis?” by Kumari Devariajan
- “Can Marval’s New Superhero Bear the Weight of Representation?” by Gene Demby
- “The Difficult Math of Being Native American” by Savannah Maher
- “‘Strong’ Black Women? ‘Smart’ Asian Man? The Downside to Positive Stereotypes” by Kumari Devariajan
- The three part series Raising Kings done in collaboration with Education Week, authored by Cory Turner and Kavitha Cardoza
This resource makes suggestions for both nonfiction articles and fiction books; as a bonus, many come with some VABBing suggestions made by Hollie and his team!
This Sincerely, X Episode
“Episode 10: Gifted Kid,” the episode I hear discussed most often around the district, explores what it’s like to be a gifted kid in a neighborhood so rough that students' gifts become difficult to see, explained by a teacher who is trying to fix that.
Those who worked through this book together found it shed light on cultural aspects that often go unnoticed because those experiencing them, at least in this context, are white.
Consider exploring this text further by reading "The Lives of Poor White People" by Joshua Rothman, a detailed New York Times review about Vance's memoir.
If you too would like to dig deeper into what Hollie has been sharing with us, and will continue to share with staff on Thursday, perhaps you might wish to begin with one of the above four resources.
As you explore further, please considering reaching out to your instructional coach or one of us from the C&I team: we would love to discuss any of these resources with you.
Over the course of the two days, you are treated to 4 different keynote speakers that are not only engaging and dynamic but also deliver important message around current educational trends and topics. The remainder of your time is spent in small group sessions that you select to best meet your learning needs.
Some of the topics from last year’s presenters included: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn, keys to a positive learning environment, building culture in your PLC’s, RTI – it’s not just about intervention but how kids respond to intervention, changing the experience of school and how to have difficult but necessary conversations.
This year’s lineup of speakers is just as impressive as last year. Keynote speakers this year include:
Myron Dueck - Vice principal and teacher with over 17 years of teaching, He has had experience in a variety of subjects in grades 3 to 12. Dueck has been a part of district work groups and school assessment committees that have further broadened his access to innovative steps taken by others.
LaVonna Roth - An internationally known brain-powered educational consultant, author and presenter. She is known for providing fun and engaging professional development specializing in neuro- and cognitive sciences to help educators better understand how the brain learns.
George Curous - A previous speaker in RPS, he has over 17 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George speaks about meaningful change happening when you first connect to people's hearts and the importance of creating an innovative student learning environment with high engagement.
Kenneth C Williams - A former teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Kenneth is the chief visionary officer of Unfold the Soul, LLC, a company dedicated to inspiring individuals and teams to perform at the highest level. He is skilled in developing productive, student-focused learning environments.
Mark your calendar for August 8 & 9. You won’t be sorry that you spent two days in August at a conference once you’ve experienced this amazing event!
Below are links to a few recent postings (some middle school specific) along with some tantalizing snippets of the content of each one:
10 Favorite Math Blogs (Oct. 29, 2017)
submitted by Sara Van Der Werf, MCTM Past President
"Here are some of my favorite Minnesota Math Teacher Bloggers. You need to follow each of their blogs. They all have some fantastic things to say. (In no particular order)…"
Updated MCA Samplers and TE Items (Jan. 6, 2018)
Submitted by: Angela Hochstetter – Math Assessment Specialist, MNDOE
Ann Page – Math Assessment Specialist, MNDOE
"This article will answer the following two questions:
- How can a teacher find new items on the math item samplers?
- How can a teacher or student find all of the different types of technology-enhanced (TE) items that could be on a student’s MCA test?"
Highlighting Mistakes (Nov 30, 2017)
submitted by Amy Wix MCTM VP for Junior High / Middle School
“It used to be that when I handed back an assessment to my 6th graders, they would look at their score and be done. A few years back, after attending a presentation from Rick Wormeli, I revised my teaching to include standards based grading and the chance for re-assessing on any of the standards until they were met. This along with using some of the resources from Jo Boaler’s YouCubed site has helped me in my journey to promote growth mindset with my students…”
Meaningful Relationships (Oct 29, 2017)
submitted by Amy Wix, MCTM VP for Junior High / Middle School
"So how do we build those relationships with our middle schoolers? Let’s face it--their personalities can change by the hour sometimes! Here are a few things I’ve tried- some are the obvious types, others are stolen from #MTBOS folks that are so willing to share…"
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