Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Free Summer PD

Right now I am one of many educators who is not attending ISTE 2015 (International Society for Technology in Education).  I will admit that I do feel a little left out but I am enjoying following the action on Twitter, Instagram and Google+.  It has also got me thinking about what I will be learning this summer so I thought I would share some less obvious PD gems available.

CueRockstar Teacher Camp Resources:  It always surprises me that people do not realize that all of the resources from each camp are freely available for any and all to see, use, and learn from.  Even the resources from past camps are available.  Below I have a short screencast showing how to easily access these resources.  There are so many that I will be learning well into the fall.  The beauty is I get to pick and choose which resources and when.  

Here are some examples of the types of resources that you will find:
Adina Sullivan's Day 3 Session Thinglink (CueRockstar LaJolla):  I need to learn how to help teachers integrate more project based learning and this will help!

I am also all about learning how to make, edit, etc... videos for myself and my students.  Doug Robertson's session from the Chico camp - Adventures in You Tubery - is not only useful information but an example of how to use a Google Site to share information.

Finally, I love how Jen Roberts organizes her resources on a Google Doc (a great example to use with you students whether they are kiddos or adults! Writing for Technical Subjects - Day 2 of LaJolla camp

Just a quick post to get you started on some free and meaningful PD this summer.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

#CueRockstar Tulare, Just Like Home

If you are a Californian, you know that Tulare is "somewhere in the middle of the state."  It is an area of immense farmland and an abundance of 100+ degree summer days.  Of all the #CueRockstar sites this summer, Tulare might be considered the least glamorous.  For this year's attendees and this presenter, attending in Tulare could be considered a homecoming.

I grew up in Pebble Beach, just a slightly different environment from the vast farmland of the central valley.  However, I attended college in Stockton and Chico which required driving through and living near farm country.  I remember getting laughed at when I was 20 for stating that I had no idea who or what John Deere was.  Ironically, a few years later, I ended up spending many hours riding in John Deere combines and tractors and starting tube lines to water crops so I could spend time with my husband while he worked fields.  During that time, I found a love and appreciation for the farming landscape and all it encompasses.

Tulare was the perfect place to attend CueRockstar because it is the convergence of all that is California.  The agriculture is the foundation of our state and we were completely surrounded by it at Sundale School.  Tulare's central location also pulls in the city influence from the Bay Area, Sacramento, and So Cal.  It truly could be considered:
THE nexus of the state - the central and most important point or place, a connected group or series.

The most important thing to remember about attending a #CueRockstar event is that it is NOT about the place, it is about the people and the relationships.  Although I was labeled a presenter, I was more of a bright eyed learner driven by the enthusiasm and energy of all who attended.  Everything about #CueRockstar nurtures interactions, sharing, risk-taking, active learning and leading, inspiration and innovation.  For those of us Lone Nuts, coming together is like coming home to those who accept you for who you are with all of your idiosyncrasies.

This post is more for those who experienced Tulare with me.  I want you all to know that my heart is smiling from the permanent imprint you all left.  For those who have not attended a #CueRockstar event, the only way you can understand the impact is to go and don't think that the place you attend matters because it is the people who attend with you that matter the most.

The 2015 #CueRockstar fever has begun and will continue throughout the summer.  If there is an opening, grab it, it will change your teaching and your life (I know, that sounds so cheesy!).

Here are the daily sessions from #CueRockstar Tulare CLICK HERE - another great thing, they share everything freely!

In closing, I wrote this post back in February 2012, Is it the Place or the Relationships?  It speaks to the connections we have/make to the places that are significant to us.

Thank you all who organized, attended, presented, supported, and shared!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

#Satchatwc Leadership Countdown

Media preview

Saturday morning is not a time for me to sleep in.  I set my alarm for 6:45 so that I can rise, make coffee and get ready for my favorite twitter chat #satchatwc.  It is a chat for all educational leaders wc stands for West Coast for those of us who can't make #satchat.  It begins at 7:30 am and it inspires many of the blog posts I write. This morning we had 7 questions and the responses were enlightening, humbling, thought provoking and gut wrenching.  There were over 2000 tweets in the hour which is pretty amazing.  CLICK HERE to read some of the tweets.

Thanks Shelley and Dave Burgess for moderating the chat!

I am going to share my tweets for each question (please use them as a beginning discussion, not inspiration).  Then I am going to challenge all readers and some specific folks in my PLN to share their countdown responses. 

Q1: You have 7 Words... Communicate the vision for your school.

For both of these tweets I was not only thinking of the student who might need an educator with this perspective, but also the teachers who need leaders to understand that in their hearts they do care about the kiddos.

Q2 You have 6 Words...  Build rapport and earn your staff's support.

For these tweets I also looked beyond the surface stress and fear of the student and/or teacher and wanted to show empathy.  I have always been a Pollyanna, one who refuses to give up on people.  In the classroom or or working with educators, I will not give up on those that are skilled at challenging me.

Q3 - Creating a positive culture is critical... How can you absolutely wreck a culture in 5 words...

Read my standards based grading posts...

Q4 - You have 4 words... What message do you want every student in your school/district to hear?

I want students to know that there are many perspectives and each one is valued.

Q5 - You have 3 words...  Empower your staff to take risks.

I want the teachers I work with to decide to change 1 thing and to connect it to their passion.

Q6 - What 2 words are essential if you want to enlist the support of your community?

Again when responding to this question I thought of the teacher who pushes and fights.  I want to just sit down and actively listen to find common ground.

Q7 - What 1 word will define your focus as a leader for the 2015-2016 school year?

I will be doing more coaching and I will be a better listener and be present when working with the teachers in my school district and be present with my family.

What are your countdown responses?  Any and all respond!  Please pass the challenge onto your PLN folks!

I challenge the following folks to provide their responses:

Eric Chagala Ed D. - He was not in the chat today and usually is a great contributor I want to hear his responses.
Any and all #GEGnorCal folks - perhaps a blogging challenge!
Any and all #cuerockstar folks.
Any and all #youredustory folks.

Have a great end of your school year!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Do You Really Know Your Students?

This past week there has been much discussion in many educational circles and on social media of the twitter posts by a third grade teacher I follow - Kyle Schwartz:
Students Share What They Wish Their Teacher Knew

Initially, my ears and eyes perked up when seeing her postings because my son is a third grader. However, when I delved deeper, I saw many of the students that have entered my classroom throughout my 25 years in education in her students.

It is inspiring to see a new teacher create opportunities for her students to share in a safe environment with the intent to build relationships and an understanding of her students as they journey through life.

This takes me back to my first years teaching in a small town in the Salinas Valley.  Although I never explicitly asked my students what they wished I knew about them, I did know that their education depended on the relationship I established with them.  What they did not know was my survival as a beginning teacher hinged on the authentic and meaningful relationships I built with my at risk students. Some mornings they would come into the classroom to tell me they spent the night huddled on the living room floor while gun shots rang out in the neighborhood.  I remember leaving school each day ready to quit and waking up each morning excited to get to school and my students.  It was such an interesting dynamic and it provided the foundation for my life as an educator.

My last few years as a classroom teacher, I made sure that I had a face to face conversation with each of my middle school students each day.  I had 120 students that passed through my door each day, how did I accomplish this?

  • When the students entered my classroom, there was an activity for them to complete.  (If the students are engaged, I can touch base with all of them).
  • As they worked, I "checked homework" by going to each group and checking in with each student.  
  • If a student did not have their work, their book, their notebook or other materials, I made eye contact and ask them why (with empathy).  I had a coding system so I could keep track of each student's work patterns and level of understanding and look for work behavior patterns.  
  • I also made sure that I smiled genuinely at each student and acknowledged their successes or understood their anxiety, frustrations, and/or confusions.
  • This formative check I did with each student in each class everyday also enabled me to make sure the students knew I was there to challenge and support their learning in a respectful collaborative environment.
  • I allowed for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class to accomplish this task and build relationships.  It was the most valuable time of the day for establishing a foundation for trust and risk taking in a middle school math class.
Now I am working to transfer this process to the adult learners I work with.  What do you do to really get to know your students?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some Ideas on the A in STEAM... Unorganized Thoughts

I have been thinking about STEM, STEAM, design thinking, maker spaces/labs, coding, robotics, integrating technology... and how this all looks in a TK-8 setting.  I have also been thinking about the A part of STEAM.  I like to describe the A as Creativity instead of Art because it immediately broadens the possibilities.  Below is a collection of random experiences and "finds" that have my thoughts churning...

03/23/15 - District STEM Visit
Our district is in the infancy in the implementation of all the above.  We (a team from AUSD) recently took a field trip to Los Altos School District to see their elementary blended learning in mathematics, STEM/Maker labs, a design thinking challenge (6th grade), Coding/programming (6th grade), and middle school robotics and engineering electives.  It was an eye opening day for the team as to what is possible when integrating and implementing a thoughtful STEM/STEAM program.  Click below to see what we saw on our trip.
Los Altos Site Visit CLICK HERE

03/21/15 - Facebook Find
This incredible woman is a TK-8 art teacher (we went to high school together).  Look at her face, she is glowing and passionate and she is wearing garbage (recyclables).  She put on a "Junk2Funk" event that included a runway show and sculptures, everything produced by her TK-8 students.  Junk2Funk Fashion Show CLICK HERE 
Junk2Funk Video CLICK HERE

03/18/15 - Sierra College Hacker Lab Visit
Our local community college in the Sierra Foothills above Sacramento is opening a Hacker Lab for Placer County.  I had the opportunity to visit an open house with my Superintendent and check the space out.  I also had the opportunity to hear the organizing team speak.

Jennifer Kloczko @jkloczko presented a Pecha Kucha featuring the show "Chopped" at Cuerockstar Petaluma.  I did not get to experience her presentation, however, it got me thinking about "maker" shows that can support and/or influence STEM/STEAM learning.  Here is a beginning list:
  • Chopped - Food Network
  • Project Runway - Lifetime
  • Craft Wars - Family Channel (I think)
  • Flea Market Flip (HGTV)
  • Ink Wars (maybe for older kiddos??)
There are many more "maker" type shows that I am leaving out and will add as I search for more...

So, I am letting these things dance in my brain as I help my district develop a path for STEM/STEAM learning for our students.  I want it to be wide open instead of confining and make it student driven.  There are many foundational structures that need to established and our teachers will need much PD and support as they shift their instruction.  

Please share any and all ideas etc...  I need all of the help I can get!!

Friday, February 27, 2015

My CONTINUED Frustration with Math Timed Tests

Back in September, I wrote this piece on timed math tests: Another Personal Rant...  My frustration reared it's ugly head last week while working on math with my son.  Here is some background information.  In the morning when I wake my son up I count to 30 in a variety of ways.  On Monday I count by 1's, Tuesday by 2's, Wednesday by 3's, Thursday by 4's, and Friday by 5's.  I know it is strange and I can't remember how/why it started (perhaps it has to do with the fact that I constantly count steps, etc... in my head as I go through my day - I know...).  A couple of weeks ago I changed up our counting routine.    

In Skyler's homework packet there was a list of the times tables he still needs to pass (6's, 7's, 8's, and 9's).  So instead of exploding, I decided that I would remain calm and try to figure out a meaningful way for him to "memorize" his facts.  I made the connection to change my counting routine to include skip counting his multiplication tables.  

So, I started with skip counting 6's up to 60 three times (Remember I have to count to 30) the first day, then 7's the next day, etc...

Skyler was feeling confident.  I was feeling okay because I was supporting his desire to perform and making it slightly more meaningful than straight memorization (at least with skip counting there are all sorts of patterns to explore).

Then this past Monday as soon as Skyler got into the car he stated, "Mom, I did WORSE on my 6's!"  I could feel my face turning red and the frustration boiling up.  I replied in a calm voice, "I don't care how fast you can do your multiplication facts.  If I ask you how to find 6x7, what will you say?"  Skyler replied, "I'd tell you that it is 14+14+14."  I replied, "You are proving to me that you understand what multiplication is and that you know what to do to find the answer.  I'll say it again, I don't care how quickly you can solve multiplication facts."  It was the next thing Skyler said that really got to me, "Then will you buy me ice cream?  We are having an ice cream party for everyone who passes their multiplication tables next Friday."  Here is where my frustration immediately turned  into a heavy heart and I could feel myself sink in to the seat.  I collected my thoughts and replied to my 9 year old son.  "Of course I will buy you ice cream.  But Buddy, if you want ice cream with your class, I will work with you to make that happen also.  And I will do both if that is what you want.  What do you want Skyler?"

Initially, Skyler said he didn't care if he had ice cream with his class.  He later changed his mind and told me he wanted to do both.  So, I figured out a way to use our skip counting to pass his tests.  I realized that even though he could easily skip count he was missing the other factor. 
  • We decided that the very first thing Skyler will do is skip count and write the numbers at the top of his test page.
  • Then, he will write the numbers 1 - 10 above the numbers so he knows the other factor
  • Now he will have all of the answers at the top of the page for easy reference.
1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10  (This line second)
6    12   18   24   30   36   42   48   54    60  (This line first)

Elementary teachers, please read the above link for other meaningful ways for students to learn their multiplication or any math facts.  Please start your timers at zero and count up so that students can write their times down and as runners and swimmers do, beat their best time.

I have realized as an educator and a parent that even though I have issues with this, I need to support my son and respect what he wants.  So, next Friday Skyler will have ice cream with his class and we will be going to Foster's Freeze on our way home.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Are You Asking Enough Questions?

Lindsey Lipsky @LindseyLipsky shared this quote on #satchatwc this morning.  It struck a chord with me as I consider why I do what I do as an educator.  I would like to add to the quote that not only do the best teachers not tell you what to see, but they also refuse to provide answers and only guide learning by asking questions.
I know that as educators we want to help and guide our students.  One of the most difficult things I had to teach myself was not to give students answers.  It is like the student who yells out an answer, once an answer is given, the thinking in the classroom stops.  This creates a cycle of passive learning in which students learn quickly that someone else will answer for them.  
My solution to students coming to me for answers is to respond by asking a question. 
I'm not talking about creating open-ended questions that are related to a specific lesson or unit of study.  I am talking about generic questions that you have on hand (on a clipboard as you train yourself) ready to use in ANY situation.  Here are some examples:

Mrs. Beck, how do you spell information?

  • Say the word, what does it start with? (student will hopefully say, "in"), if not I will say, "in" how do you spell that?  Write it.
  • What is next? (student will hopefully say, "for"), if not I will say, "for" how do you spell that?  Write it.
  • When I get to the "tion" I will discuss and ask the student, "what do you know about how to make the tion (shun) sound?  Are there any words around the room that can help you with this sound? 

This also works extremely well for mathematics.  I used this process in my middle school math classes.

Mrs. Beck I am stuck on this problem.
  • What do you know about this problem?
  • What have you tried or where do you think you should start?
  • What do you know about ratios?  (or whatever we are studying)
  • Can you go and work on the problem 
I  would love to give you more specific questions, but they really need to be tailored to the particular situation and/or student.  My suggestion is, DO NOT ANSWER, ONLY QUESTION.  It will teach your students that answers are found every where except from the teacher.  Teachers will guide you in your search, but ultimately it is the students' responsibility to find the answers. 

In my new role as Curriculum Coordinator, I am asking questions while working with teachers. When we work in PLC groups or leadership groups, I ask questions to move their thinking.  I model in the hope that they will question their students more. 

You know you are asking enough questions when students come to you and say, "Mrs. Beck, I know you will not tell me anything about this problem, but will you please ask me some questions so I can get my thinking started and figure this out?" 
You will also know that you are asking enough questions when your spouse and/or child say, "Kris/Mom, I am going to ask you a question and I want an answer, not a question!" (there may be a tone in their voice as they make this request).
It is easy to provide answers, the challenging thing is to take the time to ask questions which allows others to think and grow as learners.