Saturday, June 9, 2012

EMDT Reflection ~ an intense 12 months!


When I decided to attend Full Sail, I had a teaching job in a building I loved with dear friends teaching junior high with me.  I wanted to push myself to learn more about technology since my teaching pedagogy itself was strong.  Once I started at Full Sail in July, the name of the game was “CHANGE”.  My district went through major changes that included getting rid of my junior high, and I would up getting a second grade (wow, me teaching the babies?) but at least it was still in my school. 

Dr. Wyly in MLR introduced us to the Lit Review.  I chose to research parental involvement and learned quite a bit.  We first entered Second Life.  The absolute best part of Month One was the creation of TeacherTechies ~ now friends for life!  Tessa and Justin are no longer with us, but will no doubt complete the program at their own pace.  David, Amanda, and Dara have carried me throughout the program and I thank them for it!  Second Life gave me fits, but we created a great video about Veterans Day.

Beth Strudgeon was so positive and upbeat in MLT, it made learning theories fun. I already knew a lot about Gardner, but little about brain-based learning.  It gave me something else to think about when planning lessons.  Especially preparing for a new grade level with my second grade babies.  August came and went and we were back in school.  I fell in love with my students right away.  All 12 of them ~ uh-oh.

Michelle Haynes’s TMD course got me thinking about presenters and different styles.  Getting in front of the camera myself was unnerving, but in the end I felt I learned a lot about how to do an interview and film myself.  Teachers have so much to share with each other, and being able to present will be a valuable skill to have that I take from this class.  This course came at a very stressful time for me professionally.  I learned that I would be displaced from my school.  With only 12 students, my classroom was dissolved.  I would have to leave my beloved DeVeaux.  Where would I end up?  So much was up in the air.  My stress level was on red alert.

ETC and Rena Hathaway could not have come at a better time.  I had never blogged before and I found out that I absolutely LOVE it.  I plan to continue blogging when I have graduated from EMDT.  It is so calming to get my words across, even if no one else but me reads it.  I would like to audit ETC in the future; there are always emerging Web 2.0 tools, it would be interesting to get updates through this course on what resources teachers are discovering and using.  This is the month I was invited to interview to teach at Robinson 8th grade.  It seemed like a challenge, but an opportunity.  I knew I would have my work cut out for me.  Looking back now, I didn’t have a clue just how much.  Working with Amanda in the RILS project was a blessing, and I learned so much from her.

Months 5-8 went by in a blur.  I was dealing with a very stressful classroom full of 8th graders.  They were so challenging to work with; words just don’t describe what I went through.  Sometimes I felt that Full Sail kept me moving forward when all I wanted to do was sit and cry.  EDE had me create my first Google site and work with ADDIE and R2D2.  It was then that I realized my AR project needed to be scrapped and started over.  What I had planned for my second graders was no longer relevant for 8th grade.  I was devastated; I loved the idea of edublogging for developing literacy.  But, keep moving forward…  Roxanne was a lifesaver and helped me work through how to change my AR.  Lisa Smith introduced me to Flash.  This was challenging, but the tutorials were very helpful and I was able to create a good project.  MTE with Dr. Repp made my Cycle 1 come to life.  It was also during this month that my students started to turn a corner.  I think my Cycle 1 helped in that.  The Similar Figures rap also made a difference.  OK, maybe I can reach these challenging students after all.  I learned to view film differently in FPE with Kathy Craven.  I loved the assigned movies, and actually watching for the elements we learned about. 

My hectic teaching life was starting to calm down just a bit by month 9 ~ just in time for gaming with Dr. Dan!  This class was FUN!  I enjoyed immersing myself in new games, trying them all out for the first time.  Game Star Mechanic was interesting, I enjoyed creating my own game.  I now see the huge value gaming has in education.  Is this something I could do in the future rather than being a classroom teacher?  Maybe J

Dr. Reo made Month 10 very engaging.  Our wimba sessions were outstanding, and I do plan to use Edmodo as an LMS next school year.  We moved right into Month 11 with Joe Bustillos, and everyone in my cohort seemed to panic at all of the work for the month!  But we all plugged away at it and made it through.  It was exciting for everything to start to wrap up.  I really enjoyed blogging again, it made me remember and appreciate Rena.  I came to discover my love for blogging, and I know that I want to continue with it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Week Four: Leadership ~ Teachers are Leaders

The prompt for this post is "reflect on leadership role models whom you respect and whose example you would want to follow. Look at individuals or organizations that you admire and spell out what it is that attracts you and how you might incorporate this into your own leadership style."

In a school setting, few people in the public think of the teacher as a leader.  If asked who leads the school, almost every parent, school board member, and citizen will say automatically "the principal".  Many teachers themselves will reply the same two words as the answer to that question.  I am the exception to the rule as I disagree.  I don't feel that the principal leads most schools.  Teachers do.  That is not to say that there are not some amazing principals that develop a great relationship with parents and their staff who work hard to make their school a great learning environment.  But teachers are the ones who have a direct, personal relationship with students.  Teachers are the ones who know their students' strengths and weaknesses, and what motivates each of them personally.  Teachers are the ones who make a difference to individual students every day.  



I have been recommended each year for the past five years for an administrator cohort in my district.  The district will pay for an administration degree for the few recommended teachers, and these teachers are then expected to go into administration for a minimum of 5 years in our district.  While it is an honor to be invited, it is something I have no interest in.  A principal has to see the forest, teachers see the trees.  A principal must make decisions that benefit the school as a whole. A teacher has to make each individual student in front of him or her feel Important.  Priceless. Powerful.  Smart. Valuable.  No tree in my classroom is ignored or sacrificed for the better of the forest.  I would much rather be a leader in my classroom and have a direct impact on each student daily, than a leader in a more general setting and make decisions that trickle down to students, yet don't impact them on a personal level.

With that said, role models to me are teachers I have had in the past and teachers I have worked with.  Teachers like my high school Latin teacher Mrs. Pawlowski who taught me life lessons.  Dr. DeBruin who taught me as an undergrad to make Science hands-on.  Mr. Birr who taught me how an intervention teacher and classroom teacher can work together to make the most powerful learning environment possible.  Mrs. Rusgo who taught me that kindness is as important than knowledge.  Teachers are Leaders! Even if I eventually decide to leave the classroom after Full Sail, I will never forget the impact teachers have.

Week 4: Comments to Golda's Post


Golda's Post:

marriageTelling the WE story has me reflecting on my marriage. We have been together for 15+ years. Part of our success is the ability to communicate. We talk about everything including small talk. Topics will vary and sometimes we will argue. Even though we may argue about things, we tend to in the end come up with the possibility of agreeing to disagree. It is because of this philosophy, we find that we cannot stay angry at one another. Agreeing to disagree allows for mutual respect. It is this mutual respect that gives us our inner strength within our relationship. Another thing that made us stronger is that we were friends first and later to become best friends. Best friends do everything together and support one another in their endeavors. I truly believe that I would not have reached my goal of obtaining a second Masters degree if we did not go through it together. It was the support network that we had that enabled me to achieve this goal. Now we will go through the process of working toward me gaining employment once my goal of this degree is obtained.

Comments to Golda's Post:

Golda,
The chapter about the WE story is something that many people take for granted but is so important to the nature of human beings. We need to have someone to connect with ~ and we need to be able to accept how our actions are related to the world around us. That is something that our young (and sometimes older) students can not grasp, they can feel like the center of their universe yet can not see the bigger picture.
Congrats on having a successful marriage where you can communicate so well. Agreeing to disagree ~ isn’t that the key sometimes? Best of luck after Full Sail, we certainly have the tools now for new and different employment opportunities!


Week Four: Comments to Alyson's post


Alyson's Post:

This month has gotten me thinking a lot about my future and where I want to go, both in my personal and professional life. There has been a lot going on for me, the possibility of my school district closing, looking to purchase a house with my Fiance, our wedding next winter, and finishing my degree at Full Sail. The reading we’ve been doing in The Art of Possibility has really got me thinking about how I view the world in all areas of my life. It’s easy with my school district facing difficulties and the prospect of no job to think negatively, like there is no possibility. However, if you think about it, it opens up a whole world of opportunities for me. I could get a job teaching music in a different district or try to get a technology teaching position or even make a transition to the corporate world.
My Family, Christmas 2010
pictured from left to right
Mom, Alyson (me), Sydney (dog), Mallory, Baxter Bigglesworth (orange cat), Dad, Mr. Milo Quibbles (gray/black cat)
With all these options and new experiences open to me I need to start thinking about what path I want, what will make me happy. I think I’d like to try my hand in the corporate world. I have past experience as an administrative assistant working in the tax, IT, billing and HR departments. I would have the resume needed to be part of or lead new product training for a company. My role model for this possible transition would be my mom. She took her work experiences and went from a pharmacy clerk to a pharmaceutical software company tester to a project manager, to the Director of an IT department at a gas company. She wasn’t afraid of becoming part of a new industry, and proved that her experiences, though not from that industry, could help her be a great asset to every company she worked for. She was even willing to move to a new state for her current job, leaving every part of her comfort zone to do it. What makes me most proud of my mom is that she has done all of this without a college degree. If she can do this without a degree I (with my 2 degrees) better be willing to take a leap towards my dreams without letting fear stop me.

My Comments:

Alyson,
This month has me thinking about role models as well, and like you I am drawn to personal role models rather than presidents, business owners, or celebrities.  It is wonderful that your mom has been so successful and is a chance taker.  She will be very helpful with your future in your school district uncertain.  I think I still have some more work to do next year in my school, but after that I want to see what other doors open after our degree from Full Sail.  I think we have many tools to affect and motivate students without being a classroom teacher.  It is very exciting to think what the future may bring for us!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week Four: Vision


Creating Frameworks for Possibility

While the last chapters of this month’s reading were all valuable, the one that resonated with me was the eleventh practice.  The school that I teach at was completely overhauled with an entirely new staff, students, and grade levels this past school year.  This whole year has been a work in progress, as the staff was hired only 2 weeks before school started (and in fact is not entirely complete now, and I came at the end of October), the administration was only assigned then as well, and our contract language is changed entirely for this building in the district alone.   Teachers had never worked together before, and none had worked in this neighborhood or had any connections to the families in our school.

I say this because while we have been hired as “the best lead teachers in the city”, we have been operating without a clear vision.  We have been thrown together with the task of “turning this failing school around”.  A gargantuan task with no support from central administration to do so.  At our last staff meeting, we discussed the need for a vision statement.  I was a bit dismayed when we all contributed ideas and ended up with a vision the length of an essay with points encompassing all things we want to accomplish:  lifelong learners, safe environment, parental education, engaged students, fostering curiosity, attending to health needs, community support, giving opportunities, 21st century technology, ending the cycle of poverty… the list went on and on.  I felt that we were missing the mark on our vision statement. Of course we want all of these things for our students, but our vision could encompass all of these ideals without being an essay.   It was simply a list of all the things that overwhelm us everyday and frankly, it was depressing to me to read it all and see all we have to accomplish.

According to The Art of Possibility, a vision articulates a possibility.  It fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind.  It is free-standing ~ it points to neither a rosier future, nor to a past in need of improvement.  It is a long line of possibility radiating outward.   I think that our vision for my school started during that staff meeting by looking at all that is wrong with our students’ lives, and what we want to do to fix it.  That may be the worst way we can look at our vision.  Why not the same vision as HP – “Robinson Elementary School For the World”?  Not “Robinson Elementary School where we hope to erase poverty, drugs, gangs, parents who don’t know how to help their kids, kids who have no love of learning, atrocious behavior problems, pathetic attendance, government dependent citizens, violence....”  Instead of looking at what we want to get rid of, we should be looking at where we strive to be.

Do we approach our vision by looking in the rear view mirror and addressing things that need to be changed?  Or do we look forward at where we want to be as a school community?  I will be sharing this chapter at our next staff meeting when we meet again to hammer out our vision statement.  
photo from geekphilosopher.com


Week Three: Wimba


This week has been a blur with teaching, family, and Full Sail. I realize that everyone is very busy this time of year, but I admit that I am drowning in commitments and trying to keep up.  I had already made arrangements to get my two younger boys to their baseball games and saxophone practice the night of Wimba so I could participate in the sharing session, but when my oldest then informed me that he was being honored at his high school that night at a ceremony, I knew that family comes first and I could not miss it.  So….. I had to rely on the archive and my amazing peers Amanda and David to meet with me in Google+ hangout and leaving feedback on my Google doc. 

The feedback they provided to me was very valuable.  My draft was very rough, and I was having a hard time wrapping my head around how to include the five required sections into my article.  Amanda helped me to see how I could include lit review information.  My problem was that my lit review was written before I changed teaching assignments and I ended up having to overhaul my entire Action Research project since it was no longer relevant with my new school.  So my lit review was no longer about my AR cycles.  They helped me to piece sources together from my lit review to be valid in my article.  David suggested I keep the images of the comics used in my Action Research.   Help with APA formatting and overall flow was given. 


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week Three: Leadership Post


 For my Leadership Project, my goal is to publish an article based on my Action Research in Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.  This publication is seeking submissions for articles written to "entice and invite classroom teachers to learn about aspects of research that are closely related to their classroom practice."


My Week One and Week Two leadership blog posts can be found here:


Week One Leadership Post


Week Two Leadership Post


My leadership document can be found here:


Leadership Project

Week Three: Comments to Kim's Post

Kim's Post:


Image from Clipart Mojo

I was very happy to find that Benjamin Zander revisits his notion of the “silent conductor” in the earlier part of this reading. (I say revisits because we were first exposed to this idea during his TED Talk on music and passion.) During the TED Talk, I was struck by his comment that a powerful conductor is one who can inspire greatness in his musicians; that the conductor’s success is not so much measure by what he does, but by what others do under his leadership. This idea extends easily to the profession of teaching. The most successful teacher is the one who inspires the greatest work from his students. And, I see the connection between conducting and teaching even more prominently, in fact, in my action research project that focuses on the flipped classroom. The overarching goal of flipping is to make the classroom more student-centered than teacher-centered. Zander describes how implementing small changes like allowing the orchestra members to contribute their insights to his musical interpretations made them feel empowered and valued. In the same way, I hope that flipping my classroom will enable me to work with and hear from more of my students, so that they see the material as more approachable and relatable than they might otherwise feel in a lecture-based class.

My Comments:


Kim,
I too was "struck by his comment that a powerful conductor is one who can inspire greatness in his musicians; that the conductor's success is not so much measured by what he does, but by what others do under his leadership."

When I read that, I thought of the long-running Music Under the Stars summer concerts put on by the Toledo Symphony in the Toledo Zoo amphitheater. The same conductor had been leading this tradition for 59 years, until last summer when they announced a hiatus due to Maestro Szor's health. The first song the symphony always played (after the Star Spangled Banner) was a march that was "conducted" by a corporate sponsor. I always thought it was interesting that the musicians could play this piece without the conductor leading them (the guest conductor never seemed to know what he was doing!), but his is only because Maestro Szor had led them to be able to perform without him.

Maybe this is the ultimate goal of educators ~ to empower our students to perform without us at all.
Music Under the Stars 2009 toledo blade.com


Week Three: Comments to Amanda's Post

Amanda's Post:

As I read the next four chapters in The Art of Possibility this week, I couldn't help but reflect upon the discussion board topic that we were also give for this week.  I'm pretty sure Dr. Joe knew what he was doing this week.  Our discussion this week had to do with the barriers to integrating technology in the classroom.  We were supposed to discuss, from our experience, what it is that keeps teachers from embracing new technology.  Our answers varied from time commitment to fear of failure, lack of PD to lack of support from Admin. Since most of us are classroom teachers, we hit probably the top ten roadblocks, easily.  But after the reading this week, my eyes are open to some new possibilities!

In the chapter, The Way Things Are, the authors discuss our tendency to see the negative in a bad situation, instead of seeing it for what it really is...just another situation.  They also discuss the tendency to express problems as a downward spiral, I hear this all the time in the Teacher's Lounge!!  The same teachers who balk at integrating new technology are typically the same people who express their frustration with "these" students, who are always the worst students ever, and Oh! Just wait! The class coming up is the worst EVER!! It's so frustrating, and disheartening, if you buy into all that talk.  Why would anyone ever want to dedicate their lives to teaching? It's much more encouraging to think of these kids as being different from previous generations, not better or worse, and to think of ways to reach them that weren't available in previous generations.



My Comments:

Amanda,
Isn't it interesting how different school settings (and different teacher's lounges) can take on a life of their own? I have taught at a school where almost every single staff member expressed problems as opportunities. Students were valued, challenges were discussed, and solutions were found. Sure, at that school we had "those parents" and stinker students. But the staff never whined about this these issues, but instead found ways to work together and make good things happen.

I have also been at a school (it will remain anonymous) where the teachers' lounge is a horrible place to visit, and I avoid it at all costs. I actually shook my head when I read your post that said "The same teachers who balk at integrating new technology are typically the same people who express their frustration with "these" students, who are always the worst students ever, and Oh! Just wait! The class coming up is the worst EVER!! " I heard those EXACT sentiments recently. "Oh my gosh these kids are just awful. This year can't end fast enough. But I've heard that next year's group is even worse. Not looking forward to August to come..." If that is your mind set, why come back in August at all?

Week Three Reading: TRY


In this week’s reading of The Art of Possibility, there were some quotes that really stood out to me. 

When told by a violinist that a difficult passage in the violin concerto was virtually unplayable, Stravinsky is supposed to have said: “I don’t want the sound of someone playing the passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!”

That quote makes so much sense to me based on the environment where I teach and the students who are placed in front of me every day.  According to the state department of education, my students are “failures”.  Their test scores are and always have been abysmal.  Older students from this neighborhood do not graduate high school, let alone go to college.  Many of my students have police records and are involved in gangs.  My students know their school has the lowest rating possible and that they are behind grade level. 

My goal this school year has been to motivate these students in ways they have never even considered.  So many of my kids have never truly tried to accomplish anything academic, by the time they reach 8th grade they have no desire to even try.  They have failed so many times, they have a “why bother” attitude.  My first month the words I heard most often from them were  “Shut up talking to me” and “That’s doing too much.”  I had to get across to them that I was not expecting perfection in solving algebraic equations, but I was expecting effort, and interest in how they work.  I was not expecting students to recite all of the phases of the moon, but I was expecting students to be curious about these events and try to hypothesize why the moon changes.  In a sense, “I don’t want the sound of someone playing the passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!”

Now, I realize that the quote from Stravinsky is stated in a different light.  He wanted the emotion, passion, and drive to come through in the music, rather than just the notes.  I want my students to actually know it is OK to TRY even if they fail, or only achieve a small success.  I want a classroom full of students who are willing to try.  We are not completely there, but I am proud of the progress we have made in just one year. 

graphwords.com
Another concept in this week’s reading that stood out was the concept of the one-buttock player.  It goes along with the Stravinsky quote, in that passion is as important (if not more important) than just hitting the right notes. I wonder if the CEO from Ohio had success when he transformed his company into a one-buttock company.  Can I have a one-buttock classroom?  Not this year, but if progress continues at my school that could be in our future.  How exciting!