Back To School Message – Be Brave

Be-Brave1

 

Be Brave Video

Welcome.  Though it seems like only a few days ago that we gathered together to celebrate our 20th anniversary together, it has been a busy a few months getting prepared to welcome you and your children for an amazing 2013-14.  This past summer I had the pleasure of attending a number of inspirational conferences including the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston.  Whenever I attend a conference, my goal is to come away with a new idea and maybe, if I am lucky, identify an educator that I can invite to Davis to share with our student, faculty, or parent community.  For this BLC conference I would have needed to charter a plain to bring back all the inspirational and innovative educators who are impacting their students, schools, and communities.

As I sat down to write this message to you for back to school night I instantly thought of one of these passionate teachers that I have recently connected with, Matt Gomez.  Matt is a kindergarten teacher and runs a one rule classroom. The one rule is “be brave.”

I wish I could put into words how powerful this rule has been in my class but really there is no way to for me to articulate it. Be brave is the perfect theme, motto or “rule” for any class. It helps with friendships, tying shoes, monkey bars, missing Mom, touching worms, tasting new food, etc. Be brave is exactly the type of attitude needed for young kids. Every day they are faced with challenges as they grow up into this big world. If the only thing I teach them is that they can “be brave,” I have succeeded.

Though Matt likely does not have Kehilla, Kavod, Ruach, Chochma or Tzedek displayed on his classroom walls or integrated into his lessons in his public school in Texas, I feel like his one rule and the environment it helps facilitate, embodies the core values that both describe who we are and who we are striving to be.  The message of “be brave” is one that also resonates for us adults.

  • Be brave on the first day of school as you drop your child off for the first day of mechina and kindergarten.
  • Be brave as your child makes mistakes that you hoped they would not make but realize that these mistakes are where meaningful and resonate learning occur.
  • Be brave as your child rapidly progresses to accede your own knowledge in Hebrew, math and/or Shakespeare.
  • Be brave and trust that your child’s teacher is a professional who has your child’s best interests at heart
  • And be brave an be an active participant and partner in the exciting journey that will be the 2013-14 school year.

Christopher Robin may have said it best when he told is honey loving friend: “you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”

I look forward to sharing many more pieces of my learning from this conference with you through your children’s classroom experience as well as some parent sessions that I will be leading later in the school year.

 

My Math Rant

Often I have experienced parents who have decided the mathematical fate of their children by the age of 7 or 8.  Most of the comments are based on their success or lack thereof on mad minutes and other rapid recall fact assessments.  The particular import placed on the results of a mad minute (a math facts skill assessor and developer) which occupies less the 5% of the instructional time is troubling.  Equally so, the lack of the role of developmental readiness in engagement with the complexity and variability of more advanced math is alarming.  I believe it is important for kids to learn their facts.

(A rant within a rant)

I know of schools which are beginning to remove fact education as they feel this occupies too much time to learn and most children and adults have devices at the ready should they need to perform a calculation.  While I have admiration for the time this frees up to do more advanced application and problem solving, I am concerned by reliance on outside devices and forgoing the personal training and brain development.  I also see the math fact discussion akin to the cursive writing and analog clock discussion.  While I feel that a can argue intelligently on both sides, I feel that we cannot ignore the loss that will occur when these pieces of the curriculum that were core when we were educated, become extinct in our classrooms.

Furthermore I believe that being able to quickly access your facts allows students more time for the more complex operations or thinking that it requires to solve ever more challenging problems.  But I do not believe faster is smarter is more successful in math.  I think there is one catch to this may be a problem of a faulty attribution.  I think that with this as with any endeavor, early success breads confidence, and confidence breads an attitude of facing challenges by “leaning in” as opposed to seeing obstacles to which we “shy away.”

With the preceding math brain dropping complete, I was very excited to open my RSS feed this morning and the see the great post by Mrs. Bright, “How Does Speed and Performance Relate to Being Good at Math?” (Click the link for the full article, but here are a few of the lines that resonated with me)

  • Americans are pretty convinced that if you are fast at math and don’t make mistakes then you are “good” at math.
  • How does speed and performance relate to being good at math? It doesn’t.
  • The speed at which you can do math relates to your math fluency, not how “good” you are at math.

I quickly shared this post with my 3rd-8th grade math team and my PLN on twitter.  The response has been immediate and positive.  If we all know this intellectually, it is essential that we start modeling and discussing it with our students.  Is being fast and accurate and admirable condition, sure.  Is the same as being successful, no way.

Lean into the Learning

THINK

 

While we can tell students again and again and again and again to protect their online identity, to make wise decisions, and to present oneself online as they would in person, often these are lessons that are only capable of being learned through experience.

Just this week a wonderful example of this presented itself, and while others would shy away due to the use of and fear of their children/students being exposed to certain language particularly in schools, I an adamant that we need to lean in to the learning, not shy away of the fear.  These opportunities may present far greater lifetime learning payoffs than the risks and should be harnessed for this greater good (I am in no ways saying that this can or should be done without supervision or adult discretion).

In our fourth grade 21st century learning class, @21ststacy presented a great lesson using todaysmeet.com to engage students in a discussion about whit is means to be brave during the first week of school (http://todaysmeet.com/firstweek).  The students were engaged in and enjoyed the lesson, and they were excited when Stacy shared it with our school families as well as her followers on twitter. A person who follows Stacy saw the lesson and decided to comment.

“What an amazing lesson.  I wish our school did cool shit like this”

We use the “Think Chart” above with students to help them reflect before we post anything on any social network site (but this could and should also translate to reflection before emailing, texting or speaking).

T is it true?

H is it helpful?

I is it inspiring?

N is it necessary?

K is it kind?

Certainly reflecting on the “Think Chart” in response to the comment, one could raise whether the use of profanity is necessary and whether profanity in a response to a school or anyone is kind. The real lessons here are in opportunity lost and opportunities presented.

From an opportunity lost prospective:  If the commenter had said the same comment without the profanity: “What an amazing lesson.  I wish our school did cool stuff like this,” it would have been an opening or a chance for us to connect with the commenter and maybe set up a classroom connection or a Skype chat.  Furthermore, had the presenters said “What an amazing lesson.  Our schools does similar lessons with (padlet, edmodo…etc),” it would have been an opportunity for us to build on our CLN (classroom learning network) by adding a new source four us to learn from.

From an opportunity gained perspective: The use of the single word of profanity in his comment has changed it from a post that creates connection and allows our students to meet other communities to a powerful learning tool.  We learn by doing and experiencing. Though we would love for our student and children to learn from things we say and the warnings and guidance we offer them, it is unfortunately in the mistakes that we make or experience that the most meaningful and long term learn occur.  As the students joy for the activity and the sharing of this activity have created investment for them, the comment can present disappointment at the “sullying” of their effort.  We can and must now share with them that this comment and harness the learning opportunity to discuss our, their, and this commenter’s digital footprint.  We must let them know that employers, colleges, and organizations search for an applicant’s digital footprint and look for the ways in which the model their online self vs. their in-person self.  This commenter has now created an entry in their digital portfolio in which they respond to elementary classes and teachers with profanity. We must ask them to reflect about whether it matters that the intentions of the commenter would good, as he was clearly giving credit to the work that the class had done, or whether the single error in judgment would be the impact of this contribution to his digital footprint.

No one wants their kids exposed to some of the profanity that they see regularly in the movies, news, and on the web.  As teachers, however, we have to lean into these learning opportunities. Yes, it is our primary job and want to keep our kids safe, but safety is not achieved not preparing them and making sure that they themselves are making decisions on social networks and across digital platforms that represent their best self.  They must have exposure, training, and the modeling to use these tools in a positive way to harness their benefit and to contribute always with the idea in mind, “is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary is, and most importantly is it kind?”

 

 

Building on Excitement and Working on Endurance

An amazingly joyful and smooth start to the school year has brought us to day 3.

Day 1 and 2 were highlighted by the incredible spirit and enthusiasm from student, teacher, and parents alike to “dive in” in to the new year and meet their new classroom communities.

In two short days, the students have progressed from “newbies” to the school and/or grade level to fully immersed “vets” confident and comfortable in their schedules and classes.

One of the key tasks ahead now turns to endurance building.  Day 3 comes without the training that October and November provide for us, and thus we feel like mile marker 18 of marathon.  Early mornings, engaging days, as well as mental and physical activities leave us hungry for more time asleep.

Alas, the first Kabbalat Shabbat is only two days away. This Shabbat of rest will be welcomed in with open arms.  I look forward to a great completion of week 1, celebrating with you at Kabbalat Shabbat, and the endurance training ahead.

Reflections on a Great Day of Learning

For the 2nd straight year, John D’Auria of Teachers21 shared his insight, experience, and humor with our faculty team.  This full day of learning centered on the important ideas of how to enhance student outcomes through “Developing a Shared Understanding of Effective Teaching & Teaming.”  As always John has a keen ability to make both the discourse and the methods used in discourse educational for all in attendance.

 

Connection between adult and student environment

John put forth the idea that a school system is the same as a fractal (A curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole) in that what is occurring in the classroom mimics what is occurring with the faculty.  As such it is vital for the social, emotional, and learning needs of the teachers to be met and developed in order to ensure that same care is happening with our students.  This idea ties perfectly with our core value of Kehilla – (community)

“kehillah is more than just a group of people who share a common space. It is a group of people who share a common vision, common values, common hopes, common language, and common expectations of one another. We don’t sacrifice our individuality to be part of a kehillah. Instead we understand that our diverse and unique qualities and attributes make our kehillah vibrant (Rabbi Lapidus @rabbispen).”

And is supported by John Hattie’s Research which is detailed in his incredible book Visible Learning for Teachers.

“School leaders and teachers need to create schools, staffrooms, and classroom environments in which error is welcomed as a learning opportunity, in which discarding incorrect knowledge and understanding is welcomed, and in which teachers can feel safe to learn, re-learn, and explore knowledge and understanding (John Hattie, 2012).”

If all parties in a school community are not expected to learn and grow, how can we be modeling this for students?

7 behaviors that demonstrate effective learning

John then posed to each team (we were grouped in cross divisional random groupings) to list the behaviors that we would see inside the classroom of an effective teacher.  After much discussion and pairing down our lists to a final 7, groups shared their results (a few tweeted lists below:)

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The opportunity to engage in this discussion about what each of us feel are the essential qualities of good teaching and learning continues to build on both a common vocabulary as well as trust amongst the entire team.

A lens for looking at effective learning

John next put forth a lens for all of us to look at and discuss learning with and important shift:

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Effective learning has to be measured through student’s investment and the degree to which the learning is relevant to the student as opposed to the actions of the teacher.  It is our job and goal to facilitate lessons on learning outcomes that are relevant and important to the students that garner their investment.  We then watched a series of clips of teacher’s lessons and discussed the student engagement and relevance.

How do the core values of the school align with this lens?

The method for assessing evidence of learning is the same tool that can and should be applied to assessing the permeation and realization of our values.

Davis Academy Core Values

kehillah – community

Tzedek – righteousness

Chochmah – wisdom

Kavod – Respect

Ruach – spirit

 

How are student invested in these values and how are they relevant to them not only inside the classroom but also in the lunch room, on the ball field, at home, and throughout their lives?  John challenged us to come up with pieces of evidence that we could share to support that these are more than words and actualized by our students.  The list of activities and traits that were quickly generated were wonderful to hear and left us excited to begin further implementation and lessons surrounding these ideas.

In Closing

In the end a wonderful day of mutual sharing learning was concluded and summed up best by our middle school math teacher, Cam Heyen, when he shared:

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A compilation of the Why, How to Get Started, and How to Get Connected with Twitter

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It seems as the number of resources available to twitter followers on why to use twitter, how to get started with twitter, and how to get connected may be as overwhelming as the twitter-sphere itself.

Why Tweet?

As I prepare to start a new year with my team, we are looking to harness all the myriad of benefits that twitter affords:

  1. Increased communication and documentation of student learning
  2. Connecting our students with original sources (authors, organizations, experts…etc)
  3. Connecting our students with other classrooms and students in the global community
  4. Building a more robust connected faculty web of individually meaningful PLNs
  5. Modeling and sharing the digital literacy skills that are important tools for our students future

(Why Tweet from my twitter feed in the past week)

“…social media pervades all aspects of modern society, and it has become an imperative for us as educators — and parents — to model appropriate digital citizenship to even our youngest learners. Do I really believe that toddlers should have Twitter handles? Not really. But we do need to introduce children to the virtual, social world around them in appropriate and meaningful ways? Definitely (from Beth Holland http://www.edutopia.org/user/49983http://www.edutopia.org/user/49983).”

“The big picture in being a connected educator is the idea that you as the educator are first connected to the general flow of information, and then secondly, focused on specific connections to drill down to the detailed needs specific to you, or your students’ needs. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all applications that may be used to connect educators. Like it or not however, Twitter is the backbone of a majority of Personal/Professional Learning Networks for educators. Educators have taken Twitter beyond its intended use, making it a professional tool for collaboration. Approving or disapproving of the application is like approving or disapproving of a hammer or screwdriver. You can hate them all you want, but try building a house without them. Being on Twitter and following 200 sharing educators is a general connection that will meet general needs, and promote great reflection on education. Your Twitter timeline will flow with education sources and information 24/7. Information and sources are simply there for the taking. Using that timeline to focus on educators in your area of expertise will render ideas and lessons beyond general education philosophy to meet specifics in your area of study. If you teach English focus on English teachers. If you teach second grade focus on second grade teachers. There are thousands of connected educators in your specific area of expertise willing to share with you. Your task is to find them and connect (from Tom Whitby http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/).”

How to get started?

Beginning on twitter may feel like jumping into a pool in which you cannot see the bottom though you are aware that the water is scuba-diving deep. The seemingly infinite number of tweets, the new vocabulary of handles and hashtags, and the concern about fitting another tool into and already full day and personal reality can leave many standing on the edge scared to dive in. With this as in any endeavor, it is best to start small with connections and content that would be most relevant and interesting to your personal situation.

(How to get started from my twitter feed in the past week)

Twitter 101 for Teachers: Steps for Getting Started on Twitter from Mrs. T’s Middle Grades Blog

Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom from Carrie Kamm’s Blog

Twitter for Educators: A Beginner’s Guide By Amber Coggin via Jerry Blumengarten’s http://cybraryman.com/

How to get connected

Ok, so you are in the pool, now what.  It seems as if there is a world of swimming, sharks and minnows, and water polo seamlessly and simultaneously going on all around you.  How do you move from in the pool to “in” the pool?

Start with personally relevant people and hashtags.

“There are several hundred education Chats taking place on Twitter each and every day. Participation in these chats enables educators the ability to exchange, consider, reflect, modify and adopt ideas from educators around the world. These chats are a great place to find, and connect with other educators based on the acceptance of their ideas as opposed to their title. Follow the chat hashtags (from Tom Whitby http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/).”

Below are list of hashtags and educationally relevant chats.  These lists are by no means complete, rather they are an attempt to offer some starting points to immerse yourself in the twitter-sphere and allow you to start to build your own PLN with the most meaningful and relevant connections.

Educational Hashtags

Grade Level

Subject/Division Based

#kinderchat

#arted

#1stchat

#elemchat

#2ndchat

#grammar

#3rdchat

#jed21

#4thchat

#jedchat

#5thchat

#langchat

#6thchat

#mathchat

#mschat

Beginning Twitter

#scichat

#bastt

#sschat

#battt

Project Based Learning

Technology Integration

#pblchat

#4ITS

#pblworld

#digcit

#edapp

Global Learning

#edtech

#globalclassroom

#ipadchat

#qrcodes

Best of Blogs

#smartee

#blogmust

#tichat

 

Educationally relevant chats and schedule.

SUNDAY

#sunchat Sunday Ed Chat

9:00 AM

#1stchat First Grade Teachers Chat

9:00 AM

#titletalk Promote reading and literacy

9:00 AM

#21stedchat 21st Century Education Chat

9:00 AM

MONDAYS

#mathchat Math Teachers Chat

3:00 PM

#engchat English Teachers Chat

7:00 PM

#sschat Social Studies Teachers Chat

7:00 PM

#pechat Physical Education Chat

7:00 PM

#4thchat Fourth Grade Teachers Chat

8:00 PM

#musedchat Music Teachers Chat

8:00 PM

#edtechchat Educational Technology Chat

8:00 PM

#21stadmin 21st Century Administrator Chat

9:00 PM

#kinderchat Kindergarten and Early Childhood Chat

9:00 PM

#smartee SMART technology (board, software, etc.) Chat

9:30 PM

TUESDAYS

#edchat Education Chat

12:00 PM

#pblchat Project Based Learning Chat

8:00 PM

#edteach Ed Teach Chat

8:00 PM

#5thchat 5th grade Teachers Chat

8:00 PM

#patue Pedagogy and Technology

8:00 PM

#6thchat 6th Grade Chat

9:00 PM

#smartee SMART (software, boards, etc.) Chat

9:00 PM

#scichat Science Teachers Chat

9:00 PM

WEDNESDAYS

#ipadchat Ipads in education Chat

1:00 PM

#web20tools Web 2.0 Tools in teaching

6:00 PM

#3rdchat 3rd Grade Chat

7:00 PM

#edmusic Music Education

7:00 PM

#2ndchat Second Grade Teachers Chat

8:00 PM

#libchat Librarian’s Chat

8:00 PM

#jedchat Jewish Ed Chat

9:00 PM

#psycchat School Psychologist Chat

9:00 PM

THURSDAYS

#characteredchat Character Ed Chat

4:00 PM

#mathchat Math Teachers Chat

7:00 PM

#artsed Arts in Education Chat

7:30 PM

#langchat Foreign Language Chats

8:00 PM

#6thchat 6th grade teachers Chat

8:00 PM

#gaed Georgia Ed Chat

8:00 PM

#mschat Middle School Chat

8:00 PM

#escchat Elementary Counselors Chat

8:00 PM

#isedchat Independent School Educators Chat

9:00 PM

Going Forward

Finally, to all new and experienced teachers and collaborators in the pool, I thank you.  Thank you for the sharing that you have offered me as I have newly explored the potential of this tool, and thank you for the sharing that you will offer to me and all of my team in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Life, Learning, and Laughter Enthusiast

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