"Ethnic diversity adds richness to a society." Gary Locke
I had the pleasure of seeing a buddy activity between a Kindergarten class and a 5th grade class today at one of the schools I support. The buddies collaboratively worked on drawing the flags of countries around the world, especially the ones of their ancestor's origins. On the other side of the maps, the fifth graders were creating puzzle piece drawings of the US map. In just that short time of seeing the pieces on the floor of the 5th grade classroom, I saw the powerful symbolism in that project. The United States is truly a diverse country with numerous cultures and ethniticities. What an incredible powerful activity from five, six, ten, and eleven year old students!
Elementary school teachers in PAUSD experienced the second of two professional learning sessions on the Next Generation Science Standards during this 2016-2017 school year on Thursday, February 16th. This second NGSS PD day, titled "NGSS 102," followed "NGSS 101" in August where teachers were introduced to the architecture of the Next Generation Science Standards, an overview of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) of NGSS, and a look at SEP 1 - Asking Questions and Defining Problems.
For this second PD session on NGSS 102, there were three session goals to bring elementary school teachers into the awareness phase and the beginning of the transition phase.
It was great to continue examining the architecture of NGSS from the Fall into this Winter session analyzing the changes in the Next Generation Science Standards vs. the old 1998 California Science Standards. Teachers were given time to not only explore their grade level's Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) but dive deeper into NGSS with the other boxes in the standards. As noted by teachers in the sessions, the words of the 1998 science standards are, "Students know ...," "Students know ..." while the words of NGSS identifies other verbs and goes into higher levels of thinking - analyze, evaluate, predict, model, and interpret. The analysis of the words and phrasing in NGSS' performance expectations, three dimensions, and connections to CCSS ELA and Math definitely showed a more complete approach to the next generation of science instruction.
The second session goal of diving into Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) during NGSS 102 completed our study of NGSS' three dimension (SEPs in the Fall and throughout the year and DCI during session goal 1). This was certainly a completion of only an introduction to the three dimensions of NGSS. There will certainly be a lot more professional development in the future. This second session goal was definitely a very engaging time as teachers engaged in two activities that the PAUSD Elementary TOSA Team received from the California Academy of Science. The Crosscutting Concepts Speed Dating and Station Rotation activities definitely gave teachers the chance to become familiar with what the CCCs are and how they are defined.
The third session goal provided teachers the chance to engage in inquiry based instruction through a video (below) as well as a hands-on exploration called the Skittles Experiment. It was great to connect the CCCs in this activity. Teachers were asked to choose one of the seven crosscutting concepts to view the phenomena through and record their noticings and wonderings. Teachers were very engaged, asking questions based on their observations that could lead to more experiments, and working collaboratively to write their scientific explanations with claim, evidence, and reasoning. Below are pictures of the Skittles Experiment along with other pictures from NGSS 102 from the professional learning session with PAUSD fifth grade teachers.
NGSS 102 was a very successful day of engagement, awareness, conversations, planning, and professional learning.
What a timely topic for last night's #TOSAchat for this school year. It seems like there's always so much to do no matter what time of the year it is, however the topic of Organization for last night's #TOSAchat was quite amazing. Kelly Martin, one of the creators of #TOSAchat, came up with fantastic questions for the chat that really sparked great conversation, tips, reminders, and resources for how to stay organized. Some of the takeaways from the chat are creating lists in order to manage the number of tasks on our plates, Kyle Anderson's method of organizing his Google Drive, Kelly Nunes' use of Boomerang for scheduling emails through Gmail, the send & archive button in Gmail, Tom Covington's method of only dedicating email time to two times a day, and Shea Smith's 5D method to evaluate time-sucks. I definitely want to create a graphic for his 5D method.
Here is the link to the Participate Learning transcript of last night's #TOSAchat. There are so many wonderful gems in there, including the following two tweets.
Sandy Otto's tweet: "A3: I want to be better at not thinking I can multi-task. More often, I need to focus just on the task at hand & see it through."
Bethany Thompson's tweet: "A4: Also, try to do just one thing. If you need to concentrate to finish something lock everyone out and get it done."
Fortuitously, today I had a conversation with colleagues at Fairmeadow Elementary School about to do lists and how to attack our lists. Liz Pounders, the school's PE teacher shared the following quote with us. She mentioned she had shared the quote with a group of other teachers in a professional development class and that it applies to the conversation we had over lunch. The quote was definitely something that inspired me to make the following graphic for her.
Recently two teachers who I've had the pleasure of working with for many years told me they've been asked to submit proposals for sessions at a professional development conference in the summer. They asked me what topics I thought they could write for their session proposals. Having had the pleasure and opportunities of working with them as colleagues, supporting them in my role as an instructional coach, and knowing them as friends, I felt honored they asked me for my opinion/suggestion/idea. It was definitely easy for me to point out the amazing things they've been doing in their classrooms that I am confident others would love to hear and learn from their experience and expertise. We were able to identify lessons, units, projects, and philosophies like coding and robotics, fostering a culture of student voice and student choice - giving students digital options to showcase their learning, MysterySkype and MysteryHangout, BreakoutEDU, and integrated units. An example of the amazing integrated units they've designed for their students was creating a life size teepee during their study of Native Americans in their Social Studies block, measurement and data in their Math Workshop, and nonfiction study in their Readers and Writers Workshops.
During our conversation and brainstorm session of what topics they could write for their session proposals, I got the sense they both felt a lack of confidence in the ideas. "Is this something (the topic) others will like?" "Will other teachers actually get anything out of this?" Those were exactly some of the things I thought myself when I submitted my session proposals. After offering affirmations and sharing my confidence that their session ideas are definitely topics that others WILL benefit from, I offered a different perspective.
1 Comfort and 1 Push
In my experience of brainstorming topics for PD conferences, I often second guess my ideas because I feel comfortable with those topics as a result of having done those lessons/units/projects/had those philosophies for a long time that I feel they are "old news." "Why would anyone go to that session? Hasn't everyone done that already?" And I always find the reality is the topics are worthwhile, are beneficial, are new to others, even though I've been practicing them for some time. Knowing their ideas would be beneficial to others AND knowing how they may be feeling, I suggested to submit 1 Comfort and 1 Push. Submit a session topic that you're comfortable with, confident in, and KNOW it will be helpful to others no matter how you may feel about it. And submit 1 topic that's a Push for you. A topic that you've been wanting to explore, to learn, and to implement - the Push. We all have those Push ideas and sometimes we don't push ourselves to try them because of the tasks on our plates, a lack of time, and many other reasons. Suggesting they identify a Push idea for them to submit creates that importance of time and investment into learning the topic so they can present it at the conference. A goal with a due date is set. Learning that Push idea becomes a priority.
Of course I am not suggesting this to be the way to push yourself to learn something new, to take on your Push ideas. It's just a suggestion I shared with those two teachers in our conversation that, given the circumstances, may help them to identify those Push topics they've been wanting to try.
However, the notion is still there (which is why I'm writing this blog post). What are your Push topics? What are the things you've been wanting to learn that you may not have had the time for? Identify those Push ideas and set a goal to learn them - maybe to share that idea at a conference like in the conversation I had with my colleagues. Identify those Push ideas.
Today, the last workday of 2016, was a day full of closing up projects, celebrations, and preparing for 2017. Even though it was a half day of work, it sure felt like a full day's work. Of the projects I brought to a close or at least a stopping point before winter break, they included preparing print shop orders of student booklets for round two of PAUSD's Elementary Math Adoption Pilot process and preparing participant packets for February's PD Day focused on the Next Generation Science Standards. I also spent some time continuing my work designing the 2017 Elementary Summer School program and working on a special STEAM project with PAUSD's AAR program.
In the midst of all the work closing out the year of 2016, I had the pleasure of experiencing a coding party and a BreakoutEDU game. Kristi Van's third graders had a special time building obstacle courses and coding Sphero robots to go through the courses (or more like destroying the courses).
In the afternoon I had the pleasure of watching Valerie Sabbag's fifth grade class beta test my BreakoutEDU game. It was the one I wrote about a month ago and just posted on the previous blog post. What a wonderful experience because the students really worked hard at solving the puzzles and also showed me ways I can improve my game. There was one "color it on the hundreds chart" puzzle for the direction lock that I left the answers on the sheet. As the game started and a student pointed that out I quickly took the paper and cut the answers off so the group of students could still work on solving the puzzles. I felt embarrassed that I missed that mistake but the class was super understanding and encouraging as they said it was fun to be the beta testers of my game. Needless to say, it was such an amazing way to end the last workday of 2016.
It's been amazing to deepen my professional learning around the Next Generation Science Standards. There are so many amazing resources out there! Below is a Padlet of NGSS Resources I started a few months ago and definitely want to share it here for others to use and also add to the collection of resources.
"Curriculums come and go. Standards are here to stay."
This was the phrase that prompted my work with grade level teams on examining the CCSS-Math standards. Elementary school teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District are in the middle of a pilot year to select new math curriculum that scheduled to be implemented during the 2017-2018 school year. PAUSD has been using Everyday Math for eight years with a lot of conflicting opinions of the curriculum between the staff and parents. There are many schools that have used it with fidelity while some schools have moved onto using other math curricula to meet the needs of their students and align with the Common Core State Standards, including EngageNY. No matter what curriculum teachers use, quality pedagogy that focuses on the success of all students, aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the 8 Mathematical Practices is the key.
I share the belief (and fact) of many that there is no perfect curriculum. My view is that any curriculum acts more like a GPS navigator. Throughout the school year, teachers make professional and purposeful decisions to use supplemental materials to meet the needs of their students. As a result, the progression of lessons in any curriculum is paused or altered. These professional and purposeful decisions is the science of teaching and no curriculum can replace the science of teaching. Instead, the curriculum as a GPS navigator to guide the teacher back on a predetermined path when necessary decisions to change the path are made. Like any road trip, the driver (the teacher) can make purposeful decisions to alter the suggested path (of the curriculum guide).
The biggest part of this analogy is the focus on the destination - meeting the grade level standards. An effective curriculum is designed to bring all students to meet CCSS at the end of the school year. Focusing on the destination of CCSS is the key aspect of the standards mapping activity.
Working with grade level teams, I've lead teachers to read and better understand the CCSS Math standards for their grade levels. It's been a powerful exercise, evidenced by teachers commenting that they "didn't know that was the actual language in the standards," that they didn't have to "teach concepts they've taught before" which saves them time to focus more on the concepts that have been problematic for their students, and that they see how to address "standards at each trimester of the school year." The exercise provided teachers the chance to identify which concepts/standards was important to address at each trimester in order to build understanding that leads to practice and mastery by the end of the school year. Of course, each of the above standards cards is meant to be mastered by the end of the school year, AND having an understanding of the progression of concepts throughout the school year helps gain a bigger picture of the professional and purposeful instructional decisions.
Having a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards is definitely an important piece of instruction.
- to know the destination of the school year,
- to know what's important to address at each point of the year and how concepts build,
- to be able to teach to those standards no matter which math curriculum is used (or selected in PAUSD),
- to see curriculum maps as guides to meeting CCSS and professional instructional decisions are far more important,
- to be able to see how "concepts build from grade to grade."
It's definitely important to remember that We don't teach curriculum; we teach students. Be mindful of the standards - the end destination, however, remember we teach students.
Learning takes hard work, understanding, perseverance, making mistakes, and learning from mistakes.
I had the pleasure of supporting two second grade teachers at Fairmeadow Elementary School this week with the use of SVMI's Problem of the Month packets to practice the 8 Mathematical Practices. During week 1 of this Problem of the Month packet, I led the students through Level A in a Number Talk format. Students were able to construct viable arguments and share the strategies they used. It was great to see the students in both second grade classes exercise Math Practice #1 - Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them throughout their time working on the levels of their packets.
Last week, I continued supporting the teachers with their SVMI Problem of the Month packet with the project of creating posters to share our thinking. Of course, students are used to sharing their solutions. Most math sheets, activities, packets ask students for the answer and to explain their solution. A great benefit to SVMI's Problem of the Month packets is how the problems are written. Many packets and their levels have been carefully written to allow for multiple solutions, causing students to truly justify their thinking - fostering Math Practice numbers 1, 2, and 3. Students showed great perseverance with making sense of problems, deciding how to attack the problems, constructing viable arguments with clear explanations, and checking their work for labels and clarity.
In our activity, I shared the concept of an explanation poster where students share their thinking, explanation, and strategies. This is an area that I've grown as an instructional coach. In previous years, I called them Solution Posters, but realized having a slight name change to explanation poster shifts the focus from the solution to the explanation. This was definitely evident this year as I observed students putting more of their focus on providing clear explanations.
In that session I also introduced the concept of a status poster. The second grade students were quick to understand the purpose of a status poster. "It's to show my progress." "The poster helps people know what I've done so far." In our discussion, we added that showing a status poster allows classmates and other learners to either get ideas from your work or offer ideas for your next steps. It was really great to see students understand the value of the this process - the value of growth mindset and the iterative process.
Below are pictures of the second grade students from Susan Hoff's and Melissa Hinkle's classes creating their explanation and status posters of SVMI's Problem of the Month packet. Scroll down beyond this first set of pictures to see the work from this week.
This week, we concluded our month's work with SVMI's Problem of the Month packet by sharing our explanation and status posters through a gallery walk. After introducing/reminding students of the process of a gallery walk (the process of admiring the work of the artists/mathematician and being a detective to understand the work behind the piece), I shared the process of providing feedback to classmates on sticky notes. For the second graders, we discussed the process of sharing compliments and questions. When discussing compliments, we talked about the importance of being specific with our positive feedback so our classmates know exactly what they did well, instead of just "Great job." We then moved onto the value of asking questions about the work instead of sharing negative criticism. With examples and sentence stems, we talked about the impact and difference between, "You're wrong," or "You didn't do your math correctly," and "Did you double check your calculations," or "I could understand this better if you included labels." It was definitely an important discussion and setup for our gallery walks. Below are pictures of the compliments and questions from the students to each other.
PAUSD's Elementary TOSA Team had the pleasure of spending Thursday and Friday, August 25th and 26th at its Fall TOSA Retreat. It was an incredibly important time to connect, engage, calibrate, articulate, collaborate, laugh, cry, and build our team. It was a powerfully rewarding time to be together during the retreat.
Our team has been in the work for about a month already - delivering orientation to new hire teachers on literacy, math, science, and other details of the district; planning, preparing, and facilitating PD on NGSS for every elementary teacher; organizing agendas and materials for meetings with reading specialists, the math pilot and adoption committee, a district webinar on the exploration year and pilot year for math, and the STEAM Inquiry Group; and working on logistics and planning for the school year. The retreat was amazing for us to spend that time engage in deep discussions and conversations, be creative with various projects, get to know our team and ourselves, and establishing key elements for our work together. It was a great time to be away from the district office. To be away from the never-ending list of tasks, the hallway conversations, our email inbox (at least during the hours of our retreat), and the intense work preparing for our year at school sites with teachers, students, parents, and principals.
Highlights from our two-day retreat:
The verbs I used when describing my TOSA Journey are:
Play, ponder, inquiry, be curious, be creative, reflect and refine, listen to understand, and constantly engage (in professional development).
I am super excited to work my fellow elementary TOSAs: Heather Cleland, Amy Doss, Leslie Faust, Amanda Gantley, Nikole Manou, Hilary Mark, and Mangla Oza.
Below is just one of the many wonderful videos we watched during our retreat.
Influence and Impact.
Instead of counting down how many school days are left, count the number of days of opportunity to influence and impact teachers and students. (Thanks @edtechari)
What an incredible experience serving as the principal for PAUSD's elementary summer school program! It was such a pleasure and privilege serving the students, teachers, and school staff.
After writing a reflection after the fifth day, which was a very vulnerable piece for me, many colleagues encouraged me to write a final reflection. It's hard to capture all the excitement and creativity from the students and teachers in a blog post. Hopefully the sampling of pictures below will help show the wonder of this year's summer school.
1) The Students.
This structure of summer school really had an affect on the students. Through the work of the district's Minority Achievement and Talent Development committee (MATD) one of the recommendations was to shift the focus of summer school from the traditional efforts of intervention and remediation to enrichment. Their research, studies, and analysis of data revealed that the majority of students in traditional summer intervention programs don't make significant improvements in math and literacy. Students who attend summer school have also not been in favor of attending summer school. Why go to school during the summer to work on things you struggle with and feel the effects of having this knowledge, the social aspect of others knowing this, and also missing out on experiencing things often associated with the summer months? In addition, many students who attend summer school have parents who are working full-time and may not have the opportunity or the means to provide those summer activities. As a result, summer school focused on enrichment was created. Make the program so exciting with enrichment opportunities that students will want to attend summer school. Provide students enrichment opportunities that they otherwise may miss due to the challenges of time and resources. Engage the students in design thinking and design challenges, genius hour, passion project, MysterySkype, science and engineering projects, discussions about growth mindset and neuroplasticity, field trips to The Computer History Museum and Hiller Aviation Museum, creative art projects, number talks, and interactive read alouds.
This was definitely achieved throughout the summer as I saw students come off the buses smiling, greeting me and their teachers, asking what they'll do that day, and many running to class. Students wanting to come to school. This was evident on the last day by the tears on many faces as they walked towards the bus at dismissal. "I'm going to miss you, Ms. ----." "I don't want summer school to end."
2) The Staff.
It was an absolute pressure serving and partnering with the teachers, aides, custodians, librarian, secretary, campus supervisor, and coach during summer school. The teachers were all committed, dedicated, and passionate educators who were creative, curious, flexible, and purposeful with their lessons with the students. It was such a powerful summer experience for all. Partnering with Jenna Segall, a fifth grade teacher at Palo Verde who served as the principal for the first session of summer school, was such an incredible experience. Jenna truly made the transition from the first session to my second session smooth.
As mentioned in my Fives for Five post, I really worked on communicating my appreciation and acknowledgement of the teachers' hard work. Often, a teacher's efforts goes unnoticed and it's important to show recognition of those efforts. I feel it's equally important during summer school, if not more. Those teachers could've spent their summers doing a variety of things but they chose to share their summer with the students. What a wonderful gift to the students.
Before I began this position as summer school principal I made a plan to recognize and acknowledge the teachers' efforts.
Week 1: write personalized thank you cards appreciating teachers sharing their summer with the students.
Week 2: send an email message to teachers' principal during the school year sharing the awesome ideas and projects their teachers are sharing during summer school (copying the teacher on the message as well).
Week 3: make personalized etched glasses for the teachers along with the staff appreciation brunch on the second to the last day of summer school.
3) The Curriculum.
Having a summer school program focused on enrichment and 21st century skills providing the teachers the freedom and flexibility to create their own lessons and curriculum. It was great to see the teachers try out lessons and activities they were passionate about, interested in exploring, and took risks in trying. It was an honor and pleasure to observe and support teachers with all their wonderful activities and lessons. Some were:
My experience with summer school definitely wasn't all smooth and easy. With any position in any profession, there are successes and challenges. As mentioned in my Fives for Five blog post, I faced many challenges during that first 5 days, which continued throughout the summer. However, ...
On the last day of summer school, I faced the biggest challenge of all. The night before the last day I received an email from one of the teachers asking if we could talk the next day. When we met, she shared with me her suspicion of physical child abuse with one of her students by the child's father. A call to CPS. In my over ten years of being an educator I never made a call to CPS (fortunately). On this last day of summer school I was making my first CPS call. What makes this situation extra unique was the teacher who shared her suspicion was entering her first year of teaching. What a way to start a career.
In short, after contacting my supervisors for advice and guidance, I assisted the teacher in calling CPS, filled out and faxed the report, recorded the entire experience, and circled back with my supervisors to share what happened. A call to CPS - on the last day of summer school. What a way to end the summer.
Summer school principal. What an incredible experience - seeing the students' excitement and engagement, supporting the teachers, seeing the fantastic activities and lessons, and, of course, all the challenges as well. I didn't really consider applying for this principal position; my boss suggested that I apply. Now, as summer school is over, I am definitely glad I did. What an incredible experience!
Kindergarten and First Grade teachers in PAUSD engaged in a powerful exercise analyzing the 8 Science and Engineering Practices (SEP). The verbs on each of the posters are definitely powerful verbs for all students. Our students definitely can engage in each of the 8 SEPs. The potential of children is boundless!
Which one speaks to you? Are we creating a space in our classrooms for students to exercise these verbs?
Today marks the first day of year 2 of this Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA position. I am super excited about this second year, taking what I've learned last year and pushing myself farther, deeper, ...
My goals this year:
-Make systematic changes and support in math content knowledge and instructional practices in teachers through PLCs, Learning Walks, and Lab Days.
-Complete the Maker Mobile proposal and get ready for its launch after securing funding from the district's fundraising organization.
-Facilitate workshops on NGSS and begin the 3-year rollout of the Next Gen FOSS modules.
Just like my first day post from last year: I have the privilege of engaging with many more educators. And with the support of the elementary TOSA team, my colleagues, and of course #TOSAChat ...
I am glad this is Day 1 - of Year 2.
Let it begin.
Let the journey continue.
Today is Day 5 of the second session of PAUSD's elementary summer school program. It has been truly an amazing experience serving as the principal for this second session. As the days progressed after writing my post about the first day, I started gathering my thoughts about the successes and challenges of each day. Today, being the fifth day of summer school, I wanted to list five successes, five challenges, and five tips for new principals - not that I am at all a school principal myself since I am just serving as summer school principal. The list of tips/reminders is just a way to help those who are stepping into the role of principal.
1. The Students' Engagement and Excitement. The absolute best part of this week and my experience as summer school principal is being able to see the excitement and engagement from the students with the STEM, engineering, design thinking, ..., projects. It's truly amazing to see how the students connect with the lessons, activities, and projects. The students smile, laugh, work together, try again with failures, and want to continue the learning as they head home each day.
2. The Teachers' Dedication and Commitment. None of the excitement and engagement can be possible without the dedication and commitment from the summer school teachers. Today, I personally thanked each one of them (the teachers, aides, custodial staff, librarian, secretary, and coach) for sharing their summer with the students. Instead of enjoying their summer with trips, sports, ... they chose to share their time with the students. That has to be recognized. Their dedication, commitment, and hard work has to be recognized.
3. Communication. A great success for me was being prompt and proactive with my communication. Prior to starting this week's service as principal, there were so many email messages being sent about a change in the schedule of students taking a different bus at the end of the day to attend an after school camp at another campus. After I sent a reply asking for clarification, I received feedback from the program director that it was great that I engaged in the process of ensuring the safety of the students after each day at summer school. Another example of the success in communication was sending email messages on the second day of my service to the location of our field trips during week 2, the transportation department at the district office, and also food services to confirm all the details of our trip. Being proactive in checking the details of our field trip schedule, times that the bus picks up and drops off, and the delivery schedule of snacks/lunch for the students on our field trip days was very important to ensure the success of our field trips.
4. Personal Greetings. Beginning each morning and ending each day greeting and talking with staff members, students, and parents was a very successful part of these first five days. It sets the tone for the day. It fosters connection and community. It communicates trust, kindness, and a message that I'm happy to see them.
5. Partnering with and Supporting the Teachers. I started this role with a few guideposts in mind. I knew my position as the administrator of summer school was one of support. Supporting teachers deliver their enriching lessons was an honor that I had. My position was one of partnership. I knew I was a partner with the teachers in their brainstorming, their celebration of the students (I shared in their celebration through many tweets), and their management of behaviors. My view of my leadership position was one that led by walking alongside the teachers.
1. Starting Day 1. Nothing can ever prepare you for day 1 as an administrator. When someone works at becoming a teacher, there's internships, the teacher prep program, student teaching, and more. When someone works at becoming an administrator, there's the administrative credential program, the masters program, but there's no "student administrator" position. Even if you have the opportunity to start as an assistant principal, there was no true prior experience. Day 1 was intense. All the nerves, anxiety, fear, ... that you'd been feeling days and weeks leading up to day 1 bubbles up and manifests itself as you start working on the countless tasks before you: checking class lists, placing high school volunteers, issuing classroom keys to new staff members, checking bus tags and bus schedules, ensuring snacks from food services are ready, preparing to introduce yourself as principal, ...
2. Volunteers. As mentioned above, placing the high school volunteers was quite a challenge (this could be volunteer adults and parent volunteers). On day 1, I had four high school volunteers who were starting their volunteer hours with this second session of summer school. I had to ask them which grade level(s) they're interested in helping, ask staff members who could use the help of volunteers, and try to find a match that would hopefully ensure each person found the partnership helpful and productive.
3. Working Relationships. Prior to starting this role of principal, I was a colleague to the summer school teachers. This week I took on a different role. With it there seemed to be an apprehension from the teachers to speak to me, a seriousness in our conversations, ... As much as I worked on partnering and supporting teachers (which is definitely a success as listed above), I kept hearing phrases in my head: "You're not fit to be principal. They're watching you. Why are you doing that? Are they judging me?" The working relationships was definitely a challenge I faced that may have been self-inflicted but nevertheless a challenge of beginning this position of principal.
4. Dealing with Behavior Issues. As a classroom teacher, you have the opportunity to build connections with your students that can help you with combatting and preventing behavior issues. Knowing your students helps a great deal. As an administrator, especially a summer school principal, you don't always have the luxury of knowing the student that gets sent to the office. You don't necessarily know which path to take with the child, which method would be most effective. As a new principal with students who are new to you, it feels like your attempts are like shooting in the dark.
5. Changes in Schedules. A specific challenge I faced this week was with changes in the students' busing schedule. Some students needed to take a different bus for after school programs they needed to go to and got on the wrong bus. After several phone calls with transportation, the bus drivers, and the parents, we reach solutions to ensure the safety of the child, but it sure wasn't an easy process.
Five Tips/Reminders/Things to Think About
Again, in no way do I consider myself an administrator. I don't believe serving as a principal for the summer school program qualifies me to speak on this topic much. I question whether this section is of any value to others. However, all of that may just be that self-deprecating voice in my head, and this current feeling of newness and reflection of the position I started five days ago will never be back. This is a unique feeling, unique time in my career. With that notion and with my reflection, the following list of five tips/reminders/things to think about is just to offer my perspective of this administrative position.
1. Always be in your Teachers' Corner. As mentioned on point five of the five successes, partnering and supporting your teachers is paramount to the success of you as an administrator. Guide your staff. Empower them to grow themselves. Always believe in them. This is true of the "star teachers" and those who need support.
2. Get to know Everyone. Greet everyone, get to know your staff and students, learn about each person's strengths, areas of growth, passions, joys, concerns, ... This will help with building positive school culture, staff morale, connections with students, and a sense of community. As commonly mentioned in teaching credential programs, the two most important people on a school campus are the secretary and custodian. Get to know them.
3. Schedule your time. Create time limits for being in the office, checking your email inbox, ... and get into classrooms. The classrooms are where the magic is happening. The classrooms are where the joy is found. Scheduling timeframes to do administrative things and sticking to those time limits will help free your time / prioritize your time to get in the classrooms.
4. Look Ahead. In any position, having a sense of the big picture is important. Knowing what's coming down the line is important to plan, prepare, and to be proactive. Sometimes, you can get caught up on the details of the task or the day. Keep an eye on the big picture. Think about what's scheduled next week, next month. Think about potential issues that may arise. Think about ramifications of each action you take.
5. Reflect and Celebrate. With all things, at [the end of] all times, remember to stop, breathe, reflect, and celebrate. You are doing great work. You are working collaboratively with professionals to help children learn, grow, think, question, comprehend, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, discover, design, construct, fail, recover, revise, ... and live.
Today, Monday, July 11th was my first day of summer school in PAUSD's elementary summer school program. What a fantastic start to my service as summer school principal. The summer school program had been in session for three weeks already with students engaged in design challenges, engineering activities, math talks, interactive read alouds, and more, and I had the pleasure of joining the program today.
It was great to be able to have this job-share opportunity for the principal position. Jenna Segall (@MrsSegall) served as the principal for the first three weeks (and the ESY week during the week of July 4th for students whose IEP required four consecutive weeks of summer school). As noted in previous blog posts, Jenna and I, along with the summer school administrative team, worked together to prepare for the program that included meetings, professional development sessions on design challenges, and plenty of emails. Having this job-share opportunity allowed me to have time during the first part of summer to travel, run, be creative, write breakoutedu games, facilitate workshops with Sabba Quidwai (@askmsq) reflect, read, and relax.
This first day of summer school was a solid day overall. After a somewhat chaotic morning with placing high school volunteers with teachers, working on students' bus tags, and ensuring there was enough supplies for teachers' needs, it was a smooth day. It was great to visit each class, introduce myself, play soccer and basketball during recess, and get to see the great projects the students were engaged in. Classes had wonderful morning messages for the students, design challenges, interactive read alouds, and engineering activities. Some of the highlights included designing parachutes for their gummy penguins and plastic ninja toys, building towers with their choice of materials, and discussions about tools engineers use.
Below are some pictures from today's first day of the second session. One picture in particular is an amazing one. While some may see a pile of mess, the teacher, Laura Wright, and I see a pile of possibilities. I can't wait to continue to see the fantastic projects the students design, plan, prototype, revise, and create.
My year as a Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in the Palo Alto Unified School District has been amazing! What an incredible experience transitioning into the role after over ten years in the classroom as a first, second, and fifth grade teacher, serving as a math lead, tech lead, and science lead teacher, and facilitating workshops within and across districts.
Inspired by Ryan O'Donnell (@creativetech), I spent some time looking back at my year in terms of numbers. This in no way reflects every aspect of my 2015-2016 year but it gives a glimpse into my work as a Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA and offers a nice overview of my work. I was indeed surprised by the numbers as I started doing the calculations.
There are many highlights to my first year as a Math & STEAM coach. Here are just a few:
It has truly been an incredible year collaborating with teachers in PAUSD, connecting with coaches and TOSAs from all over the globe, partnering with administrators, and ultimately impacting students. [Link to my first blog post of the school year]
If you're on the main page (jyoung1219.weebly.com), clicking "Read More" below will take you to my end of the year reflection that I wrote for my supervisor, the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Education. As a quick warning, it's quite lengthy. I wrote a summary of my year for my official paperwork and tried to be as thorough as I could.
As we draw closer to the start of PAUSD's summer school program, the elementary TOSA team, summer school administrative team, and I continued to facilitate professional development for the summer school teachers. The professional development days involved whole-group explorations of morning meetings, number talks, and interactive read alouds, and small group choice sessions. Structuring our professional development with choice was a great way for teachers to opt into which topic they want to explore and learn more about. The session choices included Engineering Is Elementary kits, "10 Ways to Get Your Students Reading," TheatreWorks, Spectra Art, and Design Challenges.
I had the pleasure of facilitating the Design Challenges sessions. In those sessions, teachers and I explored ways to incorporate design challenges into the summer school program, the lifeskills these activities fosters, the real-world application and connection these challenges provides, and engaged in a design challenge of building paper towers.
Below is a Padlet of Design Challenges I've collected. Please feel free to add to the padlet.
The least important word: I
The most important word: WE
The two most important words: Thank You
The three most important words: All is forgiven.
The four most important words: What is your opinion?
The five most important words: You did a good job.
The six most important words: I want to understand you better.
PAUSD's elementary TOSA team met this Thursday for our Spring Retreat. It was a gathering of the new TOSAs who will be joining the team and a send off to the TOSAs who will be moving onto other positions as they complete their TOSA assignment. Along with some time spent "passing the baton" by the veteran TOSA members, the bulk of the day was spent with next year's TOSA team talking about the importance of relationships in our TOSA role. It was a wonderful time to identify the priorities of the TOSA role.
After a full school year used to explore eight different CCSS-aligned math curricula, PAUSD's elementary education department and its teachers leaders have identified the three curricula to pilot next school year - Investigations - TERC, Everyday Math 4, and engageNY / Eureka Math.
It was quite a process for the district to arrive at this point. This exploration year's primary focus was for sites to explore a variety of Common Core State Standards aligned math curricula. This collaborative exploration strengthened teacher understanding and instructional strategies in relation to the CCSS and built a cohesive teacher leadership group that recommended the three curricula that are worthy of a formal pilot during the 2016-2017 school year.
Yesterday's final math lead meeting that resulted in the three pilot curricula was the culmination of two years of work - identifying the math curricula neighboring district's adopted, reading research, connecting with other math professionals at NCTM, and collectively developing our understanding of CCSS and the Math Practice Standards to help inform our process of exploration and decision. Having had this year of exploration that helped us deepen our understanding also had additional benefits, one of which was that some publishers were still in the process of completing their CCSS-aligned curricula. We found that several neighboring districts that had adopted various curricula were unhappy with their "rushed" decision.
It was an incredibly collaborative process to explore the eight curricula (listed in the image below). The timeline of our exploration year is also included below. Now as we move forward with our three selected curricula for pilot, we will definitely assess the following areas of each curricula:
I've always enjoyed the STEAM, Designing Thinking activity of building paper bridges. I've had the pleasure of sharing this activity with many classes throughout PAUSD from Kindergarten students to teacher workshops. The experiences were always the same - excitement with the hands-on activity, frustration with the paper bridge falling, determination to keep trying, celebration with more and more pennies/nickels being set on the bridge, and requests to keep going.
This activity is quite simple. The challenge is to create a bridge with a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 piece of paper across a 10 inch gap. Paperclips are available but may not be used to attach to the boxes or containers that form the gap.
Recently, I had the chance to share it with Jenna Segall's fifth graders at Palo Verde Elementary School. It was great to see the fifth graders brainstorm ways to construct a strong paper bridge, keep working on their bridges, celebrate their success, and recognize the strength of triangles. This activity definitely helps learners of all ages understand the iterative process of design thinking. One attempt that I haven't seen to that point was tearing the piece of paper in half and trying to make it a longer piece of paper with the paperclips. Such a simple step and yet no one had tried it before when I did the activity with so many people.
Jenna will soon lead this activity with the summer school staff members as our second design thinking professional development activity.
It's been truly an incredible experience and true pleasure partnering with so many teachers throughout the Palo Alto Unified School District in math and STEAM throughout the school year. I've had the privilege and pleasure of working with Valerie Sabbag, a fifth grade teacher at Fairmeadow, throughout the year on Number Talks, the use of Spheros, and co-planning STEAM integration.
BreakoutEDU is one of those STEAM integration projects we got to work on. Throughout the year, her fifth grade students worked together to solve BreakoutEDU games and puzzles that involved math, social studies, critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving. BreakoutEDU is definitely an activity that surpasses any curricula and content area. It addresses multiple areas, and, more important, the lifeskills that are essential to educating young children. Character education is a critical part of life.
This week, Valerie's fifth grade students had the pleasure of working on their own BreakoutEDU games AND boxes. Valerie really had a wonderful vision of having students build their own boxes. This process addressed many mathematical concepts that she was going to teach and in doing it with this project, it was definitely an engaging and hands-on project. Measurement, surface area, volume. Students got the chance to use a hacksaw, hand sanders, and wood glue to construct their boxes. Students worked in small groups to plan this boxes, check and double check their measurements, and put their box together.
While one group worked on building the boxes with Valerie and a wonderful volunteer, the other groups worked collaboratively on writing their own BreakoutEDU games. This was also part of Valerie's integrated approach to teaching. In her Writer's and Reader's Workshop, her class was studying fantasy stories. This became the basis for the BreakoutEDU games. Groups of students created games centered around the themes of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and more.
The fifth grade students got to beta test their games with their third grade buddy class, Krisiti Van's class. This was an important step because it helped them observe how effective their clues were for their puzzles. The fifth grade students had opportunities to revise their games before sharing it with their parents at Fairmeadow's Learning Celebration / Open House.
Check out the pictures below of this incredible project that spanned a few weeks.
Also, check out #breakoutedu for tips and stories. A #breakoutedu Twitter chat also takes place. Be on the lookout for days and times of the chat. Here's an archive of the first chat by EdTechAri.
Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in Palo Alto Unified School District.