Christy Lozano’s Success Story


I am in the middle of a success story that I don’t mind sharing.  It’s been successful so far.  

Tommy Grant (pseudonym) started in my PE class at the beginning of Term 3.  Tommy is a smart, talented kid and I see that he has a lot of potential to be successful.  If you saw him in the talent show, you know some of what I’m talking about.  Some of what I see with a kid like Tommy is that he is very smart, but he uses his smarts to work the system here at San Marcos and get out of doing stuff rather than using it to be successful in his learning environment.  I am learning that if I can encourage Tommy in his abilities and help steer him onto the right path with it, it is helping him in the areas he struggles with such as simply following rules and being responsible for himself.  I think those are two of the biggest challenges facing Tommy.  And if Tommy learns that he DOES have the ability to follow rules and be responsible it is a win/win situation because it builds Tommy’s confidence in himself and it provides the opportunity for him to learn and for teachers to be able to teach and not have to constantly deal with behavior issues with him.  As a teacher I have to have very clear expectations and boundaries with Tommy, and when he makes mistakes I have to be consistent with consequences.  I also have to have the support of his parents, counselor, and administration.  Lisa Hoffman, Dan Garske, and Tommy’s parents have been supportive, and Tommy is in the process of making changes in a positive direction.  It is a slow process at times and sometimes painful because Tommy’s tendency is to do what he wants, and then he has to face some consequences. At other times, it is very rewarding for both Tommy and for myself because I get to encourage him and praise him for his efforts; and Tommy feels very good about himself.  I have seen much forward progression with him over the past 15 weeks.  I think the other adults involved would agree, and it would be awesome to know if his other teachers have noticed a difference too.  Tommy knows I care about him; and when I do have to give him a consequence, he usually understands that he made a mistake and doesn’t argue with me too much, and we still have a good relationship.

At the beginning of Term 3, Tommy was struggling in his attendance, his behavior, and his personal responsibility.  He had issues with coming to class, dressing for PE, following and participating in the lesson, and following simple rules.  He was argumentative at times and distracting at other times.  Sometimes he lacked motivation.  We had issue after issue at first and he would get upset with me.  Tommy wanted out of my class.  He didn’t want to work inside my class structure. He asked if he could be moved out.  Dan, Lisa, and I talked about what was going on, and we all agreed that he needed to stay in the class and learn to go along with the program.  I talked a lot with Tommy about communicating with me if he was having a hard day, and through a lot of communication and some meetings with Dan and Lisa we established some goals.  Changing behaviors is a slow process for most of us; it is no different for a student.  Over the last 15 weeks, I have seen a great deal of change in Tommy.  He comes to class more consistently; he is almost always the first one done running.  He participates more consistently.  He isn’t argumentative with me even when he makes mistakes and receives consequences.  I get to see a very polite and engaging side of Tommy.  He feels very good about himself and very strong. He has lost over 12lbs.  He is improving in his athletic ability and motivation levels.  Last week he was very tired and didn’t feel like he could run the mile very well, but through some encouragement and his own intrinsic motivation he beat his previous mile time of 7:40 with a time of about 7:15.  Then told me on Monday he ran a 7:04 mile over the weekend.  I have told Tommy many times how proud I am of him and what a great job he is doing.  I have heard him say out of his own mouth “nobody has ever told me great job before!”  Tommy still makes mistakes, bad choices at times, and cuts class occasionally.  He’s not arrived yet to a place of full success, but he’s on the road to getting there.  He is not just on that road because of one person.  It is because many of us have pulled together as a team to support and encourage Tommy on his journey.  It is also because Tommy sees a real positive and beneficial opportunity and realizes that he is capable of working inside the class structure (instead of it being difficult, he enjoys some of it), and he is able to make the choice to get help and encouragement along the way.  He is learning that rules and consequences are a guide to helping him make better choices and to help keep him on a good path.  I am very proud of Tommy; he’s a very capable kid who just needs some guidance and support.  As he is receiving that from many of the adults in his life, he is making positive changes in many areas.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

-Christy Lozano, SMHS PE Teacher

SMHS Teacher Success Stories


As you may recall, some time ago I sent out an all-staff email requesting success stories from any of you that would be willing to share. I had said that there is so much talent right here on campus that we could all profit from hearing from colleagues about what has been working for us. It could be a simple strategy or activity that produced nice results (such as Dovas Z’s “Weekend Stories”), or something more involved.

In the past couple of weeks, I have received two great examples of teachers finding a way to help a struggling student. One is from Christy Lozano and the other is from Rebecca Frank. In each case, collaboration and persistence seem to be the key. I will start off by posting Christy’s response, as it was the first I received. I will follow with Rebecca’s in another post before too long. I give my thanks to both colleagues for stepping up.

I would love to hear from anyone else who has an account of an experience that might add to the conversation, whether it is your experience or something you have heard about a colleague. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and the success stories to follow.

-Phil Levien, SMHS English Teacher

Book Review: Teach Like a Champion


Cover of "Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techn...

Cover via Amazon

Teach Like a Champion, by Doug Lemov is an excellent resource for teachers. As the Introduction points out, it is a book that is full of ‘specific, concrete, actionable techniques’. It is not a book that focuses on theory or lofty ideas for what education should be. It is a book of techniques to help teachers make their classroom more efficient, engage their students more, and help make learning more visible to students and teacher. As the author himself admits, these techniques are not necessarily groundbreaking or innovative, which is part of the beauty of the book.

The techniques are placed into chapters based on whether they are; related to setting high expectations, planning that ensures academic achievement, structuring and delivering lessons, engaging students, creating a strong classroom culture, setting and maintaining high behavioral expectations, building character and trust, improving pacing, and challenging students to think critically. The structure of the book allows for teachers to pick and choose techniques to improve specific aspects of their teaching. The publishers also include a DVD of the 49 techniques in action that is handy for visual learners.

I have successfully implemented several of these techniques in my own classroom. “No Opt Out” is an example. The technique involves a situation where a student answers ‘I don’t know’, an altogether too familiar refrain heard by many teachers. The technique involves soliciting the correct answer from another student, then returning to the original student for the answer. This simple step requires that the original student is still responsible for the information. They may not simply ‘opt out’. Another technique that our school has embraced is the ‘Do Now’ activity. The idea is that there is an activity on the board for the students to begin immediately upon entering the classroom. This is an easy and effective way to help utilize the entire instruction period.

There are many other activities within the book that any teacher could benefit from implementing. I recommend this book to any teacher, whether they are just beginning their career or are a seasoned professional.”

-Dare Holdren, SMHS Social Studies Teacher

SMHS One-Acts Coming Soon


Recently, I was speaking with Phil Levien about some of the intervention work that is occurring at San Marcos High School. We both are on SMHS’ Intervention Committee and are working with students that has been referred to our Student Assistance Program.

Phil began to describe the “one-acts” that his students have been preparing for months and will be performing in the coming weeks. These are original performances all written, directed, and acted by students. Phil expressed his excitement for the progress the students have accomplished so far in preparation of these performances. Regarding a recent performance, Phil said, “To see so many students find success and recognition, perhaps for the first time in their academic career, was a pure joy.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the one-acts. They will be presenting 6-8 original one-acts during period one, on 5/31 and 6/1, in the auditorium.

Book Review of The First Days of School by Harry Wong


– Submitted by Mary Lindenstein, San Marcos High School English teacher

The very readable book The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong caused me to rethink the way I introduce students to my class and my expectations during the very crucial first week of school each year.  These are a few of the important steps Dr. Wong advocates taking during the first week of school:

  • Always have a “Do Now” activity listed on your board for students to immediately begin upon entering the classroom.  This should be a 5 to 10 minute activity and should be clearly described on your board.  Dr. Wong states that “Your first priority when the class starts is to get the students to work” (Wong 123), not to take attendance.
  • Have a PowerPoint presentation set up on the first day to lead students through your classroom procedures.  A procedure is the way you do things in your classroom, from entering and exiting the classroom, to having a pencil sharpened, to passing in papers, to what to do about being tardy. Furthermore, procedures must be practiced until they become a routine.  Dr. Wong says, “PROCEDURES are used to have an efficient and orderly classroom so that learning can take place.”  Procedures do not include discipline plans, which are necessary but separate from classroom management procedures.
  • Dr. Wong’s chapters on Lesson Mastery are also very useful, from “How to Create an Effective Assignment,” to “How to Enhance Student Learning.”  Dr. Wong is clear about the importance of having lesson objectives posted on the board for both students and teacher.

This book is a must-read not only for first-time teachers, but also for veterans who need a shot of energy and new ideas for their  teaching.  This is a very  “do-able” book written in a clear, understandable manner.  Inspiring!

Lara Willbanks’ students using our new iPad cart


Lara Willbanks’ economics class is using SMHS’ new iPad cart and the AppleTV to display the students’ graphs on the class HDTV. The mirroring capabilities of the iPad allow teachers and students to show what is on their individual iPad screens so that the whole class can see. It’s a great way to allow students to share their ideas visually with others. No more transparencies or even document cameras to show student work. Students can create their artifacts on the iPad, present them to the class, then “turn in” the artifacts via Google Docs, Dropbox or email.

See for yourself Ms. Willbanks and her students using the iPads. Click the photo to see a short video clip of the lesson. Great job Lara.

Come to the library if you’d like to learn more about the iPad cart and how to use it with your students.

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TED-Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing


If you are a follower of the amazing lectures found at TED.com, you know the quality of the speakers and the innovative ideas they have to share about a wide range of topics. If you’ve never watched a Ted Talk, spend some time browsing the selection of videos. You’re sure to find a topic of interest.

Now Ted Talks introduced TED Ed, which are especially selected for teachers and students. What a fantastic resource to bring into your classroom to help broaden your students’ (and our own) perspectives of issues of high relevance.

How have you used TED Talks with your students?

TED (conference)

TED (conference) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)