Staff Book Club: The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test


I was thinking it would be nice to start some discussions for faculty via a summer reading opportunity. As we move forward, it is important to have collegial discussions about pertinent topics related to our ongoing school improvement efforts for all students.

Here is our next book…The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test by Linda Nathan.

Prompts to consider (see the chapter titles in the book, such as):

  • How are discussions of race and achievement taken on by a healthy professional learning community?
  • What makes great teachers possible, and how much can school leaders really ask of them?

Please add your replies to our blog.

Thanks.

Ed.

Book Description (via Amazon): The Boston Arts Academy comprises an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse student body, yet 94 percent of its graduates are accepted to college. This remarkable success rate, writes Principal Linda Nathan, is in large part due to asking the right questions and being open to seeking solutions collaboratively with faculty, parents, and the students themselves. Nathan doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but seeks to share her insights on schools that matter, teachers who inspire, and students who achieve.

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Staff Book Club: Whatever It Takes


I was thinking it would be nice to start some discussions for faculty via a summer reading opportunity. As we move forward, it is important to have collegial discussions about pertinent topics related to our ongoing school improvement efforts for all students.

Here is our next book…Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough.

Prompts to consider:

  • How much knowledge and cultural literacy must a person have to serve diverse communities?  Do our schools teach students and staff to not only appreciate diversity but work in diverse locales? (from the discussion questions of the YNPN Book Club)
  • What can be done within the San Marcos community to bring some of the ideas and practices described in the book to SMHS?

Please add your replies to our blog.

Thanks.

Ed.

Book Description (via Amazon): What would it take? That was the question that Geoffrey Canada found himself asking. What would it take to change the lives of poor children—not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles, but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? The question led him to create the Harlem Children’s Zone, a ninety-seven-block laboratory in central Harlem where he is testing new and sometimes controversial ideas about poverty in America. His conclusion: if you want poor kids to be able to compete with their middle-class peers, you need to change everything in their lives—their schools, their neighborhoods, even the child-rearing practices of their parents.

Whatever It Takes is a tour de force of reporting, an inspired portrait not only of Geoffrey Canada but of the parents and children in Harlem who are struggling to better their lives, often against great odds. Carefully researched and deeply affecting, this is a dispatch from inside the most daring and potentially transformative social experiment of our time.

Staff Book Club: Closing the Achievement Gap


I was thinking it would be nice to start some discussions for faculty via a summer reading opportunity. As we move forward, it is important to have collegial discussions about pertinent topics related to our ongoing school improvement efforts for all students.

Here is our first book…Closing the Achievement Gap: Reaching and Teaching High Poverty Learner: 101 Top Strategies to Help High Poverty Learners Succeed by Tiffany Anderson.

Prompts to consider:

  • What strategies might be useful to try with our SMHS students and why do you think so?
  • What support would SMHS staff need to incorporate any of the suggested strategies?

Please add your replies to our blog.

Thanks.

Ed.

Book Description (via Amazon): Tiffany Anderson provides practical strategies that will empower any educator in addressing the black white achievement gap in schools. Anderson recognizes the racial and economic disparities in education and highlights current statistical trends that illustrate the effects of the achievement gap. Anderson emphasizes powerful practical strategies and tips in educating high poverty learners that educators can implement immediately in the classroom. Anderson’s book on closing the achievement gap is a must read for educators who face the daily challenge of reaching and teaching high poverty students who are often left behind

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

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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