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.

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Mr. Uchio’s Biology Lesson


I recently observed a student centered, hands on learning lesson in Mr. Uchio’s Biology class.  The students were dissecting pigs in groups at their lab tables.  They had to identify the various organs and take them out and identify them.  This was a very lively class.  The students were able to take the organs out of the pig and identify each organ with much discussion among the various members at each lab table.  The groups methodically worked through taking out each organ, placing the organ on a paper towel and writing the name of the organ on the towel next to the organ.  I observed one group that was looking on line at a college website about dissecting pigs.  These students were able to use this information to more easily identify the organs correctly.

Click the links below to check out how engaged these students are in this biology investigation. Way to go!

Ed Behrens, SMHS Principal

Pig Dissection 1 (video)

Pig Dissection 2 (video)

 

Rebecca Frank’s Success Story


Teresa Lewis has helped me with several conferences and the students have begun to improve.  This is the most recent story.  It also involves Abe Jajadhmy in an important role.   

Rory (pseudonym) is in my II class.  He does not have a very good discipline record. He was expelled from his last school.   In the beginning of this semester, Rory appeared angry and unmotivated.  He was disrespectful, refused to do his work, and failing his English and math class.  At first, I tried simple behavior interventions, such as verbal praise, greeting him at the door and telling him I was happy to see him (even if he was a little late). I printed out his edline and praised him for the assignments he did turn in. As opposed to immediately pointing out all the missing assignments, I tried to build a bridge and a good rapport.  I provided a structured classroom setting with clear expectations. I called his mother twice. These in-class interventions were effective some of the time.

Yet, all of the above were not sufficient with Rory.   He continued to roll his eyes at me when I talked with him.  He would say things under his breath, disrupt other students’ learning, seek negative attention, refuse to do his assignments, and refuse help with his own assignments.  His other teachers were reporting similar behavior. He continued to fail both English and math.

Fortunately, Rory is on the baseball team and loves to play baseball. I knew I had support from our athletic department, so I called Abe.  He and I discussed Rory’s issues.  Abe organized a conference with Rory’s baseball coach and his mother.  I communicated the time and purpose of the conference to his case manager and teachers.   We met with Rory for about twenty minutes.  We let Rory know we all cared about him and wanted him to be successful.  I informed the mother about the weekly progress report and edline.  The mother and I decided Rory would receive “good calls” home from me at the end of the week if he did well.  The mother agreed to check his weekly progress reports every Thursday night.

Rory has greatly improved. He is doing his work.  He is asking for help and being cooperative.  I asked Abe to tell his coach.  I spoke to his mother Friday evening, and she was pleased. She shared with me that she took some disciplinary actions at home too. She took away Rory’s skateboard and his video games.  He will earn back his things one afternoon each weekend until he has several weeks of improvement.

I think the success of this student is based on team effort.  I know that we often feel that we do not have time to conference with a parent, or communicate with all of the student’s other teachers.  However, we only met for twenty (powerful) minutes.  My e-mails to other teachers took maybe five minutes.  Calling a parent with good news is pleasurable and time well spent, especially considering Rory’s history and special education issues.  The team will need to be consistent and remain in communication about his progress.  I hope other teachers will see the positive effects of collaborating and working together for the success of all students.  I cannot stress enough how important and powerful a team effort can be.  I think it is awesome that an athletic director would take the time to be involved with an individual student. 🙂

-Rebecca Frank, SMHS Special Education Teacher

Marzano’s Levels of Understanding – Student Self-Evaluation Sheet – Google Docs


Ed Behrens, principal of San Marcos High School, came across this great assessment tool to use with students. It comes from PLN – Not Just My Initials blog.

I think it is a nice way for teachers to have their students self-assess their understanding of a learning objective, concept or skill. I like the visual that goes along with the written description of each level.

What are ways you can see using this with your students? Leave a comment.

Marzano’s Levels of Understanding – Student Self-Evaluation Sheet – Google Docs.

The potential of 1-to-1 iPads in instruction


Earlier this week, Dovas Zaunius (SMHS English teacher) shared a link he found on the webenglishteacher.com blog about 1-to-1 iPad initiatives. The post describes how the teachers of a middle school are beginning to incorporate iPads into instruction, where each student has an iPad for use during the class period.

There are great descriptions of free and paid iPad apps and how teachers used the apps throughout their lessons.

The post helped me to visualize how students and teachers can use iPads to engage further into content and how the workflow of sharing what the students create with the teacher.

Thanks for sharing the link, Dovas.

Do you have ideas of how to encourage more teachers to utilize iPads in their instruction? Please share in the comments.