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.

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

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)

 

Communicating with parents in EDU 2.0, even if they speak a different language


Communicating with students and parents about grades, assignments and classroom issues is very easy in EDU 2.0. As a teacher, you can send announcements to your whole class. Additionally, you can send messages to individual students and/or parents.

Even if English is not their first language, teachers will be able to communicating with parents seamlessly via EDU’s automatic translation feature. It’s very slick.

Here’s an example. In EDU, you type your message to a parent in English and click “send”. A Spanish-speaking parent will see, in their EDU account, both your original message in English and a translated version of your message. Then this parent to write back to you in Spanish and EDU will translate that message into English on your account.

All users can select their default language in their account profile. Currently, there are 40 different languages to select.

Watch this clip to see how it works.

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

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

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!