Monday, October 24, 2011

Up the bumpy, bumpy road

We continue the development of our professional learning communities in a small school of singleton teachers. I am reminded daily of how difficult this process is and why so few schools commit.  It is a journey, and I am excited to see the results in the future.  Tonight after reading a few books to my daughter, one of them got me to thinking.  It is a book about a journey of a baby hippo.  A pulled a few of the lines out of it below.

"Through the squelchy, squelchy mud."

It is difficult to see clarity in the beginning, and it is often as clear as mud.  It makes it worse when all we want is to see the end product and especially difficult when you do not share a common theme.  Our teachers do not share the same grade and subject.  Instead, we are focusing on finding a common denominator.  If your school is in our position, take a look at Teacher as Assessment Leader.  There is a good chapter in there regarding what Adam Young is doing at White Pine High School, a singleton school.

"Around the bumpy, bumpy rocks."

There are so many hurdles in the way, the first major one is providing time within the day to collaborate.  The next is to take an active role in leading your learning community around the distractions that naturally come with collaboration.

"Through the long, long grass."

We are making our own path to make our school more successful.  The conversations and items that have been developed so far have been impressive.  There is no better feeling than hearing the conversations that are occurring in these teams.

We will continue finding our way through the squelchy mud, around the bumpy rocks, and through the long grass in our quest to ensure all students learn.  We cannot think of it as something that will get finished, it is a journey and the answers will come in time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What motivates you?

We had a healthy discussion at our last staff meeting regarding Motivation. Motivation can be intrinsic and extrinsic.

I put together an experiment that has been around for decades. After watching Dan Pinks piece on motivation I felt it was important to have this discussion with staff. In his TED Talk he references the Candle Problem.

Prior to the meeting I asked them to bring some ideas of what motivates them and they would be expected to share. During the meeting we attempted the candle problem and I tied this to motivation. One group would receive a reward and the other was given no reward. It was interesting that the group that solved the problem fastest was the reward group. Which was opposite what Dan Pink stated in the video, his point was that rewards do not motivate people. One could draw a conclusion that my staff is extrinsically motivated. This activity generated great discussion and was something different.

In then end we had a great discussion as a staff of what motivated staff, and it was a great way to share and bring staff together.

Please share what motivates you?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's that time again...

Our state assessment team met recently to discuss the layout of how we will test our students in grades seven, eight and eleven.  Every year we have the discussion of how we can make this less intrusive on our classes.  There are two typical options:

1. Cram all the tests in and lose less instructional time, which would decrease our test scores.

2. We spread them out and allow our students the best possible chance to do well.

This has been on my mind the last few years.  Think about how often we test our students and how much time we spend away from teaching and learning.  I began to add up the results and have posted them below.

NWEA Testing - Grades 7-10

  • This takes approximately 4 weeks to complete all grades in the fall and spring. (Students miss 3-4 hours of instruction time )

NDSA Testing - Grades 7,8, and 11 
  • This takes approximately 2 weeks to complete all grades. (Students miss close to 9 total hours of instruction time)
PLAN Testing - Grade 10 
  • This takes approximately 3 hours to complete. 
ACT Testing - Grade 11
  • This takes approximately 4 hours to complete. 
ASVAB - Grade 10
  • This takes approximately 3 hours to complete.  
  • Optional for students.  This takes approximately 3 hours to complete. 
PSAT - Grade 11
  • Optional for students.  This takes approximately 3 hours to complete. 
If you tally the results it adds up to five days of testing total for all grades.  This does not include adjusting the schedule and missing other classes in the process.  We devote close to 7 weeks of testing in our schedule, when you add up the 6 weeks for NDSA, NWEA and the single day tests like the ACT.  I want to make it clear that not all of our students are testing the entire seven weeks or even the 5 days of total testing.  This is just a broad look at it all.  

We are mandated to test, but I really hope that we begin to look at the amount of time that we test students and the impact it has on teaching and learning.  Teachers could be closing learning gaps with the time it takes to test.  So its that time of the year again and we will continue to do what we've always done and test.  I have high hopes with the coming changes of re-authorization.  There are some positive things developing in this article. 

How do you balance testing in your schools?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Office Day

Summary of No Office Day

The title of this blog does not mean that I took the day off.  Today, I spent the entire day in classroom's.  It was a great day and very busy!  I have definitely lost my teachers voice, as I may need to invest in some throat lozenges.  Teachers either requested my assistance to help with a lesson or asked me to come up with something that they were currently covering in class.  Below is narrative of my day.  It was an awesome day, I am in classrooms quite a bit as but not like this.  


Reported to Mr. Lauinger's room to present a lesson to the juniors in US History.  Our topic was the 4th Amendment and more specifically what it means to schools.  We had a very good discussion regarding their rights to privacy and security in school.  We went over supreme court cases that gave examples of the current issues in schools dealing with right to privacy.  An example of a case we discussed was about a students confiscated phone and the fact that school officials are able to search phones if they they have reasonable suspicion.  There was some good discussion involving that topic.  We finished with discussing our current reality at VHS and if they thought there was a good balance between privacy and security in our school.  


Reported to Mr. Norby's class next.  Mr. Norby had me explain how to use Google Forms to create surveys.  Their class is developing questions, mostly related to school and they wanted to know how to gather this data more effectively.  This is an example of one that a student had developed.  Students will be mailing these out to selected students and teachers to gather data.  It will be neat to see what they come up with!


Brittany working hard.
Reported to Ms. Sevigny's room to try my luck at making salsa.  Students had previously completed a pre-lab and were ready to make salsa.  Ms. Sevigny first explained what and how they were going to make the recipe.  It involved us boiling water and removing the peals off tomatoes and then cutting up all sorts of peppers. I showed my knife skills off to the students (not really).  I took a few pictures of what we did.  Thanks for the good salsa!

Marcus, Hunter, Nathan and Mason 


After Ms. Sevigny's class, I went down to Mr. Peterson to take some students on in an Egyptian game.  Students are covering Egypt and they found a game that the ancient Egyptians played.  I took on Hunter and after a battle I was able to come out victorious!  Here is a link to the game that we played.  


Reported to Mr. Podoll's room to check out what they were doing.  Students were wiring basic plugins and lights.  They were also finding out how many amps and watts were in different electronic items.  I posted some pictures below about what they were working on.  


Reported to Mrs. Haga's Room.  Students were working with probability and Mrs. Haga used some effective ways to describe it.  We also included a short clip from Kahn's Academy describing probability.  If you haven't had a chance to check that site out, you should!  She followed it up with some activities with coins and dice.  Students experimented with shaking up 140 coins and to see the percentage that came up with heads and tails.  It was pretty close to 50%.  


After lunch, I was off to Mrs. Lemer's class.  Mrs. Lemer had some short Greek Mythology stories for me to read and discuss with students.  We discussed the stories of Narcissus, Echo and Arachne.  Narcissism takes the definition from Narcissus meaning vain or full of self.  It was an overall good discussion regarding negative traits of human beings.  Here is a picture that depicts Narcissus looking into the pool of water.  


I had to rush to get to the next class.  Mrs. Peterson's class setup Jeopardy, I took on two other 7th grade students and proceeded to get dominated.  I did not study cell structure as well as I should have.  I did get a few right however, in the end I had the lowest score at -$1,300.  Regardless it was a lot of fun. 


Reported to Mrs. Braaten's class next.  The 7th grade keyboarding class.  Students were finishing up some keyboarding skill work.  As I came in, Mrs. Braaten shifted gears to go into the next activity.  We were going to put together a poem using letters A-Z.  I have posted the poem I came up with.  I shared this with them and they began work on their own.  I do not claim to be a poet.  

A Principal’s Job
(A)spiring to the be the best
(B)eleives in his teachers
(C)ares deeply about all students
(D)riven to make Velva School the best school in the state
(E)ver improving professionaly
(F)aith in students to make the right choices
(G)et involved!
(H)elping hand
(I)nvolved with school, students and staff
(J)ovial about education!
(L)oves leading a school and watching teachers and students grow
(N)ever satisfied!
(O)pen to suggestions
(P)erplexed at times
(R)eadily available for students and staff
(S)tudents first and foremost
(T)eacher effectiveness is key to student learning
(U)nderstands the importance of working together, collaboration
(V)elva Aggies rule!
(W)hat does Mr. McNeff do?
(X)pectations are high!
(Y)outh are our future
(Z)ealous to work with young adults


Finally, I reported to Mrs. Froshaug's room to do a critical thinking activity with her students.  We analyzed song lyrics and asked what it meant to them and then they had to create their own.  We attempted to get them to sing them too, but were unsuccessful.