Thursday, July 10, 2014

Give it a rest!

Time to give it a rest! 
Bill and I had our last phone meeting this morning--we identified that we have taken our action research as far as possible! We're looking forward to feedback, but not until late August! A big part of being ready for students in August is to take some time now to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. That's just what I plan to do! 

Check out our hard work on my personal site

Then, check out what's in store for the rest of my summer! 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Post-July 4th Work

Bill and I took a much needed few days off to enjoy the holiday with family and friends. We wrapped up our work so far, and await feedback from our professors. With the deadline of July 15th closer than I would like to imagine, we put in some hard work to meet the requirements. Our hope, at this point, is to make changes based on feedback. Then, we will put our work to rest (for the summer). 

In August, we have the exciting and nerve-wracking task of introducing our summer work to the rest of our colleagues at PAML; this includes the work with our 6th grade team. Though Bill and I are officially the ones carrying out the action research, we are depending on support and hard work from our teammates as well. We feel at this point, aside from what we've accomplished, we'd like our colleagues feedback and points of view on the work. 

Portfolios are a bit daunting, but we feel prepared! Our preliminary action research steps are taken care of. Our hope now is, after some tweaking, to take a break from our school lives and focus a bit more on the personal.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Post MGI Work

It's been a sweaty few days... However, I enjoyed a lovely, relaxing Sunday. That definitely aided in some of the brain drain I've been feeling. Unfortunately, my teammates and I were not as productive as we'd hoped on the last Friday at MGI. However, Bill and I have cranked out our ARP over the past few days. 

We developed our question and created a framework for our Rationale on Friday at MGI. We took this Monday to hammer our the Rationale in detail, barring a few questions based in feedback from our professors. We also looked at our year in a month by month view to get through out Implementation Plan. Our hope with our plan was to bullet activities that, though gave insight to our year with the portfolio process, did not pigeon hole us into a day to day structure. We ended our time today with Data Triangulation Matrix and our Collection and Analysis plan. 

I'm feeling pretty confident in our work so far. I hope that we can frame some general feedback questions for the coming year, and perhaps we can apply some feedback. Until then, I need to soak up some sun!

Check out our hard work so far on my site!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Round Table

Round Table!

I had the privilege to share with colleagues on our last day together at MGI. It was a great way to end a week of hard work. It's always great to hear what other teachers are doing, gain some insight, glean some inspiration, and ask for feedback!

Day 5

Happy Friday!

We started our morning meeting today with students "digitally visiting" our morning meeting. The morning meetings over the past few days have inspired my teammate and I to incorporate these gatherings into our schedule for the fall (pending agreement from our other teammates). Each day, the MGI faculty took turns running our morning meeting. These meetings took shape in different ways and offered different ways to greet students.

Bill and I talked about using our flex time on Fridays to have a Friday check in. Our 6th graders often struggle after their time off team at lunch and expos (art, PE, World Cultures). In a way to combat the after-lunch crazies, we would like to begin Friday meetings from 
1-2pm. We talked about the many possibilities this meeting time could have. In the beginning of the year, when we're just starting with our students, we could use the time to build community and foster the team belonging. Our values being around our PBiS standards (safe, responsible, respectful, readiness) as well as the norms we develop with our students. I took away a Nancy Doda quote yesterday that you can't create effective norms until you've created a community with students. I think using these meetings to create and continue community will be a wonderful addition to our team structure. We can also grow these meetings into portfolio support and work time.

And now... It's time for the action research to commence!

At the end of a long day...

Nothing like a little piano at the end of a very long day!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 4

Location, location, location
In order to increase productivity, it's been to change up the setting. My teaching partner, Bill Fishell, and I have a co-teaching, humanities model. We have the good fortune of having two classrooms, and each classroom is set up in a different way. My classroom is conducive to small group work or whole class instruction. Bill's room is conducive to fishbowl practice, discussions, and guests. With these two layouts, we afford our students to practice of using different spaces for different types of learning.
After our time in an L/L classroom, we were offered a seminar space. This space is much more conducive to the collaborative work we're now doing. It's amazing how much a new space can improve the thought process, enhance collaboration, and breathe new life into the work we've been doing.

Today, we looked at Hapara and started the beginnings of an infrastructure conversation. Hapara is an amazing system that will transform our work distribution and assessment. However, there are still some questions that need to be answered to ensure we satisfy the teaching perspective as well as the tech side. There are some pending conversations to happen this summer around these decisions to be made.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More thoughts...

In beginning to think about my action-research, I'm considering quite a few different avenues. 

1. Create my own portfolio 

By creating my own portfolio, not a Susie Que for student modeling, but my own portfolio for teaching and learning, I will not only have great insight for students in this process, but I will provide them with a real part of life--my life. I will demonstrate that these portfolios are more than just a requirement of 6th grade, as they see it, and a launching point into the "real world", college, and a career. 

2. Student and Teacher Feedback Applied 

The other route that we discussed as a team was around gathering student and teacher feedback so we can apply it to our portfolio process in the future. After our one year process, we will ask students and faculty 

  • What worked? 
  • What didn't work? 
  • Where was there success? 
  • Where were there challenges?
  • How can we make this process better next year? 
  • And so on...
By gathering and applying feedback, we are engaging in the process of action research while also satifying the needs for our school in the years to come. 

3. Use of portfolios in International Communication 

My teaching partner, Bill Fishell, and I could use student portfolios heavily in our classroom as we engage in our international communication plans for next year. Last year, we engaged in a pen pal program with students in Namibia, as well as a Google Hangout with students in Senegal. These programs were so widely accepted by students, we couldn't leave them. Instead, we have plans to work with other programs and other schools to make this global learning even larger. 

The portfolio piece does not have to be this separate endeavor. Instead, our students could use their portfolios to introduce themselves and their learning to their partners around the world. They could each become "models" and leaders in demonstrating our portfolio work to other students. When PAML students become the experts, amazing things can and will happen!

Day 3

Advice from Students!
Sometimes, we get too "teachery" and we lose sight of the center of our energies: the students! My favorite quote from today was, "If we can't do anything ourselves, it's not a personal learning plan. It's just a learning plan." That gem of advice from a student is exactly what we need to remember during this process. My thinking has transformed immensely, just today. On Monday, I was thinking this project was so big--bigger than all of us. On Tuesday, I began to conseptualize how the PLP process could look in my classroom. However, today, I realized that my thinking was still too big. We really need to remember: one year, next year, rolling out to students and lots of faculty. In no way does this mean setting our sights and expectations low, but it does mean that we do not need a polished product decided for 5th through 12th grade at the end of this week. It means we need to work through out protocols and our whole-school work pieces. From there, we can personalize at the grade level. 

John Downs sat with our team today (see the notes for more details) and opened our eyes to the idea that the content may not have a place yet. If we want students to create authentic goals, we cannot back them into a corner surrounded by the CCS, EUs, MRGs, and vital results. Instead, we need this process to be organic. We need to teach the goal setting skills, the reflection skills, and then let students be students; allow them personalization. The students today offered great advice like 1) build a model portfolio, 2) offer suggestions to students around About Me prompts, 3) ask for their feedback. Although these were all teaching pieces, above all else, the students today pushed choice and freedom, because if they're not in it, then "they're just learning plans". As teachers, we must remember these items: choice and freedom. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Problem Solver!

Problem Solver...
Sometimes, even teachers forget their raincoats. What to do when you must walk from lunch to class in the rain? Why, trash bags of course!

Day 2

Today, I'm feeling much better about our progress. Shaun Noonan did so much work on a sample portfolio last night. This model helped me to conceptualize the PLP in real life and in my classroom. This was our jumping off point for discussion this morning. We invited James Nagle in to sit with out team this morning. He helped to ask questions that pushed our thinking and decision making. We were able to video tape his time with us and capture the good conversations we were having. There are lots of questions that still need answers including: 

  • How do we archive our students' work from year to year?
  • How do we want our site template set up? 
  • Where should we house student resources? 
  • What will Hapara look like in our classroom? 
  • What should our naming conventions look like? 
After working with James, I was able to attend a session with Don Taylor from Main Street Middle School in Montpelier. This session showcased some student work (students were present) and gave us the opportunity to ask questions of Don and of the students. This session was incredibly informative for implementation in our school in the fall. See my notes from this session here.

One other piece from today that has helped me is thinking about this enormous under-taking in year-long chunks. We only need to look at next year: we need protocol for next year. After next year, we can reflect on our work and make changes. Nothing is perfect the first time around. Everything needs time for reflective thought and polishing. The PLP is the same way.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 1

MGI Learning

Today, I'm feeling a mix of two very different emotions: excitement and frustration. I'm very excited to be with colleagues today, planning for our students' PLPs. However, we've run into some points of frustration. Anytime you work within a large group of people, it's difficult to come to consensus and even set an agenda. Part of the challenge is that PLPs are a VERY LARGE undertaking. Our academic goals seem, at times, unattainable, especially if we cannot figure out where to start. Our school MRGs must be worked on to develop understanding on the part of the teachers and examples for our students. We must also decide on a template or a "shell" for our students' portfolios. I must remind myself, it's only Monday, and I have a blog! These two things are very exciting on day one.