Sunday, February 28, 2010

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flying kites @ Galveston Beach

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

iSupport Hati

Thought I would post this picture and a few comments.
This was the front page of our school newspaper.  A group of students and administrators posed for the picture above.  I'm in the front row on the bottom of the picture, 2nd from the right.  My wife is just next to me on the left with red sleeves.  This picture was taken to celebrate iSupport Haiti T-Shirt day.  Our school raised $8,000 and the proceeds went to our district initative to raise at least $1 for every student in the district.  That's over $30,000.  Amazingly we reached our goal.  And we raised a full 20% of the district's goal.  It's great to see what a concerned group of people can do when their efforts are into it.

Below is a clearer picture of the T-shirts with me and Mrs. Duez:

What Makes a Great Teacher?

Came across this article today:  What Makes a Great Teacher in Atlantic Monthly by Amanda Ripley

It's from the Jan/Feb Atlantic Monthly.  The author looks at a number of different teachers and methods that have worked.  It also discusses Race to the Top, which I was not familiar with before.  Have you heard of that?

At the beginning of the article, Ripley highlights a section of kids that an elementary teacher has taught.  Ripley looks at scores compared with other students at the school.  She calls it a 'tale of two boys.'
This tale of two boys, and of the millions of kids just like them, embodies the most stunning finding to come out of education research in the past decade: more than any other variable in education—more than schools or curriculum—teachers matter. 
 She goes on to point out that it does not matter what "school" a student attends.  But rather what "teacher's class" that student would have.
Parents have always worried about where to send their children to school; but the school, statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which adult stands in front of their children. Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among schools.
I think most of us would agree with that assessment.  At our school some students come back after graduation and rave about the preparation they had received.  While others claim they were not as prepared.  Most times they mention individual teachers that got them prepared.  They know that if they have that AP English IV teacher (although they can hate the work load their senior year) freshmen English is a breeze by comparison.

The article also discusses the data mining that Teach for America has done over the past 20 years.  One of the real stunners that they mention is that extracurricular accomplishments in college tend to be a predictor of teacher greatness.  Fascinating.
Things that you might think would help a new teacher achieve success in a poor school—like prior experience working in a low-income neighborhood—don’t seem to matter. Other things that may sound trifling—like a teacher’s extracurricular accomplishments in college—tend to predict greatness.
I really hope that a focus on teacher effectiveness and improvement is the next big thing in educational reform.  It is obvious to me that standardized testing is not the do all and answer for helping students to learn.  They are an important assessment and measuring stick.  Focusing on improving instruction, it seems to me, is the best place to impact all aspects of student learning and results.  It would also be what is needed and what is best for our teachers.  Support, good ideas, and techniques that empower teachers will empower students.  Not just this school year, but for years and years to come.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

AVID Tutoring

I spent yesterday teaching a training session to our district wide AVID tutors.  It was a great day.  We had a chance to really delve deeper into what makes a great tutorial session.  Our tutors are students in college (or in dual credit classes) who come in during the school week to work with our AVID students.  The process they use is the Socratic method of tutoring.

It is a very inspiring day to spend the time with these young people.  They are the best of the best.  And their hard work with our AVID students is making a huge difference in their lives and in the lives of so many members of our community.

More info:
What is AVID?
Our AVID District Website
My AVID blog

A Career in Teaching: Accelerated Certification Class "Assessment for Learning"

On Thursday night I taught from 6 to 8:30 about Assessment for Learning (AFL) with the Career in Teaching program. We had a great class and there were some very solid discussions revolving around assessment.

The biggest point of emphasis is that there is a lot more to assessment than traditional tests, quizzes, homework and essays.  You must effectively target clear learning objectives each lesson and then check for learning and understanding.  We discussed methods like exit tickets, peer and self-assessment strategies, setting assessment to the targeted and intended learning, and how AFL can help with student motivation.

Here's the power point I used:

Acp Night 2_afl

It is difficult to discuss assessment with teachers in waiting. But, it is worth the effort. It is my firm belief that assessment FOR learning is a critical tool for any teacher's tool box. We did discuss reassessment a bit and there was some resistance there, but rightly so. It is the most difficult of the methods discussed. So much of it is common sense practice, but with a methodology that puts things in perspective.

One of the videos we watched was about Andy Smith of Woodchurch High School in the Wirral, UK. His infectious passion for physics inspires all he teaches. This video clip explains his assessment for learning techniques.

We also viewed Douglass Reeves' Toxic Grading Practices.  And we discussed "The Zero."

Zeroes to 60s

And we did not have time to discuss this, but I passed out the case studies on grading that help to showcase some of the issues around assessment for learning.

We had a great class.  If anyone has any questions, please let me know.  I'd be glad to help.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gallery Walk Reflections

Our second annual teacher gallery walk went pretty well today.  My AVID "Goal Setting" trifold board gave me the opportunity to remind our faculty about the program and discuss it at length with a few people.  I even found an AVID student today... well, she wasn't an AVID student yet, but I do believe she will be one next year.

The young lady was there to help the tech team display their polycom application and she gave me a demo on it (not like I needed to hear it, I used to set those up at a company I worked for, but I love talking to kids - especially when there are too many adults around!).  I asked her if she was a senior because the other young lady was, she said, "Oh no, I'm a sophomore."  So I figured she must be in Pre-AP classes.  She was not.  But, then she said, "I will be in AP next year in History and English."  My mouth dropped open.  It's really difficult to make that jump.

So we talked AVID and how that could help her.  Turns out that she does not have parents who attended college either.  Perfect fit so far.  She is going to talk to her counselor and fill out an application.  That would be wonderful to get a new student like that.  You never know where an AVID student might be.  I have met and recruited several just from walking around school and being talkative.

The Gallery Walk was pretty good though.  Saw some really great uses of Assessment for Learning.  Also saw many projects and cool uses of technology.  Our World Humanities group displayed something called Jing that is a screen capture program.  It's free, but limited.  The teachers used it for tutorials on some application process things that they had the kids do.  I could see some uses for it, but not entirely sure I have time to jump into it now.  Maybe this summer.

I also saw a great idea from our World Geography Honors teacher who published a book of pictures and work from her students last year on Japan.  I would love to pull together a project and capture it in a book some time.  Maybe my castle project or something similar?

There were plenty of "Unit Plans" and targets - much like I did last year.

Overall a good use of the day.  I had a chance to talk AVID with our Superintendent.  It was so cool that he stopped by to see all the good work we have going on and to be supportive.  We are very lucky to have him.

In the afternoon I had a chance to get my boards cleaned and ready for tomorrow morning, put my Human Rights Posters up on the wall (I'll take some pictures and post later this week), finished my outline handout for our next project on Leaders, and wrapped up my notes for tomorrows class.  A productive day.  Best part of all?  Aidan and Norma came in and we went for lunch at Carinos.  :)

Looking forward to seeing the kids tomorrow for Chapter 14 - Absolutism and AVID tutoring.  Watched Elizabeth last night and enjoyed it.  Although I'm not sure what I could actually use in class.  Pretty much rated R.  Good story though.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Got an A on It!" - Hope Christian School Beyonce Take

Thought this was pretty cute.  Being a middle aged white boy that is more of a Metallica/Pearl Jam/Dave Matthews fan, I didn't know the song well.  But it is well done:

The Gallery Walk 2010: Setting Goals with AVID

This year our school is doing another Gallery Walk. Last year it was on a Thursday. This year we are going to have the Gallery Walk on President's Day. My wife is staying home with Aidan because preschool is closed. But, for teachers we have a professional development day. So our principal decided to use the day for our Gallery Walk. I personally think this is a great use of the day.

Last year I learned a lot by walking through the library and looking at everyone's presentations. It was amazing to see what teachers had decided to focus on for their trifold board and learning strategy. It is like a teacher science fair. Pretty nerdy, I know. But, for our school and it's headlong dive into Assessment for Learning, I think it is important. We need the time to see what others are doing.

For my presentation last year, I know that 1/2 of it was pulled from other departments and their ideas that they shared throughout the past few years. So you never know where you might get an idea that really propels your class forward.

This year I have decided to showcase something that I use in my AVID class. AVID is a class that prepares students for college. It takes students that might not be in honors classes and prepares them in multitude of ways to make it in those classes and then motivate them to get to college. One thing I do each Monday is a "Goal of the Week." We also write an essay each spring that is called the "Life Goal." So I focused my poster board on Goal Setting.  One of the Assessment for Learning strategies that I have learned is to help students create goals.  So I thought this tied both AVID and goal setting principle of AFL (Assessment for Learning)  together.

Here are a few pics:

The left panel is about "Life Goals" and it has some AVID descriptions of the essay, rubrics and an outline.  The right panel is about "Weekly Goals" and it lists the description of them and has student examples at the bottom.  The middle panel is all about AVID.  The biggest reason I chose to do this as my presentation is so that teachers from across the school (we have 200+) can learn more about our program.  It is essential that our faculty and staff understand what an AVID student is so that they can help recommend students. 

I'll post something tomorrow about how it all went.  Looking forward to seeing the great ideas from my colleagues.  

The Gallery Walk 2009: Learning Targets

Last year our principal had a "Gallery Walk." It was done on a Thursday morning when we have our 90 minute school planning time in the morning (late arrival for students). I did a trifold board presentation on the Assessment for Learning principle: Setting Targets with Unit Plans.

Here is the posting I did on that day on my own personal blog:
Today we did a school "Gallery Walk." Teachers used presentation poster boards and highlighted new ideas that they have been trying for Assessment for Learning and other new initiatives. At first, I was worried I'd be one of a handful of teachers to participate. But, we had over 30 people. It was really great to see all of the cool ideas people had and what they were doing in their classes.

This is my poster board:
You can see the poster board more clearly by clicking on it.

My topic was "Target Sheets." The basics behind them is that it is a "unit plan" or "game plan" for what we will learn in each chapter. I pass them out on the first day of the chapter and on the sheets they have objectives (targets), vocabulary words, "big ideas," quotes to understand and possible essay questions on them. I also include the 10 questions from the chapter that are due for homework.

Students have liked them because they have a clear plan on the first day about what they are learning. It gives them a chance to see the "whole" before we put the parts together. I have seen some students achieve a higher level of with them this year. At first, I was sure it would be too much work for me to do. But, I was wrong. It really didn't take that much more time.

Now I have them for next year as well and I'll be able to tweak and change them and hopefully make them better. The presentation went over pretty well and I also had my laptop there while I played our fall video for World History. It highlighted all the cool projects we did (like the castle project, rock art project, and religion

During the morning we had tons of people walk through the library and check things out, including our superintendents. As I walked around I was really proud of my school and all the effort the faculty has undertaken to improve instruction and learning at our school. I am really lucky to work there.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Purchase Points ~ Fun with the Reformation

We had a great time today with a little joke I play every year in class.  After their quiz in World History on the Renaissance and Reformation (Chapter 12) we pass out the "Purchase Points Policy"  here it is:

Purchase Points  






We discuss the policy a bit after the students have had a chance to read it.  A few students give me a look like, "This must be a joke."  Others are very excited and are already reaching for their wallets.  A few are very offended that they would not be able to afford to "purchase points."  I explain, "Well,  you might have just failed that test... you could just see your secretary and buy a coupon for academic points and "Boom!"  you have an A."  A few smiles come to the student's faces because they realize they have a reprieve.  And maybe studying for the test Monday isn't really that necessary now.

I spend 10 minutes or so of trying to persuade the students that this might actually happen.  I say things like, "Hey, don't blame me.  They always make us pass out district announcements on initiatives in social studies."  And students know that we are going to the counselor meetings on scheduling like 4 times this month.  So it strikes home.  We discuss the advantages and drawbacks to such a gimmick.  I usually say, "Hey, everyone can go to college now and Mr. Duez might actually earn more money in salary!  What's so bad about that?"

Then finally I have a student (usually someone who is looking the most confused) to read the quote on the board, "When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs."  A quote from Johann Tetzell about indulgences in the time of the protestant reformation.  Finally it starts to sink in that this is in comparison to the reformation and light bulbs come on.

Of course the students are going to have to write on the test and explain the quote.  So this is the perfect way to get it across to them.  It becomes very relevant.  They suddenly understand how Martin Luther must have felt all those many years ago. Getting to pay your way to a good grade is compared to paying your way to salvation and heaven.

The very first time that I did this was at Humble High in 2005.  It just so happens that the very first period that I was doing the gag, my evaluating principal Mr. Monk came strolling into the room.  He was just in time to learn about this new district policy!  To his credit he remained quiet, calm and played along with it.  But, in the end I asked him, "What did you think of this while we were doing it?"  He said sternly, "I was thinking to myself that I would be spending the afternoon on the phone trying to explain this one to parents and YOU would be helping!"

Today I took it to Mr. Roser, just to be sure that no one has any misinterpretation.  I can just hear it now over the loud speaker, "Mr. Duez, please report to the office!"  :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First Brick in the Wall

I have been contemplating the idea of starting a teaching blog.  So, this is it.  Thanks for stopping by.

Mission - it's my hope that I can start a conversation and I hope that others will contribute, help, and hopefully learn.

Theme - the theme I'm starting with is based on the Pink Floyd song, "Another Brick in the Wall."  I always liked the concept of rebellion against the stale, tired, and sarcasm-filled teacher that does evil and seems to enjoy it.  So hopefully here at this blog we can create a positive atmosphere where teachers can prevent themselves by being just another brick in the wall.  It is simply my nightmare scenerio to one day be the teacher in this video near the beginning, "What have we here laddie?  The laddie reckons himself a poet!"  Sad.

So, teachers... don't be just another brick in this wall.  Let's enjoy this tremendous career in teaching, help each other learn and get better, and hopefully inspire our kids to be the very best.

They do need education.  A great one.  Not just another 'brick in the wall.'

More to come over the weekend.  If you have any ideas for what this could become, please leave a comment and let me know.

btw = "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"