Summer Learning, Had me a Blast, Summer Learning Happened so Fast

 

Disclosure: This post was written in September 2015, I never hit the “publish” button, but as I begin to think about and plan ongoing professional development during this school year and for next summer I feel this urgency to finally hit publish.

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It is has been a while since my last post and just as I am reflecting on my summer I scroll through the many blog posts I have drafted and not yet published.  I am beginning to feel overwhelmed by this, yet I know hitting the “publish” button just once will help me to get one step closer to completing my numerous drafts.

Last night finally I was out to dinner with my husband and friends, as we stepped out of the car for the valet parking the cold air hit me, it was then that I realized summer is over. I looked out at the marina, the boats and the water and then I felt the air again, it was cold. A sudden sadness came over me.  The summer ended, the warm sun, the beach, the sand the salt air, it was over. Later as I sat at my computer,  I realized not only did my personal summer go so fast, but so did my professional summer.  Starting a new position in July and several professional learning opportunities helped the summer months fly by for me.  This realization pressed against me and I felt the urgency to write this post about my summer learning.  Perhaps this will help me to embrace the beautiful fall, the pumpkins, the leaves changing and the most exciting part of fall- when children arrive back at school.

Long Island Connected Leadership Institute 

This was a great opportunity led by Dr. Bill Brennan, this day was about sharing the power of being a connected educator with teams from our schools on Long Island. For me this was a day with colleagues and friends from the district I was departing from and an opportunity to learn alongside so many other educational leaders taking part in this institute.  The big takeaway: there are endless possibilities when you become a connected educator and this knowledge and understanding needs to continue to spread so that it will have a positive impact on learning for ourselves and most of all our students.

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The Hamptons, who would not want to be in the Hampton on a mid-July day?  I can tell you the turn out for Edcamp Leadership New York in the Hamptons was impressive.  On this day I felt proud to be a part of the whole experience, but I really and truly felt proud to be an educator on Long Island.  I remember the excitement in Dennis Shrug‘s voice when he first explained to me his vision in bringing EdCampLdr to NY.  It is that energy and passion that drove so may Long Island educators to Dennis’ Hampton Bays Middle School.  Similar to a great night out at dinner, you often hear comments about the ambiance of the restaurant, the people you share your meal with, the restaurant staff and of course the food.  For us that day at EdCampLdr, it was the impressive school building that fostered intellectual curiosity in its design, the people who we talked with in different sessions, the people we sat and had lunch with, and finally those who shared at the end of the day smackdown.  The big takeaway: there is so much to learn from fellow Long Island educators any opportunity that brings together dedicated educators is well worth the time.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Institute in American History and Content Literacy

This was my second summer attending this institute, in this case however I had the extreme honor of participating along with Jasmine Junsey as a peer leader.  The partnership between Colonial Williamsburg and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project was possible through a very generous donor from Long Island and I am forever thankful for her generosity and the impact it has had on so many educators and students.  Taking part in the planning along with Jasmine, I learned from Emily Butler Smith, Tab BroylesAndy Engels, Jodi Norman and Erin Sloan in deeper and more profound ways than I had the summer before as a participant.  To say that this experience changed me as an educator is an understatement.  Since the first day I put my feet down on the ground in Colonial Williamsburg that first summer, my mindset around the teaching of social studies has forever changed.  The big takeaway:  in learning social studies and content literacy it is all about the thinking.  The habits of mind that we instill in our students, those are the skills that carry over to any content in social studies, or any content in general.  When it comes to learning, it is all about the thinking.

Summer Learning Collaborative

In a new position as the Director of Elementary Education, I was fortunate to be handed this incredible idea.  The district ran a summer reading program the year before and this year in addition to the students learning, the new vision involved many learners; students, graduate students, district teachers and parents.  This idea was like a dream for me, it  connected with my passion around learning in the company of others — I could not wait to begin planning.  I felt as if I won the Golden Ticket!

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I planned along with Dr. Erica Pecorale the district’s literacy professional developer and Director of Teacher Education for Long Island University at the Riverhead Campus, she shared the vision of the summer learning plan.  This plan brought together a public school district, a university, professional texts, and most importantly the people behind them; the  students, the parents, the teachers and the authors.   As we planned with  Jennifer Hayhurst, Literacy Coach  our ideas came together and grew as I learned in greater depths about the true power of collaboration and what can happen when people who share passions come together to advance learning for all, children and adults alike.  We spent endless hours on Google Hangouts planning our 3 weeks to ensure that students, teachers and parents would be involved in a learning experience that would connect them through ideas around shared texts. We blended district teachers with graduate students working in their literacy practicuum and gave them opportunities for peer coaching in classrooms with students.  We blended collaboration and reflection time outside of the classroom.  We brought in Stacey Shubitz and Barb Golub to engage teachers and graduate students in thinking and learning around conferring and toolkits for reading and writing workshop.  We purchased books (Jen Serravallo’s The Reading Strategies Book and Tanny McGregor’s book Comprehension Connections ) for teachers and studied those books together and practiced these strategies in classrooms each day.  We shared these practices with parents over the course of three parent and child workshops.  We were learning in the company of others and all of us grew in our thinking around critical ideas in advancing literacy learning for all students.

As a new administrator in this district, this was an opportunity to learn alongside so many amazing educators, to get to know teachers, parents and students as learners.  The big takeaway:  when you pull together partners in education and spread the idea of learning and collaboration and commit to this, everyone wins!

Take Aways and Reflection from #CELI15

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Dr. Bill Brennan shared this poem as he opened CELI15. Immediately this poem resonated with me, I looked around the auditorium and I could feel the energy, passion and dedication to students and learning. Sure, I have seen this in other educational gatherings, but CELI15 was different, these educators were all connected educators gathering on Long Island. I could feel the future so close in front of us and immediately I felt assured that we are in fact in good hands. These innovative educators had energy and clarity and I was joining in and sitting at the table with them to engage in forward thinking and innovation in the spirit of increasing student engagement and achievement. Connect. Share. Learn. These three words on listed on the website for Long Island Connected Educators Summit, this promise was one that was more than fulfilled on this day. This learning experience was so different from anything I have experienced in my professional development so far. I left with so many ideas about how I can grow in my own professional development as well as the professional development that I facilitate.

“In writing and speaking, three is more satisfying than any other number.”

-Carmine Gallo Talk Like TED

As I have been reflecting on this day and attempting to formulate some clarity in written expression I came across this quote from Carmine Gallo and then it occurred to me – Connect. Share. Learn. Three words.The rule of three can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece where three words were used to convey an idea. Carmine Gallo points out in his book numerous examples of how the rule of three is ever present in our world throughout history ranging from life liberty and happiness to the Three Little Pigs, three primary colors and Newton’s three laws. In fact there are so many threes in nature and in literature this could go on for a while and I might never get to my three take aways from CELI15.

The number three is all around us and so in the spirit of three I will name my three take-aways from CELI15 – which is long overdue since this was on March 28th! Better late than never, and truthfully it was challenging to only name three takeaways from such an inspiring day.

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Just as teachers are guides on the side, Dr. Bill Brennan and Tony Sinanis did an amazing job of facilitating the conversations throughout the day from the opening to the closing. These two individuals are authentic leaders, who spoke honestly and inspired the Long Island educators who gathered on this last Saturday in March. Impressive to say the least!

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Professional development does not have to cost a lot in order for you to learn a lot. In fact it can be FREE!  Each session I attended was created by an educator or educators who cared enough to share their ideas. There were two morning sessions and one afternoon session. As I was presenting at the first session that narrowed my choices and I found myself wishing each session was recorded and blasted out on YouTube so I could watch and learn later, in a way that I can check out Storify after a chat that I cannot attend. I do admit it is not the same as interacting in the discussion live, but it could help to share ideas further. I greatly appreciated reading the #CELI15 Tweets that came out of the day. The sessions I did attend were conversations that inspired and gave me cause to reflect.

 I attended Tony Sinasis‘ session, “Transparency: Keys to Building Trust and Social Capital.” I had to admit to him that I was in fact stalking his Twitter #Catiague and working at my school to tell our story. In truth, I learned so much more from him in this session because he was friendly and so willing to share how he told the story of his school and built trust among his community through using social media. Ideas that Tony shared I know will serve me well as I engage in leadership roles in education. It is no surprise that Tony received the honor of being designated as 2014 Principal of the Year in NY.  Quite an amazing leader to learn from.

The next session I attended was part of the “unconference” developed during lunch on a whiteboard, it started blank and soon filled up with many more sessions to attend. Again, difficult choices to make. The literacy based topics really were pulling me, “Reflective Writing” and “Literacy Lovers,” how could I choose?  In the end, I opted to go outside of my literacy comfort zone and attended “Making Thinking Visible” presented by Louisa Cataldo and Tina Guarnashelli. They shared with us Peardeck as well as a learning experience from attending  Project Zero Summer Institute at Harvard. I purchased the book they recommended, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart. I started reading the book and so my learning that began at this session continues. I am grateful to Louisa and Tina as they have sent me on a continued learning journey. This brings me joy.

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I can push myself out of my comfort zone and share good ideas. At first I heard about this event through Carol Varsolona– a year earlier in fact. I was not able to attend CELI14 due to another commitment, however when I saw CELI15 being shared on Twitter and I realized many educators I follow on Twitter and chat with on Voxer (Talks with Teachers)  were going, I signed up right away. I learned so much from them in the connected sense through social media, I couldn’t wait to meet them and learn from them in person.

At some point I came across the call for proposals and suggested to my in district colleague Jeanne-Marie Mazzaferro that we submit a proposal. We just wrote and were facilitating an in district collegial circle titled “Making Social Studies “Social” for the 21st Century Student.” We were using technology and social media such as Twitter, Voxer, and Google Apps, to share all that we learned through the process with other educators seemed like a next step. We submitted our proposal and were more than excited when it was accepted.  We were going to be sitting at the table with these innovative, connected educators on Long Island and we could not wait to learn and share our story of learning. Here is the link to the description of our session. The QR below or this link will provide you with a view of our presentation as well as the participant folder we shared with the educators who joined us as we shared how our waves of learning spread.

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Connect. Learn. Share. The three words I first saw on the website for Long Island Connected Educators’ Summit (#CELI14, #CELI15), now there was a fourth word, ACT. Now is the time to ACT.  Once we have connected, we are always learning and sharing, but we need to also act. In reflecting on my experience this day, that was my first call to “ACT.” I believe that it is worthy to spend time sharing and spreading what you are passionate about, especially in learning when it can help others. This post is yet another “ACT” and although it took long for me to publish it, it is finally published. I could have continued to deliberate my reflections and revise and revise for several more weeks.  I could probably revise until CELI16, but I will take the advice of Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook, “Done is better than perfect.” I thought by tying in the idea of the rule of three I could somehow keep my reflection short, things don’t always go as planned.  We are all works in progress and while I continue to connect, learn, share and act I will no doubt continue to revise. For now, this post is done and that is better than perfect.

March 20, 2015 Day 20 Slice of Life Challenge

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Genuine is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as sincerely and honestly felt or experienced. 

Just as Justin Timberlake proclaimed to bring sexy back I am on a mission to bring the word genuine back.  I am not even sure it went anywhere, but the point is the word genuine does not get enough play these days, especially in education.

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Here is an excerpt from the #G2Great where this first occurred to me.  Dr. Mary Howard, who always has a way of inspiring me with just the most eloquent words used the word genuine in our discussion around Engaging All Stakeholders in Deeper and More Meaningful Ways.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 10.15.16 PMThen as things that seem to be calling for attention often do, I came across this word again today.  I was reading Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo when the word popped out to me again.  This word genuine, which really does not get enough play indeed needs to be brought back, was in Gallo’s first chapter.  How serendipitous that I came across this today, just after the word called itself to me from Dr. Howard’s tweet.

Gallo shares the research of Melissa Cardon who has spent ten years at Pace University studying passion.  Carson completed a study called “The Nature and Experience of Entrepreneurial Passion,”  This type of passion has been defined by Cardon as “A positive, intense feeling that you experience for something that is profoundly meaningful for you as an individual.”

If I was to consider this passion for me along with what Gallo suggests to answer the question “What makes your heart sing?” I would have to say that learning is what makes my heart sing. This can take many forms; it could be me learning, it could be me learning about how people learn, it could be me learning with someone else or just watching as others learn.  Of course now I have to realize then that I am currently in a great field to explore my passion.  As a literacy coach everyday I learn, I learn more about learning and I witness learning as students and teachers learn alongside me.

How does genuine relate to this?  It turns out that according to Cardon, people who are genuinely passionate about their topic are better speakers and audiences can recognize if someone is not genuine in their passion.  If a speaker is faking their passion they will fail to make a meaningful connection to their presentation and their audience.  People see genuine. People understand genuine.  People believe and become passionate when others speak passionately and genuinely about a topic.

So join in with me and bring genuine back!  Even if it did not really go anywhere let’s be genuine and let’s use that word.  Let’s make sure we bring genuine back to all our interactions with our students first and foremost but all stakeholders in education.  Especially in these times when education is at the center of much debate, let’s bring genuine back!

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March 18, 2015 Day 18 Slice of Life Challenge

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Celebrations Big or Small, They are all Important

Today I attended a writing workshop celebration that brought three 5th grade classrooms together. I watched as the teachers collaborated and the students collaborated.  Student writing was everywhere, checklists were available and students were referring to the checklists as they left two stars and a wish for each piece of writing they read. I celebrate this today because this year we are trying out some new ideas in our building writing celebrations and being a witness to the beginning of new collaborations and the growing of ideas is amazing. It amazes me to witness growth in students and adults alike.  I can be a bit of a geek that way.

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Earlier in the day I attended a smaller celebration in a 6th grade social studies class.  The 6th graders were presenting their social studies research and students were engaged in “Power Note Taking” that they learned in their information writing unit in writing workshop. Although the size of this celebration may be less in numbers of students involved, this celebration was big for me!  This class had transferred skills from writing workshop into social studies.  This class was teaching others about the topics they researched.  This class was sharing projects that they created in collaboration with peers as a culmination of their research.  This teacher and this class is beginning to transform their social studies classroom. I also attended the writing celebration for this class the week before, and it was powerful to see the skills being practiced across the content areas.  I celebrate this today because I am a witness again to amazing growth in students and adults alike.

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Last week I attended another 6th grade social studies class as they celebrated their research and learning in the content area.  I listened to presentations in small groups, I listened to whole class presentations that utilized technology, I spoke with students who learned so much about their topics while applying skills that are transferring from their literacy lessons in reading and writing workshop.  These students taught me about Anubis, Egyptian pyramids, the mummification process, the Nile River and the so much more.  One student after he taught the class, checked for understanding in his presentation and offered pencils to all participants.  The energy and excitement of learning through inquiry amazes me.  I celebrate this today because I am once again a witness to an amazing teacher and amazing 6th graders who allow me to watch and learn alongside them as they grow in amazing ways.

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Tomorrow I will be attending a literacy celebration in 6th grade on Information Writing around the topic of teen activism. This will be shared among 4 classrooms, and I am especially looking forward to this celebration because this unit is close to my heart.  Last year I was part of an awesome celebration in one classroom in my school around this unit.  I am looking forward to this celebration because like the 5th grade writing celebration today, this is another one that involved collaboration by several teachers and their students.  I celebrate this today because I am so fortunate to be a part of all these celebrations where I take in all the wonder of learning that happens for us as human beings, not just students, not just teachers but as human beings.  Humans grow in amazing ways.

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March 15, 2015 Day 15 Slice of Life Challenge

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h Practice in Literacy, in Teaching and in Life 

Yesterday in my blog I wrote about my daughter and her puppy Ezra, and how we attempted to make him a shirt. Yesterday we ended up with a scarf. Today my daughter, independently with just a bit of lean coaching in from me completed a shirt for Ezra. In fact I only coached in at the beginning and at the end just nudging her along with a tip and answering a question or two. The bulk of her practice was independent while I was out shopping and taking my son out to practice driving.

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Practice

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word practice means to do something again and again in order to become better at it.  As a literacy coach I often talk about how students need to practice repeatedly in order to improve.  For instance, in the mini lesson of reading or writing workshop we ensure students have guided practice in the gradual release of responsibility model that we follow.  Here students have an opportunity to practice with a partner, with the teacher close by, listening in to assess for the next steps.  Once students go back to independent workshop time students will need to practice the skills or strategies that they are working on.  This works well for habits, skills or content that most of the class will need to practice.

If we meet with students, set individual goals related to either habits, skills or content students will then need to practice that skill for sometime. They will need to repeat it many times until they become better at it.  I believe this is where the most important practice happens.  It is especially important to carry these goals for a long enough time that they do improve and maintain the habit, skill or content understanding.

This also made me think a bit deeper about practice in all learning experiences, as adult learners do we allow enough time for our own practice? It seems to me that teachers and other adults in the education community forget that teaching is a practice, and as such when we are learning something new would then need to engage in practice along with approximations along the way.  I usually refer to the process of learning as a messy process and we often say embrace the mess when you enter my office which is also our professional learning community room.  I wonder though, if teachers really are allowed enough time to practice new instructional practices and are they allowed approximations in that practice.  I wonder if we as teachers allow ourselves that time to learn.  So many times I see teachers who are hard on themselves, often not allowing for practice time or any sort of approximations.  Sometimes this turns into resistance to any sort of change, because it is really fear of failure.  If we believe that as research shows we have learned more about the brain in the last 10 years than any other time period in our history it seems imperative that we embrace teaching as a practice and that we seek to continually improve our practice.  To do this we have to allow time for practice, space for mistakes, trials or approximations.  We need time to practice, to do something again and again in order to become better at it.