|Paper Airplane Lab in Science 7|
|Touring UCLA with AVID 8|
|Crayon art with leaves from the
|Recording green screen videos in
|Paper Airplane Lab in Science 7|
|Touring UCLA with AVID 8|
|Crayon art with leaves from the
|Recording green screen videos in
|Melissa d’Arabian’s Instagram post|
|Do you breakfast?|
|I tried making overnight oats. Added coconut and dried
cranberries to one, and blueberries to the other. Success!
2016 was a great year for me, filled with lots of amazing adventures and opportunities. In the same theme as my “2015 in Review” blog post from last year, I will format my reflection in a “Where I was, where I am, and where I’m going.”
Where I was (December 2015)
Where I am (January – December 2016)
|Our COL16 cohort, coaches, and program managers.|
|Ari and me at the LA County Summit|
Where I’m going (2017 and beyond)
|Dress-up dinner at Camp Winters, only a few feet from and
2 years before my magical “ah ha!” moment. August 2006
No really, this one time, at band camp I had my “I need to be a teacher” epiphany. As a biology major in college, I was naturally following the pre-med path. I always knew I loved teaching, but it wasn’t until August 2008 and my annual adventure up to Camp Winthers Music Camp in Soda Springs, CA when I realized teaching was my life direction. I distinctly remember leading a flute section rehearsal near the campfire pit, making eye contact with the head counselor, and immediately knowing I had better become a teacher. It was a magical moment.
Four years of high school band, ten band classes, private flute and piano lessons, a zillion hours practicing, and two band teachers taught me many essential life lessons that directly apply to teaching. I spent a year in Concert Band, three years in Honors Concert Band, two years in Jazz Workshop (one of four jazz bands!), two years TA-ing zero period, and one year in Small Ensemble (think Genius Hour class for band nerds!). The human being and teacher I am today is directly influenced by Mr. Faniani and Mr. Murray, our two incredible band directors.
“You never have a second chance to make a first impression”
Whether it’s a firm handshake and eye contact, hitting the downbeat, or welcoming students on the first day of school, it’s essential to be the best version of yourself at any given time. Backing up this first impression requires hard work, practice, and confidence (fake it ‘til you make it, if necessary). In my AVID classes, we discuss what makes a good handshake, and students practice correctly and incorrectly with their classmates until they feel comfortable shaking hands and introducing themselves. When they’re finished, I send them on a scavenger hunt to shake hands with their teachers and at least one administrator. Then, they put these handshakes into practice when they show up for their mock job interview! They constantly cite the confidence they’ve gained in AVID as an essential part of their middle school experience.
|First year as a counselor, August 2005. These babies are now
graduated from college and doing amazing things!
“Perfect practice makes perfect”
Why do something only half-good? In music, this simply means grabbing a metronome, slowing way down, and gradually working up to tempo. When you make a mistake, keep your head up and recover quickly. In teaching, I try to focus on getting better at a few things at a time. Lessons never ever go perfectly, but the habits of mind of reflecting on our work are essential to growing ourselves as teachers and learners. There are so many great practices, lesson ideas, projects, and methods discussed on Twitter every day; if we get bogged down in trying to do them all, we will fail miserably. I am intentional about my opportunities for reflection: I blog occasionally, talk to a few trusted colleagues and friends daily (Voxer is great for this), and talk to myself using voice memos on my phone.
|Annual Playathon fundraiser, honored for my 2 years as the
student chair. November 2006.
Sometimes you have to stand up and dance!
Every year, Mr. Faniani told us a story about a time he was recording a percussion track, and kept hitting his part too early or too late. Once he stood up and started dancing, he nailed it. Obviously, this story is way more entertaining with Mr. Faniani acting it out for us, but you get the picture. This story has stuck with me because it’s so easy to sit in our comfy chair and play it safe, when really we must stand up, be bold, and take risks.
Both teaching and playing music take years of practice and hard work, moments of complete frustration, and an unparalleled joy when sharing our passion with others. And, both are entirely worth it!
Context: I teach 7th grade science, and history is my least favorite subject. My background knowledge is lacking in both US and world history, unless it directly pertains to science. I had incredible history teachers in middle school, and sub-par history teachers in high school. In so many ways, the teacher makes the subject come alive!
Last week, I was chatting with one of our amazing US History teachers, Daniel Garcia. I asked him what they were teaching. Turns out, they were learning about Hamilton v Jefferson. Did you just say…Hamilton?! Ok, I’m interested. Why? Because Hamilton, duh.
|Mr. Garcia going over the day’s objective.|
They were analyzing primary and secondary source documents from both Jefferson and Hamilton, and discussing the merits and faults. I ended up in Mr. Garcia’s class for most of period 2 on Tuesday, and the end of period 4 and beginning of period 6 on Thursday. On Tuesday, they listened to the intro song, Alexander Hamilton, and analyzed Hamilton’s background (tangent conversation, what do you notice about the actors?). On Thursday, they listened to Cabinet Battle #1 and Cabinet Battle #2. If the kids weren’t interested in Hamilton after Tuesday, they were begging for more after these 2 songs!
At one point during 4th period, I usurped power from Mr. Garcia to ask the kids “How do you think the Jefferson v Hamilton battle would have been different if it were via social media? And what are their hashtags?” That got them exciting and talking!
Ok, so Hamilton is exciting and popular. Awesome. Wow. But so what?
I’ve seen many of our usually disengaged students perk up with Hamilton. They love the lyrics, the hip hop, the angst, and that this is something cool outside of school. I stood in line outside Mr. Garcia’s class (ok, so really, it started as a game of “how long can I blend in before he notices”) and had a great conversation about women’s rights and the 2016 election with some of my former students.
For other students, using music to learn instantly makes learning come alive. On Friday, I did a circle with my 0 period AVID 8th graders to discuss using music in class. I started the period with 3 warm-up questions, (1) Make a hashtag for Jefferson, (2) Make a hashtag for Hamilton, and (3) Were you in the room where it happened? #3 got them super confused and curious. Only one student in my class understood the reference, and was cracking up. Everyone else kept asking “Ms. V, what does #3 mean?” I asked them to get in their circle, and before I threw out the question, they were already in a heated debate about Hamilton v Jefferson. For 15 minutes, they continued an intense conversation about the two and their ideas, using evidence from what they learned in history. Mind you, this was 7:30am.
|Cabinet Battle #1 with US History|
Finally, the conversation died down, and we moved on to discuss how Hamilton and other music fuels their interest in a topic. Overall, they agreed that authentic music experiences help them learn (such as Hamilton, Flocabulary, etc.).
For me, music and musicals are an instant hook. Cats was my broadway musical gateway drug in 4th grade. My dad and I read Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats together when I was on a poetry kick, then watched the musical. I moved on to Les Mis, Hairspray, and Rent. For all of these, I took time to research the issues and people behind the musicals.
I love that my students have found something relevant to ignite their passion for learning!
Trends in education focus on buzzword categories of students: English Learners, special education, homeless/foster youth, gifted, etc. If we’re not analyzing data, then we’re busy talking about getting students to collaborate and work together more. What happens when a student doesn’t prefer to work with a group? What happens when a student is an introvert?
Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, discusses how western culture has made a shift from the “culture of character” to the “culture of personality” where extroversion is dominant, and introversion is considered inferior. She names this the Extrovert Ideal, defined as “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight.” These are the values we intentionally and unintentionally translate to our classrooms, schools, and workplaces.
The biggest misconception about introverts is they have less to say. In reality, the major difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts prefer to process the world externally via social interactions, while introverts process the world internally via quiet thinking. Introverts have just as much to say as extroverts, but won’t readily speak it out loud.
In social situations, there may be extroverts who will not wait for others to speak, and overpower the quieter voices. We call these steamrollers. In any sort of collaborative grouping, an overpowering person can be dangerous for the group’s process and rapport. Helping these extroverts identify when they tend to steamroll is just as important as empowering the introverts to advocate for their own needs.
Many introverts, such as myself, can be “functional extroverts” for short periods of time. If you’ve met me in real life, you might not automatically know I’m an introvert–especially if I’m at an edtech conference. However, after I get home, I need plenty of time to decompress. This is a learned skill that took time to develop.
In our classrooms, we value students who are collaborative and vocal. It seems that we’re condemned as “bad teachers” (gasp) if we don’t have our students constantly working together. After auditing my own classroom, I see how many of my lessons that the voices of my extroverts, and leave my introverts quiet and alone. I’ve been more intentional to build in opportunities for both introverts and extroverts to shine.
So with this being said, how do we provide our introverts with an authentic voice in our classroom and world?
PS. Not sure where you lie on the introvert-extrovert continuum? Take this free Myers-Briggs Type Indicator quiz to find out.
On August 14th, I got up early for #HackLearning and #sunchat. Here on the west coast, that means setting my alarm for 5:15 on a Sunday morning to be ready for the 5:30am & 6:00am chats, respectively.
Earlier that week, I was talking with a few friends about how blogging has been a big challenge for me. I’m finally reaching a point where I almost feel comfortable with blogging, but not yet confident. As I thought about this after the conversation, I realized what I most wanted is a group of people to support my blogging journey.
After talking with a few people during #sunchat, I realized I wasn’t alone in my blogging struggles. I tossed out the idea to start a DM group to support our blogging journeys. Other people jumped on board that week and in the 2 weeks since.
Our DM group is on fire, and we have quite a few people who have just started their blogging journey by posting their first post! Some members are more experienced bloggers, have had the opportunity to share their wisdom. No matter the experience level, everyone’s contributions are valued and celebrated.
One of the best parts of this group is that we make it a point to not only read each other’s blogs (we all have some sort of feed set up to see new posts, I use feedly), but also to leave comments. So often, I publish a blog post, and I’m not sure if anyone is actually reading. When we make it a point to comment, we are reading the blog post with a purpose, and providing valuable feedback and encouragement.
I’ve loved watching our group grow over the last two weeks, and I can’t wait to see how this journey unfolds for us all.
Interested in joining our #SunchatBloggers DM group? DM me on Twitter, and I’ll add you in!
This #FlyHighFri blog post is cross-posted on Justin Birckbichler’s and Mari Venturino’s blogs.
FlyHighFri Year 2
Welcome to #FlyHighFri, year 2. In July 2015, we began FlyHighFri as a way to emphasize the positives in our schools and classrooms in an effort to combat negatives we were observing. Read more about our initial set-up on Justin’s blog and Mari’s blog.
We have crafted a mission statement to guide our journey with FlyHighFri: FlyHighFri is a place for educators to gather to share their successes and positive moments from the week with a supportive community. It is our hope that this community grows organically together, and spreads throughout schools, both through social media and with face-to-face meetings.
In order to continue the positive momentum with FlyHighFri, we have established some community guidelines:
1. Positivity Rules
Celebrate the great things going on in our classrooms, schools, and districts.
First and foremost, FlyHighFri is about being intentionally positive. Building the habit of finding the positives within your day and week helps all of us persevere through the tough days. We want to celebrate all the wonderful things going on in schools across the world!
2. Share Real Successes
Share great stories from this week, big or small, that made a positive impact.
We make a sincere effort to read the the tweets each week. We love seeing the actual stories from the classrooms and schools. Have a student meet a goal? Great! Share it out. Staff member go above and beyond? Recognize them and share why they are important. Took a risk and it paid off? Tell us about it. Be intentional and specific about your tweets – there is a time and place for encouraging phrases but let’s make this community about sharing successes and positive moments.
3. Keep it School-Centered
Focus on students and teachers, and let them be the stars.
No matter your role in education, the learners always come first. There are other avenues on social media to promote products, books, blogs, and the like. Our goal is for FlyHighFri to specifically be about great things happening in our classrooms and schools, not about self-promotion or promotion of a product. Of course, if you’ve written a post or a certain app or product has directly made a positive impact in your school during your week, we want you to share that!
|Mar Vista Academy #FlyHighFri lunch group
in the school garden
We have high hopes for our FlyHighFri community for the 2016-2017 school year. We’d love to see the positivity message spread throughout schools and districts, but we also don’t want it to be forced. Be the invitation to your colleagues to share their positive moments. Mari often finds her principal at some point on Fridays and asks him, “What’s your FlyHighFri from this week?” It’s an easy 30 second conversation, that often turns into a longer discussion. We both also hold weekly get togethers for our teachers to join and share.
This year, we’ll be managing FlyHighFri through the official Twitter page. We’ll be quoting tweets that really stand out to us and want to highlight. We’re not concerned about it trending on Twitter. If it does, great. If not, that’s great, too. We value the individual contributions of each person, and prefer quality over quantity. Share successes with each other and use their ideas in your own schools. Challenge each other to continue growing as educators and positive people.
How can I spread #FlyHighFri?
– Connect with others in the FlyHighFri social media community using #FlyHighFri.
– Create an on-campus teacher group. Buy or make coffee to share with teachers and invite them to join you before school. Meet together for lunch.
– Go asynchronous to share online with a group of teachers through an online tool such as TodaysMeet or Google Hangouts Chat.
We look forward to a school year filled with positivity!