Transform Your Teaching This Year

When you read the rest of today’s blog I want you to know it spoke volumes to me about the transformation we are going through with  our teaching and  our classrooms,  and the good work that we are doing in this district with regard to 21st Century Skills. A colleague I follow on Twitter, Shelly S. Terrell, wrote an article about Transforming your teaching this school year, and I feel it bears repeating.

” I want to give you permission. I want to tell you that yes, you have the freedom and power to inspire incredible learning this year. You are the instrument in your classroom that determines whether your students will love learning or hate learning. So how do you begin to implement that power and ensure your students learn effectively? Try a few of these ideas in your class this year. They are meant to be accomplished in only one class period in one semester. This way you can take baby steps and reflect on the outcomes in the coming months. If these ideas don’t work, you can always go back to your regular way of teaching.”

Several tips to encourage transformation in your classroom and with students: (more tips can be found in the link I’ve included on my blog)

  • Ask a question that has many answers or no answer at all.
  • Give your students the reins for one class period. Give them the topic or learning objective, then ask how they would like to learn about that topic. They might suggest a game, project or exploration with technology.
  • Allow your students to choose how they will be assessed for one topic. They might suggest a project, game or another method.
  • Ask your students what they really are interested in learning and for the day, allow them to interview an expert in that field online. Your students can search for the e-mail address, blog address, Facebook account or Twitter handle of that person. For example, a student might be interested in skateboarding. Have that student connect with Tony Hawk on Twitter or another famous skateboarder.
  • Tell your students everyday for a week that you are glad to be their teacher. Do this by greeting them at the door with a smile, handshake or high five.
  • Conduct a class in a different environment, such as outdoors or in another part of the building.

In my daily visits and walkthroughs to campuses I continue to see student-centered classrooms filled with creativity, spontaneous conversations about the learning, and the encouragement and confidence from students who understand the concepts they are learning about. Reach deep within you to continue the transformation that includes authentic learning, sound instructional pedagogy, and the evidence of learning you see as a result. You will be amazed.

Texas High Performance School Consortium

Today kicked off the meeting of the 23 districts involved in the THPSC. Approxiately 95 forward thinking administrators and leadership teams met with TASA to create a plan for a new assessment and accountability system for Texas students. Meaningful discussions took place about the what needs to be done with accountability and who we should be accountable to. Looking forward to day 2 tomorrow and continuing the work with people who have a passion for kids.

National Conference showcases Flipped Classroom at WOHS

White Oak ISD was selected by TEA as the Texas district featured in a skype with the State Educational Technology Directors Association (Leadership Summit) in Washington D.C. yesterday. We were featured in the new learning models portion of the meeting and showcased Mrs. Tricia Cook and her Algebra I class using the Flipped Classroom Model. Mrs. Cook, along with four of her students talked about the model, the impact it had on student learning, student collaboration, and the support offered by the district and campus to make this change.

The students did a great job of accurately describing their experiences and how this model had helped them be successful, despite struggling with math  in previous years. Please take a look at Mrs. Cook’s Algebra I blog for resources, videos, and curriculum connections.

Great things going on in White Oak ISD.


Reflecting on PLC Day #2

Great training occurred today for teachers in WOISD during the second professional learning collaborative.  There were a variety of sessions offered for teachers to be connected and collaborate with colleagues from across the district.

Below are just a few of the comments shared by more than 105 teachers about the training opportunities offered today.

  • Evaluate past practices and make adjustments to instruction that will address the four big questions.
  • Work with kids to higher level thinking from a cognitive point of view. Force kids to evaluate themselves as well as their surroundings and how to make them better.
  • I will be more deliberate in designing big questions to guide instruction and study inquiry. I like the idea of the students crafting more questions and questioning each other, even permitting them to help design quizzes or test question banks.
  • I will take ideas from the guided reading strategies such as authentic conversations to allow students to talk through word problems in math and to use powerful prompts and praises for specific tasks by students.
  • We are well on our way with using project-based learning as an effective inquiry driven method of instruction.
  • Impressed with teacher ideas and creativity and their desire to move to the next level.

Professional Learning Collaboratives

Tomorrow we have the opportunity to participate in quality professional development, with quality staff leading the training–our own staff in WOISD. The importance of this training and the need for it was communicated to us by the teachers. We have devoted and committed teachers who are not afraid to make change and try something different if the results are positively impacted–but it must be valid, well-thought out change that improves student achievement and success, with a variety of next-generation learning standards and authentic assessments to support that achievement.

I look forward to hearing about each session and reading the reflections that provide us with valuable information that will help support the PLC Day #3 and make it even more successful.


PLC Day #2

Looking forward to powerful collaborative learning with our staff on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Sessions include: Watch Your Language; Who TUBE? You TUBE!; Why School?; e-Portfolios; and the Four Big Questions. All of the sessions are taught by teachers and administrators in the district–quality training with quality presenters–it doesn’t get any better.

Student engagement and learning

Read through several of the articles on 21st Century Learning and viewed a couple of videos. One particular, ‘Engage Me’ showcases students from an Alabama district that could very well be our own students. We have so many opportunities to utilize technology and tools with students to engage them in learning. In a Twitter discussion this evening on the e-book ‘Why School?’ by Will Richardson, a comment was made that I immediately retweeted because it struck a chord: “Productive learning is that which engenders & reinforces wanting to learn more.”

I want our students to like learning; really like it, appreciate it, desire to learn more and share their knowledge with others. We are blessed with students who love to learn, but they don’t always share because it’s not popular or cool. Today when I mentioned in a classroom visit that we wanted our students to truly love learning, I saw some heads nodding in agreement, others who didn’t respond, and watched the reaction of the one student who thought the comment was a bit funny. Nevertheless, as educators we must move forward; we must change the way we learn because it ultimately impacts the way we teach (not because it’s easy, but because it’s the right thing to do) and our goal is to provide students with every opportunity to develop a love for learning, and to expect in return that they share what they know and show us what they can do with what they know.

Something to think about……….

Curriculum Adventures

Our Roughneck Team (central and campus administrators)  is working through the steps in the Curriculum Adventures section of Powerful Learning Practices . Lots of information to sift through and read through, but will bring about worthy conversation at our next meeting. The orientation piece challenges us to think about what we believe as educators and where we are headed as a 21st Century Teaching & Learning District.

Moving Forward

Although we are early into the 2012-13 school year, the journey is going to be amazing for WOISD. We opened school with Eric Jensen, and his presentation on Teaching with Poverty in Mind; followed by the design and implementation of four Professional Learning Collaborative days, which highlights teaching staff within the district as trainers, while providing professional development that gives teachers the opportunity to connect and collaborate with one another, regardless of grade level or campus. In addition, we were selected as one of 23 districts in the state to serve as a Texas High Performance School. The THPSC will work to create a plan that could ultimately change the testing process and the method by which we assess students. We are very excited about the opportunity and we will begin that process on October 23, 2012.

As a part of our vision as a 21st Century Learning school, we are involved with Powerful Learning Practices. The training with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson challenges us to create a learning environment that highly engages students, utilizes online resources, social media, and stretch our students with critical thinking skills and rigor. Our Roughneck Team is very excited about the year long opportunity.