California Teacher Summit

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This marked the 3rd year that California has invested in teachers in this way; a summit. This FREE event is held across the state, simultaneously. Held at California Universities, teachers come together to learn, grow, and become inspired.

This year, the keynote speaker was former VP first lady, Dr. Jill Biden. She spoke of her experiences as a teacher. How she was inspired by her grandmother and her grandmother’s brass bell. How after moving to Washington, D.C. she couldn’t leave teaching behind and taught at a community college. She spoke of the importance of education and the value that we as teachers bring to the profession. This speech was live streamed to all sites. I sat listening to her at CSUMB – California State University Monterey Bay.

This was the first year that I attended. I had registered for the previous two years, but due to vacations – just getting back a day or two before – I wasn’t able to attend. I had been too tired. However, this year was different. I was ready to go! And I’m glad I did.

The conference was from 8 – 12:30 pm. After the keynote, our first EdTalk was given by Mark Cisneros of Alisal High School. He spoke about Literacy. How literacy impacts our students; specifically our second language learners. And how we should feel passionate about what we teach. If we aren’t passionate and excited, the kids won’t be either.

Then, came my favorite part: EdCamp. Based on what WE wanted to talk about, learn about, share about, sessions were created. No presenters, just like minded teachers talking and learning from one another. Along with that, was a shared doc with notes for all sessions.

We then closed the day out with our second EdTalk. Alex Hofsteen, Internation School of Monterey,  shared his passion for teaching science in meaningful ways. Having the kids act out, create, and be hands-on in their own learning.

This was a great experience. Along with the learning, I was able to connect and grow my PLN. We’re all in this together. If you’re in California, looking into attending the event next year. It will be held Friday, July 27, 2018: It’s Personal.

Note: The two EdTalks were given by local teachers. Each site throughout the state had local teachers talk and share their knowledge and passion with others.

Staff Breakout EDU

Finally! I have been trying to introduce my site to Breakout EDU for quite a while now. I have been working with my principal for over 6 months on finding a time that works best. Yesterday was the day!

Over Spring Break my principal emailed and asked if it would be doable to host a breakout at our next meeting. I was thrilled! Yes, totally doable and I knew exactly which game I wanted to use: Faculty Meeting.IMG_5325

Since I have five Breakout boxes (one official and four self-created) I was able to split the teachers into manageable groups of 4 or 5. In addition, my class has done several and were able to help me set up for the teachers. I even had 2 student volunteers who stayed to help out. It was rough starting. Many of the teachers weren’t sure how to approach this. It’s so different from what is done in classrooms. This was a very different experience than when I first introduced it to my students (NOTE: I’ve been doing breakouts for 1 1/2 years with students). My students dive right in; sometimes trying out codes on locks without any clues – they get reminders that they need to solve clues to get the codes. But after a few minutes, all the teams were busily working on codes. Some teams were precise in their work, while others were a little less reserved.

IMG_5324In the end, all teams broke out. Several teachers commented what fun it was and how they had to think outside the box to solve the clues. Which is the point; think outside of the box to break into the box!

What was really fun to watch was the Kinder team work together – they choose to sit as a group. They work really well together and are like a well-oiled machine. It definitely showed in the end. That’s not to say the other teams didn’t work well together because they did. Something about seeing the Kinder teachers who eat lunch together, collaborate daily, and constantly communicate work through the Breakout was fun.

img_0534.jpgIn the end, we talked about how it can be used in the classroom and it was revealed that our principal purchased 2 kits for our site. There were a few who said they were going to check out the Breakout EDU website for games and information. One Kinder teacher wants to try it, with my help. What an awesome experience! Can’t wait for those kits to arrive.

Thank you to KCAM principal, staff, and students for allowing me to share the Breakout fun with you!

Too Much PD?

Is there such a thing as too much PD?

This is something that I have been contemplating. The past few years my district has had teachers participate in weekly PD. In the beginning, this was welcome as not only did we want it, we felt that we needed it. However this current year, I am beginning to ask if there really is too much of a good thing.

How much is too much?

Each week I am asked to participate in 90 minutes ‘collaboration’ time. To me, collaboration is organic, exciting, desired, and teacher-driven. However, when teachers are told what to do, what to discuss, and have someone watching/listening it begins to feel less like collaboration and more like a mandatory meeting. And no one likes long meetings. Then there are the 2.5-hour meetings/PD each month, plus 1.5-hours meetings/PD each month, AND 1/2 hour meetings/PD TWICE per month. This makes a grand total of 12.5 hours of meeting/PD per month. No wait, I forgot the 1.5 hours per month of math PD. So that makes 14 hours of meeting/PD per month. And none of it is teacher-driven.

So what’s the result?

Before I sat down to figure all this out, I had no idea I was getting this much each month. Some of this comes at the expense of face-time with students – a grand total of 8 hours during the regular school day. Times that by the 9 months this occurs, that’s 72 HOURS of lost face-time with my students. Wow!

In addition to the lost face-time, I fear that we are beginning to experience overload. I fear that many teachers have begun tuning out some of the good messages and practices that are being shared. I know I have. Many teachers have begun to dread the monthly 2.5-hour meeting/PD. I don’t find the math PD useful. In fact, watching an hour lesson in which the students FINALLY get to talk after 33 minutes is a bit much, even for me (I love math!). And their actual interaction with other students lasts less than 8 min in that hour.

When can I put it into practice?

If I am missing 8 hours with my students – this doesn’t include the 3 hours that my class must attend First Tee each month – when can I put what I’m learning into practice? I’m honestly not sure. I sure hope I get to do so soon.

What to do?

Honestly, I’m not sure. In and of themselves, each item is worthy. Combined, it’s proving to be a deadly combination. I am hoping that my district reevaluates some of this. Honestly, I think the monthly 2.5-hour meeting/PD needs to go. Remember sitting in those 3-hour classes in college and you were done after about an hour. Yeah, these give you that same feeling. I’m also hoping that the district asks the teachers which ones they find most valuable. Sticking with the top 2 will result in better teaching practices.


Minecraft EDU

Um, OMG!!!!

minecraftSomehow John Miller arranged for the #awesomesauce folks at Minecraft EDU to come to our tiny little town on their TeacherGaming Tour 2015. So this afternoon I sat in a packed room with eager teachers – waiting to find out what the buzz was about – and some really great tutors – 6th and 7th grade students.

For a few years now, my students have begged me to include Minecraft in our classroom. They know they can hook me with most things tech. And for years now, I keep telling them that I don’t get it. I’ve tried it, and quickly get bored, or in the case the other night, die within 5 minutes. The ‘regular’ Minecraft isn’t for me. I’ve seen some of my students create some great worlds during Genius Hour, I just don’t have the patience for that. So when John shared the opportunity to do this, I jumped on it. I mean, this many kids can’t be wrong!

So there I sat, between 2 tutors. Apparently, I looked like I’d need more than one. Axel and Lauren were a great help. In 2 hours we were taken through maps and tasks. First we started off with just getting use to the controls and how to manuver our people. On a side note, I was glad NOT to be Steve! I got to pick out a character.

Once we were use to manipulating our people, we were given tasks to complete. We navigated through mazes, built structures with partners, and coded turtles – which could help us navigate through the map. See, it is pretty cool!

You know it’s a good training when they have to ‘freeze’ you in order to get your attention! Yeah, we were frozen a few times so that we could learn how to operate things from the teacher end, and talk about how to use it in our classrooms. At one point I was frozen right in the middle of my turtle running the program I coded. It was then that I made some strange unintelligible sounds. I really wanted to see if I programmed the little guy properly.

So clearly, I’m beginning to ‘get it’! Boy will some of my students be happy. Formers will say something like, “Sure, now you get it AFTER we’re gone”. I’d like to explore this more and see how I can incorporate this into my 5th grade classroom. I think, and it’s been proven, that there are great possibilities with this. I’d also like to explore some of the maps (worlds, mods) that are available.

It was a great workshop, my only complaint: we only had 2 hours. Wish we had more time. Thank you to everyone!

Lauren helping me, yet again!