Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Teaching job posting in Boston!

From a former classmate, in case you're interested!
I am a teacher at Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston, MA. The school is a fantastic place to teach.
We are seeking a highly qualified English Language Arts teacher for 6th and 7th grade. The teacher would likely teach 2 sections of grade 6 and 2 sections of grade 7. The teacher would have the support of co-teaching special education teacher.
A qualified applicant will ideally:
Have middle school teaching experience
Be a MA licensed teacher in middle school or English
Have a special education license or be willing to pursue a pathways program to attain one. Have an ESL license, or be willing to take the ESL MTEL.
If you have questions please feel free to email me:
Please send all cover letters and resumes to our principal, Erica Herman:
Also, please feel free to give me the heads up that you submitted a resume so that I can notify my principal and flag your resume.


Liz Byron

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Best Exam Ever!

Inspired by other education bloggers, a friend of mine decided to do something different on the final for his calculus class. The first half of the exam was the question:
"Tell me everything you know about the mathematical concept, the derivative."

What he found:
"Most of my students wrote 8-10 pages of notes, examples they created, rules they knew, and applications and uses for the derivative. While it's been remarkably time consuming going through what they wrote, I've never been happier with any test I've ever given. It's frankly humbling simple to find out what students know - just ask them. More than this, I've never given a Calculus final where at least a couple of students froze up with math anxiety. This exam was joyous. What a difference.
I still think I need a 12 step, self-help group, but one day at a time and all that."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Appealing to Naysayers and the "Yeah but..."

Great/short article about how to address the “yeah buts” when confronting change and/or new initatives…

“advice for frustrated educators who run into the proverbial wall when they propose new ideas: appeal to the nay-sayers’ emotions, rather than their intellect.”



Enjoy, and have a great holiday!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

MCPS Innovation Schools Announced

Ten schools have been identified as intervention, innovation schools in Montgomery County, MD for the 2013-14 school year. I am currently teaching in one and will be the Staff Development Teacher at another next year.

MCPS Daily Press Highlights

Compiled by the Department of Public Information and Web Services, Room 112, CESC


Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013


·         Montgomery schools react to new innovation, intervention plan (Gazette)


Jen Bondeson


Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said he believes there is no one-size-fits-all approach to school and student success. Starr and his team have designed a plan for next school year that will allow central office staff to step in when they see problems, or potential, at individual schools. Twenty schools will be named “intervention” schools and work with a specialist to improve specific student outcomes next school year. Of those, 10 have been named “innovation” schools, and will receive extra support from central office to boost their current school improvement plan.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Teaching Shakespeare Makes Us Better Readers, Thinkers, and Educators!

I love the Folger Shakespeare Library and its professional development opportunities!

Dear Educators,

We’re so excited to be offering two opportunities for educators next month that can’t be found anywhere else! Join us for one or both programs to experience performance-based teaching first hand, and join your voice with that of the leader in Shakespeare education in America!

June 1 ($75)

Get Shakespeare’s magical comedy on its feet in your classroom with performance-based teaching techniques made specifically for this whimsical romance. Then see the play come to life in Folger Theatre’s dazzling production! A light breakfast and lunch are provided for this full day of experiencing Shakespeare Set Free for your classroom. Register in the link above!

June 24-26 ($125 until June 3rd)

Join Folger Education to discuss new practices, resources, and more from a host of authors, educators, scholars and students as we explore the fast-growing field of Shakespeare in Elementary Education! Perfect for teachers and teaching artists of K-7 students, ESL/ELL students, or any educator interested in learning more about the practice of performance-based teaching! The conference is full of exciting workshops and discussions – a full list of speakers and a link for online registration can be found in the link above. The Early Bird Registration discount is only available through June 3rd when the cost will increase to $150, so don’t wait!

If you have any questions about these or other Folger Education programs, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you,

Caitlin S Griffin

Education Programs Assistant


(f) 202.675.0360

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An unlikely lesson....

Definitely worth the read....
Polish orphans provide unlikely lessons in thriving World War ll refugees provide unlikely lessons in thriving.

But in another sense there was a happy ending — one that we might usefully contemplate. In recent years, the gap in educational attainments of rich and poor Americans has grown wider, largely because of the enormous resources those of us who can do so now pour into our children. Success, we have come to believe, depends on excellent schools, carefully organized leisure and, above all, on high-concentration, high-focus parenting.

The orphans of Pahiatua did not have any of these things. On the contrary, they had witnessed the deaths of parents and siblings, experienced terrible deprivation and lost years of education before finding themselves in an alien country on the far side of the world. And yet they learned the language, they assimilated, they became doctors, lawyers, farmers, factory workers, teachers, business owners.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Open your classroom door to be better!

Hi All!

As we wrapped up the Differentiated Walkthroughs today in my school, I found this article via EdWeek – it’s a great piece on getting better through opening your classroom door…Enjoy J

My favorite quote:

“It's May. It's spring in Colorado. My 6th graders are starting to sound, smell, and act like ... 7th graders… And yet, it's been a great week in room 214. A rich week of learning. Why?”

Open Your Classroom Door to 'Be Better'

It's May. It's spring in Colorado. My 6th graders are starting to sound, smell, and act like ... 7th graders. Sunshine and storms trade places depending on the day, so outdoor recess is not a given. Energy is high and motivation is a struggle. Summer is just around the corner and weeks, days, and hours away. Many instructional hours away.

And yet, it's been a great week in room 214. A rich week of learning. Why?

I wasn't flying solo—I had backup. Every day, but especially in May, students need their teachers' A-game. I've noticed that I'm more willing to take risks, try new things, and reflect "in the moment" with a colleague in the room alongside me.

On Tuesday, Joe Dillon, the instructional coordinator for educational technology in Aurora Public Schools, supported me in my classroom. We talked through the lesson, he observed my class, and he interacted and conferred with kids. Following the lesson, he provided me with meaningful feedback around leveraging digital tools to increase student ownership.

On Thursday, Lori Nazareno, teacher-in-residence with the Center for Teaching Quality, visited my classroom. She helped me monitor the "double bubble" Socratic circle as kids engaged in text-based discourse—face-to-face in the inner circle and on Edmodo in the outer circle. This was the first time I'd tried this twist on the Socratic circle with this group of students. Having two adults monitor the live discussion and push the online discourse to deeper levels was invaluable.

Neither visitor is my evaluator. But I respect them both highly as accomplished educators who know their stuff and "get" adolescents. Their mere presence in my classroom makes me a better teacher.
The great poet Maya Angelou says, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, be better." I've adopted this as my new teaching mantra.

Seeing Things Anew

Becoming better teachers is easier than we sometimes think. At the beginning of the school year, I wrote about doing the work alongside students as a way to vet the quality of our tasks, prompts, and assignments. Letting others into our classrooms is another way to get better. Just opening our doors, wide and often, can help us see our students and practices with new eyes.
How can we do this?

• Start small. Invite a colleague in during their planning period and reciprocate by visiting their classroom during yours. Bonus points if you share students and can see them in action in another content area.

• Get bigger. Host a "Bring the Community to School Day" as a way to "flip" the "Bring Your Child to Work Day" annual event. Create several "visit" days throughout the school year as a way to showcase student work and strengthen community partnerships. Invite parents, school board members, and other district and community leaders. Great teaching and learning deserve an audience.

• Leverage tools. Be your own coach by videotaping frequently and sharing clips with colleagues you trust, your evaluator(s), your students, and others. Watch the footage yourself to see your classroom from an outsider's perspective. Follow teacherpreneur Ryan Kinser's approach to "blowing the doors off your classroom" by starting your own VLC (video learning community).

Opening our doors, videotaping instruction, and sharing our practice can be scary. Classrooms are unpredictable places and interruptions are inevitable. Even the most well-planned lesson rarely goes exactly as planned. I was reminded of this when I had to reschedule my colleague's visit multiple times due to testing windows that invaded our protected learning space. Be persistent and take the plunge. It's worth it.

If you haven't done so already, consider going through the National Board-certification submission process, which includes videotaping and reflecting on your practice. Engaging in the certification process has helped me identify the professional-learning experiences that have made me a better teacher. (Hint: Transformative experiences rarely happen in "traditional" professional-learning structures like staff meetings, conferences, or workshops.)

Videotaping instruction and hosting visitors motivates me to reflect on why I do what I do, and how I can do it better. What would happen if we taught as if every lesson was being videotaped for an external audience or being observed by someone whose opinion we valued? Collective improvement.
If you want to get even better—starting today—open your classroom door and let the camera roll.
Web Only

Friday, May 17, 2013

For those in the MD area....

This looks like a fantastic presentation on how to better reach and teach minority students. Please consider attending!

Dear MCEA Activist,

The MCEA MAC Committee would like to invite you to a conference on "Educating & Advocating for Minority Student Success."
Guest Speaker, Leticia Smith-Evans, NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Educating & Advocating For Minority Students
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
12 Taft Court
Rockville, MD 20850


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Making the Common Core work for you...

I found this interesting – I think we need to leverage the Common Core to assist in the promotion of strong strategic teaching and promoting student engagement and ownership of learning.




Six Ways the Common Core is Good For Students

May 10, 2013 by twalker
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories


By Cindy Long

As the Common Core debate heats up, we’ve heard a lot from policy makers, politicians, and even TV talk show hosts about the challenges posed by the new standards and whether they’ll help or hurt education. With all the chatter, the voices of the professionals who are actually responsible for implementing the Common Core has been all but drowned out in the mainstream media.

To get their perspective, NEA Today convened a panel of educators from around the country who were attending NEA’s Common Core Working Group in Denver, Colorado – a strategy- and ideas-sharing meeting of education professionals from the 46 states who have adopted Common Core. (Find out more about NEA’s involvement in the Common Core.) They told us there’s a lot of anxiety among educators about the Common Core, and a lot of unanswered questions. How do we best implement them? How do we train more teachers? How do we help students master the new content? And what about testing?

But despite these significant hurdles, the overwhelming consensus of the educators we heard from is that the Common Core will ultimately be good for students and education. Read on for six reasons why.

1. Common Core Puts Creativity Back in the Classroom

“I have problems and hands-on activities that I like my students to experience to help them understand a concept or relationship,” says Cambridge, Massachusetts, high school math teacher Peter Mili. One of his classic activities is taking a rectangular piece of cardboard and asking the students to cut from each corner to make a box. They learn that different sized boxes need different lengths in cuts, and then they fill the boxes with popcorn and measure how much each box can hold.

“I haven’t been able to do that in years because of the push to cover so many things. Time is tight, especially because of all the benchmarks and high-stakes testing,” Mili says. “So I’ve had to put the fun, creative activities aside to work on drill and skill. But the Common Core streamlines content, and with less to cover, I can enrich the experience, which gives my students a greater understanding.”

Mili says a lot of teachers have fun, creative activities stuffed into their closets or desk drawers because they haven’t had the time to use them in the era of NCLB tests and curriculum. He thinks the Common Core will allow those activities to again see the light of day. That’s because the Common Core State Standards are just that — standards and not a prescribed curriculum. They may tell educators what students should be able to do by the end of a grade or course, but it’s up to the educators to figure out how to deliver the instruction.

2. Common Core Gives Students a Deep Dive

When students can explore a concept and really immerse themselves in that content, they emerge with a full understanding that lasts well beyond testing season, says Kisha Davis-Caldwell, a fourth-grade teacher at a Maryland Title 1 elementary school.

“I’ve been faced with the challenge of having to teach roughly 100 math topics over the course of a single year,” says Davis-Caldwell. “The Common Core takes this smorgasbord of topics and removes things from the plate, allowing me to focus on key topics we know will form a clear and a consistent foundation for students.”

Davis-Caldwell’s students used to skim the surface of most mathematical topics, working on them for just a day or two before moving on to the next, whether they’d mastered the first concept or not.

“Students would go to the next concept frustrated, losing confidence and losing ground in the long haul,” she says. “The Common Core allows students to stay on a topic and not only dive deeply into it, but also be able to understand and apply the knowledge to everyday life.”

3. Common Core Ratchets up Rigor

The CCSS requires students to take part in their learning and to think more critically about content, as opposed to simply regurgitating back what their teachers feed them, says Kathy Powers, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade English Language Arts in Conway, Arkansas.

One way Powers says the standards ratchet up the rigor is by requiring more nonfiction texts to be included in lessons on works of fiction, and vice versa.

She uses Abraham Lincoln as an example.

A lesson could start with “O Captain! My Captain!”, the extended metaphor poem written by Walt Whitman about the death of Lincoln, and incorporate the historical novel Assassin, which includes a fictional character in the plot. Then she’d follow that with the nonfiction work, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, and have students also look at newspaper clippings from the time.

“Or if we’re working on narrative writing, I can have them read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and ask them not to just absorb the story, but also to evaluate C.S. Lewis as a writer, and then to try to write a piece of narrative in the style of C.S. Lewis,” she says. “In the past we’d ask them to simply write a story. But this requires more critical thinking, and this kind of increased rigor will make students more competitive on a global level.”

4. Common Core is Collaborative

The Common Core allows educators to take ownership of the curriculum — it puts it back into the hands of teachers, who know what information is best for students and how best to deliver that information.

“Not only does it integrate instruction with other disciplines, like English and social studies, or literacy, math, and science, the common standards will allow us to crowd source our knowledge and experience,” says Kathy Powers of Arkansas.

Kisha Davis-Caldwell agrees. “The Common Core will create opportunities to share resources and create common resources,” she says. “We can discuss what isn’t working and use our voices collectively. That way we can all be part of the conversation about assessment of teaching, learning, and the standards themselves.”

Peter Mili says the key word to focus on is “common.” He believes there is far too much academic variability from state to state and not enough collaboration. With the Common Core State Standards, “the good things that may be happening in Alabama can be shared and found useful to educators in Arizona because they are working on the same topics.”

5. Common Core Advances Equity

Cheryl Mosier, an Earth Science teacher from Colorado, says she’s most excited about the Common Core because it’ll be a challenge for all students, not just the high achieving students, which Mosier and her colleagues say will go a long way to closing achievement and opportunity gaps for poor and minority children. If students from all parts of the country — affluent, rural, low-income or urban — are being held to the same rigorous standards, it promotes equity in the quality of education and the level of achievement gained.

“With the Common Core, we’re not going to have pockets of really high performing kids in one area compared to another area where kids aren’t working on the same level,” she says “Everybody is going to have a high bar to meet, but it’s a bar that can be met with support from – and for — all teachers.”

Davis-Caldwell’s Title 1 school is in a Washington, D.C., suburb. In the D.C. metro area, like in other areas in and around our nation’s cities, there is a high rate of mobility among the poorest residents. Students regularly move from town to town, county to county, or even state to state – often in the middle of the school year.

There has been no alignment from state to state on what’s being taught, so when a fourth-grade student learning geometry and fractions in the first quarter of the school year suddenly moves to Kansas in the second quarter, he may have entirely different lessons to learn and be tested on.

It also helps teachers better serve their students, says Davis-Caldwell. When teachers in one grade level focus consistently and comprehensively on the most critical and fundamental concepts, their students move on to the next grade level able to build on that solid foundation rather than reviewing what should have been learned in the previous grade.

6. Common Core Gets Kids College Ready

“One of the broad goals is that the increased rigor of the Common Core will help everyone become college and/or career ready,” says Peter Mili. Preparing kids for college and careers will appeal widely to parents and the community, especially in a struggling economy where only 31 percent of eleventh graders were considered “college ready,” according to a recent ACT study.

If a student who was taught how to think critically and how to read texts for information and analysis can explain the premise behind a mathematical thesis, she’ll have options and opportunities, Mili says. Students with that kind of education will be able to decide what kind of career path to follow or whether they want to attend a university or any kind of school because they were prepared to do a higher level of work that is expected in our society and our economy.

Student success is the outcome every education professional works so tirelessly toward, and the Common Core will help them get there if it’s implemented well, according to the panel of educators.

“Yes, it’s an extra workload as a teacher, and it’s difficult…but it’s for the betterment of the students,” says Davis-Caldwell. “And if we keep that our focus, I don’t see why we can’t be successful.”


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Teaching RESPECT is key!

The following article by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is worth reading and considering. We talk so much about subject area content is schools. What happened to character education and teaching the value of RESPECT?! Sing it, Aretha Franklin style!

Secretary Arne Duncan on Teacher Appreciation Week
By Arne Duncan on May 7th, 2013 |                     
Great teaching can change a child’s life. That kind of teaching is a remarkable combination of things: art, science, inspiration, talent, gift, and — always — incredibly hard work. It requires relationship building, subject expertise and a deep understanding of the craft. Our celebrated athletes and performers have nothing on our best teachers.
But, in honoring teachers, I think Teacher Appreciation Week needs an update. Don’t get me wrong — teachers have earned every bagel breakfast, celebratory bulletin board, gift card and thank-you note. Given the importance of their work and the challenges they face, teachers absolutely deserve every form of appreciation their communities can muster.
But we need to do something a bit more substantive and lasting than the bagel breakfast, too.
Complex as teaching has been over the years, it’s more so now — in part because of reforms my administration has promoted. The reasons for these changes are clear. Despite many pockets of excellence, we’re not where we need to be as a nation. The president has challenged us to regain our place as world leader in college completion, but today we rank 14th. A child growing up in poverty has less than a 1-in-10 chance of earning a college diploma.
To change the odds, we have joined with states and communities to work for major reforms in which teachers are vital actors. The biggest are new college- and career-ready standards that 46 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to adopt. These higher standards require a dramatic rethinking of teachers’ daily practice: working toward standards tied to literature and problem-solving; using data to inform and adapt instruction. It’s hard work — but done well, our children will have a better shot at a solid, middle-class life.
The teachers I talk to don’t question the need for broad change. They are enthusiastic about instruction that emphasizes depth rather than coverage, worthy literature to read and real-world problems to solve. They passionately want to be part of helping more students get prepared for college and career. But many have told me that the pace of change is causing real anxiety.
I’ve heard repeatedly that, given the newness of the college- and career-ready standards, teachers really want to see what they’re aiming for. They want models of excellence that they can study. And it all feels like the change is happening at once. It’s impossible not to be touched by the strength of their feelings — their desire to get it right, and for many, the worry that they won’t.
There’s no question in my mind that raising the bar for our students is necessary and that America’s educators are up to it. But I want to call on the other adults in the system to redouble their efforts to support our teachers through this change.
I’ll start with my own team at the Department of Education. We are listening carefully to teachers and other experts as we walk through this transition, and working hard to figure out how to make it as smooth as it can possibly be for teachers and for their students. And I pledge to redouble our own efforts to work with states, districts and schools to help connect educators who can offer a vision of outstanding teaching under these new standards.
But I also want to call on policy makers, district leaders and principals to find ways to help ease these transitions to higher standards. What does that mean?
  • Find opportunities for teachers to lead this work. There is far too much talent and expertise in our teaching force that is hidden in isolated classrooms and not reaching as far as it can to bring the system forward. Teachers and leaders must work together to create opportunities for teacher leadership, including shared responsibility, and that means developing school-level structures for teachers to activate their talents. This may mean reducing teaching loads to create “hybrid” roles for teachers in which they both teach and lead.

  • Find, make visible and celebrate examples of making this transition well. Teachers often tell me they’re looking for examples of how to do this right. Let’s spotlight teachers and schools that are leading the way.

  • Use your bully pulpit — and share that spotlight with a teacher. Whether you are a principal, superintendent, elected leader, parent or play some other role, you have a voice. Learn about this transition, and use your voice to help make this transition a good experience for teachers, students, and families. Especially important is educating families about what to expect and why it matters. Invite a teacher to help you tell the story and answer questions.

  • Be an active, bold part of improving pre-service training and professional development, and make sure that all stages of a teacher’s education reflect the new instructional world they will inhabit. Teachers deserve a continuum of professional growth; that means designing career lattices so that teaching offers a career’s worth of dynamic opportunities for impacting students.

  • Read and take ideas from the RESPECT Blueprint, a plan released last month containing a vision for an elevated teaching profession. The blueprint reflects a vision shaped by more than a year’s worth of intimate discussions the department convened with some 6,000 teachers about transforming their profession. Teaching is the nation’s most important work, and it’s time for concrete steps that treat it that way — RESPECT offers a blueprint to do that.
Don’t get me wrong — teachers deserve a week of celebration with plenty of baked goods. But I hear, often, that this is a time that teachers want some extra support. They deserve real, meaningful help — not just this week, but all year long.
Arne Duncan is U.S. secretary of education.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cool opportunity at Tufts for high school science teachers!

This is an awesome program announcement from an acquaintance of mine:

I am hoping you can forward this opportunity to any High School science teachers you may know.  We are in partnership with TUFTS medical school to help them develop additional Infectious Diseases Bio II modules as well as training programs for teachers and medical students to implement these modules in High Schools across the country.  The group developing this work is very high energy, and this is a very high touch program with a lot of support from enthusiastic medical faculty and post-doctoral students. The workshop description is below as well as attached. If you prefer to send me names rather than sending that along, that is greatly appreciated as well.

Dear pre- and in-service teachers,
Tufts Sackler School of biomedical sciences is offering a new graduate-level course entitled Teaching Infectious Disease that will take place as an intensive one-week course this summer. The course takes provides you with the background to teach about infectious disease in your high school classrooms.  All teachers are welcome!
The course is based on a 10th - 12th grade (Biology II) curriculum that has been developed by a partnership between a group of Boston teachers and infectious disease specialists from Tufts Medical School. The curriculum provides life-relevant content designed to engage high school students while teaching them the information they will need to make informed decisions about their health. It has already been pilot tested by ten teachers in diverse schools in Boston and nationwide.  Student interest and knowledge gains were impressive and teacher responses were positive.

The goal of the course is to teach you the key scientific concepts underlying the curriculum - how bacteria, viruses, and parasites cause infectious diseases and how the immune system defends the body against the attack, as well as the pedagogical strategies to deliver the content in the classroom using a variety of inquiry-based constructivist approaches. It also provides you with the tools to modify the lesson plans for your own needs. Once you have completed the course we will provide support as you pilot the curriculum in your classrooms. Please see our web page for more information about the curriculum and our mentoring program (

The course will be offered from July 15-19th and July 22nd-26th, 7 hours a day at the Tufts Boston Campus. A final project that consists of creating a differentiated lesson for your own class will be collected in the fall.
The course is offered free of charge and completion is worth PDPs (78 CEUs) through Tufts.
Interested teachers should contact Dr. Berri Jacque directly at:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Science and Math Teaching Position Available at BPS

Happy Mother's Day!

From a friend:

I'm a teacher at Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA) in Allston, MA 

We are looking for a middle school science teacher and a middle school math teacher. 

If you are interested please send your resume to our principal, Erica Herman:

You are also welcome to email me questions or let me know you sent your resume, so I can call her attention to it. My email

Liz Byron

Saturday, May 11, 2013

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week...

...a note of thanks!

Behind every successful person is a teacher who made a difference. 

Thanks to each of you for what you do everyday for our teachers and our students.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Transition your classes smoothly...

...with tips from this article!

Celebrating the Positives Eases the Transition

Bill Ivey
During the course of her spring student-led conference, absolutely predictably, Georgia made me cry. Her first conference as a seventh grader was still clear in my mind, as she sat there asking me what to do next and wondering what the point was. I knew she'd grown a lot academically and socially over the past two years, especially in self-confidence. But she sailed through the conference, not only acknowledging her strengths matter-of-factly but also facing up to her challenges with honesty and a genuine willingness to keep working on them. We reached the end, and she said, "What do I do with my binder?" I told her she could keep it, if she wanted, as it was her last middle school conference. "That's right," she said, eyes widening. "Wow."
Often, my advisees realize during these spring conferences that the Moving Up Ceremony, which seemed so comfortingly far in the future in early September, is fast approaching. So as they navigate the final few weeks of school, we work hard to give them opportunities to focus on and enjoy their remaining time in this particular iteration of our learning community, while maintaining the natural flow of things and keeping focus in the classroom to the best of our ability.
Social Transitions
Besides conversations in advisory, we find a series of traditions helps ease the transition. Founders' Day in early May is a special day off from classes just for our middle schoolers, proposed a decade ago by the founding students when we opened the program. Although they plan the day from scratch each year, it has evolved into a routine of breakfast, movie, tie-dying t-shirts that will be signed by everyone over the next few days, lunch, and an afternoon of Capture the Flag and other outdoor games. Nine days later, the entire school takes Spearth Day (Spring-Earth Day) off to spend the morning doing community service, the afternoon attending a talent show, and then roaming through carnival-style booths. During the final week, we have a school trip to Six Flags (established by the founders), the eighth grade Moving Up Ceremony, the final dance concert, and several other events focused on our seniors, all culminating in commencement.
Keeping Academic Focus
Meanwhile, classes do continue. In my own classroom, the students design units, choosing themes, related questions, and books democratically. Currently, we are beginning a unit on aesthetics built around the theme question, "Why does beauty matter or exist?" This year's students seem particularly excited by how much better their questions are now than they were at the beginning of the year, and even with the sun’s warm invitation to come outside and play, several were beginning to choose their projects before the unit even formally started. As with planning their own special days off, giving students a voice in planning their academic work around their own questions and ideas can help keep them engaged and focused.
In an Ideal World
If we were not constrained by classes we share with the upper school, I would suggest we take the final two weeks for special multi-disciplinary mini courses built around student and faculty interests. My junior high in Amherst, MA, did this way back in the 1970s, and it was always one of my favorite parts of the year. Our eight periods were combined into four double-length blocks, and each student chose from a list of offerings sorted by period. While students didn’t lead courses in my school, we could offer suggestions, and I can easily envision a model in which students and teachers co-teach some of the classes or the student(s) does the bulk of the teaching while the adult provides supervision for the class and support for the “student-teacher(s).”
Farewell Eighth Graders
It's always sad to end a year and dissolve a specific learning community, but with classes that engage students and activities designed to ease the transition, our students are generally ready by the time the last notes of the exit music for commencement fade.
If only the faculty were ready to see them go.
Bill Ivey is middle school dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham, an all-girls school in Greenfield, MA. He teaches Humanities 7, French 2, and Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. He is also proud to be a middle schooler at heart.
A New World-Hopping Adventure from Wendy Mass!

Pi In the Sky
Sponsored by:
Pi In The Sky
AMLE News & Information
AMLE celebrates National Teacher Appreciation Week. Video.
The new AMLE is coming to you this August.
Registration is now open for the 40th Annual Conference for Middle Level Education. Register 4, get 1 additional free!
Seeking or posting a middle grades job? Try Job Connection, your source for targeted opportunities for middle grades educators.
Spend $25 in the AMLE Online Bookstore and get a FREE MUG!
Listen to our podcast featuring great tips on how to fund your professional development.
We have two great Leadership Institutes scheduled this summer: Hilton Head, SC, and Las Vegas, NV. Check out a preview video.
Brooklyn Castle DVD now available at the AMLE Store. View a special message to middle grades educators from the film director!
Taming of the Team, How Great Teams Work Together by Jack Berckemeyer is now available!
Ensure your entire staff has an understanding of the middle school concept. Download the free This We Believe study guide and hold a book study with your faculty.
Enter the AMLE & TOMS Start Something That Matters Sweepstakes!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Keeping Kids Moving = Keeping Kids Engaged!

Hi All!

Below is a great (and short) article about keeping students engaged by keeping them moving.

Keep this in mind as we start winding down the school year – kids are starting to get antsy, so let them move on your terms!

Learning stations, 10/2, Using the promethean board – so many options!



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Top 5 Tips from Ron Clark Academy!

Happy weekend!

I was reading this article on to get some ideas on how to keep the kids engaged these last couple of weeks.

Below is a link to an article they wrote after visiting The Ron Clark Academy about the Top 5 things they thought were awesome teaching methods.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

NPR Story on Female Programmers...

I thought some of our tech teachers here might like to share this with their guys and girls!

Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers

Sarah Allen, CEO of Blazing Cloud, works with user experience designer Anton Zadorozhnyy in the company's offices in San Francisco.

Sarah Allen, CEO of Blazing Cloud, works with user experience designer Anton Zadorozhnyy in the company's offices in San Francisco.
Ramin Rahimian for NPR

Sarah Allen, CEO of Blazing Cloud, works with user experience designer Anton Zadorozhnyy in the company's offices in San Francisco.
This story is part of our series, The Changing Lives of Women.
Sarah Allen has been the only woman on a team of computer programmers a few times in the more than two decades she has worked in the field. Most notably, she led the team — as the lone female programmer — that created Flash video, the dominant technology for streaming video on the Web.
Since only about 20 percent of all programmers are women, her experience isn't uncommon, and now she's trying to bring more women into the field.

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.
A little over four years ago, Allen founded Blazing Cloud, which does design and development of software for mobile devices. The company's mix of 10 programmers and designers work with entrepreneurs and help them take an idea and turn it into software that works.

Recently they met with Estee Solomon Gray, the founder of a company called Mmindd. Solomon Gray is trying to create a sort of next-generation calendar that better reflects people's priorities. Allen and her team help Solomon Gray visualize what her software might look like. Allen will then help Solomon Gray design and build a product.

"Her vision is maybe two years out, and our task is: How do we come up with a thing that we might build in a few months that would get this started?" Allen says.

Allen's experience as a programmer and developer is part of what got her this job, but Solomon Gray says Blazing Cloud also has a diverse team, and she didn't find that elsewhere.

"I was really surprised by how many design — let alone development — firms had women as window dressing: one woman on the team, and it turns out she's the salesperson," Solomon Gray says. "After a few of those, I started to get really upset."

Allen nods her head as she listens to Solomon Gray. She's well aware that many firms claim they can't find qualified women programmers. They say it's hard because only about 20 percent of the profession is female. Allen, whose firm is made up equally of men and women, doesn't buy it.
"If you're interviewing people for your job, and you haven't interviewed a woman, don't hire until you've at least interviewed one woman. And if your recruiter can't get you resumes that are diverse, find another recruiter," she says.

When asked if she has ever experienced sexism, Allen doesn't want to talk about it in those terms.
"I don't think you can be a woman in our society and not experience sexism, so, sure, but that's not the point," she says.

Actually, Allen says, being a programmer has been a great career for her as a mom. Allen is married and has a 15-year-old son. "The women that I went to college with who are lawyers or doctors had a much harder time raising a family. They have to be there at certain times. I had an incredible amount of freedom, especially because I worked as a coder when I was a new mom and then I can work whenever I want, wherever I want," she says.

Making Magic

Allen got interested in computers when she was 12. Her mom was one of the first women to sell the Apple II, and she brought one home. Allen read the manual and taught herself to write simple programs. She says it seemed like magic to her: "I could wave my hands, and I could create this pattern in the machine, and then this thing exists that didn't exist before."

Allen graduated from Brown University in 1990 with a degree in computer science. A few years back, Allen starting going to workshops to learn a hot programming language called Ruby on Rails. Twitter was developed with it. Allen got really frustrated when she noticed that out of 200 people, only six were women. Allen and a friend started their own workshops; they were on weekends and had child care.

"We both tweeted about it. She posted to the San Francisco Women on the Web, and in less than 24 hours, we had a waiting list, and we've really proven that demand is not a problem," she says. "Every single workshop we've ever held has had a waiting list."

Since they began in 2009, the workshops — they call them RailsBridge — have drawn thousands of women, among them Lillie Chilen. Chilen was an art history and opera major in college. A lot of programming workshops felt uncomfortable.

"It can be intimidating not to have that context up front that says, 'We welcome you,' " Chilen says.
The RailsBridge workshops felt different. "It gives you a very focused opportunity to learn something and then also be a part of this network that just wants to help you do whatever you want to do next," she says.

Ester Gerston and Gloria Ruth Gordon, early programmers working on the ENIAC computer in 1946.
U.S. Army Ester Gerston and Gloria Ruth Gordon, early programmers working on the ENIAC computer in 1946.
U.S. Army Chilen's next career move came from the workshop, where she met a woman who hired her as a programmer.

Finding A Path In Programming

Now, Allen is also working with minority groups such as Black Founders to teach more people Ruby on Rails.

"If we persist in this notion that the people who should be making software in our world are these people with low social skills who are hard to understand, we're going to miss the boat," Allen says. "We're not going to be able to solve the problems we need to solve if we don't have just lots of people who know about the rest of the world."

On the wall of Allen's office is a large photo of the ENIAC computer from 1946. It's large and dark. There are two women next to it in bright dresses moving some electrical cords. When a photo of the ENIAC appeared in Life magazine the women weren't identified.

"They thought they were like refrigerator ladies, that they were props to make the machine look more attractive," Allen says. Actually, they were early programmers Ester Gerston and Gloria Ruth Gordon.

Allen says the number of women who major in computer science has actually been going down. She hopes that making women in the field more visible to each other will help young women see that there is a path for them in what is one of the fastest growing professions in the world.