Teacher Reports on Professional Development
The MFAH's “Learning Through Art” seminar will be useful to me on many levels. One aspect of the program I most enjoyed was visiting the galleries and participating in discussions about several masterworks in the collection. This refreshes my knowledge about what is available to be viewed by students in person. I also enjoyed the opportunity to create hands-on projects related to these pieces. My personal favorites were the color-mixing machine, which creates the illusion that two primary colors are blending into a secondary color, and the acetate paintings of the Louis Comfort Tiffany “Wooded Scene in Three Panels (1902).” This assignment spawned a luminary project for my fourth grade students in which we drew faux stained glass on acetate, lined a box with it, and then illuminated the scene from behind using a battery-powered candle. This is one of my most successful student projects to date. I was provided with a large packet of information and ideas relating to the museum's collection that are very useful to me as an art teacher. Finally, one of the most exciting aspects of the training was the emphasis on teaching academic subjects through the visual arts. This is useful to me because it can enhance my relationship with academic teachers in terms of expanding their repertoires to include fine art in the everyday classroom experience.
Lower School Art
I attended the Region 4 annual Dyslexia Conference. The keynote speaker, Brenda Taylor, examined the question, "Is it dyslexia, ADHD, or both?" Her presentation relied heavily on Dr. Bruce Pennington, who has done in-depth research on the comorbidity of dyslexia and ADHD. His research supports a "hybrid model" for dyslexia identification: attention and executive functions are required for all learning; dyslexia and ADHD co-occur more frequently than expected by chance; processing speed has been identified as a shared predictor for both reading and attention difficulties; assessment is more than test scores; and there should be a preponderance of evidence or a clear picture for disability identification and diagnosis.
I attended two breakout sessions. One presenter demonstrated the use of several iPad apps. Because of his informative workshop, I have been using iPads this week with my fourth grade students. The second breakout session was on fluency. As a result of this session, my second and third grade students are now working on several poems that they will read to their former kindergarten teacher's class. Students gain fluency with repeated readings. Using poetry as the incentive, students learn to expressively read their self-selected poems.
Lower School Reading Specialist
At the National Science Teachers Association convention, I attended several sessions on marine and aquatic lessons and teaching techniques. Two interesting things of note: I visited the Gilbert water treatment facility in a town in the Sonoran Desert, near Phoenix. Because water is at a premium, they are always looking for ways to conserve and reclaim water without damaging the environment too much. In the past, they were not always so careful, and their water supply has dwindled as a result. At this treatment facility, they are working with the natural environment to purify their water. They have set up an artificial wetland system; the water circulates through several ponds and solids settle out. The vegetation in and near the ponds absorbs much of the excess nitrogen- and phosphorous-based compounds, and the cleaner ponds support a variety of wildlife, including fish, turtles, and waterfowl. They have a well-maintained trail system, and people from the nearby communities regularly walk the trails and fish (catch-and-release). It was really interesting. I still have lots of questions, of course, but I am impressed with their attempts to make a potential problem into an asset both for people and for wildlife.
The best session I attended was a lecture on the future of phosphorous, much of which ends up in the oceans and ultimately can cause dead zones. It is essential for fertilizer and our modern monoculture agriculture and is found in limited deposits, many of which are expected to be depleted by 2050. Morocco apparently has the largest deposits (possibly also Iraq or Iran), and there is concern over dependence on foreign phosphates in the future. The presenter, James J. Elser, Regents Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, also discussed ideas for using and reclaiming phosphorous more sustainably. The sessions I attended all have relevance to the aquatic science course I'll be teaching this spring, and that was my primary focus during this conference.
Upper School Science
Sharon Taberski presented the workshop, “It’s All About Comprehension: Teaching It Wisely and Well.” Current brain and learning styles research leads educators to re-think the “pillars” of reading, which in the past were phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension thought of as a separate component of reading. Re-envisioned pillars of reading that lead to comprehension include accurate, fluent reading, background knowledge, oral language vocabulary, reading-writing connection, and a repertoire of strategies—all supported by giving children time to talk, read, and write.
The first grade team spent several days on a study of Ms. Taberski’s book, All About Comprehension from the Ground Up, so hearing her in person was a real treat.
Lower School Assistant
I absolutely loved the course I took the Rice Continuing Studies course, “Maya 2012: Prophecy Becomes History.” The teacher was Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, curator of anthropology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Each class session offered a unique perspective and interpretation of Maya civilization.
The introductory session and the private tour of the exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science were extremely worthwhile experiences. Although the Maya Civilization has been part of my fall semester syllabus for several years, I learned valuable new knowledge about the Maya. It was especially satisfying to have the opportunity to speak with experts in the field and delve more deeply into the Maya. The tour of the exhibit at HMNS proved invaluable. It featured carved stone monuments, polychrome pottery, inscriptions and contemporary Maya textiles. Dr. Tuerenhout’s explanations and observations and the opportunity to speak with him were so worthwhile!
In this course we had the privilege of guest speakers who shared their specific expertise. I particularly enjoyed the lecture by Dr. David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Stuart is a leading Maya archaeologist and epigrapher who helped to explain how deciphering Maya hieroglyphs has led to a greater understanding of the Maya world and the truth about the 2012 'doomsday' prediction. He explained how inscriptions are now providing insight into the classic Maya view of time, as well as shedding light on the social, historical and political significance. Other class sessions included tracking the ancient Maya migration patterns using stable isotope composition of archaeological skeletons buried at Tikal, the art and writing of the Maya, and an explanation of the collapse of the Maya based on archaeology, sedimentology, and epigraphy. We were able to view the new film "2012: Mayan Prophecies," followed by a lecture by Carolyn Sumners, vice president of astronomy at HMNS, who explained how archaeological, historical and astronomical records have been pieced together to learn more about the Maya.
Middle School History
I attended a full-day workshop sponsored by the Heritage Society. The workshop was designed specifically for middle school history teachers and funded by the McGovern and Brown Foundations.
The “Best Little Workshop in Texas" included two lectures and three breakout sessions. Dr. Richard Murray, director of the Center for Public Policy at the University of Houston, spoke about political history and trends in Texas. Dr. Michael Cline of Rice University talked about the changing face of Texas demographics and the impact this has on our State.
The breakout sessions revolved around teaching strategies and classroom resources. I attended breakout sessions on techniques and strategies to enable students to become more web savvy and on skills needed for effective and reliable web quests; the effects of World War II on Texas citizens and the changes that occurred throughout Texas to accommodate this new reality; and the history of Houston through its built environment.
Middle School History
“Reaching Out,” The Region 4 Reading and Writing Conference, offered sessions on the reading and writing connection, genre integration, critical thinking skills, technology incorporation, differentiation, reaching struggling learners, and many other areas. I was able to take away fresh ideas, strategies, and applications for reaching my students.
“Scribbles, Drawings, and Invented Spelling: The Journey to Become a Writer” focused on establishing routines of a writing community and the mini lessons that encourage independence in early writers during the writing process. “Read All About It: Little or No Prep Time, Ready to Use Strategies for Reading in the Content Areas” presented a variety of strategies to build comprehension that work and require little or no teacher preparation time.
I attended the Reading and Writing Conference, “Reaching Out,” at Region 4 Education Service Center. The keynote speaker was Dr. Rosalinda Mercado-Garza, who gave an account of her early life as an illegal immigrant in the Harlingen/San Benito area of the Rio Grande Valley. Growing up in extreme poverty, and abused by her father and two of her brothers, she knew that education was the pathway to a better life. Her presentation was honest and extremely touching, and it exemplified the power of resilience.
The first breakout session I attended addressed strategies and ideas to promote student independence towards invented spelling and increased engagement in the writing process. The presenter, Kathy Hogan, from Region 4, had come to Kinkaid several years ago and worked with our team on developing writing. This was quite relevant to my kindergarten classroom and reconfirmed what we actually do at Kinkaid.
The second breakout session provided ready-to-use strategies that help build comprehension in reading, especially in non-fiction texts. I could see how these strategies can be incorporated into my guided reading lessons, especially with my more advanced readers.
I enjoyed the workshop and came away with some new ideas to try in my classroom. I also came away appreciating the wonderful presenters who have already come to Kinkaid, and who have helped us build a strong literacy program in Kindergarten.
I had the opportunity to attend Sharon Taberski’s workshop, “It’s All About Comprehension.” One topic I found fascinating was an article that she shared with us entitled “How Neuroscience Informs Our Teaching of Elementary Students,” by Renate Cain. The article gives scientific reasons why learning should engage the physiology of our students. She encouraged us to break the traditional norms of seating and allow students to sit comfortably on the floor, cushion, or place of their own choosing.
After the workshop, I began thinking of how I could alter the seating in my pullout reading group. We have moved from a horseshoe-shaped table to the carpet, where the students can sit more comfortably, and I am able to sit closer to them. I have found that the closer proximity is more engaging. During their independent reading time, they are able to pick their own spot to read and spread out at their will. This arrangement has given them greater free choice and has cut down on issues that I was having with students sitting properly in their chairs.
Finally, there is one quotation that stood out in my mind after the workshop. Ms. Taberski said, “The brain that does the work is the brain that learns.” This has served as a reminder to me to play the role of the facilitator and come alongside my students while they themselves take control of their own learning. It is also a great quotation to share with my students in order to promote self-monitoring.
Lower School Assistant
The semester long Personal Essay workshop I attended was outstanding for a number of reasons. First, it allowed me the opportunity to write, to work on projects of my own, under the stress of deadlines. I found this beneficial not simply because it compelled me to write, but because it reminded me of the demands placed upon our students. I've changed my classroom practices as a result, building in class time for several things, including writing sessions and reflective readings (where I allow the students to read to themselves and offer up questions for the class to consider). Second, the class exposed me to a number of essay styles and formats which have broadened my conception of the essay as a form. This has been particularly useful during the fall, as I work with seniors on preparing their college essays. I'm confident that it will continue to benefit my teaching in the spring, as the juniors begin work on their own personal essay projects, which have, in the past, become college essays themselves. Finally, the class also has offered me a number of classroom writing practices that I've begun to employ, from the basic ("describe this object in 5 minutes") to the somewhat more advanced ("describe a scene using no adverbs or adjectives"). I've thoroughly enjoyed the Personal Essay workshop, and its influence will, I'm certain, continue to pay dividends.
Upper School English
I attended the Texas Regional Workshop put on by the Atlas Rubicon Company. I met with teachers from independent schools across the South to learn about ways that our schools can start to use our curriculum maps as a means to review and improve our curriculum and increase student learning. On a personal level, I found that this workshop was highly motivating: I discovered that curriculum maps can truly be a means to a very important end, and not simply an archive of what I do in my classes. Doing some review of my own maps with teachers from other schools gave me some good ideas about how I can improve my own curriculum in deep ways. More broadly, I learned a number of techniques that our school leaders can use to encourage our teachers in reviewing their curriculum to create meaningful change. When I returned, I shared these ideas with Mr. Loach, Ms. Babine, and Mr. Kahn, and they found a number of the ideas very helpful. We will continue to work together, along with the department chairs, to implement these ideas as we move ahead with our ongoing examination of our curriculum.
Upper School Science
I audited the MOOC course, “Greek and Roman Mythology,” offered by Coursera and taught by Dr. Peter Struck at the University of Pennsylvania. While the course is slated for ten weeks, I participated only in the four weeks that covered Homer’s The Odyssey. Auditing the course entailed listening to about 90 minutes of lectures per week, note taking during these lectures, and taking online quizzes on the poem and the contents of each week’s lectures. Because the lectures were divided into smaller “chunks,” ranging from 4 to 18 minutes, I was able to work them in during lunch or a planning period.
The effect of auditing the course is that I restructured the way I taught The Odyssey this year. Instead of assigning a book a night and then reviewing the contents of the book the next day in class (which amounts to a lot of plot summarizing), I assigned one book per night for reading, and once a week I gave notes about a cluster of four books at a time, focusing on thematic motifs and important concepts. Each day in class, we did a writing exercise that related to a concept in The Odyssey (parent-child relationships, mentorship, personal odysseys, etc.). I was also able to clarify confusing plot points for students during brief Q&As. Because the books of The Odyssey are structured roughly in groups of four, my new method worked well.
By asking my students to evaluate their learning experience at the end of the unit, I discovered that they enjoyed the experience a lot. Students assumed more responsibility for managing their reading assignments. While the independence was challenging at first, the majority of them appreciated being able to read at a more personally determined pace. Several students finished the book in advance of the schedule, while slower readers had time to catch up if they missed a night’s reading due to workload or sickness.
Overall, I gained a lot from my auditing experience, and I plan on incorporating much of this year’s experience into next year’s teaching of The Odyssey. A professional goal that has emerged from this experience is to learn how to create online quizzes, which would help students check their reading comprehension according to their reading pace.
Upper School English
I am happy to bring back many new ideas and resources from the 2012 American Orff Schulwerk Association conference in St. Louis, Missouri! I had the opportunity at this gem of a conference to learn while singing, dancing, and playing instruments with other dedicated teachers from around the world.
I appreciate many things about this particular conference, and there are several things that make it a unique opportunity for me as a music educator. The first is that each session and workshop at this convention is limited in size. This means that I am able to participate in activities as an active learner and engage in meaningful discussion and reflection with other teachers. Second, I appreciate that the conference features a diverse collection of student groups from around the country. This year, with two summers of Orff Schulwerk learning and training under by belt, I was able both to enjoy the performances and also have greater insight into the vocal, instrumental, and movement aspects of each performance. Finally, I value the time spent with other passionate educators at this conference. It is not an easy conference to get to, and those who make it each year make the most of every moment. I appreciated the opportunity to catch up with old co-workers and make new professional connections. Again, thanks to my recent summer professional development, I felt able to connect with other teachers and engage in meaningful conversations like never before.
Lower and Middle School Music, Lower School Spanish
I recently completed an online professional development course, “Using Blended Learning to Flip the Classroom,” through the Global Online Academy. While my negative criticisms of the course outweigh the positive, I did walk away with a new sense of confidence in actually putting together online lessons and pieces of digital instruction for the students.
The four-week course started with a list of links to a variety of websites containing information on how to use various software and freeware to create annotated slideshows and videos for at-home learning. After this first “lesson”, we were given a variety of guidelines to follow to create and upload our own lessons either independently or in collaboration with the other students taking the course.
The instruction that was given was minimal; there was nothing provided that I could not have found in a basic Google search. The collaboration would have been more beneficial had the assignments been given out more than three days in advance and/or had they allowed us to collaborate and work on our assignments over the weekend (assignments were posted on Tuesdays and they were due the following Friday). Students struggled to find time to get together (via Skype, for example) due to time zone differences and other obligations (we were all full-time teachers). Overall, I would not recommend the Global Online Academy.
Regardless of my opinions of the design of the course, I have begun using the techniques sparingly in my Statistics classroom and am considering restructuring my Algebra course this coming spring to incorporate more at-home learning opportunities which will lead to more “hands on” and discussion-based learning in classroom.
Upper School Mathematics
I attended the Reading Readiness course at the Neuhaus Education Center. The speakers gave background theory of teaching reading along with practical applications for teaching reading readiness skills. The manual we received provides activities that develop student proficiency in letter recognition, phonological awareness, oral language, multisensory letter introduction, and handwriting. During the course, we paired up with teachers from other schools and taught each other from the activity list. The kindergarten team is familiar with Neuhaus methods, so I'm excited to come into the classroom with my new knowledge to continue to support our students' reading skills.
Lower School Assistant
I enrolled the Rice Continuing Studies course, “Maya 2012: Prophecy Becomes History,” in order to learn more about the Maya. I cover the Maya in two of my courses, so I was hoping to get some new material for them. The course was taught by a number of experts in Maya Civilization, and most of the lectures were at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It was interesting that most of the lectures did not focus on the end of the world in 2012. It was discussed briefly in all lectures, but everyone agreed that it only meant the end of a cycle in the long count calendar. There are actually only two steles that even mention the date! I learned details about the counting systems and calendars, how a mass spectrometer was used to track Maya dates and details, how the pyramids were constructed, and much more. In my opinion, Dirk Van Tuerenhout was the best speaker and historian. He gave several lectures and a personal tour of the museum exhibit, which was quite educational. I recommend taking the time to visit the Maya Prophecy 2012 exhibit. I know people always want to focus on the human sacrifice aspect of the Maya, but they were truly advanced for their time and, I would argue, some of the greatest mathematicians and architects.
Upper School History
As always, the Steve Spangler workshop last Friday was inspirational. He always has so many engaging ideas that I spend the entire time thinking about how I can implement his ideas into my curriculum. I especially was pleased this time with several ideas to enhance the children's understanding of Bernoulli's principle and several of Newton's Laws. But no matter the topic, he encourages excellent, inquiry-based activities that also are fun in the elementary science classroom. A day well spent.
Lower School Science
I attended a basketball coaching clinic at Southern Methodist University. The clinic featured current college coaches Bill Self (Kansas) and Larry Brown (SMU), a former college coach and current ESPN commentator, Fran Fraschilla, and a former NBA coach, Del Harris. All of the talks were informative, though some of what they said was familiar to us at Kinkaid. I thought Coach Fraschilla was really impressive, and I think there are a number of things we will take from his talk and implement at Kinkaid. It was certainly a worthwhile experience, and though I was a little disappointed that three of the coaches advertised didn't appear, it still got me excited for the start of the basketball season in a couple of weeks.
Upper School Math, Assistant Varsity Basketball
Both my varsity assistant and I attended the SMU Basketball Clinic in Dallas. The line-up, which changed unexpectedly on Sunday, finally included Bill Self of Kansas, Del Harris from the NBA, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, and Larry Brown from SMU. Although I wanted to hear Gregg Popovich of the Spurs, who canceled late, Fran Fraschilla ended up being the star of the clinic. Through him, I learned the nuances of an offense that I have been studying for two years, and I am now able to introduce this offense to our team. I am excited about it. The other coaches provided more of a review than anything new.
Physical Education, Head Varsity Boys’ Basketball Coach
The SMU basketball clinic in Dallas was a very informative clinic. Bill Self of the University of Kansas spoke about offensive sets that stress post play. I learned about butt screens and will implement those this season to help maximize our post play. Del Harris spoke about the principles of zone play, giving great reminders and details that enforced my zone philosophy. He also challenged coaches on our role in character development and integrity. My favorite speaker was Fran Fraschilli, who talked about developing overriding philosophies that help develop schemes and sets and about late-game strategies, time out seating charts, and quick hitters. Larry Brown discussed player and position development on offense and defense. Overall it was a great clinic that inspired critical thought about my philosophies and structures for the Kinkaid girls basketball program.
Assistant Athletic Director, Head Varsity Girls’ Basketball Coach
I attended the Discovery Day Camp at the University of Houston. While the speakers were less than engaging, I did learn enough about the new discovery tools that promise a google-like search experience that incorporates library catalogs and all the institution's databases, to know that it is not something we need. They are expensive, complicated and not all-inclusive. The colleges and universities that have tried them are less than thrilled with the current state of things. I will keep my eyes and ears open and hope that in the future the vendors listen to user input and improve their products.
Dorian St.Clair Myers
Director of Libraries and Archives
I attended the Texas Foreign Language Association 2012 Fall Conference in Austin. All the teachers there were united by a common purpose: “the desire to improve and enhance FL teaching and learning for generations of students.”
The key topics of the breakout sessions and workshops included professionalism, teaching the lesson to assessment, collaboration and the learning environment. The buzz words were “21st Century Skills Map,” “authentic sources,” “technology,” “wisdom,” “formative and summative assessments” and “cultural practices and perspectives.” Sixty AP Spanish literature and culture teachers attended.my session, “Carlos Fuentes ‘Chac Mool ¿Objeto de interés o curiosidad?’”
The Keynote Speaker on Friday was Laura Terrill, Director of Curriculum in the Parkway School District in St. Louis. She explored techniques that expand cultural insight and proficiency.
On Saturday I had the pleasure of interviewing eight foreign language “teachers of the year.” It was an honor and a pleasure to meet extraordinary professionals and listen to them share their extensive career accomplishments and their passion for language teaching.
Upper School Spanish
In Deb Wirth’s workshop on guided math we investigated ways to differentiate our small group math instruction and discussed management tips to better organize our math block during our instructional day.
Ms. Wirth compared the guided math part of the day to guided reading, and emphasized how important it is to have small group instruction in both areas. That comparison, and going through a detailed schedule, helped me see how I can structure my time. Although my team and I already have implemented math centers in our classrooms, this way of thinking is one that I will share with my colleagues while we plan our math centers week by week. Her activity and center ideas focused on different content standards, one center for each standard (measurement, numbers/operations, data analysis, geometry). I think for planning reasons, it will be wonderful to have that consistency and the students will get exposure to recurring examples of a particular standard.
Ms. Wirth uses the Everyday Math program at her school. She was able to give us examples of ways that her centers reach every level of student in her classroom. For example, she uses a beach ball with the digits 0-9 on the different colored sections. Students toss the beach ball a set number of times, and each time they use the numbers that their thumbs are on. If their thumbs land on 3 and 6, they can add them, find the fact family, multiply, draw the shapes with that number of sides, make large numbers and add them, etc.
Ms. Wirth was a wonderful, engaging presenter and educator with experience and plenty of ideas. Using her tips, our team is eager to modify our math centers along with our schedule during math instructional time.
I was fortunate to attend the Texas Foreign Language Association 2012 Fall Conference in Austin. The first session I joined, “Discovering Language—Using Accelerated Learning Strategies and Activities,” gave clear examples of ways to structure a class so that students are fully immersed in the target language. I particularly liked how the presenter allows her students to select a name, occupation, and country of origin at the beginning of the school year. She mentioned that by doing this, students are able to take ownership of their learning and take creative risks with the vocabulary because they are interested in developing this new persona. Cultural and grammatical concepts can be practiced in a more engaging way if the students feel that they can be a different person during Spanish class. The workshop “Making Connections Model: Input, Output, Relationships, Repeat” was interesting since it allowed me to network with other Spanish teachers and share teaching strategies. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop called “Planning for Learning.” The presenter began by discussing how the brain learns foreign languages. As a result of seeing research on how the teenage brain works, I have now decided to adjust the design of my lessons so that I can maximize learning in the classroom. I learned a lot during this conference and cannot wait to take what I learned and apply it to the classroom!
Middle School Spanish
I attended a workshop, “Guided Math: Practical Strategies to Differentiate Your Math Instruction.” The speaker was very good and passionate about the topic. The content was a great review of things I knew but need to be reminded of. The speaker presented many helpful work stations (centers) and showed how student-generated work can be used and extended for further stations. We discussed differentiation in areas of content, process, product, and environment, as well as assessments and appropriate use for reporting purposes. She gave us some Internet sites, materials, and references to materials as well as tips for class management of centers. It was a productive day and I felt good that it pertained to what I can use in my classroom.
I attended a number of sessions at the K-12 Technology Applications Conference. In “iPossibilities: Explore the Potential with iPads in the Classroom” we explored educational apps, learned important “how-tos,” and participated in iPad lessons. An activity using QR Codes was a favorite of the class. In “Computers, and iPads, and Nooks! Oh My!” we learned about various free and low-cost applications designed for the iPad and Nook. The focus of “Getting Your Tweeps on Twitter” was how Twitter is becoming a powerful tool in developing and connecting educators, while “Putting the ‘I’ Back in IWB (whiteboard)” was about designing techniques to increase student interactivity and higher thinking.
The one-day technology conference provided lessons, activities, tips and tricks that I can use in my classroom. Implementing these suggestions will help me energize my students to become even more engaged in available technology resources. I enjoyed being with my Early Childhood colleagues; we had time to discuss and reflect on the sessions throughout the day.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Guided Math: Practical Strategies to Differentiate your Math Instruction. The presenter, Debbie Wirth, was passionate about mathematics. The content was practical and relevant to my classroom, and I am already looking for ways to incorporate her ideas into my stations time. What I appreciated about this presentation was that it applied to how I run my math stations. Rather than spending so many valuable teacher hours cutting and laminating, why not have the kids help in making the centers? We can use their student-created work as a foundation for the games used in a station. As the curriculum spirals back throughout the year, we can bring the games out again and add harder steps to make it more appropriate. The most valuable information I am taking away from the workshop is the ways I can diversify the same center. Like all teachers, I have many children who are in different stages of their math comprehension. I now have about twelve different station ideas that all meet the same core standard, but are tiered to meet three different levels of difficulty! This will save so much time in my teacher preparation. In my five years of teaching, I would rank this workshop among the best I have been to!
The Region 4 Technology Conference provided information and hands-on opportunities for teachers to learn about using technology effectively in the classroom. We got to choose from a variety of breakout sessions, which allowed us to explore and focus on the skills we wished to build upon or learn about. I attended “iPossibilities: Explore the Potential with iPads in the Classroom;” “The Road Less Traveled…Teaching the Way They Learn””; “10 Killer iPad Projects Students will Love”; “Getting Your Tweeps on Twitter”; and “Putting the ‘I’ in IWB.” Not only did I learn how to navigate more effectively on the iPad, I also gained a new perspective on how students should be using apps in the classroom. Many apps offer lower level thinking such as recalling and identifying, but there are ways to move past that, such as using multiple apps to create projects. The presenters in many of the breakout sessions gave information on apps and showed us how children can use them in their learning. The Region 4 Technology Conference opened my eyes to the many possibilities technology can offer our students.
The Guided Math Workshop provided helpful advice on setting up and managing math centers and taught me ways to use them to differentiate instruction for my students. I learned it is beneficial to set up and model my math instruction time the same as my reading instruction time.
I also learned ways to create engaging and meaningful centers that can be used all year long. While my students are in centers I can meet with small groups of students and work on skills they are struggling with. There were many useful ideas on creating math centers that allow students more practice with skills learned in class. I am looking forward to utilizing these ideas in my classroom.
A quote from the instructor that I felt was very important to remember is, “Fairness is not everyone getting the same thing. Fairness is getting what you need to be successful.”
I had the opportunity to attend Harvey “Smokey” Daniels’ workshop, “Content Area Literacy.” One major take-away I left with was a community-building activity entitled “Home Court Advantage.” Students examine various sports teams’ scores in search of patterns. The goal of the observation is to see that teams win the majority of their games at home. The class discusses why this is so. For example, the volume of the crowd cheering on the home team can deter the opponents and encourage the home team. Then the class discussion shifts towards “home court advantage” at school. Students brainstorm ways to build one another up through their actions. Finally, the class constructs a “quilt” of paper squares where each student writes and illustrates how they can contribute to the “home court advantage” atmosphere in the classroom. I am excited to conduct this lesson and plan with our second grade students in the near future.
Another idea I gleaned from the workshop was how to utilize letter writing both as a writing activity as well as means of communication with students. Since we are studying letter writing in second grade, I have been using Harvey Daniels’ suggestions with my reading group. I have been able to use letters as a way to write guided, specific questions to each of my readers based upon the texts they are reading. This idea has also given me a chance to get written feedback from each individual in regards to their likes and dislikes in reading group.
Lower School Assistant
At the 3rd Annual Rice Speed Symposium there were three speakers who spoke about relays, sprint technique and the effects of stress on athletes.
Brian FitzGerald a high school coach at Rio Mesa High School in California spoke about different strategies in the 4x100 relay. He recommended using a new type of baton pass that I am planning to implement this season. This new technique is less disruptive to natural running mechanics and allows runners to keep the baton moving around the track at a higher rate.
Tom Tellez, former University of Houston head track coach and coach of several Olympians, spoke about running technique and the simplicity of coaching sprinters. He broke the event into five basic parts: body position, foot and ankle function, hip extensors, arm stroke, and relaxation.
Dr. Jeff Brown is an endocrinologist who works with several world-class athletes in association with the Oregon Project. He spoke about stress and its effects on athletes and their bodies. Stress reduces the testosterone levels in male athletes and can cause several ailments. He encouraged coaches to be aware of the indicators and side effects of stress.
Varsity Track and Field Coach, Physical Education
My experience at the Texas Speech Communication Association convention was highly worthwhile. I was able to attend workshops on policy debate, the form of debate that is not my area of expertise, and these workshops helped me better understand the topic area that my eighth graders are using for competition. I brought these materials back to the classroom immediately. I also got perspective on what arguments are being used across the state, which will help them when they travel to tournaments in Austin and Dallas, which we will do in December and April. I learned more about topicality on the policy debate resolution, a particular area that the students need to be prepared to debate.
It was also important that Kinkaid have somebody at the convention because we made several important rules decisions regarding debate in Texas that will affect our students for years to come. I was able to advocate at these meetings for the rules that we think will be the most educational for Kinkaid debaters and other students in the state. Some of these rules changes have already taken effect, including rules that impact both Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas Debate, two of the events in which we participate.
My favorite part of convention is always getting to teach other teachers. I taught three workshops myself, and through my presentations I felt like I was able to help several new coaches. I always find that I learn through teaching. As I prepare materials for these workshops, I ultimately go through an evaluation of my own teaching process, which makes me better in my own classroom.
Finally, I was nominated for a teacher of the year award. Each region gets to nominate people to represent them, and I was a Houston-area nominee. Another coach in the area puts together a booklet on me that is due this summer, and then the 2013 winners will be announced at the convention next year. I was not expecting this nomination, and I feel honored that other coaches in Houston would want me to represent them for this award after coaching in this area only three years.
Middle School Debate, Upper School History
I had the privilege of attending the Region 4 Technology Applications Conference in Houston. The day was filled with ideas, resources and collaboration regarding best practices in technology integration within the classroom. One session provided great ideas for authentic, hands-on projects with iPads. A highlight of the conference was a breakout session in which experienced technology coordinators shared their ideas about how to evaluate and implement new technology with elementary students. The presenters also shared tips on how to manage iPads and apps within a grade level, which was helpful as we are navigating through this in Lower School now. I walked away from the day with new ideas and energy to bring back to my classroom and grade level.
A striking number of Young Adult books were published in 2011, and that number is expected to increase in 2012. At “What's New in Young Adult Literature,” the presenter listed her top 336 picks, which narrowed my selections considerably. Of course, not all titles were addressed, but she managed to pack a lot of book-talking into one all-day session. Along the way, she showed us her top 15 picks and trends.
This had to be one of the best-organized, best-presented workshops I have attended in recent years. Now, back at school, I'm mulling over too many "must read" selections, with too little time.
Middle School Librarian
The Region 4 Technology Conference provided information and hands-on opportunities to learn about using technology effectively in the classroom. We got to choose from a variety of breakout sessions, which allowed us to explore and focus on the skills we wished to build upon or learn about. “iPossibilities: Explore the Potential with iPads in the Classroom,” taught me all the ways to use the iPads in the classroom with meaningful lessons. We collaborated with other teachers throughout grade levels and learned fun apps and creative ways our students can learn from the use of the iPads. “The Road Less Traveled…Teaching the Way They Learn” explained the importance of making the shift from teacher-centered technology lessons to student-centered lessons, making sure the technology is in the hands of the learners to explore and navigate on their own. Many apps that focus only on memorization and recall, and teachers need to make sure we are creating higher order thinking skill and creativity. In “10 Killer iPad Projects Students will Love,” we explored ways to overlap apps and create lesson plans that foster higher-level thinking. Weare excited about implementing a lot of these tools and lessons into the kindergarten classroom.
Lower School Assistant
The Region 4 teacher hands-on workshop was fantastic! It focused on how to best use the iPad in the classroom for authentic learning. As a result, I was able to develop integrated lessons using the iPad in the classroom. The lessons include a variety of resources, all of which can be accessed on the iPad, that focus on the differentiation of learning, both process and product, for each student. I was even able to walk away with a few ideas that the principal can use at her faculty meetings!
The Guided Math seminar was very worthwhile. The presenter, who also authored the book by the same title, was very prepared, easy to listen to, and provided a lot of examples, both hands on and by video. The audience she targeted for this seminar was “spot on,” which made all the discussions relevant. I came away with many ideas to use for differentiating math and for making math FUN!
The Region 4 Technology Conference offered several different choices for seminars throughout the day. Our breakout session was very good. The presenter taught us several shortcuts on the iPads. We learned about QR's and how to introduce them into the classroom. One Kipp Academy teacher shared her wisdom on how she raised money to get the technology in her class. A "Noise-ometer" was particularly useful in her class. We also learned different ways that Twitter can benefit a classroom (I have my Twitter account set up!).
I just finished taking "In the Footsteps of Odysseus" at Rice. I found the four-week course helpful in some ways and not-so-helpful in others. I gained a lot of background information about the House of Atreus and was able to transfer that knowledge to my students—specifically, how Homer whitewashed the Agamemnon/Clytemnestra/Orestes story to use it as a mirror for Odysseus/Penelope/Telemachus. In terms of major themes, I felt reassured that I was already teaching the right stuff, but I was able to deepen my understanding of major themes and motifs. The only thing I didn't appreciate was the professor dressing up as Homer and reciting from the epic for the first 30 to 40 minutes of class. However, when he got to the core of things, I learned much I then passed on in more appropriate form to my students.
Upper School English
I recently attended Harvey Daniels' workshop, “Content-Area Literacy: Comprehension, Collaboration, and Inquiry.” Harvey ("Smokey") Daniels is a highly respected literacy expert whose 1994 book, Literature Circles, started many elementary school teachers on a journey to demystify the reading and comprehension process with engagement of all students. Daniels has continued to publish and present workshops to SRO crowds. This one was no exception. His presentation was centered around the best practice strategies for reading, with emphasis on non-fiction.
The workshop focused on new strategies with great emphasis on the think-aloud model: actively exploring meaning as you read. It was a dynamic, engaging workshop. Throughout the day I wished that our entire faculty could have been there.
Lower School Reading Specialist
The Writer's Digest West Conference in Los Angeles was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. It was informative, intellectually nourishing, and energetic, and I returned with a fresh, renewed vigor for my field. I attended fourteen sessions in three days and took 56 pages of notes, but here are a few of the highlights:
I learned a different approach to story structure besides the old three-act model that accomplishes the same goals but in a unique way; I learned more concise ways to explain suspense and conflict; I learned a lot about the digital revolution in literature and publishing and what the "future of the writer" most likely holds. Instead of being a mainly academic conference, this one was for industry-based professionals. Attendees were primarily professional authors, agents, and publishers, and the sessions were practical, centering on writing craft, technique, and the real world of publishing. The environment into which I graduated is so different from the one in which my students will emerge, they might be different planets. Having the opportunity to meet and talk with people in the industry now—about narrative craft, yes, but also about digital copyrights and the publishing process and how organizations like Amazon, Goodreads, and others are changing the landscape—was eye-opening and fun. My Creative Writing and English students will benefit from this expertise and from the challenging new perspectives on literature and story structure and craft; I can't wait to share these new ideas with them.
Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies course, “Connecting to Your Inner Joy Through Tibetan Meditation,” taught by M. Alejandro Chaoul, was excellent. Dr. Chaoul teaches meditation at MD Anderson to people whose lives have been touched by cancer. Some of the new meditation techniques I learned in the class include the Nine Breathings of Purification and the TSA-LUNG Movement (Fire-like vital breath). I’m excited to add these to my repertoire of meditation techniques, which I use personally as well as with my students. Reflecting upon this class, I noted an interesting connection between it and Tony Wagner’s presentation during the ISAS “Teaching Matters” conference, which I attended last spring. Wagner taught the audience how to take cleansing breaths to clear the body of stress hormones. I use his suggested technique with my students regularly. The Nine Breathings of Purification takes this breathing activity to a deeper level, and the benefits are more far-reaching, as well. I look forward to using it with my students!
Upper School English
I attended the Fall Symposium of the International Dyslexia Association. It was time well spent. The keynote speaker, Marilyn Adams, was interesting and engaging as she spoke about the history and development of learning to read. She included some brain theory as well. Dr. Adams’ presentation confirmed for me that some of the practices I have been using for decades (reading aloud and grammar and vocabulary instruction) are still appropriate. She gave some good tips on how to make these subjects more fun and beneficial for my students.
Our luncheon speaker, Josh Davis, a successful attorney who also is dyslexic, inspired me to be a better teacher. While he gave credit to many people for his success, he really spoke about the teachers who never gave up on him. I have several dyslexic students in my class this year, so his message rang volumes.
I attended the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association's Fall Symposium on Reading, Literacy, and Learning. Dr. Marilyn Adams (Brown University), the first featured speaker, presented "Learning to Read: What's Hard Developmentally Was Also Hard Historically.” In her discussion of the history and development of reading she defined literacy as “the process and product of gaining conscious, reflective awareness of our knowledge, thought, and language.” She also noted that developmental progress and requirements follow much the same path as historical inventions and progress, which she traced from as early as 30,000 BCE.
She noted that letter knowledge is the best predictor of reading success and that letters should be memorized by rote. This is what we Kindergarten teachers try to accomplish with our students.
Dr. Adams then presented another lecture on "The Challenge of Complex Texts.” She reiterated that the best, long term, early predictors of reading development are alphabet knowledge and syntactic sensitivity. Oral language is a major part of this development. Our Kindergarten team is eager to expand our practice of oral language by playing games and giving our students complex oral sentences to help them "think and understand," which ultimately improves their reading comprehension.
We also had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Joshua Davis, an attorney with dyslexia who spoke about encouraging the dyslexic child. He described his struggles as a student and how he overcame them with the help and support of his family and teachers. He encouraged the audience never to give up on struggling readers.
Mary Margaret Greer
For the first time, I attended the Houston International Dyslexia Association's Fall Symposium. I was excited when I heard that the keynote speaker, Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams, is internationally regarded for her research and applied work in the areas of cognition and education. Dr. Adams also has authored classroom resources on language and literacy basics for emergent readers and special needs students.
I had hoped to come away with a better understanding of the difficulties dyslexic children face and to learn strategies to help identify and support struggling readers. Instead, Dr. Adams gave a long PowerPoint, "What's Hard Developmentally Was Also Hard Historically.” She took us from cave paintings of 30,000 BCE to the time of Chaucer to Samuel Johnson and to the Industrial Revolution, where writing included scientific information and opened up topics for more readers. I learned about the historical development of writing, which later allowed ordinary people to be able to read. This was interesting, but not really applicable to my Kindergarten students. After a short break, Dr. Adams began her second PowerPoint, "The Challenge Of Complex Texts.” Showing graphs, SAT scores, etc., she emphasized the interface between syntax and semantics, and how the brain absorbs this information. I could begin at this point to relate to my own students' understanding of language and how they express themselves.
The focus of Digital Frontiers and THAT Camp, held at the University of North Texas, was to bring together individuals from various disciplines, including public history and museums, libraries and archives, and academia, to discuss the impact and potential of digital collections. What was unique and especially interesting about this conference was the fresh perspective provided by speakers who are users of archives, rather than archivists or collection managers.
Much of the discussion had to do with the concept of “community history”—telling stories at the local level—which is challenging at large university repositories, but falls perfectly in line with the goals of the Kinkaid Archives. This discussion was accompanied by several examples of creative ways in which archivists had tailored their online materials to small and specific audiences. I learned about new software for digital content, simple and fun ideas for YouTube and Web 2.0 displays, as well as tools for sharing web-based oral histories. I know I will be better able to connect with our user community as a result, and I genuinely gained a new vision from these sessions.
Fiona de Young
I attended the ISAS Beginning Teacher Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This conference on curriculum and assessment and active teaching techniques was led by Dr. Kevin Burke and Dr. Brian Collier, both from the University of Notre Dame.
Dr. Burke and Dr. Collier led lessons to simulate what teachers should be doing in the classroom to maximize student engagement. When the lessons came to a close, our leaders broke the lesson down to show how they had utilized different techniques to make the activity engaging, smooth, and successful. It is important for teachers to provide child-centered education while maintaining control over behavior and learning. Dr. Burke and Dr. Collier demonstrated ways to achieve this balance and provided great ideas to bring into the classroom.
After we met as a whole, we broke into small division groups. The group sessions provided a forum to delve deeply into various aspects of our teaching. We discussed classroom management, technology, and student-centered lesson planning. We collaborated and shared strategies to use on a daily basis.
On our final day we visited Manzano Day School, a local independent school. The visit gave the PreK-5 teachers and assistants an opportunity to engage with educators in their classrooms and to share ideas.
My favorite aspect of the week was when Chris Gunnin, Head of Upper School at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, outlined what he views as the ten most important qualities of a great teacher. Mr. Gunnin was shared stories from his career both as a student and as an educator. His enthusiasm for education and children was infectious and inspiring.
I am looking forward to applying the various skills and knowledge I acquired at the conference to the classroom setting.
Lower School Assistant
The keynote speaker for the Houston Branch of The International Dyslexia Association was Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams, whose doctorate is in cognitive and developmental psychology and who has devoted her career to research and applied work in the area of cognition and education.
Dr. Jager Adams’ first session lecture topic was “Learning to Read: What’s Hard Developmentally Was Also Hard Historically.” She began with the history and development of reading, starting with ancient cave paintings. The primary take away for a kindergarten teacher was that letter knowledge is the best predictor of a good reader. Letter names need to be automatic. The second session topic was “Advancing our Students’ Language and Literacy: the Challenge of Complex Texts.” Though the lectures were packed with information, I was hoping for more techniques to use in my classroom.
I attended three sessions at the half-day TLA District Fall Conference. In the first, “Technology Savvy Sessions for Library Staff,” I learned that the University of Houston—Clear Lake library uses Pinterest to showcase new books in LibGuides, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for communicating with students, and Junaio for an augmented reality tour of the library. In the second session, “Light, Camera, Libraries: Using Movie Maker and Powerpoint,” Billy Hoya of the University of Houston—Downtown showed how he makes training videos using those two tools. I also found out that they have an institutional gmail account for IM. In the third session, “Embedding Instruction: Expanding and Extending Our Reach,” the librarian at Sam Houston State University showed how they use LibGuides, Live Chat, and virtual office hours to provide bibliographic instruction and database tutorials to students by having links to them from the course web pages.
This was a chance to see how university libraries are providing resources to students, and I am looking forward to investigating how some of them may be used in our libraries. It is difficult to keep up with all the technological innovations, and going to these conferences helps me keep up with what others are doing.
Dorian St.Clair Myers
Director of Libraries and Archives
I attended the ISAS Beginning Teacher Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we were able to meet many other teachers who have recently begun their careers in independent schools. Sharing stories with other teachers who are experiencing similar adjustments was especially encouraging. Although we shared trials, the sense of excitement for the future was highly motivating. We were able to collaborate and dream about where our careers as teachers could lead.
Our main speakers, Kevin Burke and Brian Collier, from the University of Notre Dame, are dynamic and inspiring educators. They were able to pass along useful teaching strategies in a way that was engaging to adults. One take away that I had was the idea of writing our own “course narratives.” This narrative is a means of focusing on a few key goals for our students in a particular subject. They had us write the overarching goals for a particular subject in narrative form. This approach is so different from the typical way we plan as teachers, and I have already found it to be useful in my classroom.
On our final day, we traveled to Manzano Day School to take a look at another ISAS independent school. We heard from Head of the School Neal Piltch, who spoke to us about “joy in learning.” His advice that teachers make a conscious choice to seek out the joy in learning resonated with me. After gaining an idea of what this school stands for, we were able to observe classrooms in action. I loved gleaning new strategies from these amazing teachers, and I definitely noticed how these educators found joy while watching their students learn.
Lower School Assistant
I attended the Houston Branch of The International Dyslexia Association's Fall Symposium, whose theme was “Reading Literacy and Learning.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Marilyn Adams, a visiting scholar in the Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Department at Brown University. Dr. Adams' first keynote speech focused on the history of reading, from ancient cave paintings to Phoenician, Greek and Roman letters. She traced the entrance of consonants and vowels into our written language and the time when spaces between words were introduced, which led to the awareness of sentences. From written text we gained printed text with the 1455 Gutenberg Bible, and in 1582 Mulcaster's Elementarie Speller was published, with 8000 spelling words. Grammar books followed as scholars attempted to codify our language.
Dr. Adams' second keynote speech discussed the challenge of complex texts. She discussed Common Core Standards, falling SAT scores, vocabulary acquisition, and complex text structures. Research shows that comprehension fails unless the reader understands at least 95% of the words in a text. A complex discussion of how the brain organizes concepts, words, and new learning led us through new ideas for teaching vocabulary and grammar.
Dr. Adams provided us with many ideas to consider as we tailor our instruction for the maximum retention of critical new information.
Lower School Reading Specialist
It never hurts one to know more about dyslexia and learning difficulties and how to spot potential problems. At the Houston Branch of The International Dyslexia Association's Fall Symposium, a poignant speech was given by a young attorney who told of his journey through dyslexia, the reactions of others to him and his difficulties, and the results after many years of hardship. The tales of the importance of his teachers and their infinite patience and willingness to go the extra mile were particularly heartwarming. I left with many ideas to consider as I deal with at least a few of these children each day.
Thank you for providing funds so I could attend the symposium on reading, literacy, and learning put on by the Houston Branch of The International Dyslexia Association. Dr. Marilyn Adams spoke on two topics. Her slides were clear and easily understood. She gave an overview of the evolution of reading and writing, then connected that history to difficulties some readers experience today. The next two hours were spent discussing what makes a text challenging. She provided practical ideas such as games to play with nouns or expanding sentences, and I will try to implement these suggestions as the year progresses. I hope my students, with dyslexia or not, will benefit from it as well!
Lower School Teacher
On two days in September, I attended the Wetlands Workshop hosted by the Galveston Bay Foundation. On the first day, we learned about the priorities for the bay, the ecoregions of the entire greater Houston area, the importance of oyster reefs in keeping our bay clean, and strategies being used to restore the bay. We also completed several sample lessons about the impact of pollution on our waterways as well as learned about models used to demonstrate how both point and nonpoint pollution can end up in our bay.
On the second day, we went to a pier in Kemah and worked on a project to help restore the oyster reefs in the bay. In addition, we planted smooth cord grass in a marsh restoration project; learned about water quality testing and got to ask an expert questions about oysters; and did a seining activity in which we examined several species of fish, shrimp, and crabs.
This was an extremely valuable professional development opportunity because we got a lot of hands-on experience and several lessons we can directly apply to our classrooms. We also got lots of maps and activities to use while studying environmental science in sixth grade. The seventh grades go to Galveston every year for a field trip and do a seining activity, so it was important for me to do the activity to learn more about the species in Galveston bay.
Jessica Zenker Nasseri
Middle School Science
Summer Spark, a technology conference held at St John's School, was a different approach to teaching about technology in the classroom. We spent about half of the time in discussion groups. They designed the conference to keep us moving from lecture to lecture with enough time in between to discuss what we liked about the lecture and how we could use it in our classrooms. I really liked the " Flipped Classroom,” presented by Dr. Shala Thomas, who used the flipped classroom two or three days a week. She took the time to ask her eighth graders to complete honest surveys throughout the semester. I could not help but wonder how my own children would have reacted to this non-threatening classroom climate. I have used a very basic form of a flipped classroom in my prekindergarten class (How to Tie Shoes), and it was fun. I did not know there was a flipped classroom movement, though. I will definitely use it more often next year.
I attended Summer Spark 2012 at St. John’s School. On Friday morning a panel of former St. John’s students discussed how technology helped them in high school and continues to help them in college. I attended an iPad implementation breakout session where I got ideas about how to use iPads with my students this coming year.
My cohort group was great. It allowed teachers from different schools, divisions, and disciplines to come together and talk about what is going on in each of our schools and how we are striving to become 21st century technology schools.
Fourteen years ago, the Lovett School started their American Studies program with one section of an honors Advanced Placement U. S. History course and evolved into a requirement for juniors that supplanted American Literature and American History. The school began hosting this summer institute ten years ago with a grant from the Ford Foundation The institute brings in a variety of speakers, including university professors, museum directors and master teachers. The theme this was “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: The 1970s to the Present.”
This year some of the most interesting speakers included Mary Louise Kelly, a Lovett alumna who is a correspondent for National Public Radio, Merle Black, a political science professor from Emory, and Patrick Hastings, a teacher at the Gilman School in Baltimore. Each speaker focused on a different aspect of contemporary American history and culture: race and politics, new voices in art, creating music in the digital age, the changing classroom in the 21st century, globalization and the economy, journalism in the age of social media, and gender and politics. The most powerful session was a presentation by teachers from the Asheville School in North Carolina. Their session was entitled “The Revolution in the Classroom: A Case for Interdisciplinary Studies.” The Ashville School has transformed their English and History departments by pairing teachers from each discipline to create a series of interdisciplinary courses: Ancient Studies, European Studies and American Studies. Pairs of teachers presented examples of student projects that demonstrated the ways in which they integrate arts (e.g., dance, visual arts, creative writing), literature, art history, traditional history and even the physical landscape and architecture of the school. As we were all leaving, I was tempted to sneak onto their van and hide in their luggage as a stowaway. Their creativity and novel approaches to learning truly inspired me.
For me, the value of the Institute comes in part from getting new insights into American life and culture that I can incorporate into my classes, but even more importantly it motivates me to rethink the way I teach my classes. This year, I plan to incorporate even more interdisciplinary methods into both of my courses. Having another teacher join me this year was invaluable. We have already started generating a long list of ideas for new projects and approaches for American History to make it more of an American Studies type course. Several Kinkaid English teachers added great insights to our discussions. Already we have begun to discuss how we could incorporate a more global and interdisciplinary approach for the ninth and tenth grade history and literature classes. We even started thinking about the big picture: how interdisciplinary learning and a more global/international studies approach would positively enhance Kinkaid’s curriculum, getting our students ready for the 21st century “flat world.”
Upper School History
I attended a conference, Tots and Technology: Learning in the Elementary Classroom 2012.
“Creating Engaging and Productive Centers,” a workshop presented by Gail Lovely, concentrated on innovative instructional practices to engage students and begin their collaboration and communication skills. Basic considerations for creating powerful learning centers are task, time, teams and tools. Tasks should be meaningful and productive with clearly defined instructions, appropriate for the learner, purposeful with a beginning, middle and end. Time should be structured with realistic time limits, allowing room for flexibility. Teams should be determined by the purpose of the lesson. If the focus is on task, students of similar levels should be grouped together. If the focus is on the process, random grouping works well.
The greatest consideration in creating computer learning centers is developing independence in students. Free software was demonstrated and explored to develop student independent use of learning centers. Jing software is a great tool to create center task cards, develop student portfolio items, audio/visual directions and tutorials. QR Codes can be used for students to easily access websites, read text notes and hear text notes. Websites for use as centers and on Interactive White Boards need to be prescreened by teachers. Main considerations for websites for use with young children are goals of instruction, little or no advertising and easy to determine how to play. Young children’s technology experiences are primarily with a touch screen. A new challenge for technology education will be teaching them how to use a mouse and track pad.
iPads are recognized as a useful tool in teaching students critical thinking, communication, collaboration and developing creativity, and Google Tools allow for paperless classrooms. Google Documents allow students to turn in work online. With the use of Jing software teaches are able to retrieve their documents and record audio comments about a students’ work, which is easier for the teacher and more personalized for students. The recording is saved to Screencast software where students can retrieve these comments to finalize their projects. Google Groups serve as private e-mail boxes for students. Google Sites work like wikispaces with subscribers and control permissions that allow students to publish to the site. Google Videos have space for class video projects to be store.
Lower School Assistant
The Minute Maid athletic trainers conference was again a good source of information. We got updates on meniscal tears and different surgical options. I also found updates on concussions to be right in line for what we are doing at Kinkaid. There were also a couple of hands-on sessions for gait analysis, brace fitting, and elbow rehabilitation that proved to be great.
2012 TALL Texans Leadership Institute facilitators Jack Siggins and Maureen Sullivan coached a group of thirty librarians from all over the state and from various kinds of libraries in three 12-hour days of intensive sessions on all aspects of leadership. We discussed leadership; interpersonal relations and skills; power, influence and persuasion; managing differences; transforming libraries; working with groups; developing others; and personal planning for development. Sessions included lectures, discussion, peer mentoring, role-playing and games.
In this time of accelerated changes in libraries, good leadership skills are particularly important, and I feel better prepared to lead the Kinkaid libraries into this brave new world in a more mindful, deliberate way. I have already begun to plan our department meetings for next year using some of the ideas I got from leaders in other libraries across the state to facilitate change and teamwork among our three libraries.
We covered so much information and so many different topic, and I feel it has helped me to better understand my role as director of libraries and archives and to give me more tools for managing change and responding to problems.
Head of Libraries and Archives
I was fortunate to visit Gonzales, one of the most historic sites in Texas history. On the way to Gonzales, I stopped at San Felipe de Austin, the site of Stephen F. Austin’s original colony and home to the “Old Three Hundred.” The Texas Historical Commission has recently taken over the operation and preservation of the site, which has made a world of difference! The visitor center, associated displays and grounds are first rate. After departing San Felipe, I made a brief stop in Shiner, Texas, where I visited the Wolters Memorial Museum, which houses much of Shiner’s history, and the Kaspar Wire Works Company, which gained fame after the invention of barbed wire.
I arrived in Gonzales late afternoon and checked into the historic Belle Oaks Inn. It is a Greek Revival home, two-story with full-length porch and second story balcony. The grounds featured a carriage house, terrace and a pond with a carved Italian stone fountain. Paul Frenzel, author of two books on the area, met me Friday morning in the parlor of Belle Oaks. Among the places we visited were the Chamber of Commerce Office, located in the Old Jail Museum; the Confederate Square and Texas Heroes Square; and the Memorial Museum, built for the Texas Centennial celebrations of 1936. Afterward we drove about ten miles out of town to the Braches House and Sam Houston Oak, where the general is said to have rested on the first stop during The Runaway Scrape. We also visited Green DeWitte’s family site, several historic homes and Fort Waul, an earthen embankment fort built during the Civil War for the purpose of stopping Union forces from penetrating into Texas via the River Road. Fort Waul was the only Confederate fort of its type commissioned west of the Mississippi.
The following day Mr. Frenzel’s wife, who volunteers at the archives, gave me a brief overview of the materials and accessibility of such records. I hope to return later this fall and spend more time searching the archives at the County Archives and Records Office.
Overall, the experience in Gonzales County was a true gem! I felt like I had stepped back in time and was grateful to be able to be totally absorbed in the fascinating history of the area.
Middle School History
I attended the Physics Modeling Workshop in Spring, Texas, along with fellow Physics teacher Clay Anderson. We originally signed up for this workshop hoping to discover some ways to teach physics in a more lab-centered way. However, we got much more than we bargained for, and we learned an approach that is nothing less than a complete paradigm shift in how we want to teach physics. In the Modeling approach, students begin with observation and experiment, and through a process of guided Socratic discussion, construct for themselves the conceptual and mathematical models that physicists use to describe nature. The students then apply these models in new situations to explore the implications of the models and to find where the models break down, requiring new models. The teacher acts as a facilitator and guide and does not directly give the students information except when there is no other alternative. During our workshop we got to play the role of students in a Modeling-style classroom to see how this process works in action. Our leaders encouraged us to pretend to be our weaker students, making deliberate errors based on common student errors and misconceptions, so that we could see how this process could lead all students to a deep understanding of physics concepts. As the week went on, we also got to play the role of teachers so that we could practice guiding the discussions. We also read and discussed numerous articles about how students learn (or don't learn) physics, about Socratic questioning techniques, and about the Modeling approach. We saw how numerous research studies clearly demonstrated the success of the Modeling approach as compared to traditional instruction for all populations of students. These results even applied for teachers who were novices with the Modeling approach. Clay and I became convinced of the value of this approach and can no longer envision teaching physics in the traditional way. We plan a complete overhaul of the Physics I curriculum based on this new approach. I think I can say this was the most valuable professional development experience of my career. Despite all of the work it's going to take, I can't wait to see the results of this new approach this year!
Upper School Science
I took an online course, “Ancient Egypt: The Old Kingdom, 5000-2000 BC,” through Exeter University. The course was incredibly informative and offered a great deal of in-depth information about every aspect of early Egyptian culture. In taking the course, my goals were to gain a clearer understanding of Ancient Egyptian religion and how it affected the creation of art, get a firmer grasp of the political structure that existed in Egypt in the Pre-Dynastic era, and increase my overall knowledge of the region. The course began with a unit and online discussion, “Context and Contacts from Prehistoric Egypt to the End of the Old Kingdom,” which examined the function of modern Egyptology and its differences from the study of prehistory. This was followed by a discussion of prehistoric Egypt and Pre-Dynastic Egypt, which further highlighted the many differences in the study of European and Egyptian prehistory. The following six units provided a construct for the study and examination of writing, political structuring (Pre- and Post-Dynastic), the Dynastic Period, race, religion, and the art and architecture of Egypt.
The discussions of art began with a unit, “The Development of the Egyptian Style of Art.” The focus of the art units was the artistic styles and techniques and the purposes for the creation of some of the most and least recognizable forms of Egyptian art, both Dynastic and Pre-Dynastic. These units were the material that initially attracted me to the course.
Overall the course was an exciting and eye-opening experience. In all of my reading and self-guided investigations, I have never had the amount of information and dialogue at the ready to answer most of my questions or at least invite more thought about ancient Egypt. The reading was a bit more than I initially expected, but most of the information I found of some value to my overall understanding and, at the very least, provided a doorway for future investigations.
Upper School Fine Arts
The Lovett School entitled this year’s American Studies Institute “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” borrowing the title from poet Gil Scott Heron. The focus of the conference was 1970 to the present. Presentations demonstrated the breadth of the concept of American Studies: there were talks on race, art, music, economics, politics, journalism, gender politics, hip hop and slam poetry, and education. As I noted in a breakout session with fifteen English, history, and science teachers, I make connections constantly in my teaching and beyond; the correlation impulse is a fundamental part of my character. Consequently, I am intrigued by interdisciplinary approaches like American Studies. Even if such an ambitious change in curriculum is not in the cards for Kinkaid, however, this conference has given me many ideas and strategies for my English classroom and my Creative Writing classroom, where we’ll be doing some slam poetry this year. From particular artworks through which to explore intellectual movements to a greater understanding of our students’ concept of sources in everything from journalism to music sampling, I have been enriched by attending this institute. A bonus to these benefits was the chance to discuss new understandings with English and history colleagues.
Upper School English
I recently attended the St. Francis Episcopal Day School Physical Education Workshop. It was a full day of events and activities. I was able to see a completely different way of teaching Physical Education. The focus was on discipline, attention, and movement throughout a class. I learned some new warm-up activities that I want to incorporate into my own classes next year. In addition, we did a segment on “brain breaks” in the classroom, something I had never seen before. It was great to see all the unique ideas for kids in a classroom to get a break for their brains while getting a little bit of exercise. My favorite segment of the day was the tennis lesson. A USTA coach taught us a tennis lesson that would be taught to younger children. It was so fun and I actually felt as though I, too, could be good at tennis! Overall, I enjoyed the day and I walked away with ideas from other teachers on how to stay motivated, change classes, and have fun in class.
Physical Education and Athletics
I attended the summer workshop presented by the Texas General Land Office in Austin, Texas. The Texas General Land Office houses approximately 35 million records dating back to 1720, including approximately 80,000 maps, sketches and plat maps, with the Archives collection serving as the repository for the history of Texas land. During the workshop, I had the privilege of touring the General Land Office and their Archives as well as investigating for myself the history and documents connected to some of the land grants in Texas. The workshop trained teachers in using the Office’s online database as well as researching the physical Archives detailing the history of the various grants. I was even able to read and hold some of the original documents (letters, land surveys, military records, etc.) dating back to the Texas Revolution and the heroes of Texas and even to when Texas was a part of Mexico. Not only was I taught how to investigate the Archives in order to incorporate these primary source documents in the classroom, but I also was provided a variety of lessons written on these primary source documents covering significant events in Texas history. During these training activities, I learned even more historical details about the land grant process in Texas history and how it was used to fund the Texas Revolution and various governmental projects after the Revolution. All of this will definitely help me make Texas history more challenging and intriguing to the students in the upcoming school years.
Middle School History
Bob Pangrazi is a renowned physical educator, author and curriculum developer. To be able to attend his workshop at St. Francis Episcopal Day School, just two blocks from Kinkaid, was a fortunate opportunity. This was my fifth time to attend his workshop at St. Francis, and each time I am inspired to be active and change the lives of students. The workshop reiterated the importance of classroom management during physical education classes. Keeping the students on the move will promote a healthy lifestyle and keep students on task. The energy a teacher expends in class is a reflection of what she observes in the students. Physical educators have an opportunity to allow students to choose an activity they enjoy and that will achieve the fitness level for the day. When teachers limit the resources and the activities, they are taking away an opportunity for the student to discover their strengths. Physical Education is a favorite class, and we have the power to enrich every student.
Physical Education and Athletics
I attended the Anja Greer Conference on Math, Science and Technology at the Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. I signed up for two classes, "TI-84, SMART Board, Free TI Document Player and Other Essential Technologies and Activities," and "GeoGebra—How to Use it in Precalculus and Calculus." Both classes demonstrated some impressive and cool uses of technologies to illustrate math concepts. In addition, the leaders of each class shared some significant libraries of demonstrations that I will draw from to teach concepts in the classroom and to provide students with opportunities to practice on their own. Moreover, the GeoGebra class gave me enough exposure to and practice with this software to develop my own files for use in my classroom. As my main project for this class, I wrote an illustration of how to use calculus to set up and find the area of a curve defined as a polar function, something I certainly will use next year in class.
Upper School Mathematics
During the conference at FinalSight I learned several ways to improve the efficiency of the Athletics Department in sending out information to parents via Twitter and Facebook. We currently use both of these social media avenues, and now we have the capability to schedule a future media release, much like a media alert—or an alarm, so to speak. In addition to improving my current website posting skills, I also learned that we now have the capability to store students' medical records electronically. This gives us the opportunity to send traveling student groups' emergency medical forms on a flash drive instead of constantly having to photocopy and carry paper forms. I plan to review the feasibility of this procedure with the school nurse at the beginning of the school year.
Head Athletic Trainer
I attended a seminar, “Ronald Reagan and the Cold War,” put on by Gilder Lehrman Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara. It was a fantastic experience. Not only did I learn new material and gain knowledge about the latest findings regarding recent document releases about the Cold War, but I met teachers from all over the country. Teachers shared best practices for how we teach the Cold War, and I came away with at least two new student-based approaches I hope to use this year in class to better explain democracy versus communism and how fearful people were during the McCarthy era. We also got a special tour of the Reagan Presidential Library, where we participated in a mock scenario about Grenada. It was a great experience and a wonderful library, and it includes a tour of an old Air Force One. This is one of the best continuing education experiences I have had, and I hope to be selected for another one in the future.
Upper School History
Paris in late June was at its most gorgeous; the air was fresh, the parks clean and green, and the flowers at their peak. Of course, the city is brimming with enticing attractions, but my goal was to explore the historical influence of the many groups of people who have called Paris home. Little remains from the original Celtic Parisii, who inhabited the islands of the Seine. The first extant evidence comes from Julius Caesar and the Romans, who settled on the left bank and made their imprint on what became the Latin Quarter. The Cluny Museum incorporates the vaulted rooms of a Roman bath complex that became part of a medieval abbey and contains the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. A walk down Rue St Jacque and Rue Cujas, the north-south and east-west Roman roads, leads one to the Arena Lutece. The oval structure and parts of seating areas remain and are used today as a playground for neighborhood children. It presents a wonderful example of the cultural mix of France today.
The Merovingian Franks under Clovis introduced a monarchy dominated by Christianity. The churches of Notre Dame and St Germain des Pres serve as examples of the period, and sections of the Phillipe-Auguste Wall remain along Rue Clovis. The special exhibit in the Louvre of the medieval manuscript, Belles Heures, offered a unique opportunity to examine all the pages before rebinding. Another exhibit revealed the incredible versatility of Leonardo da Vinci. It was Francis I who brought Leonardo and the Italian Renaissance to France, and the royal estate, Chateau Fontainebleau, is a magnificent example of grandiose art, architecture, and landscaping. It leads one to question why the Revolution didn’t occur sooner.
Artistic movements that eventually dominated the world originated in the forest that surrounds the town of Fontainebleau. Railroad stations were the cathedrals of the 19th century, and the use of the Orsay Station to display the art of the period brings it all together. Montmartre was the home of many artists who made history, and their story is recounted in the Musee Montmartre. On a walking tour, one can see the facade of the Bateau Lavoir, a squalid apartment/studio complex, where Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and began Cubism.
The cultural and historic riches of Paris are demonstrated repeatedly, especially in The Musee Maillol. Exhibited in a former townhouse, the collection is early 20th century, and the foundation supports women artists. The temporary exhibit presented the 17th century work of Artemisia Gentileschi, the first professional female artist. And finally, the new Musee du Quai Branly displays art of the Americas and Asia in a high-tech, eco-friendly environment that demonstrates the cultural diversity of the world today.
All in all, the trip provided new avenues and topics to explore with my students.
Middle School History
I attended the Advanced Placement Annual conference in Orlando, Florida. I was looking for ideas to better my experience as an AP coordinator, and this conference far exceeded my expectations. I attended a pre-conference workshop where we discussed topics such as the registration process, vertical alignment, using the College Board website resources, logistics of testing site, dealing with testing materials, organization for coordinators, scheduling and timing, and much more. Listening to what other coordinators do throughout the year to make their job easier was very helpful. More than anything, I was able to discuss and listen to different scenarios we have encountered as coordinators and know how to handle them better in the future.
The opening speaker for the conference was Craig Keilburger, who, with help from the Dalai Lama, at the age of twelve was co-founder of Feed the Children. The organization hosts a concert every year called WeDay, which only students who have earned enough service hours can attend. His program blew me away, and I hope to look into getting Kinkaid students involved in the future.
The rest of the conference was just as useful. Every session had beneficial information. One session , “Sanity Check,” was probably the most applicable by providing ready-made resources. I cannot wait to implement these strategies into my personal planning. Other beneficial sessions included information on exam security, rigor in the AP classroom, and equity in the classroom. I was even able to attend a World History session on teaching content via primary sources provided in past Document Based Questions. I am looking forward to implementing this practice in my own classroom this year.
Overall, I found this to be the most helpful conference I have been to in years. AP conferences are always done well, and I hope that more of our AP teachers will attend the various workshops and institutes the College Board offers throughout the year. Even experienced teachers can come away with valuable information.
Upper School History
The Flipped Classroom Conference was a great learning opportunity and provided growth and advancement that I could not have achieved elsewhere. I attended the pre-conference workshop, six conference sessions, two keynote speakers, and a panel discussion featuring students who have participated in a flipped classroom.
TechSmith, the maker of the software that we use to make our flipped videos, conducted the pre-conference workshop. During this workshop I received hands-on training from the software designers and practice opportunities with support staff and veteran teachers who have been using this software for several years. We also received a pre-released version of the software update and learned the new features of this powerful teaching tool.
The conference sessions were very informative and not only provided excellent training but an opportunity to network with teachers from all over the world. My focus for the sessions was on assessment. I also attended sessions that involved the progression of the flipped classroom beyond the first year.
The keynote speakers provided opportunity for deep personal reflection, guidance, and inspiration for continued development of successful flipped learning experience for our students. The first speaker, Brian Bennett, opened the conference with the statement, “Everyday we have the choice as to the type of teacher we want to be and the type of learning experience we want our students to have.” He also discussed the changes that need to take place as we transition to a flipped learning situation, starting with what a learning space of the future might look like. The final speakers were Jon Bergmann and Arron Sams, the founders of flipped learning. Their talk, “The Future of the Flipped Classroom,” focused on the possibilities that might occur over the next five years. They were careful to point out that the flipped classroom teaching model is not a be-all, end-all for the future of education, but in their eyes it will be a significant part of the changes we are likely to see.
The discussion and student panel was very informative and provided perspective on the pros and cons of flipping a class. The students’ responses did indicate that a flipped class experience provided rich and unique learning opportunities and was an effective teaching model. I have had similar responses and results from my students during the first year of flipping my classes.
Middle School Science
Promethean Summer Institute 2012 was a two-day workshop/conference presented by Promethean and ProComputing. Sessions covered topics to broaden classroom use of the ActivBoard and ActivInspire. ActivInspire software in conjunction with the Learner Response System becomes a formative assessment tool for the classroom teacher. These assessments will then guide classroom instruction to meet individual needs. The ActivBoard can be used as an interactive Learning Center. Techniques for design of center activities, classroom management, grouping and documenting student work were presented, and tips, tricks and ideas for creating and finding flipcharts that increase student interaction were demonstrated. This was a great opportunity to connect with other ActivInspire users and gather new ideas and techniques for use in our classrooms.
Lower School Assistant
I attended a Glider Lehrman Institute at Stanford University, led by Dr. David Kennedy, on “The Great Depression and WWII.” The seminar was a full and fascinating experience. Participants were expected to read Dr. Kennedy’s novel, “Freedom From Fear,” which I highly recommend. There was also a course reader. Participants also were asked to supply a “best practices” lesson into which a primary source was integrated. Upon completion of the seminar, each participant received a copy of everyone’s best practices lesson as well as a cornucopia of other materials.
Typical days included a morning lecture and afternoon guest speaker. The presentation I found most fascinating was on World War II internment camps. We were given tours of the Stanford campus, the Herbert Hoover archives, library, and World War II propaganda poster collection. We were even allowed to see (and hold) two x-rays of Hitler’s skull! After the afternoon guest lecture/museum visits, we worked both individually and with partners on lesson plans. We were able to ask questions and share ideas about ways we could use the various primary documents on the Gilder Lehrman web site.
After dinner we watched various films on the time period, and again I appreciated the films regarding the internment camps as well as the one on hobos of the time. At this time we also would engage in discussion of the films and what our students might get out of them.
Middle School History
I had the opportunity to attend the Upper St. Claire Leadership Academy in Pittsburgh. I spent three days and two evenings with the founders of the Academy. They provided me with almost everything they have used in regards to growing leadership skills in their students. They also introduced me to Chuck Schwann, a leadership author I had not heard of previously. The Academy itself is based on his book, "Total Leaders," and each of the phases the students must pass in the summer is based on the five leadership styles described in that book: authentic, visionary, relational, quality and service leadership.
This Academy has given me more ideas to help our Middle School and Upper School leadership initiatives throughout the school year. It also has given me ideas for providing our students with more leadership opportunities in the summer, as well. Our students have grown frustrated with the lack of opportunity during our school year, so I'm hopeful that we can begin to provide greater opportunity in the summer months.
Physical Education and Athletics/Middle and Upper School Student Leadership
I attended the Track and Field Academy's Endurance Coaching School at Rice University. Both instructors were professional, knowledgeable, and pushed us to learn the material. The information was up to date, backed by research, and presented in a usable format. I plan to revamp some of the cross country and track and field workouts as a result of participating in the Academy. I also will push the athletes who are not participating in a winter sport to use winter training more efficiently. I enjoyed working on the final project because it required me to plan out a training year for a freshman athlete. I also had the opportunity to talk to several collegiate coaches from around the country and discuss Kinkaid’s program and athletes!
Director of Wellness/Head Girls’ Cross Country and Track Coach
Thank you for "granting" me the opportunity to take the Neuhaus Basic Language Skills course, which is designed to teach "explicit, systematic, sequential, comprehensive and intensive literacy instruction for students with dyslexia or related language learning differences." I am in the beginning stages of completing Neuhaus' Dyslexic Therapist Program. This was an amazing two weeks of intense instruction in basic language skills and how to incorporate practices into small group instruction.
While working in small groups or with individual students with learning differences I will follow a very specific scope and sequence that details a suggested order of presentation for reading and spelling, and concept introductions and practices. I also will use a notebook that includes suggested procedures, reproducible practice pages and information for developing comprehension and writing skills. I will use a specific outline for a lesson plan that provides instruction in reading, writing, and spelling. Basic Language Skills involves visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning and this multi-sensory approach to reading and writing helps makes neurological imprints which provide students with learning differences the ability to make connections and comprehend the material.
I look forward to working with and helping these students with dyslexia and/or language learning differences and continuing this exciting journey together.
Mary Margaret Greer
Summer Spark 2012 at St. John’s School was a great two-day conference, with more than 70 independent schoolteachers attending. It sparked conversations about how best to educate students in the 21st century. It was a great way to network with other teachers and to compare and share ideas. We exchanged e-mail addresses, so our conversations will continue. There was a variety of sessions to choose from each day as well as small group sessions. I especially enjoyed the “flipped classroom” session. I know that this year I will try some of the things I learned, starting with math. The students will watch a video at home and do the assignment in class. The flipped classroom allows the teacher to spend more time on the application of content, and it gives the teacher more time to differentiate during the lesson. I think it will help students take ownership of their learning, which is a goal of 21st century learning. I would recommend this conference for all K-12 teachers.
The two-day study skills workshop I attended at the Landmark School in Beverly, Massachusetts was a great educational experience. The focus was on how essential study skills are to academic competence. I was able to walk away with strategies for organization and memory as well as for analyzing tasks, managing time and integrating new ideas and information.
A valuable resource was the PowerPoint presentation on test-taking strategies, and I will share it with my students. I came back eager to implement these new ideas.
Middle School Study Skills
I had a somewhat productive summer, starting with the reading of the 2012 Advanced Placement Chemistry examination in Louisville, Kentucky. We had 288 readers for 117,500 exams, and this was my forth year as table leader.
I also attended this year’s ACT2 Conference on Chemical Education at The University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, Texas. At the conference, I presented a paper/lecture entitled “What’s in a Name?” Forty-four science teachers attended my lecture, which I gave twice during the conference. In addition, one evening I presented a demonstration with two world-renowned presenters, Robert Becker and Ken Lyle. I also was able to attend eight lectures, most of them on chemical demonstrations, laboratory inquiry-based learning and AP Chemistry teaching techniques. The most interesting lecture was entitled “A Variety of Innovative Computer Applications for the Chemistry Classroom.” My participation in this program was enjoyable, enlightening and collegial.
Upper School Science
I attended the NAIS School Leadership Institute at The Taft School in Connecticut with two Kinkaid colleagues. This four-day conference focused on the many facets of school leadership, in addition to personal growth and development from individualized Myers-Briggs and Emotional Intelligence reports. I had the privilege of spending quality time, with quality data, to reflect upon professional and personal strengths and areas of growth. The consultants leading our group were extremely knowledgeable about the world of independent schools, leaders within the schools, and how to guide teachers and administrators to best serve our constituents. I have no doubt I will be a better leader in the future as I reflect on the information I was given during this institute.
Lower School Principal
I attended the Texas Choral Directors Association convention in San Antonio. It offers an invaluable opportunity to talk with and learn from directors and composers from around the state and the U.S. Among the workshops I attended, I particularly enjoyed seeing how other choral directors are using technology in the choral classroom both to engage students and simplify some of the more time-consuming tasks that are specific to the choral discipline. I returned with some great tips from master teachers, new choral literature, a host of ideas, and a healthy dose of inspiration.
Middle School Choir
This summer I attended "Pre-AP Middle School English for Experienced Teachers" at Rice University's Advanced Placement Summer Institute. This 4-day workshop provided me with countless higher-level thinking strategies and tools to bring back to the classroom to help students analyze literature more deeply, write at a more advanced level, and learn proper grammar techniques. The class instructor helpfully illustrated varying techniques for teaching certain concepts in order to accommodate the different learners in a class (visual, auditory, etc.). I was most excited to get new ideas for teaching analytical writing, since that often can be a difficult concept for middle school students to grasp and achieve.
I enjoyed getting to meet other middle school English teachers from around the country. I had no idea this workshop would provide such great networking opportunities, but we often spent class time sharing ideas, strategies, titles of "must-reads" for both teachers and students, and useful websites for technology-based learning. This workshop provided just the inspiration I needed to jump-start my planning and excitement for the new school year.
Middle School English
The Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions is a 6-day working conference that brings together professionals from the college and secondary levels to discuss (and debate) the most recent trends in the world of college admissions and financial aid. There were well over 150 registrants from almost every state and 10 foreign countries, including China, Singapore, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and India.
Various sessions were offered daily on a variety of topics, including recommendation letter and essay writing, understanding how colleges design aid packages for middle class families, standardized testing, legal issues/ramifications associated with undocumented students, the Early Action/Early Decision conundrum and how the Internet and Social Media continue to impact the world of admissions. We also had an interesting presentation by Harvard's general counsel on the “friend of the court” brief they filed with the Supreme Court supporting UT-Austin's admissions policies, which are facing a legal challenge. The High Court will hear the case this fall.
I participated in a lot of engaging discussions with folks on both sides of the desk, and I took a particular interest in the sessions on financial aid for middle income students. The Early Action/Early Decision sessions were a little disappointing in that they largely consisted of counselors complaining about the November 1 deadline. While I know that financial aid isn't a concern for a large number of our students/families, we do have some middle income families who will need to know how colleges and universities will look at their financial situation to design aid packages for their student. I'm hoping to use the things I learned, along with the materials I brought back, to help families in this year's senior class.
Upper School Dean
At the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I packed in so many cultural and educational things that I barely had time to sleep! The sessions I attended at the conference were enlightening, and I learned so much. Amongst my favorites were “Aspects of Interpreting Spanish Art” (I couldn’t take notes fast enough!), “Spanish Cinema & Conversation Classes,” “iPads in the Classroom,” and “Enhancing Oral Communication Skills in the Secondary Classroom.” These sessions gave me ideas and strategies I plan to implement in my classroom this year.
The session I presented, “Strategies that ROCK” was well-received and standing room only. I continue to receive email requests for the link to the Google site that I created for this session in order to avoid taking handouts on the plane. One language coordinator plans to use the site to train new language teachers in his district this fall. The teachers loved the fact that they would be able to download and edit all of the activities to fit their needs.
I also was able to take in much of the unique culture of Puerto Rico in my three days there. We ate some amazing cuisine, danced Merengue and Salsa at the El San Juan hotel along with several generations of Puerto Ricans on Saturday night, visited colonial Old San Juan, and took an excursion across the island to Ponce to see the Parque de Bombas plaza and museum with the greatest collection of Spanish masterpieces in the Caribbean. I was able to apply what I had learned there in the Spanish art session. I loved that one of the features of the conference was to give participants a half-day “off” to explore the island. It was a great trip, and I am grateful to have participated and learned so much.
Upper School Spanish
I attended a four-day course at the Advanced Placement Summer Institute on the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio. One of the great benefits of this course was learning some new teaching activities. For instance, the instructor demonstrated activities for explaining the biological bases of psychology, for teaching about sensation, perception and memory, and for conveying some basics of statistical analysis. I was particularly impressed with one activity in which students were given a brief written explanation on a topic in psychology and then assigned to answer some questions that have them apply those ideas. The students then discussed their answers and reasoning with their fellow students. When each student says he or she has understood the topic, he or she then takes a short quiz. At no point does the teacher give the actual answers to the assignment, but the teacher will help guide students who want to verify that they understand the topic. I think this is a good way to get students to be active learners and take responsibility for their own mastery of the material. I hope to use activities like it in both Psychology and Modern World Civilizations.
In addition to sharing teaching activities with us, the instructor also guided us to many on-line resources and explained how the AP exams are graded. The on-line resources will help me get a deeper understanding of psychology, and although I do not teach Psychology as an AP course, this information about the exams will put me in a good position to help a student who wants to do extra work and take the exam.
Finally, the instructor gave us some specific knowledge of how psychologists conduct and apply research. We met with two groups conducting psychological research at UTSA, one investigating the effect of aging on prospective memory and the other investigating possible biological bases for depression. Dr. Cooper also gave us an explanation of Applied Behavioral Analysis, in which psychologists devise ways to reduce the disruptiveness of intellectually disabled children in school and at home and help them behave in ways that make it easier for them to learn.
Overall, the course presented me with some valuable information, confirmed that I have a good understanding of many specific topics and provided me with some resources and strategies to improve my Psychology class.
Upper School History
I attended a Gilder Lehrman seminar at the University of Texas-Austin on “The History of U.S. Foreign Policy since 1898.” In all of his lectures, the instructor emphasized the myth of American isolationism, the connection between foreign and domestic policy, and the redefinition of American power in the twentieth century. In addition to these lectures, which covered everything from the Spanish-American War to the Arab Spring, we also had guest lecturers present on LBJ, the War in Vietnam, and U.S. policy toward Native American nations.
While the morning sessions focused U.S. foreign policy, the afternoons were filled with interactive pedagogy sessions where teachers shared best practices, developed lessons, and brainstormed ways to incorporate the content from the lectures into our courses. We spent several hours working with primary documents on the Gilder Lehrman Institute website, in the LBJ Library, and in the Briscoe Center at UT.
The study of twentieth century America dominates the second semester of my eighth grade course, and the lecture content helped me to develop a less fragmented view of American foreign policy and involvement in international conflicts. One of the books we were required to read for the seminar is filled with primary source documents that reveal shifts in American foreign policy. These and other documents that I read throughout the week will help students evaluate foreign policy decisions and decision-makers for themselves and draw their own conclusions. I am especially excited about using a number of on-line resources, including audio recordings of FDR’s press conferences and LBJ’s telephone conversations.
Middle School History
My Top Three Takeaways from the NAIS School Leadership Institute:
1. I had never, surprisingly, taken a Myers/Briggs personality test, and I knew little about different personality types. A new understanding of personalities has already given me much new insight into my colleagues, and I expect this understanding will help me be a better leader, especially of the colleagues whose personalities differ from mine.
2. A better understanding of change. For example, it has also better prepared me (and will, I hope, help me better prepare my upper school colleagues) for the change in scheduling during the 2013-14 school year.
3. An affirmation of my profession, not just of being a teacher, but of being an independent school teacher. Independent school teachers are a remarkably bright, generous, warm group of people.
As part of the conference, we had to write out two goals:
1. I want to work on the considerably less developed introverted side of myself: think more before I speak, give more time for reflection (perhaps through writing), and offer activities that cater to the introverted students in my classroom. Possible barriers are lack of time, my natural tendency toward extroversion, and my lack of patience for silence and quiet.
2. As department chair, I want to keep kids as my focus while also supporting my colleagues. I want to be direct but gentle, if possible. I want to do the right thing even when it’s hard. Possible barriers are my own desire to be liked and to please, my questioning over what really is the right move (seek advice from others), and my sometimes limited ability to look long term.
English Department Head
Perhaps most obviously, Runner’s Workshop gave us the opportunity to work with other coaches and learn from them. Cross country may not be more important than football in California, but at least the cross country coaches and runners consider it so, and it is home to the largest cross country meet in the country. It was enriching to spend a week talking with both high school and college coaches who are coaching some of the premiere athletes in the country. We spent meal conversations talking with coaches and college runners about their team philosophies, their favorite workouts, their stretch routines and about other running camps around the country. Several coaches and collegiate runners reached out to us beyond our conversations, offering us their information so we could contact them with questions and so they could share workouts with us. One coach even took us through his cool-down stretch routine after one of our athletes who had worked with him that morning raved about it. Moreover, if observing other teachers and spending time with other teachers is the best professional development there is, the same is true for coaching. We learned a lot by watching this week. But beyond what we learned from them, spending time with these master coaches helped instill a kind of pride in us for what we do, affirming both our choice to coach this special sport and our own coaching techniques and philosophies.
Second, this camp gave us the opportunity to work together. Sure, we could have had many of the conversations we had in one of our classrooms or sitting out by the track after practice, but it wouldn’t have been the same, and our conversations wouldn’t have been as rich. This camp served as a retreat, giving us time—an obviously precious commodity. We had time after every clinic, every workout, to reflect on how the girls had handled the workout. We spent time after clinics, talking about what we wanted to bring back to Kinkaid and how different clinics served different athletes on our team. We then took what we learned and planned preseason and began planning out the season workouts and the meet schedule; we also recreated our goal sheets based on our reflections from this week. Beyond camp conversation, we even had time to talk with one another about pertinent books we were reading this summer and conferences we attended this summer that had invited us to rethink our training of our athletes.
Put simply, we will both be better coaches this year and in the future thanks to this great week.
Girls’ Cross Country Coach
The week started with a meeting to discuss what each coach wanted to gain from the week at Runner’s Workshop. It was exciting to meet all the coaches, learn about the quality of coaches attending, and to receive a better understanding of the schedule and the time allotted to discuss workouts, philosophy, etc. with the different high school coaches attending. Most of the coaches at the workshop were experienced coaches who run quality cross country programs. Three of the coaches attend Runner’s Workshop each year and continue to return due to the excellent clinics and the opportunity to learn from other coaches.
One of the benefits of attending the workshop with our athletes was that we were able to experience the workouts with the athletes, which allowed us to more closely walk in their shoes when we prescribe a workout – all those feelings of dread, pain, doubt came flooding back. I believe this will allow us to talk to our athletes before a hard workout about the possible negative self-talk and about strategies for rising above them. It was also a good reminder to communicate to the athletes why we are doing a particular workout.
Each day we attended at least two running clinics taught by collegiate athletes and high school or college coaches. The clinic topics included nutrition, race strategy, training methodology, collegiate running, building a positive mindset, injury prevention, goal setting, team building, and motivating through the power of stories. Listening to the presenters with our athletes allowed us to process much of the information with the team. Sitting in the clinics together allowed us coaches to reflect on the girls’ cross country program, what we do well and what we plan to improve. We spent time planning and evaluating the season plan and individual workouts and tweaking the goal sheets. We also discussed strategies to help each runner reach her fullest potential as an athlete while creating a positive team environment.
Director of Wellness, Head Girls’ Cross Country Coach
Before attending the Tots & Technology Conference, I had to ask myself, what exactly are cloud computing, mobile learning, flipped classrooms, QR Codes, and an Activtable? How and why are they being used? How are they being used by others in an early childhood environment? These are just a few of the latest technology questions and trends among educators. I received many ideas, resources, websites, and age appropriate applications to help engage students in the use of the iPads and the Promethean Boards that are available to us here at Kinkaid.
The presenters made it possible for us to attend as many sessions as possible during the two-day conference by repeating the scheduled short presentations throughout both days. Not only did the presenters share their wealth of knowledge, but so did the hundreds of participants. Lots of conversations and sharing of educational ides occurred during our breakout sessions! By sponsoring this mini-conference, TCEA and Walden University provided an opportunity for us to take a closer look at the way technology is rapidly advancing day to day for students and teachers. This was definitely worth giving up a summer weekend!
Lower School Assistant
I attended the Texas Choral Director’s Association convention in San Antonio. This event has always been so worthwhile in the past, and this year was no exception. I spent the days participating in new music reading sessions and workshops, visiting exhibit booths, observing rehearsals of the Elementary Honor Choir, listening to concerts, and conversing with colleagues.
I came away with many materials and ideas, including complimentary unison and two-part pieces that I will order for students; new ways to help students conceptualize the abstract in music; exposure to the curriculum and schedule of a well-known music school in Hungary; new ideas for rehearsal techniques involving posture, vowel sounds, melodic patterns, and mental acuity; CDs of children’s choirs demonstrating literature I have taught or will teach; and tips about arranging music for children’s ensembles.
I was hoping to network with and discover colleagues who are using Promethean Boards in their classrooms, and I found several teacher friends whose districts use them. Anticipating this, I had brought my laptop with projects to share. I believe this will set the stage for future exchanges.
Lower School Music
I attended the Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting. This year’s conference theme, “Beyond Borders,” focused on non-traditional archival settings and practices, which proved particularly relevant since many sessions emphasized archival outreach for K-12 audiences. Highlights included “Kids These Days: K-12 Students and the Use of Primary Resources”; Reference, Access, and Outreach Round Table Discussion: National History Day as an outreach tool for K-12 students; Archives Management Forum; Archivist-Artist Partnerships: and Learning from Three Case Studies of Creative Collaborations.
K-12 students have not traditionally been thought of as active users of primary source collections, but this conference highlighted dozens of examples in which these collections are not only enlightening for this age group, but also essential to their development and
understanding of college-level research. An archivist at Drexel University gave a presentation in which he shared the results of an online collaboration between the archives of the university and a local high school history department. He showcased different phases of an online research page tailored to freshmen and sophomores, inclusive of multi-media historical resources, as well as critical thinking challenges related to the materials. Others, including teachers, archivists, and librarians, gave similar presentations of their projects.
I came away from this conference with inspiring ideas about how to better integrate the Kinkaid School Archives into the classroom, as well as some new concepts for teaching primary sources to Upper School students.
Fiona de Young
I had the opportunity to study for two weeks under many well-known music and teacher educators at Trinity University’s level two Orff Schulwerk course. Orff Schulwerk is a philosophy of music education that encourages active and creative music making.
Throughout the course, I worked closely with fellow music educators from around the nation. I attended daily classes in movement, pedagogy, and recorder, and I attended workshops at the end of each day addressing topics from drumming to choral repertoire. Speaking, singing, playing instruments, and moving musically alone and in ensemble settings, were daily endeavors. Homework assignments were assigned daily, and I was challenged to consider how I could use what I was learning each day in my own classroom. With my students in mind, I taught two lessons over the course of my learning, and I valued the feedback that I gained from my instructors and peers.
Teachers are considered certified Orff Schulwerk teachers after completing three two-week summer courses. I plan to complete my certification in Orff Schulwerk by attending a level three course next summer. I look forward to incorporating the ideas and methods that I learned this summer into my classroom, especially in fifth grade general music, where students will be playing recorder, performing in instrument ensembles, creating and moving musically.
Lower School Music and Spanish, Middle School Music
I took three University of Maine on-line classes this summer toward certification as an Athletics Administrator. All three courses had associated readings followed by quizzes and tests. The majority of the information was not new to me, but it is always nice to be reminded of the "proper perspective.” The majority of the teaching was about a student-centered approach to learning in a setting involving athletics and sport.
T. J. Bath
Assistant Athletic Director
I had the opportunity to attend the Math, Science, and Technology Conference at the Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire) this summer. While I learned things that will enhance my students’ classroom experience, I also was able to benefit from becoming a student again. As teachers we can easily get set in our ways or develop rusty problem-solving sets because we see the same problems from the same text over and over again. At this conference I was put in a position to solve new problems and to develop that hunger to learn new ways to approach things. It was an exciting time.
Specifically, I was able to learn a great deal about Geogebra, an amazing free software program that allows for effective demonstrations, much like Geometer's Sketchpad, but in a much more user-friendly way. Students can download it and then upload demos from our class website to experiment with at home! It opens up many new possibilities for demonstration and student interaction with the content. I was also exposed to some great ways to incorporate problem-based or project-based learning opportunities into Geometry, as well as creative ways to incorporate technology such 3D Sketch-Up. I was able to add some very useful tools to my educational bag of tricks, and am grateful for the opportunity to grow as a teacher.
Upper School Mathematics
In July I attended a workshop, “Climate Change in the Gulf of Mexico,” held at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. The workshop included studying paleoclimatology, analyzing real-time data, and exploring the causes of climate change and the effects of global warming on the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent states. We conducted research on various parameters of Gulf water (oxygen levels, pH, temperature, etc.), and we also explored the types and quantities of various species while trawling on board ship and walking the shoreline. In workshops we learned about topics related to change in sea level, transforming coastal landforms, ocean acidification, sea life migration, and the formation of hurricanes. We also discussed the BP oil spill and the subsequent cleanup on the Dauphin Island beaches. Teachers shared great classroom hands-on activities dealing with the atmosphere and oceans, and I plan to add some of these labs to my curriculum. Among the workshop themes I intend to use in my classroom are the nature of scientific research; how global patterns affect us; changes that have happened in the past; the biogeochemical cycles of water and carbon; how biotic and abiotic factors in the environment influence the types of species in an area; the influence of human populations on natural cycles; “pros” and “cons” of fossil fuels; and feedback mechanisms among the atmosphere, ocean, and the sun. This was a wonderful workshop for those who teach meteorology, oceanography, and/or environmental science.
Middle School Science
I attended the Promethean Summer Institute. The sessions included how to make effective flipchart designs using colors, font, and layout, and we also learned about using the Promethean Software and the ActivBoard (Promethean Board) as a “station” during small group lessons and activities. We were given examples of using the ActivBoard for formative and summative student assessments, as well as instructions for making our flipcharts more interactive and interesting for the students. Leaders shared resources with us that provide flipchart templates as well as guides for using the templates or tweaking them for specific needs. Inspired by the workshop, I’m working on my previously created flipcharts so they are more useful in small groups, interactive, and require higher order thinking skills.
Middle School Science
School Leadership Institute
I attended the NAIS School Leadership Institute. I registered without knowing any more than that the focus would be leadership. It turned out to be much more than I expected.
To attend the institute I had to have supervisors, peers and direct reports complete a survey about me. This was an extremely helpful experience that every administrator should have an opportunity to do. At the Institute we received a report with specific information about how others view us and how we view ourselves. This allowed us to discuss at the institute issues specific to us. It was not just a general session on leadership: it was about me. I had never been to a conference like that.
We also had the opportunity to learn about different personality types, our emotional intelligence, change and how it affects people, and we looked at many case studies applying what we learned to leadership dilemmas in schools. It helped me look at things from many perspectives, and I will definitely bring that back to work in the Deans’ Office.
It was also a great experience to spend time with a fellow administrator and get to know each other better. I believe that a team is formed not only from the work we do together, but how we relate to one another. The best teams trust each other, and that takes time and energy to develop. I hope that as our team goes through the change to a new leader we consider developing our concept of team more.
The Institute was a tremendous growth opportunity for me. I hope others will take advantage of this conference.
Head Upper School Dean
I attended the Bob Pangrazi Dynamic Physical Education workshop at St. Francis Episcopal Day School. This was an enlightening and much-needed experience for me. As a first year physical educator, my biggest challenges are classroom organization and having a sufficient number of activities. This workshop provided me with a solid foundation and eased my concerns considerably.
Dr. Pangrazi and his assistants provided detailed demonstrations of a multitude of activities. I feel confident in using these activities to educate my students in health, fitness, and wellness, as well as academically.
The number one thing I learned about organizing my classroom was consistency. From start to finish, each and every day, I will need to be consistent in the rules I implement, the tempo of our transitions from each activity to the next, and my positive attitude.
Physical Education and Athletics
I participated in the University of Houston’s Common Ground Teacher’s Institute. Established in 1989, Common Ground is an educational collaboration of teaching faculty at the University of Houston and teachers throughout Houston. Following a seminar model, teachers read significant multicultural works and discuss them with teacher colleagues. Underwriting by the McGovern Foundation allows the Honors College to offer the Common Ground Teachers Institute free of cost to participating teachers, who also receive a stipend for books and 30 credit hours toward Gifted/Talented certification.
My seminar group’s reading list focused on “the experiences that are designated by the word love.” We read and discussed a variety of novels and poetry, both classics and new titles, and shared experiences, both pedagogical and personal. A group lunch and readings by local writers followed our morning meetings. I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and hope my schedule will permit me to attend again next summer.
Middle School English
Lara Cross and I attended a workshop, “Modeling Instruction in High-School Physics.” The workshop was led by two high school physics teachers and was attended by a dozen or so other science teachers.
As the name suggests, Modeling Instruction centers upon the development of mathematical models that adequately represent the phenomena encountered during a first-year physics course (e.g., kinematics, Newton's Laws of Motion, momentum, energy, etc.). This approach has proven to be an effective means of organizing the vocabulary, information, and concepts associated with the various physical phenomena studied. However, much of what is powerful about the Modeling Instruction approach is not communicated by its name. Traditionally, physics is taught by first demonstrating a particular phenomenon to onlooking students and then lecturing to them for hours. The lecture material is then reinforced by working problems and doing labs. This traditional format is not only a poor reflection of how science is done, it often provides few opportunities for students to practice independent exploration, creativity, inductive reasoning, communication, and consensus building, all tremendously valuable skills. Modeling Instruction breaks from this traditional format. Students begin by experimenting with the physical phenomena on their own. They are responsible for identifying the relevant variables, designing the experiments, performing the experiments, analyzing and presenting their data, and communicating with their peers, developing a mathematical model that captures the essence of their findings. This process not only accurately reflects how science is done, it provides ample opportunity to practice the skills previously mentioned and often neglected by more traditional teaching approaches. Education research strongly supports that Modeling Instruction results in deeper learning across academic level (junior high, high school, or university), student ability (honors or regular), and teacher experience (first-year or veteran).
Lara and I entered this workshop with the expectation that it would provide us with some good ideas for making a few of our lab experiments more effective. We left the workshop so convinced of the value of the Modeling Instruction Approach that we have decided to revamp our entire curriculum for Physics 1. We have changed the layout of the tables and chairs in our classroom (round tables instead of facing front) and armed our students with their own personal whiteboards so they can express their ideas with us and with their peers. We will now begin rather than end with laboratory experiments. We intend to spend much less time—or no time at all—lecturing and much more time striving to be excellent guides, coaches, and facilitators as our students discover and develop their abilities as scientists.
Upper School Science
I attended MIT’s Creative Computing Conference in Boston. The purpose of this conference was to teach participants how to implement Scratch, a visual, block-based, computer programming language, into a variety of cross-curricular learning activities. According to the conference facilitators, computer programming instruction should be integrated into the classroom, because it offers a designed-based learning approach to support the development of students’ 21st century learning skills, including information and literacy skills, communication skills, and critical thinking and systems thinking skills. In addition, computer-programming instruction supports problem finding and solving within an engaging and meaningful design context. Creating a Scratch project, for example, requires thinking of an idea and then figuring out how to design a process to implement the idea. During the design process, students engage in experimental and computational problem solving.
The conference provided me with multiple opportunities to engage in a variety of collaborative, “hands-on” computer programming activities, challenged me to think from a “student’s perspective” as I worked with my teammates to design an art, digital story, and game project. Throughout the conference, my teammates and I were asked to reflect on our work; we also were asked to reflect on the processes that we designed to approach our work. I intend to implement this “reflective process” into my pedagogical practice.
I enjoyed the guest speakers who were invited to the MIT “Creative Computing Conference” to discuss current and emerging computer programming instructional practices. I also enjoyed the tour of MIT’s impressive Media Lab. I received several rich curricular resources from the conference, including a computer programming lesson plan manual. I look forward to integrating these lessons into the Computer 6 curriculum.
Middle School Computing Teacher
I joined together with other independent school educators for Summer Spark, a “conversation on how to best educate our students for the 21st century. “ These two days were a combination of group discussions and peer-led presentations on the successes and challenges of integrating technology into teaching practices and curriculum. I learned how a math teacher “flipped” her classroom, how a school launched its one-to-one iPad program, and how a multi-disciplinary teacher integrated technology into all of his subjects. However, the most valuable part of these two days was the group conversations and connections with other independent school educators. We are all on the journey to successfully and authentically integrate technology into our teaching practices. Because of Summer Spark, I now have an informal network of peers to ask questions of and collaborate with. A great conversation has begun.
Lower School Librarian
I chose this specific Advanced Placement Biology College Board Institute for three reasons: its target audience was mainly veteran teachers; its main focus was on changes to the new AP test; and it was led by Ruth Gleicher, who is very well known in the AP Biology community. The first session was fantastic. We started with a focus on how to use the new curriculum framework to teach some of the same content. We discussed the course audit and different options available for modeling scope and sequence under the new framework. Even though we had some new AP Biology teachers in the group, Ruth had a great way of making the information useful to all of us. Unfortunately, on the second day she had a biking accident and was unable to complete the conference. The College Board gave us the option of trying to continue under the circumstance or to cancel the workshop altogether. We decided to take on the challenge, and a few of us veterans, with the help of the other workshop leader John Polka, started working with the other teachers in the group. It was an interesting experience. We pretty much taught ourselves how to conduct some of the new labs and “brainstormed” how to modify those labs to go from guided to pure inquiry as much as possible. John was there every morning early before his own workshop session and talked to us about the ways we could organize the day and helped us get started. In many ways our session became more inquiry in nature as we learned and taught each other. Every afternoon John would discuss with the challenges and possible solutions. It was definitely not what I had in mind, but I learned so much through collaboration, teaching, and working through the new ideas and labs.
Upper School Science
Tony Hoagland promoted this seminar, “The Five Powers of Poetry,” at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, as a workshop specifically designed for teachers of poetry. However, the workshop included many participants who had solid writing careers outside of their teaching responsibilities as well as a few writers who have never taught. This combination of participants enriched the seminar for me: every exercise or activity that Tony proposed for students he also modeled for us. We became our students. I benefitted both as a writer and a teacher in the following ways:
Empathy. I have my students keep a daily Writer’s Notebook, from which I encourage them to share. I’m always slightly discouraged that the same few students share their own thoughts with their classmates, but when I became the student, I experienced a rush of empathy for my more introverted and reticent students. I was taking enormous risks by writing poetry, a genre with which I have little to no experience except as an avid reader. I realized quickly how scary it might be to share when you’re not sure you’ve accomplished something worthwhile, when talented classmates and a formidable teacher surround you. Tony would often give us writing assignments and then ask for one line from each of us, something more manageable and less intimidating than reading your entire entry. That’s something for me to take into serious consideration this year.
Play. As David Eagleman reiterated to us last week, we want our students to find an emotional connection to the subject matter. During my time in the seminar I fell in love with words again, especially in terms of sound and diction. Very often Tony encouraged us to relieve ourselves from our “sense-making” instinct and just play. He reminded us that meaning often rises from the nonsensical. The images and metaphors and word choices a writer makes act as a sieve through which meaning and story float up to the surface. This is an invaluable lesson for me since I teach students who are so attached to meaning and “correct answers,” often to the detriment of their sense of adventure and love for questions.
Contemporary Poetry. Tony really pushed us to consider using contemporary American poetry in our classrooms as bait for students to get hooked on poetry. He argues that teachers can put too much emphasis on meter and verse, that after events of the 20th century we lost some of our romantic faith in orderliness and morality, and that contemporary poetry reflects that cultural shift. As he says, “How can you write a sonnet about two million people being killed? And should you?” Contemporary American poetry, vibrant and prolific, is a new form for getting new subjects into poetry, while still rich with musicality and structure. In my poetry unit with ninth graders, I’ll still want to teach some rhyme and meter because of the connection with Shakespeare, but this seminar freed me to use the poetry I love to teach poetry to my students. Only now I have the tools and terminology to do so effectively.
Finally, on a practical note, Tony shared all of his exercises with their corresponding poems (some 40 pages of stuff!) with us so that we can take them directly into our classrooms or adapt them as necessary. He also provided us with lists of anthologies that he finds particularly helpful for teaching contemporary poetry.
Upper School English
The Bob Pangrazi Dynamic Physical Education workshop at St. Francis Episcopal Day School was great! It was so good to see others teaching a physical education class. It also was a great experience to be a student again, to feel and begin to understand how our students feel in class. I think the best part was just how commanding Pangranzi was, taking over a room and running a functional classroom. The most interesting part of the workshop was the brain studies and activities. Learning that kids have an attention span of about 15 minutes per activity showed us that things need to keep moving. The introduction to Brain Breaks was something the school would really benefit from. Overall it was a great experience.
Physical Education and Athletics
In June I attended the American Studies Institute at the Lovett School with four Kinkaid colleagues. This year's institute was titled "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," and the course descriptions suggested a focus on the last 40 years of history. Unfortunately the sessions didn't particularly adhere to what was advertised and most of the sessions were lectures. While some were from esteemed university professors, most were a disappointment, either because of the subject matter or the method of delivery. The Lovett School staff was very pleasant, and I had productive conversations with some of them individually about what American Studies looks like at their school.
The biggest benefit of attending was having time to talk to my history colleague about curriculum. The one huge bright spot was the closing presentation from the Asheville School. Their history program for all four years is integrated with other courses, and teachers collaborate across disciplines often. The art history lesson they presented was beneficial because Asheville had students work the materials to connect to history and culture and ideas of representation.
The other highlight was visiting the High Museum, which has an extraordinary collection of American furnishings, other forms of material culture, and a comprehensive art collection. I got a few good ideas from visiting there that will benefit my students, and we will implement some of the lessons the Asheville teachers led us through. Again, the time to have intentional conversations about American history and pedagogical methods with my colleagues was invaluable.
Upper School History
The Lovett School’s American Studies Institute allowed me to hear presentations and take part in discussions on the subject of American culture in the 60s and 70s and how it continues to shape the present day. The presentations covered topics such as contemporary political theory, the poetry of hip-hop, the visual arts movements of those two decades, and the inner workings of modern media and journalism. Moreover, the seminar ended with a very helpful presentation by members of the faculty of the Asheville (North Carolina) School showing explicitly how they have implemented the American studies model directly into their various classrooms—from English and literature to history to the fine arts and sciences.
Upper School English
This summer I traveled to the hometowns and homes of three prominent American authors: Flannery O'Connor (Milledgeville, Georgia), William Faulkner (Oxford, Mississippi), and Eudora Welty (Jackson, Mississippi). In addition, during the drive from Atlanta to Oxford, we stopped by the home of and museum honoring the great 20th century folk artist, Howard Finster, who resided in Summerville, Georgia. In Milledgeville, we visited and hiked around the farm and house where O’Connor was raised and lived, as well as the college where she studied as an undergraduate in the nearby town. in Summerville, we looked at Finster's home and at the wonderful selection of his art that is housed there, as well as testimonial from several of the rock bands he famously contributed album covers to (REM, Talking Heads, etc.). In Oxford, we toured the Faulkner house and walked much of the 27 acres of wooded landscape that surrounds it, and we visited both the University of Mississippi, where Faulkner wrote at least one of his masterpieces (As I Lay Dying) while working as the overnight furnace keeper in the coal house and the downtown town square which figures so prominently as a setting in many of his novels. Finally, in Jackson we visited the home where Welty’s family moved when she was 16 and which she lived and wrote in for most of her life. We also drove down State Street in downtown Jackson and viewed the neighborhood where she grew up and which she chronicles so lovingly and poignantly in her essay, "The Little Store," which I teach almost every year in my English 2 class.
Upper School English
My summer intensive in New York was quite inspiring. I was able to take class from one of the original Broadway musical dancers "Luigi". The other classes that I was able to participate in were taught by some of my contemporaries. My work at the Performing Arts Library was more than helpful in preparing for the fall dance performance and the Upper School Musical. New York has always been the center of the art world and will always be a wonderful resource for any teacher who wants to communicate the reality of theater and dance.
Director of Dance Program
Along with Kinkaid's 2012 PLP (Powerful Learning Practices) team, I traveled to the Garrison Forest School in Maryland to help present our Action Research Plan/Project to the other teams in our cohort. This was the culminating event in a yearlong professional collaboration. Our school team is comprised of colleagues from each division. We are also an interdisciplinary team. Our project will take several years to manifest results, but this year has given us a strong foundation to help our faculty increase their positive digital footprints so that we can teach and model this behavior/skill set with our students. Our next step is to show our three-minute "teaser video" at the May faculty meetings to promote enrollment in the Summer Technology Workshops, two of which will be taught by PLP team members.
Upper School English
I have just returned from Baltimore for the last leg of my PLP experience. While this trip was quick, it was an eye-opener for me. I have struggled through the PLP process this year because I didn’t understand how it all worked and how it would benefit my students and me as learners. Today it all came together for me.
The September trip was overwhelming. On the other hand, the May trip was enlightening. I gathered ideas that I can take and use with my colleagues and students. I feel like I am better prepared to live in a Web 2.0 world!
We arrived at the PLP culminating event at Garrison Forest School in Maryland at 8:30 a.m. to set up our station for presenting our action research project. The morning began with a tour of other groups’ action research projects. We rotated around the room and talked to different groups about their projects, and rotated our jobs as docents of our action research project. After a welcome, two speakers discussed shifts in education with web 2.0 and summarized the journey that we have been on this year. Four groups were selected to present to the large group, and a Q&A session followed each presentation. At lunch we broke out into different groups and discussed challenges with this paradigm shift. Overall, it was a worthwhile and educational experience that I value and that will impact my instruction for many years. I also enjoyed working with our team—what a great group of professionals!
Upper School Spanish
The PLP final meeting brought many great ideas for advancing 21st century learning in my classroom. At this meeting we presented our Kinkaid “Digital Footprint” project and other PLP teams presented theirs. I found the many projects presented at the event to be both interesting and informative. One school’s use of iPads in the classroom provided great solutions for reducing the amount of paper used in the classroom to assess student learning. I learned of the “app” iAnnotate that will allow students to write on any document I create and save it digitally. This will help me organize and store student work. Another wonderful web-based software I learned about at this PLP event was Pearltrees. This tool will be helpful in organizing & sharing research information students gather on the web. Attending this conference allowed me to learn about many different web 2.0 tools that make learning more meaningful and engaging for students.
The 2012 PLP team participated in the culminating event of the program at the Garrison Forest School in Baltimore. During the course of the year, our team focused on the use of social media and developing a positive digital footprint. Students are very active participants in social media, and educators need to be aware of how social media are used and the impact they can have for years to come. We surveyed the Kinkaid faculty about what a digital footprint is, what social media are used on a personal level, and what social media are used in the classroom. It is our hope that through this project we can inspire our faculty think about their own digital footprint and help our students create their own positive digital footprint. We analyzed the results to help us begin to form an action plan to accomplish our goal of positive digital footprints.
Middle School Science
Janet Allen’s presentation on “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, and Real Results” was excellent. I would recommend her workshop for any teacher of reading at any level. She challenges teachers to start teaching with an engaging text to get our students interested in reading. It is important to integrate literacy instruction with content learning because reading has to be connected to something meaningful for the kids to be actively reading for understanding. She gave us several activities and tools that we can immediately bring to our classroom. Ms. Allen said several times, “If you give them content, it is just information; if they build it, it is knowledge.” They have to build it to have ownership. Mrs. Allen also gave us tools to help students make connections with informational resources and to read critically. She talked also about vocabulary and how to teach it effectively, which is more than just handing out a weekly vocabulary list. We need our students to begin to use their vocabulary words in their speaking and writing. Overall it was a very good workshop, and Janet Allen is a very engaging speaker.
“Real kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results,” by Janet Allen, was outstanding. It was based on the premise that if you give information, that is all the receiver gets, whereas if he builds it himself, he gets knowledge! Children two or more years below grade level in reading would require 90 minutes a day to catch up! She reiterated that the least effective way of teaching vocabulary is having students look up the word and put it in a sentence, then test them. The key is to integrate words from a meaningful context, have authentic and diverse ways to ensure repetition, and put words to meaningful use. She gave many examples of practical classroom uses that involved active participation and learning by the student. Vocabulary is an area we have found needs explicit teaching, which in turn enables students to comprehend more challenging text. She is truly a master.
Lower School Instructional Specialist
Attending Janet Allen's workshop, “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results,” inspired me to work more purposefully to engage students in their reading. Ms. Allen gave example after example of direct teaching strategies to activate students' prior knowledge and set up situations in which children build knowledge by making meaning themselves.
One of my favorite strategies that Ms. Allen demonstrated was the "Facts and Questions Ladder.” After reading the introduction of a short article to the group, she asked us to list facts that we heard. Then we focused on just one fact and generated questions about that fact as a group. We then moved on to another fact and generated questions specifically related to it, and so forth. The more we questioned, the richer our discussion became. The simple act of brainstorming questions with a group triggered deep thinking and truly activated my prior knowledge. Several of us whipped out our iPhones and iPads to get more information on the topic. We could not wait to finish the article so that we could answer our questions and prove ourselves right. As an adult, I was surprised how enjoyable this exercise was for me. I was impressed by my peers and found myself trying to step up my thinking to make a respectable contribution. I also responded to the social nature of the exercise. No longer was it a boring article to read in silence, but a springboard to an interesting discussion that left me wanting to learn more about the topic later. As Ms. Allen modeled each strategy, I started daydreaming about how my students would respond to each one.
My overall take-away from the workshop is that I assume too much when teaching reading. I was reminded how much deeper comprehension is when a reader understands the context of the writing, the author's perspective and the vocabulary. Ms. Allen’s strategies force the kids to interact with the text, break it down, ask questions, and make meaning. I cannot wait to try some of these strategies with my students.
I attended Janet Allen’s workshop, “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results,” at the Harris County Department of Education. Janet Allen is known for her ability to motivate, support and increase students’ reading abilities. The workshop focused largely on strategies students need to learn to be independent in comprehending complex non-fiction texts. I came away with a lot of ideas for pre-reading activities to activate students’ background knowledge and engage their interest before they begin to read for new information. Ms. Allen shared resources such as graphic organizers, strategies for teaching vocabulary and how to showcase student learning through writing. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to attend this workshop with the Lower School reading specialist, instructional specialist and other members of the third grade team. We were able to discuss our learning throughout the workshop and make some plans for next year.
The workshop led by Dr. Janet Allen (“Real Kids—Real Books—Real Reading—Real Results”) was excellent for one primary reason: Dr. Allen was a classroom teacher for over 20 years. She knows how valuable time is, and her workshops are designed so that teachers have many templates and ideas to use immediately.
A point made often by Dr. Allen is that, contrary to the old adage, "Children in first and second grade are learning to read; children in third and fourth are reading to learn," children are still learning to read far beyond fourth grade and should be taught accordingly. She emphasized that we must continue to teach students how to use decoding skills at all levels. Dr. Allen introduced an activity she calls "wordstorming," in which groups of students are given 15-30 words that appear to be randomly chosen. They are then asked to group the words and explain their choices. The ensuing discussion is as valuable as the final groupings.
Lower School Reading Specialist
Along with my new team, the instructional specialist, and the reading specialist, I had the pleasure of attending Janet Allen’s workshop, “Real Kids, Real Books, Real Reading, Real Results.” The materials we were given are ready to use, and she demonstrated how to use most of them. We are eager to try them!
One of the ideas we all enjoyed was called a “facts and questions ladder.” After reading an entire book, or just a section, the teacher models how the facts and questions ladder works. The title is at the top, and below that a fact about the reading. The class calls out questions they have about the fact. Below the questions the class generates, a new fact is written, and the ladder continues with the fact/question pattern. This allows the students to focus on the fact they wrote and think about the questions they have about it.
Another demonstration I enjoyed was her “five-finger rule” for previewing a nonfiction text. The students draw a hand in their reading notebook and, using the acronym PREVIEW, preview their book before reading it, looking for a variety of things: Predictions using the cover; Review chapter titles (main ideas); Examine the pictures; Vocabulary (how hard will it be? use the captions of pictures to help); Index (look at the index to find supporting details; Explain what you know; What’s your connection?
Finally, I came away from this workshop with a wonderful list of mentor texts to use. Ms. Allen gave a book title for elementary, middle, and high school for each activity. Her list of books was current, ones the children would enjoy. She prides herself on enjoying the “classics,” but also reading and using books that kids are reading. I plan to purchase many of the books she mentioned!
I so appreciated this time, not only to attend the workshop and come away with new reading tools, but also to get to know my new team. We had a chance to “bounce” ideas off of each other and discuss things we wanted to try next year. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!
I went to Arlington, Virginia to the Learning and the Brain Conference, “Web-Connected Minds: How Technology Transforms Brains, Teaching and Attention,” with approximately one thousand neuroscientists, educators and technology experts to discuss the impact of technology on the brain. At this conference, co-sponsored by, among others, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, leading experts in their fields presented research about how different types of technology affect the brain and shared ideas for using technology with learners. Keynote speakers of particular interest to me were research psychologist Dr. Larry Rosen from Cal State who talked about the psychology of technology; Dr. Paul Howard-Jones, who talked about the impact of Google on the human brain, and Dr. John Ratey, who talked about using gaming in the classroom to improve learning. I went to several breakout sessions that explored applying technology in a brain-based classroom to draw in our "digital natives." This was a fantastic conference, and I came back inspired and ready to start redesigning some of what I do in my classes.
Middle School Science Coordinator
The Interscholastic League Press Conference convention was a great educational experience. I attended a session on feature writing and was reminded how important it is for the students to research and interview in order to give voice to an article. The speaker recommended the New York Times feature column, "One in 8 million," because it is based entirely on quotations and interviews. She also recommended "300 Words,” a series that runs in the St. Petersburg Times.
Finally, I was reminded how important the First Amendment is to us. I heard from several other advisors how important the student voice is in the newspaper.
Upper School Journalism, Yearbook Advisor
I am writing to summarize my attendance in the Leadership Houston program, a program that I would strongly recommend. I was thoroughly impressed not only by the breadth of subject areas discussed, but also by the depth of information covered by professionals at the highest levels from throughout Houston. Whether it was learning about Houston's economics from representatives of the Federal Reserve or about arts from the head of Houston Ballet, I was exposed to a wide array of information that will help me better educate the students of Kinkaid. I believe I now possess significant knowledge of the greater Houston community. The topics that Leadership Houston dedicated class days to included Houston's demographics and history, economics, health care, government, and the arts.
In addition, I will be better able to assist the students of Kinkaid because of new professional connections and networks I now have. I have become friends with leaders in various spheres, including non-profits, government, energy, and civil engineering. I believe I will be able to translate these connections into professional opportunities for Kinkaid students.
Finally, the program helped to broaden my perspective on the skills necessary to be a leader. While I learned a lot of fascinating facts, I also personally benefitted from the training I received in leadership skills. I have a better idea about how to build teamwork and balance differing personalities, cultures, and beliefs. These skills will help me better serve my students and to create cohesion on the Kinkaid debate team.
Overall, it was an amazing experience.
Director of Debate
I have been taking advantage of The Apple Store’s One-to-One opportunity. Once I figured out their scheduling, it has been great. I have been going for an hour a week and just working through everything Apple, and I think that I have another six months or so to go. I am so much more competent on my Mac and have synched iPad and iPhone, organized photos, created a new library orientation video using GarageBand (never again!) and am looking forward to going more often this summer until I master all things Mac.
Dorian St.Clair Myers
Director of Libraries and Archives
I absolutely love the opportunity to take Apple One-to-One course. It is basically private tutorial sessions based on my technological needs. Some of the areas I have covered involve creating charts and diagrams, improving my skills with Keynote, working through and becoming familiar with applications on the iPad, and downloading and editing video clips. Each session has been tremendously useful. I find that when a question arises during the week, or I run into a “glitch,” I make a note to myself and generally get my answer during the One-to-One session.
I am looking forward to getting lots of tutorial sessions in during the summer months, too!
Middle School History
I took three classes at Rice this year. Last summer I took an oceanography/geophysical field class, in the fall I took an oceanography class, and in the spring I took the earth and space science class. The latter class was designed for people who will be teaching the new Earth and Space high school level class that is being offered in Texas public schools. These were interesting and useful classes. The research I conducted on the beach in Galveston last summer concerned the status of natural vs. man-made dunes. What a mix of science, economics, and politics! The classes keep me updated and provide activities I can use in the classroom.
Middle School Science
I attended the San Jacinto Symposium at the historic Houston Club. The theme this year was "Linking the Present to the Past: Preserving a Great Texas Battlefield." Topics included the goal of restoring San Jacinto Battleground to its 1836 appearance, the relevance of this goal and the importance of preserving historic battlegrounds such as San Jacinto, archeological discoveries over the past fifteen years and challenges faced in preserving the site as an historic place.
I was captivated by Jeffrey Dunn's presentation. As founder of the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy, Mr. Dunn gave an amazing talk about the history of the San Jacinto Battleground and efforts over the last 100 years to preserve and honor the site.
Kristen McMasters, an archeologist and grants manager for the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program, traced the history and importance of battleground protection throughout the United States, with particular emphasis on Civil War battlefields. Following this, Ms. McMasters led an in-depth discussion about the San Jacinto Battleground and preservation efforts. The recent archeological finds at the site, as presented by Douglas Mangum, added further evidence to the argument for historic preservation.
All in all, this was a wonderful symposium! I appreciated the opportunity to further my understanding of The San Jacinto Battleground and look forward to further involvement with the SJB Conservancy.
Middle School History
As always, Dr. Neidinger, in his lecture “The Changing Spirit of Rome,” made a fascinating presentation, using three examples of architecture to demonstrate parallels between political and cultural changes in the Roman Empire. Roman architects initially adopted the Greek model but transformed the appearance and purposes to suit their needs. Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli reveals the Roman desire for planning and order and their development of arches and vaults to support taller structures. In the years after Hadrian, Roman power and unity began to disintegrate, and invaders poured across the borders. Emperor Diocletian solved the crises, at least temporarily, by establishing strict policies regulating succession and economic life. This militarization of society was reflected in Diocletian's Villa at Split, which followed the design of Roman army camps. As Roman power continued to decline, so did creativity. The Arch of Constantine was ordered by the Senate in 315, but most of the decorative elements were assembled from parts taken from earlier monuments. After the Empire ceased to exist, Christians adapted many Roman ideas into their buildings. The protective walls, towers and gates surrounding a series of interior courtyards leading ultimately to a raised platform with a large statue of the emperor became the atrium, nave, and altar of many early churches. Roman ideas of order, hierarchy, and symmetry became Christian themes (e.g., soldiers of Christ). Like later Roman builders and artists, Christians incorporated architectural and artistic elements from antiquity into their buildings, and the process came to symbolize a victory over pagan beliefs. To summarize, history provides many examples that art does imitate life.
Middle School History
At the Texas Library Association (TLA) Annual Conference there are just too many concurrent sessions that would all be beneficial, and that it makes it hard to choose. I run from session to session and hit the exhibit halls in between to visit with vendors and then attend social events that give the opportunity to network with other librarians and hear what they are doing. Libraries are changing so rapidly these days that it is both an amazing opportunity to provide the best for our students and faculty and a challenge to keep up with just what that is. I hope our attendance will impact all of our libraries in a positive way with new technology, authors, reference styles, books (online and off, print and audio, and mixtures of all of those), cataloging and visioning the library of the future at Kinkaid.
Director of Libraries and Archives
I attended the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston. The major draw for me continues to be RDA, the new cataloging rules which are being tested by the Library of Congress and two other national libraries. Testing is ongoing, and changes are being made, so my feeling is the Kinkaid Libraries should wait before implementing them—if we do at all. Why is this important? The rules involved in cataloging a book are designed to make search and access easier for the patron.
I attended some other sessions on character development, on mystery novels for young adults and on digital books. The vendor exhibits are always fun, and, as ever, we scored some large reference sets at half the retail price.
Upper School Associate Librarian
Panel discussions with authors are always a treat and reveal special treasures for me to share with my students. At the Texas Library Association annual conference, I was able to attend several author panels on such topics as forthcoming titles, dystopias, an overview of the current Lone Star List for grades 6-8, and books that especially appeal to reluctant male readers. Of course, one panel on vampires, ghosts, the supernatural, angels, and demons continues to remain popular. Some of my favorite authors were showcased: Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater, Allie Condie, and Patrick Carman.
A special session, “Texas Tea with YA Authors,” offered a “speed dating” format where authors switched tables every ten minutes. Very enjoyable, but a bit hectic. I also attended some sessions on new technologies that might be used in libraries, especially eBooks. As usual, I came home eager to read another stack of books and look forward to getting started.
Middle School Librarian
The Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference is always a great opportunity to learn, connect, and grow professionally. I started my week with a pre-conference session about the Texas Bluebonnet Award program, which is a reading program for third and fourth graders. During the general conference, I was able to attend numerous sessions on topics such as writing, current trends in library organization, educational iPad apps for children, new book lists, as well as sessions that featured authors speaking about their work. I also was able to spend time in the exhibit hall, which allowed me to learn about new products, books, and connect with authors.
Lower School Assistant Librarian
I attended the TLA Conference this year in Houston. I took several hands-on sessions regarding technology this year, including infographics, e-readers, and movie-making. I heard several sessions on recommended books for middle readers, reluctant and boy readers, presented by librarians, book reviewers, and authors. Included were sessions on popular genre, dystopias and the paranormal. I sat in on the update of the introduction of RDA (Resource Description and Access), the cataloging direction we are headed. A couple of sessions on the future of libraries were particularly interesting, given that Kinkaid will be building a new one in a few years. As you can imagine, technology plays a significant role. Networking with other librarians was particularly useful this year, given all the changes related to technology happening in all our libraries. One session on business resources and apps already saved some friends of mine $150.00. I’m looking forward to using some and passing them on to appropriate teachers.
Middle School Assistant Librarian
The Texas Library Association annual conference never fails to deliver a great dose of inspiration. This year I learned about all of the newest Texas Bluebonnet nominees in detail. I also saw many influential children’s authors share their craft and passion for writing. However, the most relevant and worthwhile session was “The World of Children’s Apps. This session was presented by a Spring Branch ISD librarian and was filled with ideas and the gentle reassurance that we are all wading into the world of apps together. I have since reached out to this librarian and hope to visit her program to see apps in action. In the spirit of a true educator, she has opened her door to me. This is the greatest benefit of this annual conference—the connections made with other people with the same goals of providing the best possible resources for our students.
Lower School Librarian
I attended the Texas Library Association Conference in Houston. My focus for both my faculty evaluation and my professional development over the last year has been the future of libraries, so I tailored my attendance to sessions about emerging technologies, e-books, Web 2.0, and information literacy in the digital age. Highlights included “Digital Decision: Replace, Blend, or Enhance?”; “Netfair: Top Texas Technology Trends”; “iPad iMpact: A Pilot Program of eReader Technology at an Academic Library”; and “Navigating Privacy, Policy, and Service issues in the Digital Age.”
This conference developed my knowledge in areas that will be directly applicable to my work at Kinkaid. For example, the iPad iMpact session included a discussion of an iPad Beta program at Lonestar College in which the speaker shared survey results on how these devices affected "digital immigrants" (people who had previously not been exposed to either e-readers or e-books) in her user group. This helped me understand some of the potential issues involved in dealing with the digital divide and how user studies can help libraries successfully deploy emerging technologies that will reach all users. There is so much to learn in the realm of e-books and digital library resources, such as negotiating fair packages with vendors, conducting user studies, creating the right policies for our libraries, and more, so I feel very fortunate to be able to enhance my knowledge in these areas.
School Archivist and Upper School Assistant Librarian
The UCLA football coaching clinic was very informative. I came to a better understanding of "man-to-man" technique for defensive backs. More specifically, I will be able to teach our athletes a progression that will enable them to perform "man-to-man" coverage better. I was also reminded that, regardless of football level (professional, collegiate, scholastic, or Pop Warner), you must keep it fun and, more important, POSITIVE for your players. All athletes thrive in a positive learning environment. I'm reminded every day with my two-year old daughter: I must reinforce the positive and minimize the negative. As coaches we sometimes lose sight of that goal but must remember that, at the end of the day, it truly is just a game.
Strength Coach, Varsity Football
I have just completed the course “China: Perspectives on an Evolving Nation,” in the School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. While I would have preferred earlier historical topics, the ones chosen were timely and extremely interesting. The topics were “The Rationale and Internal Consequences of Chinese Development”; “Rice University's Policy Research Ties to China”; “Innovation and Technology”; “Entrepreneurship in China”; “Urban Design”; and “Unearthing the Past: Case Studies of Chinese Archaeology.”
The first four topics were very timely and modern. They highlighted everything from current Party structure to planned urban communities attracting China's "new middle class.” The final night's class was a tour of the new exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, " Warriors, Tombs, and Temples.”
Upper School Mathematics
I attended the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education’s Best Practices in Student Leadership conference in Atlanta. Of the four schools that presented at the conference, I took the most from a presentation by Kent Place School's Karen Rezach, who detailed the process they use to teach ethical decision making in leadership. In our Middle School this year, we developed a process for teaching leadership and the developmental skills we want to see in individual students and in each grade. Mrs. Rezach's presentation took it a step further, explaining not only the process, but the conversations and the activities that build ethical values in their young women. These ideas will continue to help us develop our own Middle School Leadership program next year in advisory classes.
The presentation of the school I most wanted to hear, on the other hand, dragged along and didn't provide me with many new ideas. It was nice to hear how they got their program up and running, because we have experienced similar struggles and successes in our program. More than anything, I walked away with a sense of pride in how much we have developed our leadership and mentoring program in the past five or six years.
While only one of the presentations helped me, all of the presentations gave me an idea or two we might be able to use in the future. Many of the conversations that I had with other attendees were helpful as well. There are so many schools trying to get leadership programs off the ground, and it is exciting to be around so many other professionals who are putting their energy into developing quality programs for their students. It was a wonderful experience.
Peer Mentors Advisor
I attended the “Symposium on Developing Student Leadership,” hosted in Atlanta by The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education. My purpose for attending was to learn more about the programs that other schools are implementing in efforts to develop leadership skills in their student, to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and to employ strong student leaders in their school community.
The first speaker, Karen Rezach (Kent Place School) shared with attendees her school’s model, which is one that develops/defines leadership in an ethical framework. She shared many specific examples of activities her students do in their advisory groups to define and identify values, and then use those values to discuss ethical dilemmas. At even the primary levels, they are working to help students develop ethical leadership skills and to encourage students to evaluate themselves on four developmental levels: leadership of self, leadership beyond the self, the self and the school community, and the self and the global community. The information Karen shared on her program was the most inspiring and useful presentation for me.
The second set of speakers (Episcopal Day School) shared with the group example projects and assessment forms for the leadership class at their school and the work they have completed with Educational Testing Service to develop a test that can actually assess students’ leadership skills. While interesting, this information was not as useful to me. The key emphases were that a school must define leadership in its own terms (for example, around core values) and that the development must be integrated into every aspect of school life.
Keven Fletcher (St. Michaels University School) talked about how he has used chapel and a chapel group to develop both character education awareness and leadership in students. While his work is with chapel, the example activities he shared are ones that a teacher or advisor could use with any group.
Finally, Susie McGee (Rivers School) shared with the group the keys and secrets to success behind her school’s well-developed middle school leadership program. She, too, provided many examples of activities and projects their students complete as part of the program, but she also stressed the importance of faculty development, since faculty are instrumental members of their program. She reiterated what we heard the night before—that leadership development must be integrated into every aspect of school life. This can only happen if teachers are confident in their ability to help students define themselves as leaders.
Overall, the symposium was solid, and I returned with many great ideas I hope to start using as early as this summer with my team and throughout the fall with my advisory group!
Upper School English
Varsity Cheer Coach
The Council on Spiritual and Ethical Education Community Service Conference at St. John's School was one of the most educational conferences I have been to in a long time. Mary Pashley from Choate Rosemary Hall School in Connecticut was an outstanding presenter. We had two full days of intense topics for discussion. Many of the topics were pertinent to high schools, and I was surprised how many schools do service learning abroad. I learned of Youth Service America, a foundation to support global awareness. I was not aware of the programs nationally available.
This conference gave me hope that, although we are not completely there as far as community service and service learning are concerned, we are well on our way. I am motivated to work on some other projects with our Middle School students.
Middle School Mathematics
This spring I took part in two on-line seminars hosted by the National Humanities Center (NHC), which is a non-profit and independent institute for the study of the humanities. NHC provides a range of educational programs, including teacher development for secondary and primary school education. The seminar program I took part in is entitled America in Class (AIC). Scholars and professionals lead the online seminars. The two seminars that I recently took part in were “Art and the New Negro” and “Art in History.” Dr. Richard J. Powell from Duke University led the first seminar; Ashley Weinard and Josh Coffey, both from the North Carolina Museum of Art, led the second seminar.
Both seminars were highly engaging and beneficial to my teaching. The first focused on the art of the Harlem Renaissance. I learned much more than I previously knew about that time period, and I was able to incorporate much of what I learned directly into a presentation for U.S. History class about the Harlem Renaissance. The second seminar was different in approach, because it was not focused on one content area, but instead on how to work with art in a history or English classroom. We learned techniques for engaging students in the study and analysis of art and how to use art as a “lens” for understanding a given time period. In both seminars, NHC supplied substantive materials—visual, text, and audio—to supplement the seminar. The seminars are interactive: participants can ask questions and interact with other seminar participants via a live chat board.
I would encourage other teachers who teach the humanities at Kinkaid to investigate NHC. Teachers can join a list-serv that sends out updated seminar schedules for each semester. The seminars are inexpensive and are an excellent way of pursuing one’s continuing education goals.
Upper School History
What an incredible opportunity to take a tour of China's politics, science and technology, architecture, and art in under two months! Each session of this course, “China: Perspectives on an Evolving Nation,” at Rice University was led by an expert in a specific area, and the course ended with a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science's exhibit, “Warriors, Tombs, and Temples.” I have to admit that taking the course with a colleague added a lot to the experience, as well. We had great discussions on each topic before and after class, and he would tell me about some of the places we will take students during the next Interim Term China trip. He has a wealth of knowledge about China, and I learned a lot from him in parallel to this course. Of all the sessions, the most fascinating for me were the ones on art and architecture, which captured the historical evolution of this nation through the years. As a result of this class and my discussions, I have picked up a couple of books and am looking forward to enhancing my knowledge of China this summer. I cannot wait to share some of what I have learned with the students when we are actually on those sites.
Upper School Science
I jumped at the chance to attend the local Football Masters Offensive Line Clinic given by Jim McNally, a well-known offensive line guru with many years of experience coaching in the NFL. The two days were filled with interesting and important information on offensive techniques and terminology, and Coach Hill and I already have met several times to discuss the parts we plan to implement in our offensive line play. I especially enjoyed the panel discussion featuring several area high school and college coaches that closed the clinic. The chance to hear them discuss a wide variety of topics, from favorite goal line plays to drills to footwork, was invaluable. Since video of this clinic is available on line, I already have reviewed the sessions to refresh my memory and clear up a couple of points from my notes.
Middle School Latin
Varsity Football Coach
The Jim McNally offensive line clinic was one of the best I have been to in my entire coaching career. We learned some very important terminology and techniques that we have already put to use in spring football. The two-day clinic was great, and one of the best parts was a breakout session where coaches sat and talked after the clinic for several hours and shared techniques, ideas, and plays that have made them successful. I learned that one of the techniques we have been teaching for two years was actually wrong, and he showed me why it was wrong and provided me with the proper technique to show our kids. We are more knowledgeable and will be able to share that knowledge with our kids because we were able to attend this clinic.
Head Football Coach
The UCLA coaching clinic was fantastic. The first day we were allowed access to player meetings, coaches meetings, and film breakdown. This was unique for the simple fact that we were able to get a deeper look inside how the coaching staff breaks down practice film, communicates the problems with the players, and then implements those changes on the practice field. The clinic was not as crowded as past clinics I have been to, but that was a plus because we were able to get more one on one time with the coaches. My favorite part of the clinic was the breakout session on day two, when the offensive coordinator from UCLA introduced me as the "Texas high school coach of the year." When the coach was finished, I actually spent 30 minutes on the board discussing what we do with the California high school coaches, who were taking notes and asking me questions. I found myself actually giving a clinic on what we do at Kinkaid. It was a surreal experience actually being on the board in front of that many coaches, and the UCLA head coach was watching me and actually asked me a couple of questions. On the final day of the clinic, we were not only allowed at practice, but we were able to be out on the field and in the middle of the drills with the coaching staff and players. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my staff and me.
Head Football Coach
This year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics had its annual conference in Philadelphia. While my goal was to seek out K-6 curriculum as well as higher-education seminars (specifically for multivariable calculus), I gravitated towards talks about geometry, homework, and inquiry-based learning. Specifically, I am looking to find a way to better use the homework as a platform for learning and driving the lessons.
In “What is the Purpose of Homework,” Jim Wysocki encouraged us to make our homework assignments more thoughtful, and to give them three parts: a list of suggested problems to work; questions to answer (What did you learn? What questions do you still have? Which problem gave you the most difficulty?; and assigned reading. In addition, it’s important for students to understand what they have learned. This can be done through journal writing or a weekly abstract that consists of 2-3 paragraphs describing the big ideas and how they connect.
In the wake of Dan Meyer’s new ideas that math should be taught in context of life (which I agree with), www.mathalicious.com is a new website that has sprung up with lessons for teachers that involve teaching mathematical concepts through real-world scenarios. With mathalicious.com, teachers can use lessons to make algebraic topics more contextual than simply memorizing formulas. When students see how math is used in the real world, they are more likely to understand it and use it.
Overall, I learned a good amount from this conference and went to a handful of interesting talks. There seemed to be a shortage of higher-education talks this year, which was disappointing, but the discussions that I went to regarding geometry, proofs, and inquiry-based learning will all work well with my new ideas for homework and restructuring my Honors Geometry class. As usual, the best part about the conference was meeting other teachers and sharing stories, secrets, and ideas
Mathematics Department Head, Upper School Mathematics
The workshop in Arlington was one of the best summits that I have attended on concussions. The speakers, many of whom are pioneers in this field, were excellent. We learned about the metabolism process of a concussion and why this is such a vital piece for reoccurrence. We talked about how detrimental the subconcussive blows may be for athletes, and I would not be surprised if some rule changes concerning young athletes take place in the next few years in regards to this.
The final speaker described an ongoing study he is doing with the National Football League that follows player history and treats symptoms they may have now and documenting them with imaging.
Athletic Trainer, Decisions Teacher
I attended a lecture, “Lisbon, Portugal—City of Seven Hills.” Lisbon and the area of Portugal have a fascinating, but often overlooked, history due largely to the location at the mouth of the Tagus River. According to tradition, the city was founded by the Phoenicians as a trade colony, and the name developed from an association with Ulysses. Following the Punic Wars, the region was taken over by the Romans, who introduced the Latin language and the first written records. After the fall of Rome, various German tribes invaded, and the Moors dominated the area until the Reconquista of the medieval period. In 1147 Alfonso I took control of the city, established Christian rule, and received recognition as King of Portugal. Through the efforts of Prince Henry, known as The Navigator, Portugal became a leader in the Age of Exploration and controlled a huge overseas trade empire in Africa and Asia. Columbus first approached the Portuguese for support of his voyage, but was turned down. After his discoveries, Portugal claimed what would become Brazil, and great prosperity continued through the 16th century. The involvement of such diverse influences explains the frequent references to Portugal in historical sources.
The lecture addressed a question students often ask related to language. Though Portuguese is based on and similar in written form to Spanish, the pronunciations are very different. The distinctive sound is due to some German and Moorish impact; however, the main cause was the intentional desire to separate from Spain. In addition to specific answers, the lecture provided a refreshing reminder of the many opportunities to study the currents of history in this small area.
Middle School History
This year's spring HBIDA conference was one of the best I've attended. The topic of the keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Brooks, was "The Power of Mindsets: Nurturing Motivation and Resilience in Children." He spoke of the impact a charismatic adult can have on a struggling student who gathers strength from this adult, and he encouraged us all to consider carefully our words and attitudes toward all students.
I attended two valuable breakout sessions. Dr. Michelle Beard, a psychologist, spoke about diagnosing and diagnostic testing. These topics greatly affect my work at Kinkaid, and learning the ins-and-outs of both diagnosing and the diagnostic tools will benefit me on a day-to-day basis. The final break-out session I attended was by Dr. Elena Denis, who spoke about executive functioning—what it is, what it looks like at school and in the workplace, and how to improve executive skills in children. Her handout has already become a valuable tool for me, and I will reference Dr. Davis when discussing executive function skills with parents.
Lower School Reading Specialist
Attending the HBIDA conference was again an invigorating reminder of all we need to do to help our students. The topic was "Reading, Literacy and Learning." Robert Brooks is truly an inspiring speaker and one whom I can listen to and get something pertinent from every time. I appreciate the opportunity not only to benefit from listening to leaders in their field, but also to be able to use these valuable insights in improving my own pedagogy.
Lower School Instructional Specialist
I attended a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson, hosted by The Progressive Forum. I was interested in the fact that Sir Ken has gained renown as a proponent of creativity and passion in the field of education. In my previous job, creativity and passion were not to be trusted; they were considered character weaknesses, the puff rather than the stuff. They were okay traits to possess in theory, but when it came right down to it, logic and analysis were the most valued traits. I wanted to hear what Sir Ken would say because, as an expert in the field of Education, his arguments about the primacy of nurturing students' creativity and passion would probably carry more weight than my own arguments.
Truth be told, I found his talk a little boring, but only because the things he is saying are not new or "revolutionary" to my mind. I've known all along that creativity and passion are fundamental things to nurture in my students. These qualities are the keys to becoming life-long learners and valuable members of society.
Upper School English
Sir Ken Robinson’s message did not deviate from his usual; there is overwhelming evidence that many schools have problems that are both obvious and serious and that few take steps to change things. He often points out that schools were designed in a vastly different era and we may consider shifting from this outdated paradigm. As an example, he points out that even under No Child Left Behind, there is nothing that requires classes to be 45 minutes of one subject after another instead of say 90 minutes of interdisciplinary work. While Sir Ken Robinson doesn’t typically offer specific solutions, he points out how much of the current system we assume to just be “the way things are done.”
I found the talk to be very interesting and I was pleased to find that, in the few instances where Sir Ken does mention the good that some schools are doing, he seems to be describing the Kinkaid environment. I think he would applaud our goals of fostering creativity and the well-rounded student while giving everyone the personal attention they need. Even though he directs his attention at the public side of education, I think that he is an inspiring speaker whom anyone interested in education could appreciate.
Upper School Mathematics
I had the opportunity to attend a seminar, "In Pictures and In Words: Teaching the Qualities of Writing Through Illustration Study," led by Katie Wood Ray. Ms. Ray's talk was filled with big ideas for general teaching approaches as well as more specific examples of lessons in illustration study that we could take right from the seminar to our classrooms. The talk was particularly beneficial because of its focus on implementing illustration study in writing workshop with very young writers. She explained that by supporting children's thinking about illustrations in writing workshop, we enable our young writers to practice skills like building stamina, planning and designing, rereading, and editing their work. While children who are just beginning to write may find skills such as these intimidating to execute in their actual writing, attacking this process through illustration, something they can do much earlier, allows them to learn about and experience those same elements of the writing process from the very beginning.
We also learned how to use illustrators as mentors in our writing workshop. By reading well-illustrated texts and then revisiting and discussing them, children can learn how authors express elements like tone, the passing of time, or movement through illustrations. Once they see these techniques in mentor texts, we can then encourage them to utilize the same techniques in their own illustrations. Overall, Ms. Ray demonstrated to us that illustration is a valuable and equal part of the writing workshop because its process requires many of the same techniques that students use in their writing. Whether it is taught independently to younger children or concurrently with writing to older children, illustration serves as another way for children to access the writing process and can help them more fully develop both their skills and their ideas during writing workshop.
Lower School Assistant
The Katie Wood Ray Workshop was excellent. Fortunately, we got to see her before she retired! She is planning to move on to something else in the education world (perhaps webinars) and will not be doing any more workshops in conjunction with her Heineman books.
Ray’s In Pictures and in Words is an excellent reference book for lower school teachers who are trying to teach illustration and text in making books. You always want to take a few new teaching points from a conference, or just a nice reminder of important pieces, and I had several aha moments: teach illustration so it can hold meaning; build stamina in illustrations and text daily; use thoughtful process in planning the books; make sure you share and reflect at the end of writing time each day; no dictation—they need to approximate the best they can; best reading teaching happens during Writer's Workshop; and writing does the work that illustrations do, and vise versa.
We benefit as a team when the entire team hears and discusses the same information. We plan to share the new information we learned in a workshop with Kindergarten.
I had a day away from school to hear Katie Wood Ray speak for the last time. Ms. Ray is now researching and writing full time and will no longer be holding workshops. Her focus through the years has been writing in the classroom, and for the last few years she has included, along with Matt Glover, writing in Prekindergarten. This workshop was enjoyable, and it was good to be with the whole prekindergarten team.
Katie Wood Ray’s passion for elementary writing instruction and her love of children's literature was obvious the moment the workshop began. She introduced us to the question she asked herself, "What if children were introduced to key qualities of good writing in the context of illustrations?" This question led to the research behind In Pictures and In Words, her new book. The answer was simple, yet powerful: "The thinking students do while reading picture books can help them see the connection between what words and illustrations do to make meaning." I absolutely agree with this idea, and the point was made even stronger through the video footage and discussions at the conference.
Thank you for allowing the prekindergarten team to attend Katie Wood Ray’s professional development workshop, “In Pictures and in Words: Teaching the Qualities of Writing Through Illustration Study, Grades Pre-K-4.” It proved to be a valuable experience for our team. I think that we were given some new ideas for helping our developing “writers,” and we were also reminded of some of the basics of the writing program for our age group.
I particularly appreciated Ms. Ray’s emphasis on valuing illustration as writing. She talked about ways to encourage students to build their stamina for creative work, develop habits of process (planning, designing, drafting, revising, editing), utilize the habit of “reading like writers,” and learn about qualities of good writing in a parallel context. By using illustrators as mentors, students will be exposed to an extensive repertoire of illustration techniques and will begin to compose illustrations with specific intentions. Ms. Ray spoke about the importance of aiming for depth, not coverage, when encouraging young writers. It was a day well spent.
Lower School Assistant
The Katie Ray workshop was another insightful and refreshing look at the work that Matt Glover did when he was here at Kinkaid. I love the handout with the extended book list and valuable information to refer to when we return to our classrooms. I love the Making Books section: “Why Book Making Makes Sense For the Youngest Writers.” I'm going to implement this process with my granddaughters. They'll love it!
Ms. Ray’s presentation was simple, interesting, valuable and so complimentary of what we do each day. It will greatly enhance our writing program.
Lower School Assistant
With a colleague who is an alumna of Boston University, I attended a Boston University Alumni event called "Head Games." It was given by Dr. Robert Stern, a professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at BU, which has a center that studies Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
I have a great interest in this field and found the talk to be most beneficial. Dr. Stern spoke of the BU CTE center and why some changes to protect athletes are taking place. We learned some of the science behind concussive and subsconcussive events and the long-term effects on the brain. Dr. Cantu, who is the "concussion guru" of sports medicine, is also a member of the BU team.
Athletic Trainer, Decisions Teacher
As a member of the World Affairs Council of Houston, I attended a riveting talk. Maseh Zarif, Research Manager for the American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project, spoke on Iran's nuclear program and the implications for the region. With the Israeli Prime Minister's recent visit to Washington D. C., the timing could not have been better for such a lecture!
Just yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U. S. senators he has not decided whether to strike nuclear sites in Iran. Mr. Zarif spoke about various options and alternatives given the current environment. Among the questions posed: How will Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers react to having a nuclear armed Iran? What can be done to prevent or delay further development of nuclear programs in Iran?
My knowledge of the situation, region and options was greatly enhanced as a result of this talk and the ensuing discussion. Aspects of the geography of the region (political, economic, environmental and historical) are crucial in our understanding of current events.
Middle School History
I attended the Soccer Champions Coaches Clinic in Las Vegas. I earned my Level 1 Goalkeeping diploma, which has given me a greater understanding of the position.
The majority of goalkeeping sessions provided a base with which to build a solid understanding of how players should be introduced to goalkeeping. The field sessions allowed those of us learning the position to put it into action. For me, this was the key to learning the proper technique.
The other twenty sessions of the clinic covered a wide variety of soccer topics, from how to play a flat back four, to quicker play through the midfield, to training strikers to play at game level intensity during practice. There were also several sessions dedicated to team management and dealing with parents. The fact that I chose not to eat lunch (I did snack) either Friday or Saturday because I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions, speaks to the quality of this clinic.
I am looking forward to improving the quality of my coaching through greater confidence in my goalkeeping training. The level 1 diploma class has given me a clear path for teaching our players. Even though the greatest learning curve came via the goalkeeping diploma, I come away with other ideas to make the Kinkaid Falcons soccer program better. I am looking forward to trying them all out.
Head Varsity Boys’ Soccer Coach
The baseball coaching staff went to Waco for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Convention. We heard various speakers make presentations on hitting, fielding, pitching, conditioning, and the mental aspect of the game.
Former major league player and manager Jim Lefebvre spoke on hitting mechanics and drills that he has used in his major league career as a player and manager. The drill we liked is having your hitters throw Frisbees to get extension through the baseball. A few major league players do this drill, and the mechanics of throwing a Frisbee are similar to your lead arm when swinging a bat. We also listened to Ray Birmingham, head baseball coach at New Mexico. We are going to take his angle hitting and incorporate it into the Kinkaid program.
At the Baylor Coaches Clinic, the Baylor coaching staff spoke on a variety of topics. We plan to build on our pitching routing by incorporating 2 drills that they use to help pitchers balance. We also plan to use balance balls to help our hitters use proper swing mechanics and better balance.
Motivational speaker Brian Cain spoke on the mental aspect of baseball. Baseball is a game in which, if you succeed 30-40% of the time, you are considered a good hitter. In essence, you fail as a hitter 60-70% of the time. The mental aspect of the game and learning to stay positive is key to a player’s success.
Head Varsity Baseball Coach
I attended The Annual Region 4 Social Studies Conference and came away with a few good ideas to share with my students and eighth grade colleagues. Two of the sessions I attended are described below.
"Born to Reject the Crown" was done by a wonderful presenter who dressed and acted as George Washington. He shared many interesting and inspiring details about Washington and his life and role in the American Revolution that are not found in the textbooks. "Living History to understand It” was another terrific session offering lessons plans and handouts for simulations of historical events to be used in the classroom. These are very appropriate for our kids.
Middle School History
I attended the Texas Music Educators Association annual convention in San Antonio. The TMEA convention is dwarfed only by the national convention. I audited workshops, observed rehearsals of the various all-state bands by some of the top conductors in education, watched superb student musicianship by honor bands, and combed the exhibition floor to see the newest music and instruments on the market. One of the best workshops was “So You Start Your Beginner Band in 7th Grade?” While Kinkaid begins our young musicians in a sixth grade survey course, the workshop was directly applicable because the first year of in-depth work begins at Kinkaid in seventh grade. Several of the workshops were standing room only (or no room at all), so I plan to check for any recordings or online materials from these events. The honor bands were incredible; their concerts were some of the best performances I’ve heard in my 15 years of attending TMEA. The convention ended with the concert of the ATSSB All-State Bands, in which two of Kinkaid’s Upper School students earned membership. The concert and the work our students did were highly enriching and rewarding, resulting in a superb performance. Finally, it was edifying to connect with colleagues from across several states and levels of education to share ideas and tools to bring back to our students at Kinkaid.
Middle School Band
The best new books published in 2011 were presented at the exciting one-day workshop, “What’s New in Children’s Literature 2012.” Book guru Peggy Sharp presented details about the best literature recently published, as well as ideas on how to use them in classrooms and libraries. Many of the titles were available for browsing and taking a closer look. I left the day with an excitement to share these books with the students and faculty in the Lower School.
Lowe School Assistant Librarian
In mid-February, I attended the Texas Music Educators Association Convention with 8,000 colleagues from around the state. The convention is unsurpassed in both quality and quality of sessions offered. Of particular note were talks on current research regarding the adolescent brain and how kids learn and a session on sight-reading by the author of the textbook I am using in the classroom. I also had the privilege of watching master teachers work with young choirs. Patrick Freer (Georgia State University) gave a particularly informative and entertaining demonstration on the boy’s changing voice and its challenges. What an inspiring and educational four days it was!
Middle School Choir
I attended the Texas Music Educator Association's annual clinic/convention in San Antonio. It was a great convention. I visited many vendors who carry orchestral sheet music and was able to peruse music that I might choose to perform with the Kinkaid orchestra in the future. These vendors carry sheet music that is appropriate for all levels of musicians, from beginners through advanced. I also visited many vendors who had a wide array of instruments to look at and try out for possible purchase in the future. Anything and everything that might be used by a music educator was available for perusal at this convention.
I also had the opportunity to attend clinics given by music professionals from around the country. A few examples are "How to Motivate the Junior High Orchestra Student,” "Effective Recruiting Techniques for Beginning Ensembles,” and "Improving Intonation in your High School Orchestra." I was also able to attend some workshops held by Technology In Music Education and learn some things related to my current professional development goals.
Finally, I was able to attend many performances given by honor groups from around the state. I saw the middle school honor string and full orchestra groups, the high school honor string and full orchestra groups, and the Texas 5-A all-state symphony orchestra, of which one of our students was a part. These were wonderful performances, and it was educational for me to visit some of the rehearsals for the various groups and watch the clinicians work with the ensembles.
I attended the wonderful Texas Computer Educators Association conference in Austin. While I attended ten sessions, I could have attended four times that number, it was so rich and exciting.
Kevin Honeycutt talked about “Teaching the Digital Learner,” and I came away with a lot of practical information. He is highly entertaining and informative and has a "schtick"; he ad libs for about 30 minutes—lots of energy and humor. He talks about what our young people are doing with their mobile devices and how the adults in their lives need to "be there" and be connected to what these young people are doing, both publicly and privately. Referring to the adults in the lives of young people, he said, "If they're doing it you're doing it.” He is/was a parent of a teen and shared his experiences. He was fabulous!
In several of the sessions I got a lot of information about pertinent websites, YouTube videos, and blogs to use with students. I plan to use my interactive white board as well as class sets of the iPad to implement some of these teaching strategies.
“Google Tools for Teaching and Learning” was chock full of ways to use all that Google has to offer. An example called Vokaru is on Blogger. I could use this with my students to create podcasts and for me or a student to record what was done in class that day for absentees.
“The Best Interactive Resources for the Classroom” is a list of ten resources, some of which will be valuable in my instruction. Another session, “Who Do You Follow?,” has to do with Livebinders and allows a teacher to follow educators/bloggers/individuals on Facebook/Twitter etc., to obtain information, ideas, and opinions.
This technological age is changing and expanding the way we teach, and students learn at lightning speed. It will be imperative for educators to stay on top of this fast-moving phenomenon in order to be tech savy and offer students the myriad opportunities for learning that exist now and that are yet to be developed. I wish every teacher at Kinkaid could attend this invaluable conference. It is the new norm!
Middle School English
I attended the Texas Computer Education Association’s annual conference and participated in multiple open sessions as well as several workshops. Many of the presentations confirmed that I am on the right track technology-wise, but several others opened my eyes to new trends and ways of applying technology. For example, effectively incorporating cell phones and other personally owned devices in the classroom (and school) is a hot topic right now. How does one manage these devices and teach students to use them in a responsible way?
Several of the sessions included surveys of websites I could use in the classroom. I took away some good ideas and added links to the student resources section on my Kinkaid web page. Many of the sites were fun, bright, and colorful, and I could see that students would like and connect with them. However, there were sessions where the ideas given were not always as educationally relevant as I would have liked (keeping in mind that I focus through the English 5 lens). I want to have fun with my students, but my primary goal is to have students explore, produce, and consume relevant content.
My favorite sessions included iPad 101, Tips and Tricks with Tammy Worcester, Higher Level Thinking with Learner Response Systems, Cell Phones in the Classroom, Unleash the Power of Google Forms, and Are You Following Us? I loved the ActivExpressions devices that were demonstrated at the Higher Level Thinking session and would love to have some in my classroom. I also took a great deal away from Are You Following Us? It was terrific to learn how Twitter, LiveBinders, blogs, and web pages by others in the learning community can help form a personal learning network. Seeing LiveBinders and how the presenters used the site to organize massive amounts of information and follow others was impressive. I would love to start working on something similar. I struggle to keep some of my web resources organized and easily accessible, so this would be a possible solution.
Overall, the conference was excellent. I especially appreciated Brenda Meyer’s guidance in choosing sessions that were useful to me and the course I teach. She helped me immensely in getting the most out of TCEA. Hey, I even got a picture with BrainPop’s Moby!!!
Middle School English
I am glad I had the opportunity to attend the TMEA convention, which is known all over the nation for its large size and for the high standards it sets for the performers and clinicians it features each year. I saw many wonderful musical performances led by well-known educators, and I visited the vast exhibitor area, which was filled with books, instruments, and supplies from music stores around the world.
I was most happy to take advantage of the many and varied clinics offered at the TMEA convention. There are dozens of clinics and performances occurring at each hour of the day, and sessions speak to every facet of the music education world. There were so many quality clinicians and sessions offered that often it was difficult to choose which session to attend. However, I chose well, and each clinic I attended was tailored specifically for lower elementary music teachers. Most notably, each provided teachers the opportunity to actively participate in sessions. I sang, danced, and played instruments during each session, which made my experience with the clinicians even more meaningful!
Again, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the TMEA convention this year! It was time well spent and I brought back many new ideas that I can’t wait to put to use in my classroom!
Lower School Music
I had the opportunity to attend “Creating a Live Math Classroom,” a workshop given by Marcy Cook, someone whom I have heard about and admired since college. Her skills, ideas, and style are renowned in the world of education, and she did not fail to meet my expectations.
The majority of the workshop revolved around methods for keeping students actively engaged by activities for beginning the math period. Cook demonstrated “starters,” five-minute activities to engage students in daily mathematical thinking. I currently use some kinds of starters with the accelerated math group I teach in second grade, and the students really enjoy them. These activities emphasize concepts such as estimation, place value, and number sense in a quick exercise. Along with the starters I use, she showed us other types that I plan to implement in my math group. These include activities using hundred charts and also the use of skilboards.
The materials I received from this workshop are particularly great because the majority of items can be used for multiple activities she showed us. Her materials are basic and simple, things I can make or recreate easily. I particularly enjoyed how she demonstrated each game or activity, then gave us a chance to try it as well. The entire workshop was a “live” workshop. I walked away with samples of skillboards that she allowed us to use, so I was able to come back to Kinkaid, make the boards, and immediately use them!
I am very happy I got the chance to attend of one her workshops, and hope to go to more. Her ideas and the mathematical skills she taught me will help not only my second grade math group, but my new Third Grade Math Fun Club!
Second Grade Assistant
This is my fourth fantastic year of attending Peggy Sharp’s one day session of “What’s New in Children’s Literature and How to Use it In Your Program.” Each year Ms. Sharp highlights hundreds of books for schools and libraries and gives wonderful suggestions for how they can be used with students and children. This year was again a great resource for the Kinkaid Lower School librarians. We left with a list of titles to explore and the knowledge that we are on track as far as integrating e-books and “apps” into our collections.
Lower School Librarian
I had an incredible experience at the US Lacrosse National Convention in Philadelphia. The convention is the ultimate resource for coaches at all levels of lacrosse to hear new ideas, concepts, philosophies, drills, and rules from experienced coaches and players from all levels of the game. I return from the convention excited to use these new tools for the benefit and growth of the Kinkaid girls’ lacrosse program in practices, camps and games. One of the most important presentations I attended was the rules interpretation, where the national USL rules committee previewed, demonstrated and explained all of the new rules for 2012 season. My favorite sessions included a presentation from the Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse coaching staff of tips, drills and tricks to improve individual attacking skills; the live demonstrations from the U-19 women’s national team and former Team USA members; and a session integrating a new player up/player down defensive situation I intend to use this spring with my varsity team. As a coaching staff that is two-thirds part-time employees, it was beneficial to have all of the varsity coaches present to discuss rules, drills, concepts and strategies for the season.
Head Girls’ Lacrosse Coach
The US Lacrosse Convention was a great experience. The convention was action packed, with a number of sessions that ranged through all aspects of the game. I started my weekend at the Coaching Education Program. This session was exceptional; coaches who played high-level lacrosse took us through basic drills that we should be doing with our athletes and gave key words to use in training sessions. After the clinic I went to sessions by Bonnie Rosen of Temple and Kelly Amonte-Hiller of Northwestern where they explained great drills to use with players. Herm Edwards was the keynote speaker of the event and did a talk on integrity and respecting “your name.” The following day was filled with more great sessions, one where the Women’s U19 National team showed off some impressive lacrosse. The convention ended with women’s keynote Janine Tucker, who was so interesting and so easy to relate to. She did a great job showing drills and really opened up her thoughts for the rest of us. Overall the trip was a success for me.
Physical Education and Athletics
I attended the Bureau of Education & Research seminar on new young adult literature. I came home with a wealth of materials and ideas to wade through, then share with the appropriate teachers and librarians. The materials include bibliographies of newly published fiction and nonfiction books, bundled to appeal to specific groups of readers, such as struggling readers, techie teens, multicultural and contemporary teen issues, etc., plus websites and many instructional strategies and techniques.
Middle School Assistant Librarian
I attended a one-day Love and Logic seminar in Stafford, Texas. Love and Logic is a method of working with students that promotes healthy teacher/student relationships and guides children to own and solve their own problems in the classroom. Because I have begun using the method in my classrooms, it was great to delve further into it with the co-founder, Jim Fay, who led the seminar.
Some of the topics covered were helping underachieving students, preventing power struggles, handing problems back to students, and setting enforceable limits. The day was inspiring, informative, uplifting, and filled with laughter.
Middle School Music
I attended the Fifth Annual Environmental Education Summit at the University of Houston-Downtown. It included talks by Susan Kaderka of the National Wildlife Federation and Gavin Dillingham, HISD Energy Manager. The keynote address was by Jaime Gonzalez of the Katy Prairie Conservatory, who is working toward developing youth programs to help save the prairies nationwide. I attended several sessions relating to Project Wild, Aquatic Wild, and Growing Up Wild, which covered a wide sampler on appreciation of wildlife and natural systems, K-12. There were not as many materials provided as in the past due to cuts of government subsidies, but I did get several ideas I can use in the classroom. Overall, time well spent.
Lower School Science Teacher
The first speaker at the National Sports Softball Clinic in Nashville was Carol Bruggeman, head coach at Louisville. A great speaker, she spoke about practice plans—when to teach what. I have already used some of her ideas. In another session Bruggeman spoke about infield techniques.
The head coach at UNC spoke about outfield defense and drills in three different sessions. I have used some of her drills in pre-season.
Kyla Holas, head coach at the University of Houston, spoke about pitching. Rather than talk about pitching technique, she talked about pitch counts, game situations, and creating competitive opportunities for pitchers in practice.
The hitting coach at the University of Georgia spoke in three different sessions. I was eager to hear him because Georgia hitters are some of the best in the country. His technique is very baseball. I learned a lot but some of the ideas and techniques are not best for my hitters. He showed us the flip camera he uses at practice to film hitters, and I will definitely use that.
All in all it was a lot of information packed in to two days. I did not leave the hotel from 11:30 AM Friday to 4:00 PM Saturday, but it was a very good clinic. It reinforced to me that I am doing a pretty good job, but I could do so much more, which is what clinics are supposed to do. It got the juices flowing. I was able to give our middle school coach some effective ideas for middle school and use a lot for my team.
Head Varsity Softball Coach
The Gulf Coast Coaching Clinic was disappointing this year. There were several disappointing sessions, but Patti Gasso, the head coach at Oklahoma, was great. She showed clips from her own practice to demonstrate drills and different defensive situations. She was by far the best speaker. I have already used some of her drills and ideas in pre-season practice.
So…I have decided to do my own coaching clinic. I want to coach the coaches, from church league dads to middle school coaches. They need to know how to teach proper hitting technique, how to run an effective practice and how to make softball fun enough to keep kids playing the sport.
Two of our other coaches and I will conduct this clinic at Kinkaid in February. I will let you know how it goes!
Head Varsity Softball Coach
I attended part of the Gulf Coast Softball Coaches Clinic. It has been a while since I have attended a coaching clinic, and with my decision to help coach middle school softball this was a very good opportunity for me.
We first heard from a local softball coach from the Woodlands, Richard Jorgensen, about his 5A championship. He took us through the drills, game play and team building activities he does. I really admired how he took the time to work on building relationships with his girls and stressing the importance of teamwork on and off the field. We then had the absolute pleasure of hearing from Patty Gasso, the head coach at the University of Oklahoma. She was amazing! She showed us video footage of practice drills and games to talk us through what she thought worked best. What I thought was most valuable was Coach Gasso sharing personal stories about how her girls become her family. She wants girls on the field that want to be on the field. She does her best to nurture and help make them make the best decisions for their future, and they respect her for this. She also said that no cell phones are allowed on the team bus in order to promote real conversations and team bonding. I thought that was an interesting idea. I was very impressed and grateful for the opportunity to attend.
Upper School History
Middle School Softball Coach
One of the best things about the DFW National Track & Field Clinic was the fact that so many of the sessions were learn-by-doing. We often tell athletes what to do without experiencing the new drill or skill ourselves. Going through all the drills allowed me to feel and then better articulate how to describe the drill and how it should feel when being performed correctly. Learning by doing also gives one a big dose of humility and reminds coaches many of the skills we are asking the athletes to perform are difficult and take time to master.
Jeremy Fischer from the Olympic training center in Chula Vista taught the biomechanics of the horizontal jumps. He reiterated the importance of body position and setting up the biomechanics correctly through a good approach. We learned about angles of take-off, the importance of the penultimate step, and the proper foot plant for take-off. I learned long jump and high jump athletes can perform 100 penultimate steps in practice because it can be done with a short approach at slower speed, not causing injury.
The throws coach was from UCLA, and he gave us several excellent You Tube sites to help the athletes see the correct form and learn every drill. He was an excellent speaker who taught us the importance of teaching progressions in the throws. He kept everything simple, offered a plethora of drills, and taught about the importance of immediate feedback for athletes.
Finally, the two presentations by Tom Tellez, one on the biomechanics of running and the second on the skill development on blocks were useful, full of drills and cues, and based on the physics of movement. Coach Tellez taught the importance of the acceleration phase in the 100 meter dash, giving the example of Carl Lewis accelerating longer then his competitors, allowing him to sustain a faster speed through the finish line. We watched a lot of film of world-class athletes and then of little children seeing that correct running form is more often than not natural running form. We can sometimes over-coach. The learn-by-doing block session was a good review of the biomechanics of the sprint start.
Overall, this was a very useful coaching clinic that allowed me to get geared up for track this spring.
Head Varsity Girls Track and Field Coach