Teacher Reports on Professional Development
I attended the Socratic Seminar Leadership Skills Introductory Workshop led by Oscar Graybill here in Houston. The workshop served as an introduction to incorporating Socratic seminars in the classroom. During the morning session, I participated in a large seminar devoted to exploring Sandra Cisneros's "Salvador Late or Early." During this seminar, I learned not only about the text itself, but also seminar leadership strategies like developing opening questions, utilizing inner and outer circles, asking serialized questions, applying self-reflection techniques, fostering dialogue rather than debate, and appreciating the emerging text.
During the afternoon session, I led a micro-seminar on Gerald McDermott's version of the Japanese folktale "The Stonecutter” so that I could practice the strategies I learned during the morning session. I found that I exhibited several strengths as a seminar leader, including developing an effective opening question and balancing my role as the leader with my role as a participant. I also discovered that a weakness of mine is asking serialized questions. This skill is one that I will continue to work on, using the strategies that Graybill introduced during the workshop.
The workshop provided strategies to effectively incorporate seminars into my English III classes here at Kinkaid. Ultimately, I hope to involve my students in seminars on a weekly basis as an additional tool to create and to explore knowledge.
Tara McDonald Johnson
Upper School, English
At the “Socratic Seminar Introductory Workshop” led by veteran teacher Oscar Graybill, I learned the basics of planning, facilitating, and reflecting upon a Socratic seminar. I appreciate that Graybill practiced his own methods by leading the 25 participants through a seminar within the first couple of hours of the workshop. Rather than lecturing, he gave us immediate experience, proving to me that the method works effectively as a teaching tool. During the afternoon, we broke into small groups where we developed our own opening seminar questions. We then switched groups and practiced participating in and/or leading a total of four micro-seminars. At the beginning of the day, Graybill said that we would participate in five seminars before the 4pm dismissal, and I admit that at first I struggled to see how that would happen. However, he led us efficiently and effectively throughout the day, and by the end, I was excited about implementing these techniques in my own classroom. I plan to conduct weekly or bi-weekly Socratic seminars in the second semester.
Upper School English
I attended the International Dyslexia Association Annual Conference recently, and I returned to school renewed and energized. I focused my attention on written expression and dysgraphia.
By far the most helpful session for me was conducted by Victoria Greene, whose program, Project Read, approaches grammar with the idea that the value of learning grammar is to know the function of each part of speech. She uses a unique set of eight graphic symbols to build sentences and then paragraphs. For a student with a written expression disorder, organizing and building a complex sentence requires a logical structure. Project Read provides that structure.
Another session focused on expanding vocabulary through morphemes. Materials and ideas from this session aided in discovery of Latin and Greek words with roots, affixes, and combining forms.
A third session focused on structural elements at the morpheme level with phonology, phonics, etymology presented as effective tools for teaching word identification, vocabulary, content knowledge and reading comprehension.
Lower School Reading Specialist
CAST (Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching) is the annual conference for science teachers in Texas. It is the state version of the National Science Teachers Association. Having attended and presented at previous NSTA conferences, I was eager to attend CAST.
Perhaps the most worthwhile experience for me was the biology manipulative short course I enrolled in. I am really glad I did. I learned many strategies for classroom management that allow for a more interactive class in which students discuss the materials and manipulate or process it for themselves. The course stressed the importance of shifting the focus from lecture to active student processing of the information. The course also provided many specific manipulative examples that I could reproduce in my own classroom.
I came home recharged to tackle more in my classroom.
Upper School Science
I attended a series of lectures on Neuroscience at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Education. Like most courses with multiple speakers, some were very good and a few were not. I’ll comment here on a few of the better ones.
Dr. Dickman presented some fascinating data about bird brains that concerned “a new magnetoreception system in the brains of birds that allows them to use the Earth’s magnetic field as an internal GPS for navigation.” I remember in grad school ethology courses learning about how various migrational species were suspected of having such systems, but nobody had found them at the time in their nervous systems. Dickman and colleagues have identified a circuit beginning in the lagena (only in birds, not us!) of the inner ear and ending in various mapped regions of the brain. Further, they have identified Fe particles (magnetite) in pigeon lagenas that have the potential to act as the necessary field detectors.
Dr. O’Malley presented some fascinating information about “Cyber Exoskeletons” that can potentially enhance regular neural control of movements and, better yet, possibly repair damaged neural control for those people suffering various motor difficulties (e.g., paralysis). A couple of the more amazing engineering feats included using recorded monkey brain patterns to drive robotic arms and using a person’s transmitted (via direct electrical means) “thoughts” to robotically grasp bottles and to produce firing of certain brain neurons.
Dr. Alford had some interesting ideas to offer about the neuroscience of political differences. In particular, he and his colleagues have measured brain responses in the amygdala and insular areas to various political questions, like reactions by conservatives and liberals to border protection policies and to gay marriage and found differences in the two groups’ responses in those areas.
Last in sequence, and, from my limited perspective, best, was Dr. Noebels. He had two important stories from his position as Cullen Trust Chair in Neurogenetics and professor at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Blue Bird Circle Developmental Neurogenetics Laboratory. His career has been mostly in research into Epilepsy. However, recently he and his colleagues have discovered a potential genetic link between low grade seizures and Alzheimer’s disease never suspected by them or, more importantly, by those who study the latter disease. That aside, it was cool to hear him voice his other message about the cross-disciplinary (epilepsy versus Alzheimer’s researchers) difficulties in trying to get the “other side” to listen to the potentially “good news.”
Upper School Science
During the Rice Speed Symposium two of the most esteemed track and field coaches in the country spoke about proven methodology to build speed for all athletes, with an emphasis on track and field. Both speakers focused on best practices for developing a comprehensive workout program from January to May to allow sprinters to develop their skills, set early season personal bests, and build on that early success. Texas A&M’s Coach Anderson focused on general preparation for 100-, 200-, and 400-meter sprinters. General preparation includes sprints, flys, med ball circuits, hurdle mobility, and weight room work. He demystified the general preparation phase of training through keeping it simple with the idea of hitting the training goals one time per week. Coach Schexnayder from LSU followed with a discussion about training sprinters to tolerate lactate through progression, body balance in workouts, and the importance of teaching the mechanics of acceleration and absolute speed. It was an excellent symposium. I will use the information to update Kinkaid’s pre-season and early season workouts.
Head Track and Field Coach
I attended the International Dyslexia Association Conference in New Orleans. One of the best presentations was given by a learning specialist at Columbia University. She shared information about accommodations that are available at the university level, and how to prepare students to acquire these accommodations or function without them. It made me realize the importance of making sure that my students know how to advocate for themselves. It also made me think about the importance of teaching my students to develop strategies, because they may not always be given the accommodations they are receiving now. One of the best tools I gained at the conference is a list of apps that I can integrate into my lessons. I started with one app right away that allows me to document my students' reading fluency and even share it with their parents. This was a very beneficial conference for me.
Middle School Reading
Whew! This is an active association, and this was an active professional development conference! I brought back so many new ideas, professional connections, and resources from the 2013 American Orff Schulwerk Association conference in Denver. I immediately began incorporating ideas and strategies into my classes when I returned from the conference.
Here is a list of just a few of the many things that made this professional development conference something truly special:
- Sessions were interactive and teachers are rarely just sitting and listening. Instead, we were up moving, dancing, playing instruments, singing, and actively participating in group work and discussions.
- Sessions have size limits in order to allow all attending teachers to participate in sessions.
- Sessions are offered from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The days are full of learning opportunities!
- Teachers from many parts of the world and from many performing arts disciplines, including general music, dance, and theater teachers, present and attend this conference each year.
Here is a sample of sessions I attended:
- Sessions on folk and line dancing in the classroom
- Sessions exploring ways to incorporate visual and environmental art into the dance and music classroom
- Sessions on maximizing and thoughtfully approaching children’s early (ages 3-7) instrumental experiences
- Sessions on teaching and facilitating student creativity using pieces for classroom instruments (percussion instruments and recorders)
- A session on incorporating mathematical concepts into the music classroom with “chance music” (music created by chance—literally composed at the roll of dice—an interesting idea that dates to the 18thcentury)
I was particularly excited when I saw that this year’s conference would feature many sessions on world music, including Hispanic and Spanish music and dance! I have already used a movement and language game with my Spanish students this week, and I can’t wait to share the Hispanic Colonial folk dances and Spanish language games from South Texas with my Spanish students very soon.
Lower and Middle School Music
I spent two days attending workshops at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in Orlando, Florida.
I attended a panel about teaching Chinese by incorporating 21st century skills in a student-centered classroom. Twenty-first century skills include communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity with innovation. This reflects advances in learning theory and practices. A revised Bloom’s Taxonomy uses verbs instead of nouns to show learners’ thinking processes, and moves from lower order thinking skills (remembering, understanding, applying) to higher order thinking skills (analyzing, evaluating, creating).
I also attended a presentation about “flipping” the Chinese classroom and use of iPads in the Chinese classroom. I can see benefits for creating a more engaging classroom setting, meeting different learning needs, targeting more language usage, and being more interactive and collaborative with one another. I learned about how students can create learning products through speaking, typing, writing, drawing and mind mapping. I also picked up techniques on how to make a video recording, write eBooks, and make a learning portfolio for each student.
This conference not only will help me prepare lesson plans, but is also beneficial as I can utilize the new skills to better teach my students. I will set up more opportunities for the students to chat with Chinese native speaking students to ensure that my students can communicate using Chinese purposefully in real-life situations.
Upper School Chinese
In the Mary Ann Beckwith workshop, we learned several new techniques, including "web paintings," where we pulled spider web fibers (from Party City) over yupo paper, sprayed with watercolor, and lifted the web off for a beautiful marble-like surface. We also did landscape silhouettes, which involves masking the paper with frisket, painting it all over, then pulling the frisket off for a wood-cut-like landscape. Ms. Beckwith had many good project ideas, including ideas for coming up with ideas! She also emphasized that we should paint what we love, and even if some people think that flowers are "shallow" or cars aren't interesting, if that is what we are passionate about, that's what we should paint. It made me think about how I teach certain skills in Upper School, and while sometimes the students will need to draw/paint the still life I set up, I will be more inclined to let them choose their own subjects as long as they are developing the skills I am trying to teach. (I actually do that a lot anyway, but now I won't feel so guilty!)
Middle and Upper School Art
“What’s New in Young Adult Literature” was an informative workshop! There are thousands of YA books published annually, and Patti Tjomsland gave a comprehensive overview of her favorites, providing an annotated booklist of over 350 titles and “book talking” over 100. She also gave an excellent overview of current trends, along with ideas to encourage students to read and updates to favorite series. In addition to the bibliography, the resource handbook contained award winners, titles broken down by genre, ideas, and activities to promote books, and valuable Internet resources. This is one of the best offerings on YA literature I have attended.
Middle School Librarian
I attended a workshop, "Treatment Resistant Anxiety, Worry and Panic." The purpose of this workshop was to teach participants how to assess clients' anxious habits, symptoms, and behaviors with evidence-based strategies.
The focus was to learn how, using desensitization techniques, to stop the anxiety spiral early in order to significantly reduce the habit of worry and panic. We talked about the importance of learning to problem solve when anxiety appears to be a problem, how to reduce tension and increase energy. We discussed mindfulness in reducing anxiety, cognitive therapy, and exposure learning. We looked at case studies, did role-plays, and had interactive discussions. We practiced Progressive Muscle Relaxation and how to stop avoidance behaviors.
Lower School Counselor
The workshop "Treatment Resistant Anxiety, Worry and Panic" referred to techniques I have used in the past, such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Abdominal Breathing, and meditation. However, the leader introduced some helpful new ideas that addressed common pitfalls of these techniques. For instance, she demonstrated small but powerful "mini" relaxation moments patients should be encouraged to engage in throughout the day without stopping their flow of activity (or even flow of conversation, in most cases), so that they can continually monitor and release tension and departure from a present-focused, mindful stance. She uses "sticky notes" around routine areas as triggers to remind her patients to quickly shift their focus to a relaxed stance and go back to what they were doing. At our school, I have been able to point out physical landmarks present in most classrooms that students can use as reminders to engage in a mini-relaxation each time they see them. She began using this technique in response to recent data showing that panic patients apparently begin developing dysregulated cardiac activity approximately a full hour before they are first aware that they are having a panic attack. This was a surprising finding given how attentive anxiety patients typically are to their own somatic experiences. She also described how even generally helpful coping mechanisms like the breathing or the use of prayer can end up negatively reinforcing anxiety and panic when over-used or otherwise elevating the patient's sense that she or he won't be able to tolerate anxiety or panic.
Overall, I found the workshop extremely useful, if not entirely intriguing. The presence of colleagues helped us remain engaged, and the extremely helpful techniques for managing panic, anxiety, and worry were well worth it.
Upper School Counselor
I participated in a six-hour Inprint Advanced Poetry Workshop, let by poet Martha Serpas of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Before the workshop, Serpas sent out readings from modern and contemporary poets and thinkers. Also, we were instructed to bring a poem to workshop that had been “giving us trouble.” We began on Saturday by discussing composition—of the self and of the line. We folded the readings into our discussion. Then we looked at “stubborn” poems by half the workshop participants. On Sunday, we continued the conversation, did a writing exercise to create new poems, and workshopped the rest of the participants’ poems.
I felt intellectually and emotionally fulfilled by the experience. In addition, I generated a new poem and revised an older poem that had been troubling me for years. I deeply appreciated the high-level conversations about creating literary works and the problems and challenges therein. I already have shared the workshop’s readings with several of my Kinkaid colleagues, and I will continue to share them with others when the context is appropriate. Furthermore, in the spring I will use the generative exercise Serpas employed in the workshop when I teach my ninth graders poetry. Finally, I learned a new strategy for commenting on drafts that I will employ with all my writing assignments: listen to the poet/writer read the work aloud, and then flip the paper over and on the back write down everything you can remember about what you just heard.
Upper School English
I attended the TechFest workshop at the Second Baptist School. I appreciated the opportunity to hear other teachers share their thoughts on the use of technology in the classroom, their roadblocks, their frustrations and successes. I enjoyed learning about various new gadgets, iPad apps, Google Glass, Apple TV integrations, etc. I particularly liked the keynote speaker, Todd Nesloney, who gave an inspirational speech on social networking.
Middle School French
Attending the Annual ERB Conference was extremely beneficial. I now have a much greater understanding of where exactly the norms come from for the ERB tests and which are “true” norms and which are “derived” norms. I also have more specific guidelines for how to look over both individual and group ERB data and “flag” areas of concern. I learned that there are different options for which norm groups get included on many of the reports, and I have a better understanding of the pros/cons associated with listing each of these norms groups. Finally, I got some very specific guidance on how we might make a presentation to parents to help them better understand ERB scores.
Mr. Jordan and I have put together a summary of the information provided in each of the workshop sessions we attended. After we have polished it up a bit, we plan to share that document with our faculty. We also brainstormed about how we can apply the information from the workshop to what we are doing in the Middle School.
Middle School Learning Specialist
Having grown up in Houston, and having families that have lived in this area for over 100 years, my husband and I decided we would like to know more about the city we call home. This fall we were presented with the opportunity to do so when the Rice University Glasscock School of Continuing Studies offered the course “How Transportation Shaped Houston’s Development,” taught by Jim Parsons. Over three sessions, the course covered water transportation, railroads and pavement.
Houston was founded on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, and from its beginning was promoted as a potential capital city for the Republic of Texas. In the course we saw Houston's original grid plan, which was one of the first of it’s kind. Early Houston was muddy and dusty and had many gullies and ravines that were later filled. The Houston Ship Channel was originally the only way to get in and out of Houston effectively, and despite the narrow meander that was the early Ship Channel/Buffalo Bayou, large boats were able to make their way to Allen's Landing.
The most interesting part about the class on rail transportation was the discussion about the streetcar system. We always drive past the Bellaire trolley, and now we know more about its history. Streetcars made it easier to get around in the mud, but pavement brought around their demise.
The last class was on the influence of pavement and the road systems of Houston. I was amazed to learn that the Beltway and Grand Parkway were planned in the 1940s. Mr. Parsons also spent a great deal of time talking about the Gulf Freeway and its significance in the history of Houston. I was most impressed with how Sharpstown was one of the first neighborhoods created as a result of the highway system. My family has lived in the Sharpstown area since its development, and it was amazing to see pictures of things I heard my great grandparents and grandparents speak about.
This class reminded me of the value of using good visual and primary documents to improve understanding and interest in a classroom. I really enjoyed learning about my hometown.
Upper School History
I attended the recent ERB conference in Forth Worth. This three-day exposition of measurement metrics, vendor presentations, and instructional strategies was informative and thought provoking. I came away from the conference thinking about how we can better use our ERB data to identify gaps in our curriculum and student learning, and as another way to gauge student success. The conference also made me reflect on the very nature of “success” in school itself. In short, how do we know we are accomplishing our goals as a school? How do the different levels of our school gauge student progress and success? Is there (or should there be) consistency? The conference focused on data and data-driven decision making, and it made me think that we are very lucky to be part of an independent school that can utilize these types of data without being bound by them.
Middle School Assistant Principal
The workshop “What’s New in Young Adult Literature and How to Use It in Your Program” covered a wide range of books with a focus on current trends. Tjomsland presented ideas for incorporating literature in classes using both traditional and more technologically advanced methods.
Fantasy, “steampunk,” and dystopian books are definitely trendy, as are series by popular authors. Areas that don’t seem “hot” right now are historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Although selections from these genres were presented, they were not emphasized in the program. I recognize I need to explore “steampunk” in my own reading even though I don’t think many of my fifth grade students are reading this genre.
I found Tjomsland’s discussion of high-interest books for boys particularly helpful as a reminder that reluctant readers need books with certain features: catchy covers, easy print style, quick action, and well-defined characters. We definitely have some reluctant readers in fifth grade who could use some guidance in selecting titles for themselves, and Tjomsland’s book recommendations will be helpful in supporting these students.
The workshop handouts are extensive, and I was pleased to discover a section entitled “First and Opening Lines.” This fits nicely with one of my goals for this year: integrating more literature/books into writing classes. Having the students choose a favorite line or quotation, superimposing it over a picture of the book using an app like Quipio, and embedding it in their blogs would work nicely with my students.
Overall this was a quality workshop given by an absolute pro at “booktalking.”
Middle School English
I took an on-line course on Scientific Spelling through the Neuhaus Education Center. Scientific Spelling is a curriculum that teaches students to spell words by using the rules of the English language and reliable patterns. Students learn to categorize words into three main categories: regular words, irregular words, and rule words. When students know the structure of the language, they begin to understand why words are spelled the way they are. A great benefit of Scientific Spelling is that students can reconstruct the words after the test is over.
This course gave me a deeper understanding of the process that children use as they learn to spell. I’m looking forward to using this wonderful method to teach spelling.
First Grade Assistant
I took a Neuhaus Education Center course in “Scientific Spelling.” In the past, we’ve taught students to simply memorize the spellings of words, but we’ve found that they are not able to generalize those words to a setting outside of the test. We haven’t taught kids the reasoning behind how words are spelled, nor why they are spelled a particular way. This program taught me a number of things and confirmed what I already know: the English language is complex, and although there are many rules, they are not always easy to follow. This spelling program gives students the tools they need to successfully spell with accuracy.
Scientific Spelling is a program that focuses on the three kinds of words (regular, irregular and rule words) and teaches students how to analyze these words. Students are then able to use that knowledge to break down nearly any word to figure out how it is spelled. Spelling “tests” are no longer memorizing words, but truly applying what has been learned to new words. As far as I’m concerned, this is innovative and is going to forever change my approach to teaching.
I took the Scientific Spelling course through the Neuhaus Education Center. Since a faculty-wide training was conducted before I was hired, it was a great way to get caught up! The class was completed online, so I was able to go at my own pace and in the comfort of my own home. What a convenient way to receive valuable information on spelling instruction!
This course was an overview of the Scientific Spelling method of spelling instruction. It emphasizes student analysis of words and places words into three categories. When students understand the three different types (regular words, rule words, and irregular words), it becomes easier for them to identify patterns and internalize spellings. Spelling instruction of the past consisted mainly of memorization for the test, but Scientific Spelling ensures that students can reconstruct the words after the test is over. This course conveyed the message that “Scientific Spelling is different, not harder.” With what I have learned so far, and what I have seen in the classroom, I know this to be true!
The Texas Speech Communication Association annual convention in Corpus Christi was a great experience because it allowed me to be a part of the discussion on rule changes that will impact students in speech and debate across Texas. At the convention, we hold business meetings that govern participation in competitive debate for the state. This year, attendees debated over shortening the length of our competitive season in speech and debate (rejected by membership), adding regional tournaments as a method for state championship qualification (passed by membership), appropriate punishments for plagiarism, etc., as well as choosing the next president to lead our organization (the candidate I was a part of nominating won the election). These are all important decisions that will shape the experience Kinkaid students have in competitive debate, so I was happy to be able to represent the school and have a voice in the discussion.
In addition, I led a workshop for teachers on current trends in competitive debate that was one of the most attended for the weekend. I love to participate in teacher education because it allows me to give back to the larger debate community and interact with coaches from every region in Texas. I think this ultimately benefits Kinkaid, since it builds a positive connection with other schools.
The workshop that was most beneficial for me was "Facilitating Classroom Discussion in a World of Diversity: Challenges, Strategies, and Techniques." It was led by four college professors who are involved in diversity-based research and curriculum design. Debate often brings up topics that raise questions related to diversity—e.g., race in the judicial system or the politics of immigration. However, I think I found this workshop even more beneficial for teaching my Government classes. Topics related to diversity come up all the time when discussing current events. This workshop provided strategies for making discussions meaningful and honest while safe and inviting. I gained titles for new resources I can read, was able to ask questions regarding how to ensure students are not alienated during difficult discussions, and was validated in the journaling project that I have my seniors complete. One of the recommendations that was made by several members of the panel was a journal similar to one I currently require from my Government students that allows them to individually process their opinions on controversial topics through informal writing.
Finally, it was humbling to be recognized by my peers as the Middle School Educator of the Year at the convention luncheon. I was thankful to be able to be there to receive this honor.
Middle School Debate
I had the privilege of participating in Scientific Spelling training through the Neuhaus Education Center. Although I have read the Scientific Spelling curriculum guides, this experience enriched my understanding of the program. I was pleased to learn a few catchy ways to remember spelling rules that I can share with my students.
During the training, we took a look into the history of the English language, which equipped me with background knowledge needed to teach Scientific Spelling more thoroughly. It was interesting to learn how the English language has evolved over time and that many words stem from our Anglo-Saxon roots. I especially enjoyed the section where we learned to analyze words alongside our students in order to observe various spelling patterns and rules. The training provided an excellent, step-by-step model of how to go about analyzing words in the classroom.
Overall, this experience has given me greater confidence in my knowledge of the Scientific Spelling program. I am looking forward to utilizing these strategies with my students!
Scientific Spelling is a unique approach to teaching spelling. I now feel more equipped to teach my students spelling and to explain why words are spelled as they are. I appreciate that the program teaches students to become problem solvers, to follow a consistent routine when approaching a difficult word. It allows them to create a toolbox for spelling with frequently recurring patterns and rules of English spelling along with ways to analyze and classify words.
I thoroughly enjoyed taking the Neuhaus Scientific Spelling training online. It was so nice to be able to work on the training from home at my own pace during this very busy time of year. As a kindergarten teacher, I do not explicitly teach the Scientific Spelling curriculum. However, understanding of the program and what my students will be learning in the future helps me to lay a strong foundation for spelling in kindergarten.
The Texas Computer Educators Association conference, at Region Four in Houston this fall was excellent! It gave me the opportunity to sit in on six sessions of my choice. After my second session, I decided to punt all previous selections and follow him around for the afternoon sessions. He was amazing. His philosophy, that technology helps us reach goals we could not reach any other way, was exceptional.
I have been to five technology conferences over the past several years, and they continue to be meaningful. This year I am committed to connect my class globally through Twitter and Skype. We have had a great time Tweeting out our daily teaching experiences. Skyping with other willing participants for the remainder of the year is still an ongoing goal. The more I learn about technology, the more I question my own teaching.
I attended “Magnum Photos Into the Digital Age,” a symposium held in conjunction with the Harry Ransom Center's exhibition “Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos Into the Digital Age.”
I registered for this event within minutes after finding a Ransom Center post in my email last summer. The Ransom Center, located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, is one of the world’s greatest photo archives; Magnum Photos has been the world’s most storied group of photographers for the past 65 years.
The symposium began with an excellent keynote address by Fred Ritchin, Professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and co-director of Pixel Press and the NYU/Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights educational program, and, incidentally, professor to several former Kinkaid photography students who graduated from the Tisch photography program. Ritchin set the foundation for the discussions that would follow for the next two days, specifically an investigation into the impact of the digital age on the journalistic, artistic, and economic models that allowed Magnum photographers to flourish for decades. Each session allowed three or four Magnum photographers fifteen minutes to show recent work before discussing a specific topic in a panel discussion. Each group could have been advertised as a “Dream Team” photo slide show. It was an enormous pleasure to sit in an absolutely silent amphitheater with 200 other people, watching as one magnificent photo after another was projected on the screen. Some photographers narrated; others let the photos speak for themselves.
The panel discussions that followed, led by photo luminaries such as Anne Tucker, Curator of Photography at Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, and Susan Meiselas, American documentary photographer and member of Magnum since 1976, were informative and serious. How does Magnum survive in a climate of disappearing news journals and magazines, web media sites that upload more images in a day than a human could look at in a life-time, a flood of free photos made by “citizen journalists” with a cell phone ready to send them in an instant for free to anyone who might put their photo on the web or TV, and the move from printed to electronic books? Despite the enormous challenges, the photographers were upbeat, planning a wide range of initiatives in new media to maintain image distribution and revenues. They see their place in Magnum as a great honor and the legacy of the agency as a great professional and personal asset. Happily, they continue to see the “book,” whether electronic or printed, as an enduring mode of presentation. Most important, they understand that what they cannot change is their members’ devotion to excellence and the all too rare artistic and journalistic freedom required to pursue it.
Best moment for me personally. For thirty years I have admired and enjoyed the work of Josef Koudelka. His story is extraordinary; his photographs are small miracles. His slide presentation was a transporting moment for me. Better yet, after the presentation I saw an opportunity to introduce myself and express my enormous admiration and gratitude to Koudelka. I further explained that I teach photography in high school and for many years have shown his work to my students, frequently explaining in the introduction that I like Koudelka’s pictures “mainly because his name rhymes with mine.” Koudelka burst into laughter with a great smile and clapped me on the shoulder. I left satisfied (and relieved) that I had given Koudelka a tiny gift in return for the enormous pleasure and education his life’s work has given me.
Upper School Photography
I attended a seminar, “Treating Resistant Anxiety, Worry and Panic.” The presenter offered over sixty effective therapeutic techniques and interventions to treat anxiety, worry, and stress. The differences clinically and in the manifestation of anxiety, worry, and stress were discussed. The techniques were based on the presenter’s training and experience as a scientist-practitioner utilizing applied relaxation techniques and self-controlled desensitization in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral and other psychotherapeutic practices. These strategies will be effective in my work with individual students and in aiding their families.
Middle School Counselor
I spent about eight hours at the New Horizons learning center taking an on line-live from an instructor I think was in Kansas City. I learned a lot about the use of Adobe Illustrator. I plan to use it to create better diagrams than I currently have the ability to make with the draw programs in Google or Word. Diagrams like electric circuits or free body diagrams are essential for illustrating problems on tests and exams, and those diagrams are either difficult to find in clip art or can't be customized to fit a particular problem.
I still will need to practice quite a bit because Illustrator is not the most intuitive, user-friendly program. The good thing is that it is very powerful. The bad part about what I want to do is that very few other people want to make this kind of diagram. I had several questions that the instructor, whose experience seemed to be in creating brochures and/or greeting cards, could not answer. Still, I did manage to create a diagram for our new schedule.
Upper School Science
In the blended learning webinar I took, there was a lot of talk about online discussions and wikis, which wasn’t as helpful to me as to some others. However, the presenter did take individual requests and questions and tried to tailor some of the information to fit me. The webinar reassured me that I'm more interested in a blended classroom than a flipped classroom.
Middle School Mathematics
The conference I attended specifically addressed the implementation of a program in Christian Meditation to be taught to children in thirty-one Catholic schools across a diocese in Australia. They taught techniques, facilitated three different sessions, described their population, and described perceived results to date. Many aspects of the style in which this group is implementing meditation were too specifically Christian and religious in orientation to be replicated at Kinkaid, but various important points have high potential for utility in our environment. For example, they use meditation with children as young as 3 years of age and recommend one minute per year of age (up to 25-30 years—they joked several times that those over 65 do not have to mediate for more than an hour). They had great ways of explaining the process to young children, such as focusing on "the 3 S's of Silence, Stillness, and Simplicity" and holding them to a short list of physical guidelines, including seated position with upright posture, gently closed eyes, both feet on floor if in a chair. Self-report measures administered to the children suggested that the children believe the experience helped them grow emotionally, mentally, spiritually and, to some extent, physically, and children reported a variety of specific benefits in qualitative measures. Overall, teachers also considered the time well spent. Subjectively, teachers, administrators, and outside observers identified children in the program as remarkably easier to get settled, more focused, and less involved in conflict, and overall test scores went up across the diocese. While many of these reports are subjective, they are consistent with more empirical analyses in other studies of meditation. They made some comparisons about how to use non-Christian meditation, particularly Mindful Meditation approaches, and noted several times that their schools are often used as basic neighborhood schools by many children who are not Catholic or Christian of any kind, and those children still seemed to get the psychological and emotional benefits and had higher test scores.
Upper School Counselor
I attended Robotics 1.0 on Saturday. When I arrived I quickly found out that I was the only female and the only one from a middle school. After hearing introductions, I thought I was in the wrong place!
Once we got started, it was all hands-on learning, building and programming. It did not take long for me to realize I was ahead of a lot of my classmates. I was happy to see that there is at least 85% math involved, the rest intuition. We worked with angles, percentages, degrees, circumferences, etc. I won our individual competition, and our class defeated the advanced class. I had so much fun; I learned so much and want to keep learning. I hope to take 2.0, as well.
Middle School Mathematics
I was delighted to attend the ISAS Beginning Teacher Institute. The speakers were great, the advice was helpful, and the trip to St. Francis Episcopal Day School was very informative. It was a privilege to spend three days with so many wonderful teachers who share my passion for what I do.
My favorite part of the conference was learning about new technology in the classroom. The speaker shared many wonderful resources that I can’t wait to try. We participated in online, interactive assessments on free websites, socrative.com and polleverywhere.com. Each was a great way to engage students and to do a quick assessment. I can’t wait to use these websites and many of the others I was introduced to at the ISAS Conference.
Lower School Assistant
The workshop I attended, “The DSM-5 Diagnosis for Psychological and Emotional Disorders in Children and Adolescents,” presented information about the process used to produce an updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and summarized the most significant differences between the old version (DSM-IV-R) and the new version (DSM-5) of the diagnostic manual. The emphasis of the workshop was on significant changes to diagnostic criteria most applicable to children and adolescents.
I learned about the most significant changes to the diagnostic criteria for some of the neurodevelopmental disorders common in students. The most salient changes include:
- There is now an official diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (which includes what was previously referred to as Asperger’s Disorder).
- There was a great deal of discussion about how the criteria for ADHD should be changed. However, because of lack of consensus, ADHD criteria are largely unchanged except that the required age of onset has been increased from age 7 to age 12 and number of symptoms required is reduced for older adolescents.
- The diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder Not Otherwise Specified has been removed. The diagnosis of Other Specified Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has been added.
- There is now a single diagnosis (Specific Learning Disorder) to cover all learning disabilities, with specifiers added to indicate the area of learning impacted.
- The diagnosis of Specific Learning Disorder now requires that academic skills be “substantially and quantifiably below those expected for an individual’s chronological age”, whereas in the past a Learning Disorder diagnosis required that skills be substantially below those expected for an individual’s chronological age and level of intelligence.
The information presented in this workshop will be shared with the entire Support Services team, as diagnostic changes have significant implications for students who receive academic accommodations.
Middle School Learning Specialist
The Educational Theatre Association Conference in Minneapolis offered many opportunities to learn from colleagues in high school theatre and other experts in the field of arts education.
I attended keynote addresses by two leaders in the industry, Thomas Shumacher, President of Disney Theatrical Group, and Ayanna Hudson, Director of Arts Education for the National Endowment for the Arts. I found inspiration in Mr. Shumacher’s words as he described how arts teachers had literally “saved” him in his formative years by identifying and nurturing his gifts and giving him a place to belong. The conference ended with a keynote performance by Minnesota playwright/performer Kevin Kling about the power of storytelling to heal—particularly poignant coming from an artist with physical disabilities.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a performance at the renowned Guthrie Theatre, the first company in the regional theatre movement of the 1960s to bring permanent, professional theatre out of New York, a movement of which Houston’s Alley Theatre was also a part. Joe Dowling, current artistic director, directed the production of Uncle Vanya with a script translated by my favorite Irish playwright, Brian Friel. It was a lively production that did justice to Chekhov’s comic turns as well as his melancholy.
For the most part, I found the workshops to be interesting and applicable to my work in the classroom and rehearsal hall. I attended two technology-related sessions, one about using Google Docs and another about using digital devices in the theatre classroom. My favorite session was “Vocal Production” with Dr. Nash, a longtime professor at the University of Minnesota in the area of Voice and Speech. She walked us through a number of vocal exercises and underlying principles of vocal use, information that I look forward to incorporating into my class instruction and rehearsal process. The session “Picking and Getting Into the Right College Theatre Program” was also full of valuable no-nonsense information. Bruce Miller, head of the BA/BFA Acting programs at the University of Miami, confirmed much of the counsel I already provide to aspiring theatre students and provided some added insights that will be helpful as I work with Kinkaid students and their parents to navigate college theatre choices. I am pleased to have already shared some of this wisdom with the Deans in the form of an article by Mr. Miller. I also participated in a one-on-one conference with a master teacher in which we shared success stories, challenges, and strategies for directing musical theatre.
One additional highlight of the weekend was a town hall meeting about the new National Core Standards in the Arts, currently in the last stages of development and review for the high school level. The first revisioning and re-envisioning of arts standards since 1994, the structure and content of the new standards are exciting both from the standpoint of advocacy for the importance of arts in education and from the standpoint of curriculum development. We were able to hear from some of the key writers of the theatre standards and ask questions about their implementation, design, and assessment.
From beginning to end, this conference afforded me opportunities to connect with colleagues, reflect on my teaching, and celebrate my art form.
Director of Drama
When first approached about attending the ISAS Beginning Teacher Institute, I was immediately onboard. My former mentor teacher helps put on the conference, and she spoke so highly of it last year that I wanted to experience it for myself. As it turned out, she was absolutely right to speak so highly of the Institute. The professors from Notre Dame were engaging, exciting, informative, and understanding. Every time they presented, my eyes and ears were glued to them. Any teacher, from novice to expert, would benefit from these instructors.
Perhaps the biggest thing I took away for the conference was during the middle school breakout session. We discussed what we are teaching, and whether we are teaching the kids apples or CHANGE (huh?!). I don’t just want to teach declensions and conjugations to my students; I want to teach them to be active problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and leaders. While I will continue to teach the “nuts and bolts” of Latin, I want the bigger picture always to have a presence. We also discussed the many different ways to still teach apples, yet have change at the forefront of our minds, and therefore our lessons.
I also loved going to observe at St. John’s School, where I was able to watch history and Latin classes. I feel like I learn so much from watching other people teach. To see the theories and methods in practice makes all the difference. I am able to see the pedagogy in their classrooms, and then replicate and tweak it to fit my classroom and personality.
The ISAS Beginning Teaching Institute was filled with engaging lessons, enthusiastic teachers (both novice and veteran), and useful tools to implement in my classroom.
Middle School Latin
For three days at the ISAS Beginning Teachers Institute, I had the opportunity to meet with colleagues and discuss experiences and ideas for our classrooms. Never having attended or taught in independent schools, I underestimated the flexibility I would have in the classroom regarding my curriculum. With complete flexibility and freedom in the curriculum comes the daunting task of making sure all topics are appropriate. I enjoyed meeting with other teachers from various schools who could help answer questions or lead discussions on specific topics. The professors from Notre Dame who led the conference were incredible, adding not only wonderful personal experiences from their own classrooms, but a wonderful sense of humor that was apparent from start to finish.
I most enjoyed the sessions where we were able to meet in small groups with other teachers in our grade area. I was able to jot down many ideas and websites I look forward to using in my classroom. In addition, all of my questions were answered in these small groups, and I felt energized after collaborating with colleagues. Most interesting was a twenty minute session about teaching social justice. Though brief, it was full of suggestions and concepts that will be great in the classroom.
Lower School Assistant
While most of the ISAS Beginning Teachers Institute was geared toward classroom teachers, I was able to gain some useful classroom management techniques and several new technology applications I hope to try with children in the library.
I spent several breakout sessions with the prekindergarten-first grade group. We discussed transitions at length due to the short attention span of children this age. It was so beneficial to hear other teachers discuss what works for them in their own classroom. In fact, one day, instead of lesson planning, we voted to continue an open forum discussion about classroom management and other issues we deemed important. After being out of the classroom for several years, it was very beneficial for me to discuss these topics.
We also heard several interesting speakers who introduced some new technology I was not familiar with. Dr. Mirzaie from Phoenix Country Day School delivered a great presentation on how he uses different applications in his upper school classroom. I was able to jot down several websites and programs, including a digital book report, I think might work with Lower School students.
My favorite part of the Institute was visiting St. Francis Episcopal Day School and their library. They have one library for both lower and middle school and also a very small library for early childhood children. After two days of discussing nothing but classroom procedures and lesson plans, I was delighted to discuss library procedures and books with others librarians. It is always interesting to see that other people do what you do. We even discussed a visit here to our library so we caj share with them.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed attending the ISAS Beginning Teacher Institute. While it wasn't directly designed for librarians, it was a good introduction to working at an independent school and an opportunity to meet other teachers and bond with my colleagues.
Lower School Assistant Librarian
The ISAS Beginning Teachers Institute was truly incredible. After some interesting and entertaining introductions from the workshop leaders from Notre Dame, we began with a discussion of the concept of course narratives. The first speaker, Brian Collier, applied this idea to an upper level history class and showed us how he could tie the idea of “dream” to key concepts of a unit in order to create a truly fluid narrative or story-like design to a course. Kevin Burke also demonstrated a narrative using essential unit concepts for a pre-algebra class. I loved the notion of a fluid, story-like curriculum, but I was stumped initially about how to apply this idea to an early childhood setting. In the older grades the curriculum is more focused and content rich, whereas in early childhood it’s about facilitating growth in an array of skill areas that are academic as well as social and emotional. We were given time to work in groups on our own course narratives after this, and I collaborated with a colleague who is in the same position I am to come up with a prekindergarten course narrative. I loved this exercise because it forced us to consider the “big picture” and tie together a principal set of ideas throughout our curriculum. The theme for the course narrative we discussed was “Foundations,” since everything at the prekindergarten level is a new skill. Some of the areas we highlighted were foundations of social and emotional skills, literacy (e.g., alphabetic/phonemic awareness and comprehension), mathematics (e.g., ordering, counting), Interest based learning, motor skills, and school expectations (routines, core values, etc.). Maria McKenna, another workshop leader, tied this idea in with the notion of a spiraling curriculum. I thought this piece was an interesting way for any new teacher to design any course at any level. Thinking about things in a “big picture” mindset allows us to leave room for flexibility based on students’ interests, but still guides them towards the important underlying concepts in the curriculum. Overall I think this opening lecture would be useful now and in any course I might teach in the future.
We also met in breakout groups, which were specific to our department. All of the meetings we had in small groups I found to be tremendously helpful, not only because they pertained more to elementary education, but also because the smaller group led to more focused and open discussion. In my group we received some wonderful tips on classroom management from Maria McKenna as well as from the head of school at St. Frances Episcopal Day School, where we also did our classroom visit. We discussed planning at the early childhood level and how to balance home life and work life. Some simple time management tools I took away I can already see helping in some ways, such as setting a timer to work on something or giving myself one day a month to look for new curriculum supplements. These may seem small and insignificant, but I think they will have an impact on my ability to manage and get things done, which will then give me time to develop in other professional areas. Ms. McKenna also gave us some great ideas for classroom management at the early childhood level. I found many of these ideas useful for our classroom now, and when I have my own classroom in the future.
We were fortunate also to attend some innovative speed sessions we chose from a list of several topics. The three I chose were social justice teaching, design thinking, and flipped classroom. In design thinking I was so impressed by the presenter’s simple process for coming up with opportunities for his students. He was a robotics teacher, and initially I worried that his design would be applicable only to a course that involved technology, but then he applied his model on the spot to a Shakespeare literature course and showed us how it could be equally effective there. Next Maria McKenna gave us some great ideas regarding social justice teaching. This was a topic that I really was moved by in my college coursework. I have seen how it can be effective even in the earliest grade levels through social issue texts. Ms. McKenna gave us several wonderful articles that I hope to share with my colleagues as well as ideas about how to design curriculum that incorporates social justice.
Again this was an incredible opportunity, and I look forward to continuing my growth as a professional using these new tools and ideas I have acquired.
Lower School Assistant
“DSM-5: Diagnosis for Psychological and Emotional Disorders in Children and Adolescents” provided an in-depth overview of significant changes in the diagnostic manual for psychiatric and psychological disorders, focusing specifically on those affecting children. The manual is updated every 10-15 years and reflects the culmination of advances in research and practice.
Changes in the area of learning disabilities most directly impact some Kinkaid students and therefore our work with them and with their community service providers. Previously qualified students may no longer receive accommodations because on stricter requirements for diagnosis. Other noted areas of impact include Bipolar Disorder, eating disorders, Autism, and Conduct Disorder. Secondary changes include the system of coding and reporting diagnoses.
The presenter, George Haarman, will consult via Skype with our Student Services Committee (psychologists, learning specialists, and administrators all levels), specifically addressing the changes in learning disorders.
“Teaching Meditation in Schools” presented a nine-year initiative implementing twice daily meditation practices to all students 4-19 years old in an Australian diocesan school district. They presented published research supporting the benefits of daily meditation and their own empirical findings.
The district utilized the World Conference on Christian Meditation philosophy, format, and resources and provided specific logistics of the large-scale implementation and support for their program. F or Kinkaid, a wellness program addressing healthy living and combatting stress would likely incorporate some form of meditative practice.
The presenter of “Treating Resistant Anxiety, Worry, and Panic” offered more than sixty effective therapeutic techniques and interventions to treat anxiety, worry, and stress. The differences clinically and in the manifestation of the three were discussed. The techniques were based on the presenter’s training and experience as a scientist-practitioner utilizing applied relaxation techniques and self-controlled desensitization in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral and other psycho-therapeutic practices. These strategies will be effective in my work with individual students and in aiding their families in addressing concerns of stress, worry, and anxiety.
Middle School Counselor
I attended a workshop addressing the changes in the DSM-5. This workshop was extremely helpful and pertinent to my job as Upper School Learning Specialist. The speaker addressed the history of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and how the changes in the DSM-5 will affect the way we diagnose students with learning disabilities and ADHD. The DSM-5 was released in May, and is going to be implemented a year from now. Many of the diagnoses in the DSM-IV (e.g, Reading Disorder, Disorder of Written Expression, LD NOS, and Mixed Receptive/ Expressive Language Disorder) no longer exist in the DSM-5.
Another significant change in the DSM-5 is the criteria used to make a diagnosis. In the past, a learning disorder was diagnosed based on a discrepancy in standard scores (standard deviations). In the DSM-5 a student must have below average scores (an 85 or below) in order to be diagnosed with a learning disability. We need to prepare for a shift in how we help students with learning issues, because it is going to become more difficult to qualify for extended time.
Upper School Learning Specialist
In preparation for Kinkaid’s adoption of the Advanced Placement World History (WHAP) course, I attended a four-day intensive workshop at Woodward Academy in Atlanta. The institute, taught by veteran WHAP teacher Charles Hart, involved four, eight-hour days on the WHAP curriculum, examination process, essay rubrics and objective questions.
WHAP is designed to focus students on the “big picture” of world history, with emphasis on these themes: interaction between humans and the environment; development and interaction of cultures; state building, expansion, and conflict; creation, expansion, and interaction of economic systems; and the development and transformation of social structures. The institute did not teach the content, although we were given many resources and suggestions for research in preparation for teaching the course content. Most of the workshop’s focus was on learning to teach the very specific structures/rubrics of the WHAP essays. We examined student essays, critiqued them, and then practiced having to “write” mock versions of the essays. We also practiced numerous “mock” skills-based lessons for WHAP.
Many of the teachers at this institute were not only new to teaching WHAP, but were relatively new to teaching, so there was a lot of collaboration between the more veteran teachers and the “newbies.” We had many thoughtful discussions about engaging students in history, going beyond the textbook, flipping classes, teaching writing and analytical skills, bringing in current events, and, in general, making the course both manageable and doable for students and teachers alike.
While I am not a new teacher, I found the discussions about good teaching/best practices stimulating. I certainly found myself eager to rethink some of the ways I have traditionally taught my ninth grade classes. The discussions about essays were particularly helpful to me. There were many sound ideas presented for teaching students how to construct a persuasive essay, breaking down the process, and making it simpler for students to understand the steps towards writing a well-argued essay. In addition, I feel encouraged to do even more project-based learning with my students and also to continue to rework my classes to be more student-centered and less teacher-dependent.
An aspect of the workshop that I found illuminating was the mix of teachers attending. With the exception of four teachers, all of the twenty-three teachers were from public schools. These schools ranged from small, rural high schools to inner city schools where most of the students were economically disadvantaged. I was impressed by the dedication that these teachers demonstrated to bringing their students to the level of AP work. Having studied and worked in the independent school world for all of my life, it was eye opening for me to see the challenges that my public school colleagues meet and deal with on a daily basis. I came away from the workshop deeply appreciative of the special learning environment Kinkaid provides to both students and faculty.
Upper School History
Through the Apple One-to-One training I am excited to explore and delve more deeply into applications of technology in my curriculum and class presentations. One-to-One has expanded to offer a personal web page where I can make reservations, read the latest technology tips for Macs and other iProducts, store and record my working notes, and view tutorials and samples of various projects.
I am currently working on refining my skills on the iPad in the classroom, as well as introductory work with iBooks Author. I look forward to the benefits of this training, the access to support, and attending numerous sessions throughout the year.
Middle School History
The second grade team met for three half days during the first two weeks of June. Our team worked to achieve a better perspective of our grade's scope and sequence. Much of the time was spent in curriculum development, which included scheduling and coordinating reading, writing, spelling, and unit studies. We paralleled lessons in reading comprehension using our Comprehension Toolkit resource and existing curricular lessons. We made adjustments to a portion of last year’s spelling assessments to correspond more accurately with our Scientific Spelling weekly lessons. We analyzed several curricular units in our Rubicon maps and made necessary adjustments for the upcoming school year. Some of these included supplemental enrichment instruction in the classroom by the second grade teacher assistant. The time was extremely helpful to our team, which included two new members.
Our second grade planning days were extremely productive. This gift of time was essential for regrouping and bringing our new team together. We were able to spend time reflecting on this past year and updating many areas of our curriculum, integrating new components from this year, and noting where to include these in our curriculum maps. Scheduling these pieces effectively became a focus of our time and will help us as we strive to accomplish our goals for the next school year.
Our new teammates were brought up to date on grade level specifics and became more acclimated to what defines us as a second grade unit. Cooperative planning is an important piece of the way we function, and having this time together was invaluable. We appreciate the opportunity to work together as a new team and get a jump-start on our new journey next year.
The second grade team met to make curriculum plans for the upcoming school year. As a new member of the team, I was able gain a better understanding of our scope and sequence. I was exposed to the curriculum components of reading, writing, spelling, and the units of study. Our units of study and curriculum components were scheduled according to the school calendar to allow for a smooth flow in instructional time.
Planning for the upcoming school year during the summer is a luxury, allowing time for reflection and consideration of curriculum components and scheduling. I feel that I’ve received a wealth of curriculum information in a concentrated amount of time.
Lower School Assistant Teacher
The three half days that we were given were productive for our second grade team. We worked on getting a better understanding of our scope and sequence as it relates to the school calendar. We mapped our curriculum and set specific dates and deadlines to complete our units of study. We incorporated Comprehension Toolkit lessons across the curriculum to maximize the exposure for our students. After careful review of the Scientific Spelling program, we made some revisions and adjustments to last year’s spelling lessons. This time was beneficial to our team particularly because we are welcoming two people to new roles. Since our team has had many staff changes in the past two years, it was critical for us to have this time to ensure that we are all on the same page. We have a great running start in being prepared for the beginning of the year!
What a fabulous summer conference! I returned to Houston re-energized and excited about implementing new and creative ideas. I specifically enjoyed learning how to use the iPad where students create projects that promote creativity as well as collaboration. This use is more appropriate than using the iPad to practice what they have learned by playing educational games. I also learned better ways through technology to keep communication open with my students’ parents. The biggest surprise was attending a session, "Global Connections in Elementary: The How and Why," a superb session presented by Matthew Gomez. By using tech tools and example projects, students are able to share with a global audience. These connections lead to collaboration and authentic learning in the classroom. Tech tools he shared included blogs, Twitter, Google docs, voice thread, and Skype. The importance of digital citizenship was the underlying topic.
Bob Pangrazi is one of the top Physical Educators in the field; he has written over seventy books. His workshop was amazing on different levels. First, he was celebrating his seventieth birthday and yet was one of the most active participants in the workshop. During his workshop participants are expected to be active, to experience the different lessons and challenges that they would ask their students to perform. Second, Pangrazi's philosophy and love of children were always in the forefront of the seminar. He reminded the educators that their attitude and energy are contagious for the students. Pangrazi stressed the importance of teaching the fundamentals and breaking down the basics. He is not a believer in playing competitive large games in class, so most of his sessions taught new games, whether they were lead up or skill based. He introduced his new pedometers that plug into the computer so teachers can keep a classroom of data for the year. He also had a session in a classroom to show the many interactive lessons homeroom teachers can do online. Pangrazi is truly a creative genius. I am excited to use the new lessons next fall.
Physical Education and Athletics
The third grade team’s work time together was very worthwhile, and we accomplished a lot that will benefit the students as well as us in the 2013-2014 school year. We mapped out our year on a large calendar and loosely planned what units we will teach each month. We planned our reading comprehension toolkit units and tied in our major units of study with many of the toolkit units. We also chose the mentor texts that we will be using for each unit. We planned the grammar and mechanics units we will teach and reinforce each month. We looked at our writing units and revised what we will teach and the best time of the year to teach each writing unit. We added a new writing unit on legends to support and embellish our Native American unit. We are excited to add a poetry component. We completed our planning time by revising our spelling lessons to be more consistent and uniform with the rules and the patterns that we will teach. It is amazing how much we achieved in the eight hours spent together without interruptions!
Our third grade team had a productive two days of planning. We began our time by plotting out our Reading Comprehension Toolkit lessons on the calendar. We integrated our units of study reading texts with the Toolkit lessons where appropriate. We also spent time reviewing our Writer’s Workshop units. We looked over our units on the curriculum map in Rubicon and then decided what would be the most effective order in which to teach them. For example, we chose to teach our fiction-writing unit right before the writing ERB tests. Also, we discussed our grammar units and plotted them out on our year-at-a-glance calendar. As a team we wrote uniform spelling test lists to give each week following the spelling-rule-of-the-week so that our students will have common experience. We ended our time together by discussing The Poetry Friday Anthology routines we will begin next year.
We appreciated the opportunity to do some much needed global planning with our team. It is so beneficial to talk about the big picture during the stress-free summertime.
iPad Palooza was a two-day learning festival on the impact that iPads have on education. The focus of presenters was creativity, collaboration, engagement, and the ways teachers have integrated iPads into their classrooms.
The keynote speaker, Sir Ken Robinson, spoke on what it takes to foster creativity: imagination, critical thinking, and innovation. The iPad is a tool that stimulates the creative thought process.
Several sessions were held on apps and the iBook Author software. Student-authored digital books are a powerful way for students to demonstrate their understanding of content and showcase their learning. A variety of book creation apps were demonstrated and explored. Ideas for student-created books were shared as well as ways to give credit for media and copyrighted materials.
Presenters shared the use of iPad apps in their daily teaching of literacy, math, science, and social studies. Many examples of products and student projects showed that student creativity can be nurtured with interactive tools. I look forward to using some of these ideas and techniques with Kinkaid students.
Lower School Assistant
Our two afternoons of planning time have been invaluable for the third grade team! We started by looking at the 2013-2014 school year and planning our units of study in detail by tying in Steph Harvey toolkit lessons. We took an in-depth look at these lessons in terms of which would be applicable to each unit study. We also planned our writing workshop lessons and created a timeline for our units of writing. Our first afternoon concluded with looking at our grammar lessons for the year and confirming that they align with our map on Rubicon.
The second day we focused on finalizing our spelling lists and spelling tests and finished planning all 26 weeks of our Scientific Spelling program. It will be helpful for us to have uniform testing templates and word lists. We concluded by looking at “The Poetry Friday Anthology,” a program we plan to implement in our classrooms next year in which a poem is read each week and the class analyzes and “connects” to it. I think my students will look forward to this weekly routine!
This hard work will no doubt help us have a great start to the next school year.
I had an enriching and exciting experience at the Summer 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio. I am especially excited to spend time this summer applying some of the technologies into my lesson plans for the 2013-14 school year!
In the conference I was exposed to a huge community of professionals who share an interest in learning and discovering the best ways to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges. The assortment of sessions was vast (over 800 sessions). In addition to the sessions, there were scores of interactive options, including poster sessions, technology “playgrounds,” themed lounges, and various other hands-on activities.
I attended two keynote addresses that continue to resonate in my mind. The opening keynote speaker was Jane McGonigal, a leading speaker on games and the application of game design to education. She discussed the power of game play to solve real world challenges and to teach 21st century skills. The second keynote speaker was Steven Johnson, one of the foremost thought leaders in today’s interdisciplinary, collaborative, and open-minded approach to innovation, who gave an inspirational talk as he explored the concept of where and how good ideas originate. He highlighted how innovative learners solve problems by borrowing ideas from multiple fields of thought and how both educators and students can leverage peer networks to mobilize as agents of change.
Some of the sessions I attended that proved most useful included “Charting a Course toward an Interactive Social Studies Classroom”; “Museum and Teacher Collaboration”; “Global Voice: Publishing with iBooks Author”; “Using Technology-Enabled Projects to Make Teaching and Learning More Meaningful.”
I look forward to further exploration throughout the summer with the goal of implementing facets throughout the upcoming school year!
Middle School History
The International Society for Technology in Education 2013 conference provided me with a host of resources for incorporating technology in an authentic and useful way in my English classroom. With free web resources I can customize vocabulary instruction, annotate readings, check student progress, give feedback on writing, and use audio and images to increase student engagement. In the workshop “Blended Learning: Exploring Tools, Techniques, and Resources,” Catlin Tucker discussed and demonstrated methods of using these online tools effectively. For instance, she offered advice on teaching students to ask discussion-provoking questions and to give substantive responses so that online discussions as part of a “flipped classroom” model would benefit student learning. She also explained how to keep assessment manageable using web resources. When her students engage in small-group discussions in class, for example, she has them audio record a summary of the highlights and questions. She can thus monitor each group’s work, and the students have practiced synthesis and alerted her to any confusions they have. I now know about many free resources available to contribute to my teaching, and I would be wise to follow Tucker’s parting advice: “Explore them all; just adopt one.”
Upper School English
This summer, our second grade team had the opportunity to meet together to discuss, collaborate, and plan for the upcoming year. I found this to be especially helpful because I will be transitioning from an assistant position to a lead teaching role next year. I left our meetings with a deeper understanding of the scope and sequence the second grade curriculum. I am especially excited to implement the instruction of non-fiction reading strategies from the Comprehension Toolkit during our units of study. Also, we examined and discussed revisions to our writing curriculum maps. I found this to be beneficial because it increased my familiarity both with using Rubicon and with our various writing units. This experience equipped me with a broad, yet detailed overview of the upcoming year.
The TCEA Technology Conference in Galveston was well organized, with many different choices of hands-on sessions. My favorite session was led by a kindergarten teacher from San Antonio, an amazing educator who communicates through Twitter and Skype with several "friends” around the world. It was lots of fun to learn about teaching at the next level, and it was awesome to see the way he communicated with other teachers and students who want to help others share their learning through Twitter. I also enjoyed getting to know more about QR codes, a refreshing new way to share children's work with parents, administrators, and other children. Expect to see them attached to the children's work in our hallway!
As usual, the athletic trainers convention in South Padre proved to be very enlightening. Visits with other professionals in a relaxed setting often provide some of the best information. A few highlights of the course included dermatology issues in athletes, concussion update, and an on-site shoulder dissection.
I attended a workshop, “Teaching Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome with Technology,” an intensive, two-day, hands-on workshop for history and social studies teachers. We were introduced to innovative ideas for incorporating Web 2.0 resources and emerging technologies into the classroom instruction of ancient history. During this workshop, we had opportunities to work with Read-Write web resources to incorporate both traditional and multimodal communication. We also investigated various technology platforms to empower students and facilitate the development of creative, active learning environments. This workshop also provided opportunities for investigating numerous examples of the best ancient history-related web sites, incorporating practical methods and techniques for using technology in the history and social studies classroom, and including opportunities for targeted Web 2.0 exploration while investigating historical people, places and events.
We explored technologies that would allow me to include developing and incorporating blogs, podcasts, Google Docs, screencasting, online social networks, animations and simulations, online primary source depositories, digital storytelling platforms, interactive mapping tools, and other emerging technologies in my classroom instruction and various student activities. Throughout the workshop, we investigated exemplars and strategies that demonstrate how innovative history and social studies teachers are forging powerful new learning connections with their students. This allowed me not only to feel comfortable with technologies I was unfamiliar with, but also to rethink my approach to historical thinking and instruction. We looked at how to use audio and image information tools to investigate a topic through various manifestations such as video and virtual tours, student response systems, and other collaborative tools. This workshop allowed me the opportunity to look at a wide variety of digital tools that enable students to take that information and data we can collect in our studies of history in order to collaborate and create educational content through a technologically enriched learning environment.
Middle School History
I took part in the state Athletic Training Convention held in Houston this week. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with some of the lectures this year.
On Thursday, I listened to some of the updates for concussion treatment and management. I remain confident about our guidelines, and I was able to meet one of the physicians we use for concussion management. Two other great talks were about nutrition and hydration. Former Kinkaid parent Roberta Anding, who is a great resource on nutrition in our community, spoke about the importance of athletes getting enough calories, sleep, and balance in their lives. Finally, there was a great practical lecture by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute about proper hydration.
The last time I saw Debbie Diller, about five years ago, she was just beginning to talk about math workstations. This conference was a combination of Math and Literacy workstation work, spelling out the differences and similarities between the two. Diller’s examples and thoughtful questions made me think of new ways to teach. She stretched the audience by challenging us to "grow” our workstations. Adding open-ended, higher-level thinking questions and tasks to each workstation will help children expand their thinking. It does mean more thoughtful work in planning, but it will be well worth the efforts to reach all learners. I also picked up three DVDs that will help our team learn more about math and literacy workstations. I plan to host book/ DVD studies throughout the year to help teachers who want to learn more about it. Fun!
The Comprehension Times Three Conference was excellent! All three speakers reminded me of important aspects of teaching as well as introduced new ideas. For example, "students need to be able to use knowledge, not just know about things. Understanding is about making connections among and between things, about deep and not surface knowledge, and about great complexity, not simplicity." This reminds me that, although we have a list of goals for students to achieve, the teacher knows what is best in teaching our children. We need to keep the wonder and desire to learn alive. In prekindergarten, we do not have this problem for most of our students, because they are still full of wonder.
During the last day of the conference, one study that fascinated me was about what motivates people. Finally, the conference was truly aimed to kindergarten to high school teachers. I am confident I am walking away with many ideas to implement in the classroom.
Thank you so much for the funding to travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to participate in the first E. E. Ford Summer Institute Colloquium, sponsored by Santa Fe Prep.
During the week of study, I worked under the tutelage of writer Rob Wilder and was able to share and workshop writing with a class of twelve other writers. We wrote each day both on topics given to us by Rob, as well as on whatever subject we were drawn to on our own.
We read a wide selection of memoir-type personal essays, including work by Phillip Lopate, Joan Didion, W.B. Sebald, and Flannery O'Connor.
The writing in the class was built around response to landscape; however, our readings and discussions in class also centered on character development, self-editing, and a proper balance in descriptive detail.
In addition to our daily work with Rob, we also had the opportunity to participate in single-day workshops with both Gregory Martin and Natalie Goldberg.
Our week also included a visit and writing time at the Lannan Foundation, as well as trips to the Pueblo village north of Taos and the famous Mable Luhan Dodge house and grounds, former home to as diverse a group of personages/artists as D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O'Keefe, Alfred Steiglitz, and Dennis Hopper.
In short, it was a thoroughly rewarding week—both as a teacher of writing and as a writer.
Upper School English
The fourth grade team’s curriculum planning was very valuable to my team members—returning and new. We reviewed curriculum maps and timelines for the year. These planning days allowed us to discuss what is taught in fourth grade, class schedules, and brainstorm new and better ways of teaching. We also had discussions about units and expectations regarding technology, projects, and field trips. As a team we reviewed daily schedules and worked on the use of digital lesson plans. We successfully completed planning for the first weeks of school, including implementation of reading/writing workshop, Comprehension Tool Kit, spelling, math, and units. As a team we created a long-range planning map and discussed daily fourth-grade classroom procedures and expectations.
I attended the Advanced Placement conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was a tremendous learning experience for me. I learned some new ideas for activities in class, but also about the results of this year's AP exam, how they were graded, and what to expect from the changes that will take place for the Modern European History exam in 2016. The full-day extended session I attended was fantastic. Not only did I learn a lot about how I can improve and lay out the class, I also learned how the exams are graded, specifically the question most of my students chose this year. It was enlightening. I am excited about putting some new ideas into place next year, but I am also more confident now that the approach I have taken in my class is valid and consistent with the exam. More important, I discovered that the level of writing I expect from them far exceeds what AP expects, so I now have confirmation that my approach of preparing them for college level writing is much better than one that focuses solely on the AP.
Upper School History
This summer I attended an Advanced Placement Summer Institute in Lewes, Delaware. Though I have been a consultant for College Board in the past, I have not been a participant in six years. My experience in Delaware was both valuable and inspiring in helping me consider my own organization and pedagogy. The focus of the institute was AP World History, and it was taught by the History Department head at The McDonogh School in Baltimore. The McDonogh School teaches AP World History across two years, just as we intend to do, and this was a major reason why I chose this workshop. Although I have taught this course before, I have taught it only as a year-long course and wanted some insight into how to pace and organize a two-year course. I am happy to report that I came out of it with much more than pacing. I am excited to try out many of the new lessons I came home with, particularly document analysis techniques. It also was helpful to have a Kinkaid colleague with me, since we were allotted valuable time to plan and strategize our new course.
Upper School History
I attended ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) 2013 in San Antonio. My conference experience started with HackEd (previously ISTE Unplugged), very similar to an EdCamp. Discussions were facilitated, but not presentations. I participated in Gamification and Badges in Education and MinecraftEDU discussions. This was after a Smackdown, where attendees had 2 minutes to share apps, websites, etc. with the group at large. There was much great information sharing and networking. This was where my Twitter following and followers started to grow. Sunday morning was spent in Epic Leadership participating in the process of gamification, including casual Q&A with Jane McGonigal, the champion of gamification. Later in the day, Ms. McGonigal was the opening keynote for the conference.
The next few days were spent attending workshops, poster sessions, and the exhibitor floor and networking. My primary focus for sessions was gamification, gaming, and maker activity. I had the opportunity to have lunch and talk with Jonathan Bergmann, the "guru" of the Flipped Classroom. I was asked to be a panelist for the EdReach show on the Gamers of ISTE. I also presented a poster session,"Angry Birds Tech," about the free technology and process of the Physics of Angry Birds project we used in eighth grade Physical Science the last couple of years. I created a Quick Response code linked to my blog about the Angry Birds project and in two hours’ time, over 200 people used the Quick Response code and/or talked to me about the project.
I left ISTE with a ton of ideas to use in my classroom and in an possible eighth-grade-wide collaboration project. It was a fantastic conference, and I plan to submit a poster session or maybe a presentation proposal for ISTE 2014 in Atlanta.
Middle School Science
This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to attend training at the National Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The training consisted of five intensive days of work, which included basic robotics, teaching with robotics, robot design, and programming using RobotC language. The cohort was a diverse group consisting of 22 members from 17 states and three countries. The balance of the training was about thirty percent robotics and 70 percent programming. This came as a surprise to me at first, but after completing the training it was evident that the robot is only as good as its program. Nearly all of the reasoning, learning, teaching, engineering, and creativity took place in planning and writing the programs. During our training we were introduced to some new virtual tools that allow students to do their programming and then test their work on a virtual robot. There was a great deal of emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the use of robotics as an educational tool to drive this movement. The instructor’s teaching and insight were wonderful, and each day’s session was well planned and delivered. By completing this training and passing the training exam, I am now a certified RobotC instructor. It is my hope that this training and the exciting use of robots in education will help introduce STEM into Kinkaid’s middle school science program.
Middle School Science
I took part in the annual Southwest Athletic Trainers Association Conference in Houston. I attended several sessions addressing current research and best practices in concussion management, neuro-cognitive assessment tools, and trends in dietary supplements and drug use within the athletic population. The highlight was the opportunity to meet representatives from different medical equipment manufacturers and compare several cold therapy compression units. Because I received funding for a new unit, and I was able to select a new unit for the athletic training room.
Head Athletic Trainer
iPadpalooza in Austin was a well-organized conference with more iPads in attendance than you can imagine. After the first thirty minutes, I sheepishly put away my pen and notepad and proudly took notes on my iPad!
In the opening session, Sir Ken Robinson shared his beliefs about personalized learning and fostering creativity in this mobile world. The next two days were filled with breakout sessions covering the gamut of iPad uses in the classroom. I came away from each session with a wealth of ideas and resources for iPads and apps that have been tried and proven. Several of the sessions were spot on for what we implement in our First grade classrooms at Kinkaid: using iPads for literacy instruction and math menu and using various apps for math. Presenters were more than willing to share their research and catalog of apps for use in the classroom. That will save valuable teacher time.
I am excited about using what I learned and further joining the mobile learning community!
The Literature for Youth course was fabulous (and a ton of work!). I read over ninety books in 10 weeks! The class covered all genres of books, including realistic fiction, fantasy (sub-genres are sci-fi and horror), historical fiction, informational nonfiction, biography, mystery, poetry, short stories, series, and graphic novels. There were also units on award winning books and titles that are frequently censored. I got many ideas for my fifth grade classes as I moved through the course curriculum. I created a blog, taught several lessons, created multimedia projects, wrote essays, did several analyses of literature, and read, read, read.
One of the reasons I was looking forward to the course was to help develop the way I teach and use blogging with my students. I first used blogs with the 5th graders in the 2012-2013 school year, and although the blogs were successful, I want to use them as a tool for students to explore writing more deeply. My definition of “explore” includes writing for different purposes and understanding the myriad of formats published works can embody in the 21st century—podcasts, movies, monographs, and multi-media projects are examples that include writing elements. Blogs can easily support the study of these formats because students can embed them in a blog once the project has been created.
When developing projects, I want to link them more solidly to the literature the students are/could be reading. Because of this course, I now have a better-developed sense of how to do this, and it is my goal to include more writing about literature in my classes by studying the techniques professional writers use within their own works. This has implications for genre studies: students need to know and understand hallmarks of strong writing and how they differ among genres. For example, science-fiction writers must make the world they create for the reader believable. How do writers do this? What makes a story believable or not? What makes an incredible character? If we were looking at narrative non-fiction, we would look for altogether different hallmarks.
Students can blog answers to these questions, post favorite lines they have found in books, create interesting vocabulary lists, include links to the author’s website, consider the best hook they have ever read in a book, or create a book trailer about a favorite book using Animoto.
The course rekindled my desire to expose the students to more poetry. Several years ago the English Department discussed how to teach poetry in the various grade levels, and we determined that in fifth grade teachers should foster an enjoyment of this type of literature. This course gave me some great ideas for how to do this that I plan t0 implement this fall.
Middle School English
This summer I had the opportunity to attend the Chem Ed Conference in Waterloo, Ontario. The first workshop I attended focused on why students find chemistry so challenging. It was interesting to hear the speaker state that students have to find a love for chemistry earlier in their learning cycle. Students must find the fun in the subject.
I also gained a few ideas for making personal periodic tables and learned how adding information to them throughout the year will mean fewer obstacles for students to overcome during the year. I attended a fun demonstration class that gave me ideas for quick, inexpensive demonstrations. Another workshop showed how to integrate Legos labs into several different topics that can be challenging to students. I was glad to have the opportunity to attend and can’t wait to begin using the new information.
Upper School Science
I had a somewhat productive summer, starting with the reading of the 2013 AP Chemistry examination in Louisville, Kentucky. We had 267 readers for 112,300 exams, and this was my fifth year as table leader.
I also attended the 21st Biennial ChemEd Conference at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. I presented a paper/lecture entitled “Buffers: Connecting Graphs with Calculations.” Thirty-seven high school science teachers and college professors attended. I also was able to attend seven lectures, mostly on chemical demonstrations, laboratory inquiry-based learning, and the changes to the new AP Chemistry curriculum framework. The most interesting lecture was “AP Chemistry—Looking forward, looking back, reaching equilibrium.” My participation in this program was enjoyable, enlightening and collegial.
Upper School Science
I attended the Fred Jones “Tools for Teaching” Workshop. It was phenomenal. Over three days Dr. Jones spoke about the fine points of teaching and classroom management. The focus was on classroom structure, limit setting, and training the students in responsibility. He modeled and had us (teachers and administrators) practice methods for preventing discipline problems and for increasing student motivation.
Dr. Jones went through a number of subjects during our time together. He modeled general classroom procedures and how to teach the students to follow those procedures. He explained several review games that keep all students participating rather than being on the sidelines waiting to play. He showed us how to use visuals and drawings on the board to best explain step-by-step procedures to students. These are just some of the topics that were covered in the workshop. It was very beneficial for me to attend, and I am really looking forward to trying it all out this year!
Middle School Science
At the Summer Spark conference at St John’s School, I really enjoyed the TED Talk video and introduction by the headmaster of SJS as well as the breakout sessions. I was especially intrigued by the demonstration of the Harkness Table discussion, and I hope to incorporate some of those strategies in class discussions of literature and culture this year. All of the sessions were inspiring and useful, and it was a great way to kick off the summer break.
Upper School Spanish
On our Simmons Grant-sponsored trip, we had just exited the House of Terror in Budapest, and I turned to former AFS student Veronika Bednar and said, “I can’t believe how ignorant I was both about World War II and the communist era before this trip.” My husband Scott turned to me and said, “Hey, why not think about how much you know now?” Scott is right.
I had seen movies and read about the horrors of death camps during World War II, but I didn’t fully understand the difference and the horrific nature of transport and labor camps as well. Our visit to Terezin, to the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, to the House of Terror in Budapest, to the Document Center in Nuremburg has deepened my understanding of this terrible time and our abuse of many, many people, not just Jews, gays, Poles, and disabled. Terezin also gave me a whole new understanding of façade (the whole camp was created as a façade to fool the Red Cross) and of the power and importance of art, visual and performance.
My time in Prague and Budapest also enlightened my understanding of the communist era, and because I taught 1984 last year, that book followed me throughout those cities. I doubt I will teach the book every year, but I certainly intend to teach it again, and I will bring to it a much more expansive understanding of propaganda, the nature of the secret police, and the life of a “prole.”
In preparation for our travels to Amsterdam, I read The Diary of a Young Girl (which we teach in seventh grade), knowing Anne Frank’s diary would heighten the impact of a visit to her house. It did. I look forward to talking with the seventh grade teachers more about that book and her home.
I always knew Shakespeare was ubiquitous. There are Shakespeare festivals in 49 of our 50 states, and I knew, of course, his plays were world famous, but I really didn’t realize how famous. There was a Shakespeare play being performed in every major city we visited (Prague, Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest) and several other smaller cities as well. We even attended a production of Taming of the Shrew in Czech—it was quite good! And I got a photo of myself with a statue of Shakespeare in Budapest.
In teaching Merchant of Venice, I have studied the oppression of Jews throughout the centuries, but reading about the prejudice they experienced, seeing the ridiculous collars and hats they were forced to wear to mark their Judaism, seeing the ghettos where they were forced to live, and hearing stories about their deaths, the answer to clearing the debt a Christian owed a Jew has certainly changed my understanding of Shylock and Antonio and Portia. I also understand Michael Radford’s film better now and see more of his directorial choices than I did before. I can’t wait to teach this play and film again next spring.
From the monuments and museums and art, I carry with me the regret and embarrassment the Germans feel and the ownership they have taken for their part in World War II. I wish America would claim such ownership of our treatment of slaves and of our Japanese during World War II. That said, I see how nations—America and Russia and Germany—grew rich off the backs of slaves/unpaid laborers. We are still profiting from that abuse.
I have a new understanding of Germany’s power, not just in Europe, but worldwide. It is the fifth richest country in the world and easily the richest in Europe. Its per capita salary is significantly higher than that in the US.
Inspired by visits to art museums, (especially the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum, both in Amsterdam), I look forward to using more art in my classroom, particularly as springboards for critical thinking and theme and character connections in writer’s notebooks.
Upper School English
The E. E. Ford Colloquium at Santa Fe Prep in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was one of the most eye-opening professional development experiences of my career. The course I chose, “Place as an Artist’s Palette,” was on the importance of looking at a particular place and then considering how the place becomes an inexorable part of the artist and her artwork. Led by local artist Andrea Cermanski, the teachers in our group got to experience Santa Fe and the surrounding area, as well as the artist community in the region, like locals.
Each day we had a field experience of some type. On the first day of the conference, we heard a talk by a local resident and artist on Santa Fe and contrasts in the landscape and cultures. The speaker mentioned the idea that place shapes an artist in ways that we sometimes overlook. This was a profound thought to me as an artist and art teacher. After this insightful discussion, we went up to the beautiful lookout point of Aspen Vista National Forest. While there, we went on a long hike and found a stream by which to create art. I used water from a flowing mountain stream to paint my pieces.
Day Two was a visit to the chapel of Chimayo in the town of the same name. There we saw the incredible original retablos , ofrertas, and santera paintings in the chapel. I visited the Children’s Chapel, exquisitely designed, bright, joyful, and hand-carved. On Day Three, we enjoyed time in the Plaza, working on art or attending museums. I went to the Santa Fe Art Museum and took a tour illustrating the rich artistic history of New Mexico. On subsequent days we visited Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Abiqui and spent an entire day working in the Meem house at Santa Fe Prep. The Meem building was the former ranch house of American architect John Meem. The house was donated to the school and is now the art building. On my last day in Santa Fe, I toured the Taos Pueblo, where I worked on more plein aire pieces. I learned a great deal about Native pottery (micaceous clay, horsehair pottery) from the artists. I finished my day with a return trip to Abiqui and Ghost Ranch late in the day. The colors in the mountains were breathtaking and matched the late afternoon sky. It seemed that every place I looked, I saw a perfectly composed landscape photograph. I snapped them all!
I walked away from this experience a new artist and a new art teacher. Santa Fe, one of our speakers mentioned, has a way of “eroding” unnecessary clutter out of the landscape, and seemingly out of us. Place should never be underestimated or overlooked—we are connected to it always. As an art teacher, I will seek opportunities to foster the connection between students and their sense of place, within themselves and in their surroundings. Where are we when we are creating a piece of art? And how does it influence us? I am also very encouraged to seek out natural resources (earth pigments, soils) and teach my students how to create their own paint from materials found outdoors. After being taught this technique and experimenting with it at the workshop, I feel enthusiastic about bringing it to my classroom this year. I will seek more opportunities for students to work from nature. I am looking forward to the possibility of painting a seascape at the beach, for example, or drawing hills near Washington on the Brazos. Finally, learning from Native artists in Santa Fe has provided me with many resources for authentic Native American art lessons. I am seeking opportunities to work with micaceous clay and horsehair pottery as well as working on weaving and textiles.
The experiences in Santa Fe were culturally rich and profound for me as a teacher and as an artist. I will be making direct connections with the concepts discussed this summer with those taught in my classroom. I know my students will be the direct beneficiaries of my learning.
Lower School Art
The 83rd Congrès annuel of The American Association of Teachers of French took place in Providence, Rhode Island in July. I attended three days of the four-day conference. In addition, I spent extra time in Providence visiting Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, two schools that attract our students. I thoroughly enjoyed this conference and concluded that what I learned applied to all language learning, not just French. I hope to have time during one of our Foreign Language Department meetings to share what I learned with my colleagues.
The opening session featured a panel of University of Rhode Island and University of Arizona French professors. With the theme of Le Français du 21e siècle, they emphasized the ideas of multiplicité, les utilisations des langues, le double-diplôme. In other words, they viewed majoring in just a foreign language as a thing of the past. Instead, we should prepare our students for dual degrees. The panel highlighted the International Engineering Program at the University of Rhode Island, which offers a double major in engineering and French/Spanish/German/Chinese. Since that session I have become more aware of international/dual degree programs across the country.
The three sessions that were most helpful to me were the AP Language Workshop, “Disney Resources,” and “Using Authentic Documents.” From the first, I learned some “trade secrets” of scoring well on the “Presentational Speaking: Cultural Comparison” part of the exam. While those “tricks” make me more critical of “teaching to the AP Test,” I will certainly pass them on to my fellow foreign language teachers. “Disney Resources” used films and songs to teach all aspects of language and even how to gear lessons toward the six AP Language themes. Finally, the workshop on “Using Authentic Documents” gave great web sources to create speaking activities. The speaker promoted the use of two videos on the same subject (e.g., how to make a recipe) to prompt students to make comparisons. Using Google Earth to zoom in on a public square in a French town was also a fascinating way to get students talking and using new vocabulary.
Upper School French
I took part in a workshop, “MakingArtSafely,” in Sante Fe, New Mexico. The faculty at Making Art Safely represents an unparalleled list of printmaking innovators. Don Messec is a master printmaker, educator and pioneer of safer printmaking processes. He has contributed to the ongoing body of knowledge about safer, smarter printmaking.
In his class Don guided us with problem solving through play and experimentation, evaluation and comparison. This approach was balanced with concept, theory, process, and practice, synthesizing all aspects of the creative experience. These are the practices I encourage while teaching my advanced art students.
Printmaking has been at a crossroads during the 20th century. Now in the 21st, printmakers/art educators have even more reason to become innovators in the techniques of printmaking. Printmakers have engaged in ongoing evolution, pushing boundaries of thinking, visual creativity, and refinement of technical process in expression. However, parts of the delivery medium—some of the "how" in printmaking—have remained in near stasis until relatively recently. While our craft has grown with each successive generation, printmakers have taken a long time to change the toxic inks, solvents, acids, materials and work places because we did not want to lose the look of the original Intaglio Renaissance print.
In Messec’s Direct to Plate Print workshop, I felt I was part of this new breakthrough in platemaking. This new method is yet another advanced technique, this one without the photopolymer plates that we now use for photogravure. By learning to use ImagOn film and creating our own plates, the class was able to get great photopolymer plate results, but without the need for a vacuum frame, a transparency film, even an exposure unit other than the sun. This printmaking approach builds on single-exposure platemaking and frees one’s platemaking for new directions.
With the development of single exposure for high quality plates, plate exposure is far more predictable and reliable, even in the sun. Regardless of which process was used to build the image—photographs, drawing, painting, appropriated images, etc.—all we needed to make a unique print was to get our images into digital form, so we could print directly to each plate.
I learned how to run my plate directly through the printer, expose my ImagOn plate to the sun, develop the plate in a solution of soda ash/water, and print my plate on a beautiful large Takach Etching Press using Akur-color, water based intaglio inks. This was a groundbreaking experience that I hope to experiment more with and teach to my art and printmaking students. I will be able to give my students another new class/studio printmaking experience combining technology, science and art in the 21th century.
Upper School Art
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference is a fantastic educational event for teachers. There were more than 20,000 educators from all over the world, sharing and exchanging ideas for thoughtful use of technology. There is so much sharing and learning of the best practices for preparing our students for the ever-changing tech world, it is hard not to get excited about implementing these practices in the classroom. ITSE is very hands on and interactive. There are dozens of workshops available for every time slot. If there is more than one you want to attend, you can get highlights, videos, and notes from the twitter feed. Each workshop I attended, from “Best Digital Practices for Writers Workshop” to “Young Educators: Collaborate on Creative Digital Projects,” shared great innovative ways to improve teaching in the 21st century.
After leaving the ISTE conference, there are opportunities to continue to collaborate all year with the #edchat and #edtech communities on twitter. I would recommend the ISTE conference to any educator.
The 2013 Habla Teacher Institute, a bilingual (English and Spanish) professional development experience in Mérida, México, explored ways we can nurture wonder and imagination in our classrooms for students of every age. We examined aspects of “wonder” both as a sense of the marvelous and a catalyst for inspiring inquiry. At the beginning of the Institute participants developed their own inquiry questions that served as a roadmap for reflecting on their own teaching practice. During the Institute, all the teachers shared their own work with other educators from around the world.
Unlike most professional development experiences, the Habla Institute is not a series of disconnected presentations and workshops. A team of leaders in the fields of literacy, language and the arts collaborate on a continuous series of experiences, each building on the others, modeling an integrated and continuous process of learning. There are reading, writing, and creating through art forms that are presented holistically, inviting connections between disciplines.
The Habla Institute has radically transformed my personal and professional views. I am looking forward to applying in my classroom all the methodologies I learned during this summer.
Vanessa Zamudio Lara
Upper School Spanish
I attended the TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Stories) conference in San Diego. By using TPRS and making the commitment to master it, I am taking a major step forward to do what is best for my students to learn a foreign language.
There are three steps of TPRS: establishing meaning, asking a story, and reading. In step one, I will do the following things:
- At the beginning of each class, I will write the words for the story on the board with their translation. These are called structures.
- Next, I will sign and gesture the structures. This can include word association games, both visual and auditory.
- Next comes the wonderful period referred to as the students’ personalized questions and answers. This forms a bridge into stories, guaranteeing their personalization.
I will also make sure to check that the students achieve comprehensible input and personalization, which are the two pillars in all TPRS classes. This is an unshakable foundation.
Doing these things will help me better prepare my lesson plans and benefit my students in grasping the language. The speaker at the workshop provided great ideas for projects to engage students and help them learn a foreign language.
Upper School Chinese
Attending the Comprehension X3 Workshop in Denver was a great follow-up to Stephanie Harvey's visit to the Lower School last year. The "gurus" of Reading Comprehension, Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller, and Cris Tovani, were there to provide insight and guidance into the theory and practice of strategically teaching Reading Comprehension at all levels of education. Turning information into knowledge is their theme.
I spent many sessions with Debbie Miller, who addressed primary teachers. We discussed thinking strategies and activities that help students develop a new way of looking at text and information.
These were three days well spent in the continuation of practices we have begun using in the Lower School. I appreciate the chance to participate and look forward to continuing to learn and grow in these areas in the upcoming school year.
I had the privilege of going with some of my colleagues to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio. We had heard some wonderful things about this particular conference, but were not prepared for the sheer size and/or the resources we saw that first day.
Daily small group and hands-on sessions, keynote speakers, and an entire convention center full of booths of technology resources and companies were included at ISTE. The daily sessions were my favorite part because they were not only presented to us by engaging teachers and administrators, but they were all somehow applicable to my classroom. The session on making Twitter an active part of the classroom was one I found most interesting. Looking at social media and using it in an innovative way in my 3rd grade class is one thing I cannot wait to try this year. I also particularly enjoyed the hall of booths and resources. I stopped by ones I was already familiar with (IXL, BrainPop) in order to gain more knowledge and ones that were new to me, such as KidBlog and Knewton (the Flipped Classroom project).
The ISTE conference is one that I can see myself attending again, and I would not see the same thing I did this year. There is THAT much there to offer! Although it left my head spinning, I am invigorated with ideas and plans for this school year!
While I didn’t like the format of the on-line course, “Dynamic Library Instruction,” (the instructors just posted chapters from their upcoming book, assigned homework activities and opened online discussion forums), I did learn quite a bit from several hundred librarians at universities and secondary schools nationwide.
It seems that most of us have the same challenge: integrating research skills and resources into the curriculum of subject teachers at a time and in a manner that is most beneficial for students. Much of what we are doing is what was determined to be current best practices: course specific resource websites introduced at point of need and then individual assistance in the various stages of the research process.
I have decided to drop the freshman orientation in favor of working with individual freshman English teachers in one of their fall semester assignments, to imbed the things freshmen should know about their library. We will see if that is more effective.
Director of Libraries and Archives
The Comprehension x 3 was an opportunity to extend my knowledge of best practices that support readers in their ability to make meaning. Steph Harvey provided a foundation when she visited Kinkaid in the spring. However, at this conference she, along with Debbie Miller and Chris Tovani, elaborated on literacy activities, structures and language best suited to help young children develop into independent readers. Ms. Miller suggested teachers let readers "have a go" utilizing various comprehension skills and strategies early in the instructional framework. With teacher follow-ups and peer support, readers will improve their skills and develop confidence and agency along the way. My perspective was tweaked as they stressed that "the strategy" is not the end goal. Strategies are the verbs in the learning target. It is the way to get to the "what” or “skill" to be accomplished. We spent time thinking about the architecture of a lesson, placing less emphasis on the teacher's activity or part in the introduction and more on what the children would be asked to do during the workshop period. I am eager to discuss these ideas with my teammates and put them into action in my own workshop.
I attended the Taft Educational Center's weeklong College Counseling conference on the Taft School campus in Connecticut. Sixteen new or less experienced college counselors worked with two program leaders to learn the basics of college counseling, with special emphasis on how the process works in independent schools. We also toured the Trinity College campus, attended a forum with admissions deans from Quinnipiac, Yale, Wesleyan, Smith, and the University of Connecticut, and we received feedback on a school recommendation letter we wrote while at the program.
This program was helpful for me in gaining a basic understanding of the role of the college counselor, and I gained resources that will be helpful in the years to come. Discussion with participants who had previously worked as admissions counselors at the university level was especially valuable in understanding how the process works once the application reaches the college.
Upper School Dean
This summer the Texas Association of Student Councils held a conference on “Developing Student Leadership Curriculums.” Because we are in the process of designing and restructuring our Middle School leadership curriculum, I thought this would be a beneficial conference for a colleague and I to attend together.
I believe we got more than we anticipated. They gave every participant the yearlong school curriculum that is endorsed by the TASC, and they even included a CD and flash drive with extra material and resources). The only problem now is finding in the vast amount of information we received the most useful material and inputting it effectively into our current curriculum.
Physical Education and Athletics,
The World Dance Movement is a fantastic organization that gives wonderful opportunities to dancers from all over the world. In one of the classes I attended, there were fifteen countries represented. The students begin the day at 9:30 with a ballet class and usually take four or five classes—contemporary, jazz, theater, and choreography. Their day may end as late as nine in the evening. Everyone in attendance was motivated and inspired by the amazing talent of the teachers. At the end of every week, there is a performance in the square of the city, and the kids love it. I was most impressed with the scholarships awarded at the gala evening. Most are given to dance studios in the student’s home country, but a few students were given the opportunity to study in New York on scholarship. I was given a six-month subscription to Stage Door Access.com, which connects dancers to agents and auditions. I will award this to one of my students after the year begins. It was a wonderful experience!
Director of Dance
In August, I attended the Student Leadership Course Curriculum Academy. I arrived to a room full of educators, most of whom were leadership teachers, student council advisors, or a student activity coordinator of some sort. After a welcome session, we began what proved to be the day-to-day structure of a leadership class that included a segment on needs assessment as well as the curriculum map/scope and sequence. The first day’s afternoon session was a discussion of how to find the right balance between activities and curriculum. We engaged in activities and lessons, and I enjoyed the group dynamics. After dinner we worked within groups to create lessons to be presented to the entire group the next day. The focus of my group was “Group Process” (group interaction, individual differences, problem solving and decision-making).
On day two we presented our lessons to the larger group. While this took some time, it was wonderful to see what various activities the other group came up with. After the presentations and a period of reflection, we engaged in a discussion on evaluation, assessment and grading. The seminar wrapped up with a presentation of resources for leadership curriculum materials—books, websites, etc. We were given a digital copy of everything presented as well as a book and binder of materials.
I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar and appreciated having my colleague with me, since it helped to have instant communication on how we could apply what we experienced here at Kinkaid. There are a number of benefits that attending this workshop afforded me, and I am looking forward to imparting them to to my colleagues in ways that encourage leadership activities not only in advisory periods, but in other areas, too, especially with our Middle School Peer Mentoring program.
Middle School History
This July I had the great privilege of attending the NAIS Summer Leadership Institute with two of my colleagues from Kinkaid. The institute was held in Alexandria, Virginia, and proved to be an incredible opportunity for my professional as well as personal growth. I have attended leadership institutes before, but none has been with a specific focus on independent schools. Also, attending with colleagues added a whole new dimension to the experience. The most valuable aspect of the Institute was the 360-evaluation that was performed in preparation for all the discussions. Based on the feedback that I received, I learned specific strategies for leading my team through change, better supporting their growth and professional development, and balancing my teaching as well as administrative duties as a department chair. In addition, I built new relations with very likeminded educators and leaders from across the country. We have created a networking group to stay in touch throughout the year, and there has been excellent dialogue as we all prepare for the beginning of the school year.
Upper School Science
In early July I joined a small group of theatre and dance professionals to start my training on the live performance tool ISADORA. The workshop leader, Mark Coniglio, is the creator of the computer program and one of the artistic staff at Troika Ranch. His work is being used all over the world, most recently on the Australian pilot production of “King Kong.” He hand-picks his students with the 3LD artistic staff; I was fortunate to be selected. The training I received at the seminar was mind-blowing! It opened up a whole new palette for my work as a director at Kinkaid and as a teacher of emerging performance tools. The synthesis of live performance technology and creative applications stretched what I thought possible on stage. I was given free access to the unreleased version of the program, and I joined with nine other artists in the workshop. We set about creating small projects that tested the limits of both our creativity and the computer program. I found that I was challenged by the work and fortunate to have others to share ideas with. At the end of the week I had made great professional friendships, and the ten of us continue to meet in a virtual conference room to share our work. I have contacts now at major universities, New York theatres, international festivals, and regional theatre and dance companies. I am certain my students will enjoy what I have put together for them with this program. I can’t wait to turn it over to them to see what they can do! I was so excited that as soon as I returned I met with the department chair to discuss a collaboration between the visual and performing arts I have been thinking about for the past year, but did not know how to bring it to fruition. Now I know how to approach it!
Middle and Upper School Drama
I am thankful to have spent eight hours of planning time with my team in June. We spent the first day incorporating the work we’ve done with Stephanie Harvey’s Comprehension Toolkit into our units of study. We now have a grade level schedule for teaching reading comprehension strategies linked with our social studies units, Native Americans and Westward Expansion. We had time to preview the work the librarian has done in the Lower School library to find appropriate mentor texts to use with our reading comprehension lessons.
We also spent time reviewing our curriculum maps in the Atlas Rubicon software and revising timelines for our grammar scope and sequence and Writing Workshop units. On day two we reviewed the Scientific Spelling program and finalized our spelling lists and tests. We now have common lessons and homework and uniform spelling tests throughout the grade level. Our team also purchased The Poetry Friday Anthology and we discussed ways to implement a poetry lesson routine on Fridays.
In the belief that all children at all grade levels need to be taught to comprehend, Stephanie Harvey, Debbie Miller and Chris Tovani have spent many years reading, writing and learning about reading comprehension. At the Comprehension X3 Conference in Denver, each morning one of them presented a general session keynote address and led an interactive activity. Each afternoon, we broke into grade level sessions. Primary teachers spent three afternoons with Debbie Miller, intermediate teachers with Stephanie Harvey, and middle and high school teachers with Chris Tovani.
Each presenter shared her current thinking about literacy teaching and learning and discussed how to help students turn information into knowledge. Workshop features included expanding comprehension across the curriculum; creating and maintaining an active learning classroom; differentiating with reader’s and writer’s workshop; using learning targets to support student growth; implementing small-group inquiry circles across curriculum; and monitoring progress through assessment and grading.
I enjoyed attending the conference and came away with new ideas to share with my team and try in my classroom. I look forward to working with my students and implementing the many activities.
It was with much excitement that I traveled to San Antonio for the 2013 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference. I have attended many conferences over my fifteen-year career as an educator, but never one specifically geared towards technology. Would it be the educator’s version of a Star Trek Convention or an all-you-can-eat technology buffet?
Prior to my arrival, I was invited to download the ISTE App from iTunes. This user-friendly roadmap of the entire conference made accessing information about the numerous speakers, sessions, special events, and vendors extraordinarily easy: no more highlighting the brochure to lay out a daily schedule. One touch of your finger on a session of interest and it was instantly transferred to the calendar on your phone. For a techie like me, this was extremely useful, as well as really cool. As I progressed through my digital calendar, I sat in on many different speakers and demonstrations. From Scratch programming to the latest and greatest from Google—each session provided me with numerous tidbits of useful information that I can incorporate into the classroom.
There were two particular experiences, however, that really caught my attention. The first was the opportunity to visit a makerspace, an actual (not virtual) communal space where people get together to collaborate on projects through technology. The space we visited was full of laptops, tools, wires, clips, kits, tables, 3D printers and open space. Projects that students had created during the summer adorned the walls and bounced around on tables (some had turned electric toothbrushes into mini-moving robots). I was able to see what I had only heard about come to life right before my eyes, and it was truly inspiring. My hope is to mimic this for our sixth graders during our Makey Makey unit later in the year. And, with any luck, we’ll incorporate our very own makerspace into the new plans for future buildings on campus.
Speaking of coming to life right before your eyes, augmented reality is part two of my conference “oooh and aaah” moments. Augmented reality supplements real life images or places with images, videos, sounds. Many companies already use this technology as a marketing strategy, but it can just as easily be used in a school. In fact, when Lower School Assistant Principal Jill Lemon asked me for tech ideas for a scavenger hunt for the Lower School teachers, I immediately suggested an augmented reality quest. The premise is that groups hunt for trigger images around the school that activate an overlay image or video that provides a clue to the next trigger image. My mind is racing with ideas, and soon my students will be creating their own augmented reality art using this technology and Photoshop. The possibilities are really endless.
So, which was it, the educator’s version of a Star Trek Convention or an all-you-can-eat technology buffet? To be honest, I’ve never been to a Star Trek convention, so I’m not sure if I’m qualified to make a comparison. I have been to many buffets, though, and the two aforementioned topics were just a taste from the smorgasbord of tech information I gorged on at the conference. Thankfully, unlike most buffets, I was allowed to take as much as I wanted home with me to share, and I look forward to sharing not only with my students, but with my colleagues as well.
Middle School Computer Studies
I enjoyed being a student on the Rice University campus for three days this summer as a participant in a course designed for middle school English teachers, “Writing and Critical Reading in Pre-AP English.” Two Kinkaid Middle School colleagues recommended the class as a good source for classroom materials and teaching strategies. As described, the class did provide a useful book of essays and a helpful writing guidebook. Most important, I really enjoyed the veteran teacher who led the class; she offered excellent ideas for lessons that focus on the specific reading and writing skills needed for AP preparation. I especially appreciated her practical approach to the basics of literature study—getting kids to understand the importance of recognizing details, identifying evidence, and making inferences. The course gave me an updated perspective on the AP exams, and I will be able to use both the resources and the lesson ideas in my 8th grade classroom. I am grateful for having had this professional development opportunity. It was three days well spent!
For two weeks in June I also participated for the second time in the University of Houston’s Common Ground Teacher’s Institute. Following a seminar model, participants read significant multicultural works and discuss them with English teachers from the Houston area. My seminar group, “Writers and Their Regions,” focused on novels, short stories, and poetry by writers from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia. This course reinforced my high opinion of Flannery O’Connor’s work and introduced me to some Texas writers. I especially liked discovering the short story collection “Telephone Road” by Thomas Derr and the novel “House of Breath” by William Goyen. A group lunch and readings by local writers followed our morning meetings, and it was fun to share this experience with one of my Kinkaid Middle School English colleagues.
Middle School English
Kinkaid enabled me to attend the 2013 Advanced Placement Summer Institute course in World History in Lewes, Delaware. As a result of this course, I have a clearer idea of the rubrics for the AP essays. In particular, I learned that the requirement to put an event in historical context means that the student must make a connection between the region he is writing about and another region in the world. This can be done by stating an effect that events in the region had outside of the region, how an event outside the region helped contribute to the events within it, or by simply making a comparison between an event within the region to an event that occurred outside—for instance, by comparing industrialization in Egypt to industrialization in Japan. This will help my students succeed on the AP Exam.
During the course, I received many useful materials, including many power points and some interesting assignments. I also became aware of several resources for teaching the AP course, including a video criticizing Gavin Menzies' recent attempt to argue that the Chinese sailed to the Americas before Columbus, which can help students learn about historiography, a site with useful world history videos comparing several societies in each, and journal articles that would be accessible to the students. I also learned a few strategies for helping students organize information quickly by having them get in the habit of categorizing information according to the acronym SPRITE: Social, Political, Religious, Intellectual, Technological, and Economic.
The Summer Institute clarified the College Board's expectations about the pacing of the AP course and emphasized that the textbook may be used selectively, and that individual teachers are free to cover some events quickly as long as the course uses the college level text in a substantial way and the required topics of the AP course are covered. Finally, since a Kinkaid Upper School History colleague and I attended the institute together, we were able to make a preliminary outline of which material we should cover in first semester of freshman year, which in the second semester, and which material could be covered in the sophomore class.
Upper School History
While my attendance at the Harvard “Art of Leadership Conference” two summers ago taught me a lot about being a leader in general, the NAIS Summer Leadership Institute forced me to focus on how I lead and why.
My Myers-Briggs test results were not shocking to me; I have always known that logic and reason drive my decision making more than emotions or feelings. What I learned, however, was how others can perceive this and how this is often quite different from how others would prefer. As a mathematician, and as an ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging), my default mode of operating in life is through a rigid and logical order of data collection and analysis, followed by a formal conclusion. I have checklists, to-do lists, and my managerial style is very cut-and-dry.
At NAIS, I learned that this can be very off-putting. Many people do not operate this way, and while logical analysis is objectively fair, it ignores the human side of life. I work with amazing students and teachers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (myself included). It’s my job to foster both my students’ AND my department members’ growth, and to emphasize the math department as a machine with necessary yet interwoven parts. I may be the department chair, but I need my department members considerably more than I tell them. Our success, and the success of Kinkaid’s students mathematically, depend upon our ability to work together as a team. Each teacher works tirelessly to make his/her class the best possible for that specific year. I do not acknowledge that often enough, and I should.
In meetings, I tend to spend a long time giving my department members facts and figures. I want them to understand the information that I have before I tell them the conclusion that this information has led me to. This quality of mine is a result of my Sensing and Thinking predisposition, and I learned that most people would rather get a shortened version of the facts and spend more time discussing the possible results and the impact of those results. Essentially, I learned that my meetings were boring to everyone but me. Before my most recent meeting, I spoke with a department member and actually got feedback about what was helpful for the department and what was not, and I budgeted my time around the needs and desires of others rather than myself.
Most professional development opportunities for educators are like school: we learn facts, take notes, and then try to apply them to our curriculum or situation. This was possibly the first professional development experience I have had that was less school-like and more focused on self-realization and improvement—changing from within.
I have a new outlook on myself as a leader. I hope my department will see the changes in me, as well.
Upper School Mathematics
The mapping with Google and Google Earth courses this summer served both as a how-to for the basic functions of Google Maps and as a jumping off point for collecting and creating new uses for Google’s map features. In these self-paced courses, teachers were encouraged to complete open-ended assignments in any manner they chose, and all participants had the opportunity to see others’ work and to take part in online discussion forums. I took away from these courses several skills and tools for making and sharing custom maps with content tailored for my needs. I also learned new ways to take virtual field trips and how to make it accessible to students. My Google Maps project even helped me plan my trip to Cartagena, Colombia this summer and allowed me to share a customized map with information specific to my trip with family members.
Lower and Middle School Music
The top two predictors of athletic injuries are previous injuries and asymmetry. The Functional Movement Screening (FMS) is a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, the FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These are issues that can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort body awareness.
The FMS generates the Functional Movement Screen Score, which is used to target problems and track progress. The scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercises to restore mechanically sound movement patterns.
Throughout the school year, I plan to monitor Kinkaid athletes’ scores to track progress and to identify those exercises that will be most effective to restore proper movement and build strength in each individual.
Director of Athletic Performance
This summer I had two professional development activities funded by the school. In June I travelled to Asheville, North Carolina, for the inaugural Project Connect. The Asheville School was a lovely gathering place. The community of teachers there was warm and welcoming, and the accommodations nearby were great. Project Connect is about creating interdisciplinary connections within one's own classes and also, if possible, with other classes. At the Asheville School, students all are enrolled in interdisciplinary courses for all four years of high school, primarily in required humanities courses and some STEM electives. Their faculty ran some sessions about their practices, and there also were useful sessions on integrating interdisciplinary techniques and on content alone. I typically selected history breakout sessions, though I also attended a session led by a college biology professor on creating humanities-science connections. By the end of the workshop, I felt more confident melding cross-curricularly by myself and through collaborations with others. As a result of Project Connect, I am hopeful that a Kinkaid science colleague and I will be doing a brief unit together with our Anthropology and AP Biology classes later in the fall. I highly recommend the workshop; there were many middle and upper school independent school teachers present. It was a creative, fruitful three days.
Later in July, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The Civil War and American Art exhibit was on display, and it exceeded my expectations. In addition, the Civil War and Photography exhibit, which I knew nothing about, was also there. Both exhibits were fantastic and contained many works I had shared with students or that they brought into their art history presentations last year. Though some of the work was familiar, I learned a lot that I hope to integrate into my American History course this fall.
Upper School History
I had the opportunity to attend a workshop run by the North American Cambridge Classics Project and the Cambridge School Classics Project this summer. The workshop was extremely valuable and will be useful to my Latin students. And since the workshop was held here in Houston, it provided me the opportunity to meet Latin teachers from many area schools, including St. Thomas Episcopal, St. John's, and several public schools.
The greatest part of the workshop came from the opportunity to hear and learn from some of the actual creators of our Cambridge Latin textbook series—to see how they use the book and ancillary materials to teach their courses, but also to learn first hand the philosophical and pedagogical approaches inherent in the series. I had the chance to pick their brains and get answers to some long-held questions, such as "why introduce two new tenses together in one chapter?"
Even though this workshop was relatively inexpensive, its impact on me as a teacher and by extension on my students were worth ten times what we paid.
Middle School Latin and Mathematics
The Taft college counseling workshop was designed for new college counselors as well as those switching to “the other side of the desk” from college admissions to college counseling. Its aim is to train secondary school college counselors to be well-informed and deliberate in their counseling practices. During this weeklong workshop we came to understand the college admission processes at a variety of different types of colleges and universities. In addition, we gained valuable skills in working with parents and students as they develop the student’s college lists through a thorough and well-researched process. Crafting the college recommendation was also covered and proved to be immensely useful.
During the week we toured Trinity University and participated in a case studies program with the dean of admission there. We also met with admission professionals from Yale, Wesleyan, Smith, and Quinnipiac. Overall, the week was useful and will benefit me greatly as I work with students and their families on the college counseling side of being a Kinkaid Upper School dean.
Upper School Dean
The NAIS School Leadership Institute brought together individuals in a variety of positions at various independent schools to discuss leadership styles and skills, to identify their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and to learn to employ strategies and techniques that can help them become more effective leaders.
The first day of the Institute focused on group dynamics and problem solving. We worked through three different group activities; after each activity a reflection period gave participants the chance to asses their contributions to the group and to discuss the effective leadership styles. These activities were relevant for me, but also ones that I feel I could use with student leaders at Kinkaid during retreats and trainings.
On day two we received the results of our MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) assessment; while I have taken the MBTI before, I had never received such a thorough explanation of the various contributing factors, and this greatly informed my understanding of the dynamics of the various groups I work with at Kinkaid. Through case studies and simulation, I learned how different personality types tend to hone in on different strategies for resolving problems. The best part was watching how my Kinkaid colleagues at the Institute and I move quite differently through the process of problem solving and spend very different amounts of time in each section! It provides a great understanding of what can happen in a faculty meeting—why some people are ready to move on while others are still exploring.
During the second half of the day we received the feedback from our “360” assessments, an evaluation from my managers, peers, and direct reports that provided me with a clearer understanding of my leadership strengths and weaknesses as seen by those who work with me. During the self-directed discussion groups, I facilitated a discussion on developing student leaders. We then ended the day with “Leadership at the Movies,” where we viewed film clips and discussed the various leadership styles exemplified in the clips.
The morning of day three was dedicated to leadership and change. We learned strategies for managing change, then performed case simulations to see how different personality types react to change and practiced implementing the strategies we learned. The afternoon discussion about emotional intelligence and feedback from our 360 assessments ended with a great conversation about leadership styles and the emotional IQs displayed in those styles. This was, of course, a great opportunity for my personal development, but there also was a lot we talked about that our students could benefit from. We ended the final full day with an evening of peer coaching; I received great advice from my peers, but learned just as much (if not more) by helping to answer their questions and solve their problems.
On the final morning we shared our perceptions of the program and did individual planning and goal setting. It was helpful to have time dedicated specifically to setting a few goals for the upcoming year, especially since it reminded me that I can’t actually do everything this year!
Upper School Coordinator of Student Life
During the United States Conference on Teaching Statistics meetings I was able to discuss teaching strategies and curriculum design with not only other high school statistics teachers, but also numerous college and university statistics instructors. The interactions with the college professors was extremely enlightening and confirmed my suspicions that Kinkaid’s AP Statistics curriculum is missing a significant programming component; when compared to an introduction to statistics college course, we cover the same topics and concepts, but the college courses incorporate statistical software packages that enable students to work with more realistic (i.e. “large”) data sets.
The “Start Teaching with R” workshop that preceded the conference was invaluable as a solid introduction to the fundamentals of the R programming language as it relates to an introductory course in statistics. The workshop was designed to teach us the basic R commands, but it also allowed the participants to create and share lessons that can (and will) be used in the classroom this fall. R is a widely used free software package that many colleges, universities, and research centers are using for statistical analysis and modeling applications. It makes sense for Kinkaid to consider incorporating it into our AP Statistics curriculum. The “programming” itself is fairly intuitive even for someone with no programming experience, and the online interface that is available comes with prepackaged code that students and instructors can use to reduce the R learning curve even further. I already have begun creating AP Statistics lessons using R that I will use this coming school year, and I will spend time this summer developing an Interim Term course on statistical programming with R.
Upper School Mathematics
“The Silk Road: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Teaching about East Asia,” was a fifteen-week on-line course that introduced educators to the geography, history, and culture of the famed Silk Road, a trade network that connected east Asia to the eastern Mediterranean in the west. The course consisted of readings and postings on a collaborative website. Readings covered all aspects of the Silk Road: geography, history, religion, migration, trade, literature and foods. Each week there were several required readings plus suggested supplementary readings. One of the benefits of this course was the wealth of material made available to teachers, including dozens of lesson plans, articles for students, and a plethora of vetted websites from museums, archives and archeological digs. I added bookmarks for over one hundred websites to my world history bookmarks. One of the main resources of the course was a curriculum entitled “Along the Silk Road,” developed by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education [SPICE]. The curriculum includes lesson plans, background materials, maps, and images.
One of the intriguing ideas of using the Silk Road as a paradigm for studying ancient and medieval Eurasian History is the way in which the Silk Road ties together the geography, history, and cultures of the communities that bordered or profited from the trade network. Studying the Silk Road suggests ways of breaking down the traditional narratives of regional or national histories and instead encourages students to see history from a global perspective, one that more accurately might reflect the way humans lived their lives, as distinct from the rise and fall of great empires. Since I was trained in western European and American history, studying the Silk Road as a whole has given me a greater understanding of the dynamics of world history, which will enable me to be a better history teacher to all of my students.
Upper School History
CSEE’s “Character Education: What Really Works in 2013” helped me think deeply about character education and our program at Kinkaid. The small group of workshop participants explored various aspects of character and the fundamentals of strong character programs. I tried to focus on leadership because it is such a key element of our advisory classes in the Middle School. What is a leader? What common characteristics do you see in leaders? If you were in a room with students you didn’t know, what would tell you who the leader was? What role does altruism play in leadership? Does a leader need followers? These were all questions I considered.
As for character education programs in general, Mr. Streight emphasized the importance of having shared goals that the whole community can articulate--this includes administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Integration of program goals into all areas of the school was discussed, as well as the fundamental necessity of providing autonomy to students. It is clear through research that autonomy has a direct impact on the development of character. So do relatedness to others and the feeling or perceived feeling of competence. I plan to explore these ideas more in David Streight’s book, Breaking into the Heart of Character: Self-Determined Moral Action and Academic Motivation, a copy of which we received at the workshop.
Middle School English
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend many informative sessions at the 2013 International Reading Association Conference. My first session of the conference, “Texts as Talk: Methods on how to improve small group discussions of YA texts,” gave the attendees information about how to engage young adults in meaningful conversations about the literature they read in class. I learned about some new methods that can get my own students talking about literature differently than I normally have them do.
“Digital Literacy & Technology Lessons & Projects that Make a Difference” enlightened me about new ways to incorporate technology into an English classroom. I walked away with many new ideas about apps, websites, blogs, wikis, etc. to incorporate into my class immediately.
Because I am always searching for new methods to teach vocabulary, I attended a session called “Vocabulary: Formative Assessment and Online Gaming Practice with Free or Inexpensive Digital Resources.” Although this session was not as informative as I would have liked, the presenter did talk about several digital resources that I will investigate.
“When Writing with Technology Matters” was a session about creating unconventional writing projects that help students be more creative and potentially have more fun while learning good writing techniques. One of the projects the presenters talked about, visual nonfiction essays, sounds like something I would be interested in incorporating into our study of Anne Frank and the Holocaust.
“Not Just the Books they Read, but the Lives they Lead…Rethinking Close Reading” helped me to think of the close reading of texts in a different way. The session outlined three steps for close reading. In the end, I began to rethink the way I teach annotation in my class.
“Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing” was another great session illustrating different methods for incorporating technology into writing lessons. In addition to receiving more technology resources for my own class, I also saw how one teacher lets her students take creative control of writing projects and how enriching this can be for the whole class.
The last session I attended, “Rigor: What it is and What it Isn’t,” informed attendees of the best way to find complex texts for their students and how to get students to read and understand these complex texts more easily. This session helped to remind me of certain habits that all good readers possess so that I can keep helping my students to gain these habits.
Middle School English
I always get a lot out of the Association of Independent School Librarians conference. It is a small conference of about 125 librarians from independent schools around the country and is hosted in a different city each year by the member libraries in that city. We visited Garrison Forest School, Boy's Latin School, Key School, and St. Paul's School and tour their libraries and hear about successful programs they have. In addition, we visited The Peabody Library, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland State Archives, and The United States Naval Academy. I learned about a teacher technology training program that I think will work here for our databases next year and took lots of pictures in the various libraries. On a personal note, I got to see cherry blossoms for the first time (beautiful!) and had some delicious crab cakes. too!
Director of Libraries
I took part in a webinar that was particularly useful because it dealt with creating library web pages and the elements of a good web page in an age of mobile devices. I did the three hours of training and shared the archived version with the other librarians and the webmaster. I used some of the ideas when I recreated the summer reading lists and plan to watch the video again over the summer and use the ideas to create library pages that work better with the new Kinkaid parent site.
Director of Libraries
Padlet, Voki, Audioboo, Animator, PinNTell, ShowMe,edmodo, iBuild. These are all apps demonstrated in a session, “Bytes of Technology,” one of many great programming ideas from the Texas Library Association Conference. Most exciting, though, were the author panels where some of my favorite writers spoke on what they are working on now, how they come to create such wonderful books, and collaborations with colleagues. Panel discussions included “Science Fiction and Fantasy,” “Hot off the Press,” “New YA Literature to Entice Readers,” “Book Buzz,” “Middle School is Epic,” and “50 Years of Newbery.”
One of the most interesting sessions was “Texas Tea With Authors,” a kind of “speed dating” format where authors switched tables with the ring of a cowbell. It was an interesting way to meet writers up close and ask questions in a small, casual setting.
As always, I come away from annual conference with a wish list of new books to add to my never-ending list.
Middle School Librarian
I attended the state library convention in Fort Worth. It is always great to hear inspirational speakers, learn new technologies, become more familiar with popular and up-and-coming authors and their works, and to reconnect with colleagues from around the state. One comes back enthusiastic and invigorated to try new things, share with colleagues, and read, read, read some of those books we heard about. Though the conference is at times overwhelming and exhausting, it is so worthwhile to attend such continuing education opportunities.
Middle School Assistant Librarian
Well, my opera season is over, and unfortunately I can’t say it made me a lover of opera. I have always loved musical theatre and hoped that with an educational component, I would learn to appreciate opera more. I learned a bit, and the educational component was fair, but not especially useful in terms of my own knowledge or in adding to my classes.
That said, I appreciated the experience because I know many people feel about Shakespeare the way I feel about opera. (Actually, they probably feel it about opera too.) Anyway, my ambivalence for opera asked me to question why I like Shakespeare and how pretentious it is in part. The lyricism and abstruse poetry is not so unlike arias sung in other languages. It’s good as a teacher to be put in situations where I feel lost or uninspired, so I can consider how my students sometimes feel similarly, reading the works I plop down in front of them. It made me feel empathy.
Of all of the operas, I appreciated “La Boheme” and “Il Travatore” most. I also loved hearing “Old Man River” sung live in “Show Boat.” But overall, I was rather underwhelmed. I’m not sorry for the experience, though. I have been thinking recently, too, about the way operas use people as set pieces—as a way to add to the mood and reality of a situation. Most of the people in operas aren’t even human beings; they are there to dress the stage. Sometimes literature has similar “dressings,” and I’ve noticed them more in my recent reading. Or dare I say in my students, too, who better be more than just “dressing” in my classroom!
Upper School English
The Houston Grand Opera workshops were interesting adventures—I met some terrific educators from across the city who teach all sorts of disciplines (English, music, history, even math), but, most important, I had the chance to hear about the history of the operas. I've never been much of an opera fan, and I hoped that this experience would open my mind to the art form. I can't say that I'll head out and buy a ticket to the next opera, but I can say that I appreciate it in a different way. The highlight was (as I expected) “Show Boat.” I've taught my musical class during at least six different Interim Terms, and each time I spend time talking about the place of “Show Boat” in the world of musical theatre, bit I had never seen the show until this production. It was truly spectacular. In fact, I was able to bring the show into my Social Issues class since so much of the show has to do with racial tensions in America.
Upper School Dean
This year I attended the Texas Library Association’s 100th annual conference. I was able to connect with children’s book authors, illustrators, and library vendors. I came back with ideas to incorporate new titles and new materials into the library program. I attended sessions on iPad opportunities and app use in the library, the science behind listening to a story, 100 best new books for children, collaborating for higher level thinking, a poetry round up, and more! I was inspired by the general session speakers and motivated by visiting local Fort Worth area independent schools.
This was a wonderful way to connect and recharge!
Lower School Librarian
During the 2013-2014 school year, one of my goals is to work on improving class meetings in order to better support the fifth grade leadership curriculum. The Middle School has been developing its advisory curriculum for over a year, and the “Advisory Tips and Activities” webinar looked relevant. Since the webinar addressed advisories in general, I opened it up to the fifth grade advisors as a way to promote professional growth, and all of them attended.
Although the webinar covered several practical activities to do with advisees, what I found most relevant was the emphasis the speaker placed on tying activities and discussions not only to the mission of the school, but also to the character traits (and in our case, leadership skills) we want our students to practice and develop. He indicated that everything should feed back to the mission statement. This seems obvious, but I believe it is harder to do in practice. With this in mind, I plan to include some discussions about the school’s mission statement in class meetings next year, as well as encourage the team to use the character and leadership goals we have identified as a school to frame advisory activities in a more purposeful way.
Many of the advisory activities were very practical and provided food for thought. Some of them were aimed at a higher age group, but were still interesting to ponder. I definitely got something out of the webinar, and I hope the team did as well!
Fifth Grade English
I enjoyed the lectures in Rice’s Continuing Studies program on the Downton Abbey series. I only wish it had been offered in the fall before I taught the Downton Abbey course during Interim Term, since I already knew some of what he told us. However, he also gave us information I did not know about how the series was filmed and written, and that is something I can use if I teach the Interim course again. I also enjoyed attending the class with Kinkaid colleagues; it was nice to be around fellow teachers outside of class in a different learning environment.
Upper School History
I was given permission to audit classes at Primary Stages in New York City. It was great to study lyric writing and view three musicals with entirely different musical theater forms—the classical “Cinderella.” the lyrical “Once,” and the country western “Hands on a Hard Body.” The courses were taught by Brian Gwan, lyricist and composer of “The Boy Detective Fails” at Signature Theatre,
I plan to add a unit in eighth grade drama on lyrics and musical theatre. As we approach the middle school musical, I will have the opportunity to explain the structure of the song or songs and the reason the composer placed the song where he did, then allow the students to identify the specific rhyme structure of songs.
I also spent four hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visited with Victoria Clark, Tony Award winner who played the Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella,” and met Doug Wright, who wrote the book for “Hands on a Hard Body.” Both Victoria and Doug expressed interest in doing a Master Class at Kinkaid.
Middle School Drama
I really enjoyed the Rice Continuing Studies course on Downton Abbey. Here are the highlights:
- I got to watch master teaching—and that’s a treat, and a learning experience, for any teacher. I especially liked Dr. Patten’s incorporation of clips and even stills into his teaching. I use clips often but I hardly ever use stills.
- I enjoyed learning a bit about the history covered in the show, especially since my American literature course covers some of that same period as well. It gave me new perspectives on some of the works I teach, especially how emerging technology and World War I had shaped lives.
- The class also gave me further appreciation for the division of wealth, represented so obviously in the show, even by the title drawing that includes a reflection of the upper house. This stratification and division is often important in Shakespeare plays
- Even today, no British actor will sign a contract for a TV show for longer than three years because stage acting is still considered of utmost importance in the growing life of a British actor, whereas American actors frequently turn to TV and film and never return to the stage. That’s at least in part why there have been so many deaths on Downton. But it’s a great piece of information to share with a Shakespeare class. Clearly the value of stage drama still reigns in Britain.
- The three necessities for a successful soap opera/series: Make ‘em cry; make ‘em laugh; make ‘em wait. I can use this philosophy in discussing successful plays and novels as well.
- Ultimately great storytelling comes down to great characters. I knew this, of course, but it doesn’t hurt to have it confirmed yet again.
- I enjoyed sharing and discussing the experience with my Kinkaid colleagues. The more professional development opportunities I have, the more convinced I am that they are more valuable with colleagues.
Upper School English
I attended the ASCD conference in Chicago for two reasons. First, I wanted to participate in a pre-conference workshop, “Meaningful Evaluations,” led by Dr. Robyn R. Jackson. Second, I have never been to an ASCD conference, and I wanted to see what today’s school leaders were implementing in the way of technology and digital tools. I am, and have been, curious as to whether we are ahead of, behind, or in the middle of the curve.
Dr. Jackson worked with about 100 of us, mainly reiterating points from her book, The Instructional Leader’s Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers. She spoke about how each teacher (person, actually) has a mix of internal motivators, which she calls “will-drivers,” which fuel us professionally each day. They are autonomy, mastery, purpose, and belonging. She emphasized that each of us, though having a combination of these will-drivers, is primarily guided by one—one that we cannot live or work without. We lead and coach based on our will-driver, but if that is not the motivating force behind another’s efforts, our feedback can get lost. As evaluators, we need to get to know people and their personal will-drivers, and meet them where they are. Though we might want every teacher to arrive at the same “place”, the path to get there is quite different for each individual.
In addition to her theories about will-drivers, Dr. Jackson notes that there are two simple indicators of teachers (and professionals in general): skill and will. Each person can be characterized as High/Low Skill and High/Low Will, and there are some commonalities between teachers in the same group. Typically, new teachers are High Will/Low Skill and “veteran” teachers are Low Will/High Skill. As with the will-drivers, the type of teacher largely determines the type of feedback they want and/or will respond to.
While neither of these theories answers all the questions about being an effective evaluator, they definitely made me think more about catering specific goals and recommendations to different teachers. I want to make sure each of the teachers in my department feels supported, motivated, and encouraged, while simultaneously holding them accountable to high standards.
For the remainder of the conference, I focused my attention on sessions on technology, 21st century skills, flipped-classrooms, and making curriculum relevant and meaningful to students. Given my work with Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) this year, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what 21st century digital skills our students need to have and whether we are equipping them with these skills at the various divisions. We used to focus on writing papers and making oral presentations, but what about podcasts? Broadcasts? Videos? Non-PowerPoint presentations? Are we teaching students constructive skills that will be useful in college and later in a professional setting, or are we still having students make dioramas and memorize formulas? We need to teach the students to be planners and creators as well as thinkers, all while using Web 2.0 tools and building professional digital portfolios. Without these skills, they will not be competitive in the world when they graduate, and will definitely be behind the curve in the job market.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the conferences at ASCD. It was amazing to be in a room with so many people and to feel so in awe of them and “young” compared to them. It definitely gave me goals to set for my students, myself, and the Kinkaid School as a whole.
Upper School Mathematics
The Creative Problem Solving math workshop was great. I was thrilled to see they were suggesting an interactive notebook to use with the students, because I have been doing this for years. It is always good to sit at a table and hear about other schools. When you hear how one teacher has a class of 33 Kindergarten students by herself, it really puts things in perspective.
A fact I did not know: it takes 28 experiences within 3 weeks for a concept to truly be solidified. The workshop called it "Peak Learning."
Middle School Mathematics
I enjoyed attending the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association's 2013 Annual Conference, whose topic was Reading, Literacy and Learning. I chose to attend primarily because the keynote address topic, “Executive Functioning of Children with ADHD and Dyslexia,” is of particular interest to me.
The speaker focused quite a bit on looking more closely at working memory. I learned that people constantly access both short- and long-term memory as they manipulate information in working memory. Children with ADHD have difficulty, while toggling between short and long term memory, attending long enough to process new information and holding on to it long enough to manipulate it in working memory. I learned some specific strategies that can help these students hold both processes and "hold on" to information longer. Some examples are the use of mnemonics, pictures cues, and list making. Another interesting strategy presented was the idea of creating an external memory with the use of technology and math tools. Simply put, allow students to use charts and iPads, etc. while trying to do more complex skills.
In the breakout sessions, I learned some specific strategies to help children with ADHD write with more ease through the use of list making to generate ideas before beginning to compose an essay. I am looking forward to trying these writing strategies with my third graders as we begin our unit of Feature Articles.
Lower School Teacher
At the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, conference on Reading, Literacy, and Learning, I had the opportunity to hear several speakers address topics that can affect student learning. Dr. Eric Tridas spoke about working memory, and I learned several strategies I can teach my students to help them learn and retain information. I also learned about a computer program, Cogmed, which some learning therapists are using to help students increase their working memory. Dr. Michelle Beard spoke about anxiety disorders, and I learned ways I can recognize students who are struggling with persistent anxiety, which affects 18 percent of the population. It also was helpful for me to discuss the presentations with other Kinkaid teachers; this helped me gain the big picture of how we are working to help learners beyond my division. Overall, this was a beneficial conference.
Middle School English and Reading
With technology developing at such a rapid pace, the Texas Computer Education Association Convention allows educators a venue to experience techniques, ideas and resources for use in the classroom. This year the use of iPads in the classroom and creating digital books were common topics for presenters.
iPad Extravaganza was a full day of sessions on all aspects of the use of iPads in the classroom. The use of iPads in the classroom helps to deepen students’ educational experience. With over 700,000 apps available for use on iPads, managing devices, determining the best apps, and sharing student products can be overwhelming. Presenters shared their tips for managing devices, favorite apps for learning and student projects, and samples of student products.
Janet Fox, from Presbyterian School, presented a session about asking the right questions to determine the best apps to support and transform learning in the classroom. Key questions include, What will students learn?, What will help them learn?, and How will students demonstrate their learning?
The use of quality apps to gather information and practice skills has been easy for teachers to implement. An important component is the use of audio recording of students. This is an authentic way to have children practice and listen to reading as they become proficient readers. The use of audio and video recording allow students to express their creativity in a storytelling format.
The demonstration of student learning in a finished product is key. Students are able to create projects by journaling, creating books, developing history timelines, making keynote presentations, and teaching other students.
Our digital learners will naturally expect to read and publish their own digital books. These books can be created in different ways on both the iPad and computer. A number of apps are available to allow students of all ages to transform their writing to publish digital books. iBook Author on Mac computers has the potential to transform digital books into multimedia books.
Lower School Assistant Teacher
Lower School librarians spent a full day program with Peggy Sharp, who spoke on “What’s New in Children’s Literature and How to Use it In Your Program.” This was a day filled with titles and classroom connections and wonderful ideas to integrate the best children’s literature into our program. Mrs. Sharp kept the audience engaged with book talks, book exercises, deeper curricular connections, and time to explore the titles she selected. It was a day well spent. We left the program with a list of titles and ideas to bring back to the Lower School.
Lower School Librarian
I had the opportunity to go to a workshop, “What's NEW in Children's Literature and How to Use it in Your Program,” given by Dr. Peggy Sharp. This session was very beneficial for me because book talks were given on numerous outstanding books that came out just this year. Ideas were given for using books as mentor texts to enhance all subject areas. Not only were knew titles discussed, but old classics and "hidden gems" were included, as well. Whether new or old, books can provide many opportunities for enhancement in all subject areas!
Lower School Assistant Librarian
Seeing the Theater Under The Stars production of Camelot was a great opportunity that will allow me to bring new ideas about the King Arthur legend into the classroom during our unit on Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. I enjoy incorporating new media into my lessons, and this opportunity now affords me the ability to illustrate how the legend is still culturally relevant. Although I am familiar with the musical, I had never had the opportunity to see it performed live. Seeing this particular director's vision and how it compared to the text of what we read in class added a new dimension to my understanding. The acting, costumes, and sets helped to illustrate some details from the legend that I have never noticed before! I look forward to sharing my experience with my students and adding depth to our lessons on this multifaceted piece of literature.
Middle School English
I am most appreciative to have been able to attend the Leadership Fusion Summit at Region 4. The day was filled with informative presentations by three leaders in the field of technology education and innovation: Alan November, Lonnie Moore, and Eric Jensen.
Alan November started the day with an energetic and engaging presentation, discussing the “information question.” He talked about the Internet as the revolution as opposed to the device, i.e. technology. Within the scope of his presentation he shared an in-depth look at the two skills we need to teach our students: critical thinking and global connection. November gave specific research examples related to use of the Internet and the need for students to be educated in its use, particularly as a search engine and research tool. In sum, students must be taught to use a line of questioning/inquiry (methodology).
The second speaker, Lonnie Moore, spoke on "The Leader in Me." He spoke about the importance of engagement, i.e., creating an environment where kids want to be. His message was that education today is not so much about knowledge, but what one does with that knowledge. He specifically spoke about the “high trust classroom” as an active classroom. The 21st Century classroom requires a higher level of cooperation and collaboration that ever before. Not only do students need to be engaged, but they also must be exposed to leadership roles during the process of learning.
The final session of the day was a dynamic presentation by Eric Jensen. Among other things, he discussed the “neuroplasticity” of the brain and how it can be both changed and trained. The question posed by Jensen was, "What defines effective teaching?" We went through a series of topics that included focus, skill, acceleration, and change. The common ingredient must be support for implementation through planning, integration, technological skills, and social support.
Middle School History
The Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association conference was outstanding! Dr. Eric Tridas presented the keynote address on “Executive Functions: ADHD and Dyslexia.” His simple definition for executive function is how we think and how we learn. Executive function helps us with decision making, goal setting, prioritizing, organizing, shifting flexibly, and holding and manipulating information. Attention is a function of executive function, and working memory is dramatically impacted by ADHD. When one is unable to temporarily hold information in working memory, complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension are compromised. Dr. Tridas emphasized: "We don't manage the label; we manage the symptoms."
In addition to the keynote, I attended two excellent breakout sessions. Dr. Michele Berg's session, “Strategies to Boost Memory and Learning,” offered several useful strategies. She advocates giving students an external memory (fact charts, calculators) when we know that they have trouble with working memory (attention). Our cell phones are external memory devices now with calendars and address books stored and saved.
Finally, I attended William Van Cleave's session on developing paragraphs and essay writing skills in struggling students. His ideas for generating lists, categorization, graphic organizers, as well as ways to build a basic paragraph have already been useful in my classes this week.
Lower School Reading Specialist
While the Texas Music Educators Association conference is always one of those events that gets your battery charged up to get into your classroom and teach, this year was something special. I attended the usual amazing concerts and workshops, getting a lot out of each of them, but the real highlight of the event was watching for hours as Dr. Peter Loel Boonshaft rehearsed the ATSSB All State Band. I have read and reread his three books about teaching/conducting and am a dedicated follower of his methods, but to see him put all of his ideas and methods into action was amazing and inspiring. Unlike many other books on teaching, he puts the weight of success or failure directly on the teacher/conductor. I came away ready to reread his books and re-examine everything I am doing in the classroom. I want to incorporate everything he teaches into my score study and rehearsals. Already I am seeing results—sometimes dramatic results.
Director of Performing Arts and Bands
I attended The Leadership Fusion Summit at Region 4 Conference Center. Alan November, Lonnie Moore, and Eric Jensen spoke about applying brain research in education to raise achievement with the incorporation of technology. Here is what I took away:
Alan November presented tips on increasing the accuracy of research using search engines. I will encourage my students to look beyond the first page that pops up on a Google search and recommend using more than one search engine!
It was interesting to me that he said there is no measurable academic achievement using new technology!
Lonnie Moore sais that “high trust” is the most important factor that will influence achievement of students.
Eric Jensen said that the environment affects students more than heredity. This is very powerful to apply to the classroom!
Middle School History
The Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association Conference was a good conference for educators. The breakout sessions were most beneficial and directly related to my classroom teaching. I chose to attend two afternoon sessions that pertained to children in my current class. We learned about anxiety in children. It reminded me that when children have anxiety, they shut down and cannot think rationally. Thus, the panic mode. We see this in our classrooms from time to time.
The other session I attended was on oral language. The speaker made many connections to "real life" situations. She touched on the importance of building oral language opportunities into daily lesson plans at every level. This session offered more share-out opportunities, and she made many connections to the classroom. Excellent!
Lower School Teacher
I attended simultaneous conferences for the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the Texas Music Educators Association. This was my first time to attend the Technology conference, and I found it to be extremely valuable. Websites and apps that bring technology into the choral classroom are just beginning to emerge, and this conference offered the opportunity to see what music teachers and performers are using across the country.
The Music Educators conference was both informative and inspirational. I attended a number of sessions on topics ranging from concert programming to rehearsal techniques and vocal pedagogy. I also had the opportunity to talk at length with many composers, publishers, choral directors, and music educators from varying disciplines. I returned with a stack of great music, many good ideas to add to that “idea pile,” new technology websites to explore, and a healthy dose of inspiration.
Middle School Music
I attended the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association Spring Conference. Dr. Eric Tridas, the keynote speaker, discussed the importance of executive function and how it impacts learning and behavior. Executive functions are a collection of processes that give us the capacity to engage in behaviors that are independent, purposeful, and goal directed. Executive functions include feedback in order to adjust behaviors. There are various elements of executive function, including attention, planning, organization, initiation, problem solving, and emotional control, that build the foundation for learning. I'm currently using strategies to help my students learn to regulate their behaviors, so I can provide the most stimulating learning environment while meeting the needs of each student. I also attended two "break out" sessions that addressed working memory and anxiety. The conference was very informative!
Mary Margaret Greer
Last Saturday, I attended the Houston Eating Disorders Specialists Journey of Hope conference. There was a vast amount of information given in a very short time. I found most of the applicable information to me as a teacher and athletic trainer in the keynote address given by Dr. Craig Johnson. He explained many of the correlations of which I should be aware.
Another interesting speaker showed several of her clinical visits and gave the psychologists in the group some strategies. I feel it was very good for awareness of our community. Much of the conference was directed towards clinicians.
Athletic Trainer, Decisions Teacher
I atttended a lecture series by Dr. William Neidinger, “The Road to Santiago de Compostela.” I found the lectures fascinating and informative, and I learned so much about the history of the pilgrimage and the route itself as well as the church. As an undergraduate I studied in Santiago de Compostela, and I have always yearned to go back and do at least a part of the pilgrimage. At this series I met several pilgrims who had traveled 500 miles by foot and were eager to share their experiences. One fascinating thing that I learned is the name of a sculpture of Jesus along the route that was rumored to have human skin and hair that closely resembles the description of a statue in a short story my Spanish IV students are reading this semester. I will be able to tie in many factual points along with the fictional piece that we will read. Dr. Neidinger is extremely knowledgeable, and his lectures are full of interesting facts and hypothesis. I enjoyed the series immensely and look forward to taking advantage of more of his offerings.
Upper School Spanish
I attended the Texas Music Educators Association convention and TI:ME (Technology in Music Education) conference in San Antonio, Texas. The event was a smorgasbord of activities, including performances by various musical groups, visiting exhibitors, and workshops addressing a variety of topics.
Many workshops featured the use of technology in the music classroom. Technology should serve music instruction and should not be an end unto itself. Some of the activities I saw within presentations were a bit gimmicky, and I felt that valuable class time could be better spent. Most, however, had a great deal of merit. I learned about a website, musicianswithapps.com, which categorizes apps dealing with music instruction. I also learned that an iPad screen could be made to show up on the interactive whiteboard by means of a reflector app or with a hardwire adapter. I discovered a terrific recorder (the instrument) app that I will recommend to students to assist self-guided learning. I also will share with students a recorder app with a fun game to learn notes. While listening to presentations regarding interactive whiteboards, I jotted down some ideas to create some new lessons using ActivInspire.
TMEA is an organization with over ninety years of history. The convention is well organized, well attended, and is an invaluable hub for the exchange of ideas and materials. I’m happy that TI:ME is a recent “pre-convention” addition to the schedule. Visitors from outside the state of Texas have acclaimed this convention to be better than any national convention.
Lower School Music
I appreciate the opportunity to attend the Lone Star Coaching Clinic in College Station. I was able to attend a number of presentations by some excellent college and NFL coaches; the lineup of presenters this year was exceptional. Two sessions in particular will be of great value in my work with the varsity offense in upcoming seasons, one by the head coach at Sam Houston State University on the zone read and principles coming from it, and the other by the offensive line coach at Oklahoma State on their three-back offense and the many options it provides. I want very much for Kinkaid to run a more zone-based offensive scheme, and the opportunity to listen to these coaches, learn from their experience, and gain insight into how we can implement these principles will prove valuable as we begin to prepare for another winning season of Kinkaid football.
Middle School Latin, Varsity Football Assistant Coach
I had the opportunity to attend a two-day conference in Austin on "Blending the Boundaries in the Age of Globalization: Trends, Challenges, and Innovations in Language Education." The conference provided information on how children should never stop learning, never stop observing, never stop analyzing. We should teach them to be aware of all that is spoken around them in a foreign language class, always keeping in mind that students need time as they absorb a new language. Students cannot learn a language alone; students learn a language through others. I attended many useful workshops over the two days I was there. For example, I learned approaches to teaching both heritage and non-heritage learners. I also learned it is important to expose each student to as much vocabulary as time permits.
Each workshop I attended was full of insight and strategies I will be able to use in my classroom.
Middle School Spanish
While attending the Houston Eating Disorders Specialists Journey of Hope conference, I heard Dr. Craig Johnson describe some of the most recent findings about eating disorders. With recent discoveries about the brain, health care professionals have created more effective protocol for treating eating disorders. He also discussed the importance of teaching about healthy nutrition and the vast difference between the physical development during puberty of boys and girls. Between the ages of 11 and 14, girls on average gain 40 pounds, which is a healthy weight gain as they become young women. Restricting calories and over exercising can change the neuro-biology of the brain for some girls. It is important to encourage girls to focus on health: healthy eating, stress management, and an appropriate amount of exercise.
The speakers were interesting, and the amount of information was overwhelming. Attending the conference with a colleague allowed time for discussing our Human Development and Decisions curriculum. We also thought about best practices for getting this information to Kinkaid’s female athletes.
Director of Wellness
I recently attended the Lone Star Coaching Clinic in College Station, where I attended several sessions covering a variety of content. The two sessions I enjoyed most covered the "Air Raid" offense and "Fire Zones" out of a 3-4 defense. Hal Mumme, co-creator of the "Air Raid" offense, discussed how they practice each day, the concepts that they focus on, and when they use each concept throughout different segments of the field. The second speaker I enjoyed was Chris Wilson, the defensive line coach at the University of Georgia. Coach Wilson covered many facets of the "Fire Zone" blitz concept that I often utilize in my defensive scheme. Their most common blitz is the same as ours. However, they make an adjustment with the blitz that I believe will improve the effectiveness of our blitz.
Physical Education and Athletics
I attended the Texas Music Educators Association and the Technology Institute for Music Educators conventions in San Antonio. Many of the sessions I attended have been immediately useful to me in the classroom, and yet many more will aid my professional evaluation goals in the coming academic year. At the TI:ME conference, I attended various classes, such as “Integrating Music Technology into Your Instrumental Music Program,” “SMART Interactive Teaching in the Music Classroom,” “Free Online Resources for Anything Music Ed,” “The iPad in Secondary Music Rehearsal,” and Music Theory Online.” It was extremely interesting to hear thoughts on how to integrate interactive white boards and iPads into secondary and instrumental ensemble rehearsals, since this relatively young field is concentrated at the general music/elementary and the theory/college levels. Developing Promethean lessons for middle school band rehearsals and finding relevant apps for my students are two areas of growth I’d like to achieve in the next year or so. I learned about several apps that will help my students receive feedback in real time and will help develop their aural and analytical skills more quickly and completely.
The TMEA conference had a wide variety of classes such, as “How to Create Better Beginner Brass Players”; “Motivation, Innovation, and Differentiation in Beginning Band”; and “Sight-Reading Tips, Tricks, and Traps.” Of particular importance and impact on my immediate teaching and classroom management strategies were the many honor band concerts and observing Peter Booneshaft of Hofstra University working with the ATSSB All-State Band. I have attended clinics by him in the past and have read several of his books. He has been very influential in my teaching style in the past several years, and it was very meaningful and enriching to see him employ his techniques with students in person.
Middle School Band Director
I had the opportunity to take the Multi-Sensory Grammar and Written Composition course as well as Developing Metacognitive Skills course offered by Neuhaus as part of my continued Dyslexia Training.
The Multi-Sensory Grammar and Written Composition curriculum covers the parts of speech and how they are utilized in a sentence to convey meaning. Students must identify and define the parts of speech in a sentence and then translate patterns into sentences both orally and in written form. Neuhaus uses color codes for the parts of speech to help students develop original sentence patterns.
The Developing Metacognitive Skills curriculum focuses on the importance of vocabulary and reading comprehension. The purpose of the course is to build strong foundational skills in oral language, vocabulary, word knowledge, and working memory that develop metacognitive skills to prepare students to “think about thinking.” The foundational skills and metacognitive strategies are taught in three different levels, which include listening comprehension, transitional metacognition, and guided metacognition. Instruction begins at the appropriate level based upon measures of decoding and listening and reading comprehension. Students are exposed to various genres and are introduced to strategies for understanding narrative text, expository text, poetry, and graphs. Neuhaus provides specific lesson plans for each level, which guide instruction to help improve vocabulary as well as reading comprehension.
I look forward to working with my students and implementing the many activities Neuhaus suggests throughout these courses that reinforce the parts of speech, written expression through composition, and vocabulary and reading comprehension.
Mary Margaret Greer
I went to San Antonio for the Texas Music Educators Association’s annual clinic and convention. In addition to chaperoning two Upper School students who successfully auditioned for the Texas 5A symphony and philharmonic orchestras, I was able to attend many other worthwhile events. The concerts our students were involved in were amazing. I had several opportunities to sit in on rehearsals and observe the professional clinicians work with their respective groups, which was very educational for me. I was also able to attend many fine performances by other all-state groups and honor ensembles from all over Texas. Watching the performances and observing the different conductors was a worthwhile experience.
I also was able to attend seminars on many different topics: new technology in music education, effective conducting techniques for the high school orchestra, building better expressiveness in the left hand (for string players), and motivating the middle school orchestra student. I had a great experience at the convention this year.
At the Independent Curriculum Group conference at the Episcopal School of Dallas, I attended a session on child safety in the digital world. This is a topic of current interest in the Lower School, and I wanted to compare my research with that of others.
The session was led by three teachers from Episcopal School of Dallas. It confirmed some of the ideas I had been working on and introduced me to new ideas that I need to explore. NetsmartzKids and Common Sense Media are two sites I have been working with. Digizen, LearningLabs, and Brainpop will also be helpful to me as I plan a program.
The other session I attended, given by a teacher at the Parish Episcopal School, was a wonderful presentation on digital portfolios.
Peter E. Pickett
Lower School Academic Technology Coordinator
I recently attended two local softball coaching clinics. The first was sponsored by the American Softball Association. The presenters at the clinic, Mike Candrea, Ken Erickson, and Mike White, all top college and Olympic coaches, could speak very specifically about technique and strategy. They talked about pitching, hitting, base running, and practice strategy. I learned some good things but I was reassured that we do things well. For instance, we were really excited about the base running session. I love aggressive base running, and at our level, games can be won by taking an extra base, getting good jumps, and just having an aggressive mindset.
The High School Coaches clinic was broader in scope. Jo Evans, from Texas A&M, spoke on defense. Rick Weiligman, from Oklahoma State, spoke on hitting. The game has changed a lot since I played because there is so much more power in the swing now. A lot of coaches (Weiligman as well as the three men at the ASA clinic) played men's fast pitch, so their perspective is a little different than someone who knows only the women's game. The softball swing now is more like a baseball swing.
I enjoyed the clinics. They were informative and reassuring. They got the juices flowing. But the key is to keep learning. Keep tinkering. Keep talking to other coaches.
Head Varsity Softball Coach
The baseball coaching staff went to Waco for the Texas High School Baseball Convention. We heard various speakers present on hitting, fielding, pitching, conditioning, and the mental aspects of the game.
On Thursday we heard John Pope, head coach of 5A state champion Cy Ranch. He stressed practice organization and injury prevention. Band work, arm weights, rope training, and dry throwing are important for all players to build strength and prevent arm problems. We also listened to former 16-year major leaguer Don Slaught present on rotational hitting, linear hitting, and a combination of the two. Slaught stresses rotational mechanics to initiate the swing and linear mechanics to take over as the bat enters the strike zone. The keynote speaker for this year’s clinic was current major league player and five-time all star Michael Young. Young spoke of his rise through baseball and the dedication needed to stay at the top of your profession.
Head Varsity Baseball Coach
My attendance of the American Distance Summit over the holiday break was a tremendous learning experience for me. I was able to listen to and learn from some of the best and most cutting-edge coaches in the United States. I also had the opportunity to view several state-of-the-art facilities for bio-mechanics and competition.
Listening to the best elite, collegiate, and high school coaches was powerful. They shared their successes and techniques without hesitation and genuinely desire to see that quality of American distance running grow in every way, from the grass roots to the athletes we send to the Olympics every four years. It was truly a pleasure to share time with coaches I have long respected.
This trip allowed my to update and add to my own knowledge base, giving me a wonderful refresher from when I was last coaching full time over eight years ago. My ability to create workouts that get the most out of my athletes is now expanded, and I fully expect the results to show in the months and years to come. Kinkaid's track and field and cross country teams will benefit greatly from what I learned.
Filmmaking Teacher, Cross Country and Track Coach
I attended the Rice University Glasscock School of Continuing Studies Early Literacy Conference on School Literacy and Culture. We must continually ask ourselves why we do what we do in the classroom and not be tempted to jump on every new product or practice before really investigating its worth. I was challenged to think deeply about the choices I make as I prepare our children to become successful 21st century learners. Cognitive skills, socio-emotional competence, self-regulation, and creative thinking are all important. I truly enjoyed the time spent with these inspirational educators. Dr. Patsy Cooper's keynote was worth the price of the ticket!!
I attended the Educon conference. Here are my major takeaways:
- Conversations and time spent with colleagues. It was really nice for so many of the department chairs to have time together—to get to know each other as people, to share our responses to sessions and our challenges/progress/ thoughts as department chairs.
- While I think the idea of moving entirely to project-based learning is a bit extreme, I think a hybrid is worth considering. This conference has encouraged me to consider how much I am delivering to the students and how much they are really learning and discovering for themselves. I’ll admit, I enjoy orchestrating a classroom, and such a style works well some of the time for some of the students, but sometimes I am too concerned with keeping the classroom productive and efficient. The fact is, though it may look productive because everyone is doing something, doing isn’t always learning, and I wonder if learning is always happening at its best. I am intrigued by the idea, especially with my Advanced Placement Shakespeare students, of having them choose a play and read it on their own or with a few of their classmates and letting them run the conversations and research after I have given them the tools to do so.
- I really appreciate the core values at Science Leadership Academy: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, reflection. I’d like to think more about how we do these things at Kinkaid and how much I do them in my own classroom.
- Thanks to two different sessions, one on using digital texts to teach close reading and one to teach writing, I have some cool ideas of ways to use digital texts, especially commercials, songs and clips from TV shows, in interesting new ways in my classroom.
- I am always looking for ways to do group work differently. Just the idea of turning and talking out an idea with someone close for two minutes can be a great way to raise and discuss ideas before a larger discussion or instead of a larger discussion.
- I love the idea of lightning speeches—five-minute speeches with fifteen 15-second slides that support a thesis of some sort. We saw some really good ones. On that note, this conference has asked me to question whether papers are always the best option for showing understanding of a text or might I offer students other possible presentations: lightning speeches, documentary, podcast, a website, a digital story. I would want there to be writing as one component of it, but would it have to be a paper? Would such a project become too time intensive?
- I want to think about how to use reflection more regularly—for my students and for myself.
- I took advantage of two exhibits in Philadelphia: the Titanic Exhibit at the Franklin Institute (very well done—a second-class passenger, I survived with my three children) and the Edgar Allan Poe house. The Edgar Allan Poe house was especially exciting and I bought all sorts of teaching materials there for myself and colleagues. Plus, I learned a ton from our Park Ranger and took some photos to share with my students.
- Two great quotations: “Project Based Learning must be impactful and engaging,” and “A thesis is a promise”
I have plenty to consider for the future!
Upper School English
I attended a workshop ,“Accurate and Automatic Decoding: A Necessity for Skilled Reading,” at the Neuhaus Education Center. I returned to Kinkaid with strategies for my students that will build their phonemic awareness and in turn promote fluency and comprehension skills.
As part of the workshop, we all received a copy of Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, containing activities for teachers as well as students. The activities for teachers are designed to continue education on the structure of English. The activities for students are a fabulous resource that I will be able to use to enrich the curriculum we have in place. I also am pleased to know that Neuhaus provides a wealth of online resources for teachers, and I have already taken advantage of these easy, free, downloadable tools!
The workshop also touched on the history of the English language. Influences from around the world have shaped the complex language we know today. I feel more equipped to pass on my knowledge of English to my students now that I have learned of its roots.
Lower School Assistant Teacher
Houston Grand Opera’s Teacher Workshop on Showboat was enlightening and enjoyable. I attended the pre-show dinner and presentation, followed by the final dress rehearsal. The presentation, led by HGO co-director Sandra Bernhardt, explored the history of this seminal musical and its significance not only theatrically but socially. The production was groundbreaking in its representation of race and other more subtle facets of discrimination. We also learned about the production history of the show and why the HGO production was a step forward in reconfiguring the show based on recent discoveries of original material. Kate Lambert and I had the opportunity to bring our “Let’s Go to the Theatre” Interim Term class to see the dress rehearsal performance, as well. Participation in the pre-show workshop gave us the background information to have a well-informed, in-depth conversation with our students about the musical and about HGO’s production. We were also able to make connections about how race was represented on stage in Showboat and compare this to how race was represented in several other plays from our Interim course. In the long-term, I will be able to apply my deeper knowledge of this turning point in American musical theatre to other productions that my students and I study and produce at Kinkaid.
Director of Drama
I thoroughly enjoyed an intriguing and informative “Masterpieces from the Prado” workshop and lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts. The teachers received a personal tour led by the head curator of the exhibition, who revealed many interesting facts about works by masters such as Velasquez and Goya, as well as relatively unknown court painters of 15th and 16th century Spain. This exhibit is unique not only because of its content, but because it is on view only in Houston and Brisbane, Australia. This makes the exhibition a special treat for the Houston community.
After viewing works in the museum, we were escorted to the training room, where we received some detailed background information about the history of Spain and how Spanish culture is reflected in a variety of works in the collection. The speaker was a Spanish professor at the University of Houston who provided an in-depth view of the context of the works in the exhibition. I learned that much of the work in the collection was related to political events in Spain in that time period. One example is the etchings of Goya that were created for his own personal use. In them, he explores civil strife during his time, depicting monarchs and rulers as grotesque characters in his images. Goya did not intend for the works to be revealed to a greater audience; they were his own personal commentaries on life in Spain at that time.
The exhibit has many famous masterworks from the Prado that I enjoyed from a purely visual standpoint. However, the addition of the curator's perspective and historical context truly enriched the experience. I am now interested in the inclusion of historical contexts of pieces that are explored. Not only can we approach and interpret from a purely visual standpoint, but we can also understand the relevance of the imagery within a time and place in history.
Lower School Art
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
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