Teacher Reports on Professional Development
There were four speakers at the basketball clinic at Kingwood Park High School. Alvin Williamson, an assistant coach at Texas A&M, went through a number of drills we can use with our program. Many of the drills are designed to improve ball handling and explosiveness. The last speaker of the day was Jeff Van Gundy, former coach of the Houston Rockets. In addition to being very funny, he was informative about overall strategy and helping to keep a team focused on a limited number of goals.
It was a great way to get excited about the upcoming season.
Seventh Grade Boys’ Basketball Coach
The Neuhaus sponsored seminar “The Social Side of Learning Disabilities: From Friendship to Bullying,” was very helpful to me professionally as a school counselor. In order to help teachers, parents, and counselors reduce bullying/relational aggression, Jill Wiseman, Briarwood Lower School Counselor, shared information about social skills, refusal skills, tips for making and keeping friends, non-verbal communication skills, student strategies, and confident body language. Many of these skills and tips have already been put to use with Kinkaid Lower School students. Parent and teacher suggestions were also presented, as well as information on cyber-bullying. A list of resources for children as well as adults was also included in a packet of take-home information. This seminar was very timely and extremely useful.
Lower School Counselor
It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to attend a live discussion forum with the legendary evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, presented by the Progressive Forum Houston at Wortham Theater Center. I had read Dawkins’s book, “The Selfish Gene,” in
graduate school, and it was the center of many discussions regarding evolution, genetics, and a human perspective on life throughout my research as well as teaching career. Although I do have some questions regarding his philosophical views on life, the science is brilliant. He captured the audience right at the start and, presenting evidence from molecular genetics, fossils, and developmental biology, took us through an expedition of biological evolution. An intellectually enriching evening!
Sonia Rahmati Clayton
Upper School Science Department Chair
Several colleagues and I recently attended a workshop at Neuhaus entitled, "The Social Side of Learning Disabilities: From Friendship to Bullying," presented by Jill Wiseman, Lower School Counselor at Briarwood School. Ms. Wiseman discussed how learning is impacted by the inability to recognize and respond to social cues. She helped us understand bullying, social aggression and cyber-bullying and gave practical suggestions to help students, parents, and teachers who are faced with these situations. This workshop brought clarity to a difficult topic by offering concrete suggestions and solutions.
Lower School Reading Specialist
The Rubicon Atlas Workshop in Portland, Oregon was helpful in charting a curriculum mapping course as we move forward. While it wasn't as software intense as I had hoped, it was useful in terms of keeping the big picture of curriculum mapping in mind. I came out with greater proficiency in Atlas, a better theoretical framework for the initiative, and solid ideas about our professional development day next March.
Middle School History
At the Kingwood Park Basketball Clinic, I was afforded the opportunity to learn some coaching tips from some of the best local and national coaches. There were mini-clinics by Jeff Lieberman and Royce Huseman, both of whom have won multiple state championships. Pooh Williamson from Texas A&M and Jeff Van Gundy, formerly of the Houston Rockets, also presented at the Clinic. Of all the presentations, I got the most out of Van Gundy’s presentation. His combination of experience at all levels, wit, and overall knowledge of the game made a lasting impression on me. One key I took away from him is keeping things as simple as possible. Coaches often make things unnecessarily complicated, and this yields frustration in both athletes and coaches. I will keep this in mind working with our athletes this year. Van Gundy also went though a couple of offensive plays and principles I will try to emulate. All in all, the clinic was a worthwhile experience.
Head Junior Varsity Basketball Coach
The World Affairs Council seminar was focused on the European Union and was extremely helpful to me. Both speakers were experts on different aspects of the EU, so I gained a better understanding of how it works and the issues they are facing today with immigration policy, diversity, etc. I think this will prove helpful in the spring when we get to that unit in my course.
Upper School History
I attended the Texas Foreign Language Association Fall Conference in San Antonio. A majority of the sessions were about the use of technology in the classroom, and the others spotlighted best practices that are focused on the ACTFL performance standards.
I presented a pre-conference workshop in Advanced Placement Spanish Literature on Thursday, and then on Friday I began to attend the technology/21st century skills sessions: “The World Language Classroom: We have an App for That--Ready, Set, Activinspire”; “Digital Spanish Instruction: Use of Podcasting and Interactive Web 2.0 Tools;” “Ways to Introduce Internet Research;” and “Promethean Board Activities.”
On Saturday I attended “Interactive Language Learning through Authentic Internet Resources; “Funtastic Literature to Target all kinds of Learners”; and a session on Jorge Luis Borges and Alfonsina Storni (two authors on the AP Spanish Literature list). I also presided over a meeting of AATSP meeting.
I am thankful for the opportunity to learn new ways to engage my students to network with language educators from Texas. I need to keep up with my students in the digital world and of course show them how valuable Spanish will be in their future careers.
Upper School Spanish
With basketball season approaching, the Kingwood Park Basketball Clinic was very informative. Royce Huseman talked about principles of a winning program and season. The next speaker, the assistant basketball coach from Texas A&M, talked specifically about player development and individual workouts. Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy talked about transition defense, rebounding, special situations, and offensive late game plays. He offered great insight on the details of the game that can make a difference at any level. The clinic concluded with Alan Stein, a strength trainer, who talked about incorporating strength and conditioning into a program. The most helpful part of his presentation was the dynamic warm-up, which I will use this season with my varsity team. Overall, the clinic was filled with information and was very helpful.
Varsity Basketball Coach
I attended the Kingwood Park Basketball Coaching Clinic with four of the other coaches on our staff. The most informative speaker at the clinic was former Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy. From his talk I picked up helpful insights about transition defense terminology. Although his system is more complex than what our Kinkaid players will need, I still got background information and statistics that will help me improve my transition defensive drills.
The other coaches who spoke at the clinic were Texas A & M assistant coach Alvin Williamson and Kingwood High School head coach Royce Huseman. Both talks were beneficial. Huseman spoke about post player development. His terminology and emphasis on footwork were great and that is what I will take with me this year in teaching our post players. Coach Williamson demonstrated Aggie fundamental drills for guard development. We have added one of his dribble series combinations to our practices already this year.
Heard Varsity Basketball Coach
The Advanced Placement Studio Art workshop was particularly helpful, since so much has changed. The categories used to be General or Drawing, but now there are three categories, Drawing, Two-dimensional Design and Three-dimensional Design. It used to be that students should put their strongest work in the center of the slide sheet, but now that they submit work digitally, the strongest work should be at the end. The presenter had good tips (e.g., students should not label the work "mixed media", but instead should list all that is incorporated in the piece [e.g., paper, metal, paint, and sticks]), and, as always, hearing about other schools' programs and meeting other teachers is enlightening.
Middle and Upper School Fine Arts
I attended workshops at the University of Texas San Antonio that were part of the American Physical Society conference. In the workshops, I worked with electronics to create a speaker powered through a solar cell that could be an amplifier for a radio and one-string guitar (made from PVC in one of the workshops). The workshops focused on electricity, circuitry, waves (sound and EM), and light. They were very informative and lots of fun!
Middle School Science
I attended a coaching clinic at Kingwood Park High School. Four coaches spoke, two high school coaches, one college coach and one former NBA coach. The first high school coach works at a fairly small school, while the second one is from a large 5A school. For me, the most interesting and appealing aspect of their talks was the recognition that most coaches deal with the same sorts of issues, from grumpy players who think they deserve more playing time to finding ways to maximize the time we have for preparation and practice with our teams.
The college coach was Alvin Williamson, an assistant from Texas A&M, and the former NBA coach was Jeff Van Gundy. I was impressed with their energy and knowledge and their ability to teach players. Coach Williamson demonstrated a number of interesting drills, including a rebounding drill I really liked. The primary lesson that I took from Coach Van Gundy was how often ideas need to be repeated in practice. He told several stories from his experience as an NBA coach about how players remembered (and forgot) certain ideas and strategies. Moreover, quizzing players as things are being taught emphasizes the need to listen and process, just as in the classroom. He was able to work with a group of high school athletes, showing good patience and humor while demanding a high level of comprehension and performance.
I enjoyed the clinic both for the information I gained and having the opportunity to get together with a number of the other boys’ and girls’ Kinkaid coaches.
Varsity Basketball Assistant
I had the great opportunity to take an online class, “MARC Basics for New Catalogers,” through Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. During this month-long course, I was able to become more familiar with MARC Format for Bibliographic Data. The major topics covered were terminology, structure, important tags and fields, and examining and creating sample MARC records. After completing the class, I feel I have a deeper understanding of this complex topic.
Lower School Assistant Librarian
"The Social Side of Learning Disabilities: From Friendship to Bullying” was an excellent seminar given by Jill Wiseman, the Lower School Counselor at Briarwood. It was geared to both teachers and parents and had lots of useful information. Not only did she discuss how learning is impacted by the inability to recognize and respond to social cues, but she also gave practical suggestions about how to respond. She defined bullying, social aggression and cyber bullying very clearly and gave helpful suggestions for students to combat bullying using non-verbal communication. She also gave ways students could extricate themselves from potentially disastrous situations and avoid getting swept along with the power group. There was a tremendous resource list. It was an informative and practical seminar, one I came away from with many good ideas for helping students.
Lower School Instructional Specialist
I recently attended the ISAS Beginning Teachers Institute in Houston. The conference included a series of discussions on the most common challenges and responsibilities that new teachers face, with a particular emphasis on technology, communication with parents, diversity, and classroom management. In addition, in small group divisional meetings, we discussed a series of “what if” scenarios, along with the best approaches for handling difficult situations. The most beneficial part of the Institute was the opportunity to speak with other teachers who were also new to independent schools. Sharing ideas, listening to other perspectives, and learning new teaching techniques provided me with a great deal of inspiration for the coming year!
Upper School Science
I recently attended seminars by Richard Dawkins and Richard Leaky, two world famous scientists who spoke as part of the Houston Progressive Forum seminar series. Professor Dawkins is a renowned evolutionary biologist who spoke specifically about his latest book, "The Greatest Show on Earth." In this book he explains the overwhelming evidence for evolution. Dawkins uses stunning examples from the animal and plant kingdoms, presents living examples of natural selection, and discusses numerous clues in the fossil record that are continuing to shape our knowledge of the evolutionary process. His book will be particularly useful in teaching evolution during biology this year: the entertaining illustrations and beautiful imagery he uses should make learning about this complicated topic much more interesting for my students!
Richard Leaky, a noted politician, paleoanthropologist and conservationist, was introduced as "the most interesting man in the world," and indeed he is! He is not only credited with some of the most significant human fossil discoveries on Earth, but he is an active conservationist in his native Kenya, where he spearheaded efforts to end rampant elephant poaching. During his time leading the Kenyan Wildlife Services and the political party Safina, he experienced political impasses, intimidation and physical violence, and though he is no longer formally involved in politics, he continues to fight for political justice and is currently involved in grassroots wildlife conservation projects. In his seminar, Professor Leakey touched on all of these life experiences and expressed his relatively somber views on human evolution and climate change. I am excited to discuss some of his fascinating fossil discoveries in biology this year.
Upper School Science
For my Fall Professional Development, I attended the UP Experience. UP stands for “Unique Perspectives,” and the day-long event featured experts from vastly different disciplines—from non-profit founders to corporate CEOs, legendary educators to maverick inventors—offering their unique perspectives on how we can “change the way we live, heal, communicate, use precious resources, and think about the world.”
Similar to the TED conferences, the UP Experience, a Houston-based meeting of minds, challenges participants to think about ways we can improve our world for the benefit of the earth and the earth’s inhabitants. The founders of the UP Experience, Sheryl and Ernie Rapp, believe that “hearing from experts in a short and concise presentation is the best way to stay UP and get ahead, as well as enhance oneself in today’s fast-paced world.”
The ideas shared in this year’s UP Experience reflected the presenters’ ideas about how to solve various problems of the world: poverty, climate change, obesity, sleep deprivation, poor education, high mortality, and unhappiness. My favorite presenter was Jessica Jackley, the founder of Kiva.org, a micro-lending non-profit that connects third-world entrepreneurs with first-world individual lenders. The ordinary people who act as lenders choose the business people they want to support by reading stories about their hopes and goals posted on Kiva’s web site. Lenders can then contribute anywhere from $25 to $200 to help the businessperson, and they can communicate virtually with him or her to learn how the loan is enabling the entrepreneur’s goal over time. This exchange of information between lender and entrepreneur is what makes Kiva so powerful.
I plan to use Kiva.org, along with several other ideas and resources I gained from my day at the UP Experience, for both of my Interim Term classes: Global Citizenship, a Primer, and Storytelling Power Tools.
Upper School English