Teacher Reports on Professional Development
I attended the San Jacinto Symposium at the historic Houston Club. The theme this year was "Linking the Present to the Past: Preserving a Great Texas Battlefield." Topics included the goal of restoring San Jacinto Battleground to its 1836 appearance, the relevance of this goal and the importance of preserving historic battlegrounds such as San Jacinto, archeological discoveries over the past fifteen years and challenges faced in preserving the site as an historic place.
I was captivated by Jeffrey Dunn's presentation. As founder of the San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy, Mr. Dunn gave an amazing talk about the history of the San Jacinto Battleground and efforts over the last 100 years to preserve and honor the site.
Kristen McMasters, an archeologist and grants manager for the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program, traced the history and importance of battleground protection throughout the United States, with particular emphasis on Civil War battlefields. Following this, Ms. McMasters led an in-depth discussion about the San Jacinto Battleground and preservation efforts. The recent archeological finds at the site, as presented by Douglas Mangum, added further evidence to the argument for historic preservation.
All in all, this was a wonderful symposium! I appreciated the opportunity to further my understanding of The San Jacinto Battleground and look forward to further involvement with the SJB Conservancy.
Middle School History
As always, Dr. Neidinger, in his lecture “The Changing Spirit of Rome,” made a fascinating presentation, using three examples of architecture to demonstrate parallels between political and cultural changes in the Roman Empire. Roman architects initially adopted the Greek model but transformed the appearance and purposes to suit their needs. Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli reveals the Roman desire for planning and order and their development of arches and vaults to support taller structures. In the years after Hadrian, Roman power and unity began to disintegrate, and invaders poured across the borders. Emperor Diocletian solved the crises, at least temporarily, by establishing strict policies regulating succession and economic life. This militarization of society was reflected in Diocletian's Villa at Split, which followed the design of Roman army camps. As Roman power continued to decline, so did creativity. The Arch of Constantine was ordered by the Senate in 315, but most of the decorative elements were assembled from parts taken from earlier monuments. After the Empire ceased to exist, Christians adapted many Roman ideas into their buildings. The protective walls, towers and gates surrounding a series of interior courtyards leading ultimately to a raised platform with a large statue of the emperor became the atrium, nave, and altar of many early churches. Roman ideas of order, hierarchy, and symmetry became Christian themes (e.g., soldiers of Christ). Like later Roman builders and artists, Christians incorporated architectural and artistic elements from antiquity into their buildings, and the process came to symbolize a victory over pagan beliefs. To summarize, history provides many examples that art does imitate life.
Middle School History
At the Texas Library Association (TLA) Annual Conference there are just too many concurrent sessions that would all be beneficial, and that it makes it hard to choose. I run from session to session and hit the exhibit halls in between to visit with vendors and then attend social events that give the opportunity to network with other librarians and hear what they are doing. Libraries are changing so rapidly these days that it is both an amazing opportunity to provide the best for our students and faculty and a challenge to keep up with just what that is. I hope our attendance will impact all of our libraries in a positive way with new technology, authors, reference styles, books (online and off, print and audio, and mixtures of all of those), cataloging and visioning the library of the future at Kinkaid.
Director of Libraries and Archives
I attended the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston. The major draw for me continues to be RDA, the new cataloging rules which are being tested by the Library of Congress and two other national libraries. Testing is ongoing, and changes are being made, so my feeling is the Kinkaid Libraries should wait before implementing them—if we do at all. Why is this important? The rules involved in cataloging a book are designed to make search and access easier for the patron.
I attended some other sessions on character development, on mystery novels for young adults and on digital books. The vendor exhibits are always fun, and, as ever, we scored some large reference sets at half the retail price.
Upper School Associate Librarian
Panel discussions with authors are always a treat and reveal special treasures for me to share with my students. At the Texas Library Association annual conference, I was able to attend several author panels on such topics as forthcoming titles, dystopias, an overview of the current Lone Star List for grades 6-8, and books that especially appeal to reluctant male readers. Of course, one panel on vampires, ghosts, the supernatural, angels, and demons continues to remain popular. Some of my favorite authors were showcased: Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater, Allie Condie, and Patrick Carman.
A special session, “Texas Tea with YA Authors,” offered a “speed dating” format where authors switched tables every ten minutes. Very enjoyable, but a bit hectic. I also attended some sessions on new technologies that might be used in libraries, especially eBooks. As usual, I came home eager to read another stack of books and look forward to getting started.
Middle School Librarian
The Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference is always a great opportunity to learn, connect, and grow professionally. I started my week with a pre-conference session about the Texas Bluebonnet Award program, which is a reading program for third and fourth graders. During the general conference, I was able to attend numerous sessions on topics such as writing, current trends in library organization, educational iPad apps for children, new book lists, as well as sessions that featured authors speaking about their work. I also was able to spend time in the exhibit hall, which allowed me to learn about new products, books, and connect with authors.
Lower School Assistant Librarian
I attended the TLA Conference this year in Houston. I took several hands-on sessions regarding technology this year, including infographics, e-readers, and movie-making. I heard several sessions on recommended books for middle readers, reluctant and boy readers, presented by librarians, book reviewers, and authors. Included were sessions on popular genre, dystopias and the paranormal. I sat in on the update of the introduction of RDA (Resource Description and Access), the cataloging direction we are headed. A couple of sessions on the future of libraries were particularly interesting, given that Kinkaid will be building a new one in a few years. As you can imagine, technology plays a significant role. Networking with other librarians was particularly useful this year, given all the changes related to technology happening in all our libraries. One session on business resources and apps already saved some friends of mine $150.00. I’m looking forward to using some and passing them on to appropriate teachers.
Middle School Assistant Librarian
The Texas Library Association annual conference never fails to deliver a great dose of inspiration. This year I learned about all of the newest Texas Bluebonnet nominees in detail. I also saw many influential children’s authors share their craft and passion for writing. However, the most relevant and worthwhile session was “The World of Children’s Apps. This session was presented by a Spring Branch ISD librarian and was filled with ideas and the gentle reassurance that we are all wading into the world of apps together. I have since reached out to this librarian and hope to visit her program to see apps in action. In the spirit of a true educator, she has opened her door to me. This is the greatest benefit of this annual conference—the connections made with other people with the same goals of providing the best possible resources for our students.
Lower School Librarian
I attended the Texas Library Association Conference in Houston. My focus for both my faculty evaluation and my professional development over the last year has been the future of libraries, so I tailored my attendance to sessions about emerging technologies, e-books, Web 2.0, and information literacy in the digital age. Highlights included “Digital Decision: Replace, Blend, or Enhance?”; “Netfair: Top Texas Technology Trends”; “iPad iMpact: A Pilot Program of eReader Technology at an Academic Library”; and “Navigating Privacy, Policy, and Service issues in the Digital Age.”
This conference developed my knowledge in areas that will be directly applicable to my work at Kinkaid. For example, the iPad iMpact session included a discussion of an iPad Beta program at Lonestar College in which the speaker shared survey results on how these devices affected "digital immigrants" (people who had previously not been exposed to either e-readers or e-books) in her user group. This helped me understand some of the potential issues involved in dealing with the digital divide and how user studies can help libraries successfully deploy emerging technologies that will reach all users. There is so much to learn in the realm of e-books and digital library resources, such as negotiating fair packages with vendors, conducting user studies, creating the right policies for our libraries, and more, so I feel very fortunate to be able to enhance my knowledge in these areas.
School Archivist and Upper School Assistant Librarian
The UCLA football coaching clinic was very informative. I came to a better understanding of "man-to-man" technique for defensive backs. More specifically, I will be able to teach our athletes a progression that will enable them to perform "man-to-man" coverage better. I was also reminded that, regardless of football level (professional, collegiate, scholastic, or Pop Warner), you must keep it fun and, more important, POSITIVE for your players. All athletes thrive in a positive learning environment. I'm reminded every day with my two-year old daughter: I must reinforce the positive and minimize the negative. As coaches we sometimes lose sight of that goal but must remember that, at the end of the day, it truly is just a game.
Strength Coach, Varsity Football
I have just completed the course “China: Perspectives on an Evolving Nation,” in the School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. While I would have preferred earlier historical topics, the ones chosen were timely and extremely interesting. The topics were “The Rationale and Internal Consequences of Chinese Development”; “Rice University's Policy Research Ties to China”; “Innovation and Technology”; “Entrepreneurship in China”; “Urban Design”; and “Unearthing the Past: Case Studies of Chinese Archaeology.”
The first four topics were very timely and modern. They highlighted everything from current Party structure to planned urban communities attracting China's "new middle class.” The final night's class was a tour of the new exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, " Warriors, Tombs, and Temples.”
Upper School Mathematics
I attended the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education’s Best Practices in Student Leadership conference in Atlanta. Of the four schools that presented at the conference, I took the most from a presentation by Kent Place School's Karen Rezach, who detailed the process they use to teach ethical decision making in leadership. In our Middle School this year, we developed a process for teaching leadership and the developmental skills we want to see in individual students and in each grade. Mrs. Rezach's presentation took it a step further, explaining not only the process, but the conversations and the activities that build ethical values in their young women. These ideas will continue to help us develop our own Middle School Leadership program next year in advisory classes.
The presentation of the school I most wanted to hear, on the other hand, dragged along and didn't provide me with many new ideas. It was nice to hear how they got their program up and running, because we have experienced similar struggles and successes in our program. More than anything, I walked away with a sense of pride in how much we have developed our leadership and mentoring program in the past five or six years.
While only one of the presentations helped me, all of the presentations gave me an idea or two we might be able to use in the future. Many of the conversations that I had with other attendees were helpful as well. There are so many schools trying to get leadership programs off the ground, and it is exciting to be around so many other professionals who are putting their energy into developing quality programs for their students. It was a wonderful experience.
Peer Mentors Advisor
I attended the “Symposium on Developing Student Leadership,” hosted in Atlanta by The Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education. My purpose for attending was to learn more about the programs that other schools are implementing in efforts to develop leadership skills in their student, to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and to employ strong student leaders in their school community.
The first speaker, Karen Rezach (Kent Place School) shared with attendees her school’s model, which is one that develops/defines leadership in an ethical framework. She shared many specific examples of activities her students do in their advisory groups to define and identify values, and then use those values to discuss ethical dilemmas. At even the primary levels, they are working to help students develop ethical leadership skills and to encourage students to evaluate themselves on four developmental levels: leadership of self, leadership beyond the self, the self and the school community, and the self and the global community. The information Karen shared on her program was the most inspiring and useful presentation for me.
The second set of speakers (Episcopal Day School) shared with the group example projects and assessment forms for the leadership class at their school and the work they have completed with Educational Testing Service to develop a test that can actually assess students’ leadership skills. While interesting, this information was not as useful to me. The key emphases were that a school must define leadership in its own terms (for example, around core values) and that the development must be integrated into every aspect of school life.
Keven Fletcher (St. Michaels University School) talked about how he has used chapel and a chapel group to develop both character education awareness and leadership in students. While his work is with chapel, the example activities he shared are ones that a teacher or advisor could use with any group.
Finally, Susie McGee (Rivers School) shared with the group the keys and secrets to success behind her school’s well-developed middle school leadership program. She, too, provided many examples of activities and projects their students complete as part of the program, but she also stressed the importance of faculty development, since faculty are instrumental members of their program. She reiterated what we heard the night before—that leadership development must be integrated into every aspect of school life. This can only happen if teachers are confident in their ability to help students define themselves as leaders.
Overall, the symposium was solid, and I returned with many great ideas I hope to start using as early as this summer with my team and throughout the fall with my advisory group!
Upper School English
Varsity Cheer Coach
The Council on Spiritual and Ethical Education Community Service Conference at St. John's School was one of the most educational conferences I have been to in a long time. Mary Pashley from Choate Rosemary Hall School in Connecticut was an outstanding presenter. We had two full days of intense topics for discussion. Many of the topics were pertinent to high schools, and I was surprised how many schools do service learning abroad. I learned of Youth Service America, a foundation to support global awareness. I was not aware of the programs nationally available.
This conference gave me hope that, although we are not completely there as far as community service and service learning are concerned, we are well on our way. I am motivated to work on some other projects with our Middle School students.
Middle School Mathematics
This spring I took part in two on-line seminars hosted by the National Humanities Center (NHC), which is a non-profit and independent institute for the study of the humanities. NHC provides a range of educational programs, including teacher development for secondary and primary school education. The seminar program I took part in is entitled America in Class (AIC). Scholars and professionals lead the online seminars. The two seminars that I recently took part in were “Art and the New Negro” and “Art in History.” Dr. Richard J. Powell from Duke University led the first seminar; Ashley Weinard and Josh Coffey, both from the North Carolina Museum of Art, led the second seminar.
Both seminars were highly engaging and beneficial to my teaching. The first focused on the art of the Harlem Renaissance. I learned much more than I previously knew about that time period, and I was able to incorporate much of what I learned directly into a presentation for U.S. History class about the Harlem Renaissance. The second seminar was different in approach, because it was not focused on one content area, but instead on how to work with art in a history or English classroom. We learned techniques for engaging students in the study and analysis of art and how to use art as a “lens” for understanding a given time period. In both seminars, NHC supplied substantive materials—visual, text, and audio—to supplement the seminar. The seminars are interactive: participants can ask questions and interact with other seminar participants via a live chat board.
I would encourage other teachers who teach the humanities at Kinkaid to investigate NHC. Teachers can join a list-serv that sends out updated seminar schedules for each semester. The seminars are inexpensive and are an excellent way of pursuing one’s continuing education goals.
Upper School History
What an incredible opportunity to take a tour of China's politics, science and technology, architecture, and art in under two months! Each session of this course, “China: Perspectives on an Evolving Nation,” at Rice University was led by an expert in a specific area, and the course ended with a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science's exhibit, “Warriors, Tombs, and Temples.” I have to admit that taking the course with a colleague added a lot to the experience, as well. We had great discussions on each topic before and after class, and he would tell me about some of the places we will take students during the next Interim Term China trip. He has a wealth of knowledge about China, and I learned a lot from him in parallel to this course. Of all the sessions, the most fascinating for me were the ones on art and architecture, which captured the historical evolution of this nation through the years. As a result of this class and my discussions, I have picked up a couple of books and am looking forward to enhancing my knowledge of China this summer. I cannot wait to share some of what I have learned with the students when we are actually on those sites.
Upper School Science
I jumped at the chance to attend the local Football Masters Offensive Line Clinic given by Jim McNally, a well-known offensive line guru with many years of experience coaching in the NFL. The two days were filled with interesting and important information on offensive techniques and terminology, and Coach Hill and I already have met several times to discuss the parts we plan to implement in our offensive line play. I especially enjoyed the panel discussion featuring several area high school and college coaches that closed the clinic. The chance to hear them discuss a wide variety of topics, from favorite goal line plays to drills to footwork, was invaluable. Since video of this clinic is available on line, I already have reviewed the sessions to refresh my memory and clear up a couple of points from my notes.
Middle School Latin
Varsity Football Coach
The Jim McNally offensive line clinic was one of the best I have been to in my entire coaching career. We learned some very important terminology and techniques that we have already put to use in spring football. The two-day clinic was great, and one of the best parts was a breakout session where coaches sat and talked after the clinic for several hours and shared techniques, ideas, and plays that have made them successful. I learned that one of the techniques we have been teaching for two years was actually wrong, and he showed me why it was wrong and provided me with the proper technique to show our kids. We are more knowledgeable and will be able to share that knowledge with our kids because we were able to attend this clinic.
Head Football Coach
The UCLA coaching clinic was fantastic. The first day we were allowed access to player meetings, coaches meetings, and film breakdown. This was unique for the simple fact that we were able to get a deeper look inside how the coaching staff breaks down practice film, communicates the problems with the players, and then implements those changes on the practice field. The clinic was not as crowded as past clinics I have been to, but that was a plus because we were able to get more one on one time with the coaches. My favorite part of the clinic was the breakout session on day two, when the offensive coordinator from UCLA introduced me as the "Texas high school coach of the year." When the coach was finished, I actually spent 30 minutes on the board discussing what we do with the California high school coaches, who were taking notes and asking me questions. I found myself actually giving a clinic on what we do at Kinkaid. It was a surreal experience actually being on the board in front of that many coaches, and the UCLA head coach was watching me and actually asked me a couple of questions. On the final day of the clinic, we were not only allowed at practice, but we were able to be out on the field and in the middle of the drills with the coaching staff and players. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my staff and me.
Head Football Coach
This year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics had its annual conference in Philadelphia. While my goal was to seek out K-6 curriculum as well as higher-education seminars (specifically for multivariable calculus), I gravitated towards talks about geometry, homework, and inquiry-based learning. Specifically, I am looking to find a way to better use the homework as a platform for learning and driving the lessons.
In “What is the Purpose of Homework,” Jim Wysocki encouraged us to make our homework assignments more thoughtful, and to give them three parts: a list of suggested problems to work; questions to answer (What did you learn? What questions do you still have? Which problem gave you the most difficulty?; and assigned reading. In addition, it’s important for students to understand what they have learned. This can be done through journal writing or a weekly abstract that consists of 2-3 paragraphs describing the big ideas and how they connect.
In the wake of Dan Meyer’s new ideas that math should be taught in context of life (which I agree with), www.mathalicious.com is a new website that has sprung up with lessons for teachers that involve teaching mathematical concepts through real-world scenarios. With mathalicious.com, teachers can use lessons to make algebraic topics more contextual than simply memorizing formulas. When students see how math is used in the real world, they are more likely to understand it and use it.
Overall, I learned a good amount from this conference and went to a handful of interesting talks. There seemed to be a shortage of higher-education talks this year, which was disappointing, but the discussions that I went to regarding geometry, proofs, and inquiry-based learning will all work well with my new ideas for homework and restructuring my Honors Geometry class. As usual, the best part about the conference was meeting other teachers and sharing stories, secrets, and ideas
Mathematics Department Head, Upper School Mathematics