Friday, February 26, 2016

Zen and the Art of Mini-Marathons

From Phil: First One Step, Then Another

My wife came home the other day and announced that we were going to “run” in the Geist Half Marathon.  I was intentional about putting “run” in quotation marks.  It’s a euphemism for “walk,” and perhaps “stumble” would be a better word.
It's coming May 21!

It’s not that I’m opposed to the concept.  It’s a good one.  In the past, having a specific day out in the future has helped us get out of the house and exercise.  It gives us a goal to work toward and a timeline to help in our preparation.

So we have started to prepare.  Since we don’t have lots of expertise in the area of fitness training, we went straight to our iPhones hoping, “There’s an app for that!”  And, of course there was—actually about 20.  We used a less-than-scientific method to make our final choice.  We picked the one with the coolest logo and ended up with the Zenlabs Fitness app called “13.1,” which seems aptly named—pun intended.
This logo brought back memories of a book I read
in my college days.  Will this app help in other ways?
I'll get back to you on that one.

Interestingly enough, this app doesn’t start by requiring us to do much running.  The first day had lots of warm up and cool down time.  In between, we “walked briskly,” “jogged,” and “walked.”  In our case, the difference between the three was more about intent than action, but that’s a story for another time.

In the days to follow, the running portions will increase.  (I cheated and looked ahead.)  But we also have days where we “cross train.”  The app, apparently knowing that we might not have lots of experience in cross training, suggests swimming, yoga, or weights.  We’re not really sure yet what we will do on these days.  We do know we won’t try all three of these suggestions at once.  Instead, we may opt for simply walking—briskly or otherwise.
Inspirational or just grammatically horrendous?
You decide and let me know.

I recently discovered that our app even provides daily inspirational quotes.  Some are a bit questionable in the Inspiration Department.  I included today's as an example.  Zenlabs doesn't say who they are quoting, and in this case, that’s probably a good idea because I have no idea what it means or how it is inspirational in any way. 

On the whole, I do believe if we follow the advice of our app and more or less stick to the program, we will eventually run more, walk less, and be prepared on May 21 to successfully complete the Geist Half Marathon.  We have also joined with others who have agreed to run/walk with us in May.

I have no delusions about setting records or finishing anywhere close to the front of the pack.  But really, that’s not the point.  The point is to get exercise, have fun with others, and enjoy the journey.

Education is Not a Sprint

At this point, with good reason, you might be wondering where this week’s entry is going.  Hang in there with me.  I am getting there!

Let’s say that full implementation the HSE21 best-practice framework is our goal—which it is.  Getting there seems difficult at times, maybe even impossible.  It might feel similar to walking out the door and running a mini-marathon with no preparation.  The result is likely to be either a comedy or a tragedy. 

The better approach to running a half marathon and to HSE21 is to work into it one day at a time.  Set a HSE21 teaching and learning goal similar to setting a workout goal.  Where do you want to be by the end of this school year?  By next fall?  One year from now?  If you know that, you can start working toward the goal.  Some days walk, and some days run. Over time, do more running than walking.

You might not set any records along the way.  But really, that’s not the point.  The point is to keep getting better.  Keep moving forward.  Keep having fun with your colleagues and students, and continuing to learn and grow. 
Link to Register:

As a Teaching and Learning Team, we hope you also join the Geist event, especially since it does so much to support our students and improve our schools. 

More importantly, however, we encourage you to gather a team and support each other in our journey of continual improvement of teaching and learning in Hamilton Southeastern Schools.  HSE21 is best-practice instruction, and it also supports our students and improves our schools.

Have a great week, HSE.  Keep in mind that in education we are running a marathon and not a sprint.  Keep inspiring and being inspired.  Keep learning and growing, and keep moving forward one step at a time.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Respond to Phil:

Did the title of this blog bring back memories for you old hippies (or new hippies)?  If not, try these quotes from Robert Pirsig that fit with today's topic:
Lots of memories....
  • You look at where you are going and where you are, and it never makes sense, but you then look at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.
  • The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then to work outward from there.
  • Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive.
  • Is it hard? Not if you have the right attitudes.  It’s having the right attitudes that’s hard.

Friday, February 19, 2016

HSE21: A Best-Practice Framework

This week, we have one more Elevator Pitch.  This one is on the topic of HSE21.  When you are asked in the coming months about this topic, perhaps the following talking points will prove to be helpful.
All students deserve Rock Solid instruction!

From Phil: What is HSE21 and why should I support its implementation?
  • Best Practice Instruction: Education, like all professions, is evolving.  In Hamilton Southeastern Schools, we study the current educational research and make changes to our instruction.  HSE21 is a research-based best-practice model that provides our students the best opportunities to learn and grow. 
    Professions Evolve
    I had my eyes checked last week.
    The equipment didn't look like this!
  • Children are Not Products:  Each student is different and has unique needs.  School is NOT about sending students through an assembly line and plugging in parts.  Best-practice means knowing both the art and science of teaching and making adjustments to meet the needs of all students.  HSE21 takes the needs of the individual child into account and supports teachers as they make adjustments to instruction.
  • Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: All of us want students who are independent thinkers, problem-solvers, and self-directed learners.  HSE21 recognizes that our students are competing in the world economy and must be ready to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.  Our instruction should not prepare our students for yesterday or even for today.  Preparing students for a changing world requires that we provide instruction to prepare our students for the world of tomorrow. 
    Our Challenge and Obligation:
    Preparing our students today for the
    world of tomorrow....
  • Our Testing Reality: The new assessments that you hear so much about are very different than the “old” standardized tests.  The new assessments are designed to measure much more than memorization of facts.  They require problem-solving, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis.  In other words, for students to be successful on the new high-stakes assessments, they will need a new type of instruction.  This is exactly what HSE21 provides.
Together, we are moving in the right direction and on the right journey.

Have a great week, HSE.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education
The heart of HSE21....

Friday, February 12, 2016

We Need Diverse Books

This week, Kristin Patrick, the media specialist at Brooks School Elementary, both challenges us and asks for our assistance.  She begins by pointing to a problem and ends with a solution that can make a difference for our students.

From Kristin: Windows and Mirrors

What faces are reflected back from
the pages of our books?
The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center reports that only 3% of the 3,200 books written for children in 2013 were about people who are black, and that only 2% were written by authors who are African American. The report continues to light up education blogs, journals, and national media. 

Addressing the lack the diversity in publishing is mostly beyond our reach. Instead of throwing our hands up in frustration, what we can do is leverage the diverse books that do exist as entry points for planning curriculum or matching books to readers. 

The HSE Windows and Mirrors Project

Funded by the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation, the HSE Windows and Mirrors Project includes a wiki dedicated to picture books that celebrate diversity, represent non-majority narratives, and/or incorporate social justice themes. While the project originated within Brooks School Elementary, the wiki’s intention is to be a resource for all HSE educators and families. 

I invite everyone to contribute to the HSE Windows and Mirrors wiki. Visit the wiki link and click Join in the upper right hand corner to request access, or email me directly using the email link below. 

Keep in mind that the wiki is still in its nascent stages. Much work is planned for the summer months to further establish the wiki as an active, living resource. The more people who contribute, the better it will become! 
Many thanks again to the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Foundation for making the HSE Windows and Mirrors Project possible. 

Respond to Kristin at
Follow on Twitter: @krismarley12

Thanks for all you do for all of our students.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What Happened Next Was Magical

We often ask our students to take risks.  "It is part of growing and learning," we say.  Yet, we can find ourselves hesitant to take our own advice.  This week, Jami Wiegand, one of our HSE kindergarten teachers and part of the 1:1 Design Team, shares her story of fears, risk-taking, and growth mindset.

From Jami: You Never Know Until You Try

And they all lived happily ever after… in the iPad cart, each night, right where I liked them. Or so I thought.
Where is an iPad's home?

This year I was given the opportunity to be a part of the 1:1 Elementary Design Team. Upon writing my grant and being accepted, I was given a cart of iPads to integrate into the daily routine of 27 energetic and excited kindergartners. I had many ideas of how I was going to use the iPads, but having the students take them home was not one of them.

We started the year simple, with basic iPad skills and then moved onto a whiteboard app, making picture collages to show our learning, keeping a digital portfolio, and taking our calendar time completely interactive and digital.

I had integrated the iPads into many subject areas and the students’ research skills were coming right along. (Yes, kindergartners can research!) Just when I felt like it was coming all together (as much as a kindergarten teacher can have it all together) I was instructed to begin sending the iPads home with the students each night.

Our journey to learning often passes
through doubt and fear!
I won’t lie. I resisted hard. I had every possible negative scenario outlined in my head. Some students can’t even turn in their folder each day, how will they remember their iPad? What if it breaks? What if they lose it? That will be extra work for me! Nowhere in my mind could I see this going well.

I tell my students every day to “go with the flow” yet here I was doing the exact opposite.

But… I did it. I took the plunge and I sent them home. Then, I waited.  What happened next was magical.

That night, there they were, little red notifications on my Seesaw app. Students were uploading their monthly choice homework through videos, photos, and drawings. Upon seeing them I literally squealed with delight. I sat on my couch and watched the notifications roll in.
The magical little red lights of the Seesaw app....

As the weeks went by, students videoed themselves counting to 100, writing responses to QR stories I had attached, or reading e-books I assigned through Big Universe. They were encouraging each other by commenting on and liking what their friends had posted as well.

Why didn’t I send them home sooner? Now, not only were my students using creativity and collaborating in the classroom.  These ideals were also happening at home, too!

Student work from Jami's kiddos.  "It was magical!"
Sometimes you just have to say “Yes!” and then figure out the details afterward. Releasing control can be one of the hardest things for a teacher to do when it comes to our students’ education.

Will it always end up magical? No, not always, but what I’ve learned is that you will never know until you try. 

Respond to Jami:

Have a great week, HSE.

Your HSE Teaching and Learning Team
  • Jan Combs, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning
  • Stephanie Loane, Director of Elementary Education
  • Tom Bell, Director of Special Education
  • Jeff Harrison, Director of Educational Technology
  • Phil Lederach, Director of Secondary Education