Friday, May 20, 2016

Reflection and Anticipation

In education, the days are long, but the years are short.  You are likely feeling that now as we enter the last week of school.  Soon, this week, too, will come to an end, and you will enter the time when teachers breathe a little easier.

At this time of year, we experience this truth!

The hope of the Teaching and Learning Team is that you find time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.  We also hope you take time to reflect on this past year, and when you’re ready, do some reading and thinking about next year.  When that time comes, maybe you can return to this week’s blog to get ideas. 

This week, each of us shares a bit of our current thinking.  Some of it is reflection, and some of it anticipation for what will come next year.

From Stephanie: Partnership with Ritchey Woods…HSE 21 Pushes Us to Consider the Benefits of On Site Study Trips

With the help of an amazing group of first grade teachers we were able to launch a new and exciting partnership with the Fishers Parks and Recreation Department at Ritchey Woods. Mrs. Danesa Stolz, is Chief Naturalist.  She worked with first grade teachers to design our program titled, Nature First! This is a true example of HSE21 as our first graders experienced two on-site study trips and four classroom expert visits to increase their background knowledge and allow for more successful project work opportunities.

We look forward to our continued partnership for next year and are incredibly grateful for the commitment and funding from our Fishers Parks and Recreation Department. A massive thank you to our naturalists, bus drivers, parent volunteers, and brave teachers who fearlessly lead little ones through trails, rescued snails, collected leaves, helped with mittens, washed muddy boots, and marveled in the magic of wide-eyed children!

Ahhh…. It makes your soul breathe!

I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how incredibly amazing our trip to Ritchey Woods was today.  I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of curriculum STUFFED into this amazing trip.  This was such a great way to introduce kids to an amazing feature right here in our town that is FREE.  I can see many of them going back.  Danesa, Sam, and Hannah were so knowledgeable and the instruction was SPOT on our first grade standards.  They were great at talking right to the kids in the terms and instruction that they needed.  Questioning was great . . . . . just amazing.  Thank you for making this opportunity available for our kids. They had a blast.  We will definitely be able to use this information to springboard from in our classroom throughout the year.  WOW!!!  Thank you!  --Heidi, SCE Teacher

From Jeff: Choice

Over this last year, the Teaching and Learning Team has been emphasizing the importance of choice. This was apparent in blog entries, where student choice was highlighted. Members of the Teaching and Learning team talked to PTO families on the notion of choice when emphasizing renting iPads or providing their own iPads for next year. Members of our staff and community exercised choice when casting their ballots on the referendum vote earlier this month. 

This spring, members of the Technology Department gave teachers choice about what type of device they would like to work with next year. Teachers and administrators used inquiry to look at how they plan on using the device next year and research which device would meet their needs. These last four weeks have been very exciting for Technology staff as the devices have been delivered; teachers, too, were excited to receive their new devices.

As we look towards next year, I am eager to see what types of choice our students are presented!

From Phil: Three Questions

On the first official day back next fall, we will all get together as a district, like we have in the past.  One difference, however, is that along with the normal welcome back, we are going to hear from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, whose most recent book is Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies.
Read it and think!

The title of this book is a little deceptive.  True, it is about reading.  Specifically, it is about reading in all classes and all content areas.  But it is more than that.  Kylene and Bob will share current research about many of the things we have been working on in the district: student engagement, inquiry, rigor, and best-practice instruction.  In short, their book helps show what an HSE21 classroom can look like and sound like.

A small sample from the book:

Fiction invites us to take one stance.  The novel invites us to explore the imagined world the writer has created for us.  We enter it willingly, and if we don’t enjoy it, we put the novel down, acknowledge we just don’t like this author or this genre, and move on.  If we do enjoy it, we stay there until the end, maybe so immersed in it that we might describe ourselves as ‘lost in the book.’  Nonfiction, on the other hand, should come with a cautionary note that reminds us that getting lost in the text might be dangerous.  The reader needs to remember that a work of nonfiction will try to assert something about his world, and he needs to take those assertions with a grain of skepticism.  They may be perfectly true, they may be somewhat slanted or biased, or they may be flat-out lies.  The slightly skeptical stance implies three [big] questions…

If you are looking for a book to read this summer, I recommend this one.  As you read it, you might ask yourself “The Three Big Questions”:
  1. What surprised me?
  2. What did the authors think I already knew?
  3. What changed, challenged, or confirmed what I already knew?

You will hear more about Kylene and Bob next year, but I encourage you to read ahead if you get a chance.

From Tom: The Road to Success is Always Under Construction

As I look back on the 2015-2016 school year, many thoughts come to mind.  There were challenges and successes throughout the year, but the thing that enters my mind most frequently is that we are in the middle of a journey. 
Take time to look back at the progress and forward to the journey ahead.

We are traveling a long road that has many obstacles and stretches with pot holes that need to be fixed, but we continue to move forward in our journey towards HSE21.  You can look in the rearview mirror and see a road that was once under construction by a road crew of students, teachers, and administrators working tirelessly to reach the goal of rich learning experiences for all. 

The road behind is smooth, but we must continue to focus on our goal of HSE21 and address the challenges that lay ahead in our continued journey down this road.  Although we took many positive steps this past school year, we must continue building a way forward that keeps us moving toward the ultimate goal of success for our students.  

From Jan: The Journey

A great big thank you to everyone as we prepare to close out the 2015-16 school year.  It has been an amazing year as we continue to clarify the “big picture” of HSE21 and move our district further into the dissonance that is a natural part of change and transformation.  The successful referendum will give us much needed resources that will help support us on that journey. 

The coming weeks hopefully will give everyone some time to reflect, question, think, and dream.  Thanks for all you have done to support our students.  I look forward to continuing the walk with you on this journey. 

Have a great summer, HSE Family!

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
Don't forget to register for Launching INquiry, hosted at Fishers High School on July 19 and 20. We have great sessions and speakers lined up.  This conference is for ALL levels of teacher, K-12!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rigor: Round 2

Two weeks ago, our topic was rigor.  Dr. Bourff started by making a distinction between rigor and rigor mortis.  Stephanie made the argument that “Rigor is Love.”  Jan encouraged us to look at the work that was being assigned and ask the question, “Is it worthy work?”  Phil suggested that rigor in the classroom can be seen and heard when students talk to create understanding.

We ended the blog by writing this: 

“We would love to hear from you.  
Send us your ideas about what rigor is and what rigor is not.”  

Well, you did it, HSE!  We chose three of the responses for this week's blog.  The first  comes from one of our elementary teachers, and she tells the story of her daughter.  We found her story both moving and inspirational.  The second part came from a high school math teacher, but her message applies in every class in the district.  The third part comes from a Teacher Development Specialist adding to the "IS/IS NOT" chart.


From Deneice Mathias Jerrett: 
The Relationship between Engagement and Rigor

A few years back, while still in high school, one of my daughters really struggled with piles of what she considered to be meaningless or too difficult homework.  She made very poor grades. She had all the supports and abilities to be successful, but she did not engage in her schoolwork.  She gave me plenty of gray hairs, but looking back, I feel I can brag a little now.
Deneice and her daughter, one of those "creative kiddos"
we do not want to lose!

She somehow managed to get into IUPUI after a year at community college for remediation. She went on to excel at Purdue's Engineering and Design school, graduating with honors.  The difference between her high school and college experience (besides her age and maturity) was that the tasks in design school were engaging, project-based, authentic, and I dare say, rigorous!

I reflect on her story often because there are many lessons to be learned from it. I couldn't make my daughter be engaged in school.  Mothers don't have that power, nor do fathers—even when we take the car keys away.

The tasks presented at the university did engage her deeply. She worked on real projects, making presentations with real clients. It was life-changing for her. I am sure that many of the lessons learned in school paved the way for her success.  I often wish she would have had more opportunities for rigorous work, and by that I mean engaging, real-world work.
What is the relationship between engagement and rigor?
I am grateful for the dedication of educators who are re-imagining our schools as learning laboratories, as places alive and vigorous! (Maybe vigorous could be a replacement term for rigorous.)

We must reach these creative kiddos who are non-compliant, who won't just go through the motions of playing school. It is an at-risk population for sure, and these students have so much to offer the world.

I have a postscript to this story as well: A few weeks ago, a group of teachers and administrators from HSE visited the University of Indianapolis to participate in “Re-imaging Libraries.”  My daughter was the designer who planned this event.  It is a bit ironic, but it makes sense that she is interested in finding ways to redefine education.

From Tish McCallister: 
Redefine Rigor

Tish is the Math Department Chair at Hamilton Southeastern High School, and she sent us a copy of an ebook she is reading called What is Math Rigor? The authors make the point that we are in trouble if we think of rigor using this definition:

Instead, we need to think about rigor this way:

 Which should lead us as educators to redefine that elusive word rigor!

From Fatima Rich, Teacher Development Specialist:
Additions to Our Chart!

What Rigor IS
What Rigor IS NOT
·         Choice 
·         Reading
·         Researching
·         Writing 
·         Reflecting
·         Revising
·         Revisiting
·         Questioning
·         Investigating
·         Analyzing
·         Confirming
·         Reassuring 
·         Challenging but Fun
·         A task in which I can complete quickly.
·         Something I know all the answers to. 
·         Isolated
·         Boring
·         A checklist 
·         Worksheet
·         Asked for often enough
·         A project of no interest 

Thanks to all of you who replied and contributed to the blog this week.  We are likely to return to this topic again and again.

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

One Final Thought: Chris Tovani makes the distinction between "rigor" and "hard."

Rigor invites engagement. Hard repels it. When learners are engaged in something rigorous, they lose track of time. When the activity is hard, time drags on. Learners who experience rigor, feel encouraged, self-confident, and have a sense of accomplishment. Hard is often trademarked by discouragement, avoidance, and a feeling that the effort spent doing the activity has been a waste of time.  

One of Tovani's Great Books!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Creating Memories and Motivation

From Phil: Add One More

Whether this is your first year in education or you’ve been at it a long time, when you think of the word school, you likely have images that pop into your head.  That is the way memories work.  They come to you with visual clues, sometimes vague and blurry and sometimes crystal clear. 

In my more-than-a-few-years in education, many of my memories are a bit blurry and run together.  A few, however, are sharp as tacks.  Here is a short list of the later type:
  • The First Day of Teaching: Less than a month after our wedding and still reeling from the move to a new country, Lisa and I left our apartment and walked the two blocks to Academia Menonita, a small school located in the hills outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We were on our way to meet our students for the first time as “real teachers.”  I remember the short walk as if it were yesterday.  We were so young, so excited, so scared, and so overwhelmed.
  • “Do You Remember Me?” I’ve been around long enough to have the experience of “hearing back” from students who long ago were in my classroom or school.  They often start the conversation by writing or saying, “Do you remember me?” When they take the time to call, write, or stop by to say thanks, it is meaningful in so many ways, and those experiences stand out in my memory.
  • Back Packs and Spiffy New Clothes: One-by-one, our own children had their own first days of school. We sent them off on the bus or down the hall, hoping for the best—and then experiencing the relief of knowing our children would be loved and cared for in our schools.
  • In My Heart: Some students, simply stated, are unforgettable.  They may be academically
    First day of school...
    excellent, or they have pushed me to my limits.  Some overcome unbelievable odds and succeed, and others have shared laughter or tears.  The thousands of faces can merge together after many years of teaching and administration, but a few I can picture clearly.  For whatever reason, they are part of my heart.
  • Best Buddies: When I first arrived at HSHS, I was introduces to the Best Buddies program.  I watched these friendships in amazement.  The patience, compassion, and love the Buddies often share is inspiring, humbling, and memorable.  When I think of this program, in my mind’s eye, I see two Buddies walking hand-in-hand down the hall of the high school.

To this short list, I can add another from last Tuesday. 

Lisa and I took time to work the polls on Election Day.  We started in the cold and wet before daybreak, and worked a location that included many Cumberland Road Elementary families.  We saw lots of parents (often with their children in tow) turn out to support our schools.  Many of them knew Lisa and spent time talking to her on the way in or out.

Many more who had no connection to CRES expressed support and thanks for the good work going on in HSE.  Stop and consider the results of the voting for a moment:  Over 70% of the voters this past Tuesday voluntarily chose to support our schools by raising their own taxes—and many thanked us during the process.

That is exciting, overwhelming, and humbling.  It is motivating and provides impetus, perhaps even a moral obligation, to continue to grow our capacity for teaching and learning in Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

It is a moment in time I will long remember!

Have a great week, HSE.  Finish the year well, knowing that your good work has been affirmed by our community.

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