Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Media Savvy: The "How To" of Op-Eds and Blogs

Communication Skills: Your voices and story matters - Be Heard!

The Big Three of Communications:

What is the news? Big Idea.

Why does it matter? Know/Invest your audience! In-school story + big picture/news.

Who cares? Who does this affect? What is the emotional pull?

Intimidated or Nervous? That's normal.

Helpful hints: Be solutions orientated. Establish your credibility. Know your audience. Acknowledge concerns. Build a bridge. Take the high road. Don't get personal. Don't take things personally.  Do be respectful. Ignore bad behavior in the comments section. Bring the good news.

When writing the op-ed or blog, timing matters. It is essential to connect to a trending event or topic.

Get editing help. Stick to their word limit, which is usually 500-700 words or 200 words for a Letter to the Editor.

Contact, connect, and build supportive relationships with editors (and education reporters). Follow up. If you haven't heard back in 4-6 business day, reply in the same email thread, and reattach the op-ed.

If it doesn't get published, don't be discouraged!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teacher Evaluations and Why You Need a Voice

What makes a high quality teacher? Organization, relationships, content knowledge, pedagogy, or test scores.

Who decides? School of Education, State, District, or Principal. Teachers  and advocacy groups should also be involved in the decision-making process.

Teachers need to create a welcoming environment where students are engaged in the curriculum. Everyone seems to have their own observation stories. What have your experiences been like as teachers and administrators?

Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness was formed in June 2011 and spent 6 million dollars to setup a pilot evaluation plan. The council disbanded in 2013 unfinished and with no legislative action.

SB 103 allows local control with no state model for evaluations. Simple rules include two observations with teacher feedback within 30 days where one of which is not scheduled. The evaluation plan must be published to the district website. Thats It!

GOOD Evaluations = Teacher Growth. Our students deserve a GOOD Evaluation System. Teachers and administrators need to share WHY SB 103 needs improvements. Teachers need to help other teachers improve their practice.

Bad Evaluations = Good Teachers Leave. Without our voices some of our best teachers will head to greener pastures. Good teachers want effective, constructive feedback and positive relationships with their administrators.

How to raise your voice? Use social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), blog, encourage others to share their voice, talk to legislators about concerns, and write for news outlets. Join the conversation at #MIEval.

Our Schools, Our Voice Coalition in Los Angeles wants test scores to be part of teacher evaluations. See the graph below:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reflection: Michigan Educator Voice Policy Training

How does this benefit students? As an education professional, I have been constantly asking this question. I started sharing my education experiences through speaking engagements, op-ed articles, and blog entries. 

I quickly learned that I was not the only one who was frustrated with certain education issues in Michigan. My education stories are written for colleagues, students, and parents who do not always have the opportunity to share their opinions.  

The American Achieves Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship has taught me strategies for engaging policymakers. The issue in education that I care about most and feel most prepared to talk about is tackling student apathy. 

This includes preparing students to be employed in a career field based on their developed passions and critical thinking. I want to ask policymakers to promote other career field options besides four year universities such as community college, military, trade school, and starting your own business. 

My friend, "Bob", was pushed to go to a four year university without knowing and being too young or immature to understand his passions good enough to choose a career field. "Bob" took on thousands of dollars in student loan debt, changed his major multiple times, and ended up dropping out of a four year university without a degree. 

To make progress on this issue, I would need to influence responsible leaders within our local and state governments and universities through tactics such as round tables, town halls, and school visits. The stakeholders that I could engage to make progress on this issue include parents, advocacy groups, and the Michigan Department of Education.   

Our Michigan Merit Curriculum requires a form of algebra 2 for every student. Is this necessary? We need more dual enrollment programs with local community colleges to get every student career ready. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reflection: Why Teach

What it Means and Takes to be a 21st Century Teacher 

"I am not a teacher but an awakener." - Robert Frost

"Teachers have the most important job of anyone today." - George Lucas

Teachers matter. It's a highly rewarding and fulfilling profession. Teachers share valuable information and important skills to encourage a love of learning that will serve children the rest of their lives. 

Teachers are committed to making a positive impact on the future of each child they serve on a daily basis. 

There's a career for every passion. The education field is not always what I envisioned when I was in college. However, I am still motivated to get up each morning and serve students in our nation's schools. Being a role model and teaching students the skills and knowledge they need beyond the classroom is extremely inspiring, rewarding, and motivating. It is an excellent time to be a teacher. You have to love what you do in order to be successful. This gives us courage to meet our goals. Today's teachers need perseverance, passion, and hope. I pray that my teaching has a positive influence on my students and school.

The math, reading, and writing skills I developed as a student has allowed me to become a successful teacher. Playing sports and being involved in student government taught me valuable life lessons on teamwork, time management, and responsibility. Teachers helped me get to where I am today by providing me with an exceptional education. 

As a student, I learned the benefits of getting along with people from different cultures, which continues to assist me in my career, especially when I traveled to New Zealand for a teacher exchange program. My passions for public speaking, fitness, and volunteering have provided inspiration for my future. 

There were many educators that had a positive influence on my life. They encouraged me to explore my curiosities, supported me with my struggles, and celebrated my successes. They cared about me, my learning, my life, and they wanted me to find happiness within myself in order for me to be capable of helping others. They inspired me and pushed me to be my best in the classroom and on the athletic fields. I am now trying to pay this positive influence forward to my students.

For me, the motivation to teach has always come from the students in my classroom. It is essential to make lesson plans interesting in order to get students motivated about learning. There needs to be interaction between students. Moving around the room as I teach, keeping a smile, and being expressive has made a difference in my instruction. Students need constant positive feedback in order to inspire them to strive for success. I want to inspire my students to fight poverty, choose kindness, act on climate change, and recycle in order to save the environment. 

I am dedicated to inspire the growth mindset within my students.

I teach with confidence and skill while staying true to my voice.

I have taught thousands of students, from beginner to advance. I am proud to be a teacher.

National Education Association's Teacher Appreciation Week is May 4th - 8th. Recognize and celebrate the importance and contributions of educators.  

Thank a teacher for their hard work and dedication to our students. Being a teacher is not easy, especially in this day and age.  

Ensuring Teachers Remain in the Profession

When I graduated from Oakland University's School of Education and Human Services, I felt knowledgeable and ready to have a positive impact on future students. 
The required field placements and internships provided me with work experience that helped me make decisions about my future career. I learned that I wanted to teach middle school science, not kindergarten. The study habits I developed as an undergraduate helped me with success in graduate school. 

There were definitely challenges I faced in my early years of teaching, such as how to do project-based learning, facilitate classroom discussions, and use technology effectively. A strong teaching internship experience and great mentoring programs have helped me become a successful teacher. Forging ahead on my own determination when the going got tough was essential. The wisdom that I gained with setting up classroom procedures and managing class time would benefit a newer teacher. 

Educators entering the profession need to deal with the challenges and successes of teaching through developing a positive mentor-mentee relationship. These types of relationships are necessary to help retain our top teachers and support new teachers as they come into the profession. Better, high-quality professional development is also the answer and can be achieved with extensive, easily accessible support. There is something inherent about the teaching profession that is driving teacher's away, and the nature of internships, or lack thereof, in teacher education programs impacts retention. We must reclaim the agenda. 

The Top 5 Lessons I Have Learned in My Position in Public Education   

1. Be persistent. Never give up on students, parents, and colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and it truly takes a village to educate a child properly.
2. Be open-minded. Listen to other people and their opinions. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Communication is essential. 
3. Think positive. There is a lot of negativity out in the world, especially within the field of education. You need to have a positive outlook in order to combat all of the negativity.
4. Try different roles until you find your niche. Spend time with different people and in various extracurricular activities. Use your hobbies and passions as a guide.
5. Always want to learn. Whether it is a new technology or a new teaching strategy, teachers are life-long learners. We need to be learning alongside our students and show how passionate we are in seeking knowledge.

The Future of Public Education: 5 Snapshots of Modern Day Teaching in the 21st century

Being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs one could ever love. Teachers make a difference in the lives of students, parents, colleagues, and the community. The field of education is changing for the better. 

1. Currently, there is a focus on Depths of Knowledge Levels 3 and 4 in order to get students to critically think and apply what they are learning. Teachers are trying to make learning rigorous and relevant. They facilitate instruction rather than always being the deliverer. The students know the learning objectives.  

2. Digital technology makes learning personalized, engaging, and fun for students. Emerging trends with digital technology includes Web 3.0 and Anticipatory/Artificial Intelligence. Teachers need to have the trust, passion, and drive to use digital technology in their classrooms. They must be adaptable to learn new teaching techniques in order to meet student needs.

3. Teachers’ focusing on career readiness is essential. New jobs today require high Lexile levels. The English-Language Arts (ELA) teachers cannot do it alone. There is a laser-like focus on literacy because high Lexile scores equates to higher scores in other subjects such as math.   

4. Data analyses, such as growth models, are being used in teacher evaluations. The future is common core with smarter balanced testing. Our school uses the NWEA Map assessment to test for learning and literacy. Teachers are also giving their own assessments to monitor student growth.

5. Teachers are also responsible for a student’s personal development. Students are taught how to behave rather than just being punished. The student/teacher relationship is critical, and the focus is on student needs. Teachers cannot let students fail.

In addition to these five snapshots, issues such as poverty, student apathy, and lack of parent involvement should be considered when thinking about the future of public education. Other countries choose which kids go to school. In the United States, we allow all kids to go to a school with high expectations. This has an affect when comparing our schools to those of other countries. 

Change the picture of poverty with Communities in Schools of Michigan. Click here for more information. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Blending Your Classroom: Four Strategies for "Flipping"

Technology can help teachers “Ignite Learning” in the classroom by promoting literacy development and critical thinking. The ability to communicate and create is what sparks learning.

“Kids these days” are just wired to operate in a digital environment, which enables them to take control of their education. This technology captivates students and makes them desire to learn more about the content.

Elite and innovative educators are “Flipping the Classroom” in order to meet the diverse needs of students. The numerous FREE online resources available can create a classroom that extends beyond normal school hours and walls.  

This provides students with more flexible opportunities for peer interaction, learning the content, and developing technology skills. “Flipping the Classroom” and in-person environments are really the best of both worlds because students receive the benefit of face-to-face interaction with more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. 

“Flipping the Classroom” consists of a combination of online learning using simulations, videos, and forums in addition to small group differentiated instruction facilitated by the teacher. These instructional methods are appealing to digital natives.

1. In the classroom, I use video clips from Discovery Education and Safari Montage to “Ignite Learning”. Our school district pays for an annual subscription to these websites.

Unfortunately, students do NOT have access to Discovery Education videos at home. Therefore, I post videos on my classroom website from Khan Academy, TeacherTube, and Vimeo, which engages students at home for FREE.

Khan Academy (khanacademy.org) is a non-profit educational organization providing video tutorials and interactive exercises for a variety of subjects and grade levels. Their Virtual Teacher Workshop demonstrates how to create classes, manage students, collect data, and provide feedback and much more.

TeacherTube (teachertube.com) is a video sharing website similar to, and based on, YouTube. Teachers can also view audio, documents, photos, and blogs. Teachers can register and upload files for students or parents. Teachers can also upload students’ videos in order celebrate their work. 

Vimeo (vimeo.com) is another popular video sharing and social networking site. A community of professionals knows it for high-qualilty videos. It has a cleaner layout with no advertisements.

2. I facilitate the use of the Internet in order to have students conduct research, collaborate with classmates, and establish an online classroom presence. Students enjoy their time posting comments to a blog or on a social media site.

For my classroom blog, I use Google Blogger (blogger.com). Students can also create their own blog in order to show and present their work.

Blogger allows users to chose from different artistic templates. It also has widgets that users can use anytime to insert HTML codes, pictures, slideshows, links, videos, and much more.  

Edmodo (edmodo.com) is a secure social media site accessible through a code you generate in order to invite students. Teachers of all grade levels are using Edmodo to post assignments and allow student discussion.

Students can also upload assignments, take quizzes, and receive alerts. This is an excellent resource for sharing content with students while keeping them socially engaged.  

3. Graphic organizers, diagrams, and other tools can help focus student learning depending on the topic. This allows the teacher to have more time to assist students with work during class time and provides more opportunities for review at home.

Quizlet (quizlet.com) allows teachers to create flashcards to help students’ remember and study vocabulary. There are also study tools and educational games for students to use.

Teachers can choose from the library of flashcards already made by others. There are six study modes, 18 languages, and it is very easy to share on a classroom website.

InstaGrok (instaGrok.com) is a great tool because it allows students to visually research a topic. Students use a graphical map that shows how concepts connect using key facts, links, images, and videos. 

InstaGrok allows teachers to monitor students’ research and note-taking activity. Up to 200 students can be linked to your teacher dashboard. 

4. There are many ways to create a flipped classroom. Teachers need a “Face of the Classroom” in order to provide a location to share these online learning resources with students and parents.

Weebly (education.weebly.com) is perfect for creating classroom websites and student e-portfolios. This resource allows teachers and students to express themselves using a variety of multimedia tools.

Weebly consists of an easy to use drag and drop website editor. Teachers can protect all student websites with a password in just one click.   

Remind (remind.com) is a communication tool that helps teachers connect instantly with students and parents. They receive it as a text message or e-mail.

Teachers can also send photos, documents, and links. This is an excellent way to effectively communicate the resources available on your “flipped classroom” website.

Published by Corwin Connect. Click here

This post was presented at the 2015 MACUL Conference in a listen and learn style for the theme of innovative models for teaching and learning.

Many of the ideas in this post were taught to me at the Macomb Intermediate School District. The workshop series was titled "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works".    

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CCSS: 4th Grade Math - The Relationship Between Multiplication and Division

Common Core State Standard: Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.

Specific Objectives: Using base-10 blocks and calculators, students will determine how multiplication and division are interrelated through building, drawing, and explaining.

Vocabulary Terms:
Division (to divide): sharing or grouping a number into equal parts.  
Dividend: The number being divided.
Divisor: A number that will divide the dividend exactly.
Quotient: The result of division. 
Multiplication (to multiply): A mathematical operation where a number is added to itself a number of times. 
Factor: A whole number that multiplies with another number to make a third number.  
Product: The result when two numbers are multiplied.

Materials needed by Teacher: Paper for drawings, base-10 blocks, placemats, colored pencils, mini basketball and net.

Materials needed by Student: Paper for drawings, base-10 blocks, placemats, colored pencils, and calculators.

Plan A
      • Introduce multiplication and division with literature connection (5 min.).
      • Discuss prior knowledge by having students share what they know about multiplication and division. (5 min.)
      • Have students find a partner; pass out base-10 blocks, placemats, and calculators. (5 min.)
      • Use the overhead to model how to build, draw, and solve multiplication and division questions. Explain each step to students. (10 min.)
      • Provide questions for students: 11 × 4, 17 × 22, 23 × 34, 18 ÷ 3, 32 ÷ 4. Have each student draw their own replica of what they built with the base-10 blocks. Have students explain their process after they complete each question. (15 min.)
      • Assess students by observing and collecting their drawings, and asking questions for understanding during the activity. Have them check answers using calculators.
      •  Review this concept by playing “Basketball Math”. Split the class into two teams. Set two desks up with the base-10 blocks and placemats.
      • Call the first two-team members to the desks. Give them a multiplication or division problem and have them build. The first one with the correct answer is invited to the free throw line to take a shot for a point. The team with the most points at the end wins. (20 min.)
      • Encourage students to practice the concept by teaching someone at home.
Plan B
      • To extend to a higher level of thinking, give students division questions where the quotient has a remainder.
      • Have students build, draw, and explain their answers to the question. Have them check their answers with a calculator. (15 min.)
      • Have students create their own definition of a remainder based on their observations. (5 min.)
      • Play “Basketball Math.” (20 min.)
Plan C
      • To simplify, show students how multiplication is actually repeated addition and how division is grouping a number into equal parts. Use graphic organizers on the whiteboard for a visual. (10 min.)
      • Ask multiplication and division questions using single digits. Have students build, draw, and explain their answers to the question. Have them check their answers with a calculator. (15 min.)
      • Play "Basketball Math." (20 min.)

Discussion and Closure with Students: Answer any of the students’ questions. Make sure that they understand the concept. Have them draw a picture of an object that they own being multiplied or divided. (10 min.) 

Published in the December 2014 Edition of the MEA Voice (P. 20)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Welcome Reception Spotlight: My Oakland University Experience #OUBucketList

It is always nice to come back to OU and see prospective students. I chose Oakland University (OU), because I was looking for a top tier education at an affordable price with scholarship opportunities. 

OU’s education program has an excellent reputation for training aspiring teachers. Many of the teachers who inspired me in the Lamphere Schools earned their degree from OU. 

I wanted to become a teacher in order to return the favor and help students. OU seemed like a perfect fit for me.

After my first tour of the campus, I knew that I wanted to go to school here. I loved the campus layout and the naturalistic scenery. 

I was born in Royal Oak and raised in Madison Heights. Many of my high school friends were planning on attending OU. 

I wanted to stay in this area. I had a good job with connections here. 

I wanted the experience of living on-campus while remaining close to my family and friends. I wanted the best of both worlds. 

Besides, Oakland County has plenty of entertainment options both on- and off-campus, and Detroit is about a 30 minute drive from campus.

I became connected at OU by getting involved with intramural sports, working out on-campus, and playing club soccer. Sports were my passion in high school, and I wanted to continue this part of my life. 

OU eventually became my home away from home. I commuted my first year, but I always seemed to be on-campus. 

I met many people through attending on-campus events, such as the Meadowbrook Ball, and my involvement at the Recreation Center. I did not start living on-campus until employment opportunities became available.  

My favorite OU memory is living in the on-campus residence halls and having fun with friends. We enjoyed working out at the recreation center and playing sports. 

After my first year of classes, I became an Orientation Group Leader (OGL) with Admissions, Resident Assistant (RA) with Housing, and Peer Mentor with the Center for Multicultural Initiatives in order to help new students feel connected to OU. All were rewarding experiences.  

I also explored my diverse range of interests including stand-up comedy, history, technology, and environmental issues by attending multiple programs on-campus. I have seen numerous comedians and celebrities speak at OU including Ben Carson, Lisa Ling, and Robert Kennedy. 

These experiences opened many doors for me and introduced me to resources such as Career Services and the Alumni Association. I developed a greater appreciation for OU and their devotion to student success both in and outside the classroom. 

I attended a study abroad informational session as a sophomore. Learning about various cultures became a passion, and I eventually traveled to New Zealand during my last semester. 

My prideful accomplishment is completing my internship in New Zealand and sharing that experience with my students. 

While in New Zealand, I taught 4th/5th grade at Sunnyvale Primary School. I even taught swim lessons.

There were many resources and people that were helpful to my academic career. The Career Services Consultants helped me develop my interview skills at workshops and network with professionals in the education industry. 

Besides sponsoring numerous career fairs, they also assisted with my job search by editing my cover letter and resume. Now, I am able to help my younger brother prepare for his job search. 

The Alumni Association has helped me to remain engaged with OU and the surrounding community. I still go to almost every OU home basketball game. 

I am an ambassador, and this is part of the reason why I am here speaking to you today. I am a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Committee. 

It has been amazing being an involved member of the OU community. I remember coming to this event with my parents about ten years ago. 

I was nervous about going to college. I still remember walking into my first college class. 

It was a rhetoric course taught by Professor Lamphear. Ironic.      

My college experiences shaped my life starting with choosing a major that interested me, building a circle of new friends, and meeting people of various cultures. I still keep in touch with my college friends. 

During college, I gave countless hours to community service. I just recently volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. 

This was an excellent way to meet new people and broaden my horizons. It often complemented what I was learning in my courses. 

When I graduated, I felt knowledgeable and ready to have a positive impact on future students. I graduated from the School of Education and Human Services (SEHS) in 2008. 

My college experience also changed my life by providing me with numerous resources and people who helped me be successful. There were so many people here that shared their life experiences and had an impression on me. 

The required field placements and internships provided me with work experience that helped me make decisions about my future career. I learned that I wanted to teach middle school science, not kindergarten. 

The study habits I developed as an undergraduate helped me with success in graduate school. I just recently graduated with my masters.  

OU prepared me for my career by promoting the importance of being curious and open-minded. I am interested in almost everything. 

It is my duty to provide an education to every child that walks into my classroom. I have to be able to relate to my students in order to make them feel welcomed. 

It is essential for me to be curious and open-minded in order to reach every student. It can be extremely difficult. 

Every student arrives into my classroom at different levels, and I have to figure out ways to differentiate instruction making learning accessible to them.

My goal and purpose is to improve schools. OU also prepared me to be a leader. 

I was a graduate of their Leadership Institute through the Center of Student Activities. The intensive leadership training that I received at OU has helped me with becoming a highly effective teacher. 

I continue to be a leader by presenting to colleagues at conferences. I often use the resources that were provided to me as a student at OU in my own classroom presentations.

Everyone likes to give his or her own advice. Here is some advice or tips I believe will be helpful to an incoming freshmen or transfer considering OU.

Get involved with the Alumni Association and Career Services before graduating. They offer numerous opportunities for networking which can help with internship or job placement.

Talk to the academic advisors. Take some time and think about your major. Research.

Be friendly, make new friends, and have an active social life. College is an amazing opportunity. 

Be open to diversity. Have fun.

Stay in touch with old friends, parents, and family. They are your support networks.

Enjoy the surrounding area! Michigan is an amazing state.