Friday, August 09, 2013

"When I'm Weak, I Draw Strength from You"

This summer I had planned to take it a bit easy on the professional development (ha, ha!), but I ended up taking a fair number of courses again.  However, things were probably more spread out this year, and I felt like I had a break between school ending and the start of my classes.

The first class of this summer was really just a wrap-up of my year long involvement with ITSI-SU.  We were told of some of the changes that will be going on, such as many of the modules are already in HTML5 form and not just JAVA.  I'm looking forward to checking that out.  There are quite a few modules that are worth looking at and/or editing to improve.  I also really like that the probes work without having to have their regular software downloaded on all the students' computers.

The second course I took was Interventions for Children with Anxiety Disorders.  This class was lead by Paul Gasser, and I've taken two other courses from him before.  I enjoy taking his classes, and I take something usable from them each time.  His courses are based on principles of Love and Logic.  I really think that these principles can be quite effective if one is consistent and especially if the school as a system works under this.  Unfortunately, we don't have a system that supports Love and Logic per se, but I am still able to apply many of the principles in my classroom.  I just have to be creative with some of the recommendations. 

In July, I met with another area middle school science teacher and we worked to map out some of the curriculum for our year and just collaborated in general.  I really enjoyed this.  This teacher and I have taken several courses together, and I think we have developed a great professional relationship and a friendship.  We are both the only middle school science teachers at our school, and we have many of the same concerns and beliefs about how things should work.  I am hoping to collaborate more with her during the upcoming school year, and perhaps even observe her.  This is the teacher I was talking about when I mentioned my wish to have more coaching and reflection in my practice.  This teacher is somebody that I trust to help me and not just judge me with penalty.  I will just leave it at that is of huge importance to me. 

Toward the end of July, my math teacher colleague and friend embarked on our second year of Communities of Exemplary Practice at Loras.  It was seven days of driving over and 1 1/2 back and forth each day, but it was well worth it.  This year's focus was water.  We did work on some centers related to water, and I took away some great ideas and was turned onto some new resources.  I especially like this dilution activity that helped students understand ppm.  I have done an activity with rice during our weather unit that I think is a great visual of what ppm and ppb mean, but the math is a bit much for most of my 6th graders.  This dilution activity did involve some math, but it was in a much more accessible manner.  I'm planning to use it during our water testing and probably reference it again during the weather unit. 

We also did some IOWATER training, which I was just trained in last year.  But it was a good repeat, plus I got more equipment for my classroom!  :)  One of our teacher teams was responsible for developing the context lesson for the students before they did the testing, and there were parts of that lesson that I really liked.  Many of the ideas came from our centers that we tested.  I like the idea of building relevance by having students consider what clean or healthy water is and looks like, tastes like, etc.  There was a lesson in Healthy Water, Healthy People that builds a similar context for students. I'm going to look into that further.

The last part of the class, involved summer school students from my school.  They got some background on water towers and then worked on pertinent calculations and then built a scale model of a water tower.  It was tough to evaluate this bit.  The math was a lot for the kids, especially in the time frame.  I wish that the project connected more to the water quality aspect.  I think that they could have done something with water filtration.  I think that would have been manageable and provide a much clearer connection to water quality.

Besides working with other math and science colleagues, it was really nice to see some of my students before school started.  I was able to see several of the incoming 6th graders, as well as a few of my 7th graders and 8th graders.  I was able to eat lunch with a group of them and was able to start building relationships with the new 6th graders.

This past week, I had three days of online training for a program that I applied to be part of:  MySciLfe.  This is the second year for the pilot program.  It involves middle school science teachers.  The program is assessing how social media infused with science lessons benefit students' learning.  In this program, students take on a role and do research and respond to prompts in a first person manner in their role.  For example, a student could be Nancy Nucleus and explain what her role is and how other cell parts are related to her.  The prompts can build in difficulty and depth as one goes through a unit.  The students take on these roles in the social media world of Edmodo.  They are able to interact with other students and teachers from across the country.

On Tuesday, I trained online with just the other teachers.  On Wednesday and Thursday, I had two students volunteers come in and participate in a boot camp with the other teachers and students. It was designed to help us see how to manage this type of environment with our students.  I know that it is going to present some challenges, but I am excited to try it out.  It is not a separate curriculum, it is more of a supplement.  You can pick and choose what works for your classroom need and your students.  I am planning to use it with my 7th grade students for Life Science.  I especially like the genetics module, and I can see things that I do with my students that I can add in.  I can see modules that I could potentially develop for this as well.  We are to have a control and experimental group, but the organizers said that we can switch groups so the other class can have a chance.  I'm deciding if I will do that, or if I will just run the one class with MySciLife and the other in my "traditional" manner.  In any case, I'm excited to see how this plays out and I am looking forward to collaborating with these other teachers throughout the year.

Whew!  That was a lot of learning I was involved in this summer!  But alas, summer is drawing to a close.  Tuesday, I start have teacher meetings.  We start school on the following Monday (ugh).....I'm still not a fan of the full week of school thing.  But on the bright side, we have a better chance of establishing routine (???) more quickly......even though we get out early the first two days and have magazine sales that Friday. (???)

I have classroom stuff to do this weekend, but I'm going to try to enjoy my last three days before summer fun is done!

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