The Books that Keep on Giving (7/20)

I have acquired many books over the years. There are some that I have read once and not looked at again. There are others that I have read and continue to reference and reread for various reasons. Here is a collection of a few titles that I continue to revisit and how they bring me back in as I continue to grow in my learning and teaching practices.

Neuro Teach by Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher
This is a book that I have blogged about before. I love the way this book takes research and translates it into learning and teaching practices that educators can digest. There are many connections between this book and the new PYP Enhancements that I continue to revisit and share book bites with my teachers to provoke their thinking.

Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchhart
Out of the 8 forces this book explores to transform schools, I often come back to the chapter on Language. Language is so powerful and as educators, we are always noticing, naming and nurturing thinking, ideas and learning engagements in order to highlight them for our students. There are thoughtful questions to consider in this book about becoming proficient users of the language of the classroom.

Embedded formative assessment by Dylan Wiliam
As suggested in the title, this book emphasises formative assessment, Assessment FOR learning, monitoring and ongoing assessments. As the PYP enhancements now emphasise formative over summative, I find I am coming back to this book a lot to share with teachers.
The book not only highlights one of my favorite tools I blogged about years ago, the mini white board, it also focuses on activating students as owners of their own learning, reinforcing student agency!

Equal Rights to the Curriculum by Eithne Gallagher
I was introduced to this book a while ago and it was also referenced in the 2009 title, Taking the PYP Forward. With the emphasis on Multilingualism and Translanguaging Strategies through the PYP Enhancements, I find myself coming back to Gallagher’s book and revisiting the research and best practice. We are also currently planning a Language workshop for our parents and this is still proving to be a valuable resource.

Talk it Out by Barbara Sanderson
I was introduced to this book during one of my PTC courses, Instructional Supervision.
Conversations that might seem difficult are going to occur. I sometimes come back to this book as a reminder that in any conversation about a problem or concern, it is helpful to ensure everyone is invited to solve the problem together, reducing any blaming in the situation.

The Power of Inquiry by Kath Murdoch
One of my favorites. I love coming back to this book as I always take away something that connects, extends or challenges my thinking. I have used statements from this book as provocations for staff meetings as well as some of the tables and graphics as a shared study for collaboration with teams. Excuse the many post-it tagged pages!

Concept-Based Inquiry in Action by Carla Marschall and Rachel French
My newest one but already becoming a favorite. I asked our Leadership Team to order one for all of us to review and discuss possibilities to use as a resource for our teachers, K-12. 

Looking forward to sharing more on this title in the future.

What are some of your books that keep on giving?

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Sorting it all out (6/20)

Since I left Ohio in 2005 to teach overseas, I have had many wonderful opportunities to grow and develop my learning and teaching practices. I first learned about the IB programmes when I joined The International School of Düsseldorf in 2005 as a Grade 3 teacher. Since then, my PYP learning journey has included becoming a workshop leader, both face-to-face and online, as well as a visiting team member while continuing to dive deeper into the the PYP Enhancements and new Standards and Practices. For four summers, I spent a week learning about being an effective principal through The PTC. I graduated in 2015 and continue to reference The Standards for the International School Principal
In 2018, I was trained as a NEASC school visitor using the Learning Principles, which was timely for us at ISH we are currently preparing for our Sync Visit in 2020 with IB/CIS/NEASC. Finally, most recently I attended Cognitive Coaching training with Ochan Powell and became familiar with the Five States of Mind at the root of holonomous behavior. 

As I explore each new structure, profile or principle, I find myself working out how to put it all together, to connect all of these ideas in order to deepen my understanding. One thread that has emerged for me when reflecting on the opportunities described above is the need to take action in order to grow, self-adjust and have an impact on our students’ learning. 
As I compare these professional development opportunities, I find many similarities.

As I connect these ideas, my growing vision for educators becomes:

We must take responsibility for pursuing ongoing professional development in order to have a grasp on the most recent trends and understandings about learning, effective strategies, structures, approaches and innovations that will have an impact on the future of learning for our students.”

This reminds me of a clip from Dylan Wiliam that @DerekPinchbeck once shared with me. 

Have you made a commitment to continuously improve your practice?

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Before and After PD #IBAD2019 (5/20)

Back in 2015, I shared a post on my action plan after the 2015 IB Conference in Macau.
After returning from the 2019 IB Conference in Abu Dhabi I thought about my conference preparations and takeaways. 

When the conference schedule became available, I started my pre conference routine. I read through the plenary descriptions and then worked my way through the breakout session descriptions, highlighting possible options. I created a shared doc for my colleagues and I to record the session themes, notes and links from the presenters and our connections to ISH. This is then available to all of our staff back at school.

I also started following the conference hashtag, #IBAD2019, and any of the presenters on Twitter. 
During the conference I try to wakelet tweets from different sessions so that I can share with others and refer back to myself. 
Here is a wakelet for a few of the Plenary speakers from #IBAD2019
Sir Clive Woodward
Michael Furdyk

Some presenters also share their sessions slides and other resources. These are also collected and shared in the Google Doc for our staff to access. 
Engaging in discussions with other educators during breaks, lunches and dinners is also an important element to the conference experience. Listening to others share, asking questions, and sharing your experiences allow us to connect and grow in our practice. You are also likely to reconnect with previous colleagues and/or meet face-to-face with Twitter connections for the first time!

I was lucky enough to meet-up with @rozzuell for the first time after moderating #pypchat together for a few years.

Upon returning to school after the conference,…….
– I have had conversations with colleagues on the conference notes I shared
-Connected with connections made at the conference
– I scheduled an additional checkin with our Exhibition Team to further discuss the spaces we have available to work with for staging
– Ensured teachers have access to PYP Resources like the PYP Playlist and Podcasts
-Shared book titles with our Leadership Team to consider adding to our Professional Development collection
-Continue discussing our Inclusion Policy with our Individualised Learning Coordinator after her sessions at the conference

How do you make the most out of your professional development opportunities?

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Invite Thinking (4/20)

Over the course of my international teaching career I had only heard positive things about Cognitive Coaching(℠). It has been described to me as the best professional development, right up there with The PTC. While having not been a part of a school where it was implemented or highlighted, I was still a bit unclear as to what it was all about. However, when provided with an opportunity to attend Part 1 of Cognitive Coaching(℠) with Ochan Powell, I registered right away. 

From the start, it was one of the most active professional development workshops I have ever been in. 

  • Numerous opportunities for time with partners and small groups shaped the day, supporting ongoing reflection. 
  • Multiple opportunities to observe live cognitive coaching conversation with time after to ask questions and share what we noticed enhanced my awareness of critical elements of cognitive coaching. 
  • The time and space to practice coaching myself with various partners deepened my understanding of the planning conversation map. 
  • Immediate and specific feedback was also provided by my colleagues as they observed me practice a cognitive coaching conversation with a partner. 

As each day ended, I spent some time reflecting on the day, thinking about my takeaways and areas where I felt I needed to grow in. Reflecting on a concept formation strategy we used where we identified what cognitive coaching is and what it is not, I focused in on how cognitive coaching is mediating thinking, not fixing. As I can identify with being a problem solver, listening during future conversations and using pausing, paraphrasing and mediative questions without jumping in to offer solutions will be a focus of mine. 

At the International School of Helsinki, we now have 11 educators who are trained in Cognitive Coaching(℠). We are now able to practice using the conversation map and seek out feedback from each other as meta-coaches. We also have an opportunity to share with our school what we have learned and invite them in for conversations while building their own self efficacy. I will still pursue Part 2 of the training in the future, but I feel confident I can now share the same positive thoughts on this professional development and recommend it to other educators.

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Making Strategic Plans Happen (3/20)

In my last two schools I have taken a large role in re-envisioning the schools’ guiding statements and the structuring of their strategic plans. While the process has been different in each school, the essential elements have been the same; reviewing guiding statements, sharing progress in strategic areas, identifying both opportunities and challenges moving forward, unpacking and honoring feedback from all stakeholders in the school and referencing current educational research. 

The question that follows is how does your Strategic Plan/action plan remain influential in the ongoing development of your school? 

I have been thinking of the ways in which I support my school’s Strategic Plan and ensure it is cascading through the day to day life of the Lower School. Below are a few examples of how I do this. 

Visible Links:
Presentation slides are often used for various staff meetings and collaboration throughout the school year. In preparing these slides and agendas, I identify specific strategic elements that align with our focus to strengthen the connection between our learning and teaching practice and our Strategic Plan.

New Initiatives/Opportunities Links
When new initiatives and opportunities are shared with teachers, a connection to the Strategic Plan supports the ‘why’ behind such decisions. 

I have used the structure from Ambrose, 1987 when sharing new initiatives or changes, which allows me to directly link our school’s Strategic Plan.

Here is a sample from when we introduced steps to promote more student agency in our approaches to literacy.

Links to emergent ideas from collaborative planning
When participating in collaborative planning with teams I am able to be responsive to ideas and suggestions and highlight the connection to the Strategic Plan. 

Here is an example from a collaboration agenda that highlights a connection between new ideas and Strategic Plans. 

The Strategic thinking and planning of a school should be alive and celebrated amongst the school community.
What strategies do you have for supporting your school’s Strategic Plan? 

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Unpacking with Parents (2/20)

I believe the partnership between home and school is critical in supporting the whole child. Each year I try to think about the best way to share information with parents and invite them into the life of the school. 

I have blogged before on the importance of leveraging parents as critical partners.
Last year, I collaborated with my Early Years team as we invited parents in to build a new unit of inquiry and strengthen our learning community.

As a PYP School, I also try to ensure parents continue to grow in their understanding of the IB mission and PYP framework. Last year, I spent time with parents understanding the PYP programme model. The parents shared this was really helpful as they often see ‘the circle’ but felt they now had a better understanding. 

This year I wanted to help parents unpack this even further. With help from the talented @colingally I was able to visually break down the model even further. This allowed me to support parents in not only exploring the form of the different elements of the model but emphasising their connection as a whole.

When planning parent workshops it is also helpful to engage the parents in learning experiences just as you would with your students. During a parent workshop on assessment, I use a tool like ‘Which one doesn’t belong’ and invite the parents to have a number talk. After documenting their ideas I am able to demonstrate the prior knowledge I have collected from them and how this can inform my next steps; assessment FOR learning.

By empowering our parents with deeper understanding and supporting parent agency, we gain critical partners in supporting our families and learning community.
How do you engage parents at your school?

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2 Decades of Teaching and Still Learning (1 of 20)

The best 5th Grade Teacher and colleague
My 5th Grade Teacher and colleague for my first 5 years of teaching.

This 2019-2020 school year marks my 20th year as an educator. My journey started in Cleveland, Ohio in the same elementary school I attended as a child. That August in 2000, I joined a wonderful team of colleagues, some of whom were my very own elementary teachers, and met my very first Grade 2 class. I will always remember that class and thank each of my students for helping me become the teacher I am today. 

After five years of teaching in Cleveland, I left the states and have since taught in international schools in Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and currently, Finland. Each year I continued to grow and learn in my practice. Each new student, class, parent, school, colleague, country taught me something that I now carry with me. 

My goal this year is to share 20 new blog posts in honour of my 20th year of teaching as I continue to learn through sharing and engaging with other educators around the world. 

Have a great school year and keep learning!

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Non-Negotiables at School

As I shared before in a previous blog post, our school has a professional book club. Our first title this semester is, ‘Neuro Teach; Brain Science and the Future of Education’ by Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher.

As I started reading this summer, I immediately found my provocation for one of our first faculty meeting of the academic year.

The book offers lists (I love lists) such as, ‘The Unconscionable List; Things a teacher should never do again’ and ‘The Top Twelve Researched-Informed Strategies Every Teacher Should be Doing with Every Student. This took me back to my PTC days, where I first came across the phrase, the Non-Negotiables, those practices and beliefs that guide teaching and learning at your school.

I took only a few samples from each list to share with our teachers and asked them to discuss. As I had hoped, the room was abuzz with conversations. I had also planned for teachers to contribute an idea to each list, but we ran out of time as the discussions lasted longer than I thought, but were well worth the time spent. Two main areas that sparked a lot of discussion were the importance of structuring your lesson effectively and rethinking Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.

As I possibly gained a few more Book Club members that day, I also thought about our own school. We have our Mission, Vision, and Values; our Guiding Statements. While these are critical, what else would be on our Non-Negotiable List? What are the practices we should no longer be doing in the classroom and what are those practices we should be doing every day to support student learning?

How would your school’s Non-Negotiable list read?

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Guided by Guiding Statements

A few years back I composed a post about schools and their Mission, Vision, and Learning Principles. I was reminded of this post last week as we enter a new academic year.

At my current school, we begin each academic year by including time for faculty and staff to engage with our school’s Guiding Statements; Mission, Vision, and Values. This year we modified a Visible Thinking Routine to help guide us; Claim Support Question.

Each small group, composed of faculty and staff members, was given a Guiding Statement to focus on.
First, each group needed to make a
claim about the Guiding Statement, explain or interpret it in their own words.
After that, members of the group brainstormed all the ways the school already supports this Guiding Statement; what do they see, hear and feel in the school. As the small groups consisted of both new and returning teachers, this was a great way to hear different perspectives on our school’s identity.
Finally, we posed a question to the group, which was they way in which we modified this Visible Thinking Routine. The question posed was, “How will we continue to deepen implementation of this Guiding Statement in our school? This allowed our staff and faculty to push their thinking further and focus on the new academic year ahead of us.

Just having a Vision, Mission, and any other Guiding Statements at your school is not enough. How are these actually guiding your school’s growth and development? How are they living in your school and not just acting as wallpaper? How do you collect evidence of their effectiveness throughout the year?

As many of us are heading back for a new academic year, what are some of the ways your schools come together to have a shared understanding of who you are as a school, where you want to go, and what you value as a school?

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Cultivating Your School’s Culture

As I met with our new teachers this week, I began to reflect on what I shared with them about their new school. More specifically, how we support a professional and positive school culture for all teachers and students.

I don’t think there is a school or educator out there that tries to avoid having a professional learning culture, but at the same time I believe it is sometimes easy to say “yes, we have that” without really stopping to think about it. As research shows teacher efficacy is a powerful influence on student learning, we must be clear on supporting the growth of all of our teachers. Dylan Wiliam’s clip on how every teacher can improve supports this idea clearly.   

As new teachers joining the school, I want them to understand the professional culture we have while at the same time understand their role in contributing and building the culture as well. Once we share that vision and understand our roles and responsibilities, we can then continue to share tools and ideas towards reaching that vision.

A few tools/ideas we use in our school include the following.

Google Site – Teachers contribute resources and best practice support for teachers to inform their practice and improve student learning. 


Professional Book Club – Teachers volunteer to join the book club, read the book, get together to discuss and plan how it will impact our teaching and student learning.

Encouraging participation in The Singapore/Malaysia PYP Network events offered throughout the year. This includes our Network’s hashtag #singmalaypyp and contributing to our Network’s Blog, the red dot.
I also recently shared an open doc for Networks for Educators in Singapore in order to ensure we are aware of the different opportunities for us as educators in Singapore.

As the academic year begins this week, I aim to ensure our new and returning teachers understand the professional culture we have while at the same time understand their role in contributing and building the culture as well. This allows us to focus on student learning, grow in our practice, and remain accountable to our students.

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