Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week 10: October 27 - 31, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Oct. 27 -- Grades due NLT 10:00
Collect BAR data; due to team member today
Book Fair continues all week in Library
Oct. 28 -- Benton At Risk (BAR) Team Retreat @ 7:45 @ TMC
Oct. 29 -- Leadership Team Meeting 7:00 a.m. in Room 103
Parent/Teacher Conferences in Classrooms 3-6 p.m.
Oct. 30 -- ASVAB Test 8:00 - 12:00
Personal Finance Field Trip (see student attend list)
Academic Pep Assembly 5th Hour (MAP, Attendance & FB/Soccer)
Oct. 31 -- EARLY OUT (11:30 a.m.) (candy day!)

It was the best of times. It always is when powerful learning is accomplished! I must say that this was one totally powerful week. This is one week I have to call it day by day...

Monday -- Building Bridges to ACT on our Future!
The six leadership team members attended this incredibly informative ACT conference at the Empower Plant. The speaker was a nationally renowned researcher on ACT. He shared how we must continue to encourage all our students to approach rigor in education vigorously. He shared astounding statistics -- my favorite being that over 90% of 8th graders surveyed stated they intended on going to college. Shazaam! We need to prepare them for that possibility. It comes from integrated curriculum of college readiness standards. I think we are moving toward that very scenario at Benton. It takes time and commitment from our staff, but I know we will get there. One thing I truly believe is that we all want our students to succeed at the highest level possible.

Tuesday -- Setting the BAR Lower!
The Benton At-Risk Team met at TMC to find out who our at-risk students were and what we are going to do for them. It was an amazing day! I was proud of the work the team accomplished -- it wasn't easy setting the criteria for at risk. Tough conversations and determination framed the day. By 3:30 p.m. with our brains totally fried, we succeeded in creating the system interventions in three critical areas (discipline, attendance and academics) for our students. We also were able to drill down to the lists of students who met the criteria for most at risk. The team's homework assignment was to narrow the lists even further in order for us to create individual plans for our most critical students. Check with your team member for more details! A huge thanks to LaVell for heading up this powerful team!

Wednesday -- Leaders and Teachers and Parents, Oh My!
The morning started with a Leadership Team meeting. As we perused the PD calendar for the 1st semester, I think we were all surprised to see the rigorous and continual professional development that we participate in. Really, if you look at the calendar -- you will be amazed with how often we come together as professionals to learn. It's impressive! From our learning on LT and BAR, to continual focused common course collaboration, to job-embedded department/building learning, to our tech cohort, the teachers at Benton are dedicated learners. It was fun to share that learning with our parents during the Parent/Teacher conferences. We heard great reports from our parents! We received overwhelming praise for our use of technology -- from AlertNow connections to emails to our new web interactive classrooms! Our parents had great things to say about all of you! Good work staff!

Thursday -- Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
What a day! We had an exciting ACADEMIC PEP ASSEMBLY that was out of this world ! High fives to Mrs. Rucker and Mrs. Zillner for their work on the Character Points, and a double high five to Mr. McCoy for all the awards and incentives he found for our students. The greatest hurrah goes to our students -- for their work and dedication to their learning, testing and attendance! And when the good times inside were not enough -- we headed to Sparks Field and Lafayette's Alumni Stadium to mix it up with the Irish in futbol and football. Outcomes aside -- our kids worked hard and delivered the goods. We celebrate our kids for all their efforts! Come On!

Friday -- The Seasons They Are A-Changin'
The weather could not have been more beautiful. The cool autumn morning yawned into a warming midday sun kept perfect by the cool breezes flowing over the school yard. The students were on best behavior. An early release from school is like the best chocolate dessert you've ever eaten -- sweet beyond imagination and ever so tasty! It was the Boo! day, costumes and candies awaited the young at heart, but a gentle nap in the warm sun was the true treat of the day! (photo thanks to Flickr An Autumn hedgerow.EXPLORE #407 - 3rd October 2008)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Week 9: October 20-24, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Oct 20 -- Staff Pizza Party 7th hour in room 103
Oct 22 -- BAR Team meets @ 7:00 in room 103
Oct 22 -- FMP trash clean-up during 5th hour
Oct 23 -- 1st Quarter Grades Open
Staff meeting with Superintendent @ 2:45 in Room A115/116
Oct 24 -- ALL STAFF BAR data collection starts (continued to 10/27 only)

I am not sure I have ever started a week thinking it will be a good week to get a lot accomplished, and ended a week knowing what it felt like to get run over by a steam roller! This was one of those weeks!

It started so nicely with a pizza order. Lunch for the staff for an excellent data walkthrough. Carbs for the team to get them prepared for the long run ahead. Junk food for my friends for holding hands with us during the tough times. And happened. Ironically, it all started with a cell phone call from Jake Kelly. He called with problems in his classroom. I was perplexed that he called my cell phone from his cell phone. As a former English teacher, if I was teaching this "novel" event, it would reek of foreshadowing.

Funny thing about text messages, unlike a cell phone call, you can't really refuse one. Hence the problems that occurred this week in Mr. Kelly's class. Cyberthreats heavily slipped through Benton's cyberspace. Students and parents alike feared for school safety. Late nights with parents resulted in validating our school security yet meting out heavy consequences to the students involved. In a day and age where we measure a school's success by the students who make it to school and through school, we lost that battle even as we carried home a banner of victory for safe schools.

All while this drama played out, another storyline and character emerged. Phone usage at Benton was more and more often being seen by students as an entitlement. Refusal to turn over a cell phone and subsequent disorderly conduct in the refusal has more than once ended a student's school day with handcuffs. I cry every time a student leaves our building that way. Students in various venues were abusing our very forward thinking policy which allowed cell phone use at any time instructional programs were not being offered at Benton. After too much instructional time was lost to students refusing to comply with the policy, a new approach was taken -- inform the students clearly as to the continued policy and established steps to resolve the conflict. The process was simple. Create a plan. Run it past the instructional staff. Run it past a student group. Inform parents. Wait and see.

The plan starts tomorrow (Monday). We lost at least five students and numerous instructional days last week to cell phones. I pray we do not lose any next week. I've heard rumors the students will resist. I wonder if they realize we are trying to be advanced; their resistance could possibly send us flying backwards.

After talking with Mikey tonight, I began to reflect on cell phone usage. Mike told me that text messages drop the walls of a classroom (isn't that what we hope to do with School 2.0?). If a student was talking in class, he would be told to stop. Text messaging should be the same. If a student doesn't stop, then he gets in trouble. Text messaging should be the same. You could move the student away from his conversation partner. You could remove the phone away from the student.

He also brought up another interesting point. If a student got out a book after instruction (and homework completed), no teacher would complain. Why is reading a phone so much worse? (I gave several reasons, but we weren't really talking about that). If a student got out a computer and did the same thing Mike would do on his cell phone, the student would not get into trouble. I am not sure I fully agree with Mike, but he did make me think. Does it make you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Week 8: October 13-17, 2008

October is NATIONAL BOOK MONTH! How will you celebrate???
(click on "Week 8" for a book ideas link!)

Upcoming Events:
Oct. 13 -- Search & Rescue Training (specific staff)
Oct. 14 -- Wellness Clinic & Flu Shots
AlertNow Training (specific staff)
Search & Rescue Training (specific staff)
Oct. 15 -- Leadership Team Meeting @ 7:00 a.m. in Room 103
2 Hour Early Out -- Content Prof Dev (information from coordinators)
Admin Business Meeting 8-11:30 @ TMC
Oct. 16 -- JROTC Review @ Lafayette; 5:00 p.m.
Oct. 17 -- Data Walkthrough @ 8:00 a.m.
Oct. 18 -- PSAT

This week brought me through the most diverse range of feelings I think I have lived with in some time. From my fear that I had pushed our staff too hard in my expectations for the data walkthrough to my meltdown for not being able to open a door in the building. I have never been one to feel overwhelmed -- it just doesn't happen to me that often -- but emotionally, I was extraordinarily fragile this week.

It started on Monday with a push for every "i" to be dotted and every "t" crossed. I will never forget my first walkthrough at Benton which set my schema for each event and it made me very nervous. It was ugly. I have been on pins and needles about walkthroughs every since. It had never been about what we had done well; it was always about what was wrong or must be better. I never felt justified, only defensive. All week all I prayed for was that our walkthrough showed the work I knew we were doing. Oh, I don't profess that we're perfect or that every staff member is on board with our school improvement. But I really felt like we have a very strong, vocal majority that believes. Teachers can go a long way on a little taste of hope. I am and will always be, no matter what my title states, a teacher. I had hope.

I experienced great trepidation on Tuesday and Wednesday pitching our School 2.0 Initiative and Library 2.0 work. I just want someone to believe in the power. Oh gosh, I know you believe Cohort 1 (and our newest converted members), but I mean I wish the power people believed in the power of TPACK. To really invest in this process, you have to know it. That takes time. Their time is as precious as ours; so it's hard to get them to give it to us.

Thursday brought an incredibly exciting breakthrough with our new ALERTNOW! system that we have accessed. Danielle Silvey is now the QUEEN of AlertNow. The system is a calling system that reaches students at home with auto-calling. It's such a powerful tool. On the first day, we had so many absent students contact us or send students to school. It was pretty impressive. Next week we will use it to invite our parents to our parent-teacher conferences. We can use it for so many wonderful things that are great for our students!

And then there was Friday. We were able to make it into so many great classes. Our debrief was fantastic. Mrs. Patterson and Dr. Dial were incredibly pleased with what they saw in their walkthrough. It felt more like a collaboration for Benton improvement. We had so many things we had done well, that all we worked on was how to refine or find ways to make that process more efficient or see greater gains. It was an amazing feeling, and I was so excited to tell the staff.

And with that, my week of extreme highs and lows closed. I can't imagine what is next...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 7: October 6-10, 2008

Upcoming Events:
Oct. 6 -- Benton At Risk (BAR) begins pilot data collection
Oct. 7 -- Passing out 2nd Progress Reports
Medicaid Meetings (You already know if you need to go)
Oct. 8 -- BAR Meeting @ 7:00 in Room 103
Sophomores to MY SUCCESS EVENT at Civic Arena
Oct. 10 -- 5th Hour Be Smart Assembly (5th hour seating)
9th Hour Pep Assembly @ 2:10 (Intro the rest of the Fall sports)

After meeting with the core department chairs, it was comforting to find them asking for responsibility for our school improvement. That move was one of the most significant moves in showing everyone's responsibility in our journey to making Benton a better place for the students we serve every day. I can honestly tell you, I was blown away by the request.

We had an exciting, if conjectural, meeting with district personnel about our move toward embracing constructivism in our classrooms in a technological, pedagogical content knowledge approach. To make a long story short, people are asking questions. Good ones. And that means they are primed for an answer. It's time to learn. I am excited to think about what this looks like in 12 months from now when our entire staff is in the GINORMOUS learning curve. Wow. I can't imagine.