As a teacher, we spend the vast majority of our time educating others but often do not get the time to further our own learning. There is an amazing opportunity coming up in August that is close to home and budget friendly.
The Learning First Institute is taking place on August 8 & 9 in Kasson. This is an unbelievable chance to spend two days learning and networking with local educators. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event last year along with 70 other educators from RPS and found those two days to be some of the most informative learning in which I have been able to participate.
Over the course of the two days, you are treated to 4 different keynote speakers that are not only engaging and dynamic but also deliver important message around current educational trends and topics. The remainder of your time is spent in small group sessions that you select to best meet your learning needs.
Some of the topics from last year’s presenters included: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn, keys to a positive learning environment, building culture in your PLC’s, RTI – it’s not just about intervention but how kids respond to intervention, changing the experience of school and how to have difficult but necessary conversations.
This year’s lineup of speakers is just as impressive as last year. Keynote speakers this year include:
Myron Dueck - Vice principal and teacher with over 17 years of teaching, He has had experience in a variety of subjects in grades 3 to 12. Dueck has been a part of district work groups and school assessment committees that have further broadened his access to innovative steps taken by others.
LaVonna Roth - An internationally known brain-powered educational consultant, author and presenter. She is known for providing fun and engaging professional development specializing in neuro- and cognitive sciences to help educators better understand how the brain learns.
Kenneth C Williams - A former teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Kenneth is the chief visionary officer of Unfold the Soul, LLC, a company dedicated to inspiring individuals and teams to perform at the highest level. He is skilled in developing productive, student-focused learning environments.
George Curous - A previous speaker in RPS, he has over 17 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George speaks about meaningful change happening when you first connect to people's hearts and the importance of creating an innovative student learning environment with high engagement.
In addition to these four amazing keynote speakers, there are an additional 14 speakers leading breakout sessions on a huge variety of topics. Last year I was able to attend 8 breakout sessions in addition to the learning from the keynotes.
Mark your calendar for August 8 & 9. You won’t be sorry that you spent two days in August at a conference once you’ve experienced this amazing event!
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
The purpose of this blog is to share with you the work a group of educators are doing in the area in new teacher support and retention with a partnership between the New Teacher Center, REA president Dan Kuhlman, POSA Heather Willman, POSA Kate Palmquist and numerous educators within RPS.
RPS Teacher Induction Program Mission Statement:
To ensure that all educators entering Rochester Public Schools receive an inclusive high-quality induction that focuses on professionalism, growth, students learning and retention of quality educators.
Over the past year a group of teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches have been working with the New Teacher Center to a learn more about how we can improve our support for first year/beginning teachers. Throughout the process of investigating our current practices we found that while we have a solid plan for supporting classroom teachers, our special area and related services teachers have less access to strong mentoring. This past week our team met for the final time to lay out a vision and mission for how to support area and related services. Our goals and focus are as follows:
For the teachers who are not aware of our current Rochester Public Schools New Educator Induction Plan, we also reviewed those supports below:
After listening to the group concerns and ideas, the team chose to focus on how to better support special area and related services teachers due to the unique needs of this group of educators. One thing that we know we do well in Rochester Public Schools is supporting the classroom teacher with full release coaches. These coaches support our new and veteran teachers in many different ways. However, what we learned is that if you are a traveling art teach for example, you lose the connection between a specific site, so a site coach might not be the best mentor for you. We also discussed how our special area teachers have specific needs as far as understanding a unique grading process, learning how to establish relationships with a larger group of students, parent communication tips and other areas that are different to them.
Much like the special area teachers, our related services educators also have unique needs that they felt may not best be served by their instructional coaches. Knowing that we need to do more to support these important educators and to increase the retention rate, the group strategies a few possible plans on how to support new teachers in these areas with mentors, as well as still receive support from their building instruction coaches. Moving forward, the team will be exploring ways to support new special area teachers and related services teachers and in turn hopefully increasing their retention rate. If you are interested in learning more about this great work, reach out to Kate Palmquist in the Elementary C&I Office!
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, POSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Are you aware of all the amazing things that our school librarians can do if you just ask? Listed here are just 10 of the ways you can better utilize this amazing resource that is already right at your fingertips!
1. Plan & co-teach engaging lessons.
Librarians cover topics that are important to their media classes which, depending on your media specialist, can include digital citizenship, research, book selection, state and national award books, components of fiction and nonfiction books, book care, database usage, teaching App usage, literature appreciation, multimedia presentation tools, book genres, growth mindset, keyboarding skills, citation, plagiarism, oral presentation skills, keyboarding skills, mouse skills, website evaluation, note taking, and alphabetization skills. This is just the tip of the iceberg of topics covered in media classes.
They also value and connect with the content that is being delivered in each of their buildings, each of their grade levels, and each of their individual classrooms. Frequently, teachers will ask librarians to reinforce a skill they are teaching in class, and librarians feel this is a major part of their role. They plan lessons for multiple grade levels, often for 2 different buildings: some of those buildings have 1:1 iPads, some don’t; some have computer labs, some don’t. Like classroom teachers, they seek to make their lessons engaging and enjoyable for their students. Librarians also push into classrooms to co-teach lessons when teachers are looking for support. They are happy to lead the lesson or just be an extra set of hands.
2. Partner in integration of new technology in your classroom.
3. Locate, vet, curate and share high quality resources for you and your students.
As most teachers know, librarians will research and acquire materials such as books (from their libraries or from other school libraries), websites, and databases to support student learning. Some of the greatest resources are quality databases which can easily be accessed through MackinVia by both teachers and students. Please see your media specialist if you have any questions regarding access or ways to best use these resources.
4. Connect students with books to nurture life-long readers.
5. Support and advancement of curriculum development.
Librarians often work on curriculum writing teams in order to support their work with valuable resources and offer their unique perspective. There are librarians who work on articulation committees, attend PLCs, participate in summer curriculum writing, and work with grade levels on planning teams. Feel free to contact your librarian if you feel this is something that would be helpful for you or to your team.
6. Cohort in exploring and trying new things and ideas.
7. Help students develop research and presentation skills.
Everyday there are new and exciting ways that students can present their learning. The more tools the students feel comfortable with, the more choice they have in presenting the information. The more comfortable they are with different methods of presentation, the more efficient they will be in their choices. They can target their strengths and/or explore new options. Librarians teach them not only presentation skills but presentation options. They teach the most effective ways to research and how to translate what they have learned into information that is easily consumed. Whenever possible, librarians give students voice and choice in their topics and encourage real world application and sharing of the knowledge they have acquired.
8. Community Builder - Both within the school and globally.
9. Collaborate on innovative projects.
Even librarians on fixed schedules can find time to collaborate on new and exciting projects with teachers. There are often resources they are aware of that can be added to enhance a particular project. Librarians can also teach components of the lesson that will help students achieve their goal. They can also just be another set of hands when needed. They are always happy to help.
10. Facilitate lessons and discussions on digital citizenship topics.
Librarians are there for you in whatever way they can be helpful. If they can’t answer the question or find the resource - they can find someone who can. Please don’t hesitate to seek them out.
During this past year, many of you at your sites and within your PLC’s have worked very hard to identify the most important or prioritized learnings for your specific grade level. Prioritized Learning is the learning that has been identified as most essential to a particular grade level or course and for which significant time and resources are devoted to ensure mastery. To identify priority learnings we used the five key areas, asking ourselves; does this learning have:
After work was completed within site PLC’s, representatives from each RPS Elementary site in the content areas of English Language Arts and Math came together as a collaborative effort to construct the prioritized learning for each grade level and content area. (insert working Prioritized Learnings) Once the prioritized learnings were identified, teachers again went back to sites and PLC teams to begin the task of building proficiency scales for each priority learning. The proficiency scale will indicate specific information about what student achievement looks like, ranging from no knowledge to in-depth knowledge.
Within the Rochester Public School District it was determined that a three point proficiency scale indicating proficient, partially proficient and not proficient would best rate and communicate information regarding student performance.
In the next couple months, elementary site representatives will come together again to collaborate in the building of District Proficiency Scales for each prioritized learning in the content areas of English Language Arts and Math at each grade level.
Each grade and content area collaborative team will work to be sure each proficiency scale includes the fundamentals, specific word choice, and clarity allowing PLC teams to have the ability to asses, or build multiple common formative assessments based on the content of the proficiency scale.
A great deal of RPS effort, time and resources have been dedicated to this endeavor, WHY??
To answer this question, we need to look at both the reality and the research. The reality is stated best by Larry Ainsworth, “So many standards, so little time……” Statistics provided by Dr. Doug Reeves, founder of Creative Leadership Solutions, tell us that on average a student spends 13,000 hours in school from Kindergarten through grade 12, however if all standards were taught with the same length and depth it would take over 15,000 hours, time we just do not have. Because of the overwhelming number of standards, many of us may feel we have been taking the approach Ainsworth calls “Spray and pray” to try to cover all we feel is expected. When this happens,
Research tells us that the most effective schools focus on: simplicity, clarity and priority. (Schmoker, 2011). This research is also evident in the success of 90/90/90 schools (90% free and reduced price lunch, 90% minority, 90% achievement). These schools have focused on academic achievement by clearly identifying priorities.
For more answers to Prioritized Learning Frequently Asked Questions and the research that supports these efforts, please watch the RPS Prioritized Learning video below and read the Frequently Asked Questions responses.
This initiative is intended to be a collaborative effort to improve teaching and learning within our district, with our experts, classroom teachers, having the strongest and most important voice in the room. Another key thing to keep in mind is that prioritized learning, proficiency scales and common formative assessments are living documents with future opportunities for continuous improvement. As we continue to grow and improve, so will our work in this area.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Best Practices/ Tom W. Many Ed.D. and Ted Horrell Ed.D www.tespa.org
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