Sarah’s Summer Road Trip (Week 2): Question Protocols

Sarah's Summer Road Trip

The first leg of our virtual trip across the country to Seattle, Washington gave us special insight into the importance of discourse as part of learning to reason. This time, we’re hitting the road and heading all the way to Tampa, Florida and Thristene Francisco’s sixth grade language arts classroom. Here, we’re not only going to hear amazing student discussion, but we’re also going to learn how this teacher uses student-driven questioning as the foundation of the learning that happens in her classroom. Let’s get those wheels turning and travel on!

You’re invited to join us on a special Zaption tour of Thristene’s classroom, where we will not only take a closer look at her instructional moves, but we’ll also have a chance to learn from other teachers around the country by participating in the discussion feature on the tour. And, I’m telling you, just wait until you hear what kinds of insights these sixth graders are uncovering as they read!

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Thristene Francisco: High Academic Expectations Come From Student Voice

Sarah's Summer Road Trip

This interview with Thristene Francisco is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Thristene’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!

“I’m really about students. I have high expectations. I want them to think.”

Five minutes into talking with Thristine Francisco and it’s clear: she not only cares about her students, but she’s passionate about teaching them to think, helping them to exceed even their own expectations. This eight-year veteran found her way to the classroom after a series of mission trips to Haiti and tutoring students from urban schools. Her accumulated experiences in social justice permeates the way she talks about teaching and her students: “I believe kids can. They have more to say than they think and I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘I don’t know.’”

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Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching

Sarah's Summer Road Trip

There’s nothing that defines summer more than the classic road trip. Great plans, detours, getting lost, finding unexpected adventures, making memories. And when I think about taking road trips, I think about the people I’d most like to cruise with: all of you! I thought we could load up our virtual cars and take off to meet three teachers and their classrooms, in three parts of the country. We’ll get to learn more about who they are, peek into their classrooms with a special Zaption experience, and then learn more about their lessons through interviews and a Twitter chat. What do you say? Are you in?

But before we embark on this excursion, let’s make sure we have a good map.

Enter the work of Jerry and Monique Sternin on positive deviance: the belief that communities can be “transformed by the innovations and wisdom that already exist within that community.” In other words, examples of positive deviance — the work of those people who are figuring out our toughest problems in the most unsuspecting ways — are all around us. We only have to pay attention to the invisible in plain sight. And I can’t imagine another community I’d rather pay attention to — and with — than all of you here at Teaching Channel.

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Lynn Simpson: From Tough Reality to Empowered Learner

Sarah's Summer Road Trip

This interview with Lynn Simpson is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Lynn’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!

Lynn Simpson’s students are a reflection of her own story as a teacher: empowered, persistent, growing.

Lynn found teaching as a second career, during her time volunteering in her children’s elementary school (the school she teaches at now). After 20 years of working for an HMO, Lynn used her volunteering experience as motivation to obtain her teaching certificate, and is now completing her seventh year of teaching at Lakeridge Elementary School in Seattle, Washington.

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#TchLIVE: The Art of Teaching

So much about teaching comes in waves, and the end-of-the-year wave is often marked by an immersion in the science of teaching: assessments, grades, proving what was accomplished. But as we ride out one wave and onto summer’s, I think we should welcome back into our lives the notion of the art of teaching.

Although the art of teaching may seem more elusive, it’s no less crucial to the pulse of learning. It’s the part of the craft that’s about our creative impulse, our read of a child’s emotional state, our instinct to make this decision or that in the midst of the thousands of decisions we make each day.

If you’re ready to kick off your summer thinking by sharing what you’ve learned about the art of teaching, about the importance of creativity in your professional life, then join us for June’s #TchLive chat this week! Share what has supported you to become better in this area of your practice, whether it’s a mentor, a colleague, professional books, or just plain old lived experience. If you’ve just completed your first year or your 20th, you’ve got knowledge and wisdom to share on this subject. And, if you’re looking for a few resources to get you thinking before we chat, you may want to check out these:

The #TchLIVE chat will be on June 18th, at 4pm PDT.

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The Margins of a Comfort Zone: A Professional Learning Experience

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

When I worked on my master’s thesis over a decade ago, I remember being infatuated with the concept of cognitive dissonance. It was like listening to Meghan Trainor for the first time: an immediate imprint on my brain with an inability to stop singing it. I not only wrote about it academically, but I put it into lesson plans, I pulled it out at professional development planning meetings, it showed up in letters of recommendation and I tried to convince my younger brother that he needed some.

In the end, the notion that there must be a “rub” in order for us to learn something, spoke so viscerally to me that I recognized I had ordered my life around experiences that would impose enough cognitive dissonance to compel me to leap.

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#TchLIVE: Professional (and Personal) Learning This Summer

We teachers know it’s a myth that we take our summers off.

Actually, we’re busy improving our practice through professional learning opportunities, from summer classes to one-day workshops to district-mandated PD. We’re busy reading professional books, watching Teaching Channel videos, planning curriculum.

Or sometimes we’re busy learning just for the sake of learning. Figuring out how to grow and harvest the perfect tomato may not seem like it’s related to professional growth. That is, until you think of it as following an interest and passion and all that implies: research, the drive to succeed, trial and error, relevance, and authenticity. And it’s similar to what we would want to see in our students, as they endeavor to be lifelong learners about any of the myriad of curiosities that exist in the world around them.

Enter May’s #TchLive chat! Share what kind of learning opportunities – professional and personal – you have planned for the summer. Bring a favorite thing you’ve learned from this past year to share. Let us know how you plan to continue to grow as a person and a teacher.

The #TchLIVE chat will be on May 28th, at 4pm PT.

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A Letter To My Children: What It Means to Be a Teacher

For the past several years, I’ve used Teacher Appreciation Week to pay tribute to this wonderful community of teachers, to colleagues, to the teachers who have made those indelible marks on me, and even to my own mother. Yet, this year, there are three young people who have lived teacher appreciation, but may not really understand what it means. For you, my children, some insight.

A Letter to My Children - What It Means

Dear Evan, Lauren, and Zachary,

Many (many) years ago, there was this little girl who spent her summer afternoons creating neighborhood schools for all of the children on her block. She mimicked what school looked like to her: rows of desks, questions and answers, praise and encouragement from the teacher, stickers and stars on the top of “assignments.” She imagined what it would be like to free an idea in someone else’s mind. She was crestfallen when the game of tag pulled her “students” away all too soon in the afternoon. She would wake up early and try to think about how to make learning fun.

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#TchLIVE: Preparing for the End of the Year

When I watch 11-year-old Thomas Suarez in his TEDTalk, I am struck by the question: Is he learning because of school, or in spite of it? A tough question, I know. But it’s a question that compels me, and one that begs others:

  • Are the questions we ask students authentic and relevant?
  • Am I underestimating what they can accomplish when I let go?
  • How much content learning could actually collapse when students self-direct?

I may not have answers to these inquiries, but I’m pretty convinced these are some of the right questions to be asking. And I have an inkling we’ll continue getting closer to some truths about teaching and learning when we ask ourselves what we must let go of in order to allow our students to hang onto and construct their own learning.

Enter April’s #TchLive chat! Join us as we think about how teachers can create an “end of the year” with capstone experiences and projects where teachers release responsibility and students learn because of school, not in spite of it.

The #TchLIVE chat will be on April 23rd, at 4pm PST.

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Sustaining Strong Classroom Culture Throughout the Year

For too many years, I used to think my classes would either have good chemistry, or they wouldn’t. Sometimes there was a group of students who just clicked, but more often than not, students don’t know each other when we begin together. And even though my department offers our students many courses to choose from, they are always filling a requirement when they come to one of my English classes. Some bring their natural enthusiasm, others their implicit skepticism, and at least a few always have to be won over. Finally, I decided to get honest with myself, to take a step back and look at why some classes just “had it” and others didn’t. That honest look taught me some careful lessons about class chemistry.

First of all, it wasn’t about chemistry at all; rather it was about culture. And when I realized that difference, I realized why some classes clicked and others didn’t: I was counting on it to just happen, rather than setting out to create it. Over time I learned that culture is something learned, that we have to work at it, that I have to speak it in order to live it. This week we’re highlighting a series of videos that take a look at the lessons I learned.

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