Sunday, October 25, 2015

On the Road to Proficiency-Based and Personalized Learning

The following is taken from the draft of my November parent newsletter article. 

Our Facebook page is awash in orange from Unity Day and our classrooms are full of student-centered learning. While we will never stop giving the culture of the school tons of attention, we are spending lots of time on increasing student voice and choice in service of greater engagement in their learning. You will hear more about various efforts such as increased reading stamina through allowing students to choose where and what they read, Personalized Learning Time that has begun to hone in on students' needs, and explicit instruction in how to manage a group discussion without letting anyone dominate. The independent skills and personalized habits of mind that we teach now will help our students for years as they navigate a proficiency-based graduation system in high school.

I am proud of the first few steps Wolcott Elementary School has taken towards implementing a Proficiency-Based and Personalized Learning program for students. So many of the pieces have been in place for years. So much is so familiar to the staff. We are now putting it all together. Over the coming months, I will certainly write more about our journey.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Proud PBIS Principal

The following is a short note that I shared with the staff at Wolcott Elementary School. 

I am so proud to be the principal of Wolcott Elementary School.  
It is clear to me that in the last year or so, we have come together to make our school better for those students who struggle the most.  
At the PBIS Leadership Forum, on Friday, I was able to share all of the work that you have done these last couple of years. It is a story of a staff that has made many systematic shifts at the universal level and beyond. More importantly, ours is a story of a staff whose thinking about struggling kids is changing in fantastic ways. I rarely hear complaints about behavior anymore; instead, I hear questions about why the behavior exists, and I hear adults reflecting on how they can do something different to meet the students’ needs. I’ve repeated several times in the last week the comment that came my way last year from an anonymous teacher: it seems like we only focus on behavior at WES. I now respond to that: we needed to, and it worked. 
Now, we still spend time on behavior, but it is not our main focus. I am proud that we are once again in a place to focus on things like reading, writing, and math. 
I am proud to be the principal of Wolcott Elementary School.

Note: please see the brief slide deck from a brief presentation at the Vermont PBIS Leadership Forum.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

7 Pics in 10 Minutes

Here is my first attempt at showing a glimpse of the great things going on at Wolcott Elementary School:

The Backstory
Inspired by Rob Ackerman's narrated slides showing a glimpse into his school, "10 Pics in 10 Minutes (or maybe 11)," I figured I could probably do that for Wolcott Elementary School. So, I got to work.

First thing was to figure out how to produce this simple video. Of course, I wanted to do this for free. I decided that whatever production process I used had to be simple and on my iPad (had to be iPad in order to be simple to create whenever and wherever). I tried to narrate a slide show in Keynote, Google Slides, and Haiku Deck with no luck (If those apps allow narrating, it was too hard for me to find). Then, I took a look at Show Me and Educreations. Both were already on my iPad and allowed me to do exactly what I wanted. Both were easy to use, but need expensive subscriptions in order to export. Well, exporting is the whole point. Being cheap, I did not want to pay either $50 or $100 for the subscriptions. I took a look at what else was out there.

I found Explain Everything after a brief search. For only $2.99 it does what the others do and includes all sorts of export options. Just what I was looking for. After only a few minutes playing with Explain Everything, I was sure that I would be able to make a short, narrated video like Rob's.

So, the next day, I wandered the building (as I often do) taking pictures on the iPad Mini I carry. Throughout the day, I would return to my office for a short time to work on the video. First, I made a new album on the ipad of pics that I might want to use. Then, I narrowed it down. I eliminated pics I took in 5th and 6th grade because they were lousy shots. I eliminated a few others that were blurry or just not-so-good. Finally, I was down to a few good photos.

I kept these seven pics in the order I took them and began to write down a little about each. Once I wrote out the rest of my scripts (about ten minutes to do this part), I began to record the audio for each pic. I got most in one take.

Once I was satisfied, I exported the finished video to the camera role of my iPad. Since I use Wolcott Elementary School's Facebook page to communicate with parents, I uploaded the file directly there. I also uploaded the video to YouTube for safekeeping.

And, voilá!