(This was a blog post I published on January 4th on my personal blog, Rethinking Education. I thought I would share it with you as it received lots of hits.  Enjoy!  Vicki)

Our #PTCamp PLN came up with a one word challenge, a resolution for 2015.  I chose WONDER.  Why wonder? It’s a word that sparks imagination.  It’s a word that can enhance creativity.  It is a word that has us thinking.


I had the privilege to attend the 2014 NYSCATE conference in Rochester, NY in November, and they had the fabulous Jason Latimer as a keynote speaker. He had over 2,000 participants ‘wonder’ about wonder, imagination, creativity using magic and science, but also reminding us, how to spark wonder in our students by asking questions. Asking questions is a lot more significant than receiving answers, isn’t it?

We just came back from two week hiatus trip to Colombia and traveled the region of Antioquia, the coffee region where it is very mountainous and very rural. We ended at our gracious host, Ana’s house above the town of La Ceja. My husband and I always love to be in the communities, learning the way of life and I am fortunate to have experienced many trips like this where we stay with folks or with my family and experience the way of living in a different country.

We were working around the house of our host when neighbor children came by. They love Ana and they were curious with these visitors who speak English. They were typical boys, curious to what was happening. They were 4 boys, from 7, 8, 9 and 10 years old. They were wondering, what is my husband doing reinforcing the shed roof? What is growing in the makeshift seed starter kits? How can we play “helicopter” with the 1950 metal lawn chairs? This is wonder, creativity, imagination, something that is a natural curiosity in our kids, not just in the US, but worldwide.

Unfortunately, some kids in our world don’t have that opportunity of wonder. They are stuck in poverty, trying to survive, trying to help their families, and at worst, trying to stay alive, working in child sweatshops because their hands are small and can weave carpets (like in Egypt carpet sweatshop factories), or worse, in worn torn countries like Syria, Iraq or fighting Ebola in West Africa. Then, some kids, like my nephew, are privileged to have high school courses called “Wonder” where they are taught in the Socratic method of questioning and discussion where his assignment over the holidays was to come up with a wonder. (That was a lively discussion!)

So, in the US, how do we develop “wonder” in our kids?  I challenge you to develop this in your students!  Place it in your lesson plans and ask wonder questions.  Spark wonder in your students and develop imagination and creativity.  It is our duty as educators to instill this in our students!

Other News

  • Bus Duty for Jan 5 – Jan 16 Team 8 : Kelly Ayen, Tanya Charron, Gina Caldwell.  Upcoming bus Duty:  Jan 20-Jan 30 Team 9:  Jessica Serviss, Brandi LaRue, Teresa Kiechle, Denise Croasdaile
  • Briana Marsh will be our new East Side counselor.  She will be starting January 20th.  Please welcome her to our East Side community.
  • A new opportunity is in the works this summer, and it’s FREE!  A bunch of us are planning EdcampCNY.  It will be held July 18, 2015 at Liverpool CSD.  The official website is here: EdcampCNY (Yes, that is me in the pic with the handsome Peter DeWitt giving opening remarks at EdcampUNY!)  Register at Tickleap!  Increase your PLN and meet new educators that are willing to share their knowledge!
  • A great article by Timothy Shanahan on How and How Not To Prepare Students for the New Tests.  A must read from the International Reading Association magazine!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

(Provided by OCM BOCES IS Weekly Dispatch )

  • Read about the authors of the Common Core math standards and how they went about developing the standards. It can help us understand the standards themselves, as well as the process.
  • SED has prepared guides for the 2015 3-8 ELA and math assessments. The guides include sample questions and a summary blueprint of the tests.
  • These anti-bullying and cyberbullying resources can be shared with parents.
  • Round Robin reading persists in many classrooms. You can continue to fight the battle against it with these suggestions and alternatives.
  • This Hangout addresses the importance of authenticity in your projects.
  • Like anything else, implementation of Project-Based Learning depends on good leadership and support, as described here.
  • If you are taking a good, hard look at the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, think about the Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch program. You can learn from the list of middle-level schools that have been recognized in New York (great schools to visit). If you are thinking about applying, the 2015-2016 materials have just been posted.
  • Consider a New Year’s Resolution to focus on rigor rather than difficulty (based on Kevin Daniel’s list):
·         Requires thinking, problem-solving, and transfer of learning.·         Students are genuinely engaged in their learning.·         Requires application of knowledge to new situations.

·         Involves students doing better assignments that require thinking and processing.

·         Includes student voice and choice.

·         Creates ownership

·         Gets better results.

·         Usually involves more quantity rather than depth.·         Often means more novels, more worksheets, more homework, more review, etc. ·         Looks like traditional classrooms.

·         Is often confused with rigor.

·         Typically involves teacher-centered activities.

·         Values compliance and convergence.

·         Most products look the same.

·         Gets the results we’re already getting.

  • This entertaining TEDTalk explores the gaps in peoples understanding about global patterns and trends. It is both informative and entertaining.
  • A leadership position sometimes includes having tough conversations. These lessons from one principal can help you get through them and increase the likelihood that they are productive.
  • Governor Cuomo vetoed the legislation that would have enacted the Common Core APPR safety net provision for the state’s 20%. Cuomo said: “…the 2013-14 teacher evaluation results recently released by the State Education Department are not an accurate assessment–only 0.7% of teachers were rated “Ineffective” under the APPR, and so the legislation is unnecessary.”
  • Rubrics help to provide feedback to students, but they also scaffold their work along the way. These tools help teachers generate rubrics more easily.
  • The beginning and ending of each class meeting is often the most important time. Don’t waste them with administrivia or getting an early start on the homework. Consider using the precious time in these ways.
  • This collection of explanations about Project-Based Learning includes three different videos.
  • A teacher reflects on her first PBL unit in this post.
  • How do you know if you are making a difference? This list suggests signs that you are having an impact on your students (and their lives).
  • Teaching our students how to find images that they can use in their work that doesn’t violate copyright law is important to do. This column describes some of the background and makes suggestions for doing things the “right” way.
  • Although more students than ever are taking AP courses, acceptance of AP scores for college credit is not increasing. In fact, their utility seems to be idiosyncratic and state legislatures are getting into the mix.
  • Not only does this infographic express how important the 4Cs are to employers, it also demonstrates a gap between what they are looking for and what their potential employees think is needed. 
  • The 12 Years a Slave DVD and accompanying resources are still free to schools.

A Touch of Humor

Michelle DiPoala..I just saw this on twitter and thought you might ;)

Authentic Learning

I was sharing with a teacher the other day as we reflected on a lesson of the advantage that as a lead learner and leader how I have the opportunity to visit all classrooms at East Side and see the progression of learning.  The discussion ensued about how it is fantastic to see students grow as learners, simply starting to turn to their shoulder buddy in a PreK classroom and talk about a question posed, to watch a 5th grade classroom simply go into a cooperative group, easily, to discuss characteristics of a novel such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardwrobe.  This isn’t just something that comes with osmosis, but is careful, systematic teaching and modeling that you all do throughout the years to get our students to this level of cooperative learninng, dialogue and discussion as you use protocols for inquiry.

It hasn’t always been this way.  Remember times of the end of the unit test, the memorization.  There are times when we do need to do this, but do we need to do it all of the time?  Gone are the days of the teacher led lecture, when the teacher is the ONLY voice and memorization of facts was the only method.  How boring is that?  Larissa Pahomov, the author of Authentic Learning in the Digital Age states that “When we ask students to memorize content that they are never going to apply to a task, they quickly forget it.  Why base education on a rudimentary skill?”  Think about it.  What would it be like to have students be able to  have authentic learning with inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection?  Where the teacher takes the role of the facilator and guide on the side rather than “sage on the stage.”  This is a total shift in mindset of how school run.  (Larissa Pahomov and the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA created this type of High School.  It’s a movement that is taking off in various areas.)

In the elementary grades, we need to set the foundational skills for our students, but this doesn’t mean we ignore fostering inquiry, project based learning, wonder, and imagination.  We cannot ignore what is happening in their world, like the blending of technology into the curriculum or project based learning activities.  But you say, “Vicki, we can’t do it because we are so tied to the common core curriculum, the modules, the SuperKids curriculum.  We are worried about our test scores.  We don’t have the time.  We are stressed.”  Yes, yes, and yes.  But, if we know what is right for kids, then we will figure out how to teach this in a way that will be not a “cookie cutter” approach.  Know the essential questions for learning, identify what students need to learn, build a flexible framework for assessment, and model inquiry on a daily basis.  Also, check out Larissa’s first chapter here.  It is geared to secondary, but we can glimpse into what our students SHOULD experience as high school students and where we need to get them to so they can be productive students and citizens!  Have a great week.


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Dec 8- Dec 19:  Team 8:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Gina Caldwell Upcoming bus duty: Jan 5 – Jan 16 Team 9:  Jessica Serviss, Teresa Kiechle, Brandi LaRue, Denise Croasedaile
  • We will be sending out the 2015-2016 Budget Memo this week.  Please be congizant of spending next year.  Thank you!
  • Thank you Paula again for opening your house for our staff party!
  • There is a staff meeting this Thursday at 7:30a.m.
  • For teachers who received my email about the second walk through evaluation, please make sure you schedule a time with Mrs. Sheen on my calendar before the break.  Thank you for your help!
  • The Sheriffs Department will be here December 15th and 16th to get our students their picture id’s for the Operation Safe Child id’s for your planning purposes.
  • I have been published in my professional organization’s SAANYS Vanguard journal here about being a Lead Learner.  It is a reflection of our building and the East Side staff!  You ALL make me that much better!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • Although more accurately called active participation techniquesrather than student engagement strategies, this list includes good suggestions, nonetheless.
  • Although it is unclear whether New York will adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, these sample assessment tasks can suggest a direction for science, nonetheless. There’s a lot to them.
  • The Upstate Cancer Center has a head and neck cancer awareness campaign going on now, through education and art. This explanation includes resources for learning about it.
  • The title of this post, “Investigating Authentic Questions,” doesn’t do it justice. There are many suggestions and resources here related to the goal of inquiry.
  • Here are some perspectives about Project-Based Learning, from students and from parents.
  • Not only is Project-Based Learning effective at the elementary level, it can also close achievement gaps. This paper describes a second-grade social studies PBL approach.
  • This list provides ten great reasons for Project-Based Learning (in plain, compelling language).
  • Grant Wiggins has some concerns about NY’s 8th grade math test… big concerns about the questions and their alignment with the Common Core, as well as with their construction. You can read about it here.
  • Don’t forget that students can’t learn from books that they can’t read, says Richard Allington. This points out the need for scaffolding and other supports.
  • Mike Mattos told us that most schools don’t have a Tier 2 or Tier 3 problem; they have a what-we-do-all-day-long problem. Asking (and investigating) these questions can help us develop a better system of RTI and for “all-day-long.”
  • The essential characteristics of a Professional Learning Community (PLC), explained in this infographic, will help you to build common understanding about just what it means to be a PLC.
  • The four questions of a PLC have been translated into student-centered language.
  • This Ignite! Session points out some common decisions in math classes that we never think about… but should. Annie Fetter points out the hazards of being “All what, no why.” By the way, many of these things apply to all classrooms, not just math! Cliques are stronger at some schools that at others. Size matters, according to this research. Tracking matters, too.
  • Watch the story of one schools’ implementation of technology in the classroom as part of a bigger shift toward a collaborative future (and away from traditional silos).

 A Touch of Humor

Check out this Zazzle product!

Shifting Pedagogy

This is a re-post of my blog entry about the STEM to STEAM and Beyond workshop I attended on April 21st.  It gets to the gist of the day.  It was lots of fun and extremely engaging.  Something to think about as we move forward.  Have a great week!  Vic


On April 21, 2014,  I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful conference at the Poughkeepsie Day School, From STEM to STEAM.  It must have been via some tweet either by Pam Moran or Josie Holford that they told me about the workshop and that I had to go.  Sure, why not.  I was ending my vacation so I swung by via Philadelphia, visited family in New Jersey, and up to 287 to 87.

Boy, was I in for a treat.  I have been in contact with Pam Moran through twitter and Pam is so passionate about sharing what her district is doing in Albemarle County, Virginia.    Pam and one of Albemarle principals, Alison Dwier-Selden, of the Walton Middle School lead the keynote for the day and boy, were there some great takeaways!  Their keynote was based on the following:

The Seven Pathways to Learning

  • Maker-Infused Curriculum
  • Interactive Technologies
  • Instructional Tolerance
  • Choice and Comfort
  • Connectivity
  • Universal Design for Learning
  • Passion/Problem/Project-Based Learning

The keynote was about putting passion back into our schools.  What fun to sit a listen to such positivity a week before the NY State Math exams! A question Pam posed:  “How do maker leaders create opportunities for authentic leadership and agency to emerge among educators and learners?  It is a basis of inquiry for me as we move forward.

Another: “Influence comes from many not from a single leader or the hierarchy.  How true is that!  Michael Fullan embraces this idea to build professional capacity in our schools.  Why not include kids?  Embrace and build the trust!  Maker leaders are not in to compliance.  This is old school and 20th century thinking.

Here is what Maker Leaders do:

  • Hierarchical flattening
  • Pedagogical entrepreneurship
  • Boundary spanning
  • Global networking
  • Policies which enable rapid change, rapid prototyping, not block either!

Pam shared some stories about how they created spaces at Albemarle to be 21st century in a library.  They got rid of the outdated storage VCR tapes, old overheads, things that were collecting dust in a storage room and the librarian ripped the walls down and opened the space up to be used as an area where kids can use to hang and use their device.

(Old School)

Embedded image permalink


She spruced up the area and added this to the library:

View image on Twitter

Disrupt your library space, change the marketplace, capture a new audience.  How exciting for kids!

To end, Pam and Alison told us to get 1 or 2 brave folks to take the step just do it.  “Pioneers take the arrows, settlers get the land.”  Be brave enough to try something new in our schools, especially in the land of APPR and CCSS.

We had great workshops offered throughout the day as you can see here and I used Storify to document the day here.

We got to see some cool things and learn together:

I want one of these :

Embedded image permalink


We made speakers out of paper.  Me, I burned my fingers.  (Don’t laugh, but it’s true.)

The best was meeting folks around the area and creating more connections to my PLN.  I also got to meet Maureen Devlin.  Maureen and I are regulars on #satchat and how wonderful to meet face to face!

We gathered back to close the day and Pam asked us to think about bringing one thing back to our schools to start to change or implement.  I have been pushing my staff to move to project based learning (PBL) and have written about it to them here.  We slowly setting the stage and push for more of this in communication here.

I have to thank Pam and Josie for such an enlightening day.  It has jump-started and rejuvenated my belief that there is a better way!  Thank you!


Other News
  • Bus Duty for April 28 – May 9  Team 6: Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev Phelps  Upcoming bus duty:  May 12 – May 23  Team 7: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon
  • Our Staff Meeting will be in the computer lab across from Steph and Connie’s room.  We will be using the computers so be ready to log in.
  • Did you watch 12 Years as a Slave yet?  Reading the book is even more powerful!  A must read and watch.  This book I know will be on required reading lists for HS students or a least it should!
  • Please make sure you are scheduling a time to meet with me with Mrs. Sheen before June 6th to do our “Walk through #5” and domain 4 of the Danielson rubric.  Thanks
  • Will.I.Am was on Meet the Press this morning, speaking about education and how we need more Project Based Learning, STEM/STEAM and creativity opportunities for our kids in school.  He declared a war on education, and I don’t think he intended on it being test driven.  The intention was hands-on learning.  Interesting!
  • Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.  Thank you for all you do!
  • I will be taking a break next week with this blog as I need to go down to New Jersey to visit my mom and family.  Hospice is in now so this is the beginning of the end, so my time will be devoted to this part of our lives.  Thank you all for your support and prayers.  
Things in the blogosphere
  • The Responsive Classroom website had a great blog about Making Greetings More Engaging.  If you don’t visit the website, I would put this on your To-Do list.  There is a wealth of information that NEFC puts in the website for folks.
  • Jon Harper guest blogs on Peter DeWitt’s blog about building relationships with students and fostering community in the classroom and school.  All I can think about is the Responsive Classroom philosophy!
  • Todd Nesloney is a 5th grade teacher and extremely knowledgeable in tech education and someone to follow.  He writes here is the ISTE blog of how flipped education was hard to manage until he put in PBL.  Check out what he is doing here.
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other Items of Interest

The Board of Regents did adopt the Social Studies Framework. There will be no immediate changes. The Field Guide, due in the summer, will have more information about implementation.


The application of principles of good coaching of sports teams can help teachers transition away from monologic discussions toward better discussionsand collaboration.


The April issue of School Administrator considers the central office and how it can be re-imagined to become more focused on instructional leadership and how to better support principals.
Here are ideas for integrating the arts into other disciplines.

Watch this short video to see how the critical friends process can be used as a protocol forteachers providing feedback to each other.

The New York Times had an interesting piece about moral education. There are implications for parents and schools.

Gathering feedback from teachers about the evaluation system in their school can help improve the implementation while also having a positive influence on school culture and climate.


A common denominator in the school improvement equation is teacher leadership. At this year’s annual Teacher Leadership Conference on May 27th we will continue to explore the role that teacher leaders play in the school improvement calculus, including:

  • Regents Reform Agenda
  • Professional Learning Communities
  • Career & Technical Education and Co-Op
  • Common Core and Literacy
  • Teacher Centers

Another New York Times piece summarizes the research about parent involvement in schools – what impacts student achievement and what does not.

We now talk a lot about grit in our students – but how about grit in our teachers? Maybe grit is a missing element in our teacher evaluation rubrics!

This column suggests that the best way to implement the Next Generation Science Standards would be one year at a time, beginning with the youngest students.

This site has links to many of the most-used rubric making tools.


This approach to classroom rules sorts them into five different categories: academic, social, procedural, cultural, and personal.


These are good reminders about finishing the school year strong. The test is not the end!

Parents help with homework might not help, after all. In fact it might hurt! This is helpful information to parents and it is helpful information to teachers for their consideration when designing good homework.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week:

All Grades | All Subjects | Inspiration
We gathered some amazing educators to share what they think teachers are… (magicians, sages, lifelong learners). And don’t miss the opportunity to tell us what YOU think teachers are! 
All Grades | All Subjects | Practice
We had the rare opportunity to film a discussion between five former NTOY and the takeaway is this: it’s not about perfection. It’s so worth it to watch this full-length feature, but if you don’t have time today, check out the 2-minute preview.
All Grades | All Subjects | Learning
Watch former Teachers of the Year reflect on how they grow as teachers and what makes our profession so unique.

A Touch of Humor

PBL (Project Based Learning) How can we incorporate this into our classrooms?

Project Based Learning.  You are wondering, I’ve heard about it, would love to try it, but I’m too stressed and tired trying to get the Common Core curriculum in.  I wanted to make you aware of what Project Based Learning is and to have you think and reflect, how can we add this into our school and make it engaging for our kids.
You’re  probably thinking, there goes Vicki, trying to push more stuff on us.  No, I am not.  I really think this is something we need to explore and develop.  We have worked very hard to incorporate CCSS and engage our students with NYSED curriculum.  Actually, some of the curriculum lends itself to PBL.  My concern, and I have voiced to folks with the curriculum is that is it engaging and innovative for our students and will it work?  How can we enhance them?  Hence, project based learning.
 So what is PBL?  The Buck Institute for Education gives a definition.
Project Base Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.  Essential Elements of PBL include:
  • Significant Content – At its core, the project focuses on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of the academic subject.
  • 21st century competencies – Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and communication, and creativity/innovation, which are taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry – Students are engaged in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question – Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing,l which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know – Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice – Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Revision and Reflection – The project includes processes for students to use feedback to consider additions and changes that lead to high-quality products, and think about what and how they are learning.
  • Public Audience – Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

I think it’s intriguing, and of course, it will take lots of work and training, but how powerful would this be for our children.  Something to think about.  Visit the Buck Institute’s website.  Also, Patrick Shaw is a PBL trainer for OCM BOCES.  Check out the archived PBL and Responsive Classroom newsletters here.  Patrick also developed OCM RC and PBL Facebook pages you should all ask to join!

I have been in contact with Patrick and don’t be surprised, we may see him soon.  PBL also goes hand-in- hand with Responsive Classroom and Academic Choice.  All I ask is that you keep an opened mind.  Have a great week!
Other News
  • Bus Duty for Mar 10 – Mar 21  Team 3:  Jessica Serviss and Teresa Kiechle.  Upcoming bus duty:  Mar. 24 – Apr. 4  Team 4:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Kathy Buell
  • I will be sending out the updates of special switches for the ELA tests on April 1,2,3.  Look for an email soon.
  • DWIS is on Monday at West Side.
  • Our Spelling Bee is Wednesday morning.  Thanks Paula!
  • We are going to try and do the pie in the face assembly on Thursday in the afternoon at the end of the day in the gym.  This will happen!
  • The District Transportation Committee is meeting Tuesday, 3/18 at 6:00p.m. per Mrs. French’s email.
Things in the Blogsphere
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
Other Items of Interest
The Board of Regents has not yet adopted the Social Studies Frameworks. They will be voted on at the April meeting
The Governor’s Common Core Implementation Panel released their report which is pretty much what the Regents said last month.
Perseverance is a characteristic we value in students. This study points to perseverance as an important characteristic of effective teachers.
The new program Cosmos has a companion website. It includes full episodes as well as supporting resources.
Do you have a growth mindset? Do you deliberately promote a growth mindset for your students? Project Based Learning can help.
All Grades | All Subjects | CCSS
This video kicked off the Let’s Chat Core series. We talk about how to read the CCSS, how the Core affects teachers and students, and offers insights on implementation.
All Grades | All Subjects | CCSS
This webinar demystifies what “text complexity” is all about and explores ways we can use it to make purposeful decisionsabout what we’re asking our students to read.
All Grades | All Subjects | Planning | CCSS
We “zoomed in” with this video to look carefully at the language of exemplar tasks to help us wrestle with the finer details of the Core. 
A Touch of Humor

Student Engagement

On #satchat, the Twitter chat I participated in this past Saturday, the questions that were being posed where around the theme, An Education Worth Having.  There were three national chats, to hit various time zones, and basically, the chat dialogue reflected around the topic of student engagement.  My tweets were geared to how our teachers are trying to engage our students using the NYS modules and not making it boring.  One of my tweets was to start using Fun-o-meter’s, something like this:
(Yeah, use that for staff meetings too!  Stop it, I try. LOL)
All kidding aside, how are you engaging your students?  Watch your students during instruction, are their eyes glazing over?  Are they staring out the window, putting their heads down?  Are they in cooperative groups, exploring and learning?  How can you engage students using the NYS modules and units to spark conversation?  Are you using project based learning?  Are you having students reflect on what they are learning?  Are students writing? Thinking?  How are you asking those essential questions?  
You are all great teachers and you are ALL working hard to create great lessons.  Please know that I am watching you work together to manage and create inspiring lessons from the NYS modules and units,.  This has not gone unnoticed.  We have to work together as a team and I know that we will all get through this once again, because we are educators, we are born to do it.  As I have stated, you are the best of the best.  I am truly blessed to have such an AWESOME staff.  Keep up the great work! Have a great week!

  • DWIS is Monday.  Please see the agenda I sent to everyone.  Title teachers will be meeting in Paula’s room.
  • Just a reminder that group 2 lesson plans are due to me by Friday, Sept. 20th.
  • Please remember to take the Math survey that Mrs. Bushey has sent out.  Make sure you take the time and answer the questions honestly.  Here is the link.  I would be surprised if anyone has knowledge of the PARCC exams and the use of the evidence tables.  If you have knowledge of that, please show me because I don’t have it and it’s not a trick question!
  • Be ready, I will be starting walk through observations on Tuesday.  Please make sure you have checked the iObservation system to make sure you are linked to ES.  I have to start so I don’t get behind.  Look for emails for announcing who I am visiting for a specific day and don’t stress about it!
  • Make sure you are registering for the Math workshops that are scheduled and have been sent to you.  These are mandatory grade level workshops on the CCSS Math modules. Thanks.


  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other items of interest:

This chart lists posting dates and update for SED’scurriculum modules.

When you think about how many beginning-of-the-year letters and messages go home to families about supplies, homework expectations, and support requests, it was inevitable before a parent sent a back-to-school message back at school. Funny!

Myths and realities image
Will the PARCC tests be dramatically different than the standardized tests we already administer? This list of myths and realities from FairTest explains what will be different and what will be the same.



Calculation Nation Image
Calculation Nation is a site where students work with others students across the country to work on math problems and play math games. It’s fromIlluminations and NCTM.


Are you ready for STEM educationThis post introduces the notion and tells you what to expect.


This scholarly article explores how teacher evaluation might, or might not, be an effective tool for education reform. The authors are dubious about any impact based on the lack of any significant impact of teacher evaluation in the past. They conclude by suggesting that resources should be directed in other directions to actually have an impact on learning.


What makes planning for teaching and learning in a Common Core, standards-based environment different?Standards-based planning is what effective and highly-effective teachers do. This course provides a comprehensive experience for teachers of all subjects at all levels.

These maps compare the relative sizes of different countries and the United States – they can shed light and broaden perspectives through these simple comparisons.


This white paper about PBL implementation concludes that you will need a comprehensive, deliberate, sustained, and well-supported effort. Although these characteristics are necessary to implement anything, the paper includes good background, suggestions, and citations for further reading.

This chart explains calculator use on PARCC assessments.

Exciting Things are Happening at GCSD

Hi All:

I want to share with you some exciting developments that are happening in our school district.  As you may be aware, we are working on a new Strategic Plan as Mrs. French has indicated in her email.  I am privileged to sit on this committee as we work with three gentlemen from CITECH who work on strategic plans.  Please review the vision and mission statements that Mrs. French has shared with us and give us your thoughts with the choices presented.  I have also linked it here for you to view.

The other exciting project that we are working on is the Capital Project.  The Board of Education along with Mrs. French and March & Associates held an open meeting on August 5 at 6:30pm regarding the project as it will affect renovations in many areas of various schools.  The capital project will be focusing on needs such as safety, security, ADA compliance, instructional supports, traffic flow, and enegery efficiency.  I have presented areas that are in need and have created a list for review.  This is on a google docs and you can access it by clicking on this >  “Capital Project Needs for East Side“.  (You need to be signed into the gcsk12 domain to access this document.) Please follow the directions I have listed.  Just so you know, construction will not happen until the spring of 2015 and it will be in phases.  We are in the planning stages, so be patient with the process.

Exciting things, don’t you think?  We are back up and running on Monday, August 19th.  Please be patient with us as this is the first day we have the main office open.  We are on a deadline to get Kindergarten letters out to parents on Monday and Lisa and Nicky will be manning the office, supplies, phone calls, parents, and Begindergarten.  Do stop in and say hi to us.

Also, if you are planning to come in this week and need to access your room, especially in the 1-3 grade levels, please call first to see if you can get into your room.  Marty and the crew are starting to wax the floors and put final touches on our building.

As always, have a great week.  There’s lots of stuff on this post today, so enjoy!


  • Come explore and journey with us as I host a book chat on Twitter on the book Teach Like a PIRATE.  I will be blasting reminder emails regarding this event.  I am so excited because Dave Burgess, the author, will be joining us.  He’s great!!  You can sign-up here.
  • Read my new post:  Using Twitter as a Professional Development Tool.  I posted this Friday and it has been going viral on our chat’s this weekend.  Great “how to” to get you started and follow some MAVENS!
  • Please remember to mark on your calendar our Meet and Greet for Sept. 3 from 6:00p.m. to 7:00p.m.
  • Read my friend Tony Sinanis’ heartwarming post Ode to Paul.  It reminds you of what is important every day!
  • My friend Peter DeWitt questions, “Is Education Filled with Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?”  Another great post by him!
  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  

Other Items

Kim Marshall has another column in Education Week about teacher evaluation. He’s staying on message offering pragmatic advice.

Enough Video
This IGNITE video
 says “enough!” to what’s wrong about education and “not enough!” to what is really important. You can use it at the beginning of the year.
This collection of maps from The Washington Post is claimed to explain the world – and they just might fulfill that bold claim. Noglobal studies teacher should be without it!

This collection of grade-by-grade, ELA/Literacy checklists can be a helpful tool as you map out your ELA curricula and scopes and sequences.

Some teachers say they don’t have time for Project-Based Learning. In this blog, Andrew Miller has a couple of questions to ask in return: “How’s the coverage working for you?” and “Do you really cover everything?”


These suggestions for a pre-observation conference will lead to a deeper consideration of the curriculum and instructional priorities.


This report considers consolidation and mergers for small, non-rural school districts. The authors suggest that we should take a look at non-rural schools of less than 1,000 students.
Back to School


Take a peek at how one elementary school begins a new school year. This video is one part of the series that follows Mission Hill School in Boston through a year.


This infographic expresses tips for mentoring teachers. It’s a great tool to use during your mentoring process – both mentors and mentees could add to the infographic with their own ideas.

Trying to set the stage for PBL as a key route to the Common CoreThis post does it succinctly.

Tire Eater Image

If you are someone who wrestles with the proper use of semicolons, you might appreciate this explanation.

Data-driven instruction does NOT mean looking at summative data and panicking about state test scores – assessments that have accountability for their purpose do little to actually impact classroom instruction. Data-driven instruction means groups of teachers regularly employing common formative assessment and then doing something about those data.

There is an online tool that takes complex text and simplifies it, especially more difficult phrases. It can help learners understand complex text and learn new words. While we want all students to wrestle with authentic text, this might be a tool that can help you level some material.

Paenut image

Whether or not you are allergic to peanuts, check out this explanation for whypeanut allergies have gained such attention during the last decade.

Make sure your interventions are aligned vertically, says this short post. Some suggestions for doing this are included.
Sir Ken Robinson

This older interview with Sir Ken Robinson is perhaps more relevant now than it was then. He tells us why creativity is so important.

Achieve the Core has released a series of “courses” about the ELA/Literacy and Math Shifts in iTunesU.
Ashton Kutcher Video


Unfortunately, the audience for this speech doesn’t seem to have been listening. Despite that, this Ashton Kutcher speech has some pretty good messages for teenagers. Maybe you could use it during advisory.

A Touch of Humor

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