Professional Development

Building Professional Capital

Yay, the East Side Monday Focus is back in print.  Yes, we all have been busy with the opening of school, change in schedule, and challenges of getting our rooms and environments in place, but I have to reflect on an area that I am most proud of, and that is building the professional capital of our East Side staff.

One of my favorite authors and researcher that I am “living with” is Michael Fullan.  He authored many books about leadership, about change processes, about technology as well as the principalship.  Dr. Fullan is based in Toronto, Canada and is professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and is one of the leading experts in whole system reform.  He and his cohort of researchers, alongside with some distinguished researchers such as John Hattie and Andy Hargreaves, travel the world to help schools, districts, cities, provinces, states, and nations place “right” drivers in whole-system-reform.  You can say I am a big fan of his because what he is researching on topics that make sense, one being to build the people in the system.  (Right now I am quoting from Professional Capital:  Transforming Teaching in Every School co-authored with Andy Hargreaves.  It is the basis for this post.)

Here it is in a nutshell.  Building professional capital is about building the professionalism and being a professional in any profession, including teaching.  It is about building the teaching core, not only being a professional, but teaching like a pro.  It’s building your craft – your practice.

Professional capital is about developing teachers to “teach like a pro”.   This means, we work together to be the best.  We gear professional development around the common themes and areas that need to be tweaked and we work in professional learning communities.  It is that adage, “The smartest person in the room IS the room.”    Sharing will only build us as professionals in all capacities.

Whole system change does not work unless you build the professionals.  You cannot shove or “push” mandates down to people and say “do this or else.”  It doesn’t work.  What does work is to have a system of “push, pull, nudge”.   I find we are more in a system of pushing and hence, why we get results the way we do statewide.  Like the carrot and the stick type of thing.  It still too early to tell.  With any change, there will always will be implementation dips,  and we really need to be careful with comparisons meaning who’s better, who’s not.  That isn’t what the Regents Reform Agenda is about, believe it or not, but it sure feels it, doesn’t it?

Building the teacher core and professional capital  is part of  my job.   I try to work with you to  create conditions to make this happen and if I don’t, you always tell me.  As we move forward, what I ask is for you to continue to be the best of the best.  Be reflective with what works and what doesn’t.  Work together and share your knowledge.  I’ll leave you with this from the book as it will help make sense of what I am trying to emulate:

“In sum, professional capital is a cornerstone concept that brings together and defines the critical elements of what it takes to create high quality and high performance in all professional practice – including teaching.  It is about what you know and can do individually, with whom you know it and do it collectively, and how long you have known it and done it and deliberately gotten better at doing it over time.  Professional capital is vital for the future of the teaching profession and of society.

You can read this short synopsis of the book here.  Continue to be the best of the best.  See you soon!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Sept 22- Oct 3  Team 2: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon  Upcoming bus duty:  Oct 6-Oct 17  Team 3: Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor, Pat Williams
  • Please respond to my email regarding arrival/dismissal procedures, especially if you are working the system in the office, outside and have been on bus duty.  Thank you for your feedback.
  • My friend Carol Burris was on CBS Sunday Morning in a segment called The Debate over Common Core.
  • Make sure to schedule a time with Lisa Sheen to meet with me on your goals, then upload them into the iObservation program.
  • Thank you Paula and Todd Bates for hosting us yet again for our East Side get together.  That was fun!!
  • I will be out Friday to travel and attend the Bammy awards Saturday in Washington D.C.  It will be streamed live here   My friends Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfellipo are doing the red carpet thing.  Oh boy.  I’m a little nervous!  I know Tony, he’ll target me oh geez….
  • 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 was briefed about the Social Studies Framework at their September meeting. Soon we’ll have the Field Guide which will be followed by a Toolkit in the spring. Included in the Field Guide will be a first glimpse of an “Inquiry” which will be an example of a unit guide/resource collection. Many more “inquiries” will follow.
  • PBISworld is a site where you can match observed student behaviors with strategies.
  • Procedures for when there is a substitute teacher are very important. Time is too precious to waste a single day. If you teach your students what to do when there is a substitute teacher then it is much more likely that things will go well. Here’s an editable “cheat sheet” to get you started, and here’s an example of one filled out.
  • In this post, a high school principal talks about the changes that PBL brought to his high school.
  • This Scientific American article considers the potential impact of video games on education.
  • Before the school year progresses too much, consider the effectiveness of the positive (and sometimes preemptive) phone call home.
  • Here are some ideas for providing time for teachers to collaborate. Some are more innovative than others, but we have to find more time, somehow, for teachers to collaborate on the right work.
  • Teacher teams need the support of their principal. These suggestions can help support your teams and help them collaborate on the right work.
  • This blog post (and the subsequent discussion thread) can help you understand how the Daily Five can help you effectively structure your class while ensuring a focus on student outcomes.
  • At the beginning of the year, lab safety is often a part of science class. This silly little video can be used to illustrate the “what not to do” of lab safety.
  • These two posters compare the growth mindset with the fixed mindset using Star Wars and “The Force” compared to “The Dark Side.” Yes… Yoda vs. Darth…
  • Physical activity translates to higher academic achievement… especially for boys.

A Touch of Humor

Back to school

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)

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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 :

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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

A Shout-out for #NYEDChat

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Well, the internet is down at the house, so I ran into work to get this completed.  Ugh!!  Anyway, here is a quick promo, if you are brave, join us Monday, Nov. 4 at 8:30p.m. on Twitter for our bi-weekly chat using hashtag #NYEDChat. Our topic is Student Engagement.   I’m writing about it for my Rethinking Education blog.  We will also be podcasting live December 16 at 8:30p.m. through Google+ and hangout.  We are calling this “Couragoues Conversations:  Tell Us What You’re Really Thinking” or “Around the Horn, Education Style.”  Either way it should be very entertaining! 

Check out our #NYEDChat wiki page here.  Our moderators are: Tony Sinanis, Carol Varsalona, Blanca Duarte, Bill Brennan, Starr Sackstein, and Vicki Day.  Here we are on a Friday evening, using Google Hangout to plan.  (It’s double screened because of my geekness using two screens!  You can see us in the corner on the left screen, LOL!)  It should be fun – this is the voice of education in New York State! Be a part of it!  Have a great week!  Vic

Media preview

  • Bus Duty for Nov. 4 – Nov 15 Team 5:  Kathy Buell, Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldon Upcoming bus duty Nov 18 – Dec 16 Team 6: Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev Phelps
  • Just a reminder that Monday we have DWIS at 3:00ish held at the West Side School
  • Lisa has placed an email out to teachers regarding report cards.  Please note that Report Cards will be sent home with students on November 15.  
  • I had to change our staff meeting date to Nov. 19th.  Please make sure that you sign-up on MLP before it goes off.  The topic of this meeting will be dedicated to watching and having a discussion about the movie, Including Samuel, and inclusive classrooms.  Kim Hayes will join us.
  • Peter DeWitt speaks out against InBloom and Tracking Student Discipline.
  • Carol Burris writes about the ridiculous Common Core Math Pearson Test for 1st Graders.  
  • Tony Sinanis writes that It Does Take a Village to help our kids.
  • Randi Weingarten asks Will States Fail the Common Core?
  • I will not be creating a post for Nov. 11th  Please make sure you are checking the announcement page daily!
  • 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

When asked about what engages them in school, the responses from hundreds of students fell into these ten categories. These ten things translate into some pretty good advice for the classroom.


Some of the controversies around the Common Core are exploredin a Thomas B. Fordham Institute (which has a very clear stance) forum from earlier this month. Jason Zimba, Tim Shanahan, and others make appearances.
Chapter one (publicly available) of the newer book, Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom, provides a good introduction to Differentiated Instruction. Early in the chapter there is a flowchart-like graphic that is an excellent overview.

Ten virtual field trips for the modern classroom.

This infographic expresses the benefits of music education.


This list of math video tutorials is referenced to the Common Core Learning Standards by grade level.
Compare projects that used to be “dessert” with Project Based Learning in which projects are the main course.

Check out the collection of resources to support research at all levels: elementary, middle and high school. Use the link or You can find all of the resources from the October 25th conference here, too.
The most important school-level factor in student achievement is a guaranteed and viable curriculum (What Works in Schools is in our ASCD Collection). A guaranteed and viable curriculum only happens when teachers who are called on to deliver the curriculum work collaboratively to:
  • Study the intended curriculum and agree on priorities within the curriculum
  • Clarify how the curriculum translates into specific student knowledge and skills
  • Establish pacing guidelines for delivering the curriculum
  • Commit to one another that they will actually teach the curriculum
  • Use common formative assessment
  • Make adjustments to instruction based on the common formative assessment
The CDC has released voluntary guidelines to schools on how to protect students with food allergies. The guidelines include: identification of students with allergies, exposure management plans, teacher training, and limits on certain foods in certain locations and situations.

The power of Twitter:  Not every day that you get a tweet from the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  Here I thank him for joining us doing a tweet fest. and he in turn responds.  AWESOME!


A Touch of Humor:

Media preview

Check this out!


Continuous Learning


The Commodore 64

Boy do things change fast!  Remember your first computer experience? I do like it was yesterday. I remember trying to create music on a Commodore 64 in the “computer lab” in the Crane library for hours, programming language and experimenting to create sounds through a machine.  And then, the Apple Mac came.  That was like, whoa, what just happened? Forget about that clunker the Commodore 64, that was a dinosaur!  We were in that lab for hours on end, creating music with all of our neat-o 1980’s gadgets using the Mac, Roland keyboards and the such.  They are all obsolete now, except of course, the newer Apple Mac and the new electronic keyboards are to die for.  Now, it’s all easy, just download an app, like Garage Band on your iPhone or iPad, and voila, you can create a great tune, with all types of instrumental sounds, and use it in a performance. Easy smeezy

You all know that I am a musician and my passion is music.  I am also a techie at heart.  I love technology and have been hooked on to it since music school.  I love new gadgets and trying new things, like getting the new Nexus 7 tablets in and working with them to do a training for K-2 teachers.  (Psych, your K-2 teachers is going to like this one!)  I love to watch how teachers utilize technology and engage and enhance their teaching and watching the engagement of students.  I know that technology is only a tool – it is not the end-all-be-all for our students.  Great teachers are!

What I am getting at is this;  I love to learn.  I think we all do and that is why we are in the profession that we are in.  Every day, I learn something new just by the relationships I have developed with teachers, students, parents and administrators.  I also learn via social media, using Twitter as a professional learning tool and connecting to educators 24/7 is sometimes overwhelming but exciting in the same breath.  How powerful it is to host a Tuesday night Twitter chat and watch 20 connected, engaged educators from Gouverneur engage in conversation about great teaching and sharing strategies along with others throughout the nation, tweeting in to share their thoughts and strategies.  How powerful is that?

I learn from walking around and visiting your classrooms and learn from a  fantastic group of educators who put their heart and soul into providing engaging lessons.  I also love the conversations that are happening when I ask questions such as I did with Kim Johnson about how 1st graders are counting by 10’s and then go to Steph’s room and watch her work on base ten with students, seeing how the Math modules are connected.  Boy they are different, that’s for sure!

So, let’s continue our continuous learning, taking opportunities to learn something new every day, expanding our knowledge and working together through our connections and collaboratively working together. Keep an open mind and let’s grow as a professional learning community.  You folks are the best!!  I am honored!  Have a great week!


  • Bus Duty for Oct. 21 – Nov 1 Team 4:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Gina Caldwell Oct. 21-Nov 1 Upcoming bus duty Nov 4 – Nov 15  Team 5:  Kathy Buell, Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldon
  • I heard from Brenda Trivilino.  She went into surgery Friday and is recovering at home now.  The surgery went well, that the lesion was small and the cancer contained in the uterus.  Phew.  She is waiting for the pathology to come back to get cleared.  Keep Brenda in your thoughts and prayers and she recovers!  Thanks!
  • I will be doing walk through’s next week, but not on Halloween!! 🙂
  • Please make sure you are setting-up SLO/LLO meetings with me.  
  • My friend Peter DeWitt writes about delivering effective feedback to everyone.
  • A new letter to parents about testing has been created by New York State Principals’. 
  • My friend Larry Ferrlazo has a great blog he did on The Best Resources for Learning How to  Best Give Feedback to Students. He’s worth the follow.
  • Grant Wiggins puts his two cents about E.D. Hirsch’s tired refrain of main idea.  (E.D. Hirsch’s company is Core Knowledge!) He sites the work of John Hattie, one of my favs!!
  • 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

The Board of Regents has decided that New York State will not implement PARCC in 2014-2015. Whether or not PARCC is adopted at all will be determined in the future. Thispresentation explains PARCC and the rationale for the decision to delay. The reasons cited for this delay are inadequate technology, longer administration times, and higher costs. Field testing will continue and New York will remain part of the PARCC consortium. No matter what, districts should continue to prepare for eventual computer-based testing, whether PARCC or NYS assessments are administered.


Another Board of Regents presentation explains the status of New York’s assessment system. Information about which assessments are required, which are “optional,” administration duration, and myths about testing are included.


SealThe Board of Regents has directed SED to apply for permission to no longer require students taking Algebra 1 in 8th grade to also have to take the 8th grade exam. These students would, however, be required to take and pass an additional Math Regents exam while in high school.


No matter what scale scores are used on the new Common Core-aligned Regents exams, the department will provide a chart to convert it to a 0-100 range. Although the 0-100 conversion will be provided, these should not be interpreted as percentages.

Josh Haner/ The New York Times Thomas L. Friedman


Thomas Freidman reveals “The Secret” to Shanghai’s education success in this column. Shhh.

Teachers Principals
Highly Effective 49.7% 26%
Effective 41.8% 60.9%
Developing 4.4% 7.5%
Ineffective 1% 2.2%
What does this mean?
Preliminary results for 2012-2013 APPR scores:
Politifact has fact-checked some of the arguments against the Common Core.

new study confirms the previous findings that students who come from affluent households have a much greater vocabulary than students from poverty. This study has identified the gap at as early as eighteen months.

This session will feature two different strategies that are key to Common Core-aligned math teaching: designing good fluency activities and using model drawing to solve a variety of word problems.


Contrast NY’s 80%/75% definition of College & Career Ready with theSchool Success Rubric. Which do you think is closer to what our students need for their future?


This report from the National Clearinghouseprovides data about aggregated college enrollment and persistence.

Twenty-eight questions you want your students to be able to answer. These might be more important than most of the questions we answer.
Grades 6-8 | ELA | ELL | CCSS
For a fantastic overview of this unit and the ways texts are being integrated for English Language Learners, this video will be your map!
Grades 6-8 | ELA | ELL | CCSS
Join Ms. Langlois for not only an insightful lesson about analyzing texts, but watch for how she works to build background knowledge for her ELLs.
Grades 6-8 | ELA | ELL | CCSS
Stick with Ms. Langlois as she reveals how she gets her hetergenously-organized classroom interacting with vocabulary on a conceptual level.
A Touch of Humor
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