First Week’s a Wrap!

All of the back-to-school anticipation has come to a close. The first week of school was full of anticipation, laughter, surprises, and as usual – not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needed to get done. What else is new, right? Despite it all, this year marks number 21 for me, and it’s on pace to be the best year yet!

New adventures are around the corner as Dubiski welcomed another GPISD choice school to its campus – The School for the Highly Gifted. Imagine 40+ 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders sharing the same building with high school students. Needless to say the dynamics have changed, and it’s going to be an interesting year. I can’t wait to work with these little ones; I heard stories of a 5-year-old working derivatives . . . really??? Seeing these elementary maker space classrooms is quite refreshing, and since they’re down the hall from my office, I get to experience them everyday!

My Ladybug . . .

My Ladybug . . .

My niece started kindergarten this year, so I’ll also be blogging about her learning adventures from time to time. She’s fascinating; and remembers EVERYTHING. As long as she’s not filled with erroneous information, she’ll be good to go. 

It’s time to rock!

An Escort Is No Longer Necessary

I must admit that I’m still a little miffed and heartbroken at the same time –

A little back story: I’ve had the privilege of taking my only niece to school everyday this year. She’s enrolled in a paid Pre-K program at Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy which happens to be directly across the street from my school. So today as we were walking inside the front doors like we do every morning – hand in hand with me carrying her backpack and lunch – she (Addisyn) proceeds to tell me, “I don’t need you to walk with me.”

Head tilted. Silent. Stunned. Although I suspected there was no need for it, I clarified,

So you don’t want me to walk you to class?

“No, I can do it,” she insisted as she grabbed the bags from my hand and waved goodbye. No kiss, no hug, no nothing. I was paralyzed for a bit, but then managed to discreetly follow her ANYWAY to make sure she made the correct two right turns to find Mrs. Dudley’s classroom. Of course I knew she would, but my feelings were hurt. For more than 140 days, we’ve made that walk together, and now she decides to ditch me. No warning. Hollah!

After coming to my senses and briefly speaking with the attendance clerk (the look on my face prompted her to ask if everything was okay), I strolled back across the street still in shock, but slowly beginning to beam with pride. My little “Addibear” & “Ladybug” is becoming independent and growing up. I’m fascinated by her growth this year; not just her maturity, but how much she’s learned. There is a special place in heaven for Pre-K and Kinder teachers – a very special place. And I thank Mrs. Dudley and Mrs. Kahn for everything they’ve done to help mold my little learner. More to come about the specifics in another post, but for now, I’ll just marinate in my misery of no longer being needed – for a walk that is . . .

Schools of Choice? Yes, Please!

Did you hear? The Grand Prairie Independent School District hosted its 3rd annual The GPISD Experience a few weekends ago on Saturday, January 11.

Open the doors to your future

So what was The Experience exactly? Hard to put into words, but imagine a robust job fair except this was a school fair of sorts – with a lot more gusto. Students and parents were able to “shop” for a school, and The Experience provided the perfect platform for showcasing what each school has to offer.

GPISD is an open-enrollment district available to all students from within the city, neighboring cities, and districts offering traditional schools as well as schools and programs of choice. CHOICE. In other words, the neighborhood school two blocks or two miles away – the one in the designated attendance zone – is NOT the only option for a student. CHOICE. It’s definitely not a new concept, but one that is quickly sparking lots of interest.

If an elementary student loves all things science and flourishes when tinkering, then the newly built Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy might be perfect for her.

Want your 8th grade son to experience a few years in a positive learning environment surrounded by ONLY young men? The Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Bill Arnold could be the ticket.

What about an incoming freshman that is determined to be a mechanic? a veterinarian? a lawyer? a hair salon owner? and engineer? There is a school or program of choice for him or her to get started on the right path. Not only is a high school diploma in the near future, but a smorgasbord of potential certifications, internships, and OPPORTUNITY will be knocking at the door as well. 

I like this concept, and I’m not just saying that because I am employed by GPISD, but I think it has such a positive impact on teaching and learning. In a sense, these schools  “compete” with one another even though they’re all a part of the same “family.” Choice matters. If you’re anywhere in North Texas, it can be yours!

Semester Review? Get a Kahoot!

Monday, our first day back from the holidays, and I have first crack at energizing teachers in our first edtech PD session of the new year. Batter up. First pitch: Kahoot! . . . Homerun! From the first question, it was game on! I’ve never seen a group of teachers (especially high school) get so excited and turn as competitive as my @dubiskijaguars crew. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a must.

Kahoot Options

Kahoot touts itself as a “game-based classroom response system.” In a nutshell teachers (and students) can create quizzes (called Kahoots), discussion, or survey questions for their audience. It’s a super easy process, and users can also add pictures or video to customize each question. Using any Internet-enabled device, participants enter the game. When the Kahoot is launched, they’re given a URL and a specific game-pin to play. No accounts needed! The madness begins as players race to answer questions in real time, are awarded points for each correct answer, and compete to see whose name tops the leader board throughout the game.

In addition, teachers have the option to search the public database for Kahoots. That’s what I did even though I had created my own. It was a great way to demonstrate how sharing resources can make for great teaching and learning – that whole, “Why reinvent the wheel?” thing. I duplicated a Pre-AP world geography Kahoot from user filmpatterson and was able to make a few edits that I wanted. The cool part is my dashboard indicates that the Kahoot is a copy and still gives credit to the original creator!

Kahoot Dashboard

Our staff quickly realized that each question was timed, as they frantically raced to score points. As I readied them for the next question, we talked about how the learning continues through discussions as they facilitate each round. It was a gold mine of curiosity, learning, excitement and engagement – everything we want in a positive learning environment – and many were already preparing for use in their own classrooms. Didn’t take long. Semester exams are next week. Guess what became the top choice for review? I love making teachers happy . . .

The Employability Rubric: Necessary or Not?

With the start of a new quarter, teachers at Dubiski CHS await the final grade-posting deadline for the first nine weeks. Part of that process involves submitting a numerical “grade” for students based upon the employability skills that each demonstrates.

The Key to Employability

Side note – Dubiski is a 1:1 career and technology high school. Students choose and must “apply” to attend. When doing so, they select one of 12 career pathways from Engineering to Culinary to Health Science Technology as their catalyst for learning. By their senior year, students are submerged in local internships as a part of their graduation requirements and by default get a taste of what employees expect. But shouldn’t ALL students get a sampling?  I’m sure others do if they’re also employed outside of school, but at some point, having the necessary skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed to obtain work, maintain work, and progress in the workplace will benefit all students. Getting feedback in a school setting is crucial. Enter the Employability Rubric.

I was curious to see how many other schools, particularly high schools, currently use this feedback tool to help students and parents understand the importance of having good workplace skills. Not as many as I expected – from my quick search. However, Dr. Corey Vorthmann (@vorthmann) clarifies some key points about the validity of this tool. 

Take a look at ours. This is certainly not a new concept, and this model is entering its fifth year. It could use some revamping, but I think it’s a crucial part of evaluating student success. Academic grades aren’t enough. Anyone know the A+ student who lacks professionalism? Or the one who thinks responsible use doesn’t apply to her? Or the one who simply cannot make it to class on time? The ER balances the scales and when documented properly, gives students a true evaluation of their workplace (school) performance. Does your campus need one?