August 2018 Reflection

Back to the Community

I enjoyed getting back to the West Point community.  It was fun to share what each of us did over the summer.  We heard stories of what people did, who they visited and events that impacted them during the warm days of summer.  We also shared how we approached the literature review, what problem they faced and how they overcame them.  Looking back on the things we shared in our advisory group I would have never guessed that it would have worked.  Four young ladies and one old science guy.  I know, I was wondering, what do I have in common with this group?  These four young professionals, Randi, Taylor, Megan, and Kelsey, have become good friends who have helped me professionally many times.  As Smith (1998), states “You learn from the company you keep” (p. 9).  I have learned a lot!

I look forward to the conversations and sharing of ideas in this upcoming school year.

Welcome back to School

Can I get it all done?  I have all of these new ideas and thoughts I want to try out as a result of the first year of my master’s program.  Welcome back?  I say let’s get started!  I feel most teachers are ready to get back to school, even if they don’t want to admit it.  This class has given me insight as to why.  At Otte-Blair Middle school we are a family and community.  I work with amazing professionals who care about how students are doing, not just how they are performing on a test or quiz.  I see it every day, but this year is different, I am looking through a different lens.  I am looking at this with new knowledge, a new understanding that was gained and supported by research.  I am asking more questions of myself and my colleagues these same questions.  They may be ready for me to wrap up this research stuff up. So, a big part of starting back is staff, but the reason we are there, for me, is the students.  It’s a new group, new expectations, new IEPs, unique needs, new laughs, and new sharing.  I have made a point to greet everyone at the door and have everyone’s name down by the first week.  Getting everyone’s name down in the first week is not an easy task for me, I am a face person.  I never forget a face, but names, well it takes me time.  That being said, I meet my goal and have all 110 of my students’ names down, may not be able to tell which period I have them, but I know them.

Curriculum Cycle

This week we started working on our science curriculum cycle which is divided into four phases.  Phase one evaluated the current curriculum.  Phase two, conduct a literature or resource review.  Draft a revised curriculum, complete an implementation plan and budget prioritization. Phase three, implementation of curriculum and staff development.  Phase four, monitor the curriculum.  As a middle school staff, we are somewhere between phase one and phase two.  As a group, we have been planning on this for the last year in accordance to the new state science standards.  I am on the curriculum committee, and it was interesting to hear the discussion from the sixth through twelve grade levels.  Middle school does not want a textbook, but would like to go one to one with Chromebooks.  The High school wants a textbook; however, they also would like to increase the number of Chromebooks.  So here is the great debate, money for textbooks or for Chromebooks?  The best part about being on this committee, I know how to research as a result of working on my literature review!  Therefore, I asked the group, “What does the research say?  Do we know?”  After some thought most agreed that they were stating mostly opinions based on their feelings, which is excellent, but I have learned through this class, that beliefs based on facts and research carry more weight.  Where does that leave us? Well, we are researching.

The Den of Flynn

y group of students with a sign.  Like our class, the first couple of meetings where rather quiet students; didn’t want to open up.  In order to break down those walls we have done the following activities.  First, we developed the Den of Flynn secret hand shake.  Yes, I had to learn how to floss, nay-nay and several other moves most of which I have never heard of, but I can do it.  Second, we took a group photo, which I post on Instagram, to support #BeKind day in the metro area.  Finally, we came up with a Instagram hastag to collect photo of things we do in the Den of Flynn.  Our hastag is #DenOfFlynn.  I took pictures of each of the students holding their favorite emoji.  They put their name on it and then had to come up with a story as to why they picked that emoji.  We put the emoji on the wall for the den.  I adapted this idea from the book The Classroom of Choice, in which Ewin (2004) gives the examples of “nametags with symbols” (p. 48).

What do you think?

Otte-Blair Middle school has started a new homeroom concept called the Bears Den.  All Otte-Blair Middle school teachers, counselors, principals, and students belong to their own Bear Den.  The students are divided up evenly with each Bear Den getting three to four students from each grade.  The Bear Den meets every Friday morning after staff PLC.  The Bear Den ensures that all students have a place to build community and belong. The Bear Den is a time for students to make meaningful connections with peers and an adult. All activities and supplies will be provided during week.  Our Den is called The Den of Flynn.  I have a wall dedicated to just my group of students with a sign.  Like our class, the first couple of meetings where rather quiet students; didn’t want to open up.  In order to break down those walls, we have done the following activities.  First, we developed the Den of Flynn secret handshake.  Yes, I had to learn how to floss, nay-nay and several other moves most of which I have never heard of, but I can do it.  Second, we took a group photo, which I post on Instagram, to support #BeKind day in the metro area.  Finally, we came up with a Instagram hashtag to collect photo of things we do in the Den of Flynn.  Our hashtag is #DenOfFlynn.  I took pictures of each of the students holding their favorite emoji.  They put their name on it and then had to come up with a story as to why they picked that emoji.  We put the emoji on the wall for the den.  I adapted this idea from the book The Classroom of Choice, in which Ewin (2004) gives the examples of “nametags with symbols” (p. 48).

What do you think?

I know that Katrina and Jenny would be proud, I started the year off right by responding to most questions with “What do you think?” followed closely with “What makes you say that?” Oh, it is a joy to have more tools in the toolbox even after 26 years!  It hasn’t taken long for the students to realize why I ask these questions.  Still, I do receive some response questions to which I respond in kind that I want them to start thinking for themselves or that their answer may be better than mine.  The best response to these answers is “but Mr. Flynn; you are the teacher, shouldn’t you know?  Then I say, “No, I know where we are going, but it is much more memorable when we get there together.”

References

Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M. G. (2001). In Search of Understanding. The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Erwin, J. C. (2004). The Classroom of Choice: Giving Students What They Need and Getting What You Want. (J. Houtz, Ed.) Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Smith, F. (1998). The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York, New York: Teacher College Press.

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