July 10

Pink Blob Word of Wisdom: Avid Reader

It has been said that my grandmother was an avid reader.  I would say I have most definitely followed in her footsteps.  I will forever remember the floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with all sorts of books, even books written in other languages such as Spanish and French.  I was in love.  One day, when I was spending the night as an early teen, she let me sleep in her bedroom and there was a small bookcase filled with books by John Saul that I had never seen before.  I was intrigued and began reading the backs of them.  I had never read books like this before and was itching to crack one open.  Othergrandma seemed hesitant to let me borrow  a couple and I knew they must have been special to her.  But, being the loving grandmother she was, I excitedly took them home, read them, and was hooked!

For a long time, it was nothing but fiction: James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Robin Cook, pretty much any book I could get my hands on.  Then, my esteemed principal and administrative intern supervisor introduced me to “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess and I read educational nonfiction for two years straight, soaking up every insightful word I possibly could.  Several people groan that there is never enough time to read.  No matter how busy life gets, I always find time to read.  Other passions may suffer, but not reading.  I have discovered that by just reading 20 minutes every day before leaving for work, I can plow through a ton of books!  After reading 29+ books, I finally ran out of books to read.  That was this past May.  I took a short hiatus and retreated to reading James Patterson, including his latest book in the Alex Cross series — absolutely wonderful!  But, I have a thirst for knowledge and insight.  Today, I went to Barnes and Noble and bought two books including “The Leader in Me” by Stephen Covey and “Creative Schools” by Ken Robinson.  My adopted uncle, Bill, has gotten me hooked on Sir Ken Robinson and I am looking forward to reading another book by him.  I also ordered “Hacking School Discipline” by Nathan Maynard and cannot WAIT for it to arrive!  I have been dying to read this book.  If it’s anything like the articles I receive in my e-mail by him and Brad Weinstein as well as the Behavior Flip Twitter posts, I know it will be rejuvenating, insightful, inspiring, and educational!

Forever in Love with Reading…

Happy Summer!

April 19

Pink Blob Word of Wisdom: Calm

Othergrandma was always calm.  I don’t think I ever saw her ‘worked up’.  I would like to think that I inherited this trait from her.  When most people are panicking, I smoothly and calmly find a solution.  When drama is stirring everything up, I quietly continue on.  When an environment is fired up with anxiety and high stress, I am that calm, listening ear.  When people are distraught, I’m that quiet pillar that provides a hug or a pat on the arm.  This is why I am good in emergencies and why I am good with children who have behavior challenges.  This is why I am good with angry and frustrated parents.  I also genuinely care and they know this.  My grandmother also genuinely cared.  She was an excellent listening ear if only to vent to.  Everyone needs that someone.

Leaders of all kinds, including teachers and administrators, need this serene calmness.  It’s the

glue that keeps the classroom, building, ordistrict together.  No matter what is happening, how the leader reacts will have a domino affect.  If the leader ‘freaks out’ this will show ten-fold throughout the classroom, building, or district.  It does not take much to raise people’s anxiety.  Children, more than anyone, can feel this without the leader doing anything.  Adults can also feel if there is chaos as opposed to a comfortable feeling of safety.  Leaders need to exude that everything will be all right, everyone is safe (physically and mentally), and everything will work out in the end.

We live in a charged environment of change and confrontation.  Now, more than ever, we need to control our negative emotions.  We cannot portray that ‘everything is going wrong’.  This does not mean that we cannot feel.  We just need to keep our negative feelings at bay while in a leadership position.  I have had calm, serene administrators and teachers and I have had teachers and administrators who wear their emotions on their sleeves and everything seems like an emergency.  The latter appear to not be in control of their environment.  As the leader, you have control of everything in your environment.  By keeping a neutral tone, facial expression, and body language in a negative situation, you are not escalating circumstances and solutions are more likely to be found.  When you let negative emotions control you, it is much more difficult to think clearly.  It is your choice.

Be Calm and enjoy your leadership position!  

Reap the rewards & benefits!

March 10

Diving Deeper into UDL

Once again, much appreciation is granted to the attendees for participating in this workshop!  Your exit ticket is as follows and we hope the information presented was helpful!  Take 10-15 minutes to comment on this post and respond to each other’s posts, as well.

How will you incorporate the UDL principles (Engagement, Representation, and Action/Expression) into your lessons across all content areas?  How will these principles benefit students who have a variety of learning styles, some of which present challenges in an academic environment?

 

UDL requires a mindset shift when planning units and lessons. How do you meet the learning needs of ALL students?

As always, thank you for your time in responding to the above.  We look forward to reading your comments!  Feel free to add comments to this post as you try various methods to support students from all avenues of learning and challenges.  Let the readers know what has worked and what could be done differently.  Use this platform as a means to share success stories as well as a means towards growth and improved methods.  Learn from each other as you all have methods that work and you have acquired many skills through experience!

February 11

Blog Prompt for “Innovative Specially Designed Instruction”

Universal Design for Learning, Differentiated Instruction, & Specially Designed Instruction: all interconnected and linked together!

Thank you, attendees, for participating in this workshop!  Your exit ticket is as follows and I hope the information presented was helpful!  Take 10-15 minutes to comment on this post and respond to each other’s posts, as well.

 

 

 

 How will you intentionally plan instruction to ensure students with disabilities can meaningfully access, participate, and progress in the regular education curriculum?

Thank you for your time in responding to the above.  I look forward to reading your comments!  Feel free to add comments to this post as you try various methods to support your struggling students.  Let the readers know what has worked and what could be done differently.  Use this platform as a means to share success stories as well as a means towards growth and improved methods.  Learn from each other as you all have methods that work and you have acquired many skills through experience!

December 27

Pink Blob Word of Wisdom: Crafty

I would normally say, “Artistic”, however, this is not to be confused with solely drawing, painting, and the like.  With crafty, I am referring to the ability to create something out of nothing.  Doing crafts is, and always has been, one of my favorite things to do as I find it utterly and completely relaxing.  I lose myself in the art of creating something and all other challenges momentarily wash away.  I am not sure I can give all the credit of this word to my grandmother.  I believe my mother, as well as my aunt, had much to do with this.  All three of them could use what they had and make something spectacular whether it was cardboard, scraps of wood, food, whatever it may be.  Some of my fondest childhood memories involve this very thing…going on pretend trips around the world:  Eating tuna sandwiches on a cardboard plane ride; doing the hula in Hawaii wearing leis and green crepe paper streamers; traveling to Mexico wearing heavy paper sombreros decorated with yarn…you get the idea.

 

A farm scene

As the years have gone by, my crafts have evolved…immensely.  I began with cardboard, sticks, and rope.  From there, I moved to paper mache, crafts with yarn, collages using pictures from magazines and even old photos.  I have even dabbled in sewing.  I have created (and still do create) items with wire and beads and even cross stitch and needlepoint.  Although I do not always have the time, I always make the time around Christmas to make sure I “do crafts”.  It gives me peace of mind and slows me down.  Here are pictures of the crafts I did this year during the first two days of vacation.

Snowmen ornaments — hats from old Easter egg-decorating kit

Snowmen ornaments — baby socks for hats

Snowmen ornaments — baby socks for hats

Styrofoam Christmas Tree

Plastic Cup Winter Scene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not even mentioning all of the educational items I have created including, but not limited to, board games, manipulatives, lesson/activity props, posters/visuals, and of course all the “digital crafts” I do on a regular basis.  Yes, I consider making flyers, presentations, pamphlets, newsletters, SMARTboard lessons/activities, and the like to be crafty in its own way.

Can you believe I was actually completely “unplugged” for four days?  Neither can I.  I did not even do any school work, which, for those who know me, is HUGE!  Don’t get used to it.

Happy New Year!!

December 16

Pink Blob Wisdom Word: Music

It has been awhile since I have had the opportunity to write for the Pink Blob in this blog.  In light of the holiday season, I decided to change course a bit and instead of choosing a character trait word to lean more towards the artistic world of my grandmother, particularly since I attended “Melodies of Christmas” last night with friends and family.  This is now a Christmas tradition and I absolutely love it!  Participants from the choir and orchestra are performed by high school students in the Capital Region.  NYC ballerinas also participate as well as semi-renowned bands.  Teens and young adults dressed in full costume of a variety of characters also participate, including my favorites:  Elsa and Anna from “Frozen”!  Musical performances like this always make me feel so alive.

Othergrandma was a great musician.  Maybe not nationally renowned, well, that is highly over-rated.  She enjoyed playing the fiddle and was part of the Black Cat Fiddlers.  I do not know much about this group except that it consisted of my grandmother, my great grandmother, and Barb T.  I know they performed, but not sure where or how often.

Give life to an otherwise dull and dreary activity!

They added on to their “studio” when I was young to provide a practicing room so as not to disturb others with the noise of practicing.  I also have warm memories of fiddle- and guitar-playing on her large front porch on dark summer nights.

 

My grandmother was the first to instill a love of music in me.  I knew at a very young age that I wanted to play flute.  I remember watching James Galway and his golden flute on television with my grandmother and I was awed.  She gave me piano lessons from third grade until seventh grade.  Every Monday, I would go to her house, have hot chocolate, watch Nickelodeon, and play piano.  Playing music did not come easily for me, but she had the patience of a saint and continually encouraged me.  She recorded me on a cassette player, made a tape cover with her copying machine and typewriter, and we gave a copy to each family member.  When I was in sixth grade, my brothers and I put on a concert for family and friends.  I played the piano and flute (yes, I started playing flute in fourth grade), and between all my brothers, we also had a clarinet player, trumpet player, and saxophone player.

To this day, I still dabble in piano and flute.  I’m not saying I’m Grammy material by any means, but I enjoy it when I have the time.  I have ‘sort of’ taught myself how to play with both hands on the piano and my favorite is playing Christmas songs.  As for flute, I love playing Disney songs as I can play with a recorded orchestra.  “Under the Sea” and “Let It Go” are my favorites.  When I was in my twenties, I taught my niece how to play flute.  We recorded a cassette tape for family members and put on concerts for the family.  It was great!

When talking music, I cannot leave out my friend, Steve, who sings in a couple of different choirs.  He invites my husband and I to his concerts.  We attend dinner concerts in addition to other concerts.  He introduced us to

“Melodies of Christmas” and to the Philadelphia Orchestra who performs every year for a number of summer weeks at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).  Last year, we went to Glimmer Glass in Cooperstown for the first time and saw “Westside Story”.  I look forward to, and absolutely love, all of these performances and cannot thank him enough for weaving music into my life at this level.

Children love music.  Music is a way of opening hearts and minds.  It puts a new light on everything and provides hope when everything may seem hopeless.  Music can turn a normally boring activity into something alive and exciting.  Notice how music makes people sway, bounce, hum, whistle…It makes people feel alive.  Use it to your benefit.  Take advantage of the affects music has.  Bring life into an otherwise dull and dreary atmosphere.

Happy Holidays!

December 6

Exploring Explicit Instruction!

Thank you, attendees, for participating in this workshop!  Your exit ticket is as follows and I hope the information presented was helpful!  Take 15-20 minutes to comment on this post and respond to each other’s posts, as well.

How will you use Explicit Instruction to improve your practices with small groups of students?  Include thoughts on intentionality, student engagement, and various forms of practice.

To all readers of this post:

First of all, thank you for taking the time to visit this site.  Feel free to comment on the reflective question above.  I look forward to reading a wide variety of responses as there are an abundance of perspectives on this topic.

October 20

Blog Prompt for “Incredible Inclusion & How to Make it Successful”

Thank you, attendees, for participating in this workshop!  Your exit ticket is as follows and I hope the information presented was helpful!  Take 15-20 minutes to comment on this post and respond to each other’s posts, as well.

How will you effectively use Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Differentiated Instruction (DI), and Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) to promote success for all students? 

Thank you for your time in responding to the above.  I look forward to reading your comments!  Feel free to add comments to this post as you try various differentiation methods.  Let the readers know what has worked and what could be done differently.  Use this platform as 

a means to share success stories as well as a means towards growth and improved methods.  Learn from each other as you all have differentiation methods that work and you have acquired many skills through experience!

 

October 15

Once Again: Incredible Instruction & How to Make it Successful

How do you meet the needs of all students in an inclusionary classroom?

For the next couple of months, Inclusion will be one of the main focuses in my world.  This month, a workshop is being conducted similar to last June in which inclusion is broadly presented and discussed, covering grades K-8.  Next month, grade-specific workshops on this topic are being offered for grades K-5.  Each grade level has the option of attending a half-day workshop or attending a 2-hour after-school workshop.  By focusing on a specific grade level, the hope is to be able to delve deeper into this important topic.  No longer are the days which we separate all students with a disability.  We try to meet all needs within the general classroom environment whenever possible.  Even with the wide range of disabilities entering our classroom, it can be done.  Practices have been developed through the years to assist with this including, but not limited to, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Differentiated Instruction (DI), and Specially Designed Instruction (SDI).  When it comes right down to it, all these practices are plain old “Good Teaching” including innovating for individual students and “doing what’s best for kids”.  It’s as simple as that.

It is recognized that general classroom teachers have a wide range of responsibilities and individual student needs in any given classroom along with limited time and it can be difficult for a general education teacher to feel confident in providing access to the core curriculum to all students.  However…

…I have seen fabulous inclusionary practices take place in classrooms and I know there are teachers out there who have methods, strategies, and management advice to share!  Don’t hold back!  Share the wonderful techniques you use and do every day.  It benefits all involved if we collaborate in a manner that provides ideas for others.  I look forward to reading and sharing your thoughts either through comments on this blog or through Twitter.  Thank you in advance!

Please respond by October 20th so I am able to incorporate your terrific ideas into the first workshop taking place on October 24th.

October 8

Data Chats

I am currently reading a book called, “Data-Driven Dialogue A Facilitator’s Guide to Collaborative Inquiry” by Bruce Wellman and Laura Lipton.  Although not the juiciest topic, it offers a lot of great advice on how to facilitate Data Chats and the like.  Below is the gist, a visual from this book:

1) Activate & Engage 2) Explore & Discover 3) Organize & Integrate WHILE managing, modeling,mediating, & monitoring

Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE data, something which is often frowned upon.  I don’t love data just for the numbers and graphs.  I love data for providing a window into what can be improved and showing a focus for improvement by examining trends.  I also love data for providing a platform to showcase what is already being done well.

In Light of Upcoming Fall Data Chats

I cringed a couple of years ago when I heard some teachers grumble about Data Chats saying they always walked away feeling awful, like they were not a good teacher and/or not doing their job.  In the back of my mind, I wondered how this perspective could be changed as that is not what Data Chats are intended to do.  These chats are meant for teachers to learn from each other.  Every teacher has great practices and instructional strategies and this provides an opportunity and a platform to share what they do well so other educators can do the same.  This sharing and collaborating improves instruction which in turn, improves results.  Below is a great way to depersonalize the data so teachers do not perceive

Ask: What pops out? What are some of the patterns here?

the data as a reflection of their performance.  We all have areas to improve in and we don’t need to look at data to remind us of our weaknesses.  Instead, data can be used to identify strengths and be used as a means to assist others in brainstorming solutions.

To those schools entering into a time period of fall benchmarking and/or conducting interim assessments, good luck and try not to take the results personally!  Look at what you have control over; analyze your strengths and what you can share with others; examine the weaknesses as in what can you do to make your instruction even better!