Friday, August 31, 2012

Are you ready for some learning??

First Days ...

This is gonna be a multi-post week... This is the first one

Agenda for PD
Tuesday 04SEPT12     8:30AM-3:20PM
  • 8:30-10:00 - Welcome & Orientation Breakfast in Library (yummy hot breakfast provided!)
    • Welcome and Introduction
    • School Goals and Expectations
    • Getting Ready for 2012-2013
  • 10:00-1:30PM - Independent Work Time
    • At the bottom of this blog, you can sign up for whatever workshops you wish to attend over these two PD days.  You can go to all of them, some of them, or none, depending on what you feel you need to learn in order to achieve our school goals and expectations.
  • 1:30-2:00PM - DRP Orientation
    • On the first two days of school, we will have special schedules.  We will be giving the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) as our schoolwide baseline reading assessment to the entire school.  
      • FYI  #1- Each grade will also give a math diagnostic (see Noam, Tom, or Mike for details).
      • FYI #2 - The 10th and 11th grade will give science diagnostics.  Jess & Hassan will give details for their respective teams.
      • FYI #3 - Your grade teams can opt to meet during the independent work time to plan a common activity for the times you have short classes (in between assessment periods), or you can do independent activities.  It is your team's choice, depending on specific grade need.
      • FYI #4 - Each grade will have an assembly with me (9th grade - you'll be on Monday during Advisory since you're going to Wagon Road).  11h Grade 8:30AM in Library on Thurs, 10th Grade 8:30AM on Friday in LIbrary, 12th grade at scheduled times on Thursday.
  •  2:00-3:20PM - Full School Subject Team Meetings
    • Humanities Team - Library 
    • Math Team - 403
    • Science Team - 309
    • Language Team - 409
    • ISS Team - 301

Agenda for PD
Wednesday 05SEPT12     8:30AM-3:20PM

8:30 - 8:45:Welcome and Overview (everyone reports to library), w/ Kelly & Kiri

8:45-1:45 - Independent Worktime (workshop opportunities listed below)
  • 8:45 - 9:45:     Workshop 1 - JumpRope 101 & 102, Justin and Nicia
  • 9:45 - 10:15:   Workshop 2 - Genre Practice, Emily
  • 10:15 - 10:45: Workshop 3 - Independent Worktime, Emily
  • 10:45 - 11:15:  Workshop 4 - Unison Reading, Kelly D and Meredith
  • 11:15 - 11:45:  Workshop 5 - Classroom Environment, Kiri
  • 11:45 - 12:45: Workshop 6 - Webpages, Noam and Brodie 
  • 1:15 - 1:45:  Workshop 7 - Carrera Best Practices, Jillian and Darby
1:45 - 2:45:  Full Staff Orientation (everyone reports), Kiri, Kelly, Nicia, Jen, Doris, Channay, and Del

2:45-3:20  Closing Remarks with Kiri & Kelly


Please sign up by ASAP so that we know who is coming and can better prepare (copies, plans, etc.).

All of the workshops presented are designed to be introductory.  We will cycle back through these topics

Workshop Descriptions 

Understanding Genre Practice - Genre Practice is one of the basic foundations of Learning Cultures in all subjects.  All writing has a purpose and format, but those formats and purposes are broad and varied.  Emily will give a brief intro into what Genre Practice is, how is works, and why it's so important in the development of quality readers and writers at UAI.

Best Practices with Learning Conferences - Everyone's doing Learning Conferences using the same Conference Record and Conference Rubric.  Tara will share best practices in reaching the expectations of the rubric and helping students set and achieve their own goals.

Structuring Independent Work Time - A common concern is how best to organize and communicate work time expectations so that students work productively during lengthy independent work time period.  Emily will help teachers understand the expectations of the Work Time Rubric and help teachers as they plan out their work time expectations for students.

Learning Cultures Organization - Are you new to Learning Cultures and trying to figure out how best to get yourself organized and set up?  Tara will support new Learning Cultures teachers in all the Nuts and Bolts of binder set up, calendar organization, and a checklist of things to make sure are ready for day 1.

Jump Rope Introduction - If you are new to UAI or still don't feel comfortable with JumpRope, you need to attend this workshop.  In this workshop, Nicia, Jen, and Jessica S will go over the basic functions of JumpRope, our main system for tracking attendance, student interactions, and grades.

Classroom Environment - Now that you've been thinking a lot about your independent work, it's time to set up your classroom so that students can access and use your resources with ease and clarity.  Kiri will take participants on a tour of the building to see model rooms, review expectations of the Classroom Environment Rubric, and do a Q&A with some good Feng Shui!

Intermediate and Advanced JumpRope Training- If you feel comfortable with how to enter comments, attendance, and your grades, attend this advanced training workshop.  Justin from JumpRope will cover sharing/cloning of units, reporting and grouping schemes, new features, and your questions and answers.

Setting up Your Class Webpages - All UAI teachers need to have a webpage that provides a basic communication portal between what's happening in class to the students and their families at home.  In addition, many of our technophilic teachers have extended their webpages to do that and so much more.  Join Brodie and Noam in the Computer Lab in the Library to get yourself started.

Unison Reading Training - Reading aloud together and collectively creating an understanding is a challenging skill to master.  Kelly will walk teachers through the steps of

Best Practices of Integrating the Carrerra Academic Team - Are you a grade 6-10 teacher?  Want to know more about the Carrerra Academic Team?  Jillian and Darby are going to share their work from the summer and help teachers build stronger partnerships in the classroom!

New Teacher Orientation - If you are new to UAI, you must go to this workshop to learn about the Nuts and Bolts of joining the UAI staff.  Del, Nicia, and Jen will review policies and procedures for getting on payroll, calling in sick, dealing with disciplinary issues, and all the logistical questions you may have!

And of course...It wouldn't be a Kiri blog, if I didn't include some self-effacing humor...

In case you missed the reference to the title of this blog, it's in homage to the start of the Football Season (Are You Ready for Some Football is the Hank Williams Monday Night Football Song).  As ome of you know, I hail from Omaha, NE.  Football and corn were my bread and butter.  With no hometown professional teams, I gave my allegiance to the Packers, to whom I connect with via my high school (Ahman Green was a graduate of my high school) and College (Aaron Rodgers graduated from Cal), and my friend Kay (who is the best cheesehead of them all).  Whenever I get a little stressed , I give myself a cheerful break with videos like this one:

Fly like a cheesehead...and proud.

Monday, August 27, 2012

High School News and Do's

High School News -

9th Grade Home Visits 

High School Staff Visits Incoming 9th Grade Homes
Today, we finished our summer home visits to the incoming 9th graders.  For our first attempt, we were happy to have about 25 visits scheduled with new and returning students.  Ideally, we would have wanted more, but families were away, not available, and/or wary of us coming to the homes.  We've learned a lot  - both for future visits and of the girls & their families themselves.  The teams will meet to share details, but in general the experience has been a valuable look into the lives of our students,  developing a stronger bond between school and home.    Thanks so much for  your work - John, Darby, Doris, Noam, Martine, Jen, Elena, Carol, & Nicia!!  Wazina & Adaora - we'll be sure to add you guys in next time!!

Who's Who in the High School

Tuesday, September 04th will be here faster than you can imagine!  We will certainly have time to match names to faces, but for now, take this list as your first intro of names and titles!  If I were fancier and more prepared, I'd have included pictures - but I'll shoot for that next year!!
  • Administration & Support
    • Kiri Soares, High School Principal
    • Kelly DeMonaco, Middle School Principal
    • Nicia Fullwood, Assistant Principal
    • Jen Cusa, Supervising Social Worker
    • Emily Jarrell, Urban Assembly Achievement Coach, Learning Cultures
    • Tara Silva, Instructional Support Coach UAI, Learning Cultures [WELCOME TO UAI!]
    • Doris Twine, High School Dean
    • Channay Cross, Middle School Dean
    • Mara Tucker, Director of Development, Partnerships & College Readiness
    • Carol Keenan, Parent Coordinator
    • Del Carey, Payroll Secretary
    • Nancy Johanssen, Pupil Accounting Secretary
    • Chris Maestro, Director Carrerra Treasure Academy Programs
    • Odette Nemes, Director Girls Inc Programs
  • 9th Grade Team
    • Colleen DiGuiseppe, Global Humanities I, Grade Team Leader
    • Darby Masland, Global Humanities, Learning Cultures Leader
    • Noam Pillischer, 9th Grade Math, Learning Cultures Leader
    • Elena Brollo, Spanish, Language Team Leader, Learning Cultures Teacher
    • Damon Noland, Living Environment, Learning Cultures Teacher
    • Martine Mercier, Instructional Support Specialist, LC Teacher [WELCOME TO UAI!]
    • Wazina Zondon, Carrerra Family Life and Sex Educator
    • TBD, Carrerra Social Worker
    • Ruben Rivera, Carrerra Job Club and College Readiness Teacher
    • Jillian Crowther, Carrerra High School Academic Coordinator
  • 10th Grade Team
    • Jessica Chen, Chemistry, Grade Team Leader
    • Natasha Mehta, Global Humanities II, Learning Cultures Teacher
    • Marianna Wiles, Global HumanitiesII, Learning Cultures Teacher [WELCOME TO UAI!]
    • Tom Leibering, 10th Grade Math, Learning Cultures Teacher
    • Raquel Mazo-Infante, Spanish 
    • Ian Palmer, Instructional Support Specialist, Learning Cultures Teacher
    • Shannon Riley & Marni Brand, Carrerra Social Workers
    • Alex Stevens, Carrerra Family Life and Sex Educator
    • Ruben Rivera, Job Club & College Readiness Teacher
    • Jillian Crowther, Carrerra High School Academic Coordinator
  • 11th &12th Grade Team
    • Brodie Crawford, US History & Economics, Grade Team Leader
    • Heather Nordstrom, American & 12th Grade Literature, Humanities Team Leader
    • Kelly Smith, 12th Grade Humanities Teachers, Tech Coordinator
    • Mike Somersel, 11th & 12th Grade Math, Dance Company Teacher
    • Hassan Mojtabaeezamani, 11th & 12th grade Science
    • Denise Lee, 11th Grade French and ESL teacher
    • Jen Swartzel, Instructional Support Specialist
    • Jen Cusa, 11th & 12th Grade Social Worker
    • Adaora Ezika, Girls Inc. Instructor
    • Tiffani Credle, Girls Inc. Instructor
    • Krystal Cason, Girls Inc. High School Coordinator


Many of you are gearing up to get back into the swing of school.  Here are some things you should definitely put on your to do list!

  • Resource Research & Gathering - Take some time this week to start gathering manipulatives, digital and print resources for students to use in your classrooms! Your classes will need to be structure to have a significant amount of independent work time so that you can conduct learning conferences with individual students (add to that Unison Reading and other formats for LC classrooms). In order to have productive independent work time, you need to amass a number of resources that students can independently access as needed.  Many of our teachers are adopting flipped classroom methods to execute on this expectation.  We do have some funds (limited) for resources.  Please put together and submit your wish lists as soon as possible!

  • Get to Know the following Rubrics Very Well

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome to the 2012-2013 School Year

Welcome to the 2012-2013 School Year

It's been great to see you some of you guys drop in over the last week.  I'm getting super excited for this upcoming year, and look forward to launching it with all of you.  This post is late, so, I'm gonna make it brief...

Upcoming Events

  • Classroom Set Up
    • On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week, you guys are welcome to come in at any time to pick up your schedules, class lists, and set up your classrooms.  Keys & technology won't be officially distributed until September 4th, but you will have free access to your rooms for set up.  I strongly encourage taking the time to come in at some point over these three days to get a jump start on the year.  The rooms will be open from 8:30AM-4PM on those three days.  You're welcome to come in anytime that works for you.

      For Learning Cultures Teachers, Emily will be in the building on Tuesday, and I'll be available those days to help with Classroom Setup.  (If you can't find me, I'm probably wondering around or in someone's room.  Just text my phone 917-776-0460, and I'll come find you!)

  • First Days of Professional Development
    • The First Day back for Teachers is Tuesday 04SEP12.  Please report to the library for breakfast at 8:30AM.  We'll start promptly at 9AM with PD.
    • I've been emailing about other opportunities (Ramapo training, Wilson training, Noam's Flipped classroom, Math Team work, etc.).  Let me know if you wanted to know more about something.
  • First Days of School
    • The First two days of school will be a combination of Diagnostic Testing and Orientation Activities.  Different Grades will have different Foci and structures.  You'll have time on Tuesday and/or Wednesday when you get back to school with your grade teams to plan those two days.  Monday 10SEP is the first day of regularly programmed classes
There's so much more that I have for you guys, but I'll have it for you if you come in next week and certainly I'll have it for you on the first official day back (04SEP12).

YAY!!  Welcome to our very first year as a fully formed school!!!! Can I get a "woot! woot!"?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Learning Cultures and Independent Work Time

Blog Parts...

(I'm still figuring out how to make it so you can click and go to specific parts of the blog, but until I do here's a table of contents for you and you can scroll around)

  • Reflection on Mission and Independent Work
  • Learning Cultures and how it brings order to some of our chaos
  • Theory Connecting UAI and LC - why does LC work at UAI?
  • Teacher Feedback and Evaluation - what am I going to be looking at providing feedback on next year?

Reflection on our Mission

The mission of UAI is and has always been to develop strong young women who are capable and willing to do anything they so choose.  To realize this, a major emphasis of our school has been to focus reflection on choices, actions, and outcomes.

Looking back over the last 6 years, everyone at out school has worked hard to execute on this ideal, but that's just the problem.  Too much effort has been that of the adults and not enough from our students.

As it is now, all UAI teachers incorporate independent work time and collaborative group work into lessons.  During these periods, teachers frequently speak with students, helping them with their questions, redirecting their off-task behavior, and conferring with students.  However, we have yet to be able to consistently (across all classes, grades, and subjects) see this level of independent work in regularly executed in classes.  Without a consistent set of independent work expectations, our students continue to fall back on dependent coping mechanisms (e.g. hands waiving in the air for teacher attention) or devolution into off-task behavior.

Learning Cultures

Cynthia McCallister's Learning Cultures brings this needed structure and cohesion to our efforts and moves.  One of the biggest criticisms on our Quality Reviews, from our own staff, and from visitors to our school is that we lacked a unifying vision of instruction.  In the past, Kelly & I resisted these criticisms because we could not find a system that wouldn't subjugate student autonomy, something that we needed to preserve.  With Learning Cultures, students work within structured formats to develop and execute their individually developed plans for meeting course learning targets.  Here are two of our own talking more about their own experiences with learning cultures.  Noam, who joined us as a math teacher in 2007, reflects about the changes he sees in his classroom practice.  Wendy who joins our staff this year as a new 6th grade Humanities teacher talks about her own experiences transitioning to Learning Cultures.

The Theory Connecting UAI and Learning Cultures

Cynthia's thinking in the development of Learning Cultures draws from John Searle and his work around Speech Acts and Intentionality.  As a former studentof Professor Searle, a lot of my own thinking around the development of the mission of the school and developing young women who could reflect on and learn from their actions and choices shared the same influences.  So, it's not surprising to find a natural affinity for Learning Cultures and UAI.

Click Here to Watch the Video
I've been rereading a lot of my old Searle books lately.  If you're interested and would like to know which books I'm talking about they are Speech Acts, Intentionality, and Minds, Brains, and Science.  However, while there are pretty accessible in the spectrum of philosophy texts, the reading is still pretty dense and dry.

Alternately, you can also check out the video here (I'm still figuring out how to embed things, so for now - it's just a link).  This is Part 3 of a three part interview of Searle on Language, Literacy and the Modern Mind.  For a real piece of irony of this suggestion, watch the other parts where he talks about how his students are children of the media generation and the differences between that and the printed word...

Teacher Evaluation

Even though not everyone is doing Learning Cultures, the rubrics will still apply, given the schoolwide focus of independent work and conferencing.  Additionally, the lesson and environment rubrics from Learning Cultures are also germaine to teaching in general.  Here are the relevant rubrics.
These rubrics are the result of Cynthia's work and research and are aligned to the Danielson Framework for Teaching. I will be following up my visits with conferences, using the same conference form and format that you guys use in your classes (e.g. the conference will be a strengths/needs/goals chat in reference to the school wide goals and student achievement).  

Together in these conferences we will discuss progress, define professional development needs, and plan goals.  I will be using EduCreations (a great app) to record our conferences, and will share them with you for your own records. Check out Educreations for your flipped learning classroom!

I feel like this blog was a little choppity chop and super long.  My writing was interrupted by a day of camping at Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn, where I slept under the stars and was lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of aircraft and helicopters.  Actually, it was really quite cool.  It was Kelly's idea to drag us all out there, but I highly recommend it for anyone interested in experiencing urban camping at it's best!

However, it does make for a too-long disjointed blog post.  Sorry - will do better next time!!

Speaking of next time - it won't be for a couple of weeks as I am finally off on vacation on Tuesday!  Look for my next post on 20AUG12!