Monday, May 26, 2014

Innovation @CrystalMiddleCA

What happens when you allow students to design their learning experiences? What happens when you tell students there won't be grades? What happens when you tell teachers you won't be teaching today?  Amazing things happen. Students create, design, explore, imagine, and innovate.  Students are engaged, motivated, and HAPPY!!!

On Thursday, May 22nd, Crystal Middle School had its 2nd Annual Innovation Day. Students designed and planned their learning for the day. Teachers did not teach, they facilitated. Classrooms were no longer classrooms, they were workspaces. Grade levels did not exist since students were grouped together by similar projects not by their grade level. Students worked independently and collaboratively; by their choice. Students volunteered to help their peers when they were stuck with a tech problem. Students volunteered to help their peers learn a new musical instrument. It was truly an AMAZING day.

Innovation Day 2014 was a day of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose!! 

Please enjoy the following videos. The first video is an original song that student Zach Wahid wrote and performed. It could be the next Chipotle jingle!! The second video is a compilation of photos and videos taken on Innovation Day 2014.

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence! 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

So Many Things To Be Proud Of

As the school year comes to a close, it is such a good feeling to reflect back on all of the accomplishments for the year.  A few of our school's major highlights for the 2013-2014 school year were:

  1. Being accepted as an official No Excuses University School
  2. Being visited by State Superintendent, Tom Torlakson, to see our tech integration and No Excuses philosophy
  3. Having our first year of PIQE and having 20 parents graduate the program
  4. Having an award winning season for our music department
  5. Having our Battle of the Books team be the District's undefeated champions
  6. Having our second annual Innovation Day for all students
  7. Having a strong implementation of the the new Common Core standards across the grade levels and across the subject areas.

This year has brought the Crystal family even closer together. As with any family, we have had our disagreements and our struggles, but in the end we have ALWAYS pulled together and come out even stronger.

On Friday I was able to visit several classrooms and see some amazing culminating science projects and writing pieces that are a CLEAR indicator that our students have been exposed to a rigorous academic experience this year. We can feel good about sending our students on to the next grade level knowing that they will be taking with them the strong foundational skills to be successful in their future academic endeavors. As the students hear on the morning announcements daily, they are Crystal Scholars!!!

This is a picture of Denzel Manasan's Human Impact on the Enviroment project, his results were straight from our campus! 

REPRESENT: Represent is to officially speak or take action for another person or group of people. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence! 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

#edcamp @Crystal a Success

What happens when you ask adults what they want to learn?  A lot of GREAT conversation takes place. At our staff meeting last week we attempted our first ever #edcamp with our teaching staff. The result, I am pleased to announce, was a lot of learning and sharing taking place.

Each teacher was given a sticky note and asked to write down a topic he/she wanted to talk about. Since we had never done this before, some people wrote down topics they wanted to learn about while others wrote down topics they were interested in sharing about. Teachers placed the sticky notes on the wall and then we started to group them by like themes/topics. After that it was clear there were three main categories: Google Draw, Tech Ninja, and Culture/Engagement. Everyone then moved themselves into their "groups" and the conversation began.

We were lucky to have several Tech gurus sharing in one room via Google Hangout. We had Geoff Belleau who had several of his tech buddies from TICAL join us via Google Hangout. We had Tim Goree the Director of TSS and Josh Harris Ed Tech Specialist live and in person. There were no pre-planned agenda topics, no pre-planned presentations. The "groups" were created by the teachers own interests and then the natural sharing began. It appeared that most people would have liked more time, because I got some crazy looks when I said that time was up.

We ended the #edcamp with a #slam session at the end. A slam session is where one person at a time shares for no more than three minutes one of their top apps, tips, lessons, etc.

I put together a short video of our very first #edcamp below.  (First time using I-Movie.) I see this form of professional development as one that needs to be implemented in every facet of education. Learning becomes so much more meaningful when it is something that you want to learn about and want to share your own understanding of the topic. I can equate our mini #edcamp to the same philosophical reasoning we are doing Year 2 of Innovation Day for our students. Design your own learning experiences and you will find much more meaning and purpose in what you do. At Crystal we will continue to be innovative and take risks in the world of education and technology.


RELATE: Relate is to feel that you understand someone's problem, situation, etc. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence! 


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Teamwork and Precision

I had the opportunity to see the United States Air Force Thunderbirds perform this Saturday at Travis Airforce Base. It was an unbelievable experience. The precision, expertise, and teamwork that the six pilots exhibited was mind-blowing. Not only did each pilot have to control and maneuver his/her plane, each pilot had to be mindful every second of where the other five planes were and what they were doing. The show impacted an even larger segment of the aircraft community, since they needed to clear 5 miles of airspace in order to put the show on. No other aircraft could fly within that 5 mile radius for about an hour. Teamwork happened with the six pilots and pilots that were in the nearby airspace.

You might ask why I am beginning this post with the Thunderbirds? Well, much like a team of pilots, our school is a team of teachers, clerical, custodial and administration working together. In order for each classroom teacher to be as effective as possible, he/she needs to be aware of not only what is happening within the walls of his/her own classroom, but what is happening in the other classrooms on campus as well as the school as a whole. 

When there are concerns or questions they shouldn't be handled in isolation, but need to be brought to the forefront and addressed and solved as a TEAM. I am very proud of that teamwork that is seen on a daily basis at Crystal. Teachers meet before school and after school with each other to plan lessons and strategize on techniques that will work best with their students. Teachers ask questions and provide support and guidance for one another. When something seems awry, like the most recent concerns with culture, people speak up and we problem solve together strategically. That is a foundation we need in order to run smoothly and efficiently. 

There have been a lot of changes this year and with change can come a sense of uneasiness since no one any longer is an "expert." The biggest "new" factor this year has been the implementation of the Common Core. No one yet feels as though he/she is an "expert." However, the pretty amazing result that has come from that this year is the immense amount of collaboration both within departments and across departments with all of the teachers at Crystal. Teachers are turning to each other to find the most effective and engaging ways of delivering the Common Core. 

Like the Thunderbirds the number one reason Crystal staff and students will be successful is COMMUNICATION. We need to continue to communicate with one another as often as possible. We need to see and hear where each classroom is going with instruction so that we can find the precision and formation that will suit our school the best. We will continue to strive for perfection in our craft and delivery of instruction. The sky is the limit!!

RECALL: Recall is to remember a particular fact, event, or situation from the past. 

Many more great things are in store for Crystal!

Continue to be innovative, creative, and a model of excellence!