Sunday, September 28, 2014

Making Learning Relevant

We know that every subject has standards that need to be taught.  The standards in turn provide the foundation for our lesson design. But, we must stop and ask ourselves a few questions before we create our daily, weekly, monthly, and year long lesson plans. What are we planning for? Are we planning how to teach these standards? Are we planning how to deliver these standards? Do we know the relevance and importance behind the standards? What will our students gain from having a fundamental understanding of the standards? What does it really mean if a student has earned an "A" in your class, what does he/she have to know?

Where am I going with this? Schooling is not about teaching in isolation. School is not here to be about school. Fundamentally, we as educators are in a position to provide students with an environment where they can explore, create, grow and build on their prior knowledge. We are here to cultivate the engineers, the artists, the musicians, the experts of tomorrow. So......we need to look at our approach. We want our students to come to school every day because they WANT TO engage and learn more, not because they HAVE TO.  So, how do we bridge the gap between what we as educators have to do, and what we want to do for our students? I think it comes down to relevance and purpose. When I am working on my Macbook and I need to learn how to do something I am unfamiliar with, I go to Youtube to find a video that not only explains in words, but demonstrates the steps for me. I then put that in action. However, that Youtube video would have been on Youtube unseen by me until I needed it. If I had watched it five days prior to my need to know, it may not have impacted me the same and I may not have retained the information since it would have seemed irrelevant at the time.

The challenge I see that each teacher faces every day is this: How do I engage my students with the standards/curriculum and make it meaningful and relevant to them? How do I teach my class so that what is learned goes beyond the walls of my classroom? 

I can say with confidence that if we continue to use age old practices of the teacher "delivering" information and "pouring" it into our students heads, it isn't going to stick.  Many of you aren't using age old practices, you are innovative, creative and are reaching our students!! I want you to share your experiences. I am looking for educators to comment on this blog post and share how you are reaching your students and making the learning relevant so that they WANT TO LEARN MORE and APPLY what they have learned. Together we can collaborate, share and create the learning environments needed in ALL classrooms to reach and impact ALL students.

Here is a video that speaks to CREATIVITY! 

Many more great things are in store for Fairfield High!

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


Sunday, September 21, 2014

No Excuses.....After High School Comes College and Career

What is at the core of being an NEU school? I think back to last year when I attended an NEU presentation by Doug Curry. Presenter Doug Curry, principal from Travis Middle School in Texas, did an unbelievable job reminding us all about hope. Every student is listening even if each student doesn't make it seem like they are. We are here each day to give our students light inside any darkness they may be carrying.  When students make mistakes, human nature says we will make you pay. A No Excuses school works on correcting the behavior and welcoming the student back. Exceptional classroom management works with dignity and hope.

We need to remind ourselves that the students that walk through our doors each day are in our classrooms and our hallways on loan each day by their parents. The parents send their students with faith that they will be safe and empowered each day with new knowledge.  We must make sure our parents are supported just as much as our students.  We need to unconditionally accept our parents with no judgment. We must validate, affirm, honor, and empower our parents. We must connect with them and offer great customer service.

We are Committed: We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares them for college if they so choose to attend. We are Courageous: To display courage is to show strength in the face of fear. We do this by ignoring those who try to tell us our dreams for our students' futures are unrealistic and impossible. We are Collaborative: Our collaborative spirit is grounded on the idea that we each have unique strengths as well as different weaknesses. We are Creative: We are innovative and love to explore new ways to get results for our students. We are Character Centered: Character is doing the right thing when no one watching... this goes double for adults. We are College Crazy: College readiness is a tie that binds us as students, parents, and staff.  Because of this, we reveal the benefits of a college degree to all students in practical and achievable ways that offer hope for a better future. 

Look at your classroom environment. Does it scream College and Career? If not take a look at some classrooms that do and speak to your colleagues for inspiring ideas. I want to start sharing each staff members college experiences on the morning announcements. Please fill out the Google form with your information.  You can access the form here: College Biography Form Take a look at your classroom college wall. Does it need a facelift? Have you reached out to your college yet? I challenge each of you to take some time to reach out to your college and make a connection. Can you set up a guest speaker? Can you get materials, flyers, symbolism from the college?

Take a look at Shari Patterson's room. It speaks loud and clear to her enthusiasm and push for college preparedness. She also did a post on her blog recently where these photos were displayed and she explained the importance of each part of her room. Shari's blog can be found at

Shari's college wall represents Michigan in honor of her dad's family.  She has a picture of her grandfather suited up for a hockey game at Michigan State from the 1930's. She also has a cap and gown proudly displayed. 

Notice the college pennants hanging in front of the window. On the classroom door is a sign that says: "I went to college to become a teacher, what will YOU do?"

Our College Fair is this Thursday, September 25th!! Please fill out the Google Sheet to indicate when you will bring your classes.  We can accommodate five classes per time slot. Click here to access the sign up sheet: College Fair Sign Up Sheet  This is a great opportunity for ALL students. Click here to see the flyer: College Fair Flyer  

Many more great things are in store for Fairfield High!

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


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Push Hard....Seek Support in Others

This morning several FHS staff and students got up super early and participated in the Lagoon Valley Trail Run! Even though each of us ran a different race and had our individual time, we supported one another before, during and after the race. Kelly Briggs was the catalyst that got us to sign up. Her challenge to us was motivating and a chance to be part of a team. During the race, each of us found our own inspiration by keeping in pace with that individual that was just in front of us. Knowing that someone was behind trying to pace with you was also a motivator to keep going. Think of your classroom environment as one where you can tap into each student's strengths. It doesn't have to be just the teacher that motivates, pushes, and teaches. The students themselves are your best ally in moving your classroom forward. Challenge your students, then allow them to find support amongst each other. Show them the path that they need to take, then step aside and allow them to pace themselves in finding meaning. There will be some falls along the way, but that is part of the learning process. Students need to be involved every day in finding meaning and purpose. We CAN DO this!

If you are looking for new ways of engaging your students, I have included a few Youtube/Edutopia videos that I found this weekend!! These videos encourage you to think "out of the box. Remember to include your students in your planning conversations, you may be surprised by what you will find.

Me, Shelmae, and Beth pumped up before the 5K!

Me and Kelly after finishing our 5K!

Mary Llewelyn came out to cheer us all on!!!

The FHS Crew after finishing the 5K and 10K!!!
We even had the privilege of being interviewed for Channel 27. Check it out once it posts on their Facebook page. Channel 27 Interview

Many more great things are in store for Fairfield High!

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


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Keep Pushing for EXCELLENCE

Teach Thought Online has posted a challenge to ALL teachers. Embark on a blogging quest for 30 days where you reflect on your teaching.  This will empower teachers to become stronger educators and will give teachers a platform to connect with a global audience.  A few of you have taken on the this challenge and have started to blog. This is an exciting endeavor!! I have provided links to both the Challenge and to two of our teachers' blogs. It is not too late to start blogging, reflecting, and developing as an educator.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we watched a video as a staff and compiled evidence of student engagement. There is engagement happening not only in your classroom but in the rooms to your left and to your right. I say this to encourage each of you to step out of your room and walk around campus and see what others are doing. Spending just five minutes in another teacher's classroom can help give you a new perspective and more tools for your teacher "tool kit." The collegial collaboration that is occurring is fundamental. Adding the live classroom environment to this collaboration will help take all of us one step further in our quest for EXCELLENCE!

My tech tips for the week. I highly encourage each of you to download the following FREE apps to your iPad. These apps will be time savers for  you!!

Gmail App. This will save you a lot of time. Once loaded on your iPad and synced to your work Gmail and any other Gmail account you have, you can quickly access your email by one tap of the app. You can move easily between different Gmail accounts by simply tapping the account in the bottom left hand corner.

Google Drive App. This will save you a lot of time. Once loaded on your iPad and synced to your work Drive, you can access all of your Drive files by just simply tapping the icon.

Educreations App. This app is a virtual whiteboard. You can create lessons in advance and record your voiceover. Another idea is to use Educreations while you are teaching, save the lesson, and post to your website. Students can also find this app useful to create presentations for your class.

Pic Collage App. This is the app I use to make photo collages. It is a very useful tool to show many photos from an event on one screen.

Each of you already has iMovie on your iPad. Here is a short compilation of FHS that I made using iMovie on my iPad this weekend. I used the trailer template. You just need to place your pictures and videos in the template and adjust the tag lines. iMovie is another great tool to use in the classroom!!!

Many more great things are in store for Fairfield High!

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