On July 13th-14th, a group of Westside Community School educators and leaders traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to participate in the 2017 Great Plains Google Summit. This two-day, high-intensity event focused on using Google tools to promote student learning. Nearly 500 educators experienced over 50 sessions on topics ranging from Google Apps to Chrome extensions to programming. View sessions and access content and read about the event on Twitter.
Four WCS staff members represented the State of Nebraska at “Foundations of Math” at North Carolina State University. The intense five-day event was offered for the Northeast and Southeast Regions of North Carolina, as well as Nebraska and Iowa. This was a state level session presented by NCDPI consultants Melissa Towery and Carol Moffitt. Members were able to attend with support by grant funds.
A group of Westside Community School educators and leaders traveled to the Century Link Center in Omaha, NE to participate in the 2017 NETA (Nebraska Educational Technology Association) conference. This three-day, high-intensity event focused on leveraging technology to promote student learning. Westside is proud to recognize our staff member, Dr. Matt Lee, who was sworn in as the 2017 NETA president and our multiple staff members who were selected to present.
Allison Pontious – Google Classroom in the Primary Grades
Allison Pontious and Dustin Carlson – Engaging Students in a 1:1, Primary Classroom
Allison Pontious, Dustin Carlson, and Andrew Easton – Breakout of Your Box with Breakout EDU!
Andrew Easton – App-Smashingly Great Instructional Videos
Paul Lindgren – Jedi Data Tricks: Information Submits to YOUR will with Filemaker Pro
Blane McCann, Matt Lee, and David Williams – Implementing and Evaluating a K-12 1:1 Initiative: 3 Perspectives
By: Dr. Gregory Betts
Stability and certainty are not always available for students when they enter the 21st Century work force and this trend does not seem to be going away. Long gone are the days of retiring with a gold watch, 30 plus years of experience and a healthy pension. In the educational world, educators often talk about preparing kids for jobs that aren’t even created yet. What does that really mean? It means, I can work hard (Grit), see opportunities for growth (Mindset), foster courage and vulnerability (Daring Greatly) and have a high hope mindset (Making Hope Happen). This ultimately leads to individuals being able to successfully self advocate and create confidence with success. Allowing students to become independent and self-advocates is a critical step in preparing them for school, post secondary education, and their future careers. Molding a life long learning mindset in students and creating learning opportunities that reinforce this are one of the great joys of being an educator. It is a life long learning mindset that drives me to conclude this concept is more important than ever to establish with our students and equip our teachers with advocacy skills as we continue to watch an uncertain future reveal its many surprises before us.
As a former elementary teacher and high school football and track coach, I have worked with students with physical and academic disabilities, bright students who could not handle failure, talented athletes who did not work hard, and adults who always saw the future as bleak. Students and adults who were/are successful had many of the positive psychology characteristics from the books referenced above that led to self advocacy skills. The ability to self-advocate always intrigued me because it took hard work, a growth and hope mindset, and with the capacity to bounce back from failure.
Educators have many roles and responsibilities highlighted by instructing students on the indicators and outcomes set forth by their school. Teachers are also simultaneously supporting the whole child by incorporating and modeling lessons about character, responsibility, respect, and self-advocacy. Friend (2012) states that “self-advocacy is an important part of self-determination, or the ability to make decisions and direct behavior so that the desired goals are achieved (Holverstott, 2005).” If self advocating truly can make a positive impact, then we must be teaching all students that they can properly handle adverse situations, clearly communicate to others, and ask for help when needed. In order to encourage students to be self-advocates, they need to gain information, store and retrieve information, express information, self-advocate, and manage time (Including Students with Special Needs, 2012). We need self-advocating students who are able to achieve their own goals, are self-determined, and able to succeed when faced with adversity. As educators we can help foster and mold self advocating students by:
- Teaching students how to ask for help
- Creating opportunities to develop time management
- Teaching students how to self-monitor (emotion, time, environment)
- Creating responsibilities and allowing students to complete the task
- Creating role play situations that might be difficult (create a social story)
- Allowing failure and praising hard work (this means don’t always rescue)
- Allowing voice and choice in the classroom
- Knowing your students and supporting their interests
- Allowing natural consequences and having the students problem solve the solution
- Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills
1. Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.
2. Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.
3. Dweck, Carol S.. (2008) Mindset :the new psychology of success New York : Ballantine Books
4. Friend, M. & Bursuck, W.D. (2012). Including students with special needs: A practical guide for classroom teachers, (6th edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
5. Hensley, P. (2016). Teaching Self-Advocacy in the Special Ed Classroom. Retrieved March 01, 2016, from http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/4561-teaching-self-advocacy-in-the-special-ed-classroom
6. Self-Advocacy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2017, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/tool-kits/transition-tool-kit/self-advocacy
Lee, A. (2014). The importance of self-advocacy for kids with learning and attention issues. Understood.
By: Dr. Gregory W. Betts
Educators are responsible for covering critical information and often at a fairly quick pace. With the demands of covering state and district standards along with other curriculum, it can be hard to find time for additional review and practice of prior learnings. Additionally, instructional time might be lost each school day due to activities, transitions, assemblies, weather distraction, etc. Sponge activities allow for this extra practice without carving out a large amount of time in the day. Madeline Hunter’s 1982 Mastery Teaching book describes sponge activities as ... “learning activities that “sop up” precious time that otherwise would be lost. Sponge activities give students practice in reviewing or applying past learning while they’re waiting for students to arrive, while materials are being passed or collected, while roll is being taken, or during any other “administrivial” matters. Sponges are quick, engaging activities that when used effectively become beneficial to the success of the student. They also can help ensure that every student is receiving the maximum amount of available time to learn. The best sponge activities are academically rich and engage all learners. Many sponge activities involve students working with partners, in groups, or as a whole class. There are many different sponge activities out there and many are very easy to implement. They can be a simple or complex task, but they will always be beneficial to students’ learning. Jessica Boschen has created a list of 80 sponge activities that might work for you (Jessica is not affiliated with WCS) or visit UCSD to view their top sponge activities.
Original Sponge content can be found in Chapter 14 (page 116) of the 2004 Mastery Teaching Edition or pages 92/93 of the 1982 Mastery Teaching edition.
(Linked by Permission from Jessica Boschen) https://www.whatihavelearnedteaching.com/80-sponge-activities/
Hunter, M. C. (1982). Mastery teaching. El Segundo, CA: TIP Publications.
Hunter, Robin (2004). Madeline Hunter’s mastery teaching: Increasing instructional effectiveness in elementary and secondary schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
In 2016, Lauri Calvert partnering with Learning Forward and NCTAF, published a report focusing on what teachers need to make professional learning work for them. The report can be downloaded in its entirety for free at https://learningforward.org/publications/teacher-agency . The report contains many examples from schools and recommendations to make professional learning beneficial for teachers. Below is an excerpt from the article highlighting the work of Westside Community Schools.
Greg Betts, the director of professional learning at Westside Community Schools (about 6,000 students in Omaha, Nebraska), decided in the summer of 2014 that the district had to figure out a new way to help teachers improve their instructional practices. Betts, a former teacher and principal, could tell that their current system of professional learning needed to evolve to meet the needs of educators just as classroom instruction had been evolving to meet the individual needs of students. “The ‘sit and get’ just wasn’t working,” he said, “We knew this.” To mix things up, district leaders asked teachers to propose sessions on instructional best practices that they could present to colleagues during a PD day that was akin to speed dating.
“In the morning, teachers presented for a minute about their work, and peers chose what and who they wanted to learn from,” Betts said. Survey data about the new format showed it was beneficial to teacher learning, but district leaders knew from Standards for Professional Learning that for the professional learning to affect teaching and learn-ing on a large scale, it needed not only to offer teachers agency, but also to be ongoing and aligned to district goals. The Learning Communities standard, for example, deals with the need for professional learning to occur “within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment.” The District Teaching and Learning Team developed an innovative strategy to balance teachers’ individual learning needs with those of the system and ensure that the learning is continuous and embedded throughout the year. So, for the 2015–16 school year in the
Westside District, teachers participate in four full-day professional learning sessions offered quarterly by the district, with four follow-up sessions on early-dismissal days. During the full-day sessions, teachers attend three different professional learning sessions: two of their choice and one common session on a focus topic for the district.
• One common session. After analyzing district and school data, the Teaching and Learning Team selected one instructional focus for the school year: eliciting student response. The quarterly professional learning days include one required session on eliciting student response, thus expanding and following up on the topic from session to session. • Two independent choices. Teachers select two sessions to attend, from approximately 51 learning topics, based on their interests and needs. The independent sessions are designed and led by teachers who have submitted proposals that fit under the district’s instructional objectives. This year, all topics fit into one or more of three categories: personalized learning, technology, and literacy.
Feedback was positive from teachers who participated in the first full-day session and follow up in October; they appreciated the “personalized approach to professional development,” the “practical” strategies presented, and that there was “enough time to learn new things, but also to really explore what I’d learned and have some good discussions about it.” Many comments dealt specifically with the importance of teachers being allowed agency for their learning. “I appreciate the efforts to make these professional development days beneficial for us, and not a waste of time,” one teacher wrote. Another wrote, “I appreciate being able to choose sessions that I am interested in or that apply to me!”
Citation for this work: Calvert, L. (2016). Moving from compliance to agency: What teachers need to make professional learning work. Oxford, OH: Learning Forward and NCTAF.
By: Dr. Gregory W. Betts
I have the privilege of working and presenting with a great friend at Westside Community Schools. She is an expert in her field, an amazing presenter, and many days she can be seen walking around with three to five bags. She usually has a rolling suitcase, hand bag, satchel, lunch bag, and a tote. Her daughter has lovingly nicknamed her the “Bag Lady.” This got me pondering my own journey in education and reflecting on my teacher bag choices of past along with my peers. What is the best bag? Is it practical? Functional? What do I really need to carry? Style? Brand? Durability? The first answer to these questions lies in the heart of your role in education and for what purpose do you need a bag. Second, you will need to decide how long you will carry the bag (durability) and your level of concern with style. If can answer yes to a “recyclable bag is good enough for me” then I would encourage you to stop reading the rest of this post.
- How much school stuff do I need to take home, carry for presentations, or need for my everyday survival?
- How many pockets do I need to carry all of my cool school stuff?
- How many bags might I need?
- Is the bag easy to transport from one place to another? Maybe from my car to school, etc.
- How much do I care about “brand?”
- Do I care if I purchase a new bag every year?
- Do I need a computer compartment? These are usually padded pockets to protect your laptop / tablet of choice.
Tote – A tote bag is a large and often unfastened bag with parallel handles that emerge from the sides of its pouch.
Backback – sack carried on one’s back and secured with two straps that go over the shoulders, but there can be variations. Lightweight types of backpacks are sometimes worn on only one shoulder strap.
Satchel – A satchel is a bag, often with a strap. The strap is often worn so that it diagonally crosses the body, with the bag hanging on the opposite hip, rather than hanging directly down from the shoulder. They are traditionally used for carrying books. The back of a satchel extends to form a flap that folds over to cover the top and fastens in the front. Unlike a briefcase, a satchel is soft-sided.
Messenger Bag – A messenger bag (also called a courier bag) is a type of sack, usually made out of some kind of cloth (natural or synthetic), that is worn over one shoulder with a strap that goes across the chest resting the bag on the lower back. While messenger bags are sometimes used by couriers, they are now also an urban fashion icon. Some types of messenger bags are called carryalls. A smaller version is often called a sling bag.
Rolling Suitcase – A suitcase is a general term for a distinguishable form of luggage. It is often a somewhat flat, rectangular-shaped bag with rounded/square corners, either metal, hard plastic or made of cloth, vinyl or leather that more or less retains its shape. It has a carrying handle on one side and is used mainly for transporting clothes and other possessions during trips. It opens on hinges like a door. Suitcases lock with keys or a combination. (A suitcase with wheels can be called a roll along or a trolley case)
Brief Case – A briefcase is a narrow hard-sided box-shaped bag or case used mainly for carrying papers and other documents and equipped with a handle. Lawyers commonly use briefcases to carry briefs to present to a court, hence the name. Businesspeople and other professionals also use briefcases to carry usually important papers, and in more recent times electronic devices such as laptop computers and tablets.
Giant handbag that can double as a work bag – For this one, you are on your own! It works well when you convince your significant other or yourself that purchasing an expensive handbag is a necessity because you need it for “work purposes.”
Personally, I have chosen a backpack that is made of black balistic nylon and is able to stand without collapsing on itself as many backpacks do. The backpack has many pockets including one for a laptop and a tablet. Finally, I am not concerned about having to replace it every year or having my valuables unprotected. Though the bag was initially expensive, it is going on three years, has protected my technology, and still looks good. Finally, I wanted a bag that I could “wear” and still have my hands free for carrying coffee, presenting materials, and be able to unlock the front door of my building. As the knight in Indiana Jones and Last Crusade says, “Choose Wisely.”
Wikipedia contributed to the definitions posted above.
Offering choice to meet the needs of teachers!
Westside hosted a professional learning morning for staff with 33 choice sessions and experts from Westside Community Schools, Educational Service Unit #3, Region #3, Nebraska MTSS, University of Nebraska Omaha, and Children’s Hospital. Sessions were available at 8:00 – 8:45 and 8:55 – 9:40. Staff members signed up for sessions using sched.com and full descriptions of each session can be found using the sched.com link. See the Twitter postings from this event at #westsidepl . Staff were encouraged to engage in a twitter contest and share learnings and find some special people.
JEANS DAY! Please bring an item to donate to our Westside Pantry and drop your item off at the front entrance of WHS. Shampoo/Conditioner – Deodorant – Bar Soap – Lotion – Toothpaste – Toothbrushes – Toiletpaper Paper towels – Laundry Soap
February is a Nexting month for Westside Community Schools. Nexting events give us an opportunity to pause and think about what’s next for us, our students, and the District. They’re about creating memories of the future. Watch Mike Robbins speak about the difference between recognition and appreciation and download the flyer to access all of the links. #westside66hope .
Mike Robbins (www.Mike-Robbins.com) is the author of two books, Focus on the Good Stuff, and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken, as well as the forthcoming book Nothing Changes Until You Do. He’s an expert in teamwork, leadership, and emotional intelligence who delivers inspirational keynote addresses to audiences throughout the world. (copied from the youtube description at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3wX8nmvlZ0 ).
We recognize that aspiring candidates for leadership positions have a great deal to learn about the work environment, duties, roles, challenges, and demands. To assist in the learning process, Leadership Westside participants are encouraged to engage in a variety of additional experiences when creating their learning path. Some of these experiences may be completed as part of a shadowing experience, while others can be experienced as needed for each participant. We strive to meet the needs of all of our leaders and supporting them through personalized learning opportunities, real life experiences, and collaborative groups.
Sessions will be offered by Westside Community School staff and local experts supporting the interests of our Leadership Westside members.
Leadership Westside members will complete sessions using courses from lynda.com. allowing members to learn at their own, place, pace, and space.
Leadership Westside members will have opportunities for internships and job shadowing experiences during their year two journey.
Personalized Professional Learning
Choose learning opportunities from the Learning Leader, Operational/Organizational, Humanistic/Relational, and Making the Transition matrix. The learning opportunities are presented in a way to guide experiences. Staff members choose as many experiences as they would like and have the option for individual coaching sessions from District leaders to guide their journey. Leadership Westside members will have first choice of attending a local conference or book purchase to develop their leadership capacity.