The Difference One Little “s” Can Make

Although it doesn’t seem like much, the “s” tacked on to the end of “PLC” has contributed to a great deal of misunderstanding and misuse of the term “Professional Learning Community.” It’s about time that we clean this up. Instead of using the term PLCs, which is often used erroneously, we should refer to a PLC in the singular. A school can be a PLC. There can’t be multiple mini-PLCs within a school. You either are a PLC (or on the journey) or you are not. Perhaps a little additional clarification can help clean up this misunderstanding.

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Key Readings – “A Selection of Evaluation Shorts”

Teachers_CCAt a recent RSE TASC meeting in Albany, we were presented with the following selection of evaluation “shorts” as part of an engagement activity leading to the topic of evaluating professional development. The facilitator led us through a process by which we took “I” time to read each short and then turned to a partner to process and share learning. By activating and engaging the group members in this manner, all of the participants were able to learn content, focus their thinking on the topic at hand and engage in dialogue which allowed for processing of information and making connections to current work. I began to think about the power of using “shorts” such as these at staff meetings to engage participants in thinking more deeply about targeted topics and applying new learning to their work without necessarily having to read pages of articles or journals. Each short in itself could be a catalyst for a change in thought when paired with an effective processing activity such as those found on the National Faculty for School Reform website, A few of my favorites are Save the Last Word for Me, 4A’s Text Protocol, and Final Word. Give it a try at your next meeting! Here are the shorts to get you started…. Continue reading

Historical Thinking = Be There or Be Square

SewardHouse1This past weekend, I spent a beautiful Saturday morning with a group of teachers touring the Seward House in Auburn, NY and then working with a set of primary sources to investigate the relationship of William Seward and his family to important historical events of the 19th century, such as the Underground Railroad, the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s assassination and the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia. The house and the amazing collection of artifacts from the Seward family made us think about them not just as historical figures on a page in a textbook, but as real people, who lived and worked, celebrated and grieved. Thinking about their lives and placing them in the context of their house and their history was a great way to spend a Saturday morning! Continue reading

Kids and Summer Hunger


Image: USDA

School meals continue to be a hot topic in the news lately with lawmakers trying to scale back the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act school meal standards.  Regardless of what is happening in the news, the fact is that school meals are healthier today and for many children these are the most nutritious meals they get.  During the school year over a million children across the state rely on school meals.  For these students summer break can mean going hungry without access to the free and reduced school meals and not getting the proper nutrition that they need to stay healthy.  Just as learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year, neither does a child’s need for healthy meals and good nutrition. Continue reading

It’s Like Riding a Bike: Writing, Research and the Common Core

RideBikeChartSo, here’s something you might not know about me.  I LOVE analyzing the progression of learning standards across grade levels.  I’m not sure what it is about it.  Maybe it’s the chance to see the big picture… starting something with a young student in kindergarten and knowing that the experience will lay the ground work for something he or she will do as a senior in high school (and beyond).  Maybe it’s being able to recognize the intentionality that is built into the sequence of skills that students will acquire as they progress.  Continue reading

PBL 102 Driving Question: How can we develop an integrated course of study to ensure meaningful and authentic learning for our students?

ImageAs a PBL Trainer, I have had the opportunity to visit New Tech schools in Albany and Indiana where I have observed student learning in integrated courses. One course, Inventing America at Tech Valley High in Albany, stands out for me where English 11 and U.S. History teachers collaborate on project design and co-teach the curriculum. This course integrates skills and enduring understandings found in both disciplines.  For example, one project from this course titled Brave New World asks students to answer the driving question, How does the culture imagined by Huxley in Brave New World compare to modern American culture? Continue reading

Reflections from a Teacher Trainer

10rulesI am guest blogging for Lynn this month, which gives me a chance to reflect on our professional development work in CI&A. We have had an astonishingly busy year this with the explosion of Project-Based Learning, as well as ongoing work in literacy, Responsive Classroom, coaching and support for Common Core instruction and assessment, and collaboration with other departments. In my 16 years here at BOCES as a Teacher Trainer, I cannot remember a busier year or a time when I have been more proud of what we have accomplished with our small but dedicated staff. Whatever the initiative from the state, whatever the request from our schools, or whatever the support needed by our teachers, we have tried to provide the most effective professional development possible. It has also been a tremendous opportunity for me to continue to learn from my colleagues and the teachers with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the years. Lucky me! Continue reading

STEM or STEAM? We’re Missing the Point

STEM education is one of the most talked about subjects in our country today — and for good reason. We see STEM camps, STEM courses, and STEM majors being discussed at all levels. From our K-12 system and post-secondary institutions to business, industry and government, a lot of people are focused on — or at least have something to say about — STEM education.  Some go as far as to say that STEM is Continue reading

Commencement and Refugee ELLs

GradHatCongratulations grads! What an important day and milestone. With graduations ceremonies everywhere, I have been reflecting on the word “commencement” and what it means in the world of ELLs, specifically refugee ELLs.

In addition to our understanding of commencement as “a ceremony or the day to confer degrees and diplomas”, Webster’s dictionary also defines commencement as “an act, instance, or time of commencing”.   It is a time to mark the beginning of something and not the end.  For me, commencement is full of promise.  I have to admit that I like to think about words, so I took a look at the synonyms. Continue reading