Category Archives: Connecting Ideas

Common mission and vision: Be together, not the same

What if we share common mission and vision?  During the 2015-16 school year, we worked together as a team on our SAIS accreditation.  We brainstormed, struggled, and learned together.

As a team, we have completed our professional learning during Pre-Planning.  I had the privilege of attending and participating in all meetings.  (I did not sketch the sessions I helped facilitate.)

Can you see our connectedness, themes, and common language?

August 9: All School Meeting

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August 9: Early Elementary Division meeting

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August 9: Upper Elementary Division meeting03-Berry-PrePlanning1

August 10: Deepen Understanding to Strengthen Academic Foundation

August 10: Goals, Structures, and Processes

August 11: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion04-Diversity-PrePlanning

August 11: Positive Discipline (a la Dr. Jane Nelsen)05-PositiveDiscipline1 06-PositiveDiscipline2

August 12: Strategic Teaming: Leadership, Voice, Hopes and Dreams

August 15:  Upper Elementary Division Meeting07-Berry-PrePlanning2

August 15: Early Elementary Division meeting08-Mitchell-PrePlanning2

Again… share common mission and vision.

Be together, not the same.

Strategic Teaming: leadership, voice, our hopes and dreams

We know high-functioning teams have great impact on student learning.  How might we grow in our strategic teaming to commit to the good, hard work it takes to meet the needs of our learners?

Last year during Pre-Planning, we began our intentional work to strengthen faculty teams (see Strategic Teaming: 3 Big Ideas Learning Communities Embrace for details.)

Today, we asked each team to review and discuss the 3 Big Ideas high-functioning teams embrace along with the 4 key questions these same teams routinely ask themselves.

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As we grow in our leadership, teaming, and collaboration, how might we learn more?

In today’s session, we used the first 4:15 and the last 0:45 of Julian Treasure’s How to speak so that people want to listen.

I hope our teams will return to the talk to watch what we skipped.  The big takeaways for me are

  • spreading sunshine and lightness in the world.
  • …authenticity…standing in your own truth.
  • …what would the world be like if we were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound? That would be a world that does sound beautiful, and one where understanding would be the norm, and that is an idea worth spreading.

Strong teams regularly self-assess how well they function within their norms – the hopes and dreams for how they are when together.

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Each team had a quick open discussion of their work, successes, and struggles with last year’s norms.  We strive to strengthen our teaming by setting new norms.Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 7.48.43 PMWe turned to another expert and provocateur by watching the first 5:45 of The Myth of Average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty.

 How might we dramatically expand our talent pool?

Each team worked to update their norms and discuss tools they might use to hold to these norms and provide feedback when necessary.

As Marsha Harris and I closed this Pre-Planning session, we wanted to  connect to Tuesday’s Division Meetings.

We hope to model the connectedness, commitment, and collaboration we seek in our teaching teams. Maryellen Berry and Rhonda Mitchell both closed their faculty meetings by showing Android: Monotone as a metaphor and message.

One fear we encounter while forwarding the tenets of professional learning communities is the perceived loss of autonomy.  We wanted to send the message

Be together; not the same.

To reinforce and support Maryellen and Rhonda’s message, Marsha and I showed Android: The Making of “MonoTune.” In the above video, Ji makes it look easy.  It’s not.

When we are in harmony and in unison but we are all distinctly different, that’s when magic happens in the world.

Be together; not the same.


GoogleMobile. “Android: Monotune.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.

GoogleMobile. “Android: The Making of “Monotune”” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Aug. 2016.

Teaming: Deepen Understanding to Strengthen Academic Foundation

How might we learn and grow together? How do we connect ideas and engage in productive, purposeful professional development (aka learning experiences) around common mission, vision, and goals? What if we model what we want to see and experience in our classrooms?

Influenced, inspired, and challenged by our work at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 session on the Transformative Power of Teacher TeamsMaryellen BerryRhonda MitchellMarsha Harris, and I set common goals for faculty-learners.

We can design and implement a differentiated action plan across our grade to meet all learners where they are.

But, how do we get there?

For a while, we will narrow to a micro-goal.

We can focus on the instructional core, i.e. the relationship between the content, teacher, and learner.

For today’s Pre-Planning session, a specific goal. At the end of this session, every faculty-learner should be able to say

We can engage in purposeful instructional talk concerning reading, writing, and math to focus on the instructional core.

Here’s our learning plan:

8:00 Intro to Purpose
Instructional Core: Relationship between content, teacher, student

Explain Content Groups tasks

8:30 Movement to Content Groups
8:35 Content Groups Develop Mini-Lesson

9:05 Movement back to Grade-Level Teams in the Community Room
9:10 Share Readers’ Workshop Instructional Core ideation
9:20 Q&A and transition
9:25 Share Writers’ Workshop  Instructional Core ideation
9:35 Q&A and transition
9:40 Share Number Talk  Instructional Core ideation
9:50 Q&A and transition
9:55 Closure:  Planning, Reflection, Accountability

We also shared our learning progressions with faculty so they might self-assess and grow together.

Today’s goal:
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Year-long goal:
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When  we focus on the instructional core and make our thinking visible, we open up new opportunities to learn and to impact learning with others.

How might we deepen understanding to strengthen learning?

Summer Learning 2016 – Choices and VTR

How do we learn and grow when we are apart? We workshop, plan, play, rest, and read to name just a few of our actions and strategies.

We make a commitment to read and learn every summer.  This year, we take a slightly broader approach to our Summer Reading Learning menu by adding two streams of TED talks, Voices of Diversity and SAIS.

Below is the Summer Learning flyer announcing the choices for this summer.

We will use the Visible Thinking Routine Sentence-Phrase-Word to notice and note important, thought-provoking ideas. This routine aims to illuminate what the reader finds important and worthwhile.

Sentence-Phrase-Word helps learners to engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the text or “what speaks to you.” It fosters enhanced discussion while drawing attention to the power of language. (Ritchhart, 207 pag.)

However, the power and promise of this routine lies in the discussion of why a particular word, a single phrase, and a sentence stood out for each individual in the group as the catalyst for rich discussion . It is in these discussions that learners must justify their choices and explain what it was that spoke to them in each of their choices. (Ritchhart, 208 pag.)

We have the opportunity to model how to incorporate reading strategies into all classrooms.  Think about teaching young learners to read a section of their book and jot down a sentence, phrase, and word that has meaning to them.  Great formative assessment as the lesson begins!

When we share what resonates with us, we offer others our perspective.  What if we engage in conversation to learn and share from multiple points of view?


Ritchhart, Ron, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Prin

OAME 2016: Sketch notes for learning

OAME Annual Conference – Barrie 2016 – Leap Into Math
hosted by MAC2 at Georgian College, Barrie, ON

Robert Lang challenges us to open possibilities for every learner. Start with art and find the structure. Seek connections through creativity.

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Catherine Bruce highlighted the importance of fractions, the lack of clarity on the anatomy of a fraction, the need to attend to and understand unit fractions, and to help learners find clarity and understanding.

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Paul Alves modeled powerful pedagogy as he empowered participants to code.

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Melissa Poremba challenges us to use literacy to further develop a stronger culture of numeracy.

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Steven Strogatz used his New York Times series to highlight the importance of humor, empathy, relevance, and visualizations. His breast cancer article, Chances Are, connected, for me, to Catherine Bruce’s earlier talk. Fractions often bring more clarity and understanding than percents and decimals.

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Chris Suurtamm challenges us to honor algebraic thinking, visualization, and flexibility in learners of all ages.

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Never ever miss an opportunity to learn with Graham Fletcher.

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There were two sessions of Ignite talks at OAME. I was a speaker for the first session, therefore, no sketch notes.  Here are the highlights from the second session.

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HGSE Teaming: Sketch notes for learning

Our team (Maryellen Berry, Rhonda Mitchell, Marsha Harris, and I) attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2016 session on the Transformative Power of Teacher Teams taught by Katherine Boyles and Vivian Troen.

Below are my notes from each session and a few of the lasting takeaways.

01-HGSETeaming

Teams that lack open conflict are dying entities.

Boyles and Troen challenge us to level up from a “culture of nice” to a collaboration.

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Elizabeth City joined us to make the case for teacher teams and introduce intentional talk around the instructional core.  How might be build collective efficacy?

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Boyles and Troen then facilitated a session to help teams set norms and change the sense of what is possible.  The instruction core was again emphasized as well as task focus.

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Daniel Wilson started our second day with a session on cultivating collaboration.  How might we have communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration.  His definition of collaboration, coming together to create something new, inspired our team to co-labor and set new goals?

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Monica Higgins used the Mount Everest case study as a catalyst for discussion around leadership, responsibility trust, and teaming.

Changing your mind can be a show of strength.

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Aviya Schler and Jacob Pinnolis discussed implementing faculty rounds at their school.  How might we build a culture of inquiry where we are curious about each other’s practice? What if we share our questions and help each other “see” what happens during class?

07-HGSETeaming-Doyle

Jodi Doyle and her team creating and sustaining collaborative, committed teaching teams.  How might we grow together to serve all learners in our care? What if we structure team meetings to embrace the power of positivity, have serious task focus around students learning, and be product oriented?

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Tina Blythe began our last day with using protocols to learn from student and teacher work.  How might we support deep learning and thinking?

Many eyes looking helps us learn and notice more.

How will we team? norm? collaborate? support? become more curious?

NCSM 2016: Sketch notes for learning

NCSM 2016 National Conference – BUILDING BRIDGES BETWEEN LEADERSHIP AND LEARNING MATHEMATICS:  Leveraging Education Innovation and Research to Inspire and Engage

Below are my notes from each session that I attended and a few of the lasting takeaways.

Day One


Keith Devlin‘s keynote was around gaming for learning. He highlighted the difference in doing math and learning math.  I continue to ponder worthy work to unlock potential.  How often do we expect learners to be able to write as soon as they learn? If we connect this to music, reading, and writing, we know that symbolic representations comes after thinking and understanding.  Hmm…Apr_11_NCSM-Devlin

The Illustrative Mathematics team challenged us to learn together: learn more about our students, learn more about our content, learn more about essentials for our grade and the grades around us.  How might we learn a lot together?

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Graham Fletcher teamed with Arjan Khalsa. While the title was Digital Tools and Three-Act Tasks: Marriage Made in the Cloud, the elegant pedagogy and intentional teacher moves modeled to connect 3-act tasks to Smith/Stein’s 5 Practices was masterful.
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Jennifer Wilson‘s #SlowMath movement calls for all to S..L..O..W d..o..w..n and savor the mathematics. Notice and note what changes and what stays the same; look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning; deepen understanding through and around productive struggle. Time is a variable; learning is the constant.  Embrace flexibility and design for learning.

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Bill McCallum challenges us to mix memory AND understanding.  He used John Masefield’s Sea Fever to highlight the need for both. Memorization is temporary; learners must make sense and understand to transfer to long-term memory.  How might we connect imagery and poetry of words to our discipline? What if we teach multiple representations as “same story, different verse”?

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Uri Treisman connects Carol Dweck’s mindsets work to nurturing students’ mathematical competence.  Learners persist more often when they have a positive view of their struggle. How might we bright spot learners’ work and help them deepen their sense of belonging in our classrooms and as mathematicians?

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Day Two


Jennifer Wilson shared James Popham’s stages of formative assessment in a school community. How might we learn and plan together? What if our team meetings focus on the instructional core, the relationships between learners, teachers, and the content?

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Michelle Rinehart asks about our intentional leadership moves.  How are we serving our learners and our colleagues as a growth advocate? Do we bright spot the work of others as we learn from them? What if we team together to target struggle, to promote productive struggle, and to persevere? Do we reflect on our leadership moves?

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Karim Ani asked how often we offered tasks that facilitate learning where math is used to understand the world.  How might we reflect on how often we use the world to learn about math and how often we use math to understand the world in which we live? Offer learners relevance.

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Day Three


Zac Champagne started off the final day of #NCSM16 with 10 lessons for teacher-learners informed from practice through research. How might we listen to learn what our learners already know? What if we blur assessment and instruction together to learn more about our learners and what they already know?

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Eli Luberoff and Kim Sadler created social chatter that matters using Desmos activities that offered learners the opportunities to ask and answer questions in pairs.  How might we leverage both synchronous and asynchronous communication to give learners voice and “hear” them?

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Fred Dillon and Melissa Boston facilitated a task to highlight NCTM’s Principles to Actions ToolKit to promote productive struggle.  This connecting, for me, to the instructional core.  How might we design intentional learning episodes that connect content, process and teacher moves? How might we persevere to promote productive struggle? We take away productive struggle opportunities for learners when we shorten our wait time and tell.

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