September 2021 TTTs

Several times a year, we turn professional learning over to our faculty & staff during Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTTs) sessions. TTTs focus on improving our collective professional practice, allowing us to engage with our colleagues. On Wednesday, September 22, we were excited to have our first TTTs of the school year.
 
90-minute Sessions
Coding Fun! Spiced up narrative writing
We will tell stories with animations using Scratch (examples). With voiceovers or speech bubbles, students can re-tell, summarize, or create stories with animations. We will also look at the scratch community and why it is a great world for students to get into.

Graffiti: Write your name in style
Take a chance to explore and play on the ISB Graffiti wall as we learn basic techniques and introductory methods in the skills of spray paint art. Limited to 14 people.

Jewelry Design
I’ll teach you how to use some software, and you’ll use it to design some jewelry. You’ll walk away with some new skills and some new bling!


I’m C6ed… Now What?
This follow-up session from C6 will dive deeper into Content, Language, and Cultural Objectives. Why do we write them? How do we write them? And most importantly how do we make these meaningful for students.

The Mindful Use of Power in the Classroom: How Authority Distorts Respect, Honesty, and Trust—and What You Can Do About It
Presentation of research on the distorting effects of power and authority on people’s perceptions and perspectives, followed by strategies and techniques to facilitate greater respect, honesty, and trust in school settings (and examples/case studies to discuss).

Ceramics – Learn to Play
Join us for some stress-relief ceramics fun, and to create something that you can take home and brag about it! 🙂

 
45-minute Sessions
Sip and Read
Love the smell of a new book? Come discover the delightful new books the ES library has purchased to support our SEL focus! ABAR, inclusivity, equity, LBGTQIA+, friendship, emotions, and more! Hey MS/HS folk, picture books aren’t just for little kids! These big concepts are often best deconstructed using accessible stories so come browse! Staff Resources

Exploring Backstage
Take an all-access tour of the ISB theatre venues to see what goes on backstage. If you are curious about all the theatre ‘hidden spaces’ or how the magic happens, then now is your chance. There will be stairs involved as we visit the highest and lowest spots in the theatre.

Singing for Mind and Body
In this session, we will learn a couple of easy songs to sing in a group and discuss how singing can positively affect your mental and physical health.

Wellness with Basketball
We will host a wellness option of a friendly basketball game! Co-ed and any skill level welcome, you can play in long pants and shirt or whatever!

Hill’s School of Hot Sauce 
Want to learn to make your own hot sauce? This is the wellness activity you’ve been looking for! This will be the first of two sessions. You’ll need to be able to come back on the morning of Sat Sept 25 or at 4:30 on Monday Sept 27.

ABAR Conversations 1
For those who want to know more about ABAR, ask some questions, and begin engaging in this work.

 
Deconstructing DX: Learning how to create beautiful lessons
In this session, we will learn how to create units, lesson pages, quizzes, and assignments in DX. This is a great way to make lessons accessible for all!

Having Fun With Glyths!
What are glyphs? Glyphs are a pictorial form of data collection. Glyphs can be used as a fun SEL activity or as a summative assessment. Come and learn about a fun way to assess students using paper and glue.

 
Excel 101
Learn some simple Excel tips and tricks. In this session, we will focus on the basics of how to work with Excel. Bring your laptop and any burning questions you have and we’ll explore together.

Ideas for in-depth reading in Chinese classes
Wondering how to teach students to read? Want to know more about strategies for in-depth reading? Join this session to enhance our collective knowledge and skills on effective reading. Staff Resources

Making excellent graphics
Want to improve your graphic design skills when making resources for your classes? Join us as we look at some simple rules and techniques for improving your visual communication skills. Staff Resources

Integrating creative data collection and visualization with a Dear Data project
A Dear Data project gives students an authentic way to collect data about their own lives and present their findings with a creative visualization. Topics can include any content area, including SEL topics. Students keep a process journal throughout, integrating literacy and notebooking skills.

Executive Functioning Skills 101
This session will go into detail about what Executive Functioning Skills are, why they are important, how we can build on them at school, and tips on how parents can reinforce them at home.

Simplify Your Life with Power Automate and Mail Merge
How do you empower students and personalize communication quickly? Come see examples using two tools and brainstorm how you might leverage them in your classroom! Resources: Slides, Mail Merge Survey, TTT Automation Mail Merge Sample.xlsx, Student Interest Survey Template.docx, Power Automate Survey, Power Automate Home Page 

Classroom management for TAs
Work with kids but not trained as a teacher? Come learn basics of managing a classroom and feel more confident while support students’ learning.

Practical Practice for Reading in DL
This workshop bases on Chinese reading and learning in DL program, but is applicable to other language reading. It focuses on using reading assessment data to plan and arrange reading activities; planning stations with word study, character learning, self-reading, and guided reading to students across a big range of language proficiency; sharing station examples.

ABAR Conversations 2
For those who are ready to have some deeper conversations, lean into some discomfort, and continue to engage in this work.

Fall 2021 Cohort 1 C6 Homework
Need some time and support to catch up on your C6 homework before our next session Saturday? Keen to collaborate with colleagues in the cohort? This session is for you!

Screen Time from Head to Toe 

By Caleb Hill and Randen Morisako 
In our high speed, high tech and highly global word, we may find ourselves doing more of what you are doing right this second – looking at screen. Like me, you are probably longing for the offline world to resume what is so important for developing children. An analog world of using your hands to create art with a paint brush, gain insight from a newly opened book or give a task-affirming high five just cannot be recreated through eLearning 
Teachers, parents and students alike need to manage this carefully in order to avoid overuse, stress and yes, injury.  
EYES 
If we aren’t mindful of screen time many of us are at risk to develop what ophthalmologists call “digital eyestrainFor children and adults this can lead to dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision. While some symptoms may be temporary; they can persist if breaks are not taken. These symptoms do not mean special glasses are required or that an eye condition if forming; instead it could mean they aren’t taking enough breaks.   
Most doctors recommend what’s called the “20-20-20 rule” – Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something that is 20 feet away (about 6 meters).  

source: https://www.carillonvisioncare.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/digital-eye-strain.jpg

If you find you oyour child’s eyes are drying out quickly you may need to place a humidifier close to your eLearning space, use eye drops, and drink more water. The level of lighting in a room when using a computer or iPad should be roughly half as bright as other activities such as writing on paper. Decrease the brightness on your screens and try to position computers so that light from uncovered windows, lamps and overhead light fixtures aren’t shining directly on them.  
If you find dry eyes persist it could also be an issue as simple as not blinking enough. Blink!  
MIND-BODY CONNECTION 
Adults and children need to be moving. School has changed over the years and rarely at ISB will you find a group of students all sitting at desks for long periods at a time (exam time excluded). Students are missing that up and down interaction with their classmates and teachers and it adds a lot of extra pressure on parents. That’s why its so important to TAKE BREAKS. 
There are zero negative side effects to taking a physical activity break when you are working. It will help you work smarter and more efficiently after getting your heart rate up. As mentioned by Lissa in Strategies to Survive Working at Home its important to move your body. Students should take AT LEAST ten-minute break once every hour to rest their eyes and move their bodies. Set a timer to limit yourself and take breaks.  
source: https://www.pngfind.com/pngs/m/468-4680505_the-benefits-of-working-out-extend-beyond-just.png

PE teachers are providing workout videos or activity suggestions multiple times a week and encouraging students to get at least 60 minutes of activity every day with 30 minutes of vigorous activity. This means that they are raising their HR and potentially getting hot and sweaty too.  
If you can safely do it, getting outside and taking a walk is more than enough to get your blood pumping. Get out for a morning walk before you start your eLearning, breathe some fresh air and look out the window to give your eyes a break. 
NECK AND SPINE 
Do you find yourself bending your head down to look at your screen? This is called “text neck.” For every 15 degrees of downward gaze your spine experiences an additional increase in stressYou can limit the risk of text neck by monitoring the amount of time, you spend staring down at your phone.   
Another strategy is to ensure that your laptop or computer monitor is set up at the right height. Your monitor should be set up so that the top of your monitor is perpendicular with your gaze. This ensures that you should be able to see the bottom of the screen with no more than 15-degree downward gaze. 
source: https://notsitting.com/proper-height/

WRISTS 
When using a keyboard and mouse we are at extended risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is an overdevelopment of the wrist/forearm muscles and causes irritation the nerves in the lower arm causing pain, numbness, and even tingling. Making sure that your hands and wrist are in the right position while working may prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Periodically massaging or stretching your forearm muscles may also prevent muscle tightness in the forearm.  
 
source: https://inside.ewu.edu/ehs/occupational-health-safety/ergonomics/

 
A simple forearm stretch is to straighten one arm out in front of you with your palm facing out and fingers pointed to the sky. Using your other hand, apply light backward pressure to the tips of your straightened hands finger. You can repeat this stretch with your fingers pointed down for a different muscle group. 
LOWER BACK 
Long bouts of sitting may cause back pain especially in the lower back. Be sure to sit properly with a straight spine. Using a lumbar support chair or small pillow on your lower back may support muscles there and keep your back from slouching.  
Source: http://www.chairsadvisor.com/maintain-good-posture-when-sitting-at-a-desk-all-day/

During this time, one technique may be to try using a standing table. If you decide to do so make sure that the desk is high enough so that you don’t have to look down at your monitor and develop text neck. 
Sciatica is characterized by pain, numbness, or tingling that runs through the lower back, through the buttocks, and sometimes down the lower leg.  
By using a well cushioned chair and making sure that each buttock is evenly on your chair are some strategies to prevent sciatica. Other strategies include taking periodic breaks and including stretching or foam rolling of the glute muscles to make sure they do not get overdeveloped from prolonged sitting. 
Staying physically active during this time is extremely important. With a regular dose of physical activity, we can help limit the effects of prolonged sitting and screen time. Your eyes, brain and body will all thank you. Now… take a break! 
 

10 Strategies for Surviving When Working from Home

Whether you are working from your apartment in Beijing or a beach in Thailand, working from home can be a challenging shift. When I first began working from home part-time 3 years ago, I wasn’t always sure how to find balance. I still sometimes struggle with being productive when there are so many distractions. Every day, I continue to learn how to be my best self without physically being in a school. Below are 10 strategies that have helped me transition from a structured work environment to the flexibility of an online work environment. I’d also love to hear your strategies in the comments!
 

Be Patient

First and foremost, practice extreme patience for yourself. Some days are going to be harder than others but remember that this is a learning journey and your perception of success will probably ebb and flow daily. Your colleagues and students also deserve your extreme patience. For your students, learning independently and the daily deluge of information has the potential to be just as, if not more, overwhelming as it is for you.
How might your expectations of what you are able to accomplish in a day need to change? How might your expectations for your students need to change?

Create Space

I have lots of places that I am comfortable and cozy in our apartment, but those spaces haven’t always supported my productivity. If you don’t already have one, create a space where you feel productive and inspired. While you’re working, minimize distractions by putting your phone away and turning off notifications on your laptop.
How might you create a dedicated area that allows you to focus? What might it look and feel like?

Find Balance

Working from home doesn’t have to be all work or all play. There have been days where I have worked way too much and other days where I have not worked nearly enough. Just because you are no longer restricted by school hours does not mean you should work all day, every day.
How might you find or create joy during your day? How might you incorporate play into your day?

Keep a Schedule

Make time each day to review your to-do list and map out what your day will look like. We’re used to a very rigid schedule, and now it is up to us to create our own schedules. I have a daily (paper) planner where I schedule my day and keep a running to-do list. Electronically, I have also used Asana to keep track and stay focused.
What will you do today? When do the tasks on your to-do list need to be accomplished? Which hours of the day are you most productive? How will you chunk your day and hold yourself accountable? How might you keep track of your various projects and tasks?

Treat Yourself

Celebrate small successes. Did you just spend 50 minutes dedicated and focused? Allow yourself 10 minutes to relax and give your brain a break. Read a good book, go for a swim, play in the snow.
How might you use ordinary moments to reward yourself?

Move

We’re used to being in constant motion, standing 6+ hours a day. Working from home reduces the reasons to leave the house, making it easy to inside for days on end. But, our brains need us to move. Be intentional about getting up and being active. Find reasons to leave the house. Use the resources at your fingertips to get up and move:

  • Two of my fav online workout channels: Pilates and strength.
  • More online workout ideas: here, here, & here. And some Barre videos here.
  • Not into videos? Do these 7-minute workouts on your own. Or, set yourself an alarm every 10 minutes to get up and do 10 repetitions of an exercise of your choice. Have a trampoline at your disposal? Go jump on it for a few minutes!
  • Looking for more interaction? Join Victoria’s virtual Zumba classes! More info in her WeChat group.
  • Hate exercising? Walk around while listening to these podcasts.

How are you making the intentional choice to move? How are you sharing your success with others?

Make Time to Collaborate

We’re used to being around people all day, popping across the hall to ask a colleague a question, meeting with team members to design authentic learning experiences. When I first started working from home, it was often lonely. Finding ways to embed collaboration in your daily schedule will allow you to share your successes, get support for your wonderings, and alleviate the stress of feeling like you have to do everything alone now.
How might you be intentional about connecting with colleagues? How might you use the tools that are available to us to support collaboration? How might collaboration benefit student learning?

Find Your Jam

Did you know that Spotify has all sorts of playlists for the workday? Get a confidence boost, find your focus, visit your favorite coffee house, get through the whole workday, or stop procrastinating. Silence more your thing? Revel in it!
How might you find your unique jam?

Collect Data

When I first started working from home, I had no concept for how much time I was spending actually working or what tasks were taking up my time. Keeping track of what you’re spending your time on gives you concrete data (I use Toggl) that you can later reflect on and learn from.
What data might you collect? How might you collect it? How might you use this data to support your future productivity?

Brush Your Teeth

This is might seem silly or obvious. But I have found that getting out of my PJs and brushing my teeth before I begin my workday has been beneficial for both my productivity and sanity. Do the people in my virtual meetings know that I’m dressed & have clean teeth? Nope. Do I feel better about myself? Yup.
What rituals will help you transition into and out of your workday?
 

Your turn!

What strategies have you found useful as you have undertaken the adventure of working from home? We’d love for you to share in the comments below so that our ISB community can benefit from your experience!
 
Written by:
Lissa Layman
llayman@isb.bj.edu.cn @MmeLayman
Professional Learning Project Coordinator

ISB Parents: Jiāyóu!

Image Credit: Pixabay

If you are a parent in Beijing right now, you are being challenged (and here’s a virtual hug).   A mere two weeks ago, life was fairly normal – we were finishing up a short stent of school and work between Winter Break and Chinese New Year and we were excited thinking about our Chinese New Year plans – being with family, eating delicious foods, and some more relaxation time.  Then, we started hearing more about the coronavirus…  As an international school, we were told that schools would not reopen until we receive further guidance from the Beijing authorities.  And since then, we have gone through the gamut of emotions, decisions on whether to stay or go and watching media from sources within China all over the world.  We are trying our best, with no clear end in sight. It has been hard.
Now, many of these emotions are still very much alive and we are feeling up, down and all around on a regular basis.  And now, our kids are at home with us and started “eLearning” while we are trying to work AND keep it all together. This is definitely not easy.  With two working parents and two kids at our house, Monday was exhausting.  We were trying to figure out our “new normal” and when everything is dependent on technology and there is information coming from multiple sources, it was a lot.  I’m sure you felt it too.
As parents, we want what’s best for our kids.  What can we do? And, what can we do to support them and stay sane and healthy ourselves?
Here are some ideas:

  1. Talk to your kids!  They are stressed. Many of them are hearing us talk about what’s going on and are scared about the virus and being locked in.  They are sad that they missed their last basketball games, APAC tournaments, recitals, concerts and maybe thinking about what more they potentially may still miss in the coming weeks.  They miss their friends.  They miss the autonomy they have when they walk out the door every morning as they exert their growing independence as teenagers.  Let them vent a bit.  Ask them what they are happy about or what they are worried about and let them know it’s okay.
  2. Give them space!  Many of us are spending most of our days in one location –  houses, apartments or even hotel rooms, some of which are only temporary, and that is really challenging.  While it’s good to check in on your kids, give them breaks.  Let them go listen to music and tune out in their rooms.  Don’t make them sit and work behind their computers all day.  Make sure they are taking breaks and give them some room.
  3. Give them some new responsibilities!  Use this opportunity to have them contribute more at home.  I know my children have learned to do their own laundry the past week.  They’ve learned to make new foods and they have more chore expectations than usual.  It’s good for them to learn more life skills and also contribute to the family.
  4. Keep them social! Make sure your children are chatting with friends.  Most of our children are communicating with their friends via school tasks through Seesaw, Dragon’s Exchange, email, Flipgrid or the hundreds of other amazing tools teachers are using to promote social, engaging learning.  Face to Face contact is important too – not just WeChat or Instagram messaging – make sure they are making face to face contact with friends and family, so they are chatting with people outside of your house too.
  5. Encourage exercise!  This is challenging.  Most of us are self-quarantining, but when the weather is nice, get out for a family walk.  Do the PE personal fitness activities sent by their teachers as a family.  Do a yoga or HIIT workout together. It’s amazing what a little exercise can do for the mind and soul.
  6. Keep to a schedule! While most of us can do school and work in our pajamas, try to keep to a schedule.  Keep a reasonable bedtime for your family.  Eat meals together.  Make sure everyone isn’t connected to their devices all day.


 
As for us parents, these are all important points too.  Make sure you are talking to people to validate your feelings and relieve stress.  Ask for help!  We are a part of an amazing community.  We are all together in this and all we want is what’s best for our kids.  If you need help, there are so many people that are here willing to help – our Leadership Team, Teachers, Counselors, Support members, and fellow parents.
If you have ideas or successful activities plans that are working for your family, share them in the comments or with your parent communities.  We are in this together!
Jiāyóu
加油
 
Written by:
Julie Lemley
jlemley@isb.bj.edu.cn @JulieLemley
Innovative Programs Leader
ISB ES & MS Parent

Inclusion at ISB

Inclusion at ISB
I was asked to write a blog about inclusion at ISB. As an inclusionist, it seems this ought to be an easy topic for me to write about and yet, after 30 years of doing this work, I still find myself at a loss in defining inclusion in our international schools.
You see, the idea of inclusion as well as my own thinking about inclusion has expanded and evolved over the years. In the early 1990s, I worked in a group home with adults with intellectual disabilities. Inclusion meant ensuring they had access to the community and participated in social activities with peers without disabilities. During that same time as a special education teacher I taught in inclusive schools which meant all students were taught in their neighborhood schools with their same age peers in the classroom.
This narrow definition of inclusion held true until I moved overseas in 2000. For those of us who have been teaching in international schools this long, we remember the days where we either didn’t accept students with diagnosed disabilities or we only accepted students with mild learning disabilities. Often, we accepted these students in elementary school where we felt confident in meeting their learning needs and then determined by middle or high school they wouldn’t be able to manage the rigorous, academic program. So, we did what we thought was in ‘the best interest’ of studentS and encouraged them to find a different school placement. Inclusion meant we accepted some students into our school for some period of time. Whether or not we provided adequate and professional services was another matter.
Thank goodness we’ve moved forward and now better understand the needs of our international families and their children. Some of our schools have been forced to be nimble and adaptable in terms of the students we enroll and some of us have enthusiastically chosen the pathway of greater inclusivity. I’m proud to be in a school where the latter is true.
International schools have expanded inclusive services where we now welcome students with Specific Learning Disabilities,  communication disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, etc. – and we have invested in professional resources to meet the needs these high incidence conditions present. A few international schools around the world have or are starting programs for students with intellectual disabilities, pushing the boundaries of inclusion even further.
And yet these definitions of inclusion still feel too narrow. Inclusion isn’t just about accepting students with identified diagnoses. Inclusion is really about equity and access for ALL. Inclusion is for all of us and when it comes right down to it, we are all unique and have the need to be included in our school community, regardless of gender, race, disability, religion, social beliefs, socio-economic status, sexuality, language background, etc. I encourage ISB to think about and define inclusion in this broader sense, emphasizing equity and access for all, rather than thinking inclusion is only for those with learning disabilities. Because of our privilege, our responsibility for including others is great. We have an opportunity to make the world a better place by embracing our differences and celebrating the value we each bring to the school community.
I went home for the winter holidays and witnessed firsthand the work so many advocates have done over the years in including those with intellectual disabilities into the community. While at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle, I ran into a gentleman with intellectual disabilities I supported 27 years ago! He is now 60 years old, living a full life that included work (he’s retired), friendships, and an active social life. My heart was full knowing he was accepted and fully embraced in his community these past years. This acceptance and sense of belonging is what I wish for EVERYONE at ISB.

Our parents have changed their perspective, but have we changed ours?

One part of my job is occasionally leading parent workshops. I think they are so important, but they give me so much anxiety. I will spend several hours planning for a 1 hour workshop. I will rehearse what I am going to say over and over, because I want it to be perfect. At least that’s what I tell myself. But in truth, what I really want is to fill the time to avoid parent questions. Because I hold this assumption that parents are angry we teach math this way; I assume our parent community thinks more traditional methods, quick repetitious pace, and rote instruction is what is best.  
And that’s implicit bias. I was adopting a single story of what these parents are like because it has been fed to be over and over. Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns us of accepting a single story in this brilliant Ted Talk. What’s more, this single story and Chinese education is wrong. In fact, according to this Quartz article, in typical Chinese math classes there is more time spent on collective learning and less time using an individualistic approach. The whole class does not move on until the entire class has the concept. In a sense, collaboration and support of one another is nurtured. 
 At the most recent ES math parent coffee, my co-presenters and I did our best to be inclusive of the parent community. Many of the slides were written in English and Mandarin, they were able to collaborate, we provided materials for them to take in both English and Chinese, and we used several visuals to accompany our slides. We created space and access for our parents to not just sit and get but engage. And  the 40 parents that attended were beautiful examples of learners. They explored the mathematics problems, listened to one another, collaborated, had a laugh, and took risks. Not once in the oral or written feedback did I hear anything about parents wishing we didn’t teach math this way, nor was there anger or frustration that math class looks different now. The sentiment was appreciation for the opportunity to learn this way.  
Now I don’t want to sugarcoat it, I’ve been at ISB for 5 years now and I know that the parent feedback about our approaches to teaching math has not always been this positive. But, if our parents have shown us that they are willing to change, why are we still holding these negative biases about what we think they think? Have we been as willing to grow, change, and shift as our larger parent community?  
So. I hope next time you feel that discomfort when a colleague says something about our parent population, or a group of students, or a cultural group, in seriousness or in jest, that you’ll remember that people can grow and change. And I hope it encourages you to say something. 
 We have a responsibility as educators to move our community towards cultural proficiency. I know it can make things awkward. I know it can make people uncomfortable. I know it takes bravery. Brené Brown, a prominent research storyteller says, “courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.” Seems like something worth doing, doesn’t it? 

An unexpected and contradictory intersection between reading and empathy

This timing of this post arrives when two areas of thinking I’ve informally explored over the past few years are intersecting in unexpected and contradictory ways.
Part of the intersection occurred in October, when I attended a session by Dr. John Feland at The Nueva School’s 2019 Innovative Learning Conference titled, “Stumbling Toward Empathy; Lessons Learned in Building Cognitive Empathy in the Unmyelinated Teenage Frontal Cortex”. The research Dr. Feland shared revealed that teenagers are actually unable to empathize, as this requires a fully developed frontal cortex, which we now know does not occur until one’s early 20s. In fact, Feland further explained, when we expose teenagers to media intended to evoke an empathic response, the opposite can occur – these kinds of experiences can trigger distress in teenagers (Feland, 2019).
I made an immediate connection to the loud, collective voice from within the reading community of which I consider myself a participating member. We often speak of the power of reading, specifically that done by the pre-teen and teenagers I work with every day, to evoke empathy. I’ve come across this incantation, and uttered it myself many times. Most recently, I read it in Maryanne Wolf’s (2018) Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Wolf’s primary concern is that readers today are developing a reading circuitry in the brain which differs from the one developed in the past, pre-digital era; a question she poses in the first chapter reads, “will the combination of reading on digital formats and daily immersion in a variety of digital experiences–from social media to virtual games–impede the formation of the slower cognitive processes such as critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that are all part of deep reading” (p.8)? 
Herein lies the contradiction.
If you are not familiar with Wolf’s work, it is important to know that she is at the forefront of neuroscience when it comes to mapping what the brain does when it reads. If Maryanne Wolf says deep reading is connected to the formation of the process of empathy, she likely has some brain imaging to support this claim. This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma: Is the claim that reading can support the development of empathy, specifically in teenagers, a false claim, or is a more nuanced claim out there that can show a connection, albeit one that occurs over time?
I also wonder, what exactly are we seeing in our teenagers when they do read something that clearly has an impact, if it is not empathy? I recently asked a counselor colleague about this, and she shared her understanding of the teenage brain and its capacity and desire to help others in need (K. Haines, personal communication, November 24). This line of thinking supported an earlier conversation with yet another colleague over the need to implement empathic habits in our teenagers, even if the act of true empathy evades our learners (J. Binns, personal communication, November 21). And there is a larger issue for me, as a Teacher-Librarian specifically: I need to be very careful with my rhetoric about reading and empathy. This lifelong learning requires constant adjustment of my beliefs.
This is what I am currently grappling with on a meta, behind-the-scenes level. If you would like to discuss this further and perhaps even provide some next reads for me, I welcome your interest.

References

Feland, J. (2019, October). Stumbling toward empathy; lessons learned in building cognitive empathy in the unmyelinated teenage frontal cortex. Presented at the Nueva Innovative Learning Conference, San Francisco, CA.
Wolf, M. (2018). Reader, come home: The reading brain in a digital world. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Capturing Information from the Day to Day

I was having difficulty time finding a topic to write about that seemed to be applicable across all classes and grades. However, working in a kindergarten classroom last week provided me with inspiration on collection of data.
The alphabet chart – I bet it has been a while since you have thought about that unless you are a kinder teacher who is facilitating a class of word scientists currently exploring the alphabet chart. If you want to be amazed by all that a 5 and 6 year can learn about letters, sounds, patterns and more from one tool, I suggest you stop into a kindergarten classroom for word study.
 
Picture this, 18 young children sitting and laying on the rug with their alphabet charts that are missing pictures and a stack of pictures to add. Working in partners, they go about the task of identifying the picture, stretching out the name, catching the first sound, and matching that sound to a letter (whew)! As we walked around coaching into the students’ work, we realized the need to be capturing this learning as it is so rich in information. We walked around to snap pictures of each of their boards. Quick, easy data – using what you are already doing to gather information to guide future instruction and reflect on past instruction.
 
By taking a photo at the same time, we were able to look at partners’ speed and accuracy of the task. Several partnerships had a completed and accurate chart, indicating they had the vocabulary of the pictures, knew the concept, could apply the concept of hearing an initial sound, and then were able to connect the sound to a letter. Other partnerships were accurate but only halfway done, showing they understand and can complete the skills but are not yet automatic. Still a few partnerships only had a few on their board or pictures on incorrect spots, more investigation we decided is needed for those students to determine if it was the vocabulary, phonological awareness or letter sound connection that made the task challenging. On top of that, we gathered observational data on who could take turns and work with their partner. We didn’t have to add anything, just have a way to collect the data and then turn around and use it. We will reflect on this data in our weekly planning meeting to determine next steps for minilessons and groups and make notes on the previous week of lessons.

 
I write this for several reasons, one my love of data, as many of you have seen me nerd about over the years. Also, this one task reminded me that data is one topic that speaks to all teachers and faculty at ISB no matter the grade or position; we all collect and use data. It reminds us that collection of data does not need to also be additional work if we set up systems to collect data for what we already do.
 
We continue to reflect on our work at ISB and our alignment with our data belief, below are our data beliefs, updated as of November 2019.  As we know, data is collected and used in many different ways, in reflecting on our practices as described above I found the following most related for this example (shown with an *).

Data Beliefs at ISB

Updated Nov. 2019

Beliefs about the role of data:

  • The most valued data is teacher-collected formative data that is used to differentiate student learning. *
  • Quality, valid data from multiple sources creates shared ownership of student learning.
  • Data analysis supports both student and teacher growth.*
  • Data should be shared in a safe and open environment that depersonalizes ownership in order to support our understanding of student learning.
  • The act of reflecting on data is a part of our role and professional responsibilities.

How we use data:

  • Data is used to differentiate instruction to support all students.*
  • Data is used to inform instruction across a range of levels and for a variety of purposes.*
  • Data is used to document student progress for the purpose of reporting and school program improvement.*
  • Collaborative teams explore data for patterns.
  • Processes and protocols assist in establishing supportive environments to look at student learning.

 

Translanguaging: One Monolingual Teacher’s Transfer of Power

It’s my first-year teaching third grade at ISB, and two kids are hunched over a math problem talking excitedly in Chinese. Still adjusting to teaching in a classroom where I can’t always easily jump into my bilingual students’ conversations, I ask, “Is this conversation helping your learning?” One child looks at me with sideways eyes and assures me that, yes, it is deepening their thinking around mathematics. The other child shimmies up to me a few minutes later to confess with all seriousness that they were actually talking about recess. I compliment him on his ability to notice how his conversation is supporting his learning (or not, as the case may be), and have a realization: my ineptitude to participate in my bilingual students’ talk actually empowers them to take a greater role in monitoring their discourse. Rather than taking on the role of the chatter-police, I can instead facilitate reflection on how conversations with peers support learning. As a monolingual teacher, I need to let go of control and acknowledge that my multilingual students bring a skill-set to their learning that I can actively encourage from the sidelines.
“Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the twenty-first century” according to Gregg Roberts from the American Councils for International Education. The linguistic capacity of our ISB students is a force that we teachers can harness no matter where we fall on the continuum of emergent bilingualism. While many ISB educators actually speak multiple languages, it is by no means a prerequisite for supporting our multilingual students. By seeking out opportunities for translanguaging, or “the deployment of a speaker’s full linguistic repertoire,” (Otheguy, 2015), we create conditions where children can bring their whole selves into the classroom for the betterment of their learning.
Translanguaging is a pedagogical tool that can be used to both scaffold and enhance. Erin Kent, literacy consultant, identifies a process for the intentional planning of translanguaging opportunities.
Begin by asking:
Is there anything about this content that might be inaccessible for some learners or might cause them to underperform because of limited target language ability?
If yes:
How might we have learners harness their linguistic repertoires to ensure that they’re working to their full cognitive abilities, not just their target language levels?
Consider the following as tools for scaffolding content through language:

  • Multilingual charts
  • Preview vocabulary
  • Strategic same-language partnerships
  • Multilingual texts
  • Family & community as resources
  • Multilingual turn-and-talks or discussions
  • Multilingual planning or journaling

If no…
 Are there any aspects of this topic/unit/lesson that make sense for learners to approach in their other languages? How might harnessing their linguistic repertoires enhance or enrich their learning?

  • Consider audience: How can we create for a multilingual world?
  • Choose topics related to identity
  • Compose bilingual texts
  • Metalinguistic word study
  • Cross language projects
  • Access primary sources

 
These days I know that I am faced with a choice. I can require my students to interact within the limitations of my own linguistic illiteracy, or I can put fresh eyes on my curriculum to identify small changes I can make to promote multilingualism. I can plan for children to use their language as a tool for their own learning, and when they make mistakes I can celebrate those instances as opportunities for reflection. I can give up a bit of control and expect that children will be whispering about recess instead of math from time to time. Because let’s face it, they’re eight, and they are going to be doing that regardless of the language.
 
Have a look at these resources from Erin Kent Consulting:
Planned Translanguaging Process
Honoring All Languages in Literacy
Amplifying Metalinguistic Awareness
 
References:
Kent, Erin (2019) Infographic: Planned Translanguaging Process adapted from Eowyn Cresfield. Retrieved October 28., 2019
 
Otheguy, Ricardo, García, Ofelia & Reid, Wallis (2015). Clarifying translanguaging and deconstructing named languages: A perspective from linguistics. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(3), 281-307

The “Why” of Professional Learning Blogs

So we’ve started blogging our professional learning journeys, but why? 
21st Century Learners
A report from The Institute for the Future, claims that emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), are going to completely transform the workplace by 2030 (2017). This change is happening so quickly that an estimated 85 percent of the jobs that will make up the future workforce are yet to been invented (IFF, 2017). In light of such rapid change, preparing students for specific careers is of decreasing value, and the role of teachers becomes increasingly more challenging given the constantly changing landscape. The nature of innovation also suggests that most students can expect to change jobs several times throughout their career (Harper, 2018) making it imperative that education prepares them with the skills required for success. With this being said, no longer is it sufficient for us, as educators, to simply explain our subject-matter well, rather, we must motivate students to learn which requires us to take on new roles – challenger, activator, facilitator, coach, mentor and reflector of students’ learning processes (Vermont, 2014). These challenging and complex roles we face require us to be able to reflect critically. 
Reflective Practice & Metacognition
John Dewey’s book How We Think (1933) is widely accepted as the origin of the concept of reflective thinking as a key component of learning. In his later work, Dewey emphasised the importance of reflective thinking in teachers, discriminating between routine and reflective action (Dewey, 1933 in Liu, 2015). Reflection plays an important role in developing our metacognitive skills which can facilitate both formal and informal learning. 
The theory suggests that metacognition consists of two processes:

  1. the knowledge of cognition – knowledge of the factors that influence performance and the strategies used for learning
  2. the regulation of cognition – setting goals, planning, monitoring and controlling learning, and assessing the results and strategies used 

Blogging facilitates a number of metacognitive strategies including the fostering of self-reflection, self-questioning, access to mentors, self-explanations while offering an authentic audience to which we can ask questions and gain feedback. 
Studies have shown that learners often show an increase in self-confidence when they build metacognitive skills (Hacker, 2009) which leads to improved self-efficacy, motivation and learning success which is exactly what we, as educators, require in this forever changing educational paradigm. Whether it’s educators blogging about their professional growth or students blogging their learning journeys, the intention is the same – reflection and growth. When we curate artefacts and reflect on ourselves as learners, making connections from year-to-year, we develop our metacognitive ability. Our blogs provide a space to build a collection of reflective pieces that richly represents us, as learners, and provides authentic evidence of learning. 
Skill Development & Collaboration
Alongside our development as reflective learners, we are also developing 21st Century skills around web authoring and publishing, in the same way, we expect of our students. Within your blog, you can include text, images, videos and links to external sites as evidence to support your ideas. Considering the challenges associated with working in different divisions, the professional blogging network offers a place for us to connect as a professional learning community. The online community supports opportunities for collaborative learning that enriches learning performance, both for individual knowledge construction and group knowledge sharing (Shih-Hsien, 2009). By commenting on the posts of others, with feedback and questions, we spark further thinking and analysis to support critical reflection. 
So Why Blog?
Dewey (1933) insists that if we want to ensure our experience is educative, it is necessary to support ongoing growth as a process of continuing new inquiry. Blogging our professional learning journey encourages us to step back, reflect critically, and analyse our efforts while the community challenges us to be more thoughtful and mindful of our work. These processes prepare us to think reflectively and critically to foster continued professional growth. “To be a professional is not to have all the answers. Rather, a professional is someone who can reflect on tentative solutions, collaborate with others on the possible avenues available, and risk making mistakes because mistakes are an inevitable part of building new roads” (Lester & Mayher, 1987).
 
References

  • Dewey, J. (1933). How we think, New York: DC Heath
  • Hacker, Douglas J., John Dunlosky and Arthur C. Graesser (Eds.). Handbook of Metacognition in Education, 2009.
  • Harper, A. (2018). New approaches needed to prepare students for unknown careers. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https://www.educationdive.com/news/new-approaches-needed- to-prepare-students-for-unknown-careers/529604/  
  • Institute For The Future. (n.d.). (2017) Retrieved from http://www.iftf.org/humanmachinepartnerships/
  • Lester, N. B., & Mayher, J. S. (1987). Critical professional inquiry. English Education, 19 (4), 198–210. 
  • Liu, K. (2015). Critical reflection as a framework for transformative learning in teacher education. Educational Review, 67(2), 135–157.
  • Shih-Hsien, Y. (2009). Using blogs to enhance critical reflection and community of practice. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(2), 11-1. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.proxy18.noblenet.org/docview/1287038236?accountid=43872
  • Vermont, J. D. (2014). Teacher Learning and Professional Development. In S. Krolak-Schwerdt, S. Glock, & M. Böhmer (Eds.), Teachers’ Professional Development: Assesment, Training, and Learning (pp. 79–95). Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense Publishers. 
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