Posted in Professional Development, Uncategorized

My Experience at #ECET2Chicago

I went to this today and had no idea what to expect.  I will say that the experience was positive and I would love to attend an event similar to this in the future.  Below are just a collection of thoughts and ideas that stuck out to me during the day.  Additionally, I realized that it had been A LONG TIME since my last blog.  I really need to make it more of a priority because it really does help me be a better educator.

Erica Thurman – Keynote

This talk was given by a high school dropout turned law student.  Her message this morning really set a great tone for the day.  I loved the fact that she credited some of her teachers with giving her something along the way that helped her get to where she is today.  I am hoping that I will be able to get her to come speak to my students because I really believe that many of them can identify with her situation and can see a way out of some of their situations. I loved the quote that she left us with:

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson

Breakout Session – Mike Biondo and Francesca Sourbis (Maine South)- Instructional Coaching

I learned so much about having an instructional coaching framework during this session.  The presenters discussed some of their initiatives at Maine Township.  One of the aspects that I thought was particularly interesting was  having a Learning Walk.  Teachers could go to other classrooms during designated periods of the day and if they encountered an open door that meant “come on in” and if the door was closed that meant that it was not open to visitors.  While in the classrooms, teachers were students for that time; bring the backpack, take the Algebra 2 test, participate in the discussion.  The focus was on what was currently present in the classroom and how could we move the classroom to a 21st Century environment.  Additionally, the presenters talked about having an expert panel (college admissions, local business leaders, teacher ed professor, etc) come to speak to teachers about this 21st Century learning environment as well.  In the program implemented in their district, teachers get to choose between individual coaching plans, professional development support groups, learning walks groups and peer-to-peer coaching groups and possibly Action Research (CLEAR Program – teachers pay to earn Aurora University graduate credit and got a bonus of an iPad).

One of the aspects that I really liked was the idea of building Coaching Agreements.  These include expectations for confidentiality, goals for coaching, steps to follow, what will the coach do, what will the coachee do, next steps, etc.  I think that spelling it out on paper would be beneficial for my staff and might help break down the barriers that are present.

During the discussion portion, I met some great coaches from across the area.  They were in a variety of places as far as being a full time coach to not being released from teaching at all to do their coaching responsibilities.  It really made me realize how blessed we are in our district to have the release time to work with teachers.  One of the ideas that stuck with me was that one of the coaches often will visit classrooms and say “I’m just visiting so I can see what is going on and how I can better help you”.  It feels like a way in with my teachers that is less intimidating.

A couple of resources that I might pick up that were suggested were a book by Eleanor Aguilar The Art of Instructional Coaching and Diane Sweeney’s Student Centered Coaching. 

Building Your PLN – Kristen Bronke, Steve Wick, Kristin Ziemske

This session was partially presented by one of my college friends, Kristin Bronke.  It was awesome to randomly reconnect with her at an EdCamp last year.  You never know when a former iteration of yourself will converge with your current iteration.  It was nice to see other educators “get connected” for the first time.  I also had an appreciation for the part of the presentation devoted to building your local network.  I think that building the Twitter connections can, at times, be easier than the face to face ones in our buildings, but the building ones can and SHOULD be more important.

A book that I want to look into is Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer

Mocktails Discussion

Honestly, the mocktail wasn’t much to write home about – or write a blog about – but I LOVED the IDEA of the session.  Our conversation revolved around some of the tech available in our schools.  I was glad that I at least knew what a LMS was as the term was just thrown out there during the conversation as if it is common knowledge.  Pretty sure that if I mentioned it back at school, that common knowledge assumption would be proved false.  Additionally, everyone was pretty geeked about this think called a Sphero.  I have only heard about them, but it did peak my interest a little more.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 4.58.30 PM

After Lunch Discussion – Irvin Scott

Although it seemed like the majority of his message was related to improving the image of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I liked his personal story from an experience he had in school as well as his experience as an educator.   He was able to recite several poems including some of Robert Frost’s work (which is also featured below).  This session really made me think about my impact as an educator and made me think about how I want to do more.


Build the bridge between what you want your students to know and where they are.

College Ready Expectations, Effective Teaching and Personalized Learning.

He mentioned a math project and I am fairly familiar with the work of that project especially when it comes to formative assessment.  Below is an image from a website devoted to that work.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 1.19.23 PM

One of the lasting ideas that he mentioned was that we need to put strong teachers in front of the students who need them the most.  Unfortunately, that is not really happening.  No matter what the situation is, parents will send their student to school because they have a dream for their student.  I need to recognize this ON A DAILY BASIS.

Colleague Circle

The end of the day was devoted to this activity.  Our group discussed Professional Development.  It made me realize how rewarding SCMI (the South Cook Math Initiative) has been on my life.  I need to find ways to say thank you, give back, and promote the lessons that I have learned through that experience.  A resource that was shared during that session was Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning.

SIDE NOTE – Kendall College – AWESOME experience here and will definitely recommend it to my students.