Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools

Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools

In my week off between courses in my DMA program, I began reading Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools by Ira Socol, Pam Moran, and Chad Ratliff. Little did I know that the work these three are doing is just down the road from me! Ira is the former Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, and Pam is the former Superintendent for Albemarle County Public Schools. Both spearheaded the creation of Albemarle Tech: The Center for Creativity and Invention which opened to seniors this year. Chad is the current principal of Albemarle Lab Schools. Their book seeks to answer the question, how do people best learn? And in light of the answers, looks to transform how we think of and do school to best support lifelong learning in our students.

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Thinking About Standards

I just got back from an excellent conversation about education with a colleague and friend, and I want to capture my thoughts both "on paper" and "out there" in the world. A lot of our conversation comes from the experiences we have been having teaching this year. Personally, it is a lot of different things coming to a head for me. Whether it is leaving next here, missing out on the curriculum review process, and thinking about my legacy at Centennial, or the professional learning we are doing as a staff and district, or the new beginnings I will have in Charlottesville and as a DMA student in music education at Boston University. I guess you could call this a more evolved version of my "philosophy of music education." Here goes:

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Multi-Tiered System of Supports in Instrumental Music

Multi-Tiered System of Supports in Instrumental Music

As part of my school's professional learning this year, we have been looking at integrating a Work Habits tool into our instruction. As part of our district's transition to standards-referenced grading, we have removed behavior from the academic grade. The Work Habits tool is a means of assessing behavior. Our staff's learning around the science of behavior, collecting and analyzing behavior data, and responding to behaviors has been fascinating to me. Specifically, we have been looking at how our academic AND behavior standards fit into the MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) framework.

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An Update on Vertical Teaching

As I have been working on blog posts and a website for our 2017 IBA presentation, How-To: A Standards-Referenced Instrumental Music Program, I realized a lot has changed in the how of our vertical teaching program. I wrote about it a long time ago (April 11, 2014), so lets revisit. As of the 2016-2017 school year, Ankeny has two high schools, each with its own 6-7 middle school, 8-9 middle school, and five K-5 elementary schools:

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The New SmartMusic Web

This year, we have been using the new web-based version of SmartMusic with our 10-12th grade students. We were awarded a grant for our 5 teachers and 116 teachers to have SmartMusic Teach subscriptions. Dr. Christopher Russell has a description of the different platforms, but here is a brief summary:

  • TEACH Free: Allows teachers to try out the new SmartMusic Web prior to purchasing. Library is limited to SmartMusic's free catalog (Free Selections 1 & Free Selections 2).
  • TEACH: 3 teachers can assign repertoire from the full library to 50 students for $399. Students can only access materials that are assigned to them. Each additional teacher is $40. A block of 5 additional students is also $40.
  • PLAY: Upgrade individual student accounts to access the full library. $20/account.

I should preface this post with the statement that the web-based version of SmartMusic is not yet a finished product. They are continuing to add and refine features, to take feature requests, and to provide quality support for the new product.

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2015 in Review

A look at all of the blog posts I made in 2015. Not as much as 2014, perhaps a resolution for 2016... Looking back at the posts, it looks like 2015 was a year frustrated by the conversation around educational funding. It was also a year of learning for myself and my PLC in our work to become better teachers for our students. Take a look: An Update on Iowa's New Start Date - February 14 The Iowa Department of Education and then Director, Brad Buck (now Superintendent of Cedar Rapids Schools), released new criteria for receiving a waiver under Iowa Law requiring a start date no earlier than the week where September 1st falls. This is my analysis of the document.

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Reflecting on What We Do

This past week, we had several guests from Summit Middle School in Johnston and Lenox Community Schools to discuss our implementation of standards-based learning practices, our use of vertical teaching, and our beginning integration of Chromebooks into our curriculum. We pointed our visitors to our work-in-progress website that provides detailed information about all of the above pieces of our program, and then provided opportunities to observe it in action at our 8th and 9th grade building, as well as with our 6th & 7th grade counterparts across town. It was a great time for us to both celebrate and reflect on how we do what we do with our students, and I wanted to write a little bit about that process. My three biggest take-aways were:

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What We do Matters

I am currently working on a post that traces the history of funding public education in Iowa. I am curious just how the funding formula has changed since the 1950s. This is taking a lot of research and as a "break" (HA!), I thought I would respond to a post my friend and colleague, Pat Kearney, wrote last week entitled A Community of Educators. Pat wrote an outstanding post about his thinking around the challenges facing educators today. I can't encourage you enough to go and check out his writing.

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Solo and Ensemble

This weekend, students at my school performed at the Perry Band Olympics, a solo and ensemble festival in Central Iowa. We have a write-up of how they did over on the Ankeny Bands website. During this six-week grading period, our vertical team of teachers selects a solo for each student from a database of graded literature (below grade level, at grade level, above grade level) we developed over the course of several years. We help the students prepare this solo for a summatively assessed performance around the time of the Perry Band Olympics. All students prepare for this assessment, regardless of their attendance at the festival.We are now beginning this process for our sixth through eighth grade students and their middle school solo festival in mid-April. As a professional-learning community (PLC), we are reflecting on better ways to help these students prepare. One of the results of this reflection process has been the development of a "checklist" for the students to complete before their 12-week assessment, approximately 2 weeks before their performance at the festival.

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2014 in Review

I know that I am 3-4 days late, but the stomach flu will do that to you. 2014 was a big year for me. I began blogging about my teaching experiences in October of 2013. The spring of 2014 is where that began to pick up as our professional learning community looked into curriculum and assessment and I began my Masters of Music Education program at VanderCook College of Music. Here is a review of all I posted over this past year: Vertical Teaching - October 10, 2013 While I know this isn't part of 2014, it is the only post on this blog that occurred before 2014, and it is a pretty critical part of several of the posts that followed! I discussed the vertical nature of our professional learning community: 5 teachers that teach lessons and rehearse instrumental music groups in grades 6-12 across three secondary schools.

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Initial Thoughts on the Common Core State Standards

We are now in the a three week until on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core World. We have been provided with a wealth of resources to get us started:

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Upcoming Posts

I am in the midst of a bunch of different things grabbing my attention on which I would like to share my learning: I am currently spending a week at the Vandercook College of Music taking a MECA course entitled Developing the Successful Jazz Ensemble with Mike Steinel, professor of jazz studies at the University of North Texas and author of Essential Elements for Jazz Ensemble.

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