Tag Archives: LearnZillion

More PD

As it turns out, in addition to the three days I’ll spend at TeachFest in New Orleans this June, I’m also going to a one day conference in Washington, DC toward the end of May.  This whole LearnZillion Dream Team thing has some perks.

Achieve2010LOGOThis training is being hosted by Achieve, Inc. and will focus on their EQuIP Rubrics and Student Protocols.  I don’t know much about the latter, but the rubric is a great tool to evaluate current offerings in textbooks and lessons to see if they are really “common core aligned.”  It can also be used to supplement/aid your own original curriculum and lessons to make sure you’ve covered everything in the right amount and way.

I’m Going To TeachFest!

An email I’d been anxiously hoping for arrived in my inbox on Friday night.

learnzillion_800_by_160Dear Kyle,

Congratulations! 

We are delighted to inform you that you have been selected to join LearnZillion’s 2014 Dream Team!

It was longer than that, of course, but all I really needed to read was the first line.  I’m one of 200 teachers selected from over 4000 applications to this year’s LearnZillion Dream Team, which means I’m headed to TeachFest, in New Orleans, LA!

So I know most of you are probably wondering what this means.  I’m going to let the official TeachFest website do the explaining for me.

teachfest_800_by_200What is TeachFest?

TeachFest is an event that celebrates great teaching and kicks off a powerful collaborative learning experience for teachers. TeachFest brings together amazing teachers, coaches, and school leaders, and provides the time, resources, and community necessary to collaborate, learn, and create.

What is the Dream Team?

The Dream Team is a group of talented teachers from around the country who are selected to participate in TeachFest. They represent district, charter, and private schools, and offer a wealth of experiences and backgrounds. This group is united in their goal to develop themselves and each other, through a collaborative process of creating, curating, and sharing high-quality resources.

Needless to say, I’m pretty amped up about it.  I don’t have many details other than that.  I know the dates, I know the city.  Webinar next week to become more informed.  It gives me an excuse to buy a new computer, because that’s a mandatory thing to bring.

You know what I’m most excited about?  The tagline of TeachFest is Scale Your Impact.  That’s been my issue this year.  I’ve really been feeling like it’s time for my voice to get louder, but I just didn’t know how.  This could be it.

Irons in the Fire: Update

Looks like I’ll be starting the process of National Board Certification next year.  Illinois offers a limited amounted of fee waivers with priority going to teachers from districts on the academic watch list (which mine is), and I got news on Monday that I made the list.  The whole process of certification is changing next year, if you haven’t heard, so I intend blog the entire process.  Should be fun.

It also appears as though I might be training with “experts” in the Illinois State Learning Standards (a.k.a. The CCSS).  Through some federal grant money, the state is training a number of teachers to go to back to their own districts and share expert knowledge and practice in the standards.  I don’t really know much about it the process, honestly.  It was just an opportunity I ran into through the many, many daily/weekly digest emails to which I subscribe.  More details later.

Finally, I haven’t heard anything about the LearnZillion Dream Team/Teach Fest just yet.  In the last email communication, the phrase “Mid-April” was used as a date in which they were planning to notify applicants.  That’s the big one to me really.  Damn, I hope that happens.

I Finished My LearnZillion Dream Team Application

I’m not going to post my work for Part 2 of the application like I did for Part 1, because this is a competitive process, and there is still almost two weeks left to submit.  This step, unlike part 1, required much more than just typing answers to a few questions.

First, I had to design a PowerPoint presentation, LearnZillion style, to teach some lesson of your choosing.  I chose to teach a Geometry standard that LZ currently is lacking in its lesson portfolio.  There are a lot of restrictions to the formatting (font face, font size, colors, original graphics only, and others), but I’m hoping I did enough to separate myself from the pack.  I use Office 2013 on my home computer, and not having used PP in so long, I came away really impressed with how far the image creation tools have come since the beginning.

Next, I had to record a screencast of myself teaching the Core Lesson of the presentation.  That was a neat experience, but again, it has to be completely in the LZ mold.  The weird part about that is the teacher has no ability (at least to my knowledge) to use a graphics tablet and pen to actually *show* the math happening.  The text and images on the slides need to do that for you.  I’m hoping my design didn’t make that too awkward.  And I’m hoping my teaching style and tone of voice carry over acceptably.

Third, I had to give a critique of a fictional teacher’s learning task.  This was the easiest part for me, and I think my response was pretty strong.  I’m sorry I can’t give out a lot of details here, because I really think this was the one area when content and curricular knowledge was really displayed, and I want to keep my answer completely unique to me.

The last part was to make a 1-2 minute personal video to give the reviewers a face and personality to put with the digital works.  I practiced a few times before I did the recording, but I think it came off only semi-rehearsed.  They better not judge me too hard on that part.

Anyways, I’m not supposed to find anything out until mid-April, which seems like so long from today.  I went Google hunting to try to find out an approximate number of applicants, and I learned last year over 3,000 teachers applied.  Yeesh.  Assuming even more apply this year, I know better than to get too hopeful, but you never know, right?  I can dream.

LearnZillion Dream Team Application Part I

I just submitted Part I of my application to be a part of LearnZillion’s 2014 Dream Team.  You can read more about it here.  I thought sharing my answers to the short essay questions would make for a nice blog post.

1) Why do you want to be on the Dream Team?

I am hopeful of becoming a member of the Dream Team because I believe this could be an opportunity that propels my role as a teacher leader in my school and community.  For the last few years, I have felt my voice growing louder and my opinions carrying an increasing weight in discussions of curriculum, strategy, and planning with my administrators and co-workers.  People in my school who I respect are looking to me far more frequently for my input in important decisions.  I’m proud of the influence I’ve built and impact I’ve had on students’ learning experiences, but I know it can be more.  Possessing the experience and knowledge afforded to me from the LearnZillion Dream Team, I will have the confidence to speak louder, stand strong in my convictions, and lead teachers and students on a path of educational success.

2) Tell us about a time in the last year when you received feedback that was not all positive.  What happened?

My December mathematics department meeting began with an introduction to the district curriculum director.  She had never attended one of these meetings, and this was the first time for some of us to even meet her.  The agenda was to examine the previous year’s state test scores.  We had been briefed on these numbers individually, so the low marks for the junior class came as no shock.  As far back as sixth grade, this class has been collectively weak in math.  The principal underlined the fact that even though they displayed above average growth while at our school compared to state and national standards, their nominal scores were, indeed, below average.

The curriculum director, apparently, needed to hear no more.  The following morning, the mathematics department was greeted with a condescendingly worded memo outlining the fact that we needed to take responsibility for the lacking scores, that our teaching assignments were in jeopardy, and that we should look toward teachers from neighboring districts for guidance.  We were floored.  She had spent a total of 45 minutes with us over the past three years, yet she was “directing” sweeping changes to our department as if she knew the intricacies of how our classrooms are managed.

This matter has yet to be formally resolved, but the mathematics department has held strong.  We have impressed upon our administration and our board of education that the positive growth numbers should be encouraging.  We took a low achieving class and raised them up to the best of our abilities.  Our department has become more of a team since this incident, collaborating and sharing ideas.  And while the bitter taste remains, we hold by the fact that we have our students’ best interests at heart.

3) Tell us about a time when you saw a problem in your school or district that needed to be fixed and took steps to fix it.

Two years ago, on the day before school was to begin in August, I was in the classroom of my department chairperson making small talk when she received a call from our principal.  Apparently, one of our school counselors had mistakenly forgotten to enter schedules for a group of freshmen coming from one particular feeder school.  Because of this, the master schedule did not contain enough sections of our Rapid Pace Algebra 1 course.  He was calling to get ideas for a solution.

Overhearing the conversation, I checked my own teaching schedule (which already included four “preps”)  and enrollments in each of my classes.  It was conceivable, I noted, that my three periods of Trigonometry could be combined into two, allowing me an open period to pick up the extra needed course.  I interjected with this idea while they were still on the phone, but neither particularly wanted to weight me down with an already busy schedule–and the day before school started, at that.

Later that afternoon, I went to see my department chairperson and my principal separately.  I impressed upon them that I would be happy fill the need and teach the class.  As there were no other viable options, and a solution needed to be found by the end of the day, they each agreed.  So just 16 hours before school would start for the year, I was given 20 new students and a fifth prep, one which I had never taught.

I’m proud to say that the year was a great a success.  I received high marks on my evaluations, the new students were a delight, none of my other classes suffered, and I learned so much about being the teaching profession that year.  If I stay organized, focused, and ready, I can accomplish anything.