Reflecting on Lessons

January 4, 2013  |  Teaching  |  1 Comment
Pen(cil) to paper all day!

Working it out.

I work with some really brilliant teachers uptown at Global Scholars Academy.

We’ve been studying effective teaching together. In that work we have tried to be the kinds of colleagues who are publicly reflective. Yesterday we thought of a few questions that we could use as a protocol to guide that reflection. Keeping in mind that one cannot really get the full measure of a teacher from a short meeting or classroom visit, we’ve used our common meeting time and preps to look at lesson plans and student work together.

Additionally, when we critique each other as peers, it has been valuable to give feedback that is not just based on an isolated encounter but on work, growth, and development done over time. This has helped us to see our teaching as a developing craft, not a product.

Here are some questions that we hope you can use as you lesson plan and reflect in your own school. Nothing too flashy here, just some solid, productive introspection.

When preparing a lesson:

  • What kind of critical thinking is built into this lesson? Where can I expect to see it? — in my connection? Teach? Demonstration? Active engagement? Independent/partner/group work?
  • What data led to this lesson? Why was this what you chose to teach?
  • What specific skill are you teaching?
  • How are you going to model this skill for students?
  • What will you do for struggling students or for kids who have already mastered this?

Here are some things that you can ask yourself after a lesson:

  • How did it go? If you could improve something, what would you improve? Why?
  • How will you use the data from this lesson to influence the teaching for tomorrow?

New iPad or iPhone? You need these applications!

January 3, 2013  |  Teaching  |  No Comments
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iPad is my homeboy.

So all our teacher friends came to work today sporting shiny new iPads. I don’t mean to sound like some kind of Apple fanboy or anything, (I’m not… Everyone knows that my MacBook is Bootcamped to run Windows. More on that soon…) but the iPad has been the single most important tool for my teaching since chalk. For real. I have not dealt in paper since 2010. I use it to do EVERYTHING.

Here are the apps that I find most useful. Prepare to have your socks rocked. Seriously.

Dropbox – Dont ask any questions. Just get this app. Sign up for the service. Your life will be transformed. For the uninitiated, Dropbox is the most versatile cloud-based storage solution out there. You can store your files on the internet, so that they are available to you wherever there is an internet connection. Say goodbye to flash drives, Mr. Flintstone. This app is available for phones too. Get it so you can check your curriculum maps instead of playing angry birds. You promised yourself that you would be more productive this year, remember.

CloudOn – This app manages any cloud services that you might use. Including Dropbox. Computer users who have come to the tablet darkside will be happy to know that this app uses a Microsoft Office interface. It’s a little slow, but it gets the job done.

Evernote – Another AMAZING app. It’s a digital notepad that you can sync to all of your devices. The notes you take on your iPad show up on your computer. Look ma, no wires. I use this to house and share all of the notes from my conferences and small groups with students.

Keynote – At $10, this is one of the most expensive applications on my device, but it is worth. every. cent. If you do any public speaking (a lesson is public speaking, folks) or give presentations regularly, this is a must-buy. It is basically an Apple-branded PowerPoint to go.

Pages – The second $10 app on my iPad. It’s the best Microsoft Word alternative on the device. Anything that you can do on a laptop, you can do here. Instant purchase.

Google Drive – The best thing on the internet, now on your iPad. You have access to all of your google documents in real time on this app.

Kindle – All those books you bought for your kindle, you can see and read them here. Perfect. I’ve been reading lots of Junot Diaz. Word.

Twitter – If you are an educator, and you are not on Twitter, shame on you. Join. Now. Follow us. (@MisterMinor and @MsKass1)

Penultimate – For those, who love handwriting, you can buy a stylus and write in this virtual notebook. I don’t really use this, but some people swear by it. Noteshelf is another great alternative. Better still is the genius app, Paper.

Find iPhone – This app scares me a lot, but it has saved my life on two separate occasions. It uses GPS technology to track your iPad. If you lose your iPad, you can go to any computer, and the app will locate your iPad and send a nice/nasty message to whoever found/stole it. Once I left my iPad in a cab, I was able to contact the driver through this app. Safe!

ShowMe – a really fun virtual whiteboard that is awesome to teach with… It allows you to record your writing, and you can play lessons back for kids that miss class… Yum.

ThreeRing – @Kris10_SEA put me on to this app a few days ago, and it seems cool. It allows you to photograph student work with your device’s camera and organize the work online. Yup. No more paper.

So those are my favorite few… There are so many more that I can talk about, but if you’ve got these, you are off to a good start!

Christmas, The Minor Way

January 2, 2013  |  Family  |  No Comments
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Crockett Kids, eagerly awaiting Christmas

When I was six, I waited the whole entire year for Christmas to come-and my mom and dad made it well worth the wait. A Crockett Christmas was nothing short of something you might see in a Hallmark Classic-good tidings and cheer were thrown all over the place. From specially dyed, homemade frosting and variations of sprinkles for sugar cookies to reindeer feed left on the porch for Blitzen and his gang, our house was tight with Christmas tradition.

24 years later, I may not be waiting the whole entire year for the season to spring, but when it’s here, I blast my Mariah Carey Christmas station on Pandora and immediately start perusing Amazon for gifts, ensuring to fully utilize my amazon prime membership in shipping waivers. 

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Soleil and Kass, Decking the “Hall”

This year, I had extra reason to be merry: I have a sweet little 8 month old Soleil to be the bell to my jingle. Cornelius is always hip to the beat, and immediately began teaching Soleil the art of cookie mongering while I ran through the art of decking the halls, errrr hall. We do live in a Brooklyn apartment after all.

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Cornelius and Soleil, right before missed Christmas Eve service, right on time for Jesus’s Bday Party

And while the Crockett Christmas certainly set a high precedent, I felt like creating Minor Family Christmas Traditions was a bit of a milestone for me and Cornelius as parents. We had our own way of doing things, like missing Christmas Eve service, but making it to Jesus’s birthday party. Renting a zip car to see Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, returning it late, and making a gigantic person really, really mad. Leaving the house in our PJs to get hot cocoa and a bacon less bacon egg and cheese at the Dunkin Donuts down the block because it’s Kosher, and that’s the only thing open on Christmas Day.

I’ll always carry a little bit of the Crockett Christmas inside of me, but it’s fun to do Christmas the Minor Way. Soleil glowed during the whole Christmas season, and as far as we’re concerned, that means mission accomplished. When she is six, she might be crossing off the days until Christmas just like her mom did so many years ago.