New Years Resolution

I have been a golfer since I was in high school.  I am not a great golfer but I have typically hit my drives in the fairway on most days.  Last year my father purchased me lessons at Golf Galaxy.  If any of you have not tried this I would highly recommend it.  A golf professional video tapes your swing from several angles.  Then on the split screen he puts Tiger Woods on one side and me on the other.  The professional told me that my swing looked good but my club and hands are not aligned when I hit the ball.  Sure enough he plays the video of both my swing and Tiger’s swing simultaneously in slow motion and he was right, my hands are out of alignment and Tigers are perfect.  So for about 10 minutes he tries a few exercises to help me straighten out my posture and swing and then shows me my new video and I am aligned perfectly.  This summer, I still hit the ball in the fairway but now with some power.  On average 30 yards further!  Now if I could only hit my irons with accuracy… that is another lesson.

As we wrap up the 2011 calendar year I think about my golf lessons and what my 2012 resolution might be.

In my role as Social Studies Coordinator  I see lots of data.  After reviewing the 5, 10 and 15 week grade distribution data all I see are charts, bar graphs and spreadsheets.  The problem with data is that it is just numbers.  Numbers like student grades and golf scores can only tell part of the story.  The real story is not that 15 students might be failing one subject… the real story is who are these 15 students and why are they struggling.  Is it attendance, is it issues at home, is it a disconnect with the curriculum?  I can not tell from looking at a spread sheet, and I certainly cannot tell from an office a mile and a half away.

My resolution for 2012 is to  roll up my sleeves and get into the buildings.  My resolution for 2012 is to talk to each of you in your classroom and ask you what your needs are.  My resolution is to be someone who is there to help support not to keep score.  If you have a lesson that you are proud of and would like another set of eyes I would love to stop in and help find that little detail to straighten out that may get you that extra 30 yards down the middle of the fairway.

Starting in January I will be spending 5 -6  hours a day in a building.  I will post my schedule in advance so that you will know when I am available to “swing” in and chat.

As it stands it looks like I am going to be in each building from 8:30 – 2:00 (The Elementary schedule is still in the making)

Olympia HS – January 3 & 19

Athena HS – January 4 & 17

Arcadia HS – January 5 & 18th

Odyssey – January 6 & 20

Athena MS – January 9th

Arcadia MS January 10 & 31

Apollo MS – January 11 & 30

Have a great Holiday!


Co-Teaching The Gospel of Wealth

After having the opportunity to co teach a lesson with Steve West (not pictured above) at Apollo Middle School this week I certainly had an eye-opening experience.  The chosen text was Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth.  For those of you who have not read this, it is a very complex text in terms of the language that is used.  The topic of distribution of wealth is equally complex.  Mr. West and I laid out some of the “mental velcro” to help the students delve into the text with a purpose.  We focused on the large and difficult paragraph 4.  To help with the “text overload” Mr. West split the paragraph up into three sections and had students focus on each phrase and sentence until they built their understanding.  Great job Mr. West and thank you for allowing me to come in and be a part of it!

This is hard and rewarding work.

AP World Textbook Committee Recommends Waiting for Changes

On Monday, December 5th the AP World Collegial Circle met to look at the adoption of a new textbook. After combing through the mounds of new textbook samples, DVD’s, CD’s, resource material, and ancillary materials it was determined that with changes in the AP World Curriculum as well as changes with the Common Core initiative it would be best for the District to wait to see how publishers will adapt and modify their materials to these changes to better support our teacher’s instruction. Special thanks to Lauri Secker, Carl Stresing, Jason LaDue and Ralph Fornarola for taking part in this committee.

On another note we still have many left over resources, textbooks, test prep books and ancillary materials from the review process that are up for grabs. Please click on the links below to watch the video inventory of what is left. If there is something on the table that you would like… chances are I have several copies locked up in storage.



Rock and Roll Lessons in History

“Are you like me kids? Do you like the Rock and Roll?”  That is an old David Letterman quote for those of you keeping track at home.  While working with ELA teachers this week writing common core unit plans we stumbled upon this great resource from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.  Using the prepackaged lesson plans they offer one can use rock and roll to supplement the reading, writing, or history lessons.  There is nothing like delving into a deep read of Country Joe McDonald’s anti Vietnam lyrics.  Check out the link below.

Working Together for a Common Focus on the Common Core

After spending 2 more grueling days in Albany as a member of the Greece Network Team one thing is very clear… ELA teachers and social studies teachers must work hand in hand if we are to truly create a rich reading and writing curriculum here at Greece CSD. With the Common

Core’s Learning Standards focus on the use of historical documents both supplemental and central to the Standards the expertise of both the ELA and social studies teachers must be combined to help student to “read like detectives and write like investigative reporters.”

For two days earlier this week, Diane Boni, Stephanie Smyka, Eric Blask and I were introduced to what seemed like 10 days of material on ELA Common Core shifts 1 & 2, 4 and 6. The math folks also got their fill of some of the new information coming from the state.

In this session the ELA folks were treated to some amazing ideas of how to roll out the common core in the classroom including video of teachers delving into complex texts with students and engaging them in text based questions that were worth asking. To hear these students confidently answer the questions while citing textual evidence for their response was an inspiring moment for many at the Institute.

The presenters also offered up great ideas on how to drill down into the text to help struggling students who may not understand the “message” by digging down through these 5 layers of the text:

1. The text (as a whole)

2. A passage

3. A sentence

4. A phrase

5. A word

Studies have shown that when a student cannot comprehend a complex text, it is most often because they are having trouble with a sentence, phrase or word. The teacher can find the student’s point of confusion by checking for understanding at each of these layers. Once the point of confusion is identified a teacher can address the issue, and spiral back up through the layers to ensure a student’s understanding of the entire text.

Supplemental historical text supporting larger works was also a major topic at the institute. Imagine the power of reading The Crucible (Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem Witch Trials) in an ELA class, followed by a close read in a social studies class of the “Enemies from Within” speech by Senator McCarthy, as he accuses key members of our government of being communist. These two texts support each other by providing a “mental velcro” to finally help students make interdisciplinary connections stick.  Furthermore, delving into multiple supplemental historical texts on this subject with increasing complexity, will allow students’ to be more exposed to those crucial tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words.

The trip was long and the work was tiring but somehow every time we come back home we have even more energy and excitement to put toward the important work ahead to make all of our students college and career ready.

For more information on what Greece Central School District is doing click on our new section of our website below.