Last week, I had an opportunity, along with my son and daughter, to
eat lunch with 24 middle schoolers who were visiting from Iksan, South
Korea. For the seventh consecutive year, students were selected by the local school
system in Iksan, South Korea to travel to Howard County to improve their English speaking and listening skills and
learn more about American culture.
During the first three weeks of July, the visiting students were enrolled in classes at Ellicott Mills Middle School, where
they spent five days a week in a five-hour English for Speakers of
Other Languages, or ESOL, class. They worked on reading, writing,
listening and pronunciation. During their classes here in the states, Korean was not spoken. Again this
year, there was an emphasis on both the written and spoken English language skills.
When the students were not in school, they were spending time with their host families. The host families are from Howard County, Maryland. It was really touching to see how attached the students had become to their American families during their three week stay.
three-week cultural exchange program mixes classroom instruction and field trips. During their stay here in the states, the Korean students were able to travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian and
the South Korean Embassy. They toured
the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and the Goddard Space Flight
Center as well as taking tours of the Howard County police
station and fire department, which are not permitted in South Korea.
This past Friday, the closing ceremony was held to celebrate all of the learning that had taken place as well as a time for the Korean students to share their talents with Dr. Foose, Mrs. Perkins and other top officials of the Howard County Public School System.
Cassie, Ben and I had such a great experience being apart of the closing ceremony. My daughter said, "It was
so cool to meet students just like me, but from so far away."
This past week, my family and I had the honor of hosting a teenager from South Korea. She spent the week with us here in Maryland learning about our culture and in exchange we learned a lot about the Korean culture. Subin is a wonderful young lady with a beautiful smile and great sense of humor. She demonstrated really good English skills and was a joy to have here in our home.
During the week, we took her to see the Maryland beaches, the monuments and the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., the sites and sounds of our small town and the various malls here in our area. She had the opportunity to eat Maryland-style crabs, pizza, hamburgers from Five Guys, ice cream, hot dogs, and Americanized Korean and Chinese foods. However, she truly enjoyed eating chocolate and ordering Starbucks' coffee drinks.
During our time together, we learned a lot. Below are some of the lessons we learned about having an exchange student stay with us:
1. Middle schoolers are pretty much the same all around the world. With the exception of the language and some food differences, Subin and Cassie were really similar. Both enjoyed laughing, shopping, eating sweets, and avoiding the camera.
2. Keep it simple. Subin seemed to enjoy the time we were together as a family the best. While we planned many exciting (from an adult perspective) events, she seemed to like listening to the music on the radio, laughing with my daughter, watching movies and soaking in the sites and sounds of a "so-called" normal American family.
3. Don't worry about the possible language barriers. While Subin had the ability to understand a lot of the English we spoke, whatever she didn't understand in words, she picked-up by observing our routines and customs. She was eager to participate as a member of the family and wanted to experience everyday routines.
4. Open-ended questions are hard to answer. During the first part of the week, we asked Subin what she wanted to experience here in the Maryland area during her short stay. We thought our questions would be helpful. What we found is that Subin didn't know how to answer open-ended types of questions because she was not aware of all of the options that were available for her. We learned to provide choices for Subin and have her select from two or three possibilities.
5. Remember fun is universal. As a former history teacher, I do get great joy in sharing my knowledge about the area in which we live and taking visitors to historic places to see. So, naturally, I wanted to share some of my favorite places with Subin and my two children. Quickly, I learned that seeing Washington, D.C. was interesting, but only for a short time. My daughter shared with me that. "Fun is more important than knowledge." While I don't subscribe to this completely, as the week progressed, my wife and I found ways to mix fun, learning and exploration into each day's itinerary.
5. Take lots of pictures. Enough said...
I feel very blessed that Subin could visit our home and be apart of our family for the week. I know this experience will be remembered by my family and Subin for the rest of our lives.
never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the
exact amount they need. So, I figured that if the entire world was one
big machine, I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some
Terry Heick is interested in learning innovation in pursuit of increased social capacity. He is Director of Curriculum at TeachThought, and a regular blogger for Edutopia.
July is traditionally considered leisure time for educators and the educated -- teachers and students alike. Beaches and books, pools and picnics.
And for good reason. The workload of any teacher or administrator can be difficult for those outside of education to fully appreciate.
That said, there's a thin line between two months of respite and losing ground in your craft. Slumbering for the summer and then expecting to flip the light switch that turns everything on for the first professional development meeting at your school or district can do more harm than good. And since June itself is often full of close-outs, meetings, and general exhale, that leaves . . . well, July.
Though it can be tempting to put the next school year off until last possible day, it doesn't have to be that way. You can still relax, make your own schedule, and "play" enough to free some creativity from the vise grip of a taxing schedule.
While you likely have your own checklist for opening the school year, below are five ideas to help you stay on top of your game without completely spoiling the oasis of summer.
1) Review and Refine Instructional Design
While classroom management, grading tips and collegial relationships get a lot of ink, instructional design is a teacher's real best friend. The opportunities you provide for learners to understand and master new content are the very heart of what we do as educators, and nowhere else is it as accessible as July.
The school year itself is full of grading, reporting, refining and communication. Matters of design are best tackled when you have both time and a bit of spark. No matter what you use during the year -- thematic units; project-based learning; direct, genre-based instruction; online learning; a flipped classroom -- now is the time to look at what you've done and tweak it. Differentiate it, personalize it, make it more authentic, offer more learner voice-and-choice, increase the potential rigor, alter how you activate prior knowledge -- whatever it takes to evolve your craft.
2) Verify Curriculum
Academic standards change -- and recently, they've changed often. Whether you’re operating from the Common Core or working to fold in NCTE, P21, or other local learning standards, knowing your curriculum is (obviously) critical. And this goes past keeping up with whatever changes have been handed down from above -- it's about looking at the content you deliver with fresh eyes, which can be difficult.
Find a different way to read the standards this time. For example, highlight them with three different colors: one for standards or specific language you might have missed in the past; one for potential power standards; and one for standards that may offer collaboration opportunities with other content area teachers.
3) Check-in with Your Digital PLN
Whether you're officially checking in with your personal learning network, or simply pinging the PLN you use every day via Twitter or your favorite blog or Ning, ongoing involvement with other educators can help with suggestions #1 and #2. For example, get a teacher from another grade level, state or content area to have a look at one of your units or assessments.
And when you do, be open to their thinking.
4) Building and District-level Collaboration
Team meetings can help ease the anxiety of starting a new school year, no matter how relaxing it is to have your toes in the sand. Classroom management, rewards, scheduling and other areas that can really obscure the curriculum and instruction -- e.g., the learning -- can be taken on at the local Starbucks, or even via Edmodo or Google+, so that when you do show up at your local brick-and-mortar, there’s less on your plate.
5) Visit with Incoming Students
Home visits are incredible ways to better understand not just the "city" your learners come from, but the specific neighborhood and house. And it can be eye-opening.
Home visits by educators usually begin with a district or school-level initiative. Postcards sent out a week or so ahead of time let families know when to expect you, and you'll usually go with at least one other teacher, if not two or three. This is probably not the kind of thing to jump in your car and try on a whim. (That's more than a little weird.)
But if it's on the summer agenda for your school and you've never done it before, this is something to look forward to. Visits like these can establish relationships that will go miles in the classroom.
This Won't Be on the Test
However you spend your summer, don't forget to relax. The numbered items above aren't supposed to be another stressful checklist. They're just big ideas to help you make sure that, come opening bell, your classroom whirs on like the rigorous, personalized, digital and authentic machine it is.
If you can start with the big ideas first -- instructional design, curriculum, collaboration, and the learners themselves (especially if you can reach out to them in an out-of-school context) -- it's much easier to swallow when four out of your first five planning periods are brutalized by meetings, phone calls, and enough paperwork to keep Dunder Mifflin in the black.
Give it a shot for 90 minutes a day. The sun and sand will be there when you're finished.
David Ginsberg, from the Coach G's Teaching Tips blog, shares the following:
The fate of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics will depend on how we teach more so than what we teach. It's great, for example, that teachers will now have time to explore topics in greater depth. But unless they're prepared to go deeper with those topics, the extra time will be spent reinforcing algorithms and formulas rather than deriving them.
School leaders and math teachers must therefore understand the instructional implications of CCSS in addition to the content implications. This is why I begin Math CCSS training with a discussion of six shifts in instruction associated with CCSS:
Focus: fewer topics covered in greater depth
Coherence: connect learning within and across grades
Fluency: perform mathematics with speed and accuracy
Understanding: use mathematics in complex situations
Application: know when and how applying math can solve a problem
Dual Intensity: achieve fluency and conceptual understanding/application Check out this video in which CCSS co-author David Coleman explains the six shifts in more detail:
The latest HCPSS Parent Teacher Connection program has a feature toward the end of the program on the Learn-2 -Tri pilot program. This T. V. program highlights the partnership between Tri-Columbia and six Howard County Public Schools including Wilde Lake Middle School. WLMS students can be seen swimming in the Wilde Lake Swim Center as they practiced one of the three events that make-up a triathlon event.
I continue to learn many lessons in the middle! I have learned that middle school teachers are some of the most amazing people I know. I have learned that despite the widely held belief that public schools in America are not succeeding, I see children working hard and meeting rigorous academic standards on a daily basis. I have learned that if I were to be accused of a crime (I hope this will never be the case), I want a jury comprised of 7th and 8th graders. Without question, students in these two grades believe deeply in fairness and justice for all. I have learned that creating positive relationships with students, staff and parents is the key to success. I have learned that being a middle school educator allows me to have a front row seat to witness some pretty hilarious situations as well as those issues that are very sensitive and often life altering.
As a veteran middle level leader, I can say that I have the best job in the world. I have the opportunity to touch lives, teach valuable life lessons, plant seeds of hope, develop innovative programs and sip from the fountain of youth on a daily basis. Often, I have been told by my friends that I should write a book about my experiences. Since I don't have a lot of spare time these days, I have decided to BLOG instead. I hope to share various experiences, opinions and beliefs on a regular basis (probably less than regular basis).
If my writings should be of interest to you, I hope you will drop me a comment or two in the appropriate place. In this era of being able to reach the entire world through the world wide web, I am counting on the fact that I will attract a few comments.
I am the Instructional Director of Middle Schools in Frederick County Maryland. From 1987-2012, I served in various roles in the Howard County Public School System, including: teacher, team leader, assistant principal and Principal. In 2007, I was awarded the Washington Post’s Distinguished Educational Leadership Award/Howard County Principal of the Year and most recently I received the 2008 Howard County Outstanding Technology Leader in Education Award. I am a member of two boards: Past President of the University of Maryland’s College of Education Alumni Board and the McDaniel College’s Teacher Education Advisory Board. In 2008, I started teaching one of the Intro to School Administration classes at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland.
I am a life-long Washington Redskin fan and I love to root against the Cowboys. I am also an avid blogger.
But most importantly, I am the proud father of two wonderful and amazing kids! I am also fortunate to have a very supportive wife who also happens to be my best friend.
I am always excited to share and collaborate! I have been asked to present to students, teachers, parents and leaders in the educational world and beyond. As both a trainer and a keynote presenter, I have had the opportunity to deliver workshops on topics like:
Leadership Engaging the Millennial Learner Leading from the Middle School Improvement Made Easy (Well Sort Of…) High Impact PD
Some of the organizations I have had the privilege to work with are: Iksan City Public Schools, South Korea University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland Michigan City Public Schools, Michigan City, Indiana National Middle School Association MSET/MICCA NECC/ISTE Montgomery County Department of Recreation, Rockville, Maryland Maryland Association of Student Councils
For more information about these programs and others I can offer, please email me at email@example.com
This is a personal blog. The views represented herein are that of the blogger, and do not represent the views of the blogger's employer(s). Furthermore, the views expressed herein should not be imputed to any volunteer boards or other community associations to which the blogger may belong. Comments presented on these pages may be attributable to outside users. If you have questions or concerns about this blog, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!