My Final COETAIL Project- Course 5: Self-Advocacy Presentations

Unit Introduction

  • As we entered the final quarter of the year,  I started our Advocacy presentation unit off with a brainstorming session around their transition to grade 8 and what kinds of things they would want to share with their teachers. It was a group discussion allowing them to start looking for the words to help describe themselves as learners & individuals. Further lessons would then give them more vocabulary around how to speak about themselves in that same way with confidence and expand their self-awareness and demonstrate how to articulate what they need to get the most out of their learning and more importantly, enjoy the process!
  • Check out our Unit Planner linked here with some slight alterations made that will be shared in the video at the bottom of this post.

The Learning Process

  • After our brainstorming sessions, we had numerous SMART skills lessons allowing us to grow in educational vocabulary and reflect on ourselves as learners. I transformed an old pen and paper Executive Functioning survey to being a google doc, and found success with the reflection piece and debriefing the students with their own personal data.
From this... 

to this...

allowing for a greater level of independence and mini lessons on the vocabulary within the survey to add to their personalized Vocabulary journals.

  • From offering choice selections lessons through “bingo boards” (as seen in the final video) to direct instruction reading lessons my EAP (English for Academic Purposes) and LRC (Learning Resource Class) has a fine balance between independent activities and lessons that require active engagement. Allowing them to choose all activities in 1 language domain or complete one activity from each of the 4 domains (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking).
  • Many of which we started the year off completing together as a class and as the year went on similar activities then became some that they could complete independently- such as the Nearpod listening lessons.
  • As we got closer to the final assessment for our project, we dove back into their goals and charts of their progress and continued the reflection process. Partnering up to work on skills in similar areas as well as different partners whose strengths and weaknesses were opposite to them was beneficial. In these partnerships, they were able to discuss strategies and ways they focus on their strengths to help with things that are more challenging for them.
  • Here are a few altered (for confidentiality) screenshots of the final projects showcasing slides of the student’s work and some of their excitement to celebrate not only their growth and success around meeting their goals but to celebrate their differences and truly value the unique individualness of each and every one. Be sure to check out the final video reflection at the end of this post, to see parts of the presentations in action!

ISTE Standards for Students

Empowered Learner

Creative Communicator

Both Images taken by Shalene Huth
  • As an empowered learner my students (1a),  “Articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.” and  (1c) “Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.”
  • As creative communicators my students (6a), “Choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication” and (6d) “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.”
  • Allowing students the option of which platform they wanted to use to complete their project authentically embedded the ISTE Standards for students into my content area. It has gotten better as it has become easier to identify which units are using which ISTE standards, and how to go about planning meaningful lessons to help with significantly re-designing the task or to create an entirely new one.

    ISTE Standards for Educators

Image taken by Shalene Huth.      I have deepened my practice of the  educator ISTE standards, by using them in my unit and becoming more reflective in the designing stage, opposed to only at the completion of the unit. Looking at not only the standards I wanted the kids to model, but those designed for educators has allowed me to grow in the planning and implementation of this unit, ensuring that almost each standard is somehow incorporated into this final project.

I also realized that for the future I’d also like to focus on and continue to grow in Standard 3-Digital Citizenship:where "Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibilty partcipate in the digital world."

ISTE Standards I was proud to meet through the implementation of my final project:

    • “Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning.”
          • Specifically: “Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.”
    • “Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.”
          • Specifically: “Educators: Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.” and “Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.”
    • “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.” and “Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.”
    • “Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.”
      • Specifically, “Educators: Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.”
    • “Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students.
        • Specifically, “Educators: Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.”
    • “Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals.”
        • Specifically, “Educators: Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.” and “Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents, and education stakeholders to build student self-direction.”

Meeting Our Goals

  • The main goal for this unit was to present a video recording about themselves as a learner demonstrating clear English speaking and knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses while reflecting on their goals from this year.
  • For myself and this unit, I wanted to open it up to doing the project, not from a standard template- I’ve provided in the past, with explicit step-by-step instructions, but to give them the end goal and give them choice on how to reach it and bring, what I cherish and value: creativity, into my lessons.
Showing my students first hand, it can be extra rewarding to just "go rogue" as you can see here with a painting class I experienced... where I took the liberties to ask for black paint created my own pink and followed instructions in a different way. 


Photos taken by Shalene Huth
  • I think this project has challenged me to rethink traditional approaches, in the sense of breaking away from set graphic organizers and templates to allow more room for student choice. Then once students begin follow up with bringing in sentence starters, prompts, or graphic organizers to aid them.
  • It was also a goal of mine, to explore utilizing my own photos and to begin taking more “abstract” ones that could, later on, be used in blog posts- a goal of which I was thrilled to see come full circle in this post and within the images of my final video.

Adding to Our Toolbelt

  •  Movie Maker
  • Screen Casetify
  • Google forms-surveys
  • Google Docs.
  • Padlet & Flipgrid
  • Nearpod
  • Read & Write assistive tech.
  • Most of my students were familiar with a number of these and it’s great to see more and more teachers using them regularly within their classes. So what may be new to you, more often than not, is not new for our students.
  • Choosing the tool to match the task, is also an easy feat once you have a broader knowledge of what’s available to you.  Being able to start with knowing what you want and select a tech tool to best support it allows the focus to stay on the task with technology simply enhancing the redefinition of what we thought was possible in the many learner objectives and endless opportunities to show demonstrate of the expected outcomes. 

Sharing our Transformation

  • Being that I am the only SEN teacher for my grade level I shared this unit with the transition team and next year’s teachers. Teachers received an e-mail with links to each of the students’ videos for whom they will teach for grade 8. I will initiate collaboration through setting up the transition meetings and holding end-of-year progress meetings and support plan meetings with parents and classroom teachers. During this time, teachers will be able to ask the students directly any clarifying questions on their projects. We have been unable to have any of these meetings yet, due to Covid-19.
  • I will continue to share out my learning experiences with my colleagues as we implement new TTT (Teacher’s Training Teachers) sessions at our weekly Faculty and Dept. meetings (not just the monthly PD days) as well as through engaging them in the transition meetings and student support meetings.  Sharing these types of projects and the lessons leading up to our final outcome will also empower teachers better serve diverse groups of learners.
  • All of this will greatly impact the students I service, by taking these skills of self-awareness, self-advocacy, and empowerment and generalizing them into their general education classrooms and with a larger setting and in a subject that may be more challenging to them.

Learning Outcomes

  • Greater self-awareness, confidence, and advocacy skills!
  • Assessment task: creating a presentation (of any kind) with visuals and demonstrating speaking skills that can reflect on themselves as a learner and how they set goals and worked towards achieving them.
  •  They also learned about collaboration and speaking with their classmates and the classroom teacher is of utmost importance to continue to grow as a learner and to take more control over their education.
  • The enduring understandings that students walked away with were the different tools and vocabulary to utilize in ensuring they are getting the most out of every class lesson.
  • In end, the final transition piece will occur after the results of their WIDA language assessment in 2 weeks’ time. I am confident that all the students I worked with this year will reach a level 4 or 5 in the speaking domain as it has been a joy seeing their confidence grow and have some wonderful discussions, debates, and informal dialogue week after week.
Image taken from:

Final Reflection

My COETAIL experience will impact my future practice, with whatever field I go into. As I am unexpectedly leaving my job and home in Moscow and on the search for something new and exciting back in Wisconsin! Everything I have gained through COETAIL, I am confident, has allowed me to take the next steps in whatever is to come.  I don’t know what my role will be in the fall, within education, but the COETAIL experience has given me numerous opportunities to expand my PLN and countless new tips and tricks with innovative tech skills that I am sure I will find success.  I will look for a position that allows me to continue to spread the joys of what it means to be a life long learner, eager to try new things, gather data, and continually reflect and meet the needs of ALL learners, who are eager to take control of their own learning and help make this world a better place

Be sure to check out the video for further reflection on the project itself!

From everything available on Google, Youtube, Twitter, our PLN, and helpful links provided by the COETAIL instructor, the 2 tips I really took with me for the creation of my video were:

“…You have to be able to see the feeling…” & “…just lift your chin up, go forward and don’t worry about nothing…”

Take from:

Final Project Video Reflection

My Community Engagement

Personal Learning Networks

As our COETAIL journey is winding down and coming to an end, I’ve realized how much my Personalized Learning Network has grown since the start of this course well over a year ago and before experiencing a global pandemic that forever changed what teaching and learning can look like worldwide.

From full digital models to different hybrid models, to “Modified Full On-Campus Learning” with each passing week we continued to evolve our craft to meet the needs of our diverse learning group. From those stuck out of the country due to VISA restrictions to those at home quarantining, to those who remained in other time zones well on the opposite side of the world, it has never been more clear how much teachers care and are willing and able to put in the time to engage, teach, and inspire their learners no matter their location or given learning mode.

Throughout this year I have relied on a number of different groups to learn from and share different lesson plans and activity ideas with.  You can see from my original post from back in February 2020 all of my learning communities in yellow, where then I have added my newer ones in green since on this COETAIL journey.

CEESA- Learning Support

To start, having our school being a part of CEESA (Central & Eastern European Schools Association) has had numerous opportunities for growth and development. Even after Covid hit, a number of the Learning Support teachers would continue to pose questions to the group and seek solutions and ideas for ways to best serve students in the Special Education Program. After a few months of countless e-mail replies, we took our lengthy e-mail chats to a more formalized meeting.  A poll went out, we selected re-occurring days (monthly) to meet. It wasn’t too tricky with the time zones being that it was all CEESA schools, but generally, the meetings lasted about an hour and were recorded for people who couldn’t attend. An agenda was set up such as this:

1. CEESA learning support website
2. Screening, identifying, and referring students
3. Measuring progress in hybrid or virtual learning scenario
4. Takeaways from the CEESA conference
It was a great way to connect to others who share the same passions with SEN and in similar international schools facing similar challenges.

Google for Education

Next, the Google Educator Groups have been extremely helpful as I applied to the program and am working towards my Google Educator Trainer exam. Using things like to help you study and prepare, it was also great having access to people who have already done their level 1 and 2 exam to ask questions and practice more tips and tricks for short cuts, activties,and simply new fun ways to utalize all things Google!

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Global Online Academy

With plenty of workshops to choose from, Global Online Academy offers a wide range of courses depending on your current skill level. I found their lessons and discussion boards beneficial during the start of our lockdown, when moving to a full digital teaching and learning model. But I quickly learned that the resources provided by my school and the level of tech. skills I had already acquired, led me more to answering questions through this community than getting my own questions answered. It was a great experience that really allowed me to see where we stood in terms of supporting our students during a crazy time in education and also allowed me to grow in confidence about all the great things we were already doing and using with our students to increase engagement and ensure learning was taking place.

Even in the “end of quarter student reflections”, I was thrilled to see one comment that read,

“Even during a pandemic we can learn”

Sometimes I think as educators who are constantly thinking 10 steps ahead while simultaneously reflecting on the past 2 weeks and assessments and attendance all while not forgetting SELF CARE ….. we forget how resilient kids can truly be and that when modeling positivity and optimism for what the future has in store, only great things can happen. Which also led me to seeing that despite me thinking that this year would be hard to show two plus years growth… from the students point of view they are on track for meeting their goals or in some cases have already met them and would like to set new ones!


This leads me to my own academic goal- which was to sign up for Twitter and actually attempt Tweeting. I have never been a huge fan of this platform, being from the original Facebook Generation, but I found out I was able be extra selective on who to follow and was also able to get a few helpful hashtags from friends along the way which proved to be a great resource.

Not only was I able to Tweet out my COETAIL blog posts, but I was able to stay better connected with my cohort, for the times when we planned a meeting to touch base and see how everything was going and everyone was doing on their final projects.

More specifically I really enjoyed using Twitter during some fun grade level projects like March Book Madness… with Harry Potter as this year’s champion and getting to tag the authors of some amazing work in young adult and children’s literature.

Or getting to share out fun class lessons on the sustainability of our oceans. Teaching students about Exclusive Economic Zones and what’s going on in today’s world on top of the environment and pollution of those oceans with plastics- while being sure to use biodegradable materials and doing a fun lesson on bottled water vs. the tap! What are you really paying for??

Without expanding my personal learning networks many of these lessons and activities would have stayed with their creators as opposed to having great lessons reach as many students as possible.

Lesson Plan – Living Lands & Waters found here 


Joining the group- “Teaching During Covid-19” allowed me to see numerous examples of what others around the world were doing in place of the in-person learning activities. I loved all the Bitmoji classrooms people were using, but never found quite the right lesson to use with it. When we introduced our literary terms for a past unit, I saw others who created “escape rooms” with their Bitmoji classrooms. So I decided I wanted to take it one step further by incorporating a Google Form into it and the special features like “Section based questions” or “Conditional” and “text contains” allowed us to really have some fun with our new terms and challenged them to check their work and see if they were correct- allowing them to “escape”.

Webex Teams

At first, Webex Teams was just another platform for communication. Yet- another thing to put on the list to have to check daily from e-mails to what's app groups, to Facebook messenger, to your Twitter feed... I found it regualrly exhausting attempting to keep up with everything. But in the end, it was useful to connect with different people who you don't see throughout your typical school day, and allow for opportunities like Moderating WIDA writing samples across grade levels. It allowed for easy sharing of writing samples and rubrics and quick and easy communication for shared scoring and reasonings. I know this tool will also be exteremly handy towards the end of the year as we begin to have our final ILP and SSP meetings along with all the transition meetings taking place from ES to MS and MS to HS. 


Last- our Monthly Happy Hour Zoom meetings with former colleagues, allowed that time for Self-Care that everyone so greatly needed during these past 15 months. Getting to talk about how other schools are handling the Covid situation, but more importantly, connecting with old friends who share your passion for education was vital to surviving this school year.

From synchronous to asynchronous learning styles, with a lot to a little notice, I’ve come to realize how wonderful and supportive colleagues around the world are: sharing ideas, resources, and availability to offer feedback and simply be available for a group brainstorming session. I am thankful for my Personalized Learning Network and can only hope it continues to grow as I move towards a new chapter of life, leaving my school in Moscow for the unknown!  I am excited about all the new connections I will make and know the relationships established during my 10 years of international teaching will continue to be there, for a lifetime.

C5 Choice 4: My 5th Google PD training session

Teachers Training Teachers

March 5, was our final Teachers Training Teachers Session for the year.  I was thrilled to be able to offer a Google Suite session and put this digital/hybrid, anything but normal year – of trying new things and failures, tips and tricks into action! I hosted a generic Google Tech Session session, but not before getting to lead a “Fire the Neurons” session in the pool.  It is wonderful how even on our Professional Development days, we prioritize our time for mental health and wellness.  In the past I’ve lead or been a part of crafting, knitting, ceramics and forest walks; it really is the best way to start a PD day.

brain-neurons | Fotis Bobolas | Flickr
Image Taken from: Flickr

Fire the Neurons

Having 90 minutes of pool time, swimming is just what I need to work towards my personal goals (endurance swimming) to later take part in the swim races in the US,   before tackling the professional goals of the day. Here, I was able to post a workout and lead 6 others in their stroke development or simply just get their heart rates up.

I modified a program for general fitness taken from Swim workouts for Triathletes as a great way to get all levels of abilities and interests in swimming involved.  Each morning (not just on the PD day) staff, faculty, and students can record their number of laps onto a chart, as you see below to work towards our goal of swimming past St. Petes and onto the Atlantic Ocean. We then, use Google sheets to help calculate our kilometers as a faculty and for the swim team to see how far we can swim each month.

We also use the formulas in Google Sheets to enter the data and easily convert it to how many kilometers everyone swam along with the tab feature with the formulas to carry it over adding it up from month to month. It is then tracked on our map of Europe taking us from Moscow to the Atlantic Ocean as seen below. It is wonderful being able to spend time during a Professional Development day working toward personal goals and spending time doing what you love… swimming!

TTT Session #1:

First my professional morning started off with attendeding a great session on digital notebooks.   I learned about many great ways to utilize these Google Slide features when working with students remotely and recording their reading goals and progress. This is a nice centralized place to write, not having to carry notebooks home or back and forth to school to grade written assignments and collect feedback in.  My next steps and main takeaways from this session were- how I can utilize this same type of digital notebook with my pull-out classes: LRC- Learning Resource Class & EAP-English for Academic Purposes. I’d like to continue to explore this idea with tracking goals and working on self-monitoring, self-regulating, and student reflections around our executive functioning lessons, through our SMART curriculum all in a centralized location for quicker feedback and access to directions if the class is missed.

TTT Session #2: Google Suite


Now, for my session on Google Suite. First, I surveyed those attending to find out what they wanted to learn most about.  Based on the results of my Google form, (as seen below) I could see what kind of devices they were bringing into my classroom, what people wanted to spend their time on, and most importantly- what kind of experience, knowledge, and confidence levels they had about the different components to Google Suite.  I read about what goals they had set for themselves for their PD day, and in general what they hoped to learn from my session. This greatly helped with my planning and facilitating the training session for the one hour we had together.


Linked here is my presentation on Google Suite that I organized and added to after seeing the results from the initial gathering info. survey and attached here as a Pdf. I used Nearpod as the platform to deliver my presentation so my audience could get a better feel for how some of the interactive slides worked, as well as how it collects real-time data (or student-paced) to really help increase student engagement and participation. One thing my audience also wanted to learn more about was just ways to stay organized! Something that most people, including students, can find challenging and a way to organize that is efficient.

In the end, we covered the basic features and a few tips and tricks for Google classroom, docs., slides, sheets, and earth as well as the comparison of Peardeck vs. Nearpod and Padlet vs. Jamboard! It’s great discussing the pros and cons of each and how different people find their accessibility.  Having the 10 minutes, in the end, to take a poll and choose one to explore further and ask more questions while applying it to their own lesson or activity went well.

Of the 14 people who signed up for my TTT session, I had 8 enthusiastically attend and all 8 completed my Google forms/Survey Evaluation as seen in the reflection. Though it’s certainly easier presenting to colleagues who are also your close friends, it was great to have about 1/2 attending that I have never met before and worked in the other divisions (ES/HS).

Image in presentation by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Evaluation & Reflection:

I was really excited to be able to share out with my colleagues’ things that I have been able to learn about during this past year through COETAIL and the Google Educator training online.  Keeping the floor open allowed others to jump in and add their tips & tricks along with how they use it specifically within their content areas also served as a great addition to our session, so it wasn’t focused solely on my Middle School Special Education/EAL experience. I appreciated everyone’s eagerness in signing up for my vague session, attending it, as well as filling out the pre and post-surveys on top of all the other emails coming at them on a regular basis. Everyone who attended offered great insights asked questions, was engaged and provided some great feedback.

One piece of feedback shared with me during the session was to offer practice problems after each mini session, which would have been a great addition- as the technical skill levels of all participants varied greatly. I designed the hour to have the last 10 minutes as a choose one to go and practice and apply to something of your own, but I can completely understand how that would be more beneficial to complete an application portion after each mini-session, yet was unrealistic due to the time restraints placed upon us, and being right before lunch when participants are eager to continue on with their day. Drawing upon my audience’s expertise and building upon their prior knowledge, I was hoping to keep things motivational and ensure personal relevance, just as I had experienced in the first TTT months ago. In the end, I was overall pleased with how my session went and got some great feedback as seen below here.

Take Away Happy Hour

Our PD day ended with a takeaway happy hour.  Still practicing social distancing, due to Covid, everyone was invited down to get a “to-go” bag of snacks to enjoy at home or back in your classroom. It was a nice way to end our day while trying to build community and camaraderie amongst the faculty and staff during a different time when we no longer have social gatherings. It was a nice way to wrap up the week as we go into a long weekend due to the International holiday- greatly celebrated in Russia, International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day!

How are you celebrating and showing appreciation for the women in your life?

C5 Choice 3: My 2nd and 3rd Training Sessions

Professional Development-        After Hours

From my first two more formalized training sessions,  I was then able to meet with the Coaches I work with to further talk about two Google Suites that we couldn’t Coach without.

These Professional Development opportunities were less formal as we didn’t have a PD day aligned at that time or staff meeting, but it’s great when you have a community of educators who continually collaborate to better their practice.  Sharing ideas and new tips and tricks are always fun when getting to apply something you were using in the classroom and take it to your sport- passion. For example, mine being Running & Swimming- I love being able to apply the different activities we do in class and alter them to our sports to better build rapport with your students during the school day and have fun creating learning opportunities outside the classroom.

Google Earth

During the Cross Country season, I was able to meet with my Co-Coaches and go over how we were using Google Earth to help prepare for our season. We are lucky to have a forest right off our campus, but safety is crucial when running with 40 middle school students.  We also use it when planning routes and courses for time trials and meets.  Using this tool we are able to label our meeting spots and familiarize our runners with the map so they know where they are at all times. We hope to take it one step further next year by being able to create a virtual tour of the course, without ever having to actually run it ourselves beforehand. This year with the limitations and restrictions placed on us due to Covid, it was great being able to share routes and places with the kids before even stepping foot in the forest. This really maximized the time we had together, for just running in the woods. Working with a new set of coaches, and training them with Google Earth has allowed them to also feel more confident and comfortable in our large forest when I am not present to help lead the practice.

I was also lucky enough to Coach the cross country season with another Google Trainer- sharing ideas and ways to utilize the different features Google has to offer within sheets as well- to work with our students on collecting heart rates and monitoring their workouts and all the data that can be collected during a single workout.  We both strongly feel all educators should be at a “Level 2” in terms of technology and Google Suites as it opens the door for more creative and collaborative lessons and training sessions.

Google Classroom

Later on after weeks of digital and hybrid learning, we were finally able to get back to our swimming pool! I was thankful that I was able to meet with the swim coaches and demonstrate how Google Classrooms can be a great tool for community building. Setting up a Google Classroom for sports is extremely beneficial for communication and team building. This was especially true when 8 of our weeks of coaching were fully digital… and nothing says fun like coaching swimming ONLINE.

Here, we were able to post our workout videos, instructions, and even things like “Athletes of the Week”.  Along with any informational sheets, parent communications, record boards, meet results, and personal best documents so students can keep record of their goals and times. Google Classroom allows a one-stop place for all things- Swimming!  (Or XC)

Showing my fellow coaches how customizable GC is- from the templates to be able to add your own photos is one of the greatest features when making your sports GC feel like their own-building a site together that your athletes will want to visit.

We have been able to have fun with it, posting not just the specific training data, but battle wound photos to share out and celebrating a student each week for not just athletic performance, but for their character and other sought-after attributes that deserve celebrating as well within your team. Organizing by topics is easy and the GC stream utilized for any last-minute announcements is also extremely helpful.  Adding fellow collaborators to the page also allows people in the administrative position access to all your data and find answers to the questions they typically seek.

It was great getting to share out what we do in XC and Swim so that our community of student-athletes continues to grow stronger and stronger.  Moving beyond just Google- to all the games and other workout ideas that can be incorporated within a practice and shared on a common platform- one that students are already familiar with since they use it daily within their classes. I can’t even imagine Coaching (or teaching) at a school that doesn’t have GC readily available and accessible to its community- students and parents alike.

At this training, I was also able to share how Google sheets allow for efficient data crunching to utilize when comparing times from the start of the season to the end of the season- which is especially helpful when determining awards for things like Most Improved Swimmer (or Runner). As well as for attendance taking and knowing which kids were “in person” and which were “participating from home” when we moved to the hybrid huddles and working with only half of our kids every day while the other half was at home, being careful to track their on-campus presence in case of any “contact tracing” that needed to take place due to Covid. Again the conditional formatting that allows for a great visual, also helps coaches see who on their team is balancing their academics and sports effectively and who may need intervention or at least increased parent communication. Along with the comment feature, to help record minor injuries (soreness) as well as the formulas calculating the end of season attendance percentages which in turn helps determine participation awards and level of commitment to participating throughout the season.

How are you useing Google Suites to spread your passions?

Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

C5 Choice 2: My first 2 Training Sessions

Professional Development

Back in October, I was thankful for not only attending a Teacher’s Training Teachers (TTT) session to learn all about Google Add-On’s, but I was able to lead my own sessions as well.  What I learned from my colleagues about Peardeck and Nearpod, helped transform my pull-out classroom lessons which greatly impacted student learning and engagement in the new digital age of on-line teaching due to covid. The best part of that PD day was it was relevant and motivating for me… and drew upon my background knowledge of google slides- what I was already using within my classes.

Photo by Alysha Rosly on Unsplash

Google Docs.

For my first TTT lead Session, I trained people using the features of Google Documents specifically for Individualized Learning Plan or Intervention/ Goal Tracking. The collaboration aspect of Google Docs. allows for not only students, but parents and the students’ teachers to be shared on their goal tracking document. This allows the most frequent home/school communication around their child’s goals. And more importantly, the comment feature allows classroom teachers to validate the student’s daily to weekly reflection or tracking on their goals. This ensures that the ownership of the goals remains with the student.  Below you can see how I’ve taken LeeAnn Jung’s goal tracking method and converted it to a Google Doc. I had the privilege of meeting her at a PD session while in Dubai, she was, at the time working on a new software program for her model and suggested the color-coding addition which you now see in our tracker below.  All leading towards creating self-directed learning environments for our students who receive SEN supports! The second tracker shown below was a student who met their goal in a matter of months when using researched-based interventions like those found on Intervention Central or those found in the PRIM.  When utilizing these proven practices, year-long ILP (IEP) goals have a greater chance of being met!

Google Sheets

We also had Friday PD mornings within our SEN dept. this allowed people to regularly share out new and exciting things they were learning about and have 20-30 minutes to teach others in their department about what Proven Practice you were using or other Professional Development you were attending and one main idea to focus on and implement change in your classroom. I used this for my second training session on Google Sheets specifically for tracking Measures of Academic Performance (MAP) data in Reading, Writing, and Language. But again due to Covid, we were unable to do the language test this year, so I primarily focused on Math and Reading.

With the google sheets, conditional formatting, it allows me, as case manager to view which students are performing on grade level and which are above/below grade level expectations to allow me to better plan my lessons and implement the necessary interventions.

Later on, I was able to apply this same training, but for EAL and utilizing it with the WIDA language test we give and tracking the 4 domains of Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Utalizing the conditional formatting feature within Google Sheets allows for a better visual of where students on your caseload are performing at. Again, it doesn’t take into consideration all their individual strengths and qualitative data, purely a numbers and test scores representation. Just as the quantitative data is important when creating the full picture of the child, it is also important to refer to the Universal Design for Learning   that helps take a step back to look at the curriculum to meet all the diverse needs of our learners & change the world!

I hoped each of these training sessions would be equally meaningful as they have helped me develop my craft when used to better understand the students we case manage and teach. Along with having the tools and resources to track the data, it helps students self-monitor their goals and progress and most importantly- celebrate their growths and successes as learners.Singapore Fireworks Celebration Fireworks 2008 - Team Korea ( Korean Fantasia )

"Singapore Fireworks Celebration Fireworks 2008 - Team Korea ( Korean Fantasia )" by kazeeee is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Life-Long Learners

Survey Question: I will be able to utilize this tracker or something similar within my current group of students.

and the feedback comments:

Above you can see some of the responses to my reflection survey of the few participants who were in attendance. Leading specialty PD sessions generally I’d only have 2-3 volunteers who come, or at times some want to come but then realize that it doesn’t necessarily apply to them.  I always find it interesting… the new ties educators can make in how to use a tool and transform it or make it their own and applicable to them and what they teach. (Such as when I led a Rocket Math Program Training which then got converted into reading Sight Music for choir- how fun!)

Lifelong Learning | A word cloud featuring "Lifelong Learnin… | Flickr

Photo taken from:


Course 5: Week 1-Coaches

The role of instructional coaches is similar to that of what the traditional ideas are on what a “coach” is.

Defined on Top End Sports as someone who is responsible for training athletes in a sport by analyzing their performances, instructing in relevant skills and by providing encouragement. But you are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.

Just like athletics coaches assist athletes, instructional (reading and math) coaches help teachers recognize successes but identify areas for growth through open-mindedness.  They support & help teachers become the best version of themselves. Ideally what athletics coaches are also charged with, assisting those to be the best versions of themselves on the field, course, or pool.

After watching, Episode 9: We’re All on the Same Team: A Teacher’s Perspective with Reid Wilson , it was nice to see how other educators’ lives have been impacted through the use of coaching. One quote that really resonated with me was:

“Sun needs to shine, but the grass needs to grow.”- Reid Wilson

This quote specifically stood out, as to me, it shows how all educators are unique in the approaches and methods with their teaching, bringing their passions into their classroom and establishing rapport with students, but it’s everyone’s job, not only administration and coaches to ensure that there is growth. Not just with the students, but that the teachers are also gaining professional development and having job satisfaction. This is the number one thing for teachers to feel satisfied with their work- a feeling of what they’re doing in their classrooms is effective. John Hattie’s work on “collective teacher efficacy”, having an effect size of 1.57, in other words, one of the greatest effects on student learning is “simply” teachers who feel that they can, and who are given the power and tools to do their job best, do.sunlight through treesPhoto by Micah Hallahan on Unsplash

I have been lucky throughout my career as an educator to work with a number of different math,  reading, and tech. coaches, as well as athletics coaches.

At my prior school in Dubai, I was able to meet regularly with the math teachers and coach. As a Special Education Teacher, we generally aren’t assigned to one specific department subject and generally have the freedom to take part in others’ department meetings as we see fit and have time for. I found this experience- of regularly debriefing our lessons with the Math Coach to be invaluable. Starting units with pre-assessments to determine what prior knowledge our students are entering the unit with, as well as then differentiating the unit lessons to ensure all learners will hit their target growth goals; to ending our units, not just with a final assessment of learning, but with a reflection piece asking our students how they feel the unit went for them as well as which lessons, they found to be particularly engaging and ways to improve or change any of the lessons for the future. The guidance our Math Coach provided us, helped us to ask better questions and really looked into how to use the data we collected in a different way to better serve the needs of our students and guide our next steps.

Now at my current school in Moscow, I have worked more with the reading coach. Helping with the students make the transition from grade 5 into the middle school; we were able to adapt my practices and broaden my knowledge of what the elementary students who were entering the middle school were coming up with.  This then later on, led to my Orton-Gillingham training and avid use of the Fontas & Pinnell literacy program. These tools have allowed me yet another avenue for tracking reading data and even taking a step back looking at what types of reading errors a student is making and how to then go about teaching the necessary skills to ensure middle school success and close any reading gaps; helping them be a more confident and fluid reader, who can then establish a life long love of reading.

When looking at the role of coaches, from the athletic standpoint, I’m sure everyone who’s ever played a sport or activity can remember a time where they had a coach who helped mold them towards the decisions they were making to become a better… runner, jumper,  swimmer, rugby player as opposed to the ones who just shouted and yelled and didn’t help you grow as an athlete. Each season I coach, Cross Country, Swimming, and Track & Field, I strive to help each of my athletes establish goals for themselves, track their progress through personal bests, and reflect on their techniques and form to help lead them to be better and more efficient in their chosen field. I will always cherish my time while playing on a local Russian rugby team, where the coach, a retired USSR rugby player, couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I spoke very little Russian and couldn’t understand a thing he was saying; yet he felt that if he spoke closer to me and louder at me- that I would magically then be able to understand the constructive feedback he was attempting to give me.  He never once gave up trying to coach me. From this experience alone, I have learned to truly value all my English speaking coaches whom I have had the pleasure of learning and growing from.

I think one area I would like to see is more coaching going on is in the field of Special Education. There are many individuals, in the international community, who are hired without a Special Education background: Instructional assistants and 1:1 aides yet do not receive any type of coaching; yet where there is a prevalent amount of math and reading coaches… who are there primarily supporting those with math and reading backgrounds and education. I think the types of questioning skills and leadership skills involved with efficient and effective coaching can stem beyond the core subjects and would be a huge benefit to all. In many situations, our literacy & math coaches helped me grow and fill in my gaps as an educator.

When I don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach, I can easily make appointments with them to help me with a unit or lesson I am on, or even when out (athletic) coaching- and how to use the lastest app. when filming and recording times for my runners or swimmers. In this case, deciding to take the COETAIL course to broaden my own tech. skills has led to my own understanding of what kinds of questions and things that the tech. coaches can help me with. Or learning skilled ways of asking questions, since I fully agree with the saying, “I don’t know what I don’t know” so it can be a difficult task to complete- one that I can see my own students struggle with at times. This is also a great reminder of if we feel that way as educators, how many times does a student, who is receiving special education, feeling that way? Getting to know coaches and teachers is one key component to have rapport and trust established. This is crucial so anyone is able to act on that “chosen vulnerability” when seeking out a coach. Understanding that there is no evaluating or judging taking place.

When working with my admin. team, I often find myself still asking about what is it that I  don’t even know, or what knowledge it is that I am missing. Another meaning of this- is just expressing that we have limitations, which isn’t an easy task for most.  All these conversations I have had with admin. teams allow for greater student impact as it generally affects student scheduling, class section placement or accommodations use. All of these things are needed from a solid understanding for a student receiving a Specialized Education, serviced through Individualized Learning Plans (similar to IEP’s in the USA). Something I continue to teach my students and model for them is, it’s okay to not have all the answers. Then what kinds of questions this leads us to then finding answers together. Along with questions and topics I can bring to an instructional coach.  All of this really boils down to the idea of thriving in positive school culture or the climate that makes up the working conditions of a school.  Whether people are listening and synthesizing the information they are presented with, along with having all the creative & innovative thinkers- all feeling the same way; it is vital to understand all the dynamics that make up your team and what each individual brings to the table. Furthermore, when schools or teams hire or recruit, keeping dispositions and mindset in mind in order to help change the culture of any team would be of utmost importance as well.

Who are the change agents within your school…are you?man and woman standing on field

Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash



Course 4-Final Project

“Self-Advocacy: Know Yourself, Know What You Need, Know How To Get It.”                              -Nancy Suzanne James

Unit Planner-Advocacy Projects

My unit planner for an authentic purposeful learning experience incorporates the ISTE Standards for Students:

#1- Empowered Learner

#6- Creative Communicator 

I feel this unit is a great match for my Course 5 Project, as it is the main piece that ties all the lessons together in one final culminating activity.  The “All About Me- Advocacy Project” takes everything the students have learned about themselves throughout their time in Middle School and are preparing to introduce themselves as learners to their high school teachers. They share the details from their Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs) in a personal video, that introduces themselves: their strengths, and areas for growth, how they learn best, their goals, and accommodation. They also talk about any strategies they use to help keep them overcome any learning challenges they face and anything they would like their teachers to know about them.

Walnut, Nut, Shell, Nutshell, Open, Brain, Head, Coils
Image taken from Pixaby

The standards of “Empowered Learner” & “Creative Communicator” help enhance students’ understandings of themselves. They take time reflecting on their Middle School Journey and see how much they’ve grown since their transition to middle school after grade 5.  Putting all the pieces together, focusing on their strengths to grow their confidence and esteem in the Learning Resource Classroom (LRC) to hopefully generalize all the newly acquired study skills and executive functioning skills to their general education classes.


By the completion of this unit, students will have a deeper understanding of themselves as learners and be more comfortable talking about themselves and taking ownership of their learning processes.  I will know that they have taken on the responsibility of “sitting in the driver’s seat” for their education, as many students openly share at what level and how comfortable they are with assuming these tasks. It is also really great to see them fully articulate what they need, even if that includes members of their support team still aiding them with specific tasks that they themselves can describe in detail- what they (students) need from them (support team).


  • I don’t really have any concerns about my unit redesign, though I am sure upon actual implementation and final necessary adjustments- concerns will arise.
  • This revamped or “Coetailed” unit will require my students to utilize their skills of self-awareness, self-regulation, communication, collaboration and mainly have a growth mindset and a positive attitude as they dive into personal dialogue truly sharing vulnerable details about themselves as humans. It will also, hopefully, lead to more shifts in general education (content) teacher’s pedagogies because they will have a better idea of the students as learners and as individuals in their classrooms.

Unit Reflection

Week 2’s learning partnerships have really influenced me the most during this final project, with a focus not only on my collaborating teachers but within the student relationships as well. Especially with being a case manager and focusing on those partnerships between students, I advocate for, but don’t necessarily have in the classroom and focus on their relationships with all their different classroom teachers as well.

This unit has been different from other lessons I’ve chosen in the past, during COETAIL, to design/facilitate; as I chose to do a unit within my own pull-out class- LRC, instead of focusing on the lessons I teach during my co-taught math/humanities classes.  It is similar, in the sense that I still keep many of the 6 c’s at the forefront of my planning: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, citizenship, and character.

As I was revamping this unit, I incorporated what I learned about in week 1 on google add-on’s and how to enhance my google slides for increased student engagement.  As I was deciding which unit to alter, I wanted students to be comfortable thinking about ways to talk about themselves and share their learning process with their teachers and therefore redefining what the learning process means to them and how they see themselves fitting into it.  I wanted to make sure that the technology components added into the unit were done with a purpose- to enhance the learning and to make new learning possible.

Advocacy Quotes - BrainyQuote

C4Wk5: Putting Deep Learning into Practice

The daily life of Students and Teachers can be way more exciting… way more powerful

Push & Pull: the Role of Technology

shallow focus photography of man in white shirtImage taken from Unsplash

Deep Learning In Action

Deep Learning is engaging, relevant, authentic, & builds on the 6 C’s…

  1. Citizenship
  2. Character
  3. Creativity
  4. Collaboration
  5. Communication
  6. Critical Thinking

As a school, we focus a lot on building citizenship & character through our advisory program that meets 4 days a week for 25 minutes. In my own classroom, we focus a lot on communication and in the co-taught setting model what collaboration looks like as we push their critical thinking skills.

As an educator, my strengths lie in engaging the students and building relationships that develop and enhance character whereas on the opposite end I find it more challenging to really get at the growth of critical thinking skills, taking time and repetition.

I think we can access deep learning by continually reflecting on the engagement of our students and seeing if they truly found the lesson relevant and authentic. Helping them make these connections is one way to assess if deep learning took place.

It is similar to John Hattie’s work from Education Week  in that in the end the entire point is to get us, educators,” to reflect on our own practices using evidence, and then move forward by looking at the practices that we use every day and collecting evidence to give us a better understanding of how it works.”

I have experienced both intensive PBL training and been a part of the Humanities & Math department PBL units. PBL or Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.  We were able to plan some great units as a school when our administration built this into our professional development days and we came together as an entire school k-12 to work on our lesson designs.

When supporting our Science department I got to experience a great unit for Design Thinking. When students engage in “Look, Listen, & Learn” they are able to apply newly acquired knowledge to reach a solution, provide and analyze their ideas and move towards creating something or having an action/event.  They highlight what’s worked and what didn’t and how to fix what was failing. Each mistake they fixed during the revision process led them to success.  Then finishing with the launch and sending their work to the world! Where once again they look-listen-learn.

Specifically, for this unit, students researched an endangered animal or world issue and had to work together collaboratively to create a solution. Using prior skills to create a budget and realistically argue if their solution to whatever problem they chose was manageable. In the end, they put on an exhibition, and parents and fellow students were allotted “tokens” to “donate” to the cause that they felt would be the most successful if implemented in our world.

Finger Man, Not Hear, Not See, Don'T Talk, FingerImage taken from

I hope to do more of this in the context of my own field of Special Education, through continued work in Advocacy and Student Empowerment. Helping students utilize their strengths and understand how to build on these to overcome their challenges and ensuring they can see where they can contribute to this world, making it a better place. As a SEN teacher, case manager, and advisor I strive to help build self-esteem and confidence so every student knows their value and worth allowing them to self-regulate and monitor their progress towards their short and long-term goals, objectives, and big dreams.

For course 5, I plan on cultivating student well being during these covid times that are proving to be extremely challenging, not just for students, but the teachers as well.  My methods to continue to have a dialogue about the learning process and have students use their newly created knowledge for real-life problem solving and help ALL students identify their purpose, talents, and passions.  I would love to read Hattie’s book, “Visible Learning for Teachers”  and enjoyed his 8 Mindframes for teachers video. I’d like to continue to look for even more ways to get kiddos in SEN to become deep learners and my fellow colleagues to teach so it STICKS!

The Success and failure of my students’ learning is about what I do or don’t do.      I am a change agent. -John Hattie

C4Wk4: Unleashing Deep Learning

“It’s about helping students to build attitudes and confidence through doing purposeful things that make a difference in the world”

Hands, World, Map, Global, Earth, Globe, Blue, Creative

Image taken from Pixaby

The evidence I have seen that “technology used without powerful teaching strategies (and deep learning tasks) does not get us very far” was sadly most apparent in Figure 7, from chapter 4 of A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.

From this, I concluded that many of the assignments, classroom projects, and assessments do not fall into the higher “knowledge creation” end, but are still a fair amount within the “high-level uses of technology”side.  I especially found it interesting that my own pull out courses focused around remedial work and executive functioning skills all primarily fall within the lower third of “information consumption.” I think upon further reflection it would be beneficial to look more towards increasing opportunities within those top technology uses of developing & using simulations or animations and working with others from outside class.  Only then we will really be able to accelerate teachers’ abilities to put students more in control of the learning process as well as continue to form the must-have learning partnerships between teachers and students.

With all this in mind, I would also keep the goal of having core components of new pedagogies strategically integrated with technology to really unlock authentic and meaningful deep learning.  When these are clearly defined and developed, our students will be able to:

  1. Discover and mastery new content knowledge
  2. Collaborate and connect learning
  3. Low-cost creation and iteration of new knowledge
  4. Use of new knowledge with authentic audiences for “real” purposes;
  5. Enhancement of teachers’ ability to put students in control of the learning process, accelerating learner autonomy.

Technology contributes to dialogical learning in my classroom as I am a firm believer in modeling risk-taking and growing critical thinking skills. Ways to do this include:

  1. Connecting learning to student interests
  2. Asking good questions
  3. Using learning structures and teaching strategies that prompt student thinking

All of this impacts student learning because I communicate effectively with my students and constantly look for ways to celebrate their accomplishments and grow their own belief in their capacity to learn. This in turn can help them believe more in themselves.  Reflecting on Paulo’s Freire’s 5 ideas for dialogical learning was also very helpful and creating new classroom goals and how to continue to build courage within my students as well as the importance of demonstrating humility, hope, faith, love, and critical thinking by showing them I don’t have all the answers, but we will work together to continually overcome the challenges we are faced with, and most importantly during these “Covid times” we’re in it together.

Paulo Freire’s Five Ideas for Dialogical Learning

  1. Humility
  2. Hope
  3. Faith
  4. Love
  5. Critical Thinking

Teaching with humility means knowing that teaching begins with students, not teachers.

I also really resonated with the fact we must have faith in our students as it can instill a true and profound sense of self-worth and help them to value themselves in all future relationships.

Holi, Colors, Festival, Color In Hand

All of this taken into consideration, it will not only improve student learning but improve overall instruction as well.

Image taken from Pixaby

In our classroom, we constantly are using technology for collaboration in terms of teacher feedback and input around progress made on ILP goals and accommodation use. We also look at the strengths and greatly dissect areas of improvement and how to use our strengths to overcome them.

I think when it comes to using technology to really unleash deep learning combined with new pedagogy is still an area of growth and one I am looking forward to continuing to improve on.  With the change to almost full digital learning this school year, it has really opened the door and forced educators to relook at lesson plans and rethink them using new pedagogy and how to transform them into deep meaningful learning opportunities.

For students to become independent learners who effectively design and manage the learning process, we as educators really need to help model and demonstrate how to go about doing this. I think many students can easily manage it (something I work on heavily with my diverse group of learners) and others can even go higher with the design component, but it’s the word “effectively” that I think takes a lot of time and explicit feedback to guide them towards accomplishing this. I found the 6 Powerful Strategies For Deeper Learning In Your Classroom  (listed below) as another great resource and my ability to focus on how to reflect and improve on the different strategies used within our classes.

  1. Connect: Create a Community of Learners
  2. Empower: Activate Students to Lead Their Own Learning
  3. Contextualize: Use Human Themes
  4. Reach: Network Beyond School Walls
  5. Inspire: Personalize The Learning
  6. Wire: Make Technology the Servant, Not the Master

The best part is- the love for “finding the spark” that I think all educators share when working with students and seeing a subject, idea,  or project that really makes a student light up. Fire, Smoke, Match, Burn, Ignition

Image taken from Pixaby

“Working the hard edges of love”                                                -Brene Brown

In  Daring Classrooms, we all know that learning is inherently vulnerable, and therefore without vulnerability, no learning can take place.

I am vulnerable with my students by sharing in their successes and supporting them when things don’t go as expected. I also share stories of my own personal life through my professional and personal goals and how I continually set new challenges for myself and they share in my opportunities and failures, both positive and negative.  Building rapport with your students while holding levels of respect between an educator and their pupil is crucial for trust to be established and then deeper learning to take place, with bigger risks also at stake.

I teach my students courage by constantly reminding them that we have a mistake making risk-taking classroom. Providing a safe space for learning where there is no place for humiliation and embarrassment.  We develop a courageous classroom by bringing all conversations out to the open and keeping ongoing meaningful communication about our goals and progress alive. Allowing students some choice in the topics they explore and the methods they use,  not only keeps them more highly engaged but will allow them to see the greater purpose.  The “why” are they doing this.

I work really hard to develop a “shame resilient” classroom, where hopefully, none of the students I work with will ever feel unworthy of love and belonging. Many whom we can’t control their home lives, it is only that much more important than when they walk into our classroom or log into our Webex they instantly feel not only welcome but loved and a real sense of belonging and ownership to what we are accomplishing together. Any shame that happens through secrecy, silence, and judgment is instantly fixed through empathy and ensuring that any student I work with never feels alone. As I would hope shame is not something happening in our classroom as it is devasting and will change how a student views themself as a learner. Sadly, by the time I teach students in Middle School, most if not all have probably already experienced some form of shame or guilt.  I  strive to be an educator whose students think of them as someone who believed in them and hopefully only added to increase their self-worth.

When completing a VIA character survey, at my old school in the UAE, we spent weeks around these traits, sharing and talking about what everyone brings into the classroom and how to grow in other characteristics that were not listed as main strengths (such as humility for me). Really emphasizing that even if something was not listed as a strength, it is still something that can be developed- not only within myself but in my students as well.

My strengths as reported from the character survey:

Having bravery as my first listed strength I think matches well with my use of humor and zest for life when working with students who some deem “more challenging” especially when back in the USA and primarily working with those with Emotional Behavioral Disorders along with creating that courageous classroom. Recognizing learners as equals so true learning can take place can be very challenging at times when the opportunities aren’t always met with a 50-50 mindset, many times it’s a 90%-10% split with the student expecting more from you and them giving very little if not any buy into their education. I must continually change up the strategies to what is needed so any form of learning can take place.

Reminding myself that when you are brave enough often enough you WILL fall at some point and that having resiliency is important. The 4 main skills sets being:

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Clarity of Values
  3. Trust
  4. Rising Skills (resiliency)

All of these are opportunities I provide my students with through the ongoing communication and “real talk” we have constantly around their goals and progress. And when students apologize for something,  like coming late to class, we change the focus from it’s not THEM being disrespectful because they are inherently disrespectful or whatever it may be, but with the mindset that it is only behavior and one of which they have control over and with time and set intentions- can change. Especially now with digital learning, to “lean into the joy” of being vulnerable, and showing gratitude and ways to always remind us to be grateful and appreciative for what we have is more important than ever.

When my students deeply grasp the meaning of Self-Advocacy, I know they are truly ready for whatever comes next, beyond the 8th grade and highschool.  Incorporating school with home and the world, I know whatever life challenges they face they will be able to advocate and get what they need in order to achieve success.

C4Wk3: Learning Deeply, Digitally

The Moral Imperative

is the value and commitment to serve EVERY student to raise the bar and to close the gap.

Whether it is for students in the Special Education program or within the English as an Additional Language program or even those coming from any background, they are all given the commitment of high expectations and deep learning opportunities.

Moving from the first two weeks of the fundamental changes in education to focusing on learning partnerships to now Deep Learning Tasks- is one action step to help move schools forward in achieving such a shift in educational practices.

Seeing that the Change Process begins with- “Fostering deep commitment to the moral imperative…” makes me think not all schools are ready for this. Moving from the USA to the international scene in education I’ve realized that many schools out there are only beginning to remove discrimination lines on their acceptance pages and really looking at “the how” in order to best serve and meet the needs of all children an ensuring qualified and trained educators are filling these positions.

Photo by Marvin Kuhn on Unsplash

Equality in my Classroom

Students who enter my classroom, whether it’s the tiny room at end of the hall or a “normal” size room, know that the learning expectations and workload remain similar to those of their other classes.

Whether it is during a “pull out” small class group or “push-in” co-taught large class group settings students know that we continually push to raise the bar and hold them accountable to high, but fair, expectations.

I ensure that students have a firm grasp and understanding of what the learning targets or outcomes are for the day and try to set up the learning experiences so that they are clear and easily followed. In the past, I have even had a student who’s Individualised Learning Plan (ILP) goal was to make connections to what she was learning to real-life examples, and if it wasn’t clear- she would then advocate for that until she fully understood the connection. How amazing would it be, if all educators out there- did just that for their students all. the. time.

Make all learning, deep learning, connected to real-life contexts

Deep learning experiences will take thoughtful and meaningful conversations in the planning stages to ensure the intended outcomes are achievable.  Allowing students to choose over what they learn and how they learn it is a great step towards making deep learning experiences stick.

Whether it’s through stations or a simple choice board- like graphic organizers that allow students to choose different ways to learn about a particular concept, incorporating technology will only allow us to enhance these experiences and create better deep learning opportunities.

If we remember to bring technology in to enhance what we are doing and not start with it, I think it will long allow us to not only facilitate but serve as activators in these new and deep learning experiences.

Based on this week’s readings, I think I would shift my practice by attempting to have further conversations with my co-teachers on the ways to bring more deep learning experiences into our shared classroom space. Focus on the deep learning tasks and ways to reflect more with SAMR model and TPACK from week one to really see where we’re at and where we’d want to be. Ensuring that we are creating that student partnership and having them know that we are learning alongside them will be of value. So the students can see us designing and structuring the lessons tailored to their own unique learning styles and needs.

As stated in, A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning,

“In deep learning tasks, the goal is to develop new knowledge, through the integration of prior knowledge with ideas, information and concepts, into a wholly new product, concept, solution or content. In good deep learning tasks, students also go beyond creating new knowledge to doing something with it  to using that new knowledge in the world.”

It is our job as educators to continually push for students to no longer memorize facts and details, when information is literally at their fingertips and a 2-second google away, but to get them to create new knowledge and then further apply it to new and real contexts. As a Special Educator, I am fully aware of the challenges many students will face- as the last step in acquiring new skills is to generalize it to new and unfamiliar contexts. But through focused design and meaningful planning and preparation mixed with repetition and confidence building the sky is the limit.

I’m confident that students entering my classroom grow in their confidence and start believing more in themselves and what they are capable of. We focus on strengths to then close their gaps.  Reminding each other we learn from one another and that mistakes grow brains and everyone’s thoughts are valued.  All students CAN and WILL learn is a reality in our class- where we learn to follow any negative self talk with the word- “yet” such as, “I can’t do this task… YET.” or “I don’t know how to do this task…YET.”

Photo by Frans Vledder on Unsplash

Nurturing Self-Awareness

Self-awareness plays a key factor in our Special Education program and specialized classes. The ability to self-identify and clearly communicate strengths and weaknesses play a huge role in the development and lessons for our classes. Once goals are established we then focus on self-regulation skills and self-monitoring them. So every step of the way we are continually evaluating our learning experiences from class to class.  Teaching kids to think about how they think is crucial. Understanding that everyone thinks differently, and that’s of value, is also important. Alongside with everyone learns at different rates or speeds and in different ways.

These concepts support our personalizing learning experiences since my role as their case manager and advocate is to ensure they know how to eventually become their own great advocate for their learning. Asking for accommodations, but first even knowing what accommodations are, what they consist of, and most importantly which ones help them learn the best.

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

I love sitting down with my students as we prep for their annual student-led ILP or SSP (similar to 504 plans) meeting and going through their accommodation lists and talking about whether or not they use it and find it helpful. There is nothing better than when a student can vocalize in their own words which accommodations they find useful and why as well as which ones don’t help them along with an explanation of why.  It also is wonderful when highschool teachers will tell me or write to me about a student I once taught in middle school, and how they are now advocating for themselves and can confidently speak about themselves as learners.

I also hope to give my students the real experiences they crave while creating & using new knowledge in a world beyond our classroom where they can see the point of it all and truly develop a love for learning.

Invisible Bais

Teaching students to acknowledge and confront their own bias even when not invisible can be a challenging task. None the less when it is invisible. This can also stem across cultural barriers that can lead to students feeling isolated or even scared.  As teachers, I think this is one area that proves challenging the more we celebrate our differences and teach tolerance. I am careful here about word choice, as wanting to teach acceptance I don’t think is the answer. Making sure as an educator I don’t bring in my own invisible biases in the classroom will take attention to my word choice that I don’t think I have been mindful of in the past.  This lesson similar to our Mad Libs activities was a great way to show students the value of the words they choose and their own unique basis that go along with them.

Ethical Practice Focus Group

This past week I was asked to take part in one of my school’s audit groups, specifically around ‘ethical practices.’ It was a challenging one for me, as I am constantly asking questions and challenging policies and procedures to ensure that what we do, is “doing right by kids.” This small subcommittee had some great conversations around ethical and equitable practices within the faculty and staff and I was surprised how little was mentioned even amongst foster equitable learning environments for the students or centering the discussion around those who should continually be the center of educational discussions- the students. In the end, it allowed me to voice concerns and hear others’ points of view challenging my own invisible bias especially in terms of local vs. overseas hires, and simply the makeup of our student body being primarily an embassy-sponsored school in transition. It seems now more than ever questioning our meaningful learning environment and what that really looks like is of utmost importance.

Create the Reality that ALL Students Can & Will Learn

It starts with you…. so what will YOU do?