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I love my job. Why? Because I love kids. Because I love teaching. Because I love learning. Because I love innovative spirit. Because I love my coworkers. Allow me to expound on my last love. This morning, we had the Female Olympics put together by the International Female Olympics Committee, in short IFOC, pronounced with a hard “C”, just in case you were wondering.  My incredibly creative, adventurous coworkers Andrea Jarr, Lindsay Reynolds, Sarah Qavi, Lydia Mangle and Diana Beabout got together to put this bizarrely goofy, creatively athletic and absurdly funny event for the women folk of SIS. What did the events consist of? Soccer, relay race, dodgeball, yoga, long jump, hula hoop, jumprope… twerking, music video making, shoe flicking.  Yes, that’s right.  See what I mean? Random and crazy. IT. WAS. AWESOME. Here’s why: This event said so much about our SIS community.  While you might scoff at the idea of having an event called “Shoe Flicking” (and it is exactly as you suspect: we flicked our shoes to see who can flick them the farthest.  Yep.), the spirit behind it was what was incredible. There are always the jocks, the natural athletes or very hardworking athletes who’ve worked all their lives to be amazing at their sport(s).  But this event wasn’t about showing off; it was all about lifting each other up.  We, as a collective whole, were the teachers, the TAs, the secretaries - and none of that mattered.  We were women who were willing to take risks to twerk (seriously?), to jump, to laugh from the pit of our bellies to the point that it hurt.  We cheered each other on at the top of our lungs as the soccer ball flew every where and anywhere, as we sprinted with all our might no matter how slow or fast around the track, as we watched each group’s music videos that were put together within a matter of 30 minutes! About that… this is what makes us SIS.  How many schools do you know that can whip out their iPads and MacBooks and gather video clips and edit them with amazing special effects in the blink of an eye with perfect sound? We do that.  We live that.  We integrate that spunk, that willingness to put on Missy Elliot or M.I.A. and make pretty friggin’ incredible music videos.  We even had rubrics, rubrics that allowed us to give ourselves permission to laugh with each other rather than to compete with each other. We are a school of brilliant women.  (Men, too, of course — this post just isn’t about them.)  We are strong women who lift each other up and support each other in the midst of our myriad stressors.  We live what we preach and gosh darn it, we do it well. I’m forever grateful for this community.  I love how we have an environment that isn’t afraid to try new things, encourage each other to be the best, no matter where we’re from, no matter our size, no matter our height, no matter our color, no matter our language, no matter our anything at all… and through this support, we do our job with a smile on our faces and a dedication to each other that is unparalleled. Ladies, thank you.  You teach me so well every single day, and this goes out to you. To the ladies that will no longer be with us next year, we’ll miss you: Sarah Qavi, we’ll miss your spunk; Andrea Jarr, we’ll miss your wit; Lindsay Reynolds, we’ll miss your dancing! Wherever life takes you next, we hope you’ll take this beautiful spirit you’ve helped bring to fruition.  You ladies are amazing. Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 7.08.43 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 7.03.49 PM#lifteachotherup #shekoufemaleolympics #ilovemycolleagues #SISRocks

I love my job.

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Have you been part of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge fury lately? Talk about the power of social media, eh?

A portion of the message I received yesterday:

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Several things that are amazing about this FB message to me from a former student of mine:
  1. He remembers proper salutation.  (Simple but awesome for me, an English teacher.)
  2. He learned the importance of assessing tone.  (Again, awesome for me, an English teacher.)
  3. He takes risks.
  4. He reflects.
  5. He cares.
This from a student who repeatedly made the same errors on his essays.  This from a student who didn’t want to be in class awake but would rather stay up all night talking to his girlfriend and nap at his desk instead of his bed.  This from a student whose SMART goal was “to eat less sweets” and his plan to measure it was “to eat less sweets”.  This from a student who barely met deadlines.  This from a  student who graduated high school and came back years later to say, “Ms. Cho, I get it now.  And what got me on track was to have realized that there were people who never gave up on me and made me care about something.  How did you put up with me? What made you never give up?” This, from a student. This, from a young man. This, from a caring citizen of the world. This is what matters. This is what it’s all about, this teaching thing: it’s worth it. A portion of my response: Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 3.09.41 PM

I must add: I don’t believe in crippling the privileged — e.g. the students who are born in the comforts of a caring home, free-flowing water, abundance of food, select-choices of clothing, etc. — by making them feel guilty.  To say that we, those blessed with water, shouldn’t participate in the ice bucket challenge for ALS awareness (or any awareness) for the reason that there are people suffering from drought, is comparable to saying that we shouldn’t eat three meals a day because there are nations in which children are starving daily.  I’d argue that it is often this kind of stifling that makes those who can do something to not do anything.  It’s like you’re damned if you do or don’t.  But, it is important for us to empower students to be what they can within the means of their own, and sometimes if that comes with having fun with a bucket of ice water, then so be it; do it.

This is certainly not to negate this important reality: there are those suffering from water shortage and to bring awareness to that while doing something so relevant to the issue, i.e. using water to bring attention, is worthy and most definitely noble.

My solution: Anyone who receives the #ALSIceBucketChallenge, you can either 1. give up a shower for a day, counting the ice bucket of water as your single shower usage; or 2. Choose someone to dump water on you in exchange that s/he will sacrifice a shower for a day in your stead.

Of course, commit to this by sharing it publicly as to why you’re giving up the shower.

I adore my student for sharing his thoughts with me — love him to pieces regardless, but even more for sharing this with me — and thank him for the opportunity to reflect and share.

What is your thought on this? I’d love for you to share.

#ALSIceBucketChallenge skeptics?

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My fellow colleague, COETAILer and friend Ceci and I have it in the plans to start an After School Activity (ASA) at our school called #iRun.  We want to motivate kids to get out there and lead a healthy lifestyle, and running, unlike any other sport, is something anyone can learn to do at any age, any size, any height. The kids come back this Thursday for the first day of school and our ASAs begin on September 1.  We want to get them pumped up and could really use your help.  If you're a runner, or if you've experience the power of running, or if you're aspiring to start your running journey, please comment and broaden the readership to get kids excited! Thanks! Here's the #iRun ASA site we just started... more ways to grow, but it's a start! Please go to the site linked below and add a comment of inspiration or experience - anything! :) #iRun site

#iRun. Help!

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photo 1I’m humbled daily by the amazing, incredible, passionate colleagues who surround me.  Being the high school teacher that I am (and have been for eleven years), I am quite ignorant to what elementary school students can do.  I mean, they’re little… right? “What do you do with little people?” I like to joke with my elementary teacher friends. Well.  Let me tell you: I was blown away on May 15, 2014 by what little people can do. When I walked into Brittany Morgan's ES Art Show, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I wanted to take a photo of every little corner of this art gallery. (She rented an art gallery!)  I was so amazed that I was left speechless.  I was actually jealous of the elementary school teachers that were there because the kids, the artists themselves, were so excited to pull their hands to show them their pieces.  I never wanted a kid more in my life as I saw parents also being pulled from one direction to the next by these brilliant little artists who were incredibly proud of what they had created.  See, these parents weren’t just “doing the parent thing” by ooh-ing and ah-ing at their kids’ work; their jaws were dropping, eyes popping, cameras snapping not only just at their kids’ works but at others, too, out of admiration and not obligation.  This art show was mind-blowing. When’s the last time you kept a program to a show you went to? Mine before May 15th is very hard to remember.  Here’s why I took one that night: Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 9.08.16 PM Did you know that little people could do this? Yeah, me neither! This is only the kindergarteners’ description. She does this for Grade One, Two, Three, Four and Five. Each year, the challenge gets even more impressive, from Abstract Gouache to Pointillism paintings. mccrea wordsAt the end of the day, I took home this program, bent and folded as it was, because I was touched by Brittany’s sincerity, passion, dedication, love for the craft and belief in her pupils. It is so evident that she means every word when she says, “I passionately believe that art is not a talent you are born with but a skill you acquire through hard work and diligent practice.” When I first heard her say this to me, I was a bit skeptical thinking, “Yeah, well… some people are just naturally talented at art, no?"  Looking around the gallery that evening, I couldn’t have been more wrong. That’s when I realized how important a teacher’s role is, a teacher like Brittany, who is able to truly teach something with the firm belief that anyone can be taught. That’s an incredibly humbling reminder that we need as teachers every once in a while… if not every second. pic 1I came home moved, and the natural thing for me to do was to simply write about it. I hope the kids know how blessed they are to have such a teacher and I am so proud to be a part of #SISRocks with these amazing colleagues of mine. TLDR? Here’s the short and sweet of it: #humbling #inspiring #passion #bloodandsweat #trueteacher #arteducation #mycolleaguesrock #artrocks #ihavecoolfriends #ESkidscandostuff #whoa #howdidwecommunicatebeforehashtags? Last thought: Did you know that kindergarteners are more than just cute? This, too, will blow your mind.  Carlene's post will tell you all about it.

What I learned at an ES Art Show

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[caption id="attachment_192" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo Credit: porschelinn via Compfight cc Photo Credit: porschelinn via Compfight cc[/caption] When I first signed up for COETAIL, no exaggeration: I freaked out.  I was in distress wondering what I'd done.  Blogging frightened me.  Add-ons were confusing.  I wasn't sure if I had twitted or tweeted.  I added a gazillion categories before I realized I could've just used tags.  I kept forgetting what the "R" was in SAMR.  And comments! Oh, comments... I was so afraid I'd get none or say too much. Fast Forward 5 courses and here I am having tried things I never thought I would.  It's been such an incredible journey and I know that #coetaileffect has me smitten.  This is the most meaningful real-time PL I've ever been a part of in my 11 years of teaching. For my final project, I focused on the use of two main technology tools for the students to showcase their learning: their Blogs and iMovie.  My target audience was seniors whom I knew would suffer from Senioritis by the time they hit second semester.  I had to find a way to engage them with a topic of genuine interest as well as the tools right at their fingertips.  Hence, I gave them two options to choose from: 1. Story of my Life or 2. Give a SHIrT. [caption id="attachment_193" align="alignright" width="300"]Photo Credit: flatworldsedge via Compfight cc Photo Credit: flatworldsedge via Compfight cc[/caption] As you can see in the project description, the first one challenges the students to be introspective, reflective, personal.  For those that wanted to keep themselves more private, they were given the option to engage with a worldly problem that they wanted to bring to the forefront and convince us to care about that issue, too.  They were to showcase the writing techniques they'd learned along with their understanding of various text types in solving the problem of their choice, whether it be themselves or the world.  As Sir Ken Robinson argues in The Element, the reflective nature allows for us to find our element, no matter what stage of life we're in.  I couldn't agree more, and I wanted to give my seniors something that invited them to look at themselves more closely and purposefully. This assignment was a risk, because quite frankly, my students could've decided to have none of it.  There was no grade that hung in front of them like a carrot; we're a standards-based school, and I could assess their achievements just as well without this final project. We don't give zeros nor base assignments on a point system, so that wasn't a threat to their current grade, either.  Their grade could have been given with just the last Paper 1 and 2 practice exams, truthfully speaking.  And this is the love/hate relationship I have with seniors, because not doing my assignment would neither retract their rec. letters nor university acceptances. In the end, I am so glad I took this risk, because my students met the challenge and gave me the most enjoyable task to assess out of this whole year.  They had the choice to post privately so that they didn't have to share with the public if they didn't want to.  One student chose this option.  17/19 seniors did the project.  It wasn't 100%, but I jumped up and down for joy (just in my mind) when I got the most apathetic kid who never did anything above the bare minimum was one of the 17.  I'll take it.  Here's what they gave me.  Please do feel inclined to leave them a comment or two! Note-taking: Evernote, online storyboarding tools (such as StoryboardThat, for example - there are so many!), pen/paper, google docs, or any other note-taking, pre-writing tools could've been used to prep them for their movie.  They each chose whatever worked for them.  I kept a shared Class Evernote with them and in it I shared the lessons that were covered (handouts, keynotes, videos, Blendspace links, etc.) so that they could always go back and review their learning at their own time and pace, a similar concept that Flipped Classrooms allow. The Teaching: Along with preparing for them for writing critical essays, I taught the students the basics of mise-en-scene such as camera distance, movement, angle as well as color and scoring.  They also looked at various advertising techniques such as bandwagon effect, shock effect, testimonials, fear and humor.  This was in relation to the IB English Language and Mass Communications unit.  They watched films like Born Into BrothelsBlackfish as well as various advertisements on Youtube that promoted social progress (thanks to the ideas of David McIntyre).   They also researched responses and updates to what they watched in order to astutely challenge or support the ideas that were being presented to them. iMovie: This was not something I taught.  Some kids were better with this than others, but I wanted to challenge the students to use it since it's a great tool; some were naturally freaked out (like me at first!) and some, just comfortable enough.  I asked them to be challenged in different and new ways so that in the end, you can be proud for having tried something new... and conquered it.  As my saying always goes, "If I can do it, c'mon - you? Of course you can!"  And they certainly did.  Play time is important; let them play, as Tony Wagner would argue, and learn to problem-solve with each other to make innovation happen! Blogging: This is something that has changed my teaching entirely.  I connect with my students on so many levels with this.  I teach them how to have a voice, I teach them how to be a gracious yet critical audience, I teach them how to connect in discussions with others around the world through this... it's been amazing. My school always had the right idea: Let's use student blogs! However, we had done our students a disservice by making it something that was "Ugh" worthy: "Today is Reflective Learner Day. Please follow the questions that was sent in your email and reflect on your learning."  Response: "Ugh."  With my taking of COETAIL and the serendipitous timing of our then new eLearning director, his vision, and the recruiting of incredibly competent eCoaches at our school, we've begun making a conscious effort to model what blogging is to our students. I started with the seniors as the senior class advisor and spent time having them read through competent bloggers' sites, how they targeted a specific audience, how they shared their genuine voice - you bet, I shared some fellow COETAILers' entries - teaching them the power of a title and intent.  I shared with them my writings, too, and sure enough, they started to figure out how to have their own voices, not the robotic forced ones like, "Today in English class we did [this] and [that]." Tweeting: John's Tweet of Senior ProjectsI started to tweet out their work to engage the community.  Our school hashtag, #SISROCKS, has been so incredibly awesome.  This got the kids engaged even more as they knew that they'd have an authentic audience who'd visit them.  They're connecting with each other and the world, not just me alone. Assessment: Here's an example of rubric that I completed for a student.  This project allowed me to connect with my kids on a personal level and it was great to provide feedback to them in this way.  There is also the public comment I posted on their blog of course, but that isn't quite the place for tips on improvements. And lastly, here is my video reflection: COETAIL, you didn't have me at hello but you definitely have me now.  Thanks for this journey; it's truly been an amazing one and I honestly can't wait to continue it.  

Smitten by #coetaileffect: Course 5 Final Project

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Social media is a powerful tool. Ben LosAs the student council advisor at SIS, I've paired up with the student body secretary to adopt a helmet safety awareness campaign. From the personal experience of losing a dear friend to an unexpected accident and left forever wondering the what-ifs, this campaign has a special place in my heart.  With the community that grieved with me two years ago - teachers, students, friends alike - the response thus far has been, "Good for you. It's about time," paired with lots of tweets and retweets. Take a read about #SISRocks's #BeCoolLike __ campaign here on my work blog, and join us; tweet a photo of you, your students or your family members in their helmets and tag them!  Inspire the common sense laws... even if they're not legally enforced where you are. Let's make a difference together. On power of hashtags and for your enjoyment and laughter, here is #hastag by Jimmy Fallon and JT:

#BeCoolLike __

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[youtube][/youtube] Prompted by the YouTube video "Above and Beyond", I started reflecting over whether I empower my students to think outside of the box, push the limits of their innovation and creativity while learning to redefine the rules without breaking them. Successful people do that well, I'm told... and it is my sincerest hope that I empower my students - and push myself - to do this. What about you?

Above and Beyond

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In my Course 4 looking ahead to Course 5, I was torn between two ideas.  I chose the second project option, thanks to Verena's challenge to be a risk taker.  So, here I am, having given this project to my kids after careful thought and planning.  One of my students blurted out, as I was giving the instructions, "Oh my gosh, I'm so excited for this project!" Needless to say, I was encouraged. Well... here it is.  For the Language and Mass Communications part of the IB English Language and Literature syllabus, I've recalled my knowledge from the days I used to teach Film Study and taught film as one of the text types.  They've gone over various mise-en-scene terms, barely scratching the surface as any film majors would say but sufficient for students learning how to examine the basics for conveying, therefore making, meaning: camera angle, distance, movement, color, and composition. I've been told often that handouts should be appealing to the eye.  I've asked my seniors to help me out if they can figure out how to make this text-heavy handout become artistic.  Whether out of honesty, laziness, or busy-ness I'm unsure, but they all told me that this works just fine, no need to change the presentation... I agree, but only b/c I'm a verbal person and words do the trick for me.  ;) Therefore, please, if you have tips on how to make this handout look awesome for my visual learners, help! Feedback on the content would also of course be much appreciated! (link to gDoc - commenting is enabled.) (My rubric was inspired by this blogging rubric as well as well as this one.)

Taking a Risk

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I am torn over two projects.  I am in the process of developing both projects’ details; the first one is a refinement of the Interdisciplinary Project that I require of my 1984 unit.  Here's its rubric.  The second one is new and it’s exciting to me… I apologize if it reads a bit unclear to you, but there are loads of ideas in my head that I haven’t quite articulated well enough… yet. [caption id="attachment_174" align="alignleft" width="300"]Project-Based Learning Framework Project-Based Learning Framework[/caption] Project-Based and Problem-Based learning sources have been a huge motivator for me, and I am looking forward to what might come of of either one (or both?) of these project ideas.  Here's the link to the document as the embedded one below can look a bit wonky. Course 5… you’re definitely gonna be putting this brain to work…! Happy Holidays, everyone! And of course, ideas, suggestions, criticisms all welcome! (Yes, I am literally yelling in my head, like this! But out of excitement, of course! :))

Course 4 Final: Looking Ahead to Course 5

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