ISA’s August Newsletter

By Abner Oakes

ISA's Director of Outreach


#BacktoSchool2020

In the coming weeks, many school districts are opening their doors to welcome back their students – but this welcome looks very different than that of the last school year. At this moment, with pandemic restrictions still in force in most states, many students are at home firing up their laptops or flipping through carefully assembled packets. Those students who are back in a school building are wearing masks and sitting apart in the classroom.

Even with all this change, we are working together to get through this. Teachers, missing their students, formed car parades and drove through school neighborhoods, so that they could see their students and those students could see them. South Dakota teacher Chris Waba brought his whiteboard to a student’s front porch and tutored his charge through the glass of the front door. Many districts stepped up their technology game, purchasing laptops and hotspots to give to students and their families. At ISA partner school Carver High School in Winston-Salem, NC, graduation was drive through, while at partner school Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ, principal Naseed Gifted rode around around Newark on a parade float decorated like a graduation stage, presenting graduates with diplomas, personalized posters, and gift bags.

Teachers and students are being creative, showing resilience, and doing what needs to be done to teach and learn and carry on. We salute all of you as this 2020-2021 school year gets underway, and we look forward to hearing more stories about how your schools are adapting to support your students as the year progresses.

View Our August 4 Webinar: Preparing for this Fall: The District’s Tech Toolkit

In response to the remote learning measures taken related to COVID-19, schools and districts are working hard to improve technology access and implementation. This webinar, the fourth in our series related to teaching and learning during the pandemic, discussed strategies necessary to determine why and how to streamline what goes into your school’s or district’s tech toolkit. Streamlining the toolkit allows learning to focus on the standards taught, rather than measuring technological fluency.

As this webinar illustrated, educators already demonstrate this capacity in other areas, and so the key will be to transfer thinking and planning to the “new normal” of virtual learning. The webinar featured the following presenters:

Click here to watch it.

Meet Instructional Coach Kimberly Fluet

Kimberly Fluet, Ph.D. is the Associate Director for Science Education and STEM Higher Education Outreach at the Center for Professional Development and Education Reform in the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester. Kim was a high school science teacher at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Inspired by how children and teachers understand (and misunderstand) scientific concepts, she completed her doctorate at Cornell University, focusing on science misconceptions and teacher development. She has worked as a presenter, coach, professor, researcher, and evaluator with urban colleges and K-12 schools for over 15 years. Kim’s research interests continue to focus on science teacher professional growth as well as students’ schema development of STEM concepts.
What teacher of yours do you feel most impacted your coaching approach? Why?

Without a doubt, my colleague Michael Occhino has impacted my coaching the most. In our work together we have explored the theory and practice of coaching. Michael introduced me to the Content-focused Coaching framework, developed by Lucy West, which always begins with content, is autonomy-supportive, and is grounded in evidence of student learning. Michael continues to be a phone call away as a critical friend. I wish everyone could have a colleague who could provide a listening ear, solution-oriented practices, opportunities to be coached as well as to coach, and both praise and critique all in the service of being better. Michael embodies the University of Rochester’s motto, ‘Meliora,” which means “ever better.”

What do you enjoy most about your coaching work?

I love being in the classroom with a teacher as we undertake lessons that prioritize student ideas in learning science. Navigating teaching dilemmas as they arise is one of the most thrilling aspects of coaching. Being able to coach someone to find his or her own way to meet students’ needs while staying true to personal theories of learning is such a cool workspace. I also believe that my community of fellow coaches enriches my coaching work and am deeply indebted to my fellow Rochester-area coaches Pam Kissel, Lisa Chapman, Jeanne Van Voorst, Jeanne Carlivati, and Zenon Borys. Our meetings are work sessions where problems of practice are considered alongside delicious eats.

What was your most memorable moment with a student or students when you were teaching?

I think one of the most memorable moments was working with a group of students who were, by their own definition, kids who had no desire to do well in school. They weren’t motivated, they always had jokes to share, and their most desirable way to participate in biology class was to veer us off topic. It was a Friday, the day’s last period, and we were reviewing a test on which most students didn’t fare well. There was no motivation to work through questions most students had missed. I remember thinking how smart they were and how revisiting questions they had marked incorrectly was an opportunity. I stopped our work, got their attention, and explained that though the test was over, they could still change their brains, that their learning could continue. In fact, exploring and rethinking a problem they had missed was a rare opportunity to encounter the concepts and figure out where their thinking might need tweaking. And the bonus was that we could do it together, using each other’s ideas and perceptions to make sense of the science. There was a shift of energy through the room, and each student joined in our small group and whole class work. Over the next 40 minutes they began to uncover their own thinking and misunderstandings and moved their ideas towards more scientifically accurate ones. The students continued to respond to this reframing of test review from pointless and boring to owned and controlled by them for their own growth throughout the rest of the school year. Today, I have language to describe that moment: we were developing a growth mindset as both teacher and students, and utilizing student-centered, social-constructivist practices to enact that mindset.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip.