On Sunday, June 19, ARIE trainers, Steve Zipkes, Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray, Sarah DiMaria, Stephanie Hart and I arrived in Clearwater, Florida after a 10-day trip to China. Throughout our very long commute from Hong Kong to Florida, I received many birthday greetings from friends in person, online, and via text. These greetings capped off the many birthday cheers from the evening before during our final dinner in China. What a way to kick off year 40!
When we arrived our hotel in Clearwater, we were joined by ARIE trainers, Adam Fishman, Jennifer Thompson, Victoria Venzura, Tyeron Hammontree, and Michael Chambers. We arrived just in time to briefly plan for the start of the training the following day and to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers historic game 7 win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
On Monday, June 20, Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray and I took the day off to recover from jet lag, to run errands and to finalize the design of the Think Forward PBL Academy Advanced Track sessions. Stephanie and I started off the morning by doing some much needed laundry. Both of us had nearly used up all of our clean clothes during our 10-day China trip. Then we picked up Stuart and went shopping for workshop supplies and spent time working together on our Advanced sessions. Later in the evening, we got to debrief with the ARIE team on Day 1 of the Foundations PBL training on our hotel’s scenic restaurant patio. Then, Stephanie, Stuart, and Sarah closed out the evening by spending several hours working together on Advanced track sessions.
During our Day 1 Foundations level Debrief, I learned that our trainers were having many positive interactions with the Clearwater participants. Stephanie Hart was the lead trainer for Day 1. She managed to coherently and energetically lead the Day 1 Project Launch and Project Ideation workshops – no small feat considering her lack of sleep due to jet lag. Our facilipants, Adam, Tyeron, Sarah, Victoria, Michael, and Jennifer, circulated throughout the training room to offer support to our participants during the Day 1 sessions. They were impressed by the focus and work ethic of the participants and the depth and breadth of their project ideation brainstorming discussions and products.
On Tuesday, June 21, I joined the ARIE team consisting of Adam, Jennifer, Stephanie H., Victoria, Michael, and Tyeron to lead the morning sessions in Day 2 of the Foundations track training. In the meantime, Stephanie E. and Sarah kicked off Day 1 of the Advanced track training. In the morning, I facilitated the Rubrics workshop of the Foundations track training. The participants started to impress me early on while they sketched their end products during the warmup of the Rubrics session. I enjoyed seeing the wide variety of products in the room and enjoyed seeing how willing participants were to share their end product ideas with me. The participants were also very enthusiastic and game architects during our Marshmallow House activity. During the debrief of this activity, several participants volunteered some perceptive comments that debriefed the activity and tied it to the importance and purpose of rubrics. One participant described how the specificity of rubric criteria can help both teachers and students. One participant wondered if time should be allotted for free brainstorming prior to introducing students to the constraints in the rubric.
During the middle to the end of the workshop, we walked the participants through drafting a 3-column Content and 21st century skills rubric for their project. A few of the instructional coaches in the room helped me explain to participants how the 3 rubric levels connected to Marzano’s thinking levels so that participants could better understand how to integrate PBL with district initiatives. The participants were very productive during the rubric work times. Several groups even continued working through our mid morning break. Many teams came up with solid rubric drafts by the end of the morning. All in all, I felt like the Rubric session went very well.
During Tuesday afternoon, I joined Stephanie E. and Sarah to support participants going through the Advanced track of the PBL training. This smaller group of participants was also very enthusiastic and focused. I affinity grouped their Goals and found that their goals clustered around better implementations of scaffolding, rubrics, assessments, project calendars, student choice, authenticity, and professional development. In the afternoon, the participants worked together to compile strategies for scaffolding and assessing Agency. This was the closing activity for a session on Agency lead by Stephanie. Following this workshop, Sarah lead a session on Inquiry through the lens of looking at student work. I worked with a group of teachers to analyze Calculus student work using the Looking at Student Work protocol. While working through this protocol, we had some very interesting conversations about how to scaffold mathematics, how to integrate mathematics with other contents, and how to interpret student work.
On the evening of Tuesday, June 21, Steve Zipkes treated our team to dinner at the Columbia. Founded in 1905, the Columbia is the oldest restaurant in Florida. The restaurant served up delicious Spanish and Cuban food and featured fresh seafood and excellent table-side food and drink service. I ordered a delicious baked stuffed grouper dish; the fish was stuffed with crabmeat and a very nice tart tropical fruit butter that cut nicely through the buttery richness of the fish and the crab. For desert, I got to eat caramelized torched crema and surprise birthday flan. The waiters sung Happy Birthday to me in Spanish. It was another sweet way to celebrate my initiation into the 40 Club.
On Wednesday, June 22, Stuart Ray and I led the Advanced PBL trainings on Scaffolding and Assessment. Prior to that, I again enjoyed breakfast on the hotel patio with the beautiful bay views. Stuart was the lead trainer for the morning Scaffolding session and I was a facilipant. I enjoyed playing the Scaffolding Bingo game with the participants. We created a bingo card with 9 scaffolding activities. Then we found teachers who had 2, 3-4, 5, and 6 strategies in common with us and asked them what was the subject they teach, their favorite food, and their favorite television show. This activity helped me to get to know some of the teachers I had interacted with the day before. Stuart led workshops on scaffolding best practices and on workshops. He and I also supported participants during work time when they broke down their target standards and brainstormed scaffolding activities for theses standards. We even brought in an extra facilipant, Adam Fishman, to help out one of the participants who taught an Electrician certification course because Adam has many ideas and taught Electricity courses at Manor New Tech. Adam and Dan had long conversations throughout the work time. They exchanged enough ideas that they had to move to a side area to continue those conversations during workshop time.
In the afternoon, I ate lunch at Panera with half the ARIE team and then took a quick power nap. By that point the jet lag was starting to make me feel like a machine alternating between ON working phases and OFF sleeping recharging phases. After my nap, I led the Assessments session for the Advanced track participants. Just as in the morning, the participants asked many deep and nuanced clarifying questions when I presented my workshops on Assessment Design and Assessment Implementation. During the two designated work times for unpacking and analyzing standards, planning responses to assessment data, and brainstorming assessment formats, I had some cool conversations with participants. While helping out Nidal., I learned that sometimes standards are written in ways that do NOT explicitly list the verbs in the standards. Sometimes, they are written in the way that clearly infer verbs that are not directly mentioned in the standard. During one of the activities, I had participants vote with their feet by moving to one of 4 corners representing an assessment format in order to get information related to assessment scenarios. I was pleasantly surprised to find that participants landed at 3 of the 4 corners for each of the scenarios that I presented even though I designed this activity to have what I thought was one clear winner per scenario. Hearing the participants’ justifications for their responses helped me learn new ways to use the assessment strategies in the activity. By the end of the session, many of us (the participants) and I) were a bit tired. Several of them thanked me for leading a session that “stretched their minds”.
In the evening, I again slumped into an OFF state and napped deeply for 3 hours. Then I met with Stuart Ray and Stephanie Ehler to plan the Advanced Authenticity session. I quickly slipped into an ON state and shared many ideas for the session. I ordered a sandwich through room service that was a pretty delicious French dip sandwich; I snacked on this treat during our brainstorming session. We created a draft of the handout and the slides before our meeting ended. Stephanie was sleepy enough that I asked her if I could finish the slides because my mind was shooting off many ideas on how to complete them. I quickly packed and then dedicated one dense hour to finishing the Authenticity slides. Just as I was fixing to fall asleep, the hotel fire alarms went off and I had to trudge outside along with all the other hotel residents. I met Steve, Stuart, and Stephanie outside in the parking lot. Fortunately they allowed us back into the hotel pretty quickly because soon after I arrived back at my room I quickly fell into an OFF state.
On Thursday, June 24, Steve Zipkes, Stephanie Ehler, Stuart Ray, and I spent our final day in Clearwater training teachers. We enjoyed our last breakfast with beautiful bay views. Stephanie, Stuart, and I led two advanced sessions: one on Project Management and one on Authenticity. As we struggled to facilitate sessions while fighting still persistent jet lag, our motto was: Find a Way. During the project management workshops, I really enjoyed swapping strategies with participants on how to better manage projects. During the authenticity workshop, we continued to brainstorm and share strategies on how to ramp up management processes to accommodate more authentic projects. Stuart closed the training with an impromptu workshop requested by participants on the New Echo. As the training closed, several participants expressed a lot of gratitude for the training and wished us luck on our endeavors to found a new school.
For my moment of zen, I found out after the training that Adriana Jacobi is willing to host me while I’m in Fort Worth next week for another ARIE PBL Foundations training. Whoohoo! I’m looking forward to catching up with her. 🙂