Developing a Staff Brain Trust #coffeechugPLN

I would like to announce my latest idea that I believe will greatly enhance teaching, idea development, staff morale, and overall culture of teaching in any school.

I call it the Brain Trust. You can call it whatever you like. Perhaps Justice League or some other clever name.

Here is the idea

We have educators who are amazing in all types of ways. We have big picture/big idea people. We have educators who can flat out deliver any project, idea, or plan. We have educators who are amazing at crunching numbers and data. We have educators who see and outline all the small details of day to day activities to make things happen.

On the flipside all of these amazing gifts teachers have also have the opposite where they may not have the confidence or talent to fulfill all of these components.

As our building merges to a Project Based Learning Model we have many teachers who are busting their butts to develop a high quality and engaging project that will deliver on content, student choice, higher order thinking skills, and an end product that blows the minds of everyone. However, some just cannot get the ball rolling. We are stuck in our molds of current thought. We are trapped in the confines of the ways things have always been. We are being persuaded by the negative voices in our heads. We are drowning in all the things that educators must balance on their shoulders. Despite social media and all the amazing networks available to everyone these days, many educators still operate in isolation.

The Brain Trust will help overcome these obstacles.

I really believe that once teachers get a true taste of Project Based Learning they will never look back. This is where the brain trust comes in.

This small team will consist of the the Big Idea educators in the building. Once every two weeks this group will get together and simply brainstorm ideas, projects, driving questions, etc. for educators who are stuck. The educators who are stuck will write me a little brief design spec on what they are working on, where they are stuck, and what they are trying to achieve. The Brain Trust will not create the whole project, but instead sit in a meeting and come up with as many ideas as they possibly can. From there I will deliver the results back to the person to absorb and reflect. I will follow up a week later with a one on one meeting where I will work with the educator on what they like/disliked and how to make the project come alive.

At this point they will either be off and running or perhaps will have time to craft some more thought so that a project tuning can happen to really cement the plans.

I believe that giving teachers opportunities to help one another will create teacher support and raise teacher morale. It will also help those that are really working hard to have a resource to go to when they are stuck and just need some whacky ideas to get moving again.

In the end it becomes a win win situation for everyone including staff, admin, students, parents, and the community.

What do you think?

More importantly, who needs some help from the Brain Trust?

Send me your Design Spec of your project that you are working on and where you are stuck. I will work on developing the Brain Trust Team and hopefully be able to meet by the end of next week. Let us help you!

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Why I Love Teaching – 4th Grade Interest Inventory

This week in ELP we began to investigate what our students are interested in studying for the year. We follow a model in which we try to match our projects, units, and curriculum to their passion and interests. We have 16 4th grade students from our 6 elementary buildings in our class. We gave them a piece of paper in which they had to write down two things.

1. Interests about Bald Eagles(this is our theme for the year)
2. Student interest,hobbies, things they want to study that does not pertain to eagles(at least in their mind)

We gave them most of the class. During this time we talked about prior projects, potential projects, and some ideas we have as teachers. They asked lots of questions and their gears just turned and turned.

Here is the list of topics they came up with in about 20 minutes or so of brainstorming.

4th Grade ELP Interest Inventory


Body Parts – beak II, eyes IIII, feathers II, wings II, talons,
Nest II
Hunting III
Eagle Poster
Flight IIII
Eagle Website
Eaglets II

Student Interest

Skype Math IIII (4)
Penpals IIIIIIIII (9)
Lego Robotics II (2)
Owl Pellets IIIIIIIIIII (11)
Architecture II (2)
Study Cows
Mystery Skype IIIIIIIIII (10)
Goose Poop Study IIIIII (6)
Quail Camera IIIIII (6)
Animals III- pandas, bunnies, dogs II, monarchs IIIII, dolphins II, flamingos, komodo dragons, lions, gila monsters, aardvarks, platypus, cobras
Plays II (2)
Candy Factories
Animation – claymation IIIIIIIII (9)
lightwire II (2)
Eco-Meet IIIIIIIII (9)
Outer Space, Universe II (2)
Theory of Relativity
Safety Case for Chips(makes think of Pringle Challenge)
Egg Drop IIIIIII (7)
Website Creation
Geode Hunting IIII (4)
Greek Alphabet
Dissection IIIII (5)
Aerial Engineering II (2)
Electrical Engineering
Bettendorf Mansion IIII (4)
Language and Culture
Underwater/Ocean III (3)
Shark attacks 1916
Drawing II (2)
Secret Passages

Look at the wide array of topics. Look how awesome these ideas are to investigate further. The downside is that we don’t have enough time to cover them all, but we will try our best. It is now time to craft some projects and units based around their interests and see what we can develop. I love this time of year. It keeps me fresh as a teacher. These students force to push myself out of my personal comfort zone to meet their needs.

We had a great first week together. I look forward to a fantastic year.

This is why I love teaching. The passion for learning from my students only fuels my passion to teach.

5th grade list will be coming over the weekend.

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