Virtual School Now Available Here in Goochland

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We continue to be excited that Goochland County Public Schools (GCPS) is piloting an online, virtual school program for the 2014-2015 school year.  We know  a few of our homeschool parents have expressed an interest in online courses provided by GCPS recently due to rising costs from some of the current providers of online homeschool curriculum.  GCPS is utilizing an online education program, Edgenuity, to provide an appropriate education for 6th through 12th grade virtual school students.  Students can complete all core academics, foreign language, health & physical education, as well as elective courses online while at school or at home. Upon completion of diploma requirements including verified SOL credits, students can even be awarded a GCPS high school diploma.

Even as we begin the month of October, students may still be accepted into our new pilot program.  We are accepting students on a first-come, first-served basis this year only. We are starting with ten full-time and five part-time students. Those accepted into our virtual school are required to maintain grades of A’s or B’s each quarter and to report to the middle school or high school only for SOL testing as part of these courses. Students must enroll at least part-time through GMS or GHS and pass all SOL exams with a score of 500 or above to remain in the virtual school program.

GCPS staff will regularly monitor each student’s progress in Edgenuity and inform parents and appropriate staff if standards are not met each quarter.  If standards are not maintained, the child must return to a home school or public school setting.

If you and your child(ren) have an interest in the program, please contact Mr. Tom DeWeerd at 804-556-5627 for more information.

Celebrate Spring & Celebrate Learning

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Teachers — When we return from Spring Break, we need to start with a celebration!  Yes, celebrate the learning we have accomplished this year… make the return to school fun!  There will be only 7 weeks of school remaining and look what we have all we have done this year!

This is the idea generator!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Regarding Social Media

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A Goochland Schools Hosted Roundtable for Awareness

  •  How aware are you about the impact social media has on your child? 
  • How aware are you about how to use these tools safely? 
  • Are you interested in knowing more about how your son or daughter is using their cell phone?
When:  April 10, 2014 at 6:30 p.m
Where: Community Room, Reynolds Community College, Goochland Campus. We’ll cover this and more in a roundtable event with guests that includes GCPS teachers, principals, the Goochland Sheriff’s Office, and GCPS students. This event is free with light refreshments served.  

Rural Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition

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GMS completed a poster contest for the Rural Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition (RSAAC) of Goochland and Powhatan…..  and we have a winner! Rilie Bass -6th grader.
Attached is a photo of her and her poster. The poster will remain in the main hallway until the end of the school year. We had a total of 76 entries! We have chosen a few posters to display in our hallways.

Bullying Will Not Be Tolerated

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VSBA Bullying Prevention Month- January 2014

 

Watch this video and let’s work together to prevent bullying in GCPS.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dz42EuWNfo4&feature=youtu.be

Creating Creators — Creativity is One of our Values — Is it one of yours?

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A team of Goochland educators attended a talk this morning, “Emerging Educational Technology” by Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education.

He made sense and challenged us.  Earlier this year he gave a similar talk “Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStrett.”   Please listen to him.

Our technology team here in Goochland accepts the gauntlet he has thrown down about personalized learning.  While we acknowledge the challenges facing us, we get excited imagining the future.

The Value of Optimism — one story

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One never knows how much we can change the life of our students.

After fleeing violence in Liberia, Shadrack Boakye arrived in the US at the age of nine. He started school with limited English skills, and quickly fell behind his peers. By age 14, he was placed in special education with little hope for graduation.

Entering Mrs. Murphy’s READ 180 class changed everything. Shadrack’s skills improved, as did his confidence once he discovered an “addiction” to success. He started writing about his experiences and hasn’t stopped since. He’s now a college student, public speaker, and playwright

Although Mrs. Murphy is not at Goochland Middle School (GMS), we  have a read 180 program at GMS.  And although Shadrack was not a Goochland student, the real meaning of this story from the Read 180 Community is what can happen when teachers are optimistic about students and don’t give up on them.  

Optimism — A value in Goochland Schools.

Listen to one young man recount  how optimism changed his life.

 

 

Budget Workshop

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Last night’s budget workshop was a positive departure from past practice.  From the format of the meeting to the delivery of information from key stakeholders (principals), the new budget software, and finally, the positive interaction between our school board and our new superintendent, Dr. Lane, and our new director of finance, Ms. Deborah White, this evening workshop demonstrated the new day in GCPS.

While we remain in a flat funding mode which requires more belt tightening as there are naturally some increased costs and needs, the thrust is positive and the outlook clearly toward continued improvement in student achievement and academic progress.

One area that Mr. Lumpkins highlighted after the breakout session with the secondary budget is the need for more science equipment and supplies.  While apparently, there is no possible way to meet the total need in this year’s budget, there is clearly an understanding of the necessities.  The knowledge of our school board on our needs is based on the transparency of reviewing our budget line-by-line and by providing more staff involvement in the process.

Working Tuesday nights in January to get constructive involvement in budget building can be difficult; however, last night confirmed support for the dynamic energy and hard work of our team.  Our GMS principal, Johnette Burdette, and our new GHS principal, Mike Newman, made crystal clear presentations on their school budgets.  Thanks … school board and Dr. Lane for making this all possible.

Of course, the budget is not the only way to meet our needs.  An announcement this week at GHS demonstrates the creative way our teachers work.

Kelli Bratton has received grant funding from the Math Science Center.  She will be purchasing supplies to help our science department incorporate nanoscience and technology into our curriculum.  Congratulations, Ms. Bratton!

What Do GHS Teachers Think?

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What do GHS teachers think … about engagement?  The recent publication of the Goochland Instructional Newsletter  featured short quotes from teachers on page 5 detailing what they thought about engagement.  One was from Jennifer Abbott, teacher of English at GHS.

When I asked her for her definition of student engagement, she wrote, “It’s so interesting that you should ask this because I introduced my students to Edmodo today, and I feel like the level of student engagement shot through the roof.  If a teacher can successfully engage his or her students, the majority of the battle is won in that classroom.   Engagement leads to less classroom discipline and more productive interaction between one’s peers and teacher.   Edmodo is offering just that.  It’s offering my kids a unique opportunity to interact with me and with one another in a way that they can not only understand but relate to.  They’re accomplishing the same thing that a worksheet can do, but they’re not fighting me the whole way.  They want to answer the question or complete the task.”  One way you can see her engaged ideas is through her blog. Ms. Jennifer Abbott uses active strategies to keep her students thinking, participating and writing; she enjoys the tools of technology and so do her students.

Another high school teacher, Preston Gordon, who teaches mathematics had thoughts about this subject as well: “Student engagement is the ability to provide a learning experience that allows a class to participate and enjoy instruction.   A teacher can evaluate the engagement of students by their performance in class through one-on-one questioning, group activity, class discussions, projects, along with numerous other activities that allows for student participation.  Teachers need to sell themselves, their class, and lessons everyday, so the students will have the best learning opportunity available.  I have found that being energetic and entertaining has helped me improve student engagement.”

Mr. Preston Gordon when on to say, “One of the best teachers that I have been around at GHS is Ms. Erin Yearout-Patton, and the kids love her along with her teaching methods.”  Erin is on the cover of our recent instructional newsletter.

Erin Yearout-Patton regularly presents lessons that model engaged learning.  She comes at teaching from the perspective of being a student herself.   “As educators, we too remain students, because many of us have a commitment to lifelong learning. As a student myself, I know I am engaged when the professor ends class, and I find myself wanting to continue the class discussion or activity. Sometimes, I will stay after class or email my professors because I am very interested in the concept.  As a teacher, I apply the latter to my own classes. When my students compliment the lesson, provide ideas to improve it, tell me how the lesson applies to a principle from another course, or an event in their daily life, I know I have made a connection. A more concrete example: students will send me emails or tweets on events they want to cover in class. They also send me copies of letters they write to their Congressmen, concerning legislation, and the response they receive. Last year, it was SOPA. They also enjoy bringing in political signs and banners to support their political ideas. Furthermore, I know they are engaged when I go to vote and they are working the polls, ensuring a just and fair election. This is exactly what the Class of 2012 did, thanks to our community partnership with the Registrar’s Office. Every year our students complete their Senior Projects. The Class of 2011 raised over $15,000 for charities. It will always be an honor to be a small part of the process that engages our nation’s future, our children, in creating superb and dedicated public servants!”

Finally, our secondary instructional technology resource teacher (ITRT), Bea Cantor, who helps teachers connect technology with their lessons, knows first hand what engagement looks like. “Students are engaged when they are learning by doing, when they are active in a meaningful task rather than repetitive busywork: using technology, collaborating with their peers, applying knowledge to solve problems. This engagement is most meaningful when students are aware that what they are learning is not just to pass a test, but something that will be useful somewhere beyond the classroom walls”  Bea Cantors blog reveals the many engaging lessons she assists with from the 6th through 12th grade.  She is also writing a eBook about the photography of insects.   All of us can learn more about engaging lessons from Bea Cantor’s blog, Tech Salad.

Invested… Stakeholders in Learning

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In the upcoming newsletter from our schools, Explorations in Learning, one GMS teacher, Leona Barnes is quoted — “Student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning . . . they see themselves as stakeholders in their own learning.”

This statement is the tip of the iceberg for Ms. Barnes.  She is the epitome of the teacher/facilitator who works daily to keep ‘her kids’ involved in learning.   When she was asked to define engagement she wrote:  ”Tom, thanks for asking me.  It really allowed me to step back and analyze what I do with the students.”  She appears to reflect frequently about the way she teaches.  Her full statement describes her philosophy of engagement.

Definition:  From my vantage point, student engagement occurs when students are actively invested in their own learning.  In other words, at this point in the learning process, they see themselves as “stake-holders” in their own learning.  I feel like I’m in “teacher heaven” when this happens in my classroom. 

 As I was reflecting on this question, I realized that there were several strategies that I keep in mind to foster student engagement:

1.  Each unit begins with a big question.  Students have to view their learning with a sense of “wonderment.”  Giving them an opportunity to express what they would like to learn in relation to our unit engages them right at the beginning.

2.  Material is presented in small “chunks.”

3.  Students are given a variety of ways with which to work with these smaller pieces of information.

4.  Once students have mastered all of these pieces of information, they have to put it together to make sense of the whole. (Sometimes, I start with the “whole” and then we analyze the “pieces.”)

 Because the lesson was broken into smaller steps, students will arrive at #4 feeling a sense of confidence and security, so it’s easier to take risks when learning.  I’m also very careful as to what kind of feedback I give when students are engaged.  The feedback must always be stated positively, so that students will continue to feel confident and secure during this learning process.

Thanks Mrs.Leona Barnes for your exciting teaching and your visionary instructional leadership at GMS.

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