Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts visits Mary Chapa in Greenfield

Mary Chapa Academy in Greenfield  received a special visit on Friday, October 24, from Jacques Rodrigue and a team from the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.

The foundation was formed in 2009 by the famed Louisiana artist better known for his images of the Blue Dog.

After a tour of the school, Rodrigue presented students with an overview of works of George Rodrigue and led them through a morning of creativity. Students painted their Blue Dog in any setting in the world that they could possibly imagine.

On Saturday, the foundation sponsored a Family Day at the Rodrigue Gallery in Carmel, where a team led students and their parents in creating Blue Dog ornaments, masks, face painting and a tour of the gallery.

The visit concluded Monday with a field-trip for all fifth grade students to Carmel, where they were led through arts integrated science projects.

In May, El Camino Real Academy in the Greenfield Union School District was selected as one of 10 schools in California for the Turnaround Arts program, a signature of the Obama administration that uses arts to helps narrow the achievement gap.

El Camino Real, which was originally split from Mary Chapa in 2011 as part of reforms aimed at increasing test score, was merged again with Mary Chapa this summer. Mary Chapa gets to keep the turnaround arts designation, principal Sonia Aramburo said.  

As part of the program, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will "adopt" Mary Chapa to engage with the students and motivate them to learn. One of these days he'll come visit. We can hardly wait...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting your teaching chops at a charter school

In case you've missed it, I've been writing about a small charter school operator, Navigator Schools, and its attempts to open two schools in Salinas.

My most recent story is here, and it addresses the charter controversy at a national level.

As you can probably imagine, it's often hard to include in a story all the information you request or come across as you research these issues. For instance, I had asked two Gilroy Prep teachers to give me their input on how's like to teach at a Navigator School. I didn't find a good place to include their views, so I'll post them here, edited.

Bri Gottlieb has been been teaching for three years, her last two at Gilroy Prep. This year, she trained new staff on classroom management styles and student culture. When I visited the school on Oct. 7, Gottlieb was teaching her students how to use cubes to measure length. She was using a very catchy song to teach units of measure, a method used frequently at the school. 

Other topics I asked her about: how does she keep up with the energy level (there's a lot of movement involved in the teaching at Navigator)? How much coaching they have? Here's more of her story, in her own words:

"We have many songs and chants so it is easier for the kids to remember steps and strategies. Some examples of math concepts we have songs and chants for are rounding, subtraction regrouping, word problems, money, fractions, time, multiplication, doubles facts, etc. The students get very into them and you can see them mouthing the songs to themselves during tests and independent practice.
"Some days are harder than others to keep up the energy because on Mondays the kids are sleepy so we ( the teachers) tend to do more of the talking. After working for this school for the second year, you get used to walking and using hand motions with instruction. I find I have more energy because I am used to moving around so much. I have joked around that I should wear a pedometer to see how many steps I walk around in a day. I find that the more I move around, the more the kids get excited and more engaged to learn.

"There is a lot of coaching involved. Every week a coach will observe the classroom (sometimes tape) and then meet with the teacher some time later in the week. During the coaching meetings, we go over strengths and two action steps to work on for the following week. I have found that I have become a better teacher from the feedback from my coaches. It is a very positive coaching model that helps improve my teaching skills all around. I am more conscious about constantly learning and more focused on certain actions that I want to improve on. Sometimes it helps to get another perspective on something I want to improve on as well. Before I came to this school, I didn't realize how collaborative a school could be. Most schools are very inclusive to the teachers and teachers work independently. It is very hard to grow as a teacher in that kind of environment. If I have a great idea that works for a better grade, I e-mail my fellow colleagues and they use the idea. It is a better environment to work in and to grow as a teacher. We are all working for the kids and to help them succeed in their education which is the way it should be." 

It's Karaoke time at Salinas high schools

Tomoki Kuwana, a Japanese language instructor at North Salinas High, is organizing a karaoke contest for all students in the Salinas Union High School District.

Would you include students from other school who take Japanese? I asked him.

That's a great idea, he said. So, if you are a Japanese language teacher at any other district in Monterey County, bring your students to the contest!

When: 4:00PM, Thursday, November 13.

Where: Theater at Everett Alvarez High, 1900 Independence Blvd., Salinas.

Cost: Free Admission

For more information, call: 831-796-7500