Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grant Lichtman, Vino Van Gogh, Oreo Truffles


School began this week for teachers, and everyone, while sad to end the summer, was excited about our guest speaker, Grant Lichtman, coming to our school. Our headmaster started the morning off by saying we should be "getting wildly innovative" this year. Innovation and collaboration have been the buzz words all week. Grant is a Senior Fellow of The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence and was a trustee, CFO, and teacher at Francis Parker School in San Diego for almost 15 years. He is the author of #EdJourney: A Roadmap for the Future of Education, which he based on an 89 day journey around the US visiting 60 schools to see what makes schools special, as well as the Falconer: What we Wish we had Learned in School. He also gave this fascinating TEDtalk "What We Can Learn From 60 Schools." 

Grant lead three workshops, of which we were allowed to participate in two. Mostly, he spoke about creating collaborative learning environments, breaking down "silos," becoming educators-leaders, and redefining time, space, and student-teacher relationships. I could go on for hours about what I saw, learned, and felt, but I decided to sum it up into 6 ideas I got out of the day (there were many more!)

1. "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow" -John Dewey. We need to rethink how we teach today's students: if students are exposed to context, they will learn the content better. Our world is changing at an incredible rate. How can we reimagine the fundamental learning relationship between teachers and students?

2. High frequency and low amplitude...meaning, we should not have one great speaker at the beginning of the year (low frequency with high amplitude), but rather, we should see lots of innovative speakers and ideas regularly and throughout the year...we need to keep going and not just get pumped on the first day of school. We can also do this by having our faculty, staff, and students present their ideas at different times of the year or through a common blog.

3. Success = sustained value. Innovation creates value and "value delights the customer" -Steve Denning. We need to "effectively communicate the differentiated value" that our school offers to our customers, to say, "this is why you should come to our school." How can we promote the value of our school globally and locally? Can we increase our financial add packages to attract the best students? Can we observe other teachers at our school and also locally at other schools?
4. Take risks in your thinking. When brainstorming for ideas, go for volume, encourage wild ideas (say, "what if?" or "how might we?", not "can we?" or "should we?"), build on each other by saying, "and then..." Our group came up with the idea of having a "flop consortium," where we host educators from around the world who "failed" at something and can then tell us what NOT to do. We were a pretty good group, if I may say so myself! We really thought outside of the box and came up with ideas that had no time, space, or financial constraints. Rather than think, "Will I get in trouble for trying this new idea?", feel empowered to take the risk.

5. Blog. This was interesting since I started a week ago! I asked Grant personally why blog. I know I am doing it, but why did he suggest it? He told me that it leads to more networking and collaboration with other people who have common interests. Which, although I have never articulated it, is why I have been doing it! I want to share ideas and get great ideas with others from around the world who do the same things I do. Here is a link to the blog that Grant wrote after our workshop. The biggest thing I personally learned about how to have a good blog? Consistency! Write it once a week. I heard that, and that's what I am trying to do. We will see if I still can't once school starts. 

6. Use Twitter. This is something that I have only been playing around with for the last month or so. I am learning so much from other educators from around the world just by looking at Twitter 5 to 10 minutes a day. Here is a link for 7 Effective Ways for Teachers to Engage on Twitter  by @mikepaul, someone whom I recently began to follow. This year, I will use an idea I saw in a twitter "conference within a conference" at the Anja Greer conference at Phillips Exeter, given by @anthonydilaura. I will have students tweet me (they will follow me, and I will not be following them back) @lisaqt314 with the hashtag #iseemath. This will be something I will get into further detail about next week. If you see math in action, tweet me with that hashtag!

Grant's visit got everyone thinking and looking for innovative ways to get our students to learn and see the value in education. I'm hoping to get idea paint on my wall and watch my students collaborate mathematically while I sit back in awe...I know they can do it. They have done it before in my math club...I am hoping to see them do it regularly in my classes as well. 

Photo courtesy of


For the last two years, our math department has gotten together at the end of the year to paint at Vino Van Gogh. Vino Van Gogh is the heart of Delray Beach, FL, and is a great place to socialize with people you enjoy being with while doing something very creative. As math teachers, our focus is often on helping our students to solve math problems and become great thinkers. I am pretty sure that no one in my department would call themselves an artist, yet when we go to Vino Van Gogh, all of us feel like our creative side is tapped and that we have developed a brand new talent that no one has known about...not even ourselves! Matt and his wife Tracey are owners, and they are very welcoming and friendly. Matt greets everyone at the beginning, puts worried non-artists at ease, and then we are introduced to the artist of the day. The artist gives us cues with plenty of time to chat and connect in between. What is amazing is that everyone in the class has a unique piece of art based on what the teacher is having us create...they all look the same yet different. Isn't that what teaching is all about? We all want our students to replicate us as we show them what to do, yet each student interprets us in their own way, and the results all come out a little different. It is really great to tap the left side of the brain when we are so used to the right! And we are always always talking about school and math and now we talk about is a great time to connect and be present in the moment.
So much fun! The music that Matt plays is so great. I finally wrote down every song so that I would have a good playlist for my classroom...when you are working hard, using the brain, good music makes it that much easier.  I like to play music in my classroom when students are working through gets their creative juices flowing, just as ours flow while painting. I have some downloading to do!
Below was Matt's playlist from iTunes from our most recent night.

Rude - MAGIC!
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
Love Runs Out - One Republic
Brass Monkey - Beastie Boys
Seed 2.0 - The Roots
Stolen Dance - Milky Chance
The Joker - Steve Miller Band
Forget You - Cee Lo Green
On Top of the World - Imagine Dragon
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
All of Me - John Legend
Home - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Highway Don't Care - Tim McGraw ft. Taylor Swift
Maps - Maroon 5
Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
Pompeii - Bastille
I Will Wait - Mumford and Sons
Beautiful Day - U2
Cough Syrup - Young the Giant
Under Pressure - Queen & David Bowie
Summer - Calvin Harris
One Love - Bob Marley
Get Up Stand Up - Bob Marley
Mr. Brightside - The Killers
Say Hey (I love you) - Michael Franti & Spearhead
I'm the Man - Aloe Blacc
Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
Gone, Gone, Gone - Phillip Phillips
Big Parade - The Lumineers
Problem - Ariana Grande
Riptide - Vance Joy
Dancing Queen - ABBA
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
Santeria - Sublime
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
Wild Wild Love - Pitbull
Chicken Fried - Zac Brown Band
All Summer Long - Kid Rock


One of my favorite go to desserts to make for students and parties is Oreo Truffles

Photo Courtesy of The Capitol Baker
I want to thank my former student Marissa K. for making these for my class one year and then sharing the recipe. It is outrageous, and I get requested to make them again and again. Just a couple of notes:
  • I keep them in the fridge until right before eating.
  • I use my Kitchen Aid mixmaster to mush the oreos...the longer you mix, the finer the consistency. If you want crunchy oreos, don't mix as long.
  • You can substitute other of my favorites to use are Nutter Butter Cookies
  • I use Bakers dipping chocolate in milk or white, and then pipe on melted dark chocolate.
  • before the chocolate hardens, I have sprinkled on Heath Bar crumbs, oreo crumbs, mini chocolate chips (my favorite), or sprinkles that match the color of a particular holiday. The permutations are endless! :)

Hope you enjoyed. Have a great week!

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