Grading contract completion: MEEP Leadership Conference 2000 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

28th Annual MEEP Spring Leadership Conference 2000

I have been attending the MEEP conference since the early 80's and this year was clearly the best one due to the quality of the Break Out sessions. There were 55 session on various educational topic and 25 mini sessions on technology to choose from throughout the three days.

THE BEST SESSION! Al Greenfield- Components of a Quality Reading Program: The What Why and How.

An exciting and enlightening session inspired me because of our recent graduate standards testing results. A score of 75% is needed in theBasic Skills Reading test to pass for the graduation standards. Our average reading score was 71%. As a district we need to find why this is down and how to improve it.

Based on research, especially recent brain research, 8th grade students who take the Basic Reading Test and score in the 74% - 55 % range have a good chance of passing the reading test at 75%. However, it was alarming that those who score 54% and below have an extremely slim chance of passing. This is because of learning and brain development at the younger ages through grade 5. Students who score in the 55-74% have a chance because of vocabulary and learning strategies already in place. But the students scoring 0-54% did not learn vocabulary (general and specific), learning strategies, writing and practice necessary to become a comprehensive reader. They may speak the words but do have understanding. Greenfield supports his findings on our brain development. He reported that our learning is the dendrons connecting. These dendrons connect as learning happens. So learning at development (through repeated or older learning) are dendrons that are "hard wired" and the new ones are out there searching to connect. And if they don't become one of the "hard wired" dendrons are lost. That is why he claims that it is almost futile to try to get a student scoring at 0-54% to pass. He said that these students are often put into remedial reading classes if they fail and those schools are just spinning-their-wheels. MAYBE one occasional student could learn to be able to pass by graduation, but it takes intense low teacher/student number with a student that may have the previous brain development and learning strategies. He told us that 'stuff"-is-going-to-hit-the-fan shortly when we are requiring students to meet standards they are incapable of doing to graduate. Another antidote to this is his explanation of altimeters or elderly memory loss is due to these new dendrons not connecting. Often they can remember things that happened years ago (hard wired dendrons) and can't remember a few minutes ago. Also, mentally challenged students (such as fetal alcohol) do not have needed dips in their brain structure to have places for the dendrons to start forming and have places to reach to. Greenfield was so inspiring I am going to talk to our Staff Development people and have him come and present to our staff. I think this would be a good district wide activity to give us all a clearer idea of what we are dealing with and try to help our students with his 28 years experience of teaching reading and research knowledge.

My interest in Technology led me to the mini sessions. This was also very useful and energizing in learning of new strategies in teaching. Marty Borg Achievement Data/Bloomington School presentation called: Technology Trends- Preparing for the Future began with a fun media show filled with all those neat futuristic technologies that we will be using. His huge facts of the growing knowledge banks and the Internet's contribution to the Information Age are always enlightening. However, his discussion about technology's impact on our schools was something to reflect on! He cautioned teachers who get a bigger teacher text and a student text and teach with the filling in there students with the extra stuff in their book, had better watch out. Technology is replacing people and teachers are vulnerable in some areas. Public schools are loosing students and indirectly loosing funding because of home schooling and charter schools ability to access information and skills through technology. However, teachers are valuable and needed because of their wisdom (not their knowledge) and the relationships with students. A teacher that provides what technology can't- will thrive.

Marty also gave a provoking spin to technology saying that it is OVERSTATED. It was amusing to hear a tech person observe that things like PowerPoint is not necessary-what's wrong with a good ol' chalk board? You get the same results without whistle and bells and often time content is lost to the media show.

Other useful technology I explored at the Technology/Resource was: Inquiry-Based Web Activities such as WebQests & TrackStar. These are templates for creating lesson plans and ready made lesson plans. All are very good interactive strategies. TIES Online Projects: MN history, Geography, Wolves, Underground RR. The valuable websites to connect you to these wonderful resources are:

In addition, there was a presentation of Internet Searching Strategies. This was exceptional because it was related to searching at school. The sites are all excellent because they are safe and appropriate for school use. The Internet Public Library link was the best I've seen for school use. I am going to give the address to our technology person so he can add it to our school web page. It will be a good addition. They also provided some very good tips on refining your searching. Here is the web address for the handout of all these links. Check it out!

Last of all, I will comment on the Keynote Speaker: Kit R Welchlin, Welchlin Communication Strategies. Team Building: Taking Your Talents and Your Teams to the Top. I was unable to attend this session because I wanted to attend our Student of the Month Banquet and then drive to Brainerd later. But, I got a report from collaboration in the lodge's hot tub by a fellow who was enthralled by his speech. He felt he was the most motivating speaker he ever heard. He is from Duluth- I think a non-teacher because he said he worked at central office. He wanted to get him for Duluth's opening session next year. The point I related to and joined in was how teams are good but when using them as committees for decision making, keep the numbers down! Effectiveness is lost and management becomes the issue. I have served on committees for decision making and there is nothing worst that putting in your time and not being able to have consensus. Members get hurt and mad and a final decision is not a happy ending. In conclusion, it is important to build supportive teams that yield successful results. It is imperative to the success in building cohesive work groups and what to do if a group member creates a problem. Pit-falls can be prevented by understanding the role of conflict and learn what to do. Learning tools for successful meeting and the strategies for building successful teams is something every school and person can benefit from.

-- Anonymous, April 27, 2000

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