“Act Today for Impact Tomorrow”

professional development march 8

Photo by H. Brake

March 8, 2019 – Our District-wide Professional Development Day at Woodbridge High – some of you may hear that soundtrack of Jaws in the background, but do not fret – think more like the soundtracks of Han Zimmer, because sure enough, the competitive edge was on.  How so?  Even from 2 weeks ago when we were choosing which sessions to attend – (I love the fact we can choose from more than a basic number of sessions, and do so ahead of time virtually, to fit into crazy schedules we have leading up to the PD) – you could sense some workshops would be PACKED fast and that was competitive in a sense – and all attendees had that chance to find their “fit” as there were many different perspectives to meet so many different needs that helps set a tone of positivity.

From the start of the registration being informed we would be given tokens for the Raider apparel we had – that was a challenge from the very beginning and I was glad to say, a year later after starting at WSD, thanks to a lot of students’ fundraisers, I donned the last year Blue Raider Band Shirt, the black long-sleeved senior 2019 shirt, the Woodbridge white lacrosse sweatshirt, the blue Woodbridge zip pull up, the black Woodbridge fleece jacket, and my Woodbridge backpack and Woodbridge thermos, and yes, not a bad start with seven to start and towards an all jean day – let’s do this – and it didn’t hurt to grab a couple danishes and OJ to jumpstart.

Key note was nice to hear from our own WSD teachers of the year as well as the variety of schools represented in our district, funny, inspirational, Home school pride – very good start to a Friday.  Ms Baerga’s first intro speaking part for the day also welcomed all to the day, and personally, I have to say I appreciated to date the appearances she has made to students at WHS when she is in the admin building, but her appearances have definitely made a difference among students who may not know who our admin is aside from a brief cameo in the yearbook.  I have liked that about our district that admin are seen regularly right in the mix with students, and to me  as an educator that makes a world of difference, so I know it does for the students too.

As I was worried I would be receiving the same information from my first workshop – “Tool Time” as I had attended Ms. Duncan’s a previous PD. 

that be me

Photo by Graham


Nope, not to worry, amazing insights into how Schoology to start with and dataservice would play a huge role for insights so much more than could be tapped into by most.  Being aware of the very resources that exist and not are used currently is one of the most priceless tools to avoiding obtaining more tools that are not needed in a district.  The valuable information about what is being covered from class to class among teachers, without having to go to each current teacher – priceless. 


Photo by Marine

This helps truly build a stronger curriculum among teachers when students are concerned, as well as finding even more direct ways to support students when we (educators) think they are at a dead end.  This all helps support a more promising, positive touch for tomorrow. VERY MUCH NEEDED in an educator’s world today.  It is ALWAYS a bonus to leave a PD experience with more information that is and CAN be used than just theoretical.  Learning that model placing post it’s on a monitor sounds – simple but it is simply and so much more efficient for an educator to see when a student is where they need to be, or are falling behind, from the front of a room as an educator.  LOVE when new approaches are modeled from a teaching point of view when as educators, no time during the school day exists to observe those other class techniques that will make our days easier.

Sliding between the start of the next session we stopped at our High School table in the lobby and picked up our between session #1 competition, Tragedy in the Bathroom, hysterical. 


Natalie Gordon called the doctor and said, “My husband had a fall and he’s lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. I think he must have been taking a shower and slipped on a cake of soap. I did not move him. I threw a blanket over him and called you immediately.”
When the doctor arrived, he saw the scene as depicted and pronounced Francis Gordon dead as the result of a fracture at the rear of his skull.
You are the main detective in this case. Can you tell what happened by looking at the crime scene below? Kaset 


This was a mini break to solve the crime and WHS students, STUDENTS!, that offered to come in on their day off were there to work the tables- wow!  I did see a glimmer of their realization of what a crazy teacher day is like when everyone is shouting out answers


Photo by Marine

and you are trying to rapid-fire answer back solutions, and they handled it SO WELL! (Welcome to our world!) I on the other hand did not do so good on this one, something was wrong in my answers ….so good thing I wore a gazillion clothes in the AM to match the incompetence I had with this mystery!!!

Onto session #2 and I felt a little less worried in seeing something repetitive since I worried about that from the first session, and it was unfounded.  I remember attending the Project Based Learning session in a previous PD day, but NOT to fear!  Again!  New exciting approaches to motivate students – I have to say, I have ALWAYS believed in Project Based Learning and it has always motivated my students!  In attending “Students Own Their Project Through Project Based Learning” wow – it was motivating to everyone as educators, (aside from the amazing candy also provided).  Teachers of the Year Ms. Fisher and Ms. Thompson, teachers of the year for a reason, showed how and why.

From the references to Project Based Learning , to ROCKET BOOKS (this is my next best favorite loved item, solving a lot of problems for those without computers but WITH phones, this is AMAZING) – this excited almost everyone in the room about showing how to change tomorrow for educators and students at the same time.  The tie to Google was perfect as well complementing Project Based Learning, and Ms. Kasey was able to enhance PBL with the intro to a math site, Classic Kick,  that allows students to work through problems, answers, and all AND check and correct them for students all online.  I WILL BE BACK WITH THE LINKS ON THIS ONE FOR SURE MONDAY, as I do not have my notes with me, but this is a powerful powerful tool to again trim efficiency for educators! Think how amazing and inspiring it is to give students something that breaks down technological barriers that they cannot fathom to overcome – it is MAGICAL.  Another priceless and powerful workshop – BONUS!

Mini break before session #3 solve a mystery #2 – sorry no image.  Tried to find this image and the larger mystery is not sure WHERE it was found, on the internet,  but imagine an open window, and some things dropped and arranged suspiciously, and outside the open window a few stories up, you see a fire ladder going to another building….somehow, I did get the answers for this one all correct! YES!  A token!   The WHS students were still fielding a lot of shouting and answers from everyone, so I figured by 3:00 they will look like we feel on those wonderful, assembly line teaching days, lol.

Session #3 – ExcELLence – GREAT play on words showing how we can reach out to ELL students and use tools in our own district to locate information to assist ELL learners succeed.  Using tools such as Dataservice and seeing it as more than a tool for ourselves, opens a brand new toll that can help see how and what our students are capable of. This was enlightening again to see something we have in our district all the time and help assist with the very extensive process of meeting the needs of so many diverse ELL learners, and knowing we can have more insight into that planning piece as we work through curriculum.  The fact we were doing this on new Chromebooks also helped put the educators in the role of using the actual technology we have at our fingertips to advance the curriculums in our school. 

Powerful even further was the fact that when we first walked in, we were given an assignment in all Spanish and expected to solve the problem, allowing MANY to see what it sounds like for many ELL learners to jump right in (CHARLIE BROWN WAH WAH MACHINE!) Even being in Mexico, and being able to work out a lot of the words, unless it is used daily, it is so easy to fall out of practice, but I did find, it is impossible to forget the need for exceptional colleagues and educators to learn how to survive in another country!  I was lucky in Mexico, and we need to get across the feeling of students being lucky to be at Woodbridge with supporting those needs of ELL students, priceless to be able to be put in their seats and feel as they do.

DID SOMEONE SAY LUNCH!  HECK YES! While the line was a MILE long on both side, the tortillas, chips, salsa, cheese, pretzel salad, are you kidding me?  IT WAS AMAZING – and hit the spot and I literally was having a party with my tastebuds and a wrestling match with my stomach to hold more – DELICIOUS.

Session #4 of Decoding Dyslexia allowed me to see out Middle School Librarian, as well as internalize the myths surrounding Dyslexia, and know of the experts in our district that can detect and treat a path for those that have Dyslexia (if I spell it right enough of times I will remember how to on my own…).  I LOVED the fact that so many myths regarding Dyslexia were touched upon  which also led to what we can do regarding comments when this is suggested to us as educators as being a potential problem/issue, and signs to look for.  This truly was a clinical step in the right direction to show how individual steps can lead to positive impacts tomorrow.

Minibreak and competition #3 – LOVED the chance to make an airplane and make it good enough to pass through two cones.  I always prided myself as an expert paper plane


Photo by Marine

folder (is that a possible profession in the future?) Ten minutes to do all the above, but fun and yep, token please!

Session #5 – yes, this one had me smiling based on the unknown before I entered the chorus /band room, “Uke’N Do It!” and yeah, from the Open Mics we held in Mexico and in Delaware, knowing someone is going to even HOLD a ukulele, well instant gratification.  Really my first time holding a stringed instrument the proper way, and then learning to use fingers to hold for a C, G, F note, MUCH different than playing a piano – and harder on the fingers! However, AMAZING atmosphere that is changed when music is introduced into a space, I noticed this in Mexico as well, it had the ability to change EVERYTHING. 


Photo by Graham

With Ms Graham and Ms Martin, you never know what is going to happen.  Add to this that we were “accompanying” songs by Taylor Swift and to Funkytown? – the whole period FLEW as we laughed the WHOLE time and delving into music to enhance it being a Friday, IT WAS awesome!

Dropping off coins at the end of the day to see who wins a jean day – well yeah we found we all did get a jean day but I have to say, it was well worth the effort as all day, I simply saw so many people competitive and into it, and that had a lot to do with the planning and support of the day thanks to Donna Hall, Kylie Cross, Elyse Baerga (and hysterical comments at the end of the day), the admins from each school, and the WHS IT – it worked SO WELL.  If you have to have PD days, I am glad I have the ones we have at WSD, and seemingly gone are the days of dread when you go into the day searching how to be better, how to be motivated, how to put a fresh mind and perspective.  With the choices we were given ( I only listed five of the many workshops available) this becomes VERY easy.  No, I did not even get to do the two other possible competitions of taking selfies with forming the word ACT with as many faculty members during the day and taking selfies of the conference and posting them to #WSDACTFORIMPACT- but a lot of others did.  It was exciting to see


Photo by Marine

the enthusiasm in WHS students, faculty, and admin all during the day.  I mean, how would have thought I’d get a chance to see Ms. Thompson (Our Assistant Principal and  DASL Admin of 2017-2018) jamming on a ukulele at the end of the day?








About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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