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Region 4 Think Tank Journal   

Overview: Welcome to the CTA Region Four Think Tank. Region Four is one of four CTA administrative regions. Region Four has two teacher Think Tanks: San Diego and the Moreno Valley. Each Think Tank consists of teachers, committed to improving the teaching and learning process.  IFT Think Tank members are innovators, creators, and most of all dedicated to authentic school improvement. Think Tanks members believe teachers have the requisite knowledge to know what's working in our schools and classrooms and as a result should play a primary role in the school change process.  

The mission of the San Diego CTA IFT Think Tank - Through sustainable teacher driven change, we celebrate the creation of an educational community that is inquiry driven, collaborative, and promotes creative thinking by providing teachers with the freedom and support to be GREAT; we operate from a strength-based, optimistic position where teachers are the facilitators in taking back the schools for the futures of our students.

The mission of the Moreno Valley CTA IFT Think Tank is to rely on teacher driven strength-based change to collect and evaluate a broad variety of education structures and paradigms with the goal of creating, refining, and furthering new models of education that will enrich teaching for all teachers and learning for all students.

From time to time, IFT Think Tank member ideas regarding the future of public education will be presented. Members of the public, including teachers and all school-community stakeholders, are encouraged to provide feedback to the ideas and thoughts presented below.

Connect to Region 4 Moreno Valley Forum

Connect to Region 4 San Diego Forum


Moreno Valley Think Tank Members Create a TDSBC Working Framework

Teacher Driven Strength-Based Change (TDSBC) acts as a pathway for teachers to simultaneously create and follow; a pathway that allows CTA/IFT the opportunity to engage and empower CTA members on a State, regional, local, and site level. Through collaborative conversations, observations, and judgments, we are able to determine how Teacher Driven Strength-Based Change is currently being applied in the classroom and how teachers are using TDSBC thinking to change the teaching and learning process. Continue reading.  



2012-2013 Think Tank Reports on the Seven Factors that Drive a School-Community Culture of Success

During the 2012-13 school year, Moreno Valley and San Diego CTA IFT Think Tank members held monthly sessions to discuss the seven factors driving a school community culture of success.  Members dialogued, researched, and identified various ways to create a clearer and more practical way for each of the factors to be implemented in our schools and classrooms.  Working individually and together, think tank members considered how teachers, school staff, parents, and community and business members could collaborate to make our schools a culture of success for all students.  The ideas and best thinking developed by think tank members should be considered as a work in progress.  It is their hope that all individuals who are concerned about creating a teaching and learning environment that is locally driven and grounded in the talents and strengths of students and school community members will offer comments and suggestions to further enrich our understanding of how every student can create their own culture of success. 

Moreno Valley Think Tank Report

San Diego Think Tank Report


The Future of Reading: The IFT Moreno Valley Think Tank Perspective  

Teacher Driven

The Gutenberg Printing Press changed the world by changing the meaning, purpose, and value of information.  Most important, the printing press changed the making of books and what it means to read. Today, we are participating in a new information revolution: the use of technology in our homes and at work, the influence of the Internet, and social media.  While we certainly know that technology will advance the flow of information, the question is how will technology benefit and enrich our lives?  This answer may be linked to how classroom teachers create the context for reading within the world of cell phones, video games, and Facebook.  There is an irony, however, to the proliferation of technology. Clearly, at some point, the value and significance to technology cannot be compared to the richness of face-to-face conversations, reality versus virtual experiences, and most all books that you can touch, feel, and smell.   

The future of reading may lie in teachers ensuring that a rich collection of books is in their classrooms and libraries; rich meaningful written text for students.  Nothing can ultimately replace the excitement, energy, and enthusiasm that books offer.  Technology can certainly be a supporting actor to books but never a replacement.  Technology can assist individualized learning, reinforce skills, act as a gateway to conversations, and encourage critical thinking and reflection.  Technology can help students practice in a safe and secure environment. Technology makes it possible for students to work on their own or in small groups, providing greater flexibility for teachers to work with more students.  

The seductive nature of technology can easily reduce the learning process to bits and pieces of information that will require students to learn, regurgitate, and then forget.  Politicians and educational bureaucrats will certainly promote the use of technology in their quest to standardized the education of our youth. Teachers should share their ideas and best practices with colleagues. If reading is to remain the centerpiece of the teaching and learning process, it must be the classroom teacher who holds the line.

Read Across America is a national day celebrating reading. Read Across America is sponsored by the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association along with many of the country's leading literacy and youth groups to motivate children to read and generate new enthusiasm for reading. Continue reading

Reading Must Be Well Defined

While reading must be flexible, multifaceted, open-ended, diverse, and at times random, the teaching of reading must be organized, clear, and precise.  Students should be exposed to the classics as well as popular books, as long as objectives are purposeful and well defined.  Reading should remain a small activity and cannot be done in a crowd.  Teachers must have the time and opportunity to work closely with students to see their smiles, sadness, ah ha moments, and joy.  When class sizes become so large that our students lose their individuality, reading becomes a choir; an exercise without any reason.   Expectations must be set high but not just by the teacher.  When students realize the adventure in the written word, reading becomes a habit of life; indispensable, like food and water.  Through reading, children, young and old, become acquainted with other skill-based activities, including journaling, story telling, and debate. To encourage excitement in reading, teachers can do the following:

  • Provide rich, meaningful books and stories
  • Share their own reading experiences
  • Blend literature to content areas 
  • Demonstrate the love of reading by sharing books
  • Allow reading to be joyful and not just an academic exercise 

Through reading students gain a greater understanding of life, especially their own.  Isn’t this the overarching purpose of the teaching and learning process?  

Shutta Crum writes books for children and poetry for adults. She is also a storyteller, an energetic and humorous public speaker, and a librarian.   Shutta Crum provides insight on how reading brings excitement and enthusiasm to the the teaching and learning process.  Learn more.

Classroom Libraries

Reading is not just a skill.  Reading is an experience - and not just a digital experience.  Reading should occur before, during, and after school.  For young children and adults, reading opens doors to possibilities, new knowledge, and skills.  Reading offers excitement and enthusiasm for life.  One book stimulates a mind, a library of books gives us the world. Our libraries should be fully integrated into our classrooms.  All subjects, disciplines, and interests should find a pathway to our classroom libraries.  Libraries should not just be down the hall or miles from our homes; they should be footsteps away.   Libraries can be a catalyst for expanding the school community by having parents, community members, and business leaders provide books, resources, and infrastructure.  This can allow for the regular updating of reading materials linked directly to what students are learning or their specific interests.  By having a diverse collection of books, students have the opportunity to view their world with curiosity and adventure.  Through libraries students have the opportunity to activate the most powerful computer ever made, the human brain. 

Another, point of view:  Thomas Frey, Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute, writes and speaks about a promising future for libraries if they are strongly connected to their communities.  Continue reading. 

To Love Reading

Turn your classroom into a place where students can’t wait to read.  Bring a love for reading to each student; foster voracious reading within the classroom and at home.  Choose meaningful texts that come alive for your students.  From their reading, have students make connections everywhere; other subjects, outside activities, interests,  and, their relationships.  In other words, make reading a real life experience.  

Create a competitive edge in your approach to reading.  The value of books increases as they become scare. Don’t have dozens of popular books available; just a few.  Make it exciting!  Have students describe the books they are reading in multiple ways.  Books should inform, stimulate, entertain, and raise the bar for students. Make recommendations and suggestions, while raising expectations.  Have students organize book clubs, debate their books, and make speeches and presentations about their books.  Include library books for all interests and levels. Teachers, talk about your own experiences with books. Show how books make you feel; laugh, cry, sadness, anger, and joyful. Bring reading into all aspects of the curriculum.  Have students read to themselves but also aloud; discussions, creative writing, blogging, plays, reports, and presentations.  All are worth while, as our goal is to have students connect books and reading to their life; to find wonder, adventure, and most of all a love for learning.  

Blogger, Jorge Luis Borges offers insight and wisdom on the love of reading.  His Blog, How to Instill the Love of Reading – In Your Child, or Yourself expands on many of the ideas above. Learn more.


Teaching & Learning: IFT San Diego Think Tank Perspective  

Developing Partnerships

The Teaching and learning process is a partnership between teachers, students, and parents.  Two key parts to this partnership include:

  • Teachers making home visits to all students’ homes.
  • Parents spending at least 1 day per school year in their child’s classroom volunteering. 

To gain more information on teacher and learning partnerships, take a look at The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project.  This Project is a nationally recognized non-profit organization supported by the California Teachers Association and the Institute for Teaching with more than a decade of experience developing and running programs, providing interactive staff development training sessions, serving as a resource and leader for participating sites and connecting home visiting efforts locally, statewide and nationally.  The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project increases trust and communication between schools and families using a proven model of voluntary and relational home visits that build the capacity of teachers, families and students leading to increased success for all.

Student & Teacher Collaboration

The teaching and learning process is student driven and teacher facilitated "real world" inquiry based learning.  To go deeper into process, teachers may want to consider doing the following: 

  • Research and identify schools that are successfully achieving inquiry based learning.
  • Visit/network/collaborate with successful inquiry based schools.
  • Begin work on piloting a laboratory CTA charter school that encourages student teacher collaboration.

Blogging can be an excellent approach for creating a teaching and learning collaborative environment. According to Jon Schwartz, a teacher in the San Diego area, blogs are where teaching, classroom technology, computers, creativity, statistics, art, public relations, geography, graphic design, and the internet meet. If managed properly and carefully, they provide a virtual workbench that students can use to find their creative muse and learn about the technological world they are inheriting.

Teacher Schwartz believes the blog format has enabled his students to create organized online portfolios of work that foster pride, enthusiasm and a sense of ownership and empowerment.  If you are interested in student teacher collaboration, this may be a great place to begin your investigation.

Student Engagement

Through student engagement, meaningful conversations take place between and among students and teachers.   By constantly verbalizing their ideas, students construct meaning and self-organize their learning experiences.  To increase student engagement, the following activities are suggested: 

  • Teacher training and support.
  • Collaborative teams with a clear focus on how to implement student engagement strategies. 

Some interesting ideas that you may want to consider can be found at Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement by teacher Tristan de Frondeville.  Here is a preview: As a teacher, my goal was to go home at the end of each day with more energy than I had at the beginning of the day. Seriously.  Now, as I travel the country coaching teachers on how to successfully use project learning, my goal remains the same.  And I try to teach educators the strategies they need to achieve this goal in their own classrooms.  A teacher in one of my workshops said, "When my students and I are in the flow, then I don't feel like I have to work as hard." I heartily agree. When 90 to 100 percent of my students are excitedly engaged in their tasks and asking deep and interesting questions, I experience joy, and joy is a lot less tiring than the frustration that comes with student apathy.  Continue reading.

Inspiring Guides

Teachers act as guides in the Teaching and Learning process, encouraging, facilitating, and inspiring their students to be bold and adventuresome learners.   Students learn best when they are responsible for their own learning;  making their own sense or meaning of the ideas and concepts presented to them.  Steps teachers can take to become less directive and more of a guide to the teaching and learning process include:

  • Training and conversations with other teachers about being a “guide on the side”
  • Training and conversations with other teachers about organizing their class (class management) so that they are more confident using inquiry.  
  • Training and conversations with other teachers in the art of questioning/Socratic seminar style so that students view themselves as expert learners.
  • Training and conversations with other teachers about redesigning  their curriculum, freeing themselves of the standards/testing movement.    

Inspired teaching is rooted in the belief that every student possesses the ability to think critically, learn and understand information, and solve complex problems. Acting as a guide, teachers can create teaching and learning experiences that engage and inspire their students.  Inspiration to change the teaching and learning process by increasing the role and responsibility of the students is described below:

What do Inspired Teachers do?  The teacher avoids spoon-feeding information to students by giving excessive instructions, and supplying answers. Instead the teacher structures lessons so that students work independently and collaboratively using the process of inquiry to search for answers, pose and solve problems, and meet academic standards. In these classrooms teachers and students are intellectually, emotionally, and physically challenged. Read more about being an Inspired Teacher.