Education

Self-Care for Back to School

It’s that time of the year when many of us are beginning to feel the “back to school” feelings.  Excitement, motivation, optimism, fear, anxiety, worry….these are all common feelings for us and there is nothing wrong with any of them.  A lot of our emotions may not even relate to school itself, but may be things like leaving a child for the first time.  Or maybe you are thinking about balancing home and school.  Maybe you have a health concern that is taking some of your energy.  No matter where we each might be right now, I think it is important that we embrace that place and prioritize ourselves as we gear up for the new school year. Of course, there are the basics..

basics

But I wanted create a way for all of us to develop a collection of resources that extend beyond the basics.  For example, I make use of an App or two that I find really helpful.  A friend of mine uses journals. Another friend engages in faith based activities. A quick check on Twitter and I found this awesome idea — The Emergency Self-Care Kit!

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Wouldn’t it be great if we could collect these ideas, organize them, and encourage one another to try out a few of these ideas as a way of prioritizing and caring for ourselves! I think the other benefit of this would be that we could form encouragement and accountability partnerships!

To get this started, I created a Padlet and posted a few ideas. On our Padlet, you can add your own self-care ideas to share with others and also read the ideas from your colleagues. You can share links, videos, text, and even podcasts.  Please think outside the box! Below I will share the Padlet and I hope you will check out the ideas and add your own to the collection. Just click the + sign to add, and you can also view the other entries. I have never embedded a Padlet, so I’m not sure how user friendly it is.  So in case you would rather access the padlet from a link, you can just click here. Together we can all encourage one another to care for ourselves as we prepare for the new school year ahead!

Made with Padlet

 

Education

Disney Goes to School

Take a minute and think about quality customer service.  Actually, think about places with which you are familiar that really focus on providing exceptional service and experiences.  I bet you are thinking about maybe a favorite restaurant, or a place of business….or how about the hospitality industry, a hotel or a theme park.  Yep, I thought of those, too.  You know what I don’t normally think about?  Schools.  More personally, my role in school.

We (meaning educators and staff collectively) exist to serve families and strengthen communities.  In fact, we are actually a sort of community hub.  People make decisions to live somewhere based, in many cases, on the school.  We engage with parents, youth, community colleges, local business leaders, city services such as the fire and police departments, the local library, and the list goes on.  The future adults who will live, work and make decisions in our communities in the future are sitting in our classrooms today.   And yet, historically, customer service hasn’t been an area of concentrated training or focus for most of us.  I will admit it wasn’t for me, until this year.

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 4.19.16 PMI am currently participating in a book study over the book Be Our Guest, which describes Disney’s unparalleled approach to customer service.  My school district has trained all school office staff in customer service and has elevated customer service to a high priority level for all employees.  Since implementing this, I have really noticed a lot of places where, in my day to day duties, I have huge opportunities to create those positive experiences and provide the type of quality customer service that I am learning about to my own “customers”.  Those customers include students, parents, staff members, and district-wide colleagues.  They also include local businesses with which I may have the opportunity to interact.  They include bus drivers and our lunch staff.  Our custodial services, the local boy scouts who use our gym for practice, and even outside trainers who come to work with our staff.  I am on the district PTA Council Board this year and so guess what?  That is another group of “customers” that I get to serve this year.  So I am really focusing on what type of customer service I am providing.  I even made a sign and hung it up in my office so that every day I am reminded of the focus.  It’s very simple, but it works:

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I won’t lie. There have been moments this year when customer service has been the last thing on my mind.  It’s hard to be 100% in anything, no matter how dedicated you are and I’m not going to always get it right.  As it says in 1 Timothy: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”  But even though I am not batting a thousand, I am much more aware. I’m more aware of the opportunities I have to provide great customer service. I’m reflecting more on the actions I take (or mis-take) toward living into that mission.  I’m noticing that “everything speaks”.  Everything.

Walt Disney has a term “Guestology” which he describes as knowing and understanding customers. Kinda reminds me of knowing and understanding students. Nothing happens without a relationship and that is something we school folks understand very well.  He also says that customer service is sometimes “a moving target”.  Boy, we can certainly attest to that! What works for one student (or class, or teacher…or campus) won’t work for the next. Got those state standardized tests all figured out? Don’t even try- that target will definitely move. Here is another quote from Walt Disney:

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”  – Walt Disney

Sound familiar to anyone? There is a saying in education: “If you don’t like a certain trend don’t worry, it will pass soon enough.”  Sadly, that sometimes does ring true.  But we also know that we have to keep our eyes fixed on the future because these days, we are preparing students for a future that doesn’t even exist yet, but all the tools and advances are there for them to create it themselves and what isn’t there will be soon enough because they’ll create it themselves. And what didn’t exist when I started this post is just one moment, one idea away from being a thing.  That’s how fast we are moving, folks.

It turns out that me and Disney have a whole lot more in common than I might have expected at first glance. In fact, all of us do. Something I am discovering and that (I hope) is making me a better educator, leader and community-building partner.

Thanks, Disney.  Another memorable experience in the books.

 

Classroom Practices, Education, Leadership, Learning, PLC, PLN, Uncategorized

Purposeful Classroom Visits

Initially this year, my principal and I set a common goal: To get into classrooms every day. That seems like a no brainer, but as you know it is so easy to get caught up in the “stuff” waiting for you in the office and before you know it, it’s 2:00 pm and the day is gone…and with it, your opportunity for classroom walks. But we were determined that this area of our practice could use some strengthening. To help us get going, my principal signed us both up to participate in The Principal Center’s High Performance Instructional Leadership Course.  Building upon research about habits, the program guided us through those early weeks as we got our habits established and committed to our goal of visiting classrooms every day.

We each made it to every classroom by the end of the first week of school.  And then the next week, and the next. I would say that by week 4, our habit had taken hold and we were getting into classrooms — but, not because it was on the calendar. We went because it felt very odd not to be in a classroom. That’s when I realized that being in classrooms had become a habit. 

Next, we began thinking and talking more about purpose. In the first few weeks, our purpose was simple enough: we wanted students and teachers to get used to us being there. We were not writing anything down in those early days, no official feedback was given, just getting to know everyone and building relationships.  But after the first couple of weeks, we were ready to give these visits some purpose and be intentional about this. What will our students gain from these visits? How will it best benefit our staff? How about our students’ parents…how might this impact them? How will this new habit impact our campus as a whole and how will it influence us as leaders? Purpose…

A wise person once told me, “If you don’t have a reason for doing something, you might as well stop doing it.”  I might expand on that a little further in this situation by saying that it isn’t just about the numbers. It’s not how many times I am in classrooms each day that makes a difference. It’s the purpose behind those visits that really matters. And as I spent daily time in classrooms, those purposes, intentions and outcomes just began to sort of unfold.

Recently, I heard about a principal who takes his laptop with him and completes work and answers emails from classrooms. Now there is some creative problem solving! I have to wonder though…what purpose is served by simply relocating oneself? If the primary goal is being physically present in classrooms then yes, that goal is met. But for us, it isn’t enough to just be there. We want to make a difference in big and small ways across the campus and we want this practice to have a positive impact on our leadership. Maybe I didn’t understand the context. Maybe I am missing something (that is very possible). But for me,  I just don’t think I would influence all that much if I were sitting in a classroom answering emails or taking care of office stuff; I just wouldn’t be fully present. Being in classrooms is good. Being in classrooms every day…great! Being in classrooms every day and with purpose — that’s where I want to dwell — that is where unexpected opportunities exist!

If you are the type that likes examples and models, nuts and bolts, you’ll like this part. So, my principal and I each created a notebook and we organized them with everything we felt would be important to have at our fingertips. It’s nothing fancy, but here is a look at some of the things we included in our binders. You can click on each image to read the caption:

So what are some of those unexpected opportunities we have found so far? Where do I even begin! Let me see…I can (confidently) tell you almost exactly what the students in each grade and content area are learning and mastering.  That alone is a much bolder statement than I could have made in my previous 3 years as an AP. I know which students like to share aloud and which ones are more reserved or need some “coaxing”. I try to engage those kids when I see them at lunch or in the hallways. When I see parents at meetings or after school, I have some background and I can easily share current classroom happenings or even something awesome I saw their student doing in the classroom recently.  When I visit with teachers in the lounge, it’s very easy to start up a conversation about classroom teaching and learning that is relevant and meaningful or even “Hey! You know, so and so is doing something very similar to what you guys are doing science…” and these things are just coming naturally. The opportunities are there, where before they were not or at least not to this degree. The relationships I build are being impacted. What else … How about: When I have a student in the office for a conduct situation, it most likely isn’t my first time seeing or talking to that student. When I conduct a classroom walkthrough and am developing meaningful feedback for the teacher, I have some context and a deeper understanding of the classroom dynamic…making my feedback much more on point. When I sit in on weekly PLCs, I have context in my mind, so I know where this teacher is coming from, or where a particular team is coming from. Purchasing resources? Resource stewardship is an important aspect of leadership and I feel much more “aware” now. To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time in this area as an Assistant Principal, but I am knowledgable enough about the current landscape and daily flow that I can give input that is relevant and I can make informed recommendations based on what I see and hear all the time. And the students? Well, they are getting really good at communicating what their Learning Target is and bringing me up to speed on what the class is doing when I stop by. It is not unusual for me to be in their classroom. I hope that soon, it will be unusual if I’m not in their classrooms.

Uncategorized

Cultivating An Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Classroom: An Interactive Post

entrepreneur
Image from Drop Solid

This is my first interactive post and  I am hoping to Crowd Source some information from all of you using ThingLink! I have created an interactive ThingLink using an image toward the end of this post. I hope you will click on the image, and then contribute your own ideas to our live ThingLink!  Instructions and such are found at the end of the post. 

Consider this statistic shared by Yong Zhao in his new book World Class Leaders:

According to a 2011 study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development of Rutgers University, only 53% of those who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010 held full-time jobs.

Further examination by Zhao reveals several theories as to why we are currently experiencing a youth job crisis. These include increased productivity, globalization and crowd sourcing, life expectancy, and emerging technologies. Today’s students are preparing to go out into  a world that is vastly different from the one we grew up in. No longer are employees remaining in jobs for 10, 20, or 30 years. The world today does not run on the “safe bet”.  Involuntary job changes,  the decline of labor unions, and increased ability to move geographically and work through telecommuting all have converged to create what Zhao refers to as “the perfect storm” .  Things like eBay and other ways we have now of conducting business allow for the regular, everyday Joe (or Jill) to become an entrepreneur.  When young people today consider what they may want to do career-wise, they are not thinking about working for someone….they are thinking about contributing and creating, or,  enhancing and engaging. And they are doing it with, for, and through the world around them.

What Does This Mean For Us?

I wanted to focus on those “soft skills” that I think are needed for developing an entrepreneurial spirit.   A big question I have is: how might we support entrepreneurial skills while operating within our current structure, one that is still geared toward turning out students who are ready to be “employees” and not entrepreneurs?  That is a tough question, but we can start by redesigning some things we are already doing.  Here are 9 ways in which the entrepreneurial spirit could be supported in the classroom:

1. Focus on Problem Solving.  Creating opportunities for students to work through solving problems both in the classroom and in their own personal life. These might include such things as managing their time and tasks. Can they design a more efficient way of completing work? Can they streamline their work, or develop ways to better manage home chores? What about designing a more flexible classroom space? This is something we can ask students to think about and help with. Maybe they can devise a better system for turning in work, or rearrange an area of the classroom to create a collaboration corner or book club area that supports their needs.

2. Let Content Serve Double Duty.  In Language Arts, for example, as students focus on text features they can consider such questions as: What catches your idea in this article? What strategies did the author use to draw you in?  Can you build upon the ideas presented by this author? Then, when writing blogs, students can think about what techniques they might use to better engage with their readers or improve the experience of their readers by thinking from a different perspective. They might ask themselves questions such as, “How can I use visuals and headlines to improve upon my message?” Or even, “How can I make this entry an interactive one”? (Like I am attempting today with this post!)

3. Collaboration. Provide experiences that give students the chance to evaluate the work of others. Encourage students to consider what they might learn from others.  Ask students to be purposeful in their collaborations, such as offering one way to improve on the ideas of another.  Build communication skills- including the art of listening. Communication can be enhanced by engaging in respectful dialogue, and focusing on how to engage in discourse , including disagreements, in a respectful manner.

4. Global Sharing and Crowd Sourcing.  This might be through blogs students create and  share with others and from which they can gather feedback. Social media such as a class hashtag and skyping with other classes on a common activity or unit are great ways to extend learning beyond the classroom and expose students to a global network. Having students create and maintain ePortfolios and websites are also some ideas for global sharing. I had two students last year who started their own blog on tips for exceeding at a particular video game. Comments from other students soon became a crowd sourced platform for gamers in our class.

5. Build resiliency. Entrepreneurs can face multiple setbacks and delays. Original ideas take time to evolve.  Help students to develop a growth mindset and embed this in all your interactions. When failure is seen as an important and necessary step in the learning process, we can model resiliency and help build traits such as persistence and agency. Set aside time for celebrating what “didn’t work” , in addition to what did. In Science and Math, try to give students an opportunity to be flexible in their thinking by considering what does not work instead of what does.  This video demonstrates this idea very well:

 

6. Giving Back.  Making the world a better place and giving back to the community are important for the entrepreneurial spirit!  What makes entrepreneurs like Arrianna Huffington (Huffington Post) and Angie Hicks (Angie’s List) successful? They meet needs. This may be through random acts of kindness. It may be starting a book recommendations website.  I have seen some great displays of adding to the community from students producing a “welcome” video for new students, to school gardens that allow students to plant and grow -and then give back to the community through harvest days. PBL’s also support community and the spirit of giving.

7.  Humility.  Entrepreneurs are leaders, and the best leaders are humble. They do not seek the limelight, but rather direct the light to others. Educators can design ways in which students can highlight the work of others. For example, instead of posting student work on bulletin boards, have students maintain a board on which they spotlight the work of their classmates through pictures, videos set to QR codes, or even written descriptions.  Can we flip our closings at the end of the lesson? Maybe instead of choosing students to share out, have students choose other students whom they want to highlight? ” I want to share what I learned from Tony……” has more of a leadership tone than, “Here is how I solved this…..” and might make for a nice change of pace.

8. Public Speaking.  Provide opportunities for students to engage in public speaking both in the classroom and with the larger school community. Students can also produce Podcasts or Ted Talks on a topic of interest, create video’s or screencasts, even signing up for the annual Talent Show is an opportunity to expose young students to the qualities of good public speaking.

9. Goal Setting. Provide classroom experiences that help students to identify a passion and set goals to explore that passion more in depth. This can be through clubs, morning meetings, or 20% time.  Students who are able to identify a growth area and devise a plan to improve in this area are getting a taste of the important art of setting, monitoring, and adjusting goals as well as self-reflection and awareness of emerging needs and trends. Important entrepreneurial soft skills!

Crowd Sourced ThingLink!

In reflecting on the entrepreneurial spirit and the importance of sharing, creating, crowd sourcing ideas and global collaboration, I wanted to model that in this blog. I am going to do that via ThingLink! Do you have suggestions for ways to build an entrepreneurial spirit in our classrooms? Do you have any resources that might enhance this conversation or questions to help our thinking? Maybe a website with information or a video?  Below I will share an image I have embedded as a way to “crowd source” our thoughts. You can add your ideas, text, links, or videos right onto the image.  Here’s how:

The image below is uploaded to my ThingLink account. I have enabled editing settings, and I have already added a link to a Ted Talk by Yong Zhao on this topic. Since WordPress does not support ThingLink, I had to get creative with this. Clicking on the image I post below will take you to the live ThingLink with all the added features we create. You can easily add onto this image. You can add text, as well as search for images, quotes, videos or links right inside Thinglink.

Here are your steps:

By clicking on my ThingLink image (I will share it further down), and you will be taken to the editing site. You will see “Edit” in the upper right corner. Click there. You can then add your thoughts, questions and ideas as text by clicking anywhere on the image. Here is a screenshot of what you will see:

 

thing1

 

You will also see the Ted Talk I have already added by clicking anywhere on the image. You can even select the icon you want to use for your addition. After clicking on “Edit”, you can then select “search” (upper left) and search for videos, links, or images you might want to add.  Here is what you will see after clicking on Edit, and then my embedded video:

 

thing2

 

Finally, click on “Save” and our interactive ThingLink will be updated to include your contributions. The image below will always take blog visitors to the crowd sourced image, with all the links added.  To begin contributing to this ThingLink, Click the image below:

Click the image above to be taken to the interactive ThingLink site.

Thanks for reading, contributing, commenting, sharing, adding to the ThingLink, or just thinking about the ideas and information in this post. I hope you will join the conversation as we work to develop entrepreneurs!  For further reading, here is a great article on 11 famous entrepreneurs and how they overcame their biggest failure: 11 Famous Entrepreneurs

 

entrepreneur4
Image from ebpwb.co.uk

Education

What’s Your Why?

One of the first questions that we as educators are often asked is, “Why do you do it?” In fact, at some point each of us has heard something like, “How neat that you get summers off!” or “Wow, you must love having the same breaks as your kids.” The image of public schools, and educators, is often so negatively portrayed in the media and within certain groups that it can be difficult for those outside of public ed to understand why we do what we do.  This year, our Superintendent issued a challenge — for each of us to identify, know, and own our WHY.  My principal and I asked our staff to engage in this same individual process, thinking about and naming their own truth. Defining their why. We then took it a step further, and created our own campus mission – our big belief.

The next day, I thought about my own “why” and began developing my own mission statement. This process was really valuable to me as it led me to uncover truths, identify a few of my purposes, and ultimately, to define my own personal mission statement.

The first thing I did was brainstorm the types of things that are Assistant Principal-ish.  Who am I assisting? How am I assisting them? If I’m providing a service, who are my customers and what does that service look like? Where are my opportunities to create those big “moments“?

I drew this bubble map:

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Then I started identifying those whom I serve:

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I put “relationships” in the center because I have learned that you can plan to serve and support all day long, but without building relationships you are just sort of shooting in the dark. That is perhaps the best lesson I have learned and for those of you like me who are more “thinkers” than “feel-ers”…please take this advice! You need to make a conscious effort to activate the right hemisphere of your brain and step out of your comfort zone….really work on building great relationships because that is where everything begins.

Okay, back to my process. It didn’t really look this tidy at first. My brainstorm involved thinking about action words like serve, support, lead, develop, build.  Then, I just started putting ideas and actions together into various statements until what I feel in my heart, what inspires me, what jumps out at me and says, “Here! This is You!” came to be.

why1Some of the things I really hold onto are:

My teacher heart

Exhibiting loyalty

Keep confidences

Offer  Seek Out opportunities to serve

Remain a learner

Be present and positive

So with my actions, my inspirations and thinking about my role, here is what finally emerged from the mess:

To build vibrant relationships with all members of my school community so that I can provide significant customer service that supports top-notch teaching and learning every day.

I like this because it is clear, direct, and fairly succinct. In preparing to write our own mission statements, we watched the video below. It really help to narrow my focus:

I am excited about this year and finding ways to “live into” my personal mission statement. It is a great activity for teachers too, and imagine if a class wrote it’s own mission statement! That would create such ownership in students. I think it might even be neat to write a mission statement as a family.  What about you? Have you written a personal mission statement? If so, please share it in the comments below and if not, I hope this reflection inspires you to begin the process.

Wishing all a “wonder-FULL” school year!

Uncategorized

Read Alouds: Every Day, Every Student by Lucretia Brattin

Really love this!

Nerdy Book Club

The importance of reading aloud to every grade level is imperative.  And, it should most definitely be an everyday occurrence.  This duty does not have be fulfilled by the Language Arts teachers.  How awesome is it for the science teacher to read an article from National Geographic or the history teacher to read an article from The Smithsonian.  Better yet, what if they chose popular books from their respective studies and read a section every day.  I can just imagine our history teacher, who is also the speech and debate coach, reading excerpts from Ron Chernow’s Grant.

Making reading seem like the most important element of a class, no matter what the class, is the key to creating successful adults.  I truly believe that.  Even in math, if a student can’t read the directions or understand what the vocabulary is, there is no chance to actually do the math.   Vocabulary…

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Classroom Practices, Education, Leadership, Learning, PLC, PLN, Uncategorized

Putting PLCs Into Practice

Putting Professional Learning Communities Into Practice on an Elementary Campus

*Note: This post includes downloadable templates and videos of some artifacts I created, feel free to use anything you see!

img_2589This year, we are focusing on PLC work. Focusing, as in, starting them up. Yes, we have had PLC time on the calendar. Yes, our teachers have “met” during that time. But would I say we had strong Professional Learning Communities engaged in purposeful PLC-ish type work? Work that drove our instruction and informed our practice as a learning organization? No. And I don’t feel ashamed telling you that. For one thing, I know every educator on my campus would agree. But most importantly, because I believe that if you want to grow and improve in anything, you have to call it like it is. So this year, we took on the task of designing and establishing a vision and framework for supporting PLC work on our campus. To say this was a big, heavy goal would be an understatement. In this post, I am going to reflect on what we have done so far, and where we hope to go on this first leg of our PLC journey.

Developing our Vision

The first thing that my principal and I did was decide on what impactful PLC work would look like for us. We consulted many resources. Our district PLC framework was the guiding focus. It establishes the 3 district PLC principles and some ideas that might fall within each. We consulted  books, web resources, journals, people and blog posts  which helped tighten up our ideas and inform our processes. Our amazing Director of Professional Learning, Shawna Miller, provided our staff with an introductory PLC training to get us up and going. Finally, we dropped into the #atplc (All Things PLC) weekly Twitter chat where we were able to deepen our understanding of PLC work from some amazing educators. Chats focus on what works, what doesn’t, and latest ideas / trends / practices that are building capacity in educators and administrators. FYI: This chat happens every Thursday at 8:00 pm central time, and is facilitated by Solution Tree. Here is an archive of these chats.

Our guiding focus is on our students and our teachers. What is the work we need to focus on in order to drive high-level achievement at our campus? How could PLCs transform us from a community of learners into a campus-wide learning organization, made up of student and adult learners, focused on a shared vision and common goals?  Those were the type questions that drove our dialogue and from which our PLC development began to take shape.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.28.10 PMPLC Campus Handbook 

Following those ideas and conversations, I sat down to create our campus PLC Handbook. The purpose was to give our staff (and us) a structure for beginning this process. My principal and I are both big proponents of teacher autonomy and we try to be mindful of creating space for teachers to be self-directed. But sometimes, our teachers want a structured system in which to operate as they begin, explore, and get a feel for something new.

Our PLC Handbook is purposefully brief because we are just beginning and the last thing we want to do is make it bigger and more complicated than it has to be. The handbook briefly outlines our purpose and vision for campus PLC teams. We then define six “Focus Areas” which establish the type of work that will be done in the meetings. These six areas fit very nicely into our district PLC Framework and it’s three driving components. Within each Focus Area, I gave some examples of the type of work teachers might be doing. I also included resources that would help facilitate that work.  You can see the six areas by looking at our PLC handbook, linked above. We feel these areas provide the most opportunity for growth and meaningful work on our campus and also reflect both the strength and needs of our staff and students. You can see where each of the six areas would fall under the district PLC principles of Collaborative Culture, Focus on Learning, and Results Driven.

Using Current Resources
My district provided me with the opportunity to go through training sessions with School Reform Initiative last year and I learned about some great protocals which school communities can use to accomplish various tasks. I realized those protocals would be very helpful if embedded in our new PLC system! And to be very transparent, although I loved this training and saw the benefit, I had yet to use any of it with the staff. So I grabbed my manual from the shelf, read back through my notes and the resources within, and then for each Focus Area I identified protocals that would best support the work and facilitate meaningful dialogue. I really enjoyed being able to line up PLC focus area tasks with these protocols. At this point, we started to see something really great taking shape. Not only were we mapping out our PLC vision, but also we were making purposeful use of tools that we already had by embedding them within the system. At the end of the handbook I tossed in a few resources that might be helpful for teachers, such as the master schedule, school calendar, rubrics,  norm development tools,  agenda and minutes template, and ideas for potential PLC roles and responsibilities.

Each team has a binder. The tabs are:

  • Handbook
  • Minutes & Agenda
  • Collaborative Culture
  • Focus on Learning
  • Results Driven
  • RtI
  • Admin
  • Resources

As you can see, I chose to use the 3 district PLC principles rather than our 6 campus Focus Areas. I did that because we want our staff to be see how our campus work with PLCs fits within the district’s overarching framework and to be fluent in that framework. I also put together an admin PLC binder for myself and my principal.  Here are a couple of videos that I made to give you a quick tour of a PLC team binder and an admin team binder.

 

Time To Meet

The next thing I did was to create a schedule for our PLC meetings. My principal developed a master schedule which allows teachers one extra planning period every other week– students go to “Shine” time with our wonderful fine arts staff. So for example, week one PLCs are: Tuesday Kinder, Wednesday 1st grade, Thursday 2nd grade. The following week, PLCs are Tuesday 3rd grade, Wednesday 4th, and Thursday 5th. And then the two week cycle starts over. Monday and Friday is an additional planning for our Fine Arts team as they develop relevant and engaging learning experiences for our students’ Shine Time and to engage in their own PLC meetings. We feel it is very important to carve out time in the master schedule for this important work.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.26.00 PMPlanning the Meetings

Here was a tricky situation: We want to create space for teacher autonomy and grade level empowerment. We want teams to be in charge of their own learning and their own PLC tasks based on needs they identify. Teachers are professionals and they know their students best. But we also know that our teachers sometimes need more of a structure in the beginning so that they get a feel for each focus area and the work we are going to be doing. Additionally, we wanted to model some of the protocals for them so that they could use them comfortably. So we decided that for the first semester, we would identify the focus area and task ahead of time. By Christmas break, our teachers will most if not all of our 6 focus areas and a few protocals as well. So in developing the PLC calendar, our first semester is mostly already planned; after that, PLC teams will decide which Focus Area they need to work in each time. We are acting as facilitators now, but with the goal of slowly moving toward teacher ownership — we will be there to listen, support, ask questions…but teachers will be planning and running their own meetings. We were very purposeful in mapping out the PLC calendar so that it flows with campus and district calendars — for example, when district benchmarks are given, the following PLC week would be a great opportunity to engage with data and intervention, and so forth.

We identified PLC Leads for each grade level (a grade level teacher). Those leads will be attending School Reform Initiative training so that they are comfortable leading protocals. They keep the team binder and manage materials. If we need to send something out (such as an article or maybe set of data) for the team to engage with in a future PLC meeting, we will send it to the PLC Lead. We are really excited about the opportunity to develop teacher leadership skills through this experience!

Reflections After Round One

Our first round of PLCs just concluded today on my campus and it was so incredible to feel the excitement as we kick off this new system! We made sure to plan the first activity for development of roles and norms, as this will help set the tone for future meetings. The teams did an outstanding job and everyone was involved and eager to establish their framework and norms. Based on the conversations I observed in these first meetings, I know that some incredible work and dialogue is going to be taking place on our campus through these grade level PLC teams.  I can’t wait to see how their work will impact the experiences our students have, and the high level of learning at which we all will be operating.

If you are currently engaged in PLC meetings at your campus, I would love to hear how you have designed and supported them! If you are just starting out like us, feel free to use any of the resources provided here, and please connect with me @Fearless_Teach so we can swap ideas, insights and feedback!

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Making Good Use of Formative Assessments

 

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From Dr. Sharon Wells, Key Data Systems – Webinar

One of my goals this year is to be more active and consistent with analyzing data. Recently I participated in a webinar centered on using formative assessment to guide instruction and I came away with some really great insights! For some background, this learning experience was led by Dr. Sharon Wells of Key Data Systems. Their work focuses on formative assessments and enhancing student learning through data driven instruction. The webinar is part of the December learning series hosted by Naiku.

As I reflected on my notes from this learning, I could sum up my main takeaway in one question:

How might learning and teaching look differently if formative assessment were made an integral part of instruction, rather than a separate experience?

Breaking that idea down further: If formative assessments were built into the lessons in such a way that immediate data and feedback were able to guide that instruction as it is occurring or as close to “in the moment” as we can get….how powerful would that be?

What if that data and feedback weren’t just teacher centered? What if that data were gathered by the student? What if that feedback was not only from teacher to student but from student to teacher? Or student to student?

Researcher John Hattie has done a lot of work in the area of effect size and looking at variables to determine the impact of many different things on student achievement. Many of the most powerful things we can do, including feedback and self-assessment, are tied into formative assessment. Here is a link an article by the late Grant Wiggins (Professor and Educational Researcher) which outlines the main things that impact student achievement. I know when I read through them there were some surprises on that list for me!

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From Dr. Sharon Wells, Key Data Systems: Webinar Image

At my campus we have been implementing Learning Targets and are in year three of this process. Chapter 4 of the book Learning Targets discusses how to use feedback to feed learning forward. The information correlated nicely with the ideas presented in the webinar and affirmed what we are already targeting. The book presents 5 characteristics of feedback that feeds learning forward:

  • It focuses on success criteria from the learning target for today’s lesson.
  • It describes exactly where the student is in relationship to the criteria.
  • It provides next-step strategies that students should use to improve.
  • It arrives when the student has the opportunity to use it.
  • It is delivered in just the right amount.

Formative assessments are given in a variety of ways and the data that we get from them is useful in informing instruction and next steps for teachers. But to what extent do student’s interact with formative assessment data? Is feedback being given during instruction – when the student can use it – or after? If after, then I tend to think that the focus is more on the teacher’s use of the information rather than using it as a guiding tool that feeds the learning forward.  For sure, this is not an either – or situation.

I love this tool for giving written feedback, shared by @goformative on Twitter last week:

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I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas on how you are using formative assessment! Please give me some feedback on how you are using it and what’s working in your classroom.

Here is a link to the Naiku professional learning series if you ‘d like to take a peek at this or some of their other recorded webinars. They are all really informative!

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GoodViews

Film provides the opportunity to marry the power of ideas with the power of images.“-Steven Bochco

Do you have a Goodreads account? I do, and I use it often to keep track of books I have read or am reading. I also write and read reviews on Goodreads and I collect favorites from others which I save to my “want to read” shelf. I set annual reading goals on it and recently celebrated having met my reading goal on Goodreads for 2016! But reading isn’t the only form of media that inspires, celebrates, presents ideas or challenges my assumptions.

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Goodreads 2016 Goal

As an educator I am often turning to video as a way of reflecting as well as learning. Today I present to you my “GoodViews” —a collection of  video resources I have found to be particularly uplifting , challenging, and inspiring. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Simon Sinek discusses Millennials in the Workplace, challenging ideas and assumptions and giving us some great stuff to think about!

What is greatness? How can we achieve it? Will Smith shares his ideas –this video is one of my all time favorites. Very motivating!

I have been a life-long student of Zig Ziglar. As a matter of fact, one of the things on my bucket list is to one day become a certified Ziglar trainer. In this video, Zig Ziglar challenges our ideas about misfortune and bad breaks, and negative life circumstances.

Jon Gordon discusses the power of focusing on One Word. See my recent #oneword2017 post here: https://teachfearless.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/a-journey-of-self-renewal/

I love the above video and the ideas he presents to educators that make learning relevant and inspiring to youth.

These 5 videos each offer something different and are definitely worth the time to watch, so please enjoy my first GoodViews video collection! Tell me what you think and share some of your favorites with me so that I can grow my list!

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Social Media and The School Image

The other night, I suspect like many of you, I watched the debates. I was also logged into Twitter and was watching the reactions of people around the world. Since then, I’ve watched a lot of drama unfold and take shape on social media over the next few days. I am super busy this time of year and I’ll be honest, I get most of my news and catch up on the events going on around the world through social media. I very rarely watch the news or read a paper.

Meanwhile I have been reading the book below:
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My district provided this book and the title definitely stood out to me! What a very important role we as educators play in helping shape the image of our school, district, and education itself. I have always loved the following quote:

“If you work for a man, in Heaven’s name work for him. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, and stand by him, and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man, I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of his time, but all of his time. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must vilify, condemn, and eternally disparage, why, resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart’s content. But, I pray you, so long as you are a part of an institution, do not condemn it. Not that you will injure the institution – not that – but when you disparage the concern of which you are a part, you disparage yourself.” – Elbert Hubbard, American writer (19th Century)

If public school has an image problem, then we need to help with the makeover. We have great stories to tell!  We have fantastic things going on at school and social media is a pretty efficient way to share them with the community. Our families, our community members, are on social media. That’s where today’s stories take shape.

Like anything else, our teachers are all at different places as far as interest and skill level with utilizing Twitter as a tool for sharing and collaborating. At my campus, we created Twitter challenges which you can find here to help get that started.  We also try to model that by making sure we are tweeting out the great things we see, joining in Twitter chats with other educators, and sharing resources we come across with our teachers (always giving credit to our Twitter PLN!). Finally, we have our own school hashtag (#osestars) up and scrolling all day on our office flatscreen monitor.

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Parents, students and other visitors to our campus really enjoy seeing the tweets pop up in real time and we have found this to be a big motivation as well. We use TweetBeam for this service. We encourage all our visitors to visit our hashtag and leave us some feedback, and we make sure #osestars is printed on our campus flyer.

Yes, public school has an image problem. But what an opportunity we have to influence public perception! Imagine what type of influence we can have on the image of our district and our school if we consistently share our learning experiences with the larger community.

And it is SO much more informative than those debates…. 🙂

 

 

 

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Building School – Community Connections

I believe that thriving schools and thriving communities go hand in hand. Developing a shared vision for the school and community, a shared story of high expectations, big achievement, and mutual inspiration, are pathways for us to make an impact within and even beyond our schools. By building these relationships we can forge partnerships that foster student learning, strengthen families and help our communities thrive.

This year my principal and I are creating ways to generate that excitement and create those opportunities for more engagement with our community. We started this year with our first ever “Mix & Mingle” with local community businesses during our Meet the Teacher night. We set up tables in the cafeteria so that local businesses could bring their items and set up a display for our families–sort of a “getting to know our community”. We arranged for the space to be open for parents to informally browse through for about half an hour before we opened up the main doors for meeting the teacher. They also stayed set up throughout Meet the Teacher night. Many parents enjoyed visiting with our local vendors before heading to the classroom, while others hit the cafeteria after visiting their child’s class.

We had about ten vendors set up and ready to interact with our families and help us kick off the new school year! The bakery brought cake samples. The local math tutoring organization brought in games. Watching families make connections with local businesses in our community was great. Below are some pictures from the event and a flyer we created:

 

Meet & Minglewith the Stars (1)

The students asked lots of great questions about the businesses and what types of things they did. What a great opportunity for them! This turned out to be a really fantastic time! Several parents stopped us in the hallways and told us how much they enjoyed this time. They also liked having something to do while waiting (many of them arrive a little early). We did have some logistical issues, such as some “bottle-necked” traffic in one particular high-traffic area that we didn’t anticipate and will need to re-route next year, but other than that it was a fantastic first time event!

We have already planned some other great opportunities to build more connections with our local community this year and I am looking forward to a fun and successful year building relationships, forging partnerships and supporting our thriving community!