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The Teacher in Me

“Why are you writing a lesson plan? You’re an administrator now!” “I know, but I have a lesson to teach Friday and I had this great idea….I guess it’s just the teacher in me”.

That conversation happened at home the other day. I am in my third year as an Assistant Principal and I can tell you without a doubt that I am in love with my role on our campus. There are so many hats to wear and I find myself involved in so many different things. From scheduling to testing, from curriculum to classroom observations, and yes, even things like dismissal duty and textbooks make this the most unique and compelling job I have ever had. The one constant is that none of my days will be the same and I never know what is coming next! But there is one part of my job – one new facet – that is the so near and dear to my heart and I have only just started doing it this year:  Teaching.

So, we have an incredible and dynamic group of teachers who work their tails off with our students. Every day I pop in on a lesson or observe a teacher at work and I am telling you for a fact that these folks would put me to shame as a teacher (and I taught for 15 years!) But even in a building of experts, sometimes it seems like there are never enough hands and we always welcome more rolled up sleeves to help support our kids! So one day, I asked a couple of our teachers if I could work with a group of students who needed some additional time and instruction in reading. My “lunch bunch” was soon born! We met once a week and we read Roald Dahl’s The Witches. We read, we talked, we inferred, we predicted…and we had a blast together! This was such a wonderful time for me because I got to reach back into my “teacher” roots and once again be involved directly with instruction and the other “love of my life” job – teaching kids.

book club

Right now, I have a math “lunch bunch” and we work on their facts and basic concepts. I have been having a blast with this group of kiddos and really value this time with them. I find myself online looking up resources and ideas I can use with my group and asking them at the end of our lesson about their ideas for our next session. A teacher brought me a DVD that we can use during our time together with some very neat learning activities! I found myself really anticipating the day we could finally pop that baby in the DVD payer and get to work!

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Before becoming an AP, and even since becoming an AP,  I have found myself researching, asking questions, and learning all I can about the “must do’s” of an effective AP.  I, like so many other APs, am committed to doing the best possible job of supporting my principal and teachers,  and helping lead our campus in the development and execution of a shared vision. Our role is unique, interesting, and important! But I think if I were to share with you a “must do”, it would be to stay involved with teaching and working with kids in some way. Along with having lunch with kids and sitting and talking with them during class visits, this is another great way to build relationships with students in the building. I also think it really enhances my role as an administrator. One thing I never want to do is lose touch with the teacher in me. Not to mention it just makes me a more joyful leader and person.

Being in education is truly an awesome way to spend a life.

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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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A Journey Of Self-Renewal

I love new beginnings. Whether starting a new job, discovering a new passion, a spiritual journey, or a new chance to make a difference…there is nothing quite like the energy we feel when embarking on something new. I remember the inspiration I felt when I first decided to learn to crochet. And when I volunteered for the first time with Habitat for Humanity. The enthusiasm when I began writing and blogging, and the pure joy I felt when I began the journey in my new role purpose in education. I recall my once-strong focus on physical health and wellness and realize how little time or thought I have devoted to it lately.  As can sometimes happen,  what we were once eager to discover or pursue soon becomes the norm — a piece of the fabric of our lives but maybe now a rather dull, somewhat frayed thread.

My new job? I’m in year three now and have become pretty comfortable in my role. But sometimes comfortable can become uninspired.  Complaining replaces appreciation, the daily grind takes it’s toll and serving others becomes secondary to all the other pressures we face. This past year I assisted in building 2.5 homes –I say 2.5 because I just couldn’t find the energy got too lazy to complete the last one. That new hobby I challenged myself to learn last year? It went from a vigorously pursued passion to a sometime weekend activity to…well, I can’t recall the last time I picked up that yarn! And my once-strong focus on exercise and healthy eating has gotten pushed aside through a lack of time prioritizing and planning.

Recently I spent time really looking inward and trying to find the #oneword for 2017 that I want to focus on for my own growth and inspiration. One word kept coming to the forefront of my mind. Originally, that word was restore. As in, restore my commitment to and enjoyment of these important areas of my life. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it isn’t a restoration that is needed. It’s a renewal.

To renew means to give new life. New purpose. New priority. All of the areas I mentioned are in need of renewing. As I have become comfortable and experienced with new things, I have stopped growing in them. Stopped feeding them forward. But that growth…that rich, deepening growth is the piece I want to focus on. Because serving others through my work and volunteer life, pursuing and enjoying passions, living healthy physically, mentally and spiritually, those things are not just things….they are the fabric of my life. And it’s a rich, beautiful fabric! But it needs new life and new purpose. It needs brightening up.

It needs to be renewed.

So for 2017, I’m choosing to refocus on my commitment to my own peace, happiness and opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others through the renewal of the fabric of my life:

renew

Part of my renewal this year will be to spend more time on this blog, because writing, collaborating and reflecting are two of the most important ways that I learn and grow. I will also be spending more time in educhats again. Last night I attended a favorite chat of mine, #ChristianEducators, and I can’t express the “renewal” I felt upon being re-engaged in this meaningful hour with other educators.

I am excited for this journey and to breathe in the newness! My #oneword2017 has already given me a jolt of inspiration and energy. I know it is the right word and focus for me this year.  And I can’t wait to enjoy the brilliant newness that I know will begin to shine through!

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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:
image

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.

tv

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…. 🙂

 

 

 

Education, Uncategorized

Spring Reflections

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Well, the excitement is in the air. Spring Break is right around the corner, and while this is always a welcome break, it also ushers in a very hectic time!  Just to give you an idea, here is a quick run down of what may be on an administrator’s plate come Spring (and I am sure you could add to this list for your own campus):

  • State Assessments
  • Finalizing Teacher Appraisals
  • Kindergarten Parent Meetings
  • Spring Carnival
  • Book Fair
  • Various Music Programs
  • Employee Recognition Banquet
  • End of Year Volunteer Brunch
  • End of Year Textbook Inventory
  • SSI/Grade Placement Meetings
  • Finalizing ARD/504 Meetings

That pretty much captures the “big things” that I can think of off the top  of my head, which must occur alongside the “little” things that are just part of day to day school. For me, what sometimes gets lost during hectic times like this is dedicated time for reflection. If you also have trouble staying focused and dedicating time for reflection during this busy season, read on and maybe this will be beneficial to you, too!

Recently, I began reading “A Reflective Planning Journal for School Leaders” by Olaf Jorgenson. At the end of this post, I will include more information on it in case you want to check it out. I just recently got this book, so I confess to having only read the February and beginning of March sections (the book is divided by months). I must say though, I am really enjoying this book. Not only does it contain quotes and inspirational vignettes from other leaders (always a plus for me), but it also includes weekly reflective questions with places to stop and jot down your own ideas and thoughts. I have worked ahead a little, mainly because the March section is really on point (he mentioned many of the things in my own list above) and provides various ideas for maintaining your balance during this time. To give you an idea of the format, here is a look at the current pages I am working through:

book

So right away you can see where he prompts the reader to think about some ways to stay focused during this busy time. For example, he asks, “What do you do differently in the busy spring months to balance your workload and maintain visibility…”?  What a great question to reflect on!

So when I think about balancing my workload, I think about organization first. I guess I think about that first because the more organized I can be, the more efficient I am. Last year, for example, I had a white board installed on one wall which I use when arranging and rearranging testing groups during spring testing. I like it because, at a glance, I can look and see timelines approaching as well as who I have assigned to do what, and when. I also like to section off various places in my office for the different tasks that are going on simultaneously during this time. For example, the “cart” on the long wall is for turning in benchmark materials, making it easy for me to wheel it down to the testing room when I am ready to scan and put away this material.

testing.JPG

Other things, such as taking time to get out of the office and breaking my day into “chunks” with manageable pieces are also great ways to stay relaxed and productive. One of my favorite places lately is our newly revamped outdoor garden! This area has been made awesome this year and the kids are doing a great job at planting and caring for this space.  We have a pump for the pond now and a butterfly garden will soon be in full bloom! I have been out a few times this week, hanging out with the kids and just seeing how excited they are. Sure, it goes to visibility, but mainly it’s just fun and I love to be out there with them. Here is a look at that space:

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One of the interesting questions asked in the book was about support staff and what we do to recognize them and lift them up during this particularly busy time. Good question! One that I need to spend some time thinking about. Little things make a big difference.

I also find that stopping and writing on this blog is a MAJOR way that I reflect, maintain balance and stay focused. I have a lot of entries that are not even published yet because I have not done any editing or revising to them— and they may never be published here. Still, writing is always a great way for me personally to keep focused, stay clear-headed, and reflect.

This book is really pretty cool and I like that it provides some reflection and brainstorming structure. I am  once again reminded of the importance of making time to just be with my own thoughts, capture my ideas, and find balance in my busy days.  Sometimes the things we think we have no time for, might actually be some of the most important things.

Do you have any reflection tools that you use? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! If you might like to check out the book I am using, here is the information:

olaf

Jorgenson, Olaf. A Reflective Planning Journal for School Leaders. Thousand Oaks: Corwin, 2008. Print.

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We Have A Plan, They Said…

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On a busy day back in December, I was in my office trying to get a student iPad to work. Another student who happened to be with me at the time noticed my frustration and offered to take a look at it.  Within about 30 seconds, he had the problem solved. Fifth graders never cease to amaze me.  I casually mentioned to him that we ought to put him to work around here! This seemed to peak his interest and he began to talk about how he often helps teachers and students with these types of situations. He is a techie. I told him how some secondary schools have a student run “geek squad” that does this very thing and I could see he was very intrigued by this.

I talked to my principal about it, and she suggested that we put the ball in his court so to speak. True ownership develops that way (I learn so much from her!) and she told him to  grab a crew, draft up a proposal, and return with a rough outline of how such a thing might run on our campus. And that was that. Soon winter break came, then January, and to be honest I completely forgot about the brief and casual conversation. And then one day…

I was at my desk working on some papers when the secretary walked in and said that a “group of fifth graders” was here to see me. Oh No. Now what?? Sentences like that, well, they tend to put a sort of damper on things. I walked out to see this same student, along with four others, and he said, “Hey Ms. Logue, remember back in December when you said I should put together a proposal for that tech thing? Well, I found a crew, and we have a plan…

For the next half an hour or so, the group met with my principal and me. They outlined their proposal and it went something like this:

  • We would have office hours during recess and also before school.
  • We thought about how students and teachers might go about requesting our help. First we thought of building a website, then a Google Doc, but finally settled on just a paper form with information to fill out and leave for us, in an envelope in the hallway. Why involve tech with those who are having tech troubles!!
  • We would troublshoot minor problems for staff and students, such as wifi, loading apps, cropping pics and such.
  • We would be willing to lead training for the staff (such as at a staff meeting after school) on various ideas for incorporating technology in their lessons and learning new apps and platforms. An “open” session which both teachers and students could attend.
  • We could go into classrooms to lead “large group” sessions, such as helping a class of students set up their digital portfolios on Google sites (a campus initiative) with their teacher, or to learn a new website, or movie making app.
  • We would make sure to maintain our grades and stay on top of our classwork, so that at the end of the day we could take five or ten minutes to go through the forms and divide up the jobs for the coming day(s).

We were so impressed! We asked them some clarifying questions, my principal showed the group the Best Buy Geek Squad image, and talked a little bit with them about branding. The group played around with some ideas for their own name and emblem, and settled on “Tech Stars” because our mascot is the Stars. They used a star for the A; here is their logo design:

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After school, we located an empty classroom we felt would be a perfect “office spot” for them, with a couple of desks, tables, and a whiteboard on which to brainstorm learning sessions they can hold with our staff.

Here is a video the students made so that we could introduce the new team to our school on the morning announcements:

Here is the flyer with their information. Staff and students will use this when they request their services:

Tech-Stars Flyer

We also set up a meeting between the Tech Stars and our campus technology liasian. He went over some basic “do’s” and “don’t” with them. Boy did they feel important! My principal had official (well, kind of) badges made up for them with their identifying information, complete with plastic badgeholders and lanyards. Here are some pictures of them in their meeting and receiving their badges. I love the looks of excitement and pride on their faces!

stars1 stars2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we officially introduced the team at our staff meeting!

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I just can’t wait to see them in action, helping students, leading staff development sessions after school…and to think, I never thought I would hear from him again! I am blown away by the initiative and leadership shown by that student. We have no idea how this student-led initiative will pan out. It is new to us all. But I kinda think it’s in pretty good hands!

Two thoughts stand out to me as I reflect on this:

1. Kids do some pretty amazing things when we put the ball in their court.

2. School cultures that honor creativity and risk-taking make dreams come true every day.

 I am the luckiest AP around!

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Teachers and Students Leading Professional Learning

One of the unique ways we have found to support teacher collaboration and growth on our campus this year is through a weekly Staff S’more.  This started out as a one-way communication from admin to teachers, but we quickly discovered that this is the perfect vehicle for teachers to share their ideas, learnings, failures, and risks. It’s also a lot more interesting and has led to many more “conversation starters” than if it’s just admin to teacher. More information on how that came to be can be found in this blog post I wrote a while back.

Teacher Led Professional Learning

So we started off by approaching teachers and inviting them to write the weekly S’More. We were hoping teachers would be willing to share a little bit about what types of things they are doing in the classroom, or want to try, or just what’s on their mind. Soon, teachers began to ask if they could write an upcoming S’More, on a topic that they feel pretty passionate about. For example, next week a teacher will be writing on the topic of teacher burnout.  We are thrilled with the teacher ownership we are seeing in this! Our weekly Staff S’More has enjoyed tremendous success, with lots of views each week and conversations in the hallways that sound something like, “Hey I read your Smore article, can you tell me more about how you...”  It’s one of those rare things that just takes off right from the moment you introduce it and just seems to power itself.

Student Led Professional Learning

This week, one of our fifth grade teachers was working on her S’More feature, which is about Book Clubs.  She had some artifacts, handouts, and descriptions that she wanted to share with teachers along with her article. After a few minutes of discussing the content, she suggested the idea of having her students produce a video, in which they “taught the teachers” about how she implements book clubs. What a fantastically unique idea! Soon, I received the email below, a student-made video explaining to the staff how Book Clubs look in their classroom:

Here is a link to the final S’More for this week, our Book Clubs S’More, which includes the article written by our teacher, the student made video, corresponding instructional ideas from our principal, and additional articles, videos, and other resources that I curated which support the topic.

Throughout this year we have learned alongside each other through this S’More, on topics ranging from formative assessment, differentiation, performance assessments, technology, learning spaces, growth mindset, Genius Hour, math stations, guided reading, and so much more! And now, our plans are to continue to invite students to add to our learning through our weekly Staff S’More.  We are going to ask students to begin sharing their ideas, learnings, failures, and risks…right alongside their teachers. We truly believe that as a learning organization, we can exponentialy grow in our practice by listening to the voices of one another, and that includes our students.  We are very excited for this next phase!

Up Next

In a future S’More edition, our P.E. teacher Mr. Rob will share with the staff about the 21 Days Of Healthy Snacks Challenge, which he launched in his classes this week. He will ask some students to create a corresponding video share to with our staff about how they are engaging with the program. Is the message of healthy eating important to them? Why or why not? How are they implementing this at home, if they are? What challenges have they faced? What solutions can they offer?

I will keep you updated on our teacher and student-led professional learning journey as it continues to unfold this year! What unique ways have you found to infuse teacher and student voice within your learning community? We would love to learn from you!

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Response To Intervention – A Collection of Ideas and Resources

One of my roles as Assistant Principal is to coordinate our campus Response To Intervention (RTI) program. This process can be confusing and sometimes seem a little daunting! Here is some basic information to hopefully help with understanding and navigating through RTI. I put this together for my staff in a flyer, but tried to take out the school-specific information for this blog post.

I will start with one of my overarching beliefs:

The Most Effective RTI Strategy is Strong Tier 1 Instruction.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how well thought out and structured your RTI program is-without good quality Tier 1 instruction, achievement suffers. So let’s back up. What exactly is RTI? Simply put, RTI seeks to map out a theory of action regarding how we respond to students who stuggle, and how we measure our students’ response to intervention.  You can think of it as a learning pyramid, labeled like this:

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All students are Tier 1 students. Tier 1 supports, then, are those things you would do in class, with any student, as part of meeting everyone’s needs. It’s differentiation. It’s creative ideas. It’s learning styles, reteaching, and presenting it “yet another way”. It’s how you develop, refine, and continually improve your craft so that all students are reached. This might be through weekly running records, small group lessons such as guided reading or guided math groups which target a specific skill, allowing students the use of graph paper to line up numbers, giving a student flashcards to practice with, having a student listen to a story on tape and scaffolding in comprehension questions…These are just a few differentiation ideas in place in your classrooms which support all learners. This is Tier 1. It is the most powerful and important piece of the RTI traingle and the heart of our work. It includes a heavy emphasis on feedback cycles, ongoing assesment, and rich learning experiences. It is where most student’s needs are found and addressed.

About 85% of students should be successful and on a forward learning trajectory with regular Tier 1 supports that all students receive from classroom teachers. Here is a neat video which captures a few teachers sharing common RTI Tier 1 instructional strategies, or “Core Instruction” if you are thinking of our tiangle above:

What if Tier 1 interventions are not enough?

This is our “Supplemental” group if thinking about our triangle above. When it becomes a concern; when data from the classroom and/or universal screeners indicates that more support is needed, you want to go ahead and fill out Tier 1 intervention logs and initiation forms and request a meeting with the RTI team. The team will meet and examine classroom data, assessment results, and student work samples. We would then brainstorm and develop additional strategies which might help close the gaps for the student, based on presenting data and best practices research. These Tier 2 inteventions might include things such as before or after school tutoring, chunking, more visual supports, graphic organizers to structure writing, word lists, word banks, sentence stems, digital learning avenues….It just depends on the student, needs, and resources we have available at the time. They are in addition to Tier 1 instructional components.

The student would now be considered as being on “Tier 2” in our RTI system. The teacher would go forward with the interventions decided upon by the Tier 2 team, monitoring the student’s progress for 4-6 weeks with those new Tier 2 interventions in place. Every other week, you will upload documentation on the Tier 2 progress monitoring log. For approximately 90-95% of students, we can expect those interventions to be successful.

What if Tier 2 interventions are still not enough?

Going back to our triangle above, we are now talking about our “intensive” group. If after a period of time (usually 4-6 weeks) the student is still not successfully progressing, you will request another RTI meeting. The team will again examine data, Tier 2 intervention logs, and student work samples. The team will now consider even more targeted interventions for this student. That might be things like a pull-out literacy group, or 1 on 1 targeted interventions both within and outside of the classroom, etc. We would also look at curriculum resources and additional intensive and appropriate pedagogical strategies and / or programs. Again, these depend on the student, needs, and available resources and are employed in addition to Tier 1 and 2 approaches. Because this is a more intenstive list of interventions, these are classified as Tier 3 interventions and the student is now considered to be on Tier 3 in our RTI system. As noted above, very few students will need this level of support when Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports are being implented with fidelity.

Going forward, the teacher would keep and upload Tier 3 progress monitoring logs into Aware. This should now be done weekly due to the more targeted and intensive nature of the interventions. Again, these supports are put into place for 4-6 weeks depending on student needs. Research indicates that Tier 3 interventions should be put into place for a longer duration and monitored more frequently, due to the nature of the individual, intensive focus. For most Tier 3 students, these more targeted interventions are enough to move them forward.

What if Tier 3 interventions still aren’t enough?
This might be the case for less than 5% of student population. Another RTI meeting would be requested. The diagnostician would be present, along with other specialized teachers. In this situation, we have exhausted all other avenues and there is a strong consensus that further evaluative measures need to be taken.

Here are some common FAQ’s which I thought might be helpful to touch upon:

Is the purpose of RTI to place a student on a path to ultimately get tested?
No. The purpose of RTI is to identify interventions that successfully close gaps and move students forward when what is being done in the classroom is not enough.

What types of things might I list on progress monitoring logs?

  • Running records, results of “quick checks” or exit tickets
  • Student journal samples which show patterns of thinking/understanding
  • Teacher observations/notes
  • Classroom assessment scores/ district assessment scores
  • Rubrics
  • Fluency checks/wpm
  • Graphic organizers used for writing
  • White boards/markers for “quick checks”
  • Graph paper for lining up problems when multiplying

Did they work? Did they not work? Share the intervention methods as well as the student’s performance/resulting score/data using progress monitoring logs.

What should I bring to an RTI meeting?

  • Student work samples
  • Current scores on classroom assessments and recent district assessments
  • Information regarding the student’s strengths
  • Specific challenges (“Fluency”, “Context Clues”, or “Subtracting w/regrouping” – as opposed to “Reading” or “Math”).

If I use these interventions, doesn’t this skew grades and not give a true reflection of where a student is?

We want to keep the focus on learning and closing achievement gaps. If a student requires certain interventions to reach mastery, we want to implement them. That being said, you can document on student work “with manipulatives” , “with teacher assistance”, or some other notation to indicate to parents that there are interventions which are being used to reach mastery. You will also have your RTI documentation logs for reference. Communication with parents is key here. If they do not hear from you and they see only grades, then yes, there will be a skewed view. If information is not entered and updated in Aware, there will be a skewed view for future teachers as well. Parents should be continually informed and involved in the process through ongoing conversations and conferences with you – both prior to and throughout the RTI process.

Some of you might also be asking…

Why do we have to wait so long during each Tier?

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Research has shown that in order to determine if an intervention is successful, a period of about 4–6 weeks is needed to capture data and track progress effectively. Heavier interventions require a little longer to develop and allow us to gather evidence of effectiveness. For some, though, we can and do accelerate the process.  All of our students are unique, and so our approach to identifying and meeting individual needs within this structure can look different at different times. And that is okay.

Back to our beginning quote.

Keep in mind, the goal of RTI is to close the gaps through effective, research based interventions and ultimately be able to discontinue them. Therefore, as noted at the beginning:

The most effective RTI Intervention is strong Tier 1 instruction.

If you want to explore RTI a little further, two great places to visit are here and here.

If you are looking to do some reading on the topic of intervention, I can recommend the following 3 books as good reading for teachers and administrators alike. Click images to be taken the the Amazon ordering page:

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 12.59.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 12.58.17 PMScreen Shot 2015-01-17 at 12.58.01 PMResources: Linked within post

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My Struggle With Wait Time

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Wait time was something I tried to practice regularly as a classroom teacher. It is always in our nature as teachers to want to jump in and solve a student’s problem, help them when they are stuck,  respond immediately to a question they ask or problem they have. It took a lot of focused and conscious effort on my part to “unlearn” this.  Wait time allowed for several things to happen. One, the student had the opportunity to think longer, which usually allowed for deeper thinking as well. Two, it allowed me as a teacher time to think about my response and consider what might I say to guide that student toward more critical thinking or problem solving. Wait time was something I struggled to develop but tried really hard to do. Now I’m an Assistant Principal.  There are so many times throughout my days when I’m faced with a problem that needs solving, a question that needs an answer, or an action that needs a response. I’m not referring to emergency situations in this post, just the general day-to-day things I am experiencing.

In my first three months, I have found that my natural tendency to lunge into immediate action in response to, well basically anything, is still present in this new role.  I want to respond to things in a timely manner. If a problem presents itself, if a concern or question is brought to me, or even if we as a campus are seeking ideas for this or that, I want to immediately offer them up–I am in full brainstorming mode and sometimes, or a lot of times, I am the first one to say, “Well, what about this…”. It’s not that I think I have all the answers. I have so much to learn and I definitely do not want to present myself as some kind of expert.  I do all this with good intentions, just like when I was a teacher. I want to help. I want to do a good job. I want to fix or contribute or move things along. The problem is, “timely manner” to me often means right now. It was the same way when I was in the classroom. I thought about this a while back. How this is so familiar to me, how this mirrors my struggle with wait time in the classroom.

Some may ask, “Well, what’s wrong with that? You are efficient.  Johnny on the Spot”.  Well, a lot of things are wrong with that, I am learning. Here are a few examples:

  •  I don’t always have all the facts. I may only hear one side of something and my immediate response is not the best idea when I hear the rest of the story.
  • Waiting a bit and mulling over a situation allows me time to push past “immediate idea” and I have time to think a little more creatively.
  • If I wait and think about my immediate idea or “gut instinct”, I then have time to think of what would be on the other side of that decision. This often allows me to see how a new or different problem might arise based on my response. I am now thinking broader.
  • Situations that may have one or more parties in strong emotional states have time to cool off if I wait. This helps everyone go from “venting” to “conversing”.
  • In response to, “How might we facilitate _____ on our campus” type of conversations, my immediate idea might be a good one but the timing may be off, or the steps I offer up may be better done in a different order. If I exercise wait time, I might have a better chance of realizing that, laying out a different set of action steps.
  • Giving myself wait time allows me to get input from others who have more experience than me. Who may have done the same thing I am thinking of and can share their experiences. Who may have a much better idea that I have not thought of. Who may pose questions that I have not thought of, that allow me to clarify my own thoughts.
  • Waiting gives me time to see things that I may be overlooking.

Today I happened to wake up very early and I dropped into #satchat. The question that came through my feed was about what traits are usually seen in highly effective leaders. Questions like this really jump off the screen and hold my attention as I watch the responses flow in from everyone. As a new AP, I really want to hear this! Here is a  response that came in which really jumped out at me:

Wait time!  I may be effective in my normal state of immediately attending to things.  But am I highly effective when I do that? Probably not. I know I’m not. Who would be?

Later today, I was co-moderating #nt2t (New Teachers To Twitter) chat and somewhere during the conversation I posted this Tweet:

Sometimes it seems like things just sort of start popping up…little reminders to ourselves that we might miss if we are not paying attention to them. As I think about my first three months in this role, I think about the principal who shared that advice with me a while back. I think about my current principal and how she does such a good job of modeling “wait time” for me. I am reflecting on how my natural tendency to rush and act may be something that hinders my ability to be highly effective. How my struggle with wait time still exists and seems continues to be an area in which I need to grow.

I need to remember that while trying to do a good job in my new role, wait time is still important. There are things that require immediate action, but there are other things, things that make up the majority of my time, that really would benefit from some wait time from me. Which brings me to a final reminder. This was shared at the end of a chat today, and the idea of “courage” written in it really hit home:

What do I fear, that causes me to fail to wait? Do I fear that I might seem unsure? Do I fear being “uncertain”?  Why do I fear that? For some of us, for the “Johnny On The Spot”s like me, courage doesn’t necessarily mean act.  Sometimes, it takes courage to wait.

I am working on this.

 

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Say What You Wanna Say: Blogging

“Nothing’s gonna hurt you, the way the words do, when they sit underneath your skin. Kept on the inside, with no sunlight, sometimes a shadow wins. I wonder what would happen if you say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly…I wanna see you be brave”! – Sara Bareiller

The above song really resonates with me, as someone who is not by nature a brave person when it comes to putting myself out there to be judged. I think it is also the perfect song for those who might be considering starting a blog, but are a little intimidated or shy.

Reflection is a powerful thing. One of the best ways I have found for reflecting on my own thoughts, ideas and practices is through blogging. When I decided last year that I wanted to give blogging a shot, I have to admit it was very scary! I thought many times, “What do I have to say that would be so important or interesting to others”? “I am not smart enough, I don’t write well enough, I don’t have anything to talk about that others would care to read…..” Those were (and still are, somewhat) the thoughts that ran through my mind.

I went through a lot of trial and error before finding a way that works for me and settling into a routine. I also learned some basic things that helped make my posts more interesting and helped me to clarify my own thinking.  Below are a few blogging ideas that help me:

1. Selecting a platform. There are many tools out there for setting up and maintaining a blog. I tried different sites and finally I settled on Word Press. It is easy for me to navigate and has a big variety of templates to choose from. It is a free site, but I have since decided to pay for the pro version to give myself a few more choices and perks. But I did stick to the free version for about a year. I also like it because it allows me to include different things such as videos, pictures, and embedded tweets that support my topic — in very simple ways. I am not a computer programmer nor a code writer! So I needed easy.

2. Frequency. How often are you going to write? This varies for everyone depending on your goals. I was very scattered in the beginning and not consistent, but eventually I settled into a routine of weekly. I usually write on the weekend. Sometimes this varies but I do try to be consistent. I have found that people will most likely follow a blog if it is updated regularly. On one hand, I’m not so much concerned with how many people read what I write. But one the other hand, this is not a journal in my nightstand. It is on the web, and I chose to do this because I think sharing with others and receiving feedback from them is very powerful for me as a learner. We tell our students all the time to “keep the reader in mind” when writing; this is no different for me as a blogger. Consistency is an important component for you as a blogger.

3. Choosing A Topic. This is perhaps the biggest area of struggle for me. I love to write, but sometimes I just have no ideas for my blog that week. What I have found is that I need to take time to reflect on my week. What went good? What can I improve on? What did I learn this week? I mean, that is the purpose of writing for me anyway, to reflect. So I can’t just sit down at my laptop and think up a topic without first going through my own reflection process. Throughout the week, I ask myself those questions and jot down my thoughts on paper. From there, a topic emerges that I want to explore more in depth, and that is how my blog ideas come to be.

4. Post Length. When I first began blogging, it was all words. I did break it up into paragraphs, but when you visited my site, you would see nothing but a long essay looking post. Not very inviting. I learned quickly that I needed to be more succinct. I don’t need to take five sentences to express a simple idea. I still struggle with this! One thing that helps me is to write my post, but then save it as a draft. Later, I go back to it, and reread it. I always find places to cut something out or re-word something in a less wordy way. I do not publish until I am satisfied that I have expressed myself in a clear but concise way.

5. Structuring The Post. Words are great, but your readers will want to see other interesting things along the way. Including such elements as video, pictures, or even embedded tweets within your post is a great way to improve the visual appeal and add depth to your writing. For example, when I wrote about choosing my platform, I included a link to the WordPress site, and I included it right on the words WordPress in my sentence. I did this because it adds layers to what I am saying. I am thinking about my reader, and they may want to further investigate it. They can Google it themselves, but it is much more convenient for them if I include the link right there where I am writing about it. One important point: Choose your links carefully. I went through several articles on the web about WordPress, but settled on just linking to the site itself. I think that is the most practical resource to share there.

6. Blog Roll. I follow and read a lot of other blogs. I think it is important to share those resources with my own blog visitors because it points them to other writers and other ideas. Sharing who I read and what blogs I follow tells my readers something about my own style, interests, and thought provokers…which adds substance and transparency. I think if you are going to write a blog and share it, you have to be the real you.

7. Give Credit. If I write a post about an activity I did or a book I read, I include the name of the person that inspired that. I include the author, or the colleague, or the PLN member that first pointed me in that direction. I do this out of courtesy and also because it points my reader to another source of learning and someone to follow up with besides just me. A recent post I wrote was about making #GoodCallsHome, and I included links to the Twitter hashtag as well as to the two people who were the inspiration for me to join the movement.

8. Publicizing Your Blog. The first time I tweeted out a blog post I had written, it was scary! I was opening the door for readers all over the world…would they like it? Would they just ignore it? What if nobody read it or what if I received a negative comment? I had to just be brave and do it. After all, I wanted feedback, and sometimes it can’t all be positive! But that is okay because that’s how we all grow. I learned a couple of important things here. One, I needed to include a few relevant hashtags to make sure my blog post was seen by the right audience. For example, if I am writing about a new technology I tried, I will likely use the #edtech hashtag in my tweet. If I am writing about a pirate lesson (Teach Like A Pirate), I will include the #tlap hashtag. I try not to include more than 3 hashtags in my tweet, because it can look like spam.

I also learned that there are just so many people tweeting out there, and posting a link to my blog one time is not enough. I need to post it a few times, over a few days. I also need to tweet it out at the right times. Some days and times are better than others (I don’t know why but that is what I have discovered). Friday afternoons are a good day/time. Monday nights during prime time are also good. Saturday mornings before noon are exceptional times for me. Tweeting my blog after about 9pm or before 10am (CT) are not.

Final word about tweeting out your post: I tag a few people in my tweet and here is how I decide whom to include: If I mentioned someone, or if what I have written about is a topic that I think a certain member(s) of my PLN would enjoy reading, or is similar to what a certain person often writes/thinks about, I will tag them. I do not tag people just for the hope that they will retweet it. I think that is dis-ingenuous. That being said, it makes me happy when my post announcement is retweeted because it will be seen by people who might not otherwise see my own tweet, so it is a good thing and I do appreciate it. But I try not to abuse that or take advantage of my PLN in that way.

9. Give Your Readers Tools. When I set my blog up, I learned that I needed to include a way for my readers to share with others and to give me feedback in simple and quick ways. Make sure you turn on comments! When I receive a comment on a piece, I try to reply to it in a timely manner, thanking them for their input and thoughts on what I have written. I think two-way communication is so important here because I am hoping to open a door for conversation. Of course, there have been a lot of my posts that have received zero comments, and that is okay. I made peace with that. I just decided that the post must have just been so great that nobody has anything to add! HA! Also, it is helpful to include a few tools for the reader to make reading and sharing easy. I have a button where readers can follow my blog, getting updates automatically when I post. There are tools where readers can share it on Twitter or other social media very easily.

9. Patience. When I first starting blogging, hardly anyone read it. I did not receive many comments either. After a while though, my readership grew. Now, I have people who follow my blog from all over the world, and they receive an email when I update it. If they enjoyed the post, they share it with others, tweet it, comment on it….but this took a lot of time. Be prepared to feel like you are just writing for yourself and nobody is reading it, and that is okay. It will come with time.

10. About Those Comments. Be careful what you wish for! Just kidding (kind of). Most of my posts have been well received, but there have been a few that received some negative feedback. At first I was mortified! But then I realized that this type of thing is just another way to push my thinking, to open my mind up to alternative views and shed a light on different perspectives, and so I now embrace all my feedback, both positive and otherwise. You just cannot write a blog where everyone in the world is going to agree with all you say; we are all different. If you really want the feedback and you want your blog to be a true way for you to reflect, share, learn and grow, then you have to be prepared for some humbling moments! My PLN is incredible and they inspire me daily, but they also challenge my thinking and they point out things I could improve upon or ideas I had not considered. They champion me when I am doing something great, but they also will very quickly throw up a stop sign or call me on the carpet.  I value this. And my willingness to put myself out there for it is just…well, necessary.

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So that’s it, my top ten tips for getting started with blogging. There is a lot more and you will discover that as you go along.  I think the biggest piece of advice is to just be brave and go for it. “Let your words be anything but empty”… How big is your brave?