Us or Me and Them

A new skill and responsibility has been added to my plate this month.  I knew it was coming but I didn’t want to acknowledge it.  I am in charge of my Iowa Assessment.  Of course my background was the STAAR test in Texas.  Texas has been using testing for accountability since I was a kid, so there is a large structure of how testing occurs.  The test administrator is 160  pages long and there is building coordinator manual.  I think almost everything that could occur has a written policy.   Contrast that with Iowa, school districts decide when they want to take the Iowa Assessments and the state does not provide as much guidance.  I give you this background so you can understand my mindset.

This past week, I was in charge of presenting training for our upcoming Iowa Assessments.  Everything was organized.  My principal and I brainstormed possible questions that teachers would ask. I was ready to go.  I began presenting.  It was calm and relaxed.  Teachers asked questions some I knew and others I said I would get back to them after I talked to the district person.  We were truly learning together.  Then an e-mail popped up; my computer gave me a warning the battery is very low.  This rattled me and then a teacher asked me a question.   Her question was an obvious one because the answer was on the screen.  Her tone could have been taken as disrespectful.  I responded back in such a way that I “shot her with a dagger.”  The room changed at that point.  The Us left and it became Me and Them.  Luckily for all of us, it was the last two minutes of the PD.  I left the PD feeling disappointed with the whole thing.

As most of my readers know that my principal is awesome, so he provided me feedback by asking me reflective questions.  Simply put I got rattled and the teacher’s question could have been viewed as a snarky question and I bit.  So my next steps:

  1. Prep even better.  The question came from a last minute slide I put in.
  2. Prep my tech -Charge my laptop during the day. Close out of e-mail
  3. Wait time-When feeling rattled and a person asks question, provide some wait time. This may have let someone at her table answer her question.  The wait time will allow me to calm my body.

And here is how we apply what I learned in this experience in a classroom:

The shift from Us to Me and Them that happened on Wednesday changed the climate for learning.  How we respond to a question determines if learning occurs in our classrooms.  I know that I do not want students to experience what I did to that teacher.  As a leader, how I respond to that sort question determines how my teachers will respond to that question in his/her classroom.

Weirdly enough, I spent the previous Sunday morning talking about questions in a #iaedchat and I did the exact opposite of what I said.

So this week, I will respond in such a way that it is obvious that the climate is Us and not me and them.

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It could have been…

Some people can claim that they tell how the day is going to go and they said it was going to be a rough Friday.  Here’s what was happening:

  • 7 teachers had an AM training.
  • 6 teachers were gone all day.
  • Short 6 guest teachers
  • Full moon
  • First outdoor recess in forever
  • Spring break in a week

This day could have been one for the record book:

  • Very little instruction occurring
  • grouchy teachers
  • disruptive students
  • two tired irritated administrators;

But it was not meant to be that. Why?

The mindset of my principal and me.  We thought:

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So I cleared my principal’s schedule to do instructional walkthroughs throughout the classrooms.  He announced that it was our favorite time of the year, the time before spring break.  We laid out the schedule so instruction for all students would occur all day.  We both made many visits to classrooms where there were guest teachers.  At key times, we present in the hallway.  We made a conscious effort to smile at every student, teacher and adult.  We had our teachers review outdoor recess procedures.

Friday was great day for our teachers!  Most would not be able to tell that many teachers were missing.  Students learned and teachers taught.

I came home exhausted but excited about the day.  The lesson I learned is

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What I read weekly

After my reflection about my first semester, my principal challenged me to give him a list of blogs to read.  This is my list in no particular order:

  • John Spencer Education Rethink -John Spencer is a middle school teacher who blogs about writing and teaching.  I do get lost when visit his site.  There is so much to read and think about.
  • Bailey and Derek’s Daddy-Jon Harper is an elementary school assistant principal.  I love reading his blog because it so inspiring. He understands how being a parent and an educator combine and the worlds are hard to divide.  I find myself looking for lessons as a parent that I can apply at school and vise versa.
  • The Colorful Principal-I love that Ben Gilpin always writes his weekly memo and publishes it on-line.  His weekly reflections are powerful because it clearly communicates his expectation and philosophy to all.  He also find other articles we should read and great videos to watch too.  He has excellent taste.
  • Teach. Learn. Lead. Repeat. I know that I will learn something new and powerful when I visit Jeff Zoul’s site.  I have been enjoying his current series about what he has learned from Carol Ann Tomlinson’s second edition of The Differentiated Classroom.
  • Ninja Reflections on Education First let me say that it is Todd Nesloney’s fault that I blog and tweet.  Before his summer learning challenge, I viewed the internet as a one-way road.  His blog is enjoyable.  I am regularly inspired by him.  I love watching what he does to make his school wonderful.
  • The Jose Vilson Jose Vilson spends the time we all should talking about race, class and education.  I will be the first to admit he challenges my thinking.  I am a better citizen, teacher and person because of his writing.  His post called White Administrator’s Guilt should be read by all administrators and reflected on.
  • Principal Howell This blog does a great job focusing on student learning and how to help support teachers.  I have not been disappointed in what he shares on his blog.  My favorite one was on kindness.  It inspired me to work to have a random acts of kindness at my school.
  • Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day-This was my first blog I read on a regular basis.  What he shares on his website is always useful and is a great guide to find new material and knowledge.  I am impressed how much I learn by reading this one.  Thanks Larry for beginning my education of connected learning.

These are the blogs I read weekly.  I know I read many more.  I love twitter for that reason because people share their blogs and other blogs.  There are so many great ones out there so please suggest some more for me to read.