I will be spending the next two and half weeks leading(learning) professional learning for various groups of educators. I realize that great PD causes the leader to learn as well as the audience. I am committing myself to pause and reflect on what I learned.
Session: NIET Rubric Modules
My Big Ah-has:
- 99.9 percent of our district initiatives are aligned and pointing the same way. I get goose bumps thinking about how they interconnect.
- Keep the goal of any professional learning: what do we want to see in classrooms. I want to see these things in my children’s classroom:
- Students owning their learning
- Students knowing the target and figuring out how to meet it.
- Teachers and students learning together.
- It’s always about the students.
Tomorrow will be another awesome day. Looking forward to being inspired by the work of so many teachers, principals, and other leaders tomorrow.
Today the teachers have begun to come back. I may have been singing The Boys are Back in Town this morning. We welcomed back some of our teacher leaders. I will be spending the next two and half weeks leading(learning) professional learning for various groups of educators. I realize that great PD causes the leader to learn as well as the audience. I am committing myself to pause and reflect on what I learned.
Session: George Couros
My favorite moment: When he called me out for using the giant post-it notes. We do all this work, and then we never capture the notes from them. I can do better. I had a PD planned for next week, and I am adjusting to make better and resource for teachers. I saw several great ideas on how to engage a large audience. I will
My Next Steps: I had a half day PD planned for next week, had being the key word. My goal is to get rid of the giant post-it notes. I plan on being transparent about my new learning and how I adapted it based on my new learning. If I don’t grow and apply my learning, why should I ask others to do it.
Thanks, George Couros for pushing me to grow!
The Prompt: What have you learned, or participated in, this summer that has made you a better educator and that you may (or will) apply this coming school year as you work with students and staff?
As a constant reader, this summer, as usual, I stepped away from the normal educational books. Unfortunately, I read everything like it is related to school. So Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are was no exception. I could rave on and on about the book and how we are on the verge of a social science breakthrough because of big data. Instead, I will want to point out a couple of things that will affect at our schools.
- Surveys are completely fallible. So many times we ask teachers, students, and parents to take surveys and treat the results as gospel truth. The best results are anonymous surveys taken in a room alone with conditions to encourage honesty. He also points out that very often teens like to mess with surveys citing an adoption study with inaccurate reporting of adoption. He suggests that we are truthful in our Google searches, but elsewhere we may not be. The big takeaway is to think about how and who you are giving surveys to.
- Social Media and other companies are doing massive studies to make their product even more addictive. It fascinated me that we are constantly being tested to see which change encourages us to click, play long or stay on the app. With this in mind, we need to be cognizant of how we spend our time. We also need to make our student aware the companies doing.
- Do not compare our insides (Google Searches) with others outsides (social media presence). He laid out a clear case how we are honest when we are searching, but we are framing and creating a reality on social media. This is one to that we need to discuss openly and honestly with our students. I’ve become a pro at framing pictures so you don’t see the chaos behind my children smiling faces. Teachers are not necessarily tweeting about the mundane parts of the job instead we hear about amazing successes.
So dear readers, do not panic if you did not follow the typical summer learning plan. Learning can come from anywhere.
I really am not much of TV watcher, but I do love Gilmore Girls. I own them all and tend to rewatch them often. I was recently watching season three, and a particular series of scenes really agitated me. During the second half of the season, Jess starts skipping school and working instead. When he finally went to buy his prom tickets, he was sent to principal’s office. There he found out that he was not graduating and had to repeat the year again. The principal in a disdainful tone said, “You mean the nine warning slips we gave you weren’t enough? All the meetings that I tried to set up between you and your guidance counselor, between you and me that you blew off, that wasn’t warning enough?”
Obviously, this is TV, and the Jess needed to leave, but I am bugged how the school was portrayed. This is how a school should work then or now. So below is how I view how the school would function as a Professional Learning Community.
Stars Hollow High
- Jess’s teachers use the PLC process and notice through formative assessments that he has mastered the standards quickly. As teachers plan their lessons, they start to discuss how to extend the lesson to challenge Jess and other students.
- During the intervention period, Jess has a wide variety of extension opportunities as well as time to read his current book.
- The counselor knows that he was in three different schools last year and informs his teachers about the impact on academics this could cause.
- Jess is flagged by the data system to be discussed at the next Student Intervention Team meeting because he has missed five days unexcused. The team puts in place an intervention and monitors it. He will continue to be on the agenda if the intervention is not enough.
- The school does not allow Jess to make decisions like skipping meeting that would impact his adulthood. They stop at nothing to make sure that Jess succeeds.
- If Jess decides to leave town to chase down his father, the school makes sure that there is a plan for credit recovery.
As I lay out how a school would function, I wonder how many Jess’s are in our schools now. Does their school believe that ALL kids can learn and their actions prove it or does their school function like the TV show? Every student deserves the later because the consequences are dire for the student otherwise.
My daughter over a year ago developed a fear of all slides and playground equipment. It was overnight when she went from climbing and doing feats of daring to having nothing to do with the playgrounds. I am sure that this was a logical developmental milestone, but it through me for a loop because she was daring and seemed not to be afraid of anything.
I know both fear and fearlessness is what has allowed us as a species to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, fear has been the driving theme lately in our lives. I could discuss the whole politics of fear, but I am going to avoid that topic. Fear is what paralyzes us from making a change that our students so desperately need. Fear is what allows us to argue for the status quo.
I’ve come to a conclusion how to combat fear. It is knowledge, skills, and sense of competency. I saw this transformation right before my eyes. My daughter over time came to realize that had the skills and ability to climb the rock wall and slide down the biggest slide. She realized that taking the risk of getting hurt was minor compared to the fun of slide and monkey bars.
So, my dear readers, I challenge you to take that risk. Get the knowledge and skills. I promise you that it is worth it.
Dear Readers, I don’t think have shared that I am an avid gardener. My skills came from years of trial and error. I have come to the conclusion it is not about the plants that determine if I am successful, but where I plant them.
Living in Houston right behind a bayou, I had a horrible mix of clay and sand in most of my back yard. The first year, I just planted the plants in the ground and expected the raspberries to thrive. Of course, they did not. The following year, I got out the compost and some good soil from the local Big Box. The raspberries that I planted grew and survived the year. Over the course the few years, I continued to add organic material to the bed, and the raspberries produced a decent amount. By the time, I moved that area of soil looked so completely different that the soil around it. It was a beautiful black and had a sweet smell as opposed to the dirt around was pale, clumpy and stinky.
I tell you this because how often do we look around and put a great initiative into a school, and it fails. It probably happens more than we want to admit. This quote often appears in the Twitterverse, “Culture eats initiatives for lunch.”
In Rick Dufour’s In Praise of American Educators, he discusses how the first real step of creating a Professional Learning Community is not the technical setup but instead creating the mission, vision, values, and goals. He also discusses that when these drive how decisions, policies, and procedures are made, it will fundamentally change how the school works. If we only focus on the technical aspects, we will fail because we are not changing our thinking.
So my Dear Readers, please check the soil around your plant before you plant. Really, it is all about the soil that determines success.
At the end of work today, I headed to the gym (my now happy place). As I was walking in, I caught a glance of my legs, and I was amazed. I will tell that so often I don’t notice the results of the time at the gym. Honestly, if you ask me, I would talk about the strength and endurance I gained over the past year and a half when I left my couch potato ways. I am too close to the action and wouldn’t even think to talk how my body has changed. Amazingly, it has changed little by little on this fitness journey.
I bring this up not to brag, instead, I want to apply this idea to the classroom. As we are wrapping up the year. It is time to take a hard look at where our students are and where they were at the beginning of the year. So often we look at the small progress students make day to day that we fail to see it all adding up to a bigger change. Our students are profoundly changed because of us. Hopefully, we helped the student take the small steps to growing up to be an amazing adult.
So as you wrap up this year, take a moment to notice the incredible growth that occurred in your classroom. Don’t forget to share this view with your students. They may not even realize what they accomplished this year. We all need to take the long view.