Friday, January 31, 2014

Embracing Evaluations

As I have been working with teachers on the process of evaluations, I have found that the dialogue we are having continues to serve multiple purposes.  Throughout all of my conversations, there is an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback to the great things that are happening within each classroom.  Every teacher has something that needs showcased.  And, as the human spirit would agree, all of us enjoy the validation and reinforcement of the time and energy we put into our planning and delivery of our teaching. 

Likewise, through a climate of trust and support, we can discuss and process areas that a teacher may want to improve, grow and be an area of refinement.  The teachers that take away the most from these conversations are the ones that are open to criticism and open to suggestions for improvement.  Just like we appreciate being told we are doing our jobs well, we also need to be equally receptive to being told we can still be better.

In my own reflection of my conversations with teachers during the first round of observations I have learned the following:

  1. Listen - During both the pre and post observation conversations, ensure that teachers take the time to talk through what might work, what did work and what didn't work.  As educators we spend so much time talking that sometimes we forget to listen.   
  2. Validate - Praise the good and don't dodge the bad.  Remind our teachers that failing is a part of the process.  We are all expected to fail.  Don't just brush it off, discuss, then move on.
  3. Brainstorm - Work collectively to fix those failures.  How can it be taught differently?  What resources would improve the experience?  Discuss through the eyes of the students.  They are ones that will benefit the most!
  4. Plan - Have a direction, a plan, of how future lessons will incorporate your findings. Determine who will carry it out (the plan) and how it will be monitored? (Observations, peers, student assessments.)  
  5. Deliver - Make it happen!  The truth is that the only way to grow is through trial and error. Get into the classroom and incorporate the conversation.  
  6. Reflect - Sit back and take it in.  At the end of the day make sure to follow-up and talk it through. Whether it is a 5 minute conversation or a 30 minute formal post observation, talk it through and give credit where credit is due.  Remember, it is a collaborative process.

As you work through your evaluations with your teachers take the time to embrace the conversations you have with each of them.  If you are part of a team of administrators within a building, make sure to discuss your process and findings together.  The reality is that over time you are going to overlap in your evaluation of teachers and having a similar framework will ease teachers each time the process comes back around.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fueling Education

My dad often told me - everything is in a name. He made decisions in life based around the name, and the product that was behind it. When heading to the store I often knew before picking anything up off the shelves that he would look for the name first, price second. A name means everything.

As I have been reflecting on my work it hit me. My name. It identifies me. It says who I am. It speaks to what I believe in.  My family owns it.  My children say it with pride. Our names are more than just a letters combined, it is our journey in life from beginning to end. We place it on the birth announcement and it is etched on our grave site.

As I continue down this path in education I am fueled by my passion for teaching, learning and reaching new goals. Not only will I focus on my name and how it inspires me but I will also gain new focus on the names that I am surrounded by. Remember, it's all in the name!

What's in your name?

A Learner Myself

I must admit, it was painful at times.

However, I dug deep, fought through adversity and accomplished what was once thought to be an unthinkable task.

So here you have it, a new webpage.  For those who are tech-savvy, I am envious.  For those who are more on par with me, a novice, those who have to teach yourself as you go, I will enjoy this moment and please enjoy it with me.

"Thank you" to my internet friends, my PLN, and to those of you are my inspiration to get better!  I scoured your pages, read your tweets and watched the countless videos just to make some simple additions to my page.  You do great work!

We tell our students that in order to succeed we must fail.  We use countless examples over the course of time.  I have shown my vulnerability as an example to my teachers and my students.  I am no Jordan or Disney but I have succeeded out of failure.

As you navigate through this site, I will admit that there is much more work to be done. Pages to clean up, links to add and most certainly some quality writing to share.  It is my work in progress.

Offer feedback, share your thoughts and I will pledge to learn each day!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Author - Finding my Direction

In my wildest of dreams I never thought of myself as a writer or an author.  I'm not there yet, not even close, but I often wonder what it would take to earn that title - Author.  (The published version, of course.)  Let me be perfectly clear, I envy those that have written the books based on hours of research and experiences. I sit on the edge of my chair listening to those that spread the word of their work of which I have read.  I admire the passion from which professionals share their thoughts through video chats, conferences and conversations.  And with that, on more than one occasion,  I have pictured myself being one of "those people".

Therefore, published or not, I will post my experiences in the the intention of being better today than I was yesterday.  That is a goal we can all achieve. Then, maybe someday, I will become just good enough that my work will get me that distinguished honor.

My takeaways, my givens, my direction.  A list in progress.

There are always areas to improve.
Focus on your strengths.  
Accept you have weaknesses.
Decide who want to be as a leader.
Keep in mind you are always a teacher.
Learning is life-long.  
Every moment is a teachable moment.
Collaboration is a necessity.
Inspire. Embrace. Empower.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Device Rollout 101: Learning from others!

This past week I had an opportunity to sit down with a group of individuals passionate about our schools and engage in a meaningful conversation.  The topic: Instructional Technology and Devices for Student Learning.  At the lead of the conversation was our Central Office Administration, led by the Superintendent, and his delegation of committee work to his Assistants and his Directors.  A key voice was from our Director of Technology.  The audience was comprised of: students (4-12), parents from various demographics, teachers, administrators and other community members.

To understand the scope of the conversation, keep in mind that teachers and administrators have been on sight visits across the Midwest to discover what works and what does not work.  Students have been a part of Advisory Groups led by one of the Assistant Superintendents and parents and community members had been brought together for multiple conversations by another Assistant Superintendent.  In essence, our bases have been covered.

This past evening was the culmination of all of that work.  Names and faces and perspectives came together in the hopes of offering and providing a direction for the district to take when it comes to the framework for Instructional Technology and the use of devices.

My take away is what I had predicted, what I had hoped.
  • Parents want our students to have the greatest advantages possible to prepare them for their child’s future, regardless of cost.
  • Students are craving and expecting more technology into their school day and a part of their learning process.
  • When it comes to the technology itself, it is not a matter of what students will end up using (BYOD, 1:1 or Hybrid), it is a matter of when.  Yesterday was too late.
  • Teachers will be expected to embrace and understand that they too are learners and that even though some may be behind the curve, the district, and even the students, will help in their grow and their understanding and implementation of technology. 
  • Our community supports our work.  Our community knows that our schools are the reason behind our enrollment and that we deliver a quality educational experience.

As a leader who embraces, encourages and expects its teachers to incorporate technology into both the instruction of their students and the communication to its community, I am appreciative of the conversation and its findings.  It is reassuring to know that our community too values the need to get the resources into the hands of our learners to prepare them for tomorrow.

The district in which I work continues to be on the forefront of implementation of best practice.  I am excited for our kids, my kids and our community.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Technology - All in!

All in!  Many times this is an expression used with playing cards.  However in this case, let's talk about embedding technology into our students academic experience.

For the past year I have continued to push my staff to try innovative strategies with technology to teach the content that they deliver.  My message was simple: "Embed technology into your teaching, into your instruction, with passion and purpose."  With that charge I have been purposeful in supporting them along the way.  We have had professional development sessions from our district support team and from within our building. Teachers have been provided, at no cost to them, devices (iPads) to use at their discretion and the gadgets that go with them.  With those devices came unlimited PD for implementation.  We have invested our staff meeting time after school to sessions of sharing best practices with technology be our own teachers. We became teachers to each other.

The process that we have gone through has been purposeful.  We, the staff, had the tough conversations about our building being BYOD friendly and actually encouraging our students to have and use their devices throughout the school day.  The staff did their reading and the research and found exemplars of expectations, rules, messaging and family buy-in.  The administration provided the evidence of schools, and districts, that have been successful with their intentional roll-out of being technology driven.  And of course, we began our discussion with talking about the barriers and worked through them in engaging conversation as to remove that false front that would have stopped so many before even trying.

With all of this I have had some amazing successes!  Many teachers are exploring all of the creative ways to speak the "language" of our youth.  They encourage devices for exploration of their content. Teachers use the Google platform to assign and collect written work, make revisions and give assessments.  They invest time with online videos and text.  Remind 101, Evernote and Twitter are common place in various classrooms across the building.  And, what is impressive is that overwhelming they want more.  For this group of teachers, I am in awe of their dedication to the charge that was given.

So where I am now is simple.  This far into the process it is time to say, "All in".  With the methodical steps we have taken and the supports that we have built in, it is time to expect teachers, all teachers, to fulfill the expectation, the charge.  We will always have obstacles in our day.  We can always make excuses.  However, without hesitation or reservation, we are at a place where it is time to drink the water, sip the Kool-aid and most certainly push your chips to the center and say, "All in".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Effect Size - The work of John Hattie

Effect Size.  The impact on learning.
John Hattie is well known for his research on effect size.  Our district (Hilliard City Schools) has spent considerable time on one of his most read books, ‘Visible Learning‘.  Key messages about leadership in schools, and the questions we should be asking about improving schools are found throughout.  We have spent administrative meeting time dissecting the work and implementing his findings in our schools with our teachers. It's impact has been felt.
As we continue to find creative ways to reach our students and work with our teachers, I was drawn to an article that I came across.
Below are the key points from a speech given by John Hattie to school leaders in Auckland, New Zealand in 2002.  Even though it is a dozen years removed, its relevance is current and its message is still timely.  The whole speech can be found here, but this summary from the document neatly condenses the key messages and pertinent questions:

 ‘Six things School Leaders Should Know About Educational Research’
1. The major difference Principals need to consider is Quality Teaching. 
What success have you had on creating such a climate, and can you provide evidence of creating and valuing discussions among your teachers about their teaching?
2. We need to engage students.

How are you creating a safe psychological climate for engagement, for listening, and for developing a can-do climate for teachers and for students?
3. We need to create climates where quality teaching is the subject of conversation at all times.

Do you have high self-efficacy for managing change towards ensuring that quality teaching is the norm of discussion – How often is teaching the discussion topic in your school?
4. The school mission should be focused, exclude lots, and provide opportunities to learn challenging material.

What do you exclude so as to focus on the important and challenging?
5. You need to be an Instructional Leader – Instruct the staff, monitor their and the students progress.

What evaluation models are you constantly promoting to ask the question about whether your school is working to worthwhile goals?
6. Create positive home-school relationships.

How successful are you at making parents part of the answer not the problem of educational outcomes of your students and teachers?
           (Condensed by Alex Quigley)

Hattie poses crucial questions for school leaders here.  And, as the leaders of our institutions, we could pose these questions to ourselves and to our PLN's. Even further we should open ourselves to our staff's and encourage them to ask these questions of us and of each other.  If you find yourself having deep and meaningful conversations about this then the progress that can be made to impact effect size could be astronomical.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Nothing Fancy!

Writing is therapeutic.  Being around smart people is rewarding.  Twitter is invaluable.  I still have TONS to learn.  Period.

I started writing back in November.  A challenge to myself based on the modeling of our leader, our superintendent.  That addresses two of the points made above.  The writing has taken on a life of its own and the intellectual depth of the "Super" is impressive.  (Don't confuse this statement with trying to earn "points" rather consider it, "giving credit where credit is due".)  Call it my inspiration.

As for my writing, it's nothing fancy, especially compared to the writers like Seth Godin , George Couros or Justin Tarte but none-the-less it is a start.  And, with the writing I have been doing, I feel like I have received some form of writers therapy and my brain feels "bigger".  Simple stated, I have truly enjoyed the process.  Going to keep it going.  Going to feed the brain.  

Twitter is endless.  Speaking of credit, have to give credit to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  Great conference a while back in which she taught me about the "River".  Invaluable moments!

As for Twitter and followers, and the fact that I remind my own children with their Instagram accounts, having the most followers is not a contest.  Or is it?  I do find myself telling my communications/PR spouse (@mvroom) the latest and greatest of my list.  She, of course, is always one step ahead.  I find myself just trying to keep up and I am just fine with that.  Yes, she is another coach.  Kudos to her!  

I have made connections that previously where never considered. Reading blogs from fellow colleagues Jackie Prati and Herb Higginbotham has been affirming and empowering. Thanks for the ideas.

Now it's time to learn even more and expand my depth of the circles of Social Media. Google + is my next mission.  As is cleaning up my blog page.  There is more work to be done and I am OK with that.  I have had some great examples, great coaches and lots of "smarts" around me.  Back to work. 

Remember, nothing fancy!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Leaving a Legacy

With a New Year comes the opportunity for new goals and new breath in the work that we do.  Many of us, if not all of us, have taken the time to write down some of those next steps in the work that we hope to accomplish in the next calendar year.

As we teach our students, setting long-term goals and expectations for the future is equally significant.  Goal setting is inevitable for all of us in the work we do.  It is the measuring stick to our success.  We can gage our failures based on whether we have achieved our intended outcome.  As I forge ahead in this ever changing landscape of education, I will have set both short-term and long-term goals with the intent of showing progress in all aspects of my work.  It is the ability to look ahead that will allow us to be more reflective of our past.  This year I look forward to embracing the OneWord challenge!

With that, I ask myself:  How do I want to be remembered 5 years from now by those I have worked with, for and around?  Below are just a few of the “One Words” that I hope others will see as they critique my work in 2018:

Purposeful.  The one word that I aspire to be in my daily work and the decisions, direction and advice that is given.  Knowing exactly why we do what we do and staying convicted to the PURPOSE of our work.

Passionate.  Watching students learning, listening to teachers share the craft of their work and monitoring the pulse of the school community is a part of the PASSION of the operations of our schools.  Having passion for all of the pieces and parts of the day is significant to the success of the work.

Compassionate.  Children today do learn differently.  Homes do not look as they did 20 years ago and educators are faced with more obstacles and hurdles then ever before.  Having the heart to work with those broken.  Having the ear to listen to those that need to be heard and showing patience, and therefore COMPASSION, to spirits that are broken builds a culture and a climate of excellence.  It is my compassion that will guide me in my assisting of others.

Balanced.  We cannot do this job alone nor can we be any good at it if we do not take care of those that take care of us and that we need to take care of ourselves.  Finding the time, the energy and the BALANCE of our work, our faith, our family and our friends is significant to the success of our days, weeks, months and years.  From there, find balance at work with delegating, defining and delivering the work that needs to be accomplished.

The reality is that lists such as these can continue down the page.  I, like each of you, could add another 10, 15 or 20 words that could take the place of our “One Word”.  My goal, however, short-term and long-term, is to narrow my focus and ensure that my legacy is remembered as one that made a difference in the lives of children, their families and the community in which I believe in.  I will embrace this challenge and grow throughout the days and months to come.   

I will work to inspire greatness.  I will embrace innovation and ingenuity.  I will foster collaboration and I will reward creativity.  We, as a school community, we celebrate our dedication to our learning and enrich ourselves through the knowledge of others.  We will work towards greatness.

What will your legacy be?