Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ideas to Support and Celebrate New Teachers


It's that time of the year when school is starting and a new crop of teachers are joining the teaching ranks.  

Richard Ingersoll is a professor of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and he does a lot of research in the area of teacher recruitment, retention, and the teaching force. 

In the National Teacher Principal Survey of 2015-16, he tells us that there are more beginning teachers than before and that teaching has a higher attrition rate than police officers. 


How to support new teachers

Knowing these statistics, we've got to be intentional in our schools about providing support to our new teachers. 

How can school leaders support new teachers and impact retention? The four items below are from an Edweek article titled, "What do Beginning Teachers Really Need?"

1. Being accessible. Can I walk to his/her office door and have a quick word?
2. Being instructional. Is he/she sharing strategies that help me be a better teacher in my classroom?
3. Being protective. Does he or she “have my back” if a parent is angry or a student is disrupting class?
4. Being communicative. Am I always aware of what’s going on, or do I hear things first from students or from the community?

I worked with a team of experienced teachers to create a new teacher orientation experience that would allow our new teachers to get to know each other, get to know me, and walk away with practical knowledge that they would need to have a smooth start to the school year. 

new teacher ice breaker
We modeled "Get to know you" activities with our new teachers that could be easily implemented during the first few days of school.

new teacher activities
Teachers worked in groups to solve clues for the building scavenger hunt. 

new teacher activities
An experienced teacher guided them through the building, and they picked up office supplies at every other stop.

new teacher activities
We invited "newish" teachers (3 years or less experience at our school) to talk about how to survive floating, tips for success, and what they wish they had known before taking the job.


As another layer of support in our new teacher program, each new teacher is assigned a mentor. It is generally someone in their PLC or department, and it's a person who is organized, caring, supportive, and passionate about teaching. 




During the year, I hold small group meetings during teacher off periods where we discuss parent communication, culturally responsive classrooms, personal wellness, classroom management, and more. 



new teacher activities

One of my favorite events this year was our "New Teacher Signing Day."


new teacher signing day

new teacher signing day

The news covered the event, just like they do when our athletes sign college scholarships.

new teacher signing day

new teacher signing day

new teacher signing day

It was a huge hit with our entire staff, especially our "signees." It's a tradition that we'll continue every year!


Share your ideas for supporting and celebrating new teachers. You can leave me a comment below or reach out to me on twitter




Resources:
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2018/10/today_teaching_force_richard_ingersoll.html

http://weac.org/articles/new-teacher-handbook/phases/






Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Non-negotiables for schools - is JOY one of them?


If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I strongly believe in the power of relationships and that every student needs at least one "go-to" adult in their school

So recently while at a state leadership conference, I attended a session led by Carla Tantillo Philbert (@_coolclassroom) called "Strengthening Staff and Student Relationships via Social-Emotional Learning and Mindfulness."  I'm always looking for new ideas on how to increase my and other's abilities to connect with students. 

In the session, she talked about the non-negotiables at her school. She called them the no matter whats

At her school, it was a non-negotiable that adults wouldn't use eye rolls and that adults wouldn't say, "Shut up." While I think we can all agree that these are great reminders and that they shouldn't be used in a school, it got me to thinking about unwritten rules that we have for school staffs. At her school, it was known, it was discussed, and it was stated out loud. 

We were all raised differently, with different family, educational, and social experiences, so what may be acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. Additionally, if empathy is the building block of good relationships, we must seek to understand our differences and create no matter whats for our schools that are inclusive for ALL of our students.  

In a previous post, I shared advice from expert Cynthia Tobias about non-negotiables. While she gives advice on how to deal with a strong-willed child, I believe her advice stands true when working with most students. 

Here are some areas where schools can discuss and decide on their non-negotiables:

  • Communication with students
  • Communication with parents
  • Administrative support
  • Assessment
  • Joy
  • Classroom Climate
  • Teacher Collaboration 
  • Instructional Technology
  • Lesson Design
  • Professional Learning
  • Instruction
  • Equity
  • (What else would you add to this list?)

It's important that we explicitly define what our non-negotiables are in our schools. 

I hope you will share in the comments your examples of non-negotiables you have for yourself and ones that your schools have established. Our work matters, and we're better together!









Thursday, May 16, 2019

Teachers use Flipgrid to leave words of encouragement for students



Have you caught the "Flipgrid Fever" yet? 

As the school year winds down, you may find Flipgrid to be the perfect option to capture reflections, stories, advice for future students. 


Flipgrid fever started last fall at our school at a day of teacher-led PD, where teachers could choose their sessions - from Instagram to Edpuzzle to Canvas to Kahoot to Flipgrid

Flipgrid was a huge HIT with teachers across our building in different disciplines. 


There are some teachers at our school who were a part of our Technology Professional Learning Series this year, and they have been using it for book talks, class reviews, class messages, and more!

As April was drawing to a close and the last month of school approaching, thoughts of finishing the year strong were on my mind. For a schoolwide professional development day last month, my part was the opening of the day. I knew I wanted my time with the staff to be interactive and meaningful. 

My friend Debbie Campbell shared several motivational quotes and videos with me as I was trying to decide what to include in my presentation to the staff.




I shared the quote above with the teachers and reminded them of the power of our words. 



The video is powerful, and it's a great reminder of the influence we have as teachers to positively impact a child's life. 

After watching the video, teachers were asked to leave a a few words of encouragement for our students as exams were aproaching and stress levels increase during exam time in a high school. 




While some of our teachers had used Flipgrid before, it was still a new tool to many of our teachers. 



Teachers were given space in the cafeteria to move to a quieter place to do their recordings. 



Just like students when they first use Flipgrid, some teachers were a natural in front of the camera while some found it difficult to be pleased with their recordings.




The Flipgrid code was shared with students so that when they need a word of encouragement, they can find them from our Hoover High teachers. 


(Scroll down below to see some of our videos!)




I would love to hear your ideas for finishing the year strong and/or how you use Flipgrid at your school! Please leave a comment below.








Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Leadership Lessons from Brene Brown


I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown. She is a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage. As a school leader for almost 20 years and a person who is always trying to get and be better than before... I find that her lessons are extremely valuable and on point. I hope you enjoy this post and feel free to share your comments below about lessons you have learned from Brene Brown. 

On a personal note:
Only God and the enemy (as my friend Sarah Johnson says) know the struggles I've gone through with shame and how it has impacted my life. So when Brene speaks or writes, I take heed to the message she delivers. The bag of rocks that I have been able to reduce, pebble by pebble, has been possible by the teachings and impact of people like Brene. Shame is a heavy burden. Through reflection, actions, introspection, and responding to feedback, shame can be lifted or reduced to a manageable amount. I encourage anyone who is dealing with shame to seek out help. Reading the works of Brene is an excellent start to a long but rewarding journey. 

Brene's most recent book, Dare to Lead, is full of lessons for leaders. One important note I want to state is this: "Leadership is not a title." Leaders are leaders through their beliefs and actions. This book is for most everyone, and the lessons are applicable to most, regardless of possession of a "leadership title." 

Brene Brown defines a leader as "anyone who takes responsibility for finding potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential."


Courage is contagious.

Brene's research supports the idea that vulnerability is "the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure." Sometimes, people tend to see vulnerability and courage at opposite ends of a spectrum, but Brene defends that one cannot happen without the other. The other interesting component about vulnerability is that trust and vulnerability walk hand in hand. The best leaders understand that they don't have to wear a protective armor or be perfect to be considered effective or courageous, and they definitely know that perfection is not a building block of trust. Leaders provide psychological safety for their teams to be vulnerable with and in front of each other. Leadership creates a safe space that is an integral part of the work that teams must engage in. 


Clear is kind.

Leaders have to have courageous conversations with others. They have to share feedback with others, and leaders determine the tone, words, and emotions that will be used while giving feedback. Brene reminds us that when we give unclear feedback to try to "protect others' feelings", we're really just trying to make ourselves feel more comfortable. 


I've experienced first-hand how a principal I have worked for has effectively "circled back" to a contentious issue at hand. Brene shares this lesson: "In my research and in my life, I've found absolutely no benefit to pushing through a hard conversation unless there's an urgent, time-sensitive issue at hand." As leaders, we have to remember that clear feedback is HARD to hear sometimes. As leaders, we can't own the other person's emotions. They are going to be mad, hurt, surprised, and more. 

"We can't both serve people and try to control their feelings."  
- Brene Brown, Dare to Lead


Who we are is how we lead.

While it can be very hard to do, it's important for leaders to connect with our own emotions as well as the emotions of those we lead. Brene describes Armored Leadership vs Daring Leadership, which consists of dichotomies such as "Being a knower and being right vs. Being a learner and getting it right" and "Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth vs Modeling rest, play, and recovery."  

While fear will always be present when we rumble with vulnerability, our response to fear will determine our success as a leader. 


Dare to Lead is full of practical ideas that are backed by research, and Brene's writing style is concise, real, and relatable. I encourage everyone to put this book on their reading list! 














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