Wednesday, August 16, 2017

5 ideas for supporting new teachers




I am sure you have always heard, throughout practicums and internships, “You have to go into the classroom the first day as a new teacher. Be stern, straight faced, and heaven forbid DO NOT smile until Christmas.” I have to say that’s probably the worst advice anyone could give a new teacher. 

I would much rather have comfort in knowing some tricks of the trade, what to expect, what I need to do, and who can help when facing the world of teaching. I hope this blog can provide some insight into some of the successful tips I have had coaching new teachers. 

Eric Jensen, an educator with a rich classroom climate mindset, says, “I focus on what students need to succeed and build it into the learning and social environment every day.” 

How does one develop rich teaching? Here are some of my suggestions for supporting new teachers.

1. School Culture Orientation: It is important to integrate new teachers into the school culture prior to day one. If at all possible, teacher leaders and administrators should meet during the summer with new teachers to discuss school culture. This allows for all teachers to create and develop working relationships prior to meeting students on day one. Orienting them with “how things work”, “what things are like”, and “what are our culture/climate goals” creates immediate comfort because novice and rookie teachers are having the same conversations on an even playing field, so to speak. Having this day leaves a new teacher comfortable and confident to begin the year. Often during a professional development culture day, all “non-negotiables” are established. It can also be beneficial to have the student leadership team participate in this day giving the new teachers and students time to begin developing relationships. Never forget that when establishing expectations for teachers it is also our duty to help meet them.

2. Relationships: I have heard the quote, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is also very true for new teachers. As an administrator, building relationships with new teachers is so important. I asked several of my new teachers what they appreciated most when they began their work with me. Each one of them stated their appreciation for an open door policy and caring about them not just as a teacher but also as an individual. Every teacher is unique, just as every student is unique, so fostering individual relationships is key in feeling supported and valued.

"Every teacher is unique, just as every student is unique, so fostering individual relationships is key in feeling supported and valued."

3. Differentiated Professional Development: Every teacher in the school is at a different level professionally. It is important to meet the teacher where they are and support their professional growth. Having continuous conversations about teaching and learning with open dialogue about teacher strengths and weaknesses will help develop this culture.  I am a firm believer that teachers should lead other teachers from within. When there is a teacher in the building that has amazing classroom management strategies, have others that need work in this area go observe that model. Maybe there is a formative assessment expert down the hall. Administrators should never feel above going to “hold down the fort”  in a classroom so teachers can learn from one another. My principal and I call this “rust prevention”. Watching a class allows us an opportunity to teach from time to time which is really our first love anyway.

4. Celebrate Failed Lessons: Earlier, I mentioned conversations about strengths and weakness of teachers. Through thoughtful conversations and reflections, teachers are typically eager to learn; it’s just what we do. I have never had to tell a teacher that their lesson was a flop. Teachers will tell it  before you say anything. The key for new teachers is to cultivate the relationship that failed lessons are positive for teaching and learning as long as something beneficial is learned from the failure because then it turns the failure into a win. I love the phrase “reflect to redirect”. When we have reflected, and through the conversations instruction is redirected and improved, it is a total win for the administrator, teacher, and student.

5. Be Present: I made a goal several years ago to visit every classroom everyday. I have found being present desensitizes teachers, old and new, from thinking that you are only there to evaluate. Evaluation is part of the process, but being present to support one another speaks volumes.  It develops a mindset of collaboration. There is no me, or you; it is us. New teachers should see you in their classrooms for support instead of as a dictator and evaluator. I want new teachers to see me in their classroom so I can support them and  be there for questions no matter how big or small. After all, knowing what is happening in the school is most important. Being present creates the idea of support for your teachers by just being visible.  




Everyone is welcome to join us Monday nights 9-10pmCST for #ALedchat. We value the insights, perspectives, and experiences of those in our PLN.

Caring for new teachers #ALedchat


**Here’s a time converter to assist all of you around the globe in converting 9pm CST to your local time. 

TIP: If you have never done a twitter chat before, you may find it helpful to go to tweetchat.com and enter the hashtag #ALedchat. Sign in with your twitter account. The website will "filter out" all of the other tweets except for the ones with the hashtag #ALedchat. The website will automatically add #ALedchat to your tweets, and you will see a scrolling list of tweets from the chat on the page. (P.S. The hashtags are NOT case-sensitive.)

I'm one of the founders and hosts of this chat. If you have any questions, feel free to email me

Everyone is welcome. I hope you will all join us Monday night for #ALedchat.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Please come observe me


As I start my 24th year as an educator (12th year as an administrator), it is extremely exciting when I come across an idea that is truly inspiring as well as being one that I believe will help me be a better leader. 

The members of our Compelled Tribe inspire me in different ways. Their blog posts reveal their vulnerability, passions, stories, and their experiences. I learn from each of them!

A while ago, I read a blog post by Arkansas principal Lindsey Bohler that got me fired up about the new school year! 

You see, I'm a big believer in relationships and teams. I also value feedback that promotes growth. These two reasons are why I love the #ObserveMe movement started by Robert Kaplinsky

Well, Lindsey wrote a blog post describing how she, the principal, was going to participate in #ObserveMe in her school!

Wow! I knew that I wanted to do the same this year at my school. 

Lindsey shared in her post how she decided on her goals, and she also shared a copy of her graphic that she will post outside her office. 

I totally copied her. :-)

I sat down with my favorite pen and a piece of paper and listed all the things I wanted to work on during the new school year. It was a long list, and paring it down to three focus areas was tough! It was a reminder of the exercises I had to do in graduate school, but this time I had a lot of leadership experience under my belt and it was awesome to go through the exercise. 

While I write my three words each year, I haven't written out my school goals in a while. (There's just too many! Ha!) Doing this was extremely satisfying and rewarding. I am very excited to start the new school year. 

My plan is to post my sign on my door to my office. I also will share my goals with the staff and ask them to give me constructive feedback. I've also asked the rest of our administrative team to give me feedback and join me in this adventure. 

I often say that "people learn more from what we do than what we say." I'm going to walk the walk and ask for feedback on my goals. I want to build on strengths and work on my weaknesses. I can only do this when I get rid of my blindspots.. and I'm hoping that participating in #ObserveMe will help me with this. I thought it was important to model vulnerability and transparency in another way, and I also thought this may be a creative way to assist me on my leadership journey. 

Did I mention that it's scary? Did I also mention that I hope that the feedback I get is helpful and not hurtful? 

Don't teachers ask these same questions? 





If you are a school leader and are doing this already or are going to join the #ObserveMe movement because of this post, I want to hear from you! Share in the comments or on twitter


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Key takeaways from the book, The Innovator's Mindset


This school year, some of our teachers have volunteered to be a part of a new group called the Innovative Teaching and Learning PLC. As part of our summer learning - as well as creating a shared experience - I led a book study with the group via Voxer on George Couros' book, The Innovator's Mindset. I had heard a lot of positive feedback about the book and seen some really great quotes from the book on twitter, and it seemed appropriate for what we are trying to accomplish in our PLC. 
As a side note, I will share with you that our school has a long history of being known for risk-taking. We have a culture and climate that gives permission to try new things. We encourage innovation, new ideas, and failures. We don't see innovation as a buzzword or a fad that will fade out over time; instead we constantly try to keep getting better and better at what we do for students. The book seemed like a natural fit for us, and after reading it, I can honestly say that it was (and is) a terrific resource for us. 

As a connected educator, many of the ideas in the book are ones that I have heard of, seen or discussed, and/or read blog posts and articles about. It was very powerful to hear the comments in the Voxer book study from teachers who were reading some of the ideas for the first time. I want to share with you some of my favorite parts as well as those that were most impactful for the group.

George's book is divided into 4 parts

     Part I: Innovation in Education (Chapters 1-3)
     Part 2: Laying the Groundwork (Chapters 4-7)
     Part 3: Unleashing Talent (Chapters 8-12)
     Part 4: Concluding Thoughts (Chapters 13-14)


Here's how we scheduled our book study:
**A question was posted from each chapter on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
    
     June 12  Chapters 1-3
     June 19  Chapters 4-6
     June 26  Chapters 7-9
     July 3     OFF
     July 10   Chapters 10 - 12
     Aug 2     (F2F)  Chapters 13 & 14
The face-to-face meeting was valuable, because it gave teachers the opportunity to sit with their small group (who have the same PLC period during the day) and have discussions with the people they will be working with all year in their PLC. It was a wrap-up-the-book-study-and-kick-off-the-new-year collaborative hour!


In no particular order, here are my favorite takeaways from the book...


The three most important words in education are: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. Without them, we have nothing.
(page 68)

It is important that "innovation" does not become an event for our students but the norm.
(page 112)

Our world today is participatory; sharing should not be the exception in education but the rule. I want to note, too, that the use of technology does not lessen the value or impact of face-to-face connections. In fact, if we use technology to share on a consistent bases, face-to-face connections will likely improve.
(page 177)

Focusing on individuals' strengths that contribute to the vision of the school helps to move us from pockets of innovation to a culture where innovation flourishes.
(page 135)

A great teacher adjusts to the learner, not the other way around.
(page 38)



On page 212 in the book, George shares a story about a group of educators in Atlanta who would ask members of their learning community, "What did you learn today?" George's school adapted this and created a blog called 184 Days of Learning where learning community members could showcase their learning for every day that students were in the building in a school year. 

We talked as a group what it might look like if we were asking each other (all adults) as well as students, "What did you learn today?" We agreed that it would make us more aware of what we were learning throughout the day. We also thought it may shift students' focus on "getting the work done to get the grade" to more of a focus on what they learned while doing the work. Also, we thought it would shift the focus from teaching to learning.

I challenged our group of teachers in the ITL PLC that each time we see each other, we will ask the question of each other, "What did you learn today?" We hope that by our asking it of each other, it will spread throughout our school. I'll keep you posted on our progress!



This blog post was written as the summer reflection post for the Compelled Tribe. If you are a consistent blogger and are looking for a network, please contact me.






Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is time spent on social media worth the investment?


Sharing positive messages on social media about education is something I'm very passionate about. There are so many public perceptions about education that are negative and very wrong about what we do in our buildings, and if we keep quiet, there are limited positive messages out there to help shape or change perceptions. 

I recently sent out a tweet asking educators on twitter how they will continue - or start - to share their stories on social media during the new school year. 




I continue to be impressed and inspired by the educators on twitter who step onto the battlefield and fight the generally negative perception of education by sharing the awesome things that students and staff are doing across this country each year. 

In addition to sharing positive messages about education and potentially diluting the number of negative messages out there, another side effect to doing this. YOU will be happier. I promise. 

By focusing on the good in others, it brings a positive vibe to all that you do and share. You start to see and highlight the small things as well as the big things, and we know that an educator's school year is filled with many small, consistent, positive interactions that create an amazing experience for their students and colleagues. 

No matter what our challenges are, there will be something positive in each day that will bring joy. We have to look for it and celebrate it.  It DOES take time to create a twitter account. It DOES take time to tweet each day. It DOES take time to see the good in others. All of the time added up is minuscule when compared to the positive contribution you will make to your school's culture, other's lives, and your own life.

If you need ideas on how to tell your school's story, check out my digital workbook. It's full of practical tips and planning worksheets to help you make this school year one of the BEST. Let's challenge ourselves to answer the question, "What if every educator sent out 1 tweet per day of something positive in their school?"

"When you choose to see the good in others, you end up finding the good in yourself."





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