Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Never Give Up!

We had a great chat on Twitter last night about the importance of coaches in the lives of high school athletes. It was a little bit of an echo chamber, as we all were very passionate about athletics and the importance of coaches. My background is in athletics and coaching, and many of the lessons I learned have helped me in my professional and personal life.

One habit/lesson/quality that I learned was persistence. When I didn't think I was hitting well in softball, I was taught to stay after practice. When I wanted to make all my free throws in basketball, I learned to do more. When there was a goal that needed to be met, I was pushed, motivated, demanded, and encouraged to never give up. To keep working. To keep trying. To persist.

As an educator, that philosophy is one that I carry with me every day as I work with students. To never give up on kids. To keep working with them. To keep trying new things. To persist in making a difference.


We have been focusing on building positive relationships at our school, so the week that the teachers returned I hung posters in one of our conference rooms that had all the 10th - 12th grade students' names and pictures on them. 

I asked the teachers to go by the conference room and highlight the name of every student with whom they had a positive relationship. How did I define the positive relationship? If the student would say that they had a positive relationship!  

At the end of the week, I collected the posters and created a spreadsheet with all the names of the students whose names were not highlighted. When I emailed it to the faculty, I asked them to review the lists and put their name in the "Mentor" column beside a student's name if a) they had a positive relationship with the student already but missed the student's name the first time around, or b) they have the student in their class this year and were committing to intentionally building a positive connection with that student. 

I will "check in" with the mentors throughout the year to find out how the student is progressing and how their relationship is going. Every time I talk with the teachers, I'm sure I'll say, "Never give up!"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wrap-Up of the First Week of the School Year

We finished our first week of school last week, and of all the years that I've been in education, it was the best start of school that I think I've ever been a part of. I wanted to share a little bit with you on why it wonderful, as well as share what I saw and heard. 

The week before the students returned, the teachers came back to work and we (administrators) built on the momentum of our summer book studies of Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me? and Teach Like a Pirate. We emphasized building relationships with students. It was a part of our message whether we were discussing discipline and classroom management, the use of technology, or our advisory classes. 

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

When the students returned to school, they were in for a surprise. With our entire school going to 1:1 with iPads, there were no issuing textbooks on the first day of class and there was a lot of relationship building and technology training. 

Here's a little bit of what I experienced....

In this class, the students partnered with someone in the class and asked them questions to get to know them better. They then had to introduce their new friend to the rest of the class.

In the picture above, the students had to use a QR Code scanner app to open a Google form where the teacher collected information about them so that she could get to know them better.

In this computer science class, the teacher quickly assessed the students' understanding of binary language.

Armed with only a ruler, string, and a metric conversion table, the students in physical science had to scan a QR Code to find out what they had to measure then they had to figure out how to make the best measurement.

The Foods & Nutrition teacher showed students how to use Pic Collage to create a collage about themselves.

And to top it all off.....

The first freshmen recipient of a Praise Referral. 

I loved getting to call this student's mom and brag on him! 
(You can read my blog post about our Praise Referrals HERE.) 

At the end of the day on Friday, one of our teachers emailed the entire staff and this is what her email said:

I entered the bathroom a few minutes ago and there were 2 girls chatting.  
This is what I heard:  
“Oh my gosh!  I love all my classes!” 
“No girl, I love all my classes more!” 
“My favorite class is 3rd period.  I have the best teacher!” 

So congratulations to those of you who’s students think you are great!!

All in all... we had a super week! How was yours?

Monday, August 12, 2013

The 7 Habits of 21st Century Teachers

1. Facilitate. Teachers today aren’t dispensers of knowledge as in the past. 21st century teachers must help students find the answers. Teachers must question students, challenge them to dig deeper, and motivate them to persist. All of these actions facilitate learning.

2. Collaborate. Students need to learn how to collaborate with each other. In today’s connected world, students may work with other students across the globe as well as in their own hometown.  In the future, they may work with live or virtual teams, and they need to know how to do it successfully.

3. Design. Designers design objects for better function. 21st century teachers design lessons that keep students at the center of the design. Teachers brainstorm, create, and test their ideas and ask for feedback. 21st century teachers don’t ask, “How can I teach this?” Instead, they ask, “How will my students best learn this?”

4. Listen. Students want to be heard. Their voice is important. Find ways for students to have choice, give feedback, and share input. Students become an active part of the design process and classroom decision-making, thus increasing ownership in their learning.

5. Relate. Strong relationships are the key to successful teaching and learning. 21st century teachers get to know students on a personal level – their likes, dislikes, interests, etc. More than ever, students want to learn lessons that are relevant. Students also want to know that a teacher cares… more about them as a person than the teachers cares about the content he/she is teaching.

6. Share. With today’s technology, it’s extremely easy to share ideas and information. 21st century teachers seek out ways to get new ideas and share their own. Sharing with others creates vulnerability, and it raises the stakes of what happens in a classroom, even more so if the sharing takes place online. Teachers willing to learn from others are usually teachers who truly care about students and will do what is best for their students’ learning.

7. Innovate. Technology has increased the rate of change dramatically for how teaching and learning occurs today. 21st century teachers embrace this change and find ways to innovate through the use of technology. From flipped classrooms to twitter chats to Google hangouts… 21st century teachers are finding new ways to connect with others and transform the classroom.

What about you? Do you agree with this list? What would you have included that is not listed?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why I Lead... #SAVMP

Thank you, George Couros, for starting the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program. I love learning and connecting with other educators, and when I read about his starting this opportunity I knew I wanted to be a part of this movement! (You can follow the hashtag twitter, #SAVMP, to read more.) As a mentor, George tasked us with writing a blog post answering one of the questions, "Why I lead?" or "Why am I an educator?" 

When I think about leading, I can't help but draw from my athletic background - as an athlete and as a coach. 

As an athlete, I had coaches who 
  • believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, 
  • made me do things I didn't want to do because they knew in the long run it would make me a better athlete
  • pushed me to challenge my limits, physically, mentally and emotionally
  • inspired me to be the best ME at whatever I was doing
  • developed life-lasting relationships built on trust, empathy, love, and respect
As a coach and leader, I draw from those experiences. 

As a leader, I want to 
  • inspire others to believe in themselves through my belief in them
  • encourage others to try new things and step out of their comfort zones
  • support others in their professional journeys
  • develop life-lasting relationships built on trust, empathy, love, and respect

I also have to answer the question "Why am I an educator?" because it is not just something that I do, it's WHO I AM.

I'm passionate about teaching and learning, and I strongly believe in public education. I do everything I can to make sure students have the best opportunity to have an excellent teacher in their lives. By being a lead learner in the school, I can create greater positive change to benefit more students. 

I also love learning and challenging myself to grow. When George sent out the call for educators to join the program, I jumped on it. I knew that I had a lot to share through my experiences as an educator, and I also knew that I would learn a lot from the awesome list of educators who would be a part of #SAVMP. 

Thanks for reading!