Sunday, November 27, 2016

Will mentorship create better teachers?

Kids need the best teachers. To be the best, educators must be on a personal journey of reaching every student and helping students to maximize their potential. Teachers must also be able to see potential in students that the students may not be able to see themselves. To bring out the best in students, teachers must have confidence in their own abilities, too

How do we get better as teachers?

Simply put, mentors matter. 

John Maxwell states that mentors do three things for you:
  -Know the way
  -Show the way
  -Go the way

Pre-service teachers who are doing their student teaching in a school get to work with an experienced teacher who help the pre-service teachers prepare for their own classrooms. The student teachers get observed by their cooperating teachers as well as their university professors. But what typically happens when the student teacher gets his/her own classroom? Is there a feedback/growth loop? Is there a regular conversation that occurs between the new teacher and experienced teacher(s)? Who grows the cooperating teacher?

Mentors are important at every stage of a person’s career. Having the right mentor will give a person insights about his/her strengths and ignite courage. Be aware, though, that being vulnerable with a mentor is a personal challenge that must be overcome. This is especially difficult for teachers who are used to being the “expert in the room.” 

Dan Rockwell, a.k.a. @LeadershipFreak, gives 3 tips for mentorship: (read entire blog post here)
     1-You haven’t outgrown being mentored. Humble yourself. Arrogance blocks      growth.
     2-Transparency opens the door to mentoring. Share your dreams, fears, and      frustrations.
     3-Have many mentors. Learn from everyone.  
Monday night we will discuss mentoring on twitter at #ALedchat.  Here are some questions to get you thinking about mentorship. Actual questions will be posted during the chat. 
  • What role does the mentee play in establishing rapport with the mentor?
  • What qualities are important in a great mentor?
  • How important is reflective practice in a mentoring relationship?
  • What are the benefits of being a mentor?
  • Can mentoring and friendship be mixed?
  • Are virtual mentors as effective as face-to-face mentoring?
  • How do people grow as a result of mentoring?

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

**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 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.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is High Quality Professional Development?

The list of complaints about professional development is long…

  • Too much “sit and get”
  • What is being taught is not being modeled
  • “Drive-by” approach with no follow up
  • Emphasis on education fads
  • Too general; no direct impact on instruction
  • __________________ (*I bet you can fill in the blank)

In 2012, then U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked “What do you think we spend on professional development each year? $2.5 billion. But when I say that to teachers they usually laugh or cry. They are not feeling it. We have to do better with professional development money.”

Why do we continue to sit through, tolerate, and provide low quality professional development?

According to research, there are 5 characteristics of high quality professional development:

  • Aligns with school goals, state and district standards and assessments, and other professional-learning activities
  • Focuses on core content and modeling of teaching strategies for the content
  • Includes opportunities for active learning of new teaching strategies
  • Provides the chance for teachers to collaborate
  • Includes follow-up and continuous feedback

How can we be a part of the solution and not the problem? Discuss it with educators from across the country on Monday night, November 21.

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

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

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.

Related Posts: 
Make this one change to PD and see what happens
PD activities that get positive feedback from teachers
When it comes to PD at your school, is anyone being overlooked?
An easy and awesome tool to flip your PD

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Your "inlook" determines your outlook

We all have a little voice inside that tells us messages. The script we tell ourselves is made up of many messages we have received throughout our lives, whether told to us by someone else or messages that we created through experiences. It can be a hard habit to break, but once we recognize that it’s a habit and not necessarily a truth of what is happening in the moment, we have a better chance of breaking it.

Check your script throughout the day. Are you hearing positive messages or negative messages?

When we want to have a positive outlook, we must first have a positive “inlook.” 

Here are four positive messages that we should all be telling ourselves.

You deserve happiness
We are all unique and special, and we deserve happiness. Sure, we have setbacks that may cause us to be temporarily unhappy, but overall happiness will prevail when we believe that we deserve it. 

You matter
Every single human being is unique. It is a special gift, and together we are part of the beautiful, colorful tapestry of life. Our differences, similarities, relationships, and voices all contribute to making the world a beautiful place. 

You are enough
While we can all learn, grow, and improve, don’t mistake the journey of self-improvement as an indicator that a person is not enough. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not enough, and don’t believe the lies.  Each person is enough just by being a part of the human race.

You, not your past, will determine where you will go
No one is predetermined to a future position based on his/her past. Each of us can learn from our past in order to - along with hard work - propel us to where we want to go. 

What messages are you telling yourself on your journey? Is it time to change your script?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Twitter Tweasure Hunt - Guest Post by Barbara Kurtz

Thank you, Barbara Kurtz for your guest post below!

How do you demonstrate the worth of Twitter to new and occasional Twitter-using teachers and administrators? Take them on a Twitter Tweasure Hunt! 

Our school advocates an “open” PLC policy. Twenty-five minutes at the beginning of each day are set aside for professional development, and teachers are encouraged to pursue learning needs or interests, preferably in small communities of learners. With this in mind, I designed a Twitter PLC and offered it on Thursday mornings. Ten responded initially, though the number fluctuates as some join in occasionally, and others decide not to pursue it after a brief introduction.

My role in this Twitter PLC is composed of four “phases”:
     1. Explain why Twitter is the best form of professional development for educators and administrators;
     2. Model for teachers and administrators by connecting with them, and then pointing them to valuable resources that most suit their needs and personal preferences;
     3. Troubleshoot difficulties: some teachers have used Twitter personally and transition quickly to a professional platform; others have never used Twitter and it can be overwhelming. I need to help them learn the Twitter “language,” and then give them a safe and comfortable way to build a PLN and interact with them.
     4. Challenge teachers to make the most of their Twitter experience, thus the Twitter Tweasure Hunt.

It’s difficult to begin to use Twitter because it is enormous. I would liken it to a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle with no picture guide and no corner/edge pieces. How do you begin? The Tweasure Hunt breaks Twitter down into manageable bites. Participants can preview the categories and choose one or two to pursue for points when they open Twitter on their computer or phone.

Begin with the basics: it’s important to create your Twitter profile with care. You are a professional; your profile should show who you are and why you want to use Twitter. Participants can earn points for these:
  • Establish your professional Profile
  • add a profile photo
  • display your professional profile: who are you, where are you, what are your passions, hobbies, interests, why are you on Twitter, what do you want to accomplish?
  • add a header photo

Build your PLN (professional learning network): connecting with others on Twitter is a continuous process, but beginning can be difficult. How do you find people to follow? I suggested that they try to build using these guidelines:
  • Find and follow another member of the MASH faculty (not on your team)
  • Find and follow another member of the CCSD faculty (not at MASH)
  • View the people/groups that someone else at MASH follows, follow at least one
  • follow an educator (teacher, admin, specialist) in another school district within 50 miles of MASH
  • follow an educator (teacher, admin, specialist) in another state
  • follow an educator (teacher, admin, specialist) in another country
  • Follow someone not from MASH/CCSD and be followed back
*Note: “MASH” is our school, Meadville Area Senior High School; “CCSD” is our district, Crawford Central School District. We are in northwest Pennsylvania, about 1.5 hours north of Pittsburgh. #MASHPD is what we're using to communicate with each other on Twitter.

Communicate about educational topics: several participants expressed that they felt an immense pressure to choose their first tweet carefully. Many didn’t know how to begin. Prior to our third PLC meeting, I gathered multiple tweets by “quoting” the tweet with our own “#MASHPD” hashtag. Then, participants could search for the hashtag and find items to begin their Twitter journey. Here are some of our Tweasure Hunt categories, varying from “beginner” to “advanced”:
  • "Like" a tweet
  • Retweet a tweet
  • Tweet something you've learned recently
  • Tweet an activity that went well in your class(es)
  • Tweet a quote from a book (educational/relevant topic) you're reading (or have read). Cite the author. If the author is on Twitter, include his/her Twitter handle (@...)
  • Read a teacher's/administrator's blog, retweet (adding your own comment)
  • Find a valuable ed-tech resource, link or tip; tweet/retweet it to another member of the MASH faculty (not on your team) who you think would find it interesting or helpful
  • Ask a question (education topic) via Twitter; receive at least one response
  • Research a topic of educational interest/relevance and gather at least three sources
  • Download an infographic that you can use in your classroom.
  • Enter a contest or giveaway
  • Retweet an education-related quote that you find true/inspiring.
  • Respond to a question
  • Be "retweeted" (by someone not on your team)
  • Send an encouragement tweet to someone (not on your team)

I want Twitter to “invade” our high school, to give our professional staff a living connection to a passionate PLN, to help them learn, grow, mentor, encourage and be encouraged. I want all this to happen instantly.

But this isn’t an instant process. In order for them to find the value, I must provide a lot of patient support, offer help, make suggestions, answer questions, ensure a safe environment in which to try these skills, and model, model, model. They have to find the value of Twitter for themselves, but I can be there to encourage them along the way.

I accept the responsibility to model and help the newcomers.

But I am not alone. Two of our administrators, Mr. Mike Ditzenberger, assistant principal, (@MBDitzenberger) and Mrs. Stacey Walsh, technology instructional coach and dean of students (@StaceyWalsh70), are sharing links and resources, and encouraging the faculty. They are both great leaders. 

To them, leadership is not exercising control, but authorizing freedom.

Our technology instructional coach shares her view of leadership.

Several of the teachers in the Twitter PLC are reaching out to others and helping them on their Twitter journey. One even told me that curiosity is increasing as there is now “Twitter Talk” in the lunchroom. I'm hopeful that our school, and district, will gradually develop a large Twitter presence in which we interact with each other, and with the vast educator network outside our immediate area.

What does this mean for school leaders, administrators, and technology integrators? Twitter is a valuable resource for you and for your school. You need to lead the way by inspiring curiosity, sharing resources, encouraging your faculty through Twitter, and offering opportunities to learn and grow. Be patient. Persuade, don't insist. Lure, don't entrap. Model, don't dictate. Have fun and share what you are learning.

Let's present Twitter as a valuable option, and help newcomers to have fun uncovering the "Tweasures"!

Monday, November 14, 2016

I choose UNITY

I once posted about an incident that happened at school while I was the principal there. The post was about FOCUS, and choosing to focus on the positive in ourselves rather than the negative in others. 

When we continue to talk about division in our country (which is usually the case after an election), I believe our focus is misdirected. We need to focus on becoming a united country. I’ve heard many times that our differences is what makes us great. I truly believe it. 

Our focus should be on what we control. 

We control our attitude each day. We can decide that we are going to be positive for ourselves and others. 

We control our thoughts. We can assume the best in others or not, whether we agree with them or not. 

We control our actions. We choose the topics we discuss, the tone we use, and whether or not we see things from another person’s point of view. 

We choose whether or not we build bridges or dig chasms.

We choose what we share on our blogs, on social media, in our homes, in private company, in mixed company, and when we will be silent. 

We choose whether or not we can agree to disagree with others.

We choose if ALL means ALL.

I choose unity. I hope you will, too. 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Gratitude Conversation Starters {free printable}

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. We have a family tradition of my family and my sister's family eating dinner at my parents, watching football, looking through the sale papers, and sometimes we even go shopping on Black Friday. 

This month at school, our character word of the month is Gratitude. I thought it would be fun to create some Gratitude Conversation Starters for our teachers to use in advisories as part of our character activities. 

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I created some New Year's Conversation Starters that I shared last year. The New Year Conversation starters were used by some teachers as journal prompts in December and when students returned in January. A friend of mine who held a New Year's party created her own DIY place card holders and put the conversation starters in them on various tables around her home. They were a big hit with the party-goers and my friend. 

Gratitude Conversation Starters

The Gratitude Conversation Starters can be used with students at school on days leading up to Thanksgiving. 

The first two links below are Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Avery laminating sheets

Link to self-laminating sheets so that you can keep the Conversation Starters from tearing and/or use them with several classes or over several years: 
Avery Clear Laminating Sheets

Galvanized flower pot

Link to a cute galvanized flower pot that is perfect for holding the conversation starters: Galvanized Flower Pot

Pinterest logo

Link to a Pinterest board I created to inspire bulletin board ideas for character words:
Character Word of the Month Bulletin Boards

The conversation starters would also be perfect to have on the table at Thanksgiving. Simply print, cut the strips, fold and place in a jar or bowl, and take turns answering the question. 

Want the free printable? Click the picture below. 

I would love to hear how you use the Gratitude Conversation Starters

Feel free to share a picture on twitter and tag me (@Jennifer_Hogan)!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Make this one change to PD and see what happens

In a recent presentation by John Draper, I was reminded of the power of language. Language is a culture builder, pain inducer, confidence booster, safety provider, and more. How we frame problems makes a difference. How we describe actions provides insight. 

Dr. Draper shared a story about a potential employee for Disney. Potential employees don’t go for interviews, they go to auditions. If they are hired, they’re not called employees, they’re called cast members. If you visit Disney, you’re not a customer, you’re a Guest. Disney intentionally uses those terms because they mean something special for their organization.

We do this at our school. When we welcome new teachers to our staff, we welcome them to the Buc Family. We are making implications with our words. We are being intentional.  

Each month, our teachers attend teacher-led or admin-led “PD sessions” during their off periods. (What thoughts come to mind when you see the words "PD sessions"?) 

This year, we made a change in what we call those meetings. We now call it Collaboration Hour

For the first meeting, we changed the name, but I didn't give much direction to our teachers who were leading the meeting. There was a little collaboration that happened, but more was needed to maximize learning and create more of a "shared experience" for our teachers.  For the most recent one called Write to Learn, I talked with the two teachers who would be leading the session and told them that I really wanted them to design the meeting so that teachers were DOING - and not just listening about - the strategy they would be teaching.

The teachers did a fabulous job in creating a truly Collaborative Hour for our teachers, and the positive feedback has been overwhelming. Teachers have been sharing with me how they are using the Write to Learn strategies in their classrooms, how much they appreciated the session, and how much they enjoyed the meeting. 

What do you think about this idea? Is it one you will try?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

An easy and awesome tool to flip your PD

About a month ago, one of our teachers told me about a new website called EDpuzzle that she had started using with her students. She was so excited about it and talked about how easy it was to create interactive lessons for her students using either videos she had created or videos that were already on Youtube. 

I decided to give it a try for teachers who weren't able to attend our recent professional learning day. At the beginning of each nine weeks, we hold "Collaboration Hour" for staff members to attend teacher-led PD that introduces the literacy strategy for the nine weeks. Since it is part of our school-wide literacy plan, we require all teachers to attend. But what about teachers who were unable to attend that day? It's an issue faced by schools all over... how do we provide a simulation of the day so that it is as (or nearly as) meaningful as being present and collaborating with other teachers?

We've tried different ways to hold "make-up sessions" for teachers who miss required meetings, from meeting one-on-one with an administrator to recording the video and using a google doc for follow-up questions. 

The teacher-led session was so interactive that I knew we could never reproduce the face-to-face time with each other. I decided to give EDpuzzle a try since hearing the excitement from our teacher AND because she had praised the ease of using it. I needed easy during this busy time of the year! 

Knowing that I was going to need a video of the collaboration hour, I had two plans for recording the session. We used a Swivl to record it, and we also had our tech guys to record it. I really liked the recording done by our tech guys, so I took that video and uploaded it to Youtube. 

All I needed to do was paste the link to the Youtube video into EDpuzzle, and I was ready to create. 

EDpuzzle allows you to insert voiceovers, comments, and "quiz" questions. For the flipped PD, I simply watched the video and wherever the teacher asked the group questions, I would insert a quiz question. 

To "grade" the participants, I simply go each person's progress page and I can see how many times they watched each section, the percentage of video watched at that time, and I can also leave a comment about each answer.

I've had great feedback from participants who weren't able to attend the live session and had to do the EDpuzzle flipped PD. They have found it easy to use, and they like the feature that allows them to work at their own pace and not have to finish the session in on sitting.

Another feature I should mention even though I don't use it is the ease of integration with Google Classroom. If you're an administrator and you use a Google Classroom with your teachers, you could easily share this with everyone in the class with one click. 

If you can't see the video above on your device, click here to watch:

What other tools are used to FLIP the PD at your school? Does EDpuzzle sound like something you want to try? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Should we give second chances to students?

This past weekend I caught up on TV shows I had recorded on my DVR. I find that during the week there is very little time to watch TV, so early morning or in the lull of the weekend afternoons I catch up on some of my favorites. I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy since it first started, and I record it now so that I can watch it at my convenience. 

On last week’s episode, there was a scene where a former resident who was fired was returning to the hospital. There was a lot of talk about her return, saying that she didn’t fight hard enough to get into the ER, or study, or prepare. She also drilled through a patient's leg all the way to the table. So why was she back?

Dr. Webber believes in second chances. 

When Arizona (doctor on the show) asks Dr. Webber why he was re-hiring Leah, the former resident who had been fired, he tells Arizona that when Leah left she learned and had proven herself at another hospital. He asked Arizona, “Don’t you believe in second chances?” 

This scene stuck with me, and I replayed it in my head during one of my runs. Dr. Webber and Arizona could both agree that when Leah left, she went on to learn surgical techniques proficiently and had proven herself to be a good surgeon. Dr. Webber and Arizona had different beliefs about whether she should get a second chance at their hospital.

Photo source: Yahoo

What does this have to do with teaching and learning and schools?

What educators believe about students impacts the students' growth and opportunities within the classroom and school. 

How would you answer these scenarios?
What about the science student who didn’t learn how to balance equations the first time around, but a few weeks later is a whiz at it? Should he get the opportunity to re-take a test about balancing equations

How about the student that smarts off to the teacher in class? He serves his consequence of detention. Does the teacher then “write him off” and not try to build a strong relationship with the student after that? Or does he get a second chance?

I bet there are more scenarios that could be written about second chances.

Have you ever been given a second chance? 
Do you think students should get second chances?