Wednesday, May 31, 2017

5 strategies for success with strong-willed children

Have you seen the video below? In the video, Aaliyah (the daughter of Nailah Ellis-Brown, the CEO of Ellis Island Tea) has her mind made up! 


I love the video because Aaliyah reminds me of my own daughters. I have two strong-willed girls that, when their minds are made up, won't change their minds easily. (I think I know exactly where they get that!)

As you watched the video, what words came to mind about the toddler? The dad? The mom? How does this relate to us as educators?

The mom and dad had different strategies when faced with the strong-willed child. Dad told Aaliyah the correct information over and over. Still, she wouldn't give in to what he was telling her. 

The mom (Nailah) had a different tactic. Instead of trying to convince her daughter that she should accept what Dad was saying, Mom asked the daughter to count to four. 

This is a great tactic when trying to change our beliefs about something. Sometimes we have to experience cognitive dissonance in order to change what we believe. 

Have you ever worked with a student who had certain beliefs that were hard to change? How about a strong-willed student? I've known educators who have reacted on opposite ends of a spectrum when working with strong-willed students. I've known some to  get frustrated and quit on students, and I've known some use patience and consistency as they work with students.

While there are some differences in dealing with toddlers and dealing with teenagers, I wanted to share 5 strategies for success from Cynthia Tobias:

Five Strategies for Success
1. Choose your battles.Don't make everything non-negotiable. Is this a battle worth fighting? Choose the things you want to go to the wall for and leave the rest alone.
2. Lighten up, but don't let up.Ask them, "Are you annoying me on purpose? If you are, you are so good at it." Smile more often. When you are a strong-willed child, nobody is all that happy to see you when you walk in the room.
3. Ask more questions and issue fewer orders."Are you about done with your homework? Are you going to mow the lawn before dinner? Are you about ready to go or do you want to be late?"
4. Hand out more tickets and give fewer warnings.Take more action and show less anger.
5. Make sure your strong-willed child always knows your love is unconditional.They have to know no matter how they act that you are still going to be there for them.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A new teacher group we're starting at our school

I've shared before on this blog that the teachers at our school have 2 off periods during their school day. One period is for planning, and one is a PD/PLC period. This allows teachers of a content area to share a period with others who teach the same content. This is a huge help with pacing, curriculum planning, and using results to drive instruction for teachers in a small group. 

This year, in addition to weekly PLC meetings, our teachers have met as a PLC during Collaborative Hour, where they have learned a literacy strategy each nine weeks to implement as part of our school-wide literacy plan

Next year, we're trying something new. It's called the Innovative Teaching and Learning PLC (or ITLPLC for short). 

I recently sent out a school-wide email, asking teachers if they would like to be a part of the new PLC. You can see the email below:

Are you a teacher with creative ideas that you implement in the classroom? Do you know your content standards well? Are you looking for a support network of other innovative teachers at HHS who will brainstorm, encourage, challenge, and uplift you? 
Next year, we will pilot a new PLC, and if you answered yes to the questions above, this PLC may be for you! 
For those who would like to be a part of the PLC, there will be a book study this summer on George Couros' book Innovator's Mindset. The PLC will be for any teacher in any content area. *This means that you would be in the "Innovative Teaching and Learning" PLC and not a PLC with your content-area teachers.  
If you would like to be a part of a new PLC called "Innovative Teaching and Learning," please let me know by Friday at noon, as Carrie and I are working on the master schedule for next year. 

 I had 18 teachers respond that they would like to be a part of it, so I immediately ordered George's book for them. 

I also asked each teacher to sign up for Voxer and send me a Vox so that I can create a book study group for our ITLPLC.

On the master schedule, I broke the large group into 3 smaller groups spread out across 3 periods (so that it would work in each group member's schedule). This way, there are three small groups that will be able to support each other throughout the year during a designated PLC period, and the entire group will be connected on Voxer, too. (We have over 200 teachers at our school. Teachers can go weeks without seeing certain other teachers in the school.)

We're "building the ship as we sail it," and we'll see where this idea takes us. Our school is known for it's willingness to try new things and take risks. I'm excited for teachers to have this intentional time in their schedule!

How could you create an opportunity like this in your school? 
What other ideas do you have about this ITLPLC?

Friday, May 19, 2017

What teachers can learn from coaches

Yesterday I wrote a post titled What PLCs can learn from coaches. I think there's a lot of great coaching practices that are really effective teaching strategies that could and should be used in the classroom. Today I'm going to share one coaching strategy that is important for a successful classroom. 

I recently attended my daughter's basketball banquet for her college basketball team. At the banquet, Mike Ricks, the head coach who just finished his second season with the team, shared a little with the attendees about the basketball program.

The first thing Coach Ricks talked about was culture. When Coach Ricks took over the program two years ago, the program was not a successful one. Coach "inherited" players who were invested in the school and program who had to adjust to a new way of doing things. He needed buy in from the returning players, even more so than from the new players coming in.

Coach Ricks and his staff wanted the program to feel completely new. They set out to do a complete overhaul on expectations, the definition of TEAM, as well as style of play. 

Now, we need to remember, these are college players. Those who love the sport. Those who want to play at the next level. These are the self-motivated, self-disciplined players, right? Coach Ricks and his staff can take the motivation piece for granted... right?

Coach Ricks and his staff have done A LOT of things to motivate the players. 

Just check out their locker room...

Do we agree that classrooms can impact students' motivation, interest, and behavior?  Coach Ricks was very intentional about the physical space he has created for the women's basketball team. He sends a clear and consistent message about team unity, hard work, and "The Panther Way." The players also go through Camp Five as part of their pre-season where they have mental breakthroughs and learn to depend on each other physically and emotionally.

It would be easy to say that the players are motivated and decorating the locker room or having a theme or motto aren't necessary. Do you believe that Coach Ricks sees himself as a motivator as much as a teacher of the game of basketball? Do classroom teachers see themselves as motivators as much as they see themselves as teachers of a content area?

What can teachers learn from coaches? We need to MOTIVATE our students, from the least motivated to the most motivated. We have an impact on their motivation, positively or negatively, by what we DO or DON'T DO.

Let's create opportunities for students to team-build together, let's create inviting and motivating spaces, let's encourage and uplift, let's protect each other, and let's wrap up our "season" with a celebration (not just semester exams). Let's see ourselves as motivators.

Motivating others is not easy, but it's possible. Start talking to the successful coaches you know. I bet they all know ways to motivate others!

Do you know any successful coaches and how they motivate their players? I would love to hear from you in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What PLCs can learn from coaches

I first heard of the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) over 12 years ago. I was fortunate to go to several conferences to hear from experts such as Rick and Becky DuFour, Robert Marzano, Bob Eaker, and Eric Twadell. It was in these conferences that I was first introduced to the four essential questions for PLCs:
  • What do we expect students to learn?
  • How will we know when they have learned it?
  • How will we respond when some students haven't learned it?
  • How will we respond when some students already know it?
It was Becky DuFour who said (and I summarize) that we should examine every practice and procedure and their impact on student learning. The focus was to be on teaching and school practices, but ONLY in regard to the focus on student learning. 

There was a SHIFT of focus from teaching to learning. 

It was refreshing. It was "results focused," and it was team oriented. Under the PLC concept, teachers were collaborating with others, comparing results, sharing ideas, and working to improve the learning that was taking place in classrooms. It was the opposite of the "close your classroom door and teach" philosophy.

The PLC concepts were all concepts that I had experienced as an athletic player and coach. At the end of each game or match, the score is on the board for all to see. It's posted online, it's in the newspaper... in other words, it's a public display of your impact as a coach. Because of the public results and the competitive nature of coaches and athletes, successful coaches are always looking for ways to get better. Each year, there is a different group of athletes to reach and motivate in different ways. There are new drills, workouts, and strategies that are developed. 

The successful coaches I know talk about the game, pick other coaches' brains for ideas, attend workshops to keep learning, and more. Coaches ask, "What do I need to do as a coach to win?" It's asked because coaches understand that what they do impacts the outcome. The focus is on the players and their results.

Let's not just ask, "What do I need to do as an educator?" 

Let's finish the question and ask, "What do I need to do as an educator that will have the greatest impact on student learning?"

Let's also not hold our student results hostage. Let's put kids up to the same challenges, see how they do, talk about how we prepared them, and then figure out what works best. 

One game doesn't define a player or a coach, and one test score doesn't define a student or a teacher. 

Tomorrow's post... What classroom teachers can learn from coaches.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why #lastbell is about our beliefs

It has been extremely rewarding to see the #lastbell posts across social media - Photos and captions of teachers and students across the country making the most of the time they have together. There are so many great ideas to capture and steal from others to put into action in our own schools. 

At the beginning of May, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Ashley McBride for her "A+ Edtech Podcast." 

In the podcast, we talked about how the #lastbell movement got started and lessons learned through participation in #lastbell.

The message I hoped to relay in the podcast is that #lastbell is a reflection of what an educator believes. If one of our beliefs is that we are better together, then participation in #lastbell is a no-brainer. Those who participate believe that they have neat things to share about kids' learning, and that others will benefit by knowing what's happening. Also, when we believe that we're better together, we believe it's a give and take relationship. Those who participate aren't just lurkers. They don't just take, but they also give back and share ideas. 

Another belief of those who participate in #lastbell is respect for students and their time. When must believe it's important to take full advantage of the time we have with students to build positive, impactful relationships and help them to learn more than what they thought they could learn.

When we believe in the students and believe that we have a responsibility to make a positive impact on their lives, #lastbell becomes a year-round philosophy.