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. 

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 Bloggers Community 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!