Saturday, September 25, 2010
1 - Ask yourself if your actions truly represent your beliefs and opinions...
The first step in self-reflection is to really evaluate and assess what you are doing, and how you are doing it. Looking into the mirror and being honest with yourself is crucial as you determine the consistency of your beliefs and actions. Most people realize quite quickly that they do very well with certain situations, while other situations are definite weak spots that could use improvement. If we are saying one thing, and doing something completely different, it is time to change and align our actions with our beliefs.
2 - Accept the fact that what once worked perfectly, might not be the best approach for now...
As educators we are bombarded with new ideas and so called "silver bullets" promising a quick fix to educational issues. With all of these new ideas, it is easy to slide into a comfort zone to avoid the ever terrible issue of "change." It is unavoidable, but we all get comfortable with certain strategies and methods, and as the educational setting evolves and changes, we have to be willing to update and modify our approach to educating students. As hard as this may be, we can not ignore that the students are different, and similarly we are different, and as a result our approach and methodology must be different.
3 - Include others as you begin the self-reflection process. People are very willing to help when you ask for their advice and assistance...
It is human nature to be somewhat biased toward your own strengths and weaknesses, and because of this it is extremely important to obtain assistance from others as you move closer to self-reflection. The best thing about recruiting others to help you in your endeavor is that most people will give you honest advice and feedback since they know they are an integral part of your self-improvement. Additionally, there are things other people see and notice about you that provide insight into who you really are as an educator.
4 - You are like a "living document," and as such you should be in a constant state of change...
Rethink, reinvent, reinvigorate, redevelop, redeploy, renew, reemphasize and any other word that prevents you from being an educator that is stationary. Just as kids are continually changing and evolving, we as educators need to remain flexible and adaptable.
5 - Remember that self-reflection is an essential piece to growing and developing as an educator...
Almost everything we do in education requires an evaluation along with reflection. A new program, a new idea, a tweaking of an assessment, and any other piece of education we use to help students should be subject to reflection and evaluation. There is no greater tool than sitting down and thinking about what happened, why it happened, and how we can make it better and improve upon it for the next time. Sharing and collaborating through self-reflection will continue to be one of the most important resources for educators, and with the advancements in technology and communicative tools, the process just got a lot easier!
Utilize these 5 helpful strategies as you continue your path toward growth and development, and please remember that when you think you have it mastered, perfected, or you just feel really comfortable, it is time to self-reflect and evaluate your current practices. Help to share these strategies as we all need a little push and encouragement from time to time.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I watched this video on TED: Ideas worth spreading (which I highly recommend) http://www.ted.com/, and I have to say I was really intrigued by the topic. Every day at school I get the opportunity to see students growing and developing...some more than others, and some not enough. However inconsistent their growth may be, one thing is for certain...the growth and development of children can be summed up in one word - amazing! If we give students the power and freedom, I can guarantee we will be impressed by their natural ability to connect with others, as well as their ability to empower others. Embracing and unleashing the creativity and individuality of students is the first step in creating a world-class educational system. Enjoy!
Friday, September 17, 2010
The last 4 weeks have been extremely busy for me. We recently started a brand new gradebook and website system in my school district. This has proven to be an amazing tool and resource as we look to ways to improve education. For all the greatness this new opportunity provides, we have been faced with the never ending battle of growing and developing educators so they can utilize this new resource. As exciting as it is to work with educators with the goal of improving education for our students, it is a tiring and exhausting process of which I have personally never experienced. Additionally, we have been doing a ton of work in preparation for our first full-day professional development day of the school year. The last 6 years I have spent in the district we have conducted half-day PD days, and I have been really looking forward to the full-day PD days we are starting this year. Needless to say, the last few weeks have flown by, and they have put my organizational and instructional leadership skills to the test.
Today we had our high school's first full-day professional development day. Overall I am very happy with the outcome, and I look forward to hearing the opinions or others, as well as the comments which should hopefully help us to continue to improve upon our professional development days. I would be lying if I said I believe every single member of the staff was completely satisfied with our first PD day...but overall, I think it went rather well and our teachers were able to get some valuable information and resources to improve the educational climate at our high school. As a leading member of the professional development team, it is hard to accept the fact that some teachers left our first PD day looking like this:
I am not saying our teachers can't handle the large amounts of information, but we have to be aware of their feelings. If our teachers feel stressed and overwhelmed we will most definitely see a decline in overall teacher effectiveness in the following weeks. I am cautiously optimistic that any feelings of stress will be short-lived, and will hopefully culminate into feelings of inspiration and motivation toward using this new information to enhance classroom instruction. Hopefully, teachers will come to school on Monday looking like this:
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Being able to speak is important...being able to listen is more important. If you can truly listen to what others are saying, you will be able to establish an unlimited amount of strong and long lasting relationships. Your ability or inability to listen, will most definitely affect the success, and the number of relationships you will have in life.
2 - Watch what others are doing...
We have all heard "actions speak louder than words," and when establishing relationships with others it is crucial we are aware of what others are doing. If you find yourself in a relationship and you have no idea where it is headed, it is time to take a step back and visually observe the direction in which it is headed. Your eyes can provide you a great insight into the strength and longevity of your relationships.
3 - Embrace the opinions and beliefs of others...
This strategy can be extremely difficult at times, however the importance of embracing the opinions and beliefs of others can be the determining factor of whether a relationship survives or not. You might not always agree with somebody with whom you have a relationship, but you should respect their beliefs and opinions, and unequivocally expect the same in return. A relationship where differences in beliefs and opinions are not allowed to have a negative effect on the overall relationship has the ability to be strong and enduring.
4 - Put yourself in their shoes...
Before passing judgment or placing blame, please put yourself in the shoes of another. If you can utilize this strategy to understand something before reaching a conclusion, you will be much more likely to be accurate in your assumptions, as well as avoid potential irreversible damages to your relationships. Your compassion and understanding will always trump assumptions and judgments...even if they prove to be accurate.
5 - Share the successes and failures of others...
Relationships are all about teams and groups and working together. As such, you should share in the successes and failures of your relationships. When you celebrate and console the people in your relationships, you gain a deeper appreciation and understanding into what makes your relationships tick. Relationships will also inherently grow stronger with every success and failure; if and only if you shoulder the successes and failures together.
6 - By giving you gain...
Every time you give in a relationship you are strengthening your bond. Once a relationship has been established, it must continue to grow, or it will eventually dissolve. One of the best ways to continue to grow a relationship...is to give. The more you give and sacrifice in a relationship, the more you will ultimately get in return. The beauty of having strong and stable relationships is that when you give and sacrifice, you are really not sacrificing because the value of the relationship greatly out weights any amount of sacrifice.
7 - Respect the desires and needs of others...
One of the most important pieces to any strong relationship is your ability to add and bring value to the relationship. In order for you to be able to add and bring value, you need to acknowledge and respect the goals and desires of others. Once you become a contributing piece to the goals and needs of others, your relationships will only be stronger and more plentiful.
8 - Be positive, optimistic, and give others the benefit of the doubt...
I believe human nature is to be positive and optimistic. As such, it is only fitting that we give others the benefit of the doubt. You should trust the people with whom you work, live and coexist. If as humans, we are unable to be positive and optimistic toward the people with whom we surround ourselves, then we have very little chance of establishing strong and beneficial relationships. Your optimism and trust will undoubtedly be returned to you when you least expect it, and when you most need it...
9 - No matter what...be thankful and praise the helping hand of others...
There is nothing more powerful than a simple "thank you," or "I really appreciate your help." More times than we realize, we are using and asking for the help of others. No matter how small or how trivial the help or advice may be, it is crucial that you express your gratitude and thankfulness for the help of others. Think how good it felt the last time somebody thanked you or recognized you for your help...try to replicate this feeling for others as much as possible.
10 - Remember...the most important relationship is with yourself...
Lastly, many people view a relationship as a one sided entity. As with many things in life, there are fortunately two sides to every relationship. For you to have the best, strongest, and longest lasting relationships, you must recognize your own impact on the overall relationship. If you have not established a strong working relationship with yourself, then it is going to be extremely difficult to connect with others in a productive and useful way. You must build a strong and solid foundation with yourself before you can get the most out your relationships.
I hope this list is helpful as you continue to establish and build relationships. "Winning with People," by John Maxwell, is a book we read last year in book club. This is a fabulous book about relationships and how to effectively manage the many intricacies of relationships. If you have any additional strategies to help others to establish and build relationships please leave a comment. Thank you.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
We are extremely fortunate at my high school because we have a staff of over 100 teachers who are all doing great things that are having a positive impact on our student body. The only thing missing is a forum where our teachers can share their "best practices" with other teachers. This would enable every staff member to see over 100 "best practices," and they would be able to decide if they would like to try any of these strategies in their classrooms. I honestly can not think of a better way to build future sharing and collaboration opportunities, while also developing the relationships of each and every staff member. Creating an environment where teachers feel comfortable and open to sharing their "best practices" can only lead to future success, and most importantly more success for our students.
Here are 5 ways you can share the "best practices" of your staff members in an open and collaborative forum:
1) - Have your building or school set up a group on the school's website for teachers to share their "best practices." Additionally, if your district uses an online gradebook, the gradebook software most likely allows you to create a group where teachers can type in their information for all other teachers to view.
2) - Start a PLN (professional learning network) for your school. This would allow teachers to post their strategies, as well as any additional documentation needed for teachers to try this strategy. Teachers can access the school's PLN at any location with internet access.
3) - Start a blog for your school. Each teacher can sign up to follow the blog, and this would allow teachers to make posts about their best practices while easily reading what other teachers have posted.
4) - Break into small groups during PD sessions and have each teacher briefly describe his/her "best practice," and how he/she has implemented this strategy in the classroom.
5) - Design an observation rotation system where teachers have the opportunity to observe another teacher on a day when he/she is using one of his/her "best practices." This is more complex, but can be the most effective because teachers will then be able to see the strategy in a live class with live students.
With technology revolutionizing the way we approach education, it is only fair that educators start to embrace these opportunities to better themselves. If you employed any of these strategies in your school please leave a comment and let me know how it went. Additionally, if you have used other methods to share the "best practices" of teachers please feel free to add to my list. I appreciate your help in compiling a longer list with the goal of helping teachers and administrators to build an environment where sharing and collaborating are a top priority.
Friday, September 3, 2010
For as long as I can remember, professional development days have been loved by students, and dreaded by teachers. It is easy to see why the students love professional development days, but I am somewhat perplexed by the well documented research showing a lack of interest and desire among educators as it pertains to professional development days. Naturally as educators, we have an innate desire to learn, to grow, and most importantly affect the lives of our students in a positive way...and unless I am mistaken, isn't that the purpose of PD days? So, I have to ask the obvious question...then why do we have so many educators who dread the quarterly PD day?
Over the last couple years at my high school we have begun a transformation that has drastically improved our PD days. We have not only asked our teachers what they were interested in learning about, we also listened to what they said and designed our PD days around the needs and desires of our teachers. Additionally, we have recruited teachers from our own staff (which saves money and strengthens collaboration and sharing) to share their knowledge and expertise. This has been extremely powerful in building camaraderie, as well as helping to develop a team of instructional leaders who are not current administrators.
Something I am really excited about for this year is the fact we will be introducing PD strategies that can be utilized on a 24/7 basis. Why should educators grow and develop only during the summer time and on quarterly PD days? Shouldn't we help and give our teachers the necessary knowledge to tap into professional development opportunities they can access at any time? PLN's (professional learning networks), blogs, and Twitter have all proven to be excellent resources when it comes to giving educators a direct avenue to growing professionally outside of the "typical" PD borders. The positive progression of professional development days at my high school will continue to change the average teacher's opinion of PD, and hopefully as the professional development culture changes, PD will become a day for which all teachers long. Changing the culture of PD is one of the fastest and longest lasting ways we can help educators grow and develop, which in turn will improve overall success for all students.