Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let's be honest with ourselves...

~ In education, the jobs we think we are preparing kids for either won't be there in a few years, or they do not yet exist...

~ The new Common Core State Standards for Math focus on applying mathematical skills to real-world examples that have meaning and relevance for students...

~ The new Common Core State Standards for ELA require ALL teachers to teach and embrace literacy with an emphasis on more rigorous informational texts... 

~ Forced professional development will never be successful on a long-term self-sustaining basis...

~ When the rate of change outside an organization is faster than the rate of change inside the organization, the end is near... (does this sound familiar with education and society...?)

~ Great teachers aren't just great teachers because they know the most content; great teachers are great teachers because they create an environment where the students are encouraged and supported to initiate their own learning...

~ Preparing kids for college is essential, but at current rates it is not adequate for most careers...

~ We need a major mindset shift when it comes to assessments; assessments need to be used as a learning device, and not just as an evaluation device...

~ Teachers who can't or aren't willing to use technology (or at least allow their students to use technology) will continue to make themselves less relevant and purposeful in the educational setting...

~ There is a HUGE difference between compliance and engagement when talking about education...

~ The Common Core State Standards will force all districts to hold up a mirror and really evaluate their current programs and structures. I purposely did not say "curriculum," because the CCSS will not be or replace your curriculum (despite what some may think).

~ Our students are bringing a 21st century mindset into our classrooms while far too many of us are still immersed in the 20th century...

~ Too often we focus on what's wrong and what's not working in education; let's focus on what's right and what's great in education...

** Thoughts are from CSD's Common Core conference with presentations by Dr. Bill Daggett.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Explaining Common Core to the masses...

As my district begins to roll out information and structures to successfully implement the Common Core State Standards, we committed ourselves to providing useful information for all stakeholders, and not just educators. Since many who will read this are educators, I would encourage you to read, "Navigating Implementation of the Common Core State Standards" if you are looking for additional information and guidance. If you are looking for a short presentation on the CCSS for new or experienced teachers, BOE members, or members of your community, I hope this helps.

Please check out my prior post on the CCSS, titled "Common Core... what's that?"

If you have any great CCSS resources or links you would like to share, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The seven principles of great leadership...

I recently just finished reading "The Way of the Shepherd" by Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak. If you are in a leadership position of any kind, I would highly recommend reading this book. I even would recommend reading this book if you aren't in a leadership position because it outlines and discusses principles that are relevant for anyone. Here are the seven principles:

1 - Know the conditions of your flock
  • Follow the status of your people as well as the status of the work.
  • Get to know your flock, one sheep at a time.
  • Engage your people on a regular basis.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open, question, and follow through.
2 - Discover the shape of your sheep
  • Your choice of sheep can make flock management easier or harder.
  • Start with healthy sheep, or you'll inherit someone else's problems.
  • Know the shape of your sheep to make sure they're in the right fold.
3 - Help your sheep identify with you
  • Build trust with your followers by modeling authenticity, integrity, and compassion.
  • Set high standards of performance
  • Relentlessly communicate your values and sense of mission.
  • Define the cause for your people and tell them where they fit in.
  • Remember that great leadership isn't just professional; it's personal.
4 - Make your pasture a safe place
  • Keep your people well informed.
  • Infuse every position with importance.
  • Cull chronic instigators from the flock.
  • Regularly rotate the sheep to fresh pastures.
  • Reassure the sheep by staying visible.
  • Don't give problems time to fester.
5 - The staff of direction
  • Know where you're going, get out in front, and keep your flock on the move.
  • When directing, use persuasion rather than coercion.
  • Give your people freedom of movement, but make sure they know where the fence line is. Don't confuse boundaries with bridles!
  • When your people get in trouble, go and get them out.
  • Remind your people that failure isn't fatal.
6 - The rod of correction
  • Protect: Stand in the gap and fight for your sheep.
  • Correct: Approach discipline as a teaching opportunity.
  • Inspect: Regularly inquire about your people's progress.
7 - The heart of the shepherd
  • Great leadership is a lifestyle, not a technique.
  • Every day you have to decide who's going to pay for your leadership ~ you or your people.
  • Most of all, have a heart for your sheep.

**As you read this list, you might think how arrogant it is to refer to colleagues as "your people" and "sheep." I would agree that using these terms is not characteristic of great leadership, but for the purpose of this book and story the terms seem to fit well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Who is telling your story?

This has been on my mind recently. I hope these types of questions are on your mind too...

~ Who is in charge of being the Chief Storyteller for your district?

~ How do constituents in your district get their news & information about the district? Are you meeting them in the areas that they frequent, or are you making them go find the information for themselves?

~ When something great is happening or happened within your district, how are you getting that positive news to the community?

~ How is your district telling your story to your community? (I'm a firm believer that if you don't tell your story, somebody is always willing to step up & tell your story for you...)

~ Pictures & images of great things happening in your district are worth the proverbial 1,000 words....with something to think about.

@ideaguy42 really got me thinking about these questions. Thank you Dr. Dillon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Common Core... what's that?

As part of my new position as a Director of Curriculum, I have been spending the last few weeks trying to gather information and resources to strengthen my knowledge of the ever looming and inevitable Common Core transition. Though I do not claim to be an expert of the Common Core, I do believe I have established a good foundation and understanding of what ultimately lies ahead of us all.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ASCD's summer conference in St. Louis. As I was looking through the session handbook I really focused on sessions that were related to Common Core, and specifically the implications of Common Core, as well as the steps districts can take to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Before we can really get into Common Core and what it means for us as Educators, we must realize that Common Core is much bigger than any one individual, any one school, any one district, and any one state. Common Core is about the United States of America and its future prospects in an ever increasing global society. For the record, I am not against the Common Core transition, but I am also not an advocate. Right now, I am an Educator who wants to understand the justification and rational behind the Common Core, and more importantly, I want to figure out how we can use Common Core to enhance and improve our educational systems.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs was one of the presenters at ASCD, and I would highly recommend checking out some of her stuff. One of the main points that Heidi made about Common Core is that we need to change and shift our mindset. Jacobs says that many Educators have the mindset that we have to do Common Core simply because we have to stay within compliance. This is the completely wrong approach says Jacobs. "Common Core provides districts a chance to improve upon what they are already doing well, and a huge opportunity to improve upon what they are not doing so well."

Another main argument that Jacobs makes is that too many Educators think that Common Core will replace their current curricula. This is absolutely incorrect, says Jacobs. Common Core was never designed or intended to be a district curriculum. Common Core outlines what students should be able to do, but does not tell Educators how to do it. In other words, Common Core is the "what," while Educators all across the country still have the autonomy and freedom to determine the "how."

If you are looking for the history and the events that led up to the Common Core initiative, I would recommend reading, "Understanding Common Core State Standards" by John Kendall. This book was a simple and quick read that provided a ton of useful information for district leaders as they begin to prepare for the transition.

Common Core is fast approaching, and the 2014-2015 school year will be here before we know it. If you are a district leader, it's time to start preparing and laying the groundwork for this initiative. If you are a teacher or teacher leader within your district, make sure you are putting pressure on your district leaders to get training and structures in place to ease the transition. Jacobs probably said it best when she said, "We have a 19th century school schedule, a 20th century curriculum & a 21st century child." The time to improve is now...

Common Core is not the silver bullet to all of our educational woes, but in my opinion (if embraced & done properly) Common Core can be a welcomed and fresh approach to improving education in The United States.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What do you value?

I recently had the opportunity to Skype with @DrSpikeCook to talk education and other related topics. Dr. Cook is an elementary principal in New Jersey, and through his influence, he is leading the way in his district and those surrounding by sharing the power of social media as it relates to education.

As we were talking, Dr. Cook asked the question, "what do we value as educators?" Though this question may seem simple and straight forward, I would bet that if you asked a group of educators what they value, you would stump many of them. I'm not trying to say that there are educators who don't know what they value, I am simply saying that this is quite a big question which encompasses much more than what one might see just on the surface.

Anyway, back to the question, "what do YOU value as an educator?"

When you act, you are showing to others what you value. When you respond a certain way, you are saying what you value. When you support and not support an idea or initiative, you are demonstrating what you value or do not value.

In my experience, you can say all day long what you value and what you believe, but if you want others to believe and trust in you, you need to act on what you value. Simply saying what you value is not nearly as strong as doing and acting on what you value. Actions will ALWAYS speak louder than words...

Time is short and the list of things to accomplish is only getting longer. You have a choice every single day to choose what you are going to do and what you are not going to do. YOU HAVE THE CHOICE...

DON'T FORGET: Just as you have the choice, you really need to do some thinking and reflecting to discover what your core values are. You will be led astray if you are not strong and confident of your values.

BONUS: Just as important as what you do to show what you value, what you don't do also shows what you do not value.

If you have yet to establish a strong core group of values, then whose values have you been following? If nobody else knows what you value, then what or who do you represent? When others think about you, what do they think you stand for?

Your values make you who you are... make sure you choose them carefully.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My top 20 tweets from ASCD's summer conference

I recently had the opportunity to attend ASCD's summer conference in St. Louis. This three day conference provided a lot of learning for me, and I was definitely impressed with the way ASCD conducts their conferences. Here are my top 20 tweets from the conference: