Sunday, February 22, 2015

There's no such thing as 'just' a teacher...

You all know that child who doesn't have someone advocating for them. As a teacher, you are in a position to advocate for and fight for what is best for that child. Wow... what an awesome responsibility.

Where else in the world do you get to work with so many different personalities, egos, and varied life experiences all in the course of one day. If as a teacher you can't find something to learn from your students, then you aren't looking hard enough.

In what other profession can you literally witness the growth and development of a child on a daily basis? You are in a position to see first-hand the progress and growth that takes place every single day in classrooms around the world. You are able to take a student who possibly knows very little about his/her interests, and then help them discover and explore those interests while simultaneously watching them change before your eyes.
How many other professions can say they are a punching bag for the media and the sole reason for all the problems in society (joking here)? Educators seem to be getting all the attention... how cool is that to always be in the limelight! On a serious note, if what you were doing wasn't important, then people wouldn't notice and people wouldn't care.

Some of your students will get to know you better than anyone else in their lives. You will spend more time with some of your students than even their own family members. You will get to experience all the highs and the lows right alongside your students. Being this much a part of the lives of your students definitely makes this an awesome job.

In what other profession can you continue to learn and grow in the areas you are passionate about and say that it's a part of your job. Then on top of that, you get to share your passion and interests with others while getting paid to do it. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Research is quite clear in that a great teacher has a tremendous impact on the life of a child. This is not just related to academic achievement, but to all facets of their life. When you think something you might do or might not do doesn't matter, remember this research and keep it fresh in your mind.

You get to be an entertainer, actor/actress, and a Gumby-like person almost every day! I know the 'edutainment' mindset is not the most popular at times, but aren't you first trying to sell yourself? If the kids aren't buying into 'you,' then they will never buy into what you are trying to accomplish in the classroom. Take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

So, please remember, there's no such thing as 'just' a teacher...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is technology the silver bullet to all of our problems in #education...?

If you know me or follow me on Twitter, you know I am a big advocate of increasing technology in schools. I have said numerous times that we not only need more technology in schools, but also we need more training for educators on how to effectively and appropriately integrate technology into the learning environment. Here is something you probably have not heard me say, technology is not the answer and technology will not solve all of our problems in education...

In my opinion, there are plenty of bright spots in education all across the globe. Is our education system completely broken and in need of replacement, some would say so, but I say no, at least not yet... I think we have a solid foundation in education, albeit with several false premises, but a solid foundation nevertheless.

Think of a house... the foundation is the first part of the construction process. The foundation ultimately ends up supporting and holding everything else together. A weak and damaged foundation will spell certain doom for any structure that relies upon a strong and supporting foundation. In education we have a cracked foundation. We have a few leaks in our foundation, and we are noticing that our foundation is getting close to no longer being able to fully support the weight of the house...

As I previously mentioned, I believe we have a lot of positive in education. At this time, will our education house crumble and completely collapse, absolutely not. I do however think the cracks and leaks we have in our education foundation will continue to grow, and in no certain time this damage may just become irreversible. Irreversible to the point that we will no longer be able to repair the damage, and when taking about a foundation that can't be repaired, we are left with only one option... tear it down and start over.

Though technology is amazing and can do wonders in the classroom (when used properly), we must first tend to our cracking and leaking foundation if we really want to see the added benefits. Throw every piece of technology in the world into every classroom in the world and we will still have a damaged and leaky foundation. It would make no sense to make lots of repairs to a house that is being supported by a cracked and leaking foundation without first making plans to address the damaged foundation itself. Unfortunately, in education I think we are focusing on the house more than the foundation...

I love technology and I love how it can be used, but let's focus more on the instructional side of things. Let's focus more on the teaching side of things. Let's focus more on the student learning side of things. If we continue to use our cracked and leaking foundation to support new initiatives and approaches, we might just be sorely disappointed. Maybe we should consider getting back to the basics and strengthen our core beliefs in regard to student learning before adding more weight to our already damaged foundation...

Monday, February 9, 2015

School #leadership & the importance of effective & clear communication:

Communication is the backbone of a successful organization. Schools and school districts are no exception. Having said that, communication breakdowns tend to occur frequently and often. The result of these communication breakdowns can cause frustration, resentment and mass confusion if not addressed.

But, there a few things to keep in mind when communicating:

What we say and what is heard aren't always the same thing. This isn't really anyone's fault, it's just a result of working with folks who've all had different life experiences and we must recognize and address this well-known fact.

And the reality is, we educators have a ton right in front of us every single day, and without clear communication, we all will struggle with knowing on what we should be focusing.

Also, any time you find yourself writing an email, speaking to a group of educators, or leading professional development or a faculty meeting, we must always keep these three question in mind:

Because we all know that communicating effectively will help us to avoid situations that don't go as planned:

And always remember this simple thing... we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.

Lastly, we'd rather over-communicate than under-communicate because in the absence of clear and effective communication, people will start to make their own stories up about what should have been communicated and those stories might not be the stories you want being communicated...

Step up and take back control of the mic!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Are we holding administrators to the same high levels to which we hold our teachers?

Our teachers are asked to be 'on' each and every school day. Even more, they are asked to be 'on' each and every hour of the school day.

There are no 'off' days.

There are no 'off' hours.

Teachers are open and susceptible to being observed at all times during the day and on all days during the week. If kids are at school and kids are in a class, then it's not unreasonable to expect them to be in an environment that's focused on learning.

Sure, the walk-through form that administrators use during their observations is known by the teachers and there aren't any surprises in regard to the administrator 'look fors.'

Transparency is of the utmost importance when it comes to this process.

And, make no mistake, we all have high expectations for our teachers and we expect to see intentionality, purpose, and foresight into the learning opportunities they design and create for their students.

It's a level of commitment to excellence that our kids deserve...

But, what if the same walk-through form that is used by administrators to evaluate teachers was used by teachers to evaluate administrators when they lead faculty meetings and when they lead building and/or district-wide professional development?

We all remember our education classes in college when the instructor said to never lecture for more than 15 minutes and then proceeded to lecture for two hours straight. Don't do as I do, but rather as I say...

I mean, shouldn't we expect our administrators to model appropriate learning methods and learning strategies for teachers just like we expect our teachers to do for our students?

If administrators are responsible for evaluating and growing an entire building's worth of teachers, then surely they shouldn't have any trouble modeling and showing first-hand different instructional methods that could positively affect classrooms in their building...

So, back to my original question... if teachers evaluated their administrators using the same walk-through form that's used on them when administrators conducted faculty meetings and led professional development, would administrators perform at the same high levels we ask of our teachers on a daily basis?

Would our administrators demonstrate the same intentionality, purpose, and foresight when designing and creating learning opportunities for their teachers?

Isn't that a level of commitment to excellence that our teachers deserve...?

Maybe it's not the same... but then again, maybe it is.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

10 questions every educator should always be thinking about...

1). What percent of your students are going beyond just compliance and are actually cognitively engaged in deep self-driven and relevant learning?

2). How often are students in your class offered the opportunity to move around and get 'the blood' flowing with some type of physical activity?

3). How often are kids in your class able to work in teams and work collaboratively on some type of group learning activity?

4). When was the last time you read a professional book or article and you tried something new as a result of what you read in the book/article?

5). If you had to describe the perfect and ideal classroom, what would be your top three most important characteristics?

6). How confident are you that your students could tell someone who doesn't teach what you teach specifically where they are struggling and where they are succeeding in regard to their learning?

7). Let's assume audio was recorded for an entire week in your classroom. Of all the voices that are heard during that time, whose voice do you believe would be heard the most?

8). If you eliminated all the grades in your classroom, do you think students would still actively participate and continue learning?

9). If a group of teachers from another school district who taught a similar content/grade came and observed your classroom, what do you think they would say in their post-conversation?

10). If you were the principal for the week and you got to observe every classroom in your building, what would you want to see in all the classrooms?

BONUS: What's the ratio of consumption to creation in your classroom when it comes to the work students are doing?