Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Perception is reality. (The objective is to make them the same.)

I’ve often said that the five people who influence me the most and on a daily basis… I’ve never met. I’ve never met Lyn Hilt, a distinguished connected educator who blogs at Learning in Technicolor. I have been reading Lyn’s tweets since June of 2011. When she was a principal, I was fascinated and impressed with all the innovative learning experiences that seemed to permeate throughout her entire school. Then one day during a Google Hangout she said, “Shawn, I used to think the same as you. Just because you see it on social media doesn’t mean it’s the culture of the school. I have pockets of innovation happening at my school and this is what I choose to share. You will not see the poor classrooms.”
Many times the same is true when I speak with teachers.
“Teachers self-promote. In that, we’re no different than everyone else: proudly framing our breakthroughs, hiding our blunders in locked drawers, forever perfecting our oral résumés. This isn’t all bad. My colleagues probably have more to learn from my good habits (like the way I use pair work) than my bad ones (like my sloppy system of homework corrections), so I might as well share what’s useful. In an often-frustrating profession, we’re nourished by tales of triumph.” – Ben Orlin
If we truly want to offer value to those around us, we must create conditions so that teachers trust one another to share the most honest stories that we can tell. If we only reveal the good and disguise the bad and the ugly, we take the risk of maintaining a gap between perception and reality. More importantly, we take the risk of becoming comfortable, complacent, and stagnant. Let’s teach 25 years, not one year 25 times.
Something to think about.

The quality of a school cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.

Effective principals work relentlessly to create a strong climate for quality instruction and to define in detail what their pedagogical expectations look, sound, and feel like in the classroom. To do this, principals must become intimately familiar with what is required to improve the quality of teaching and learning. In other words, knowing what you don’t want instructionally has very little impact on student learning. On the contrary, having a strong understanding of what you do want to see in every classroom can make change become a reality. How else can a principal model, implement, support, monitor, and communicate effectively?
Keep in mind, it’s unreasonable to ask a professional to change much more than ten percent a year, but it’s unprofessional to change by much less than ten percent a year. Great educators take responsibility for their own learning rather than waiting for their school district to tell them when and what to learn. As a principal, we must lead this effort. Otherwise, it will be difficult to assist teachers and to engage in relevant conversations.
Something to think about.

"Every Day"

What you do every day matters more than what you do every 
once in a while. Review your goals and expectations. Add “every day” to the end of the statement and do it. Doing something every day versus every once in a while is the difference between good and great.
If your goal is to get into teacher's classrooms, then do it every day.  If your goal is to provide specific feedback at the time of the teaching, then do it every day.  Choose to be great because it's contagious.   
Something to think about.

Zeros Teach Responsibility

When I was in school many years ago, I remember a few students who frequently were given zeros for incomplete assignments throughout their elementary, middle school, and high school career.  Twenty years later, these same students grew up to become adults who cannot hold a job; who are unorganized; and who are extremely irresponsible.  According to some educators, these people should now be the most responsible people in the world.
Great teachers focus on mastery and a zero just isn't going to cut it.  In many cases, a zero reflects two people who failed in the classroom.
Something to think about.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Window Into the Classroom

Many times, grading papers and student projects is something a teacher does in isolation.  In other words, no one other than the teacher sees the student’s work.  What if analyzing student work became a collaborative process in your school?  How would looking at student work provide a clear window into the classroom?  As we transition to more rigorous standards in my state, we have been collecting student outcomes to analyze the quality of lessons and units intended to address these new standards and expectations.
After our first semester of collecting and analyzing student outcomes, I have come to the following conclusions:
  • Teachers are spending more time planning and preparing each lesson.
  • Teachers are hoping to learn about the effectiveness of their own instruction.
  • Teachers are gaining a better understanding of how students learn.
  • Teachers are developing more effective assessment types that also measure application and conceptual understanding.
  • Teachers who assign the highest quality work get it from their students.
  • The amount of trust is increasing among teachers and school leaders.
Principals play a critical role in setting the expectation and must monitor the process and most importantly, recognize a successful student outcome when they see it.  The questions you must prepare yourself to address include:
  • How often do you expect these teams of teachers to collaboratively plan and examine evidence of student learning?
  • What do you want the end product(s) to look like?  How do you communicate this to teachers?
  • How can teachers demonstrate that they have used this information to make the kinds of instructional decisions that would result in improved student achievement?
Viewing teacher lesson plans provide teacher intentions, however, analyzing student work will unveil what was actually learned.  This is one of the first steps in shifting the focus from teaching to a focus on learning.
We are using the Tri-State/EQuIP Rubric to evaluate the quality of lessons and units intended to address the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and ELA/Literacy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Invoke Behavior

When it comes to change, which happens first…… a change in behavior or a change in belief?  This is an important question if you’re on a quest to see new ideas become reality in every classroom. In my experience, those who believe a change in belief comes first, end up talking about the same ideas year after year. On the contrary, those leaders who work to change behaviors end up opening the minds of their teachers resulting in a culture that sparkles with innovation, creativity, and a passion for learning.

Recently during a twitter chat, the following question came about: If you’ve been a part of an innovative school, what caused it to be innovative?

I responded:

You see, the leader within this particular building created a culture of innovation by answering the relevant question… why?  For instance: Why technology integration is important.  Why failure must be viewed as a success in learning. Why it's important for educators to take responsibility for their own learning. You get the idea.  The leader put specific, timely action plans or SMART goals in place that resulted in all teachers engaging in new behaviors.  After experiencing the effectiveness of such behaviors, we soon changed our belief.  Before long, we were all closing the gap between what we knew and what we actually did.

For some reason, almost intuitively, it seems like belief is a precondition to action.  Instead, let’s invoke a change in behavior.  Learning is useless if it isn't applied. Reading a recipe book is not the same as picking up a utensil and cooking.  Let’s work to get others cooking something new.  Who knows.... they just might like it!  
Are you the two boys talking about it or are you a Mikey and willing to take risks and try something new?  Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Learning Is A Consequence of Thinking

How do YOU take responsibility for your own learning?  How do YOU continuously grow the gap between what you know and what you do?  How often do YOU think about your own art of teaching? What do YOU do as a result of those thoughts?  These are questions that I ask when interviewing and searching for the best of the best.  Many candidates respond with a blank stare and struggle with recalling the last educational article, book, or video they’ve read or watched.

Great teachers take responsibility for their own learning and do not wait for their district to tell them when and what to learn.  Most school districts are limited to five professional development days throughout the school year and I believe to be the very best, critical, creative, and reflective thinking must happen daily.  If learning is a consequence of thinking, then think.  Our students are depending on you.

How would YOU respond to such questions?  If you find it difficult, then it’s time to change the wayYOU learn.

“Change how you learn first. Once you change, you won’t be able to go back to teaching the same old way.” ~ Stephen Downes

Please comment and list those connected educators who not only cause you to think daily, but many times differently.  As summer approaches, it’s time we fortify and strengthen our own PLN.