Monday, August 15, 2011

A Heavy Heart And A Light Foot

I sent my last tweet of the night, "@ToddWhitaker is speaking in Okla tomorrow-Not for sure if I'm more excited about tomorrow or the next day when I put his wisdom into action.”

The next day, I anxiously drove 1 hour and 15 minutes to attend the much anticipated conference. At the first break, Dr. Whitaker had spotted me in the crowd of no less than 300 educators. Wow, we had never met, only a thumbnail picture on twitter. Pretty impressive! He simply walked over and asked, “Are you my twitter friend?”

The next 10 minutes was compelling to say the least. He asked me how I would respond to three authentic scenarios in which I answered incorrectly to all three. I realized for the first time that I had been causing discomfort to the wrong teachers. Dr. Whitaker explained to me that effective principals continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make. I quickly thought of several instances in which I had created an uncomfortable situation for the wrong teachers.

I left the conference with a heavy heart and truly drove 30 mph all the way home. I had a lot on my mind. That night, I re-read my notes that I had recorded during the presentation. My disheartened feeling had now matured into a feeling of relief and comfort. I knew from this day forward, I would not make this mistake again.

The next day, I explained to Dr. Whitaker that I would use this disheartened feeling to drive me to change. Coincidentally, this is a perfect example of what Dr. Whitaker expresses in his book, What Great Principals Do Differently, “When people become uncomfortable, they change.”

@DMS_Principal Do not beat yourself up. Hindsight is 20-20. Just do the right thing from now on – Todd Whitaker

Thank you Dr. Whitaker for your genuine and honest feedback and for causing me such discomfort.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If You Thought I Was Perfect, You Weren't Paying Attention

I make it a habit each summer to try new things and to put myself in situations in which I will inevitably grow as an educator. This summer has been amazing!  I decided to create my first blog, Brain Vibe For Educators, and to enter the “twittersphere.” I believe I have personally grown more in two months than possibly in the last two years thanks to my PLN.

I wanted to mention 3 of my favorite tweets throughout this summer and a brief reason why these particular tweets had such a meaningful impact.

#3  If you thought I was perfect, you weren't paying attention.  Elizeducation

Recently, I was participating in a discussion on #edchat in which the topic centered around the question, “How can we fairly evaluate teachers?” During this discussion, I tweeted the question, “As a teacher – do you hope an area of weakness is identified on an eval- or are you satisfied with a perfect eval?” The many responses confirmed my intuition. Many teachers feel slightly disappointed and somewhat unappreciated with a perfect evaluation? Here are a few of the responses:
  • I want to be better. Telling me how great the lesson was does not help me to grow. I want student and teacher growth. Janice Cizek
  • I never got any constructive criticism except to make my plan book easier to read:( I begged for real feedback.      
    Larry Fliegelman
  • During my first year, I had two perfect evals... sort of wanted something on there to improve on. Phillip Whitelaw
  • I need to know a weakness. No feedback = lack of attention, if you ask me. - Brian Bennett
  • If you thought I was perfect, you weren't paying attention. Elizabeth Nelson
As a principal, it is our responsibility to provide valuable feedback to our best teachers. Many evaluation instruments consist of only three rating categories: Satisfactory, Needs Improvement, and Unsatisfactory. Many average teachers receive a rating of “satisfactory” throughout their evaluation. Remember, average is just as close to the bottom as it is to the top. Every teacher deserves meaningful feedback, much attention, and an opportunity to grow.

#2  If teachers could choose their class size and were paid $3000 dollars per student, what do you think the average class size would be? - Ron Clark

I was very intrigued by this tweet. I thought a lot about how teachers would answer this question differently. In fact, after reading the tweet, I asked two teachers simultaneously this very question. The first teacher automatically replied, “Fifteen.... definitely fifteen. I am most effective when I have fifteen students in my classroom.” The second teacher responded, “I think I could take 32....maybe 33 students.” These two teachers not only answered very differently, but also differ in teacher performance. Which teacher would you want for your child?

#1  “Teachers are fired everyday; they are fired by their students [who disengage from the learning].” - Tom Whitby

This is my favorite tweet thus far since my dive into twittersphere.  The conversation was centered around accountability and how difficult it is to dismiss bad teachers. Tom Whitby fired back with this veracious tweet. This I believe to be one of our biggest problems in education. Student engagement is a precondition of learning. If students aren't engaged in the classroom, they will not learn.

The least educators can do for kids is to stimulate a curiosity for learning. The best would be to impart a passion for learning.” - Tom Whitby

If you would like to share your favorite tweet of all time or a tweet that made you go hmmmm, submit it to the hash tag #MyFavoriteTweetOfAllTime