Saturday, June 30, 2012

In The End, What Matters Most?

On June 29, 2012, I completed my final day as principal at Dibble Middle School.  As I packed the last book (What Great Principals Do differently: 15 Things That Matter Most by Dr. Todd Whitaker - It's always the first book on and the last book off my bookcase) I took out my phone for one last pic of my empty office.  I then embedded the pic in a tweet to my connected staff.  I immediately received many sincere and somewhat lugubrious responses. As I walked out the door for the last time, I wondered to myself: Did I make a big enough difference?  Will everything we worked so hard to put into place continue and improve?

At exactly 11:25 p.m., I received a tweet from one of my teachers, @MrsBeck25, who had altered and enhanced the picture that I had previously tweeted out.  To me, this picture says it all.

This photo will now be framed and represent the 16th thing that matters most:  
Instilling In Others, A Passion To Progress Forward

Thank you Mrs. Beck

Friday, June 22, 2012

Assisted Learning

Recently, Tom Whitby wrote a provocative article called Hypocrisy in the Profession of Education. I ask that you take the time and read and share this article. In fact, if you are short on time, stop reading my thoughts and click here.

The biggest hypocrisy of the Education Profession is that the educators too often have become poor learners unwilling to leave their comfort zones to improve their learning. They are not “bad teachers” they are however victims of bad practices of a complacent education system. To be better educators, we first need to be better learners.” - Tom Whitby

I believe that educators do the best they know how. In other words, they can only do what they know. How can we as leaders assist teachers in increasing their knowledge and know-how? I believe it starts with the leader. Only when the school leader is the lead learner, can we effectively assist teachers in eliminating bad practices due to complacency.

As leaders, we should...

  • Work to recognize what our teachers want to learn, as well as, what they need to learn. Then, make an effort to spark their curiosity. Keep teachers in their uncomfort zone. Ask the right questions and want to hear their answers. Assist by asking “How” and “why” and “what if” questions to stretch the boundaries of their minds.
  • If a teacher has an iPad or iPhone, introduce the personalized magazine App, Zite. Assist the teacher in choosing topics of interest such as Education, Professional Development, etc.  This is a great way to stay abreast of the latest issues and trends in education.
  • Sit alongside a teacher and assist in setting up a Twitter account. Do this at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday so that at 11:00 a.m. you can introduce #edchat and participate together for the first time.  Share a list of other chats that would be of interest to the individual teacher.
  • Assist a teacher in setting-up an RSS feed. There are many different ways to do this such as Google Reader. Share specific blogs that would be of interest to the individual teacher. For instance, for 4th grade math and social studies, introduce Paula Naugle's classroom blog. Here is a link to Cybrary Man's Class Blogs.
  • Urge teachers to take the time to practice what they learn. Curiosity without initiative does not translate into results. Many times it takes a change in behavior to cause a change in belief.  Assist teachers by providing them the time and resources they need to put new ideas into action.    

I truly believe the more you learn, the more you will want to know. By assisting and distributing expertise throughout your staff, the level of what your teachers' know and are able to do will increase substantially.  Before long, many teachers will be challenging you as the lead learner!

A little assistance and a new way of learning can prepare educators to thrive in the ever changing environment that we face every day.  Please add to the conversation.  What are some effective ways school leaders can assist teachers in continuous learning?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reflect, Adapt and Remain Relevant

My favorite part about summer is having time to reflect and begin thinking about the possibilities of the upcoming school year. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparation is essential to a strong beginning especially if you plan to implement any fresh new ideas.

Preparing for requires reflecting upon what has worked and what hasn't in the classroom, despite how painful it can sometimes be. When I was a physical education instructor, I found ways to assess my own teaching.  I would ask students to write me a letter after each unit simply answering two simple questions. What did you like most about this unit and what was something that you did not understand or would like to know more about during this unit? First of all, you must prepare yourself for very honest answers and most importantly, be willing to learn and make adjustments accordingly.

“There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.” - Confucius

Without exerting genuine effort and real intention into your self-reflection, you are wasting your time. The unexamined teacher can lead to ineffective and outdated lessons year after year. Times change, technologies change, best practices change, and you must change in order to adapt and remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education.

REFLECT ON WHAT? Ask Yourself These Tough Questions - And Be Honest!
What can I do to make my teaching more authentic while adding to my students' learning and enjoyment?
Which lessons or units am I only continuing to perform out of habit or laziness?
What changes can I make to my instructional delivery in order to directly increase my students' learning?
What assessment types am I utilizing with every student, every day, to make sure they have mastered the instructional goal? What are you doing with the results of your assessments to adjust instruction to ensure student learning? 
Are there any aspects of the profession that I am ignoring out of fear of change or lack of knowledge? (i.e. technology)
What can I do to be more proactive in my professional development?
How can I increase valuable parental involvement?
One of the best things about teaching is that every school year offers a fresh, new start. We owe it to our students to reflect, prepare, and make student learning inescapable!