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This is the first in an ongoing series of posts inspired by How I Work, a bi-weekly series on one of our favorite sites, Lifehacker. As educators, we like to know how other educators work, how they live, and how they play, so every other week we’ll be featuring a new interview with a new teacher. This week, we’ll hear from Marc Hamlin, an English Language Arts teacher from West Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Location: Exeter- West Greenwich Regional Senior High School, West Greenwich, RI 02817
Desired location: Eventually, I want to move on to teaching at a local community college. I want to “age with the profession.” I can’t say I’ll have the same relevance or world view of a 15 or 16 year-old when I’m in my late 50s-early 60s.
Current work title (administrator/teacher/school technologist, etc.) Also, what grade do you teach?: It’s interesting. I taught ELA at my school for the first 8 years of my career. Then, I had an opportunity to teach educational technology for 10 years. It was fun, but 10 years of teaching in “The Bunker” (room with no windows) can really warp your perception of reality. Then I went back to my first love, ELA, and here I am, but with a strong technology skillset. I’m all about integrating technology into lessons to improve learning.
Area of expertise (subjects you teach or have an interest in): ELA, computer technology, web design, computer networking and network design, relational database management systems (RDBMS) with languages like MySQL.
Do you have a specific long-term career goal?: Yes, I want to start creating instructional videos on YouTube. I really think it’s now, not the future.
Languages you have studied or currently speak: Well, It’s funny. On my father’s side, they came from France and Belgium. On my mother’s side, they came from French-speaking Canada (Quebec). But the language was taken out of them when they went to school (My mother spoke French until she went to school.) They were told not to speak French at home. It was all about assimilation, then.
As a consequence, I speak the French I learned in French class- “Un petit peu.” I feel I’ve lost a good deal of my cultural heritage as a result. When I look at Hispanic students, I think, “Yes, learn English, but don’t ever stop speaking your language. Once you lose that, you lose your cultural treasures.”
The project you’re most proud of: The “Sweded Video Project” is my very favorite. Inspired by the Jack Black/Danny Glover/Mos Def film, “Be Kind, Rewind,” the project centers around creating stories (or adapting stories read during the semester) to a five-minute “short attention-span” theater.
Imagine breaking down Moby Dick to 5 minutes. It’s breathtaking. It’s not merely about how we tell stories, but why, after all these thousands of years, we still gather around an electric campfire to hear and tell each other stories. And unlike other group projects, each student has a clearly defined job, with a “deliverable” at the end of the process. That part is 70% of the project grade. The video is only 25%. They make a movie poster using Photoshop to promote their movie- 5%. We have a large-format printer that allows us to print to poster size. We put these posters up in the hallway to promote their videos. Then, we roll out a red carpet at “premiere time” and “movie day” becomes a party, a human coming-together. I’d like Arne Duncan to put that through his testing regime and see what he comes up with.
Favorite technology gadget for the classroom: I’m a big fan of BYOD (bring your own device). As long as your platform isn’t too esoteric, most devices can play nice-nice with web 2.0 tools out there. I’m now exploring a site called exittix.com to facilitate some formative assessment strategies in my classroom, but we’re not 1:1 yet. Until then, 5-up (hold up five fingers, students self-assess their competency before and after a lesson) will have to suffice.
And I’d be crazy not to mention the impact Edmodo.com has had on my classroom. Parents, students both know what is expected of them, and when. Not to mention the fact that I don’t lose out to snow days anymore. And it’s a place for students to distill what they think about a work or a topic before they are asked to comment, at night, in a thread.
Next conference/professional-development event you’re planning to give or attend: I’ll be attending something called “Writing Strategies to meet CCSS” which is supposed to be good. I’m going with my department on 3/17. If it doesn’t work out, well, there’s an Irish bar across the street from the conference site. So after the conference, I may have to go in there for a debriefing.
How many hours per day do you usually work?: As a teacher of ELA, I often work 10 hours per day. At 48, I can’t work as long or as late into the night as I used to. When I first started, I’d be up until 12, 1 am…Now I have rules for myself. Like, “Don’t bring home more than you can evaluate in one night.” Otherwise, that “teacher bag” can become something of a nemesis.
Are you an early-riser or a night-owl?: It’s also seasonal, and generational. Used to be a major night owl back in my younger days. Hated mornings. Now, I’m in bed by 9:30-10 p.m. because I’m up at 5:30 for work. I like to get in early- 6:30 or so, plan, think, and pray that God gives me the wisdom and the words to help every single kid I encounter. I pray for certain students who I know are in turmoil. And I pray for good cycling weather.
Do you have any pets or kids (names and ages)?: I have one kid. She’s black, has four legs, never changes clothes, and she’s an obedience school dropout, but I love my dog Holly, a black lab-weimaraner mix.
Next city/country you want to visit: I’m headed to England and Scotland in April with a group of students on an EF Educational Tour. Just got back from Paris, France in November (Thanksgiving). Paris blew my mind. It’s a jaw-droppingly gorgeous city.
Favorite vacation place: It’s simple enough, but hard to get there (from the northeast, USA)- Maui, Hawaii. Went there a few years ago and did not want to come home. Don’t ever go there during February break. It will seriously mess you up for life. It really is paradise on earth. Why anyone would want to live anywhere else is beyond me.
Favorite book: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is my all-time favorite. You hear about “Macondo” and the house of mirrors and you wonder what is going on, and why all these people in the novel have the same names over the generations, and then, in about the last 50 to 100 pages, it hits you, and you can’t put the novel down until you’re finished. And then your mind explodes with reverence for Garcia Marquez’s genius.
Favorite song: Right now, Joe Pug’s “Hymn 101.” He’s picked up Dylan’s crown, shined it up, and it fits.
Do you have a Twitter account we can follow you on?: I have a twitter account: @mrhamlinewg but because Twitter is blocked in our school (I’m behind the Iron Curtain) I don’t use it very often. Yeah, I need to get writing.
Will you be attending ASCD's 69th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show next week in Los Angeles? We're thrilled to have you and I want to personally invite you to Trader Vic's LA Live Saturday evening for the #ASCD14 Tiki Tweet Up sponsored by Herff Jones Nystrom.
Stop by Trader Vic’s Saturday evening between 6:30 and 9:30 for a "lei’d back" time complete with great company and complimentary appetizers. A tweet up is an in-person meet up of Twitter users and at the #ASCD14 Tiki Tweet Up you can connect with fellow @ASCD followers. Even if you are not active on Twitter, we encourage you to stop by and network with other educators.
Teacher Appreciation Week Comes Early to Snowbird at #ECET2
During the closing address of the Gates Education Foundation’s (@gatesed) Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (#ECET2) Convening, participants were asked to share one word with an elbow partner that summed up their feelings about the conference. I struggled to convey the thoughts in my head using the words “expanded” or “broadened.” I needed a lot of explanation to go along with my response, all the while getting further and further away from the one word challenge. With time to reflect, what I really was trying to get at was the idea that this experience, and the teachers that I had the privilege of coming in touch with, truly opened my mind. Without knowing it, I came to the table with narrow definitions of the idea of teacher leader, of how to reach all learners, and of the implications of common core. Furthermore, I came with a limited view of my own place within the context of this amazing group of teachers and the impact I might have. I was nominated to attend through my work with ASCD and the Whole Child Network, which as many of my peers have stated, seems like being recognized for simply doing what our job requires, but it is never that simple.
When it came time to share out with the whole group, Dr. Irvin Scott (@iscott4) asked people to stand and call out their words. A common theme quickly emerged from the chorus of responses: refreshed - inspired –invigorated – energized - and an array of synonyms that expressed similar sentiments. As I sat there listening, the inadequateness of the word I came up with during the turn and talk became apparent, and a new one came to mind . . . appreciated. I shouted it out just in time to make the final cutoff for sharing, and quickly leaned over to my partner telling her not to give away the secret of my switch.
Appreciation is such a simple sentiment, and one that I’m sure most teachers will agree we often don’t feel. Much of the press likes to embellish the negative connotations that are associated with our profession. Education as a system has a pass-the-buck type of mentality, and usually that buck stops at the head of the class. I am always critical at the beginning of the year, when our district special education department calls us together to say what a great job we are doing before following with a laundry list of all of the things we aren’t doing well. There are endless examples any teacher can give you. By the very nature of the youth we serve, and through no fault of their own, a thank you is not something I here every day (Although I dream of the students that come to me to say, “Hey Mr. Russo, thanks for teaching me the elements of plot. That was mind-blowing!”) And it was clear, through discussions with other attendees, that being a teacher leader, especially an unofficial one, doesn’t always come along with an eager group of followers hanging on your every word. In fact, it can be quite the opposite.
Having said all that, the name of this incredible event gets lost in the simplicity of the acronym. It truly served to elevate and celebrate the work that we do. For the first time in a long time, I feel appreciated, and in turn want to show some of my appreciation. I am appreciative to ASCD and the group from the Whole Child Network for thinking that I am worth it. I am appreciative to my co-presenters, Kristen Tolsen Cons, Barry Saide (@barrykid1), and Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy), for considering me an equal when in fact they are miles ahead of me (and again to Barry and Suzy for inadvertently inspiring me to write this post). I am appreciative to my colleague circles, especially those in the “Reaching All Learners” circle, who reminded me that it’s not just about the high flyers and the strugglers, but it’s about boys and girls, about race, about special education, about socioeconomic status, and it’s about the kids in other people’s classes that do not have the privilege of sitting in our classrooms on a daily basis. I am appreciative to my principal (especially after hearing some horror stories) because she has fostered my growth from the moment I stepped in the building as a first year teacher four years ago. I am appreciative for everyone that shared with me and listened to what I had to share. I am appreciative for all of the comments and links and hash tags on the social network surrounding this conference (#ECET2). I am appreciative of the Gates Education Foundation for holding this convening and living up to it’s promise. I am appreciative of my family, who often take the backseat to grading, planning, or IEP writing on the weekends. But most of all, I am appreciative of my students, who push me to be better daily, who, upon my return, showed that they missed me in a variety of different ways, but most simply when one student, Paulina, said “Welcome home, Mr. Russo.” I am truly at home in the classroom. I am where I belong, and I am appreciative of the opportunity to serve kids through all of the highs and lows that come with the responsibility.
9. But this is Social Media. I'm afraid to post. Yes it is Social Media (SM) but a rule of thumb is this, anything you post whether it's on Twitter, Facebook or a blog or a comment on a blog is a footprint. Just think of it this way, do I want my parents of students, staff and my family reading this, then you will be safe. Also, be kind - it is okay to agree to disagree in chats, but we are here to learn. Be nice. Diane Ravitch has a great post about posting comments on her blog. Rules to follow! Edutopia has a great page about creating Social Media guidelines here: http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
ASCD Nominations Committee Selects Candidates for ASCD Board of Directors
In January 2014, the 2014 ASCD Nominations Committee selected five candidates to run for two open positions on the Board of Directors in the next General Membership Election. Those five individuals are Tony Frontier (Wisc.), Josh Garcia (Wash.), Patrick Miller (N.C.), Lorraine Ringrose (Alberta, Canada), and Anne Roloff (Ill.). The election process will open on April 1 and will run through May 15.
ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda
The key priority for ASCD in 2014 is to promote multimetric accountability so that standardized test scores are not the sole measure of student achievement, educator effectiveness, or school quality. Multimetric accountability systems must
The 2014 Legislative Agenda (PDF) contains four policy recommendations:
ASCD Educators Connect the Classroom to the Capitol
Educators throughout the United States recently convened in Washington, D.C., to attend ASCD’s legislative conference, the Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA). Attendees had the opportunity to meaningfully network with colleagues, build knowledge to expand their personal influence, and hear from top education thought leaders including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who urged attendees to “seize the day.” Duncan also commended ASCD and its members for “walking the walk when it comes to professional development,” helping classroom teachers and schools leaders commit to a “rich, well-rounded, rigorous education.”
If you were unable to attend this year, see LILA’s storify collection—which brings together your colleagues’ pictures, tweets, and reflections. ASCD Emerging Leader alum Hannah Gbenro also shared her reflections in an ASCD EDge® post Educational Advocacy: Why and How.
Other conference highlights:
Access follow-up resources from the conference, including more detailed policy recommendations and an overview of the legislative agenda.
ASCD Emerging Leader is Facilitator of New Professional Interest Community
Congratulations to ASCD Emerging Leader Jill Thompson, facilitator of ASCD’s newest Professional Interest Community on the topic of personalized learning. Please join the Personalized Learning group on the ASCD EDge platform to stay connected on this important topic.
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation on Teacher Leadership
The ASCD Forum is the chance for educators to make their voices heard on a topic of worldwide importance. From January 15 to April 11, ASCD invites all educators to explore the question through online and face-to-face discourse, “How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?”
To learn more about the ASCD Forum:
To join the conversation:
Join the ASCD EDge® group and respond to the comments from other educators.
Read and comment on these blog posts:
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #ASCDForum.
Write your own blog post on the topic of teacher leadership. Here’s how.
Join us at ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles at session #2124 hosted by ASCD President Becky Berg on Sunday, March 16, 8:00–9:30 a.m. pacific time.
As the most active leaders in the association, you are integral to the success of this conversation. Your leadership helps set an example for others to make their voices heard. Please join the discussion on teacher leadership!
ASCD Leader Voices
ASCD Releases 2014 PD Online® Course Catalog for K–12 Educators—ASCD announced the release of the 2014 PD Online course catalog. The new catalog offers more than 100 user-friendly courses developed by ASCD authors and experts available anytime, anywhere to educators, including 21 new PD Online courses. PD Online courses are developed to help educators increase their knowledge and discover best practice methods. Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces Expanded On-Site and Blended Professional Learning Services Offerings—ASCD announced the new ASCD Professional Learning Services, enabling more school districts nationwide to receive greater customized professional development from the association. The ASCD Professional Learning Services offerings are customizable based on the needs of a district or school and are available in on-site or blended solutions. Read the full press release. Read the full press release.
2014 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show Set to Host Sessions Focused on Technology, Leadership, Common Core Implementation, and More—ASCD announced the full schedule of events for the upcoming 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. The upcoming conference will be held March 15–17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Attendees will learn ideas and best-practice strategies that drive student achievement while unlocking ways to boost teacher and leadership effectiveness. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases Four New Professional Development Publications to Transform Learning—ASCD announced the release of four new professional development titles for educators. As educators face new standards and classroom challenges, they will find solutions for prioritizing school improvement efforts, working with difficult students, bringing joy into teaching and learning, and teaching vocabulary effectively in these new professional development publications. Read the full press release.
ASCD Brings Spring and Summer Common Core Professional Development Institutes to New Cities in 2014—ASCD announced the lineup of one- and two-day Professional Development Institutes for the spring and summer. Expanding to eight new cities, ASCD’s institutes are designed to provide greater support to educators nationwide as they continue to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), while meeting educators where they are. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda, Calls for Increased Multimetric Accountability—ASCD released its 2014 Legislative Agenda on Monday, January 27th, at the association’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Developed by the association’s Legislative Committee—a diverse cross section of ASCD members representing the entire spectrum of K–12 education—the 2014 ASCD Legislative Agenda outlines the association’s federal policy priorities for the year. Read the full press release.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
It is a way to confront challenging issues without piling more on the district office staff.
I mentioned earlier in the forum that I was not a fan of the term “teacher leader” as I believe that in order to teach one must lead. I don’t know that I would go to battle over that terminology but contemplating it has opened up a new trail of thoughts for me.
One of the advantages of the term "linchpins" instead of "teacher leader" is that becoming an educational linchpin is not dependent upon the assessment or vote of anyone else. Rather, it is meritocratic. We either hold sway and influence among our peers or we are not linchpins.
Which leads me to the outline of an answer to a much more complicated question:
"How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders”
Build it so that they will come…
Create an Elementary Point of Impact Cadre (EPIC): a group of linchpin teachers that will provide voice from the classroom on a set of issues. Then ask for teachers to volunteer and personally suggest that others do.
Build a small group classroom experts from different schools and assign them a task that plays to their areas of expertise. Choose one of the many issues, dilemmas, decisions, or demographics that this district is confronted with or challenged by and ask the EPIC teachers to or explore it.
It will be important to give them both title and power to do the work.
Give them time out of the school day, send some of them to a conference, or to visit another district, or have them meet with an expert.
· Respect them and they will come back
Master teachers are lifelong learners, and just like our students we all want to be honored with genuine and specific praise and we want to know when we are falling short. So once an EPIC group is created they will have to be listened to. They will have to be able to measure the impact and value of their work,
So have them meet with the Superintendent. Have them present their work to the school board or their peers.
When their work is rolled out give the individual members credit, not just the faceless group.
This is not a perfect solution, even as I type this out I see glitches that will have to be ironed out. But I think idea is a solid starting point.
· It offers great teachers a way to stay in the classrooms where they practice and perform their passion: the art and the science of teaching.
· It allows districts and schools to tap into the wealth of knowledge, sway, and devotion that these teachers carry with them.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
Throughout the United States, the Challenging Teacher Leader has been labeled as a contrarian, pessimistic, and even a barrier to change. Quite often the Challenging Teacher is not nominated for Teacher of the Year or district committees. Tha Challenging Teacher is viewed as an outlier or a loose cannon. As we continue to discuss Teacher Leadership on the ASCD Forum, consider tweeting or blogging your thoughts regarding The Challenging Teacher Leader. You may post your thoughts by replying to this blog, write your own blog, or tweet your thoughts #ASCDForum.
Who is the person on your staff you can predict will say, "Yeah But?" When the principal says, "We are going to implement a new math program to support our gifted students" this teacher responds on que, "Yeah But!" When the assistant principal says "I would like to send you to a national conference for social studies teachers" - the teacher replies, "Yeah But.....I am having a guest speaker that week." As a principal, I get frustrated with the "Yeah But" response. However, there are teacher leaders who respond, "Yeah But!" I believe we could support more students if we.......
A teacher who challenges the process and forces everyone in the organization to think is serving as a techer leader. One of the most popular leadership books over the past 25 years is a book titled, The Leadership Challenge (1987). Kouzes and Posner (1997) wrote that leaders Challenge the Process. A teacher leader who challenges the process, may provide valuable input for school improvement or implementing school programs.
Schelchty (1993) wrote an article on teacher leadership titled, On the Frontier of School Reform with Trailblazers, Pioneers, and Settlers. "Settlers need to know what is expected of them and where they are going" (Schlechty, 1993). Who are the Settlers on your staff? A settler could be a strong teacher leader, but they may resist until the details of the program are clear and they feel confident that this will not become the "Flavor-of-the Month" initiative. School administrators can identify the settlers on staff and seek out their input prior to making an announcement about a new program or goal. With the input of a settler, the principal can have a deeper understanding of what reservations staff members have and can develop FAQs, offer additional information, or adjust the implementation timeline.
When we think of teacher leaders, we often view a "Yes, Man!" Does leadership mean that we say yes to everything in order to avoid conflict? Patrick Lencioni (2002) wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He described the "Fear of Conflict"as one of the dysfunctions. School administrators must be open to conflict and willing to listen to multiple perspectives. Many principals view the person who asks questions as a challenging teacher leader and may not value the challenges as much as the teacher who is willing to say yes and move forward with any project or school improvement goal.
Questions for Teachers and Administrators to Consider:
1. Do Challenging Teacher Leaders add value to the school/school district?
2. Do I view the Challenging Teacher Leader as a teacher leader or a contrarian?
3. How can a principal or superintendent utilize the expertise of the Challenging Teacher Leader?
4. Should the Challenging Teacher be required to provide a solution to his or her "Yeah But" comments?
5. Is the Challenging Teacher Leader less valuable to the school than the "Yes Man"?
6. Should we say yes to every new initiative and avoid conflict?
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
New York Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson told the media he was "the straw that stirs the drink." As a principal, I feel the same way about teacher leaders. A teacher leader provides coaching, feedback, professional development, new ideas, professionalism, and more! I don't rely on one or two teacher leaders. As a leader, I try to develop new teacher leaders and I encourage our existing teacher leaders to do the same. School improvement is not a solo act.
3 Ways Teacher Leaders Support School Improvement
360 Degree Leadership
Teachers and administrators who want to understand the importance of teacher leadership should read The 360 Degree Leader (Weber, ASCD EDge). Maxwell (2005) wrote, "the reality is that most people will never be the top leader in an organization. They will spend their careers somewhere in the middle" (p. 17). Leadership author John Maxwell describes how [teacher] leaders can use their experience and voice to influence school board policy, curriculum development, vertical alignment, school planning, and important decisions made at the building level. Who are the 360 Degree Leaders in your school?
A teacher leader is a mentor to other teachers. This person sees leadership as a way to add value to others. When a younger teacher has a difficult parent-teacher conference, the teacher leader is there to offer support and listen to her colleague. A teacher leader also encourages professional development and growth through serving as a role model and lifelong learner. Unlike a teacher who closes the door and focuses on "my students and my classroom," the teacher leader reminds staff that great schools focus on "our students and our school." The Center for Creative Leadership has a video which highlights the importance of the Mentor Leader (also described in a book with the same title, written by former NFL Coach Tony Dungy). Leaders Develop Leaders outlines five questions to consider as you begin to develop leaders (Weber, ASCD Whole Child).
Inner Circle Leadership
As a principal, you need to have an Inner Circle. In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998), Maxwell described The Law of the Inner Circle. The Law of the Inner Circle states, “A persons potential is determined by those closest to him.” In some schools, this group of teacher leaders serve on the School Improvement Team. Sometimes, the inner circle consists of a group of individuals who carry out the role without a title or committee. If you are a school administrator, you cannot lead alone. You need the input and feedback from one or more teacher leaders.
If you have this type of teacher leader in your organization, then you will see his/her impact throughout the school. Teacher leaders are critical to a school’s success. The principal who tries to lead without teacher leaders will fail.
Who are the teacher leaders in your building? What are you doing to develop teacher leaders? What are you doing to help leaders grow? “Teacher leaders are most often the missing piece of education reform” (Ratzel, 2012). If you don’t have teacher leaders in these roles, there may be one or more teachers waiting for you to recognize their talents. Maxwell (2008) wrote, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I would argue that everything rises and falls on Teacher Leadership.
I am very fortunate to be able to attend a number of Education Conferences each year. This offers me a perspective of education conferences that is not afforded to a majority of educators. When one considers the total number of American educators compared to the total attendance at these conferences and then factor out the people who repeatedly attend each year, it is easy to see that most educators do not get to these national conferences. That is a shortcoming I believe that hurts the profession. There is much to be learned and shared at these conferences that can make a difference to an educator.
Of course many of these conferences are so vast that it is difficult to report on the whole conference when one can only experience a small part of it. It brings to mind the five blind men trying to describe what an elephant looked like based on only one part of the elephant that each had physical contact with. Each description was completely different, and not one accurately described the whole elephant.
My last three conferences were Educon, FETC, and TCEA. In each of these I met with many connected educators and participated exclusively in sessions of discussion or panel-driven discussion. I find these types of sessions more in line with what suits me in learning. I feel that I can personalize the sessions for my needs, and I can even participate in the content of the discussion personally becoming a part of the learning. Educon of all the conferences is the one conference that focuses on these types of sessions. Of course that would make it my conference of preference.
The other conferences generally depend on “sit and get” PowerPoint demonstrations, or “bells and whistles” software presentations. There will always be a need for these sessions, but I question the balance, or lack of balance, they have when compared with discussion sessions at any given conference.
The glaring deficiency in any session is that it must be submitted and approved 8 to 12 months in advance. How does that maintain relevance? How is the latest and greatest in education even represented at these conferences, unless it is discussion? Discussion can be timelier than any presentation that is eight months old.
Discussion adds the ability to deal with topics of pedagogy and methodology as opposed to just the mechanics of a lesson. Discussions of education that do not take place in school buildings can take place with educators of varied experience to share and elaborate. This is the fodder for reflection. Reflection goes a long way in changing the way we approach things. It often prompts change and promotes reform.
I believe that the success of the Edcamp format where discussion and collaboration are the focus, and the popularity of real time chats on Twitter and Google Hangouts are all indicators of change. Educators are personalizing their learning in larger numbers. This may be a trend or something bigger. Whatever it is, we need to adjust the way conferences are providing what educators need as a profession.
As a connected educator, I loved being with and sharing ideas and discussions with other educators with whom I am connected. Our conversations were not the same as those of unconnected educators at these conferences. As I talked with educators who were not in collaboration with others on a regular basis, I found a need to define and explain things to them that are discussed and understood online by connected educators daily. I am not saying that these unconnected educators are not good teachers, but maybe not as informed as a professional needs to be, or as relevant as a professional could be. We are in a profession that deals with information and learning. We need to be relevant in two areas, content and education. Online collaboration enables that to happen more efficiently and on a constant basis. These online discussions are carried further in a face-to-face setting of a conference. Those not involved with online collaboration are often playing catch up in the discussion. A worse alternative is that they withdraw from involvement in the discussion altogether.
Technology has moved collaboration from a way of learning that only happened in a limiting face-to-face setting, to one that takes place anywhere at anytime breaking down the previous borders of time and space. For educators not to take full advantage of this new-found ability is a missed opportunity. We need to support, enhance, and encourage collaboration in all of its forms, online and face-to-face. Ideas that are born at conferences can be continually evolved online. The discussion need no longer end after the closing keynote. Ideas that are born online may be expanded and improved in the face-to-face collaboration of the conferences. We don’t need the opening keynote to start the thinking and connecting. We are professional educators who need to do a better job educating ourselves as educators. If we are to better educate kids, we need to better educate their educators.
I’m reminded of author Frank Herbert’s advice, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story,” as I begin the third and final installment of the writing conference blog series. This won’t be the last time I address conferences, but it’s the end of the series highlighting conference challenges teachers face.
So far I’ve shared tips on how to combat the challenge of the old-fashioned English teacher mindset and what do to when you’re not exactly sure what to conference about. Let’s take a look at tips for when your class gets too loud on conference days.
Class is Disruptive During Conference Time
Solution — Re-Teach Routines & Display Guidelines
Inappropriate behavior need not interrupt conferencing time. The early WriteSteps lessons are intentionally short to allow time for establishing expectations and classroom management techniques. If you’re dealing with interruptions, noise, etc. after beginning formal conferencing, use our Self Reflection Checklist. It provides 14 tips to help teachers prepare lessons, materials, and behavioral expectations. Be consistent.
Tip: Be sure students know what to do when they finish writing. Some teachers allow students to get up and get a book; others do not want them walking around. Whatever you decide, be clear. Display your class expectations using the What to Do When I’m Done Writing poster to support good classroom management.
Tip: Be sure to teach students how to proceed when they don’t know how to spell a word. Practice “stretching out” words to hear the sounds, and reinforce using the word wall on the WriteSteps Privacy Folder. These habits will save you and your students much time! Once you’ve established them, your students will be comfortable not knowing how to spell everything right away. Spelling can be corrected in the editing stage.
Tip: Don’t stretch your class’s capacities by overdoing it. Limit yourself to 3 students during a formal conferencing period (6 if you are teaching kindergarten). Know in advance who you will be meeting with that day, and post their names on the Today I’m Having Writing Conferences With poster so students will be ready.
In conferences, we are coach and cheerleader. Our playbook includes not only lessons, but also valuable resources such as a list of the Common Cores taught so far (focus skills), record-keeping tools, and management posters. These resources, and the practices outlined above, will empower your students to play -- and write -- like stars!
I recently attended one of the largest education conferences in the United States, FETC in Orlando, Florida. The focus of the conference was the use of Technology in Education. The sessions and vendors were for the most part all technology-driven. Education and technology today are often linked together and are the predominant force in education conferences today.
Technology provides both educators and students a means to Communicate, Collaborate, and most importantly to Create. All of these “C Words” however revolve about the biggest “C Word” of all in education, Content. Every teacher is familiar with the expression “Content is King” It is what has driven education since its beginning. It is the focus of lecture and direct instruction alike. It also, to my casual observation, appears to be the biggest draw for educators at these education conferences. The products that offer content delivery seem to draw the largest gatherings at the vendor booths on the exhibit floor. Of course, when this observation first gelled in my mind, I may have only then viewed the entire conference through that lens which might have skewed the results in my head.
Content delivery, however seems to be the magnet that draws in educators because that is how many educators envision themselves, as content experts. Of course that has been drilled into the heads of American educators for two centuries, so it should come as no surprise. The 19th and 20th centuries did not have the wherewithal in technology to support educators the ability to Communicate, Collaborate, or Create with any efficient, or convenient way. If it could not be done face-to-face and created by hand, then it could not be done. Of course this began to slowly change in the second half of the 20th century and sped up as that century closed out.
The addition of electricity first, and then computers moved everything forward at a rapid pace, but again it was all for content delivery. Movies and filmstrips dominated the 20th century. The overhead projector, which is still used to deliver content today, is technology that is over 75 years old. Video was a great step forward, but again for presenting content. As videotaping became easier, cheaper and a more convenient technologically, more creation began in the form of TV shows and videotaped presentations. Once students discovered the power of video, it was a game changer. Think MTV.
As technology advances, our abilities to use it to expand what we can do, and how we can communicate, collaborate, and most importantly create has changed. We can do all of this more effectively and efficiently than any of the previous centuries allowed.
Communication has taken on many new forms that affect us every day. Texting was only an idea in the 20th century and now we live by it. Collaboration was a face-to-face process in the bygone days of the 20th Century. Today, we are not bound by time or space for collaboration. It takes place anywhere, at any time, both locally and globally. The ability to create has surpassed anyone’s imagination in the 20th century. The computer can replace publishers. Movie, TV, and Sound recording studios also now can be computer-based. Creation of content has never been so easily accomplished.
Yet, with all of this change in our ability to Communicate, Collaborate and Create with content, many educators insist on focusing on content delivery. This is squandering a great opportunity to educate. Whatever happened to Bloom’s Taxonomy? If we fail to change the way we teach, we will have quickly outlived our ability to do so. Our kids do not need content experts, or content deliverers. The Internet does a far better job of that, than any educator can do. Content may always be King, but the approach to it must change in education. Educators need to be sounding boards and mentors, guides and counselors. We need to teach kids what is worthy and what is not – Critical Thinking. That is the biggest “C word” of all.
Kids are no longer limited to learning in the classroom. That is a myth that many believed in for decades. Access to information takes place 24 hours a day, but that is not education. We need to stop viewing technology as a distraction from education and see it as an attraction to it. It is only a distraction to students who have teachers who do not know how to approach technology meaningfully to use it to educate.
Technology is not the silver bullet for education. It is a tool for information and content that continually develops. Content and information are the basis for all education. If educators can’t adapt to the developing tools for communication, collaboration, and creation students will find their own mentors and guides. Educators are left with two choices, Relevance or Irrelevance. There will be little time to catch up at the rate technology is changing. Open minds and a continuing need to learn must be part of the profession. We need to continually develop as professionals and share out what we have learned to our community of educators. Technology is as much of a tool for the educators as it is for the students. Educators need to employ the best methods of; communication, collaboration and creation to do with content that which needs to be done to educate technologically driven students. This will require a change in both attitude and methodology on the part of today’s educators. The big problem is to get this concept across to educators who are not reading this post, or any other education Blog, the unconnected educators. How do we change the minds and hearts of people not connected to the means to do that? The other “C word”, Connected.
In the last few weeks, I’ve published three blog posts dispelling some of the myths surrounding the Common Core Standards and their implementation around our country.
My first thought this morning was to share them individually over Twitter and Facebook but I thought multiple tweets and status updates would overly saturate the stream. I decided it would be a better idea to collect the blog posts here in one container post. What follows are just the tip of the iceberg of conversations we should be having about the Race To The Top implementation for the sake of doing what is best for children as well as preparing them to be successful in life.
The first post, entitled The Problem is Not The Standards, details the minutiae around the standards that many folks are concerned with, though the standards themselves are almost always NOT the target of the conversation.
The second post, entitled An Alternate Take on the Close Reading Standard, discusses the emphasis on Close Reading in the standards rather than opportunities for metacognition and students providing evidence for thinking what they are thinking.
The third and most recent post, The 70 / 30 Delusion, explores the oft-overlooked page 5 of the ELA Common Core Standards dealing with the balance between literary and informational text.
I write often about the Common Core standards and I hope that readers understand that I am writing from an authentic place that matters to many teachers’ professional practice. I see a lot of different versions of the way that Common Core standards are implemented nationwide and I think that teachers are to be valued for adding their professional experiences and expertise to that implementation. What we’ve all learned about instruction and children should not be displaced by what vendors say is important. All of these new resources add to the menu of instructional options but shouldn’t become a verbatim checklist of what we must “cover.”
Stay tuned, more to come on this topic! I hope to see many of you reading this at the ASCD Conference in L.A. in March!
Follow Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000
I had the opportunity to attend ASCD's legislative institute (LILA) in DC last week. At this event, ASCD released their 2014 Legislative Agenda that was developed by a team of educators from around the Nation. We also explored both "why" and "how" to partner with elected officials. These ideas might be old news to a few of you, but likely they're new to most of us so I figured I'd take the time to share some key take away's.
Why partner with elected officials?
How do you partner with elected officials?
This is the third in a series of blog posts dispelling some of the myths surrounding the Common Core Standards implementation. The first blog post in the series can be accessed here at ASCD EDge dealing with standards not being the root of our educational issues and the second post is at Smartblogs on Education detailing what’s really going on with the close reading of text.
In classrooms across the country, informational text is becoming a more integral part of everyday instruction. ELA teachers are using informational text to support their literary texts and in some cases, the literary texts are being deleted from the curriculum in favor of using only informational text.
The rationale behind this major shift to increasing amounts of informational texts is largely coming from a seemingly innocuous table on page 5 of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. I would encourage you to leave this page either during or after your initial read through of the blog post and read that page for yourself. Closely read it. Read it with a pencil in hand. Annotate it. I’ll be referencing it.
Of the instructional shifts in English Language Arts that inform the Common Core Standards, shifts one and two deal with information text, shift one as a balanced component of English Language Arts and shift two with Content Knowledge in grades 6-12.
There is a need for more informational texts, I believe, but there’s been a misinterpretation of how much informational text should be in the ELA classroom and where the breadth of responsibility lies.
Let’s dissect Page 5.
This document begins with a table that represents the distribution of literary and informational texts in grades 4, 8, and 12 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP Exam). Those representations are 50/50, 45/55, and 30/70 respectively.
The first sentence after the chart states that the “standards aim to align instruction with this framework.” The rest of the first paragraph details the types of informational text and literary nonfiction that would help get the balance in place. There’s also a sentence that states, “a great deal of of informational reading in grades 6-12 must take place in other classes.” That’s other classes besides the ELA class.
The rest of the page deals with the distribution of writing types and the lessening of narrative writing as students progress through grade levels and how integration of standards through rich tasks are better than a separate focus on any individual standard.
The problem here comes when a surface skimming by teachers and administrators create and support some commonly held “misconceptions” that I see in multiple districts around the country. These “misconceptions” include:
70% of all text in every grade level must be informational.
If 70% of text should be informational, then we should do better, let’s go for 100% informational text and delete the literary.
Sometimes I see the flip side, that 70% of all text should be literary.
ELA teachers are solely responsible for this shift.
That is not what’s going on here. And we haven’t even dealt with the footnotes on this page yet.
Footnote number 1 states that “70 percent of student reading across the grade should be informational.” (This is specific to 12th grade, by the way.) The important words here are “across the grade.” Meaning that this percentage of informational text is not the sole responsibility of the ELA teacher.
What’s really going on here:
Every teacher’s identity should be shifting to that of a teacher of reading.
70% is a 12th grade intention.
70% is a 12th grade intention across multiple content areas, not just ELA.
ELA should NOT be deleting literary texts from the curriculum.
ELA teachers should be enhancing comprehension of literary text with supporting informational texts. (This is not a specific piece of evidence from page 5, just a general comment based on my knowledge of the standards and the PARCC content frameworks.)
Bottom Line: Every teacher in every school is responsible for the percentages detailed on Page 5, but with the understanding that they are based on the NAEP assessment and only a framework for instruction, not a specific set of instructional rules. The compartmentalization of who learns what where is not necessarilary a benefit to overall learning. We should be looking to integrate and overlap and connect. We should read closely the documents that are directing our instructional decisions. If we expect children to do it, then adults in the classroom should model it.
Every teacher is a teacher of reading.
All teachers are responsible for these instructional shifts.
If we reduce or delete the literary texts, then we reduce or delete engagement with reading. We definitely don’t want to do that.
Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000
I recently attended a provocative session at Educon. For those who don’t know Educon is an annual education Conference held at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia each year on the week before the Super Bowl. It is a conference of discussion as opposed to a conference of presentation. Each of the sessions is a facilitated discussion that involves the participants.
It was in one such session that #Edchat received what I thought was an unwarranted criticism from one of the participants in the session.
For those who may be new to social media scheduled chats take place on Twitter on various topics in education throughout the week. Each is hosted and moderated by an educator who has an interest in the topic of discussion. This real-time chat is conducted through the use of hash tags (#Edchat), which curate all the tweets, so that the chat can be followed without interference from other tweets on the stream. One would simply create a column to follow the specific hash tag and all other tweets would be filtered out so that only hash-tagged tweets would appear in that column. I gave a complete description of education Chats in this post: Chats: What are they and why do we need them?
The Edchat criticism came in a discussion that I attended on The Privileged Voices in Education; facilitated by two people I greatly admire Jose Vilson, and Audrey Watters. I attended that particular session in need of making myself more aware of how I might be unknowingly offending and even demeaning people, as I address things from a position of privilege as a white, heterosexual, male educator. Those are all factors that have been brought to my attention lately, specifically because I have a voice in social media, and I haven’t been aware of my privilege in our very diverse culture. This need for awareness comes with the added responsibility of being an educator. I was unaware of my micro-aggression. As I consulted Wikipedia for specifics I found Micro-aggression: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color ” I need to reflect on that discussion more before attempting to delve deeper in a later post. A follow-up post on this is my intention.
Of course the Edchat criticism came during this particular educator’s comments within this larger more important discussion, so I did not feel it appropriate to respond to him at the time. It was later however, that it occurred to me that we, as educators, are also privileged and must be aware of the less educated or informed. The comment about Edchat was not horrible. It was not even offensive. As a founder of Edchat, I am always listening to educators’ comments. Of course it doesn’t help, when a comment is made about Edchat in a room full of educators, and that a half-dozen, or so, immediately turn to me to see if I will respond. It reminds me of a group of kids gathered to watch a fight afterschool.
This educator said he was introduced to Edchat nine months ago and he felt that Twitter, and Edchat specifically was not the right place to have education discussions. He felt that 140-character format was insufficient for discussion. That was when it occurred to me that he might be speaking from a position of privilege as an educator who is exposed to education discourse. He certainly is an educator who was afforded an opportunity to attend a $200 conference in Philadelphia. His experience is not that of educators in other regions of America and even further from those of educators outside America. Who was he, to make the judgment for other people who an education chat had little, or no value? Opportunity to freely discuss issues in education does not take place in every school globally. Education chats are global, and they offer a glimpse, yes, just a glimpse, of only some of the things that concern educators. It is also mainly an American point of view for most of the chats probably dominated by a northeast influence. Additionally, I have no idea how many people of color are involved. I might assume that not as many as we should have. For anyone to consider all of this and feel that their experience outweighs all others in a judgment on the worth of a chat, may be a little too much, but, the again, I have already made too much of even this.
These twitter chats and even blog posts are not the deep discussions needed for us to make all the right decisions in education, or even our personal lives. They are however starting points. They are flags, signposts, billboards, and bulletin boards to concerns that educators have. They are forerunners and precursors to the needed deeper discussions. Please don’t criticize Chats like Edchat for not being the needed deep discussion. They were never intended to be that. They were set up to create awareness for the community. The very deep discussion that was taking place at Educon was in great part a result of the tweets and chats of social media as explained by the facilitators. We should remember that sometimes a chat is just a chat.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
This series of blogposts will feature how I knew I was a teacher leader in hopes that others may see the same qualities in themselves and be empowered.
After 14 years in professional practice in education, I have served on various committees and had the opportunity to teach over 1,300 students. Teachers know they are teachers. Administrators know they are leaders. However, in successful educational programs, both parties are aware that they operate in dual roles - teacher/instructional leaders.
I would like to take the time to reflect upon the time when I knew I was a teacher leader. As a middle school educator, I understood what my children needed, how to reach parents for support, and my discipline. I was content, or so I thought.
One thing I would do is read everything! Whatever was placed in my mailbox and even in the Teacher's Lounge. Everything I read peaked my interest! I asked the principal if I could attend a conference in Maryland called the MAG Conference. After attending a few sessions I started to think: I could really be up there doing that! And I did. I thought about what I did extremely well in the classroom and in the community. Once I knew that, I just googled opportunities for present at these conferences and applied. The worst they could say is no. Whether I was accepted or not, my role was enhanced.
This is when I knew I was a teacher leader. It wasn't a title, a certificate, a degree, a stipend, or an acknowledgement. It was an opportunity to share what I knew with others - it was leadership.
Teacher Leaders read and share resources.
2013 Emerging Leader