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On March 15, 2014, a friend and fellow ASCD Emerging Leader, Allison Rodman, and I had an opportunity to present at the ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California. The topic was "Teacher-Leadership" and the goal was to organize our ideas in the Ignite format.
While we were both used to speaking at conferences and in front of large groups of people, neither of us had experience with this format. Ignite limits the presenter to 20 slides, each on a 30-second timer. This organizes the presentation to a manageable five minutes, but forces the presenter to remain focused in order to efficiently convey the true message of the presentation. The task at-hand was exciting, challenging, and daunting. Could we actually do this and be successful?
Allie and I live about an hour away from one another, but our crazy schedules did not allow us to meet in person to organize our ideas or to practice. We worked through google docs and phone calls to compile the PowerPoint, divided up ownership of the slides, then finally were able to practice together just 30 minutes prior to the actual session.
Other Emerging Leader-friends were also part of this session, presenting their own insights into Teacher-Leadership. We jested that we'd be the only ones to show up to the session but that at least we'd be there to support one another. Our jokes became obsolete when the room filled to capacity of 150 people and others had to continually be turned away due to lack of seating and safety regulations. Needless to say, our nerves were getting the better of us!
I am incredibly proud of the work that Allie and I did leading up to that presentation, as well as the actual presentation itself. We shared our professional experiences with one another, divulged our fears with one another, laughed with one other, learned from one other, and ultimately, achieved success together. We challenged ourselves, stretched beyond our comfort zone, and drew on the wisdom of others for guidance (shout out to Alina Davis!). Now we have a story to give back to those who come after us.
We are teacher-leaders.
P.S. Allie organized our slides and spoken words into a beautiful blog post on her site, The Learning Loop. Please visit and enjoy!
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Nominations Committee Applications Open in May
Would you like to participate in the candidates selection process for next year’s Board members election? Several positions will be open on the 2014–15 Nominations Committee; application information will be available in the May L2L newsletter.
Leaders in Action
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 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2014 by ASCD. All Rights Reserved.
My research has earned me an invitation to participate in a panel at Dowling College’s Ninth Annual Practical Research Symposium. The title of the seminar is Educational Competitiveness in a Globalized World. I will be presenting his research on educational leadership preparation. Participants in this conference represent business, health care, education, and related fields. The Annual Conference seeks to explore the processes, actions, challenges and outcomes of learning, teaching, and training in social agencies. Dr. Frank Chong, current President of Santa Rosa Junior College, and past deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges at the United States Department of Education will deliver the keynote address.
|ASCD authors from left: Mike Fisher, Bill Sterrett, Mark Barnes|
The ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Los Angeles attracted over 9,000 educators from around the world. The conference featured amazing keynote speakers, like Daniel Pink and Sir Ken Robinson, and many remarkable sessions and roundtable discussions by authors and K-20 education experts.
Hundreds of vendors shared astonishing products, books and services that help educators improve teaching and learning in their schools. Conference host, ASCD, provided author talks, book signings and engaging receptions for attendees and presenters.
Professional and personal engagement
For me, the best part of the ASCD Conference was the professional and personal interaction. The conference gave me four days to see people in my Personal Learning Network -- many of whom I'd never met face to face -- and to reunite with colleagues and friends I don't see very often.
I have been social network friends with Bill Sterrett and Mike Fisher (pictured above), for years. At the ASCD Conference, not only did I meet them in person for the first time, we presented in a roundtable discussion about ASCD Arias, broke bread together and brainstormed ideas for future education projects.
At the conference, I also presented with longtime Twitter friends, Kristen Swanson, Steven Anderson, Tom Whitby, Nick Provenzano and Kim Sivick. Because we live in different states, I rarely see these people outside of cyberspace (we do hang out on Google+ occasionally), so the ASCD Conference gave us a chance to spend valuable time together in person.
There is nothing quite like a major education conference to refuel your engines and provide powerful information and tools to take back to the classroom.
For me, though, the ASCD Conference was about fellowship. Our PLNs provide an amazing group of people, with whom we have a unique kinship. Meeting them in person adds to that relationship, making it even better than it already was.
Thanks ASCD for an amazing weekend. Of course, the LA sunshine didn't hurt.
I’m sitting in the Detroit airport waiting for my final leg home. There’s so much to think about after an ASCD conference and so much that impacts my professional practice and my professional partnerships. I love that environment--so much growth and collegial conversation over the course of just a few short days. There’s nothing like it!
I was part-serious and part-joking this morning about the EduEarthQuake. While I was jolted out of bed, my first thought was to tweet out with the #ASCD14 hashtag versus any emergency decision I might have made. I guess that’s the power of being a part of something so awesome that you believe it can rock the world.
I love that the entire mood across the conference was one of hope, one of appreciating others’ perspectives, one of discovering the best of what we can do for our students.
So I’m thinking now about aftershocks. How are you going to continue the quake when you get back home? How are you going to rock your students’ worlds? How are you going to be so EduAwesome that everybody around you feels it?
I hope all of you are feeling as empowered as I am tonight. I loved my time with you and am setting my sights on Houston in 2015, with a detour to Orlando for the ASCD Fall Conference in October.
Rock the world, folks. Be an EduEarthQuake when you return!
@fisher1000 on Twitter
Recently I was having a discussion with a colleague who is new to the building. This teacher is confident, self-assured, and has decades of experience over me. We teach the same children, so we meet frequently for RTI and team meetings. This is the type of teacher that takes pride on being “old school,” which roughly translates to a no-nonsense, quiet-equals-learning, behavior-should-have-negative-consequences type of environment. It’s the model that many of us grew up with. Although I was able to navigate through this system because I was a so-called “good student,” many friends were not particularly successful, with the logical assumption that they were “bad students.” This model puts the system itself as the driving force for success, which is disempowering both to educators and to the students alike.
Now, the conversation in question did not go smoothly, especially when I insensitively insisted that the teacher “would not be successful” using this old school approach. Realizing that I was working against my goal, I quickly concluded with a final statement that I paraphrased from a Maya Angelou quote: People don’t remember what you say; they remember how you made them feel. It is a statement that I share with staff and students, and for me it is at the foundation of the type of teacher I strive to be. It is also at the core of the safe and supported tenets of Whole Child. The Whole Child philosophy offers a new approach that does not consider students to be good or bad, but forces educators to consider students’ needs. And what better way to find out, then to ask the students themselves? Consider two examples of how student voice and Whole Child thinking work together to show improvements on both the classroom and individual level.
In the beginning of this school year the majority of my first period reading class was sitting with their heads down. There are two quick assumptions that a teacher can make. One is that the kids don’t care about school; the other is that the teacher and or content actually is that boring. The old school of thought would assume the first, placing the responsibility of learning on the learner. The second is something that many teachers don’t want to admit, or that they convince themselves is all right because (true to old-school fashion),“it’s school, we sat through boring classes too, but it’s just something you have to do.” But a Whole Child approach caused me to consider a third option based on the Healthy tenet. As I was addressing the class about having their heads down I thought came to mind: “Raise your hand if you ate breakfast this morning.” Few hands went in the air, and surely none of the droopy heads had their hands up. On the spot, the homework assignment for the next class was to eat breakfast in the morning (in hindsight, I should have made students report out and really build understanding by reading articles as well, but now I know for future reference). I checked up on the class the next day, and pointed out how different the dynamic in the class was when all or most ate breakfast. I also included this information in my weekly email to parents with a link to an article about the importance of eating in the morning.
I started to think about my own practice and the assumptions teachers make everyday. How many students have been written off as not caring, when in fact they may have simply been hungry and unable to concentrate? The combination of awareness of the Whole Child tenets, and a discussion with the students lead to a change, and hopefully a lesson that they will never forget. This is also something that will be woven into my opening lessons at the beginning of the next school year along with other brain-based research. Had it not been for Whole Child thinking, and a moment to talk with the students, I may have plugged forward with the lesson. Others might have fallen back on an “old school” management approach of consequences or phone calls home. Whole Child opened my mind to other possibilities. I still get some heads down during class, but it is almost guaranteed that every time a student complains about a stomachache or being tired, they skipped breakfast; and we can fall back on that day and use their experience as evidence. On the flipside, I also have several students that tell me what they ate for breakfast regularly now (win).
Having conversations with the students is an essential in serving the whole child on the individual level as well. At a recent student conference, the teachers asked about being off-task in math class. The student shared this:
“When you tell everyone to pass the warm-up to the front, I haven’t even done it yet because I don’t know how. I’m still just trying to figure out what to do. Then I get so frustrated and upset because I don’t understand what you guys are talking about, and it’s not even worth trying after that.”
The teachers asked him why he doesn’t ask for help when he is confused, and he replied:
“I look around and see how much the other kids in the class need you and how you are trying to help them out, I just don’t want to be bothering you. You already have your hands full.”
Finally when we asked him about the classes he was doing well in, he shared that in those classes he felt the teachers explained things more clearly to him, and checked up with him to make sure he understood what he was doing.
Thinking about the Whole Child philosophy forces teachers to go back to the tenets. This student definitely did not feel supported in math, which caused him to disengage. Possibly the most disheartening aspect of this story is that the student felt like he was bothering the teachers to ask for help, or even worse, that he wasn’t worth their time. Meanwhile, the teachers thought that he didn’t care, that he was all over the place, too social, or just couldn’t focus. In this case, trying to reach the whole child truly led to an improvement in instruction and learning by changing the thinking of both the teachers and the student.
From that meeting a direct plan came about to give the student extra time to complete his warm up, to assist with some guided notes and cloze steps for problem solving, and to find a peer tutor that can be trusted to assist during presentation and practice of new content. It was a powerful meeting and one that came about from allowing the student voice into the process to assist with figuring out the missing pieces of the puzzle. The student felt more supported, and would then presumably engage more in class. The teachers were forced to think outside of the “old school” model of learning, and truly personalize for the individual in front of them. More of these conversations need to happen regularly if we are truly going to reach every child, every day (and we have to push our colleagues to have them). These conversations lead to greater understanding, but none if this understanding can happen without allowing the whole child to help you see the whole story. Not every child is so open and self-aware, and many children are not used to sharing their opinion about instruction. Some may not even know how to explain themselves, but they do know how you make them feel in class, and that discussion alone may be enough to help them help you.