Search ASCD EDge
Take a second and think about the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. If Ferris would have arrived home late, his whole ploy (to outsmart his parents by skipping school) would have been ruined. This is an example of a case when lateness has detrimental effects. On the other hand, think about filing your taxes. Filing late with the appropriate extension paperwork is no deal breaker-you will not have to sell your soul or give away your first born son. This latter example is a case when lateness is less critical for an individual.
So, in addressing lateness (late work) in the classroom, I think it is important to look at the consequences which impact student success. I was interested in how other educators faced the late work dilemma and this is what I found:
“Can I still turn this in?” How do you respond when you hear this from your students-is it frustrating or motivational in the classroom policy sense? What solutions have you tried in addressing student late work and how feasible were they? Sometimes, I find it useful to change my policy based on the students I am working with that particular year. How have you changed your late work policy over time?
Here’s a working hypothesis:
The organizations that most need change agents probably are the least likely to hire them because change agents typically make people with non-change orientations scared or nervous. If the people within were already oriented toward change and innovation, their organizations wouldn’t be the ones in the most need of change agents.
So a change- and innovation-oriented job candidate has a steep uphill battle to get considered and hired. The challenge is how to get people on hiring committees in non-change-oriented institutions to recognize the value of hiring for innovation, not replication… Got any thoughts on this?
Recently I was blessed to have the opportunity to travel abroad to recharge and refresh. During this trip I had an opportunity to snorkel over a barrier reef for the very first time. On the day that we went, the ocean was very choppy and the guide asked our group if we preferred to stay in shallow, calm waters or deeper, rough waters. The caveat of all this was that we were likely to see more wildlife in the rougher waters. Ultimately our group opted for the deep sea experience.
Riding out on the ocean with the boat bouncing and sea water spraying, I admit that I became a little nervous about our recent group decision. Soon enough we were at our starting point and I found myself taking a deep breath and jumping in to the deep blue sea. The cool water felt invigorating, but as I rose to the surface the rough waters distracted me and I could feel myself starting to panic. My mind flashed to the snorkel techniques my husband and I practiced prior to our trip and realizing that I was getting nowhere other than more panicked by trying to stay above water, I took a deep breath and dove under.
Beneath the rough waters was a colorful world of fish, coral and other sea life. As I let my body ride the choppy surface and my breathing finally returned to its normal pace, I was in awe of all that I was able to see. I found myself gesturing emphatically to my husband all the wonderful things I hoped we would remember later. Our guide zipped just ahead of us, pointing to other creatures and leading us over the world’s second largest barrier reef.
In my life I have willingly taken on many personal and professional challenges, all of which I have never regretted. For someone who has been quite accustomed to change, even this brief experience, out of my element, was for a moment terrifying. So what has this experience reminded me about change? What can leaders bring to a community that is going through a change process?
Recognize that people need to know why change is important and help them to make sense of it
One of my favorite TED talks is Simon Sinek’s How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The premise of his talk is about articulating the why before the how or what. When we embark on change in our communities, individuals need to know why the change is important and more importantly, the reason should be one that resonates with the community. At times in education, we can be too focused on the change process itself and we must slow down to involve those impacted by the change. In our ocean adventure, our guide clearly explained our options for the day and ultimately let our group’s feedback shape the outcome.
If you are the leader of the organization, jump in with your team.
Change is never easy and it takes courageous leaders at all levels of a community to inspire others to be a part of the journey. I suspect if our guide had not jumped in to the rougher waters first, he may not have had many volunteers to jump in. Once he did, a few others were quick to follow and within minutes the whole group was in the water. For added support, there were staff that remained in our boat, not very far away from where we were snorkeling at all times. So leaders, invite others willing to take the first steps with you and also look for others who will be able to support the initial risk takers and ultimately the group, along the way. Failures and mistakes are an inevitable part of the process and with the right team can turn these situations into learning opportunities.
Take a look beneath the surface and explore, don’t be too focused on outcomes right away.
Of course when we embark on any change, there is an ultimate goal we hope to achieve. I support the use of goal setting and success criteria as they are essential to any endeavour. It is also important that individuals in a community have time to acclimate and dive beneath the rough waters under their own terms. I needed that moment when I first dove in to the water be slightly panicked, to catch my breath, and dive in when I was ready. When I saw what was beneath and how surprisingly more calm it was underwater, than above, you couldn’t get me out of the water.
The point is people need time to explore and adjust when change is in progress. If you stay solely task oriented and rush too soon to the next task, you miss opportunities for individuals to see the beauty in the change and embrace it. More importantly, they will not have a chance to engage in their own explorations that could bring great value to the team’s overall process and goals.
Let the group explore, but also remind them of the focus.
Our guides were great about letting us explore, but also did not let us wander way beyond our limits. Our guide in the water wore bright swim shorts so we could easily identify him from afar and he would take the time to show us the beautiful wildlife that he thought would make the most of our experience. Change is messy and while it is important to let individuals find their own way (see above) and work through this process, it will be necessary to bring individuals together and remind them of what is most important.
Change has never been easy and never will be, but with these few reminders from my recent vacation experience, I hope to make future change processes I am involved in meaningful to my community.
What other analogies could you add about change? What opportunities should leaders take to make the change process a more meaningful one?
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about one of our son’s teachers, along with the frustration that he and we, as his parents, have been experiencing. In case you missed it, I liken her to a teacher that I had in 1978––suffice to say, it was not a positive comparison. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wrote, about this teacher, and about the feedback that I’ve gotten from that blog. While the feedback has been nothing but positive and supportive, I feel that I should do something to help this teacher, instead of just criticizing her. Therefore, I am offering to her my 5-point professional development plan:
(1) Find ways to vary your instruction. Each day in your class should not look like every other one. Find ways to change what you do. Get your students more involved. Some days, have them lead the instruction, perhaps by doing examples for the rest of the students. Find ways to incorporate group work. Model for them how collaboration can be highly beneficial in the teaching and learning process.
(2) Get up out of your seat (please!). An active, more energetic classroom is by far a more interesting classroom. I sense that your students get bored because there’s very little interactivity from the beginning of class to the end of class, as well as from day to day. Similar to #1 above, mix things up a little bit––it’s hard for your students to be energetic and interested in learning when you don’t appear to be. Surprise your students from time to time with activities they don’t expect––I guarantee that it will keep them more interested in what you’re doing, as well as in learning what you want them to learn. When they know exactly what’s going to happen every minute of your class time with them, they will be bored––that’s simply human nature.
(3) Provide your students with scoring rubrics––or other specific forms of feedback––for their assignments and tests. No one expects all of your students to ace every assessment you administer. However, if you truly want them to learn from the assessments, you must provide them with concrete and formative feedback on how they can improve their performance. Simply marking the number of points that they’ve missed and not providing them with explanations of why they missed those points may make your job easier, but it’s completely counterproductive to their learning. Providing them with rubrics for constructed-response items––such as problem-solving on a math test––will not only provide them with sound feedback on their mistakes or misconceptions, but distributed in advance of your tests can inform them of exactly what your expectations are from them on the assessment. This is simply good assessment practice.
(4) Be supportive of and try to work with students who struggle in your classes. With the number of students that you see every day, this can be a challenge. Trust me, I know––I’m a former high school teacher who used to see more than 150 kids every day. However, when students struggle in your classes, your first line of defense should not be to brush them aside and simply tell them to get a tutor. After all, YOU are their teacher; YOUR job is to help them learn, even when they struggle. After you’ve worked with them, and you’ve determined that they clearly need some sort of additional support, then recommend that they see a tutor. But, please remember that it is your primary responsibility to help them learn the content that you are charged with teaching them.
(5) Listen to your students. Look, I understand that this is your classroom, but you may not always know what’s best for your students’ learning. When you have a high number of students who have been extremely successful during their previous 9 or 10 years of schooling and they are failing your class, something isn’t working right. Sometimes, students will come out and tell you that they are struggling; other times, you must discern this in other ways. Regardless, listen to what your students are verbally or nonverbally communicating to you about the struggles that they are having . . . and then do something to address those issues, as the professional educator that you are.
By the way, every one of these 5 professional development strategies above can be effectively implemented and assessed by integrating an action research approach into how you do your work as a professional educator. Come up with strategies to implement one or more of the points above; collect data from your students and assess the effectiveness of your efforts; appropriately revise how you approach these issues in the future. You will become a better educator––and your students will become better learners.
This weekend, my family and I visited the Oregon Coast. As I stared at the ocean, I thought: Ocean waves are one of the most powerful phenomena on Earth - they shape the Earth's coastlines. Similarly, educational systems are powerful forces that prepare students to grow up and shape the future of our economy and society.
This got me pondering how ocean waves are made and how they crash against the shore 24/7. From a scientific perspective, waves are imparted from a combination of wind blowing over the surface of water and currents running under the water. I'm always amazed that when I simply look at the ocean, I don't see the system of wind and currents - I see their byproduct as the ocean waves crest and fall.
Just as nature puts a lot of energy into shaping waves all day every day, a multitude leaders at every level strategically create & cultivate systems that shape high quality educational outcomes on a daily basis. The educational systems that yield the highest outcomes and maintain sustainability result from a collective approach to shared responsibility and leadership that's cultivated by lead learners.
I invite you to join me in personalizing this idea by contemplating: What are the strategic approaches that lay the foundation for your educational system to generate high quality educational outcomes? How do you articulate these educational outcomes to different stakeholders? What is your role within this system?
R.A.D. Neurological Lesson Plan
Elementary Level or Beginning Foreign Language
By Paula Berlinck and Luciana Castro
2nd grade Portuguese Teachers
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Unit Title: Where does the bread come from?
Subject(s): Portuguese Grade Level(s): 2nd grade
Lesson Concept/Topic: Reading and Writing Non-fiction
Lesson Goals/Objectives: Reading and Writing Non-fiction
(and how they will be Neuro-logical)
How will you begin this lesson to engage learners’ attention?
The attention filter (RAS) gives priority to sensory input that is different than the expected pattern. Novelty, such as changes in voice, unusual objects, songs playing when they enter the classroom, will peak students curiosity and increase likelihood of the related lesson material being selected by the RAS attention filter.
1-As soon as each student arrives in the classroom they will find one wheat stalk on top of your own desk.
2-The students are going to watch and listen to the music “O cio da terra” de Milton Nascimento e Fernando Brandt
What will you do to sustain students’ attentive focus throughout the lesson?
The brain seeks the pleasure response to making correct predictions. When students have the opportunity to make and change predictions throughout a lesson, attention is sustained as the brain seeks clues to make accurate predictions. Individual response tools, such as white boards, can be used to make predictions and reduce mistake anxiety.
1-Make the link with the Field trip to the Bread Factory and list the Previous Knowledge about “Where does the bread come from?”
2- The teacher will start to read the book “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”
3- Treshing the wheat and grind to find out the flour
Motivation and Perseverance:
Which dopamine boosters will be included in your lesson?
The brain seeks the pleasure response to increased dopamine. Incorporating dopamine boosters (e.g., humor, movement, listening to music, working with peers) increases attention, motivation, and perseverance
4- Finishing the reading aloud of the book
5- Watching the video “Kika: De onde vem o pão?”
6- Using a Graphic Organize to compare and contrast the information in the book and the video
How will you help students see value and relevance in what they are learning – so they want to know what you have to teach?
Positive climate and prevention of high stressors promote information passage through the amygdala to the PFC. Motivation and effort increase when the brain expects pleasure. Buy-in examples include personal relevance, prediction, and performance tasks connecting to students’ interests and strengths.
7- Bake the Bread in the classroom
Every student will take part on the process, in group of 4 students at a time.
How will you tailor the lesson to address students’ differences in readiness, learning profile, and interests?
Differentiation allows students to work at their achievable challenge level. The students who understand the new topic, if required to keep reviewing with the group, may become bored and therefore stressed. If it is too challenging they will become frustrated. By providing learning opportunities within their range of achievable challenge, students engage through expectation of positive experiences.
8- Students will be able to choose one of the videos from the series “Kika: De onde vem?”, (Kika: Where it comes from?) where they can find different subjects that explain things like: the waves, where the eggs comes from, how TV works, etc)
Students will work in pairs, considering their complementary abilities
They are going to watch, to learn about the topic, take notes and then write it down to explain to another person. They could use different formats of graphic organizers, with more or less parts to drawn and break it down the information. They will be assisted by the teacher depending by their level.
Frequent Formative Assessment and Feedback:
How will you monitor students’ progress towards acquisition, meaning making, and transfer, during lesson events?
How will students get the feedback they need and opportunities to make use of it?
Effort is withheld when previous experiences have failed to achieve success. Breaking down learning tasks into achievable challenge segments, in which students experience and are aware of success on route to learning goals (e.g. analytic rubrics, effort-to-progress graphs) and reflect on what they learned and how they learned, builds their confidence that their effort can bring them closer to their goals.
Students will be active in some paces of the process. The summative assessment is the nonfiction text that they will write using movie information, translating it in a graphic organizer and/or nonfiction text like “how to” or “all about”.
Short-term Memory Encoding:
How will you activate prior knowledge to promote the brain’s acquiring new input?
Helping students to realize what they already know about a topic activates an existing memory pattern to which new input can link in the hippocampus. Graphic organizers, cross-curricular units, and bulletin boards that preview upcoming units are examples of prior knowledge activation tools.
Create a chart with the students remembering the prior knowledge that they have about the unit ALL ABOUT and HOW TO, that they had studied in their English class.
Mental manipulation for Long-term Memory:
How will students make meaning of learning so neuroplasticity constructs the neural connections of long-term memory?
When students acquire the information in a variety of ways e.g. visualization, movement, reading, hearing and “translate” learning into other representations (create a narrative, symbolize through a video, synthesize into the concise summary of a tweet) the activation of the short-term memory increases its connections (dendrites, synapses, myelin) to construct long-term memory.
As the students were exposed to a lot of different inputs, considering visualization, movement, reading, writing etc, we expect it will be built as a long-term memory.
Which executive function skills will be embedded in the lesson, homework, and projects? (e.g., analyze, organize, prioritize, plan goals, adapt, judge validity, think flexibly, assess risk, communicate clearly.)
It is important to provide ongoing meaningful ways for students to interact with information so that they apply, activate, and strengthen their developing networks of executive function. Assignments and assessments planned to promote the use of executive functions (e.g. making judgments, supporting opinions, analyzing source validity) activate these highest cognitive networks developing in students’ brains most profoundly during the school years.
All executive functions are in place
I recently had a discussion with a friend John, who is a Superintendent in a rural school district. We were discussing his district specifically and what it was providing its students in the way of relevant programs of study. The conversation came around to a question often asked and an answer that is too familiar. I asked what the purpose of school was? As educators what is it that we want for our students at the end of the journey of K-12? Of course the answer was to get them to college or to get them to a good job.
My friend was consulting with a number of local companies to determine what they were looking for in employees. He was also consulting with area colleges to see what they expected to receive as college ready students. He was doing everything a responsible, caring superintendent could do in order to properly prepare his students for the stated goals of education, getting to college, or getting a job.
Thinking about the goals, as pragmatic as they are, I was really having trouble with the idea of what the goals were. We were considering limiting kids’ learning to the limited needs an industrial complex, or the present entry requirements of institutions that are slow to change in an ever-changing culture.
My other problem with these almost universal goals of American education is that for too many kids these goals are not an inspiration to learn. If college is truly a goal for education, why is it that only a third of Americans have completed four-year degrees? The first answer that comes to mind is that most were not able to handle the studies involved. A more likely answer however, is that a degree has become cost prohibitive. People can no longer afford to go to college without incurring massive debt. How can any kid embrace a goal of education knowing that it is financially unattainable, or that it will come at a cost of unending loan payments? This is not unlike promising every kid playing sports should have an expectation to play in any of the national, professional sports leagues. Few might, but most will not.
This goal of a college career is certainly less of an incentive when we consider schools in areas of poverty. Middle-income people may have some shot at college with the help of family, but that puts the student and the family into years of debt. What chance do poor kids have, especially in the current political climate of limiting any government funding for anyone? Nationally, student debt is rising at an astronomical rate because of the need to fulfill the goal of college and its promise of financial security upon completion. Poor kids are told that college will break the cycle of poverty. How is that an incentive for a kid who knows its likelihood will never happen? Education’s goal is not the kid’s goal. That is not a winning strategy.
Now for the second goal of education for those who we recognize as the non-college ready students. Our goal is to place them in the labor force. We ask business and industry what they require of their employees, and then we work that into our education system. We have then prepared our students for the workforce of today. The problem here is that they are not prepared for the workforce of tomorrow. That is more likely the place that they will live. We saw the result of this when the economy went bust. Many workers who found themselves again in the job market, were not prepared for the world of work today. We can’t program kids to fit into a workforce that may not support their skills after they graduate. Business, industry and our entire society are subject to rapid change driven by the evolution of technology. Think of how different the workforce will look from when a kid enters school until his or her graduation. In that time, that twelve-year span, how many businesses died, and how many started anew? Yet, we will have programmed our kids to be work ready for a workforce that may no longer need those skills. Think of how long a time it took moving typewriters out of education in a world of word processors.
If college readiness and work readiness are failing goals in education, what should the goal of education be? I don’t know. I think life readiness or learning readiness might be more fitting for our world today. Teaching kids how to learn and continue to do so outside of a classroom is the best way to prepare them for whatever path they choose. A goal of self-reliance might serve kids better in the future. To enable a kid to learn without a teacher is the best gift a teacher can give a student.
Change will be slow however, because all of our educators and all of our society have been programmed to believe that school is to prepare kids for college or work. We have come to believe that education is salvation, when in fact it is the learning that is important. Education is a certificate of learning that comes at great expense. It does have its place however, and we will always hold it in high regard. The fact is however that fewer people will be able to pay for that piece of paper, but the learning it represents may cost a great deal less, not in terms of effort or work, but in terms of dollars and cents. In the future it may not be the degree, but the learning that is important. Maybe we need to reassess our goals in education?
While schools seem like historical institutions that anchor a community with continuity, they are always changing. While one school can provide a connection through generations in a neighborhood, the school that existed for the baby boomers is not what exists for the millennials. I went to a high school that just celebrated its centennial and while the name over the door remained the same, almost everything else has changed.
Every year the students, staff, and community change. New educational policies and reforms are instituted and old ones are forgotten. New events become traditions and new initiatives become protocols. One of the reasons that schools are so hard to change is that they come with history that was created through the efforts of the many people that were part of moving a school from a building to a monument to community accomplishment.
While some traditions provide connections within a neighborhood, others hang on long
past their usefulness.
As we have moved forward to change things in my school, there has been continuous discussion around how we got to where we are today. My school is less than fifteen years old, but there have been many changes since its inception. Many of the policies where put in place in order to solve problems that we are still facing, but others have lost their relevance. As we push forward to make the necessary changes to address our current student, staff and community needs, we are often stopped by these irrelevant policies, procedures and traditions. Last year, I began to call these policies ghosts because they continue to haunt us long after they are no longer relevant.
These ghosts haunt us for many reasons: we have failed to reassess their ability to meet the needs that we currently have, we lack an understanding of why they were put in place, and or we simply are still doing them because we have always done it that way. Most of the time, they do not cause problems. We have adjusted them to meet our needs each year, but in adjusting past practice, we find it difficult to develop new practices that better meet our needs. They continue to hang around and distract us from the work ahead, clouding the next steps in the process, and make us a less flexible school. Instead of developing something new, we are consumed with making something we have always done survive for another year.
Over the past year, a few teachers have engaged in a ghost busting process. We started getting together to discuss where we want the school to go and what ghosts haunt us from getting there. Throughout these meetings, I have seen that three steps are needed to bust ghosts.
This process is long and we have had real challenges at my school with making it happen. One person’s ghost is another person’s sacred cow and worth defending. We have taken steps forward and steps backwards, but we are working together. Schools are buildings with long institutional memory full of ghosts, but also the great work of generations committed to making it a great place. By ghost busting we hope to only to continue building that monument to community accomplishment.
A hot buzzword in education is the term ‘connected educator.’ For the past year, I’ve gone to unconferences, EdCamps, and had countless Twitter interactions. We always talk about what a ‘connected educator’ is.
Well, what about an ‘obsessive educator’?
It’s important to recognize this type of educator, too, as they are a strand of the ‘connected educator’. An obsessive educator is eternally hungry for teaching and learning knowledge. So hungry, that they’re never full. They’ll attend Saturday free conferences the weekend before Thanksgiving because they want to learn something, be inspired, meet others like them, and go home with their passion ablaze. Snow on a Saturday in Philadelphia? No problem for the obsessive educator. The pros way outweigh the cons. The obsessive educator burns the candle at both ends, only because there isn’t a third end.
The default setting for an obsessive educator is to communicate. Once an obsessive educator learns something new, they need to try it out immediately. And, then share out: not to brag or show off, but to deconstruct what just happened -- so more learning can occur. They want to break down why something worked, why something didn’t, or what they can do better.
They also want to help others get better. Making an investment in someone else by sharing new knowledge makes the obsessive educator happy. They know at some unknown future point, their investment will pay a dividend because a student will learn. And, that’s in their job description..
The obsessive educator is a teacher first, next, and always. And with teaching, there will be times when their peers don’t comprehend the material. They won’t see its relevance. Why do that? Who has time? Everything is already good the way it is, the obsessive educator hears. However, the obsessive educator sees a different picture than others hear. They don’t see the forest or the trees. Their vision is longer term, and it’s beautiful: a place where we are all connected and an obsession with learning becomes the norm.
But, they understand that their obsession is not the norm now. They understand that not everyone gets stoked when Tom Whitby and Todd Whitaker follow them on the same day. They understand that by taking pictures of the educational badges from the conferences they’ve attended that people they love, respect, and even marry may call them “Nerd Camp.” Because, the obsessive educator believes they get it -- the rest of the world will just catch up soon.
Most of us have counted down the days until spring. But this year, March, April, and May bring a bit of trepidation to many in the education community. With the heightened demands of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and forthcoming next-generation assessments—which require a renewed emphasis on writing—many districts are concerned that students won’t be prepared.
No longer will students find tests comprised of dozens and dozens of “bubble-filled” multiple-choice questions. Instead, writing—assessed at every tested grade level—will be a key factor in the next-generation assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
The importance of writing skills on these new tests far exceeds traditional expectations. Students will now be required to explain and defend their answer to math questions in writing. On some math questions, the point-value of the written explanation may be even greater than the point-value of the correct numerical answer. The bottom line is that students with good writing skills will have a distinct advantage on these assessments.
During the first half of the school year, I traveled across the country delivering presentations on CCSS writing and upcoming assessments. And, from my discussions with educators, I’ve noticed a recurring theme—a common anxiety that students will not be prepared for the heightened expectations in writing.
In order to ensure that students are ready for new standards and assessments, schools must change the way writing is taught. Early, focused attention to writing is critical to ensure that students are prepared for increasing academic demands in middle school, high school, and beyond. Here are six specific steps that teachers and educational leaders can take now to prepare students for writing success:
To make sure your students are prepared for success on next-generation assessments, and ready for college and a career, you must renew your instructional emphasis upon writing at all grade levels. Writing must be explicitly modeled and taught. Making writing instruction a priority will undoubtedly result in higher academic achievement and greater economic success and civic engagement for your students. You cannot afford to wait; the need is urgent and the time is now.
Constructivists, like myself, in education today would agree that technology is redefining the way we think, practice, communicate, and carry out the routines of day-to-day living. In my personal and professional life, I have become increasingly dependent on my personal devices, such as my iPhone, iPad, and my Mac. I may leave home without matching shoes, but you can bet I will have all my tech gadgets. My iCali is synced to at least 4 systems and so are my reminders. My life has changed for the better due to the synchronization of my tech tools. Evernote, Drop Box, Google Drive, Live Binders, iCalendar are just a few ways I can manage my career and family. One of the best things is that my devices have afforded me the luxury of having access to personalized professional development at any time of the day or night. Because of the technology, my leadership skills, pedagogical practices, content knowledge, etc. have soared during the past two years. I have allowed social media, blogging, and other web 2.0 tools to become a consistent standard in my life.
Professional development has always been a part of the educational system. Rebore (2012) described that the main purpose for a staff development program is to “increase the knowledge and skills of employees and thereby, increase the potential of the school district to attain its goals and objectives” (p. 112). Cooper and Johnson (2013) believe learning needs are always present, therefore, educators find staff development necessary to stay abreast of current trends and practices. Many districts will perform a needs assessment to gain useful information regarding the types of professional development that should be offered to employees. Using the data from the assessments, the district pays attention to employee deficits. These shortfalls will show up as gaps in staff knowledge and/or skills in certain areas of the profession. To orient staff with new knowledge and skills, a district or campus may provide professional development to help close the learning gaps between those educators who display strengths in a certain area and those who do not (2012).
Traditionally, many staff development models try engaging their audience with a single presenter, who shares new knowledge centered around an idea. These models are mostly called workshops or seminars. Research has shown that these particular models are frequently presented in isolation without the motivation needed to change practices (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). This delivery style is very common in the educational world. Who needs this old-fashioned, "sit-'n-git"* approach to learning?? As a campus leader, I have the ability to move us away from tradition learning models and into the current era where there are means to personalizing PD for every single member on my staff. (* Thanks @ambercldrn for the "sit-n-git"…love it).
Research indicates that professional development is most effective when: “it involves the participants in concrete tasks; is participant driven while rooted in inquiry and reflection; is collaborative, connected to and derived from teachers work; and includes ongoing support” (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). With purposes quite the same as face-to-face counterparts, online teacher professional development (oTPD) operates using Web 2.0 tools, which have the potential to maximize principles due to flexibility and personalization for the educator. Web 2.0 oTPD engages and provides motivation for learners through reflection, review, connection, and immediate action, which are key to the constructivist experience (2013).
Our district administrators recently had the pleasure of hearing Maria Henderson, an Education Development Executive at Apple, Inc., speak to us about new and innovative ways of developing students and teachers on Web 2.0 tools. Henderson (2014) defended using 2.0 tools as an innovative way to personalize professional development for staff. I agree 100% with Ms. Henderson! Online professional development (oTPD) is not new but becoming more alive in the world of education. On my campus, I have tried using new apps and online resources to ease the time constraints that accompany traditional staff developments in an effort to deliver information. I have implemented the use of tools like Screen-Cast-O-Matic, Google Drive, Padlet, iMovie, YouTube, Teacher Channel, Blogging, Twitter, ScoopIt, Haiku Deck etc. Unlike traditional professional development, oTPD can be tailored to the professional or grade level, which increases engagement and the likelihood that the educator will apply what was learned or discussed.
With less time and more to learn than ever before, I often wonder why teachers do not embrace online learning more. Henderson (2014) stated it best when she said, “There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator or a student.” She is right! As an educator, I cannot wait to see where we go next. I am not afraid but rather anxiously await the next new, innovative tool to take us through our life's journey. #EXCITING!
We have always lived with and adapted to change; however, today’s changes are fast and furious. In education, building networks globally can help us stay abreast of current research and tools. Using Twitter, users are able to collaborate professionally with other educators about interests personalized to them (Cooper & Johnson, 2013). Books and magazines have much to offer but, once written, they stay the same and are not able to update immediately. Online venues, such a Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook provide educators with current feed with around the clock access in real-time. Almost nightly, I am able to read a plethora of new information and decide what best relates to my needs. I am able to share and learn skills and content on my own time with others who I have accepted in my professional learning network. By participating in #chats, I am able to discuss even more specifically the topics, which are more relevant to me. This method sure does beat sitting in a cold, sterile meeting where I might (or might not) walk away with something worthwhile. When I am on Twitter, I walk away with new learning each time I log off. (Which…by the way…logging off Twitter is hard…VERY HARD!).
Blogging is another user-friendly Web 2.0 feature that puts professional learning at your fingertips. Blogs are intended to prompt dialogue between people who have a vested interest in the material presented. Well…like this one!! I hope the material I am presenting makes you think. Sometimes blogs can embed other attractive and engaging features, such as YouTube videos, graphs, media clips, trailers, etc. Cooper and Johnson (2013) found that most research on blogging and teacher development has taken place with preservice teachers. New teacher bloggers have shown ability to critically reflect and interact with others in their online communities. My own Learning and Leading blog has taken me to new levels of learning. For me, it has given me a voice and a platform to speak. I also know that it has helped other educators reflect and think about their own practices in education.
Online professional development using 2.0 tools and other online resources can connect and give authentic experiences to the constructivist through reflection, review, and collaboration with network members. Not only that, but it can making learning simpler and easier. Another added bonus, as Cooper and Johnson (2013) stated in their article, “Exploration of professional development with such technologies presents possibilities for their use in the educational settings, while also engaging teachers in 21st century learning.”
Cooper, T., & Johnson, C. (2013). Web 2.0 tools for constructivist online professional development. EdItLib, 2013(1), 1923-1926. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/112231
Henderson, M. (2014, 0320).Apple learning. Lecture. Waco, Texas.
Rebore, R. (2012). The essentials of human resources administration in education.(1st ed.).Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Source for graphic: AppEducation.org
As an educator, I am often surprised by the things I hear other educators say. You hear these comments at conferences, read opinions shared on Twitter, overhear opinions shared at other schools, and possibly even hear one of these statements at your own school. These statements make me cringe. When we are working with students, it is difficult to understand the statements that some educators make.
Ten Statements That Make Me Say, "Shut The Front Door!"
"Those students can't go to college. We should just prepare them for a career, starting in middle school."
In 1903, Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century. He wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).
In 2014, several Americans still share this perspective. The recent move towards College and Career Readiness is a positive move in education. This movement does not guarantee that every student will enter a four year college. It is the idea that every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn (OTL) key skills and concepts. Furthermore, adults should not determine a child's plans after high school when the child is in the seventh grade.
"Our seventh graders made a PowerPoint, so I would say that I am proficient with technology integration."
I am not offended by teachers saying that they require students to make a PowerPoint. However, it should be a red flag to administrators if any teacher hangs their hat on one project that incorporates technology. Technology integration should become seamless. In other words student projects will require technology integration, but the focus is on student understanding, not the device or program. After all, did you ever hear a teacher say, “My students used a pencil and paper today?”
"The Common Core State Standards are not new ideas. I have always taught this way."
Regardless of your stance (for or against) the Common Core State Standards, there are obvious changes in the way teachers should approach curriculum development, instruction, and common formative assessments. "These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5). Be aware of teacher teams and administrators who claim, “This is how we have always done it.”
The new standards will not fit into your state’s old standards like a jigsaw puzzle. The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to change how teacher teams communicate, collaborate, and reflect on standards. In the absence of ongoing communication, it will be easy to revert back to teaching in isolation and struggling to understand each standard. “Failure to understand the Standards and adjust practices accordingly will likely result in ‘same old, same old’ teaching with only superficial connections to the grade level Standards. In that case, their promise to enhance student performance will not be realized” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012).
"I require the gifted students to do double the work. They can handle it, because 'they are gifted.'"
You do not hear this myth as often as you did at the turn of the century. However, there are still misconceptions about rigor and about homework for gifted students. Giving gifted students more work does not support student understanding. If you hear a teacher bragging about giving the gifted students double the work, you should refer them to resources such as (Edmonds, SERVE) and Rigor on Trial (Wagner, 2006).
"How do you expect me to read a journal article or blog. There's no time for that."
The field of education is changing and professional growth is not optional. Online journal articles, blogs written by teachers and administrators, Twitter chats, webinars, and teaching videos provide educators with a multitude of resources. As a professional, I grow frustrated when someone claims that there is no time for continuous improvement. As educators, we should continue to grow and seek to understand best practices. It is professional malpractice to claim that there is no time for learning.
"Those aren't my students."
Teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) change from saying ‘those kids’ to ‘our kids’ (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). If the goal is to prepare all students to graduate College and Career Ready, then the teachers and staff members in the school district must collaborate to support students. Principals within the same school district should share ideas and discuss instructional strategies. Competition is good when it comes to athletics, marching band, academic clubs, and science fairs. It is also appropriate to see which school has the highest graduation rate, lowest dropout rate, and highest number of students enrolled in advanced courses. The idea that “Those aren’t my students” should be a thing of the past. As adults, we should share ideas within our school district, across state lines, and even around the globe. When more students graduate prepared for college and careers, the world wins! These are “OUR” students!
"Do we get credit for attending this meeting?"
Have you ever heard a colleague whisper, “I hope they are giving us credit for this.” Most school districts require a number of credits over the course of one year or a five year span. If a teacher is more focused on receiving credit than learning, it is a red flag. Have you ever attended a meeting until lunch and then your co-worker goes to the mall, because the credit was given in the registration packet? It is a shame that some educators view the credit as the purpose for attending. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that educators should receive credit in order to renew their license. I also believe that more school districts should begin recognizing blogging, Twitter chats, and webinars as ways to earn credit. Asking for credit is similar to the following scenario:
A high school basketball coach asks the starting five to run a play in practice, one day before the game. The starting point guard pauses before running the play and asks, “Will we all five get to start in the game if we run this play right?”
Running the play several times is part of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the reason for professional development, not credit or a certificate.
"We are no longer teaching during the last nine weeks. We have started benchmarking and test prep."
Test prep is one of the worst things that teachers can do during the last nine weeks. Did you ever try to cram for a test in college? It usually does not result in transfer or understanding. There are multiple approaches that educators can take which will virtually guarantee instant gains or increases in student achievement. Curricular reductionism is a test prep strategy that eliminates arts education, social studies, character education, and soft skills. If it’s not tested, then it’s not taught during the last nine weeks (or even semester in some schools).
Taking shortcuts to improve the data at an individual school is akin to a professional athlete taking steroids. When our students graduate from high school, we do not want them to reflect on their K-12 experience and see that the shortcuts adults took created long-term detrimental effects.
When educators choose to give students multiple assessments that look like the high-stakes test, eliminate subjects, and create a test prep boot camp atmosphere, then students lose. High-stakes tests have changed the way some teachers and administrators approach teaching and learning.
"I would assign more project-based learning, but it interferes with the pacing guide."
Pacing guides provide students with a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ (Marzano), if the curriculum is implemented in each classroom. Pacing guides can support teaching and learning. Alignment in a school district is important and pacing guides can provide an outline of what should be taught to each student. Pacing guides should allow for flexibility in pacing and the readiness level of each student.
The statement above is often overheard at high schools that teach on a block schedule. While there may be 90 minute periods, some teachers cannot overcome the fact that a one year course is taught in one semester. If student understanding is improved through project-based learning (PBL), then teachers should identify days of the week and units of study that provide students with time for PBL.
I say, “Shut the Front Door” to this comment, because it is an example of putting the needs of adults in front of the needs of students. We are paid to prepare each student for the next level of learning. Some educators say, “Research be damned, I am going to get through the pacing guide and make sure that I cover the content.”
"I believe that soft skills are critically important, but they aren't tested by the state."
Soft skills include, but are not limited to, teamwork, decision-making, and communication (America’s Promise Alliance, 2007). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).
Employers seek applicants who are problem solvers, communicators, team players, and have perseverance. These skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, are needed by all high school graduates to ensure that they are college and career ready, regardless of whether they plan to complete an apprenticeship after high school or attend a two-year or four-year college. While employers are seeking students with strong academic skills, they are having trouble finding applicants who can collaborate, create, think outside the box, and communicate. When educators focus on tested subjects at the expense of soft skills, students pay the price. If test scores are the reason for teaching and learning, then someone forgot to tell the employers who are seeking qualified applicants (Wagner, Seven Survival Skills as described by business leaders in their own words).
I believe in instructional leadership, teacher leaders, the Common Core State Standards, curriculum alignment, professional learning communities, and College and Career Readiness. When teachers and administrators make statements that you disagree with, you should challenge the statement. As a professional, you owe it to students and to the profession to challenge broad statements or beliefs that are not in the best interests of students or the profession.
Share your thoughts below:
What makes you say, “Shut the Front Door?”
Steven Weber is an elementary school principal in North Carolina. During his career, he has served as the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, High School Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, K-12 Social Studies Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Public Instruction, and as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in the West Memphis School District. Weber blogs on ASCD EDge. You can connect with Weber on Twitter at @curriculumblog.
It is open season on students in regards to testing, and in some school settings, this can mean a lot of pushback. This third quarter was a mess with all of the days off. It killed instructional momentum, disrupted the classroom culture, and narrowed the number of day in that ever so important “testing window.” Teachers are frustrated by the interruption in learning; students are frustrated by yet another meaningless assessment (at least to them). As we sat in planning and looked at the testing calendar, there was no way around it - a week worth of testing that had to be completed before spring break. Some of my colleagues lamented about how this would impact their data, or about complaints they would surely get from the students. It is true that the students would complain, and knowing that is a part of teaching; but what are you going to do with that knowledge? Last year, at ASCD13, I attended a session on kinesthetic learning. The speaker said something that has stuck with me since: If you don’t like the state of your classroom, change the state. It echoes something I always share with my advisory students as well: You can’t control what anyone else does; you can only control yourself.
I decided to do two things to be proactive about changing the state of this potentially negative situation. The first was to share a poem. Poetry was a major passion of mine in college, and one that teaching has taken away from me in some regards. For National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to share a poem a day. Not to annotate, or analyze, or read closely for some standard, but simply to share. I want to share poems that meant something to me when I was a student; that shaped my love of poetry to begin with. I want to share them the way they were meant to be delivered – spoken aloud. I want students to know that poetry is a great way to express our ideas, and I want to them to hear some of my own compositions. And maybe through sharing my passion, it will help shape theirs. I have to admit, that I am ferociously scouring my old college books, and reliving the joys of these poignant words all over again.
The second thing I decided to do was play a game before testing. Nothing fancy, just a simple game of silent ball. I set a timer for 5 minutes and let them go. It got the room quiet, which set the tone. It got the kids moving, which got their energy out. It got the kids smiling and laughing just before they were about to take an assessment, which got their brains firing on all cylinders. After we got settled in our seats, the kids were more serious about working. Their posture was better, and they were visibly focused on the task at hand.
I believe that if we are truly trying to create a Whole Child Classroom, then we need to think about what our children truly need. They do not need another test. They do not need another lecture. They do need to have some fun during the day. They do need to know that their teachers love what they teach, and care about things other than work and tests. And with those few quick moves they understood. They understood that we (my co-teacher and I) understand. We acknowledged how crappy it is to have to take so many tests, but we stressed the importance of doing our best. We gained their trust and buy-in and changed the state of the classroom. I thought about some of my peers, who were probably struggling to get their kids quiet, dealing with complaining or lack of effort. Would they be willing to try something like this, or would they just talk about holding students accountable or wasting time? Either way, my mind is made up. Give these kids a break (even if it is 5 minutes), give them some of yourself, and they will give you more of themselves. I’ll let the data work itself out.
It was the middle of a long week and there was no end in sight. My priority list seemed neverending. I grumbled as I walked into school. I was tired, and I didn’t care who knew it. My vibe was not a good one. And, it was the wrong one.
The first day I welcomed in a new group of students and told their parents not to worry, that their children would be fine under my care, my life stopped being about serving myself and began about serving others. This job stopped being about me a long time ago, and I’d forgotten about that.
I felt like road kill. And, that’s okay. It’s human to be tired. It’s not okay in our field to let it affect us, because that impacts not just us, but the students we serve, the families who entrust us to keep their children in the forefront of each decision we make, and our teammates who feed off our energy.
That’s why outside of this day, whenever a student or a co-worker had asked me how I was doing, I’ve always told them some combination of: “I’m awesome,” “I’m great,” or, “Never had a bad day.” Because everyone benefits from hearing that. Maybe it lifts us up, maybe it serves as a model for keeping a positive attitude.
Or, maybe my students, parents, or peers walk away and think I’m nuts. But, if they’re tired, not feeling well, or life has dealt them a bad hand that day, I’ve at least given them something else to think about: that guy must be nuts. How is he always in a good mood?
In reality, I’m not always in a good mood. I have arthritis, which can make some mornings tougher than others to loosen up and get moving. I have two boys, a three-year-old, and a 19 month-old. Neither has mastered sleeping overnight. However, I have the potential to wake up and put others in a good mood each day, and that’s a powerful thing. How many people can change someone’s day with a handshake, a smile, a nod of the head, raised eyebrows, or a silly face. Who was I to take away someone’s potential positive mindset because I had a long to do list!? That’s a misuse of power, and, that makes me sad, which is worse than being tired.
As I walked into my classroom, I reflected on how I felt, acknowledged it, and put it aside. Because, my day was now about investing in others: making each person I came in contact with feel significant, that they belonged to something, and the environment they came to each day was fun. This was no place for a sleepy party pooper.
I checked my coffee and diet soda to make sure I was armed for the day, turned on the tunes, and sat at my desk. It was time to review my plans, look at my morning message, and create another positive experience for those I would come in contact with that day.
We may not always feel like shiny, happy people. But, we do need to put that out there for our students, their families, and our peers. They deserve nothing less than our best. We can always nap later.
For most of my 36 years, my personal mantra has been “Failure is not an option.”
Seven months ago, I made a public pledge to blog at least twice a month. I may as well have also labeled it “My New Year’s Resolution” because I have not written a post after that, despite it being received relatively well.
Over the past few months, I made fun pacts with fellow ASCD Emerging Leaders (specifically Barry Saide, Eric Bernstein) about how I would follow their blogging lead, writing amazingly interesting blogs that reference cool ‘80s movies and inspire educators to work wonders in their classrooms. I also made excuses for why I never quite got around to writing (doctoral classes, family commitments, travel, conferences, sleep…).
Honestly, I didn’t write because I was afraid that my thoughts would be considered un-engaging, un-informative, or worse, poorly written. (Read: NOT GOOD ENOUGH.)
In my effort to avoid feeling like a failure, I failed.
As an educational consultant who focuses on social emotional learning, I am privileged to work with teachers and students in states across the country. In this role, I often encourage – no, I intentionally PROMOTE – failure. I believe whole-heartedly in giving others a 2nd, 3rd, even 4th chance. I urge teachers to incorporate formative assessment into the classrooms and offer students “second chance learning” on summative evaluations. I persuade students to forgive themselves, back up, redirect their paths, and move forward again with confidence based on new learning. Why can’t I seem to give myself those same opportunities?
Failure helps us grow character, build resilience, and increase knowledge and expertise. Failure lets us know who is standing by our side. Failure stretches us in ways we never thought we’d experience. Failure directs us to success.
Since everyone defines “success” differently, failure can always lead us to success. It is all in how we frame it.
Prior to starting my doctoral program, I set a goal to achieve a 4.0 GPA. Near the end of my first 9-credit semester, I earned my first “B” on a paper. For some, this may not seem like much. For me, the knot of failure sat in my stomach for days. I tried to ignore it, overcome it, and push it away.
Finally, I decided to embrace “it”.
I embraced failure.
I reframed my thinking. Realizing that I no longer had to (was able to) achieve my goal, I could actually enjoy my journey of learning – relish all the new insights my professors and classmates offered. I was now open to truly grow as an educator, as a learner, and as an individual. I was stretched, and I bounced back. And truly, I am much better for it.
As a consultant, you build quick relationships with those with whom you work. One of my mentors, Thom Stecher, once told me that in order to build my consulting skills, I needed to find MY stories – and allow myself to be vulnerable enough to share them.
I think this might be a good place to start. From failure.
(And Barry and Eric, lest you think that have failed to tie a movie to this post: The 1993 movie, Cool Runnings, tells the inspiring story of Jamaica’s first bobsled team trying to make it into the Olympics. At different stages of their lives, the bobsled teammates, and their coach, experienced intense periods of failure. But, they embraced it, learned from it, and found success. As one of the main characters states in the movie, “Cool Runnings means ‘Peace Be The Journey.’”
May we all find peace on our own journey through embracing our failures and remaining confident that we will eventually meet success.
My 3 year old son follows his older brother around non-stop. Whether it is doing push-ups, saying “shut-up”, or standing on the living room couch (unfortunately it’s our new couch), my older son is locked into a silent game of Simon Says.
It really got on the older one’s nerves. Even though siblings intentionally try to push each other’s buttons (the more my older son would protest, the more intense the following became), I wondered if there was something more to this. Did following have to be a bad thing? Better yet, were there any benefits for following someone or something?
In contemplating the perks of following, I was reminded of the childhood game “Follow the Leader”. The game emphasizes the power of observation and environmental study in planning one’s next move. Similarly, consider the mantra from the Wizard of Oz, “follow the yellow brick road”. It reveals the power of tenacity-in spite of any real (tornadoes, losing your way, etc.) or imagined obstacles (witches, fake wizards, etc.) that come our way.
What is Involved in Following?
Nowadays, following is an action associated with the use of social media. For example, thinking about Twitter, we may "follow" celebrities, friends, or colleagues in order to network or keep abreast with things that interest us. In that sense "following" is done online using technology as a communication platform. For the purpose of this article, the concept of "following" relies on the desire to emulate. Please note that there is an element of imitation, but most importantly there is an internal change (learning) when effective following occurs.
So, let’s clarify a few aspects about the act of following before proceeding:
What Can We Learn About Following From Teachers?
I began to wonder how the concept of following translates into the classroom. Educators follow instructional principles in their classrooms everyday. Let's take a look at the experience of a few educators to learn how and why they follow:
What Does Research Show in Regards to Teachers Following?
The teacher mentor process is one way instructional principles are studied and practiced. Let's take a look at what teacher mentor research suggests about following:
What Are the Rules For Following Effectively?
Although teacher experiences and research indicate that following can be advantageous, as educators we must show care in how we follow. There is a difference between becoming a follower and following (the latter is the goal). Keeping in mind a few tips helps to ensure effective following:
At last, it is time to revisit the questions that were inspired by my 3 year older following his older brother. Was there a deeper meaning to gain from this simple act of following? Yes. I believe that there is an important take-away from watching my younger son engulfed in the act of following. I believe that following is a powerful and necessary process that may begin copy-cat like, but when done effectively, results in learning. As for the second question: Was following bad? I conclude that following is not bad at all, as long as it is principle-based, purposeful and change oriented. In addition, we have to remember the many benefits of following that are echoed by teacher experience and education research. Now, if only I could get my 10 year older to be more receptive to the benefits of following...
If there is one subject that most bloggers have written about, it is probably the act of blogging. I know for me, as well as many of my blogging friends, it is nothing like we imagined before we were immersed in the “blogosphere”. Bloggers start their blogs for many different and personal reasons. One step common to all however, is that it does take an act of courage to publish that first blog post.
When I first started, I thought that I would do apiece here and there for a little while, but that I would eventually run out of things to say. Three years later, after 237 posts, I am still waiting for that time to arrive. My areas of interest include education and social media. I guess as long as each of those areas continue to evolve, I will always have something to write about.
Another factor that affects what I blog is the continuing change in the audience. In order to access blog posts, a reader must be involved in some way with technology. That is a growing audience especially among educators. Most people use technology in everyday life, but more and more, educators are using technology for professional development in larger numbers. In order to access the most relevant information on the profession of education, educators are relying more on blog posts for relevancy. Many thought leaders and education authors are blogging their thoughts to share, test, and try out new ideas in education.
Twitter, which is considered to be micro-blogging, has lured many people to blogging. It limits the author to 140 characters, but it does however, enable one to blast out ideas for quick responses. Success on Twitter leaves some people with a need to do more. There are ideas that need to be placed in explanations longer than a string of 140 character tweets may allow. Many ideas are introduced and tersely discussed in tweets and chats on Twitter, but they demand more reflection and more explanation, which leads to blogging. The biggest effect of Twitter chats is often reflected in the blog posts following, and resulting from the chats.
Blogging changes the way many people think about new, and old ideas. The difference between writing a Blog post and writing a magazine or journal article is the immediate feedback in the form of comments or responses. Before a blogger puts words to the computer screen the audience and its reaction are a consideration. The blogger will strive for clarity in thought. The blogger will strive for clarity in the writing. The blogger will attempt to anticipate objections. The blogger will not rush the idea in print, but develop it, so that it evolves before the reader. It is less a reaction, and more of a transparent reflection of thought, benefitting the writer as much as the reader. This will begin to carry over into the way the writer approaches almost everything.
For a blogging educator, as a teacher, or administrator, student or even a parent, there becomes a transparency in their thinking and reflecting. Before technology enabled us, this process had never been available, or had so much access to an individual’s thought process been given. Before the technology, books and magazines enabled us to view it in only a few people who were privileged to media access. Today the computer is the publisher. Good or bad, anyone can publish at anytime.
The stunningly apparent, positive take-away from blogging is that it gives voice to the blogger. A thoughtful, reflective, considered post can be picked up by an audience and sent out to thousands, or millions of readers through technology.
Blog posts can also be used for propaganda, or mindless ranting. As educators we need to emphasize critical thinking in our classes for that very reason. We need to model for our students how to responsibly question. We need to teach them how to comment and respond to blog posts. If blog posts are part of our ever-evolving, technology-driven culture, we need to educate our children in their use.
As educators we must also be learners. We need to model learning for our students who need to understand the necessity to be a life long learner. Educators are also people who work with ideas and share. It takes courage to put one’s self on the line to be scrutinized by others. Teachers do it every day in schools. The most effective way to have one’s voice recognized in sharing ideas in order to consider, reflect, modify, and improve with the greatest audience possible is through blogging.
We need courageous administrators blogging to give transparency to their thoughts and leadership. We need educators to have the courage to experiment with blogging placing them squarely in the conversation of education from which they are too often blocked. Educators need to be models for their students. We need our students blogging to follow their teacher models. Blogging provides an audience for students’ work. It is an authentic audience and not an audience of one, as have been most of their previous writing experiences. It gives voice to their concerns, and it shows them direction for their personal learning. We need parents to blog to give voice to their concerns in directing the conversation for the needs of their children.
Since becoming a blogger, I view things differently. I question things more. I try to understand things well enough, so that I can explain them simply. Most importantly I have been recognized as a person to be taken seriously, because I have a voice. These are things I wish for everyone to experience. What good is education, if we do not have a voice to share what we have learned in order to benefit all?
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how can we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I believe that all teachers are, to some extent, teacher leaders. Teacher leaders are those who lead at their schools both formally and informally. For this reason, I believe that opportunities for educators to become teacher leaders are everywhere. When one looks hard at schools, I believe that it is hard to find teachers and other school staff who do not hold at least one leadership role. High quality teacher leaders are those who go above and beyond and are unafraid to work closely with their peers. When high quality teacher leaders populate a school site, that school site is invariably changed for the better.
Educators can affect positive change by filling formal leadership roles such as: mentoring beginning teachers, leading their department as a department chair, or volunteering to represent their school at district level committee meetings. While there are formal opportunities available for educators to become teacher leaders, there are also informal opportunities. Acting as a sounding board for ones colleagues, helping a fellow teacher improve a lesson, or brainstorming ways to reach a struggling student are all informal ways that one can be a teacher leader.
Whether acting in a formal role or informally, a teacher cannot be a teacher leader without being valued and respected by one’s colleagues. Teacher leaders are charged with building trusting relationships with their fellow teachers. If one wishes to be a teacher leader it should be their goal to get to know their colleagues because the stronger a teacher’s relationships with their colleagues are, the more positive change that teacher can affect at their school site.
By providing educators with ample opportunities to develop professional skills, school sites can support the educators that wish to grow in the role of “teacher leader”. Administrators can make sure to foster a school environment where experimentation is welcomed and the occasional failure is seen as a necessary part of pushing the boundaries and trying new things.