Thursday, December 26, 2013

Teacher Leadership Challenge | December 20, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis is a multipart series of posts intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online and in person. The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond within one week to the prompt via a post you publish to your blog. Responses to the prompt that you publish to your own blog should be around 500 words or less. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.
You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at tlc2014.posts@blogger.com Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published from sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

As 2013 comes to a close, this will be the year's final installment of the Teacher Leadership ChallengeThe #TLC2014 will resume regular weekly installments on Friday January 10, 2014. 


This Week's Challenge:

How Do You Celebrate Accomplishment in the Classroom?

IMG_2631The holidays are often a time where classroom celebrations take place in schools across the country. Students learn about the cultural traditions and histories of the holidays celebrated in our country and around the world.
Christmas pageants abound in elementary schools, holiday parties happen in classrooms of all grades, and students celebrate the heritage behind the holidays by making crafts or food.
Whether or not your classroom celebrates one or many holidays at the end of the year, December is a time for us to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous 12 months. Classroom celebrations are nothing new, and they are not limited to just holiday time; however, parties and festivities seem to happen much more commonly in December than any other time of the school year. Albeit there are perhaps more holidays to celebrate in December, why do we limit celebrations in the classroom to just this time?
The energy that goes into planning a holiday party, cultural project, or student musical performance at the holidays could very easily be applied at other times in the year. Some teachers choose to celebrate accomplishments in their classrooms throughout the year, whether that is a student's birthday, achievement on a test, or success with a fundraiser. There are many reasons to celebrate in learning all during the year, not just at the holidays.
What are the classroom traditions that you have with your students or at your school?  How do you recognize the holidays in December with kids? Are there other times in the year that you have a classroom party or reward activity? In what ways are your students celebrating learning throughout the year? What events do you recognize as important enough to celebrate with your students? How does a celebration of accomplishment contribute to your student culture and classroom brand?
In some classrooms, kids bring in baked goods for their birthday, while in other classrooms an exceptional performance by the class on a test is reason enough to spring for pizza, but what accomplishments do you point out with your students as being cause for celebration? How have you come to celebrate those achievements with students? What do you hope to accomplish by celebrating milestones in the classroom?
Whether it is a regular occurrence, like a birthday, or an infrequent achievement like exceptional performance on a test, what are the factors that lead you to identify events worth celebrating, and how do you acknowledge those with your class to celebrate learning all year round?

Image Credit: Gary G. Abud, Jr.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Making of a "Teacher" | December 6, 2013

What makes for an outstanding teacher?

What makes an educator outstanding is really a matter of opinion. For some a quiet class with students studiously working is fantastic. For others a chaotic, but controlled class is ideal.  All teachers have their niche and it's how they use that niche to help their students be successful that makes them extraordinary. For instance, in a recent Twitter post by @MathMinds on Jim Grant's Stance of Extraordinary teachers it says that extraordinary teachers "teach the children they have." 
I find this so true! There are days I wish I had some of my past students or that "dream class." But there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not troubleshooting my current class of students. Its the teachers that live in the now and focus on improving the behavior and academic skills of their current students that should be considered extraordinary. Teachers really become outstanding when they understand the needs of their students and use those to build a classroom geared towards their students. And even more, evolve and change it as each year of students moves through the classroom.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Teacher Leadership Challenge | December 13, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis is a multipart series of posts intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online and in person. The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond within one week to the prompt via a post you publish to your blog. Responses to the prompt that you publish to your own blog should be around 500 words or less. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.

You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at tlc2014.posts@blogger.com Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published from sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This Week's Challenge:

What are the hallmarks of effective collaboration?

U.S.S. Merrimack
U.S.S. Merrimack
Over the past several years, the word "collaboration" has become a staple in education. It is associated with what are known as 21st century learning skills and modern teaching. The workplace today is characterized as being an environment where individuals collaborate. Many education speakers, authors, and advocates posit that collaboration is an essential element of career and college readiness.

Is collaboration a new idea or a reiteration of a pre-existing notion that already permeated schools? 

Education increasingly seeks to bring people together in learning. We encourage collaboration between colleagues, schools, policy makers, and especially students. We enact programs and policies against anti-collaborative acts, such as bullying, and herald the fact that collaboration can now be accomplished online in realtime using web tools and apps.

In all areas of education though, we seem to rather loosely use the word collaboration when we speak about it in teaching and learning. Although it has become more popular in use, but it has also become somewhat interchangeable with "teamwork." In fact, the use of the word in writing has skyrocketed in recent years, especially in education, despite the fact that collaboration's cousin, "cooperation," has longer had a presence in classrooms with "cooperative learning" and opportunities for group work. However, with classrooms and schools shifting instructional practice to methods like project-based learning, has collaboration become more valuable than mere cooperation? If so, why? What is it about collaboration that makes it so great? 

If collaboration is such a high-merit skill, then we must be able to define its beneficial attributes. In all fairness, it's unclear whether collaboration is something that could be pointed to if it were happening. This leads to a wondering: what is collaboration and what does it look like in practice?

How do we get students to work together in a meaningful way; furthermore, how do we get them to want to work together? Does collaboration simply mean working together or alongside others? Does it mean everyone has defined tasks, or can there be overlap in the roles that collaborative partners have?

Does collaboration look different for students than it does for educators themselves? Do we hold the same standards for working together collaboratively that we expect from our students? If not, how do we achieve effective collaboration with our colleagues? Can collaboration be taught to students if teachers know how to do it themselves?

Is collaboration the product of what we create when we work together, or is it something greater than the sum of our individual efforts, like synergy?

It seems education has advanced from cooperation to collaboration; perhaps coopetition will be next...

Image Credit: USS Merrimack Cardboard Boat by Judy Griffith, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Teacher Leadership Challenge | December 6, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis is a multipart series of posts intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online and in person. The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond within one week to the prompt via a post you publish to your blog. Responses to the prompt that you publish to your own blog should be around 500 words or less. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.

You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at tlc2014.posts@blogger.com Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published from sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This week, the #TLC2014 is back from Thanksgiving hiatus. We all need to focus on loved ones and gratitude during this holiday season, and (unlike Wal-Mart) this blogging challenge is not going to stand in the way of holiday time with family. So, we are back this week starting up the December installments of the Teacher Leadership Challenge.

This Week's Challenge:

What makes for an outstanding teacher?

NME BanquetToday, I am at the Network of Michigan Educators (NME) annual conference in Lansing, MI. This organization is a professional association made up of Michigan's top educators recognized with either a state-level or national-level awards. The Network Mission is to improve teaching and learning by connecting recognized educators as a resource to inform practice, research, and policy. It is an outstanding group of some of the most dedicated and accomplished teachers in the entire state. There are presidential award winners, national Milken educators, state teachers of the year, National Board Certified Teachers, and teachers of promise (exemplary pre-service teachers.) It is the Justice League of teaching in the state of Michigan. All of these educators are passionate about professional learning, engaging students, using best-practice methods, and increasing student achievement through collaboration.

It is my first year as a member of the NME, since I won the Michigan Teacher of the Year award in May. What an honor it is to be with such a talented group of teachers. All the teachers have a variety of levels of experience, come from all areas of the state, and work throughout K-12 education. There is very little that could be as inspiring as being around an all-star team of professionals in your field to converse and learn together. 

Spending time with such talent challenges you to be the best teacher you can be. You start to become more reflective about your classroom practice and look for your inspiration in others' practice. All of this got me thinking about what makes for exceptional educators like this group contains. There are some similarities between all the teachers in this group, and likely all the great teachers out there, but that begged the question for me: what makes for an outstanding teacher?

Is it the level of dedication? Is it their passion for a subject area? Does creativity in lessons, projects, or technology use sum it up? When you think of outstanding teachers you know, yourself even, what comes to mind? Is it the way a teacher inspires students, challenges them to reach their potential, or provides them a space to innovate? What would be the features you look for in a teacher to distinguish them from others in the field? How could you identify an outstanding teacher? Does being outstanding at teaching look the same at every grade level and in each subject area? Are there common threads of excellence that weave through all classroom teachers who are great that make them outstanding?




Where to Turn For Support | November 22, 2013

Jessica Anderson
http://triscicurious.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-students-channel-hormonal.html




Over the last six weeks I've had the pleasure of mentoring a teaching candidate from one of our state universities. It has been an up and down battle for me as I'm learning to let go of my control and put my classroom in the hands of another teacher. As we've moved from co-teaching to him having full control, I've gotten really good at reflecting out loud and really analyzing every move I/we make as teachers.

What I've tried to model and really engrain in my practice is the need for forming positive, professional relationships with students, the use of exploratory and collaborative activities and projects for learning, using probing questions to answer questions, and, lastly, the importance of failure. 

The latter is the hardest for us as humans, but I believe one of the most important. I take you back to the first day my teaching candidate arrived. It was a beautiful day outside, which means it was scorching in my classroom. Seriously, a sauna...I'm not kidding! My students were doing presentations, which was out of their everyday routine of working independently/collaboratively at their own pace. They were active, missing their ears, and had channeled the behavior of hormonal teenagers on substitute days. I was at a loss. Every teaching trick I had in my arsenal had failed. I was feeling defeated and really second guessing why I had a teacher candidate observing me, that lady who clearly had no control over her classroom. But here's the thing. It was a great starting point for communicating with him about the classroom and trouble-shooting issues regarding learning and behavior in the classroom. It forced me to debrief, think about the triggers behind the behavior, and narrow in on a plan of action to address the issues.  So how did I know how to do this?

When I applied for my current position one of the questions I asked in my interview was, "do you have a mentoring program?" Luckily administration was eager to pair me up with a teacher around my own age who had been at the school a few years. She was great at reflecting, helping me troubleshoot, and really honing in on the importance of forming positive relationships with students. She helped me move past my failures and use them to reflect on future practices. It was her mentoring that helped me feel more comfortable in my educator skin. 

So with the above in mind, when my teaching candidate leaves my classroom in two weeks, what advice will I give him?

  1. Failure is okay.
  2. Exploratory learning is key.
  3. Always answer questions with questions.
And...
  • Ask for a mentor!
It is my belief that if we want to keep new teachers in this profession they must be paired with strong, reflective, supportive mentors, who are willing to share and debrief about their practice. Whether this happens through subject/grade level meetings or on an individual basis, I don't feel it matters. As long as a line of communication is formed and talking is happening. All teachers, especially new ones, need to feel like someone cares. Failure is inevitable and someone should be there to help them pick up the pieces. 

Be a mentor today, change many lives tomorrow!

A Brief Philosophy of Technology in Education | October 25, 2013

http://www.techsavvyed.net/archives/3328

Creating a positive message about students using technology for educational success can be difficult. Showing off students typing away at a row of computers is a nice way to say “look at all this productivity,” but it doesn’t convey something as emotional as a student-led presentation or a teacher’s own voice. I tried to blend both in a recent video that I made for my district, showcasing the thoughts behind the use of technology in education. It’s not perfect, and I had all sorts of headaches with the audio (lots of noisy classrooms), but this is my first attempt to show some of the thought behind our teachers’ instructional methodology when using technology. You can view below or on Vimeo.
In all fairness, this video was born out of Gary Abud’s Teacher Leadership Challenge from October 25 of this year. In the post, Gary challenged us to answer the question:

How is your personal philosophy of education demonstrated in your teaching style?

At the same time Gary asked this question, I also received a request from my school district’s Superintendent to craft a short video to present the use of technology in our schools. Blending the two seemed like a good idea, and while my execution is certainly still a bit off (I should have shot a lot more footage of students using mobile technology), I feel as though I at least presented these educators in a positive light. And I began to touch upon what Gary is asking of us…to re-examine those questions we most likely haven’t been asked since our pre-service days; “what is your personal philosophy of education? What impacts your instructional environment? How do you see the influence of the world around you changing the way you teach?”
I’m planning two more installments to this question, with a heavy shift to student voices for the next one. In the meantime, I wanted to get this one out there for the world, solicit some advice for polishing it up, and maybe spark some more conversation and sharing about how we think about technology in the classroom, and how we share that with others.