Monday, February 10, 2014

Teacher Leadership Challenge | February 10, 2014

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This multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, 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 to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. 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 by 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 role should projects play in teaching and learning?


BoatTried-and-true methods of instruction have been well-documented in research as well as effective classrooms over the years. The use of graphic organizers, non-linguistic representations, and note-taking strategies all have long-standing legacies in classrooms around the world. Their usefulness in teaching and learning is something with which many teachers and learners are familiar.
Born out of these classic instructional methods have emerged some lesser known, but up-and-coming, trends in teaching approaches, including project-based learninginnovation days20% time, and challenge-based learning. For a small percentage of teachers around the world, these student-centered methods are the pinnacle of what classroom education should be. 

Full Disclosure: I am a strong proponent of project-based and problem-based learning in the classroom.
While approaches to teaching and learning may have taken an especially project-oriented style recently, the integration of projects into classroom learning is nothing new. In fact, learning by doing projects has been a part of many classrooms for years, and can even be seen documented here in this 1996 video of a 5th grade science project
So what role should projects serve in teaching and learning? Should projects be the culmination of a learning progression, a demonstration of learning, or an anchor upon which to build learning? Many different takes and approaches to incorporating projects into the classroom exist, but are they all equal? Do they all accomplish the same goal? Are classrooms that embrace project-based learning methods supplanting classic teaching methods and thus essential curriculum? Or, is it possible that project-based learning methods can support tried-and-true instructional strategies and teach curriculum equally well? 
Some proponents of project-based learning argue that if the project is the center of the learning, then that authentic experience will guide students to learning whatever curriculum is in place; however, non-constructivist educators argue that projects cannot be done without sacrificing "coverage" of content. Is it possible to have both? Are projects a viable method of assessing learning? Do projects simply amount to "busy work" for students or present more hurdles to learning than benefits? Can a good project lead to meaningful learning without giving up the curriculum that needs to be taught? 
Ultimately, projects are likely here to stay; however, the move to project-based learning may or may not catch widespread use over time. With the daunting task of teaching all the curricula that state standards require, and keeping up with the assessment and accountability measures in place for all schools, what role should projects play in teaching in learning? How do teachers maintain the desired role of projects in learning without shortchanging other aspects of teaching and learning?

  
Image Credit: Gary G. Abud, Jr.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Teacher Leadership Challenge | February 3, 2014

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This multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, 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 to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. 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 by 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 can be done to ensure teachers remain in the profession?

A staggering statistic from the results of a report prepared by the University of Michigan revealed that nearly 40 percent of school teachers left their jobs in their first five years and that teacher turnover harms student achievement. Though teachers may leave for a variety of reasons, the inability to retain quality teachers will inevitably affect student achievement and many other aspects of public education regardless of the reasons that a teacher departs from the classroom. Can anything be done about this?
The introductory years of teaching are challenging times of adjustment. More is now expected of teachers than ever before. The initiatives of standards-based education reform have made student achievement an imperative task alongside other classroom and school challenges. Novice teachers are sometimes inadequately prepared, in a practical sense, for what lies ahead in their career.
Most teacher education programs only put trainees into internships anywhere from five to twenty weeks. Teacher education models that do not provide adequate practical experience for pre-service teachers lead new teachers to a false sense of preparedness. With heavy theoretical training but little chance to translate theory into practice, some novice teachers find themselves in uncharted territory with minimal support.
When you think about what challenges you faced, and how you overcame them, in your early years of teaching, what comes to mind? What are some pathways for supporting new teachers that can help them to remain in the profession? Did you have a strong teaching internship experience? Were there great mentoring programs that you went through in your early years? Did you forge ahead on your own determination when the going got tough? 
Beginning to find ways to support other teachers often begins with recognizing how we have been supported and what has made us successful. What wisdom would you give to a newer teacher? How would you guide someone entering the profession to deal with the challenges and successes of teaching? What suggestions could you offer to help retain our top teachers and support new teachers as they emerge into the profession?
Photo Jul 18, 7 58 05 PMIs better professional development the answer? If so, how can it be achieved? Is there something inherent about the profession that's driving teachers away? Does the nature of internships, or a lack thereof, in teacher education programs impact retention? How can teacher preparation programs be enhanced? How can pre-service teachers be best prepared to enter the field successfully ready to start?
If we are going to do something about impacting student achievement on a larger scale, it is going to require teachers who stay in the profession and develop into master teachers. 
What would help retain more teachers in the profession past that five year mark? Is it something that is complex and systematic, or is it something simple--like an ice cream cone once in a while?




Image Credit: Gary G. Abud, Jr.

Maintaining a Balance Between My Personal and Professional Identities | January 27, 2014

Mike Lerchenfeldt (@mj_lerch)
mrlerchenfeldt.weebly.com


Teachers can maintain a fulfilling career and yet still pour into their family and personal life by managing a well-balanced schedule. We must consider our quality of life when developing and advancing personally and professionally. Teachers must be reflective in order to avoid taking on too many responsibilities which can become overwhelming or stressful. Being happy with myself is an approach that helps me become a better instructor, a better son, a better spouse, a better citizen, and a better person.

Developing in multiple areas without focusing too much energy into the development of one area of my life is extremely difficult. It is possible to avoid neglecting one identity to attend to the other, but keeping all of the 'dominos from falling' is a challenge. A professional life does not always have to be separated or distinct from a personal life. However, balancing between my identities means that opportunities will be missed because of my vast array of interests and goals.



Teacher Leadership Challenge | January 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PM
This multipart series is intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online, through blogging, 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 to the prompt in 500 words or less via a post you publish to your blog. 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 by 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:

How do you maintain a balance between your personal and professional identities?

Photo Sep 14, 9 09 28 AMIt’s 10:30am on a Monday morning. Where are you? With whom are you spending your time? What are you doing? What is happening where you are? How does your response compare when it’s 6:45pm on Sunday evening?
As adults in the workforce, we share our time between home and our career, among other aspects of our life. Teachers are no exception. They spend their mornings and afternoons typically working directly with students. Their evenings and weekends might be spent elsewhere and with other individuals, but when it comes down to it we all have multiple identities, including personal and professional.
Teachers have families, just like everyone does, and they also may have additional personal areas of interest or pastime. This is complemented by their work with students, participation in professional learning and other career involvement. Although the typical school day has a clock time duration that begins early morning and ends in the middle of the afternoon, many teachers experience overflow from their professional life into their personal life. The investment into personal and professional areas of our lives might not always be equal, and this can cause the areas of our lives to conflict with one another and blur our identities.
Whether that be preparing lessons for the upcoming school days, troubleshooting issues facing particular students, or engaging in continuing education themselves, teachers are professionals who often take their work home with them. While teaching is not the only profession in which this occurs, it can still cause challenges in balancing attention to personal and professional identity.
In what ways can teachers maintain a fulfilling career and yet still pour into their family and personal life? What considerations are there for developing and advancing both your personal and professional life?
Teachers can wear many “hats” both at work and at home. They might be instructors, department leaders, or committee members at work, but beyond the school day they might coach, have children, or be involved in their community. How can teachers attend to all that is going on even handedly enough to due justice to both a personal and professional identity?
What approaches help you to become a better instructor, a better parent, a better spouse, a better citizen, or a better person? How do you develop in multiple areas without focusing too much energy into the development of one area of your life? Is it possible to avoid neglecting one identity to attend to the other? Does a professional life have to be separated or distinct from a personal life? Does balancing between your identities mean that opportunities will be missed, or can it all be done well?
Maintaining life balance and developing your personal along with professional identity are keys to being an effective person, but how might we accomplish it in the teaching field?
Image Credit: Gary G. Abud, Jr.