A New Opportunity – Walk-Thrus in Our Digital Spaces

I’m so happy to see all the posts on social media from principals who are joining classroom discussions between teachers and their classes. It’s heartening to see that this crisis isn’t keeping school leaders from carrying out what I think is one of the true joys of school administration and that is classroom walk thrus and visitations. Over the years, my thinking and approach to classroom walk thrus have evolved and changed so much to now I consider it one of my best ways to build relationships with teachers and to connect with learners. 

After my time as a middle school math teacher, I was a curriculum support teacher for a couple of years. Here my support included frequent classroom visits and coaching/growth/help conversations with teachers. That experience helped ground me as an assistant principal and principal. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, I embrace EVERY visit to the classroom as an opportunity to have a conversation that will help learners and teachers.

Growing teacher efficacy, improving instructional delivery ensuring learners are getting what they need are what we are all about and informal/walk-thru are a critical part of making that happen. But most importantly, we can see for ourselves, with our own eyes, in most cases, that the most important student needs are being met. As we are checking on instructional design and delivery, we can have conversations with learners that let us sleep at night. Now that more teachers are able to have video chats with their classes, principals and assistant principals can adjust thinking and practice to make sure that not only is learning maximized but that everyone is also taken care of.

  1. Maslows before Blooms – As we are talking to staffs about best practices now, the one thing we can make sure every adult is focused on is are our learners ok. A good friend, Joe Sanfellipo does One Minute Walk to Work shares for educators and in a recent post https://buff.ly/2QQyRkk [subscribe here], he shared two questions that we should all start current conversations with 1) How are you doing? and 2) Do you need anything? This time shouldn’t make that level and type of concern the exception but these days are helping us prioritize what really matters in the classroom and this simple, powerful thoughts can help us find out something life-changing.
  2. Eyes on Kids – When I visit classrooms, I make it a point to lay eyes on every child. In my mind, I’m keeping a ‘running record’ of sorts on the learners in the room. I’m thinking about where they were and are in terms of last conversations. We can do the same here and now digitally. Lay eyes on every student and do your own wellness check. Seizing the moment to look for details is an opportunity too important to let go by. 
  3. Visiting High Needs Students – It goes without saying that some students need more support than others, and that’s ok. Keep them in mind and make sure they come up in your conversations with teachers. Making sure you’re part of those digital visits is important. First, all students will see its important to the principal that everyone is on point and doing well. Second, those students who know you have always had their back will know you are still there
  4. Feedback to/from Teachers – Keep that instructional conversation flowing. While we are going to give a lot of leeway and support to adjust to a temporary reality, we also have a full understanding that leeway can’t lower expectations. Lowering expectations hurts everyone.

Those of us who help schools with pedagogy shifts that include technology integration firmly live by the mantra that its ‘pedagogy before technology’ – well these days it has to be ‘kids before pedagogy.’ 

And don’t limit this to joining digital chats teachers are having with their classes. If you were a principal to join random tables at lunch or strike up conversations with groups in the hallway, find a way to create some group chats now. Learners need us.  

The opportunity from this crisis is to rethink the conversation – nothing will ever be more important.

A Great Talk with Dr. Dave Schmittou

I can’t thank Dave enough for his generous invitation to be interviewed for his podcast, The Lasting Learning. Dave is one of those phenomenal, high-energy leaders who bring out the best in those around him and he made this talk a great experience. 

I really appreciate him for asking me to share my journey and also to talk about our book The Revolution and our efforts to change mindsets and skillsets to serve the needs of our learners. We can all be the Revolution@ries our learners deserve. Below is a link to the YouTube video of our talk. The actual podcast will be be released in some weeks so please listen out.

Please take some time to listen to our conversation. You can connect with me here and I’m sharing his information below:

Twitter and Instagram @daveschmittou
Website: https://schmittou.net
Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lasting-learning/id1463067800
Bold Humility: https://t.co/MOE0sRWL9N

Start Your Revolution! bit.ly/TheRevolutionishereYou can also get your copy of The Revolution here – bit.ly/TheRevolutionishere! Start a movement today that embraces learner-centered experiences, creativity, and the power of ‘IF’.

 

 

 

Great Talk in Texas/Take the Dive

A great opportunity

This past week I had the pleasure of connecting and sharing with the Somerville ISD and Snook ISD in Texas!

I want to thank them for rolling out a very warm reception and allowing me to give the opening year talk on how we can make a difference for our learners. Of course, part of the message was about how we can be the Revolution@ries our learners need by abandoning some of the one-room schoolhouse practices and systems we guard so intently and sometimes unintentionally.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the presentation, I had a chance to talk to Supt Karla Sparks. She’s fairly new to the position but has been an administrator in the district for almost 10 years. A great opportunityIts always inspiring to hear stories from educators – their backgrounds, philosophies and motivations to work in our field. Karla had a great story to share about a recent trip to a national park. She and her husband were on a hike and came across this breath-taking waterfall. As they got closer they saw that some other hikers swimming and having a the time of their lives [who couldn’t].  It became a mission of theirs to have this once in a lifetime experience but learned that this was not an easy task because this was no path down – this waterfall was only for admiration. To enjoy this experience like the other hikers, she and her husband had to make the decision to take a journey. They know others had done it so it was possible, but it was unknown and unconventional.

Her story about making the decision to go and the work to get to this unique spot is a great metaphor for change in schools and exemplifies several #revoltLAP lessons:

  1. The path down?The path to change may not always be evident – Just like Karla and her husband saw, there wasn’t path down, just a way down. For them to get to the reward [and they determined that it was a reward worth it] they had to embrace the way down. They saw that others were successful and were enjoying the benefit so they embrace ‘Why not us?’ Change is often more about the decision and commitment to change rather than having a clear path. How many times in our lives have we needed to make a change and have had a clear, easy path to take? It would have been great to see some steps leading down to the water or better yet, what about an escalator – but there wasn’t. They did the math – this cable + the realization that others have done it = success is more than possible.  For us, seeing the reward of learner-centered changed is worth the decision. There are many stories of successful change from other revolution@ries who have done great learner-centered we can emulate or modify to see great things in our schools that benefit learners. Its not always about safe or easy, its about the decision.
  2. The work is the reward – Once Karla and her husband took the way down, they enjoyed the reward of experiencing that breathtaking waterfall up close and diving into that swimming hole. For us, when we’ve made the decision to change and are in the process, we can sit back and enjoy real benefits – learners engaged in high-level discussion, teachers becoming facilitators, inquiry-driven learning, enjoying the knowledge that we’ve personalized effort for learning and creativity for our learners and many other things. But we have to be in the swimming hole to enjoy.
  3. Find your Pushers – After their swim, Karla and her husband had to climb out, again without a clear path. Now that we’ve enjoyed the risk we have to ask was the risk worth it? Their answer was an enthusiastic ‘yes!” But they had to climb. Like most of us, looking up the cable was from down below looked daunting and Karla has some trepidation. But doubt won’t get you out so Karla, and her husband, began to climb. Karla’s husband had to coach her, push her to keep her motivated up the climb and not allow her to feel discouraged. He truly believed in her and her ability and kept that positive word in front of her. The path to change is all about the work. If we allow ourselves to be isolated and trapped in our thoughts we can sometimes allow ourselves to not try or continue the work. Build up your tribe of people who will keep you on mission, not just so you can be successful but also so that our learners are benefitting. Our change is not about just us, its about our learners.

 

Be ready to take that leap and embrace that good work.

Inspiring @edleader Karla Sparks

#revoltLAP

 

Signs You Need a Revolution!

Education is like most professions, full of good people with good intentions and strong desires to be productive and effective. For most professionals, this means finding things that work and ways to replicate success. After all, we all want to be successful and enjoy that feeling over and over.

But what does success look like? What does it mean for us teaching multiple learners with multiple needs?

We wrote ‘The Revolution’ as a call to reflect on what we do and why we do it and then – most importantly, make some changes. Are we looking for what the learners in front of us need or what we want or what we deem is best for them?

Its hard work and often harder realization to understand to come to grips with the fact that most of what we do in school is geared towards adults behaviors not learner needs. To bring that change towards learner needs requires more than just a shift or small changes sometimes, it requires real change, real action, real planning – a Real Revolution!

Some Indicators You Need a Revolution:

  1. Your schedule for the next school year was a ‘Copy, Paste’ effort from the last year’s schedule;
  2. Lessons for next year are planned based on interest from this year not necessarily needs of learners for next year;
  3. Order of what’s taught is more important than who is taught;
  4. You don’t have space and time planned for learners to have time and space for collaboration, planning or calm-down;
  5. Your makerspace isn’t accessible to everyone;
  6. Certain activities and clubs aren’t available to everyone;
  7. Assessment comes in one flavor;
  8. Your discipline policy and procedures are more about the number of offenses and less about changing behaviors;
  9. Clean, empty spaces are preferred over learning spaces.

We got into this for the noble, worthy cause of making a difference, not to replicate what has [or hasn’t] always worked well. Embracing that level of risk and challenge is the real work of Revolution@ries!

don’t raise your hand to ask, pump your FIST and start your Revolution!
#revoltLAP

Start Your Revolution!!

I’m happy to share that after almost two years, ‘The Revolution: Its Time to Empower Change in Our Schools’ is finally here. My co-author Darren [@dellwein] published it under the Teacher Like a Pirate, #tlap, banner and we couldn’t be happier with support and love we’ve been given.

Start Your Revolution! bit.ly/TheRevolutionishere
Don’t raise your your to ask, pump your fist to make a change! bit.ly/TheRevolutionishere

When we started out on this, we had a mission to change what we do at the middle school level – how we think about [and treat] middle schoolers, how we set up middle school and, truly, what we believe. But we got deep into the work and began having more conversations and the collaboration with PLN members became real, we realized that this message and purpose was broader – BUT don’t get it wrong, we still have a strong message for revolutionizing middle school!

We don’t want you to see this as just a book – its a resource to help change mindsets about learners and redefining our roles. We put together chapters filled with what we are doing in our schools, stories of wonderful stories from our friends who are leading revolutions in their schools. These are the chapters and major themes you can look forward to:
Chapter 1: The True Revolution@ries
– Chapter 2: Add Some Revolution to Your Mindset
– Chapter 3: Revolution@ry Learning Spaces
– Chapter 4: Revolution@ry Cultures
– Chapter 5: Revolution@ry Connections
– Chapter 6: Revolution@ry Innovations
– Chapter 7: Create a Maker Revolution
– Chapter 8: Empowering Learners to be Revolution@ries
– Chapter 9: Revolution@ry Leaders
– Chapter 10: Revolution@ry Learning

If you are,
– wondering what the difference between student and learner
– ready to shift your role
– exploring the connection between learning spaces and learning
– ready to bring the world to your learners
– ready to embrace and involve learner voice

– bringing in the maker-mindset
its time to start your Revolution!

We’d like to thank all our friends and PLN members who contributed to The Revolution. This book is proof that the best things about what we do, we do together! We create and build and dream together and, most importantly, we help realize real, learner-centered change together.

Thank you for your commitment to making a difference in the lives of learners. Let’s start having conversations that will change what we do/believe to benefit the learners we serve

Joining #GAED

This might be news to some but for several close friends and colleagues, its not news to say that after several glorious years in North Carolina
I’m happy to announce I’m joining Grady County Schools. This is actually a couple of months late in announcing but it’s always on time to share mementos news. Some great celebrations for the move:

  1. It’s a couple of hours from my mom and immediate family. That is an immeasurable benefit
  2. I’m a very close to my roots, where I grew up in rural southwest GA;

I started my teaching career in GA and it has always had a deeply special place in my heart. I am truly turning cartwheels to come back home. But my time in NC was beyond profound and special. I was a great educator when I left GA but I am a next level learner after my 13 years in NC. The mentors and friends I’ve met there will always be considered friends and have a permanent place in my heart. To say I wouldn’t be the person or educator/learner I am today if it had not been for #nced and #ncadmin would be a gross understatement and would be the

So I’m happy to join #gaed.

I’m happy to dive deep into a PLN back home and meet inspiring educators who are making a difference. I’m happy to see where

Beyond the Task

School leaders have a lot on their plates – there are things that just have to get done. Everything that has to be done is about making sure people are safe, have what they need and being nurtured/supported/pushed to do better.

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 1.31.35 PM.pngThe managerial tasks are part of the job but that doesn’t mean we can’t see them as an opportunity to be the leaders and changers our schools need.

 

  • Beyond sending an email – Are we tying your message to the goal and need of the school? Consider what a message means for students in 5 years as opposed to people right now.
  • Beyond leading a PD talk – Are we making sure the audience knows the need for the PD as it relates to benefitting student learning and needs of the school
  • Beyond knowing students names – Do we know students?
  • Beyond talking data – Are we making sure that ALL students are being seen and supported and talked about. We can’t talk about ‘ALL’ without talking about ‘EACH;
  • Beyond doing walkthrus and observations – Are we making a point to learn strengths, insecurities, finding ways to co-teach lessons, making conversations less about teacher action and more about students learning;
  • Beyond duties – Are we making sure people are seen or that the people present are about students;
  • Beyond setting dates on a calendar – Are we creating opportunities to collaborate at high levels in conversations centered around students and community?

Principals, grade/dept level chairs, assistant principals, instructional coaches, classroom teachers – all #leadlearners have this opportunity to see beyond the immediate task to be checked off at the end of the day and really make what has to be done worthwhile for the students and community we all serve.