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

#Edcucon 2017

I had the pleasure of serving on a panel discussion at Educon 2017 on Sustainability in Education. The other panelists were Samuel Abrams [author and researcher/truth teller], Renee Moore [teacher activist and truthteller] and the legendary Deborah Meier. Below is an embed of the panel discussion [thanks to Educon, Chris Lehmann and the student production team for sharing]

I attended a session hosted by Samuel Abrams. If you aren’t connected with him, you should. We didn’t have much time to talk but in several minutes he showed a deep passion and investment in studying the field of education, motivations for businesses wanting to privatize education and trends for resourcing education. I went all fanboy and bought the book.

Later I attended Jose Vilson’s session on The Privileged Voices in Education. I should call this more of an open talk and sharing. This was a packed house and the contributions were all real and raw and needed. Because of the executive order signed pertaining to the travel ban, a valuable voice was missing from the room. Speaking of Rusul‘s absence further added to the urgency for our schools to be aware of the cultural differences in our schools and making sure students are seen and heard. I went all fanboy and bought Jose’s book. [I’m a creature of habit]

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I can’t thank Chris Lehmann enough for the invitation. This event was about learning, change and the conversation needed to serve kids.

Supporting Our New Teachers

I’ve been meeting with our school based new teacher mentor about  planning impactful on-boarding experiences for our newest teachers, both to the profession and the building. This is her first year in the role and she wants to make sure she does a good job in supporting our newest game changers.

mentorDuring our last talk, I asked, beyond the normal paperwork and monthly meetings, what innovative things did she have planned for our new teachers? This conversation evolved into something wonderful. We all know the value of the gentle nudge, the right question that will inspire people to do move out of a routine pattern and think different. That’s what happened here. I don’t think our new teacher coach [and that’s the title I am giving her by the way] expected to be given a wide berth in this role. But that’s what I was asking for – extraordinary experiences to grow our new teachers.

We prefaced our list of learning opportunities with the premise that while we won’t overwhelm our new teachers, we will provide them with quality growth opportunities with consistent opportunities for reflection.

I was very happy to empower our lead learner/new teacher coach with the freedom and support to help our newest game changers grow and develop. Instead of a checklist, she needed support and encouragement to take risks. It made it safe to give her the three things we need to grow and support our new teachers:

Game Changer Initiative 1 – Support: During our last faculty meeting the outgoing new teacher coach gave a very moving and heart felt appeal to our new coach – ‘You have to get to know them.’ Those words still resonate with me. On her last day, she told me that getting to know new teachers and seeing them grow gave her personal/professional joy and fulfillment, in turn I’m sure it enriched their lives as well. This opportunity to build relationships and have different conversations has to get beyond the check-in and check-out mode we fall into. Our newest game changers need to know it is safe and always welcome for them to come to us with what’s on their plate. They have to know they won’t always get the answer they want but they will always get the support they need. #relationships
Game Changer Initiative 2 – Motivation: We can’t change the realities and demands of teaching. While we can challenge traditional thought, we can’t shield/protect/avoid the things that can easily despirit us. Its our charge as lead learners to keep new teachers inspired. Visiting other schools and seeing best practices, getting new teachers to find and share a great Pinterest collection with the group, share a new PLN building experience are great ways to start conversations and keep everyone focused on moving forward. Getting better is the goal. Carol Dweck’s Mindset, is a great read and it dispels the notion that we have to stay in cheerleader mode 24/7. While I believe in a positive disposition, we have to keep new teachers focused on growing and improving, not at an arrival. new teacherNo matter they victories or barriers we are living now, we have tomorrow to make another difference with students.
Game Changer Initiative 3 – Keep Them Hungry: This is a goal for every lead learner. How does a teacher keep his class motivated to keep learning more difficult materials? How does a department chair keep her teacher group focused on trying new teaching methods? How does an administrative team keep teachers focused on continuously growing new skills to match new learning needs? I share resources I collect from my PLN regularly with my staff. I embrace my role as a researcher/reader and filter out what is not needed, what can be useful later and what will make good PD/discussion points now. My team makes a point to challenge traditional concepts when we can and at the same time provide alternatives, mostly found from our PLN. But alternatives and a suggestions don’t create fire in new teachers – a lead learner focused on seeing learning and teaching that is responsive to student needs does. Good talks about our new vision, mission and core values is a good start. Not settling for what is convenient is great mindset and students-first is a must.

Technology is a Gap Closer

Like many of us my good friend, Daisy Dyer Duerr@DaisyDyerDuerr, drives the value of integrating technological learning experiences into the classroom. Of the many values she speaks on, technology serving as an experience gap closer for students is at the top of her list. We both have experience working in rural schools and talk about how lack of cultural experiences is a barrier teachers have to get creative to work around in all schools, not just rural students.

We are in a rural school system about 30 minutes north of Charlotte, North Carolina. My current school serves largely a rural area, covering about 1/3 of county. Our school population is about 65% free and reduced lunch. We have great kids and supportive families, many are very involved and care about their kids but many also have other priorities. While its not surprising that many have not been out of the state of North Carolina [state line is about 75 minutes away] it does catch you off guard how many haven’t been to Charlotte not on a field trip or educational experience. This isn’t about judging experiences or decisions of our families, its about respecting the priorities that our families and its a call for us as educators to use resources at our disposal to serve as gap closers.

Last week, our tech facilitator Jerry Pittman,@wrmstech, helped close the opportunity gap for several classes of students using @googlecardboard. Our 6th grade Social Studies teachers are exploring ancient China, and saw exploring the Great Wall as a means to really engage kids. Our media specialist @wrmsreads, and Mr Pittman, regularly attend our collaborative planning meetings to involve themselves in curriculum talks. He was invited to help plan this part of the unit. He thought of the integration and usage of GoogleCardboard to help with this learning experience. He and Ms Kennington, our 6th grade social studies teacher planned this day and activity down to the detail.

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I’m struck by how small efforts on our parts make huge differences for our students. The ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and sheer amazement in the room really let us know our students had a deeper learner experience than just from watching a video or reading some online materials.

Takeaways from this experience:

  1. BYOD: Even though our school and school district is 1:1, this would not have been made possible if the teacher had not permitted the students to bring their personal devices and Mr Pittman had not given clear instructions and set expectations for what they were to do;
  2. Engagement: We hear so much from teachers that if students are allowed to bring devices, they will get distracted. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Like most things in the classroom, its about expectations being set and having the determination that learning will be engaging and fun. Its ok to design learning that will blow students’ minds wide open;
  3. Have clear learning targets set: A good friend of mine, Bill Ziegler @DrBillZiegler has mantra – don’t chase technology, chase learning [spoken like a true digital principal]. From this video, you can see that design and outcomes were set early. This is what makes great teaching. We look for technology to enhance learning experiences and create next level excitement and engagement. I speak to principals and teachers regularly about the perils of reversing this process. Its critical we get this right.

You can read about Mr Pittmans firsthand experience in his blog post here: A Day in The Life of Using Google Cardboard in A Classrom http://buff.ly/1npa4Ss. He is a connected educator and welcomes connections.

This virtual field trip experience was about kids and giving them a learning perspective that they can really communicate and appreciate.

The Realities of Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning

James Pittman, the technology facilitator at West Rowan Middle School, shared this article with me about a digital/thinking shift happening at AT&T.

14att-split-master1050Gearing Up for the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, or Else http://buff.ly/1QfahPt

Randall Stephenson, Chief and Chairman at AT&T, has laid out a new, clear vision for where the company needs to go, specifically in terms of evolving employee skills.

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop”
‘If you don’t develop the new skills, you won’t be fired … but you won’t have much of a future’
“Learn new skills or find your career choices are very limited.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.33.44 PMThis is a good hard truth for many of us working with students and teachers in schools today. This article talks about the dire need to evolve – if the employees of this company do not continuously grow skills and adapt practices they could face some dire changes. The absolute same can be said for us in schools – if we don’t change beliefs, practices and approaches to learning and teaching, we will woefully underprepare students for their futures.

It was telling to hear that Stephenson’s own brother is one of the reluctant movers of the company – talk about a leadership conundrum. But in terms of what we face and do in our schools, are we having the difficult change conversations with our co-workers that will bring about the change we need? Are we having the ‘good’ conversations with others about:

  • flexible learning spaces
  • passion/problem based learning
  • BYOD
  • Student ownership
  • Decreasing direct instruction
  • Flipped learning
  • Blended learning

Do they know they have to change for their students? What do we do when they are reluctant?

hqdefaultThis makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Alvin Toffler captured in this visual. This was profound when I read it years ago and even more striking when I read it in the context of this article. Literacy is a fundamental skill but we have to teach everyone that fundamental skills today also include adapatability, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and grit. If we don’t promote these skills, students may not only find themselves ‘illiterate’ by new measures, they could also be unemployed or ‘have limited options.’ I want better for my students.

A few takeaways:

  • Do you have a clear vision of where you want to take your department, school, or school district and can people articulate it?
  • Stephenson needs his employees to be critical, flexible thinkers and solve problems they didn’t imagine when they first began working – are you training students for that mindset?
  • How are you fostering growth and change in the skills of people in your department, school, district?
  • If students returned to your school in 5, 10, 15 years would they say “This school really prepared me for my future” or “I’m riding the copper train all the way down”
  • Does AT&T have Twitter chats? Imagine the growth and potential for implementing PLN growth practices like Twitter chats or edcamps [or whatever is comparable].

You should share this article with every stakeholder group in your school.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.33.44 PMParents should read this article because if they aren’t educators they can appreciate a good business/work story and the implications of what happens when an employee can’t meet company needs.

Teachers should read this article because they are living this reality [or they should be]. We all have to check our great practices from 5 years ago and embrace that every year is a new year and we should be putting something in place that we have newly learned.

Students should read this article to begin to understand why they must develop dynamic skills and a growth mindset. We should be celebrating successes and growing hungrier from every opportunity given to us.

 

#edcampldr NC – Connecting and Learning to Improve Leading

Edcamp LeadershipJuly 10, 2015 promises to be a historic day of learning and connecting for North Carolina educators!

Friday July 10th, we are hosting the first ever Edcamp for School Leaders! Edcamps are not new to North Carolina – for years, dedicated educators have been coordinating and hosting these ‘unconferences’ across our great state. These edcamps have brought in educators from different school districts to share, connect and ultimately help others improve the learning and teaching in all our schools. Talk to any participants in these edcamps and they will tell you that these experiences have been incredibly valuable and significant to their personal/professional development.

Edcamp Leadership NC [held Friday July 10 at the @FridayInstitue] is the first of its kind in NC and we have some great reasons to be excited:

This is a first NC unconference targeted for school leaders across the state. Make no mistake, ALL are welcome to this great day of learning but we want to especially create an opportunity for school and district level leaders to start and participate in change discussions that will help their districts and schools;

  • Edcamp Leadership NC is one of many edcamp leaderships held across the nation! There will be many edcamps held that week on the same days, sharing and connecting virtually;
  • We are glad to announce that the esteemed Dr. June Atkinson, our State Superintendent, will join us for this event;
  • As always, there will be many great educators there, looking to connect, grow and learn.

Get Smart Resources:
– To learn more about what an edcamp is, check out this short video. It’s a great 90 seconds take on the value of this informal conference.
– Kristin Swanson, who’s credited for started edcamps, wrote a blogpost for Edutopia about the benefits and genius design of edcamps.

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Read about Edcamp Leadership here and our efforts to impact edcators worldwide [yep, there is an edcamp leadership Santiago Chile] with this multi-site, same day event!

As a principal, I know its difficult to find conversations or trainings that will help make a difference for my students and teachers, particularly that will fit my specific needs. Edcamps are a great way to personalize your learning and development. Instead of picking your learning from a menu, you have the opportunity to design a talk special for you. What we often find is that there are others who share your specific questions, needs and thoughts. Come to Edcamp Leadership NC and start a conversation in a breakout session, continue it in the hallway, form a relationship with a colleague and take back some information or challenging discussions that well help us all build schools and classrooms our students need and that our teachers will be on fire to work and lead in!

Visit our site and register here!

Informal Learning at its Best

This weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in an edcamp held at the Rowan-Salisbury School district, @EdCampRowan. Months ago, I received an invite to give the opening talk. I have shied away from calling it a keynote because keynote doesn’t fit the motif of an edcamp – I am calling it the ‘tone-setting talk!’ True to form, this event did not disappoint – it was all about personalizing learning for participants and making creating forums for sharing and connecting.

This day was a make up day of pd for teachers who lost several days because of snow. We learned at the start of the day that vast majority of our 200+ attendees were participating in their first edcamp. Lots of smiles made the eagerness to connect and grow visible and evident!

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I want to mention a couple of very impressive things about this event early in this blog [there are many more below]:

  • This edcamp became a makeup opportunity for RSS staff having missed some days for snow [I know I’m repeating this but it bears repeating], what a great way to value and promote learning time for teachers #innovative;
  • Superintendent Dr Lynn Moody, @lynn_moody, was an active participant from beginning to end;
  • There were a good number central office and school administrators participating in this informal learning;
  • A board member showed up around midday and sat in on one a session I dropped in on personalizing PD!

I had a great time with my tone-setting talk! It focused on several points: 1) Keep an open mind about learning – what is absurd today will be absurd tomorrow for a different reason; 2) embrace the power of collective learning and 3) we have to shift our focus of teaching to address the needs of learners and the skills we need them to embrace.

My talk was about embracing new modalities of learning, especially the informal and making sure that we connect with others here to further and continue the learning. As a challenge for the day and a way to get the group think started, I charged the group to come up with 4 C’s for our learning  of the day! I gave the first two, Courage – be willing to try something new, start or join a conversation and Connect – be intentional about connecting with someone that day who could be a help later. From the audience we got two more Contribution and Commitment – great sentiments to kick off the day. Kelly Hines, @kellyhines, being the innovator she is, took the idea and made it a living theme! Armed with a whiteboard, dry erase markers and a camera, she went to individuals and captured their personal messages, their own ‘C’ for the day! Looking through this slideshow you will be very impressed with creativity and passion the edcampers showed that day! I encourage you to look at her Twitter feed for the day to see all the diverse messages. This was a great learning legacy to document the day.

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20150307_094437For a first time endeavor, this district hit a homerun! I can’t say enough about the vision and drive of Tiffany Carter, @tpizzie1, and Rachel Lawrence, @Tchr_RachelM for their vision and drive to bring new learning opportunities to their district. Shift happens with an ‘absurd’ thought! I even heard that Dave Burgess, @burgessdave, made a guest appearance during our Teach Like a Pirate talk!

 

The learning was a great experience but connecting and reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen for a while really made this experience worthwhile. Learning and growing knowledge without building relationships builds isolated experts and we are about tearing down silos and building community.

20150307_091029Take a look at Google+ picture collection here – http://ow.ly/K4WbI

Great day of learning!