mccoyderek

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.

School Leadership 3.0: Make Your Tools Mobile

photo-1This is a picture of my office desk. I’ve also made it the background for my Twitter profile.

I was inspired to take this picture after a teacher visited my office and she immediately remarked about these tools that cluttered about my desk [this picture doesn’t reflect my typical work organization]. She questioned if it was absolutely necessary to have all these to do my job. After I rationalized that there were only three tools here, an iPad, my Smartphone and a desktop with and attached monitor, I came back with a firm yes! I can’t do my job as a school leader without these tools.

My primary function is to improve student learning and how teachers teach. I do that effectively by choosing the right tools. When we talk about tools, sometimes the conversation leans towards hardware and functionality. This talk will be about on the web tools I use as a 3.0 school leader.

We can’t say enough about the critical functionality of mobility in our jobs. Being able to carry out duties, no matter where I am helps me maintain consistency and improve my efficacy in my daily and long term practice. Cloud computing has dramatically changed society and how we function as schools and organizations. Being able to transfer information from one device to another is how we make a difference in teaching and learning and allow us to remain current on tools and thinking that will help us change how teachers, community and students see the value of these  tools and how they aren’t future practice but current necessities.

Social Media – Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress all contribute to my continuous professional development and learning. They help define me a lifelong learner. As we endeavor to design personalized experiences for our students, we can also embrace the flexibility and impact of our dive into social media.

Coaching – Using an iPad or smartphone to record lesson and direct instruction is the best way to take the people out of instructional coaching and make it about a change conversation about practices, behavior and learning. Keeping continuous, synchronized notes helps me and my administrative team maintain a singular focus in our change talks.

Administrative Organization: Evernote is a tool I’ve come to recently integrate into my practice. Thanks to John Robinson, @21stprincipal, and his blog and accounts I’ve come to rely on it to help me document my day, archive critical learning and quickly record notes needed for upcoming events. The synchronization between all my devices makes this a tool invaluable.

Communication and Organization: Its hard to imagine carrying out our functions and duties in this day and age without Google’s cloud services. Going beyond Gmail and Calendar [which are crucial] other Google products are vital to us moving schools:

    • Chrome – Once I log in, my bookmarks are with me no matter what device. I can navigate websites I need while at school, home or on the road.
    • Hangout – Participating in chat and discussions with my PLN grow my skills and understanding. I take this back to school and community to effect a change. As as a means of connecting with people, a quick video chat beats a phone call hands down.

3.0 school leadership is not about technology, hardware/software, it has to be about changing teaching and learning for the better. These tools are about making a difference in our schools. Future leaders have to have a willingness to dive into these tools, explore their usage and be willing to innovate. Future leadership and practice starts today!

A Review – My iPad Improves My Administrative Functions

ipadI was inspired to write this post after visiting one of our classes where students were using iPads to complete an assignment. I asked a group of kids how they like working with the iPads and did it help with their work. All three gave resounding affirmations that the iPads were a great enhancement to the lesson and just fun to ‘play and learn’ with. It was good to hear this and more importantly, see in action. As I was carrying my iPad, daily practice, a clever student flipped my question and asked me how I liked using the iPad. I smiled and responded that I really liked my iPad and couldn’t do a lot of my functions as easily if I didn’t have a mobile device.

This got me reflecting on my first year of having an iPad and how I’ve started embedding it into my practice. I’ve always been a proponent of having a mobile device, mainly a laptop and definitely my smartphone, to help me carry out my duties but this is the first year I’ve had a tablet to use regularly and help me in my administrative functions. It has helped me tremendously. My administrative team and I rely on them for a big part of our instructional supervision and data talks but there are countless ways to have iPads/tablets enhance the jobs of school leaders. I’ve outlined two posts below from a couple of expert #edleaders who have shared some of their impactful tips and useful app the use of their iPads. The last posts were written by me and how our iPads are a key part of our instructional supervision.

EvernoteJohn Robinson, @21stprincipal, is a fellow #ncadmin and a great educator to follow and learn from. John’s written a lot of great posts over the years but these two have really impacted my outlook and have helped my practice. School Administrator Uses of Evernote & Must Have Extensions and 7 Ways Administrators and Educators Can Use Evernote are must reads for all educators who want to take productivity to the next level. They go into detail about the usefulness and practical walk throughs including Evernote in your practice. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it. Dive into possibilities on keeping notes, archiving articles for later reading and the great use of tags and notebooks. Having changed school districts and not having access to Outlook [this was a big adjustment], Evernote replaced a lot of key functions. It has helped fill a lot of gaps I was missing and didn’t know I should miss.

Common CoreEric Sheninger, @NMHS_Principal, wrote a post a couple of months ago that struck home. His post is titled  Common Core in the Classroom and its about the free app from Mastery Connect. I had already downloaded the app and referenced it a couple of times but I got away from it to focus on some of our local resources. More importantly, I never shared it with my team. This post stuck with me because it made me revisit a resource that I once heavily relied on and that has good, sustainable information. I immediately took it back to our instructional team to further our talks and planning efforts. This app is a great resource for references what our focus on Common Core should be.

Instructional Walk-Thrus with Feedback – I’ve blogged this year on our instructional supervision efforts using iPads, particularly for walk thrus and informal observations. The convenience of the iPad makes classroom visits and data collection easy to manage. We use that data from the spreadsheet in our instructional leadership talks to determine what we should discuss in our PLCs and Instructional Support Days. Originally, we weren’t able to provide feedback to teachers but after some research and exploring, I learned how to add that script into our form that will allow feedback to be given directly to teachers. There are several steps, nothing way technical, but well worth the effort. Committing to this process with the iPads has help set the tone with our school of where our focus lies.

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The responsibilities of a school administrator are immense, everyday is different, dynamic. At a principal’s meeting, my superintendent was talking about how everyone – teachers, the public, students, politicians – EVERYONE, underestimates what we have to do. In general, educators today have a very different duty set from when I started teaching 16 years ago. Significantly different tasks and responsibilities require us to be willing to not only explore new tools and technologies but modify our methodology and incorporate new tools into our practices.

I’m grateful that I am able to dive into my PLN and am able to connect to practicing experts and professionals from whom I can learn better practices. There will always be learning on the job, stuff that isn’t covered in a class or pd session but we can all grow from the collective knowledge and experiences of our PLN.

Your Toolbox

I had a great, reaffirming conversation with another administrator in my school district @CumberlandCoSch. images

At a  scheduling workshop for secondary schools, I met up with Dan Krumanocker and Troy Lindsey, principal and assistant principal of Douglas Byrd High School. A couple of months ago, I helped Dan [@DanielJK68] with a Twitter tutorial, basically some quick tips on maximizing Twitter. I met Troy there and we had a great talk about Twitter and social media use in the school. This week, our district is hosting support scheduling workshops for secondary schools. We are transitioning to a new support system next year and this open meeting is a way for answer any questions school may have. As I was leaving one day, I stopped and spoke to Troy as he was working with his crew. Our conversation quickly went to Twitter. He was commenting on how I share content over Twitter and how we can all grow from the sharing.

We talked about using Twitter as a means to grow and sharpen skills and how its similar to a toolbox. Twitter is a means to grow the number of tools in your toolbox. Its a non-stop, right-on-time pd and research tool. It facilitates 360 degree, 24/7 sharing opportunities. Its there when and how we need. One great and undeniable benefit that defies physics is that Twitter adds more tools to the toolbox without making your toolbox heavier. I make consistent reference of how my PLN lightens my load by helping me with answers and strategies that go directly to helping me be a better leader to my school, community, teachers and students. Troy’s sentiment was simple – sharing works! If you share a resource that works in your school, others can try it and have positive or negative results or simply chose not to try it. Either way, that is how people get what they need.

We have to develop a culture where sharing is expected!

This was a great conversation and a reminder to me that we have a new dimension for not only training new school leaders and but enabling our continued growth. Social media and new media tools are a part of it. We all have to do our part to help our new, continued learning – either as new learners or new leaders!

Embrace your PLN! Share resources and what help you grow.

iPads and Google Forms for Classroom Observations – Team Solution

 The Spring Lake Middle Instructional Leadership Team had a great collaborative growth experience with the Cumberland County Schools Curriculum and Instruction Team.

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    The CCS C&I Teams makes regular visits to schools to observe classrooms and give feedback to the principal and/or other personnel. For our visit today, our Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum, John Gibbs, visited with our curriculum specialist in math, social studies, science and literacy. They spent several hours in the building visiting classes, having conversations and ended the day with a group share of plus/deltas. These visits are always positive – at the end we all have a clear direction of the successes and work throughs.

   During our conversation, I learned the C&I team capture walk  through data using a GoogleDrive spreadsheet. They set up multiple fields with specific information they want to collect and later review. All the specialists understand how to manipulate the information, including using colors to highlight certain information for various reasons.

   There is a high degree of synchronicity this week with Google Forms and Walk Thrus/Informal Observations. Earlier this week, after a lot of productive work, I made a post on how to send feedback from a GoogleForm [GoogleForm for Feedback Tool]. Utilizing the features of GoogleDrive is a great way to make sure a team is being data driven and all are going in a good direction.

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   I shared our GoogleForm Walk Through tool with them. We started the talk showing the parallels in both spreadsheets – exact same end results and capabilities of looking at data. We next went into a talk about how the GoogleForm streamlines the process adding the information into the spreadsheet. This process is made altogether easier with the use of our iPads. We shared iPads from one of our Project Carts and paired off with the C&I and did more walk thrus using our tool. We wanted the team to compare the experience with iPads vs laptop and reviewing the data at the end.

   This was a great collaborative session for everyone. We got to share our process and tools with a visiting team and we benefited from their feedback on our walk thru tool. This is value of finding the solution through collaboration.

Skyping In – #GRESA Conference

images   Last week, I had the great opportunity to Skype into the conference with a good friend of mine from Georgia. Rod Smith, @IAmRodSmith, is the Director of Technology and Communications for Griffin-Spalding Schools. I contacted him earlier to get his help with an iPad technical issue [he is an iPad guru]. We arranged for me to Skype into his session for school leaders using social media for their own growth and for connecting with their stakeholders.

A main goal was for this group to hear from a current school administrator who using social media. We previously discussed the sharing on the following points:

  • The right tools make the difference – Tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck make the difference, whether its scheduling tweets, organizing information, participating in chats or any number other features
  • Connecting with stakeholders – I created this information sheet [Stay Informed@SLMS] at my last school and modified to fit my current district’s social media policies. I attribute this sheet to Communicating and Connecting with Social Media
  • My changed perspective – I am a different educator today than when I first joined Twitter and began diving into social media four years ago. This journey is about lifelong learning and shifting paradigms
  • Participating in chats – I spoke to the group about my active participation/facilitation in two chats:
    • #edfocus – This began as a book study chat and has evolved to include an implementation portion. The main facilitators include @mrbernia and @normandin
    • #ncadmin was started with fellow NC administrator @CSmithGoBlue. We want a forum to keep NC administrators current on new trends but are very fortunate to be joined by administrators across our nation.
    • I encouraged all school leaders present in the session to either join an existing chat or create one specific for their circle and growth

This was a great experience! I’m thankful for the opportunity to share some impactful experiences I’ve had that could help others benefit from diving into social media. We should all can do what we can to help other educators change their perspectives on what 21st century professional development and growth means.