mccoyderek

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

Teach from Home

I often talk about the great things our school system engages in. Like a lot of educators who work for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, I am proud to be a part of the innovative endeavors our school system leads. Its great to work for a place that values innovation and change to better the lives of students and teachers.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-8-24-47-amI recently wrote a post about our school system approving the opportunity for educators to work from home, giving them credit for the work they did at home, planning and collaborating, on inclement weather days [Work from Home post]. This is a great move in valuing and trusting teachers and respecting the work that everyone does for the school system. When Dr Moody, our superintendent, brought up ‘Work from Home’ at a recent principal meeting, the conversation of Teaching from Home came up [guilty]. As a 1:1 school district in our 3rd year of deployment, our school district has been working hard to increase our competencies and capabilities with digital teaching and learning. I’m particularly proud of the hard work our school commits to in creating personalized learning experiences that challenge students to create and demonstrate what they know. This was the thought for proposing virtual learning on inclement weather days. Our immersion and commitment to digital learning has yielded some great success – now is a great time to demonstrate that learning can extend beyond the walls and schedule of the brick and mortar school.

We had to present this to our school board. Accompanying me was one of our assistant principals, Tricia Hester, and one of our parents. Our parent was my hero for the night. I asked her to speak from the heart about her daughter’s experience working from home on the last snow day. Even though it was not required work, most of our teachers posted assignments for our students to complete. Mrs Arnez spoke eloquently and plainly that her daughter and other children she knew completed the work with the expectation that this was expected and a new norm. This testimony carried significant weight with the board. They were able to hear that the resources and expectations set by our school district have changed mindsets and capabilities and that this next step is a natural step.

elearningAfter some good, critical questions about our goals and design, our Board ultimately approved our recommendation for piloting a year of virtual learning on inclement weather days for the remainder of the year. Their detailed questions showed a commitment to innovative practices that accelerate learning and teaching [change to improve and not change for the sake of change]

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Our plan was approved!

The main concerns of the night about lack of access for some of our students. West Rowan Middle is the most rural school in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Some of our students have 75+ minute bus rides to part that have little to no wifi at home. This is a main reason why West Rowan Middle is a great trial candidate – if we can make it work, it can work anywhere. Our instructional leadership team and our Executive Director of Middle Grades, Tina Mashburn, get major props for setting the vision, resource matrix and expectations for teachers and students and parents for developing the Virtual Learning Plan we developed and presented to the board. Creativity and practicality helped more than anything. Without going into all the resources involved the major focus and area of our plan centers on teachers being well trained and more than proficient with the digital tools we plan to use and fully capitalizing on any advanced notice we can take advantage of and prepare resources for students with limited access at home.

Our major goal is to not interrupt instructional plans created by teachers. As I assured the board, if teachers have planned to teach activities for the next week, we want to see those activities fully delivered or with whatever modification needed to make it happen. To my knowledge, we are the only school in North Carolina to try this [if I’m wrong, please let me know] but I do know very few schools or districts across our nation have tried this. #deepdivers

I have to give several shout outs for this:

  • Dr Lynn Moody – I constantly share her vision and innovativeness regularly whenever I can. This is a superintendent who gets it [if you are inclined to do so, you should visit]
  • Rowan-Salisbury School Board – They asked great, reflective questions. Travis Allen one of the board members used the analogy of the hockey puck not always coming to you – you have to go where it is – this is where learning and teaching is going. We should be there;
  • West Rowan Middle Instructional Leadership Team and Tina Mashburn – awesome plan and foresight! You guys rock!
  • The Great Teachers at West Rowan Middle – Nothing happens without great teachers, NOTHING! When I presented this to them, they jumped at this hard! They are ready for this endeavor!

At the board meeting while I was walking out, someone said ‘Let’s hope we don’t have to find out how well it works [meaning let’s hope we don’t have anymore snow days]!’ I quickly replied, ‘Naw, let’s hope we do!’ Our purpose for this isn’t to embrace change for the sake of change – our purpose is to replace a outmoded notion, make up days, with a relevant learning experience utilizing tools we already embrace and by doing so, eliminating the need for make up days. That’s right, as we continue to be improve on this and capability, our students families and teachers bewp-1485263977021.jpgnefit by not having to make up days at the end of the school year of dipping into holidays. #worthit

We’re looking forward to this. I really applaud my teachers for embracing this as doable and continuing their work into digital teaching and learning. This is a great next step for changing our understanding of learning and education.

Knowledge vs Intelligence: A Discussion for Digital Learning Age

I came across this article  some weeks ago – Does knowledge matter in the age of Google? http://buff.ly/2brmg2N.  Heads up, the first couple of sentences may be slightly bothersome to some but bear through it as it gets to the heart of the discussion – how we as a society, particularly our growing millenial workforce,  view knowledge and more importantly, the value we place on knowing facts. There’s a great statement about how we are ‘outsourcing memory’ and are at the detriment of not knowing what we don’t know. It has a great conclusion, ‘Knowledge is not wisdom, but it is a prerequisite for wisdom..,’ after all, we do have to know why we have made decisions we’ve made and why we should or shouldn’t make decisions.

But we have the hard reality of living and working in the information age. This article, Knowledge Doubling Every 12 Months, Soon to be Every 12 Hours –  http://buff.ly/2bJV5TH hits on this point. Prior to our world being connected and our developing the ability to share conversations and information with the click of a button, gathering this knowledge was work and saved for exclusive groups. Now, information, more accurately access to information, is a right! We can get to it by making a casual decision to do so. With our inventions and innovations and our deciding to share, we are growing the amount of information in the world. We once held libraries in reverence for holding all or most information we needed. Now, we can take a smart device, with or without service, to a public wifi and get those same facts.

All of this leaves me with some questions:

  • What key facts should we insist on knowing/teaching?
  • What is pertinent information?
  • Who should be determining ‘pertinent facts’?
  • Are we allowing and promoting that pertinent facts should mean different things for different people?

Call to Change

The solution here of course lies in the how and the what we do in education. Our expected learning outcomes and demonstrations of learning can’t be tied to regurgitating facts or filling in blanks or solving naked math problems. It calls on us to unlearn most of our own K-16 learning experiences and embrace delivery methods that require kids to ask questions, solve problems and challenge existing viewpoints. We have to embrace that the grade of 50 or 70 or 100 cannot denote the end of learning.

We have to embrace that where our emphasis and value was on knowledge, now it has to be placed on growing intelligence and perseverance of every student. Changing these perspectives should be our top priority.

Last year, my instructional team developed a learning activity for the staff. We gave them fact recall questions OUT of their content area and told them NO TECH! There was a little stress at first but when we allowed them to use tech to answer the questions they felt a little better. Imagine how this makes our kids feel. [Fact deficits should not impact a child’s comfort in class] Later we gave them a the real activity that required them to dive deeper into the concepts and create a project that really demonstrated understanding. For this outcome, it really didn’t matter what facts you brought to the table, the tech helped with the fact gathering. What counted was the team working together to achieve the goal and building upon each other’s strength. The lesson design made the day. We have to continue to work with our adults to change their perception of good work to ensure that our students are able to participate in that work.

There are new skills and mindsets our students need that we can dive into while teaching our standards:

  • 21st-century-skills-4-cs-graphicWe can design with the 4 C’s in mind;
  • We can coach perseverance;
  • We can help stoke the fire in our students to be compassionate and service-oriented;
  • We can bring the value and need for curiosity to the forefront;
  • We can unlearn and relearn what’s ‘important’ in education to design learning and delivery that will help students with their future needs and problems.

How important is it to you..?

I took this picture last week in our media center. As I began to ask questions about what was going on, I was inspired to share some thoughts in this post.

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How important is it to you to have things happen a certain way?

In the picture above, this student is not in trouble. He simply asked that for today, for that lesson, he sit by himself to work on his own. The teacher agreed knowing that he would miss some of the direct instruction that set up the lesson. I applaud her insight for valuing a perceived need of this student over the routine of making sure everyone hears her talking points. This student completed the work just fine independently and what he needed, he got later from the teacher.

This scene made me think of instances when I’ve seen practices that are more about tradition or habit than an opportunity to flex to accommodate student needs or desires to engage at a higher level. These are some recent pics I’ve taken that have sparked some questions.
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How important are desks, rows to you?

How important is it that students sit in chairs/desks?

I love walking into this teachers classroom. When you walk in, kids are getting that work!! Its about what kids need to do and what they need to know and they understand those expectations. I like the two kids sitting under the whiteboard but I love how comfortable the young man is under the desk. He is in his own world doing what needs to be done. Teacher preference vs getting that work – #nobrainer!

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How important is it that students sit?

How important is it that desks look like desks?

 

This picture came from the West Rowan High School on a recent visit. This is during their flexible period where students can choose where they work and what they will work on. I love that students who need to stand here can stand and get it done. But I love more that we are repurposing furniture. Instead of something pricey out of a catalog, we use what we have and in this case some redesigned old bookshelves [with the help of our cabinet class]. I will take functional and comfortable any day of the week.

Our school had a recent visit from Melanie Farrell and Kyle ‘My Info’ Hamstra. I shared a lot of the great things our teachers are doing including their building some collaborative work spaces for our students. Melanie shared a personal frustration in that her son’s room at home has a table that allows him to stand and do his work but at school, he is forced to sit all day, taking him out of his work comfort zone. When I think of the adults in my building that have to stand or get out of their seats after several minutes, I cringe for students who have the expectation to sit for long periods of time.

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Grading

I have had to challenge my own personal thinking/philosophy on this one.

I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I have been very flexible with my grading policy as a classroom teacher. Every year in the classroom, I’ve told students and parents that if you turn it into me at the end of the quarter I will change any grade. While that was a good start, I didn’t focus enough on the learning. ‘Why were you so late turning that in?’, ‘Its been a long time, do you need some additional help now?’

Because my philosophy has evolved over the years I do ask my teachers is what they’re doing about the grade or about the learning outcomes that have been set? Does the grading policy get in they way of kids true learning potentials?

imagesPlease share your some of your challenge points below. Let’s keep the conversation moving.

#bethatteacher

 

 

 

 

Be That Teacher

0050ec171fb4eff4365f729391c9ab38Teaching is hard.

Change is hard.

We regularly ask teachers to make difficult adjustments to their practices. Change talks come from all levels, central office, building administrators and from the teachers themselves. If we are going to commit to relevant and rigorous learning, we have to commit to real, regular and honest conversations with ourselves, and our groups, about what we are doing in our schools, what things need to look and be like, and then work we need to engage in to get there. Without these talks and commitment, we won’t realize changes in:

  • implementing teaching practices to get students to communicate, collaborate, think critically and creatively;
  • making sure students are future ready, whether it be college or a career;
  • changing not only how we teach, but how we think and FEEL about what teaching is and should be;
  • using different mediums or approaches, sometimes that challenge us personally and professionally, to reach students
  • taking deliberate steps to meet the individual needs of every student in every class.

I recently had a conversation with some of our teachers about the difficulties we are facing in our school. As with any school, a new leader brings some new viewpoints and practices in how things are done. But it doesn’t matter if these innovations are brought in from the administration or the central office or from a strong teacher leader – changes have to be made to keep learning the priority. Reflection, new learning goals and a focus on student learning means change is inevitable.

Change is hard. And if that difficulty isn’t managed or monitored or addressed carefully frustration, resentment and feelings of hopelessness can overwhelm everyone. These feelings can cause arguments or conflicts to start between different parties. We can get caught up in making sure our point is heard or that we win a disagreement. If not handled appropriately, while battles are fought, students lose out.

0a83c260d3084c6a58067328d5eab5a0Our recent talk was about how some of the recent changes in our school was affecting everyone. I wanted to convey two big points with the staff. First, I wanted to acknowledge that I know change is hard. Change is particularly difficult for educators because we invest so much, personally and professionally, into creating learning experiences for students and our colleagues that when we find something successful we want to protect and guard it. Every person wants to build something that is good and valuable. These kinds of investments are significant and when we are successful in creating a great activity or lesson to share or design great presentations or trainings for our colleagues, we want to protect it – after all it is great and we are proud. The hard part, especially for teachers, is when we have created lessons or activities that were engaging at some point but have to be changed or modified to fit the needs of different learners or environments or times. Because of investments in time, emotion and sweat, it can be hard to let. These factors make change hard. They have to be respected and heard.

#BeThatTeacher

The second part of my message was a call to the teachers in our great school to rise to the challenge. Our school is great school because we have committed teachers who are determined to make a difference. You can’t have one without the other. They do many things that unseen to make sure students are successful and thriving. Its inspiring to see our teachers daily trying to reach students, personally and academically, and push them to grow and improve, if only just a little, from the previous day. And as they push kids, we have to push ourselves as well.

Be That Teacher who:

  • builds a great activity with a teammate and later asks, how can we improve next time?;
  • acknowledges the frustration, comes into the principal’s office to vent, hugs it out and leave with a plan to do a little better;
  • doesn’t see it as a failure, but sees it as a journey;
  • is learning a new thing this week or month or year;
  • chooses not to hear a criticism but an opportunity to grow;
  • doesn’t accept a 0 or 50 or 100, but looks thinks, ‘Do my kids get it?’;
  • isn’t afraid to bring a good plan to the team and make it better;

[Some of these bullet points weren’t part of my talk but as I write this, I reflect on conversations I’ve had with teachers over the years in different schools and with members in my PLN.]

In one of the opening chapters of Mindset, Carol Dweck writes about athletes who have thrived in competitive environments where they were often outclassed. At the end, they were better for it because it forced them to develop an attitude to keep pushing and moving forward. Its not about the win, its about the struggle – that’s where the victory comes.

#bethatteacher is about change, not for the sake of change, but change to give kids what they need for their future. Its about being happy enough with ourselves to accept that we have to keep working at what we are doing for our classrooms, schools and students.

Stay motivated.

Get inspired

#bethatteacher

Using Infographics in Our Schools

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I love infographics. I make a point to share an interesting infographic to my PLN everyday. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better way to share lots of information in a more concise and interesting display. Its robust and eye-catching.

Steven Weber, @curriculumblog, an active member of my PLN, shared this newly created infographic by his school district Chapel Hill-Carborro City Schools, @chccs. Instead of reading about this district’s information on fact sheet, you can get a great visual experience while reading over some of district’s essential details.They say presentation is everything – in this case, presentation keeps the reader engaged and more likely to retain some of the more pertinent information about this district. Years ago, Steven shared an infographic of similar design from the school he served as principal. It was a great visual and though it was years ago, I still remember my impression from the visual design.

Power of Infographics for School Branding

There is incredible opportunity for schools to use infographics to help promote the great things that happen in schools. When I read the CHCCS infographic, I immediately thought of some banners our school could [and will] create to share some cool, great things we have going on:

  • What middle school is about, strategies for successful transition, study habits
  • Achievement facts;
  • Explanation of the BYOD policy
  • Instead of sharing a stale pdf summary of school improvement goals, , get creative with an infographic;
  • Highlights sports achievements;
  • Explanation of electives, intramurals;
  • Showoff your student/staff of the month;
  • Profile your teachers during Teacher Appreciation Month;
  • Create some great visual on your school’s unique instructional goals i.e., 1:1, blended learning, PBL, focus on literacy, etc.

Promoting our positive school brand is a consistent part of our jobs as school leaders. In addition to committing to spreading the positive word, we have to make sure we are using the language, visuals and tools that help our stakeholders understand our message and take away the important details of our message. Infographics help mitigate the educational jargon, make the data more relatable, and add some essential personalization that our community will buy into.

“If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell a story.”

Resource

5 Infographics to Teach You How to Easily Make Infographics in Powerpoint

#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!