mccoyderek

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

#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!

We are Always 2 Questions Away…

Earlier this week, we got a call to one of our teacher’s classrooms to get some help in dealing with a ‘disruptive’ student. When I arrived, the teacher greeted me at the door with a very perplexed and slightly frustrated look on her face. She pointed out wpid-20150421_092044the student and began to explain that he was very disagreeable, argumentative and even combative. Her confusion came from the fact that even though we have had moments with this student before, his behaviors were out of character, very ‘odd’ and ultimately disruptive.

As I walked him to the front office and began asking him what was going on, I quickly began to see the behaviors the teachers described. He was even short and borderline disrespectful to me. [For clarity, I don’t write that to sound like, “How dare he talk to the principal like that!’, I say that because over his 3 years at Spring Lake Middle, I have come to know him, his family and situation very well and he and I have a good relationship]. As I approached the front office, one of his support teachers, Mr Cooper, saw us and inquired about what was going on. I asked him to join us, thinking that two heads were better than one.

When we arrived in my conference room, I asked the student about the night before, ride on the bus and arrival at school, thinking that this was either a turbulent night in the neighborhood or some issue with students at school. Other than arriving to school on the bus late that day, there was nothing out of the ordinary. I had to leave out of the office for a quick minute and when I returned, Mr. Cooper shared some a powerful piece of information he got from the student in an astonishing 60 seconds.

The student had not eaten in 40 hours. He was absent from school the day before and in all the hurry never ate anything more than a half a peanut butter sandwich. Our cafeteria makes a point to always be ready for every late bus but that day he wasn’t with the bus. We were literally seeing a student whose personality, health, mood, emotions were being seriously affected by grave hunger.

I snuck the picture above to share with my staff later but in it you see a desperate principal who reached out to the first adults he could find to get whatever donation they could give. Its not in the picture but I did give him a bottle of water from my office so it wasn’t totally unhealthy. 12 minutes later, Mr Cooper and I were dealing with a different young man. He was back to being mild-mannered, pleasant and conversational. We even joked about how he doesn’t eat the outside part of the doughnut, only the part that touches the inner hole. Like I said, we know and love this kid.

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At a faculty meeting earlier this year, I shared with the staff that we are always two questions away from learning something significant about our students, our classes and our school. If we are willing to ask questions, we can learn something that will allow us to make a profound difference in the lives of students.

What Can We Do?

dd-school-breakfast-2013-info-graphicBuild Relationships – [‘Relationships, relationships, relationships.’ Jimmy Casas] I’m thankful the teacher was sharp enough to see that something was off with the student and knew to reach out for support to get some help. I’m grateful that his support teacher saw us in the hallway and was able to get to the two questions. While I’m confident that others could have had success in this situation, I don’t think others would have had the patience to deal with an ‘unruly’ middle schooler. Its only because we knew this student that we were able to intervene, see through the pain and intervene.

Don’t Take ANYTHING for Granted – Educators are busy and overworked and have the TREMENDOUS task of leading the learning in the classroom – a lot goes into that responsibility. But even through that, we have to be vigilant and mindful of what’s going on with our students. Sometimes, we go beyond the two questions just to make sure all is well.

Keep Some Snack for Students – You just never know.

This was a profound reminder. Those who know me know a lot of my passions are in the best teaching and learning practices, what learning can look like and what best leadership practices and strategies help us get to where we need to be. But I started teaching in schools like the ones I have led and am grateful for the unique experiences that have helped shaped me. All of us in our different communities and schools, have to keep in the forefront that we serve kids and all kids have needs of some kind. I will always work on my ‘2 Questions’ skill.

 

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!

Prepping our Middle Schoolers for a Blended Experience

Several weeks ago, we began some strategic planning to address a large class-number problem we knew we would be having in our upcoming second semester. The short description of our solution is that we would create a blended learning experience, using local resources, for these students. The beauty of our solution is that we would not have to acquire any new resources, we could use existing resources in our school. The focus of our work would be in training staff members and students in the format, design and tools we would need to have a successful experience.

Training SLMS Students on GoogledDrive5

We have designed an online mini-course for our health classes. We had our Health/PE teachers collaborate with  our instructional coaches to develop quality online curriculum for this blended learning experience. Curriculum design is a passion of mine so this is right up my alley! It was exciting to see this develop during our progress monitoring checks. After we decided on the content, choosing our delivery tool was next. We are fortunate in that Cumberland County Schools, #Broadfinalist, is a Google district and one of the top 10 largest school districts on Edmodo. With a combination of the two we feel we had great resources we need to make this successful.

The most important component is getting our learners ready for this endeavor. We outlined all the operational knowledge we know our learners need and came up with a pretty concise but critical list. Our students have been on Edmodo for years so we felt comfortable with that knowledge base. We designed a training protocol for our students on Google. @CumberlandCoSch enabled Google accounts for all 6-12 students earlier this year. Our training was a walk through on the various Google tools they would need to complete assignments and navigate coursework. The pictures here are of our training day with kids. They came with a lot of prior knowledge and of course some had more experience than others but by the end of the session, all students were where we needed them. In the pictures, you will see our Innovation Coach leading a talk with a group [I even took over session when she was called to the office].

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This will be a great experience for teachers and learners, for our school as a whole. I plan on showcasing our plus/deltas and progress with our staff as a whole to show where we can go and move as a school. I’m proud of this experience we are creating and building in house. I’m excited about this because its another chance to share a real-life working example of students centered learning experiences that our learners need and that our school can provide.

Earlier this week, I found this article on the different types of blended learning models out there. A real value of this article is the summary of the benefits of blended learning. Our original plan was sparked by necessity, pure and simple. But while we’re here and have engaged in some great curriculum design and planned for great learning experiences for our learners, we are going protect this as endeavor and promote it benefits. Hopefully, we’ll see this expand and grow.

I need to give thanks to a lot of people for this:

  • SLMS Instructional Team for dreaming and pushing forward and our Health/PE teachers for curriculum design
  • Innovation Coach – Ms Crumpler, you rock!
  • 6th grade Broncos – Kids Rock!
  • NCVPS – Bryan Setser and Don Lourcey for first exposing me to blended learning
  • Donna Peters and Dave Cassady
  • Cumberland County Schools for having the foundation in place and willingness to be flexible
  • And of course my PLN!

PLN Blogging Challenge

ChallengeThis is fun!

Earlier this week, Dwight Carter, PLN member and inspiration, forwarded me a fun challenge. Dwight has always been a great example of leadership and a great representative of the potential of our growing digital community. I’ve got mad respect for him as an #edleader and eagerly accepted this blogging challenge. This will be a great way to get to know the members of my PLN and have some fun at the same time.

The first part of the challenge is to share 11 random facts:

My 11 Random Facts

  1. I am the last of ten children. [I grew up on a farm and this was a great way to ensure continued farm help ; )]. Great history here, my parents had a simple mission – EVERY child will graduate high school and EVERY child will go to college [mission accomplished]
  2. I love comic books – LOVE THEM! DC and Marvel! Grew up reading them and still buy them [digital versions though – you should see my garage]
  3. My wife’s mom introduced us! My mother-in-law and I worked at an H & R Block in Savannah and she invited me to dinner – history was made!
  4. I eat my best when I’m at school – 1 serving of protein, lots of veggies at at least 2 liters a water. But this is at school – I come up short at home and the weekends!
  5. I was a break dancer growing up – Ozone and Turbo had nothing on me and my friends [let’s see who gets that reference]
  6. I’ve never lived close to any of my K-12 schools I’ve attended as a student [always at least 75 minute bus rides in the country] or worked in [for five years, I lived in Charlotte NC metro environment and worked in Montgomery County NC, very rural environment – I regard this as the best growth time in my life]
  7. Because I lived so far from school, I never had the opportunity to play sports or do after school activities until I could drive.
  8. I’ve studied Jiu Jitsu, American Freestyle Karate, and Muy Thai Kickboxing but I am dying to study and learn the ‘sweet science’ – boxing!
  9. One of my best friends in the world is Richard Greene. He and I took every class together K-8 and at least one class together 9-12. He is also a middle school principal
  10. As deep as I am on social media and began adopting early on, my wife only recently joined Facebook and Twitter, both late in 2012.
  11. I was a Political Science major in college but when I got chance to teach, I fell back to my one true love in K-16 – Math

My Answers to Dwight’s Questions

  1. What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year? ‘Fair Isn’t Always Equal’, Rick Wormeli, ‘The Will to Lead, The Skill to Teach’ Dr Anthony Muhammad, ‘Ten Minute Inservice’ Todd Whitaker and Annette Breaux  [Dude, I’m a co-moderator on #edfocuschat]
  2. What person in history would you want to have dinner with? W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T Washington. When I was in college I did a lot of reading on the two of them and their ‘philosophical’ differences. At the end, both stressed the advancement of African Americans through education but with slightly different purposes. I think hosting a dinner and discussion with the two of them on Google+ and having some conversation today would be a enlightening.
  3. What’s the one thing you care about the most? God and family
  4. Who is your all time favorite cartoon character? Mr Terrific – 3rd smartest man on the planet, 13 PhD’s, ‘a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes’ [like I said, comic book nerd]
  5. What was your favorite extracurricular activity in high school? Track and Field, 400 meter run. Like I said earlier, because of where we lived I didn’t have to opportunity to participate in a lot of extracurriculars. I ran track my last year and found a strength.
  6. Growing up, were you a nerd, jock, teacher’s pet, loner, or extravert?  Nerd! I embrace my nerdhood! I had a great time growing up because of my close friends though! They are great!
  7. What’s your dream vacation? At least 8 hours away by plane, incredible beach, world-class spa [for the wife], free wifi for catching up on some digital reading [DC and Marvel]
  8. What’s one thing you would invent that would positively change lives? – Two inventions for teachers, ‘Engage-ometor’ and the ‘Rigor-m0-rator’ [These are works in progress]
  9. If you weren’t an educator, what would do for a living? –  Upward Bound Director, this is an easy one. Upward Bound is a TRIO organization that is committed to helping first generation college students go to college! UB was a fundamental part of my life and a big reason I went to college. Being a UB Director is the one job I would give to serious consideration to leaving K-12 education. Fun, purposeful, incredible experience.
  10. If you were to give a TED Talk, what would be your topic? ‘It starts in the middle!’ [There won’t be TRUE EdReform until we really GET middle school education!]
  11. What’s your sentenceWe can always do a better!
Now I’m assigning homework to the following bloggers (hope they have not been tagged previously):
  1. John Bernia
  2. Sam Fancera
  3. Bill Burkhead
  4. Craig Smith
  5. John Robinson
  6. Robert Sigrist
  7. Justin Tarte
  8. Dr Sheron Brown
  9. Cornelius Minor
  10. Chris Hubbuch
  11. Anyone who wants to play along! (Just follow the guidelines below)

Here are your questions:

  1. What is one of your guilty pleasures?
  2. What is an awesome thing you do to get yourself motivated, really pysched up!
  3. What education movie really inspired you?
  4. What is the one thing you do that your close friends would say is unique to you?
  5. What would you different in the classroom today than when you first started?
  6. Favorite dessert?
  7. If we could get you a ticket to anywhere in the world to taste true, authentic cuisine, where would you go and what would you eat?
  8. What do you miss most about high school or college?
  9. Droid or iPhone?
  10. Why education?
  11. Best vacation with the family?
The Guidelines for your Homework…
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.
  6. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  7. Post back here (in the comment section) with a link to your finished assignment. Go on, you have homework to do.

Can’t wait to hear from you guys!!

Making a Difference in Our Communities

This past month, we had the opportunity to participate in another great community event that really highlights the best of working in schools and serving kids.

When I first arrived at Spring Lake Middle, I was told about several strong, impactful, long standing community relationships that have made a difference in our school and community at large. For example, we have a great relationship with our Boys & Girls Club.We have a mutually beneficial agreement with them in sharing resources and supporting students. We can’t name all the ways this partnership benefits kids and families in our community.

Saturday, December 14th, Spring Lake Middle proudly hosted the T.I.G.A.P.A. Food Drive. We partner with T.I.G.A.P.A. to commit to being a service to our community. This partnership has proven to be an impactful vehicle in helping the needy families in our community.

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I was proud and overwhelmed to see the community support we  received that day. One reason we do this is to give our students an opportunity to put in some community service hours. We had several students show up to gladly help with boxing up food packages and carrying out heavy boxes to family cars. Planning ahead, this is an opportunity for our school to promote a bigger community service opportunity for more students. We also received organizational support from several local groups, organized largely by our newly elected Alderman James O’Garra. Without his help and dedication, we would not have been able to help feed over 300 families that day.

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These events are important for educators. Being a part of this strong sense of community helps recharge battery and provide new focus for us. We normally plan for outside operations for these food drives and the community came out expected that. But given this day was cold with steady drizzle – just enough to make standing outside for a couple of hours a very miserable day. With a  simple decision to move the event inside and making more restrooms and seating available, we had more grateful people open up conversations about the community, families and what they can do serve our school. Support will look different for everyone but at the end we welcome all support!

I’m thankful for T.I.G.A.P.A. and this inspirational opportunity. School leaders at all levels can develop a pretty narrow view of what serving the community is – this is a great way to create needed new looks.