mccoyderek

My UnCon Experience

Saturday July 12th, was a great day of learning and sharing for me! I had the distinct pleasure participating in a conference in Tennessee, learning from topic experts [some who have been part of my PLN for years, some I just connected with], was able to share on a topic I’ve been researching, and [best part] I didn’t have to leave my home in NC!

I’d like to thank Adam Taylor, @2footgiraffe, for inviting me to be a part of his innovative summer pd for area school leaders. PrincipalMeet was a great experience in connected learning and advancement of school leader’s skills and development. I had a great time hearing from the different perspectives from presenters on some topics I knew well or have wanted to dive deep into.

Adam created a Hangout for every virtual presentation. With each Hangout, he shared out the YouTube video link on Twitter, enabling everyone in our PLNs and on Twitter, to watch and learn. From participating in this, I learned how I can incorporate Google+ and Hangouts into my own connected experiences. This is also a great way to archive the learning for future use. My presentation was on using Google Forms for Instructional Supervision. I’ve written about this earlier in several blog posts as well as made some instructive presentations on rationale and the ‘how tos’. Below is the video of my presentation.

I’m appreciative of chance to learn and participate. It was great to connect with some of the difference makers out there who I’ve been following and admiring. I’m inspired to continue my efforts to connect and learn, keep innovating how I shift and train teachers and dive more into my PLN!

Great day!

Quote of the day:

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!

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.

One of My Defining Days

I had one of those days this week that helped remind me why I became an educator and why I’ve always worked with kids.

The Meetingstem

Wednesday, at our principals meeting, three of our assistant superintendents met with me and four other middle school principals regarding a STEM program sponsored by Fayetteville State University. This program will target our rising 8th graders who will likely be 8th grade Algebra students. Dr Black, one of the assistant superintendents, had run lists of our rising 8th graders using EVAAS, an online data program for NC schools, that runs student and school data a number of ways. We received achievement probability reports for these students. It listed students’ probability of passing the Algebra 1 EOC based on past EOG performance. As I read the list of students for my school, I was excited to see the name of one of our students [for privacy reasons, I’ll call him Baxter]. Baxter is served in our exceptional children’s program for behavioral reasons. This list generated showed all students with a high probability of passing Algebra. Baxter’s position on the list places him higher than 2/3 of our current 7th graders.

I was excited for Baxter when I saw this! What a great opportunity for him. There is research that shows, properly identified students who are successful in the 8th algebra have a significantly high probability of post-secondary success. For a student like Baxter and his family this could be a life changer.

But my excitement was soon matched by concern. As I began playing out scenarios I began to worry about Baxter’s preparation. This probability model is great – I’ve used EVAAS in another NC district as a principal and as the Director of Curriculum and Innovation. We start the conversation with this data – who has best chance. Then we look at other data for consideration. This is where my concern began – have we done enough to support and prepare Baxter?

Divine Intervention

It just so happens that when I got back to my school that afternoon, Baxter and a couple of other students were a little talkative in class [ironically math] and were sent to the office for redirection. These are great boys and we had a great conversation. They all admitted what they did wrong, knew where they went wrong and promised to do better. Great talk!factortree

I kept Baxter back a little while. Given my talk earlier and the fact that I’m a middle school math teacher [having taught 6-8 math all levels, and 7th and 8th Algebra] I just wanted to see where Baxter was. I asked him what they were studying in math and he replied ‘trees’ [great answer]. He of course meant factor trees. I asked him a couple of questions and he answered them flat out so I dove straight into the heart and asked him to show me a factor tree for the number 24. I’ve attached a picture of his work.

I like Baxter and I’m not saying this because I like him but he demonstrated a clear understanding of concept including use of terms prime and composite, exponent form and when to use a factor tree. Clear ability. He wrote out this example and explained it without pause and without missing a beat. This conversation was as positive as it was concerning. Clearly he knows what he knows but I have to keep asking have we done enough to prepare him for the rigor of a high school course as a middle schooler?

Have we done enough to support this at-promise student’s natural ability to help him be successful?

Meeting with the Beginning Teachers

That same day after school, I was called into our beginning teachers’ monthly large group meeting. I was asked to share a couple of words with them while they were finishing up their paperwork. I had to talk about Baxter. Many of the mentors in the room and some of the BTs knew Baxter and they all attested to his good nature. When I shared the data everyone in the room shared a feel good moment and were genuinely happy for him. We help a lot of needy kids and its good to share promising news.

My talk with the BTs went a little deeper. I asked them a couple of questions:

  • What was their vision of our school?
  • What contribution or part will they play in helping take our school to another level?
  • What will you do to make sure we don’t miss kids like Baxter again?
  • We have proven success in helping kids grow but what about building something new, something supportive for kids?
  • What are we doing to create very different opportunities for kids?
  • What are we doing to change our approach to make sure our school is serving every child?

These questions generated a lot conversation.

As I said, this was a one of those defining days. It made me remember back to my days of teaching ‘below level’ students and ‘above level’ students and how frustrated I got because I needed some flexibility in identifying students and in most cases better support in preparing them. It made me remember previous days as an administrator committing to do all I can to ensure that every middle and high schooler, who was capable and ready, would get my support and help in getting placed in courses that would help give them a step up.

This has a been a great first year at a great school. We have had tons of growth conversations. I need to make sure that this topic doesn’t stay remain a conversation – but that it becomes what we are about, what we do and our vision.

Great day!

Middle School Schedule [3]: Support

   We have school leadership meetings twice a month in my current school district, Cumberland County Schools. The topic of one of our middle school principal break out sessions centered around our thoughts, vision and plans for our school schedules for next year.

   This was a great meeting. It’s obvious that there has been a great deal of conversation in these schools regarding preferences, school needs, beliefs and philosophies. Principals talked about plans to implement a 7 period schedule, 8 period, and A/B rotations of various types. There was a lot of conversation and plans for support on all.

Differentiated Support

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This was a great talk. One of my take-aways from this meeting was the obvious level of support from our district leaders. Our meeting was attended by our Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum, a Director of School Support, an Assistant Superintendent and the Superintendent.

   The discussion generated a lot of conversation: pros & cons, ‘how would I implement this at my school?’, different school needs dictating different configurations. At no point were we told we all had to agree on one schedule configuration. Our only mandate was to ensure that high levels of instruction were maintained across the district and that transferring students within our district could move and not be hampered by different schedules in different schools.

I really appreciate this supportive outlook and approach. My school has different needs from other schools. Providing us the flexibility to make best decisions [as we see fit] supports principals and schools, but more importantly helps us implement a differentiated structure tailored specifically for our students needs.

Middle School Schedule [1]: A New Opportunity

   This is an exciting time!

photo (2)   When I first joined Spring Lake Middle last summer, I had a series of meeting with different groups and our School Improvement Team. Our talks covered getting to know the new principal to strategic planning. The SIT and I had several meeting over the summer to review our school improvement plan, preparing it for our upcoming accreditation visit.

   One item that came up regularly was our school schedule. Spring Lake Middle currently runs on a 7 period day. Spring Lake  has realized some significant success on this schedule because of support, teachers and great students. I raised discussion points that a block schedule allowed more opportunity for creativity, focus on reading/literacy, strategic and impactful collaboration and an incredible amount of innovative support opportunities for students.

   I‘ve always liked scheduling, its probably from my days as a math teacher. I’m looking forward to the next months. Building this schedule is not only going to be about building a good schedule, its going to involve having good, transition talks with the staff. For this reason, I’ll be blogging about our upcoming discussions. I’m looking forward to this. This will be instructive for the staff and in the end, really make difference for teaching and learning.