Tag: Administration

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Future Ready and the Small School District

It is inspiring to connect with the work being done to move the Office of Educational Technology’s Future Ready Initiative forward. It is energizing to be able to support a vision that has such a clear and profound impact of setting up our next generation of citizens for success.

 

School districts making the investment of time and resources in becoming familiar with the Future Ready Initiative  have embraced this bold movement that is providing educational institutions across the country a robust network of resources to embrace and leverage digital learning. The seven gears embedded in the Future Ready vision are well thought out and a district’s use of the Interactive Planning Dashboard yields meaningful insights into the structures of its organization that supports learning and encourages developing a mindset of preparing today’s student for a future with tools that we can only imagine, but that will exist in workforce that students sitting in today’s classrooms will be a part of.
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Going through the dashboard, its resources and implementing an action plan founded in the research based practices that are provided at the culmination of this process is a comprehensive effort. The tools and the information provided through the Future Ready process are robust. They support strong, action based initiatives to provide an educational vision focused on more personalized learning through a systematic approach that includes the smooth integration of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Use of Space and Time, a Robust Infrastructure, a focus on Data and Privacy, Community Partnerships, Personalized Learning, and Budget and Resources. Follow through on this effort takes a significant amount of organizational capacity and strong leadership. It is also an effort that today’s forward thinking schools are ready to embrace. 

Allocating the organizational resources to fully leverage the resources made available through the Future Ready Initiative are not readily available in all school districts across the country. According to Using Data to Improve Student Learning In School Districts, written by Victoria Bernhardt, about 60% of this country’s school districts have fewer than 1500 students. This puts a clear limit on a district’s available resources  to allocate the personnel needed to fully leverage the robust suite of resources available. In addition, this constraint of resources puts a strain on the smaller school district’s ability  to implement the complement of structures recommended in a systematic manner.

Yet, innovative leaders of small school districts  across the country are jumping in feet first to embrace the Future Ready mindset. Leadership teams are making adaptations to the process of the Future Ready Leadership Self Assessment and the resulting self assessment reports to create modified Future Ready Action Plans. Small school district teams are creating action plans that embrace the personnel, budget and infrastructure resources that are available to them. Non-traditional leadership teams are being created that allow for the amplification of the teacher voice as well as that of the classified employee in planning and preparing schools to deliver a robust 21st century education to students. Educators from smaller organizations strive to create the opportunities for students in small districts that will make them equally competitive with the students of the 6% of the nation’s school districts that educate more than half the students in our country. These efforts seek to equalize the playing field with students who are able to benefit from districts with greater organizational capacity, more robust infrastructures, access to more community partners and internal professional expertise, in addition to access to greater financial resources to support the implementation of Future Ready organizational structures.

Today’s successful educational leader must embrace the philosophy of and understand the power of the collaborative relationship. For today’s educator and Future Ready Superintendent this takes the form of a robust professional learning  network. This network includes and values personal face to face relationships while also relying heavily on social media. Superintendents and leadership teams should bring energy, innovation and an open mindset to the their positions. Leaders should be able to support action that moves the vision of preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers forward. They should be connected on social media and should be able to adeptly move the Future Ready conversation forward by connecting with other administrators from across the country. Professional connections and partnerships can be created quickly via Twitter, LinkedIn, Voxer and Facebook as well as through membership in professional organizations. 
The California School Board Association defines small school districts as those that serve 2500 students or less. These districts make up 55% of the districts in the State of California. One of those districts is mine, the San Antonio Union Elementary School District in Lockwood, CA. We are a Future Ready school district and I, as the the superintendent with a passion for education and a passion for supporting small schools encourage my colleagues of districts both large and small to take the Future Ready Pledge and dive into its supporting resources.

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Personalized Professional Learning

It’s here! #CUE 16 and I’m looking forward to presenting the Future Gear of Personalizing Professional Learning. Click on the gears to learn more about creating a personalized approach to professional learning for your district.

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Interested in where to find Twitter chats, Blab conversations or blogs to follow? Click here for a listing of EdChats on Twitter or check out some hashtags such as #kidsdeservit, #TLAP, #caedchat, #edcamp, #NGSS, #CommonCore. Have something you want to learn about or a group of people you want to connect with? Just get on Twitter and see what you find when you add the hashtag. Looking for some blogs? Check out these recommendations by Edublogs and EdTech Magazine. Who should you follow on Facebook? Start with Edutopia, Elementary Librarian and the Buck Institute for Education as well as the authors you enjoy or professional organizations you belong to. Check out Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinais on Blab. Prefer a podcast? Take a look at the recommendations Edutopia has to offer. Start playing, start exploring and have fun creating your own personal learning plan.

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What Would You Do If You Could Break the Rules?

imagesI’ve been blessed with an incredible PLN (Professional Learning Network). Through applications such as Voxer, Blab, Google+ and Twitter I enjoy daily doses of inspiration, insights into the behind the scenes thinking of some very successful school administrators, professional development providers, teachers and influencers. Two of the strongest influences on my professional practice are Jon Corippo and my absolutely fabulous LeadWild group. You can find most of us under #LeadWild on Twitter.

Last November, we started a conversation about grants which led to Jon throwing out the idea, “What if we were able to get a grant, not for money, but for one that gave us permission to break the rules?” Ooooooooh, what if? Then I realized, as both the Superintendent and the Principal of our school and district, I can do this. I can give staff permission to break the rules. Well, a lot of the rules.

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First SketchNote by Jeremiah Blackwell – @Teach_MrBwell

The first Monday of every month in our district is an early release Monday which allows for a couple of hours of monthly professional development. For today’s early release time, I chose to take a flipped approach to part of our professional learning and sent out some links to all staff, yes this includes all classified staff as well, about 20 Percent Time and Genius Hour. I asked them to read the articles, talk to each other and come up with ideas on what they would do if they could be given time to work on a project of their own choosing with the idea of doing something that would have a positive impact on the school in some way. Come up with something you feel passionate about that would improve the school for students, for employees, for the community, for yourself. Think about what you would do if you were not limited by your job description, a bell schedule, grade levels or any of the rules you think apply. I have to say it was really fun to watch the faces as I said I would like to give them a grant in which the rules don’t apply and you were given on the clock time to complete the project. Well, again, most of the rules.

Some of the ideas that came forth were building an outdoor sensory gym, creating a peace garden, creating a Minecraft Lab, getting a 3D printer to use with students, redesigning classroom learning spaces and from the custodian – working with the middle school art class to paint a mural in honor of those who serve our Country. As a school that serves military families, this project incorporates community, students, teachers and classified staff.

The staff meeting ended at 3:30. I thought we had a great conversation, came up with some great ideas, had clear parameters for next steps and had wrapped up nicely. Half an hour later, I looked up at the clock and noticed in was 4:00. No one had left! We were all still talking, brainstorming, making plans and encouraging one another. Another half an hour later most of the staff was still on campus in different classrooms continuing their sharing of ideas and plans.

I’m ready to say yes to their ideas, to connect them with resources and to give them the time they need to make their ideas a reality. Here’s to seeing what happens next. It’s hard to start breaking the rules after a lifetime of following the rules. As the culture adapts to the flexibility that allows staff time and resources to make their thoughts and dreams a reality, it will be exciting to see what they come up with.

 

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Has Your District Taken the Future Ready Pledge?

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The United States Department of Education with the backing of the White House launched the Future Ready Initiative a year ago in which superintendents have been asked to commit their districts to a culture of digital learning. To support districts in making this commitment #FutureReady has put together a robust support system including an interactive planning dashboard, a Future Ready Schools Framework and a multitude of industry partnerships. The resources are designed with intentionality to provide a strong vision for the future of education in the United States and as well as an actionable plan with supporting tools.

The first year of the Initiative brought 120 superintendent’s from across the United States together in the East Room of the White House. Summits were held across the United States bringing leadership teams together to connect and plan for 21st Century instruction in their schools based on the seven gears of the Future Ready Framework.

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The benefits of taking the pledge are many. Take a look at the FAQ to find out what could be in it for your district. Has the the superintendent of your district taken the pledge? If so, be sure to thank them and acknowledge their forward looking leadership. If not, share this opportunity with them and ask them to join this network of education leaders taking action to redefine the way we think about education.

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Be an Edu Rockstar

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 12.58.43 PMInterested in becoming an Edu Rockstar? CUE, Computer Using Educators, has been supporting educators in California in doing just this through Rock Star Camps for several years now and has recently taken the experience and the opportunity to become a Rock Star Teacher or Edu Leader to a whole new level. Under the direction of Jon Corippo, Director of Academic Innovation, CUE has introduced Black Label Rock Star Camps, TOSA Rock Star Camps and my most recent favorite CUE Rock Star Admin Camp.

The first Rock Star Admin. Camp was hosted at the Luke Skywalker Ranch, in the foothills of northern Marin County, home of Edutopia, and took attendees on a transformational three day Hero’s Journey.

The learning embraced a collaborative approach that brought innovative educators and those looking to become more innovative together in great discussions and sharing of resources that are guiding inspired practices happening in school districts throughout the State. Tim Goree, Director of Technology of the Fairfield- Suison School District, showed attendees that, “You can’t break the Google,” as he guided Edu Leaders in learning how to manage their district’s GAFE domain and other IT secrets. Eric Saibel, Assistant Principal at Hall Middle School, with his calm, understated style, brought humor, nature and inspiration to question doing business as usual. Mike Niehoff, with his fabulous, slightly offbeat sense of humor, that attendees will not forget, brought his passion for a student’s right to be provided with high quality and engaging learning to the forefront. Jennifer Kloczko, Principal at Natomas Charter School, took her parallel passion for high quality and inspiring staff meetings and professional development and got everyone dancing while also showing them how to run a meeting that keeps adult energy up and engagement high. Ramsey Mussallam, teacher extraordinaire at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Ted Speaker, wowed everyone with examples of high interest, high rigor, high success instruction. Finally, Jon Corippo, who pulled the event together with his team and all their behind the scenes work. brought his usual high level of energy and no holds barred approach to introducing the administrators on hand to 21st Century tools that engage learners and develop real world technology skills.

Interested in becoming an Edu Rockstar Admin? If you answered yes, you’re already on your way. To become a Rockstar Administrator there really are only two requirements: 1) be willing to learn outside of your comfort zone, 2) be willing to “fail” (first attempt in learning) as you learn and redefine your professional practice with an infusion of innovation. These two qualities embed what Carol Dweck refers to as an Open Mind Set. With an open mind set, there are no limits on your ability to become an innovative and transformational leader, but you will want to connect with other like-minded leaders, not only in education, but in other industries as well. The 21st Century workforce whether it be business, Nascar or the military are using innovative approaches to redefine the way they do business. There is a lot we can learn from other industries to influence our personal leadership practice and expectations as well as our expectations of how schools are educating students and what skills students are graduating with.

As you begin practicing to become a Rockstar Leader be sure that you’re 1) engaging with others through social media, 2) be aware of what your personal brand online looks like, 3) create and maintain a blog, 4) get on Twitter, 5) participate in chats. As you develop your Rockstar skills and presence be sure to add 1) create a Google+ account 2) participate in a Google Hangout, 3) post to instagram 4) develop a Voxer group to collaborate with. Now that you’ve created these resources for yourself, create them for your organization. Connect, connect, connect and be a Rockstar!

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Positive Outlook Confirmed

Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic

I just finished taking the Kingdomality Vocational Personality Profile sponsored by Career Management International. My results – A Dreamer Minstrel. I was surprised at first to see “Dreamer” in the description, but as I read the personality description, I was very entertained as it described me to a T.

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“You can alway see the ‘Silver Lining’ to every dark and dreary cloud.” – Yes, and this is not always well-received. I was once referred to as “pollyanna” in unkind terms by a colleague in my field. I’ve chosen to carry the reference with pride!

 

“Look at the bright side is your motto.” Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason. It’s not always clear why something happens at first reflection, particularly when the experience has not been positive or rewarding. Nevertheless, I do believe that with time, we gain awareness of why certain experiences have been a part of our lives and how we benefit from them.

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“There is nothing so terrible that you can not find some good within it.” True. I’ve taking care of a lot of student discipline lately and a child who get’s sent to my office during 6th period, has made it successfully through 5/6 of his or her day. A student who comes to tears in my office is facing acceptance and is starting to heal. My son got a 50% on a quiz (darn kid is usually a straight A student); he mastered half the content before the quiz and the other 50% afterwards and learned a lesson in perseverance as well as a valuable life lesson as he continued the learning process even when the grade wouldn’t go up.

Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic – yep, I like this!

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Leading Edge Certification – A Reflection on the Learning

1371694787This week brings the culmination of the IEASC Spring 2014 cohort Leading Edge Certification in Online and Blended Learning. The learning throughout the process of earning this certification was tremendous. Each module brought a specific focus that increased the knowledge base of members in this cohort. I, however, found three areas that proved to be most transformational in my personal development as an instructor.

I entered the course feeling like I was bringing with me a pretty solid foundation and understanding of assistive technology (AT) and universal design for learning (UDL). I’ve spent the past couple of years working closely with and supporting the work of an occupational therapist and speech language pathologist who have real expertise with AT and engaged in a two year Assistive Technology Project. This course however got me to dive in and start creating and embedding accessibility features into my websites, videos and presentations. I learned a lot about what it takes to create accessibility features and grew in my understanding of how many people can benefit from their incorporation into instruction. It is essential that we provide pedagogically sound programs to all of our learners whether they come to us with typical cognitive and physical functioning abilities or with disabilities.

I appreciated the focus the course placed on the four primary roles that an online/blended learning instructor engages in. Ed Hoostein describes the roles of social director, program manager, technician and instructor in his blog post, “Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes: The Roles of E-Learning Facilitators.” There continues to be discussion in the education community about the integrity of online coursework and how it measures up in quality and accountability to traditional brick and mortar instructional environments. Diving into a deeper understanding of how these four roles are interwoven into a strong program gave me an understanding of what to look for in evaluating online and blending learning courses and their pedagogical soundness.

Finally, a review and self reflection of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Instruction proved to show me just how much room for growth I continue to have. As I finish the requirements for the Leading Edge Certification, I am cognizant of the need to continue my professional growth as an educator interested in incorporating digital literacies into the curriculum for both adult learners and students in the K-12 education system. The role of the technician as referenced in the four roles of the online/blended learning instruction in the blog post by Ed Hootstein, as well as ongoing inquiry into developing software that supports student learning, will continue to be an area of focus. Embedding the use of the tools society uses in everyday life into instruction are an essential component of providing students with an education that will allow them to be contributing members of society.

 

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An Observation: A Key Difference between a Son’s E-learning and his Mom’s E-learning

imgres-1My own e-learning begins fairly early in the morning and is often a large part of my overall day. I get up before the rest of my family every morning, grab coffee and dive into my email. My inbox is filled with professional articles, blogs and ed. tech resources. Some of my favorites include: Edutopia, EdReach, Seth Godin, Emerging EdTech and Ron Edmondson. I throw in a little morning humor in there with Andertoons as well.

I’m an education “learning nerd.” Not only do I love the profession of being an educator, but I love to learn! The advent of the internet, online courses, learning modules and articles, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and email have been a blessing to my learning habit. On the flip side of my joy in having learning just a click or couple of taps away is the need to find balance in life. I make a concentrated effort to put my digital tools aside when my family gets up or the clock lets me know it’s time to get ready for work. I do however look forward to when I can get back to my inbox and click on the next article to read, persuse the posts in my Twitter feed or take a look at what has been posted in the various Google+ communities I subscribe to.

There have been times when I’ve reflected on the idea of the learning being somewhat superficial or cursory and not “good learning.”  However, the topics I am really interested in are ones that I spend dedicated time with, studying deeper and accessing further resources. The cursory learning is a bonus as it gives me an idea of what else is out there that is of interest to others and also gives me a conversational knowledge that is good for connecting with others.

I suspect that other adult learners who engage in online learning would have similar responses to this type of a reflection regarding their online learning experiences. I also suspect our school age students are more likely to get distracted though. While I may sometimes veer towards a game of Jelly Splash

IMG_2109to take a break, my lives tend to run out quickly and I am able to refocus.

My son however, is taking an online driver’s education course. I noticed him working intently this afternoon, took a look at the computer screen, saw the module he was working on and made sure not to bother him so he could concentrate. Yet, when I returned to the computer to do some work for my Leading Edge Certification in online/blended learning,I was greeted by the following image:

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It turns out he had finished the unit we had agreed he would complete by the end of the day, but being at the computer gave him quick and easy access to playing games while his parents thought he was studying. He is a pretty typical teenager and I suspect most students his age would do the same thing. It’s not such a big deal over the summer, but as it gets later into a school night, the temptation to reward oneself for finishing an assignment could, and I know has in our home, result in some unintended late nights.

As we teach our students how to learn using the internet and Web 2.0 tools as well as how to become good digital citizens, we also need to guide them and teach them how to create balance in their lives to be sure they eat their meals away from the computer, engage in regular exercise, get together with friends face to face, and moderate their online gaming and socialization. These have the potential to turn into a battle of wills on the home front as watching too much tv was for my generation. Yet as educators, we can support our students and their families by sharing models of guidelines for home use of the computer for learning and entertainment. As the learning environment continues to shift towards increased use of digital resources, guidelines will need to be adjusted, but they are an important part of the overall education of our children as well as adult learners.

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Implementing a Blended Learning Approach to Professional Development

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 1.05.00 PMAs an administrator with responsibility for providing professional development (PD) for certificated and classified staff,  I had the opportunity to be part of a team that implemented a blended model approach to PD the last few years. Working with a county office of education, I had staff located throughout a 50 mile radius. In addition to the challenges that come with being separated by so many miles, staff also had different areas of expertise. While there are many similarities to good teaching across specific student populations, there are also distinct differences to be found in best practices for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, emotionally disturbed or diagnosed with autism. By implementing a blended learning approach to professional development, staff were able to engage in more personalized learning focusing on skills and curriculum that would best support the success of their students. Additionally, this provided staff with greater flexibility to engage in learning and developing their individual areas of expertise at times that worked best for them. It also provided staff who were interested in engaging in further development, resources to guide their learning.

This blended model of professional development incorporated the study of online modules, video, Google presentations, Google forms and Google documents. Teachers and classified staff whose expertise was being developed in supporting students with moderate to severe handicaps chose evidence based practices to study from AIM (Autism Internet Modules. Teachers chose two practices a year that all staff would study and one to two evidence based practices (EBPs) that they would study individually. This course of professional development was supported by two monthly in person meetings.

One meeting was a presentation style lecture led by a guest speaker, expert in developmental disabilities, and the other meeting was a small group gathering with a specific monthly format that allowed teachers to share what was working and not working within their practice in addition to sharing examples and materials from EBPs being used in their classrooms. This approach allowed for a shared base of instructional knowledge on the part of all staff while also allowing teachers the opportunity to develop expertise in areas that were of specific interest to them. Classified staff were provided with the access to the same materials as certificated staff, were invited to the larger monthly meetings and were provided with follow up training by the classroom teacher that focused on the specific implementation of evidence based practices that supported their classroom instruction.

As individual teacher expertise began to grow, a coaching component was added to this model. When a teacher would develop an interest in an area that a colleague had expertise in or encountered a student or situation that would benefit from a another teacher’s area of expertise, release time would be provided for the two staff members to conduct observations of each other’s classrooms and to work together to incorporate the new evidence based practice into the classroom’s instructional model.

In addition to the internet modules, Google presentations and videos were created and presented via an online format. For example, staff studied the evidence based practice of video modeling this past year. The video modeling presentation was was made available for all staff to view and review as per their preference. The presentation  was easily modified to offer suggestions applicable to general education classroom instruction and to provide a guide to consider when creating video models. This presentation was supported with researched based articles for staff to read as well as steps to guide the process of creating a video model for students. The unit ended with a brief reflective assessment and submission of videos that were shared with all staff to use as fit their needs.

The outcome of implementing a blended learning model was a highly skilled and motivated staff who had confidence in their specific areas of expertise, foundational knowledge in over 30 evidence based instructional practices as well as in person and digital resources to access to supplement further learning. Teachers engaged in higher order thinking skills as they evaluated which evidence based practices their students would benefit from the most. They synthesized their knowledge to design instructional programs that incorporated these strategies into the curriculum while creating materials based on the practices they had learned. Additionally, staff began to create video models to support increased student learning.

The blended approach solved several of the logistical challenges of having staff spread across such a significant geographical area. It engaged staff as adult learners, provided flexibility for staff to engage in learning at their convenience while also capitalizing on their professional knowledge of their students’ needs and interests. This supported the implementation of instructional strategies to maximize student’s individual success. Added bonuses to using 2.0 tools and having materials available on the web were that parents and substitute teachers started to access the resources as well. This allowed for greater than expected fidelity of instruction when substitute teachers were in the classroom, particularly when staff was out for coaching. All in all, the implementation of the blended learning model to support professional development proved to be a resounding success with a positive impact on student learning.

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Building Trust – The First Step

ImageI recently had an experience in which my trust relationship with an employee was broken. The experience has been cause for a significant amount of reflection in which I’ve been asking myself what was missing in the foundation of the expectations. How could I have responded differently to the situation? The trust wasn’t just broken from my perspective. I feel comfortable that the employee feels the same way. Knowing this has led me to ask several reflective questions: How do I lead in repairing the relationship? Why is it important to repair the relationship? What was missing to start with that allowed the event to occur? The more thought I give the situation, the more I see that there is a crack in the foundation.

The Crack in the Foundation

ImageAs a principal and instructional leader, there is an inherent responsibility to provide staff with a clear understanding of the organization’s foundational values and vision. The larger vision on which our education system is built is to teach students to become independent citizens. In this case the instructional goal that supports that vision was to have students with severe handicaps participate in a general education lunch while developing skills to be able to transition to participating in this activity independently. Yet, as I reflect on the practice that was occurring, it strikes me that the goal wasn’t clearly communicated, the steps provided in the training weren’t being implemented and the materials to support the training weren’t available. There is a huge crack in this foundation.

The “glitch” in the goal was the difference in understanding that the expectation for achieving independence is expected in all activities on campus, not just the classroom. Directions have been given over a series of years that support a generalized concept of taking students to lunch which is very different from, “Use the prompting model and visual supports (training and materials provided to meet expectations) to support students in walking to the cafeteria, getting their lunch, sitting at the assigned table and taking in their meal with 100% independence by the beginning of February.” This goal than needed to be broken into clearly defined objectives to provide staff with an understanding of the process that it will take to get there. For example, an objective such as, “Support students in getting their food by using visual and gestural prompts after oral directions have been given. Provide 5 seconds of wait time in between prompts.” In clearly defining the goal and the objectives, staff would have had more knowledge on how to apply the training they have received in this specific situation. Clear expectations go a long way toward building trust.

In this particular situation, I noticed that staff didn’t have the visual prompts that have been created to support the prompting model built into the training they have received on how to support students with both receptive and expressive communication. It struck me that staff may not be clear that these materials are to be used at all times and not just during specific curricular activities. Again, clear expectations go a long way toward building trust. Staff need to understand what is expected of them at all times in order to be successful.

The situation has turned out to be blessing in disguise. We continuously look at how to improve programs and while the situation was incredibly uncomfortable, it has allowed for the realization that there are cracks in the foundation. The expectations were not as clear to staff as management thought they were. We’ll side step for a moment, fix the crack in the foundation, continue to build trust and grow strong programs for students.