Tag: Education Leadership

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Preparing Ourselves and Our Students for an Automated World

 

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend ISTE18 in Chicago where forward-thinking educators and vendors come together to learn, network, dream, and reflect. The experience was an occasion to be surrounded by the innovative, those who are iterating on current practices and tools and those who are creating the completely new. The enhancements to personalized and interactive learning through virtual and augmented reality are noteworthy. The tools to develop early learning skills such as sequencing through basic coding applications for K-2 students are inspiring. The shift that has already happened in private industry and the systemic disconnect with pedagogical practices was astonishing.

There continues to be a draw to the “shiny.” We like app smashing. We like tools that save time. Yet, we struggle to connect these to creating knowledge among adult and child learners that shift us from consumers to creators of content that is relevant to building contemporary skills, fluency, and meaningful learning applications that align with what our students need to be successful in the workforce. There is a continuing struggle to simultaneously develop these skill sets as well as those necessary to perform well on the standardized tests our society values as a measure of a student and school’s success.

With that in mind, presentations by Carl Hooker and Brianna Hodges and Eric Curts were noteworthy for their focus on enhancing pedagogical practices, empowering struggling learners, and inviting educators into planning processes to both enhance and empower the student learning experience.

We have pockets of excellence with educators like Hodges, Hooker, and Curts happening in schools and different classrooms happening in schools and districts across the country. However, we struggle to create the conditions in which these practices become systemically ingrained across all of learning including the professional learning of educators. As the world continues to become increasingly automated, the necessity of preparing students with the foundation that prepares them for an automated world for behind the scenes careers focused on design, experience, personalization, and technical knowledge continues to grow as a moral imperative to society.

Heading to San Francisco via O’Hare, a series of events struck me that drove home the urgency there is to prepare our students for jobs in a largely automated world.

I checked in to my flight on the United App the evening before from an Uber ordered through the app while heading to Hamilton. I paid for my luggage on the same app in another Uber on my way to the airport the next morning. I weighed and printed out the sticker for my luggage at an automated kiosk, scanned my boarding pass from the app as I went through security and boarded the plane. Along the way, there were a lot of travelers, but my experience was largely automated and self-driven as well as very different from school environments.

Even refilling a water bottle and flushing the toilet was automated.

I came home to find that I had received a paper check in the mail. I opened the Chase Bank app on my phone and within moments, the check was deposited. I noticed we were low on some non-perishable items in the cupboards, opened the Amazon app and reordered the items with a few taps at a lower cost than our local stores and home delivery.

The implications of these experiences for student learning demonstrate the urgency to hire personnel who are adaptable, who stay connected to the contemporary and connect their own learning to private industry as well as education. It is imperative that all schools, regardless of size or location are provided with the expertise and funding levels that allow students and communities to experience the shift to modernization before it surprises them or they aren’t prepared to navigate and compete in a world with tools that require creativity and critical thinking skills to fully access what is becoming ubiquitous in some communities while remaining novel or unknown in others.

Not only will our students need the creativity and critical thinking skills to access the automated world, but they will need the critical thinking skills to design, communicate, and work collaboratively in a world that will require this of them to be successful, contributing members to society.

Our challenge as leaders grows to invite the politicians who make crucial decisions regarding funding and assessment of education success criteria into a shared understanding of what is needed to prepare this and the next generation of student to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century.

 

leadershipRecommendations

Remember to Feed Your Soul

      “Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes…”                                                                                                                             Paramahansa Yogananda

FeedYourSoulDoes what you’re doing feed your soul?

Spring brings reflection and opportunities for change, particularly in the field of education. College students wonder about changing majors, changing schools. Teachers and professors wonder if they are in the right place, right grade level, right subject matter, on the right team. Leaders wonder if they are in the right organization, are they leading their teams well, have they empowered others to be their best?

“When do you sleep?” “You look so happy.” “You must love what you do.” “Are you going to quit?” “I feel in limbo.” “Should I really change majors?” “I was told I could make more money…”

There is a dichotomy to these questions and statements every one of which I’ve heard this past week. Each question, each statement allows for the same responses, “What  is it about what you’re doing that feeds your soul?” “What is that you think will feed your soul about the change you are considering?” “What does success look like and feel like to you?” Success is not defined by what others think and feel about your decision. Success is defined by how you feel and think about your decisions when you lay down to fall asleep at night.

Ask yourself, “What my feeds my soul?” 

Do what energizes you. Do what makes you smile. Do that which makes you feel vibrant and causes others to ask and comment, “Do you sleep? You look so happy.”

…and remember

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambitioned inspired, and success achieved.                                                                                                                   Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love Never Stops

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“Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 

As educators of faith, let us remember that, love never stops…

…being patient Help us to remember to be patient with our students who struggle, with colleague’s who we may not see eye to eye with, with parents whose support we don’t feel, and community members that we work in partnership with.

 …believing Help us to remember that every child, every student, can grow and learn. Help us to remember that we do have the patience and the ability to support them. Help us to remember that everyone has the same goal of doing good work for children.

…hoping Help us to have the energy and enthusiasm to always bring our best, to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children and the direction of their futures.

Love never gives up. Help us to remember that through the challenges, You are by our side and the side of every student we serve. Help us to remember that when negativity comes our way, to stay true to the work of helping and teaching children, to supporting and accepting support from our colleagues, parents, and community. Help us to keep an open mind when listening to those who don’t agree. Help us to do work in the interest of all children unconditionally, to forgive, and give the gift of grace to ourselves and to others.

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Leading During Times of Trial

I was given the book The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan by a community member with a note that read, “May this book bring you inspiration during times of trial.” Remember, sometimes doing the right thing is hard!”

The gift and the note were timely. I had just been on the receiving end of some strong criticism.  I was challenged in a public a meeting with statements of, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and finally, “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?”

This reminded me of a popular cartoon in education circles:

 

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While satirical, the cartoon has become well known among educators because it is often how we feel things are. It was certainly how I felt as those comments were called out.

But, back to the book…

As I read the introduction, I was struck by the opening quote, from Laurens van der Post “We live not only in our lives, but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time.”

Noonan writes of being a pioneer. Initially, as a part of the “first great wave of women” to enter the field of journalism during the 1970s, then as a female speechwriter for the President during the Reagan years, and finally as one of the first internet columnists for the Wall St. Journal. She writes of a society looking for a “shock to the system” in the last presidential election.

As I read her words, I was struck by the “shock to the system,” the changes in education have brought over the past ten years to what once seemed very standard and therefore safe. There was a perception that grandparents, parents, and children would ultimately have pretty similar school experiences and stories. It may not have been exciting, but it was safe.

The past ten years have brought significant changes to the standards that are taught, to the methods used to teach them, to the technology that is still being experimented with, to keeping children safe and emotionally regulated, to the classroom and furniture design, to the way schools are funded or underfunded. Our children’s classroom and play experiences no longer look like those so fondly remembered by past generations. To some this is exciting; to others this is frightening. When we become afraid or nervous about something it is because we sense danger. What is unfamiliar or unknown can bring forth strong reactions.

It can be scary to not understand a once familiar system. It can be scary to not understand the changes. Statements such as, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?” can come from a genuine place of seeking what one believes is in the best interest. It can bring genuine frustration that while the concerns are heard, they are not changing a course of action.

Changes to our education system, the way students learn inside and outside of classrooms are going to continue. We will either adapt or we will risk becoming irrelevant. It does not feel safe to move forward into the unknown, but it is clear that we must nevertheless move in that direction.

Even with this knowledge, these statements have continued to make me uneasy.

In a  homily, given by Father Kelly Vanderhey at Mission San Luis Obispo, he stated, “Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity.”

“Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity,”

The sermon continued with the reflection that there are seven really difficult years in everyone’s life. Seven years of pain that we all struggle through. Those seven years are from the ages of 13-19. These are the years during which we most struggle for freedom. We struggle for freedom from our parents and from rules. We seek independence. Yet, we are not ready to accept the full responsibility and accountability for those freedoms. We also seek to avoid the consequences for not following the rules.

It seems we may be in the teenage years of transformation in education. We seek independence from a system we know wasn’t working for children. We struggle with the transition. We want the freedom to explore and experiment to truly meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of every child. We have to be strong because it can feel easy to give in to the pressure that is loud.

While laws, rules, policies, and regulations can be boring, it turns out that these are what ultimately do keep us safe during times of change, struggle, and disagreement.

In her book, Noonan also quotes Pope John XXIII:

Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.

Continue to lead during times of trial for it is when we are out of our comfort zones that the magic will happen.

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Leading Courageously

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.21.19 PMACSA’s Superintendent Symposium recently brought together leaders from the forefront of California’s schools. The symposium provided the platform for sharing the vision, learning, and successful practices that are moving the State’s public schools forward. While California’s public schools rank 41st in the nation for per-pupil funding, the State’s superintendents contributed successful practices that are bringing creative and visionary leadership to the challenge of being underresourced. The goal – to provide rigorous academic instruction highlighted by preparing students for rapidly changing workforce skill sets while instilling a strong foundation in local, national, global, and digital citizenship. The methodology – putting structures and systems into place in cultures of support and caring for students and the adults who serve them.

Achieving this goal comes, first and foremost,  with an investment in people. An investment in the professional learning of the people who work with students every day. An investment in the teachers who design lessons. An investment in the support staff who keep things moving behind the scenes. An investment in all those who are supporting the learning and the social/emotional development of the children who attend our schools. Students come to school each day with a variety of needs. Some students show up from strong, supportive homes ready to be challenged. Some students show up for the only two meals of the day they will eat and a safe place to spend their spend time. Others show up needing social/emotional support, extra help to work through the challenges of a disability, or trying to learn English while also keeping up with grade level curriculum. Our schools are filled with caring staffs rising to the challenge of serving every child.

Calfornia’s school superintendents gathered to share successes and strategies on how to lead and support this very important work. These leaders were inspired as they focused on what it takes to prepare today’s student for their future within the structures that are being defined by rapid change and a need for adaptability. Keynotes by  Thomas C. Murray of the Alliance for Excellent Education and Future Ready Schools, as well as Travis Allen of the iSchool Initiative, were energizing. The messages and resources provided forced deep thinking about how we are engaging our students in classrooms right now while simultaneously being tasked to prepare them for the world they will live in as adults.

 I left inspired! 

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 2.28.53 PMUpon coming home from this week of professional learning, I, like the rest of the attendees, needed to catch up with mail, bills, email, laundry, grocery shopping… One of my first stops, as I embarked on catching up on the home and work fronts, was at Albertson’s. As I shopped for the upcoming week’s groceries, I noticed how engaged a three-year-old was with his grandparents as they too did their grocery shopping. I began gently “stalking” and eavesdropping on them.

I first met them in the meat department, where the full of life and personality three-year-old showed that he has great taste in the type steak he would like to eat – top sirloin. His grandparents were far more partial to the hamburger, but he had outstanding self-advocacy skills and, ultimately, the top sirloin made its way into the grocery cart.

As his grandparents hesitated to buy the steak, he took it upon himself to look around for and connect to other resources to help himself get what he wanted. He received support from unsuspecting customers in the meat department who responded to his requests for assistance. The first customer he reached out to, grabbed a plastic bag for him. He took the package of steak he wanted and the next customer he approached helped him to get the steak in the bag. All this, while his grandmother’s hand rested on his shoulder as she perused the hamburger options with her husband.  I became cognizant that in this brief moment,  the child had shown me that the at the age of three, he is already able to identify his preferences, speak articulately, advocate for himself, and collaborate with those around him to assist with problem-solving. These are expectations that are addressed specifically in the standards and strategies taught in our schools. Yet, there continues to be discussion and pushback in some circles on giving students voice and flexibility in their learning.

Screen Shot 2018-02-17 at 1.39.43 PMThe final stop of the shopping trip was at the Redbox. As I was selecting a movie, this toddler stood at the machine to my left while his grandparents watched him from the check-out line. As his grandmother paid for the groceries, he tapped through the prompts to get to the video game he wanted.

I watched and listened as his grandfather approached and asked him what he was doing. The young boy, confidently responded that he was renting a video game. His grandfather responded that they couldn’t rent the video game. “Why not?” asked our clearly well-developed consumer. Grandad replied, “Because the machine isn’t working.” Without skipping a beat, the gentleman‘s grandson responded, “Yes grandpa, the machine does work. Here, let me teach you how. Can I have your credit card? All you have to do now is swipe your credit card and confirm your email. It will give you the game. The machine is working.”
I thought,”What an incredible spirit of generosity ready to teach, not to mention, great use of the word ‘confirm’.” I saw the beginning understandings of financial literacy. I saw the medium that is most engaging to this young man. I saw that he wanted to share this knowledge and was excited about his ability to do so.  I saw self-advocacy skills.

I also saw that despite being told no twice, his spirit continued to remain positive, his ability to problem solve on his own continued to remain strong, his confidence to speak up continued to remain intact,

I kept this in mind as I thought of the research and data that Tom had presented from the “Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow,” Gallup Student Poll, 2015 during his keynote. It is disheartening to see how students respond by grade level to the prompt of whether they are having fun learning while at school.

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The graph clearly shows the rate at which the level of enthusiasm for learning at school declines.

Travis Allen, college student, and entrepreneur shares a story about the skills he learned through video games that serve as the foundation for his successful business. I appreciated his encouragement that as adults we should sit down and play these games with children so that we can see the skills they are learning from gaming. Games such as SimCity, Diner Dash, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and the Angry Birds series are only a sampling of games that develop skills such as urban planning, creativity in problem-solving, managing a budget, paying attention to details, pulling information and details out of situations.

This wonderful three-year-old boy, grocery shopping at Albertson’s with his grandparents, made sure that the learning and the thinking that happened at ACSA’s Superintendent’s Symposium solidified an understanding of what our call to leadership is. We must support our public schools with adequate resources and the freedom to explore how to engage students. This boy will come to us with some understanding of financial literacy. He will come to us as a child who is curious, creative and a problem solver. He will come to us with strong verbal communication skills, already applying critical thinking to come up with solutions for real world day to day challenges and problems.

It is up to us, as educators, to put structures in place that allow for the freedom and flexibility needed to change a system in which data points demonstrate a decline in student engagement the longer they attend school. It is up to us to continue to engage this little boy with the learning tools he has already started developing during his toddler years. It is up to us to provide him with an education not just from the point of view of adults, but also from the point of view and expectations of him as a learner. It is up to us to capitalize on the skills he is already bringing with him

He will be in one of our classrooms in a year and a half. Will we be ready?

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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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Like Being in a Giant Candy Store

What an incredible learning experience!

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Concierge vs Coach

Relevant vs Worksheet

Engaging vs Compliance

Try-athlon vs Comfort Zone

Personlized PD vs One Size Fits All

Future Ready vs That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

These are just some of the shifts in thinking being embraced by the 7000 educators who attended National CUE in Palm Springs. This amazing event is like a trip into a professional development candy store. That’s right, powerful, intense learning that, to use one of my favorite colloquiums, was “sweet!”

Three days of incredible learning at #CUE16 ended with these thousands of educators leaving with overflowing knowledge on how to be Future Ready, pedagocically innovative, how to improve their personal professional practices and how to share the inspiration they found with others. The goal for many, if not all…to begin or continue implementing an increased number of 21st Century educational practices that exemplify the redefining of once traditional worksheet based or one size fits all instruction into learning experiences that are relevant and engaging. All this while, most importantly, helping students develop the dexterity they’ll need to be successful in a workforce where the jobs and skills required continue to adapt to increasing automization and adapting technologies.

Sessions challenged educators ranging from first year teachers to experienced superintendents to up their professional game, covered topics from incorporating project based STEAM activities and 3D printing to gamifying both student instruction and educator PD, to innovatively applying Hattie and Marzano’s research.

One of the most powerful things that National CUE offers is that while providing opportunities to participate in learning that is deep and to listen to keynotes that inspire, there is also always a lot of fun. It’s hard not to enjoy the flying antics of Sharknado.

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Click here for the video: https://youtu.be/QuFuJUacL3Y

Then there is the always entertaining and inspiration on steroids of Jon Corippo who along with Mike Vollmert hooked CUE affiliate meeting attendees on attending this summer’s LDI (Leadership Development Institute) with this gem:

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Find this video at: https://youtu.be/j-cxvTqxJP0

But, my favorite part of this year was definitely getting to hear from the creator of Kid President, Brad Montague and being reminded that the messages and that the actions that make the biggest difference are usually the simple ones:

You’re Awake, You’re Awesome, Live Like it                                                                                   Be Somebody Who Makes Everybody Else Feel Like Somebody                                                 Love Never Fails                                                                                                                                       Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti                                                                                                                                                                              -Kid President

 

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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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We Have to Stop Pretending

imagesI was challenged today, challenged by a great teacher who tagged me and four other educators worth keeping an eye on if you’re on Twitter. Third grade teacher, Lisa Nowakowski, also known as @NowaTechie and author of Nowa Techie, directed her challenge towards me, Kevin Ashworth, Andy Losik, Rae Fearing and Travis Phelps. The shout out is part of the #MakeSchoolDifferent Challenge which originated in a post on Scott McCloud’s blog dangerously ! irrelevant. Educators across the nation are tagging one another to acknowledge five things in education we need to stop pretending. That’s the easy part. The hard part is coming up with solutions to trends that educators are acknowledging in their posts.

So here it is. Five things we need to stop pretending…

  1. That school is engaging our students
  2. That our students see the relevancy in what they’re learning
  3. That class size doesn’t have a meaningful impact
  4. That standardized testing is bad
  5. That it isn’t okay to acknowledge that taking care of the teacher is putting students first

 

Here’s the thinking behind each of the bullet points.

  1. Students sit, sit and sit throughout their school day. As Alex Wiggins noted in his blog post after shadowing a student for two days, sitting is exhausting. I sat with our students on the same uncomfortable bench without a backrest for a 45 minute assembly on the use of social media last week. I found the topic very interesting, but we just sat and listened for 45 minutes. I started to become more aware of my need to stand up, stretch, urge to share a comment and started to look around. As I looked around, I saw students distracted in a variety of manners and I understood why. It wasn’t that the content wasn’t interesting, there just wasn’t an opportunity to engage/interact with it. Kids want to learn! They need to be able to interact with the learning and we need to create classroom structures and environments that will make them feel welcome, comfortable and allow them to interact with one another and move around as they learn.
  1. It continues to be a tradition honored by each generation of students that attends school to ask, “Why are we learning this? Why do I need to know this?” As a profession, we continue to struggle with showing our students the relevance of much of their classroom instruction. My anecdotal observations show that teachers who take a project based learning approach to classroom instruction have students who have a greater understanding of the relevancy of their learning.
  1. John Hattie’s research, as published in his book Visible Learning for Teachers, shows that there is a limited correlation between class size and student achievement. One thing we don’t pretend is that a teacher’s job is so much more than a focus on student achievement. As a profession, most of us share an interest in teaching the whole child and having strong school to home relationships. It makes a difference if an elementary teacher has 25, 32 or 38 students assigned to their class. It makes a difference if a secondary teacher has 150 student contacts per day or 200 or 250.
  1. Standardized testing has earned a bad rap. Politicians and the media have taken what can be useful data to evaluate student progress over time and program effectiveness and turned the testing results into a way to judge and punish schools and to create a perception that some schools are better than others based on a snapshot of academic testing. The truth is the data from these types of assessments do give us useful information. It is unfortunate that these tests have been given the power to negatively judge our schools and that the results are so often used to criticize or are misused when making comparisons.

5. Every educator will tell you, “It’s about the kids first.” This phrase is also used to stop a counter argument in it’s tracks.The quickest way to win an argument in education is to imply in any way that the other’s person’s opinions are not putting kids first. Taking care of our teachers and all educational professionals is putting kids first.

imgres I now challenge some of my colleagues who I have great respect for to join this challenge and to share their posts with us on Twitter. Ken Durham, Kaleb Rashad, Dr. Eric Chagala and Sammie Cervantes what do you think?

Recommendations

“Stepping Very Much Away from the Traditional”

I enjoy starting my mornings with a look at my Twitter feed. There’s always something there that is intellectually stimulating, thought provoking and entertaining. Some posts stand out more than others and some continue to resonate well after the initial reading of the post. Eric Saibel, assistant principal at Hall Middle School and author of the blog Principals in Training, shared the video A Tour of Copenhagen’s Noma with Chef Rene Redzepi this morning. The analogy of the chef’s observation of his professional field were stunningly similar to those of the education profession.

The story of Chef Rene’s kitchen begins as he describes the kitchen’s reliance on local resources, not unlike the classroom and the LCAP, as well as changes that have been implemented in his kitchen the past couple of years, not unlike changes occurring in our classrooms as the impact and possibilities available through the use of 21st Century tools are continuing to work their way into classroom pedagogy. There is a lesson in Chef Rene’s insight on the importance of the design of the working environment to support openness, light and creativity that can have a powerful impact on the learning environments we create for our students.

We almost ruined our own trade by making it too tough, too hard… People are entering our trade for the wrong reasons and are surprised when they work 85 hours and then they feel tired one day and they’re out. We need to change this.”

It is important to employees in all industries that they feel valued and invested in, yet it is not uncommon to see teachers’ passion for education being taken advantage of as evidenced by the recent economic downturn in which many of our schools survived because of the furlough days and pay reductions taken by the professionals in our field. A July 2014 report from the Alliance for Excellence in Education showed an annual turnover rate of 20% for teachers in the education profession correlating to 1 in 5 teachers leaving the profession every year. While the reasons vary among those leaving the profession, the most often cited reason is “dissatisfaction with working conditions.” This high rate of turnover is costly bringing with it a national annual price tag $2.2 billion to replace the vacated positions.

“We work a lot in the trade. There’s no way around it. You’re going to work your ass off and so do we, but with a little less of the pressure…”

There continues to be a myth that has run through generations that educators are done by three, have weekends off and enjoy long summer vacations. Every teacher will tell you about the late meetings they stay for, the committees they serve on, the lessons they plan and the papers they grade at home during the evenings and on weekends as well as the work they do over the summer to prepare for the upcoming year and investing in their own professional development. Yes, educators work their asses off which makes Chef Rene’s next quote also fitting to the industry.

“It’s a business where you work so much for very little money that it needs to be very inspiring, it needs to be very cool. It needs to be family. It needs to be a tight team.”

What would happen if we truly invested in the on-going professional development of educators allowing teachers to take the lead in the decision making of the direction of their professional growth? What if we designed classrooms and teachers lounges to support 21st century tools? Would they become, as Chef Rene describes of his staff, more confident? Would they make more decisions, be less afraid to try new things, to be creative and innovative? What can we do to make our industry/our passion cool? How do we create tight teams that feel like a close and supportive family so that members don’t want to leave?

“It’s the cook that cooks the food that creates the magic it’s not the recipe.”

translated…

It’s the teacher that the teaches the lesson that creates the magic, it’s not the script.

There are quotes throughout the interview that are open to analogies with the education profession. I hope you enjoy watching the video, consider sharing your favorite quote and it’s analogy to our profession and your ideas for making life in education “cool” so that we grow together as we educate each group of students that come through our classrooms.