Monday, October 29, 2012

Preventing Middle School Dropouts?

What makes a kid want to come to school every day?

This is a question I'm going to ask a group of people in a couple of weeks, as the school system I work in begins to look at the role midde schools play in preventing kids from dropping out. If you Google this subject, there isn't a whole lot out there. However, there ae a few very interesting thoughts on the subject. There is a great article in Social Science Research that discusses the concept of 9th Grade Shock, which is used to describe how a student's GPA tends to drop when transitioning from 8th grade to 9th grade. I have to wonder why this drop is taking place? Here are a couple of questions I've come up with to ponder this:
  • Are we adequately preparing students to be successful in 9th grade?
  • Is there that much of a discrepancy in our expectations?
I remember a conversation I had this summer with a colleague regarding whether or not we are adequately preparing our high school students for college. It is one thing to prepare a student academically, but there are other factors to consider as well:
  • Are students socially prepared for college?
  • Are they always grown-up enough to handle college?
  • Are students aware of the other financial responsibilities that go along with college?
  • How much of this should we really be responsible for?
There are smilar factors we need to consider for our students leaving middle school:
  • Does the middle school curriculum progressively increase in rigor so that students are well-prepared for high school?
  • Are middle schools and high schools working together to make the transition smooth?
  • Do students have a strong understanding of how high school credits work? 
I work in a middle school. I know these factors are easy to forget about. I also know that we experience similar frustrations with our incoming 6th graders. Issues that at one point were traditionally K-5, 6-8, 9-12, or even higher-ed are now becoming issues for everyone. We say it all the time: "It takes a village to raise a child." I think its time that village has earned a township; complete with an elementary, middle, and high school...with a good college down the road!

Nikolas Pharris-Ciurej, Charles Hirschman, Joseph Willhoft, The 9th grade shock and the high school dropout crisis, Social Science Research, Volume 41, Issue 3, May 2012, Pages 709-730, ISSN 0049-089X, 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2011.11.014.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everything Comes Full Circle

I've had a lot on my plate lately...I has everyone else.

While reflecting on everything there is to accomplish, I attempt to pull out any common threads to help streamline these tasks. I'm currently serving three different roles outside my building, preparing to speak at a conference, and have just been asked to write a chapter for a journal. The following common themes continue to rise to the top as I do my research:
  • Student Engagement and Time on Task
  • Rigor and Relevance
  • Positive Student/Teacher Relationships
  • 21st Century Skills/Techniques
What's really interesting is that the topics that I'm researching: bullying, dropout prevention, and the benefits of obtaining an EdD, may not immediately appear to have a whole lot in common. However, when you actually drill down, the above themes are critical in supporting all of these topics.

Think about it:
  • Students who are engaged throughout the day in relevant and meaningful tasks facilitated by adults who model positive behavior are less likely to be a behavior issue, and are more likely to come to school every day. 
  • Educators who obtain an EdD (or any higher-ed degree for that matter) from an institution that utilizes a project-based curriculum are performing tasks in their coursework they are able to transfer to their teaching and their leadership. In addition, adults also learn more effectively in an environment that is similar to the one I described for the kids.
I've said this before in earlier posts. I truly believe there is a link to everything we do as educators, though we are not always quick to realize this.

So the next time you find your plate to be overflowing, take a moment to find some commonalities. You may be surprised to find just how many there are, and how much more manageable your tasks have become!

Monday, September 10, 2012

All The Stuff!!!

Being an educator never gets any easier.

This year, our school system is implementing the following:
  • Using Edmodo and Google Drive
  • Blended Learning
  • Utilizing SMART Goals to measure student growth
In addition, we as a building are implementing:
  • Word Generation Vocabulary
  • Effective Schoolwide Discipline Lessons
  • A new online office referral system
I as a building administrator at least had the months of July and August to wrap my head around all this. The teacers had workweek...

So how do I guide them through all this so that they don't get but so overwhelmed?

Try as hard as I can to keep one step ahead of them!


  • Do Your Research - Though you may not have any more experience on an initative than your teachers, they are still going to look to you as the expert. Thankfully, the Internet makes this much easier than it used to be. I spent some serious time this summer researching forms of blended learning, attending SMART goal workshops, and participating in Edmodo webinars. It's really paid off!
  • Plan Ahead - How are you going to present all ths stuff to your teachers? Not all at once, that's for least if you want them to be able to process it properly and be successful with it. Calendars, outlines, and agendas can be your best friends...especially when you are dealing with deadlines, reports, and people holding you accountable .
  • Model What You Expect - Make sure you can "walk the talk". Has your leadeship style caught up with the 21st Century? What are your colleagues doing to model their expectations? What do your teachers need to see more of? Have you asked them?
  • Celebrate Accomplishments - Your teachers are working hard to make all these things happen. If you see something really cool happening in their classroom as a result, recognize them! Remember the post about the gold stars? It doesn't have to cost anything, but it does have to be sincere.  
None of these things are easy or time-saving; but they are things you need to do in order to help your teachers keep up with all the stuff you are expecting them to do. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Eve of the First Day

School starts tomorrow...for the kids. Teachers have been back a week now, and I've been back since...well, let's just leave it at that.

It's a rainy day here. A good day to go to the gym and then reward myself with a trip to Starbucks to replenish all those calories I just burned off. I started going to the gym again last year. I had just finished my doctorate and was carrying a load of laundry upstairs when I realized I had gotten winded from that simple task. Since walking on a treadmill is as entertaining as watching paint dry, I decided to go for the classes. I've done a pretty good job at it, too. I get to the gym two, sometimes three times a week. It's actually a good reason to leave work at a decent time.

I won't lie. There are some days when I did not want to go to the gym. It may have been too cold, too rainy, or just too crummy a day to imagine stopping at the gym before going home to a nice meal, a comfy couch, and some brain rot on the television. I got there anyways. I can't say it was due to intrinsic motivation either...

It had everything to do with the people who teach those classes. They motivate me when I'm there; and I feel I let them down when I don't show up. They took the time to learn my name...not easy for an introvert. They make me a better person.

What will you do to welcome students into your building in such a way that will make them want to come on a regular basis, and more importantly, want to do their best when they are there?

Monday, August 20, 2012

It Takes a Village...To Raise A Teacher!

This week, we welcome twelve new teachers to our building. Some are new to the school system, some are new to the school, and some are completely new to teaching. Every year, I get sentimental about my first year of teaching for about thirty seconds. That was probably the toughest year of my life. I did learn some valuable lessons that made the years to come successful ones. I will have the opportunity to pass on some words of wisdom to these new teachers so that they will have a successful first year. Knowing that people aren't likely to recall anything more than three key points  when they hear someone speak, I am going to pass on the following three things:

  1. Know What You Stand For - Kids need to know what your expectations and procedures are from day one. Pick a few simple procedures and stick to them. You may need to practice them with the kids. This is encouraged! Don't go changing up the rules from week to week and from child to child. Inconsistent teachers end up with more discipline issues, and a lower academic success rate.
  2. Stay Organized - Keep your work area neat and organized. The last thing you want to do is have to speak to the parent of a student who's work got lost after it was turned in. Also, be sure to plan ahead. Materials should be all ready to go at least a day before a lesson is taught. You may have a student who needs special accomodations to complete an assignment. Make sure you have that ready, too. Most schools work in PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and teachers will plan in advance and as a group. When you plan as a team, the whole team is counting on you to perform a task; such as creating warm-ups or perhaps an activity related to the concept being taught. Don't let your team or your students down by not being prepared.
  3. Be Professional - As a teacher, you are a role model. Dress the part. Khakis, a collared shirt, and shoes are usually a safe bet, but check your school's dress code to be sure. Sloppy is never an option, even on "dress down" days. The jeans I used to wear on dress down days when I was teaching were not the same ones I wore to work in the yard or hang out at home on a rainy afternoon. Also, be careful of what you post on social networks. You never know who your "friends" may be "friends" with. By the way, you need to be careful at parties and in restaurants, too. Having a parent seeing you passed out drunk somewhere isn't something you want to have to explain. Though any of the above may or may not cost you your job, they will definitely affect your reputation! Remember, parents talk.
Knowing what your new teachers are going to be up against, be sure to celebrate them, too. Encourage them to ask questions, utilize and observe their fellow co-workers, and research best practices on websites. Teaching is no longer a solitary profession, and those who are now entering the field wouldn't have it any other way. They expect to work as a team, and want to be coached so that they may improve. A short note or a word of encouragement can go a long way. Not sure how to help? Begin by imagining yourself in their shoes and go from there.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Brain Rot Can Be A Good Thing!

I try not to post twice in a week, but after spending some time on vacation, I feel the need to make up for lost time. Don't worry, next week will be back to normal.

As a lifelong learner, I really enjoy reading and researching about things to improve on myself. Sometimes, I go a little overboard and end up overlooking the simpler things in life.

This may seem kind of silly, but there was a point when I was scoffing Pinterest, until I spent some time on it one day and became hooked! I'm just as much of a fan of brain rot as the next person, though my brain rot may look a little that a word?

Just like other Pinterest followers, I set up some boards and began pinning other peoples' ideas onto my boards. I became excited when someone out in cyber space thought something I liked was cool and "pinned" it onto their own board. I found cool recipes, tips on fashion, wonderful quotes, and great pictures.

Once I got over the excitement of pinning my interests and sharing with others, I let my account sit idle for awhile until I attended my school system's blended learning workshop. Sitting there, I went on Pinterest and started searching for boards on topics like blended learning, education, and teaching. Lo and behold, they exist!!! I came across stuff I could actually use with teachers, and stuff teachers could use to implement blended learning. Pinterest could actually be a form of blended learning for educators! time you are looking for a little brain rot, try to channel that brain rot into something constructive and search for something you may be able to use later on. Just because I did a search on blended learning doesn't mean I also did a search on funny cat pictures...or whatever floats your boat!

Happy pinning!!!

Check out Pinterest at - You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to work, back to posting!!!

I'm such a professional development nerd.

Seriously, I go to training any chance I get. I actually loved going to school and getting my degrees. I've been officially back to work for a couple of weeks now (administrators never really have a summer off, but I'm supposed to get July off) and am now going through PD week in my school system. It's that time of year when we get together as administrators in the school system I work in to meet new colleagues, catch up with old ones, and learn about the big ideas and best practices for the upcoming school year.

This year, we are staying on course, continuing our focus on student engagement, fostering relationships, and pursuing the most innovative ways to reach our students. The only component that has changed involved the delivery method, which is blended learning. I have written about blended learning a lot this summer because that is one of the ways I learn best. If I have to write about it, I better do my research so I don't sound like an idiot. It also helps that I have appropriate answers for my teachers, who I know will have LOTS of questions.

I've said this before: It is an exciting time in field of education. How exciting it is for the students we work with depend on how well prepared we are to help them be successful in school, and in their lives.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Revisiting The Left Handed Introvert

A little while back, I posted that I was an introverted administrator. As far as Myers Briggs goes, I'm about as INTJ as you can get. According to Wikipedia, it's the rarest of the sixteen personality types. In addition to The Book Whisperer, Susan Cain's Quiet has been part of my "Work Related" summer reading. By the way, I did finish The Book Whisperer before the new Discovery of Witches (Not Work Related) came out!

Getting back to INTJ...when I read about it, I have a greater understanding of why I ended up in a leadership capacity and feel comfortable doing so. Reading Quiet has helped me understand how to better handle myself in situations I may feel uncomfortable in. Whether or not you are an introvert, I recommend you read this book. Cain touches on education and 21st Century learning. Many of the initiatives we have been implementing are related to working as a team rather than an individual. She makes a good point that many of the most important advancements of our time were achieved by an individual who may have started on a team, but the real innovation took place in solitude. Take Steve Wozniak for example. Google him. He had a lot to do with inventing the personal computer. A pretty significant thing.

I can go on and on about this topic. But the key point I would like you as the reader to take away is to make sure you are cognizant of all of the students, their personality types, and learning styles in your classroom and/or building. How do you provide opportunities for your students, or your teachers to be innovative?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Forming Partnerships Early

I was hanging out with some of the neighborhood ladies last weekend, and the talk shifted to the upcoming school year. Two members of the group had children attending kindergarten in the fall and began to talk about what they were doing to prepare the kids for the upcoming school year. They talked about school clothes and school supplies and making sure they knew their letters and numbers and how to write their name and the heartache they will feel when they put their kids on the bus that first day.

Then they talked about their fears. They talked about how they were fearful that they taught their kids too much. That if they taught them more, their kids would be bored in school and wouldn't enjoy it. Now, I live in a pretty nice neighborhood. Our four bedroom house dwarfs in comparison to the other houses that surround it. I was kind of shocked when I heard that they were deliberately holding them back for for fear that they would not enjoy school if they knew more. I figured they would do everything in their power to make sure their children had every academic advantage before they went to school.
I can't fault them because I know that we as educators are often still teaching a "one size fits all" curriculum. I know we will welcome children into our schools for the first time with very little background knowledge and be expected to have them on grade level by June. It's very easy to not work with those who may come to us reading two years above grade level because of these students. I know this is better than it used to be, but there are two components working against us:
  • Some teachers still teach everyone the same way - or they differentiate just to show they are differentiating.
  • The parents who have the means to adequately prepare their kids for school aren't because they remember what it was like when they were in kindergarten, and they do not realize the change taking place.
We as administrators are quick to expect so much from our teachers and parents, but don't always provide the training to help them do this. When working with your teachers, make sure they have a clear understanding of the initiatives you are trying to implement. Model your expectations during your faculty meetings and provide frequent checks for understanding throughout the school year and during breaks as well. In working with parents, extend invitations of programs and events to parents of children who may be attending your school the following year so that they may understand the benefits of preparing their children to the best of their ability rather than just preparing them to be average.

I think the majority of people believe that it does take a village to raise a child, but we still struggle with the process from an academic standpoint. It is up to us as leaders to develop a framework for our building and community, and then work with all stakeholders to implement it.

What are you doing differently this year?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Reading - The Book Whisperer

This summer, the administrators in my school system have been tasked with reading the Book Whisperer (see blog and info at So that I am sure to complete this assignment, I have made a commitment to ban myself from any and all other summer reading until I finish this book. I'm shooting for a July 10 completion date as the new Discovery of Witches book comes out then... I'm about a third of the way through the book and am pleasantly surprised! Though it provides instruction on teaching reading,It reads like a story. In addition, the author shares her failures and successes along the way. The way she walks the reader through the process makes one want to jump right in to implementing this program in their own school. My Edmodo status shows the teachers in my building that I'm reading The Book Whisperer. I've already had feedback from one of my teachers, who actually works with some of our most at-risk students. She is interested in implementing the process within her own classroom. Her interest got the wheels in my mind turning. If she has an interest, BRING IT!!! Im going to make sure she has everything she needs to be successful in her endeavor. I will post more on this thread as I move through this process.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Introducing Problem Based Learning

It's all fine and good to want our students to participate in lessons which involve critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration; but we as admiistrators can't expect this to happen without properly educating teachers in the execution of these methods.

In researching teacher preperation programs in higher education institutions, I've learned that they do a lot of things well. However, modeling 21st Century skills are not one of them. Though I am certain this is going to change, I'm not particularly certain when this change is going to take place.

The last week of school is a WONDERFUL time to try new things. Teachers don't have the stress of standardized assessments and are willing to try anything that will keep their students occupied during these final days.

This year, we participated in Olympic-themed activities during the final days of school. It was a great event. It included a health fair, athletic events, and a "Cerebral Olympics"which included team-based problem solving activities that excited and engaged students and teachers. These activities were simple: egg-drop, card tower, and marshmallow challenge (

Teachers were apprehensive about the project when the Olympic committee decided to incorporate these activities. They were worried about unruly students, making a mess, finding the materials, and having to present the lesson.

If you want your teachers to do something that may take them out of their comfort zone, it is helpful to provide teachers with introductory lessons that result in a positive experience for all involved. I did this by doing the following:
  • The entire grade level did the same activitiy. This way teachers were able to share their experiences with one another.
  • Teachers received the plans and materials in advance. In addition, they did not have to do any prep work. Materials were packaged in brown paper bags. Teachers simply had to divide the class into teams and give each team a bag.
  • Lesson plans were only one page long. Things longer than a page don't always get read from beginning to end.
The activities were so successful that teachers are now eager to incorporate more of these activties into their teaching and learning in the fall. It will be up to me as an administrator to keep this momentum going by slowly releasing the responsibility of developing and implementing these lessons to the teachers I work with; just as the teachers need to gradually release the same process to their students. After all, the best way to learn is to do.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Flipping Out Isn't Always a Bad Thing...Really!!!

Ahhh June...

A time for flipping out in public education. Flipping out over assessments, flipping out over end of year evals, and flipping out over what seem to be the dumbest things! We are flipping out over things we will all be laughing about in a couple of weeks.

Interestingly enough, there are some trends in education that are going to be worth flipping out over: the "Flipped Classroom" and "Flipped Blooms Taxonomy". Just how these two concepts will actually fit into K-12 education are still to be determined.

The school system I work in is really starting to push the concept of blended learning. One way that blended learning is encouraged is through the use of Edmodo ( If you haven't seen Edmodo, it would remind you of Facebook, though the atmosphere is controlled by the teacher. Students and teachers are able to post and respond to questions, collaborate with one another, respond to polls, and submit assignments. It's a good, safe introduction to blended learning and allows teachers the opportunity to introduce Flipped Classroom concepts and methods.

As far as "Flipping Blooms" goes, the most important thing to remember is to start with providing students with a hands-on opportunity to apply concepts, and then allow them to build upon their experiences from there. The hands-on experience is the so-called "hook" to engage them. Once you have them interested, they are more likely to listen to the nuts and bolts of the concept, and better understand it as a whole.

So, you see...flipping out really isn't all that bad a thing after all. It's actually part of an exciting time in the world of education!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Patience Is A Virtue...When It Comes to Assessments

An English teacher on my grade level was clearly upset by reactions from staff members when they found out her students were taking the majority of the school day to take the state assessments. This year, they are newly fortified with 21st Century style questions that encourage students to use skills which include critical thinking and problem solving. Rumors of its difficulty resulted in many a sleepless night for students, teachers, and administrators alike! This teacher worked very hard throughout the year, going over the content and strategies her students needed to be successful on the assessment. Testing started at 7:30 this morning. Her last student finished at 3:30 p.m. with many of her students hammering out an advanced score.

When I picked up a group of these students and escorted them to a quick lunch break, I saw the weariness in their faces. They were obviously drained, but didn't want to let their teacher down. I told them that I knew how hard they were working and that it was perfectly OK for them to take their time because it meant they were taking it seriously. Their faces beamed. They were doing exactly what their teacher had coached them to do, and knew they were reaping the benefits.

I also knew that there were some pretty sheepish-feeling people when her scores were released. In educating a generation of learners who are used to getting everything "on demand", I truly feel that we sometimes forget to teach the importance of taking ones time and working hard to achieve your goal. While I am a firm believer of working smarter, not harder; I have also come to appreciate a job well done as a result of hard work. I think there are probably a few more teachers and students in my building who think the same.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Left-Handed and Introverted

Being left-handed has it's advantages. To me, the biggest advantage is the fact that I'm VERY right-brained. I'm a creative thinker. My creative thinking and problem solving skills have benefited me so many times working with an "at-risk" population. My ability to think globally has served me well when I've had to make decisions.

On the flip side, I'm also an introvert. I prefer listening to talking; and would much rather showcase the talents of those around me than let the light shine on me alone. While these traits make me a good team player, they sometimes make it tough for people to see me as a leader from the beginning. Add my northern upbringing and southern residence to the equation, and I can be seen as cold to someone who meets me for the first time. As I begin to look at the possibility of advancing in my career, I also begin to see this as a major weakness when I interview for positions. Talking about myself is a difficult thing to do, especially when I have such a strong shared leadership philosophy. I truly believe that everything accomplished in my current role was the result of a team effort. I may have facilitated the process; but I would never say I accomplished anything significant without teamwork.

I am intrigued by Susan Cain's book Quiet
Quiet  explores introverts and the powers they possess if they know how to properly utilize their introvertedness. I feel that understanding your personality is just a component of this, though. Having the confidence in what you do is another key component. People will readily accept your quiet spirit if you are confident in your ideas, beliefs, and attitude. They will just as quickly dismiss you if you appear unsure in the delivery of your beliefs or message.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What About Reading?

As the building I work in is entering "testing mode" this week, I begin to consider all the reasons why our students may not be successful. I've been thinking a lot about higher education these past few weeks because I've had the opportunity to experience higher education, and have started looking at the disconnects that may prohibit students at any level from learning.

This is also the time of year when it is crunch time for classroom observations. Because "stuff happens", I still have 2 more teachers to observe next week and a bunch of observations to finish before I begin to review formative and summative evaluations. Since reviewing observations and writing evaluations will encompass the majority of my weekend, my thought process has shifted to something a little more pragmatic. From what I've observed recently, a student's ability to read and comprehend makes all the difference in the world when it comes to being academically successful.

That being said, there are still too many kids out there who do not possess a love, or even an interest in reading. My mom once told me that no one can take away your educaton. That was one of the most profound things she ever said to me. My education combined with my ambition has everything to do with the fact that I have a roof over my head and a fairly comfortable lifestyle. I have to credit my education with my love of reading, because these degrees have involved a LOT of reading.

21st century learners need to be good readers. There was a time when it seemed that reading and writing appeared to be things of the past. Why would you need to read and write when you could communicate by talking on the phone, or learn everything by watching a video. I wonder if they ever saw the Internet coming? How can you navigate the Internet, use Facebook and Twitter without being able to read? Yet, many students don't have a comprehension level high enough to process the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are now required.

To me, the answer to this issue has to do with getting kids to be interested in reading by proving to them its relevance. There is a lot of competition out there right now, and its going to be a harder sell. But it's a sale we are going to have to make if our children stand a chance in this century.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Where is the ground floor?

I always thought the "ground floor" in the field of education was Kindergarten, as it usually signifies the beginning of a child's education career. Now, I'm not so sure. I am a firm believer that the experience a child and their family have in kindergarten often sets the stage for the remainder of their school years. However, the teacher drives the experience. The teacher's college experience plays a role in the effectiveness of the teacher. So, is the ground floor kindergarten, or college? That question has probably been debated by LOTS of people much smarter than I, though I think I'm leaning towards college for the time being. I only say this because so many new teachers are entering the 21st Century workforce with 20th Century skills. School systems then have to spend time "re-training" new staff members. This training is in addition to the traditional induction process that new teachers go through. I bring this up because in last week's post, I said I was going to share my thoughts on steps schools or school systems can take to aid in closing this gap. - Invite the dean or department chair within the school of education to participate in school division meetings and professional development sessions. This way, they get to experience the issues today's schools are facing. - Offer your talents to a higher-Ed institution. Many schools of education are looking for guest speakers to help bring a real-world flavor to the class. Being a guest speaker will also allow school division members to interact with potential teachers. - Ask higher-Ed institutions for assistance in solving school and division problems. The opportunity may turn into a grant or dissertation possibility for a student or faculty member there. - Form a partnership with a college or university. Allow instructors to visit your school or system. Hold professional development sessions for teachers on campus. - Keep the lines of communication open with your higher-Ed institution. Make sure they know why or why you aren't hiring their teachers. Make sure they are aware of the mission and vision of your school division so they can help prepare potential teachers. I know there are many more ideas out there, but for the sake of time, I'll allow others to comment.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We Are Not That Different

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to dialouge with college level educators in a variety of roles. One of them asked me what I thought the main difference between higher-Ed and K-12 was. I told him that from a school leaders' perspective,n there really wasn't that much of a difference. Both face the issue of working with adult learners in a way that will keep them actively engaged in the concept being covered to ensure comprehension and ultimately, mastery of said concept. Sound familiar? That's what we expect the classroom teachers to do! For those of us who are instructing teachers, there is a need for us to keep in mind that most people will teach in they way they were taught. If people are taught mainly through lecture and theory, they are likely going to teach using the same methods. Though many may see Kindergarten as the "Ground Floor" of education, I have come to think that higher-Ed is the real ground floor. They are the ones originally charged with the initial instruction of K-12 teachers. When I take a look inside higher-Ed classrooms, I often see lecture and theory. While it is important for teachers to understand the theory behind the practice, it is equally important for effective practice to be modeled the instructor, and experienced by the aspiring teacher. The blame can't be placed completely on higher education, though. Once K-12 teachers enter a school system, much of their professional development is driven by initiatives being implemented according to that system's mission and vision. At that point, the torch has been passed. School systems need to provide their staff with professional develop which reflects the desired outcome. There are steps that can be taken by both levels to help strengthen the educational field; but they involve effort on both ends. My next post will discuss the steps educational stakeholders can take to ensure their students are reaching their highest potential.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Encouraging a Global Viewpoint by Starting Small

This weeks' post comes from a paper I had to write reflecting on a two-year program I just completed known as Statewide Communities of Practice for Excellence in partnership with the University of Virginia. The reflection involved reviewing Fullan's What's Worth Fighting For in the Principalship. This reflection reminded me that I can't always wait for those above me to make change happen. Sometimes I need to be the catalyst.

This excerpt discusses developing teacher leaders. How have you helped your teachers think globally?

The PLC is a team effort, with each member having, and being held accountable for, an important role. PLC norms are developed and agreed upon at the beginning of the school year, and revisited throughout. The PLC goes beyond agendas and minutes. To the teachers who are a part of it, the PLC signifies a voice, a role in the decision making process, and, most importantly shared leadership. A building can no longer be run by just one person. It’s up to administrators to nurture teacher leadership by providing opportunities for teachers to be leaders. A teacher who starts out as the person in charge of the meeting minutes during PLC time could turn into your next department chair, division level committee member, or building level administrator.

My desire to develop teacher leaders actually aided in my personal goal of “putting myself out there” more and as Fullan (2008)   puts it, “linking to the outside”. When two colleagues and I heard about what Hanover County was doing with the “Eyes on Instruction” program during a SCOPE session, we believed our own teachers could benefit from a similar model. The idea came to fruition when I wrote a proposal to central office personnel which aided in the establishment of the Teacher Ambassador Program; a professional development opportunity for teachers to visit other buildings, hear from the administrative team, and observe best teaching practices. These ambassadors then share what they learned with their colleagues. The experience opened us all to new ideas, and expanded our thought process to a more global level, a component that Fullan indicates is necessary for district reform.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Standardized Tests Are Changing..Are We?

Come this June, high schools all over the state I work in (Virginia) will be graduating 2nd batch of students who have gone through their entire educational career in the age of standardized testing. Now, with the help of online testing, a new shift has begun to take place. The tests are no longer designed to see how well our students are able to answer questions. Now, students are having to use skills which include critical thinking, problem solving, and drawing from past experiences to solve complex equations on these tests. To top it all off, student growth is about to play a huge role in the evaluation process for all educators.

This shift brings up a couple of questions for me. First: how are we preparing teachers to shift their methods to help ensure our students are equipped with the skills and knowledge to think and work at this higher level. Second: are the kids who have regular access to technology at an advantage over those who are not? I know that when I talk with my own teachers, they are frustrated because they feel they are not providing their students with the necessary technology to facilitate the mastering of these skills. I'm concerned because they may be right. How can they? Our four computer labs have been booked since winter break solely for benchmarks, simulations, pilot studies, and assessments.

These are not questions that can be answered in a few paragraphs; but it is food for thought. Things are about to change significantly in education; and I'm afriad a lot of mistakes are going to be made before a solid model exists which allows students from all backgrounds to achieve their highest potential.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Transparency - The New 21st Century Skill

OK, so every time I discuss a subject, I will cite the website(s), etc. I researched.

From the Harvard Business Review - Transparency is the New Leadership Imperative

Dorie Clark has a really good point here. By the way, if you have an iPad, you should download Flipboard. On Flipboard, I discovered, Mindshift, a wonderful education website. It's actually something I catch up on every Saturday morning when I sit with my husband at Starbucks after the gym. In addition to Mindshift, I check out the Harvard Business review. While Not directly related to education, there are some great articles on Leadership on there.

OK, getting back to Dorie. She discusses transparency as a necessary component for leadership. As far as I'm concerned, that goes hand-in-hand with the whole rigor, relevance, relationship piece that Willard Daggett has been talking about. We as administrators stress so often with our teachers the importance of establishing a relationship with the students they teach with. However, we tend to hide our personal lives from those we work with...even when an anectdote may actually help in solving a problem or making a connection.

Now, I'm not talking about airing out all of your dirty laundry for all the world to see, or posting every trial and tribulation on Facebook...I'm talking about letting your fellow staff members know what you stand for, your strengths and weaknesses are, and what your interests/passions are. You would be surprised who would get on your side just because someone found out you play golf, own a cat, or like the Red Sox!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Link

I am at a precarious point in my career right now. I am a middle school assistant principal with a interest in 21st Century learning. I really hate that term "21st Century learning". Aren't we already in the 21st century? With this blog, it is my hope that I look at the link between K-12 and higher-ed, and how this so-called 21st Century learning is affected by their relationship. If any of you out there have any ideas pertaining to this, please feel free to comment.

What this blog is about

I am a middle school administrator with a profound interest in 21st Century skills and how they transcend from higher-ed to K-12 education.