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  http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352145/ref=pd_sim_b_1
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.