Friday, October 24, 2014

Keeping a Step Ahead Regarding Social Media

Today, we had a member of the Attorneys General office visit our students to talk with them about the precautions that must be taken when using social media. He gave some excellent advice to our students, and even took time to paint a picture of just how easy it is to get hold of your personal information, or even find out where you live or go to school.

When he asked if the students had Facebook accounts, I counted fewer than 15 students who raised their hands...these were 6th graders, by the way. Average age of eleven this time of year. When he asked if they had Instagram accounts, I could probably count no fewer than 15 students who didn't raise their hands. In case you were wondering, the minimum age to set up either of these accounts is 13. Hmmmm...

I think about my niece who had two Facebook her family knew about, and one her family didn't know about.

Of course, Facebook is passé...if you are a tween or teen. I still like it. But I'm not 12. Its great for keeping up with people I knew in high school; and let's get serious for a moment...Where else would I post pictures of my cat???

Twitter is still pretty popular for tweens. But there are other platforms out there which allow them a little more anonymity. Snapchat, Kik, YikYak and are just a few of what are out there. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, sites like and Snapchat are not based in the United States, and obtaining information from them isn't the easiest. In fact, is based in Latvia, and has been linked to several suicides. You can read more about it by clicking here.

When working with middle school students, or any student or child for that matter, it is in your best interest to keep up with the latest trends in social media. The more knowledge you have about social media trends, the easier it is to handle a situation when it arises. You may also want to take a look at this Socialnomics video which showcases the state of social media this past year.

I'm glad that I didn't attend middle or high school in this age. I know I mentioned this in previous postings, but I was bullied something terribly when I was younger. I can only imagine how it would have been in the age of social media. Kids have a lot of advantages with growing up today. However, with those advantages comes a significant responsibility.

When working with kids, keep those thoughts in mind. I'm not going to say they have a lot more to handle than we ever did; but they have a different kind of burden to carry. It is a generational burden. They are going to stumble along the way, and they are going to need help recovering from their bumps and bruises. Most importantly, they are going to need help navigating this terrain. Keep this in mind when you work with students who get in a sticky social media situation. Be sure to keep yourself educated and informed so that you yourself may educate and inform them. Its more important than ever to be a lifelong learner. Take what you learn, and use it wisely.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

So Much Data!

Data driven instruction is where its at. You give the assessment, analyze the data, find the strengths and weaknesses, and reteach/remediate based on your findings. It's a cyclical process.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with the math department chair, and we were discussing this process as we were laying the groundwork to help guide teachers in their development of growth goals for the coming school year. The process for this practice has traditionally been to look at the previous years' assessment data for last years students to determine the instructional focus for this year.

This process, however, has a flaw. What about results pertaining to the students you have this year? What about the progress those students made last year? What about what they are missing? Is that data important? Of course it is!

I did some serious thinking on the topic, and came up with this:

  • Year-end assessment data is valuable. It's probably more valuable for teachers though. However, full state assessment data isn't usually available until mid July, and by that time, teachers are well into their summer vacation. In most cases, they don't even see this data until August when they are stressing about a new batch of students and getting their classrooms ready. If teachers are provided with this data before they left of the summer, they could develop a plan to address their own instructional weaknesses during the summer.  
  • Pre-assessment data is also valuable. It's a valuable tool to help teachers determine what the students don't know. If teachers don't know their own weaknesses, however, how do they know if they are adequately prepared to reach this new group of students? 
  • It is still relatively difficult to access and pull apart assessment data. For example, I spent a good deal of my Sunday afternoon trying to figure out what our exceptional education students were struggling with on our state assessment tests. I could easily find out what our entire school was struggling with, but that doesn't help me when I need to focus on specific subgroups or classes. What's up with that?
I feel pretty comfortable with saying that we are in a better pace with instructional data than we were even a few years ago, but there is still a long way to go. Why should we have to wait until mid July to obtain data that would help teachers grow as professionals. In addition, the data we are using should also be able to tell us a little bit more than it currently does. I think of data I encounter in everyday life: my credit card statement, the gauges on my car, all those infographics I find on the Internet, and even my Starbucks app...they are all easier than what the majority of us are asking teachers to make sense of.

I've said this before, it is my responsibility as an administrator to make sure the teachers I work with have the tools the need to be successful. This includes providing access to data that doesn't take hours to unpack and understand. Until the data comes to us in a more straightforward format, I need to make sure it gets that way before it gets in the hands of the teachers. This way, they will have more time to create meaningful and impactful lessons based on what that data tells them.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Day, New building, New Perspective

For the first time in 16 years, I travelled to a different school system to go to work this week. To say it was surreal would be an understatement.

Day one was a whirlwind of new names, faces, procedures, routines, and expectations. I really put my "Lifelong Learner" persona to the test! There were meetings, introductions, trainings, and lunch duty...yes, lunch duty!  I'm so glad I took the time to get my office set up during the weekend. I'm also grateful for the staff members who took the time to make sure I felt at home!

What a Welcome!!! :-)
On day two, things calmed down a little...well, about as calm as a middle school gets. I got to visit classes on an absolutely amazing day. It was peer observation day. Like the school I just left, my new school also provides students with a 1:1 learning environment. Teachers who had something really cool to share with their peers placed a green card outside their door. I had an opportunity to visit some of these "green card" classrooms in the afternoon, and it was AMAZING! I saw collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, and infusion of technology at its finest.

On day three, before teachers and students came in, I had time to sit in m office for a minute and assess my surroundings. With my new office, I got half of my wish. I got a window! After nearly ten yeas of working in an office without a window, I finally have one. I'll admit I was a little disappointed that the window didn't have an outside view. However, it does gives me a GREAT view of the 8th grade hallway. What it also allows me to see is the reflection of a beautiful golden sunrise streaming in from the HUGE windows in the main stairway. It allows me to see the teachers arriving every morning, and I can say hi to the kids who walk by my office throughout the day.

While I haven't gotten everything I wanted yet (an outside view, for example), I have gained a new perspective on things, which is exactly what I was hoping for in this endeavor. Is this new journey going to be easy? No way! Is it going to be worth it? It already is.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Making a Transition

At this point, most of my colleagues know that I am about to make a transition. I am moving from an 11-month position to a 12-month position. I'm also moving to another school system. I'll admit that I'm both excited and nervous at the same time. While I have worked in three schools prior to my move, they have all been in the same school system. In the weeks to come, I will be putting my "lifelong learner" mindset to the test. While adjusting to a new organizational structure will take a little time, I know that my time in the coming weeks will be best spent learning as much about the culture and norms of the school community that I possibly can. I can't wait to see the kids!

I start my new position tomorrow. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to get into the building during the weekend and get my office set up. I spent time moving around furniture, hanging pictures, and unpacking boxes. I wanted that space to be a welcoming environment for anyone who visits my office from day one. I also wanted to make a statement: I'm here to stay. What does your work space say about you?

When I interviewed for this position, I told the panel that I felt I had a lot to offer. I also said that I had a lot to learn. I'm looking forward to putting that statement to the test!