Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who Inspires You?

On Twitter, you have a little bit of space to say something about yourself on your homepage. Mine reads "Always a teacher first". There is so much I owe to the profession of teaching and learning. Teachers helped to make me who I am.

Edutopia has had some FABULOUS stuff on Pinterest recently. Last week's "pin of the week" really spoke to me. When I think about hiring teachers, I look beyond their academic skillset. I look for their passion, their creativity, their ability to inspire.

Once a teacher is hired, it is important to remind them why they got the job. It wasn't just because they were knowledgable of their content area. There was something in that interview that made them stand out from those around them. There was a spark. I am also of firm belief that it is our responsibility to tell our new hires that there are some within the building who unfortunately, are not going to be great role models for them. Those who are more seasoned will likely pick up on those toxic personalities, and stay away from them. Others may get sucked into that toxicity...misery loves company, remember? Keep in mind that it is not at all inappropriate to introduce your new hires to those on your staff who you think they could learn the most from.

I love this quote by Robert John Meehan because I truly believe that its simply not good enough to just be a lifelong learner. I've always considered myself to be a lifelong learner; but as I climb higher in my career, I have discovered the importance of surrounding myself with people who are uplifting and inspiring. Though I am kind of an introvert, I consider myself to be so fortunate to have an amazing group of friends, family, and colleagues who support and inspire me. They have helped me to become who I am. As time has gone on, I have become more cognizant of the fact that it is my responsibility to help those in the same way that others have helped me. It is my responsibility to be an uplifting presence in my building; no matter what I may be feeling inside.

The next time you are having a crummy day, be sure to remember that there are others in your building who are looking up to you. Though you are just one person, you matter a whole lot to those you work alongside. Don't let them down.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My First "No Office" Day

In my "Personal Professional Goals" post, I mentioned one of my goals this year was to maintain weekly "no office" days. What I mean by this is that I try to spend the entire workday outside my office. Yesterday, I tried my first. Overall, I would consider it to be a success!

Was it easy? No.

Was it worth it? Definitely!

Here are some things that made this experience completely worth it:

  • I got into 22 classrooms! It was AWESOME! The kids were like, "Dr. Stacy, I saw you in tons of my classes today!" I also got a lot of "thank-yous" from the teachers. I had some tell me they  never had anyone come in to visit their class that early. 
  • I got some GREAT data to share! As I visited each class, I filled out a brief walkthrough observation form. It allowed me to indicate whether or not I saw an agenda or objectives, and state that agenda. It also allowed me to check off the types of instruction I saw: whole class or small group. In addition, I looked for things like use of questioning strategies, type of learning activity taking place, and the learning environment. At the end of the day, I made a copy of each form, and put them in the teachers' mailboxes. I plan on sharing an overview of my observations with the grade level during our next PLC meeting. 
  • All sorts of fabulousness was observed! Since I am new to the grade level I'm working with; and since we have a LOT of new electives teachers in our building (5 to be exact), I visited my grade level and the electives teachers who are new to the building. I got to see some great instructional techniques in action. I saw a great example of student folders in Google Drive being managed, excellent use of Class Dojo, and some really creative problem solving in our STEM class. I'm going to ask these teachers to share their strategies with their PLC during "Teacher showcase" time in the coming weeks. 
While there is LOADS more to share, I like to keep these posts fairly short. We are, after all, busy people!

Here are some things that made this "No Office Day" more manageable:
  • I come to work early. I get to work about an hour before I need to be there. I use that time to answer emails, organize my plan for the day, and work on any "desk projects" (data gathering and analysis, scheduling, project research). 
  • I have a plan on how I want to spend the day. Do I want to see a specific grade level or subject area? Am I looking for a particular skill? Do I need to see how certain students are doing? These are all things I have ironed out before I begin my day. 
  • I carry my laptop. Just because I'm not in my office doesn't mean I have to be completely cut off. I use it for taking notes, looking up something online, and yes, checking email. 
Did I spend the entire day out of my office? Pretty much. I did have to go to my office to handle a student discipline issue, and I also had to call a parent. Once I finished those tasks, I was quick to leave and continue visiting classes. 

Can I do this every week? I'm going to try. I can see where I will make plans for a "no office" day only to have them thwarted by a issue beyond my control. However, I can also see this practice being something that will put me an a position to be more proactive rather than reactive when situations arise; and when I can be proactive, I feel more productive. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Power of Failure

We are implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) this year. One of the foci of PBIS includes the re-wording of procedures and routines of your building into positive ones. For example: Change "stop talking" into "raise your hand if you have something to say". I love the concept, and it WORKS when you have buy-in among stakeholders. I've seen it myself. Often, it can take time to acquire buy-in from stakeholders, and the results aren't always want you may want in the first go-around. For example: perceptions on the concept of failure are pretty broad at this point.

Here are some obstacles pertaining to the concept of failure:

Failure results in punishment
  • Ever sit in a parent conference and have the parent share with you that their child was grounded for the F they received in your class? Why would they feel OK with failure again? 
Failure is portrayed as something bad
  • See above. I posted in the past about the concept of stress hindering creativity. If a student is afraid to fail, one could ascertain that failure could lead to stress, thus hindering creativity. 
Failure is Finite
  • Have you ever seen a child crushed by a failing grade? It takes a certain degree of strength to cover from that; and its not always a degree a child possesses! 
Notice that I didn't ask why children are afraid of failure. Most children aren't readily afraid of failure. If they were, they would never learn how to grasp, to crawl, to walk, to talk...see where I'm going with this? Children involved in sports, music, dance, the arts, and gaming, for example, are used to seeing failure as part of the learning process. No one expects a child to hit a home run their first time at bat.

However, in the realm of education, we are often quick to assign a failing grade to a student's attempt at learning. What does that F result in? What could we as educators do differently to make that F more meaningful? I need to give credit to Robert Schuller for the quote, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" As I continue to learn and grow, I often wonder of the damage I caused by giving a student an F. If I have provided a good amount of feedback and an opportunity to improve, I feel pretty good about it. If I stopped my feedback at the letter, I have not only failed that student or individual, but I also have failed as a teacher. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

What Do Your Students Need?

Image from
Most students are back to school at this point. If not, they will be going back to school sometime in the next few days. There is an excitement that goes along with getting back to school. Seeing friends, experiencing a new grade level or teacher, and participating in sports or extra-curricular activities are just a few of the reasons students are excited about getting back to school. However, there are students who may be excited about getting back to school for other reasons. 

As your students walk through the doors of your building or classroom, take a moment to consider other reasons for their back-to-school excitement. For the first time in months, some (or many) of your students may find that their needs are finally being met. 

This may mean that they finally have regular meals to eat and a safe, healthy environment to spend time in. If you look at the chart above (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid) you can see that these are the most basic of needs. If these needs aren't met, students aren't able to even think about forming meaningful relationships with others, or having a sense of accomplishment from the tasks they perform in class. In addition, they are far from exercising their creativity or achieving-self actualization. 

Though there are many strategies you can use to provide assistance to these students, the best thing you can do first (for both you and the student) is to recognize whether or not their basic needs are met, and work with support staff within your building to ensure they are being taken care of. Remember, one of the most important things we can do as educators is meeting students where they are at and helping them grow from there. While that statement often refers to instruction, it also refers to their basic needs; from getting them out of survival mode and into an environment where they can begin to thrive.