Friday, March 24, 2017

How do you know you are growing as an educator?

I think I heard someone say as I walked in Monday morning... "Only ten more weeks."

Part of me was like, "Yes, I didn't die!" and part of me was like "No, I thought I would be better at this at this point in the year. I need more time to reach the goals I have set for myself!"

I could have let that defeat me. Instead, I decided I would not let the fact that I am not as far along as I would like to be in this new role as assistant principal be the determining factor of whether or not I am progressing toward success. Instead I am moving into a time where I am reflecting, reviewing and revising my goals. I am evaluating for myself what I have learned, how I have changed- for the better- and what I need to continue to work towards or abandon.

I think that is one of the beauties of the process with T-TESS. It creates a space for us to set goals, work toward those goals, monitor our progress (collect evidence), and reflect. It helps us measure and identify how we are growing as an educator. In this way, I believe it reminds us of how far we have come and shows us where we can journey next in our professional growth.

I came across the article "How to set smart goals that motivate you to action"  this week as I was thinking about where you all are in preparing for the end of year T-TESS conference. I love being challenged to grow, to set goals that may be almost unattainable but make me want to strive to try. We (John and I) look forward to meeting with you and learning more about the goals you have set for yourself for the upcoming year. Goals that grow you, excite you and most of all empower you as an educator.

We would love for you to share the process for how you are determining your goals for the upcoming year in the comments.

Friday, March 3, 2017

How will you "taper"...

As runners, training for long races like a half marathon, we are very strategic. We build our stamina slowly, over several weeks. The one thing many don't know is that we purposefully slow down before the big race... we give our bodies some margin to rest and store up for the long run. It is called a taper run. The distance of that last training run, about a week out from the event, is half the distance of the competitive run. For example, if you are running a half marathon, the weekend before you run six to seven miles. Your spring break is your opportunity to "taper" before you hit the ground running to complete the last couple months of the school year.

We have been training for this last leg of the year. As we move into the last week before Spring Break there is a lot of pressure that is felt by everyone. When we return we are within days of our first round of STAAR testing. Many of you may be taking vacation over the break... some of us will be staying close to home. For those of you staying close to home, don't let your vacation become your project week. Take some time to truly relax. Break away from the cleaning out of closets, deep cleans, food preparation and home projects, and HAVE SOME FUN!!! Give yourself room for margin. Rest, Relax and Rejuvenate your soul. Give yourself the chance to "taper" so you can run the distance when you return.

If you are like me, I like to plan things that are not only fun, but FREE or inexpensive.

Here are a few things my family may be taking advantage of during this week of "taper" to Rest, Relax and Rejuvenate:

Free Spring Break Monday at the Modern

Moviehouse 10 am Showings...

Lego Americana Roadshow at Stonebriar Mall

I am also looking for a good calzone recipe. Kristopher is determined that we are going to learn how to make homemade calzones!

Here is a link to Mari's Moments from the Star Telegram with other ideas that are free.

These are just a few ideas. I would love to hear your ideas/plans or if you have a good calzone recipe please share! We all need ways to plan our "taper" so we can run the race set before us as we return from Spring Break.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fostering Classroom Management Success Through Forgiveness

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am grateful that I work in a place and with people that afford me grace.

Our students have been given our patience, our time, and our energy. While patience, time and energy can have limits... what is unconditional is our love.

Our students are not perfect. They make mistakes. We afford them grace.

Forgiveness gives way to freedom. Each day is the opportunity for a day of redemption.

I am thankful for the teachers, mentors, friends, family and colleagues that have let me learn and given me the forgiveness that allows me to learn and become better.

Our students need our forgiveness. The chance to begin anew, to learn and become better.

True forgiveness is freeing. It is a classroom management strategy that never fails.

The article "Why Forgiveness is a Powerful Classroom Management Strategy" refreshes my resolve and my approach as we take on the next two marking periods.

How do you plan to practice the art of forgiveness? Where do you find your freedom in this approach?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Finding time...

Over and over again there is a matter of time. There is not enough of it. In our personal lives and in our professional lives. In our personal lives we have to make decisions, prioritize and address the most pressing/important matters with our relationships, responsibilities and activities. In our professional lives, we have to do much of the same.

As we move into the second half of the year... we have data that shows us where are students are, from where they began the year. We know where we need to get them by the end of the year...

So, how do we do that? We must look with a strong focus and a magnifying lens at how we use our time. What can we tighten up on, where can we get a dual benefit from one activity/task, and what do we need to consider changing.

The article "Time on Task: A Strategy That Accelerates Learning" offers some research proven techniques that many of you already employ. It is a great reminder of what we are already doing and possibly a good nudge to revisit actions we may have forgotten, walked away from or would be worth a try.

As we move forward this second half of the year strategically pushing for growth with our kids, let us make every effort to use our time efficiently, intentionally and with purpose. Every moment with our students is a moment to be magnified and utilized to ensure success and growth. How can we use use every margin of time for this purpose?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Happiness, Mindfulness and Classroom Impact...

When I wrote the post "The Happiness Hypocrite" I challenged the staff and myself. The challenge, to write down 3 things you were grateful for on that particular day and do it for 21 days. The purpose... to create mindfulness. For me I was looking for the good things, the things that reminded me of the little blessings, the humor, and the joy of living. I became mindful of the positive and was less likely to focus on the negative that came my way... and believe me, the negative came. What I noticed is that when the negative came, I was able to move beyond it, not focus on it, and was looking for the positive in each situation. I was experiencing a shift in perspective. My view was changing.

Often as teachers we are faced with challenges. At the beginning of the year we are positive, mindful and resilient in our hopes for our students. Somewhere along the way, about February, we begin to lose our resolve and the wind in our sails. We have a choice, though. We can let ourselves falter or we can stay mindful.

I know that how we think, what we do and how we approach each child, every lesson and every day makes the difference. It takes mindfulness... a shift in perspective. I read an article recently on this very thing. It is titled "A Journey Toward Mindfulness: How to Implement and Sustain This Practice Among Teachers, From Now Until the Last Day of School"
As I read it I saw many things that are already done by us as a campus and as individuals. It even mentioned "Gratitude Practices" which is like the 21 day Gratitude Challenge suggested in "The Happiness Hypocrite" post.

After reading the article, going through the 21 Day Challenge and knowing we could be headed for the mid-year slump, I want to know what can we do together to choose happiness, be mindful and continue to have a strong impact on our students? I plan to continue in my practice of writing down three things of gratitude each day. Please share your ideas on how we can sustain the practice of gratitude and mindfulness.

Friday, February 3, 2017

What do we mean when we say...

Often in education a word or phrase becomes more something we say than what we do with fidelity. When that happens, especially with practices that are research proven methods that yield success, it is worth a revisit. This could be true of our conversations of student discourse before our professional development afternoon in January and the support for deeper planning for discourse with our ICLE coach.

Another word or phrase that often is used loosely, but needs to be tight in implementation is "small groups."

Small groups, as defined in the research article "Small Group Reading Instruction: Lessons from the Field," states that small group literacy lessons are "learning experiences for small groups of children that are designed to focus on reading, writing, listening, or speaking skills."

While that definition is very broad in nature, how and what we do is a very specific and successful instructional approach when done with fidelity. Jennifer Serravallo, with Heinemann Publishing (also the publisher of our Lucy Calkin's books) has a great YouTube Series on this topic. Here is the introductory video that will take you through several video series anywhere from approximately 2 to 6 minutes that address everything from strategies to teach in small group to how to schedule and meet with all your small groups with frequency.

This is a great way to review and reflect on your own practice, determine what you are strong in your implementation/practice and what may be areas you would want more support. Another resource that offers great ideas on how to schedule your small groups is through the RTI Action Network website. On that website is an excellent article/guide on "Scheduling Challenges: Tiered Reading Intervention." While this article is addressing RTI with small groups as an intervention, the scheduling suggestions it offers are some great examples that may be beneficial to the struggle many of you find with getting to your small groups.

As we move forward in our practice, going from adding meaning and depth, to the practices we are doing both in word and deed, I challenge each of you. As our students needs and range of supports become more vast we will need to explore "out of the box" approaches. Considerations will be given to options such as flexible grouping in each grade. This will require us to be transparent with one another, know our own strengths, know our own areas of need, and, of course, trust one another with each other's students. As individuals and as teams, determine the following:
*What are each of our strengths?
*What are each or our areas of need?
*What do each of us need in the way of training/support as we look ahead, both immediate and this summer at Engage?
*Where could support from our instructional literacy or math coach help us to tighten our practice with small groups and/or targeting skills in literacy and math?

Make a list for yourself and with your team. Make a plan. Be bold in owning what you know and what you need to know. Make a commitment to know when you say "small groups" or "student discourse" or any other educational practice you do it with action and understanding.

Together we can do this!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What We Believe Matters...

The single greatest impact we have on our students is in our belief that all students can achieve and grow as learners. When our campus, as a family of educators, shares that belief along with a collective agreement in our strategies and practices the impact, as Hattie reports in his research, is the factor that ensures the most student growth (over a year in fact).

So the question is, how do we take the belief we all have that all students can achieve and grow and create the collective agreement in our strategies and practices?

We have a foundation in our PLCs which our collective ownership of learning, growing, and data dives have moved us toward this collective agreement. We have established norms, focused our conversations and begun the work of talking more deeply about our practice. It is in this collective agreement we must also have shared leadership. Team leads may bring to the table the action pieces and vision that is designed by our Leadership Team, but leadership isn't about one person and everyone else complies. Leadership is everyone's responsibility... leadership comes back to what we do together in our time and transfers into our roles as lead learners in the classroom. Each part of a PLC is every person's part. Each student is OUR student. Each success is OUR success. Each failure OUR failure. It is through collective efficacy- how we collaborate, why we believe what we believe and alignment in our strategies and practices- that creates the IMPACT.

Here is an article from an educational research driven blog, Corwin Connect, that speaks about how, through collective efficacy, we can make a difference.

Please read:

How can you, your team and/or our campus FAMILY create the IMPACT that gains the results that mirror what we believe... that all students can achieve and grow as learners? How do we show that what we believe matters?