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?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Next Steps...

During our last Professional Development we took a moment to reflect and assess our progress. We determined what we were doing with fidelity, things we were moving toward, and things yet to be done or to re-think. It was through that each team shared what they felt were the next steps to continue our growth and progress toward our problem of practice.

It was interesting to see the feedback. There were two areas that were most commonly addressed... student learning in the way of students taking ownership through challenging themselves and their peers, goal setting and peer to peer feedback. The other are was in collaborative planning... having critical conversation and examination of student work and the teacher model, and use of planning documents to help push forward intentional and purposeful planning of content-rich work.

In the book "Visible Learning for Literacy: Impact" by Fisher, Frey and Hattie it states that of all the instructional strategies that garner more than a year of growth in students was in the area of self-reported grades/student expectation (goal setting, student led discussions, peer to peer feedback) and collective teacher efficacy (highly effective teams that plan for the why, focusing on thoughtful literacy-rich work including questioning, student led discussion and data driven decisions).

I came across a brief article while doing more research on this matter of student self-reported grades/student expectation and collective teacher efficacy. It is a great article that mirrors our conversations about growth mindset and that the teacher matters...

The article entitled: "John Hattie's Eight Mind Frames for Teachers" was a great read. As we continue to fine tune, monitor our progress and grow together, this is an excellent read that aligns with our next steps.

Where do you find yourself as you read these eight mind frames? What in your thinking aligns with Hattie's work? What do you find yourself pondering or being challenged to think differently?

Please post your thoughts and ideas below!

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Happiness Hypocrite

This is a confession of sorts. I watched Shawn Achor's Ted Talk "The Happy Secret to Better Work".  I think of myself as a relatively happy person. I can see the positive in a lot of situations. So, I just kept doing what I have always done.

When we returned on January 2nd I actually wrote three things I was grateful for for a few days. I even had a situation during those few days that led to one of my three things where I needed to get a hold of Shaunda Garrison, our Math Coordinator. Every time I planned to call something else would need my attention. At 5:05pm I was in a position to call... knowing as I dialed that she was gone. To my surprise, she answered the phone. She cheerfully and teasingly told me how lucky I was to have caught her. I quickly responded, "I am so glad I did, in fact you are going to be one of my three things I am grateful for today!" We laughed and finished the conversation having the information I needed and the side benefit of a smile on my face and bringing happiness to another individual. In that moment I was grasping the "Happy Secret." However it didn't last. I quickly resumed my old approach of doing what I have always done. I was a Happiness Hypocrite.

I became aware I was a Happiness Hypocrite one evening after a very long day. My kids could tell by the look on my face and the weariness in my voice it had been "one of those days." My wise-beyond-her-years fourteen year old, turned the tables on me and used one of my classic mom "tell me about your day" techniques. She challenged me, asking, "Mom, what is one good thing about your day?" I first laughed, because I realized what she was doing, and then second, paused... a very long pause. I couldn't think of anything. I had let the day and the things that had occurred determine my happiness. I did finally come up with one thing, but in that moment I realized, I didn't have the "Happy Secret" and I was a Happiness Hypocrite. This HAD TO CHANGE!!!

An article I recently read "Is There a Happiness Advantage for Schools?" there is a quote from Shawn Achor that shifted my thinking. He states, "Happiness is not the belief that we don't need to change. It is the realization we can. Happiness and optimism are the precursors to success, not merely the result." It hit me... we have to have happiness to get there, it isn't what we do that generates the happiness. Happiness happens in spite of the situation... Happiness is what drives our hope, our belief and our "never give up" determination with our students.

After re-watching the Ted Talk and reflecting on the brief moment where I grasped the "Happy Secret" I began to wonder. I thought about how, as a campus, we started 2016-17 challenging the staff with the "Growth Mindset" based on Carol Dweck's work that was presented by Nicole Covarelli and Susanna Craig. What would happen if we, as a campus, did the 21 Day challenge mentioned by Shawn Achor in his Ted Talk? What would it hurt to try?

So my challenge to you all is to do the 21 Day Challenge. Every day starting this week (starting Sunday 1/15, Monday 1/16 or Tuesday 1/17) write down three things you are grateful for at the end of the day until February 4th-ish (depending on when you start). This is not required, but if someone makes your list on one of the days, share that with them... it will make you smile and I guarantee it will brighten their day!

If you are already doing this... awesome you may already have the "Happy Secret." The rest of us will be joining you soon.

As I have heard so many times in education, "Make it a great day or not. The choice is yours!"

I know what my choice will be! #happiness #21dayhappinesschallenge

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Moments that Make Change...

It is the time of year that there is a buzz in the air. Santa is coming, the hint of a chance of snow is every dropping degree, and it there is the mid-year testing. It can bring out the best and the worst in us all.

Many of you have had to dig deep into your behavior strategies, look up the notes from information shared earlier in the fall from our behavior interventionist, and problem solved with your team and the administration team. You all are working hard and we see it.

It idea hit this week in one particular conversation. The teacher was sharing how the student was always sharing out personal stories during openings or closings that did not pertain to the lesson. It was causing distractions and the rest of the students would get off course. It might even carry over, if that student didn't get to continue to share out, into other areas and behaviors would escalate. The comment that caused a light bulb to go off is when the teacher said, "He just is starving for my undivided attention." At that moment the article that was shared over a year ago came flooding back into my mind... the "2X10 Strategy." I shared the idea with the teacher to use in concert with an incentive/behavior chart.

Here is the article:

Since that conversation earlier in the week, that student has had more success than set-backs. As we push forward with resolve... what can we do to continue to invest? Who is your 2X10 kid that you think of as you read this article? How can a plan be put in place now or start when you return in 2017 to create a positive shift in momentum for our students? Now is the perfect time to recharge and adjust.