Teachers as Leaders

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell

A few years ago I wrote a blog post called, 10 Ways to Build Teacher Leaders.  I feel it is such as important topic, I wanted to add to it because enhancing teacher leadership can help schools and districts with:

  1. Improve teacher quality
  2. Improve student learning
  3. Provide opportunities for professional growth

Teacher leaders assume a wide range of roles to support school or districts. Some roles that teachers can take to become teacher leaders:

  1. Instructional Coach
  2. Mentors
  3. Professional Learning Specialist
  4. Data Coach
  5. Lab Teacher

To recognize all teachers, here are some ideas to try that can help build teacher leaders:

Super Teacher of the Week: Each week at staff meetings, one teacher is recognized as “Super Teacher of the Week” based on nominations from other staff members. Their nomination is read out loud at the staff meeting. Reward: They’re given a superhero pin to wear all week.

Teacher Shout Outs: Celebrate teachers accomplishments and/or failures to show it is okay to take risks.  Reward: Shout outs are given at staff meetings. If you have sponsors or PTA, gift cards are a nice perk.

Above-and-beyond the Call of Duty: This recognition would go to a teacher that went above and beyond the regular job requirements. Reward: You can take a teacher’s duty for a day.

Spotlight on Support: Establish a bulletin board in the workroom that ‘spotlights’ a different support staff each month. This would be a way to recognize TA’s, Custodians, Bus Drivers, etc. Reward: Hang a bucket or envelope from the bulletin board where staff can fill out notes to recognize that support staff member for his/her special talents etc.

Other teacher leadership resources:

Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders

The Many Faces of Leadership

 

 

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“Learning is an experience. Everything else is just information.” By Albert Einstein

Over the last few years micro-credentialing and badging have been buzz words in the education world. Yet if you look closely into what micro-credential and badges are; they have the potential to transform what professional learning for educators looks like. 

Micro-credentialing recognizes educators for the skills they learn in order to build learning experiences for their students. The perks of micro-credentialing includes the ability to have choice, pace and personal growth needs met. School districts can use micro-credentialing to provide incentives for educators to deepen their knowledge. Badges are the physical representation received once proficiency is met. 

Digital Promise is leading the way in Micro-credentialing and have characteristics  that distinguish the micro-credentialing approach from traditional professional development systems:

  • Competency-based: Micro-credentials allow educators to focus on a discrete skill related to their practice — for instance, checking for student understanding — and collect the evidence — such as classroom videos or student work to demonstrate ability in that specific skill.
  • On-demand: Through an agile online platform that clearly identifies each micro-credential’s competency and required evidence, educators can start and continue the process of earning micro-credentials on their own time. (Our district currently using Canvas to build our virtual courses)
  • Personalized: Because educators are able to select the micro-credentials they wish to earn, they can create their own professional learning journey aligned to their specific student needs and school-wide instructional goals.

Currently in my school district we have been using micro-credentials in isolation by department. For example, the Personalized Learning Department has a set of badges while ESL has a different set. This was a great start to micro-credentialing but we came across a few barriers such as:

  • Each department criteria was very different. If we continued working in isolation we realized the badges would not mean as much because they would lose their “value”. How do we build expectations to meet all department needs?
  • Each department was grading their micro-credential course work but some departments are smaller than others. How do we scale micro-credentialing to meet district needs?
  • Teachers are required to be continuous learners to renew licensure. How can we connect micro-credentials to credits without it being compliant?

In order to help overcome these issue and barriers, our district created a micro-credentialing steering committee. The steering committees goal is to unify the requirements, build consistency and sustainability for all educators in our district.

I hope our experience can help those that have not yet started with micro-credentialing learn from our mistakes. I would love to hear what other districts are doing with micro-credentialing so we can learn from your experiences. Please share in the comments below.

 

100 Word Challenge

“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.” By Ayn Rand

I first heard about the 100 Word Challenge on Twitter and thought it was an awesome idea. The 100 Word Challenge is a free weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16 created by Julia Skinner.  Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and students can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. You can learn more about the 100 Word Challenge here.

I have helped teachers implement this concept in their classrooms different way; so I thought I would share a few ways as one of the ideas might fit your classroom.

  1. Have a picture up on the board for morning work each day or during transitions if you are in secondary. If you don’t want to do it everyday, some teachers have “Moment Mondays” where they participate in this concept. It is a great way to also bring in global relevance and/or current events.
  2. Use an image to open a new unit (such as the one below, I have used to open up the  water cycle unit) and or close out a unit.
  3. When you finish a lesson early, have a few pictures ready to use. Or have a folder of pictures for students to chose from when students finish their work early so they can be working on it.
  4. Use as a fun homework assignment. I am not a fan of homework (read previous blog post: Why I don’t give homework anymore) but some schools have policies that teachers have to give homework and this is a meaningful and purposeful homework that allows for students to be creative and critically think.
  5. I have used this as a way to start off Professional Development. I tweak it by saying 100 characters vs words.  I have them create a Tweet or caption of the photo as they are walking in. This gets the participants to start thinking about the topic through their lens.

*For younger grade such as K-1, you can have them do a 10 word challenge.

It doesn’t have to be a paragraph story but you can change it up and have the students write a 100 word song, poem or letter etc or even better let them chose! The main focus is to integrate creating writing through critical thinking (hence the 100 word rule).

Here are some picture examples and/or ones you can use to help get you stated.

clous

frog

boy

sun:moon

Giraffe-Leap-Frog

* Make sure to always use an image that has a creative commons license, which means you are free to copy it/share along one that is appropriate for the age level you teacher.

“Design is how you make your first impression with your consumers. Make sure it is a lasting one.” By Jay Samit

Tired of using the same old templates. Why not create your own! Below I give you step by step directions so you can create your own Google Slide templates in only a few minutes. Make them for your classroom, meetings or professional developments!

  1. Start by opening a new Google presentation and choose the “Simple Light” template.
  2. Decide what image/design you want for your template. For example, I am creating a template for a Google Training I am doing; so I am going to use the colors of Google as my background!
    • Tip: I like creating my images/designs in Google Drawing as it is FREE. Once I finish my image/design then I click on File, Download As, PNG. I can then later upload the image for my background.
  3. In your Google Slide template, click on View and then “Master”.
  4. Then click on rename at the top of the slide and name it based on what fits best for you. 
  5. Next click on the master slide and background. Here you can choose your color or upload the background you created from Google Drawing.
    • Tip: If you would like to change the fonts, this is a good time to do it because you will only have to change it in the Master slide verse changing each slide.
  6. To exit, click on the X in the top right corner and you are done!!

My Master Google Slide Template

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Working Smarter, Not Harder

“Time is what we want most, but…what we use the worse. ” William Penn

It is always nice to work smarter, not harder so below I am sharing a few tips and tricks that I have learned to help me work smarter, not harder.

  1. Unroll Me:  Connects to your email and you can unroll from subscription emails so you stop getting junk mail.
  2. Google Alerts: Google will send you emails about topics you are interested in and based on the frequency you set. I sent mine for once a day.
  3. Tweetdeck: I use this to schedule out tweets throughout the week, especially #21stedchat reminders.
  4. Google Keep: I use this application multiple times a day because it works on all devices. I use it as my to do list but I also use it to share notes/ideas with others. I love that you can collaborate with it, pin important notes to the top, set reminders etc. It holds my life together. 🙂
  5. Critical List: Each morning I look at my schedule and to-do list. On a sticky note (Google Keep) I pull out all the critically important things I have to get done that day. This allows me to manage my time and prioritize keep tasks.

I would also love to hear your tips and tricks for working smarter not harder.

“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.” by William Crawford

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Recently my team and I challenged ourselves to create a face to face, self-paced professional learning experience. Why? For two reasons, we wanted to show how we take risks, like we are asking of the educators we support and also because from what we knew it had never been done before yet it mirrors a personalized learning classroom.

We first decided on what our objectives would be for the learning experience; as this allowed for us to backwards design our content. Our objectives were:

  • Teachers would be able to gain knowledge about personalized learning environments through active learning
  • Teachers would be able to identify the differences between game-based learning, gamification and how they can also fit together through a modeled experience.

We then designed content such as the why behind game based learning and gamification. After we finished all the content pieces we went back and added the fun! Our theme was “Let the Games Begin…” and we created different missions that highlighted our different content objectives. We created a Hyperdoc to host our content into missions. Each mission allowed participants to earn points (and level up) which created the gamification portion of the learning experience. Our missions were: 

Mission 1: Entering the UnKnown – During this time they learned how the learning experience was set up and what to expect. They also completed a self assessment to see what type of gamer they were.

Mission 2: Understanding the Why: During this mission the participants learned about game based and gamification learning.

Mission 3: Mission Control Station: During this mission, participants experienced four different game based learning activities which had content about personalized learning.

Mission 4: Transformation: During this mission the participants self reflected on how they could use the things they learned and apply it to their classroom.

We transformed the room into the different mission stations with balloons and signs to guide them. We played mission control music throughout the professional learning experience as we facilitated if there was any questions.

The participants LOVED the training, as we did as well. It was a lot of front loading but during the training it was smooth sailing! We will do this again but we will make a few tweaks. One tweak would be during mission three, some of the games would also review the content from mission two verse only being personalized learning content. The second tweak would be to set up mission two away from the music because it was hard for the participants without ear-buds to hear the video content.

We look forward to making more self paced, professional learning experiences and we hope you do as well. It not only models what you want to see in the classroom but it also allows participants to critical thinking, communicate, collaborate and self-reflect.

 

“Curriculum tells you what to teach, but doesn’t tell you HOW you have to, make the shift to the 21st century learning environment.” by Stacy Behmer

Digital learning is when instructional practices is coupled with technology. It can work in any grade and subject as it is a way of learning, not a type of learning. Digital learning encompasses digital tools and content, along with practices such as eLearning and blended learning. Digital learning has the potential to increase opportunities to personalize the learning for the diverse needs of our classrooms.

In order to create a successful digital learning classroom environment there are a few strategies that will help you:

  1. Start with one digital learning tool, content or practice then master it before moving on. For example, using digital assessment offers students and teachers real time data allowing teachers to use data to drive instruction.
  2. Choose digital tools that allow students to be active, engaged and use higher order thinking skills such as iMovie, Toontastic or podcasts.
  3. Identify student digital leaders so students have someone to go to when they need help besides the teacher. You can create digital student leaders daily, weekly or monthly but allowing students to also be digital experts in the room builds stronger classroom culture.

 

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