“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. ” By Benjamin Franklin

learn-64058_640

The research on professional development shows that the older “drive‐by” workshop model does not work. We also know that no two people learn the same way;  yet many of us do not change the way we provide instruction for students nor professional development for teachers. 

Just as we personalize education for students, we must also personalizing professional learning for adults. Notice I said professional learning, this is because I want to make a clear distinction between professional development and professional learning because to me, PD is a one and done verse professional learning improves educators professional knowledge, competence, skill and effectiveness. 

Best practices for personalized professional learning closely parallels best practices for personalized learning for students. There are three key pieces we should be doing with professional learning opportunities for educators:

  1. Content: We need to relate the content to the classroom/school just like we relate content to real world for students as this is an educators ‘real world’. We also need to provide the learning goal and how it relates to the educator. For example explaining how it connects to their teacher evaluation.
  2.  Data and Feedback: We need to meet educators where they are and we can use data to do that. Having educators take a pre-assessment on the topic of the professional learning will allow the educator to start where they should. Educators should also be able to ‘test out’ of professional learning opportunities if they can show mastery of the skill, competence etc.
  3. Learning Environment: We need to rethink time, duration, and frequency of professional learning. Professional learning should be continuous and ongoing, involving follow‐up and support meeting the teacher where they are in their teaching craft. Educators should have the option/choice of face to face, virtual or blended professional learning opportunities so they can learn in their best environment.

Here is an example of professional learning based on these three key pieces. If you want educators to learn about morning meeting you need to have a goal for the content: Example – I will be able to effectively implement Morning Meeting into my classroom. This correlates to standard II of the North Carolina Evaluation. Then you need to provide the option of allowing educators to show they have mastered this topic. This can be done multiple ways for example they can provide a video of them implementing morning meeting or they can have someone do an observation while they are conducting a morning meeting. For the educators that don’t ‘test out’ we need need to have a pre-assessment to see where educators are in their understanding of morning meeting.  We need to use this data to place educators in the correct professional learning path based on their needs.

Next week I will share some of the other ways we can reframe the paradigm for professional learning!

 

“Most schools have been designed to solve yesterday’s problems, rather than capitalizing on Today’s Opportunities to Effectively confront the issues of tomorrow.” Unknown

arrow

In order to help Personalized Learning (PL) grow in schools and districts we must try to remove the barriers that challenge those we serve. To do this well, it is always great to do a barrier protocol so that we can be pro-active. Many times we get stuck in what we have always done so it is great to ask others. Here is my previous blog post on barrier protocol and below are some PL barriers and how to overcome them: 

  • Funding: Yes, is it nice to have money to help fund PL but you can do it on a very little budget.
    • We should look closely at what we already have in our schools and districts and ask ourselves: How might we change what we have to be more of a student-driven learning environment? For example you can utilize the teacher leaders in your building that are already trying to move to a more PL environment by having them lead PD on how they implemented ____ (fill in blank). For example if a teacher started with changing their learning environment with furniture and students choosing their seating, let them do a PD on how they did it. Utilize the other people in your building such as facilitators by having them coach teachers to change their craft to a more student-driven environment.
    • To often we think we need funding for PL because we have to get devices for the students but we can start small until the funding is there because technology is a tool to help but PL can be done without technology.
    • Look at other funding sources besides the school/district budget such as grants, PTA and/or fundraisers. Have you tried: GetEdFunding, Go Fund Me Education or these grants.
  • It is overwhelming or it won’t work with ____: We need get to the root cause of what is being said is overwhelming or won’t work. For example I often hear time is a reason that it is overwhelming or won’t work. When you start getting to the root cause of time it is usually because individual/teams are not maximize their time. For example, planning is one area many educators do not use their time wisely. Setting an agenda is helpful to stay on task and not end up talking about what you did over the weekend or what you are going to do over the weekend etc. Also dividing and conquering tasks by standards. For example have one teacher come up with three tasks for 6.EE.1 and someone else 6.EE.2  and share resources. Work smarter, not harder! To also make sure it does not get overwhelming, educators should take small action steps to make the changes to a student driven/PL Environment.
  • We don’t have buy-in with teachers: You might never get consensus but you will have momentum. To help educators have buy-in explain the WHY we need PL. The current structure of the school day is obsolete. Created during the Industrial Age, the assembly line system we have in place now has little relevance to what we know kids actually need to thrive. If education leaders refuse to evaluate and stay in touch with students need our institution will fail, just like businesses that don’t keep up with changing customers. 
  • We don’t have buy-in with parents: Explain the why to parents helps too but other ways you can get buy-in with parents is by having them be apart of the process. Another way is by address misconceptions parents might have such as students at the computer all day doing Khan videos. Helping parents understand and letting them seeing how that is not the case can be done by having parent tours of your school building and parent workshops on PL.
  • It is one more thing to do: There are a few ways to address this barrier:
    1. PL should not be an add-on but a replacement. For example: Instead of you leading a student conferring/conference, replace that with letting the student led it.
    2. Start by showing educators what they are doing well in their room that meets the PL philosophy such as if they are already allowing students to goal set or reflect.

Try to remove barriers and constraints to allow for innovation and change. We need to move beyond compliance and break the silos, be the change you wish to see!

“Our current landscape of education: People are making decisions about our profession, who have not been in our profession.” by Benjamin Shuldiner

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to ASCD #Empower17 Conference. This conference is always a favorite because not only do I get to meet up with my ASCD Emerging Leaders, Authors and other educators from around the world but I ALWAYS learn new things. Here are my top take-aways from the conference in no particular order:

1. Students at the Center by Carol Ann Tomlinson (ie Differentiation Guru)

Carol Ann believes in Personalized Learning( PL) and that it is not the same as differentiation! I know what you are thinking, this is not something that you learned as you have been saying this for years but what was new was hearing it from her mouth! She also stated many other facts that I have been saying but was nice to hear such as:

  • Technology is not the answer, relationships are!
  • PL requires effective teaching first!
  • The teacher is not the keeper of the knowledge but the facilitator of resources and should support the students needs to reach mastery!

*The aha moment I did have in her session was when she said: “Changing schools is hard. I have been teaching, training and talking about differentiation for 20 years and many educators still don’t understand it. PL is going to take years for all educators to understand as well.” 

2. PL with Habits Of Mind by Allison Zmuda and Bena Kalick

I always go to Allison Zmuda’s session even though she’s now a friend and educational though partner that I talk to often because I always learn something new.

  • Life does not work on a pacing guide…neither should a classroom.
  • Don’t wait until the end product for expert feedback. Provide this support when students still have time to learn, play and explore.
  • Average teachers teach until the student gets it right. Above average teachers teach until the student can’t get it wrong.

3. Creating Schools that Work for Kids’ presented by Eric Sheninger.

Eric has a book that recently came out called UnCommon Learning: Creating Schools That Work for Kids, but I have not read it. I did learn:

  • Focus on the what ifs, not the yea buts.
  • Unless you get instructional design right, technology can only increase the speed and certainty of failure. by William Horton (so true and good reminder)

4. 5 Teacher Behaviors That Prepare Students to Lead by Tammy Musiowsky

Tammy asked great reflective questions to help educators think about their practice:

  • What is a behavior of yours that limits the student-led potential in your classroom?
  • How do your students know you trust them? If your students know you trust them, how does this allow them to take a greater ownership of their classroom?
  • What is something you learned recently while working with your students?
  • How explicitly and consistently do you name the skill students are working on?

5. Other great blog posts, resources and tweets from #Empower17:

  • I learned about Bluford Series – great books to add into a classroom library for secondary students.

    All things are difficult before they are easy. – Thomas Fuller 

  • Resources for Effective Student Feedback
  • Tweets:
    • Don’t let a program dictate a child’s needs, let the child’s needs dictate the program.”  – @DinaBrulles
    • You’ve got to be in the classrooms everyday, or you can’t improve their performance! Both Ts and Ss. via @ToddWhitaker

    • “Learning isn’t personal if every student is an island in the classroom.” via @thomascmurray

    • Student Voice is not an event, a class period, or something cute to do. It is a WAY OF BEING! via @DrRussQ

 

Why I Blog…

“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” By Voltaire

I often get asked, “Why do you blog?” and my answer is because I like to help other educators while also reflecting on my own learning.  I started blogging in 2011 and over the last few months I have been starting to wonder, ‘should I keep blogging?’

Blogging takes a lot of time, dedication and I have been doing it for over five years. I started wondered if I should be putting that time into something else. I decided to go back to my roots, look at my vision and think about what have I gained through my blogging experience.

Original Vision: To collaborate with educators to make a difference in education through improving methods and reflecting. I want to seek new perspectives, take risks and continue to pursue my passions of curriculum and instruction, technology and 21st century learning.

Upon reflection I decided I have met my vision and I have also gained:

  1. Meeting amazing people that I have collaborated with on projects such as with Dr. Will, along with other guest bloggers like Kenny McKee.
  2. Gained new ideas from readers through the comments
  3. It has made me a more creative thinker
  4. It has also held me accountable to practice what I preach: Share your knowledge, don’t keep it to yourself, help better others!
  5. It has been a “professional learning” experience for myself. When I don’t have a topic in mind, I find myself reading other blogs, tweets etc that spark my thinking or force me to learn something new that I might have put off with ‘I don’t have time for that’.
  6. I have over 6,750 followers and my thought process was, even if one of my readers changes their teaching craft, that is making a difference in education, right? Then last week I received an email from a friend that said: “You continue to have such an influence. This is from an elementary school principal who used your blog post to generate conversation. Thought you would like to read their comments.”

The Principal wrote:

I shared another blog post (Getting Started with Personalized Learning by Jill Thompson) with my staff to spark an electronic reflective conversation.
Here are some of their thoughts and my insights on where we are in our journey.
My take: nervous but realizing they are doing it and generating more excitement/momentum!

I read each and every one of the teachers responses, which were all very thought provoking. I believe everything happens for a reason and this email solidified that I need to keep blogging, not only for myself, but to help inspire others!

 

“The essence of mathematics lies in its freedom.” by Georg Cantor

Math.jpg

A few weeks ago I wrote, Five Must Have Literacy Books to Add to Your Shelf and was asked by many educators what do I like for Math. Below are five of my favorite books (in no particular order) to help improve math instruction.

  1. Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching by Jo Boaler

  2. Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning  by John A. Hattie, Douglas B. Fisher, Nancy Frey 

  3. Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All by NCTM

  4. What’s Math Got to Do with It?: How Teachers and Parents Can Transform Mathematics Learning and Inspire Success by Jo Boaler

  5. Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding by Cathy Humphreys, Ruth Parker

If there is a math book you think that should be added to this list, please add it in the comments section, as I am always wanting to build my toolkit and book list.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun” Mary Lou Cook

NCTIES is one of my favorite conference each year. I love learning new things and sparking new ideas to share with others. Here are 10 new tools I learned about that I have not used before but will be using in the classroom: (These are in no particular order)

  1. Quick, Draw:  This is a game built with machine learning. You draw, and a neural network tries to guess what you’re drawing. The machine guessed 4/6 of my drawings.
  2. Bloxels for Kids: This is an innovative video game development platform that allows you to create your own video games. I love that it is created by kids for kids.
  3. Sutori:  This is a place students can create their own digital story timelines.
  4. Post it Plus App: Take a picture of the post-its that you were using to brainstorm/collaborate and save it as a picture. You can then later rearrange or add to it.
  5. Phonto: Add text to photo’s…so many great ways to use this in the classroom.
  6. Quizalize: Similar to Kahoot but what I like about more is students can take it at their own pace. 
  7. Vizia: This site makes a quiz from any video, sends answers to a spreadsheet!
  8. Inklewriter: Create your own choose your adventure story. 
  9. OpeneBooks: This site, once you create an account, offers free ebooks for students.
  10. Teach Your Monster to Read: This site is great for the younger students and ESL students.

*Bonus: Richard Byrne shared all his presentation slides here from the conference as well.

Today I have for you an amazing guest blogger….the fantastic Danielle Springs, an outstanding educator and a life long learner! 

In this blog post I am going to share with you the importance of the awareness of our words when interacting with our students, and the significance of strong teacher and student relationships.

Let’s start with strong relationships. When I reflect on my years as a student in the public education system, I notice one common trend: my life was positively impacted by the teachers who took the time to build genuine relationships with me and my peers. These teachers were the same ones who used their words in a positive manner and encouraged me and made me want to come to school. Initially, this is the exact reason why I became a teacher; I’m in it for the children. They matter. Their voices matter, their choices matter, and their feelings matter. If you are familiar with Personalized Learning, then you know that my advocacy of strong relationships directly aligns.

As an educator, I make it my priority to intentionally build strong relationships. I am fortunate to teach at a school and in a school district that places relationships and students above all. I make a point to build relationships and not force them.  Eventually,  it  becomes to natural and second nature that I build them without even knowing.  I am going to talk with you today about some of the ways, big and small, that I strengthen the relationships I have with my students.

First and foremost, I stand outside of my classroom door each and every morning greeting my students. You will not find me sitting at my desk preparing for the day ahead or grading papers. I greet each student with a hug, a warm smile, and cheerful “good morning!”. I also take this time to greet their siblings if they are walking past my room to their classes, greet students in other grade levels, and participate in secret handshakes that the student create with and for me. I ask them if they had a good morning preparing for school… and sometimes, the answers surprise me. For example, most of the time, their mornings are routine and the same. Other times, they wake up late, forget to eat breakfast, or feel frazzled, sometimes they are simply “still tired!”. Knowing this is very important to me. I can take it into consideration if I notice any changes in their usual behaviors throughout the day. This is one small step in building relationships that any teacher can easily implement.

When the bell rings every morning at 8:15, we begin our morning meeting. I cannot stress the importance of this opportunity to build your classroom culture, which directly relates to your relationships with students.  I allow students to choose topics that we discuss, share their personal lives, and express their interests or concerns. I encourage collaboration and stake my claim for the importance of taking academic risks. We participate in team building activities and set goals as a class and as individuals.. We do all of this together, and learn how to encourage one another along the way. I encourage you to listen to Podcast number 17 for more information on building classroom culture through morning meetings.

Another simple way to build your relationships is to spend time with your students at recess.  I rotate throughout the week the areas in which I spend my recess time. Not only am I observing and actively watching the students play, I am also a participant. I engage in games of kickball either as a player or the referee, I play four square and make my way around the court from joker to king, I take nature walks to our big Oak Tree, I play gaga ball, and other times I simply walk around and students crowd around me asking me to either talk or play a game. I have students who walk up to me at the beginning of the school day and say “will you please play with me at recess this afternoon??” I see this carry over into the classroom and my bond with each student as an individual grow and strengthen.

Another subtle way to build relationships is to encourage and seek out my students so that their voices are heard. I do not create a pathway without student input. I make it a point to incorporate choices, videos, activities, and assignments that the students ask for. I intentionally place topics on pathways or embed them into my lessons that I know students are interested in and can relate to. I want my students to know our classroom is a community and is truly their room- not mine.  I also stay true to my word. If I tell a student I will have something ready for them tomorrow, then I do it, even if I remember just as a place my head down in bed at night to go to sleep. It is important to not make empty statements, even if they are trivial in our minds. This builds trust and stability.

I also want to encourage each and every educator who is listening to not be afraid to share with students about your personal life and your feelings. If I forget to do something or make a mistake, I tell them right away. I am open and I am honest. I share stories about my personal life all the time. My students feel as if they know my family on a first name basis, because I make it a point to be an open book.  This trust and vulnerability will allow for a two way street of communication and thus building your relationships.

I mentioned previously that we can build relationships in subtle ways at school, but I also want to mention about one way that I have strengthened my relationships with my students outside of school. I intentionally send out surveys to my parents and students at the beginning and end of each school year. I use surveys provided by the author of one of my favorite books, “Passionate Learners” by Pernille Ripp. I highly recommend every teacher to read it, especially if you are implementing Personalized Learning. The beginning of year school survey is beneficial for many reasons, one which includes the parents and students speaking on behalf of student interests and out of school activities. As a teacher I have attended soccer games, basketball games, baseball games, swim meets, and gymnastics competitions. One of my favorite moments this school year was at a baseball game I attended for one of my boys. He stepped up to bat and on the first pitch, he hit the ball to the fence. This led to a home run! Instead of heading straight to the dugout as he waited for the next batter, he sprinted through the dugout and headed straight for me. He gave me the biggest hug and told me that it meant the world to him that I was at the game and was able to witness this moment. Our relationship has been exceptional ever since. He knows I care about him and love him, and this is so much more impactful than solely focusing on academics.

The last point I want to make is that as educators we need to be intentional of the way in which we speak to our students. In the book, “Choice Words”,  by Peter H. Johnston writes this: “To me, the most humbling parts of observing accomplished teachers is seeing the ways in which they build emotionally and relationally healthy learning communities- intellectual environments that produce not mere technical competence, but caring, secure, actively literate human beings.”

Our words matter. I encourage all educators to pick up a copy of “Choice Words” by Peter H. Johnston. It reminds us that our language affects children’s learning. If a student is struggling with a concept, we need to be careful of the way in which we approach our corrections. If we address the area of their needs in a positive light, there is a greater chance that the student will not be discouraged, thus continuing to build on our relationships and their progress academically. For example, I am thinking of a student I previously taught that was reading several grade levels below proficiency. During a research reading conference, I asked her to read her book out loud for me to hear. She read a sentence and replaced a key word with an incorrect word. When she was finished, she looked up at me. She expressed that it did not sound right, but that she could not figure out what the sentence said. There are several ways that I could have approached this. I could have told her the answer. I could have made her try again. I could have asked her to keep going. But, instead, I asked her this- “Why do you think that the sentence doesn’t make sense?” and “What can you do to help you figure out the meaning of this word?” Once we went through strategies together,  I told her that I was proud of the way SHE figured that out. If you notice- I did not take credit for giving her the answer. I let her work through it, only providing her tools. I celebrated her ability to figure out the unknown word. I celebrated her ability to read. I chose my words wisely and I allowed this teaching moment to build on our relationship while encouraging her to be a reader. Peter H. Johnston writes about a similar scenario that occurred and I encourage you to read “Choice Words” for more.  In reading conferences and in other situations throughout the school day, we find ourselves with opportunities to correct students and choosing our words is vital in all situations.

Let’s think about a time when a student may have become quickly frustrated in the classroom and acted upon his or her frustrations, I might say “What can I do to help?” or “What are your next steps?” rather than immediately correcting the behaviors and actions. This shows that I am going to support him or her in making a decision, rather than being a dictator. It is important for students to know that they are able to have feelings- and this includes frustrated feelings as well. We must celebrate their ability to express their frustrations and help them find solutions and ways to move forward.

The last thing I want to leave you with is this: there will never be a student of mine who goes home at the end of the day without knowing he or she is loved by me. I tell each and every student daily that I love them and care for them- and then I prove my words through my actions. I encourage all educators to do the same. Build your relationships. Love your students endlessly. Watch them grow both emotionally and as a result, academically.

 

%d bloggers like this: