“Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” By Mattie Stepanek
Traveling across the country and working with districts I get to witness, interact and work with many different teams. I have started noticing a pattern no matter if the districts are large, with many schools, or if it is a district that is small with three schools, the way they work together is all the same.
The Cabinet level has an idea of how to improve X in their district. They inform the central office departments that need to know the information, then the central office tells the principals who inform the school building. This style of delivery chain works in silos yet we know based on Hattie’s work, collective efficacy has the highest effect on student achievement, so why are we still working in silos this way?
I believe that we need to create Professional Learning Teams (PLT) for different topics/initiatives that work together cross-functionally. PLTs would work similarly like PLCs would such as designing together, analyzing data, creating action steps and allowing everyone to have a voice. For example, if a district goal is implementing personalized learning, they should create a PLT of multiple stakeholders and move the work forward together.
By doing this, you break silos, have clearer communication of delivery chains and one person doesn’t own all the content knowledge. Teams continually build trust, learn together and challenge the status quo in order to do what is best for all students.
I would love to hear your thoughts or ideas, add them to the comments.
“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.” By Orhan Pamuk
If you have been reading my blog you know I LOVE to read! If you haven’t been reading my blog, you now know. I like to share the books I read with others because I am a believer in knowledge is power and that we all need to work together. I usually share my book recommendations about three times a year. Here is my Fall edition in no particular order.
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
- This book explains how you can become a Kick-Ass boss to build sound relationships, achieve results, and create a better workplace. This is not a typical education book which is why I like it even better because it has so many great ideas we can apply to education sector.
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- This book changed my life. I have not only improved my habits but I have been using the formula with educators all over the country to help change classroom habits that we either need to build or change.
- The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Health
- Moments shape our lives; this book discusses how we can create impactful moments for others. As educators creating moments for students is a lot of what we do but how can we make these moments more impactful. This book share lots of ideas ands I guarantee will spark some new ideas for you.
- Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone
- Feedback builds personal and professional growth. Feedback is a difficult conversation for both the giver and the receiver. This book discusses the three feedback triggers and the three things you need to give effective feedback.
- Personalized Professional Learning: A Job-Embedded Pathway for Elevating Teacher Voice by Allison Rodman
- Learn how to transform existing professional development programs into innovative, empowering learning experiences that meet staff’s real needs and align with school and district priorities. A must read!
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Another book about habits that I have enjoyed and learned a lot from! This book explains more about why habits exist and how we can change them.
- Liminal Thinking Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think
by Dave Gray
- I am a big advocate for how we in education need to think differently. This book explains nine practices of how to change our thinking so we can change the world.
- Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
- This book is about how to influence others by letting them steal from your ideas. In education we need to do a better job of sharing what we know and our work to help others and spark ideas. This book does a great job of sharing how to do this without being a self-promoter. From the author same author of Steal Like an Artist that I have mentioned in previous book recommendations and don’t be surprised to see his third book in the next recommendation list!
The book I am most excited about (and already pre-ordered) is coming out this Fall: The NEW Team Habits: A Guide to The New School Rules by
I would love to hear any book recommendations you have, please share in the comments. Happy Reading!
“Changes call for innovation, and innovation leads to progress.” By Li Keqiang
I had a goal that I wanted teachers to see technology tools as not as a another thing but how it could enhance lessons. Previously, I would tell educators that technology was a tool but I realized that wasn’t working. I decide to change my thinking and SHOW them HOW technology could be a tool. This is where my idea for creating a digital learning playground came from. I wanted to share my experience so that other schools or districts could build one too.
- Find a space where you could house the technology in a “showroom” type of atmosphere.
- We chose to create ours in our Professional Development Center in a classroom.
- Create a list of technology tools that you think teachers would like to utilize in the classroom.
- We started our list with items we knew some schools already had but did not know what to do with; they had purchased them because they “looked” fun such as Spheros.
- Start to contact technology companies to see if they would donate their technology tool to your playground; understanding the return could potentially be that teachers/schools would purchase the technology for their classroom.
- Not many technology companies donated but it was a good place to start
- As donations came in and while you make purchases, learn how the technology tool works and start to build lesson plans that incorporate standards.
- We played with the tools to learn them and then created lesson plans based on NC standards for all different grade levels and subjects.
- When educators visit the room allow them to play with the resources and see the lesson plans that connect to the curriculum.
- We created a schedule to allow teachers to know the times the room would be open. We also created a professional development around the tools and soon had a smaller digital playground “on the go” (via a bin) so we could recreate the room at different schools when giving PD. We also created guidelines to help educators design their own learning experience when they came to the room.
- Tweet out what we you are doing.
- Tweeting allowed us to “shout out” the companies that donated along with helping other educators see how the technology tools were being used in classrooms.
- Example of products in a Digital Learning Playground, but not limited too:
“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” By John C. Maxwell
Choice boards are graphic organizers that comprise of different amounts of squares and each square is an activity based on a standard. Choice Boards enhance student motivation and engagement in the classroom because students are provided with the “choice” of they want to practice a standard. Below are steps for how to create a choice board:
Step 1- Standards: Decide on what standard you want to create the choice board on. Example: 1.OA.1, 5.NF.1 or 7.EE.1
Step 2- Format: Decide what type of choice board you are going to make, ie how many squares are you going to have? One thing to think about is how long do you want this choice board to be for. For example if it is for one week, then I would pick 6 boxes so students can pick one box per day and still have a choice between two tasks on Friday.
Step 3- Tasks: Create a task (per square) that align to the standard. If you have taught this standard before, pull all the tasks you have done for that standard. Review the tasks to make sure that the tasks are both rigorous and relevant. If the tasks are keep them, if they are not, ask yourself; can I tweak the task to make it better? If so, make the tweaks to improve the task and if not throw the task out as there is no need to keep it.
Step 4- Build: Take all the tasks for that one standard you created and add them to the format that you choose.
Here are some examples of standards based choice boards:
Choice Board 4.OA.3
Choice Board 5.P.2
Choice Board 6.SP
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” – J.K. Rowling
This week I have been thinking about a lot of books that I have read the last few months so I thought it was a good time to update everyone on my recommendations from the past few months.
- The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools by Anthony Kim and for educators who are launching or improving schools that you could use tomorrow to make changes. The authors guide you through six rules that they have seen make the biggest impact on how organizations function and how work gets done. The book is chock full of case studies, activities, and resources for you to use. They also have a helpful website here.
- Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd. This book explores the concept of digital leadership and its place in today’s schools and classrooms. It provides advice on how we can help our students navigate the digital world
- The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator’s Creative Breakthrough by
I always love a good book, what suggestions do you have?
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” By Helen Keller
If you are in education you have heard the term PLC which stands for Professional Learning Communities. Every school should have them as it’s a great way to help improvement teachers practices and increase student learning. Strong PLCs ensure equity of resources for students and redesign learning to accommodate the students needs.
PLC involves much more than a group of teachers getting together to discuss their lesson plans or data. Instead, a PLC should represent a focus on continuous improvement in staff performance as well as student outcomes. If teachers are working together in PLCs answering these questions then they are working towards a more Personalized Learning environment for their classrooms. According to Rick DuFour, the guru of PLCs, the four critical questions of a PLC include:
- What do we want all students to know and be able to do?
- How will we know if they learn it?
- How will we respond when some students do not learn?
- How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient/shown mastery?
I would tweak these questions to provide support to help educators change their practices in the classroom and to promote more of a personalized instruction by bringing in the students responses along with a few more I added in green below:
For students during a PLC:
- What do I want to know and be able to do?
- What dispositions/soft skills will help me accomplish my goal?
- How will I know if I learned it?
- How will I demonstrated that I have mastered the skill/concept?
- How will I respond when I do not understand the concept or am not learning it? What resources can I turn to?
- How will I extend my learning?
Adding student responses into the PLC process starts transforming the agency and shifting practices from a PLC that is student centered to a PLC that is student driven. When PLCs come together to analyze their current reality and make changes to improve upon their practices with students voices at the table; they will not only increase student outcomes but also classroom culture and student motivation.