I don’t know about where you are in your planning, but I have to believe you are in a place where you’re starting to plan out next year. It is admissions season for us, and that means handbooks, tuition, dress codes, etc. must all be completed asap. As I look at our school handbook, I see a lot of outdated processes and requirements. There is 1 that I keep hearing about that I’m not sure what to do with and I don’t believe it is something that can be decided in a short amount of time or without quite a bit of debate.
Homework or no homework?
CNN.com posted an article in September 2015 regarding whether or not we should ban homework in schools. Mark Barnes has a book in the first wave of his Hack Learning Series titled Hacking Homework. You can find conversations all over Facebook and Twitter regarding the subject. I won’t share my opinion just yet, but I want to hear from you. Read some articles and chat with your mentors/mentees about your philosophy on homework on your campuses. Of course, much depends on grade level and subject area – or does it? It is an interesting conversation no matter which side you sit on. I can’t wait to read your thoughts.
Be sure to share on Twitter using the #SAVMP hashtag and in the title of your blog. I’m sure these will get some conversation happening! Add the hashtag #HomeworkOrNo to your tweets to keep it going!
A few resources:
TED Community Discussion
Charted by Statista – original article on Forbes.com
Recently I wrote a post on my own blog regarding parents and some ideas on how to bring them into the learning process at school. This week, I encourage you to share some of the ways that you bring parents into the classroom through your own blogs. Here is the full text of my recent post below.
cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Spiro Bolos
“The role of parents in the education of their children cannot be overestimated.” ~Unknown
When you ask parents from any country in the world, what they ask their children at the end of the day about school, their question is very similar:
“What did you learn today?”
The disconcerting thing is that the answer is almost always exactly the same.
Parents are a great untapped resource in our schools, and social media gives us an opportunity to engage them in their child’s classroom in a way that we never were able to before. The traditional modes of communication are still vital in the way we connect with parents. I am a firm believer in the importance of calling parents to share good news and hearing a voice is the only way that bad news is delivered. I strongly suggest that an educator never deliver any bad news about a child over email. Although I do not have children of my own, I remember my secretary distinctly saying to me, “When you call a parent to deliver some bad news about their child, you are about to destroy their world. Make sure that you let them know the positives and that you still care about their kid.” That advice has always stuck with me.
With all of that being said, I think that there is a larger role that we can ask parents to play in the learning of their child. In my view, if a parent reinforces the learning of the school, at home, the child is more likely to be successful.
Here are some ways that we can build strong connections with the parents in our school communities:
1. Use what the kids use – Often times, when communicating home with parents, we have created special platforms or have put a lot of money in developing a website to ensure that we constantly “branding” our school. Yet this type of communication is all surface with little depth. If we can connect using mediums (blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) that our students use, not only are we building an understanding and instructional leadership within our schools, but we are familiarizing our parents with many of the tools that their children will be using. The first time a parent uses a blog, should not be from their child, but from adults in the school. This shows that we are not just “throwing” kids online, but we are building our own understanding as well.
2. Have an open mind – I cannot count the number of times I have heard from teachers or administrators that “the parents will never go for this”, when talking about the changing landscape in schools. My question is, “Have you asked them?”
I fell prey to this assumption before. After a session with a group of parents, one of the parents had her hand raised and looked annoyed with what I had just presented. Preparing myself for the pushback I was used to receiving, she said to me, “Why are we not moving faster?” I couldn’t believe it and was ecstatic to know that there were many parents out there that are pushing for the same opportunities for learning that many progressive educators are pushing for.
You may not have all parents excited about the changes that are happening in school, but they are out there. You have to find them which leads into the next point.
3. Tap into parent leadership – One thing that we have to realize is that parents are more likely to listen to other parents. Not necessarily educators that have children because they may feel their view is biased, but other parents in your school community. What is imperative is that we connect with parents that have a voice with others and get their feedback on new initiatives. This is not necessarily a parent-council type meetings, but in one-on-one conversations. It is also not a time to simply tell parents what the school is trying to do, but to listen to them, get feedback, implement their advice, and show them that you have listened. Once this happens, it is important that we ask those parents to talk to others so that they get their perspective. Focusing on developing parent leadership, listening to them, and empowering their voice is crucial if we want to move forward as a school community.
4. Focus on open communication – Every week I would write an email to staff sharing where I was during the week and some articles that I suggested for them to read. I thought about it, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t share this information with parents. I then decided to share that information through a blog and make it open to our community. Obviously there was nothing shared in this space that would be considered confidential, but it was important to share the learning my staff was doing openly with our parents. Sharing blogs and articles from other schools, helps to show your community that the things that our school is doing is not something specific to our school, but many others are taking on similar endeavours. Leading parents to a Twitter hashtag for the school and encouraging staff to tweet to it during conferences, also shows what teachers are learning in real time while also giving a parents to connect with them in that space as well. Blogs, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 technologies allow parents to not only hear the conversation, but to be a part of it. With most people comfortable with back-and-forth communication, we have to make sure that we communicate in this same manner.
5. Create learning opportunities – Traditionally, schools have had “parent-nights” where new initiatives or learning or simply shared with parents. Parent-teacher interviews were one of these ways, where parents simply heard about what their child was learning. But with activities such as “student-led conferences”, parents are actually engaging in the learning that is happening with their kids. Leaders like Patrick Larkin have had nights with parents where does not tell them about blogging and Twitter, but actually teaches them and gets them to engage in the practice. With all of the amazing things that many schools are doing, it is very powerful to give parents the opportunity to learn these activities so that they can partake at home with their child.
You often hear comments that parents are advocating for the old ways of school, but ultimately, they just want the best for their kids. If we focus on bringing parents into the schools, it is my hope that they become grateful of how much better school can be now, they will be advocating for change alongside educators. When we work together with our parent communities and focus on bringing them in on the learning of their child, the opportunities for our students will be endless.
I hope everyone is having a great week and enjoying the students at your respective schools. We are blessed to have jobs that make such an impact!
I just wanted to do a check in and see how people are doing? If you have any feedback about how the #SAVMP project is going, I would love to hear it. If you could email me directly with the good, bad, or ugly, I would love to hear your stories.
One of the things that was clearly stated when joining this program was that there was an expectation of using blogs and Twitter to connect
. I know that everyone is busy, but reflection is vital to the success of an administrator, and open reflection creates a transparent environment. I have been inspired by the many tweets and blogs that have been shared through the #savmp hashtag, and I am hoping that more will come from a wider range of people within the program. This is a great chance for you to not only reflect, but also to learn from others.
Here is a post on taking time to reflect:
Also, when we openly share our learning, we create a much more positive footprint and for many of you looking to go into administration in the future, “googling” someone is becoming a normal practice in the hiring process. If you googled yourself, what do you find? Again, this is something that we want to model with students.
Take a look at some of the #savmp tweets
. They are inspiring and share some great stories of learning and leading. I am inspired every time I see new content. Thank you.
Here are some questions I am hoping others can answer in the comments below. How has blogging, tweeting, or being connected in general made you a better leader? I am hoping that others can jump in and share the transformation that this has done to their practice as a leader.
Below is a post that I recently shared on my blog regarding the way we do staff professional development. I would love some of your thoughts on the following questions:
1. What are some of the ways that you create meaningful staff professional development?
2. What have you found to be the most beneficial PD experiences that lead to better learning in the classroom?
Hopefully you can gain some ideas from the post below.
A New Staff Experience
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” — Albert Einstein
Staff meetings were something that I dreaded in my beginning years as a teacher. We would often spend the majority of our time together discussing rules and policies, and would debate, on end, things that are seemingly significant. Hours have been spent in schools talking about whether kids should wear hats or not in school. Really?
I saw the following quote on a slide, and I have shared it many times in talks that I have given to leadership groups. It seems to resonate with many:
“If I die, I hope it’s during a staff meeting because the transition to death would be so subtle.” Unknown
Time is limited, but is this how we want it to be remembered? How do we make better use of our time?
A few years back, as principal in a school, I had an interesting conversation with my brother (Alec Couros) and Will Richardson. As we talked about something as simple as bookmarking, he asked why I didn’t use a social bookmarking service such as Diigo. I simply replied that it was too much of a hassle. Will simply said, “So you are not into sharing?”
That changed everything.
As I thought about myself as principal of a school who is supposed to be the “instructional leader” in the school, I was not even sharing with my staff. I was simply hoarding all of the information that was coming my way. If you want to be innovative, you have to disrupt your routine. It was time to do things differently.
I jumped into Twitter and was amazed by the learning that was happening and being shared in such an open network. The ability to have professional learning at your fingertips every minute of the day, is something that has changed the way I viewed my own practice. This ability to learn at any time, any place and at any pace is the reality of our world. As educators, we need to jump in. Will Richardson acknowledges this belief in how educators need to take advantage of the same opportunities for learning that our kids do every day.
“…And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now. Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop. Adults shouldn’t either.”
It is imperative that we move staff to the place that they are able to take ownership of their own learning.
A New Look Staff Experience
We spend a lot of time in schools telling people about how teaching and learning should look. Yet, how do we create opportunities for them to experience it? I watch a lot of schools talking about things like blogging initiatives with students, yet their own staff have never blogged. How do you teach something that you have never done? More importantly, how do you have people embrace the unknown? Well, my belief is that you make it known.
I felt it was imperative for our students to use blogging to create digital portfolios of their learning. It was essential that staff blogged as well. To create this, I did not simply say, “Thou shalt blog,” but I actually did it myself first. I spent time doing something that I wanted to trickle down to staff and students. It is easy to say, “Do this.” It is more important to say, “Let’s do this together.”
Jumping into blogging and seeing the amazing opportunity that it had created to reflect, collaborate and make learning transparent, we started to give this opportunity to staff. For example, on one staff Professional Development Day on a Monday, staff were asked to have a blog post written for Friday to share with others. The catch was that if they did not feel comfortable doing it on their own, we would provide time at the beginning of our staff day for them to have support. For the staff that were able to do this on their own, they had the opportunity to come in later. If it is a priority, you will put time and resources into it. If you do not put those two elements in place, it is not priority. That simple.
So if you want students using Google Apps for Education in the classroom, use it with staff. If you want learning to be personalized for students, help personalize it for staff. This experience helps you to not only embrace this change, but to experience what your students will feel in the classroom.
A question that I always ask teachers is, “Could you spend an entire day sitting in your own classroom as a student?”
The question that I asked myself as a beginning administrator was, “Could I spend the whole day in my staff meeting?” I tried to create an environment that I would want to be in as a teacher.
Differentiated Learning for Adults
Differentiated instruction is something that we talk about all of the time for students, but it also applies to educators. We often see frustration from administrators when they feel staff are all over the place, but this is something that we need to embrace. I am comfortable with staff learning at different paces. Where I struggle is if they are not open to learning at all. This does not mean agreeing with everything and not having critical conversations. Sometimes we have to embrace the “naysayer” as a challenge that helps to make us all better. It is, however, imperative that they have, as Carol Dweck states, “a growth mindset.” We have adopted the idea that we need to move staff from their point “A” to their point “B.”
One of the most successful practices that I have partaken in is taking one-on-one time with staff where they have the opportunity to ask questions about things that they are trying to do in their classrooms. We simply book time in a day, and we have time for them to ask questions to start learning from where they are, as opposed to where someone wants them to be. The person who is asking the questions is also the one who is often doing the learning.Creating opportunities for individual staff to ask these questions and get personal attention, no matter who it comes from, can often accelerate growth a lot quicker for your entire organization.
Innovation often comes out of experience and we have to change the way we do and think about professional development. I have sat and watched someone speak to a group of teachers and administrators, sitting in rows, for hours on end about “21st Century Learning,” showing bullet points on a presentation. How much do you think will really change in the classroom if that is what our time together looks like?
Want innovation in the classroom? Get people to focus on being open to new learning and create different experiences for them. They are more likely to do the same for their students.
“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.” — Paulo Coelho
“Innovation” is the big buzz word in education, and rightfully so. People are looking at doing things “different and better”, and we should be exploring different practices to help focus on “what is best for kids”. One of these practices that many people have explored is Google’s “20% time”, although that program has recently been ended.
Even “innovative practices” can become stagnant and sometimes only serve a short term purpose, but there are multiple roads to how you can be innovative. Jamie Notter explores this in his most recent blog post:
Folks, were you really implementing 20% time just because Google was doing it? Or because you read about it on a blog, or heard about it in a speech? Why on earth would you copy something that someone else is doing without understanding why that practice makes sense to you and your organization?! And while I’m on the subject, can I please throw that question in front of you as you debate whether or not to become more like Steve Jobs and Apple and have everything tightly controlled by a single visionary (those articles bug me too)? See my post the other week about the evil of best practices. Google was decentralized in its innovation, and now it is apparently centralizing it a bit. Does that mean Jobs was right? No. It just means innovation is important, there isn’t one single path, and it’s up to you to figure out how to do it.
So here are some questions for you that you can either blog about, or respond to in the comments section.
How do you go about creating innovative practices in your schools?
How do you know if they are making a difference?
How are they revisited to ensure that they have the same impact that they once had before?
Just some ideas of things that I wanted to throw your way this week. Hope everyone is having a great month of September!
I want to thank everyone for signing up and participating in the #SAVMP program and I am looking forward to seeing how this program unfolds. There are definitely going to be some bumps during the year but the most important part of this is the connection that you make with one another over the upcoming year. To anyone that is reading this post that signed up and has not been contacted, you probably missed out on the deadline (July 22) and unfortunately will not be paired up with a mentor at this stage due to the high number of people that have already signed up.
Just to clarify, this is NOT about leaders using social media. It is however the vehicle that we will use to connect and share our learning which will hopefully influence some of the things that are happening in schools that are connected during this process.
As the year progresses, we are going to have some Google Hangouts with people on various topics to spark conversation. I will also be sending out emails to participants to hopefully help out with some ideas as the year goes. The focus is on your conversations and connections that you create in your pairings. The other element is openly sharing what we learn with others so that many people can benefit from this program.
As we go into the first week, here are some things that are suggested you do (#3 is a MUST)
Make sure you have a Twitter account with an updated profile.
Start a blog if you haven’t. (To make it a “blog/portfolio”, watch this video). I suggest reading this article from Dean Shareski on blogging and the impact it has on teaching.
Mentors…please send an introductory email to your “mentees”. Share a little bit about yourself and connect with them.
Mentors and mentees please share your blogs with one another.
I encourage you in the next two weeks to write a blog post on the topic of, “Why do I lead?”, or “Why I am an educator?”. The focus here is that you look at yourself as a leader before you look at who you are leading. In the title of your blog post, I encourage you to throw the hashtag #SAVMP at the end of your title so that when others share it on Twitter they will see the hashtag.
Mentors…I encourage you to comment on your “mentee” blogs.
Obviously none of this is mandatory, but the more you put into the process, the more you will get out of it.
I hope that you all enjoy connecting with one another and that you learn a great deal for this process. I will not be sending emails out once a week but will share from time to time. This is meant to be an informal process and the real work will be done between the mentors and mentees.
Thanks again for taking part in this program 🙂