….from International Teachers! At the Google Apps Summit this weekend I was given a brochure for a program the American School in Bombay is facilitating to help international educators and schools train teachers on tech basics like- using a mac, gmail, and Google Docs. One idea was for schools to ask new teachers to complete one or more of these online tutorials before arriving at a new school, to ensure a base level of understanding. Besides being a great idea, I’m excited to have this offering from one of our international schools. It is timely, well prepared, and “local”.
Check it out! Click HERE.
This weekend I attended the first-ever Google Apps Summit in the Middle East. It was challenging for me to attend with everything else going on, but I knew the learning I gathered would be helpful in getting me back to thinking about teaching/learning/leading/tech. (Boy- that’s a mouthful.) And I was right.
Although a good bit of the conference and sessions were geared toward new Google users, I found that I picked up tips and tricks in using my own Google Apps which I didn’t know before. Those of course will increase my organization and efficiency, two of my big goals for this conference.
The other take aways from the weekend were:
If you have attended a Google Apps conference and have some great info to share, I’d love to hear from you.
This is a photo from the hallway in our G1 area. Teachers have been guiding students in making timelines of their lives. These photo histories of the first 6 years of these children’s’ lives is an authentic way for them to begin understanding elapsed time. What makes these projects special though, isn’t just the pictures (which are adorable) it is the descriptors that students wrote about each event. These qualifiers, which were written by the children themselves offer their perspective on history. This real-life researching and writing project allows us to teach students that all accounts of “what happened” are subject to memory, point of view, and ultimately the author’s interpretation in the retell.
It is a great melding of our writing workshop work and our social studies standards.
Plus- it is a showstopper. No one- kids, parents or teachers can walk through the hallway without stopping to read and admire a timeline.
As I’ve mentioned, this is turning out to be one of the most stressful and difficult years of my life. In just the past seven months, I’ve been working at my new job, helping my daughter transition into middle school, and dealing with the sorrow of my father’s illness from cancer. Most days, I’m pretty frazzled.
However on good days, I can also see how I’m learning and growing and changing.
For example, I am learning how to let things go. I’m having to do that with my dad, but I’m also doing that with my daughter. As she is becoming more and more independent, I need to become more willing to let her find her own way, and to let her risk and fail as she goes. It has been incredibly difficult for me to not get involved on some things this year, but instead to learn how to step back and let her figure it out, while reminding her that she isn’t alone. We are all faced with difficult situations and people. We all try our best at something and do not necessarily get an “A”. We all have experienced the feeling that we are being dealt an unfair deck. The key though, is to not to have the experience rob you of your hopefulness for the future. There is something in every incident which will make you smarter or stronger.
The same message from me as a parent– to me as a professional– would be helpful to listen to. I think I’ve made the mistake of trying to do it all at school this year, when in reality I can’t. I’ve been ready and willing to try and take on anything and everything that was needed because I wanted to help the people I work with and the parents and students I serve. However, in taking it all on, I’ve had to position myself as the one who knows and can do, when I’m not. I’m only just learning how to do so much.
So for this second part of the year, I’m trying to give myself the space and time to attempt to help and to try to help, but not the responsibility of being the one who knows it all. In other words- and this is me parenting me… My responsibility is not to put it all on my own shoulders and to try and carry it up the stairs. My responsibility to this organization, community and to myself to is to do my best, and to try to get better everyday.
Some days I’ll be right, some days I’ll be wrong, but each day I can learn. And each day I will get better.
Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Those three basic skills are not basic at all are they? As we begin work on second quarter report cards, take the winter MAP test, and really analyze where students are at this, the mid-point of the year, I’m reminded how important it is to step back and survey the progress we’ve made with our learners. So often in elementary teaching, we actively monitor the small steps on the long curriculum road. Those small steps are very important as we can differentiate in timely ways and focus in on what a student needs right now, however, it is vital too that we also view the bigger picture and examine how students are growing in general. Essentially, we need to ask “What does the path look like for this child from 20,000 feet?”
Which is why I’m busy planning our Early Release Day meeting next week which will be around analyzing student growth using MAP data and correlating it to what we see in our classrooms with our own learning targets. While this data collection and analysis takes a bit of time, the resulting “big picture” we get for each of our learners is worth the effort.
There is nothing quite like the past semester we’ve just moved through. It was the busiest I’ve been in my career. There were days when I felt my feet never touched the ground, I was moving so fast. And while I tend to thrive under pressure and in a fast-paced environment, I have to say I pretty much crawled onto the plane for the winter break.
But that was then…
This is now.
I read a blog post last year where the author celebrated how fortunate we are in education to have two new years; one at the start of school and the traditional January 1. I couldn’t agree more. Looking back on my journaling in August, my attitude and focus was bright, shiny, and tuned into the right things: our students, teachers and families. This past week, being back, I’ve felt that same attention returning… and it feels good. I’m
I’m happy to be back.
If you have followed my blog at all, you know we have been working to implement a systematic approach to using the Real Spelling Toolkit and Pete Bowers’ Structured Word Inquiry philosophy. Last year we jumped in and worked on teaching the same Kit/Themes throughout the school, using our fellow teachers and our word study team as collaborators. We were successful in our implementation and felt the “plan” had a good deal to do with it.
Now here we are, in Year 2. Following the same idea, we are having grades 2-5 move forward teaching the same themes each week using my video overview to help them prep. With a new job, a new office (the old is now a classroom) and a quick start to school, I’ve not been able to revive the “Lunch and Learn” setting where the video was taped in front of a group of teachers so their questions and thoughts could also be shared. Instead, I’m using my charts (which will eventually be accessible by teachers) in photos which are part of a power point I’m speaking over. These “movies” are going to be available across the year for Kits 2 and 3. Right now, the first two are ready to view on my You Tube channel.
As the year gets underway and I find my feet better, posts about word study: how we got here, how it is going, and where we are headed will continue. For now… I, like so many of you across the world am busy just keeping my head above water.
Happy start of school!
In day 2 of my PTC course in London we discussed the difference between supervision and evaluation. Although I’m not 100% sure I agree with (or understand) some of the different viewpoints I heard during the discussion, I did have a word study-like moment which brought my own clarity to the subject.
I looked up at the word supervision and realized that it was (I think) a compound word: super — vision. If I looked at it like that, wasn’t the job then to have special, powerful, deep seeing? What an amazing idea! Then that means that a supervisor is simply someone who is charged with deeply seeing and possibly even envisioning what is happening. If you link that to people-watching, supervising is deeply seeing people- what they are doing, what they are trying to do, and what might assist them. I love it!
Then, when thinking about evaluation, I found out it comes from the French word “évaluer” which means “to find the value of,” or to see what you value. This is helpful when I imagine my job being to view the work of a teacher through the lens of what my school values and has decided is important. (Hopefully these values (teacher standards) are items teachers are well aware of, agree with, and know up front.) But I especially like to think of it as finding value… in the work, ie: not what you aren’t doing, but what you are.
As I wrestle both with understanding these ideas and imagining how best to represent them, I am reminded of all the times I’ve not seen either done well. It’s the why I’m still wondering about…
Photo Credits:http://www.sunraver.com/Happy_Cubes.jpg, http://www.artquest.org.uk/valueadded/images/Value-Added-FP-new.gif
Last evening I started my second PTC course in London: Instructional Supervision and Evaluation- The Teaching Process.
From our initial conversations and activities I started thinking more about the evolution which is happening across the educational landscape. Specifically, how the roles of the adults in the building seem to be shifting. Because this course is about leadership, I’m beginning to see the role of principal as being very like the role of a good teacher… and I think it is important to keep those roles as related as is possible.
The principal must balance helping people build capacity, while continuing to think of them as ever-evolving learners. This seems to me to be similar to the role the teacher has in seeing students as “learners” who get better with practice while holding them accountable for that improvement.
Isn’t it interesting that as the teacher’s role is changing– we are asking teachers to be first and foremost interested in building student capacity to be learners rather than build content and fact knowledge– we are also reevaluating the role of the principal in taking teachers on a journey which builds their skills and helps them become better and more reflective?
I guess the question becomes one of viewpoint. For many teachers the shift is uncomfortable. For principals who have been in the role for a time, I anticipate the change will also cause some alarm.
How can we support principals in this shift as much as we plan to support teachers?
Who supervises, evaluates and supports the principal?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how good leadership- that which inspires people and helps them get things done- is like good design. When you partake of objects- furniture, computers, systems- which are designed with people in mind, there is a happiness in the use and a satisfaction in the work.
What can I learn from design which I can consciously apply to my practice as a leader?