Monday, January 18, 2016

I'm a teacher, I can't lead

Have you ever heard this? Maybe not in so many words, but I'm sure the sentiment carries over into other statements as well. I don't think it's laziness, I think there are many reasons and motivations for teachers to pass the buck onto someone that has a leadership "title." 

The fact is that teachers can and should be leaders. I actually could argue that teachers have more impact on initiatives than the leaders that enact them. Here are a few things to think about with teacher leadership.

1. Build Relationships - The best leaders that I have worked with are masters of this. I am still working on this myself, but teachers have the best opportunity to do this. Besides students, who spends more time with teachers than teachers? Make the best of the time with other teachers to build a relationship that can lead to positive change.

2. Conversations - Teachers can lead through one-on-one conversations with other teachers. You don't have to give lengthy speeches at staff meetings to be a leader. Sometimes the most powerful acts of change can start with a small conversation.

3. Stay Positive - I know it's hard. I didn't say you can't ever vent. That's different. Venting every day is not venting, it's just being a Debby Downer. Even in the face of negativity, the best leaders spread positivity. The change that leaders enact should focus on the positive, not the negative.

Teachers can be leaders. We have the opportunity to be leaders and we need to make the most of those oppotunities. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

#oneword Commit

If you haven't heard about this #oneword movement, now you have. It's simple, pick just one word to focus on for the year. One word is simple and allows you to focus on that for the year.

I had to think for a while on mine. One word just kept popping up. Commit.

I want to commit to a few things this year.

1. Commit to my family. Spend quality time and commit to them.

2. Commit to understanding. Ask why. It's not always what you think.

3. Commit to literacy in my classroom. No more stand and deliver. My students will spend time reading and engaging with text. Everday.

4. Commit to blogging. I will blog more, I even started a new one. It's not ready yet, but it's getting there.

It's public now, so now I am committed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

On the Teacher's Lounge and John Kasich

If you haven't heard Ohio Governor John Kasich had to say about teacher's lounges, you can read and hear it here. What if John Kasich has a point about Teacher's lounges? I'm not saying that they should be banned, but I see a lot of comments in social media by teachers saying that they don't eat lunch in the teacher's lounge. Why?

The unfortunate answer is that the teacher's lounge can be an intimidating place. During my student teaching, my professor instructed us not to eat in the teacher's lounge. She didn't tell us why at first, but she later revealed that it can get negative at times. She was protecting us from the negativity during a stressful time when we needed to stay positive.

I know we don't want to hear this, but teachers do complain in the lounge, a lot. I am not trying to shame anyone here. I have most certainly contributed to this negativity at times. And this is not to say that all lounges are like this, I have experienced good ones and bad ones in my time. And even the best lounges can turn nasty with a few comments. But the truth is that it can get bad, bad enough that some teachers refuse to go in there.

I do not find myself agreeing with John Kasich very often. I really don't agree with him here either, I just think he has a point, a point that he argued in a very inarticulate way.

So what do we do?

Turn the lounge into a positive place. Show John Kasich that the teacher's lounge can be a positive uplifting place where teachers can talk with other adults. Show him that the teacher's lounge is a place where teachers can laugh and support each other. Show him and everyone else that teachers need to spend time together and be social just like other human beings.

My professor has retired, but wouldn't it be cool if we could turn the teacher's lounges around and she could lift her ban on student teachers in the lounge? Yep. That would be pretty cool.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hello Cleveland

I consider myself a connected educator. I consider myself a progressive educator. Confession time; I have never been to an edcamp. 

There have been plenty of excuses, but I won't go into them here. The fact is that I was neither of the two until I attended an edcamp Cleveland.

I am an unabashed advocate of social media. I also believe that our electronic connections lead to stronger face-to-face connections. In Cleveland, that belief was only strengthened. Twitter avatars became faces and 140 characters became conversations with no limits.

When I walked in that first room, I didn't know what to expect. We sat down and the conversation started. There was no Sage on the Stage or projectors, just teachers talking. Real talk about real problems. I came away with more questions than answers, and I like that.

I was able to share the day with a colleague, from my school. We started talking about hosting an edcamp for our district or building. The goal of anyone that attends an Edcamp should be to share. Share your questions, share your answers and share your love of education. #iWill share and I will be back.

Hello Cleveland. Hello edcamp. See you again soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Power of a Comment

No, I'm not trying to solicit comments on my posts here, I'm talking about written comments on student work. You know, the kinds of things teachers used to do in the old days. I am a huge believer in digital writing and I love the comment feature in Goggle docs, I decided to kick it old school for my last writing project.

For my student's recent argumentative writing project, I broke it up into parts. This way the students turned parts of it into me and I was able to give incremental feedback. I have been caught in the trap of having students working on a project for a few days, and then spending days myself reading through them all. The result was a grade and few words from me, like "good job."

When I handed the first part back to the students recently, I wasn't really looking for their reactions, but I overheard one student read his to the kids around him. He was smiling and was very proud. The smile on his face reminded me why I need to comment on student work more often. Sure, I could have waited until the essay was turned in and left one long comment about the whole thing, but now this kid is motivated to write. All because of one genuine and authentic comment.

If you aren't commenting on your student's work, you are doing them a disservice, and you are missing out on some rewarding experiences as a teacher. Eventually, their work will be shared with others and they will get even more comments and hopefully more smiles.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What did you learn?

4-H interview judging, it can mean many things to different kids and adults. Lots of hard work and sometimes last-minute changes with an occasional family disagreement thrown in for good measure. For those of you reading this that are not familiar, interview judging is when adults volunteer their time to judge a 4-H exhibitor's book work portion of their project and of course assign them a score. I have volunteered my time for over 10 years. I love interacting with the kids and learning more about and from them.

This year was different for me though. After a conversation with a friend about a different topic, I realized that we are doing some things wrong. One thing he said was that he was never very competitive because, "My approach was to learn something. What could I take away from today that I can use in the real world?" Yeah. How can this help me in the real world? What a concept.

Parents, students and teachers have become so obsessed with the with scores that we have forgotten about the learning.A letter grade, a ribbon, an award shouldn't matter. The learning should matter.

At the end of judging, a grading period or the fair, instead of asking our kids, "What did you get?", we should ask, "What did you learn?"