Friday, June 28, 2013

Look what I had for supper!

Doesn't that look delicious?  #whocares
When I first signed up for a Twitter account, I had no idea how I would use it.  But I was quite sure I didn't want to update my friends on my meals.  Especially since they often look more like this:

Surely there are other great ways to use Twitter.  For example, there was this from @Kelsey_RaaRaa on April 7, 2013  "My allergies are about to kill me Thanks Obama"  (????? how is this Obama's fault?) And don't forget the multitude of messages about celebrity sightings, marriages, hookups, and fertility...
Like many who investigate Twitter, I gave up.

But this Twitter thing just isn't going away.

It was at a conference that I began to realize the power of Professional Twitter.  I could follow the Tweets from the people who were attending the two interesting sessions being held at the same time as the one I chose. Likewise, they could pick up what was going on in my session if I Tweet.  I could pick up on the buzz about upcoming sessions.  I could access resources, because in Professional Twitter, many tweets contain links to cool stuff.  I could follow on Twitter the teacher mentor rock stars I came to the conference to hear!  The "conference" would be longer lasting if I continued to follow the interesting people, famous or not, who I came across at the conference.

So I am thinking about why teachers should use Twitter.  Using Twitter is a primary way to build a professional learning network.   It's not that hard to get started.  Just follow a few professionals at first. Know that NO ONE reads every tweet from the people they follow, so manage the ambiguity and don't make yourself crazy trying to do Twitter perfectly.

Find a clear guidebook to help you.  Join a weekly chat.  Manage your account with an easy dashboard.
When  you are ready, jump in and put out your first Tweet.  You'll get better as you go.

I am @Curricmet, and once you get your account, let me know so I can follow you!
Good luck!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Don't Rely on Your Curriculum Coordinator Part II

"My, people come and go so quickly here!"  worried Dorothy Gale in the 1939 classic movie, The Wizard of Oz."  Today, I have a new boss, our new Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.  My Curriculum Coordinator counterpart for STEM is leaving the position at the end of the work day today to become a principal.  That leaves, me, one year in, much higher on the seniority schedule in the department than I care to be.  That alone should be reason enough not to rely on Your Curriculum Coordinator.

I have come to think of central office Curriculum positions as the Wikipedia of professional development.  Wikipedia has found its niche in the landscape of acceptable resources, if only as a first start from which to link to many other legitimate sites for information gathering.

Likewise, central office curriculum people can point teachers to a variety of useful resources, events, colleagues, professional reads, blogs and websites on a variety of topics, but the development of a Personal Learning Network is ultimately the pleasant responsibility of each individual teacher.

Now, as promised, on to the last three Standards for Professional Development in Ohio.
Think about the last PD event you attended.  How would you evaluate it according to these standards?

4.  High Quality Professional Development (HQPD) includes varied learning experiences that accommodate individual educator's knowledge and skills.

  • Does professional development result in new learning for you, or is it a repetition of concepts you have mastered?
  • Does PD include varied activities such as face-to-face, reading, multimedia, creation and curation of resources, collaboration, research?

5.  HQPD is evaluated by the short and long term impact on professional practice and achievment of all students.
  • Can you connect professional development in a meaningful way to the progress and/or achievment of your students?
  • Do you have short term and long term goals that you are tracking, and are you pursuing professional development to help you along the way to those goals?

6. HQPD results in the acquisition, enhancement or refinement of skills and knowledge.
  • Are you more effective? Is your job more fun?  Do you have more energy for continuous improvement as a result of the PD events you have attended?
  • Have professional development events lit a fire in you for more of the same?

If the professional development in your life drains rather than energizes your sprit, know that a world of support, learning, and engagement awaits you when you learn to harness the resources of Web 2.0.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Don't Rely on Your Curriculum Coordinator! Part I

Don't rely on your curriculum coordinator.  How do I know this?  Because I am a Curriculum Coordinator, and I don't rely on myself.  When it comes to your professional development, you must build an intentional network that allows you to develop expertise in the exact area in which improvements are needed.  The stakes are high and getting higher.

Think about the last professional development event you attended, by mandate or choice.  Really remember it.  Can't?  Already you have a problem.  Think now.  Do you have that event in mind?  Now evaluate it against these standards.  Brutally honest evaluation of your professional development has consequences.

The Standards for High Quality Professional Development (HQPD)

1.  HQPD is a purposeful, structured, and continuous process that occurs over time.

  • Whose purpose was served by the PD you attended?  Do you even know what your purpose is?  Are you willing to be told what your purpose is?  What do YOU think you need next?
  • Was the PD structured?  Focused?  Attended by colleagues who want to grow?
  • Is the professional development a continuous process that occurs over time?  Are you still attending one-shot-sit-and-get as your primary means of PD?

2.  HQPD is informed by multiple sources of data.
  • Do your PD events connect to the needs of your students as evidenced by test scores?
  • What data can inform your need for professional development that is NOT a test score?  Consider what you wish you could do better.  Consider what the teacher you admire does so well.  

3.  HQPD is collaborative.
  • Who is helping you get better?  Who are you helping to become more expert?  What are you creating with someone else that has meaning to you?
  • What are you learning about collaboration that can be modeled to your students?

Are you satisfied and energized by your evaluation of these first three standards above?
Standards 4,5, and 6 will be addressed in the next post.

When finished with all this reflection on the standards for HQPD, it will become apparent that you need to take charge of your own learning by using the tools around you to create-your-own-professional-development.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seek the Treasure!

Sometimes it seems as though clear blue skies, popsicles, and lazy days at the beach are for others.  Teachers who have just settled into the alternate routine of summer are being pulled back into the past school year as prelimiinary data on student achievement from spring state testing becomes available.

For those who have given their heart and soul to the progress of kids over the course of the 2012-2013 school year, it all comes down to the new state report card.  The data is not yet "clean" but the close read has begun.  Last night I was part of a group text conversation with teachers who were pondering what went right and what went wrong.  They spoke of how they expected that progress would be greater for the students who worked so hard. They are considering the level of expected scores with the next generation of assessments.  What will the mandates and rules look like next year? These teachers are seeking to find the treasure in the data, but are walking a fine line between the recent Lexus "Pursuit of Perfection" approach and the addition of one more personal chapter in the ongoing series "Why do we do this work anyway?"

Summer is a good time to reflect on the past year.  There is space to grieve over opportunities lost and goals unmet.  But when reflection turns into frustraton and delusions of personal incompetence, it's time to pull the plug on seeking treasure in the data.

Nevertheless, WHEN WE ARE READY to Seek the Treasure found in test scores, we need to look unflinchingly at our data, find the part with which to be restlessly dissatisfied, and confine our urgency to improve to our professional selves, without inflicting undue stress on our person.  The key phrase is "What's Next?"  This phrase honors but does not rest on what has come before. This phrase allows for the natural human state of imperfection while not making excuses for inaction.

Once we have identified the need for improvement, it is time to think about instructional practices.

Do we foster a Growth MIndset (Dweck) How much reading are students doing?  How much writing?  What do we understand about reading and writing processes?  Are we incorporating 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity? Are we providing opportunities for mastery, autonomy, and relevance? Is technology being used in transformative ways?

What is our process for becoming more expert?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What's Next?

Apparently, a blog is what's next.  I've put if off long enough.

It's like your teaching partner, who places The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe in your hand and demands that you read it this summer.  It sits on the table for A While.  But once you dig in, you keep reading 'til it's finished, swearing you will also read every book referenced in this good read this summer.

It's like your brother, the cadiologist, who tells you to sip a glass of red wine every day, as if it were medicine.  And then when you splurge on a box of the good stuff...that's right, a box...Black Box Shiraz, you are a better human being with a healthier heart to boot.

The End of Your Life Book Club       +Black Box Shiraz=   

the best I can hope for at this point?

Thus it is, that while some people have trusted friends who counsel them to go skydiving or splurge on that candy red convertible, my trusted friends and professional colleagues have recommended blogging to me.  Slowly I have come to understand that keeping up with a blog might be not only good for me, but also satisfying, life-giving--enjoyable, even.

So I'm gonna give it a try.

I hope to show myself, and whatever readers I may accumulate, that a restless preoccupation with What's Next? is the way to growth and happiness, which is not to say we are doing the wrong things, and doing them poorly as some would have us believe.  Just that, well, sometimes those who care about us are's time to grow.  It's time to consider: What's Next?