Tuesday, April 11, 2017

START. RIGHT. NOW. Grow Each Day

This is the 2nd installment of the #D100BloggerPD book study for today. Make sure you read the post from +Lauren Slanker at Ms Frizzle IRL. 

If you need to catch up, here are the links for chapters 1- 4. 
Chapter 1 - Teaching is Leading, Leading is Teaching at Reading and Owl of the Above
Chapter 2 - Know the Way at Teaching and Learning Redefined
Chapter 3 - Show the Way Part 1 at iShift
Chapter 3 - Show the Way Part 2 at iLearn
Chapter 4 - Go the Way - Part 1 at Grammar Mamma
Chapter 4 - Go the Way - Part 2 at Show Your Thinking 

I have really enjoyed reading this book. It has forced me to be reflective about what I do well and what traits I need to work on to become a better leader.  Nobody's perfect, there's always room for improvement. One of the biggest reminders for me was the section - Know When to Say No. I need to work on that. I know the pitfalls of saying yes all the time but I do it anyway. I've started saying no sometimes. Part of my problem is I don't want to miss an opportunity to learn and grow.

I also enjoyed reading the educator profiles from each section of the book. I'm lucky to know 3 of these incredible people personally. +Maureen Chertow Miller is very involved in our Illinois network of ed tech educators and has always been supportive of all my efforts. +Kara Welty is no longer a teacher leader. She will be a building leader at Rockwood South Middle School as the assistant principal. I'm so proud of Kara. She has worked so hard to build relationships and get to this point. Check out Kara's blog. Finally, +Kayla Delzer is an amazing educator. I had only known Kayla as part of my P2LN until she came to Chicago one day last summer and we hung out together for part of the day. It is so great when you meet members of your virtual P2LN. An additional bonus is when it is confirmed to you by meeting them in person that you are both "on the same page". Kayla's blog Top Dog Teaching has a lot of resources. Being highlighted in this book as influential school leaders is no surprise to me!

Now on with the book review. Chapter 5 is entitled, Grow Each Day. This is the section where the authors discuss growth mindset, who you surround yourself with and the power of feedback. 

Run the Experiment. Reflect. Repeat.
This section is about being bold and daring and trying something new in your classroom or school. As an instructional coach this is what I do daily. I push teachers and sometimes building leaders to go outside their comfort zone in order to grow. It's about taking calculated risks and reflecting on the success or lack there of. It's ok if a lesson doesn't go as you planned. REFLECT! Do you totally scrap the idea, sometimes the answer is yes, but most times the answer is take the best parts and retool the lesson till it works. As a classroom teacher I was always tried to be honest with my students when things weren't working as I planned. There were quite a few times where I would interrupt the lesson and just tell them we were changing something or starting over. I also remember during my first year as a classroom teacher almost every student did poorly on a particular unit test. Instead of complaining that the students weren't paying attention or the material was too hard I wrote the parents a letter. In that letter I said that I would be reteaching a portion of the material because clearly I didn't teach the material in a way that would help students be successful on the test. I was really taking a risk. I thought the parents were going to hate me. Instead the opposite was true. They were so happy that I was going to take the time to make sure their child knew the material. I know you don't teach to the test, but we are talking about 1994. My mindset has changed since then.

The authors' advice about change and trying something new is something that our coaching department tells our coachees all the time:
1. Start small
2. Try something new
3. Learn from your students

From my personal experience many teachers have the hardest time with number three. They think they must be the be all, end all in their classroom. With the explosion of information and technology skills that are available to our students their is no way any teacher can know it all. Our students are our greatest resource and we should utilize them any way we can to improve teaching and learning. 

Surround Yourself with Excellence
I love this! I feel that as part of the instructional coach team in my district I am surrounded by excellence. We are like minded people in the fact that we are passionate about wanting what is best for kids and always starting with the WHY? We all have different paths for getting there and bring so many different strengths to the table.

I'm so competitive that being surrounded by excellence drives me everyday to do better. In the past I've told my teammates when one of us fails we all fail, when one of us succeeds we all succeed. 

I love this quote from the book. How would you answer this job interview question? 
"Our goal is to hire someone so amazing that when we hire you, I'd rather the other teachers in the school become more like you than have you become more like the other teachers. Tell me something so amazing about you as a teacher that I would want every other teacher in our school to emulate?"

Breakfast of Champions  
"Regular feedback - much like breakfast - is a healthy way to grow." I have been told that I am good at telling the kind truth. Meaning that I am able to give constructive criticism in a way that is palatable. It is easy to look at others and give feedback. It can be more difficult to receive feedback from others. When I am told the kind truth it takes me awhile to process the information, but I am usually able to use it to help me grow and move on. "We firmly believe that providing and receiving clear feedback on a regular basis is not only an excellent strategy for improving performance, but also for instilling a sense of pride and satisfaction among those receiving the feedback. "

The other point brought up by Whitaker, Zoul and Casas is that teachers should be actively and regularly receiving feedback from students about their learning. Since our district does standards based reporting I feel like this is going on often in the classrooms in our district. What about your school or district? 

Teach 4, Lead 4, Learn 4
Check out these find educators who do what they can to Grow Each Day. Add them to your P2LN

1. Andrea Trudeau @Andrea_Trudeau
2. Starr Sackstein @mssackstein
3. Paul Solarz @PaulSolarz - I saw Paul speak pre - LLAP - he was very good!
4. Cindy Kube @cindyqb

1. Heidi Veal @VealHeidi
2. Barry Salde @Barrykid1
3. Sanee Bell @SaneeBell
4. Dennis Schug @schug_dennis

Steps you can do to Grow Each Day
1. Attend and Ed Camp professional learning event. Check - I've attend Ed Camp Chicago and Ed Camp Tampa Bay both well worth it!
Find one here
2. Participate in a Twitter Chat - Check - Love me a good Twitter chat! I have really found some amazing people to add to my P2LN through these chats. We have our own district chat #d100chat on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 8 pm CST. 
Find one here
3. Test your growth mindset - Check - Great stuff from Carol Dweck.
4. Watch One Second Every Day TED Talk and use the app. This one I still need to watch. While I have not tried the app yet, my teammates love it.

The final chapter will be reviewed by +Kristin Richey at Reading and Owl of the Above. Hope you enjoyed the book as much as I have! Thanks to Todd, Jeff and Jimmy for writing this book that helped me reflect and grow as a leader.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Design Thinking and Novel Engineering in 5th Grade

I have been working in a 5th grade classroom for the last month. The co-teachers asked me to help them with fresh ideas to make their science block better. My mind immediately went to Novel Engineering. You can read the official definition on the website. I describe it as - a process where students design or engineer a realistic solution to a problem that a character is having in a piece of non-fiction literature. Some books lend themselves to this challenge better than others. The website has a list of elementary and middle school books. I'm sure that you can come up with others. We chose the picture book the Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

As a framework for the students designing a solution we decided to use the LAUNCH Cycle. The LAUNCH Book is written by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. It gives the teacher and students a simple language to follow using design thinking. 

I read the book to the class two times. The first time I asked them to just listen and enjoy the book. The second time I asked them to close read the book through the lens of trying to discover the Peter's problem or problems in the book. This was L - Look, Listen and Learn.
Next I asked the students to list the problems that Peter had in the story. They came up with three. 
1. Peter wanted to keep his snowball, but it melted in his pocket.
2. Peter was not able to play with the big boys in the neighborhood.
3. Snow fell on Peter's head when he hit the tree with a stick. 

Next we defined the word prototype. I told the class that they were going to design something to solve Peter's problem. They had lots of questions about the parameters of their designs. I told them that we would like something that actually works. They asked about designs that had computers or motors in them. I told them those kinds of things were ok. Their design had to have a basis in fact. One student talked about a force field. I told him that was not realistic.

I asked them to identify one problem they would like to help Peter solve and write or draw some initial thoughts in Notability. I also told them that through out the whole process we would continue to ask the question, "How can we make this better?"

The next time we met I had them do some research. I gave them some links to information on refrigeration, insulation, and how snow is formed in the atmosphere, to get them started and give them some background knowledge. Next they had to look on the Internet to see if their item already existed. If it already existed then they had to improve the existing item.
At this point we met as in small groups to share our ideas. The purpose was two fold here. The first was so that I could see where they were in the process. The other was so that they could receive positive feedback from their peers regarding their solution. Before we broke out into small groups I shared my ideas with students in order to model what I was looking for. 

The calendar said it was time for Winter Break, which was perfect timing. Students had two weeks over break to create the prototype of their solution to Peter's problem. Here is a video showing my prototype. I used Koma Koma, a free stop motion iOS app. 

I had students work on H, highlight and fix, while they were building their prototype. I explained that their design might changed based on a number of factors, available materials. I asked students to write a 1 paragraph reflection on their prototype building process when we returned from Winter Break. 
The final part of the process is to share the final product with a wider audience. The students came up with two suggestions a Google Site, and a You Tube Channel. I also suggested a Padlet Wall. I put up a poll on our Schoology wall and let students vote. The overwhelming choice was a You Tube Channel. Here is the link to the 5CL You Tube Channel. Please enjoy our videos of our solutions.  

If you are interested in the LAUNCH book the District 100 Blogger PD crew did a book study. You can find links to all the blog posts here. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #D100BloggerPD. 

ADE Megan Ryder sketchnoted the book. You can find her sketches at  @MrsRyder58 on Twitter. Here is her sketchnote for Chapter 4 the chapter that I covered for the book study. Thanks Megan!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LAUNCH: #D100bloggerPD Book Study

I was so happy to be asked to be a part of the #D100BloggerPD. It is forcing me to read one of the many titles in my pile of professional books. We're a group of bloggers in Berwyn South District 100 that read and blog. It was started 1 year ago by Colleen Noffsinger and Kristin Richey, two reading teachers in our district, as a way to update and redefine teacher professional development. It is great because unless you're assigned a chapter you can follow along at your own pace. Professional Development on your time!

This time around the blogger crew is reading LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. So far I have learned a lot from reading the first 3 chapters.

Don't seek to be the best, seek to do your best. - Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur

Chapter 4 is all about the first step in design thinking, or the LAUNCH Cycle. The authors Spencer and Juliani have shared the above poster, and more available for download from their website. I think the posters are a great way to attach a visual to each step and remind students where they should be in the process.

The first step is to build awareness or empathy. The authors contend that there are 7 ways for students to LOOK, LISTEN AND LEARN. In each section the authors provide us with a definition, questions to ask your students, sentence stems and a classroom example from personal experiences. Some of the method titles are self explanatory. Each entry below has a summary from the book and a personal reflection or connection from me.

p 70

1. The observation of a phenomenon
This works best for a time when hands-on experiences or using the 5 senses will help students learn more about what they already know or see something new. Allowing for observation and play can be done in a variety of situations. Teachers should try to engage students "... in such a way that they become profoundly and deeply interested in what they are seeing." p 71.
I think this would work best for science and math, but could be done in any subject.  The Questions to Ask Your Students and the Sentence Stems sections could be very helpful in getting started.

p 72

2. Tap into natural wonders
This method will tap into students natural sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. The authors liken it to asking questions, as if you are a four year old child again. 

There is a quote in this section that I think is very important. "Unfortunately schools are more often designed to help students answer questions rather than question answers." p 72. We need to set up situations that make students want to ask questions. We also need to teach students how to ask the right kinds of questions. I was recently in Mike Saracini's social studies classroom. He was starting a new unit. In order to get buy in and build engagement from students he took short video clips that would elicit questions from his students. Questions like who are these people?, What problem(s) are they trying to solve?, and When did this event occur? Instead of spoon feeding the information through lecture he helped his students ask good questions. 

p 74

3. Start with an awareness of a specific issue
Usually students Look, Listen and Learn in this instance with no solution in mind. Building empathy around a specific issue leads to services more than tangible goods. I think it can be issues that have the potential to change the world or at least the students' little corner of the world. Issues like recycling and social justice topics are just a few. This can be likened to service learning projects.

A few years back one of our middle school science teachers did a recycling unit. The students became so passionate about the topic that they asked the question - What can we do to help in our community? After going through the LAUNCH cycle they chose to have a fundraiser that would raise money to buy recycling containers for our city's largest park because it did not have any. 

p 76

4. Start with empathy towards a specific group
This method focuses on specific groups that students already know, or an issue they have faced themselves. Their "...personal experience connects them on a heart level to the issues..." p 76. The end product is created with real people in mind. The issue referred to in this section is poverty. 

"As they seek to understand the attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and mindsets of their potential audience, they develop empathy. The product then, is often even more valuable to the end user because it was created with real people in mind, rather than a theoretical market." p 77. This reminds me of when I heard Jessi Chartier, CEO of Mobile Makers Academy, speak earlier this year. She told the audience that the technology companies in Chicago have a greater return on investment than those in Silicon Valley or Austin because they are solving real world problems for people. This is what we want for our students. 

p 78

5. Start with a specific problem that needs to be solved
Students identify a problem and ask why it matters. This style lends itself to Shark-Tank types of projects that solve a specific consumer issue. 

I think this could be a good place to start. I am going to do some Novel Engineering units with a class that I am working with. Novel engineering is where you take classroom literature then students
engineer design challenges. The end result has the students designing and creating a solution to a specific problem. For instance, one of the books is Keats Snowy Day. Students will need to design something that will keep the snowball from melting in Peter's pocket.

p 80

6. Start with a product idea
"Students have a clear picture of the finished product in mind..." p 80.  During the Look, Listen and Learn stage students should keep their ideas very general. The example in the book is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project. Here students create an original story after doing research. In this instance they need to take an idea, develop it and make it their own. Another way this could be done is if you have students improve a consumer item that already exists. 

I did an invention unit back in the early 1990's when I was a classroom teacher. Some of the best ideas were those that improved on products that already existed. I had a student who decided that adhesive bandages should have antibacterial medicine on the pad. At the time those did not exist. He was able to design a usable prototype.

p 82

7.  Start with a geeky interest
"The benefit of this approach is that it supports intrinsic motivation through student choice." "... when students begin with their own geeky interests, they can persevere." p 82. 

This method lends itself to the now popular 20% time or Genius Hour. This method taps into student's passions and prior knowledge. This is a great way to increase student talk time and help students be active learners. There are many resources available on the Net on how to get started with Genius Hour in your classroom or school. 

Next the authors discuss the doubts that some educators have about the effectiveness of these methods and the LAUNCH process in general. The concerns are things like, how do you keep kids accountable for their work and their time, how does this go with the curriculum and standards that I have to teach, and there is no way to do this with a whole class of students. It works because each one of these starts with student choice

Finally, the authors provide an Action Plan Template. Click on the link to download or add it to your Google Drive. 
You can also visit http://thelaunchcycle.com/look to get more information and resources on Phase 1 of the LAUNCH Cycle. 

Thank you to @MrsRyder58 for allowing me to include this awesome sketchnote of Chapter 4 to my blog post.


Next up is the fabulous Miss Kayla Kaczmarek to blog about Phase 2 and asking questions. Stay tuned! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Building Relationships with Colleagues

Today's #BTBC16 topic is about building relationships. 

I'm at the end of my fourth full year of coaching in my district. When our team was formed coaching was not as popular or as common as it is now. Our superintendent gave us a framework for our job, and we had a job description. We weren't really sure how it was all going to play out. Despite what our superintendent thought, we knew it was about gaining the trust of the person(s) we were coaching. In reality it was about more than trust, it was about building a relationship with our coachee or client. As the job has evolved that has become more and more apparent to me. The first three years, my year in review presentation was about the apps and the content that the students created. 

Tales of an iCoach 2014 - 2015  

This year it was just about the relationships that were created, with both the students and the staff (because it is not just teachers that I work with).

15-16 Year in Review

Building relationships is paramount in a coaching position. How does one go about building relationships? I think there are a lot of ways to go about doing it. Some of my suggestions may work for you and your personality, or the structure of your district, and some may not. 

1.     Be honest and in the moment
a.     If you say you are going to be at a meeting at 8 am. Be there on time. Everyone is busy. Everyone's time is important. 
b.     When you are at a meeting or an observation be there and only there. Do not look at other emails, or phone messages. Work with the person you are coaching! It is easy to get distracted by other things. 
2.     Listen more, talk less
a.     This was my biggest goal as a coach this year. I tend to talk a lot, so this one was a challenge for me.
b.     Listen for emotions from the person you are coaching. Is there something getting in the way of them moving forward? What are they passionate about?       
c.      Listen for their wants and needs. How can you help them move forward with the things that they want and need in their classroom?
3.     Make sure your coachee knows that you are there to prop them up.
a.     Coaching is a very personal and private process. 
b.     I tell my coachees that I will only sing their praises to the administrators. That means I will always highlight everything that is going well. The issue that we are working on, or the challenges that we face are private between us. I tell them that I am there to make them look good!
4.     ISTE Standard for Coaches 3e states: Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, & connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.
a.     You may work for an administrator who says leave the box and wires stuff to the tech department. Now you don't have to, it is an ISTE Standard for Coaches. I don't mean for you to learn how to administer active directory accounts or anything like that. If the fix is within your skill set, take the time to do it. It will go a long way to helping build that relationship. If it is beyond your technical skills then have a talk with one of the people on your tech staff. Tell them if they put this request to the top of the list it may go a long way to getting this person "off their back" so to speak. In return you can do something nice for your tech staff. I find bringing food works best.
5.     Take the time to find out the strengths and learning style of the teachers you are working with.
a.     This can be done through observations and conversations.
6.     Remember teachers want to be the best that they can be.
a.     I don’t think any of your colleagues wake up in the morning and say, "When I get to work today I want to suck."
7.     Remember reward what you want more of.
a.     If they are good at an app or skill make sure that you praise them for it and encourage them to share their expertise with other staff members in whatever outlets they have available to them (staff meetings, after school or professional development day presentations etc.).
b.     Teachers who feel appreciated will do more than what is expected of them – George Couros  http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6395
8.     Remember - teachers don’t resist change, they resist BEING changed. - Karen Marklein
a.     So take it slow. Don’t try to change too much at once. This will only overwhelm everyone, including you. If you remember all the points above this one should just fall into place.

How do you build relationships in your school? 

Thanks for the inspiration Michelle. This is one blog post I have been meaning to write for a long time