Archive for July, 2012

We all know that for educators professional development is important; however, the truth is that many times we get a one-size-fits-all approach to PD that just doesn’t work for everyone.   Today we had a group of teachers meet and discuss the importance of building their individual PLN – Personal Learning Network.  This way, teachers can be in charge of what they get so it works for them.

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Here’s what some of them had to say about PLNs …

“PLNs are a “must have” for teachers … sharing ideas for class projects with lessons accessible through technology.  Technology is our future, now.”

“PLNs – The opportunity to set my own agenda for what is relevant, useful, and important to me.  Also, to steal every good idea I come across and to share the few I periodically have.”

“I’m always looking for new ideas or a better way.  Personally, I’m not very creative, but I can mix and match from other teacher’s ideas and create something that suits my needs.  There is so much out there as far as technology, and I do not have the time to sample everything but PLNs will be the time saver. We can all be of benefit to others.”

“My PLN will be beneficial to me.  We are living in a time where “time” matters.  Kids want things to be automatic – and so do I.  The more information I can have in one click, the better off I am.  This can help me learn new ways to learn as well as teach what I learn.”

Taking charge of our individual professional development is the way to go.  In this day and age, we have access 24/7 to all sorts of information and things we we can learn.  And when we learn, it benefits the students. That’s what it’s all about.

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After my last post about Teacher Leaders, I got to thinking about all the obstacles we face in schools today – insufficient funding from the state, emphasis on standardized tests, etc.  But even with these obstacles present, we still do a pretty good job in schools.  However, there is one looming obstacle that I just can’t understand why it exists.  It is one that I would bet is present in every school or school district in the country.  It is one that can cause more problems than you can imagine.  It is one that can put the brakes on progress.  What is it? … THE STATUS QUO.

Status Quo from a teacher says you are at your best.  You cannot grow.  What you are doing in the classroom has no room for improvement.   Status Quo from a principal says that the school is at its best.  The school cannot grow.  The school has no room for improvement.  Status Quo from a superintendent says the district is at its best.  The district has no room for improvement.  The district is at its best.

Status Quo from the students!  Do we really want to know what they think?  Do we really sit back and take an honest look at what we are doing as educators and ask ourselves if we can do better?  No!  But we have to.  We can no longer accept the Status Quo!  No longer can we say, “That’s the way its always been done!”  Our students deserve better from us!

I am fortunate to have some teachers who are challenging the Status Quo!  They are moving forward and will do a great job on this journey.  They will face hurdles, setbacks, and successes.  They know it, but they are ready for this challenge.  I hope the others who are “set in their ways” will get on board.  I have!

Teacher Leaders

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

As we are about to start another school year, I have been highly encouraged by a group of teachers from my campus.  They have been highly committed to learning and growing this summer and have come to me on numerous occasions to talk about what they want to do and what they don’t want to do for this upcoming school year.  Their main focus this summer, collectively, has been to work on teacher-led professional development for our campus.  They want to learn from each other.  They want to learn from other teachers.  This is what we, as principals, strive for  … teachers wanting to learn more so their students can learn more!   Teacher Leaders!

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Everybody is different, and sometimes it is hard to deal with different personalities.  Just as these teacher leaders have very different personalities, the students they will all work with will have different personalities.  Even more than the subject that each teacher will teach this year, they will teach collaboration.  These teacher leaders will model collaboration.  Will it be easy?  Sometimes, but not always.  Will it be hard?  Sometimes, but not always.  Will it be fun?  Sometimes, but not always.  Is it good for the students?  Yes!  That’s what it’s all about!.

Teacher Leaders!

A Winning Strategy

Posted: July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

This week my family and I visited our old church with my in-laws.  We had a good meal, good fellowship, and a good devotional that was given this night by Larry Brown, a retired Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a former Cross Country runner for Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.  This post is an adaptation of his devotional.

Many of the problems today have slowly crept into our society and, over time, have been accepted as just the way it is.   They have been accepted to the extent that most people do not even see any problems at all.  Complacency has taken over.  We’ve done the same things over and over and don’t think twice about it.  Sometimes we don’t even know why … it’s just the way it’s always been done.  Have you ever heard that before?

Once we realize that there is a problem and that the way it’s always been done is not the way it needs to be done anymore, we have to do something to change.  We can’t be complacent anymore.  We need to have a strategy as we run the race …the race to overcome complacency.  There are certain components for a winning strategy as we run this race.

Strategy #1 – Collaborate.

Ask for help.  There are people at your school who are willing to help you.  Collaboration will help everyone involved.  Seek guidance in department meetings, team meetings, PLC’s and PLN’s, and use Twitter.  It is OK to depend on others for guidance and advice.  It is OK to learn something new.  It is OK to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.  Take a risk … it’s OK!  You will be surprised that when you collaborate with others and learn something new and actually do something with what you have learned, not only will you benefit as a professional, your students will also benefit (which is what you want anyway).

Strategy # 2 – Get training.

You have to get training / professional development.  You have to put this training into practice.  Once again, I mention Twitter.  Form your own PLN with other professionals who are willing to share their ideas and practices and guidance.  I have been on Twitter for less than one month and I can honestly say that I have learned more in the past month than I have in the past few years combined.  And what is so good about this is that I have total control of what and how much I learn.  You can get the training you want whenever you want.  That’s awesome!   You can’t say that you just don’t have time.  You can do it on your own time, anytime of the day or night.  All you have to do is take the time.

Strategy #3 – Have the right equipment.

As you collaborate and as you get training, there is no doubt that you will get exposed to various types of equipment such as iPads, iPods, Kindles, various software, new websites, blogs, etc.  All of these can be extremely helpful in your race to overcome complacency.  But, all of this equipment is useless without training, collaboration, and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone and do something new.   And, if you are lucky enough to have access to any of the various types of equipment, you must use it in ways that will help to engage the students.  If you have any of these things but don’t ever use them, then I would guess that you are one of the ones saying something like, “We’ve never done it that way.”

Strategy #4 – Be an encourager.

How does it make you feel when you get some words of encouragement?  How does it make you feel to encourage others?  Doesn’t it lift your spirits?  I am sure that every one of us has walked into the teacher’s lounge or workroom and heard someone just being extremely negative about something — a student, a parent, another teacher, etc.  How does that make you feel?  Do you join right in?  Do you leave?   Be wary of those who discourage … those that say something like “We’ve tried that before.”  “That won’t work.”  “That’s just another program.”  “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

I would suggest to you that words of encouragement work a lot better than words of discouragement.

Strategy #5 – Know where you are going.

You should know what you are trying to accomplish.  Better test scores, yes.  Student engagement, yes.  Increased technology integration, yes.  Higher-level thinking, yes.  How do you accomplish this?  See Strategies # 1, 2, 3, & 4.  In today’s world where we have instant gratification, it is important to understand that it may take time to get where you want to be.  It takes patience!

Often time we find ourselves in a rut.  We have become complacent.  But once you decide to make an adjustment in your professional attitude and run the race to overcome complacency, you will be a better person.  You will be able to make a difference in the lives of your students.  And you will feel better about yourself too.  Remember these strategies as you run your race.

Scot Wright