Monday, June 24, 2013

While not at ISTE 13, I reflected upon: Teacher of the Year

I recently had the privilege of being on our Teacher of The Year committee. (I know what you're thinking: A committee in May/June, are you nuts?) No seriously, I was honored to help identify people that are instructional experts in our schools.

*sidebar rant alert: We need to celebrate our best more! I hate, yes hate the feeling that we can't hold our experts up and say "Look at them, this is what you need to do to be successful!" without aggravating other teachers and having them walk out of the celebration/meeting bad mouthing that teacher. We need to celebrate our MVPs, they are dedicated hard working professionals that understand that teaching is an art and a science. They work extremely hard and they produce amazing results year after year no matter the group of students they work with. No excuses! (I feel another blog post on this topic simmering)

We received the packets about each candidate the week before we met and I have to tell you I enjoyed reading them. Passionate letters from teachers, administrators, parents and students about how wonderful, dedicated, and inspiring their teachers are! Candidates then had to write about their accomplishments in the classroom. Most teachers that I talked to were embarrassed by this part.(English teachers have a leg up in this department.) They didn't want to talk about all of the wonderful things they did. Why? Not because they wanted to live in their silos and keep it a giant secret. Because they saw many of their fellow educators doing similar things and working just as hard. Then you would read what they wrote and you would understood why they were nominated. They were going above and beyond and didn't give it a second thought! These nominated teachers represented the incredible work  that so many do every day in their classroom.

My favorite part though, was when all the team members came together to discuss the well-deserved nominees. We discussed the wonderful things that each teacher was doing in their classroom. If someone was there from their school, they painted a picture of the teacher's classroom. We heard about how these teachers were passionate, caring, dedicated, went above and beyond, set a positive tone, and how they added to the culture of the building.

Not once did we discuss test scores...

(one more time)

Not once did we discuss test scores...

We did talk about how the teachers effectively used assessment to determine student and teacher strengths and weakness. We did talk about how effectively these teachers collaborated with fellow faculty. We did talk about how they took a critical eye to their teaching, and did not blame the student if they failed.  We did talk about the relationships they built with their students and parents. We did talk about their effective instructional delivery. We did talk about how they continued to show their desire to learn by taking classes or attending and using ideas from professional development. We did talk about the important components an outstanding teacher has to bring to their classroom EVERY day.

Not once did we discuss test scores.

Assessment and test scores are an important factor in making sure that every student is receiving the services they need, that students have a clear understanding of their learning, and that every teacher has an understanding of their effectiveness in the classroom. However, test scores are not the be all, end of education. Test scores are simply one brush stroke in the artistry of teaching.

The three teachers that were chosen for this honor (Elementary, Middle, and High) represent what we all strive to be...

Congratulations to the Teacher of the Year recipients from WJCC schools, it is well deserved.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Liked OR effective?

Saw a Tweet today that said "Would you rather be liked or effective?"

This Tweet really aggravated me!

Well, why can't you be both???

Shouldn't you be both?

Why do I have to choose

Perhaps the most important piece of being an effective long term leader is to develop trust. If you haven't invested the time in developing relationships, people are mush more likely to revert back to their previous behaviors.

Today I was fortunate enough to attend VASCD in Williamsburg Virginia, and hear Andy Hargreaves speak. One piece that struck a chord with me was when he discussed teachers that are later along in their career and have become less motivated, less engaged in the their profession. He spoke elegantly about reengaging these teachers that have the experience and the knowledge but have become jaded and less committed to their profession

Do you really think you can motivate, encourage, and nudge these jaded teachers back onto the right path if they don't like you? You must build that social capital before you can raise and improve your human capital.

I take pride in my ability to develop social capital in my building and between my staff and myself. I like and trust them, and I believe they feel the same way about me. I use the social capital  I develop every day as I provide feedback, critique, correct, and cajole staff members. This way I can develop my human capital (staff) and make sure that we are providing students with the best possible education.

Liked or effective?

In my opinion, you can't be one without the other.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Bowl: Encouragement or Discouragement?

First, a little gloating about my daughter. Today her Book Bowl team competed in our county's Book Bowl competition. They finished third out of thirty-two teams and my daughter performed expertly!

For her, competing in the Book Bowl competition was an outstanding experience, something she worked hard for and excelled in, as she is smart, finds reading easy, and thrives on competition.

But, what about the other students that didn't compete?

Today about 200 fifth grade students from 32 elementary schools competed. These schools have over 3,200 fifth graders. Less than 7% of the available fifth graders competed today.

What about the other 93%?

Did we encourage them to read?

In my mind (fingers crossed) this competition was most likely started to encourage students to read. However, over the last 20+ years it has evolved into a pure competition. Students have to read 30 books and "try out" to be part of these teams. Besides a select few, who does this motivate?

An aside: All the questions are of course low level recall questions.

In my humble opinion, the schools could do more to encourage all readers.  The question is how? If they want to keep the Book Bowl format, should they set up school Book Bowls where taking part in the competition is an expectation? Do we set up a day of just reading in a relaxed environment, where reading is the expectation?

What should we do to encourage the reluctant readers and the below grade level readers?

If the goal is to encourage reading, the Book Bowl is an utter failure, except for those exceptional few. If the goal is to show that my school is better than your school, complete success!

A little harsh? perhaps?
Cynical? A little?
Did my daughter have a good time? Yes, she loved every minute of the Book Bowl competition!

Her smile said it all!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Videotaped Evaluations: The Future is Now!

Earlier tonight during #21stedchat and during tomorrow's #vachat (Shameless plug, Mondays at 8:00 pm EST!) the topic of teacher evaluations arose. I mentioned that part of our professional development plan included a piece where teachers would videotape a lesson. We would then use this videotaped lesson to have them self-
evaluate and to provide them with feedback.

I am providing you with the information that I gave teachers during our opening week. You'll notice that I ask for a self-reflection piece, but I don't tell them what it should look like. This was on purpose, I want them to develop something that is effective and meaningful to themselves, not me. (Yup, differentiation for teachers!)

You'll also notice that I let them know of my future plans for this videos. I want my early adopters to take this and run with it! For everyone else, I want to plant seeds that will grow over the year and sprout when we return next year and expand the use of videotaped lessons.

I completely admit to borrowing this videotape idea and adapting it to fit my needs from the National Board Certified Teacher program!

 Teachers: Videotaping a Lesson
“Knowledge is power, but knowledge about oneself is the greatest power of all”

All teachers!

Who is going to see my video?
Don’t worry, only YOU and either Nancy or Phil will be viewing the video. (For now?) In the future we imagine a video library of highly effective teaching/lessons that Norge teachers could call upon at a moments notice. (If you are feeling bold, these videos would be great to show  and discuss during team meetings.)

Don’t we need parent permission? What about students that can’t be photographed/videotaped?
No, an employee of a school district is not required to obtain the consent from a child's parent to make a videotape of a child IF that purpose is related to regular classroom instruction, and if only school personnel with a legitimate educational interest will view the videotape.

How many videos?
You may make as many videos as you like, but I only want you to turn in one video and the your self-reflection page. If you choose to turn in more videos, I will be glad to view them! Be prepared, next year, you will be expected to complete two videotaped lessons.

What will it look like?
A.      Videotape the lesson using a camcorder/flip camera of your choice. (make sure to wear your microphone) Next, Watch the video straight through without stopping. Keep the following in mind!

“During these first viewings, be prepared for a dose of "video-induced despair" (Krupnick, 1987), a common ailment brought about by the visual distortions of the medium. Most people tend to notice their voice, appearance, gestures, and mannerisms --Do I really sound like that? Is my hair always this disheveled? Why didn't I notice that my shirt was untucked? It is important to realize that these details are exaggerated on tape and are far less noticeable and distracting in real life. In any case, a wrinkled blouse or a crooked tie has nothing to do with effective teaching. (Source: Krupnick, 1987)”

B.      The second and/or third time through, watch the video stopping frequently to jot down, notes, thoughts, and ideas for future lessons.

C.      Provide a copy of your video and a reflection of your lesson to Nancy or Phil.

D.  Either Nancy or Phil will watch the video and will set up a time to watch highlights of the video together and to compare notes

E.  Remember we are in this together! The videotape will not be used as part of the official evaluation process, but as a method to provide individualized feedback that is meaningful to YOU! 

 Some possible reflection questions are attached. Feel free to use some of these, all of these, or some of your own.

  • What are the specific things I did well?
  • What are the specific things I could have done better?
  • What form did my questions take?
  • Did you allow sufficient time between questions for students to respond?
  • Who is doing the work in your classroom?
  • What do you notice about your direction-giving strategies and management techniques?
  • What were your goals for this lesson? Did you achieve them? Why or why not? What did you particularly like about the lesson? What would you change?
  • What do you think about your students’ involvement in this lesson? Were you interested as well as interesting? If yes, how did you demonstrate your interest?
  • In what ways did you try to make learning relevant to the students- connecting learning to their lives?
  • If asked by a student "Why are we doing this?" How would you answer?
  • What did you notice about your transitions, how did you move from one activity to another or move students from one place to another?
  • If you were a student in this class would you have been interested? Why or why not?
  • What other ways might you have presented the same material? What other ways might you have engaged students in activities?
  • Did you use technology successfully?
  • How did you differentiate the activity for your students
  • If I could do this session over again, what three things would I change?

This list is not all-inclusive!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

work/life dilemma

Over the next few weeks, remember to take time for your family!

For the last several months I had been looking forward to attending edcampNJ. I've had the opportunity to attend two other edcamps, but NJ was to be the culminating activity for the year. I had it mapped out to the minute. Leave at 3:00am drive the 6 hours to the edcampNJ site, attend the day, grow my PLN/have a great time, turn around and be back in my house between 10/11:00pm. Piece of cake!

Except, that I saw a commercial today...

This commercial wasn't for a thing, no Black Friday shopping for me! The commercial was for the Richmond Christmas Parade.... which is held on December 1st.... The same day as edcampNJ.

I know, so what?

Right? It's just a parade. There is always another one next year.

Except, that attending the Parade is a tradition! for the last 12 years I have attended the parade with my girls. Rebekah, my oldest, attended her first one at 5 months old and we haven't missed one since. This tradition is a extra special for me. My wife, not a fan of the cold, has let this become a Daddy/Daughter tradition.

How many parades do I have left???

No, I'm not sick, and I'm blessed with three healthy girls. What I mean is how much longer will I be able to drag all three of my girls to the parade? 3 years? 5 Years? I just don't know!

If you could have heard the excitement in my Kaitlyn's voice when she saw the commercial this morning. She actually squealed and bounced. With big eyes she turned to me and gushed "Daddy, I can't wait to see the parade and Santa!" She immediately started making plans and discussing with her sisters what they needed to bring.

How many years left of that love, that belief, and that excitement do I have?

After about a quarter of a second (Years in Daddy terms) I responded "I can't wait to go either, Love!"

I wish that I could be there my /PLN but tradition and family wins out here. Alas no, I won't be tweeting along with you either, this is Daddy/Daughter time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How I Successfully Used the Flipped PD model

Over the summer I read several articles about flipping classrooms. While I liked the idea, I had some reservations about using a flipped model, especially in an elementary school. Telling an elementary school student to rewind and rewatch a video is like speaking louder and slower to an ESL student. Both type of students will still find themselves confused and frustrated in the end.

But this flipped idea kept percolating around  in my brain...

While shooting hoops in the gym one day this summer I had this crazy idea...

I have to give my boss, Nancy credit.  I came into her office and start talking 90 miles an hour about this flipped stuff and how I think we could use it for staff development. She could have easily taken one look at me and said, NO. She didn't she took a chance and it, in my opinion, paid off!

We were introducing ESD/PBiS (Effective Schoolwide Discipline) to our school this year on top of a new evaluation system and changing curriculum. Time was at a premium, stress was high, and as everyone knows, all an elementary school teacher wants to do is get their room ready for their students. I wanted to respect my teachers' time and thought the flipped Professional Development model would be most effectively used for the ESD introduction.

About a week before the scheduled meeting time I sent out an email  to all attendees describing the Flipped Professiona Development idea.  I did receive some push back. There was some grumbling about having to do work outside the "PD time." It was a new idea and this was expected. Anyone that had a question or concern ended up having me in their classroom within the hour. I explained why I was doing this and how I thought it could benefit them and actually provide them with MORE time. An aside: I went to their classroom on purpose! I wanted to speak to them where they were most comfortable. 

The next day I sent out 4 pieces of information that I wanted them to review. I sent out two articles (one fairly lengthy), a video, and my PowerPoint presentation. Yes, my presentation! I wanted them to have all the reasons and data that I could provide before we met.

What did this accomplish? Quite a bit.

First, it gave each staff member an understanding of what the program was. This helped with the "Why are we doing this?" question.. Next it gave staff members a common vocabulary to use during our Professional Development time. It also gave teachers think time. They were able develop and ask questions that arose from reading and watching the material I had sent out. It had teachers talking! Professional conversations were held in the hallway, staff lounge, and classrooms. Consensus and excitement were building, days before the presentation. Teachers that hadn't watched the videos and read the articles were encouraged to read by their teammates and because they wanted to participate in the conversations. Another aside: I am under no illusion that every staff member watched and read the information I sent out, but many staff members don't get the information when they are sitting right there in the PD!

The day before the meeting I sent out an email with key points and key questions I would be discussing during the Professional Development.

We began the session with a quick recap of what ESD was, Why we were doing it, and the expected outcomes. This overview took FIVE MINUTES MAX! There was no wasted time. We didn't do a jigsaw read, watch an extended video, or sit there and listen to me drone on as I covered the PowerPoint. It was fantastic. Staff members immediately broke into groups and completed a gallery walk answering key questions and checking for understanding. After that we completed two other activities, dealt with logistics/questions about how ESD would look in our school, and we finished by summarizing our learning for the previous hour. We did all of this in ONE HOUR!

Teachers walked out of this Professional Development talking in excited conversations that I now associate with edcamps. Many staff members sought me out that day to tell me how great the Professional Development was, and more importantly how excited they were to begin the ESD program. Teacher were so excited that when I asked who wanted to be part of the ESD committee, I received 15 positive responses. I was truly hoping to get 6 or 7 volunteers.

This Professional Development has been followed up with additional readings and videos sent out via email, keeping with the flipped Professioanl Development model.

I do plan to use the flipped Professional Development model again in our building as it was highly engaging and extremely effective!

Last aside: As we continue to do more with less, this model could be used between schools or even school districts. I can see it used as a blended/flipped learning model. You could find an expert in a neighboring school, have the expert send out all of the information ahead of time, and then the expert would come to your building and present during the assigned time. We have staff members with incredible knowledge  in our district and we must learn to use them in an effective manner.

Questions, thoughts, ideas, or did I leave something out... Leave a comment or contact me on Twitter @philgriffins

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not your usual, how I became a teacher story.

During #patue chat today I was reminded how I came into the field of education.

Now most of the teachers I know have some wonderful story about how they were motivated and encouraged by a WONDERFUL teacher that saw potential in them, and told them to reach for the stars!

Not me.

I didn't like school and it wasn't really very fond of me either. When teachers come to me and say "Can you believe so and so did this!" I'm usually thinking, "Yup, and I did it better and more often then they have."

I was in the Principal's office so many times I asked the Principal if I could call him Mike. There were 25 ceiling tiles in the waiting area outside his office. My mom was the bus driver, and Mr. Daniels used to meet her in the bus loop holding onto my coat collar. I used to look out the big windows eager to escape. Once a teacher yelled me at me to pay attention and I repeated what she had said for the previous 5 minutes. My first job interview was with a principal that had suspended me twice for fighting! When I told my former teachers that I was an educator the response was laughter. One told me that it was my penance!

So how did I get here?

My darn little brother!

My little brother Jim, is 13 years younger then I am. He is the reason I am here. Well, him and a certain first grade teacher. I was in my second year of college when Jim went into first grade. I was studying political science, business, marine biology. OK, I wasn't quite sure what I was doing, but I was having a great time doing it!

I came home after my first week at school and my very eager brother told me that he had the same first grade teacher that I had, and she remembered me. (I must apologize to my brother Mike who is only 3 years younger than me. Teachers were a little afraid to have a Griffin after me.) He excitedly showed me the assignments he had done during his first week of school.  Looking at the worksheets they seemed familiar and I passed it off  as deja vu, I mean all worksheets look similar. Later that weekend, feeling nostalgic,  I went up to the attic and looked for some of my old school papers. I came across a large manila envelope labeled first grade. Upon opening it I grew angry. I took the papers downstairs and showed them to my parents.  As we looked at them we saw that the worksheets I had done and the worksheets my brother had done 13 years later... were identical. The funniest/scariest part is that my worksheets were done on a mimeograph and my brother's worksheets, well... they were photocopies of the mimeograph original.  

Yes, seriously.
She was a teacher that taught 1 year, 30 times.
When I went to visit his classroom I looked at her "lesson" book. The pages were yellow with age.

I went back to college that next week and changed my major to Elementary Education. I knew that I could do a better job than her. I knew that my brother was not receiving the education he deserved. I was determined that I would take her job and provide the students of my town a better education then they had been receiving.

Ever since then, I have tried to live up to the promise I made to myself that day. I've succeeded most days, weeks, months, and even  years. However, I keep growing and learning, I want to have a 35 year career, not 1 year 35 times.

A footnote!
I have to tell you about the first cooperating teacher I had during my student teaching. She had started teaching in 1953 (43 years) and she didn't believe men should be elementary school teachers. One of her first questions was to ask me if I was a "fruit" and yes she used the word "fruit." I did not remain long in that class!