Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Coaching Resolution

Are you counting down the hours? Minutes? The new year is upon us. This usually brings time for reflection and growth. I mentioned in a previous post my professional New Year's resolutions. I'd like to add one more. While it doesn't involve a career change, it does involve including a career that I hadn't originally considered a part of my job. Marketing.

In order for teachers to know how to access my services, they need to understand what it is that I do, how they can access me, and how working with me can be a benefit to them and their students. Elena Aguilar posted a great blog about encouraging teachers to use coaches. Communication is the key. Making sure you are always explicit about what it is you do, how you can help, and the benefits of working with a coach.

I've tried the mass-marketing approach. I may have reached 2 people this way. I have been given advice that the best way to reach teachers is to approach them individually. But just like with students, you need to understand each individual teacher and how they desire to be approached, what the best way to work with them might be, and how to carry out a plan together. Using resources such as the DISC profile or other psycho-metrically developed assessments can give you insight into many of these areas.

You may not have access to this type of assessment (I know all of our staff will not have taken this by the start of the new year). Whether you have these tools or not, establishing a trusting relationship with staff members is far more essential than knowing personality types and preferences. Building trust begins with articulating your goals and beliefs upfront. What you do must be transparent (to a degree, there are aspects of working with teachers that can never become public knowledge, or trust WILL be broken). Finally, stating what you will do and then following up is crucial!

One teacher at a time. Knowing each teacher as an individual. Articulating goals. Follow through. We'll see how this translates into practice!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why School?

A great read was shared with our technology task force, Why School? by Will Richardson. This is a quick read that gives an overview of the state of schooling in the United States where technology is concerned, and how we need to shift our thinking from traditional classroom roles of teacher/student to global learners. Richardson begs the question that is so often neglected...Why do we need school?
Shift needs to happen in the way that we approach learning with our students. No longer is memorizing facts going to be enough to get students by in the real world. With ubiquitous information available, students will need to learn how to recognize the facts, assimilate new knowledge, and synthesize what they know to real-world application and problem solving. They will need skills in working collaboratively both face-to-face and on-line.

In order for our students to be well-armed in a global economy, our teachers must also be prepared to teach these skills to students. While it would be impossible for all teachers to keep up with the latest technology, teachers must be tech-savvy and willing to learn new platforms, applications, and software. This won't require a specific knowledge base as much as it will require a skill base of problem solving and an open mind.

I am hoping this book will help our technology task force realize the importance not of technology itself, but the mindset which we will need to equip our students for handling world-sized problems as they move to real-life situations. We will need to shift the way in which we approach teaching and professional development. We will need to examine how technology is currently used in the classroom and determine how best to help teachers make the necessary shifts and mindsets in teaching and learning.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pining about Pintrest

Okay, I'll be the first to admit I have a need to get my Pintrest fix every now and then. I love getting new ideas for decorating, recipes, and organizing home and office. What a great way for people to share the amazing ideas they come up with. I've recently seen several Elf on a Shelf pins (most of which are appropriate for those with small children).

So...what's my beef with Pinterest in education? Again, it's a great way to share ideas, see things in a new light. It's really not so much the idea of Pintrest itself. Suggestions from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning offer suggestions on how to link ideas and videos for students and teachers alike as well as book recommendations, printable games, and lesson plans for teachers to use in their classroom. While sharing is something that can and should be done, what often gets missed is the collaboration behind the sharing. When teachers pull an idea off of Pintrest to use with students, the appeal is often that it looked like a neat idea, the materials were appealing, and it was easy to pull an idea into the classroom. What is lacking in these instances are the following questions:

How will this particular activity/lesson benefit my students?
How will this activity fit in with the rest of our curriculum?
How will I know that students have benefited from this activity?

While technology is a great way to save time a pool resources, teaching is hard work! The ease of the internet and its amazing tools will never replace the thinking that goes behind great teaching. So teachers, pin away. Share your amazing ideas. But always keep at the center of your work what is benefiting your students' learning.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

End of the World?

The end of the world was to take place yesterday, December 21, 2012. Others believe this date was to signify a spiritual awakening for the entire world. At any rate, a new year will be upon us in ten days, which usually stirs up reflection in all of us. An opportunity to learn from the past year and grow as a result of our experiences. I've listed my top three for professional growth for the next year. What are yours?

1. Incorporate technology seamlessly as a part of professional development.
If I am not modeling this for staff, how can I expect them to follow suit? Allowing time to think about how to integrate new technologies into lessons is something that should be a part of every professional development session.

2. If something doesn't sound instructionally sound, speak out!
Creating cognitive dissonance should be a natural part of what I do. This is extremely uncomfortable for myself and others. I continue to develop my skills in this area.

3. Model lifelong learning.
I am a reader. I shouldn't be ashamed to admit this. Sometimes I feel like I turn colleagues off when I reference a source I've just read. I should be comfortable in doing this and modeling for others that learning is a continual process.

I would love to hear your resolutions for professional growth in the next year!