Saturday, December 8, 2007

Staying Connected!

A large part of a coaches job is that of a learner. I take this role very seriously because I am a part of a high performing learning community where teachers are life-long learners and leaders themselves. I constantly have to seek knowledge and tools to keep steps ahead of those that have chosen to follow me.

To learn, I work on being connected to a larger community. I remain connected through Twitter and reading blogs of educators across our globe. This allows me to have dialogue with others about educational issues from an assortment of different perspectives. This on-going two way communication leads me to instant learning in real time without delays in getting ideas penned and published.

To demonstrate my point: I am in the middle of cleaning my house this morning. I take a one minute break (which now has become 9 minutes) from vacuuming and sit at the computer to see who in my network is twittering this morning. A teacher by the user name, langwitches has left the following message:

New blog post:The Power of Playing.Time to explore.That is how I learn too. 23 minutes ago from web

So, 23 minutes has passed since an educator has written and e-published. These are her ideas not months or years from now that I am reading, but less than a 1/2 hour after she's penned them. I follow the link and discover this a post that takes me less than 4 minutes to read. The analogy is applicable to not only students but teachers who follow coaches. I'll use this analogy in someway in my coaching. I also jump on e-mail and leave the link so the Leadership Team I am part of can read the post. How easy...and in under 10 minutes! Happy Learning

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"Behold! I bring you tidings of Great Joy!"

The first Wednesday of each month, our principal, Susan Phillips, holds our monthly faculty meeting. Per teacher contract, she is able to call twelve ninety minute faculty meetings each year after school. She doesn't call any. Rather, she calls one monthly meeting, held on the clock, and it has nothing to do with the traditional dissemination of information. She uses her weekly Memo and Blog to communicate with staff, and face to face meetings are reserved for professional learning through the use of children's literature. Her meetings are not faculty meetings, rather they are Book of the Month meetings.

The Principal's Book of the Month has been happening at Chets Creek since 2001 when we became an America's Choice school. America's Choice uses Book of the Month to introduce all school stakeholders to the same piece of rich children's literature. The principal is then able to have dialogue with all learners and leaders surrounding this one common text.

From the beginning, our Principal has purchased a copy of the selected book for every teacher. Not only does she read teachers the text but she's taken it above and beyond by introducing a strategy with the text. For example, one year she took the reading strategies from Kylene Beer's professional text, When Kids Can't Read-- What Teachers Can Do and introduced each strategy at Book of the Month through the use of her selected children's text. Teachers leave Book of the Month with the text in tow and a strategy sheet which explains why she selected the text along with how to implement the strategy.

December's Book of the Month, Kate DiCamillo's first children's text, Great Joy was unveiled today using the strategy of Digital Storytelling. Susan began by walking staff through how she created the voice thread account, recorded her reading, and how she saved the pictures. Afterward, the final product, which took her only 20 minutes to create, was unveiled. The digital story of Great Joy left the learning leaders thinking about the possibilities.

In fact, it is not uncommon on a Book of the Month day to walk the building and see teachers rolling out the book or strategy that same day. Today was no exception. A 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Young, hustled back to her room and got busy having several students make a digital story from their published narratives. By the end of the day, they had the digital story posted on their class blog for students, parents, and other teachers to enjoy. Now that is rapid implementation!

Sharing Best Practice--EInstruction!

New learning for me happens everyday! I get so excited by new found discoveries because I have a natural curiosity to know as much as I can about the instruction in my building. I also can't stop until I've shared my learning with someone else. I guess that is what fundamentally tugs at the heart of a coach--sharing best practice.

A 2nd grade teacher in my building submitted a proposal to present at the America's Choice National Conference in January. Her accepted proposal was based on the integration of technology for teaching in the content area of science. So, she wrote a letter to EInstruction asking for a donation of a teacher chalkboard and a class set of response pads. Her grant proposal, too, was accepted and her new teaching tools arrived! She mentioned this to me in an informal conversation and I told her to let me know when she implemented them in her class so I could drop by. Two days later, she was up and running. Now, I've seen response clickers in the past, but I have to tell you, this technology has come a long way!

The teacher, Melissa, had the wireless teacher chalkboard resting comfortably in her lap. The students sitting in their gathering area each had a response clicker in their hand. The computer screen was projected onto the whiteboard. Melissa had programmed about 10 math questions that students had to answer. She projected one question at a time and the students used their response clicker to type in A,B,C, or D. Melissa could see on the screen who had answered the question and then went to the answer. The technology allowed her to see how many students had answered correctly and how many incorrectly. (There is also a way for her to see who it was, although she didn't do so on this day). She also can graph the results along with a slew of other options. Now this is instant assessment and a student accountability system! No longer does she have to only know how one student will respond when she poses a question, but with this tool she knows how they will all answer! No more hiding behind the kid in front of you!
This handy e system can do much more including printing a plethora of valuable reports to help the teacher prescribe instruction.

The coach in me wasn't content to just sit and watch. My wheels were already spinning... Who would love to have this technology in their classroom? How could they use it? How can this help accelerate student achievement? I immediately called another teacher (who co-teaches) and asked him to come to Melissa's room. He did. Now, he's inquiring about purchasing the technology for his own classroom. If you are reading this and you are a teacher in my building, stop by Melissa's room to see this in action. I guarantee it'll be a must have on your next purchasing list!
Getting others excited about new ideas (or old ideas that I'm finally excited about) is a real thrill for me. At the heart of my love for coaching is assisting others in making new discoveries, or in implementing oldies but goodies!

Monday, December 3, 2007

What did I learn?

A teacher, in passing today, declared, "I read your blog on 5x5's. I saw in the slides some of the things that you saw on your walk. But, what I really want to know is-- What did you learn from this walk?" I can take a hint--I realize now that I never synthesized the information, so here goes.

What did I learn?

1. All teachers on the top floor have a fully implemented Workshop Model.

2. Math teachers have embraced our new supplemental program, Everyday Counts, and their classrooms show evidence that they teach it every day.

3. Students are receiving embedded test taking strategy lessons in Reading on Wednesdays due to the extended instructional time with no resources.

4. Teachers are actively using their newly acquired Elmos and Projectors for a majority of their lessons.

5. Students in Readers' Workshop are reading on their appropriate reading levels.

6. Teachers are conferring with students in Reading, Writing, Math, and Science during the students' work period time.

7. All teachers are following the grade level's pacing guides.

What do I see as a next step?

4th grade math teachers have developed an Everyday Counts recording tool which holds every student accountable for the learning that has taken place in the lesson. They need to share this recording tool with teachers in third and fifth grade.

We need to have a data bank of all the test taking strategies for access by all teachers. I know we've had lists in the past but I'm seeing some new strategies that could be added.

I observed Elmo and Projector use in both opening session and closing sessions. In one classroom, I observed a teacher collect two student samples and place them under the Elmo for share chair. Each student could then see the student piece. We need to train all teachers to capture an image on the Elmo and create a folder in the shared file under each writing genre so we can archive student work. Think about how powerful it would be for a teacher to be able to pull a writing sample from Response to Literature before they taught that standard. It would be particularly important for a teacher new to the grade level or teachers could use it to show students before they began their own writing in that genre. In addition, grade level teachers could use each other's writing to benchmark their own instruction.

I'd like to capture some of the conferring on video and post on a blog site for other teachers to access. Many of our teachers ask probing questions that others would love to add to their repertoire. Conferring really is an art!

So, to the teacher that probed me to dig deeper--thank you! Making my thinking visible will hopefully help others in their journey at improving our craft. Kudos to you.