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Showing posts from 2017

School Administration: It's a Calling Too!

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an article posted on Facebook that was titled "Increasing Salaries So Teachers Don't Have To Become Principals" by Lee Hale. The point of the article wasn't to downplay the role of principals per se and really had more to do with how we show our value to the profession. That said, it did stick in my craw a little bit that if you are a good teacher, it is somehow "lesser" to have to become a principal. 
Anyone who becomes a principal will tell you that the thing they miss most is being able to make the kind of connection with a learner that you make by having them in your classroom every day. To put my cards completely on the table, I miss that too. That's why this next year, I am bringing AP Psychology to my campus so that I can help co-design and teach the course with one of my facilitators. I miss that feeling of being in the classroom and getting to make that level of connection with my learners. 
Classroom teaching is valu…

Tales of a Rookie Principal: When Graduation is Over

Sometime in the last week of school, one of the seniors jokingly asked me if I was ready to be done with the school year. For context, we happened to be standing next to the class of 2017's senior wall where paint had already been rubbed into the carpet, music was playing, and seniors were clearly DONE.

I imagine that from the outside, it could look like a pretty stressful time of the year for school administrators, probably because it is. At the end of the school year, a high school admin has a lot to be focused on: graduation, final exams, staffing for the next year, schedule for the next year, closing out things with current year students, staff, and families. At moments, more is added to the to-do list than is taken off of it.

Even with all of this going on though, my response to the senior was an honest and sincere one: no, I wasn't ready for the school year to be over. There's still more work to be done!

The saddest day for me is the day after all of the learners lea…

The Heart of a Teacher

I spent part of my day at a job fair, along with various others from my district, in hopes of finding the next great educators to join our team. Hiring season is always an interesting time and it causes administrators like myself to really reflect on those qualities that make for quality educators, mentors, and leaders. The comical part of the day was that I spent my time with another administrator talking about how much we miss the classroom. Administration work is not always the "fun" work and we don't always get the opportunities to build relationships with learners like we did when we saw them every day (or every other day on a block). We both miss teaching so much that my colleague confessed to me her plans to go back to the classroom eventually and I confessed to her my plans to hopefully find a way to team teach one of my favorite classes of all time, AP Psychology. You know what they say: you can take the teacher out of the classroom...
It takes a lot to be an edu…

Part 4: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development (Knows and Need to Knows List)

In the last couple of posts in this series, I outlined some of the opportunities that our campus is going to have next year and outlined what the task was that our staff will be accomplishing. Now that we know that our work is going to be geared toward redesigning and reimagining instruction for a modified block schedule with "workshop days", the focus then turned to a really pivotal part of the PBL process: identifying Knows and Need to Knows (K/NTK). For any staff that is undergoing major structural changes like the change in a schedule, there are always a lot of questions that can cause a certain amount of uncertainty. The key is to make sure that the questions lead ultimately to answers and not to fear, anxiety, or frustration. Not an easy thing to do when you area having to change long-held practices! Fortunately, the K/NTK process provided a really great structure for my staff and I to get out in the air all of the questions that people have about our new schedule and …

Want Secondary Inspiration? Visit an Elementary School

As I have mentioned before, I am very fortunate to straddle two districts: I work in one high performing district and I live in and send my kids to school in another high performing district. Both districts share similar values and provide amazing learning opportunities for their learners. That said, I have spent the majority of my time in education as a high school person and have only recently spent a little bit of time at the elementary level as a parent (and as one half of a touring duo where educators from other districts visit both my campus and an elementary campus as a part of one tour experience).

There are lots of reasons to consider the elementary and secondary worlds as being different. First, you have the age of the learners, which means that different things will be developmentally appropriate to different groups. Second, you also have differences in understanding, experience, and attention span; all very real things that classroom teachers from across the school system w…

After Action Review: Learning From Failure and Building Success

This post is slightly out of order in my series on using PBL as a basis for Designing PD, but I wanted to share a success that our staff had this week in using a new (to us, but definitely not new) protocol to evaluate the success of our efforts to design what we are calling Workshop Wednesdays. The reason I call the use of the protocol a success is because it helped us to: evaluate the successes and failures of our pilot projectgave everyone an opportunity to give feedbackinvigorated the staff by providing an avenue to celebrate their own workempowered the staff to push beyond the ok and to imagine greatI promise I will get back to the original series next week to explain the steps that led up to this point!

On Wednesday, March 22nd, our campus engaged in the 2nd pilot of our "Workshop Wednesday" plan. To catch you up if you haven't been reading the blog, the "Workshop Wednesday" is a day in our schedule where facilitators set up a schedule for the day that cou…

Part 3: Determining the Culminating Event: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

In my previous two posts, we established what our learning target is and how to frame it as a problem statement for our staff to address. Since I am not really comfortable with the phrase "problem statement" (at least in the case of when we are talking about doing what is best for our learners), I am going to go with the simple reframing of an "opportunity statement".

Now that we have outlined the goal of our faculty learning, the question of "how do we design an authentic learning experience for our educators?", is answered in the very real world of their practice as educators. Some questions we considered as we were designing that authentic experience are:
What culminating event would demonstrate that our educators are able to take advantage of this opportunity? In very real terms, what product by virtue of its creation, would accurately convey the learning of the educator? How will the new learning affect instructional practice?

Considering these question…

Part 2: Leading by Doing: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

Identifying the Learning Objective
Recently, I shared the reasons why I am using Project Based Learning as a design model for our professional learning as a campus. This week, I would like to describe the early steps of that process.
I was hired in early July to be the principal of New Tech High @ Coppell. Any time you enter a new system (I was hired from outside the district) and especially a new campus, it can take some time to review the data, make observations, and develop a plan. The goal is to make sure that the plan that is created is not just driven by the traditions of the school or by the proclivities of the new leader, but by the current and future needs of the campus.
The first step in designing a lesson, project, etc. is understanding what standards, objectives, or essential questions that need to be obtained. When designing professional learning, the process begins just the same, the only difference is the question must be answered for adult learners. As a project based cam…

Leading by Doing: Why I am Using PBL to Design Professional Development

When I was first introduced to Project Based Learning it was as an offshoot to a much larger training that was provided to teachers in my (previous) district. I was in a group of classroom teachers who sought out the challenge of being a 1-to-1 iPad classroom in a school system that had previously not had this level of technology integration. The training was offered in such a way that the primary mechanism for teacher behavior change was through sparking interest and curiosity among educators. The goal being that we would feel comfortable stepping out on a limb and taking risks if we saw that there were other ways of doing things. The introduction went like a lot of professional development in a lot of places: As you can imagine there were a lot of people who were excited to try out Project Based Learning (PBL) and I was definitely one of them. Not long before leaving the classroom, I even launched my own nascent project that I fully regret not staying in the classroom a little longer…