Posts Tagged With: Capacity Building

EDCAMP Millennial – New Teachers Are Different

Most individuals entering the teaching profession today are different.

They’re part of the Millennial generation, born sometime after 1982 and before 2004, and are often referred to as Generation “Y” or Generation “Me.” It is widely believed that each generation comes with a set of common traits and Millennials are known, on the one hand for their confidence and tolerance, but on the other hand for a sense of entitlement and narcissism. Baby Boomers like me (who, by the way, consider ourselves to be work-centric, independent, goal-oriented, and competitive) often focus in on these more negative traits when talking about the Millennials. We have a hard time wrapping our heads around why they aren’t more like us.

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I recently read an article about the 5 Key Traits Millennial Consumers Share and started thinking about the large number of new teachers who are part of the Mentorship Program in my District this year. The 5 traits listed below are very evident in this group and our year of Mentorship has evolved into something completely different as a result.

  1. Millennials expect technology to simply work–so you’d better make sure that it does.
  2. Millennials are a social generation—and they socialize while consuming (and deciding to consume) your products and services.
  3. They collaborate and cooperate–with each other and, when possible, with brands.
  4. They’re looking for adventure (and whatever comes their way).
  5. They’re passionate about values–including the values of companies they do business with.

Our Mentorship program consists of a number of components throughout the year including 8 evening supper sessions where about 80 new teachers, mentors and District staff come together for sessions that support new teachers. A schedule is usually created at the beginning of the year based on new initiatives and feedback from the previous year. Traditionally, the sessions are led by District staff and the mentors are there to provide our new teachers with wisdom and advice.

Well this year something very interesting has happened. By mid year it became obvious that this particular group of new teachers wanted something more than ‘sit and get’ learning. They wanted more brought to the table. They craved learning in a way that’s highlighted in the 5 points listed above. So, in an effort to respond to their needs we stepped away from our traditional learning model and held an EDCAMP type evening this past February. I was familiar with the EDCAMP model after attending a few myself and organizing one when I was a principal earlier in my career. When the evening arrived I was expecting the mentor teachers to sign up and lead the majority of the sessions. After all, they were the ones with most of the knowledge and experience. By doing so they could then lead conversations that would engage the new teachers in a collaborative setting. But that’s not what happened at all. Fourteen of the fifteen sessions were added to our board and led by the new teachers. (see the board below) Our mentors were happy to step back and allow the newbies to take charge, sharing their learning and ideas. Not once during the evening did our new teachers appear uncomfortable with the format. In fact, they embraced it and were highly engaged the entire evening.

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The point I’m trying to make here is that this is yet another example of how we need to let go of our traditional beliefs around Education. Not only is learning changing for kids, it is also changing for these Millennials who are entering the teaching profession. If we want teachers who are life long learners and who are fully engaged in the transformation of our Education system we need to understand who they are and what makes them tic. My plan is to do that going forward.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Drawing a Line in the Sand

According to Wikipedia “a line in the sand” is a metaphor with two similar meanings:

The first meaning is of a point (physical, decisional, etc.) beyond which one will proceed no further.
The second meaning is that of a point beyond which, once the decision to go beyond it is made, the decision and its resulting consequences are permanently decided and irreversible.line-300x202

On a recent trip to Toronto I was fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. John Malloy, Director of Education at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. Dr. Malloy gave an enthusiastic accounting of the 1-to-1 iPad initiative currently playing out in his Districts’ 100 plus schools. In the initial year of a five-year plan they have placed iPads in the hands of every student in seven elementary schools, in one secondary school, and in the assistive technology used in two other secondary schools. If the roll out goes according to plan, every student will have the full time use of an iPad by 2019. The plan, titled “Transforming Learning Everywhere”, is strongly supported by their School Board and will be resourced heavily through ongoing teacher professional development, adequate wireless bandwidth in every school, and a team of individuals to support and maintain all aspects of the project. Wow!

Then Dr. Malloy shared what I thought was the most brilliant part of the entire initiative. He used the metaphor of “a line in the sand” to describe the plan they had to reduce paper in schools throughout the District. As more iPads are deployed, more paper will be removed. “If we are going to continue to provide access to the old way of doing things”, he said, “how are we going to get our teachers to buy into something new? We can’t afford both.” By 2019 Hamilton-Wentworth will be 95% paperless. This is written into the strategic plan.

Here is the problem that exists most everywhere. All too often School Districts continue to allow outdated practices to exist at the same time they introduce something new.Unknown When this happens many teachers simply opt out of risking the new practice and retreat to what is most comfortable to them. For system leaders, resources are scarce so if they aren’t able to build a coalition of the willing, real change rarely occurs.

I think everyone can agree that the Education landscape is changing more rapidly than ever before. Our students were born into a different world than we were. They learn differently and will require a very different set of skills in today’s society and workplace. Transforming pedagogy should not be an option but rather a requirement of all teachers. All available resources should be used, not on maintaining the old, but on building the new.

We need more leaders who, like Dr. Malloy, are not afraid to draw that line in the sand.

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Do We Do With What We’ve Got?

Recently I attended the Apple Education Leadership Institute in Toronto where school system leaders from throughout our country and around the world gathered to network and share innovative and forward thinking educational practices. The highlight for me was hearing from Apple’s Vice President of Education, John Couch, who not only has grown Apple Education to a $9 billion per year business, but was a close friend of Steve Jobs and assisted in programming the first ever MacIntosh software. Sitting next to him was pretty cool. Even though part of Couch’s keynote address was about how the “Apple Ecosystem” is the best way forward for education worldwide, it was nice to hear him talk about his 4 year old grandson and how worried his family is as he begins his education career next year. Couch spoke a lot about the kind of teacher we need if our schools are going to remain relevant in the years to come. As an individual directly involved in human resources in my District his words resonated with me as it is my responsibility to secure the most capable, forward thinking and innovative teachers for our students.

As the conference continued there were a number of break out sessions to choose from (mostly led by teachers and school leaders who are transforming learning using Apple products) and I became increasingly aware of the single most important qualification each of them held. There was no reference to B. Ed., M. Ed. or Ph. D. after their names. Instead each held the highly sought after qualification known as ADE or Apple Distinguished Educator. To date there are approximately 2000 ADEs worldwide, each of whom “is recognized for doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that each of the presenters are doing some wonderful work with students but as I travelled home I began thinking about the teachers I know who are also engaging their students in new and exciting ways. And they are using a variety of tools to do so, not just iPads, Apps and Apple TVs. I would never take anything away from an individual who wants to become an ADE or a Google Certified Teacher (or receive any other additional certifications for that matter) because anything we can do to build our capacity in meeting the needs of today’s learner is important. But I would challenge each of us to take a close look at this wonderful graphic via Jeff Dunn and ask ourselves if our practice is in alignment with these characteristics.

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In my opinion our work is less about what we have and more about what we do with what we have. If we are not a risk taker, collaborator, adaptor, learner, and visionary does it really matter what our qualifications are. I know many teachers who are highly qualified but are unwilling to risk new things to move their practice forward. At the same time I watch with great pride as some of our newest teachers push the envelope every day. Today, every teacher has a responsibility to learn and then to act on what they learn.

My colleague George Couros writes this excellent article on what it is to be a Master Teacher. The 10 qualities he puts forward are more about competencies and processes and less about products and outcomes. This would support the idea that you have never ‘arrived’ at becoming a Master Teacher. Instead, you are always on your way to getting there. The best teachers already know this.

There are many opportunities for teachers to improve their practice through wonderful platforms like Apple and Google. Along with this, embarking on post graduate studies has become more accessible than ever. This, however, is my question and my challenge to you; What are you doing with ‘what you’ve got?’

 

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Essential Question

“Not by age but by capacity is wisdom acquired.”

– Titus Maccius Plautus

 

This year, as conceived by Assistant Superintendent Jessie Shirley and her team, our District is embarking on a PD model that will significantly change the way our teachers engage in their own professional growth. Working in teams with their grade level colleagues throughout the District teachers will create, research, and collaborate around an essential question designed to drive student learning forward. Through action research teams will identify promising practices, incorporate these strategies into their daily instruction, then come back to their team to discuss and refine. A list of suggested topics was provided as a starting point, however it was made clear that the list was not exhaustive, giving individuals autonomy in the selection process. Below is one list of ideas that was made available. The other two lists were around the themes of literacy and numeracy.

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Sample Differentiated Instruction Topics

As a District we have provided 12 Friday afternoons for our teachers to meet free from instruction, which will give them a solid 3 hour block of time to engage with colleagues who have selected a similar essential question. If we want teachers to learn and grow together we need to give them time to do it. A lot of work went into the District calendar to make this happen. At the end of the year each teacher will present their learning to the group as a way to demonstrate growth and make decisions going forward. I look forward to watching as this exciting new PD model plays out over the year. The ultimate goal is that it impacts student learning in a meaningful way.

By the way, our Superintendent Karl Germann added an important element to this new plan. He has asked that every certified teacher in the District, including principals and central office personnel, complete the Essential Question. He believes that we all need to embrace continual growth, no matter what our role is in the District.

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So here is my Essential Question:

How can building the instructional leadership capacity of our principals & vice principals allow me to engage every teacher in our District & drive learning forward?

I plan to work with members of our leadership team, both at the school and District level, to continue the work I started last year with Instructional Leadership. I should never forget that even my work in Human Resources is really about student success.

These are exciting times in Education and I’m happy to be part of a District where that change is being embraced. Let the learning begin.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Great Teachers = Great Schools. That’s It.

“If you don’t have great teachers, you don’t have a great school and nothing else is going to change that.” – Todd Whitaker, What Great Teachers Do Differently.”

At an orientation earlier this week we welcomed 45 new teachers into our District. What a great day it was after spending 8 months recruiting and hiring the best teacher candidates we could find from Universities and Colleges across our country. This year we decided to keep the day short so we wouldn’t overwhelm our new recruits, so the day (which only went from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) included welcomes and introductions, a meal, a payroll/benefits presentation, and an explanation of our new teacher website, which replaced the 2 inch thick binder we’ve handed out in the past. Our gift to them as they left was Todd Whitaker‘s book, What Great Teachers Do Differently, which we strongly encouraged each of them read before the first day of school. During our two hours together I was continually reminded of the importance of identifying and hiring the best possible teachers and then powerfully supporting them throughout their career.

A week earlier I attended a presentation by Professor John Hattie and his team who have completed extensive research on the influences on student learning. His Visible Learning research suggests that most everything we do influences student learning. The average effect size is .40 so suffice to say, if strategies from the following list are present in our schools, we will be on the right path.

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Hattie’s Top Influences on Student Achievement

This has me reflecting a lot about the 45 teachers who have joined our #GPCSD team. I believe we’ve hired some great young teachers and I would argue that most every strategy identified on this list could be replaced with the words “great teaching.” Lets take a closer look at the top 10:

Self-Report Grades – This strategy involves the teacher finding out what are the student’s expectations and pushing the learner to exceed these expectations. Once a student has performed at a level that is beyond their own expectations, he or she gains confidence in his or her learning ability.

Piagetian Programs – These programs focus on the thinking processes rather than the outcomes and do not impose the adult thinking process on children. This is done when the teacher creates and provides engaging and relevant learning experiences.

Providing Formative Evaluation – The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by teachers to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning.

Micro Teaching – This involves the teacher video recording a lesson with a debriefing. The lesson is reviewed in order to improve the teaching and learning experience.

Acceleration – Great teachers know how to accelerate learning for their students (not just enrich). They understand that if students are able to move on to higher levels of curriculum we should not be holding them back. Perhaps another case for moving away from grouping our students by age.

Classroom Behavioural  – The best teachers build trusting relationships with their students. If they don’t know that you care, they won’t care what you know.

Comprehensive Intervention for Learning Disabled – To improve achievement teachers must provide students with tools and strategies to organize themselves as well as new material; techniques to use while reading, writing, and doing math; and systematic steps to follow when working through a learning task or reflecting upon their own learning.

Teacher Clarity – Excellent teachers clearly communicate the intentions of the lessons and the success criteria to their students. Teachers need to know the goals and success criteria of their lessons, know how well all students in their class are progressing, and know where to go next.

Reciprocal Teaching – This refers to an instructional activity in which students become the teacher in small group sessions. Teachers model, then help students learn to guide group discussions. Once students have learned the strategies, they take turns assuming the role of teacher in leading a dialogue.

Feedback – Hattie emphasizes that the most powerful feedback is that given from the student to the teacher. This feedback allows teachers to see learning through the eyes of their students. It makes learning visible and facilitates the planning of next steps. The feedback that students receive from their teachers is also vital. It enables students to progress towards challenging learning intentions and goals.

So in my opinion education researchers and authors like John Hattie and Todd Whitaker have it right. Our most important work is in supporting the right people doing the right work. If we place our energy and resources behind this simple concept, visible learning and teaching will become the norm.

Who are we looking for when we recruit?

What are our expectations of them?

How are we welcoming them into our District?

How are we supporting them throughout their career?

 

 

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You Weren’t Hired To Maintain The Status Quo

Dr. Justin Tarte is one of the most influential people I follow on Twitter. He continuously shares relevant material that both reinforces and challenges my thinking. If you don’t mind, Justin, I would like to borrow this powerful quote you shared as part of some very important work I will be carrying out over the next few days. UnknownMy plan is to visit a number of teachers in my district to personally present them with their continuous contract. A contract they have earned over the last number of months. One that has been recommended by the principal of their school after a year of formal and informal observations. They have, in no small way, proven themselves to be the kind of teacher we are ready to commit to for the rest of their career and I want to remind them that this is a big deal. After visiting their classroom and observing them teaching one final time this year, not only do I plan to present them with a copy of Justin’s quote, I will share a few other thoughts as well:

  1. We are offering you this contract because we see you as a forward thinking and innovative teacher who will do whatever is necessary to help your students experience success.
  2. We are offering you this contract because you are a risk-taker, always pushing the envelope with your teaching.
  3. We are offering you this contract because you have a growth mindset.
  4. We are offering you this contract because it is evident that you see the value in collaboration, constantly building your own capacity and that of your colleagues.
  5. We are offering you this contract because you have shown us that you know how to meet the needs of all learners, making the learning experience relevant to them.
  6. I encourage you to continue the development of your digital portfolio. It will assist you in identifying areas in which you excel as well as areas in which you could continue to grow. It will also provide you with a body of evidence on which you can continuously reflect.
  7. We are offering you this contract because it is obvious that you love children, and that they love you.
  8. We’re counting on you and so are your students.

I could have sent the contract out via our inter-school mail system, but I want each of them to know that the decision to offer a continuous contract is a very difficult one that requires a great deal of conversation and reflection. So I’m going to take the time to go to them. As Superintendent Karl Germann says, it is like offering “a million dollar contract.”

As I near the end of my first year in the role of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources I’ve come to see this as my most important work – inviting the very best teachers to become permanent members of our district family. I hope they will never forget why.

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Confronting Complacency

A few days ago I attended the Mighty Peace Teachers Convention where, for the second time in recent memory, Rick Wormeli was invited as a session presenter and delivered the opening keynote address titled, What we Could Do if we Were Brave Together. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Rick in the past and his unique gift of combining a quick wit with deep pedagogical knowledge once again had the crowd highly engaged for over an hour.

Rick seems to always hit on a few very important ideas and this presentation was no exception. Some of my key take-aways were similar to those in the past:

  • Don’t wave at your students from the edge of the pit; jump in with them.
  • It’s no longer either homework or school work; its just work.
  • Fair isn’t always equal.
  • Re-do’s are a good thing.
  • Think creatively to meet the needs of your students.

In this presentation, however, he spent a good deal of time talking about something I had not heard from him before. Standing in front of over a thousand teachers I watched as he strongly encouraged them not only to challenge themselves to transform their teaching but to challenge each other as well. “When we are brave“, he said, “we find the freedom, language, and spirit to confront complacency and ineffective practice, and, even better, to do something about them.” He went on to suggest that in order to push all of us closer to the kind of teacher we always wanted to be, we need to build a school culture that cultivates pedagogical courage. For about 15 minutes he drove this point home again and again.complacency

As an individual responsible for human resources, I want to sincerely thank Rick Wormeli for opening up this conversation with teachers in my district. There are many forward thinking and innovative individuals out there who I’m sure appreciated the challenging words of encouragement. In my role I’m fortunate enough to come across these trail blazers every day and have witnessed first hand many teachers who are quietly moving their practice to new heights while, at the same time, the colleague across the hall holds on to outdated and traditional methods.

Policy makers, district leaders, and school principals are really only a small part of changing teaching. If we want grass roots transformation in our schools, we need our trail blazing teachers to be brave and confront that colleague across the hall. Not only should you challenge them, you should offer to help them as well.

I hope and pray that Rick’s message will resonate with teachers and move them into action.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

First Who…Then What

First Who . . . Then What.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, shares one of my favourite quotes of all time. “The best leaders”, he says, “get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats—and then they figure out where to drive it.” He goes on to say that the old adage “People are your most important asset”, turns out to be wrong. “People are not your most important asset. The g2g-first-whoright people are.”

Last week, as is the case around this time every year, we sent “Intent Forms” to every teacher in my district. The purpose of the intent form is to collect as much information as possible so we can make important decisions about staffing for next year (Yes, we’re already planning for next year). The form asks teachers to let us know where they see themselves in the future —> Would you like to remain in your current position? Would you like to transfer? If so, where would you like to go? Are you planning to retire? Are you planning to leave our district for another reason? This information, along with other data such as projected growth or decline in student enrolment, potential new programs, administrative vacancies, and sources of funding is all part of the puzzle in trying to figure out a staffing profile for the upcoming year.

What I like about the intent form is that it provides a great opportunity for teachers to communicate to the district where they see themselves sitting on the bus. What I don’t like about it is that it provides absolutely no opportunity for district leaders to share their ideas with teachers. As a matter of fact, it can be very difficult for district leadership to get the right people in the right seats. In these rapidly changing times, there needs to be some flexibility in assigning teachers so that specific skills can be more equitably allocated across schools, building individual teacher capacity and improving district performance. However, the power to involuntarily transfer teachers to different schools remains hotly contested in many districts because it’s usually seen as arbitrary or unfair treatment.

How do we change that? After all, I’ve witnessed first hand throughout my career a number of teachers who were very upset about being transferred involuntarily only to be thrilled with their situation a few months later. As Collins suggests in Good to Great, as leaders we have a responsibility to get our teachers into the right seats. Without that we’ve lost before we even get started. So I went looking for some research on the positive outcomes of involuntary teacher transfer and guess what – there’s little or none to be found. What I did find was policy after policy in school districts throughout our province that makes successful involuntary teacher transfer fairly challenging and a crap-shoot at best.

I’d like to suggest the following as a framework for involuntary teacher transfer in your district. I would love to hear from you on this as well:

  • Write it into policy.
  • Make it normal practice to transfer a few teachers every year.
  • Build a culture of collaboration across your district and between schools.
  • Make it clear to new teachers when they join your district.
  • Make teaching at a number of schools a prerequisite for leadership positions.
  • Support teachers when they transfer to a new school.
  • Don’t just transfer ineffective teachers, transfer your superstars as well.
  • ?
  • ?

If we’re going to get our schools from good to great, we have to get the right people in the right seats. First who… then what.

 

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Probationary Teacher Portfolio – Yes or No?

There are currently 35 teachers in my district holding probationary contracts.

Most teachers, particularly those just entering the profession or new to the province, will start employment with a board under a probationary contract, a provision introduced by the 1988 School Act. Section 98 sets out the requirements. The contract must be for a complete school year, cannot be offered to someone employed by the board in the preceding school year (other than as a substitute or temporary contract teacher—see below) and will terminate on the following June 30th. If, at the end of the year, the employer’s evaluations of the teacher so indicate and the teacher agrees, the probationary contract may be extended for an additional period not exceeding a second full year.

Probationary Teacher Portfolio Questionnaire

Principals are responsible for completing a formal performance evaluation on teachers holding a probationary contract, which will assist them in making a recommendation to the Superintendent of Schools regarding contract status for the subsequent school year. They are required to submit that evaluation, along with their recommendation, by April 30th.

Starting this year, so that our principals will have as much information as possible when completing these evaluations, we are asking our teachers to create, present and submit a portfolio. This portfolioportfolio-300x157 can be designed in a format of their choosing as long as it’s contents satisfies what is asked in this questionnaire. They should be able to take examples of the work they are already doing and compile it. Reference documents include the Teaching Quality Standard and the new Framework for Student Learning. We are asking them to present and submit the portfolio sometime in early April to allow time for the principal to review it before completing the evaluation.

Support will include exemplars of other teacher portfolios, time through the district Mentorship program, and ongoing support from their principal. Other than that it is the responsibility of the teacher to complete the portfolio. And I don’t see it as hoop to jump through. My hope is that they’ll continue to build the portfolio for years to come. Personally, I developed an electronic portfolio a number of years ago and have referred back to it on a number of occasions throughout my career. A portfolio, as a living document, is a wonderful tool for reflection.

The main concern over the portfolio initiative of course is time. Some are worried that we are burdening our new teachers with additional work in an already labour intensive year. That’s a very good point. On the other hand, if we want the best teachers for our district, and if we want to ensure they are continuing to grow in their practice, we need to insist that efforts are being concentrated in the right place. In the ever-changing and complex world of education, a portfolio is one way teachers can show us they are on the right track. We must be certain we’ve got it right. Only then should we enter into a long-term relationship through a continuous contract.

So what say you? Probationary teacher portfolio – yes or no?

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Education Transformation, Human Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Set Yourself Up For Failure in 2014

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable IMG_0469to change.”

So with this in mind I would like to recommend that you set yourself up for failure this year. Setting yourself up for failure doesn’t mean accepting failure. To me, it means taking a risk and trying something new. It means moving away from something you’ve been doing the same way for a long time. It means going out on a limb and getting out of your comfort zone. It means opening yourself up to all the wonderful possibilities that exist.

As educators we find ourselves in this exciting time of rapid change. We need to adapt to that change. There is no better time than now to commit to doing something that might just fail. You may have to go back to the drawing board and try it a second time. It might not work out the way you had hoped the second time either. But you have to try. You owe it to your students and to yourself. Print off this contract, sign it, and attach it to the wall near your desk:

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Want some ideas? I suggest you try one or more of these:

  1. Project-based Learning.
  2. Flip your lessons.
  3. Allow your students to use their devices for learning.
  4. Blog with your students.
  5. Try a Mystery Skype.
  6. Set up a class Twitter account.
  7. Collaborate with a teacher in a different school. (or even a different country)
  8. Incorporate more peer and self assessment.
  9. Start student digital portfolios.
  10. GAFE.

So what are you waiting for? When you walk back into your classroom in 2014, commit to pushing your practice to new heights. Pick somethingIMG_0206 new and innovative and give it a try. Set yourself up for failure and watch yourself grow. You won’t regret it.

Happy New Year!

 

Categories: Capacity Building, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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