Saturday, September 24, 2011

Building Professional Trust

One of my professional goals this year is to encourage teachers to reflect, by providing them with the tools and time to do so. In addition, my goal is to model reflection for them. Each week I am sending out a "Friday Focus" which will share my reflections with staff on what I have recently encountered or learned about. Here is my most recent Friday Focus.
"What you teach today in your first grade classroom matters to those students when they are in fourth grade. and well beyond." ~Unknown

"When I attended Regie Routman’s Literacy and Leadership Institute this past summer, one of the leaders of a breakout session (a principal from Colorado) shared this quote with us. In addition, she talked about how her staff, over time, developed professional trust with one another. I almost snickered when someone asked, "What do you mean by professional trust?" But I was amazed by her profound response...

"If we have professional trust amongst us, then a 2nd grade teacher can trust that the student coming to her has been taught appropriately and can trust that when she moves that student on, that in the following grade levels, that student will be receiving the same great instruction and focus on learning as she had dedicated to that student.  As a teacher, you trust that the growth that you have seen in your students will continue year after year, no matter which teacher they are placed with.  Unfortunately, it only takes one teacher's practice to compromise the work of the entire school."

Wow! Until I heard her say this, my understanding of the term "professional trust" was very superficial. As a teacher, I was always naturally collaborative and thrived on learning from my colleagues that shared their great ideas, successes and their failures (so I wouldn't make the same mistakes!) When I heard complaints from some of my colleagues that didn't want to spend their prep time planning with others (because they just wanted to focus on "their" kids) I never agreed with that point of view, but I could understand how it can seem time consuming or "messy" trying to get a group of people to all agree on what they are going to do.

This explanation of professional trust has completely solidified for me why it is so important that we collaborate. Not just that we're meeting each week, but that we are developing common expectations within our grade levels and across all of our grade levels. So that whatever grade you teach, you know what all of your incoming students were taught last year and you know where you need to get your students by the end of this year. And if you have a student or multiple students not meeting that expectation, you know that you have your PLC to rely on---to learn what your colleague did in his classroom that was more effective for a particular skill or that when you send your students out for WIN time, that teachers’ heart is in it for “your” kids just as much as yours is.

Over the past two days our 3/5th grade teachers (as well as MS/HS English teachers) spent an entire day scoring students’ 6 Traits Essays collaboratively. Before beginning this process, each group scored the same student papers together and discussed why they chose that score for each writing trait to come to inter-rater reliability, or a common agreement on scoring. While this process took time and work, it is found by Douglas Reeves to be an effective practice for teachers to develop common expectations that impact student learning. By having these discussions at the beginning of the year, teachers develop a collective understanding of what a student must do to earn a score of a 3 or a 5 when they are writing. 

As we discuss our beliefs on reading and writing and come to agreement on our beliefs collectively, we will be laying the foundation for our common expectations and practices as well as building our professional trust amongst one another.

"Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him,and let him know that you trust him.” ~Booker T. Washington

Saturday, September 17, 2011

No Office Day

Last year I joined several other principal colleagues from twitter to have a No Office Day. I spent an entire day in classrooms and made it my focus to get in every classroom in the building that day. This year, Principal @Shiraleibowitz started a wiki for International No Office Day. This year I excitedly signed up, but decided to focus on just a few grade levels with the intent of having another No Office Day for the rest of the grade levels. In hindsight, I would like to have a No Office Day for each grade level.

In my Monday Memo I sent staff the following message:
*No Office Day (in 4K-2nd grades) - I plan to set aside days in my calendar throughout the year to spend immersed in classes/grade levels throughout the day. I am really excited about this! I will be in the classrooms from students’ arrival through the end of the day; planning to spend time in the rooms during academic times and to visit specials with your classes. I am happy to sit and observe, but reeeeally what I would love to do is join in the fun. Please put me to work! Need someone to facilitate a small group? Want to team up to teach a topic? Would you like to have someone work 1:1 with a student? Want me to help prepare something on the SMARTBoard? These are all ways I’d be happy to help. Please send me an email to let me know--my calendar is WIDE open!! If there is work/planning I need to complete before that day, kindly let me know a day or two in advance.
I must admit I took the wording from the blog posts I had seen from Principals @L_Hilt and @Fliegs and adapted (why create the wheel?). I keep a calendar outside my office door and usually post a sign that reads "I'm out in classrooms to see what students are learning" each day during my No Office hours, but on the day of my No Office Day, I put the following note on my door:
I’ve joined in with many other school principals from Twitter to have a No Office Day this week (hopefully my first of many)!
I am going to be in 4K-2nd grade classrooms today. :)

I don't know if anyone
noticed the sign, but I try to promote learning and growing professionally through twitter any chance I get.

So, how was my day? Fantastically fun! I left school feeling energized from the awesome teachers, students and learning at my school.

Here's how I spent my day:
Started out my day greeting students in the parking lot, although that is what I do every morning. I then skipped being on the morning announcements, because I wanted to join in classes right away (we also have students join the announcements, so I let them have it all!)

I joined 1st graders in art class as they were learning how to add to their previous project (of patterns colored with crayons) by painting a pattern on top. Our fantastic art teacher told students that paint and crayons don't like each other so the crayon pattern would still be seen once painted over. One of the 1st graders made the connection that crayons and paint are like cats and dogs! Love it!

I joined a 2nd grade class that was reviewing how to identify easy, just right, and hard books and were then given time to put post-it notes on each of the books in their book bin so they can become aware of their book choices and have more just right books than easy/hard. I'm so glad I popped into this class, because it helped me out in my next scheduled place to be....

I assisted in a 1st grade classroom during Daily 5 time by conferencing with individual students on their book choices. Each student I met with showed me all the books in their book bin and told me about why they chose that book and read passages from a few books to me. I particularly enjoyed listening to a very creative 1st grader that had more hard books than just right books, but has a gift for "reading" the pictures of his books and makes up very creative and entertaining stories.

I joined a 5 year-old kindergarten class in music and tried to keep up with their songs/actions. I also noticed in here that my own child acts goofy if I am in the room (but that could be an entirely separate post!)

I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out in another 2nd grade classroom that was working on building their reading stamina during Daily 5 time. I actually read from a kindle book on my iPad.

I read books from one of my favorite authors, Mo Willems, to a couple of 5 year-old kindergarten classrooms.

I joined a 1st grade class during a science lesson on parts of a plant. I helped by pulling student names for them to go up to the SMARTBoard for the interactive pieces of the lesson (was impressed that the teacher used activities that allowed for almost everyone to go to the SMARTBoard twice).

I visited the remainder of the 4K-2nd grade classes that I didn't describe above.

I look forward to scheduling additional No Office Days (in addition to my No Office Hours that I already have each day) and hope to participate more instead of just observing.