Saturday, January 28, 2012

A call for help...

In my recent post reflecting on my goals, I shared that one of my goals is to act more like an Instructional Coach than a Supervisor when observing classrooms and providing teachers with feedback. I mentioned this to a member of my Twitter PLN (also co-moderator of the #Educoach twitter chat), Kathy Perret, and she was very interested in this concept.

It has become an idea that we have decided to collaboratively pursue continuing to research and hopefully publish our learning on the concept. But here's where we need your help. If you are a principal or a teacher, please take our surveys. If you know a principal or a teacher, please pass the survey (or this post) on to them. We greatly appreciate your help!

Click on your role for the appropriate survey:

Principal Survey

Teacher Survey

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reflecting on my goals with staff

Just sharing the Friday Focus post from my Staff Memo blog this week:


At our Professional Learning Meeting this week I asked you to open up to the front of your Reflection Journals and take 5 minutes to reflect on the goals (2 professional and 1 personal) that you wrote at the beginning of the school year. For this week's Friday Focus, I'm going to put myself "out there" and share my personal reflections on the goals I wrote in my journal for this year (Wondering why I'm sharing this with you? See #1 below...feel free to skip reading this if you're not really interested in my goals).

Professional Goal #1: To model reflection of my professional growth and encourage staff to reflect as well.

One of the most important things any educator can do is reflect on their practice. Great teachers know that you can't just teach the same lessons every year, because your students change. Great teachers often don't follow their lesson plans as written throughout the week, because they are constantly reflecting on how their students responded to the instruction and adapting their plans to their students' needs. Unfortunately, our daily schedules leave us with very little time to reflect...many of us are happy if we can get in 1 personal bathroom break and get our lunch down in just 5 minutes. Despite the challenge of time (that is a challenge for almost anything we want to accomplish), reflection is the key to progress.

"Reflection is the beginning of reform." ~Mark Twain

Reflecting on my goal of reflecting...I have been using my Friday Focus as a means to share my reflections with you each week and also shared the link to my personal/professional blog where I also share my reflections. While blogging sounds quite scary (and I must admit I was hesitant to even share that link with you all), it has become one of my best tools for reflection. If you know me, I cannot write much by hand and prefer to type. In addition, I have quite a high following of other educators on my professional blog that I have gained a great deal of feedback on to help challenge my thinking and gain new ideas.

I had planned on giving staff time to write in reflection journals at the end of each of our professional learning meetings, however, I know that this is something I have forgotten a few times (I will also tell you that closure was one of my weakest areas in the classroom). I loved the idea that someone added in response to this blog of adding a reflection question for you all in my Friday Focus posts and am trying to remember to do that to encourage your reflection as well.

Professional Goal #2: To act more like an instructional coach than a "supervisor"

Before I made the crazy "leap" into administration I worked for one year as an Instructional Coach and absolutely loved it. I loved the time I spent observing teachers, helping them to reflect, planning with them, co-teaching a lesson, etc. During my years here as principal, I have focused on improving my practice of getting into classrooms as much as possible to provide teachers with feedback. Over the past year, I have come to realize how important it is not only to just give you my feedback, but to have conversations with you as an Instructional Coach does.

An Instructional Coach's role is to improve instruction and I don't see my role any differently (I just also happen to have many other duties to fulfill as well). I reflected in a previous post about my classroom visits here and am continuing to find that it is very difficult to find time to talk with teachers after visits and I have to resort to emailing quite often. I am happy to see from my data that I have increased my rate of feedback from 48% to 77% (meaning that for all of my classroom visits since the start of the year I have either given verbal or email feedback 77% of the time):

Feedback rates at the start of October

Feedback rates up until now

Another challenge I have found in my goal of acting more like a coach than a supervisor is that it is hard for some to separate the “evaluator” hat that I do ultimately “wear” as a principal. In a recent chat on twitter on the roles/similarities of coaches and principals, someone asked “How can a principal act as a coach?”

My tweeted response was:

Personal Goal: To make time for myself (reading for pleasure and to exercise 3 times a week)
Well, I already shared with you my reflections on exercise in our staff meeting (I really need to start joining those after school Zumba and pickleball sessions)! I made reading for pleasure a goal, because I often just read professional books and forget that I really enjoy reading for pleasure. I definitely have been doing better with this, however, when I recently told a group of 5th graders that I read 26 books in 2011 they told me “that’s nothing, we read WAY more than that!”

Now, since I just got quite personal with you all, I'm going to resort to one of my coping mechanisms of humor (in the form of an image):

My reflection prompt for you:

If you didn't get the chance to reflect on all of your goals this week, do it NOW!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Web 2.0 How do I love you? Let me count the ways...

1. Twitter -Do I really need to explain twitter? Let's just say I couldn't imagine my life without twitter! This is where I learn about how any other tools can help me both personally and professionally.

2. Blogging-I keep this blog for my reflections and professional growth and also maintain a blog for my staff.

3. Google Docs-I love how easy it is to have others contribute to a document or ask someone to review something I've written before submitting it. No more emailing an attachments back and forth. No more losing a document in microsoft word when your computer auto-closes it before saving (google docs auto-saves every few seconds).
Here is a great video clip to see how beneficial google docs can be in your school:

4. Google calendar-this is the first year I've used google calendar and find it extremely useful for my useful for my secretaries to have access to my calendar-they can always see where I'm at and add new appointments to my calendar. Recently after having an issue with our computer lab sign-up on our internal network, we set up a google calendar for staff to sign up this way...for many of our staff it's their first time activating their google account and I'm hopeful that it will lead to many more uses of google apps in our building. My next goal is also for us to create an IEP calendar in our district o we make sure that there are not 2 mtgs scheduled at once that LEA representatives need to be at.

5. Google reader-I love reading blogs online and I no longer have to waste my time checking my favorite blog sites to see if there's a new post...they go straight to my google reader and I check it when I want to see what's in there. Here's a video clip I shared with staff when I showed them google reader at our Tech Tuesday:

5. Diigo -I love that I can access and add to my favorites no matter what device I'm using online. I also enjoy that i can just have the "autobots" search my tags within diigo to find what I'm looking for. There are many features of diigo that I haven't begun to use yet, sharing them in a group for example.

6. Evernote -after having an incident of losing everything in my yellow notepad on my iPad I have become an all the time Evernote user. If you don't have an iPad, you can still use evernote on your computer. It's "in the cloud" so you can access it from any device! I love that's I can organize my notes in notebooks, label them with multiple tags and that I can access the on any device. I recently learned that Evernote has a voice feature that is useful in the classroom, because the teacher could record a student reading, take notes and save it for that student's portfolio or even email the recording with a message to the parents!

7. Pinterest -this has become a new addiction that one of my teachers discovered. Basically Pinterest is a way to search for ideas, but you're just searching on others' bulletin boards and you then create your own bulletin boards of ideas. The teacher that shared this with me said she basically never uses google anymore when she's looking for an idea.

8. Podcasts-I love being able to learn from podcasts while I'm cleaning the house or working out and I have also enjoyed joining in on podcasts recording within the past year. You can find my list of podcasts here.

9. TodaysMeet is basically a chat room you can create and invite anyone in by giving them the link. I recently used this in a staff mtg as a back channel to foster more discussion.

10. Skype - I love to use this for personal and professional use

11. Google + I rarely go to Google +, however, the hangout feature is just like skype, but allows up to 10 people to join for free. There has been a regular group of us in my twitter PLN that organize times to meet in google +hangout (we've discussed the start of the school year, walkthroughs, use of evernote, etc.)

12. Facebook - I pretty much only use facebook to keep in touch with family/friends since we live out of state. I use this to post pictures of my kids so Grandma can still feel connected (it's far easier for me than emailing them out to people).

13. The Principal Center is a new online place for Principals started by Justin Baeder to join for sharing ideas and resources. This month I'm starting a book study there with several other principals. If you want to join, just let me know and I'll send you an invite (you do have to go through a process to verify that you are an administrator).

14. Screencastomatic - I have found it very easy to make quick tutorials that show staff exactly how to do something. No more screenshots/editing to make a handout that gets lost. The screencast stays on my blog and youtube channel for them to access as needed.

15. YouTube - I use YouTube for school video clips and for Screencasts. Last year we were fortunate enough to have a young lady from another country visiting her grandmother over the summer and attended our summer school program. She recently saw our summer school video clip and commented on it that she can't wait to come back to America and join us again this year!

16. Xtranomral -I have not used this, but I certainly love watching what others have made, especially what some of our 4th graders made that you can find here. I have also found some to start out a staff meeting with humor (like a funny one about parent teacher conferences).

17. I love using bitly to shorten web links and to customize them so they aren't just a random assortment of letters/numbers. Here's a screencast I made to show my staff how to use it:

18. Shelfari - I used to use Goodreads to log my books and connect with others that have similar reading interests and find book suggestions, but I wanted to add a "widget" to my blog that shows the most recent books I've read. This isn't to brag (which my husband usually says), but it's actually after attending a conference with Regie Routman---she says it is important for teachers to share with students about themselves as readers and for principals to do the same for their staff. I thought the easiest way would be to have this on my staff blog for when they check my Monday Memo and Friday Focus each week. You can see that it is also on this blog.

19. Pandora - I'm the type of person that needs music to work, so I love being able to access my Pandora account and pick my station (especially since we don't get a radio signal in our school building).

I'm sure that I missed some tool, but as I went through my week, these are the tools I used that help me do my job and continue my learning.