Friday, March 30, 2012

10 of my Most Popular Blog Posts

While working on another writing project, my blog has been put on the backburner, so to speak, but the guilt has caught up to me and I am trying to still add to it. For this post I would just like to share links to my blog posts that had the most hits. Blogging has been an interesting journey for me, because I first started out with it as a means to reflect (I tried journaling, but I seriously cannot write that much by hand). I was slow with my posts in the beginning of my blog, because I didn't feel like I had anything to share, but then would be surprised by how many hits some of my posts had. I really don't think I'm sharing anything that amazing, because I know of other principals that do incredible work that inspire me, I just think we need more of them blogging about it. But anyways, I already got off track.

If you are new to using blogger, you can click on "stats" within your dashboard to see the # of hits on your posts and where you're traffic is coming from. Here's a screenshot of my stats:

My Top 10 Posts (with #1 being the most "popular"):
10. Reflecting on my classroom visits

9. Twitter for Teachers

8. Teaching with Daily 5/Cafe for Summer School -- My Reflections

7. Why our school recognizes honor roll in Pride Assemblies

6. Web 2.0 and Higher Level Thinking

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

4. Leading the Way with Staff Memos

3. The decision to go school-wide with Daily 5

2. Using the iPad to Increase my Productivity

1. The Power of a Data Room

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sharing Effective Practices with Teachers

If I were to go back to being a classroom teacher, I think I would be one of the best teachers ever...not because I think so highly of myself, but because as a principal, I get to see the best practices in classrooms every day. I could take the best from each teacher I've seen and put them together to be a Super Teacher with effective strategies for everything!

As the instructional leader of the building, I feel it is my duty to share with my staff the great instructional practices I see in our building. We have excellent teachers doing amazing things each day. During their grade level/PLC meetings they collaborate and share with each other, but sometimes I think they don't realize how much they really have to share with each other. Or they don't realize that some of the great things they do are obvious
to them and assume everyone is already doing them. So, how can you get your teachers to learn from each other? How can you get everyone to implement effective strategies that are already great for learning for students in your building?

One way is to have teachers observe others. This is difficult to get started, because teachers do not want to seem like evaluators or feel like they are imposing on each other. I encourage my staff to o
bserve others to gain ideas and many have done so as we have gone school-wide with our literacy framework of Daily 5/Cafe. In addition we require our probationary teachers to observe their mentors twice a year (and mentors to observe their mentees twice a year). I have recently read how leaders like Shira Leibowitz are having their teachers observing each other by having learning walks together as a team.

An even easier method, that doesn't require classroom coverage or extra time on the teachers' part is in your weekly memos. I have previously posted about how I utilize my staff blog to past a M
onday Memo and Friday Focus post each week. I originally learned about a weekly memo from Todd Whitaker as a way to share great practices with staff. When you share a practice with staff in a memo, it is just the beginning of a learning process. Good teaching in the classroom follows a whole-part-whole approach, as does my practice of sharing great instructional practices with teachers. When I highlight great instructional strategies in my Monday Memo each week, it is the "whole part" introduction to all staff. The next step is getting into classrooms for wouldn't believe how many people I see trying the strategies that I mention in my Monday Memos. When I see this, I praise the teachers for their efforts and for the student learning I see as a result of it. I then follow up with the "whole part" again in a memo after a while again highlighting a particular practice, why it's effective and thanking staff for being willing to try new things.

I'd love to hear how other principals encourage teachers to try new effective strategies that their colleagues are already successful with? How do you encourage your staff to learn from each other?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Friday Focus - No Mediocrity

This is another cross-post from my staff memo blog to share this week's Friday Focus with you...
This week one of the blog posts in my google reader was on mediocrity in teaching (you can read it here). When I read this I thought of how this may be the case in some schools, but certainly not in our elementary school. Everyday I see the great things that our teachers are doing to continue their own professional learning to improve instruction and student learning:
  • teachers having reflective conversations with myself or their colleagues
  • teachers observing other classrooms to gain new ideas
  • teachers getting feedback from others that have been in their classrooms
  • teachers reflecting on their practice by watching themselves on video
  • teachers seeking out new strategies to try when they see their students are not getting or having behavior issues
  • teachers sharing ideas with each other in grade level/PLC meetings
  • teachers seeking/sharing ideas with teachers in their professional learning network outside of our school (via DART connections and Twitter)
  • teachers asking colleauges how students from their WIN group are progressing in the classroom
  • teachers trying new strategies they just read about or saw in a YouTube video clip (like this one here... when I found this clip this week I knew immediately that a few of our teachers had seen this, because I saw several of these strategies in their classrooms--which happen to be very effective!)

We do not have teachers teaching the same way they've always taught. We do not have teachers blaming the kids or the parents for not getting it. We have teachers that are constantly learning and sharing their passion for learning to inspire their students. We have excellent teachers that are constantly observing their students, reflecting and trying new things to meet their kids where they are. Our students and community are so fortunate to have such excellent teachers!

Image from I Feel Okay