Saturday, November 7, 2009
Reflections on my attendance at Expeditionary Learning Assessment for Learning for Leaders:
I had just about every excuse in the book for not attending the three day Expeditionary Learning for Leaders Institute in
So, as one who is willing listen to feedback from others, I decided to go.
Wednesday morning arrived in a smallish meeting room in the Hyatt in downtown
So anyway, I made it though that fist circle, but interesting, so little of it was about what we did, how long we have done it for, what school we lead, etc. that it actually just helps us deal with each. A community began to came together in that first circle and built over three days where there was a high level of sharing, problem solving, supporting, listening, and laughing between sixteen virtual strangers. Pretty cool.
The purpose of the workshop was to get school leaders at expeditionary schools to use principles of assessment for learning (primarily developed for the classroom) with staffs and individual teachers. We did this by analyzing the assessment for learning strategies, looking at different kinds of change, research on relational trust, reading parts of different texts including parts of the book Quiet Leadership by David Rock, and using what we learned to develop some sort of plan or idea for a plan to further strengthen assessment for learning strategies through coaching. All of this was accomplished in three days with only one “presentation” that lasted just about ten minutes. All of the other time was used with the instructional techniques of discussion, different grouping strategies, group initiatives, individual thinking time, reading and reflection, feedback protocols, and just plain deep thought coupled with social group learning. It was a powerful learning experience.
The biggest aha I had for my own school context was that despite all of the gains and growth our school has made in various areas, we are still have a feedback poor learning culture for adults in the building. This comes from various different areas but mostly from me. I am somewhat feedback adverse for whatever reason. Part of the institute had me develop an action plan for my work at Greer. I won’t bore you with the specific details about this plan except that it has us trying to put some structures and protocols together to help our coaches actually coach and allow teachers to peer coach each other. Just as important or even more importantly for myself, it has me forcing myself to improve my ability to give feedback by just doing it. We will see how it goes.
I am riding kind of a learner’s high right now which is powerful enough to last for my than just a little while. It is always a struggle to keep these experiences lasting but it is worth a try.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Greer teachers have been back for almost a week and we have been busily getting ready for the return of our students on Tuesday, August 25. Most of our time has been spent just getting the building ready because about half of our teachers were unpacking from renovations etc. We have spent some time together as a staff though putting our direction forward for the school year.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
"Why teach?" they ask.
Do my lawyer and consultant friends find themselves having to explain why they chose their professions? I doubt it. Everyone seems to know why they do what they do. When people ask me about teaching, however, what they really seem to mean is that it's unfathomable that anyone with real talent would want to stay in the classroom for long. Teaching is an admirable and, well, necessary profession, they say, but it's not for the ambitious. "It's just so nice," was the most recent version I heard, from a businesswoman sitting next to me on a plane.
I used to think I was being oversensitive. Not so. One of my former colleagues, now a program director for Teach for America, has to defend her goal of becoming a principal: "When I tell people I want to do it, they're like, 'Really? You really still want to do that?' " Another friend describes her struggle to make peace with the fact that a portion of the American public sees teaching as a second-rate profession. "I want to be able to do big things and be recognized for them," she says. "In the world we live in, teaching doesn't cut it."
I often feel the same way. Teaching is a grueling job, and without the kind of social recognition that accompanies professions such as medicine and law, it is even harder for ambitious young people like me to stick with it."
Now, what she says it totally true. I entered teaching through Teach for America, every one of my friends entered non education professions, and I still have many friends who aren't in the business. I have felt that from many people. Not necessarily disdainful, more like, why the hell do you do that. But the longer I have stuck with it, and the better I have become at it, and the more involved in my profession I have become, the less I feel the disdain. Even though I have no complaints about my job, there are times that I feel that peers of mine are making way more money, getting more respect, with the same skill set that I have. Those times are far outweighed though by how much I love my job.
The Sarah Fine essay made me sad. Sad that she is leaving teaching, sad that her administrators don't do more to understand instruction and involve teachers in the work of improving the school, but also sad that she did not stick it out a little longer to see that the whole worrying about what my ivy league friends think of my profession is no way to live a life.
She ends her essay with some discussion of a last reason for leaving teaching: it does not satisfy the millenial generation's need to be engaged.
She writes: "In their book "Millennials Rising: the Next Great Generation," sociologistsNeil Howe and William Strauss characterize the members of my generation as "engaged," "upbeat" and "achievement-oriented." This is why we become teachers. We seek to challenge ourselves, and we excel at pursuing our goals. Howe and Strauss go so far as to call us a "hero generation." Our engagement also explains why we are leaving the classroom. We are not used to feeling consistently defeated and systemically undervalued."
I would add that not wanting to be consistently defeated or systemically undervalued is not something that hurts millenials, it hurts human beings in general. Maybe people of other generations stuck with the defeat and undervaluation because they had mortgages to pay and mouths to feed other than their own and their back up plan was not traveling and writing for a year, it was retraining and paying for that retraining in a whole new field or career.
But that might just be my 37 year old, "generation X" self talking there, I don't want to spoil the youngsters their pain.
Obviously though, despite some minor quibbles with the essay and/or the youth of it all, what she writes about it all to true. Teachers too often are treated as if they were the problem in our education system and too often we don't support them enough, or listen to them, or make the workplace a vibrant place to be. As a principal, I don't always live up to these expectations myself, but at least I try to remind myself of them every once in a while. And I will try to do my best to engage and value not only the millenial teachers at my school but the other ones as well. Thanks for the essay Sarah.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
BILL MOYERS: Yes, one of my favorite scenes, in Season Four, we get to see the struggling public school system in Baltimore, through the eyes of a former cop who's become a schoolteacher. In this telling scene, he realizes that state testing in the schools is little more than a trick he learned on the police force. It's called "juking the stats." Take a look.
ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL: So for the time being, all teachers will devote class time to teaching language arts sample questions. Now if you turn to page eleven, please, I have some things I want to go over with you.
ROLAND "PREZ" PRYZBYLEWSKI: I don't get it, all this so we score higher on the state tests? If we're teaching the kids the test questions, what is it assessing in them?
TEACHER: Nothing, it assesses us. The test scores go up, they can say the schools are improving. The scores stay down, they can't.
PREZ: Juking the stats.
TEACHER: Excuse me?
PREZ: Making robberies into larcenies, making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and major become colonels. I've been here before.
TEACHER: Wherever you go, there you are.
DAVID SIMON: You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America, school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, arrest stats, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on. And as soon as you invent that statistical category, 50 people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. And this comes down to Wall Street. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-based securities were actually valuable. And they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet, they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning, and that they're solving crime. And that was a front row seat for me as a reporter. Getting to figure out how the crime stats actually didn't represent anything, once they got done with them.
I have been a huge fan of the Wire. I miss that it will never be on television again and I am not quite sure if we will ever have another show like it. It may resonate with me personally because of my experience teaching in Baltimore Public Schools in the nineties. I always felt that the above excerpted scene was always a bit simplistic in my mind. It may be a defensive posture on my part, because I have played the part of the "assistant principal" many a time, in many a meeting with teachers imploring them to focus on test structure and language with students. It may also be that I have always felt that the "teaching to the test" line has not always rung true to me. I have always thought that you should, as an educator, want students to do well on anything that is put in front of them, including the state tests.
That all being said, I do agree with much of what Simon says about stats in general. Joe Klein, chancellor of New York schools, Arne Duncan, and other big name leaders in american schools throw around stats a lot these days. Future posts will cover some of the "juking" that is going on, and also a concern about the current focus on merit pay for teachers. And of course, more Wire stuff.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
I usually try to avoid making New Year's resolutions. Like most people, they really don't work for me and since this blog has more of a professional focus I really don't want to list a bunch of things that I may or may not actually be able to follow through on. And being on the school/acadademic calendar since I was five, I never really view January as the start of the year.