The Whirlwind and The WIG…

Image result for quote about there always being storms in life overcoming them is the keyIt has been a whirlwind like no other for the start of 2018-19. I have experienced it and seen my teachers push through it.

One thing I began reading at the start of my new position, as Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Virtual Arkansas, was The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Covey, Huling, and McChesney. This was for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I know myself. I always bite off more than I can chew and end up accomplishing very little and feeling very defeated.

I had bought the book in February, heard how amazing it was for focusing your goals, and how powerful it could be for an organization. I just wasn’t ready, yet.

In the meantime, I discovered the beauty of audiobooks. Yes, I know, I am way late to this party! I read several other books via audiobooks. Then in late June, I felt the “nudge” to revisit “4DX.”

I downloaded the audiobook and partnered it with the actual book. I devoured it. It hit the very area that is my greatest weakness. I am the person who always sets too many goals. I am the person that has ten New Year’s Resolutions every year (and I usually keep/reach three of the resolutions).

I shared the ideas with my Director and started to find ways to implement some of the strategies of “4DX” with myself and Virtual Arkansas.

I will be honest. I came in late to the game on this one with the teachers. Most of them already had their personal growth goals related to the teacher evaluation system set before they had left in May, prior to my arrival. However, most have jumped on board. The Wildly Important Goal we have for our organization is flexible enough that their own personal growth goals still apply with minor tweaks.

I have had moments that I have had to have one on one sessions to explain the process. I even created a power point to better explain the structure of the WIG in relation to the organization, their PLCs and them personally. I think we are getting there.

The other piece is the cadence of accountability. It has become part of the structure of our PLCs and at the end of every PLC meeting, people meet with an accountability partner to make commitments or plan steps that work toward their personal growth goal(s) or WIGS (and they only have 1 personal growth goal and 1 PLC goal).

How are we doing? I am not sure I can measure it, yet. However, when I am in PLCs and talking to teachers they are mindful of their goal in a way I have not heard teachers talk about goals before.

I realize the implementation is far from perfect. I am eager for this to possibly become a book study/club reading for our organization at some point. I know it is making a difference in how I lead and the way I lead. I am hopeful that in the same way it is making a difference in me, it is making a difference in my teachers and as a result, our students are reaping the benefits!

How are you and your teachers embracing the whirlwind and moving forward with their WIGs?

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Bridging the Gap…

bridge for gap post

I wrote this three years ago. I am not sure why I didn’t post it then, but as I read today it is still relevant. Thank you to my readers for indulging me with this “hidden” post from the past. 🙂

I’m in my second year as an Instructional Technology Coach. I think about my previous year and what I learned, how I succeeded and how I failed.  I also think about where am I and the teachers I work with regarding authentic seamless technology integration into classroom instruction and learning, and where I would like to take my teachers and students.  I have teachers who seamlessly integrate already.  They are the first to show me what they have learned and will often ask me to partner with them as we take risks and try new approaches and techniques with technology.

That is all good stuff.  As a coach it makes me feel pretty awesome.  However, that is not where the challenge lies.  It is in the places where teachers are not confident in their use of technology and are at the same time adjusting to new curriculum resources, techniques and/or scope and sequence that the true test of my abilities as an Instructional Technology Coach arise.  It is there I see I have work to do.

Teachers who naturally integrate… they don’t really need me.  They are a bonus in my job as they help me sharpen my own skills and provide me opportunities to “try” things with them before I bring the ideas to others.

For most teachers, however, there needs to be a bridging of a gap or divide between technology utilization and content taught. Some may say that the divide is not that big, but in all honesty it is there and larger than many care to admit.  It is easy to get frustrated or even say teachers were given the training and it is up to them to use it.  However, I go back to the mantra “We do what’s best for kids.”  I argue that if we are doing “What’s best for kids,” then, as an instructional technology coach, I am responsible for making it happen with those teachers that are more reluctant to use technology as a seamless part of instruction and/or provide digital platform choices for students to demonstrate learning.

So I asked myself, “How can I bridge the gap between curriculum and technology?”

These are a few things I have learned and through reflection have realized:

1.  A teacher who begins conversations with “I don’t have enough time…” I work with them on ways that they can become more efficient with the use of a technology tool.  When they see the benefit they will take that same tool and utilize it in ways for students to demonstrate learning.

2.  Honor the content expertise of the teacher.  When meeting to determine ways to integrate technology in the lesson or lessons, begin with the end in mind, seeking to understand the learning expectations and goals of the teacher. For example, ask “Could you share with me the learning target(s) for your students? I want to understand the content that students should demonstrate mastery with when this lesson is completed.” and “Would you mind sharing the rubric you plan to use that assesses student mastery of the content for this lesson.” (If the teacher does not have a rubric available, this is a great time to collaborate and create one together.)

3. Design a lesson that reflects the philosophy of teaching on that campus and district.  In our district we have moved to a workshop model approach and have campus level Problem of Practice (P.O.P.)/Instructional Focus to address areas of continuous improvement.  As I continue to move forward bridging the gap between curriculum and technology, I consider how I can help teachers seamlessly integrate from the opening, to the work period, and then at the closing.  Additionally, at every turn the process will be measured against how the integrated technology and instruction work toward the P.O.P./Instructional Focus while delivering the content.

4.  Streamline paperwork.  Teachers are inundated with forms, data collection, and progress monitoring tools.  When teachers see technology as a seamless way to perform their behind the scenes duties they become open to ways to integrate in the classroom.  Providing tools that streamline this and provide them ways to better interpret the data and make informed decisions about how to best meet the needs of students is essential.  If we don’t meet them in the areas that consume their conference time and relieve those time demands via efficient tools then they won’t make the time to learn ways to integrate technology into daily instruction.

5. Change the mindset of how the Instructional Technology Coach is viewed.  If you are still getting emails or being stopped in the hall to fix a printer, politely offer to show them how to put in a help desk, but then take the opportunity to ask them about upcoming instruction. Take that opportunity to share a way for them to go paperless with that lesson. When they email you asking for a fun new presentation tool you would recommend, refer them to a database of tools, but then ask them what is the lesson target and could you meet with them to see how the lesson could be fully integrated and student learning redefined.

6.  Perform your own walk throughs and collect your own data. How many students are actively utilizing devices for learning? Are the students interacting/collaborating with the lesson via their devices or is it to record information?  What level on SAMR is being demonstrated in the class instruction and student product? What are some next steps that could happen very easily with technology? What is motivating about the lesson and the teacher’s use of technology? (ask a student)  Then share your data with your administrative leadership team.

The gap is getting smaller, but there is still much work to be done. Teachers can no longer ignore the essential need for technology in the classroom learning environment. Technology if used just as a tool or toy is not beneficial to anyone.  Technology is only beneficial if it is partnered with good instruction and fully integrated into instruction and learning with purpose.

What are ways that you are closing the gap between tool based technology implementation and a separate content implemented curriculum?

Creating a Perfect PLC…

to-get-to-that-next-level-you-gotta-learn-to-get-comfortable-being-uncomfortable-quote-1PLCs have been a part of my professional learning and growth for years. I have experienced it as a teacher, a team leader, an instructional coach and now as a campus administrator. I have seen it from the implementation phase to fully involved.

A question that was recently posed with a learning team I am a part of was, are the systems and structures we have or do not have in place limit the progress and authenticity that PLCs are meant to produce with learning and collaborative efficacy?

The learning team reflected and asked how much of PLCs should be directed and clearly defined by administration and how much should be guided and directed by the teacher team?

Much like we have learned that our students need differentiation with instruction and the way they share their learning, teachers need it in the structures and systems they have within their PLCs.

Teachers, curriculum writers and administrators agree that the conversations and data discussed is different in Kindergarten through second grade teams compared to third through fifth grade teams. There is a concrete area that differentiation is needed. The other is based on the needs of team.

It takes time both for the administrator and the teams to determine where they are as a team in the process of becoming high performing (Stages of Team Formation). Then each team’s PLC structures and systems would be designed in such a way that there is a gradual release of responsibility in communication, planning, lesson sharing, data analysis, and collective professional learning.

It is a delicate balance for administrators to know when we need to say something and when they can attain the learning on their own. A fellow colleague recently commented on this stating “If we say something teachers can get on their their own… why are we saying it?” It is, with the work together as educators (teachers and administrators), we find a place for each team between accountability and autonomy.

We have amazing teacher leaders in every place you look in education. Every educator should see themselves as a leader both for the students they have in their classrooms, but also within their own teams and beyond.

When our learning team met it was a mix of both classroom educators, campus administrators, curriculum directors and district administrators. The most powerful thoughts and reflections came from our classroom educators… what resonated was how excited they were to be with the learning team, to meet other educators that were so deeply passionate about teaching, learning and their students.  As one teacher stated, “We desire to be with others that think at the same level as we are.”

Reflecting on Theories of ActionThat left me pondering… how do we differentiate learning both in PLCs and individually for our teachers? How can we provide systems and structures that allow purposeful PLCs to occur instead of limit progression due to too many constraints or not enough guidelines?

The questions (taken from the book The Transformative Power of Collective Inquiry: Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms by Donohoo and Velasco p. 104) to the right are designed to evaluate Theories of Action, but also can be used to evaluate the present state of team’s PLCs and help move forward with next steps.

As we move toward the end of the 2017-18 school year, reflect on our progress and the areas we hope to see more growth in the 2018-19 year, what are the systems and structures that best move your campus, teams, teachers and students forward… what systems and structures (or lack of) could be limiting your progress?

Citations:
Donohoo, Jenni, and Moses Velasco. The Transformative Power of Collective Inquiry: Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms. Corwin, 2016
mind tools, team. “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing: Understanding the Stages of Team Formation.” From MindTools.com, Mind Tools, http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_86.htm.
“To Get to That next Level, You Gotta Learn to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.” PictureQuotes.com, http://www.picturequotes.com/to-get-to-that-next-level-you-gotta-learn-to-get-comfortable-being-uncomfortable-quote-258304.

How Do You Choose to be Brave?

Shortly after I posted “My ‘One Word’ for 2018” the tragedy of Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida occurred. I thought of the bravery of the students, staff and first responders on that day. I thought of the bravery of parents who patiently waited for news of their child. I thought of the bravery of the counselors who consoled the students and faculty in the aftermath.

What I didn’t see as brave is the multitude of social media posts that point fingers and apply blame. We have had an epidemic on our hands for over a century. Our children for over a century have been less important than the blame and rhetoric that seems to fill our media. If our children were truly the priority it wouldn’t be about gun control, or poor parenting, or the moral decline of our society. It would be about resources being allocated to best serve our children. Prioritizing services to provide resource officers trained to deal with the variety of threats that may come into our children’s schools. Please remember, this last one was another student, but many times it is not. Often times the violence isn’t with a gun… look at the recent tragedy in China.

It is time we stop blaming poor parenting, guns, schools, and most of all children. The following was posted on a fellow friend’s Facebook feed:
shooting

I responded with the following: “There has been documented school violence for over 100 years. What is not told is that more violent acts are prevented that happen now than before gun laws were in place. Unfortunately, violence happens without guns too, but the media only focuses on guns. Our focus should be on keeping our children safe and how we can address mental illness. Until the rhetoric changes and the argument is focused on something else other than our children nothing will change.

Children with mental illness are suffering while we debate over guns. Educators are doing everything within their means and beyond to meet the needs of children and families with limited or no resources and little training to address concerns of mental illness and safety. As stated in my response above until our focus and priority both in funding and rhetoric changes, nothing will truly change.

Blog bost from Travis Jordan about every childI will not tell a parent that it is their parenting that failed us. I will not tell students that it is the moral decline of their generation that has failed us. I will not tell a student who has experienced great difficulties mentally, physically or emotionally that more gun control can alleviate their challenges. I will not tell a teacher that it is up to them entirely to ensure that they solely can prevent another atrocity like this or that the answer is that they carry a weapon on school grounds. I will not place blame on our counselors or expect myself or my fellow administrators to think less like an educator that presumes positive intent, and instead, assumes worst case scenario.

What I can do is what was so eloquently stated by a fellow Professional Learning Network colleague, Travis Jordan (@Supt_Jordan) in a tweet he shared the Sunday after the horrific event in Florida.

This is how I believe being brave can make a difference. This is how I can help the students be brave, the staff be brave, the first responders be brave and the parents be brave. I refuse to blame. I choose to be brave.

 

My “One Word” for 2018

I thought long and hard about this word. I knew this word would be my word, but, honestly I didn’t want to admit it. It was a word that I kept denying was my word… until after my family determined our “One Word,” EMBRACE, and that word told me I couldn’t escape the word. (You can read more about my the Wilson Family’s “One Word” on my family blog “The Wilson Family Stories from Razorback Ranch.”)

brave memeMy word is “BRAVE.”

Defined by vocabulary.com, brave means “Courageous, dauntless, perhaps a little bit daring, a person who is brave faces dangerous or difficult situations with courage.”

While most situations I face are not, in relation to truly serious matters, dangerous and most of the time not that difficult, it does require courage to live a life that positively impacts the world around me.

I know that part of that is being brave with my words that I write. I love to share  through blogging, but I often rationalize why I shouldn’t write. Yet the words that are never shared still burn in my mind and on my heart. Ideas, experiences, reflections, questions and wonderings, So I move forward, giving my words voice, and bravely share. share your storyThat is one way I will be brave.

So what will it mean to EMBRACE being BRAVE beyond writing?

-Invest deeply in others.

-Trust my instincts.

-Trust others.

-Take risks and don’t fear failure.

-Share my story.

-Embrace the unknown.

-Be rooted and unwavering in my faith.

-Be present.

-Do what’s right with every opportunity put in front of me.

This word, BRAVE, as I had previously stated, I didn’t want as my “One Word.” It pursued me, haunted me and I relented only when our family “One Word” EMBRACE pointed me right back to it. To be honest I was embarrassed to admit that I am not brave, and most often I stop myself from doing what I know God is urging my heart to act on or pursue because I am afraid of what others may think. Hence the delay to post this until mid-February, long after the “One Word” time frame to share has passed.

This word, what it represents and what it will push me towards is frightening. However, if I am going to live a life that inspires others, I will EMBRACE the many ways life will challenge me to be BRAVE.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dance of Change and Progress

dont rushIn the process of change and progress there are moments of celebration and times of distress. Too much change within the systems, its supports and the expectations can take a toll. Learning how to effectively lead and support through the dance of change and progress is a dance that requires expertise, understanding and awareness.

Often the struggle is in seeing the potential in the change and progress that can happen, and pushing for that change and progress when those joining in the journey don’t yet have the same view.

How can a team move forward in a positive way to do the dance of change and progress TOGETHER?

I have been reflecting on my own practices to improve my approach in supporting my team as we earnestly work through the challenges that come with change and progress. There are three areas I have determined must be present in my own mindset if I am going to best serve my team:

  1. We ARE moving forward… be PATIENT
    • Keep focused on the work at hand- the harvest will come
    • Don’t worry about the pace of the progress and change- when you reach it, however long it takes, it will be worth it
    • There are seasons of life, and things out of our control; trust your team and be optimistic
  2. Be POSITIVE
    • Don’t complain or look for what isn’t done; focus on what is done well
    • Be intentional in your work/relationships; keep silent and let the work and others speak to the progress being made
    • Keep a perpetually optimistic outlook- perspective is everything
  3. Be TRUE
    • Trust the process and your team
    • Live with integrity- build, foster and maintain trust with your team

I realize that the points mentioned are not new, nor something that is unique. However, it is something I needed to reflect upon and humbly share with others. My hope is that I improve the dance I am doing with my team and through patience, positivity and truth effectively support them in their process of change and progress.

How is your team doing the dance of change and progress with you?

Restoration of my Blog…

blog about starting again prof blogSince moving from a Instructional Technology Specialist to a campus based instructional coach and now an Elementary Assistant Principal, I have struggled with writing blog posts. It isn’t so much about the content, but where the ideas come for the content.

In my current position, and the last position as a campus based instructional coach, building trust with the educators on my campus as well as parents and students is critical. It is in those very relationships and experiences that ideas and stories result that would inspire by blog posts. Hence my conflict. I am concerned that in my efforts to share the stories and experiences through blog posts I could compromise the trust that these relationships are built upon. So, the last few years I have often opted not to write.

However, writing is how I process and reflect. It’s where the greatest ideas happen and the fine tuning of my own practices benefit. Knowing this need and conflict, I become paralyzed. I am actively working to figure out how to move forward, write, reflect and restore my blog process.

For those of you that have followed me and been patient with me in the interim, I thank you. For those just now joining my blog journey, I am trying an approach that will keep me consistent. It will be simple, short and perhaps a little unrefined.

Our campus has been working as a group of educators to be transparent in our work as we move toward authentic collective efficacy, and I would not be living by the expectations of our campus if I did not demonstrate that same transparency in my own work.

Share your thoughts, reflections and ideas on how you transparently share stories and reflections in your experiences, while protecting the relationships/trust built in your community of educators.