I found some interesting ideas from colleagues at #Empower17 that are definitely worth sharing with our BubbleUp Classroom readers.
Danny Steele, 2016 Alabama Secondary Principal of the Year, encouraged us to think about our values as educators. First, he showed us two quotes:
Then, he asked us if we could change any words to make it connect with our own professional practice as educators. Finally, he asked us to determine from where these quotes were excerpted -- The Hippocratic Oath. Steel then explained a start-of-year activity he ran through with is faculty: he asked them to read The Hippocratic Oath and underline parts that resonated, and then challenged them to write their own professional oath in the same model. Instead of drilling down into last year's test scores and the lists of new school year "to dos," I love the idea of beginning the school year with a really focused look at who we are as teachers and what we strive to do.
In an approach she calls "Leading by Learning," 2015-16 Alabama Teacher of the Year Jennifer Brown developed a program of instructional rounds in her school. She put together voluntary cross-curricular groups of teachers who visit classrooms for across the school each month on a rotating schedule. At Kilmer, we do an annual week of open classrooms; it would be interesting to put into practice more regular visits in small doses. The visits last 10-12 minutes and the goal is for teachers to learn from each other, to find some take-away to bring into their classrooms, to see students in different environments.
Danny Steele chimed in noting that feedback during any kind of teacher-to-teacher classroom visits in his school was never shared with administration. This builds trust between colleagues and ensures that instructional rounds were not at all intended to be evaluative in nature.
Redefine Faculty Meetings
Faculty meetings all too often involve more listening than doing. Danny Steele offered two ways to redefine faculty meetings to encourage teacher involvement and creativity.
Involve Students in Instructional Planning
A team of educators from Butterfield Trail Middle School, ASCD's 2017 Vision in Action Winner: Whole Child Award, offered the idea of bringing students into planning meetings. Periodically, as they are discussing upcoming activities and lessons, students attend the meetings, talking about what has worked well for them in the past, how they enjoy learning, and to offer general feedback. Giving students a voice in how they learn best definitely makes sense. Perhaps I can bring one of our library student assistants into an upcoming planning conversation and report back on how it goes!
Parent Communication "Meetings"
Structured in the middle school team model, Butterfield Trail teachers have several scheduled meetings a week to collaboratively plan and to discuss students. However, one meeting a week is devoted to parent communication. Teachers use this designated time to make parent phone calls and reach out by e-mail. Building this communication time into every educator's weekly calendar allows teachers to better connect with families, sharing both areas of challenge and successes.
At a conference, learning often happens beyond structured sessions. An elementary principal from Garden Grove, CA told us that covers classes so her teachers are able attend professional development, work with instructional coaches, and collaborate with each other. The superintendent of the same district places herself into the substitute pool and rides school buses each year. Another superintendent from a small, one-high school district in Pennsylvania, he told us that he visited every single one of his schools each and every week. He also regularly teaches professional development classes for the teaching staff in his district.
These leaders work really hard to stay connected to their schools, to their teachers, to their students. In a huge school division like FCPS, it wouldn't be possible for our superintendent to visit every school on a weekly basis; however, working together, could a school's admin team make it to every classroom each month? Could they aim for classroom coverage for every teacher at least once a year?
School culture is such an important component of a healthy, vibrant school, but changing school culture isn't ever easy. We hope these ASCD Empower17 take-aways empower you to make small but meaningful changes in your building.
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