Uncovering the Uncommon Dots – Visioning for TL2020

We know developing a vision is critical to moving an organization forward in its practice.  When developing a vision, leaders need to engage in a collaborative process.  The process needs to be inclusive of multiple stakeholders (parents, students, teachers, leaders, and community members.

My colleague, Randy Ziegenfuss, Ed.D., and I collaboratively led our visioning process  for Salisbury Township School District during the 15-16 school year.

When meeting with various groups of stakeholders, we asked the same two questions:

  1. What are the skills, knowledge/literacies and dispositions our graduates will need to be successful?
  2. What kinds of learning environments will best foster the development of these competencies and qualities?

Learn more about the details of our process in this interview with Dr. Rod Berger on EdCircuit .  You can also learn more by listening to our co-hosted TLTalkRadio podcast.

While we were reading the texts, we had a parallel professional learning opportunity for teachers across the district.  Our Innovate Salisbury teachers met once per month. During these meetings, they participated in professional learning, took risks as they implemented mini-projects, and learned while reading mentor texts. We also engaged experts and thought-leaders in educational innovations through the TLTalkRadio podcast. On our podcast, you can listen to 35 experts talk about uncommon dots in education.

The final products of this visioning work are two documents – Profile of A Graduate and Beliefs About Learning. Full-size sketches can be accessed here.  These sketches were designed by Christy Brennan.

Profile of A Graduate

In order to realize this Profile of a Graduate, we will need to reflect on our classroom instruction.  We need to analyze how our thinking about learning beliefs has evolved. Our newly envisioned learning beliefs are organized around the 5-pillar “north star” developed by Education Reimagined in their recent white paper, A Transformational Vision for Education in the US.

05 Salisbury 5-Blue
Click on the image to link to a detailed list of Salisbury learning beliefs.

How do we move forward?

Our main focus for this year is tri-fold.  With all of our stakeholders, we need to build a shared understanding of our Profile of a Graduate, Learning Beliefs, and the 4Cs.  This will look different in every building.  To support these goals in the buildings, we developed a Leading #Your Salisbury professional learning community.  This professional learning community is comprised a leadership team from each building. The team will meet as a district team several times this year. Additionally, central office staff will support building teams with action planning in  between the whole group meeting dates.

Randy Ziegenfuss and I shared this process at the 2016 PASA/PSBA School Leader Conference.



What are you giving up in 2016?

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.45.46 PMAs we are off from school for the holiday break, I find myself with more time to peruse Facebook! I recently saw this post from Brendon Burchard.  His message caused me to think about what I am willing (or need) to give up in 2016.  What old idea am I willing to discard? What habit is not productive? What fear will I move past?  What concern for ego do I need to let go? I have several personal and professional goals for 2016, and it makes sense that I need to “free up some whitespace” to reach those goals.

Do you agree we need to let go of something in 2015 in order to make room for the “new” in 2016?

Four Ways to Develop Relationships

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.12.29 PMThis blog post previously appeared as an article in the Learning Forward PA Late Summer 2015 Newsletter.

As a teacher for fifteen years, an instructional coach, an instructional support teacher, a central office administrator, and now assistant superintendent, my colleagues have often heard me say how much I value relationships. In any organization when we have strong relationships, we can fail together, learn together, and succeed together!

Here are 4 ways to develop relationships with your stakeholders (whether they are students, teachers, parents, leaders, staff members, and/or board members!)

Be visible!  Whether you are a classroom teacher, a building leader, or a district leader, you need to be visible and engage with your team members.  Greet students at the door, walk through your building and wish everyone a good morning, attend evening concerts or activities,  or wave good bye to students as they get on the bus at the end of the day.  Stop in a colleague’s office with a cup of coffee and ask about his/her weekend. When people talk, be present and listen. Avoid the temptation of email or text messages for those moments when you are engaging. Engage with your learners regularly, whether they are teachers in a professional development session or students in a classroom.

Provide stakeholders with a voice! Are your stakeholders comfortable sharing concerns and successes with you? Have you provided them with a forum to do so? As a principal, do you have an informal coffee morning where teachers can drop by for a few minutes? As a classroom teacher, do you have a venue for students to share notes/suggestions/concerns with you? Do you ask students to complete learning interest inventories or multiple intelligence inventories so they can help you understand their interests and how they learn? We need to find the relevance for our stakeholders.

As a team, I along with our district’s superintendent have consciously created informal communication opportunities for diverse stakeholders. We make ourselves available for optional teacher conversations, student advisory groups, and even Community Coffee and Conversation sessions. Create your own venues and really seek to understand.

Social media is another venue for communication and sharing. Consider using a Facebook page or Twitter hashtag to communicate with your stakeholders.  Check out how Salisbury Township School District used #stsdlearns to engage stakeholders by sharing photos of daily classroom activities.

Build Trust!  Whether you are creating an assessment for students or responding to a parent concern about a bus stop, do what you say you will do. Be honest and be fair to your stakeholders. Think about decisions you are making and how they will affect all stakeholders positively and/or negatively. Maintain confidentiality as appropriate, but know when to share information with another professional. Take the time to provide honest positive and constructive feedback professionally; conversely accept the same feedback.

Ask for help when you need it. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it and say, “I’m sorry.” Learning from mistakes is as important as celebrating successes and people will respect your honesty.

Another critical component of communication and developing trust is ensuring your body language sends the same message as your voice. If you are busy on email instead of looking at your colleagues/students, you are sending a contradictory message.

When your students, teachers, or other leaders come to you for assistance, be consistent in your interactions. Your stakeholders will know what to expect from you, and you will build more trust.

Recognize and reward successes. Set expectations, support your team members (or students) as they strive for them, and hold them accountable. As a classroom teacher, I learned to provide appropriate positive reinforcement for my students. If you have read any of Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset, you will understand that we also need to celebrate effort (and failures.) As a leader, celebrate the “messy” lesson your teacher just took a risk on, a successful professional development session, a teacher’s and/or student’s inquiry, an effective presentation at a board meeting, creative brainstorming session, etc. Jot hand-written notes, snap a photo and pair it with a positive caption on Facebook/Twitter, create a blog post or newsletter article highlighting the success and/or risk, or just stop by with some positive words.  Create a staff member or student “difference-maker of the week” so everyone can see and learn about each other’s successes. Find opportunities to recognize and reward successes of your stakeholders.

As you develop strong relationships, you will be able to cultivate the culture you desire in your classroom, school, and/or district.  Your first step may be to conduct a climate survey/assessment. How effective is your culture? Are there high expectations for students, parents, teachers, and leaders?

A strong climate with high expectations will help develop rigor and relevance for your staff and students. To learn more about building culture, listen to a podcast recorded by me and my colleague, Randy Ziegenfuss located at http://www.tltalkradio.org.  In our TLTalkRadio podcast – Episode 14, we shared 4 Strategies to Build Culture. I hope you will listen and share a comment about how you develop relationships and build a positive culture in your district.

What other ideas do you have for building relationships with your stakeholders?

10 Ideas to Consider When Transitioning From Teacher to Administrator

457014621_origHow many teachers are making the transition from teacher to administrator this fall? I can remember when I first transitioned from MS Instructional Support Teacher to Middle School Assistant Principal.  While it was difficult, I certainly learned a lot throughout the journey.  Here are a few suggestions to consider as you make this transition.  These ideas are also important in my current role.

1 – Communicate.  Take the time to communicate. Think proactively about the information your stakeholders need. Choose your mode of communication carefully. Often an email is easier, but it may not be the best choice. Consider using social media (in accordance with your district’s policies) to share information with your stakeholders.

2 – Listen. In your role, you are going to have many difficult conversations. Teachers and administrators will come to see you. If you are lucky, they will share concerns, challenges, and successes.  In the assistant principal role, I often had to share unpleasant information.  During these face to face meetings and/or phone calls, it was important to seek to understand first.  Celebrate this time together, even when you don’t have the time. Listening is critical when building relationships.

3 – Redefine your roles/relationships. This may be difficult at first, but it is really important.  For me, I transitioned from a teacher in the building to an administrator in the building. All of a sudden, I was making decisions and solving problems which directly involved my colleagues. Teachers would ask me questions which I was no longer able to answer. I had to be honest about what I could and could not share.  Most of the teachers and certainly my friends understood.

4 – Be visible. Get engaged. If you are in a building, get into all of your classrooms regularly.  Greet students at the door, and meet teachers in the office in the morning. It makes a big difference when teachers see you first thing in the morning! Keep your door open, and be approachable. Walk students out at the end of the day so parents can see you.

If you are in central office, plan school visits regularly.  In my small school district, we have only 4 schools.  It is doable to visit every school every week.  If, on a Friday, I have not been in a school, I will try to start my day there or stop by throughout the day. Everyone should be able to identify you if you are the leader, and everyone needs to know you are present.

5. Use your resources.  Think creatively about your resources, both human and financial. Determine the best use of your space, the best use of your time, and the best use of your staff.  Collect data and make choices which are in the best interest of your students.

6 – Model the way.  You are the leader. Identify your expectations and model the way.  If you want teachers to blog, start a blog. If you want teachers to talk with students in the halls, talk with students in the halls.

7 – Build your network.  Engage with other leaders through local intermediate unit networking meetings. Attend classes and workshops for administrators. Join Twitter and find some relevant chats. Connect with other local administrators who work in a similar role.  Find others who understand your challenges and celebrate your successes.

8 – Acknowledge your mistakes, and say I’m sorry! You are going to make mistakes. We all do.  When it happens, have an honest face-to-face conversation. Acknowledge the mistake and how it affected others. (A great resource here is Difficult Conversations). Your colleagues and other stakeholders will respect you for owning the mistake.

9 – Contribute to multiple teams.  As a leader, your role is multi-faceted. You have your faculty and sub-teams within that team. You may have a leadership team, grade level team, and/or technology team in your building.  In addition to building teams, find a way to get involved with the district leadership team. Reach out to others to develop those relationships.

10 – Remember what it feels like to be a teacher. Often we forget what it means to be a teacher. We forget how it feels to have those 25-30 children in front of us on a daily basis. We need to remember how it feels to walk in the teachers’ shoes.


What other advice can you share for first year administrators?

Is your school using data to improve teaching and learning?

UnknownHow well does your school/district synthesize and analyze data to improve student achievement?  If you are not using data to the extent you want to, what are your barriers? Time? Process? ManPower? Too many state initiatives?  For many of us, the list goes on…and on!

This semester, I am teaching a graduate course at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. During our first class, these veteran teachers shared their challenges with analyzing data in their roles and buildings. While we celebrated some successes, there was no shortage of challenges.

As part of the course, we are using DataWise: A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Assessment Result to Improve Teaching and Learning (edited by Kathryn Parker Boudett, Elizabeth A. City, and Richard J. Murnane).  The editors are all lecturers/professors at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Analyzing data can be an elusive process for school teams, and this book can help you bring clarity to your process.  The book includes protocols for difficult conversations and ideas for bringing everyone to consensus. There is even a companion book – Data Wise in Action (edited by Kathryn Parker Boudett and Jennifer L. Steele) which includes stories of schools using data to improve teaching and learning.  This practical application provided thought-provoking scenarios and discussion questions to help us navigate the challenges of data-driven decision making.

The authors break the process into three easily understood phases: Prepare, Inquire, and Act. That doesn’t seem scary, right?  Of course, it will take a commitment, time, and bringing the right people to the table.

First, in Phase 1 – Prepare, the authors encourage us to organize for collaborative work and build assessment literacy.  

Step 1 – Organizing for Collaborative Work

Does your school have a school-wide process for structuring meetings/capturing conversations? Does the master schedule provide time for all necessary stakeholders to attend these meetings? During the focused meetings, do teams have and abide by norms? Has the instructional leadership team created and shared data and instructional initiative inventories?  If not, this phase may help you make your work more collaborative, transparent, and effective.  Once you are prepared to do this work together, you need to investigate each team member’s assessment literacy. The Hopes and Fears Protocol followed by the Norms Protocol is a great way to get started.

Step 2 – Building Assessment Literacy

The second part of Phase 1 investigates assessment literacy. Do your staff members work with each other to increase their understanding of the data tools? For example, our teachers can access PVAAS, eMetric, Study Island, and many more! Do staff members or leaders share mini-lessons about score reports? Can staff members explain the content of a score report?  Do staff members hold each other accountable for using data responsibly?

Then, in Phase 2 – Inquire, the authors underscore the importance of creating a data overview, digging into the data, and examining instructional practice. 

Step 3 – Creating a Data Overview

Do your staff members work together to synthesize data into a usable format and visual display? Can they show you their data in a way that helps you understand it?  Once they have their data, can they dig into it? Do they use protocols to investigate and ask questions about their data?  Can they tell you “a story” about their data?

Step 4 – Digging into Data

Do your staff members access a wide variety of student data? Do they understand the data is everywhere? During the meeting, can they use protocols to come to a shared understanding of what the data says? Can your staff identify a learner-centered problem?

Step 5 – Examining Instruction

So you will really need the shared norms and collaborative culture to move into step 5 in which teachers investigate the instructional practices in the school.  Peer visits and open and honest debriefings are critical in developing a share understanding of a problem of practice.

Next, in Phase 3 Act, the authors guide us to develop an action plan and a plan to assess progress.

Step 6 – Developing an Action Plan

Do your teams work  collaboratively to select research-based instruc5onal strategies to address a problem of practice? Do they share and teach these practices? Do they hold each other accountable for learning and using these practices through a written plan?

During my class, some students expressed concerns about becoming too cookie-cutter. That is not the case. The practice may look different in different context, but everyone needs to be committed to it. Consider activating schema as a strong instructional practice. This could look like a science teacher showing the lab materials and talking about each item before distributing a lab. It could look like a social studies teacher showing and talking about a primary resource before students read about it in the text.

Step 7 – Planning to Assess Progress

Do your teams regularly set and monitor goals. With the introduction of Student Learning Objectives in PA’s Educator Effectiveness Model, we are seeing more and more of this. In this step, teachers need to begin with the end in mind. They need to set individual and group level learning goals.  Additionally, they need to determine which assessments they will use to measure short-term and long-term progress.

Step 8 – Acting and Assessing

In the last step, the team needs to assess the implementation of their action plan. Did they do what they said they were going to do? If not, why not?  What did work, and how can you celebrate the successes along the way  Looking at the short, medium and long-term data, teachers can assess the impact of their plan.

Finally, in Section 4 – Integrate, the authors shared roles for central office and advice for how to improve.

In the final section, the authors write for superintendents and school leaders.  They discuss the data system, access to the system, time for data work, and the importance of modeling the work. They share their ideas, thoughts, and connections for how we improve.

Embedded throughout the phases are protocols to aid in the process.  In order to be successful in each step, your building/district will need to cultivate the ACE habits of mind.  Take a look and think about your context and whether or not these habits exist within your stakeholders/stakeholder teams.

A – Shared Commitment to Action, Assessment, and Adjustment

C – Intentional Collaboration

E – Relentless Focus on Evidence

You can learn more about the phases, view key tasks in each step, and even use a self-reflection tool to gauge your current practice at the DataWise Project Website at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/datawise.

Harvard even offers a free online course, which I am considering taking this summer! It might be something valuable for our building leaders who interact with student data on a daily basis.


What challenges and/or successes do your instructional teams have when analyzing data?

5 Steps to Effective Professional Development

prof devlo 3_0Over the past 20 years in Salisbury Township School District, I have facilitated hundreds of professional development sessions of all types! (Small group/Large group, Face-to-Face/Online/Blended, Book Studies, Hands-On workshops, etc.) Admittedly, some have been better than others. Some have effected long-term change; others have not.

Step 1 – Determine the Need. Before you a plan professional development, you need to collect data to determine the need and/or interest!  Typically in May, I email all of our faculty and staff a “needs assessment survey”.  Participants indicate topics of interest and/or their willingness to share their expertise. (I also ask them to identify colleagues from whom they would like to learn.) Other data sources include teachers’ observations, principals’ insights, walkthrough data, and anecdotal notes. All of these pieces of data are important when developing a short-term and long-term professional development plan.  Developing this plan is best done with a small group or critical friend – not in isolation.

Step 2 – Create Diverse Opportunities/Provide Choice. My philosophy for professional development is anytime, anywhere learning. In my district, teachers may participate in personalized PD.  Teachers have the option to earn choice hours and “opt out” of professional development days. Teachers may earn hours for creative learning including attending EdCamps, watching and implementing content from webinars, etc.

Basically, if teachers want to learn something, I want to help them figure out the best way to learn it.  That looks different for different learning goals. Sometimes it might mean a pull out day to help teachers redesign a lesson to create an “above the line” SAMR activity. This guided practice leads to increased understanding through practical application. At other times, it means an organized structured cohort approach in which teacher leaders and or technicians provide instruction/support. Read about how I led a cohort model process for TL2014 and 2020.org. We also run a variety of after-school mini-series such as a Secondary Professional Development Series and Instructional Assistant Highly-Qualified Series.  We also use building-led PLCs/PLNs so teachers have on-going teams of teachers to work with in order to meet their goals.

Opportunities and choice are plentiful! Other stakeholders really appreciate the opportunity to learn over the summer.  Over the last several years, I have reinvorgated our Summer Academy. With over 40 sessions, I hope we have something for everyone. It is wonderful to see our administration building filled with adult learners over the summer!

In addition to school sessions, I believe it is important to allow teachers the opportunity to attend state and national conferences. Over the last few years, we have allocated funds for teachers to attend AMLE, PETE&C, and ISTE. I have also been actively involved in the co-planning of the Bucks-Lehigh EduSummit.  I encourage teachers to submit proposals to share their knowledge with others.  At the conclusion of conferences, I ask attendees to reflect on their learning and identify a venue for sharing.  Building this shared leadership is critical to increasing capacity.

Step 3 – Engage Your Adult Learners.  From even before the session to the end of the session, engage your participants as you would engage your students.  Follow LearnForward’s Standards for Professional Learning. Engagement starts before the session starts! Provide study guides when you provide the texts for book study groups. When I am planning a full day workshop, I share an agenda ahead of time and ask teachers to complete a task prior to the session. For example, in a recent K-1 iPad cohort, I asked teachers to add a success they had with their devices to the shared agenda (google doc). When working with an online instructional design cohort, I asked teachers to share an article/resource about “best practice in online instruction.” Then during the session, participants had a chance to review the shared items and discuss them with each other.

During the sessions, I  provide opportunities for the learners to reflect on their instructional practice, knowledge, and skills.  Also, I ensure there is time built-in for small group and large group conversation. We need to dialogue about our work! I allow participants to get up and move around through a value line, four corners, poster carousel, etc.   I always have my chart paper and even individual white boards (depending on the size of the group). Remember, a PD session is a chance to model good instructional practice.

Step 4 – Provide Resources for Sustainability. Many presenters may use a slide deck which can easily be emailed. Sometimes slides are designed to supplement the conversation with the visual appeal in mind.  They may not have enough “content” to be useful for follow up activities. Think about what can be provided to participants so they can reflect on their learning, share their learning, and continue their learning after the session.  Most often, I do this through a shared google doc.  (Think back to the items I asked teachers to add to the google doc prior to the session. All of those resources are now available to everyone after the session.)  Another option is to email notes after the session.

Step 5 – Assess/Evaluate and Reflect. A strong teacher is evaluating a lesson before, during, and after the instruction. In the same fashion, you need to evaluate your PD before, during, and after the instruction.  During the instruction, use strong formative assessment techniques and total participation techniques. After the instruction, use exit tickets or a PD survey to gather data about the session. Talk to your participants about what they learned.  I always liked a symphony share where participants share something learned and a question they still have. Gathering this date will help you determine any misconceptions and drive your future instruction.

What is next? I am attending my first EdCampLdr this week and thinking about how this might be implemented in my district.

SHARE TO LEARN… I am hoping to learn from you! What has worked well for you when you have planned professional development?

How do skill and will affect our work?

jackson2013_fig1.1A year or two ago, I attended the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrator’s Women’s Caucus conference in Hershey.  One of the Keynote speakers was Robyn Jackson, author of Never Underestimate Your Teachers.  During the Keynote, Robyn shared her ideas about masterful teaching.  She talked about how to determine if a teacher had the will and/or the skill(s) to move forward in his/her practice.  Through her skill matrix, she helped us understand we all have different skill levels and will drivers. Recognizing the skill level and will drivers can help leaders determine how to best support teachers. (I think this can also apply to instructional leaders!)

I was intrigued and later read her book. In the book, Robyn offers tools to help diagnose teachers’ skill levels and will drivers.  She also provides ideas and suggestions for helping teachers grow by providing the support they need tailored to their will drivers. Her ideas can apply to new or veteran teachers, and can be applied to a specific context or multiple contexts.

I am thinking about her book in the context of a teaching and learning initiative which we are currently implementing – TL2020.  (You can learn more about this initiative at TL2020.org.) In this digital teaching and learning initiative, we are asking teachers to create diverse learning opportunities, both with and without technology.  We are using the SAMR framework and Webb’s DOK to guide our conversation and thinking.  Thinking about this initiative and what we want our classrooms to look like, I am applying the skill/will framework.  Do our teachers have the skills needed to make these changes/develop these types of learning activities?  Do our teachers have the “will’?  Do they see the value of this initiative?  I am also making connections to our leadership team. Do our leaders (myself included) have the skills and the will to implement these goals?  If not, what do we need to do to support each other?

You can watch this webinar with Robyn Jackson to learn more about her ideas and how they may apply in your district.

In this blog, which I entitled “Share to Learn,” I am hoping to learn from my readers too!  Each post will have a couple questions to consider in the hopes of engaging you in the conversation.

Questions to Consider:

  • What are some ways you have built skill with your teachers/leaders?
  • What are some ways you have influenced will with your teachers/leaders?

5 Ideas for Making Administrative Retreats Meaningful!

IMG_6417What was the best retreat you have ever attended?  What was the worst?  What made one better than the other?

As an administrator I have participated in multiple retreats, but this is the first year I was engaged in the planning process. My Superintendent (Randy Ziegenfuss) and I co-planned our first retreat for our administrative team. Our administrative team is small with 11 instructional administrators and 7 operational administrators.

Of course, you need to figure out the logistics such as time and venue, whether you will use in-house or external “presenters”, who you will include, who will facilitate, etc.  Once you determine those ideas, you can plan the heavy lifting of planning your day. Here are a few thoughts!

1. Determine your purpose(s). What are your objectives for the day(s)? What do you want to have accomplished by the end of the day? Are you setting a vision or goals for the next year? Are you building culture? Do you need a balance of information sharing and team building?

The purpose of our retreat was to build culture, develop a shared definition of visionary leadership, and begin our goal-setting process.  We started the day by inviting all of our summer staff to a breakfast which was planned and provided by the full administrative team.

2. Do your homework. Think critically about how to best use your time. Share your agenda ahead of time so participants can come prepared. (We failed to do this soon enough, and one of our administrators pointed out she could have come to the table better prepared to write goals if we had given her a “heads up.” Because we were conducting a guided goal-writing session as part of the day, we each developed sample goals (as well as a goal template.)  Being willing to put our work out their shows empathy and builds trust.  (It also serves as a practical sample!)

3. Model best practices. Consider the activities to engage participants. Participants do not want to “sit and get” for hours on end. Busy leaders rarely spend time in one place.  Instead, chunk your day and determine how to best connect independent activities to vary instruction while meeting your objectives.

For us, we weaved a few activities together throughout the day. We started with reviewing a few operational items (largely because it is difficult to get together in the summer as a full team).

Then, participants read and reflected on an innovative leadership blog post. The blog post discussed 8 Characteristics of Innovative Leaders by George Couros.  Participants completed a self-assessment of their own innovative leadership. After 15-20 minutes of quiet time, we moved into the hallway. We conducted a value line activity to discuss each characteristic. Most participants shared a few ideas throughout the activity, and we learned a lot about each other.

After this activity, we went out for lunch. Getting off campus created a social environment in which we could connect and further develop our relationships.

After lunch we returned to our building for a goal writing activity. Through the use of a GoogleDocs template, the activity was structured and transparent.  Participants worked independently or collaboratively.  Randy and I moved  moved around the room and checked in as needed.  Many staff members asked us to take a look at their work.

Just like teachers designing good instruction,  we needed to build in opportunities for individual, small group and whole group interactions. Doing so modeled best practice, provided time for group think, and encouraged collaboration among stakeholders.  We all benefited from each other’s ideas throughout the process.

4. Conduct formative assessment. Throughout the day, monitor pace and progress. Adjust as needed. No one wants to feel like his/her time was wasted!  For example, as we were doing the line activity, conversation was dwindling. As a result, I moved through the last two characteristics quickly. During the goal writing session,  we “checked in” and supported as needed.  We kept an eye on time and made sure to wrap up by the scheduled end time.  Doing so builds trust and credibility.

5. Reflect and Follow up!  At the end of the day, participants completed a brief survey.  We asked a few basic questions to guide our “instruction” for the next retreat day.  This data will also help us determine if we met our objectives. As a partner team, my superintendent and I will review the data to determine our next steps.

In this blog, which I entitled “Share to Learn,” I am hoping to learn from my readers too! Each post will have a couple questions to consider in the hopes of engaging you in the conversation.

Questions to Consider:

  • What advice do you have for creating meaningful retreats?
  • What ideas can you share as “lessons learned” (either positive or critical) from previous retreats in which you planned or participated?

Professional learning for everyone…

professional-development-baseballOne of my passions is professional development.  In my school district, we invest significant human and financial resources in professional development for all of our stakeholders.  We support our teachers with our district initiatives; our CBA and Act 48 Guidelines include options for teachers to make choices about their professional learning; we conduct monthly lunch and learns for our administrative team; we offer a workshop series for all of our instructional assistants; and we conduct a robust Summer Academy for all employees.

We have a cohort of teachers who attend Content Networking sessions at CLIU 21. (I recently co-presented on these innovative workshops at PASCD. ) We always ask those who attend a learning experience to share with a team, school, or department.  That might take the shape of a Summer Academy session, informal sharing during an Act 80 day, or an after-school workshop.  Developing our teachers and leaders by providing these opportunities leads to increased expertise among our staff.

In addition to all our our in-district work, we support teachers and leaders in attending local, state, and national workshops and conferences.  Many districts are not able to send teachers to various conferences and workshops due to limited resources.  I can’t help but wonder if allocating these resources and providing these opportunities leads to increased confidence in some of our teachers.  With increased confidence, more teachers appear willing to share what they are doing.

For example,  this past summer a team from our middle school attended AMLE in Nashville.  The team attended workshops and delivered two small group presentations.  This year, a middle school team articulated an interest in developing and offering professional development sessions for its own teachers.  Through the leadership of the Assistant Principal, the team developed some sessions and shared their ideas with me. I then packaged the sessions (and added a couple more from various presenters) into a Secondary Professional Development series.  Not only did the team take the initiative to develop the sessions, but then they reached out collaboratively for additional insight and support.

I also love the culture of learning and collaborating with these teachers and leaders. Many sessions are being offered by partner teams of teachers, and some of these teams are first-time presenters for our district. Yesterday, I was visiting a school, and a special education teacher and behavior interventionist happened to be working on their presentation related to de-escalating students.  They were eager to share their work with me, solicited feedback, and made some changes based on our conversation.  This collaborative approach demonstrated their sincere effort to share their best work with their colleagues. Multiple secondary teachers and instructional assistants have participated in these after school sessions.  Sessions included Flipped Classroom, Twitteracy, RLOs, Text-Dependent Analysis, etc. How did we create this culture? Did attending a national conference or other learning opportunity have anything to do with this innovative series?

In this blog, which I entitled “Share to Learn,” I am hoping to learn from my readers too! Each post will have a couple questions to consider in the hopes of engaging you in the conversation.

Questions to Consider:

  • As leaders, what do we need to do support our teams?
  • How does our commitment to professional learning encourage others to share what they know?
  • How do collegial relationships support professional learning?
  • How do we as leaders keep growing our pockets of leaders?

Increasing Transformative Learning Opportunities

risk-taking-1This is a the fourth year of our 1:1 teaching and learning initiative in Salisbury for grades 6-12, TL2020.org. During the 2014-15 school year, 1:1 access was added with iPads for K-1 students and MacBooks for students in grades 3-5. You can learn more about our first three years at TL2014.org.  On the site, you will see goals, the evaluation, policies, etc.

Recently, we were invited to participate in a research cohort with Apple.  We will join approximately 17 other school districts in Chicago, IL next week to learn more about how to collect data to answer our research question.

As part of the preparation for the workshop, we needed to complete a survey which inquired about our current data collection practices, resources, and a potential research problem.  On this snow day, after much conversation, we were excited to unearth our research question.  My colleague, Randy Ziegenfuss, shared his thoughts on increasing transformative learning experiences. You can read his post here.  His post explains our past work, the upcoming research opportunity we have been afforded, and our research question.

After three years, we are still seeing pockets of learning activities which would qualify as above the line (transformative) according to  Puentadura’s SAMR framework.  Learn more about SAMR by reviewing our Learnist Board.  For the teachers who are designing and implementing transformative learning experiences, what factors are critical to their success?

How do we increase the number of teachers who develop and implement these above the line activities?  Is our vision clear? What is working for these teachers who continually proffer these opportunities?  Do they have different professional learning experiences? Are their building PLCs structured differently? Are these educators connected through PLNs? Are their content area/grades relevant?  Do the administrators in the building play a role in regard to support and/or expectations?  Are these teachers risk-takers?  How can we create a risk-taking environment? What can we learn from these teachers, and how can we promote more of these opportunities?  What do we need to do to support them? I have so many questions about these teachers and their practices.

How do you support your teachers to learn and share with each other?