Saturday, May 26, 2012

Interview to Learn

Hiring season is in full swing and lots of applicants are feverishly working hard to make themselves marketable.  I like interviewing several applicants because it gives me the opportunity to find the best employees for our campus, but it also gives me an opportunity to learn.  I am always looking for new ideas for instruction, assessment and intervention.  I also look for new ways to strengthen our collaborative culture.  There are ideas and strategies that campuses and universities are using that I have yet to discover and the only way to learn about these ideas is by interviewing products of their organizations.

Before I begin the interview, I always give the applicant an overview of our campus and the systems that pertain to the questions that I will ask.  I think that is important because I want see how the applicant thinks within our system and what types of ideas the applicant has that can be added to our system.  The key to interviewing is designing questions in such a way that elicits the applicants beliefs and experiences.  In short, interviews are a kind of scavenger hunt. You never know what you are going to find. You may find the next teacher of the year, the next idea that could solve the biggest problem on your campus or even better, you may find both in the same person.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Are You Counting Down the Days or Making the Days Count?

There are less than 10 days of school left. The kids are counting down the days. Adminstrators, teachers and parents are counting down the days. Are you counting down the days or strategically using every day to prepare for an excellent year next year? Right now is the time to reflect on everything you have done this year, but more importantly, it is the perfect time for your staff to collaboratively reflect on everything that they have done as well. Soliciting input is critical for getting a head start on next year. Now is the time for spring cleaning. The things that we must reflect on and revamp is our meeting norms, intervention strategies that worked best, and what instructional tools were our very best for all kids.

One tool that our staff is using is DuFour's "Learning by Doing" book and using the Critical Issues for Team Consideration survey on pg 130. This survey instrument is excellent for our teams to evaluate where they are on their PLC journey. We have 8 PLC teams that will submit their survey data and from there, our campus will determine where we must focus as a campus for next year as well as what areas each team has decided to focus on next year. This valuable tool helps us decide if we are collaborating in the right ways and on the right things. It helps us set our norms for how we will work together in a more effective, efficient and focused manner. We are able to see if our instruction, assessments and interventions are aligned with the district curriculum as well as state standards. By using this instrument, teams are able to clarify the goals and norms that they will have next year. This is a great use of time since the beginning of the school year often doesn't yield enough time to properly develop goals and norms.

In addition to tightening our norms and systems, our teachers are working together vertically to create end of year assessments that will generate data and information to share with the next grade. Every student will walk into the next grade in August with data that is tied to the prerequisite skills needed for the grade that they are entering. Each teacher will know what prerequisite skills every student has and doesn't have at their command; therefore, the teacher has a head start at the beginning of every unit or lesson and can intervene immediately.

Spring cleaning is hard work, but if you spend the time in a proactive manner, you will save months of time that would otherwise be wasted cleaning up messes in the fall. Have a great summer.