Saturday, September 26, 2015

7 Strategies to Save Struggling Teachers

The first 6 weeks of school is coming to an end, so how are your new teachers doing?  How are they feeling?  Where do they feel competent now, and where are they still lost?  If you don't know the answers to these questions, there's a strong chance you don't know your teachers well enough to save them if they're in danger of falling through the cracks.  And let's be honest, if new teachers fall through the cracks, so do their kids.  If you think about your first year as a teacher or your first year at a new school, you can vividly remember the exhaustion that you felt at the end of the first few weeks of school.
Principals shouldn't ignore these facts about new teachers or just chalk them up as a necessary evil that they all have to go through in our first year.  Leaders owe it to their teachers to do something about it. After all the best way to retain new teachers is to make sure we don't kill them.  Most new teachers struggle in the first weeks of school, but they shouldn't have to struggle for the rest of the year. They need campus level supports to help them overcome the stress from the beginning of school. 

7 Strategies to Save Struggling Teachers

1. Mentor

Every new teacher needs a mentor or a buddy, but it's what that mentor does for the teacher that makes the biggest difference. Great mentors take time to visit with their mentee weekly to help them overcome the obstacles from the daily grind. Effective mentors check on their mentee regularly and ensure that they have all the supports they need to succeed. 

2.  PLC 

Being a member of a professional learning community that meets on a regular basis is a good thing, but being a member of a PLC that focuses on helping every teacher grow and improve is a fantastic support.  Every teacher, especially ones that struggle, deserves to be on a PLC that focuses on the adult learning coupled with a mission of guaranteeing that all kids learn. 

3.  Resource Expert

If a teacher is struggling with how to complete day-to-day tasks or how to use resources for learning, they should be provided with tour guide to develop those skills.  Whether it's the gradebook, email, digital textbooks, GAFE, or some other tool that they are expected to master, schools and administrators should provide resource experts to help all teachers when they experience difficulty with these resources and the tasks associated with these tools. 

4.  Lesson Planning Support

Some teachers struggle with planning engaging lessons.  In these situations, struggling teachers should be provided time to plan a week of lessons with a veteran teacher or administrator. This support gives struggling teachers structure and organization so that they can be more efficient with the time they spend planning for instruction.

5. Walk-throughs / Instructional Rounds

Walk-throughs aren't just for administrators.  They are a great strategy to help a struggling teacher in their instructional delivery.  By watching another teacher deliver instruction, they can pick up new ideas to make their lessons pop.  An even better activity than walk-throughs is instructional rounds because the struggling teacher can observe instruction with fellow teachers and discuss the pedagogy as well as the components of instructional effectiveness with their peers.

6. Coteaching

Another great way to learn how to deliver effective instruction is to coteach a lesson with another teacher. By preparing a lesson and teaching with a veteran teacher, a struggling teacher can gain first hand instructional experience in planning and delivery. The most beneficial aspect of coteaching can be found in the opportunity to reflect on the strengths and struggles of the lesson afterward with the coteacher. By working with an excellent teacher from the beginning to the end, struggling teachers learn the unwritten rules in designing powerful lessons.

7. Administrator Time

Probably the greatest support that struggling teachers can receive is time with their administrator. By having regularly scheduled times to visit with the principal, teachers can gain valuable experience and insight of how to make it through the difficulties that they face. The best administrators spend a lot of time serving as a sounding board for teachers as it helps teachers find their own solutions to traditional problems. Additionally, when administrators spend time with struggling teachers, they learn how to lead more effectively, support more efficiently, and respond more precisely.

Saving Struggling teachers Takes All of Us
Every teacher struggles at the beginning of their career and in the beginning of a new position in a new school, but we owe it to them to help them succeed.  We mustn't forget that when a teacher struggles, their students suffer as well, and that isn't just a problem for he struggling teacher. That's a problem for the teacher who will receive those kids in the following year also. If we truly believe in the mission of meeting the needs of all kids, then we must all believe in doing our part to meet the needs of all teachers first. After all, we will meet the needs of all kids when every teacher is properly equipped with the tools and skills to meet their needs first. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Vocaroo your Kids into Self-Directed Learning

Think of all the ways that kids lose instructional time waiting.  Kids miss instructional time each time they have to leave the classroom to take an oral administration of a test but they also lose valuable time each time they have to wait for the teacher to direct their learning.  But it's even harder to get kids to drive their own learning, especially if kids are conditioned to wait for the adult before they take charge of their learning.

Well have no fear; Vocaroo is here. Vocaroo (CLICK HERE) is a cool tool that will keep kids engaged in learning, but the powerful potential in Vocaroo goes far beyond it's basic use as a digital tool to orally adminster tests.  Below are 5 ways that you can use Vocaroo to enhance your instruction and strengthen student engagement at the same time.

Listen to my short vocaroos below, and if you want to experiment with Vocaroo, click the record and upload voice button.  THE BEST PART about Vocaroo is that it is EASY to USE.  Honestly, I made each 30-45 second Vocaroo in about 2 minutes from start to finish which also includes embedding it into this post.  I hope you will check it out.

Oral Administration of Tests

Record and upload voice >>

Bell Ringers & Exit Tickets

Audio recording >>
Collaborative Learning Groups

Voice Recorder >>

QR Codes for Independent Tasks

Voice Recorder >>

Vocaroo QR Code
Try it out!

Science Fairs (or other student products)

Online recording software >>

How Do You Vocaroo? 
Drop a comment or an idea of how we can use Vocaroo to meet the needs of kids while simultaneously creating an environment that challenges kids to take charge and be self-directed in their learning.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Change your Words; Change your Mindset

Nothing is more powerful or more limiting than the spoken word, and in education we say a lot of words. Some words push kids and peers forward, while some words stop others dead in their tracks. If you think about it, we say a lot of 4-letter words in education (not those 4-letter words :-)) that truly limit students and colleagues from reaching their innate potential and we must address that.  

Today's post is not about eradicating words but reconsidering how we use them. Below are a few 4-letter, fixed mindset words that we need to either eliminate from our vocabulary or transform our use of them from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  

Fixed Mindset - He passed the test, assignment, class, year 
Growth Mindset - He has made x amount of progress from the last test, last grading period, or last year.

Fixed Mindset - She failed. 
Growth Mindset - She is failing in the following areas, but she has these concepts under control. 

Fixed Mindset - He can't do this work. 
Growth Mindset - He presently struggles with this skill, and here's the plan to help him overcome his deficit. 

Fixed Mindset - We don't do that around her. 
Growth Mindset - We haven't done that before, but we can learn more about it to see if it will help us better help kids learn. 

Fixed Mindset - I like the work you're doing. 
Growth Mindset - Here's what I Iike about the work you're doing. 

Fixed Mindset - Good job. 
Growth Mindset - Good growth, good progress, good improvement. 

What would you Change?
Drop a comment and share a word that you would add or an idea that we should all keep in mind. We mustn't forget that when we change our words, we also change our mindset. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

18 Traits of a Great Leader

Gr8 leaders are the difference between success and failure.  They grow kids into learners and followers into leaders.  In fact, the gr8est leaders turn static organizations into thriving learning environments, but here is the question.  What does it take to be a gr8 leader?  What do the gr8 ones do that separate themselves from average leaders?

18 Tr8s of a Gr8 Leader
Great leaders focus on elevating their people as well as elevating their confidence.

Great leaders relate to all people in their school community because they understand that relationships with all people are the key to helping all kids reach excellence.

When conflicts arise, great leaders spring to action.  They resolve conflicts by attempting to mediate as a first resort because they understand that when mediation works, conflicts can end with a Win-Win result.

Great leaders love to argue and debate with people.  By being the devil's advocate in important discussions and decisions, leaders help people become more committed to their beliefs and ultimately their work.

What gets celebrated gets accelerated, and great leaders build celebration into their daily work and interactions with all people.

When things aren't working or new initiatives are falling apart, leaders realize that they must slow down the process to allow people time to learn more about the initiative or fix what is not working.  Gr8 leaders pump the brakes. 

When leaders see that processes are working, they find ways to accelerate the organization because they know that growth grows faster when we are moving faster. 

When problems arise on the campus, average leaders formulate a plan to find a solution, but great leaders formulate a system that ensures that the problem is resolved and never resurfaces for years to come.

Keeping people informed is what average leaders do, but great leaders educate their teachers, their parents, and their community on what is best for all kids and why it is best.

Average leaders never stop, but great leaders realize that they must take mental breaks. Meditation and reflection are essential for growth, and great leaders know how to shut down in order to reboot their system.

An average leader tells people what to do. A great leader shows them the way.

All leaders communicate, but great leaders overcommunicate verbally, visibly and virtually.  They communicate their message multiple times in multiple formats to ensure that the communication is not only received, but they verify that the communication is clear and coherent.  The most important communication trait of a great leader is LISTENING.

Collaboration always outperforms isolation, and great leaders model collaboration by working in a PLC with their teachers, fellow leaders and peers.  You can't expect collaboration if you never collaborate yourself.

Constantly showing appreciation for leaders, teachers, students and the community is consistently evident in a great leader's communication.

Great leaders seek out excellent practices from other leaders and teachers and emulate those behaviors in their work.

When great leaders discover excellence in teachers or programs, they find ways to replicate those practices throughout the school by empowering those exemplars of excellence to show others their success and expertise.

Great leaders only create when they can't replicate, and they enlist the expertise of others to create new and effective processes to improve the school.

Being all in is not an option for great leaders. They dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the success of others.  Furthermore, they model their dedication for all to see, so that they can inspire others to commit as well.

Gr8 Tr8s lead to  Growth
The possibilities for systemic growth are infinite when leaders focus on having the traits of a transformational leader.  There a lot of other excellent traits that I could have mentioned, but here is the main idea. When leaders embody the actions of excellence, student success grows because teacher success grows.  Great leaders realize that they don't directly impact students, but they do directly impact teachers, and when leaders focus on developing their own skill set to make teachers more effective and more efficient at helping kids, student success automatically takes care of itself.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Convert your Peeps into Tweeps

I had a message from a friend the other day asking me to help her get a professional Twitter account started, and she asked me to name some people that she should follow.  That's a hard question for me, a person that is connected to so many people.  After thinking about it, I gave up on her request and created a Google Sheet with lots of people that I connect with.  These are not necessarily the most popular or my favorites. They are a great starting point for building your PLN.   These folks are people that I interact with on different levels.  Some are superintendents.  Some are teachers.  Some are advocates, but all have one thing in common.  They help me grow.

As educators, we should encourage our colleagues to start a twitter account.  After all, Twitter is the exponent of learning.  To start a Twitter account, you need to create a stream of good content that will provide a wealth of information.  However, getting started on Twitter is hard, especially if you are uncomfortable interacting with complete strangers, but I hope this list along with these steps will help convert your Peeps into Tweeps.

How to Convert your Peeps into Tweeps

Step 1 - Follow these Folks

Now this is not everyone that I learn from.  In fact there are tons of people that I could have put on this list, but space is an issue.  For more names, just go to my Twitter account and look at my followers or my following list.

Step 2 - Find more people to follow

Once you follow these people, see who they are following, retweeting, favoriting and interacting with, and then follow those people as well.  

Step 3 - Read, favorite and retweet what they post

Once you start following people, you can interact with them or their content by reading, favoriting, and retweeting (RT) what they are tweeting.   You don't have to say anything.  Just share their thoughts.

Step 4 - Reply or Quote a Tweet

Start replying to tweets or quoting tweets that you find interesting. Conversing with members of your PLN is a powerful learning activity as these folks help you grow in your comfort with Twitter.

Step 5 - Participate in a Twitter Chat

Go to @cybraryman's page to find a schedule of Twitter chats and participate in one.  Participating in a chat can be quite exhilarating as a flood of ideas and thoughts around a central topic can expand your knowledge beyond what you could ever learn in your district.  Don't forget to add the #hashtag of the chat so that your thoughts are visible to everyone participating in the chat.

New is not that Scary
Twitter is not that scary once you get going. Just log on, start following folks and learn from them. Once you're comfortable, you can jump in there and share your ideas. I promise you that your contributions are great and people want to hear them.  The most important reason to get on Twitter is to continue your own personal growth and development, and the reason that is important is because it will help your students learn more from you.  Good luck and tweet on.