September 13, 2016

Just Serve


I’m one month in to my first year as assistant principal.  I’m thankful to have a network of people I can call on for support.  Within my first week, I had several great friends and edu-heroes check in with me to see how things were going.  I actually told my friend, Jodie Pierpoint, yesterday that I feel like I’ve been so busy I haven’t had any inspiration to blog.  I’ve actually entered a stretch here where I feel either so disoriented that I can’t locate my target, or perhaps I don’t have a target.  I imagine it’s a feeling only school administrators can understand.  I typically attack or pursue education activity like a wild dog.  I’m often my own worst enemy because I lose sight of small victories or my zeal pushes people too far.  But recently I have struggled to focus in on one thing.  I feel as if I’m bringing little value to my school.


My advice to other educators that may be in a situation where they feel like they don’t know what to do: just serve.  Serving others is like defense and rebounding.  Those two things don’t require near the amount of skill as scoring, they just require focused effort!  I realized that in the midst of my frustration about not knowing what to do, or deciding how to address this need or that need, I just needed to take a deep breath and go serve people.  It doesn’t require much thought to check in on teachers between classes.  It doesn’t require much preparation to greet teachers in the morning and ask if they need anything.  It doesn’t require any planning for me to write teachers a thank you note.  These may seem like small, menial tasks to some.  You’re right!  Those aren’t the kinds of things I aspire to do after reading the latest blog post from my edu-heroes or listening to a recent podcast on my way to school.  But I think it’s important to note that I won’t get to see the results I’d like to see if I’m not serving others.  I needed the reminder that I didn’t have to be engaged in a furious pursuit of the next staff meeting or professional development session in order to have an impact on my school.  And neither do you.  Just serve.  The relationships you build as a result will yield far more impact in the long run.



August 8, 2016

Did I Leave Too Early?

Photo by Derek Oldfield 7/16/16

Photo by Derek Oldfield 7/16/16

I feel like that photo represents my career right now.  I’m stepping out of the classroom and into school administration.  This passion has been something I’ve invested in heavily over the last couple years.  I feel as if I’m looking back, through the side mirror, at a beautiful sunset!  What lies ahead is a bit dark and my way isn’t nearly as clear as it used to be.  I’m writing this as dusk falls on my time in the classroom.  It’s really bittersweet.  On one hand, I need this.  It’s possible my principal from last year may feel a sense of relief.  I look at nearly every event that occurs during the school day through the lens of a school leader.  The inbox of my principal will be lighter next year as I won’t be there to share my reflections, the questions that resulted in books I read or blog posts shared the night before.  My activity over Twitter, the blog posts and books I read, and the edchats in which I engaged, have had a rather narrow focus lately: school leadership.

On the other hand, as I look back at that beautiful sunset I’m reminded of things that I feel were left unfinished.  I didn’t meet my goal last year for #goodcallshome.  I just spent an hour reviewing student blogs and screencasts they submitted.  I remember embarking on the mission to establish portfolios of learning just two years ago.  That mission is not complete.  Last year I placed an emphasis on asking students to demonstrate learning and understanding at a deeper level.  I told myself that I would no longer tolerate rote memorization and regurgitation of procedures and algorithms as “learning”.  So I spent some time reviewing the assessments I created and the evidence my learners submitted.

Desmaze Example 1

Megan MarbleSlides

Pacman Example 1

Keela Inequality Screencast

I reviewed some of the Kahoots students created, then shared with their class as a means to prepare for upcoming assessments.  Just last week I had an opportunity to share with teachers how I intentionally reach the hearts of my learners during the first week and throughout the rest of the school year.



I’m worried that my relentless pursuit for the highest quality learning experiences for students may weaken as a result of the limited opportunities school leadership may provide for me to teach.  As a practitioner, I remained in a constant state of improvement.  I spent every ounce of down time seeking after ways to better reach my learners.  I had a 50 minute drive to work every day last year.  I must have listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts, Youtube videos, and audiobooks while on the road.  I pride myself on my instructional knowledge and the art that allowed me to inspire learners to drive their learning and reflect on how they were learning.   Will stepping out of the classroom still provide me with opportunities to unleash experiences on students (teachers) then reflect on how to improve those experiences the next time?  I hope so.  Did I leave the classroom too early?  I hope not.  I invite your feedback, especially from other school leaders.

July 4, 2016

Two Questions Around Standards Based Learning

Last week I completed two days, approximately nine hours of instruction at AFT-WV (American Federation of Teachers – my union) summer camp for teachers.  I’ve been honored to serve as an instructor for the week-long event the last three summers now.  The emphasis is always on technology integration.  This year I decided to take the opportunity to engage participants in an interactive conversation on grading and assessment.  This represented about two hours of our class time.  Over the last year, I had developed a two-part academy, via Nearpod, designed to expose a staff to standards based learning.  The goal or target was to generate momentum for a staff to begin improving the way they communicate learning to students.  I had 20 participants in my class at AFT-WV summer camp and they represented a wide variety of content and grade levels.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was the first time I had ever used the content I designed.  My participants stepped up and fully engaged in some incredible discussion.  I was really shocked.  Navigating the waters of grading and assessment requires some intense reflection about century-old practices that have dominated classrooms and teacher mindsets.  During the lesson, as the participants began to really consider how to more accurately communicate learning to students, they brought to my attention some common problems or even misconceptions that I remember grappling with during my own journey towards a culture of learning that is standards based.  I’m going to offer these issues to you as they were offered to me, then I’ll follow up with my response.

Derek, it does make sense when you asked us to consider if we believe all students learn on the same timetable or conveyor belt, as you put it.  But, I can’t figure out how you seem to manage different assessment schedules in the same classrooms?  That almost seems like a moonshot idea that isn’t practical or possible in the real classroom.

Penalized for learning different rate

First, I’m a math teacher, so this issue was something I really struggled with for some time.  I recall passing out tests in my classroom and as I walked around handing the test out to students, I would almost cringe as I placed that test on some students’ desks because I knew that student wasn’t ready.  At that time I began to leverage technology quite a bit more in my classroom.  I could tell when he or she hadn’t completed the assignments and tasks I had prepared and the formative results indicated such.  Here I was handing out a summative opportunity to students that I knew weren’t quite ready.  I asked myself “would this student be ready if I just gave them an extra day?  Was there any data I could view that would indicate where this student was struggling?  Could I meet with that student in a 1-1 or small group setting to better prepare him or her for this summative test?”  Of course, in my mind, none of those questions were possible because I had asked students to learn according my timetable.  Why?  After much thought and reflection, the only answer I could come up with was that my timetable was easier and more convenient for me.  If you’re reading, stop there and think.  Ok, I hope you’ve given some thought to my answer for why I was so committed to my timetable for learning.  At this point, I think it’s safe to say that little can improve in your classroom or your school if our focus is on keeping teachers comfortable, keeping instruction convenient, and keeping our work easy.

If you decide to allow multiple pathways to that summative, standards aligned, assessment you create, I think you’ll find that what happens is not quite what you had in mind.  See, my participants last week had this thought in their minds that if they had 23 students in class, nearly all 23 would choose a different day to take that summative assessment.  WOW!  How in the world could a teacher manage 23 different days of testing, provide adequate feedback to those students after their tests, then keep them busy while the rest of the class tested for days after.  Let’s be clear.  That doesn’t happen.  In my experience, being more fluid with when your students test means you’re not as concerned with when but more concerned with results (learning).  I think you’ll find that most students still move through your curriculum, those assignments you’ve designed as opportunities for students to practice or engage in that new skill or concept, together.  This is especially true if you successfully nurture a culture of collaboration in your classroom.  If students know that talking, sharing, and working together is appropriate and encouraged, learning rates for students will begin to merge together.  You’ll find that your attention is given, more appropriately, to those students who begin to move at a slower pace.


Students Helping


Let me give you an example of how allowing more choices about when students test will actually benefit the teacher.  In my own journey towards improving the way I communicate learning to my students, I began shortening the tests I gave to my students.  I more accurately aligned my tests to specific learning targets I had communicated to my students.  So instead of a 25-30 question/problem test that likely takes an entire 45-minute period to complete, I started offering shorter, targeted assessments.  This allowed me to provide 1-1 feedback to students immediately after completing those assessments.  If all 23 students take that assessment on the same day, it becomes more difficult to meet 1-1 with each student after their assessment.  Time becomes an issue, I just can’t meet with all of them in 45 minutes.  However, if 12 students take that assessment on Thursday, I can then meet 1-1 with all 12 after they complete their assessment.  This conference becomes crucial to the learning process.  My goal is for each student to leave my conference knowing where they are, where they need to be, and how they can get there.  Students leave my conference knowing exactly what they need to do to remediate and strengthen those learning targets in which they failed to demonstrate proficiency.  Some of those 12 leave my conference and go back to work.  Some students provided evidence of learning in every standard or learning target.  My point is, if 7 more students test on Friday and go through my 1-1 conference after, that leaves just 4 students for me to check on before pushing students ahead to the next set of learning targets.  It’s more manageable than you think.  As I often tell educators, find someone who is already doing this and lean on them.  That’s what I did!

The second issue or misconception I want to address is around the idea of allowing retakes or redos.

Derek, if you allow retakes and redos on every summative assessment, what do you do if you hand a student a test and he or she says “I don’t want to do that one, I’ll just take the retake”?

This was a great question and one that I’ve heard before from educators at the beginning of this journey.  Hopefully my last response brought some clarity to this issue.  Is this student ready for that test?  Let’s consider why that student is saying “I’ll just take the retake.”  If that student was ready for the test or at least felt they were ready, what reason would they have to not take the test?  Another issue here may be that students have learned that your retakes are easier than the first version of the test.  Be sure your summative assessments, all versions, are clearly aligned to learning targets you’ve already communicated to students.  In fact, it’s good practice, especially at the secondary level, to allow students to explore what would be considered mastery of your learning targets.  For example, take the following learning target from 9th grade language arts: I can cite strong and thorough textual evidence that supports my inferences and analysis of the text.  After providing your instruction, try allowing your students to provide examples of mastery and examples that do not provide evidence of mastery.  How would they measure if another student could demonstrate mastery of this standard?  You may find some deep learning occurs during this activity.  To summarize, if this issue appears in your classroom, it’s likely you’re placing an emphasis on when students learn and it appears this student isn’t ready to demonstrate learning.  Otherwise, you may have an issue with the validity of your retakes.

May 9, 2016

What’s In The Mirror?


Social Media 1

Creative Commons Image

What are you sharing?  I heard someone tweet recently during an edchat, what educators say online is just a mirror of their heart.  I thought that was a great metaphor that connects well with educators.  Those who share uplifting, positive content generally have an uplifting and positive attitude.  I imagine the opposite is also true.  I’ve never been immune to professional struggle and frustrations.  During those times I have to intentionally reflect on every tweet, Facebook post, etc. to ensure my internal frustrations don’t come through my social media activity.

Creative Commons Image

Creative Commons Image

No educator would question that we are under attack!  In fact, public education has been under attack for some time.  With the prevalence of social media use, I feel it a tremendous responsibility to fight back.  As Jennifer Hogan put it in her recent blog post, we must be active in diluting the negative stories flooding the media about public education.  I challenge educators to inspect their social media activity and analyze which side of the fight they support.  Educators that use their Facebook account to share the latest Why I Quit Teaching… story or to vent their frustrations about their students, parents, or school, do nothing but add to the concentrated amount of negativity surrounding public education.  Frustrated about certain issues that exist in public education?  So am I.  But instead of contributing to the negativity, let’s fight back by flooding our digital footprint with positive news occurring in education.  Doing anything extraordinary in your classroom?  Please share it!  Active in your teacher union?  Great!  Just 15 years ago, this conversation didn’t occur.  I know educators already have enough responsibilities that even the greatest educators can’t fulfill them all adequately.  However, we can no longer afford to work in isolation, doing great things, without publishing those accomplishments to the rest of the world.  Maybe public opinion could begin to swing in our favor if more educators took responsibility for shifting that story.  Maybe state legislators would take notice if educators flooded their world with evidence of the hard work poured into the hearts of our students every day.

Like I said, I don’t write to you as an educator that’s never had a bad day.  I’m not immune to failure, frustration, unfairness, etc.  I’ve questioned my commitment to this profession as I’m sure you have.  If I can provide any advice, though, it is this:

  • Connect immediately with other likeminded educators.  They can provide you support, encouragement, relief or just a welcome set of ears to absorb those moments when we all need to vent.  Will it require some of your time?  Yes.  Can you afford to continue working in isolation while others benefit from the support of their tribe?  No.
Support PLN


Here are some great resources to support you in growing your own personal learning network.

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Creative Commons Image

April 21, 2016

Side Effects

You’ve heard them right, those pharmaceutical commercials where everyone appears to live a better life by taking that drug?  Then I’m sure you’ve noticed the often lengthy list of side effects that are read at the end of the commercials.  I find it comical, because there’s always happy people on the screen with soft uplifting music playing as the narrator reads a long list of side effects that are often worse than life without the drug.  View this real commercial for Chantix and try not to laugh.

Ok, so we know sometimes what is intended for good can have some pretty harmful side effects.  Let’s turn that around.  I hope that our students don’t feel any harmful side effects from attending our classes or our schools, though that is something to consider.  Instead, I wonder what positive side effects would be experienced by students that attend our classes and our schools?  It’s a thought that has been on my mind a lot lately, especially as schools across the country enter standardized testing season.  There’s a lot of conversation in my PLN that would suggest the side effects could be more important than the effects that we acknowledge up front.  For example, one could imagine that students who attend my math class should leave my math class with a breadth of knowledge as determined by the content standards.  However, year after year I become more interested in those side effects and the impact those can have on student success beyond school.  It’s not that I’m uninterested in the content I teach, but I’m more in tune with the side effects that I want my students to experience as a result of attending my class.  For school leaders, what side effects do students experience as a result of attending your school?  I invite you to consider the side effects that students experience from attending your class, school, or district.  Please share those side effects in the comments section of this blog post.  Here are mine:

  • increased awareness of one’s learning preferences and style
  • perseverance
  • empathy
  • tolerance
  • confidence in their ability to leverage digital sources to learn anything
  • a growth mindset
March 31, 2016

They Can Still Grow

My wife and I are both school teachers.  We teach in separate districts but thankfully our spring breaks fell on the same week this year.  As a result, we took a trip today to Old Man’s Cave in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio.  It is a beautiful area and I highly recommend the trip.





The entire hike surrounds you with the beautiful scenery you see above.  My daughter Miley loved the waterfalls.  I was amazed by the size of the rock that towers over Old Man’s Cave.  Story says a man lived underneath that rock and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to camp out under there.  Of all the wonder there was to see there, it was a small tree that stuck out the most to me.  I paused briefly to snap a picture of that tree as it literally appeared to be growing on a small outcropping of rock that made up the humongous overhang of rock known as Old Man’s Cave.

Grow Anywhere


The pictures don’t do it justice to how resilient that tree must be.  I know it’s difficult to see, but above the tree is even more rock.  In fact, there was really no more room to grow, so you can see the tree just turned down and has continued to grow down over the edge of the cliff.  I wondered how it received any water, but it must receive just enough rain to survive at that location.  As soon as I saw this tree, I was reminded of my students that were born into rocky situations.  I thought of those students whose life has placed them in a situation that seems insurmountable.  I count myself extremely fortunate to have spent the first year of my career substitute teaching at a juvenile detention facility.  All of the students at that facility were court ordered.  It’s been six years since I’ve spent any significant time teaching in that setting but I remember those experiences like it was yesterday.  In fact, I can’t imagine what my career would have been like without that experience.  My commute, at the time, was 30 minutes one way.  I can recall many drives home where I left the radio off and reflected on the conversations I had with those students.  To consider that for nearly all of that population, those 9-12 months are the best months of their lives, it’s overwhelming.  The mark left by students that were leaving that facility will never heal.  The tears that landed at my feet will never dry.  See, many of those students grew up in situations similar to the tree I noticed today.  I needed the reminder that students can grow even under the most insurmountable conditions.  I think our students need that reminder too.  I can’t summarize all that I learned from my teaching experience in institutional education, but I know it allowed me to develop an intense passion for reaching those students that live in conditions that would appear to deny them of any opportunities for growth.  I wish I had a magic recipe, but I don’t.  I know it requires resilience on the part of the student and the teacher.  And I know it requires your heart.  Growth won’t occur in the absence of our heart.  Here are my suggestions on ways you can give those students your heart:

  • Be sure your classroom policies and procedures take into consideration the conditions in which those students go home to each day.
  • If you can’t be anything else to those students, be a smiling face and a listening ear.  You may be the only person that smiles and listens.
  • Don’t allow your upbringing to shape your attitude towards those less fortunate.  Give others your heart not because they are like you but because they are unlike you.
  • Colossians 4:6 has been a permanent fixture on my white board for two years now: Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, so that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.  Nothing strikes harder than the tongue.  Guard your tongue, especially when considering those students facing uncertainty at home.  Will what you say bring you closer to that student or take you further from that student?
January 25, 2016

The Learning Divide

Jonas made it’s mark on West Virginia this weekend.  In Parkersburg, WV we got about 13 inches of snow.  On Friday as the snow was dropping my family decided to drive about 20 minutes north to my aunt and uncle’s house because they have a fantastic hill for sleigh riding.



Powell House

It turns out we got snowed in and the roads were just too much for our Ford Fusion to travel so we decided to spend the night Friday.  Jonas continued to pour into Saturday so we were forced to stay another night away from home.  My aunt and uncle were keeping their eight-year-old granddaughter Kiera for the weekend so my four-year-old daughter Miley had a playmate.  As you can imagine, this was an excellent deal for Miley.  As she was climbing into bed with Kiera Friday night she told us “this is my first big girl sleepover!”

I brought my Macbook Air with me as I figured I could use the time stuck inside to get some work done.  I got it out Saturday afternoon and attempted to access the wireless internet available at my uncle’s home.  For reasons unknown to me, my Macbook would not connect despite entering the correct password.  It appeared to try to connect over and over but I never received the typical message telling me it was unable to connect.  I honestly don’t know what happened and the issue exceeded my own level of expertise.  My eight-year-old cousin Kiera noticed my frustration and asked me what was wrong.  I told her my computer wouldn’t connect to the internet.  She asked if I wanted her to try.  I smiled politely under the guise of frustration.  I had reached the point where I just wanted to toss something out the window.  Kiera asked me again if I wanted her to try so this time I took a deep breath and kindly said “Kiera, I’ve tried to input the wifi password correctly, but it still won’t connect.”  Do you know what Kiera did?  Kiera grabbed her Ipod Touch and proceeded to ask Siri how to fix my Macbook.

Sunday morning my family got up and I told my wife Julie that we should begin packing our stuff and heading home.  I was certain that by this time the hill leading into our neighborhood would likely be cleared enough for us to make it.  Kiera and Miley were determined they were going to eat ice cream for breakfast.  It was a weekend long party for these two!  Kiera told us she wanted to make ice cream with snow.  Do you know she did?  She grabbed the Ipad and looked up a recipe on Youtube.  Within 30 seconds we had a recipe for making ice cream with snow.  Outside we went with a couple bowls to scoop up some snow.  IMAG3403It wasn’t until we got home Sunday afternoon till I started thinking about what my eight-year-old cousin had taught me.  I considered how Kiera so quickly attempted to learn the things she wanted to learn using Siri and Youtube.  I had the opportunity to observe how an eight-year-old leverages technology that is as ubiquitous to her as a pencil is to me.  In fact, as I replayed the situations in my mind I realized she didn’t even think twice about seeking a solution from Siri or about searching for a recipe on Youtube.  What implications does that kind of access have on today’s classrooms?  Consider your own classroom, is it engaging to today’s students?  Is there still a disconnect between the way students learn outside of school and the way students learn inside of school?


December 30, 2015

Looking Ahead… 2016

In the last year I was fortunate enough to attend five Edcamps, two of those I helped organize.  During Edcamp Leadership at Gahanna Lincoln High School in Ohio, I broke down and signed up for Voxer, downloaded the app on my phone, and engaged in conversation.  I say I broke down because I was initially worried about the time commitment it would require and I was beginning to monitor my time a bit better.  In reflection, I am proud to say Voxer has been a transformative addition to the informal learning options that I’ve engaged in during the last few months.  The time commitment is extremely low and it’s so easy to use.  It has strengthened my relationship with educators that mentor and influence me in ways I could never have imagined.  Once again, I am in awe of the power of connections.  To have the ability to reach out and receive quick and specific communication is incredibly empowering.

The next chapter in my career as an educator appears to be on the horizon.  In the next few months I’ll complete my coursework and begin pursuing leadership opportunities immediately.  It’s humbling to think back on the impact that social media has had on my classroom and my students.  But I’m also thankful for the role it has played in preparing me for the next chapter.  I want to list a few of my hopes and dreams for 2016:

  • First, I hope to see educators in West Virginia make a commitment to informal learning opportunities.  To be honest, in my conversations with leaders from others states, leaders who have seen this investment take hold, I’ve learned that educators who rely solely on school or district provided learning opportunities are now irrelevant to today’s students.  I understand how brash that sounds.  That’s not an indictment of today’s learning opportunities provided by schools and districts.  The fact is, those opportunities have become fewer and fewer over the last decade, and in general, the bulk of those opportunities are dictated by policy changes, funding, and top-down mandates.  Learning opportunities that leverage educators voice and choice, provide time for conversation, and implement structures that engage ongoing feedback are just far and few between.  Conferences and professional development are quality opportunities for educators, but not everyone is provided the chance to attend those.  Let’s be frank, informal learning opportunities won’t take hold unless West Virginia’s leaders begin modeling the change themselves.  How can school leadership make growth a part of the evaluation process?  How can statewide organizations that lead professional development opportunities empower educators and leaders across the state to engage and invest in edchats, podcasts, book studies, webinars, Voxer chats, reflections, innovation, risk taking, sharing, and growth?  I believe the question facing most WV educators, leaders included, in right now is why?  Why engage?  What’s the benefit?  It’s a legitimate question and too many educators don’t see the need for change.  How can we take an honest look at what students are experiencing in classrooms and examine what needs to change?
  • The mentors who have influenced me the most are all servant leaders.  They all invest in developing capacity in those around them.  I hope to inspire in 2016.  This will require I listen more than I speak.  It will require that I disrupt the status-quo and empower others to step outside of comfort zones.  It will require that I act with intention, evaluate my options, and relentlessly pursue above the line responses to events I encounter.  Choke on Greatness
  • Last, I want to engage my students in opportunities for deeper and uncommon learning.  2015 ended with my students creating Kahoots, Quizlets, and Nearpod lessons to prepare for their semester exams.  The best value from that experience came from the questions my students asked themselves.  They spent a lot of time thinking about how to design accurate formative assessment opportunities.  I got to have conversations with students about how to measure whether a person can or can’t meet a specific target.  I hope to expand on that momentum and continue to develop metacognition in my students.  We’re going to start 2016 with this form.



December 13, 2015

What Are You Waiting For?

I’ve had this thought on my mind for a while now and I believe I just received the message I needed to go ahead and release it.  Neil Gupta and Mark Weston recently published posts that I read back to back one evening.  Both posts struck a similar cord with me.  I write often about the impact that social media connections have made on my practice.  I use caution to be sure my tone isn’t condemning of more traditional means of professional learning by teachers.  It’s not that traditional school or district provided professional development isn’t effective.  It definitely can be and I hope yours is effective.  I just can’t imagine any school or district leader believing that school or district provided PD occurs often enough.  The issue is the school calendar just doesn’t allow enough opportunities for educators to engage in reflection, sharing, and growth.  In fact, if you’re relying exclusively on school or district provided opportunities to grow, you’re likely an irrelevant educator to today’s students.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your students.  stayrelevantMany connected educators have been exercising patience with non-connected for years now.  Tom Whitby has wrote about this several times.  Educators have been collaborating for years, this is not a new phenomenon.  The methods by which educators are collaborating have changed due to the impact technology has had on today’s classrooms and the learners that fill our classrooms.  To remain relevant, educators are turning to social media to increase the frequency of collaboration that engages reflection, sharing, and growth.  Every education conference available has it’s own social media component typically leveraging hashtags to connect educators, build community, and expand the conversations.  Point is, using social media to increase informal learning opportunities speaks for itself.  The value is there.  What are you waiting for?  I no longer believe schools or districts can transform without the impact that tools like Twitter can have on educators.  Neglecting to connect to opportunities for reflection, exposure, sharing, and growth is a recipe for mediocrity, status-quo, and irrelevance.  It’s time for district leaders to aim higher!  So what can school or district leaders do to aim higher?

  • Todd Whitaker says often: “average teachers don’t know they are average.”  Social media can help expose your less effective teachers to more effective pedagogy.  In addition to peer observations that can occur within the building, social media provides a looking glass that can expose everyone.  It’s also convenient that the exposure and reflection on practices happens in non-judgmental environment that edchats and blogs can provide.  Truth: educators on Twitter sharing their practices are generally the most effective teachers in their respective buildings.  Want to improve your school?  Make your teachers more like the most effective teachers.  Get your teachers engaged.  Make it a part of your culture.
  • “Stroke ’em, you gotta stroke ’em. -Todd Whitaker”  How do your most effective teachers get students to do what they want them to do?  They stroke ’em.  District leaders must be engaged, leading the way, stroking your teachers that are engaging in these opportunities to improve their practice.  Sustainable change won’t occur without it, I’m convinced of that.  You’ll develop capacity by making yourself visible, sharing your activity, and being the change that you wish to see.
  • Flip opportunities for information dissemination.  Make your teachers engage in the tools to participate in specific meetings, teams, book studies, etc.  Incorporate social media tools into your FACE (Family and Community Engagement) by leveraging a school hashtag to knock down the walls and share your school’s story.  Make this a part of your teachers’ practice in communicating with the home.
  • Get rid of the title!  Be title-less.  Every school or district leader I follow, seek input from, receive encouragement, support, and critique, serves first.  They didn’t stop learning just because they received a title.  They serve with an open heart, encouraging and stroking those most effective teachers.  They build capacity by empowering educators to serve others in leadership positions.



November 15, 2015

Shirley Feedme and Mr. Showme

For sake of a really long post, I hope you can understand, if even just a bit, the impact that technology has had on the way today’s students prefer to learn.  That’s rarely debated in the year 2015.  Tom Whitby said recently “If any teacher could take the content in their head and put that into the heads of their students, those students would still be limited.”  The days of teachers being considered masters of content are gone.  Students come to school with more content in their pockets.  Employers aren’t seeking workers who are loaded with content, rather, they’re seeking workers who are capable of learning because required skills to perform specific jobs are also changing quickly due to the impact of technology.  Read the title of this 2012 NY Times article:  stayrelevantMy point is, educators are not exempt from this action of nonstop learning.  Regardless of what century you were born in, teachers need to shift their mindset and take advantage of the learning opportunities all around them.  It’s more than just deciding to engage.  I believe what prohibits most teachers from learning and implementing new ideas, methods, and tools is a mindset.  Allow me to draw this out for you.  Shirley Feedme is a student in your class.  You have invested the typical time and energy you devote to designing quality lessons for your students.  You teach the lesson and everything appears to go as expected.  Students have their devices out, you’ve provided them the assignment, and the students begin working.  Shirley raises her hand beckoning for your assistance.  Shirley says she can’t do the required tasks because she doesn’t have a pencil.  So you walk over to the spare pencil tray, retrieve a pencil, and deliver it to Shirley.  A few minutes later Shirley beckons you again.  This time Shirley proclaims she doesn’t understand the assignment.  Despite your attempt to go over the directions with the entire class before providing the assignment, and despite the directions being written clearly in bold letters at the top of the page, you give in and explain it to Shirley once more.  Later Shirley beckons you once again.  Shirley tells you she can’t remember some important facts you provided about the topic during your lesson.  So you proceed to spend the next few minutes seated beside Shirley Feedme reviewing the facts with her one last time.  Spoon Feeding Teaches NothingWho’s doing most of the work in this scenario?  Who’s doing most of the learning in this scenario?  Go ahead, you’re allowed to smile.  Of course, what kind of teacher would read that and not have feelings of disgust at the actions of that teacher.  That behavior by that teacher denigrates the profession for all of us.  Yes, this situation is entirely fictional, but I wonder how often it happens in classrooms every day?  How empowering were those actions for Shirley Feedme?  I provided this scenario so I could shift to the next scenario:

The teacher down the hall, Mr. Showme, has been teaching for 20 years.  The school district just recently rolled out a 1:1 initiative with Chromebooks.  In addition, they released a district-wide learning management system too.  Mr. Showme attends the provided trainings over the summer.  School begins.  Fast forward to the next summer.  Mr. Showme’s evaluation last year indicated that he needed to increase collaboration in his classroom, begin issuing assignments via the learning management system, and decrease the amount of paper he uses each year.  Mr. Showme feels frustrated and defeated that the school is no longer providing anymore trainings on the Chromebooks and the learning management system.  In fact, the trainings they are providing are on a different topic that he’ll need to learn before the school year begins.  This scenario is once again fictional, but I wonder how often it occurs in school every year?  Mr. Showme is relying solely on school-district provided opportunities to learn.  He’s even hoping that those opportunities provide the time for someone to sit down with him 1:1 and show him exactly how to increase collaboration, use the LMS, and decrease the paper usage.  I see a connection between Mr. Showme and Shirley Feedme.  Could Mr. Showme be Shirley Feedme’s teacher?

Both of these individuals are going to struggle to succeed in today’s world.  Today’s world will pass them by, rather, individuals who leverage technology to receive information, facts, explanations, procedures, videos, etc. will do the passing.  Mr. Showme could have leveraged social media to connect with a group of educators who have been using Chromebooks in the same content and same grade level, but he didn’t.  Mr. Showme could have watched the 4-5 minute video tutorials provided on the learning management system’s webpage, but he didn’t.  Mr. Showme could have asked the teacher down the hall how they issue their assignments via the LMS, but he didn’t.  The real issue is, Mr. Showme needs to change his mindset.  It’s not that he can’t do those things.  I wonder if he ever thought about doing those things?  Perhaps he did think about doing them, but he didn’t feel it was his responsibility to do them.  Either way, Mr. Showme is quickly sinking into irrelevance because of his mindset.

Learners Inherit the Earth

Today’s educators must embrace the mindset that learning opportunities are all around us.  We won’t always have another to hold our hands during the training and show us exactly how to learn and implement the newest tool, method, or idea.  What we perceive as barriers e.g., lack of time, training, or people, are really not barriers at all.  Employees in all walks of the job force are being asked to adopt this very mindset.  Those that cannot acquire knowledge on their own are being passed by those who can.  Give a man a fish