Personalized PD

7 Ways Flipped PD Can Affect Sustained Teacher Improvement

The flipped classroom model has become a well known pedagogical strategy in education, and for good reason.  By providing students with a short instructional video to be viewed at home greatly increases the available time in class to engage in projects, discussion, inquiry-based learning and overall student centered practices.  Taking this exact concept and applying it to professional development (PD) could provide very similar results for teachers.

As teachers are more and more overworked, the last thing they want is to sit in a mediocre training to listen to an “expert” babble for an hour about a “more effective approach” to teaching their students.  Listening to a one time lecture based PD is actually completely contrary to learning theory, and has shown not to affect teacher belief change and therefore does not encourage long lasting effects in the classroom.  Instead, teachers need long lasting professional development situated in the real-life classroom scenarios of their classroom.  They need modeling, peer and supervisor feedback, and opportunities to practice followed by deep reflection.  They need the necessary resources, opportunities to collaborate with peers in a trusting environment, and access to information to build their pedagogical and content knowledge.

Let’s look at ways that flipped PD can provide many of these necessities:

  1. Long Lasting PD
    • To hire an external trainer to be a consistent and ever present member of a campus team would cost extraordinary amounts of money and a commitment from the trainer that simply will not match the commitment of the instructional leaders already present on campus.  Therefore long lasting PD will most feasibly come from campus administration.  Flipping PD gives a campus instructional leader the platform and the time to offer long term PD.  Creating videos multiplies the campus instructional leader and puts him/her on the screen of every teacher, not to mention a way for teachers to rewind and watch again when confused.  Videos along with creating a simple FAQ about the training can nearly eliminate questions about PD topics.  If questions arise, then time during face to face meetings previously used to share content related to the PD can now be used to elaborate on confusions.
  2. Situated in real-life classroom scenarios:
    • Taking a quick video of students or a classroom lesson is child’s play in today’s technological age.  Anyone can now record on their smart phone and quickly upload the video to Youtube (make it private if the video should not be shared with the public).  For example, when I wanted teachers to see that students were not understanding the daily learning objectives, I simply plucked a few students from the class and asked them, “What are you learning today?”  Once I shared these highly relevant videos the teachers immediately saw an issue that needed to be addressed.
  3. Modeling
    • Similar to the above description, model lessons can be easily recorded and shared online using tech tools like email, Flipgrid, Google Classroom, or Nearpod.  Have teachers watch the model lesson and reflect.  Go a step further and have the teachers record themselves teaching a similar lesson using the teaching method and compare.
  4. Peer and Supervisor Feedback and Collaboration
    • Sharing content through video frees time during face to face meetings to dive deeper into feedback between peers and supervisors, to solve relevant problems, and to give teachers a voice during the learning process.  If incorporating a Video Learning Team (VLTs) approach (which is explained in more detail HERE) the face to face meetings could also be used for VLT members to share video feedback.
  5. Building a Trusting Environment
    • Anytime more time is freed to collaborate and learn together, the opportunity exists for trust building.  Just remember that with enhanced opportunities for growth through collaboration, trust building is a necessity.
  6. Opportunities to Practice Followed by Deep Reflection.
    • Face to Face meetings could also be used for practicing new instructional methods.  Teachers could form breakout groups, and practice mock lessons with fellow teachers as the students.  Follow up feedback would then be immediate and highly relevant.
  7. Access to Information to Build their Pedagogical and Content Knowledge
    • One of the most exciting aspects of Flipped PD is a multiplier effect .  We can partner video and audio (two important aspects to retaining information) to disseminate information to mass groups of people who can then watch the video at their own pace at their own time and from the comfort of their own spaces.  Not to mention that face to face meetings can then be used for the hands on experiences–the component of PD that will solidify and hone teaching methods as well as continue on a deeper level the teacher belief change process.

In summary, flipped PD has the potential to truly make an impact on teacher practice and therefore student achievement.  Don’t underestimate yourself as an instructional leader.  You have something offer.  You can make the difference on your campus.

Leadership Hacks

Revitalize Your Campus PD

Teacher best practices over the past few decades have moved toward a more student-centered approach.  The idea is that teachers are not the bearers of all knowledge, but instead facilitate lessons so students can construct their own learning; instead of filling a bucket with water, learning is more like building a birdhouse out of new and used material.  The birdhouse metaphor highlights the fact that learning must be built using materials or knowledge that already exists by finding new uses for or by applying it in new ways.  In this respect the student is in charge of his own learning and can discover knowledge through his or her own experiences.  

While such an approach is extensively backed by research and has largely inundated teacher practices, it has not necessarily been applied to teacher professional (PD) development.  Instead, teacher PD most often comes in the form of one-time workshops led by an expert that imparts all the information the teacher needs to become more effective.  Unfortunately, this approach has the same side effects as teaching students in this manner:  low retention, lack of ownership of information, inability to apply the new knowledge, and the absence of real learning.  Such approaches have proven time and time again to result in minimal to no change in teacher practices. 

We must instead situate teacher PD in the context of their actual working environment, meaning the classroom.  When PD is situated in the classroom context, teachers are required to consider practices that don’t necessarily align with the new classroom strategy or approach.  This creates a sense of cognitive dissonance (an uncomfortable feeling that actions, knowledge, and/or beliefs are not complete or congruent which then leads to further action or reflection to arrive at a resolution).  Situating learning in the classroom context also allows teachers to really dive into the new approach, to practice, to fail, to dialogue, to reflect, and to truly go through an active learning experience.  Such an approach allows teachers to go beyond knowledge, and to enter into application, reflection, and true belief change.

Active learning such as this can come in many forms including these eight examples:

  1. Classroom Support:  an administrator’s or instructional coach’s most important job is getting into the classroom and coaching teachers.  What better way to situate learning in the classroom context than to use it as a learning laboratory?!
  2. Activities that Induce Thought, Reflection, and Dialogue:  Collaborative approaches to learning such as PLCs, study groups, PLNs, Lesson Studies, and peer coaching empowers teachers and builds campus instructional leaders.  Teachers leading their own learning also eliminates trainings that are impractical, unreasonable, and irrelevant.  Teacher led discussions also allow teachers to deconstruct beliefs that can then be rebuilt as new beliefs that align with best practices.
  3. Looking Beyond the Theoretical: Ensure all discussions from one-to-one conversations to staff meetings all include the theoretical but never forget to address the practical questions and issues from the classroom.
  4. Trainer Mock Lessons Embedded in Workshops:  If a sit-and-get training is necessary, at least ensure that the trainer demonstrates with a mock lesson.  This allows teachers to see first hand how the approach works in a real context and helps them to apply the theoretical in practical ways.
  5. Teacher Mock Lessons Embedded in Workshops:  Go a step further and allow teachers to practice during the training using the new strategy with their peers as faux students.  Follow up with opportunities for feedback and reflection.  
  6. Video Recording:  Video recording lessons can be a great reflective tool for teachers.  Check out THIS post for more details on how you can use video recordings as a reflective and training tool.
  7. Model Teachers:  Provide teachers with a model classroom to observe in a real setting.  This can be an assistant principal or instructional coach doing a model lesson or even a knowledgeable classroom teacher who has mastered the new strategy.  This empowers teachers to be instructional leaders and provides other teachers with concrete examples as well as a mentor teacher.
  8. Don’t Forget Relationship Building:  Without relationships providing the necessary and intense constructive feedback that most of these examples require is quite impossible.  Teachers will trust other teachers, and even administrators for that matter, only if the relationship already exists.  Don’t forget such a crucial step to building a campus focused on teacher learning.
Leadership Hacks

10 Ways to Prime Teachers for Change

Man often becomes what he believes himself to be.  If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.  On the contrary, if I shall have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning.

-Mahatma Gandhi

To change someone’s practice means also to address their beliefs.  So, in essence, to change teacher practice, we must address the beliefs they hold including beliefs about teaching, learning, students, knowledge, their campus, and many more.  But how do you begin to change teacher beliefs?  While this process is more complicated than a single answer, one important aspect to consider is the difference between beliefs based on evidence and beliefs that are only perceptions of reality (Richardson, 1996).  Consider a teacher that resists integrating technology in the classroom only because they perceive it as a waste of classroom time, not because they’ve experienced failure with technology, or that they’ve read empirical evidence against technology in the classroom, or that they’ve witnessed fellow teachers struggle with technology.

Such beliefs not based on evidence are actually more difficult to change than beliefs based on evidence as evidence can be deliberated, reframed, and contrary evidence can be provided.  Perceptions, however, cannot be disputed as they are based on more implicit individual characteristics rather than logical reasons.  The most reasonable conclusion, therefore, may be to actually provide reflection time for teachers to unearth or to formulate logical evidence to support those perceptions, therefore transforming beliefs based on perceptions to beliefs based on evidence.  At this point, the new reform message can be presented with coherent and logical evidence that now has the opportunity to create dissonance within the teachers that initiates action and belief change.  This reflective moment to convert implicit beliefs to more explicit beliefs is a vital step toward belief change and therefore change in teacher practice.  

How, then, do you create this reflective moment?  Consider some of these activities to elicit reflection from your teacher before a training:

 

  1. Free Association Brainstorming:  Give teachers 10-20 post-it notes and ask them to answer these three questions:  (1) “What was your first feeling when you heard about this new training/instructional approach/theory/etc.?”, (2) “What are you feeling now as you sit in this training about this new training/instructional approach/theory/etc.?”, and (3) “Where are these feelings coming from?”  Once they’ve completed writing on the post-it notes they stick them to a designated area that is discussed in whole group.  This gives the PD trainer an opportunity to know the audience and how to address the concerns of the teachers.  This also gives teachers the opportunity to truly understand why they are resisting or even not resisting the change.
  2. Create a Metaphor/Simile:  Often beliefs and emotions are much more complex than our language has the capability to express.  Ask your teachers, then, to create a metaphor or simile that illustrates their feelings and/or beliefs about the training.  For example, a simile might be, “I feel like a pair of dirty underwear.  This training is just the next thing to wear for a while before we quickly change to the next once things start to stink.”  Such an activity can be enlightening and fun for everyone involved.
  3. Choose a song:  Ask teachers to choose a song that reflects their beliefs or feelings about the training.  As an added bonus, you could ask a few teachers or groups to even perform their song!
  4. Directed Writing:  Provide a text for teachers to read that serves as an anchor for thinking.  For example, if providing a training for guided reading at an elementary school, ask 1/2 of your teachers to read a brief article about the benefits of guided reading and the other 1/2 about the benefits of an alternative instructional approach.  Then, ask them to write a short reflective piece about their thoughts.  Groups could then be jigsawed to allow for discussion and further reflection.
  5. Artifacts:  Provide artifacts that represent the focus of the training.  For example, give teachers a bag of math manipulatives for a training on using concrete math representations in the classroom, or demonstrate the use of an apple tv in an instructional way for technology integration.  Ask teachers to then write their first thoughts and feelings when experiencing the artifact.  Follow the writing activity with small group or whole group discussion.
  6. Art:  Ask teachers to create some kind of visual representation of how they feel about a particular campus initiative.  This could include drawing, painting, sculpture making with Play-Doh (for those early childhood educators), etc.  Follow up with small group or large group discussion to make their feelings and reasonings more explicit.
  7. Double entry journal:  In a journal ask teachers to write their feelings about a training on the left side and their reasons for feeling this way on the right (alternatively you could just draw a line down the center of a piece of paper if you do not have journals).  This requires teachers to attach evidence to their perceptions about a training.
  8. Critical Incident Journal:  Ask teachers to write a story about a time that they have experienced this particular classroom strategy or technique that may have particularly influenced their beliefs about the strategy or technique.  After writing the story ask them to answer questions like, “Why was this significant to you?”, “How might this experience have influenced your perception of this technique?”, “Could you interpret this experience any other way? If so, how?”, and “Could the results of this experience be attributed to any other factors other than this classroom strategy?”
  9. Rate it:  Post statements or photos around the room that support the classroom strategy being taught within the training.  Give teachers three different colored stickers (red, yellow, and green).  Ask teachers to take a gallery walk and place red stickers on statements/photos that create anxiety, fear, restlessness, anger, etc., yellow stickers on statements/photos that elicit minimal feelings or thoughts, and green stickers on statements/photos that excite, invigorate, and/or align with their current beliefs.  Follow this activity with a review of the colors for each statement/photo.  This activity gives the trainer a great assessment of the overall beliefs and perceptions of the room.
  10. Emoji Fun:  Using a program like Padlet, TodaysMeet, Socrative, or Verso ask teachers to post emojis that reflect how they are feeling about the training.  Some of these programs allow categorization so you can see quick data on the overall feelings of the room.  Follow up this activity with small or large group discussion to make feelings more explicit.  

Using these strategies can be a fun way to begin a training, but they are also essential to ensure that teachers are bringing their beliefs to the surface.  Only once their beliefs have been exposed can they then begin to be shaped or completely changed.  And once belief change has occurred, long lasting, sustainable best practices can be expected.

 

Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach.  In J. Sikula (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 102-119). New York: Macmillan.

Inspiration

One of the Scariest Things I’ve Ever Done

Trust.  Without it any organization fails to reach its full efficiency potential.  Employees avoid risk taking for fear of ridicule.  Managers fail to delegate tasks because they fear others will not rise to the occasion.  Supervisors micromanage because they fear employees are not being productive.  Change moves slowly or not at all because all decisions are passed through an information bottleneck.  Through these examples we can clearly see the antithesis of trust:  fear.  And as we all know fear paralyzes.  It destroys motivation to try new things.  It fogs the mind, hindering creative thought.  It halts all movement for growth.

Like many schools, we have talked the game of growth mindset and constantly have reminded our teachers that we as administrators are here to help, to support, to coach, and to guide, but such good intentioned speeches often fall on uncultivated soil, and for good reasons.  Many teachers have had experiences with administrators that have done nothing but break trust, creating in them walls that defend their heart from ridicule and embarrassment.  Simply put, teaching is a personal experience into which the heart and soul is poured quite liberally, exposing a vulnerable display of self, leaving one’s identity in range of criticism.  Without trust these walls can never be penetrated, no matter how well intentioned the feedback, transforming constructive comments into painful jabs.  

As of the 2016-17 school year the implementation of the new Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (TTESS) throughout our state has created more stringent evaluations with the potential of further revealing teacher weaknesses in and out of the classroom.  On top of the new TTESS expectations, we also began to use the Swivl robot to record our teachers to allow more in depth reflective opportunities.  In fact, every teacher would be expected to record themselves at least once throughout the year.  Needless to say, such an expectation resulted in quite the anxiety in our teachers.  Nearly each teacher suddenly experienced a fear of failure, of being exposed, of being less than expected.  I can say this with confidence because I too experienced the same fear.  Why?  Because Todd Nesloney, Melissa Boenker, and I developed an insane plan to also record ourselves teaching a class.  And not only that, but to show those recordings to our teachers at our next staff meeting.  But wait, we also asked our teachers to rate us using the same TTESS rubric that we would also be using with them on their evaluations and share their ratings with us anonymously through a google spreadsheet.  

Needless to say, the thought filled me with dread of losing credibility with my teachers, of being labeled an incompetent assistant principal, of being exposed as a fraud.  Each of us experienced similar fears, but nonetheless persevered and carried through with our plan, knowing that such a demonstration of transparency and vulnerability would develop in our teachers a sense of trust and a strong message that we are serious about having a growth mindset.  Our teachers completed the following recordings and subsequent reflection meetings without complaint and with complete fidelity.  I am very proud of our teachers and the courage they too demonstrated in the name of growth and doing what is best for kids.

Each day my principal, Todd Nesloney, begins our morning with the same exhortation:  “Be brave.”  As the leaders on our campus, we not only have to speak these all important words, but also live them out.  I’m reminded of the quote, “Life begins at the end of our comfort zones.”  I now exhort you to be brave, to do what it takes to build trust within those that follow you, even if it means demonstrating wild trust in them.

Inspiration

A Tribute to the Refugees Around the World

Today, June 20, 2017, is #RefugeeDay.  By the end of 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated a total of 65,000,000 refugees around the world for various reasons from natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods and famine, to political turmoil, to civil wars and guerrilla warfare, to genocide.  But right now, I would not have you focus on the global problems causing such exoduses around the world.  I would rather draw your attention to the 65,000,000 detailed and horrific stories that could be told, the homes of the 65,000,000 that now lay abandoned or unjustly occupied, the 65,000,000 reasons why they simply had to flee to save themselves, their wives, their children, their brothers and sisters.  Although I wish each story could be dutifully told, I will pick just one that I recently read on InvisibleChildren.com (you can read the complete story HERE).  

Hannah, a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a terrorist organization in central Africa, when she was but eleven years old.  During the next 8 years she spent her time foraging in the bush for the LRA and gave birth to two children, fathered by the commander to whom she was given upon her capture.  Over the next 8 years, after three escape attempts, after giving one child away for a chance at freedom, and after years of abuse she escaped while pregnant with her third child.  

Atrocities such as these are not uncommon, and they are not easily reconciled.  Reconciliation:  “to return to faith or harmony after a conflict”.  Such a journey requires an obstacle course of wrongs to be forgiven, scars to which one must acclimate, an internal exploration of human goodness, and finally a rediscovery of self.  To say the least, I never wish to negotiate such feelings and scars in my own life, but what I find most important is that refugees long for nothing but this opportunity, the opportunity to heal, the opportunity for a chance at life once again, the opportunity to find peace.  Once given this opportunity, however, their is a piece to the puzzle any broken heart needs, and that is the faithful presence of another human being that cares, to accompany.  To accompany someone in their struggles and in their suffering is the closest one can get to pure empathy.  

As this is a blog for educators I will make this more real for my audience.  There are refugees in all of our schools, whether a foreign refugee or a refugee fleeing an abusive environment.  Whether we agree that refugees should be allowed into our country or not, I believe we can all agree on the responsibility we have to heal the broken hearted, to be the Samaritan that takes in his ethnic enemy, to accompany others in their sufferings so the burden might not be so heavy, and finally as a result give them the chance to rise to their feet once more.

I wrote the following article for an internship while I was a student at the University of Central Arkansas.  Eight years later, as I reread the article, the message still rings true, and unfortunately the need to defend those temporarily debilitated still exists.  As you read the article pay particular attention to the quote in the second to last paragraph from one of the Invisible Children members and how this maxim may still apply to you and to me:  “We all share the same earth…We need to take care of each other.”  I hope to see you soon on our own battleground, that I may accompany you in our fight for a better Earth.

Lastly, to bring the life of a refugee a little closer to home I’ve included a video created by the Save the Children Foundation.  I’ll let the video speak for itself.

 

 

 

Marching for the Invisible

Written by Aaron Marvel

February 1, 2009

Guns and knives have often been the weapon of choice for many soldiers through time, but recently Harding and Hendrix university students have decided to raise their voices above the booms and clanks of the battle field to be seen amidst the still hazy gun powder of the Uganda and Congo landscape.  These two groups of college students work under a larger organization called Invisible Children, which fights against the use of child soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda.

The Ugandan civil war has been terrorizing the country since the early 1980’s.  Peace talks have continuously failed because of the refusal to surrender by Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA.  Hundreds of thousands have been removed from their homes and separated from their families, yet little has been done to aid the Ugandan government to end this restless war.

Invisible Children rose from nothing when three young California filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story.  They returned with a documentary showing the effects of a 20 year old ongoing war.  The documentary has been seen by millions and the response is colossal.  Small groups have sprung up around the world to raise awareness of the situation in Uganda.  The Harding and Hendrix groups are among the combatants here in the U.S. fighting to free innocent children being forced to fight in the LRA regime.  Their weapon of choice is a strong voice and their battle cry, “Spread the word!”

On April 25th at 3:00 p.m. fellow fighters throughout Arkansas will gather in Little Rock to raise awareness of the Ugandan war and to appeal for political action.  Each person will bring three photographs of themselves with their family, friends, or guardians.  A red circle will be placed around the owner of the photograph which will then be given to a volunteer at the designated “abduction site”.  Then as a group all “abducted” people will march to the “LRA camp” where they will stay until at least one media outlet arrives to cover the event, and one cultural or political figure is present.   While waiting at the camp each individual will create one art/photo project, write letters to political representatives, and seek out media attention.  Invisible Children asks for all participants to stay as long as possible and even gives a list of supplies to bring for an overnight campout.  Kayla Ross, a member of the Harding Invisible Children group hopes to have at least 1,000 students just from Harding.  “If the event is a success in Little Rock, we will have a follow-up lobbying on June 22nd and June 23rd.”

On these dates Invisible Children plans to have Time Square reserved to host a conference that will report the results of each of The Rescues from around the world including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, and Ireland.  Ross and other Invisible Children members hope to awaken the world before it’s too late.  “The massacre in Rwanda, the Holocaust in Germany, Cambodia, etc. went unnoticed until hundreds had already been slaughtered… If we can bring this to the attention of the media and our political figures and show them what this means to us, we hope that it will bring about a change.”

Ross already expects Beth Moore, Christian book author and founder of Living Proof Ministries, to attend The Rescue and hopes for some political representatives from around Arkansas.  

The Rescue is open to anyone with a passion to help others and to make a change in the world.   For Ross and the other Invisible children members, this is hopefully a start to ending a 23 year old war.  “We all share the same earth…We need to take care of each other.”

For more information about Invisible Children or The Rescue visit their website at http://www.invisiblechildren.com/marchhouseparty/graphics/The-Rescue-Manual.pdf or at Invisiblechildren.com.  

Leadership Hacks

Lights, Camera, Teach, Reflect

Any good teacher understands the value of learning and personal growth.  Why else would teachers pursue new and creative ways to engage their students, to lead them to new depths of thought, and to open up their world to new possibilities. Teachers desperately want to be effective, because they care about their students.  However, the process of learning and perfecting new approaches has one key ingredient that is sometimes skirted over a little to hastily:  reflection.  We all reflect to a certain degree; otherwise we would never see any need to improve our practice at all.  But do we reflect on our lessons to the level of depth that leads us to the specific deficits or weaknesses in our daily behaviors of which changes will lead to highly impactful improvements on our practice?  Such reflection requires an individual to give immediate attention to the behavior at hand, otherwise our memory fades and we lose the details of the event.  Luckily we live in a century that has a tool that will not fade like our memory and will capture the truth (whether we like it or not) and that is video.  

On our campus we have seen video be a powerful tool for self-reflection and a driver of growth and change.  Doing so was simple but effective.  Below you will find three ways to use video on your campus, two of which I have personally used and a third that I have recently read about and I plan to use soon.

  1. Video Learning Teams (VLTs):  I first learned of VLTs from a book called Focus on Teaching: Using Video for High-Impact Instruction written by Jim Knight, pioneer and advocate for the instructional coach approach.  Simply VLTs are groups of teachers that agree to review one another’s recorded lessons and subsequently provide feedback.  I first presented this idea on our campus as an option for growth.  As a rule for myself and those I supervise I have one most important rule:  I don’t care how you do it, but you always must be learning and growing in some way.  VLTs was one option that I provided our campus to learn and grow.  I was pleased to have ten of our forty teachers sign up to participate of which I created three groups.  The process was simple:  (1) record the first teacher’s lesson using the Swivl Robot (more information on the Swivl Robot HERE), (2) share the video with the recorded teacher, (3) the recorded teacher watches his/her video and provides two or three big “Look For’s” to give the group an area on which to focus their feedback, (4) share the video with the other group members who then take notes and prepare for feedback, and (5) the group meets to watch any important parts of the lesson to help shed light on practice and feedback is shared.  The process is then repeated with the remaining teachers within the group.
  2. Campus Wide Video Reflections:  Because we believe in the power of video reflection so much on our campus we actually made it a requirement for each teacher to be recorded at least once during the school year.  Establishing this requirement set off several alarms in our staff, so to show teachers how serious we were about having a growth mindset during this experience all three administrators also were recorded while teaching a lesson (more about this powerful experience in the post One of the Scariest Things I’ve Ever Done).  Also to calm teachers’ fears we set a rule that only the person being recorded would ever see the video unless they explicitly asked someone else to watch it.  In fact only two people ever had access to the video at any given time:  myself who recorded the video using the Swivl and the recorded teacher.  Setting this rule set minds at ease even further.  Simply recording teachers, however, would not lead to a direct realization of areas of needed growth or to subsequent action.  To encourage the growth process further each teacher was required to then write a short reflection on their strengths and weaknesses within the lesson, rate themselves in their area of refinement from our teacher appraisal system, and create specific actions that would be taken to address the areas of needed growth.  Lastly, each teacher shared the reflection with their appraiser, and followed up with a one on one meeting to further reflect and create an action plan.
  3. Video Stimulated Reflective Dialogues (VSRDs):  VSRDs are very similar to Video Learning Teams from above, but with one important distinguishing element.  Once a teacher has been recorded all those involved, whether that be an administrator and teacher, or just two teachers, watch the recorded lesson.  After the lesson has been watched once the two meet to watch the video a second time but this time with additional reflective questions.  In other words, the video serves as a “stimulant” for discussion.  For example, if in the video a teacher responds to a student’s answer with a correction rather than a probing question, the teacher may be asked, “Why did you choose to respond this way?  What other responses may have further prompted the student to think through the problem?”  Such a dialogue requires great trust between the two participating parties, so make sure strong relationships have been formed before attempting VSRDs.

Using strategies such as these can sometimes be uncomfortable, but I leave you with this quote:  “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  True growth and change require a little bit of discomfort, but the lives you will impact will be worth all the effort.

 

Inspiration

Together We Shall Reach the Prize

In a world of so many injustices and individuals with such deficits, whether economical, cognitive, or physical, is it worth our time and efforts to help the neediest?  Such a question may seem harsh to ask, but it is in fact a question health care professionals have asked for decades.  Is it cost-effective to treat diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS in the poorest of individuals, the individuals who will never be able to repay the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in their health?  For Dr. Paul Farmer and his colleagues at Partners in Health (PIH) such a question is easily answered with their core values:  providing a preferential option for the poor, solidarity, long term accompaniment, and building capacity in their health systems.  For PIH the answer to the two above questions is a resounding, “Yes!”.  PIH has helped countless individuals in Haiti, Russia, Rwanda, Liberia, Peru, and others beat ruthless and unforgiving illnesses, maintaining hope until the end, one patient at a time.  (See some of the faces of those impacted by PIH in THIS TED Talk by Jim Yong Kim, former PIH partner with Farmer)

As I consider the values PIH has established for itself to guide their organization, I can’t help but relate the same values to education.  We too face similar questions that we must answer.  Do we have the time necessary to help those most in need?  Should we put forth the effort to become experts in best practices?  Obviously, we have answered this question in our hearts.  I believe I can say with confidence that I’ve never met an educator that didn’t desire to reach every child that steps foot in their room, but as a profession have we embraced similar approaches to reaching the poor.  

Preferential Option for the Poor:  Those students most in need deserve the same opportunity for a happy and successful future as the student sitting in the adjacent desk that was lucky to be born into an educated and wealthy family.  Children from poverty often require more support systems that will require more attention, more interventions, more money, and more time.  Is this cost-effective?  Whether we measure by the money or time spent, I don’t believe we can put a price on diverting drug addictions, early pregnancy, generational poverty, malnutrition, increased stress levels, and an oppressed life.  

Solidarity:  Charity implies transferring needed supplies, information or skills from the wealthy to the poor.  The wealthy typically decide what is given to the poor, making an assumption as to what those in poverty need in order to be successful and happy.  Such an assumption, whether right or wrong, fails to include the poor in their own efforts to improve their condition.  I know of schools that have provided well intentioned parenting classes, literacy enrichment, and financial trainings for parents in poverty, but often with little effect.  Imagine a school that asks its parents in poverty what they need, and then delivers on those requests.  Asking such a question allows individuals to maintain their dignity and provides the motivation needed to follow through on the requested initiative.  Working together, schools and parents in poverty can accomplish much.

Long Term Accompaniment:  Change takes time.  A school that provides a few trainings and then abandons support for its parents will likely experience little improvement in their economic condition.  Accompaniment is walking along side someone, experiencing their struggles, knowing their sadnesses, learning their way of life.  Accompaniment is more than providing a few parenting classes, or giving food and supplies to students.  Accompaniment is attending sporting events, crying with a child when her pet dies, providing a hug (or sometimes even a home) for the child who has lost a mother to incarceration, celebrating with six-year-olds who have lost another tooth, doing the dishes or laundry for an overworked mother, and even showing up at a student’s house for a home visit and reminding him to clean his room.  You may first step back at the intrusiveness of some of these behaviors, but I have experienced or known first hand educators who have done each of these, resulting in a child that arrives to school feeling a little happier, a little safer, a little more loved.  

Building Capacity:  As administrators we strive to create teacher leaders, but what is our responsibility to building capacity in our students and in our community.  After all, the school exists for the students and the community, not for its employees.  A school that empowers its students hands them the keys to enacting real change for themselves, their peers, and their community.  Consider a campus culture that has cultivated empathy and an attentiveness to others’ needs in its students.  Such a student body will be compelled to support itself from within, in effect abolishing bullying, fighting, gossiping, drama, and drug and alcohol use.  In what ways can you empower your students?  Can you give them responsibility for running the school social media page?  Could older students mentor younger students?  Could students form anti-bullying groups?  Could students start doing today what they have always dreamed to do “one day when I’m an adult”?

PIH has over the last three decades saved countless lives, not only from death but from destitution, hopelessness, depression, and an overall loss of the quality of life.  I commend the educators that do the same for their students.  Keep providing equitable support for all your students and their families.  Continue providing a voice to your community.  Allow yourself to enter into the lives of your students, and lastly, keep providing for them the opportunities and encouragement to be the men and women they have always dreamed to be.

For more information about Paul Farmer and his journey to heal the world check out Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

 

Uncategorized

Markup: HTML Tags and Formatting

Headings

Header one

Header two

Header three

Header four

Header five
Header six

Blockquotes

Single line blockquote:

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Multi line blockquote with a cite reference:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

Steve Jobs – Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference, 1997

Tables

Employee Salary
John Doe $1 Because that’s all Steve Jobs needed for a salary.
Jane Doe $100K For all the blogging she does.
Fred Bloggs $100M Pictures are worth a thousand words, right? So Jane x 1,000.
Jane Bloggs $100B With hair like that?! Enough said…

Definition Lists

Definition List Title
Definition list division.
Startup
A startup company or startup is a company or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
#dowork
Coined by Rob Dyrdek and his personal body guard Christopher “Big Black” Boykins, “Do Work” works as a self motivator, to motivating your friends.
Do It Live
I’ll let Bill O’Reilly will explain this one.

Unordered Lists (Nested)

  • List item one
    • List item one
      • List item one
      • List item two
      • List item three
      • List item four
    • List item two
    • List item three
    • List item four
  • List item two
  • List item three
  • List item four

Ordered List (Nested)

  1. List item one
    1. List item one
      1. List item one
      2. List item two
      3. List item three
      4. List item four
    2. List item two
    3. List item three
    4. List item four
  2. List item two
  3. List item three
  4. List item four

HTML Tags

These supported tags come from the WordPress.com code FAQ.

Address Tag

1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
United States

Anchor Tag (aka. Link)

This is an example of a link.

Abbreviation Tag

The abbreviation srsly stands for “seriously”.

Acronym Tag (deprecated in HTML5)

The acronym ftw stands for “for the win”.

Big Tag (deprecated in HTML5)

These tests are a big deal, but this tag is no longer supported in HTML5.

Cite Tag

“Code is poetry.” —Automattic

Code Tag

You will learn later on in these tests that word-wrap: break-word; will be your best friend.

Delete Tag

This tag will let you strikeout text, but this tag is no longer supported in HTML5 (use the <strike> instead).

Emphasize Tag

The emphasize tag should italicize text.

Insert Tag

This tag should denote inserted text.

Keyboard Tag

This scarcely known tag emulates keyboard text, which is usually styled like the <code> tag.

Preformatted Tag

This tag styles large blocks of code.

.post-title {
	margin: 0 0 5px;
	font-weight: bold;
	font-size: 38px;
	line-height: 1.2;
	and here's a line of some really, really, really, really long text, just to see how the PRE tag handles it and to find out how it overflows;
}

Quote Tag

Developers, developers, developers… –Steve Ballmer

Strike Tag (deprecated in HTML5)

This tag shows strike-through text

Strong Tag

This tag shows bold text.

Subscript Tag

Getting our science styling on with H2O, which should push the “2” down.

Superscript Tag

Still sticking with science and Isaac Newton’s E = MC2, which should lift the 2 up.

Teletype Tag (deprecated in HTML5)

This rarely used tag emulates teletype text, which is usually styled like the <code> tag.

Variable Tag

This allows you to denote variables.

Uncategorized

Markup: Image Alignment

Welcome to image alignment! The best way to demonstrate the ebb and flow of the various image positioning options is to nestle them snuggly among an ocean of words. Grab a paddle and let’s get started.

On the topic of alignment, it should be noted that users can choose from the options of NoneLeftRight, and Center. In addition, they also get the options of ThumbnailMediumLarge & Fullsize.

Image Alignment 580x300

The image above happens to be centered.

Image Alignment 150x150The rest of this paragraph is filler for the sake of seeing the text wrap around the 150×150 image, which is left aligned

As you can see the should be some space above, below, and to the right of the image. The text should not be creeping on the image. Creeping is just not right. Images need breathing room too. Let them speak like you words. Let them do their jobs without any hassle from the text. In about one more sentence here, we’ll see that the text moves from the right of the image down below the image in seamless transition. Again, letting the do it’s thang. Mission accomplished!

And now for a massively large image. It also has no alignment.

Image Alignment 1200x400

The image above, though 1200px wide, should not overflow the content area. It should remain contained with no visible disruption to the flow of content.

Image Alignment 300x200

And now we’re going to shift things to the right align. Again, there should be plenty of room above, below, and to the left of the image. Just look at him there… Hey guy! Way to rock that right side. I don’t care what the left aligned image says, you look great. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In just a bit here, you should see the text start to wrap below the right aligned image and settle in nicely. There should still be plenty of room and everything should be sitting pretty. Yeah… Just like that. It never felt so good to be right.

And just when you thought we were done, we’re going to do them all over again with captions!

Image Alignment 580x300
Look at 580×300 getting some <a title="Image Settings" href="http://en.support.wordpress.com/images/image-settings/">caption</a> love.

The image above happens to be centered. The caption also has a link in it, just to see if it does anything funky.

Image Alignment 150x150
Itty-bitty caption.

The rest of this paragraph is filler for the sake of seeing the text wrap around the 150×150 image, which is left aligned

As you can see the should be some space above, below, and to the right of the image. The text should not be creeping on the image. Creeping is just not right. Images need breathing room too. Let them speak like you words. Let them do their jobs without any hassle from the text. In about one more sentence here, we’ll see that the text moves from the right of the image down below the image in seamless transition. Again, letting the do it’s thang. Mission accomplished!

And now for a massively large image. It also has no alignment.

Image Alignment 1200x400
Massive image comment for your eyeballs.

The image above, though 1200px wide, should not overflow the content area. It should remain contained with no visible disruption to the flow of content.

Image Alignment 300x200
Feels good to be right all the time.

And now we’re going to shift things to the right align. Again, there should be plenty of room above, below, and to the left of the image. Just look at him there… Hey guy! Way to rock that right side. I don’t care what the left aligned image says, you look great. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In just a bit here, you should see the text start to wrap below the right aligned image and settle in nicely. There should still be plenty of room and everything should be sitting pretty. Yeah… Just like that. It never felt so good to be right.

And that’s a wrap, yo! You survived the tumultuous waters of alignment. Image alignment achievement unlocked!