Educational Leadership in a Box

How amazing to work in a school where your administrators know what your goals are and support you in achieving them.

I was so happy to look in my box the other day to find a copy of Educational Leadership magazine specifically focused on A Culture of Coaching.

After scanning the Table of Contents, here are the articles that caught my eye and my thoughts after reading them:

  1. You Can’t Have a Coaching Culture without Structure
  2. How to Get the Most Out of a Coaching Session
  3. A Principal’s Guide to Supporting Instructional Coaching

Teaching Children vs Teaching Adults

My current role at The OJCS is part time grade 5 teacher, part time Teaching and Learning Coordinator. In the latter part of my job, I work with teachers and help them plan, create, revamp or simply brainstorm things they can do with their class. Often, this coaching revolves around different technology tools and Now Literacies.

I consider myself a pretty patient person, and like to believe that I am a good educator when it comes to children. But when discussing my goals for this year, I wanted to focus my attention to the coaching side of my job. How can I best use my time with teachers? Should I allow teachers to make meetings with me as needed and support them that way? Should I be having standing, check-ins with certain teachers with set goals in mind? Should these meetings continue for the entire year, or is there some form of “graduation”? With the support of my head of school, Dr. Jon Mitzmacher, I’ve decided to build a module with set skills, time, and lessons around Classroom Blogs. Jon asked the question, “What needs to change in our teaching when working with adults instead of children?”

I wondered…

During my Principal’s Qualification Program this past summer, I read When Mentoring Meets Coaching, by Kate Sharpe and Jeanie Nishimura. My partner and I ran a book talk, and I would say our main takeaway was that when working with adults, there needs to be a mix of supporting, listening and sharing of your own experiences and expertise while still allowing for these professionals to make discoveries on their own and grow their own craft based on who THEY are, not who YOU are. 

This makes a lot of sense to me as I reflect to my own mentors who continue to guide me. They ask me questions, they challenge my thinking, and they push me to come up with my own ideas and opinions around education before ever sharing their own ideas with me.

But what about when we are creating learning modules specifically for teachers? How should they be organized? What skills should specifically taught? And how can we weave those moments of self-discovery and choice into the lesson so teachers are not simply doing something because they have to, but because they want to?

I contacted Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano to see if she had any advice or books she recommended. As someone who coaches for a living and has offered many different online adult learning opportunities through Ampeduca, she was the perfect person to start with.

 

I will start with one of these books and share my thoughts once I’m done.

Stay tuned 🙂

How We BYOD

Cross post from my class blog.

I can’t believe we’re already into our third week of school and this is my first post. I take it as a good sign that we’re so busy and engaged in class that there hasn’t been any time for an update!

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been documenting our learning!

One new addition to our school policy this year is the soft launch of our Bring Your Own Device initiative for grades 4-8. Understandably so, there has been lots of conversation about what this means in terms of screen time for our students. I thought a good first step would be to show you how we’ve been using the devices in grade 5 to help enhance our learning. Technology is being integrated in meaningful ways, not simply for the sake of using a device. While we may have these devices in our classrooms, they are by no means being used ALL the time, and we are pretty deliberate about what they are used for.

First, we’ve made a few additions to our weekly classroom jobs. This summer I read, Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. In this book, he talks about the Digital Learning Farm, and how by giving student’s jobs within the classroom that are integral to the learning, they will take more ownership of their learning and become meaningful contributors to the class culture. This fit in perfectly with the work I, and a cohort of OJCS teachers did, last year with Silvia Tolisano. This matches our own OJCS North Star that We own our own learningTherefore, three new jobs in our classroom are the researcher, the documenter, and the habit finder. The researcher helps answer our questions in the moment when they come up. I am the first to admit that there is A LOT I don’t know. In our classroom, students are curious and if questions come up we don’t know the answer to…the researcher will find it for us! The documenter captures the learning happening in the room and in the school. They take pictures and videos of important learning. This is great practice for when we launch out Student Blogs (grade 5 students did this last year, if you’d like to read more about it. The habit finder pays special attention to how we are following the 7 habits in our classroom, captures these moments and documents it for us. These will be great examples to share with the whole school at our monthly Rosh Chodesh assemblies.

 

Let’s see what some of our documenters have captured so far!

 

We were introduced to EdPuzzle, a place where we can watch videos and answer questions to check for understanding. These “flipped lessons” will most often be watched at home, but we did a quick lesson in class to make sure everyone knew what to do.

 

 

We also spent some time practicing our Math critical thinking skills by choosing a question to answer, solving it with our partner, and then documenting our thinking process on Flipgrid. We used the video feature and also the new whiteboard feature to create tutorials. By focusing on what we learned and what we found challenging, we’ll be able to use that learning for next time!

 

 

 

 

We also started reading our first class novel, Wonder, by R.J Palacio. We’ve already had some great discussions about friendship, acceptance and kindness. Even though some of us have already read this book before, we know that books are like gifts (simile alert! We also started talking about literary devices 😉). You can find something new each time you open it!

Finally, today students started watching video feedback from me on their first paragraphs. Using Screencastify, I was able to record myself editing the students’ work, offering tips and suggestions for improvements they could make. This personalized feedback allowed students to focus on the specific skills they are working towards, and make any necessary changes at their own pace. Afterward, one student said she couldn’t believe how helpful it was to be able to have the video open in the corner of the screen, while her document was open as well. She was able to pause the video at appropriate times and edit her work as necessary.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg! It’s so exciting to see how much we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time. It’s clear that this is going to be a great year!

Pushing to Become More Globally Literate

Choose one outside your comfort zone. Learn. Be aware of your thinking patterns, learning style, metacognition, reflect and share.

NOW Literacies. This is a new term that was introduced to me this year. What does it mean to be literate? And what does it mean to be a literate educator?

On my first day working with Silvia, I came across this quote by Alvin Toffler.

This quote has stuck with me throughout the year as I have been learning so many new skills and literacies. Being able to read and write a book, an essay, even an article, is no longer enough. Did you know that the underlined words in this post are actually hyperlinks that will bring you to other sites to continue a side discussion and discovery? Reading and Writing (in English) is no longer just from left to right, top to bottom. Silvia showed us that being literate today means being able to read and write, understand and follow information in many different ways. It also means being aware of these literacies and constantly thinking about which you are using and which still need to be improved upon. These Now Literacies are:

  • Basic Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information Literacy
  • Network Literacy
  • Global Literacy
  • Digital Citizenship

Global Literacy is one I feel I am the least comfortable with at this point in time. I’d like to believe that I am aware of what is going on in the world. I think that I am a tolerant person who is aware and respectful of beliefs and opinions that are different than my own. But I’ve never really taken a step back to consider how my own culture and experiences affect the things I believe and share.

I have been teaching since 2007. In these years, I’ve taught in 3 different cities in Canada, however I’ve ONLY taught in private Jewish Day Schools. I’ve never taught in the public system, other than the weeks I spent student teaching in Montreal during my B.Ed. I’ve taught in 3 different cities, 2 different provinces, but they’ve all been Canadian. I’ve never taught in any other country. How could this NOT affect the things I believe to be possible in education?

In the summer of 2018 I took a course around Indigenous Education in Canada. One important discussion was how can we teach a history that we have not experienced ourselves? The suggestion was to bring in Elders to teach specific lessons, understanding that their perspective would be much more appropriate for sharing such an important piece of history.

I think Global Literacy is important as a leader as well. You need to be aware of who the teachers in your building are, what perspectives they may be coming with, and how will those perspectives be different from your perspectives? How will you lead and motivate not from a place of demanding, but by inspiring?

Before then though, how can I bring this Global Literacy into my classroom? It can’t simply be about teaching them about other cultures and telling them they need to be sensitive. They need to actually experience it. My colleague, Bethany, has been doing Mystery Skypes with her students. She recently asked us what value Mystery Skypes have. If I think about it from a Global Literacy perspective, students will first need to know how to ask the questions. Can they speak in their own language? Do they need to do some research? How will they react if they hear an answer that may be surprising to them. What will they do or say if they disagree with the group they are Skyping with? How will each experience help them with all the future Mystery Skypes they do?

And as I said in my recent #breakingsterotypes, I don’t know everything…and that’s GREAT! Global Literacy means that I will be able to create, collaborate, connect, communicate and think critically to amplify my learning and the learning of my students.

 

A Guide to Documenting Learning – Book Review

If you look back at the date of my first post, you’ll see that I have not been blogging for long at all. Documenting my learning in this format, on this public platform, is very new for me. It began as a tool provided to me and my colleagues who were fortunate enough to participate in a learning cohort with Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (who I have mentioned many times in my posts) and has quickly turned into something I enjoy doing, value doing, and am eager to share out.

As with many things that are new to us, we often look for resources that can help us do what we’re doing, better. One such resource for me as I have begun to capture and reflect on my learning, has been A Guide to Documenting Learning, by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and Janet A. Hale. This is not a book that needs to be read cover to cover. It is also not the book that I read at the beginning of my journey and now sits on my shelf. It is full of post-it notes, some weathered pages and has been the inspiration for many of the lessons in my classroom. This is because the authors have made this static book as interactive as possible, by including QR codes, website links, tool suggestions, annotated images and infographics to help the reader understand exactly what is possible. It is in and of itself, an artifact of learning that models what each of us can do to grow professionally and personally.

What I love most about this book is that it highlights that we are all learners. The line between teacher and student does not need to exist. What applies for educators in terms of documenting our learning applies for our students as well. The book recognizes that we are all at different points in our journey and there are no excuses as to why you can’t start now. Whether you are documenting your own learning as a professional, documenting the learning of your students, or helping your students to own their own learning and become reflective and critical thinkers for themselves, this book has many strategies to help you get started and continue learning every day.

Blogging Bingo

(Cross-post from my class blog)

B-I-N-G-O!!

Here is our newest Blogging Challenge. Students will add to their personal blogs, and are challenged to complete as many of these challenges as they can! We will also continue adding work based on other activities we are doing in class. Students are always allowed, and encouraged, to post about things they are doing in school, in all subjects.

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It is my hope that we will have a mini student led conference, where you will come into school and your child will walk you through their blog, including all the artifacts of their learning. More information on this to come.

Please continue to check your child’s blogfolio and comment! Remember to leave your last name off when commenting to help keep the privacy of your child. Asking questions, adding information, and offering suggestions are all great things to include in your comment.

And as always, if you have any questions or comments for me, please leave them below 🙂

It’s Gonna Be May – PGP Reflections

I cannot believe Passover is over and tomorrow we will be back at school for the final months of the year. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in Dr. Mitzmacher’s office, discussing my Professional Growth Plan for the year. Boy has it evolved!

I knew this year would bring it’s challenges, and I knew I needed to try as many things as I could to find the formula that would work for my students. Personalized Learning became the guiding term for what I wanted to do. In one of my earlier posts I talked about personalizing the math classroom. This was, and continues to be, the subject I have the hardest time personalizing. How do you make it authentic, personal, and engaging for all students? How do you truly make it personalized, where students are in charge and have choice and voice, without spending HOURS creating games and tasks? Especially when you have a prescribed curriculum to teach and report on. As I said, I’m still figuring this out.

I had the honour of Skyping with Allison Zmuda from Learning Personalized a few months ago. She had a wealth of information to share, specifically this graphic, which I intend to share with my students. Allison and I have discussed Skyping again with my class for them to share with her their thoughts and ideas of how to get through their learning pits!

I have also been working with my students on documenting their learning, more recently by creating student blogfolios. I believe that through the process of reflecting on their learning, and knowing they will be sharing their work with others, students will take more ownership over their learning, will interpret the tasks in their own unique ways, and will develop their own personal strategies of getting themselves out of their learning pit for the sake of learning!

Through the work I have done with Silvia this year I have grown my professional learning network on Twitter and am extremely motivated to learn and share with those “around” me. Every time I write a post, save a tweet, or connect with someone new, I share it with my students to help them see the power of a global network. I feel more comfortable reaching out to others for help, knowing that I am contributing as well.

There is still so much on my “To-Do” list:

  • Firstly, this blog in and of itself was new and is an ever-evolving skill.
  • Stay tuned (coming VERY soon) for my post on my Blogging Bingo board
  • Continue creating authentic learning experiences in math that naturally reach students where they are and allow for growth at many levels
  • Invite parents in for a pilot of “Student led conferences” with the blog posts they will have done by the end of the school year.

Next year’s “To-Do” list:

  • Start blogging with my students right off the bat next school year
  • Start a “Student Directed” Hadashot blog

I have no doubt even more will be added, slowly but surely.

The Four Kinds of Documentation

As I work on creating a Blogging Bingo Challenge for my students, I felt an inforgraphic explaining some of the tasks would be helpful for my students. I contacted Kelli Vogstad, whose blog post on Digital Portfolios has been a guiding light for me as I go through this journey. I first asked for permission to use her descriptions of the Four Kinds of Documentation. I also inquired if any graphic already existed. With her full approval, I set out to create my first infographic using Piktochart.

The learning curve was pretty minimal and I was extremely impressed with the vast supply of graphics, borders and backgrounds. It was fun and easy (and time consuming!)

This is the first draft I sent to Kelli, asking for her feedback, as these are really her thoughts, not mine. One thing to note is that I am using a free account on Piktochart. In my working copy, I linked Kelli’s name to her blog post (linked above as well) where she goes into more detail and supplies examples. With my free account I am only able to save as a PNG, and would need to upgrade to save as a PDF, which would allow for the link to be live.

I patiently await her feedback!

Parents: All Aboard!

At this point, I’ve dipped my toes in the documenting waters with my students. I’m ready to jump in and launch individual blogfolios. I have to decide:

  • What will the URLs be?
  • What permissions, if any, do I need to get from parents?
  • How will I manage posts and comments?

I spoke with my Head of School to get the school’s perspective. I then spoke with the documenting guru, Silvia Tolisano. She shared her views, which helped guide me towards other educators’ thoughts and experiences.

Combining all this information together, along with my own opinions and knowledge of our parent body, I have written the parent letter below. I wanted to include information about what a blogfolio is, why documenting learning is important, and offer options that fit our school’s needs and meet the parents where they currently are. The hope is that most families will opt to allow their child to have a completely public blog. If parents opt for one of the other options, the hope is that they will eventually change their privacy settings once they, and their child, see the added value of a public-facing blog.

 

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The Ghost of Lost Reflections

Back in December, during Winter Break, I read Hacking Homework by Starr Sackstein and Connie Hamilton. I read it on my phone, thinking it would be great to highlight and screenshot as I read, to be able to go back and document what I learned from the book. I read it on the plane and ABSOLUTELY LOVED it. I must have taken about 30 screenshots, had tons of ideas floating through my head while I read, and I finished the book, cover to cover, in about 2 hours. It completely captivated me. So you’re probably wondering…where’s the blog post???

I never wrote it.

Time passed. School started. Life continued. I shared some of what I learned with my colleagues and launched an activity with my students based on some of what I read. But I never fully captured my learning because I consumed too much too quickly and didn’t properly document my thinking in the moment. You’d think I would learn from my own teaching, that a picture alone is not an authentic artifact of learning. I didn’t allow myself the time to sit with it, think about it, ask questions, and reflect why I even highlighted something in the first place.

Today I began my first Ampeduca course, Step by Step Guide: Learning About Blogging for your Students. Module 1 was an introduction with important terms, and then Module 2 started talking about things teachers will discover once they start reading blogs. I immediately took this screenshot, that teachers who read blog will get better at…

I LOVED this. I thought to myself: This is what excites me most about blogging with my students. How often do I hear my students say, “Mrs. Thompson, I’m done! I’ve written, I’ve edited, I’ve submitted, I’m done.” From now on, I would love to hear, “Mrs. Thompson, I’ve written, I’ve edited, I’ve shared, I’m ready to begin the conversation and get feedback!”

I was about to click the Mark as completed button, to move onto the next lesson. But then thought, WAIT! I have to capture this! Don’t make the same mistake twice! Start a blog post, save it as a draft, annotate the screenshot, DO SOMETHING! But don’t let the time pass with a screenshot sitting amongst millions of others in a folder waiting to become the ghost of lost reflections.

I guess one might say I’m learning 🙂