Out of the Classroom – Year in Review

Reflection time.

I’ve always been pretty tough on myself at the end of any year in the classroom. It was never in a “pity party” way, but more like a “come to Jesus” meeting with myself to keep me accountable for the following year. As a teacher, I always found things that needed tweaking the following year (classroom organization, boring lessons that needed tweaking, scaffolding issues, etc.). 2013-14 was completely new for me in every way. Needless to say, this is going to sting a little lot more than usual.

I’m going to set this up “Letterman” style.

5. Online PD Modules

I really wanted to put a lot of PD online so that we could cut down on the time that I had to pull teachers out of the classroom (which I HATE to do). Hopefully I can work on developing some of that over the summer. Teachers deserve access to PD that allows them to learn on their own time. They deserve for our professional development opportunities to transition with emerging technology in the same way they are expected to transition their courses with emerging standards.

4. Organizing Resources for Teachers

I’m constantly finding resources for teachers that I think might be helpful. I had such great plans to disseminate those resources to our teachers, but could never find a method that would work. But I need a method that I can use quickly and easily. Does something like that even exist? Here’s what I envision for my perfect app: I receive an e-mail, see a tweet, read a blogpost, etc., and here’s this amazing link that I want to make available to my teachers. I want to be able to immediately (from phone or computer) categorize it by pre-set notebooks/tags by grade and/or gradeband/course, then CCSS domain, possibly along with specific Common Core standard(s) and/or math practice(s). I want to be able to do this within a few seconds. I want teachers to be able to have access to those links as well. My brain screams “EVERNOTE, you big dummy”, but I can’t seem to streamline it so that it happens in the time constraint I want. What am I missing? I know there has to be a way.

3. Read

No, I don’t mean recreationally (I didn’t do that either). I mean I failed at reading things that matter to my profession. I didn’t feel like I had the time. I saw the books and book studies my MTBoS crew collaborated on and I was honestly in envy. I only read one professional book this year, and I need to make time to do this over the summer and next year. With my a.d.d. brain, I need to make a schedule and commit to this 100%. Opportunities for professional development for math coaches/specialists are limited in my area, and I need this in order to serve my teachers and schools the way they deserve. In the same way I would research and study to learn something to be a better teacher for my students (like I did with logarithms), I need to do this to be more effective for the teachers in my district.

2. Meeting with PLC/CLT from K-12

Some schools call them Professional Learning Communities, some call them Collaborative Learning Teams. I met with several across the district and across the grades, but I felt like it was Waffle House-style: scattered, smothered and covered. Next year, I need to set up a scheduled rotation to meet with our teams. Not half, not most – ALL. They can’t believe I’m in their corner if I don’t see them all face-to-face. I can’t make them comfortable with my presence in their classrooms if they can’t get to know me on a personal level. I can’t build trust if they don’t see me as a resource. I need to find a way to make this work.

1. Getting feedback to teachers after visits

I honestly thought that being in classrooms would be the majority of my work. I realized pretty quickly that a lot of work has to go on behind the scenes, and I struggled trying to keep a balance. I got overwhelmed a lot. I would often pop into classrooms and have small conversations immediately after, but not the in-depth ones that I wanted and needed to have. I need to learn more strategies for questioning when I talk to teachers. In the same way that we have strategies for questioning students about their thinking and understanding, I need those types of strategies when talking to teachers. But with that also comes scheduling and time to have those discussions. I want it to be meaningful, but I am very respectful of the limited time teachers have during the day. I feel e-mails are way too impersonal for something so important. I would rather do it face-to-face and soon after the observation. But I don’t feel that I did that well at all. Not even a little. Not even close. This is my biggest failure, in my opinion.

If any teacher from my district were to read this post, I’m sure they would have dozens of additional ways that I failed them, and I would probably agree with every single one. It might have been easier to roll into a position where norms and expectations were previously defined, but then again maybe not. The great (and completely terrifying) thing about my position is that I am creating a job description from the ground up. But would I say that I fulfilled all of the expectations that I set for myself in the beginning? NO.

We have many upcoming changes in our district over the next several months, including an election for a new Superintendent. I have no idea what might happen over the next year, but here are some things that I do know:

    • One of the best things about my job is being able to see teachers in action that I’d never have met if I was still in the classroom. I have found teachers that are, for me, the equivalent of professional “Red Bull” – they bring it 100% every day and I get energized as soon as I walk in their classes.
    • Everyone in my department puts students first and we support each other. I don’t think I could have made it through the year without my ELA “partner in crime”. I have never seen anyone fight harder for students and support teachers more than our Assistant Superintendent. And our Federal Programs Director wears so many hats and does more in a day than I think I do in a month. None of them read my blog, so this isn’t about kissing up. It’s about saying up front who I am thankful for (and who I’d lose my mind without). If any one of those people left our organization, our district would suffer tremendously.

gt;

  • I’ve lost friends over this job and it sucks, but it’s reality. However, I have to remember that I know where my heart is in all of this (even if other people don’t). I have to remember that sometimes a person’s concern/fear needs a target, and that my forehead now offers that bullseye. I have to remember that it’s probably not personal but if it is, it’s probably because of my approach.

 

I have a lot of work to do (as you can see by my summer calendar):

And, just like when I started teaching, it may take me a few years before it runs like clockwork. Implementing CCSS cannot happen overnight and it won’t be a complete success the first year. But I think our teachers and our district are both dedicated to making it happen.

I hope they will allow me to continue to support them in that process.

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6 thoughts on “Out of the Classroom – Year in Review

  1. One suggestion to consider on how to archive and categorize diferent links would be to use either Diigo or delicious.com. You really need to use a tool like one of these that makes tagging easy and fast. Decide upfront what kind of folks on me you want to utilize, with probably no more than eight or 10 main categories. Then use these categories religiously as you find content. You probably want to create a new account on one of these sites that is exclusively dedicated to this link sharing for your teachers.

    I also recommend you get in touch with Bob Sprankle, who is a tech integrator at Wells elementary school in Wells, Maine. Bob has been doing a lot of blogging and writing on his school site to communicate better with parents, but I think also with teachers. He would be a great sounding board for your ideas. Find him on:
    http://twitter.com/bobsprankle
    http://weskids.com

    Like

  2. Sorry – Siri misinterpreted my spelling of “folksonomy” in that comment, you're probably in this case actually making a taxonomy. 🙂

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  3. Well hey, if Letterman could only come up with 5 failures instead of his usual 10, I'd say you're doing just fine. In all seriousness, this seems like an awesome opportunity. You're creating a position from the ground up and you're working incredibly hard to make it meaningful. I (still) haven't met you, but I can only assume that you took this job under the assumption that you'd make it a position that you'd want supporting you if you were in the classroom.

    With that being said, we can always get better. I love that you have things in here that are attainable and not just some altruistic goal. You want to get better at offering PD. When you find that, please let me know. We have online video tutorials for our teachers to learn how to use the technology we've purchased for them, but the total views are less than the innings of a MLB game. In some cases, even a little league game. It's ridiculous, but I get it. People who need help aren't going to run to a computer screen to get it. They want you, in person, holding their hand.

    For the resources, I have an idea, but it isn't going to be simple. You can create an IFTTT recipe that will append a document with anything you text it, then go back in an categorize the doc. I know, it isn't exactly what you want, but it's a start and you can do it simply by texting a phone number. We can chat later about an app.

    Reading… Yeah, about that… Twitter makes me feel like I'm getting whooped on my AR points.

    #2 may be your most powerful and attainable of this entire list. It may be as quirky as bringing in a treat to these meetings or showing up and not discussing how to improve math instruction that'll work the most wonders. I know that I trusted people a lot more when I knew that they weren't trying to change my life without knowing anything about me.

    The feedback is huge. How big is your district? How many teachers are you responsible for? This is a tough one, but a valuable goal to set.

    Keep working hard to confirm that this is the right decision. I believe it is.

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  4. I love this honest self-evaluation. It is the reason that you will become as amazing at this job as you were at your last one! Your district and everyone in it is soooooo lucky to have you!

    Like

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