Friday, January 31, 2014

Establishing a culture of learning

If there is a silver bullet in education I believe it is establishing a culture of learning throughout the school.  Easier said than done.  This year we've been making strides towards it, but it is something that takes time. We have added structural changes this year like late starts, and placed a strong focus on collaboration. We have added book studies as a requirement for all staff and district provided credit opportunities focused on our initiatives.

The question I have is, can we as leaders truly force a school or organization into a culture of learning?  Much of what we have done this year has been a structural fix. We have mandated readings and learning.  I am very concerned with creating a contrived culture of learning. However, I d believe that once we change behaviors we change attitudes.

Yesterday, I spent time with about 20 of our teachers discussing our latest read for credit Embedded Formative Assessment.  I really appreciate the discussion we have once a month.  One teacher brought up that she shares her learning with students.  The students were amazed that she is still learning as a teacher.  I think for us to truly establish a culture of learning students must know that we aren't done learning.  They need to hear and see us learning as a collective group. Our learning needs to be visible to others, and not hidden behind a door.  I am very pleased with the progress we are making.

How do you share your learning with others?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

So we hosted Todd Whitaker... Here are my notes from the day.

What crummy people lack?

"The ability to know how we are coming across to other people." (Emotional Intelligence)

"A follower is never going to cure cancer."

"Everybody does the best they know how."

"Why do people sit behind their desk the whole period? Because they are are scared to death and they don't know any better." - We need to figure out if they are ignorant or insubordinate.

"Winers whine...Two things we do with pouters. One, we avoid them, and two we empathize with them." - Why do we give them so much power?

He gave the example of a great teacher losing her parking spot that she has always parked in.  "A great teacher rationalizes why it is good for them." - Whiners whine.

"Treat all people as if they are good."

"Seek out serial pouters and sidle them up" - Approach them from the side in close proximity, treat them as if they are good.

Dealing with difficult parents - sidle them up.  Sitting behind the desk is a line drawn in the sand.

Ignoring is an option when dealing with tough issues.  It doesn't mean you will forget you will just deal with it when you are ready.

"We play too much defense in education go on offense. Don't avoid and don't empathize."

"Bad teachers want to talk about anything other than teaching and learning."

It's people not programs
Great teachers, great schools
Poor lecturers classroom - There can be good lecturers
Assertive discipline
Open classrooms

"Great teachers will run with a new program, crummy teachers won't do it or follow it for success."

"Nothing happens randomly in a great teachers classroom...Everything happens randomly in a bad teachers classroom."

"When you hire a new teacher the goal is to have the school to become like the new teacher, not the new teacher to become like the school."

"Most valuable gift principals can give to teachers = confidence."

"Most valuable gift teachers can give to students = confidence."

"The best thing about teaching is that it matters, the hardest part is that it matters everyday."

Three behaviors that never take place:
1. Never argue
2. Never yell
3. Never use sarcasm

"Great teachers don't have buttons to push."

"Great teachers don't have rules they have expectations."

"Raise the praise, minimize the criticize."

5 Ways to praise:
1. Authentic
2. Specific
3. Immediate
4. Clean
5. Private

"The difference between a great teacher and your worst teacher is a canyon."

"Would rather deal with a teacher that is wrong than a parent that is right."

Three kinds of teachers:
1. Superstar = irreplaceable, respected by their peers
2. Backbone = not fully engaged
3. Mediocre

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Significance of preschool and early literacy

It may seem far off to think about college and career readiness for our children that are three and four years-old.  However, research shows that the foundation for school readiness and future success begins prior to them starting school.  In other words, we establish lifelong learning and academic success prior to kindergarten.  Children that come from poor families on average are less ready for school.  A recent study found that 48% of low income children possessed the readiness skills needed to be successful in kindergarten.  That same study found that 75% of moderate to high income children were ready for kindergarten. 

It proves to be difficult and becomes a losing battle if we do not correct these deficiencies at an early age.  Another study found that only 1 out 10 students overcome their lack of readiness by the 8th grade.  Students that are living in poverty and are not proficient in reading and math by the 3rd grade are three times more likes to drop out of high school.  The early years are vital to the success of our children.  We often spend most of our time trying to correct students at an older age.  In my experience intervening this late in the game is often unsuccessful. 

What can you do to prepare your child for school?
It is equally important to think about how you have been preparing your child at home.  Do you make sure that you read to your children at an early age?  Research suggests that it is beneficial to begin reading to your child when they are an infant.  The more words and language they are exposed to prior to kindergarten the better.  Do you model to your children by reading books of your own?  Do dads participate in the reading process? 

The state legislature this past year has allowed local districts to fund preschool for their communities.  Rugby Public School District has partnered with Headstart to create the Rugby Early Learning Center.  We will begin our first year of preschool this coming school year 2014-2015.  We are hoping to provide free preschool to around 38 students ages three through five.  Our priorities will focus primarily on students that are age four or students that are one year away from kindergarten.  We are excited about this opportunity for all parents in Rugby and there will be more information to come. 

ASCD article on preschool

Monday, January 6, 2014

Teacher reflections on grading.

We wrapped up the Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades before break and I asked teacher participants to reflect on their biggest takeaway from the book.  Here are their reflections. Many are struggling where we go from here.  I am excited about the discussions that took place and I look forward to the work that will come out of this.  Our next read is Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam.

Mr. Olson:

Mrs. Bernhardt:

Mrs. Mattson:

Mrs. Sveet:

Mrs. Sjol:

Mr. Gullickson:

Mr. Blikre:

Mrs. Johnson:

Mr. Stewart:

Mrs. Olsen:

Mrs. Miller:

Mrs. Raymond:

Mrs. Hill:

Mrs. Fritz:

Mrs. Trottier:

Mr. Leier:

Mrs. Rham:

Ms. Skeen:

Mrs. Stricker: