Sunday, January 15, 2017

Helping others to break out and move forward with change

In my position at my school, I find myself regularly getting frustrated.  To me, it seems so simple to put the learning into my students hands, to recognize that I no longer hold the keys to everything they need to know, to no longer be the center of attention - the "Sage on the Stage".  I see the excitement in my students eyes when they discover something new, I get the opportunity to work with those that are struggling or need direction while those that can move along don't feel "held back" and "bored" while they wait for their peers to catch up.

So why can't the other teachers I work with see the same things I do?

Sometimes I get so caught up in my own excitement I can't see the other teacher's perspective.  When I take a minute to step back and really try to put myself in their shoes, to try to remember a time when I was told to change things and I wasn't ready to, that's when I can see their side of things.  Many teachers will teach they only way they know how and that is how they themselves were taught.  So how do we reach out to them to help break out of their comfort zone and make small changes to reach today's students?

1. What causes you to use different styles to reach different students?

We can sometimes forget that they other teachers around us are really just students.  We need to teach them where they are.  For people that have been teaching a certain way for many years, comfort zone is where they think they teach best.  We can't just walk into their classroom and rip out their podium, move their desks around and throw out their seating charts.  That could send the most dedicated teacher straight over the edge.  Depending on your position within your school, help them take 1 step - put the desks into a circle, invite the teacher into your room on a day when what you are doing ins't so far out of their comfort zone, co-teach a lesson with them and have each of you use your strong points to put together a lesson that can show your fellow teacher a few small ways to make some changes.

2. Human beings, by nature, tend to be resistant to change.

At one time or another, we have all been in a position in which the thought of change was so scary that we resisted.  I can recall being asked to fill in as a pre-k aide for a year in the school that I would teach 7th grade.  At the time I was driving school bus (a job to fill the time while my son was still little and didn't require me to get child care).  For me, the idea of being in a room with a bunch of 4 year olds was scarier than the most difficult run while driving bus.  I actually asked the bus company if I could return if it didn't work out with the pre-k!
We need to remember how we felt in those times and gather up a little sympathy for those fellow teachers that are scared beyond belief at the thought of giving up control.  As we all know, once we work through that change we find things on the other side can be be better and not quite as scary as we thought.  We just need to help our fellow teachers get there.

3. PD, PD, PD

We need to model our professional development to be what we want our teachers to use in their classroom.  There is nothing better than actually seeing what we want to happen in action.  Giving teachers that aren't ready for major change small, bite sized bits of change that they can walk into their classroom and use right away can be the best way to open that door for more change.  Breaking up professional development into tiers so that those teachers that feel too scared to move beyond the very basics can still bring something back to their classroom and those that are ready to dig deeper can have that opportunity.  But be very clear to your teachers when something is moving beyond the basics.  But make sure that the basics are usable immediately in the classroom!

The biggest complaint I hear is that teachers aren't prepared for the changes that the school wants to see.  We are all together in this and we need everyone to be successful.  

We have a responsibility, regardless of our position, to help our fellow teachers succeed!  When our fellow teachers succeed, then we succeed and our students succeed!

So lets work with our fellow teachers to make our schools the best place they can be!

Friday, December 30, 2016

And so it begins...

Here we are, near the end of the holiday break.  While many teachers in my area are focused on spending time with their families, tech coordinators, integration specialists, tech directors, never really shut our brains off.  Even if we aren't at the school, we rarely take the time away from researching the latest trends, attending conferences, networking, blogging, writing, speaking - the list goes on.  But we do it because we love it and we know that we are helping our students - your students - to have a better educational experience.

About Me
I began my education career as a teacher.  Over the years, I have taught almost every subject in middle school and even a few at the high school level.  My first love is science - specifically geology - however, I have always had a passion for technology.  When I took a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom, I began delving into the online world that existed at the time and taught myself how to write HTML (CSS didn't exist at the time).  My plan was to design some website pages so that our family could follow the growth of my boys even if they didn't live close by.  That excitement grew and I continued my self teaching of technology.

I returned to the classroom just before finding out that I was pregnant with son #4.  When I returned to the classroom, I was excited to be one of the first in our area to be blessed with an interactive whiteboard.  I spent so much time learning everything I could do with it and the different ways I could use it.  The students loved getting to be a part of the class by going up to the board, writing on it, presenting from it.  I loved getting to see their excitement.  As the years went on and I moved schools, I found myself spending so much time "teaching" science (read "sage on the stage") that I never had time for the hands on labs that were the reason I loved science.  I missed the excitement in my students eyes when learning.  I knew there had to be a better way.

So I did some research and came across John Bergmann and the Flipped Classroom.  I jumped right in and started flipping my classes.  I was able to keep the students from spending all class period sitting and being bored (because, lets face it, none of us want to sit and listen to something that we aren't interested in).  That kicked off my desire to find new ways to reach my students and led to my role as a technology coordinator.

I have now been in the position of technology coordinator at a small Catholic 6-12 school in Connecticut for 4 years.  I am a life-long learner and love to lead change.  I am a sponge to learning new ideas and finding ways to integrate them into my classes.  My goal is to inspire students to become life-long learners and find their own passions.  I also hope to inspire other teachers to make small changes and build new ways of learning that help students find their desire for learning.

So join me on my adventure of transforming education and leading change beginning in my own classroom.