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I've been an educator since 1995 where I've served as both a teacher and administrator. I believe that serving others is the key to success and make it my goal to be a servant leader for students, teachers, parents, and the community. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tag Team Teaching (Pedagogy and classroom management)

I admit it! I'm a wrestling fan. Not greco-roman, but the sports entertainment version.  I enjoy watching it on TV, but what I really enjoy is a good live show.  Every time a local promotion comes through our small town, you can guarantee I will be there and most likely at ringside.  One of the most exciting matches on any card is a tag team bout.  Pairs of wrestlers on each team work together in order to win the match and pin their opponent(s) to the floor. When done well, the winning team works like clockwork and makes the whole match appear easy.  However, when they don't work together or one gets knocked out of action, a tag team can quickly fall apart and a loss is certain.

So, what does tag-team wrestling have to with teaching?   There are two components that must be in place and work together before any real learning takes place.  These are pedagogy and classroom management.  I once had a principal tell me that, if the lesson was engaging enough, the students would not act up.  I believed him, but I was young and very impressionable then.  Now, after 17 years, I know that great lessons are combinations of effective teaching strategies and classroom management procedures.  These two must work together to ensure the desired learning occurs. In an out of control classroom, little learning will take place even when the best teaching strategies are in place. 

Now, I'll admit I have rarely seen an out of control or even a poorly managed classroom where great pedogogy was being used.  But, I have seen teachers who had a good grasp of academic strategies but could not effectively teach because the classroom was poorly managed.  I have also seen well managed classrooms (quiet, procedures in place, kids actively engaged) where little real learning was occuring.  Without both components, the other team (ignorance and behavior problems) always wins. 

Great teachers are adapt at both pedagogy and management. And they have more than one or two strategies.  Watch an entertaining wrestler and you'll see a variety of moves depending on the situation they are in.  Teachers must have multiple teaching and management strategies in their toolbag before they step into the classroom and they must be prepared to alter these strategies (especially classroom management techniques) if the situation warrants.  Preparation is the key to success.  For the teacher, this means constantly learning through reading, observing, asking questions, attending staff development and then putting new approaches into place. Administrators and lead teachers must also be prepared to help teachers develop the necessary pedogological and management techniques they need to be successful.  The administrator/lead teacher is like the coach (or manager in wrestling) who is always there to help the teacher improve. 

While the analogy used in this post may be stretching it a bit, the reality is that there are new teachers entering the field (and veterans as well) who lack either the knowledge of pedagogy or the classroom management skills to be effective the moment they hit the ground.  This doesn't mean they won't be good (or even excellent) teachers.  It does mean that they need the support, training, and encouragement to develop their skills and become better at employing this winning tag team combination. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

First Twitter Chat #savmp

What have I been missing all this time?  Just finished my first Twitter chat (#sbgchat) and it feels like I am on an adrenaline rush.  Probably am.  The ideas were flowing so quickly that it was impossible to keep up.  My finite little world expanded as I read and added to the conversation, in this case, about standards based grading.  Now, I am no expert on this topic.  In fact, I am a novice, but this post isn't about the topic.  Instead, it's about the learning that took place as so many great minds got together in one place to discuss positive educational practices.  Practitioners and academics alike added to the discussion as each shared their unique insight and perspectives.  As a result, the topic (in the form of short questions from the moderators) could be hashed out extensively.  Ideas and action steps were left open for the world to see with very little off-task chatter.  This is what professional development should look like.

For weeks now, I 've been trying to build up a PLN (Personal Learning Network) using Twitter and tonight that network grew by leaps and bounds.  While I will likely never meet most of the people I follow, their ideas are always there for me to learn from and many have been open to inquiries and comments as I seek to grow professionally while building my own presence online.  As this presence expands, I hope to add to the professional learning of others while continuing to grow myself.  The give and take is what makes this network so inspiring. 

BTW, I noticed today that a post from this blog was tweeted. It caught me by surprise and was a great end to a long day.  It's good to know someone is reading these posts.  I hope they are helpful. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lessons from the first four weeks #SAVMP

Four weeks on the job..... So, what have I learned? 

First off, time is a precious commodity.  Administrators have more to do than time allows and many on the campus want and need some of that time.  Therefore, a balance has to be struck so that staff feel supported, but important administrative duties are also completed in a timely manner.  I am still working on this balance.  I'm getting better, but I'm still spending too much time after school finishing up daily agenda items and planning.

Student discipline can make or break a beginning administrator.  One of my major roles as Assistant Principal over Student Management is discipline.  In this role, I have to investigate discipline referrals, listen to students tell their side of the story, and then determine consequences based on evidence.  In some cases, this is very simple as the student simply tells what they did. At other times, however, a deeper investigation is needed in order to get to the truth.  In some of these cases, there is more involved than was initially reported and extra time is required to sort through the details and come to a fair, but effective conclusion.  All of this can be time consuming and take time away from other important matters.  It is of the utmost importance that discipline management be addressed in a proactive, not a reactive manner if it is to be successful.  I am finding that, the more proactive I am, the less discipline problems I have to deal with.  At present, I am working on several projects with various committees to focus on positive behavior as well as get more parents involved on the campus.  Through this process along with continual relationship building, positive reinforcement, monitoring, training, and enforcement, I expect the number of discipline referrals to be reduced as the year continues.

Have thick skin.  At times, people will say and do things that don't make sense or are meant to be hurtful.  This is even more so the higher up you go.  So far, I have been called or at least insinuated to be a number of things I won't mention.  If I let it bother me, I wouldn't sleep at night.  But, I've determined that, when people say things that are hurtful, I will either listen and let them vent or stop the conversation and pick it up at another time when emotions have calmed down.  Either way, I have to stay in control of myself and recognize that most of the venom is not really directed at me.  I just happen to be the one who is there when it starts.  In addition, I would rather be the brunt of it than someone on staff. 

The more time you spend among kids, the less discipline problems you have.  On the days when I can be in the hallways and the classrooms, whether to observe or to simply interact, I've discovered that the number of referrals go down.  By being out and about, I am able to stop a lot of issues before they begin. Of course, my ultimate goal is to help students learn to self correct and take care of their problems before they escalate, in the meantime, this strategy works.

Listening is a key function of the position.  When I am out and about, I make time to stop and talk to students and staff as much as possible.  Often this is only cursory conversation, but every once in a while someone will open up and share their thoughts and concerns.  In  doing so, I am able to encourage them or maybe lead them in the direction of a solution.  I might also be able to stop a fight before it starts or get a new perspective on a problem.  In the office, I have to listen carefully to students, especially those who are in for discipline referrals.  Most times, they know that they have done wrong, but they just want someone to listen to them.  In doing so, we can often work together to develop a solution to problem behavior instead of simply apply a punishment.  Parents also need someone to listen to them.  They may be having the same problems with the kids that we are and are at their wits end.  In this case, providing a nonjudgmental listening ear may be just what they need.  As a classroom teacher, I didn't feel as though I had as much time to listen as I would have liked.  I had lessons to deliver and results to achieve.  Now that I'm in the office, I realize that, had I listened more, I might have been even more successful. 

Education is the greatest job on Earth.  Of course, I knew this already, but it is even more vivid now that I can see things from a broader perspective. As an administrator and leader, I get to influence the lives of hundreds of people both for now and potentially for years to come. How many other professions can make that claim?  At the same time, I realize the great responsibility that has been placed on me and my colleagues.  I must be prepared to do what is right for every child every day and ensure that each is able to be as successful as possible while under my watch.  What a great responsibility and privilege!!!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do's and don'ts for educators (from 1997)

I found what follows while going through some old file folders.  It was written in 1997, but with the exception of a few minor additions and changes, my thinking has not changed much in 16 years. I still remember writing this in a feverish pitch while thinking, if I didn't get this on paper it will be lost forever. The following is word for word from the original except that the conclusion is written at the beginning. 

"I wrote this list on Radisson hotel stationary while at a PTA convention in Fort Worth.  I am glad my list of do's is longer than my list of don'ts.  This list came from numerous workshops, books, and speakers, etc. that I've heard over the three years that I've been teaching.  What surprises me is that the list deals more with relationships with students than with teaching methodology.  This shouldn't surprise me, though, because I don't teach a subject, I teach kids."

Do's and Don'ts for Teachers

-Expect your students to:
1) Behave
2) Achieve
3) Treat each other with respect
- Try to be their buddy
-Teach your students to respect each other.-Be disrespectful to your students.

Hang out in the teacher lounge.
Treat your students as you would want to be treated. Model correct behavior. Say "please," "thank you," "Yes, Ma'am," "No, Sir."Yell.
Greet students as they enter your room.Talk derogatorily about any student to anyone including:
- teachers
- parents
- administrators
- other students (especially)
(If Johnny has been running around the room, tell their parent, "Johnny has been running around the room." Don't say, "Johnny is a bad child. He is always running around the room."
Learn each student's name.
Call your students by their names.
Be their teacher instead of their friend. (You must be the responsible adult in the classroom)
Love them just as they are, not as you want them to be. (You may be the only person who shows that child love that day)Sit at your desk between classes.
Tell them you love them. (You can say "I love you" nonverbally in the way you treat a child.)
Set limits and consequences for exceeding those limits.Threaten! If you do, you had better be prepared to follow through.
Be consistent.
Think before you speak.
Remember that effective discipline is a form of love.
Develop a signal for getting the entire classes attention.
Remember that what you don't say (eye movements, gestures, posture, etc) is as or more important than what you do say.
Allow your students to make mistakes. This is how they learn.Criticize when a student makes a mistake.
Set students up to succeed.Knock them down when they don't succeed (especially when they've tried hard to please you.)
Encourage more than praise. (Too much or poorly given praise can sound false very quickly.)
Be yourself. Be as transparent as you can. (Kids know when you are putting on a show.)
Develop procedures for most routine tasks.
Practice procedures until they become second nature.Expect kids to learn procedures in one day.
Teach procedures to your students. (You can stand in front of the class with your hand raised all day, but if kids don't know what that means, you are only getting a sore arm.)
Teach the skills necessary to complete a task successfully.Assume your students have the skills necessary to be successful. Review the skills and find out.
Attend student special events such as sports games, concerts, dances, academic games and awards, etc. (Kids may not acknowledge it, but they know you are there.)
Develop positive relationships with your students. Talk with them one-on-one when appropriate.
Listen! Listen! Listen! When a child talks to you, give them your complete attention.
Give kids a chance to tell their side of the story before you pass judgement. (Often, students know they are wrong, but they want to tell you why they did what they did. Listen to them.)
Do what you say you are going to do.
Be prepared for each day.
Set daily routines and follow them.