Monday, February 17, 2014

Quick Draws Only Work in the Wild West

The #PDposse welcomes back guest blogger, Jon Harper. Jon is the Vice-Principal at Choptank Elementary School in Maryland.  You can follow Jon on Twitter; @JonHarper70BD
Remember the old westerns where there was always a duel at high noon? The gunslinger that drew their weapon the fastest always won. Yet, a quick Google search indicates there is some debate as to whether or not the person that drew their weapon the fastest always won the showdown.

Unfortunately, I believe that some folks working in education today feel that the faster they draw “their weapon”, the more likely it is they will win the confrontation. I find the opposite to be the case when working with students, parents and fellow educators. In my experience I have found that a calm and steady hand and head is what always works best.

A student calls out or displays a poor behavior choice in class. The experienced teacher doesn’t fire right back or make a quick snap decision. They assess the situation carefully because they want to be as accurate as possible in how they choose to handle it. Students in their classes know that their teacher is not going to fire back and they do not feel the need to do the same. The showdown never takes place!

A parent comes into school wanting to speak to an administrator regarding some injustice that they feel has been done to their child. They are angry and they are ready to fire at a moment’s notice. But the experienced leader knows that parents need to have their concerns heard. They need to feel listened to. And they are. Therefore, the parent never even needs to reach down into their holster. The showdown never takes place!

An angry staff member comes to you because they simply believe that too much is being expected of them and that there is not enough time in the day to get it all done. They assume that you won’t agree with them and that you believe that they have more than enough time in the day to fulfill their responsibilities. They are looking to pick a fight and they have a posse to back them up. You sit next to them and you listen and you tell them that you agree with them. You tell them that teaching is much more difficult today than it was when you were teaching. You also help them find ways that they can lighten their load. The teacher is relieved and they give the signal to call of their posse that is waiting in the hallway. The showdown never takes place!

In education it is very easy to pick fights and too often we want to react quickly. Next time you think you might be headed for a showdown just relax, take a deep breath, and remember that quick draws only work in Old Westerns.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I don't need no stinkin' help!

Rigidity is a terrible thing to grow into as a human being and yet as we become set in our ways, the stiffness sets in.

None of us started off teaching with closed minds.

I'm sure we can all remember a time when the future seemed limitless and we were going to change the world and then something happened.

Amazingly some of us still feel that way, while others have fallen down the rabbit hole unable to to climb out. Suddenly, the comfort of knowing what to do have superseded the need to try new things and grow, it has stunted creativity.

As a community, we are only as strong as our most resistant member and we all need help regardless of whether or not we want to own it or get it.

Students see our struggles and it is our job to be the change we want to see happening. Negativity in a school is like a cancer that festers into unthinkable darkness.

Professional learning and connecting is a way to draw us out the darkness and re-awaken the excitement we once felt about being educators. We all have that within us no matter how challenging the system has become.

Challenge for today: No matter how "bad" things get, find the one positive moment that makes your day AND tell the person who has done it.

How can you help a colleague out of the darkness? or Who has offered you a lifeline and how has it helped? Please share.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Secret to Successful PD

The Secret to Successful PD:
4 Tips to Personalize YOUR Learning

Professional Development (PD) is not something done to us.  PD should be personalized and perpetual.  The power of your learning is NOT in a presenter’s hands; it’s in a new paradigm.
For too long we've settled for PD branding irons! We show up at state, district and site PD meetings hoping that the time is valuable and responsive to our needs.  We receive the information and mosey back to our schools intent on changing the world in isolation.  It’s time to step away from the branding iron! 
Educators need the equivalent of personalized PD tattoo parlors that are open 24-7!  Learning is a personal endeavor that should be filled with passion and continuous growth.  Each and every educator needs to be empowered to seek meaningful learning experiences that are personalized...just like a tattoo.

4 Tips to Personalizing your Learning: 

1. Get connected.  Build your PLN.  Twitter is a fantastic start.  Believe it or not, there are some amazingly talented and generous "sharers" outside your district, state and country's borders!  Tap into this potential and your students will benefit.

2. Own your learning.  Start by identifying one or two areas you want to grow in and pursue those relentlessly.  Engage your colleagues, administration, state associations, and workshop organizers.  Tell them what you need.  Challenge them to support your learning in a digitally connected age.  Challenge yourself to add a “digital leadership lens” to your repertoire.

3. Share. Teachers are some of the most humble people I know.  They do amazing things in their classrooms every day (believe me...I see it first-hand).  We need to move towards an ethos of sharing, whereas we are celebrating the unique talents and innovative practices of the teachers in our buildings.  For the benefit of students everywhere we need to invest in a culture of collaboration!

4. Stay connected.  Don't let the initial weirdness of Twitter scare you away.  It's lonely at first.  When you look at your initial “follower count” don’t be fooled.  That’s just a number…the power is in the connections and conversations held outside 140 characters.  Try commenting on blogs, conversing via Voxer, or tuning into educational Podcasts.  Sign-up and start a professional Twitter account today, and make it a daily habit to read one blog, comment to a colleague, and share one idea/resource online each week.  Twitter is a phenomenal springboard to collegial connections. 

Over time you will build a super-charged PLN that revitalizes your practice and directly benefits kids.  A 21st century pedagogy will require educators to think in new ways.  I was recently reminded of a quote that really resonated:

“If you think change is hard…you will like the feeling of irrelevance even less.”

Your PD tattoo awaits.  Seek it with passion and persistence!  Make learning personal.

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