A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of witnessing the most intentional teaching I have ever seen. This teaching did not occur in an elementary, middle, or high school classroom; nor did it occur in a college lecture hall; neither did it occur in a professional learning session either; it actually occurred on a football field!
First, I’ll give you a little background about the group I watched in order to put all of this in context. This is a lesson from which we can all learn. Why? Because…as we approach the implementation of the Common Core this school year, I have to ask… What would our schools look like if every teacher would teach as intentionally as this?
As I said, this “intentional teaching experience” occurred on a football field. I happen to be a huge fan of a World Class Drum and Bugle corps from Garfield, N.J., the Garfield Cadets. They are comprised of approximately 150 youth, who range in age 14-22 years old, and play either brass or percussion instruments, or are members of the colorguard. They travel the United States throughout the summer, sleep on high school gym floors, and compete against other corps. In between they practice, continually refine, and strive to perfect their 11-minute show that is intricate, exhilarating, emotional, and entertaining to watch. They also win… a lot!
A drum and bugle corps’ show involves musical precision, theatrics, and excellence, similar to a marching band, yet to compare a marching band to a drum corps would be like comparing a Jeep Cherokee to a Porsche Carrera (the corps being the Porsche)!
The Cadets came to my town to rehearse prior to a competition. Their rehearsals are open to the public and since I am a fan and my daughter is a member of her high school’s colorguard, we just had to visit. I know the director of the corps, personally; he has a reputation for instilling intrinsic motivation and a sense of high standards and personal pride in his staff and students. He has profoundly influenced my thinking, as well.
Now, I’ll bet you noticed that sentence I wrote, “They win…a lot!”
This corps is all about striving for personal excellence; and not the kind that is measured by what an outside judge thinks, but measured by how you think you did… by asking yourself, “Is that the BEST I can do?” In fact, the goal is to develop a show that is perfect... according to your own standards.
When I took my seat in the bleachers, to watch the rehearsal, the Corps was on the football field while the instructor was in the Press box directing the students. They rehearsed the same 8 counts over and over. That is when I realized just how intentional the teaching was. This is the process that was used:
Each time the instructor spoke to a section, he would address the section and they were to raise their hands to let him know he had their attention the entire time the instructor speaking. Right away, the student engagement was guaranteed.
Then, the students put into action, the request the instructor made. As soon as they were done, the instructor gave that group of students needed feedback. This feedback was so specific it was part of the culture of the organization. Both the members of the corps and the instructor knew that to compromise on what was being asked would not be accepted. Requests such as, “Turn the volume up by a half, ok… now by a quarter, ok.. now by an eighth.” were so deliberate, the students were taught that details are important. Then, as the students played those passages back to the instructor, time and time again, the instructor could tell who was giving 100% and who was not. And he did so by addressing that student by name, respectfully, to let them know that their contribution counted.
If you think about what I just described, you will notice that the instructor used formative assessment, had high standards, individualized instruction, was respectful to the students, knew his students by name, valued his students, and taught his students lifelong lessons. He continually checked for understanding and certainly made sure his students were engaged.
…and he didn’t even have the luxury of proximity!
I began to think, “What would happen if a teacher taught in a manner as deliberate as this throughout the school day?" I am sure this happens in some classrooms, but does this happen in all classrooms and so intentionally?
So, I ask… what are your thoughts on intentional teaching? Does it occur? To what degree does it occur? Is it possible or am I just dreaming? There are researchers who have defined the term, "Intentional Teaching" (of course there are!!!) But really…What do you think?
I am eagerly anticipating the date when the Common Core State Standards must be implemented in our schools. I’m wondering what will happen. Hmmm. In fact, I have two questions… (and yes, I am having a little fun with these questions!)
1. Why do we use the term “Common” Core State Standards if they really aren’t that “Common?” After all, there are several states that made the decision not to adopt the Common Core State Standards. I suggest we re-name them the “Un-Common” Core State Standards…sort of like the Un-Cola.
2. Are there Common Core “police” who are going to check up on school systems to see if they are really implementing the Common Core State Standards? Remember SNL’s skit that involved the “land shark?” Will there be a Common Core “shark?”…sorry…I couldn’t resist THAT one!
All kidding aside, the transition to the Pa Common Core State Standards in Math and English Language Arts Standards started during the 2010-2011 school year with full implementation required by July 1, 2013. That means that by the 2013-2014 school year, teachers will be required to teach using the Common Core State Standards!
Some teachers feel prepared while others do not. The Common Core State Standards are worded differently than the Pa State Standards. Students will be required to process and think deeper and broader than ever before. Teachers will become facilitators of learning as they empower students to reason and apply what they know while synthesizing information from a number of sources.
This way of teaching will be new for teachers and students. Parents and our community members will need to understand these changes, too. All stakeholders will eventually realize that the educational system is changing.
In order for this to happen, Standards-Based Professional Learning will need to become a priority. It is time that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania begins to recognize this. Presently, each school district in our state is not required or held accountable for any standardized level of professional learning. This means that on days set aside for Professional Learning (inservice days), anything can happen. For example, some districts spend their time wisely and teachers learn strategies they can implement immediately. Other districts plan poorly and teachers don’t know where to report until the last minute or are given activities to do that have no meaning or purpose. If an initiative such as the Common Core State Standards is so important, why don’t we place a priority on educating our teachers, afterall, don’t our teachers deserve to be informed on the latest reforms that influence student achievement?
Learning Forward, formerly known as the National Staff Development Council, has developed Standards that outline the characteristics of effective professional learning. Learning Forward’s vision for high quality professional learning is, “Every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves.” A list of the Standards for Professional Learning can be found at www.learningforward.org.
For the past two years, Learning Forward PA has been advocating for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to adopt the Standards for Professional Learning into Policy. Personal visits have been made to the Department. Presently, PDE is not interested in doing so at this point in time. When LFPA inquired as to the type of response the Department of Education would provide when Pa teacher was found to be in “need of improvement” according to the new teacher effectiveness program, the present plans to help the teacher improve are to place the teacher in an online course. Although PDE has partnered with a reputable online learning company, I am fearful that when this online course is administered in this isolated manner, it will not meet the standards for effective professional learning; especially for a teacher who is in need of improvement.
LFPA is not willing to give in so easily. LFPA is determined to advocate for this cause on behalf of the teachers and students so that all will feel comfortable with any initiative that is imposed upon our teachers. In fact, if districts want to adopt the Standards on their own through a school board vote, they can do so by contacting Learning Forward PA (www.learningforwardpa.org).
This year, the initiative is the Common Core State Standards. Next year, the initiative could be something different. Whatever the initiative is, effective, Standards-Based Professional Learning will be needed to make it happen. Will YOU be willing to advocate?
The other night I was digging through my notes on bullying, gathering information for a friend who is considering creating an artistic interpretation on bullying. As I composed my message to him explaining the research-based definition of bullying (according to Olweus, the expert on bullying) something shocked me…I, along with many of my adult peers, have been the victim of what I would call “Election Bullying!”
In order for bullying to be “bullying” it must meet two characteristics:
1) The wrong doing must be done consistently to the victim over a period of time; and
2) The wrong doing must make the victim feel powerless.
So, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, if your child is the victim of name-calling, teasing, or even a good playground squabble, I’m sorry to say… that’s not bullying. Should it be dealt with? Absolutely! If your child is called names every day by the same group of students, has had his or her books spilled from his or her hands each day, is tripped while getting to his or her seat each day by a group of students or even by one particular student…THAT is bullying. It is extremely serious and needs to be reported immediately! It should be reported by anyone who sees it. If someone sees bullying or knows about it and doesn’t report it, they are just as much as fault as the bully! Being bullied is very exhausting to the victim. This is why kids resort to suicide or homicide. They get to the point where they just can’t take it anymore. Got it? OK! So, I hope everyone listened and will remember what they read, and will now tell everyone they know what they just learned. It’s time to stop the senseless deaths that are presently occurring as a result of the bullying that is happening to our kiddos. (Thanks!)
Now, back to Election Bullying… but wait! Before I start writing about Election Bullying, first I want to say that this blog is not meant to target the behavior of any “one” of my friends in particular; the purpose of this blog is to focus on the effects of bullying on the adult level, while a topic that is of importance to our nation was discussed… Ready? Here we go!
Soooo, “Where does “Election Bullying” occur?” you might ask… I, along with some of my other friends, became a victim of “Election Bullying” on Facebook, of course! As I logged on to Facebook, after the Vice-Presidential debate, a former colleague of mine had written a status where she mentioned she was doing her best to “rely on the Fruit of the Spirit” (‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control,’ Galatians 5:22-23) in order to cope with the political posts she was reading. In particular she mentioned “self-control.” Sixteen people agreed with her while several of us made some comments.
I label this conduct “Election Bullying” because the actions I noticed on my Facebook newsfeed mimicked bullying behavior. I have a good amount of friends who, during both the Presidential debate and the Vice-Presidential debate chose to use their Facebook page to comment throughout the entire debate in favor of their candidate or against the opposing candidate. Most of the comments were derogatory in nature towards the opposing candidate. This wasn’t one friend; it was many!!! Their perceptions of what was occurring onscreen were interesting; I dared not throw my opinion in the mix. I will say, I was surprised at the judgments that were being made.
Then, as the evening unfolded, the comments my friends were making started to get to me because instead of rooting for or cheering on their own candidate, they were focusing on being negative and disrespectful toward the candidate for whom they didn’t want to vote. This seemed to go on through the night and into the next day. Then I noticed this “other” category of friends… friends who felt like I did… paralyzed, speechless, puzzled, or maybe astounded. Dare I say powerless? I know this because my evidence is their posts. My “other” friends pondered, “What do you say?” They were angered by what they saw. They felt that many of the comments were really uncalled for and they were surprised at the level of criticism of two men where one could potentially become the leader of our country.
So, this is “Election Bullying”, bullying on the adult level, or an indirect form of cyber bullying. Yes, it was done repeatedly and the victims were made to feel powerless. Could we have shut our computers off or hidden that person from our newsfeed? Certainly! But folks, the comments continue to be posted long after the debates are off the air and according to my group of “others” many of the “Election Bullies” are determined to find and post any piece of evidence to prove that the opposing candidate is corrupt or unfit to be the President or Vice President.
Steve Cornell, a senior pastor of Millersville Bible Church and regular correspondent for the Lancaster New Era (October 14, 2012) focused on the issue of the lack of tolerance during this election season. He expressed his disdain for the current political atmosphere as being an “embarrassing example of a failure to promote the true virtue of tolerance.” He explained that “tolerance does not mean agreement” and that we need to treat others with respect even when we disagree with them. I believe it also needs to be modeled. As an educator, I wonder what happens when our kids hear us talking about what we posted on our Facebook newsfeed? How are we behaving when we put that post on our newsfeed? Are we showing our kids that we are checking our sources to see if what we are posting is true and reliable?
I leave you with this story. I was riding in a taxicab to the train station in Newark, New Jersey. The driver was a gentleman of Muslim descent who was studying for his American citizenship test. While we were stuck in traffic, we were chatting. When he found out I was an educator he asked me to help him study. He wanted to know more than just the “memorized” answers. As we went over the information on the test, he was asking me about the term for the presidency. Then, he began asking me about the election, which then led into a discussion about religion.
This gentleman then said something to me that really struck me. He said that Americans take our freedom for granted. We can choose our spouse, where we live, what we read, where we work, our religion and we can choose our leader. He wondered why we would be so disrespectful toward either of the two men who were running for president when we know that out of the two choices, one for sure, is going to be our leader.
He paused and then he said something like this:
You get to choose and you show dishonor toward someone who may lead you? Why can’t you ask him the questions you want to know about him, with the honor he deserves, because someday, he could become your leader? Instead, you make up things about him, speculate, and say things about him, and no one knows who is right and who is wrong. This is dishonorable towards any man who may some day lead you.
…and there I sat…paralyzed, again.
I can't believe it has been this long! Oh my! Well, this month's post has to do with our language... here goes!
Have you ever, as a leader, said or done something that was a “Think Stopper?” You know… the conversation is flowing in a meeting and you get caught up in the excitement and you interject something and all of the sudden… BAM the conversation stops and you think, “What? What? What did I say?”
Oh, come on, admit it, you know you have! I know I have! I have heard think stoppers and I have said them.
I’ve been to meetings where the conversation is flowing and then the leader says something and WHAM, the conversation stops! Why? What happened? Usually, the leader (or even another member of the organization) unknowingly and/or unintentionally expresses an opinion in a manner that inhibits the conversation, actions, or thought process of the organization.
Before we examine this phenomenon, and discuss how to remedy the situation when you do let out a Think Stopper, let me share a recent, somewhat comical experience that happened to me.
I belong to an online community for educational professionals where we discuss topics of interest regarding educational issues. One can be invited or he/she can ask to join a particular “community” or “group” if he or she wishes.
Since school culture was a focus in my doctoral studies, I asked to join a group who was discussing this topic. I was granted access, analyzed, and then joined the conversation. As the posts unfolded, the group started to discuss “influencers” of culture. Group members pondered who influenced, affected, or even “swayed” culture. Many shared experiences and stories as to how formal and informal leaders, individuals and cabals, within and outside of their schools and educational organizations influenced the culture in both positive and negative ways. A lively discussion ensued as to who truly was “in charge” of setting and influencing the culture of an organization.
I was eager to join in the conversation since I had worked in lots of situations where I had both experienced this and observed this, which is what motivated me to research it extensively. After I watched and read the posts and comments, I decided to make my remark. This is what I said:
“ Hi folks! I’ve read your comments with great interest and I, too, would like to add my thoughts to the conversation. The topic of school culture and how it is influenced and shaped is something I have always wondered about, too. So, this became a focus of my researched during my doctoral studies. The last thing I want to sound like is a “know it all”, however, I can share what I found during my “comprehensive” review of the literature that my doctoral committee encouraged me to create.
When I dove into the literature I was remarkably surprised to find out the following about who and what influences the culture in an organization. This is what the researchers said… The leader sets the tone for the culture, yet those within the organization actually shape and uphold the culture of the organization. Isn’t that interesting? So, those meetings after the meeting, where the staff meets in the parking lot or at the water cooler are really important! Sometimes the staff can uphold the leader, or sometimes the opposite can happen!
When my cohort was studying school culture, one of my colleagues (who was a principal) always said that as he watched his staff interact with one another, he wanted to say to them: you can be your own best friend, or your own worse enemy. Wow!”
Now, I wasn’t expecting much of a response from this post since most of my colleagues on this site were pretty much saying the same thing I was saying as they were posting their thoughts. But, one person, the person who created the group responded. Her response was this:
“@ Fran, RUUUUUUBBBBBBBIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!”
The next time I logged onto the site, I noticed the “headlines” that flash across the screen at the top. (This website is pretty fancy. Random posts fly across the screen as you log on to attract your attention.) As the random responses flew by, I noticed THAT response fly by. I was a little surprised and I wondered what that strange word was when it flew by. So, I looked at it again and thought I should click on it. Sure enough, it was a response to my post. I was quite surprised to say the least.
Here was my thought process…
First, isn’t this a forum for educational professionals? Shouldn’t we be disagreeing professionally?
Second, my post wasn’t “rubbish,” it was based upon RESEARCH!!!! What part of it was rubbish? If you think something is rubbish, then say what part of it is rubbish? State your opinion in educational terms!
Third, isn’t this a forum about culture? Isn’t it ironic that the very thing we are talking about is the very thing this person did?
So, after I took a deep breath and a little walk around my house, I decided to private message the person who responded to me. I politely asked her to tell me what her thinking was in posting the word, “rubbish” and to kindly explain herself publicly if she could. Then, people could respond to her post.
So, then I watched the forum, day after day after day. Guess what? Everyone stopped posting. Yep. Crickets.
No one responded. Would you? Who would take the risk, especially after someone called someone else’s post rubbish, especially in what was to be a safe discussion on what else, but “culture?”
So, here’s the real question… What do you do after you’ve said that Think Stopper?
How do you recover? I mean, it’s out there… and there’s S I L E N C E
And if you are the leader, you know what happens, your staff stops talking to you.
- or the phone stops ringing
-or the emails stop coming
-as Elmer Fudd says, it gets vewy vewy quiet!
First, let it get quiet. That’s OK. Use that time to reflect. What DID you say that was a Think Stopper? What DID they hear you say? What was their perception?
Their perception is their reality and that is very important for you to remember. In fact, that is your most important question to think about.
Then, make a decision. Should you address this or not? Do you need to apologize? How offensive were you? Sometimes, you just need to let it go. Other times, not so much!
If you offended someone, you need to talk with him or her (and NOT in your office). Go to that person’s space and have a heart to heart. Be a listener. Remember, you were given two ears and one mouth for a reason.
And that “group apology” at the next staff meeting… well, at first, I’d say, they just don’t work. Take the time and go room to room, office to office. This will give you a chance to have a nice discussion with each person. Then, when you are finished, when you have your next staff meeting, address the situation by admitting your blunder and begin that topic of discussion all over again should you feel the need.
This time, be a better listener! Refrain from jumping in! Make sure each person has had a chance to talk before you speak. If you need to, move to a more formal protocol or (and this is my favorite trick) make sure 3-5 people have spoken before you speak. Record what people say, too. This will make you a better listener. When you are a better listener, you will not say those Think Stoppers! Most of those Think Stoppers fly out because you are being impulsive with your speech.
Now, about my friend’s comment. Rubbish! Each time I share my school culture findings with a group of educators they shake their heads in agreement. No one likes to talk about it. There will always be people who try to undermine or challenge the authority of the organization behind the leader’s back. Conversely, anyone who has ever been a leader knows that it is lonely at the top. We do our best to set the tone for the culture of the organization, but there is always someone who is there to challenge that culture.
However, there is good news, really good news, for those people are in the minority. Throughout my career, I have worked with outstanding educators who have been supportive and eager to do anything and everything to uphold the culture of the organization in which they work in order to do what is best for our students. These educators would live, eat, breathe, sleep, and die for our kids. From my first day of teaching up until today, I continue to work with people such as this.
I choose to focus my energy upon this type of person. These people are Think Starters!
A few weeks ago, as I was entering a high school where I sometimes work, two young men were standing on the front steps. I smiled and greeted them. They kind of "grunted" back some sort of response (as most adolescent boys would). Then, I said (cheerily), "It might snow today." The one boy looked at me and replied, "F*** the snow." Hmmmm. Wow! Two days later, I entered another high school, not far from the first one. As I walked into the office, I smiled and greeted the students who were sitting there. They grunted back at me, too. Then, one of them asked me, "Ma'am, do you happen to know the names of the original Charlie's Angels?" As they sat there, we had a conversation with the school secretary as well as others who entered the office in order to figure out the answer to this question.
I wonder...when Dr. Marzano, Dr. Reeves, Gay Su Pinell, JoEllen Killion, and other researchers wrote their books, did they have these students and their schools in mind? Really... it's not a criticism, it's just a question I've always had. So, let's talk about these schools.
The first school I described happens to be an alternative school; most of the students in this school are struggling to stay clean and sober, and stay out of jail (although most are on house arrest). Every day, they are greeted by a police officer who searches their clothes and makes them walk through a metal detector in order to go to school. Some of the students want to go to college, however, most don't see themselves growing old. The class sizes are small, instructional time is fluid, and one does not choose to correct a student's speech when s/he drops the "f-bomb" because that is just not the battle you want to fight. The population in this school consists of students whose race is black and/or hispanic and come from homes described as low socioeconomic status.
The second school is literally fifteen minutes away from the first school I described. The population is similar, yet, these students discuss college, careers, and their imagined future. There is no metal detector and students are concerned about with whom they will go to the prom. In both settings, there are students who are scoring in all ranges on our state assessment. In fact, their assessment data looks very similar. My guess is, when the authors/researchers I mentioned above wrote their books, they were picturing school settings like the second school I described.
When I served the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a Distinguished Educator, our mantra regarding students, learning, and opportunity was, "All means all." When I reflect on that phrase, I realize that it is next to impossible to meet all the needs of all the learners because, our schools are made using the premise that "One size fits all." I realize that there are exceptions out there, but even those schools run in a similar manner with about a 6-7 hour school day, a measured amount of time spent in each class, and a lock step set of grade level requirements that students must meet in order to graduate.
But, what happens when that type of system doesn't "fit" every student? The students in the alternative setting didn't "fit" into that model, and yet, now they are in the alternative school, which happens to run in a similar manner to what didn't work for them in the first place!
What would happen if we manipulated the environment to fit the needs of the student, instead of the other way around? Would we have students who weren't so angry in the morning that when they greet a stranger they use the f-word? Would "all" student then be able to meet the Common Core Standards with proficiency? What are your thoughts? Do YOU have an answer? I'd love to hear about it!
Today, my zumba teacher, Sandy, was absent. So, another gal stepped in. She was good, but nothing like Sandy. Sandy has this innate ability to lead in a nonverbal manner. When she teaches, no one falls over their feet! Her class is truly a high intensity work out... not because of what we do, but how we do it. She constantly changes the routines, however, because she knows how to use nonverbal gestures (such as eye contact and movement), with purpose, she is quite effective.
Effective Teachers... now the hot topic in education. I'm not sure why this is a hot topic, now, because I believe we should have ALWAYS been concerned as to how to measure whether or not our teachers were effective! (But, that is a topic for another blog!) If one were to define the characteristics that describe an effective teacher, they might defer to Danielson's Framework.
Charlotte's four domains, each of which contain components and then, further break down the components into elements, clearly defines the characteristics of an effective teacher. The four descriptors: Unsatisfactory, Basic, Proficient, and Distinguished, categorize those characteristics into levels of effectiveness. Charlotte advises that one needs to strive toward the descriptors in the Proficient column and as teachers, we only "visit" or "vacation" in the Distinguished column, since it is ultimately impossible to "live" in the Distinguished column.
In my experience, I find it safe to say that there are lots of "good" teachers out there... those who fit the descriptors in the proficient column in Danielson's Framework. They do a nice job; they connect with their students, the students learn, and successfully move on.
I am, however, challenged by Charlotte's statement regarding her Distinguished column.
I, personally, have seen and worked with teachers who are the superstars, the cream of the crop, those who "sparkle" (as one of my former supervisors used to say). They rise above the sea of teachers within a school system and make cognitive memories for students. Deep learning, in addition to content knowledge occurs, and that's what they are known for. I'm talking about the "Sandys", or "positive deviants" of the teaching profession. What separates them from everyone else?
I believe (and research states) that those teachers possess characteristics that make them exceptional and that the difference between them and the "proficient" teachers is that those characteristics are innate. I asked Sandy where she learned to lead a class in the manner that she does, and she looked at me like I was crazy. She didn't even KNOW that other teachers do not lead like she does. I have had this experience with teachers (who were positive deviants) in the field when I was a principal. They don't even realize what they are doing that makes them effective.
So, here are some questions to ponder:
What would happen if we harnessed the talent of that highly effective teacher and empowered him/her to support his or her peers in order to advance learning?
Would he/she be well received? or would his/her colleagues be resentful?
Are we our own worst enemy? Hmmm... What are YOUR thoughts on this matter?
As I dropped my daughter off at the high school this morning for her last few days of band camp, we both noticed that the parking lot was full. "First day for teachers," she said. "I wonder what they're discussing," I thought. Those first days of school truly bring excitement. Teachers and students are rested and ready to learn; more than any other time of the school year.
I used to live in a home that had a field beyond our backyard that was managed by a farmer. Prior to the field being used to harvest feed corn, for years, it was a home for about 30 cows. Each Spring, the farmer tended to the field by running (in the middle of the night) some sort of large piece of machinery over the field in order to turn the soil. You can imagine how intriguing this was to the senses when we would wake up the next morning!
He readied the field in order to plant his crops several times throughout the planting season. His crops always thrived; and every year we lived there, he would spend an entire night, each time he started a new crop, turning the soil and then planting a day or so later. Ongoing...tilling, planting, harvesting, tilling, planting, harvesting...so his crops would grow and never fail.
Our teachers are now sitting through several days of professional learning. Are they being intrigued, challenged, and motivated by what they hear? Is the professional learning relevant to their needs? Is it being delivered in a manner that leads to ongoing professional conversations that will occur throughout the year? Are the teachers being tended to so their learning will grow and ultimately allow every student to achieve? Is the system supportive of maintaining the growth process of all teachers, taking into account each teacher's needs and years of experience?
What are your thoughts? Are you experiencing high quality professional learning? Are you delivering high quality professional learning? Will our system grow or fail?
After returning from the Learning Forward Summer Conference in Indianapolis, I am really excited! I was fortunate enough to learn about the newly published Standards for Professional Learning. The new standards focus on the phrase "professional learning" instead of "professional development"....FINALLY! There used to be 12 standards, now they have been compacted into 7 standards. The language contained in the description of each standard is tight! Learning Forward took the time to carefully craft each sentence for each standard's descriptor and now, there is no question as to the intent and/or purpose.
The bigger question is this: Will states adopt Learning Forward's definition and standards into policy? I sure hope so!!! Learning Forward has done the research and written case studies to support the research. There is no reason why state governments need to reinvent the wheel. So, if you know someone who is an influencer on the state level, share the new Standards for Professional Development with them and fulfill your obligation to affect change in order to impact student achievement.
So, here we are...April 1, 2011. Our schools have some dire needs and the funding for our schools does not match those needs. For the last month, I have been observing teachers throughout the state of Pennsylvania. What a wonderful experience! I have seen some truly outstanding work. Teachers want to meet students' individual needs. They are finding creative ways to do this through the implementation of some incredible instructional strategies. They are using data to inform their instruction and it is so exciting to watch.
The difficulty, however, is that this is not done pervasively throughout the school system. When I ask the teacher how his or her neighbor or grade level partner is collecting and using data, the response is a shake of their head and then, they tell me that they just might be the only one who is using data to inform their instructional practice. They add that the school's or district's leaders are not informed as to how to use data, or the school system is not willing to endure the change process in order to do so.
So, we end up with "pockets" of improvement within our schools.
Wow! ...and these are the schools who are making Adequate Yearly Progress! I do wonder what the future hold for these schools. I do know that my services can support the effort to bring the system to parity.
If your school system has employed professional development that is job embedded and has the inte in order to improve the system, leave your comment and explain how it was done. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
What would happen if every principal saw their role as both an instructional leader and a professional developer? At present, if one would ask the "average" principal about his or her role in the school, I am sure the answer would sound something that includes the words leader, manager, instruction, students, community involvement, etc. The phrase "professional developer" would probably not emerge. When principals see their role inclusive of providing professional development for his or her staff, then a change in the school's culture occurs. Conversations with teachers focus on instruction in a deeper manner. All stakeholders within
the building begin speaking the same instructional manner. Your thoughts?
Dr. Frances A. Miller,