Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reflecting on My Core Beliefs

 Well . . .  one of them . . . . .

Over the past three days I had the opportunity to attend the Gardner-Webb University Center of Innovative Leadership Development Conference (#GWUCILD). One of the sessions I attended during this conference was with Dr. Julie Morrow, Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Rowan Salisbury Schools. Her session, Opportunities and Challenges of Creating a Happy, Healthy Culture with Leaders at Every Level, left attendees with the personal challenge of defining and reflecting on our core beliefs.

The first core belief that I have been reflecting upon is my belief that in whole, we are built by the different positive and negative experiential instances we have throughout our lives. Whether they be work related, spiritual, personal, from childhood, or fall into some other category, I believe that the root of who we are is shaped by our life experiences. I can remember the experiences that drove me to become a teacher. In fact, several teachers that I have had the opportunity to work with as an adult were my actual teachers. They left me with positive childhood experiences that directed me to the field of education.

As an adult, I have had the opportunity to serve in the Eastern European country of Moldova and the Central American country of El Salvador. While in Moldova we cared for the homeless and teenage victims of trafficking, and in El Salvador we cared for the children and workers in an orphanage. At the end of one trip to Moldova as our team was boarding a van in route to the airport, Valentine, a homeless gentleman that I had spent the week with brought me a heart shaped out of wicker. He touched the wicker heart to his heart and then to mine, and he handed it to me with a slight nod of his head. Valentine lived in a landfill, had nothing but the clothes on his back, and he managed to take someone else's "trash" and turn it into something; an experience I will cherish forever.

I know that my experience as an elementary teacher impacted my decisions and actions as I transitioned into a middle school teacher, and both of those experiences have made me better in the role that I have now as an Instructional Technology Facilitator. I could continue to discuss the things that have shaped me; friendships, marriage, becoming a mother, even the death of a parent. The tiny, or monumental, experiences of my life are pieced together into a big puzzle with no boarder pieces and make me who I am. My experiences shape how I interact with others and react to situations.

What is the importance of experiences to educators? Teachers are leaders in their classrooms and shape the culture of the school, principals lead in their school and shape the culture of their community, and district level personnel lead and shape the culture of the whole organization. I believe we are responsible for creating experiences for others.

Students come to school everyday, and we have no control of their past. However, we can give them positive experiences with each new interaction. We can listen and speak in a way that tells them they are valued, and act in a way that shows them they are cared for. We can be understanding of past negative situations, and build positive experiences that leave students with the mindset that they can and will accomplish their goals.

Teachers are shaped by their experiences as well. As a school leader, we can listen and speak in a way that tells teachers they are valued. We can shape the culture of our school where trust and relationship is the norm. We can build experiences that leave teachers looking forward to coming to work and with the mindset that they can and will accomplish their goals.

The most valuable takeaway from this session was not that Dr. Morrow asked me to reflect, but she left me compelled to act. I hope that I can create experiences for others that leave them compelled to act.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

5 Characteristics of Effective PD

Professional Development is an essential piece of education. It allows educators to stay up to date with the latest curriculum and classroom practices. I have made an infographic based on the research from the Center for Public Education, view the full report here. The research supports the following in regards to PD.

Duration - Professional Development should be held in multiple sessions over a period time. The extended amount of time allows more opportunities for practice and is more likely to be carried out in the classroom.

Support - Professional Development should offer follow-up and support. When implementing new classroom practices or new content, support is a critical piece of the puzzle. Coaching and being available to offer feedback is essential during the first stages.

Engage - Professional Development needs to be actively engaging for participants when introducing new topics. Just like students, adults need hands on, out of their seat experiences.

Model - Professional Development sessions should model how to implement the strategies in the classroom. Modeling allows the teacher to act as the student and view the information from a student’s perspective.

Specific - Professional Development should be content or grade level specific. Higher order questions are best practices for teaching students, but apply differently to content areas of mathematics and English Language Arts, therefore, a generic professional development on higher order questioning or checks for understanding would not benefit teachers when offered to K-12 teachers at one time. Specifically targeting grade levels and subjects while allowing time for collaboration with peers would have the most impact in the classroom.

In reflecting on these principles, I believe that another characteristic of Professional Development should be teacher choice. The content of the PD should be offered in multiple ways to allow teachers to engage and interact with it in the way that best suits their needs as a learner. Perhaps one teacher needs the face to face offering after school, while another prefers an online delivery that they can access at their own time and own pace.

Gulamhussein, Allison. (2013). Teaching the Teacher - Effective Professional Development in an Era of High Stakes 
Accountability. National School Boards Association Center for Public Education. Retrieved from

Garman, Rod. (2013). Snapshots: 5 Principles of Effective PD. Retrieved from

Saturday, April 8, 2017

When Students Finish Early

I was reading my teammate, Donna Wells', Blog and came across a great post that I turned into a visual. In her post, Donna mentions ideas to implement when students finish early. You can read Donna's post here and follow her on Twitter @DonnaWells50 .

All of the ideas revolve around students creating a product of their learning.

Create a Comic Strip:
  • Pixton
  • Google Drawings
  • Educreations (iPad)

Create a Video Trailer:
  • iMovie
  • Quicktime to Screen Record
  • Educreations (iPad)
  • Animoto (iPad)
  • Paper Slide Show (iPad)

Explain your Mathematical Thinking:
  • Google Drawings
  • Quicktime to Screen Record
  • Educreations (iPad)
  • Paper Slide Show (iPad)

Create an Infographic:

  • Discovery Education Board Builder
  • Google Drawings
  • Pic Collage (iPad)

Create a Digital Story:

Create your own Quiz:

  • Google Docs
  • Google Forms
  • Kahoot
  • Quizzizz
  • Quizlet

Create an Audio Recording / Podcast:
  • Quicktime
  • Voice Record Pro (iPad)
  • Sock Puppets (iPad)

This is just a short list of ideas and resources to utilize when students finish early. Imagine the possibilities that could take place when your students begin contributing their learning processes with their classmates. Once your students begin creating, they could also begin to share their learning with the world!  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Innovator's Mindset a Reflection

I am in my 12th year in education, and I can remember when I was going through college, being told that I should embrace being a life long learner. I feel like I have done that. I have opened the opportunity for growth and knowledge. Now, after reading The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros, I understand there is so much more to being a continual learner.

It is one thing to learn something, and then take it back to a classroom or to teachers. It is another thing to learn, share my thoughts on my learning with the world, accept feedback, then respond and grow through the process. Being a life-long learner is no longer enough. We must learn to cultivate innovation in ourselves and in others. It is no longer enough to simply learn, I must also challenge the norms and empower those I serve to find their voice and their passions. I must continually develop and cultivate relationships with those around me.

I will embrace the idea of becoming an innovative leader, not by conforming to the characteristics listed in this book, but by embracing each characteristic, challenging myself to work through them, and developing a mindset of continual growth. There are so many relevant take-a-ways from this book. I know I will read and reflect through it again. The beauty of The Innovator's Mindset is that it is not a one and done book. You can read it over and over again and it will always be applicable.