Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

Archive for December, 2013

The PLN Blogging Challenge

 
cc licensed image shared by flickr user photologue_np

cc licensed image shared by flickr user photologue_np

 
I love a great challenge! And so, when the enternally positive, optimistic and supportive elementary school principal Vicki Day invited me to the PLN blogging challenge I accepted her call. Constantly stretching my thinking, Vicki is a frequent participant in #educoach chats (dedicated to instructional coaching techniques for all educators) which I co-moderate and a moderator of #NYedchat; the voice of New York educators.
 
 
In the PLN blogging challenge  you get to answer some questions, pose some questions and shout out to the bloggers you want to welcome to the challenge. Here goes, Vicki.
 
 
HERE ARE THE RULES OF THE CHALLENGE:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition and a little blogging love!
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 Random Facts About Me…

1. When I was young, I dreamed of being a novelist, wrote short stories and was founding editor of my school’s newspaper and literary magazine.

2. My daughter, a senior in high school, is planning on majoring in elementary education in college and dreams of being an elementary school teacher. She will be at Drexel University next year. I am incredibly proud!

3. I used to say I would NEVER have a dog; yet my two children succeeded in convincing me and my husband and now we have two – a cockapoo named Oliver and a jack russell terrier named Max. I love them both and am so glad they are part of our family. We also have a parakeet named Cielito.

4. I earned a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and although I am not currently training I am coordinating a Science and Social Action Academy at my school through which we train students in martial arts therapeutic techniques to assist peers struggling with illness and disability.

5. I enjoy animated children’s movies and although my own children are teenagers, I still unabashedly watch when I can.

6. I am a co-moderator of #educoach with my dear friends (who I have not yet met face to face) Kathy Perret and Jessica Johnson. Kathy, Jessica, and I are currently writing a book together tentatively titled, “Putting on the Coach’s Hat: How School Leaders Can utilize Instructional Coaching Techniques to Support Teacher Growth”.

7. Each day, at least several times a day, I try to remember to pause and consider things small and large for which I am grateful.

8. I love those few days of the year when I don’t get out of my pajamas and without guilt allow myself to do as little as possible.

9. I am enjoying my first year as Head of School at The Solomon Schechter School of Queens, and am appreciative of the many strengths in the school and community on which to build.

10. It is my 17th year as a school educational leader leader (associate principal, principal, Head of School).

11. I am awed by the dedication and commitment of classroom teachers and honored to be in a position to support teachers in the sacred work they do for our children.

Answers to Vicki’s Questions…

1. What is your favorite song? List song and artist.

Someday by Rob Thomas – My daughter introduced me to the song during a challenging time in my life and it is a song that fills me with hope during difficult moments.

2. What educhat do you recommend to follow. List no more than 3.

#educoach, a chat I co-moderate, attacts some of the most positive, kind, encouraging people I have ever had the privilege to know. Dedicated to supporting one another to help others in our schools using instructional coaching techniques, #educoach chats and conversations leave me feeling energized and inspired.

3. Share your thoughts on education reform in the USA.

I worry about the term “education reform”. I prefer to strive constantly toward enhancing quality of learning and community in our classrooms, beginning with building on positives and successes. So many of our classroom teachers are doing so much that is right. Learning from what works and adapting from those successes to meet the needs of individual learners can propel us forward. There will not be a “one size fits all” for students, for teachers, or for schools. We will benefit from many additional  respectful, job-embedded supports and professional learning opportunities enabling our teachers to build on their strengths, stretch themselves in areas more challenging, reflect, collaborate, and continue to learn and to grow throughout their careers. 

4. What does it mean to be a Lead Learner?

For thoughts on being a Lead Learner, I turn to Jon Hattie. Learning Leadership, according to Hattie, is leadership that emphasizes student and adult learning and occurs when leaders promote and participate in teacher learning through such approaches as providing coaching over an extended time, data teams, a focus on how students learn subject matter content, and enabling teachers to work collaboratively to plan and monitor lessons based on evidence about how students learn. (see Bausmith & Barry, 2011) In distinction to the minimal impact of transformational and instructional leadership, Hattie found the impact of learning leadership to be an impressive .84, placing learning leadership as among the most significant positive impacts on quality of student learning in schools. (Hattie, John (2012-03-15). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (Kindle Locations 3889-3892). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.)

5. What makes you get up in the morning and go to work other than a paycheck?

I am blessed to be in a position in which I can make a positive impact in the lives of children, primarily by supporting their teachers to build on their own strengths, grow, thrive, and improve the quality of learning and community in our classrooms.

6. How do you stretch yourself to be the best of the best?

 Quoting from Ethics of the Fathers –

Ben Zoma says:
Who is wise?
The one who learns from every person…
Who is brave?
The one who subdues his negative inclination…
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
Who is honored?
The one who gives honor to others…
(Talmud – Avot 4:1)

7. How can schools help with poverty in our communities?

Perhaps the most significant way schools can help with poverty in our communities is preparing our children with the commitments, habits, and skills to make a positive impact when they become adults. We can help in some ways more immediately, through offering a range of services in our communities with our children and parents as volunteers as well as recipients when appropriate, yet we can potentially have an even greater impact on preparing our children to help with poverty in the communties they will inherit as adults.

8. What should each teacher or administrator know before they start their new job?

Before starting a new job each educator should know the mission of the school and/or community she or he is joining, as well as what current members of the community view as strengths of the school or community on which to build. 

9. How do we infuse technology into our school?

Offer teachers support and focus, not primarily on the technology, but upon the learning. Among my first decisions as Head of School this year was to hire an educational technology coach and was very blessed to be able to recruit Rebecca Penina Simon (yes, we met on twitter). Our approach has been to work with those who want to try technology to enhance learning, offer support before expectation, and celebrate successes small and large. In the few months since Rebecca has been in our school we have become a google apps for education school, implemented a new educational technology curriculum (including strands in digital citizenship, digital storytelling, programming, office skills, research, and basic technology tools and skills), ordered chromebooks and iPads for use in classrooms and are beginning deployment, set up a blended learning pilot in some of our classes (first grade, one fourth grade class, fifth grade, and seventh grade), and organized a regional edcamp style conference on use of educational technology and social media to enhance the quality of learning in our schools.

10. How do we infuse Social Media into our schools?

Share with teachers, parents, and students the benefits of connecting with others in order to learn. Create valuable opportunities to use social media and celebrate even the small steps forward.

11. What is your eduwin of the week?

My eduwin of the week (or rather last week) was organizing an educational technology and social media to enhance learning edcamp style conference for educators in Jewish day schools in the greater New York area. My eduwin of this vacation week is slowing down and spending meaningful time with family.

The 11 Bloggers I would like to challenge… 

1. Rebecca Penina Simon

2. Jeff Bradbury

3. Jennifer Bradbury

4. Ken Gordon

5. Gilly Cannon

6. Dr. David Timony

7. Ron McAllister

8. Rabbi Dr. Aaron Ross

9. Greg Miller

10. Sonia Di Maulo

11. Brett Clark

 11 Questions for my Blogging Friends…

1. When you were young and people asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, what did you answer?

2. What is one piece of advice you have to offer a first year teacher?

3. What is one piece of advice you have to offer principals?

4. How do you like to spend time off from work?

5. What is your most important professional priority in the coming month?

6. What inspires you?

7. If you could learn anything new (time, effort, practicality, and difficulty aside) what would you want to learn?

8. What makes you laugh?

9.  What is a goal you have for yourself in the coming year?

10. Who do you admire?

11. What are you currently celebrating?

Thanks for the challenge, Viki! And thanks to all in my PLN for supporting me to learn, to wonder, to imagine, and to strive. Best wishes for a joyous, healthy, and meaningful New Year!

Dancing At The Edge of Edcamp

JedCamp Swag

JedCamp Swag

“Anyone can learn tech skills, but not everyone has the heart of a teacher,” a superb classroom teacher at my school recently shared with me.  And, I entirely agree. It was that sentiment that motivated us at The Solomon Schechter School of Queens alongside Jedcamp to sponsor an Edcamp inspired Educational Technology and Social Media Conference.

We weren’t “officially” an edcamp. Instead, we danced at the edge of edcamp style learning, striving to meet the needs of educators who are not yet comfortable in the world of professional learning networks and unconferences; educators for whom the thought of attending a conference, or rather an unconference, without knowing what sessions are being offered in advance still sounds foreign. Sensing that some of our teachers with great heart might be suspicious of coming out to a learning experience without knowing topics in advance and might feel tentative and insecure around the networked crowd to which our local unconferences have primarily appealed, our school’s educational technology coach Rebecca Penina Simon and I sought to bridge the gap.

As shared on the Edcamp Foundation wiki, Edcamps are:

  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

Our learning experience was free, non-commercial, interested in furthering the edcamp mision (to support free edcamp unconferences for educators to exchange ideas and learn together) as well as the edcamp vision (to promote organic, participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators worldwide), and reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs. We broadly recruited presenters and welcomed all who volunteered to lead sessions. However, veering from the edcamp style unconference, we determined and advertised sessions in advance. In addition to sharing information about the conference via social media, we placed an ad in our local newspaper and asked regional schools to share information about the conference with their teachers. We sought to include topics connected to educational technology and social media that would appeal to educators in a wide range of roles and with diverse comfort levels and experience using educational technology and social media.

The registrations poured in. 106 educators signed up in advance and, on a cold Wednesday night in Queens, NY, close to 100 educators actually showed up; battling icy roads, traffic, and in many cases one if not two bridges. Some were teachers in our own school, energized by a style of participatory learning to which they had never before been exposed. Some were members of our own professional learning networks with whom we speak on twitter and Facebook and whose blogs we read. Yet, many were educators whose names we did not yet recognize. We networked, connected, collaborated, shared, and learned together.

Our conference was one of a series  annual events for #jedcampnjny, an effort among Jewish educators in the greater New York area to extend edcamps from one-shot learning experiences into a community of learners within our regional schools, connected via regular face to face activities as well as on-line engagement.

So, what was the biggest complaint of our teachers at the end of the conference? Too little time, too much to learn! What was their recommendation? Let’s have more such conferences in the future. Let’s hold them not on a week night, but rather on a Sunday when we can spend more time. Let’s continue the learning.

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