Archive | May, 2018

Curriculum Leaders not Managers

27 May

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Curriculum leadership is complicated because leading curriculum development meetings involves working with fallible, imperfect human beings.  A second reason curriculum leadership is difficult is due to the school schedule and a lack of extended time for teachers to discuss and revise existing curriculum documents.

Five Reasons Why Schools Need Curriculum Leaders:

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides clarity. What should every student know and be able to do?
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides opportunities to develop and empower future leaders. Curriculum leadership is not a solo act.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for continuous improvement. Schools should be learning organizations.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity to establish goals. Goals provide teachers and students with something to aim for.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for improved alignment.

Glatthorn (1987) wrote, “One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized” (p. 4).

What comes to mind when you hear the term curriculum leader?  Do you have a vision of  staff standing at the back of your classroom observing teaching and learning?  Do you see the instructional leader as the building principal conducting three-minute walk-through observations?  How many curriculum leaders can one school hold?

Curriculum leadership should not be determined by a person’s title or years of experience.  Wiles (2009) wrote, “Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.”

Glatthorn, A.A. (1987). Curriculum renewal. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Glatthorn, A.A., & Jailall, J.M. (2009). The principal as curriculum leader: Shaping what is taught and tested (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Wiles, J. (2009). Leading curriculum development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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Being a Connected Educator

24 May

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Teachers and Learners need to not only be well connected but also be provisioned with well-chosen tools that enable genuine collaboration, communication, creativity and innovation – ie to open up new and different ways of learning to occur (p36 NZ Curriculum). Learning tools should be cloud-based and low or zero cost to enable easy access for all students from anywhere and at any time. The ICT infrastructure must be an enabler, rather than a disabler which can frustrate and impede progress – teaching & learning, as opposed to administration, management or other, must be the priority when choosing tools. Student devices (BYOD) are now not an option but are an essential component for students to access their online tools to enable their ability to learn from anywhere and at anytime. Their devices should work seamlessly at school and from home.

Cultural Responsiveness

21 May

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This article challenges the reader to consider the under-representation of Maori cultural principles and practices in mainstream classrooms and schools. It explains how teachers can bring more of a Maori worldview to their classroom practices using the culturally responsive seven step Hikairo approach to classroom management:
Step 1: Huakina (Opening Doorways)
Step 2: Ihi (Assertiveness)
Step 3: Kotahitanga (Unity)
Step 4: Awhin
Step 5: I Runga i te Manaaki (Pastoral Care)
Step 6: Raranga (The Weaving Process)
Step 7: Oranga (A Vision of Well-being)
Here is a great piece on the subject. Implementation strategies and student voice from a Rotorua case study are used to explain how respect for Maori concepts and values within an inclusive educational environment can enhance teacher effectiveness.

Being Excited

19 May

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Confident, excited teachers make for confident and excited students. Jim Knight (2007), an expert on instructional coaching, suggests, “When people talk about learning, the experience should be exciting, energizing, and empowering.”  Assessment has the potential to generate all three of these conditions when designed and used in the service of learning.

What kind of assessment practices generate this type of culture? What kind of professional learning experiences contribute to teachers developing their assessment practices? I want to share a couple of conversations and experiences I have had in the past few months that focus around the question: How can assessment build confidence and excitement that leads to higher achievement and more investment by both teachers and students?  Three big ideas emerged from these experiences.

  1. Believe 

When we focus our efforts, and protect ample amounts of time for reflection and application, we will see results. This act fosters a sense of efficacy, signalling that we believe our teachers have the capacity to do amazing work.

At a recent professional learning, our Leaders of Learning group strived to do just that. The intent of the session was to create higher quality assessment and courses that better reflected our curriculum document. As teachers talked with colleagues about what they wanted students to learn and what kind of meaningful student work might help them gather information on the extent to which students had learned, there was energy in the air. I posed a few ideas around quality assessment design-precision, action, and student investment.

  1. Build 

In what ways can students be co-designers of their learning experiences? Co-design can happen in constructing quality criteria together. As students examine strong and weak samples of work, a co-constructed list of criteria offers students a sense of what quality looks like and a clearer vision of expectations. This leads to higher quality work.

Students might even co-design experiences to learn a concept. What if students were posed something like the following: We are going to focus on learning about the impact of war on the environment. What might be the ways we can learn about this?  Work individually or in pairs to research and design an activity or two to guide your peers in learning about war’s impact on the environment.

The co-design process works beautifully to empower teachers. As schools and districts aim to improve the quality of their assessment practices, why not ask teachers to co-design the process and the products that will help assessment create this culture of learning.

  1. Provide 

Creating a culture of opportunity and possibility begins with the tone and spirit with which we invite students and teachers into conversation and continues through the types of feedback offered. Feedback and the tone and setting in which it is provided generates confidence or shuts it down.

At the core of learning conversations, making people feel energized, excited and empowered is ample time to create, involvement in a co-design, and targeted feedback in the context of deliberate practice. These practices create a space where listening is central –people (students and teachers) feeling listened to and believed in. The road to achievement and confidence is paved with creative time, an ongoing commitment to co-design, and deliberate practice with targeted feedback.

Pushing Back

18 May

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One of my appraisal goals this year deals with being more patient. I do not like to lose. I just do not like it. Moreover, every time I toss an idea out there that does not stick, I feel as if I have lost. That is something I am working on. This links nicely to my piece this week.

Conversation on the topic of innovation in education can be found at every turn. If you go to twitter it will not take you, long to find a connected educator. If you Google search it right now, you’ll get more than 350 million results. Articles abound (like this one from Edutopia) on the topic of innovation in education, and in seconds, anyone can find videos (like this that features Bill Gates) or Ian Jukes or this brilliant piece by Richard Wells.

There is something contagious and exciting about innovation. The best educators thrive in the search for serving students well, and that shows today more than ever.

Even with all these voices in the conversation promoting innovation, innovation is still a little intimidating for me.

It is not that I do not want to take part in it. I led the charge to change our bell schedule moving into this year to give our teachers opportunities to help students who were tough to catch up with before and after school (probably equal parts “I won’t” and “I can’t” make it in for help outside of school).

In many cases, it is our fear of failure or the unknown that limits our willingness to take those risky first steps toward meaningful change and innovation in our schools.

The SAMR Model again

14 May

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In most ways, teachers that use technology in the classroom are not much different than those that don’t.

All teachers assesses, evaluate and then revises planned instruction based on data from those assessments.

They manage their classroom in a way that works for them, create a positive learning environment, and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders to make sure every humanly possible attempt is made to meet all students need.

They care about learning more than tools, people more than curriculum, and questions more than answers.

But using technology in the classroom–and using it effectively–might require some slight adjustments on the part of the teacher to sustain the effort, creative problem-solving, and innovation required to actually improve learning through the use of technology. This occurs at the belief level–what teachers believe about technology, education, and their own abilities to manage technology.

Looking at the characteristics of teachers that effectively use technology in the classroom can be useful to create a growth mind-set–one that believes in purpose, adaptation, change, and meaningful planning. If you spend your time planning at the upper limits of the SAMR model, it may simply work as a quick reminder of how edtech can work–and work well at the teacher-human-belief level.

Ease up

6 May

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Let’s ease up on our tamariki. What troubles me the most is that so many educators fail to recognize how real being young is. As I think about the experiences of our students nothing young people face today is a fantasy. Last time I checked, the stress at home is real, the bullying is real, the poverty is real, the tension within their friendships is real, learning to read is real, developing fundamental skills is real, their success and failures are real, and not knowing what is next from school is all-too-real.

Lamenting the younger generation is both timeless and tired. The following quote (attributed to Socrates):

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

Sound familiar? This could be a quote from any adult referring to almost any child or teenager in 2018.

A common soap box is technology. Instead of being amazed at how quickly young people master technology (i.e. cell phones, tablets, apps, etc.) too many adults cling to the ole “…back in my day we didn’t need any of that stuff.” Just once I’d like to hear an adult say, “You know what, kids today are way ahead of where we were at that age.”

Our version of “real” is not their version of “real” and too often this conversation about when kids arrive in the real world illustrates more about how disconnected adults are from the realities of young people today. Let’s ease up on our tamariki.

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