Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Time

It's been awhile since I have written a new post so I am a bit rusty. I noticed there are some new features on blogger so I have some exploring to do as I start posting once again. Although I have not been blogging I have been reading both online and offline for leisure and professional purposes. My recent dive into reading has been to catch up on all the education journals I didn't have time for during the school year. I find myself adding Apps to my devices, visiting various websites, and sharing articles or resources with my colleagues as a result of this mining of information. My head is eventually swimming with ideas, information, and new things to try in the coming school year. I have yet to complete the entire book but I did start reading 8 to great by MK Mueller. After reading a few pages I began keeping my own personal gratitude journal. The author defines 8 high-ways to reaching one's goals and emphasizes the power of a positive attitude. I'll add more thoughts on this book once I've completed it. On a personal note I have been training to compete in a 5K run with some colleagues. Thanks to them and my 8 to great knowledge I have felt the support I need to be ready to run come next month. My last summer endeavor has been to improve my golf skills and commit to playing on a league. I have scheduled these activities into my calendar; therefore, creating a healthy balance between work and leisure summertime hours.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Global Partnerships

I have been working with faculty to promote global partnerships with schools and students in other parts of our world. Our school has offered a Mandarin Chinese Level I course this year to students, encouraging them to learn more about the Asian culture. While promoting this program I applied for the K-12 Chinese Bridge Delegation a program offered by the Hanban/Confucius Institute and The College Board. There are 400 educators headed to China along with me to visit schools and learn more about the culture and language of the Chinese. My travels are going to be recorded in a blog on our school website if the country allows access to such a site. Our school is already looking to expand Asian studies by offering a level II course in Mandarin Chinese but also an art and culture elective for all students. My efforts will be designated to building a partnership with a school in China so that our students can connect with students in China to further their skills in understanding the culture and learning the language. It will also help students in China to improve their English and understand the Western culture. This is just the beginning of a global partnership that will promote learning and understanding far beyond the classroom walls. Our school community is excited to begin this journey.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Relationships Key to Learning

An article in Education Leadership (March 2011) written by Robert J. Marzano speaks to the relation ship element that is vital to a student's success in the classroom. He states several teacher actions that "develop the perception in students that they have a good relationship with the teacher" (p.82).
  • Showing interest in Students' Lives
  • Advocating for Students
  • Never Giving up on Students
  • Acting Friendly
The article states relationships between teachers and students as the most common variable associated with effective instruction (p. 82). He lists several researchers that have found student perceptions as the factor with the greatest impact on relationships. "Effective instruction has little to do with how a teacher actually feels about students; it's what teachers do that dictates how students perceive those relationships" (p.82)

As an administrator I practice these four key elements within the school community I work. Although I am not in the classroom I feel it necessary to get to know my 560 students and assist them in advocating for themselves, all the while I advocate on their behalf. My philosophical belief that all students can learn and succeed is the premise for my actions with students, teachers, parents, and support personnel. By modeling this behavior for my faculty and encouraging them to take the time to build healthy interpersonal relationships with their students our community will provide effective instruction. I would love to hear from others on how they are working with their faculty's' on this concept.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Questions have you asked lately?

Making good choices depends heavily on asking good questions. John's book, QBQ! The Question behind the Question, invites us to follow three simple rules (p. 18).
1. Begin our questions with "What" or "How".
2. Contain an "I" in place of they, them, we, or you.
3. Focus on action.

Do you have some "Why" askers? If so think about the tone of those "why" questions. John states that these often symbolize a victim attitude and are not productive. Keep in mind these are not the why questions we use to problem solve or sell products; he is referring to those that represent a "poor me" attitude.

His book has a unique twist on the Serenity Prayer.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know... it's me!" (p. 79).

The book has some great stories. I like the waiter's story the best of all and readers will likely enjoy the Home Depot story. Each story involves people asking the right questions or handling a difficult situation. Chapter 29 speaks to taking action which may involve risks as the alternative to inaction. The following occurs when a person takes action: (1) learning and growth even if mistakes are made, (2) leads toward solutions, (3) requires courage, (4) builds confidence. These are all positive characteristics a person gains from taking action even in difficult times. He goes on to mention that inaction brings about stagnation, atrophy, a holding on to the past, fear, and doubt. How many of you have seen this in organizations, workplaces, and communities?

I'll finish with the spirit of QBQ which is personal accountability explained in three short statements (p.107).
  • No more victim thinking, procrastinating, or blaming.
  • I can only change me.
  • Take action!
We will be piloting a QBQ program at our school this year under the leadership of an outstanding teacher in our community. Not only will students benefit but teachers and administrators as well. Embracing personal accountability as a community will lead to an aspiring organization filled with people ready to problem solve, thrive in teams, breakdown barriers, and adapt to change!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Learners Prepared for College

Has your institution gone after increased graduation rates? Graduating from high school doesn't always mean a student is ready for college level coursework. A student's level of math taken in high school is often predictive of one's college success (p.38). The book highlights reading of informational texts as an area that needs addressed at the secondary level. The author points out the differing perspectives of K-12 teachers and post-secondary instructors as one of the challenges to preparing students for college success. I am sure this is nothing new to many readers; however, the dilemma continues. Add to that the political movement towards national standards which may or may not address the post secondary alignment with K-12 institutions. What is your high school doing to assure stakeholders their children are being prepared for college level coursework or career learning beyond the diploma? Conley mentions the need for schools to develop an intellectually coherent program of study in all disciplines (p.73).
If you are asking yourself what it is that high school graduates need to continue their learning then I suggest you pick up this book. Examples of course syllabi, university work samples, and chapters outlining content and skills for each discipline are just a few of the resources this book has to offer.
I would love to hear from anyone who may have used this book for a faculty study group or something similar that might guide us in revising our college preparatory curriculum.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Change and Beliefs

Have you ever changed an old habit or way of doing something? If so, then you may have experienced a conversion or gestalt shift in your beliefs system. Beliefs are founded on core values created early in life and are often developed from personal experiences (Nespor, 1987). Some researchers claim most students have a strong belief system before they enter college. This perspective has its challenges. Imagine yourself a teacher trying to change a child's behavior. Does it happen over night? How often must the child be reminded? What rationale was given for changing the behavior? What obstacles lie in the way of change? When will the changed behavior become a permanent way of acting?

I don't have the answers for you but as you can see an instructor at the college level has their work cut out for them if they are going to shift a person's beliefs about anything. It is a person's beliefs that lie behind their actions; therefore, to change a person must challenge their core values to alter their behavior. This kind of classroom work with rising educators takes patience, perseverance, and dedication to the profession. Teacher change is at the root of creating organizational change in America's school systems. Fullan (2001) talks about teachers being change agents and to encounter real change schools must challenge the core values connected to the purpose of education.

Are you up for the challenge? Have you thought about your own personal core values that relate to educating children in today's schools? Is it time you ask yourself why you do what you do and if it is in the best interest of those you serve. Personal and vicarious experiences have shaped one's values making it difficult to question one's behaviors. This is not an easy task to undertake but it is one that America's schools will need to embrace if educational institutions are going to meet the needs of learners.

I'll end with a quote from Albert Einstein that speaks to the critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity students must engage in if they are to be successful in the 21st century. Who would have thought that a man born in 1879 could have such foresight. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Technology Integration & Teaching Practices

I have been reading several research studies and a few books to write a paper for my final Education Specialist course. Several studies provided data supporting a correlation between the beliefs of teachers and the use of computers in constructivist ways. Other research studies found little to no change in teaching practices with technology resources. America's schools have been touting educational reform with technology for the last three decades. Although investments in technology have been made only incremental change in teaching practices have been found in most research studies (Cuban, 2001). Policy makers and technology enthusiasts have yet to see their vision of student-centered teaching practices realized in every classroom.

Several researchers stated that beliefs are at the heart of teaching (Kagan, 1992). Beliefs are also the hardest to change and are formed early in life often before students enter college. This poses a problem for preservice teacher programs that must address the development of teaching practices which engages a teacher's beliefs. According to Nespor (1987)beliefs only change when there is a "conversion or gestalt shift". Ertmer (2005) believes there are three strategies for promoting change in teacher beliefs about teaching practices and technology: (1) personal experiences, (2) vicarious experiences, and (3) social-cultural influences (p.32).

If you want a good book to read that exposes some of the historical efforts made towards integrating technology pick up "Oversold & Underused:Computers in the classroom by Larry Cuban (2001). Much has changed since his book was written but it plants the foundation for where America's schools have been, how far some have come, and where we need to go. I must get back to writing that paper!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reaching for the STARS!

When a colleague of mine began to work with the community on an effort to get the vote out I was excited to offer my support. As her school families embarked upon this endeavor no one knew it would climb to such heights. The area news stations picked up on the spirit driving the campaign and began to provide additional support for this local school.

All one has to do is raise enough votes to earn a half million dollars. Sounds like an easy task but when you consider the size of some schools competing against Our Lady of Presentation School in Lee's Summit Missouri it is quite a feat that this small school has come so far. Will they make it? It truly is in the hands of the voter. Are you willing to step up and support the efforts of a small community wanting to provide an enhanced learning environment for their students? I am and I encourage you to do the same. CLICK on the VOTE now link.

Maybe you don't know the schools running. It really shouldn't matter to you. What does matter is that a business is willing to provide financial support to the educational process somewhere which will have a positive influence on children in our society. I encourage you to take the time to vote and make a difference in the lives of those who will lead tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Vision Realized !

This post is in response to a Google Buzz I received from a colleague who follows Dangerously Irrelevant's blog. The topic hit home! I am fortunate to be involved in the process of implementing a 1:1 netbook program this fall. The leadership of this institution courageously began with a school/parent/faculty survey to determine the needs of its learners. The results pointed directly to students needing more access and use of technology to enhance their college to work readiness skills in an ever changing world. A technology team of students, parents, and faculty explored multiple solutions and began a netbook pilot program last fall. The school campus went wireless within a few months, select students were issued netbooks, and teachers implemented the use of Moodle, a learning management system. Feedback was gathered throughout the school year in meetings with students, parents, and teachers. Collaboration among these stakeholders and the school's leadership led to a vision of every student being equipped with a personal laptop for the 2010-11 school year. Leadership recognized the need for teacher commitment to such a vision; therefore, she utilized professional development funds to take herself and seven others to the ISTE conference in Denver this past summer. I watched and listened as teachers shared comments about the tools and teaching strategies they planned to bring back to our faculty. It was evident that the development of leadership skills in others was blossoming right before my eyes. As these educators return to the classrooms this fall they will be instrumental in mentoring, coaching, and guiding their peers in effectively utilizing technology to engage 500 young women. I am honored to be an administrator working with this leader. Her ability to articulate a shared vision inspires people to embrace the necessary changes that will meet the needs of the community in an institution thats been serving students for over 140 years. A GREAT leader knows its all about the people first, not the technology.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I recently had the pleasure of plunging through hundreds of student surveys full of comments, hand crafted hearts, and multiple choice responses. It's that time of year when we ask our students about their learning experience in our classrooms. Well, did you read anything interesting this year? I learned a great deal, not only about our students perceptions of their experience but also about their instructors. The variety of surveys were as vast as the Grand Canyon is wide. I attempted to analyze the feedback through tally marks and hand written notes so that I could share a bit of information with each teacher. A few teachers utilized Google Docs to create surveys that streamlined the data into graphs and charts along with comments. I must say the use of technology expedited the analysis of the data gathered and made it user friendly.

This experience has left me exhausted, yet feeling positive about what we do well and where we need to improve. I am hopeful that in the future our teachers can work collaboratively on developing surveys that provide consistency in gathering feedback on instruction, departments, and courses. There are a multitude of questions we could ask to get us started on this process and many of the current surveys have questions that could be utilized with a wider audience. How will the surveys look? What will the surveys include? Who will be involved in developing surveys? How should the surveys be administered? What feedback do we really need or want and why? How do we plan to use the feedback from surveys? It may sound like a daunting task at first; however, any organization that believes in growth will embrace the opportunity!

Good luck wading through your feedback and please share any suggestions. I am all ears!