Transformations

How have I let almost 2 months pass without posting anything new?  Simply put, I just haven’t sat down long enough to post anything of relevance.  So here I am with tons of topics swirling in my head, and trying to pick just one in fear that I might not sit down to write again for another month!

Let’s talk about transformations in this post!  While transformations have multiple meanings, mathematical and otherwise, I want to talk about both in their appropriate contexts.

Let’s first talk about mathematical transformations; slides, flips, turns, etc. I recently visited a third grade classroom where the teacher was teaching this concept. The current state standards call for students to predict the results of one transformation of a geometric shape.  Sounds easy enough, right?   Unfortunately, I think this teacher was making it too easy (and slightly dry) for her students to really learn anything about transformations.  While I’m supportive of using videos in lessons, I noticed the videos this teacher used were a bit too sophisticated for students to make the connections about shapes. After viewing 4 different short videos, the teacher proceeded to do the transformations herself while asking students to merely identify which transformation she performed.  Instead, what if she asked the students, “How does a slide, flip, or turn affect a shape?” and provide students the opportunity to investigate this using attribute shapes, or laminated shapes, or even pattern blocks?  This is my feedback to the teacher so that she might rethink how the students can DO the learning, rather than her just telling them and using basic, low level recall of the terms slide, flip, and turn.

Okay, now let’s talk about another kind of transformation! My job allows me the privilege to provide a lot of professional development to teachers, I love it!  However I’ve noticed that professional development doesn’t always mean transformation in a teachers’ thinking or practice will take place, although that’s my goal.  So then, how do we  transform teachers’ thinking and practice?  This is such a huge undertaking, and oh so important for students, I have to continue to be patient, because I do see little glimpses of transformation in teachers’ thinking and practice daily.  Currently education in America as we’ve always known it is under close scrutiny to change,  or transform, and I’m excited to be part of this change. I do get frustrated at times,  I can’t lie about that.   I do not believe these transformations are a generational thing, I know they are not because I work with many colleagues who are not of my generation and they have transformed.  But, the daily struggle continues to be how do we help teachers make the transformations necessary to teach today’s students. While I don’t have an easy answer, I’ve come to this conclusion… Seeing is believing.  What I mean by this is that when teachers SEE something new modeled,  and they see that they CAN do it, see that students CAN do it, and then see achievement increase, their thinking transforms, therefore their practices transform.  It’s as simple as that.  So while we can’t force teachers to change their thinking, it’s my job as an instructional coach and leader to let teachers SEE me transform, share my own journey of transformation, and celebrate when I see them make a transformation.

I would love to hear how you have transformed in your own thinking and practice!

March 29, 2013 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Textbooks

Happy New Year! Now that school is back in full swing, I’m getting my head together for topics to blog about and that might be of interest to you too!  So let’s talk about textbooks.  In my opinion, and in my practice, textbooks are just a resource.  However, there are funds distributed to school districts which are earmarked specifically for new textbooks, so every 5 years we go through the process of choosing “the best one”.  I recently attended a Textbook Caravan where the publishers and their sales representatives show you all the bells and whistles that their product contains.  While they all have positive attributes and something to offer, I couldn’t help but think while I sat there that’d I’d like to take parts of some and put them with parts of others to create a specialized textbook, just for my taste.  Wouldn’t that be cool as a teacher? Tell the publisher exactly which components you want, tell another publisher their components you want, and spend the money making your ideal resource book! That’s why I’ve always viewed textbooks as a resource, not a bible for the content.  But, I suppose there are teachers out there who are either told they have to follow the book (poor things), or they just are not comfortable enough creating their own lessons (can’t imagine) and so they resort to going by the book.  Let me just say this, the math textbook is probably what made me hate math as a student… it was dry, boring, and all those practice problems we were assigned, when what I really wanted to do and what I really understood was the Problem Solving section! If anyone reading this happens to be a textbook publisher, I urge you, please… please… change format, especially now with Common Core State Standards.  Put problem solving at the beginning of the lesson, this way students can comprehend and make sense of the math, which by the way, is the most important part of the learning progression.  Then put a few guided practice or independent practice standard algorithm type of problems at the end of the lesson.  Until we design textbooks for the way students learn, from concrete to abstract, we will continue to lose them, especially in mathematics. But I will continue to design problems and encourage teachers to do so as well, and help students make connections to the math they use in their everyday lives.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about textbooks and how they are used in your school or classroom. 

January 21, 2013 at 5:53 am Leave a comment

Change or Growth Opportunity

I consider myself, along with all educators, to be change agents.  Sometimes though change is scary and resisted, in fact, it’s often resisted. How can change be presented as a growth opportunity? 

I think most educators, teachers especially, would agree that change is difficult.  Why is it difficult? I cannot answer this for all, but my observations and own experiences have led me to conclude that CHANGE is difficult because there a lot of unknowns.  Who is requiring the change? Why do we need to change? What needs to be changed? Will we have the funds to  make the change? Will we have the support? Will there be enough time to make the change and still make sure my students meet the requirements?  All of these unknowns create an uncomfortable feeling, the feeling of being out of control.  There, I said it, the feeling of being out of control is uncomfortable.

Have you ever considered that we are not in control of our growth (technically speaking), yet we do not fear growing? Yes, we go through “growing pains”, but nobody is in hysterics because they’re growing and that comes with unknowns as well. 

So here’s what I’m proposing… let’s just say that instead of presenting changes that have to happen as CHANGE, could we not use the phrase, GROWTH OPPORTUNITY?  When educators know that there is an opportunity to grow, change is bound to transpire. Teachers are life-long learners and they thrive on growth opportunities, especially when they can see the growth in their students! Think about it, teachers provide students growth opportunities all day long through creative and engaging lessons, and most of the time, if they see the opportunities with support and guidance, they don’t frantically resist the change, so why do we not view changes as adults this way? Where in our lifetime did change do us wrong?  I’m not sure where the breakdown happens (ed), but I do know that we are in an exciting time to really change education, for the better, and in order to do so, we have to get buy in from all stakeholders!

This cultural shift that is taking place is exciting, and yes, there are unknowns, and things out of our control, but when you really think about the possibilities, the opportunities, for growth as a nation, as a human race, does it not send chills down your spine and make you want to be part of it?  I know for myself I became an educator  because of the countless opportunities for growth!  So whether you are a parent, a teacher, an administrator, or a politician will you present it as Change or a Growth Opportunity when seeking buy in from others? Will you support others in their growth opportunity or leave them to flounder? Will you evaluate success or failure, or look at growth and progress?

*Note: Why did I put the word Change in red and Growth Opportunity in green? People associate red with stop, bad (remember when you got your papers back with red marks all over them?), meaning we also associate change with having to stop what we’re doing. However green is associated with going forward and it’s also a soothing color, therefore, if we see growth opportunities   to keep moving forward and to make  adjustments, rather than stop everything we know and do.

November 26, 2012 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

Welcome to Graduate School!

Two weeks ago, I took a big step in continuing my journey as an educational leader. I began graduate school, working towards a Masters degree in Educational Leadership.  WOW!  By December 2014, I will hopefully be certified as an administrator… the possibility of becoming a building level principal is exciting, yet overwhelming at the same time.  While I’m still not certain that I’ll immediately go in that direction, I want to keep my options open.  What I do know is that I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the opportunities I’ve been given as a teacher, teacher-leader, and instructional coach!  I’m humbled everyday by my teachers; no matter how big or little, how old or young, no matter what color or cultural background, I’m constantly learning new things from those around me!  

Last weekend, as I worked diligently with two partners in my class on our first of two presentations, I learned that I am a “big-picture” thinker, and that I do have patience for inexperienced, as well as experienced people, and I also learned two HUGE lessons about working with other people via emails.  The first lesson taught me that I need to clearly communicate my thoughts, especially when planning through email.  This one kind of caught me by surprise, because I used to type out very detailed thoughts, and then I started learning from some of my coworkers that they don’t really want to read those long emails, so I’ve tried really hard to pick out main ideas and just get to my point.  Well, I learned that when dealing with new people, that don’t know you very well, and that haven’t established a certain level of trust with you, it’s better to be as detailed as possible, clearly communicating what you are thinking! These will ease any anxiety another might have.  The second big lesson I learned, which has been developing recently, is don’t assume others know what you know!  I have a lot of trust in people as professionals, therefore I trust that they are lifelong learners, and continue to build their own capacity. While this still might be true, everyone’s different, and not everyone is at the same level, nor has everyone had the same experiences, therefore it’s important not to assume others know what I know. And I really don’t know much! Needless to say, we rocked our presentation!  

My program is considered intensive. I’m learning new things, while validating some things I’ve learned along my own journey. I’m also making many connections between the theories and concepts of educational administration and what I see in schools I work with. My list of questions continues…

How do you create, maintain, and change school culture?

How do you know in which environment you’ll be most effective?

Which style of leadership is most effective?When?

What are some mistakes new principals have made? 

What are some accomplishments of effective principals?

Will my teacher friends remain my friends when I become a principal?

Who are my mentors?

What traits and characteristics are the most effective from the  8 principals I’ve worked for in my career thus far?

If you have any words of wisdom, please leave a comment. I continue to be open to new ideas, and am excited that I’m finally taking this step. And  I’m forever grateful that I have a very supportive husband in this journey!

 

 

October 28, 2012 at 6:56 am Leave a comment

Excellence is an Attitude

When I first moved into my current office, I didn’t really think about the decor, as I don’t spend too much time in my office.  The one thing I did find that I knew for certain I wanted displayed in there was a sign I found that simply stated, “Excellence is not a skill, it is an attitude.”  Coaching people to be “excellent” is part of my job.

One of the greatest rewards of being an instructional coach is getting numerous opportunities to observe and interact with teachers and students in their own classrooms.  Recently, I’ve been to several of our elementary schools to do quick, informative assessments of where teachers are with implementing Math Workshop. We have been doing professional development and making the shift to more of a conceptual, problem solving approach in our mathematics instruction, so it’s a journey. Just like students, our teachers are at different levels on the journey, however one major piece that’s been lacking for many teachers on this journey has been feedback. Meaningful feedback, constructive feedback is SO important in order for teachers to improve and change. Just like students need to be met wherever they are in their understanding, and given feedback that will move them forward, teachers need this too.

Here are a few essentials for providing meaningful feedback to teachers:

1. Find out what they DO know, and what they CAN do.

2.  Be honest, yet humble.  

3. Ask a question to spark thinking.

4. Focus on the positives and build from there.

5. Provide a model of what you are expecting.

These essentials are really the same for giving feedback to students.

In his book, An Ethic of Excellence, Ron Berger describes how providing exemplars, examples of excellent work for students, we help them to see their own progress.  This concept is just as applicable to teachers. (or anyone, really)

While this is a cultural shift in thinking differently than just a right or a wrong answer, this way of providing feedback will move teachers toward greatness. And who doesn’t want a GREAT teacher?

 

October 20, 2012 at 10:29 am Leave a comment

Twenty Questions

 

1. What is your strength?

2. What is your weakness?

3. How are you working on the weakness?

4. Who can help you?

5. What do you notice about other people?

6.What do other people notice about you?

7. When is enough, enough?

8. Am I doing enough?

9. Am I doing too much?

10. How can I change that?

11. How can we change that?

12. What do you believe?

13. Who do you trust?

14. Why don’t they teach that in “school”?

15. Does it matter? Why or why not?

16. What impact will this have?

17. Who is on board?

18. Who isn’t on board? Why aren’t they?

19. Why?

20. Why not?

I do not have all the answers, I just continue to ask the questions and enjoy the journey.  What questions do you have?

 

October 5, 2012 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Tweeps Worth Following

This will be a very brief entry tonight, but I’ve been meaning to share some great recommendations for WHO to follow on Twitter.  And, by all means, if you know of someone I can learn from, please leave a comment and share.  I am always open to learning from others, especially those who can help me grow into the educational leader I aspire to be!

Here they are:

  • Bruce Ferrington is an AMAZING, yes, AMAZING math teacher!  He is phenomenal at providing students opportunities to inquire about  math.  He posts frequently here on his blog, with not only great writing about his lessons, but also pictures of student work!  He is located in Australia. 
  • Joe Mazza is the principal of an elementary school in Pennsylvania who has a wealth of knowledge to share, and he does, here.  He is well versed in using social media to connect students, parents, and teachers to strengthen home-school partnerships.  
  • John Wink is an elementary principal in Texas who is just phenomenal.  I seriously want to work with this guy!  He shares his passion for education here. Mr. Wink shares positive insight on leading a school in the 21st Century.
  • Dan Rockwell @ Leadershipfreak is just that… a freak about leadership!  This man is inspiring and constantly makes me reflect on what kind of leader I am, and what kind of leader I aspire to be.  This is what his profile on Twitter states, “My dream is when people see me they think that guy made my life better.” Seriously… he makes my life better, and constantly makes me want to be a better leader!

There are so many people to follow on Twitter, and I’m realizing that sometimes less really is more.  These four are on the top of my list, and when I only have a few minutes, I usually scroll straight to one of them to get inspired.  

September 25, 2012 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

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Kristen Hahn

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