Byron's Babbles

Teacher Leadership

IMG_3896This week I had the chance to do a couple of sessions on Teacher Leadership at the Impact CSUSA 2020 Conference that Noble Education Initiative put on. In the session we discussed creating a shared leadership model and engagement pipeline. I even did a plate spinning show to represent how hard it is to spin all the plates we need to as leaders. If we empower teacher leaders, we can spread out the load and keep all the plates spinning. We must create a supportive community where everyone helps to spin the plates. By the way, I can only keep three going at once, but brought others up and we were able to have all six plates that I have going at once. Another one of my metaphors!

IMG_3891First, let’s start by answering the question, “What is teacher leadership?”Here’s the definition I have always liked: “Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively; influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement.” (York-Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 287) During the workshop, participants came up with a list of teacher leadership roles. Here is there list:IMG_3884I also laid out a seven step process for growing teacher leaders:

  1. Realize teacher leadership is essential
  2. Recognize teacher leadership as a teachable skill
  3. Recruit teachers to become teacher leaders
  4. Build leadership capabilities among teachers
  5. Nurture leadership qualities in teachers
  6. Empower teacher leaders
  7. Provide ongoing professional growth opportunities for teacher leaders

Of course it wouldn’t be a session by me without there being model making, innovation, creativity, and creations. First, I asked the question, “Why is building a great teacher leadership pipeline more like chess than checkers?” We had a great discussion in both sessions about this. We discussed how in checkers there are very limited moves and you can’t the checkers cannot be promoted until they reach the other side of the board – we believe everyone should lead from where they are. We discussed how chess is about strategy and a longer term overall play. I’m sure you get the idea.

I broke the participants into groups of four or five, gave them a chess board, pipe cleaners of all sizes, colors, and even with glitter, glue sticks, masking tape, little eyes, fuzzy balls of all sizes, and straws. I then told them that there objective was to replace the traditional chess pieces with ones that represented the ideal chess game for building an amazing pipeline of teacher leaders. I’ve got to tell you, it was amazing to watch them. Even more amazing were the descriptions of the chess pieces and and the discussion. Following are pictures of some of the games created:IMG_3892

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Finally, we created a list of attributes for effectively developing teacher leaders. Here’s our list:

  • Results-driven
  • Standards-based
  • Job-embedded
  • Differentiated
  • Linked to learning needs (student and teacher)
  • Collaborative in nature
  • Sustained over time
  • Discipline-focused/Content rich
  • Reflective
  • Evaluated

How are you doing at developing your teacher leaders?

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Using A Different Runway To Help Students Take Off To New Heights

This morning as I was trying to fly home from Charlotte, North Carolina, the pilot came on and said there would be a slight delay. Because of the storm that was Hurricane Michael, we were going to have to use a runway that they usually do not use. He told us we would be using the runway going to the northeast, whereas typically the north/south runways are used. They would need 15 minutes to recalculate takeoff speeds, routes when in the air, et cetera. I was cool with it as long as we got in the air, headed north, and away from the storm.

As you know, I love metaphors, analogies, and similes; so here we go: I compared this to how, as teachers, we must constantly be making adjustments. We are constantly having to recalculate for our students and use new runways. We regroup students based on data, we spiral in new material based on mastery, we develop ways to maintain the proficiencies already mastered. Adjusting and recalculating instruction also means providing more opportunities for students to learn successfully based on information you gather such as their interests, work habits, motivation and learning styles and academic performance. Doing this on a consistent basis helps refine instruction so they can succeed.

Great teachers are those who know their students abilities, know the students proficiency of standards, and then use that information to determine how and what they will teach. They use educational standards and differentiation to guide instruction, while constantly focusing on 1) what the students know, and 2) what objectives (or steps) they need to take) to fulfill their goals. They focus on what the students can do today. How about you; Are you recalculating for a different runway for the success of your students?

Cultivating Your Team For Maximum Growth & Blooms

Consideration of the flower bed and the flower farmer is fertile ground that allows a leader to reflect upon her or his own performance. It gives insight into the needs of the flower bed (the people) and the outlook and perspectives needed by the person involved in floriculture (the leader). As leaders we need to develop ourselves as a leader and as a servant so that, together with our people, we can flourish and achieve our full potential in the purpose of our organization.

I was reminded of this flower bed analogy this week when working with our South Carolina 3D Leadership cohort. I already blogged about our project of carving pumpkins to tell the story of “Truths We Are Frustrated With.” Click here to read my original post about this project from our Indiana cohort entitled, “The Messiness Of The Truths We Are Frustrated With.”

Ms. Russell’s Pumpkin 🎃 Carving

Ms. Linda Russell, Kindergarten teacher at Mevers School Of Excellence in Goose Creek, South Carolina, carved her pumpkin in the shape of an irregular flower with her as the stem. Her point was that everyone, just like the petals of a flower, develop at different rates, different sizes, in different ways, and has different needs. As Ms. Russell works as Kindergarten lead, this is a truth she has to remember. She has to work hard to not be frustrated by this, but embrace it. As I always say, we work really hard at differentiating for our students, but then don’t do a good job of differentiating for the different professional growth needs of our team members.We need to design professional growth opportunities that embrace the fact that we all develop like flowers. Too often, we fail to be good gardeners (leaders) in providing the choice, agency, and nurturing our team members deserve. How about about you? Are you doing everything you can to enhance the growth of your blooming team members?

Relevant & Engaging Learning

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Doing An Engaging Lesson With Ms. Russell’s Kindergarten Class

This past week I had the opportunity to work closely with Mevers School of Excellence by focusing on student engagement and teaching using a relevant context. Most of you know this is a real purpose and passion area for me. I believe these are the two most critical components to student learning. It is just common sense that the more students are engaged, the more they will see the relevance of their experiences, feel connected to their school experiences and develop more positive attitudes and attributes, both inside and outside of the school walls. Student engagement must be part of a comprehensive strategy to have students fully develop their academic, social-emotional, civic and career knowledge and skills.

Learning in a relevant context is also a critical part to student engagement. True engagement happens when students discover that learning is a personal endeavor. Learning can only become personal when it is in a context that connects the learning to the students real life. In other words, as I always say, school work must be like real work. Mevers School of Excellence is a K-7 school and we discussed that school work can even be made relevant for kindergartners. I had the opportunity to work with Ms. Russell’s kindergarten class. Using pumpkins right now, at this time of year, for learning numbers, number sense, and counting is a real thing to these students. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; it just needs to be personal and real to the student.

When students make the connection from true engagement, they begin to understand that lessons and tasks are worthwhile because they help them meet personal goals they have begun to set for themselves, not just the teacher’s goals for them. Engagement and relevancy enable students to own their own learning. One of the activities that I had the Mevers School of Excellence teachers do during a professional development I conducted was to develop their own definition for student engagement and relevancy. To culminate their work, they developed a graphic recording of their definitions. Here’s the deal: If we want students engaged we must have students working in teams to experience and explore relevant, real-world problems, questions issues, and challenges; then have them create presentations and products to share what they have learned. Student motivation comes from lessons facilitated utilizing and encouraging student creativity, innovation, and problem solving. I have attached pictures here of their awesome work:

Schools need to have a systemic focus for all teachers to be facilitating learning in an engaging and relevant way. Student engagement needs to be intricately tied to how the school functions, supported in the context of a positive, safe, caring and equitable school climate.

North Carolina Leader Traits

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North Carolina 3D Leadership Cohort #1

Last night at our North Carolina cohort of 3D Leadership developed their top five list of good leadership traits and bad leadership traits. To do this we used one of my go to facilitation props (no pun intended), the toy prop gliders. Here is what participants did:

The groups then got back together and listed their top five list. Then the whole cohort voted on the top five good leadership traits and top five bad leadership traits. Here are the results:

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It is always interesting to me that as I do this in many different states and with individuals of different experiences, how different the lists can be. Successful organizations need leaders, someone (or as I believe everyone) who can inspire employees and lead them and the organization toward success. Leaders encourage others to work to their full potential, inspire creativity and aid motivation. During turbulent times, the need for good leaders intensifies. As I always say, “Leading is easy when things are going great, but really hard when it is chaos and earthquakes.” Someone who presents a clear vision for recovery, leads by example and instills confidence in those around them. A good leader has many traits, if you can recognize these within yourself and capitalize on them, then you can become a successful leader in your work environment and on your team.

By consciously making an effort to exhibit the traits highlighted by my North Carolina friends, people will be more likely to follow us. If we exhibit these traits on a regular basis, we will be able to grow our influence to its full potential as a leader. What’s on your top five list of good and bad leadership traits?

Employers Need To Know What To Expect

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 4.43.46 PMIn meetings this past week a theme developed: Employers need to know what to expect. This was referring to the fact that employers need to know what to expect that students coming to work for them will know. As I have continued my work, as an Indiana State Board of Education member and Chair of the Indiana Graduation Pathways, I am spending a great deal of time with employers, learning the employee skill needs. It is abundantly clear there is a skills gap, but I do not believe it is insurmountable. I believe the answer is to identify those transferable skills and competencies that every student needs. Additionally, the transferable skills and competencies needed for specific trades need to be identified.

Even though the study dealt with college students, The Chronicle For Higher Education reported on a study that dealt with the question of “The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates.” What the study found was that employers really value experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars. I have to believe this would also apply to high school graduates. From the many employers I have visited with, I would have to say that these things do apply to high school students. Maybe even more!

Below is the graph of the results from what employers want:

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One of the pieces of our Indiana Graduation Pathways we were very explicit about was the need for Work Based Learning and Project Based Learning. Just so we are on the same page, Work Based Learning is an educational strategy that provides students with real-life and real-world work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop their employability skills in a relevant context. Work-based learning encompasses a wide array of learning experiences, from exposing high school students to careers through activities like job shadowing, to providing incumbent workers with specialized training. Work-based learning extends into the workplace through on-the-job training, mentoring, and other supports in a continuum of lifelong learning and skill development. I really want to highlight the point of lifelong learning. We really need to get out of the fixed mindset that the pathway everyone should take is to graduate high school and go straight to a four year college/university. This is not for everyone and Work Based Learning can help provide an avenue for our students.

Work Based Learning is at its most powerful when experiences advance along a sequential, purposeful continuum. Experiences along the continuum are increasingly personalized and aligned with specific industries and occupations, providing participants with opportunities to contextualize what they learn and build their skills and knowledge. This also can provide the employer with a pipeline of employees that have been trained in their own environment and on their own equipment. In this setting employers know exactly what they are getting.

Even beyond the Work Based Learning, however, employers need to know what to expect from the students that will become their future employees. We need to partner with employers to develop transferable skills and competencies that all students need to know. We really need to take a step back and fully develop what every high school needs to know when he/she graduates. Make no mistake, I am not saying students do not need math, English, and the other cores we always discuss, but that there is more. Employers need to know what to expect from the future employees, that are our students. We need to listen and make sure what employers expect is what employers get. Furthermore we must also make sure our students know what to expect they will be expected to know when entering the workplace.

 

Pathways to Success after High School

A high school diploma no longer is the finish line—it’s now the starting line. Job growth and trends over the past 10 years have shown about 95 percent of jobs require some education after high school.

Recognizing that Indiana must offer more than a one-size-fits-all standardized test, the Indiana General Assembly took action to provide meaningful pathways for Hoosiers’ success. In the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers directed the Indiana State Board of Education to modify Indiana’s graduation requirements, ensuring students are better prepared to enter a new economy. The goal was simple: offer pathways that provide relevancy for students and better prepare them for life after high school.

Later that year, the State Board approved what is now known as Indiana’s Graduation Pathways. During this process, the State Board collaborated with national and state experts while engaging students, parents and educators on how to effectively deliver lasting value to all students through their education journey.

To complete a pathway, a student must take several actions, including fulfilling Indiana’s course requirements and completing an employability experience by applying classwork to real-world situations. This could include completion of an independent research project, participating in meaningful civic engagement or having a part-time job, apprenticeship or internship. Students must also choose a benchmark that best suits their career goals, such as taking the SAT or ACT to attend college, completing the ASVAB to join the military or earning a state-and-industry recognized credential or certification to join the workforce. Selecting and completing a pathway ensures students are better prepared to transition from high school to college, the workforce or the military.

While Graduation Pathways won’t be a requirement until the class of 2023 – this year’s eighth graders – some Indiana schools are implementing Graduation Pathways right now. In these school districts, parents and educators can have conversations with their students about an individualized graduation plan that provides students a relevant education, prepares them for the global economy fuels a desire for lifelong learning. Parents should have conversations with their local school officials to determine the implementation timeline at their child’s school.

Using Graduation Pathways allows Hoosier students to transition from high school into life’s next steps. Together, we’ll raise the bar for our state’s future workforce, so that today’s students will graduate with the relevant skills needed to compete in a global economy.

Meaningful Learning On A Lobster Boat

This week while spending time with the family on the coast of Maine I was reminded how important, meaningful and experiential learning experience are – for both adults and young scholars alike. I had the opportunity to get us aboard a commercial lobster boat in Rockland Harbor, Maine. Yes, this was no site-seeing cruise, it was an actual experience on the boat checking, emptying, and re-baiting lobster traps. Even though we were on vacation, I always want there to be some family learning experiences. That same morning we had stopped and spent time in Brunsick, Maine at Bowdoin College learning more about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. You can click here to read my blog post about that experience entitled, Independence Day Leadership Lessons From Maine & Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

Hope, Heath, and I all love lobster, but knew nothing about how they were harvested or the industry of getting them from ocean to table. I knew a little bout their life cycle and had blogged about it in Leading Like A Lobster, but other than that I was ready to be a sponge for learning. We started off by learning that the different lobsterwomen and lobstermen have an area assigned with their special license for harvesting lobsters, and in our case, our lobsterman had the ability to put out 800 lobster traps; or lobster pots as they are often called. We also learned that each lobster boat has their own buoy colors, much like horse racing silks, to identify his or her lobster traps. We were looking for white buoys with a black stripe, and orange fin (see picture) attached to the lobster traps. We really didn’t have to look, though, the captain had the all entered in his GPS.

Lobster traps are interestingly designed tools of the trade. The first “room” the lobster enters is the “kitchen” where lobster-enticing bait is hung. Bait may be fresh or salted fish on a line or tied in a hanging bag. After the lobster enters the kitchen, it grabs a piece of bait with its claw and begins maneuvering towards an exit. It is difficult to go out the way it entered due to the design of the funnel. As the lobster continues seeking an exit, it passes through another funnel leading to the “parlor” or “bedroom” in the rear of the trap. Here, the larger lobsters become trapped.

Once a buoy is located, the trap is pulled up using a motorized pulley system. Click play and see my video I made of this process below this paragraph. If lobsters are in the trap they must be measured using a special tool. Lobsters must be 3 1/4″ from the head to the base of the body (where the tail starts). Lobsters that are big enough are thrown in the holding cooler and ones that are too small are thrown back. The lobster trap is then re-baited and sent back down to the bottom. In our case we were using Herring that our lobsterman gets from his wholesaler who buys his lobsters. These are fish that have died or do not meet the grade to make to retail. Nothing is wasted out there.

The keeper lobsters, which are usually anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 pounds with some weighing up to 2 pounds, then have their claws bands so they do not harm the other lobsters, or us. To see the banding process, click play on the video I made of being taught how to band the claws below:

It was so awesome to be out on the water learning this business. At the time we were there the lobsters were going through ecdysis (molting). To learn about this read my post Leading Like A Lobster. We learned that those lobsters beginning the process of losing their shell to go through another growth spurt have soft shells. To see if they are hard or soft shelled you hold the lobster between your thumb and forefinger like I am doing in the picture. The hard shelled lobsters are hard as a rock. The soft shelled lobsters are soft and pliable. These soft shelled lobsters are desirable to many because the meat is much sweeter. In fact at the retail lobster places they will ask if you want soft or hard shelled lobsters. Note that the lobsters we brought home were all soft shelled. And…they were outstanding!

The lobsterman then brought his catch back to the dock after checking the traps. Our lobster tries to check about 1/3 to 1/2 of his traps every day. Many check all traps every day. The lobsters can then be sold directly to customers that come to the docks to by directly from the lobster boats (our lobsterman comes in at specific times each day, so regular customers can come and check his catch) or to wholesalers who then sell to restaurants, stores, or retail lobster outlets. Many of the wholesalers have retail outlets up and down the coast as well. The tricky part is that lobsters need to be kept alive till they are prepared. This is why lobster is expensive to buy in a restaurant or retail outlet. There is a considerable margin between buying live lobsters direct off the boat and from a retail outlet. For example, live lobsters off the boat were going for $6.00 per pound and lobster meat in the retail outlets was going for $39.99 per pound. Live lobsters at the Maine retail outlet are $15.00-25.00 per lobster. Most of the retail outlets here in Maine have live lobsters and lobster meat that has been already taken from the shell (pulled) available.

We were able to select three lobsters out of the holding cooler to bring home for our dinner. Hope steamed them perfectly, and boy were they awesome. We literally had the ocean to table experience – first hand!

As you can see, lobstering is quite the industry. We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend the day serving as apprentices to the business. We learned so much more by actually being immersed (no pun intended) in the business. It is so important that we find ways for our students to have these kinds of experiences. Whether through true apprenticeship programs, or through internships, or through one day field trip type experiences like we had. Experiential and hands-on learning is so much more meaningful than any other way we can learn.

Learning By Playing Like Kittens

Those of you who know me well, know that I really value my time in the barn in the morning. For some reason I can be working along giving bottles to babies, milking cows, or washing heifers, and at the same time, be thinking and reflecting on a lot of things. This morning I became entranced while watching a new litter of kittens romping and playing. They would go from one end of the barn to the other and then became totally into playing on a feed pallet we had leaned up against a grooming chute. They would climb, jump, and knock each other off. Such fun!

I began to think about all the things learned while playing. I also thought about how important it is for us to make learning fun for both our student and adult learners. Here is what kittens learn from playing, according to iheartcats:

6 Life Skills Kittens Learn By Playing With Each Other

• #1 – How to hunt. Kitten play is full of stalking, chasing, and tackling to the ground. …

• #2 – Good social skills. In order to grow into social, emotionally-healthy cats, kittens need to be socialized. …

• #3 – Coordination. …

• #4 – Communication. …

• #5 – Confidence. …

• #6 – Boundaries.

Most of these are skills we need all need to have. I have to tell you I witnessed a large group engaged in fun learning this past Friday. I had the opportunity to keynote an event. Click here to read about it. During my keynote, that was about the critical need for relevant learning, I had the over 200 participants put together toy glider planes I had put on the tables ahead of time. Everyone at each table became a team and the participants developed team names and then wrote the team name on the wing of their plane. Four containers had then been placed at the corners of the room and boundaries marked off. The participants were given time to put the planes together, practice, and then given one try at gliding the plane into the container.

I have to tell you, every person was up and engaged. There were questions being asked, teams practicing, laughing, strategizing, and adults and students having fun. It was amazing! Check out this video tweet – it shows it all. Click here to watch. All the while, they were learning the importance of learning in a relevant and engaging way. And…let’s see here…they were learning social skills – team work, coordination, communication – giving advice and feedback to one another, confidence – rooting each other on, and boundaries.

So, just as we know play is the cornerstone of the kitten’s learning process in the first few weeks and months of its life; I believe it is also the cornerstone of learning for our students and lifelong learning adults. It is by playing together that we humans and kittens will develop both physical and mental abilities. But play is more than that: it is also good, rollicking fun, which in turn increases both the kitten’s and our social skills, technical skills, and sociability.

The Critical Need for Relevant Learning

IMG_3066This past Friday I had the opportunity to attend and keynote a tremendous event put on by the Horizon Education Alliance. The event was called “Pathway Showcase” and was held in the Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre, which by the way is an awesome facility in Elkhart, Indiana.  More than 200 local educators, business and state government leaders were there to see project based learning (PBL) projects that were created in partnerships between students, teachers, and business leaders. These projects were created in order to teach our students in a relevant context – a subject near and dear to my heart. There were more than 40 of these projects that took place this past year. I continue to be so impressed with the work of Horizon Education Alliance to bring the Elkhart County community together to collaborate for the betterment of education for our students.

During my keynote I talked about how we need to connect school work to real life. I told attendees that education exists in the larger context of society. Students need to know why they are learning what we are teaching and how the learning fits into his/her real world context. When society changes, so too must education, if it is to remain viable. We need to be teaching our students to use adaptation to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate to apply the learning to real world predictable and unpredictable situations. If we can achieve this level of relevant learning our students will be motivated and have the ability to creatively innovate and problem solve.

I was so inspired to spend time talking with the students, teachers, and industry leaders about their projects. What I found were students working in teams to experience and explore relevant, real-world problems, questions, issues, and challenges; then creating presentations and products to share what they have learned. What I found were engaged students who were great communicators and very passionate about the projects created for their learning.

IMG_3039All the projects were awesome, but a couple really spoke to me. Chamberlain Elementary School students walked me through how they had learned to create by developing a first draft, multiple revisions, practicing and receiving feedback, and then finishing the final draft. These Chamberlain Explorers were learning to iterate. The students would not let me leave without sharing the Chamberlain Habits of Scholarship. See photo below for the habits:

IMG_3038I also had the opportunity to meet students from Elkhart Memorial High School who had been doing real world/real time research on soybean phytopathology with scientists from Agdia, Inc. As a former Agriculture Science teacher I could not have been prouder of these students. We cannot make it much more relevant for our students than having them do actual research on real problems with actual scientists. This adult interaction is also a very important part of facilitating relevant learning.

IMG_3033At the end of the event I really got emotional and realized that the world is going to be o.k. as long as we continue to teach our students relevant skills in engaging ways. Here are my final thoughts on how to make learning relevant and meaningful for our students:

To learn collaboration  work in teams

To learn critical thinking – take on complex problems

To learn oral communication – present

To learn written communications – write

Thank you to all the schools in Elkhart County and to Horizon Education Alliance for inspiring me and what you are doing for students!