Byron's Babbles

We Have To Norm That…

We had a great norming session today for our teacher evaluation team. This has been an important monthly retreat for making sure the team is doing all they can to help our teachers on their journey of continuous improvement. Norming helps us to unpack the nuances of teaching practices that have the greatest potential for improving student achievement. 

Our norming sessions prompt teachers and administrators to engage in professional conversations that make the critical link between teaching and the supports that teachers need to improve and hone their skills. This common understanding is the basis for high-quality evaluation systems that can drive professional growth. Our goal is to help all teachers grow throughout their careers. 

We believe teachers and administrators need a common language and vision about what constitutes effective practice. Being able to identify and  articulate these practices allows administrators to assess teachers and provide them with feedback on their strengths and areas for growth.

Here are our graphic notes I created from our norming session today:

Instant Relevance

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Global Education, science education, Teacher Evaluation by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 19, 2016

fileInstant Relevance: Using Today’s Experiences to Teach Tomorrow’s Lessons by Denis Sheeran

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first thing that struck me about this book was Denis’ use of Thinking Questions at the end of every chapter to guide the reader through the learning. As we know, questions open the door to the future and are more powerful than answers in that they demand engagement. I couldn’t help but be engaged as I read this book. As a believer in the fact that context and relevance matters, this book hits the mark.file1

Denis shows you how he brings his life into the classroom. Whether we like it or not, our students want to get to know us – and why not? Or, why would we not want to form that relationship? As Denis said, “We have no choice but to make learning more relevant to our students, or they will learn without us.” If you want to make school work relevant and learn along with your students, you need to read this book.

~Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

Leadership Ink

Regardless of your position on this topic, “inking” is in. What I’m talking about is tattooing. The interest of young and old in getting a tattoo is increasing. Many of our heroes have ink and we maybe want one too. Amazingly, 25% of those getting tattoos regret it within the first month of getting the tattoo. Now, to be clear, I don’t really think I want a tattoo right now, but I do have a temporary tattoo that won’t seem to go away. Let me tell you the story.

This past weekend we used Emojis as a “through line” for our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) December retreat. The first activity we did had participants pick an Emoji temporary tattoo and put it somewhere on their body. Check out the picture of the sheet of available tattoos. The catch was, you needed to explain why you picked the tattoo you did and the significance of where you placed the ink on your body. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun with this.

This was an exciting and inspiring activity. The explanations were very well thought out. Some were comical, while at the same time being very meaningful and heartfelt. I am hoping our Cohort #2 FLA members will reply to this post with their stories. Here’s mine:

“I chose to put the two pink hearts Emoji on the inside of my right wrist. I explained this was because I love FLA and love facilitating the learning of our teacher leaders. In the words of Cohort # 1 graduate, Jill Landers, these weekend retreats are Byron’s “leadership heroine.” She’s right; I’m addicted. Furthermore, I placed the tattoo on the inside of my wrist because by personally working with our teacher leaders it helps me keep a pulse on what is going on with our teachers.” ~ Byron

Now, here we are almost a week later and my temporary tattoo looks just as good as on the day I applied it. At first I got a little concerned, but I have gotten used to it and actually really like it. I keep getting questions about it. Questions like the one at the state board of education meeting this week, “Byron, do you really have a tattoo of two pink hearts on your wrist?” These questions give me the chance to say “Why yes. Let me tell you why and about the journey our teacher leaders are taking through our Focused Leader Academy.”

So, if you were going to get some first time, or new, leadership ink; what would your tattoo be and why?

Emojis…Creative or Lazy?

fileHere is the sixth and final guest post in this series on Emojis from our top teacher leaders. It has been exciting to bring you a new post every day this week from these talented individuals. The goal was for this cohort of our Focused Leader Academy to experience the thrill of putting content out there for anyone and everyone to read in the form of a blog post. They explained that it was a little scary and intimidating to put thoughts out there for others to critique. The biggest question our reluctant bloggers were asking was “Will I be clever?” While, yes, there is a certain amount of vulnerability, blogs can enable self growth, serve as a journal, and most importantly to me – serve as a library of personal thoughts, research, and lessons learned. I go to the archive of my posts often to get information from the past that I have documented in my blog. Blogs are an incredible leadership tool for your organization’s to know about you as the leader, but I believe blogs are most valuable as a personal tool.screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-29-49-am

Check out this awesome post by Ann Semon and Aimee Campbell:

Emojis…Creative or Lazy?

“People who use emojis are too stupid to communicate with actual vocabulary.” This was a quote we saw on the internet, which sparked controversy. Are emojis stupid? Do people use them as a cop-out for thinking OR as an alternate way of communication? The way people communicate in 2016 come in various forms of email, text, tweets, etc. Does this mean we are dumbed down or actually more innovative and creative? It’s your choice.

Benefits:

Courtney Seiter says, “Scientists have discovered that when we look at smiley faces online, the same parts of the brain are activated as when we look at a real human face.” She goes on to say that emojis replace the tone of voice you would hear in typical conversation, thus creating an online version of empathy. When you communicate with emojis, are you using them as a tool to express emotions or as a symbol to replace real vocabulary? Right brained people tend to take a more artistic approach to communication, and like to be shown rather than told. Right brained people also prefer to draw rather than write which may lead us to believe, if you use emojis, you might have right brained tendencies.

Symbolism is often used in things like poetry and art. Emojis are essentially a picture that represent words…so could be considered an art form. For example, silent movies can be enjoyable because you get to interpret the story being told. Pictures books are another simpler form of using symbolism for story-telling purposes…could emojis be the same?

Hindrances:

Left brained people tend to be more detailed and use words rather than pictures. They often find it easier to read things that are straight forward rather than vague. With this being said, a left brained person may find it inappropriate to use these vague pictures to represent specific information, especially if it a message that should not be up for interpretation.

In an online environment, sometimes emojis can be misinterpreted. The simple mistake of a winking emoji in place of the regular smiling emoji may lead people to think you know something they don’t. This could lead to over-analyzing and misinterpreting a simple statement. Emotions are complex things and people can have a differing view on what an emoji could symbolize. General Motors actually introduced a publication in all emojis which caused confusion and intrigue. Some people may interpret this as a positive or a negative public relations move. It can also cause a gap of communication between generations. For example, in my personal life, an older family member used the “laugh so hard you cry” emoji with a post on Facebook about a death in the family. They assumed the tears were sad tears, thus causing major confusion and miscommunication.

In conclusion, do you find yourself relating more to the benefits or hindrances? If you associate more with benefits…you might just be a right brained person. If you tend to agree more with hindrances, you might be a left brained person. Maybe you’re in the middle, and find it depends on the situation. In the end, it’s all about the audience and getting across the message you’re trying to convey. However you choose to communicate, make sure it’s effective.

Emoji: To Use or Not to Use?

fileSo, here is the fifth of six guest posts from our Focused Leader Academy teacher leaders. If you take a look at the parts of a good blog post we created I believe you will see that Brenda Culbertson and Amanda Case have connected with readers by finding a great hook, have included visuals, and told a story that you, as the reader, can use. Take a minute and check our their view on Emojis.

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Mike Fleisch Graph

Emoji: To Use or Not to Use?

Let’s eat, Grandma.

Let’s eat Grandma!

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Just like punctuation, Emojis can change the meaning of a sentence. The meaning can be changed for the better or the worse. There is a strong benefit and hindrance to using emojis in written language. The hindrance is that emojis can be misinterpreted and the benefit is that emojis can aid in the tone of the intended message.

Hindrance

Emojis can be misinterpreted when something as simple as 😉 is used. This can be a symbol of an inside joke or a flirtation. The problem is the person on the receiving may take it the opposite way you wanted them to…creating a “pinch”. Should you have used the emoji in the first place?

Benefit

The most evident benefit is that the symbol can add to the tone of your message so that the receiver reads the message as you meant. For example, in a message that seems flat, a smiley face can add a tone of happiness. Can the emoji add an emphasis to your tone?

Emojis are here to stay regardless of whether you think they are a benefit or hindrance in your communication. You need to ask yourself, does the emoji help or hurt my message?

Brenda and Amanda

Emoji Exploji

So pumped to be bringing you the fourth of six guest posts from teacher leader participants in our Focused Leader Academy. These posts are a result of a session on blogging. No powerpoints or lists of to-dos, just co-creation of a blog post by pairs of our teacher leaders. They even created the stickers pictured at the beginning of the posts with an Emoji maker. Remember, our essential question always is “What can we create together?” Enjoy this post from Kris Phillips and Berry Wells:

Emoji Exploji

Before, you had to worry about students dropping an “F bomb”. Just wait until you get an “Emoji Exploji” in your classroom! For better or for worse, emojis have exploded in our culture. Now we must choose to embrace or reject them.  

😀What are the benefits of emojis in the classroom?

• Engage students

• Popular

• Expressive

• Fast & Fun

• Easy pulse check

😕What are the drawbacks of emojis in the classroom?

• Overused

• Can be distracting

• Discourages language use

• Can be misinterpreted

• Can be inappropriate

• Can be offensive

Regardless of your personal opinion, emojis are a form of communication, and they are here to stay. The question is will you embrace society’s infatuation with this trend, or will you reject the idiocracy of the emoji exploji? The choice is yours. 😜

Top 7 Benefits of Emojis in the Classroom

Here is the third of six guest posts submitted by our teacher leaders as part of our Focused Leader Academy this past weekend. Jena Davis and Liz Breeden decided to take the angle of how to use Emojis in the classroom. Blogging certainly takes some individuals outside of their comfort zone, including Jena and Liz. But, by working together and doing a fast creation using the “through line” of Emojis that we had been working with all day, they were able to author a great post. Here is Jena and Liz’s creation:

Smiley face! Frowny face! Heart! Emojis are everywhere. Do they help or hinder in the classroom? Used correctly, emojis can be beneficial in education. Emojis offer another method of communication between students and teachers.

1. Communication feeling or emotion: emojis can communicate feelings or emotions of students to teachers. Students who may not know the words to associate with their feelings may be able to communicate those feelings through the use of an emoji instead.

2. Visual: emojis are a graphic and visual representation of thoughts and feelings. Students are often visual learners and drawn to such representations.

3. Engaging: emojis are a way for students to engage with one another, or even with the teacher, in the classroom. Students can share thoughts and feelings with one another.

4. Check for Understanding: teachers can use an emoji to check for understanding or a student’s feeling or attitude about a particular topic.

5. Quick and Easy: emojis are a quick check and easy to use for both students and teachers.

6. Variety: there are a variety of emojis to choose from when making a selection. Students may be able to find and communicate something for which they don’t have the vocabulary to communicate.

7. Icebreaker: emojis can be used to ease the awkwardness of an uncomfortable moment or message.

How can YOU use emojis to communicate with YOUR students in a positive way?

Teacher Evaluation Norming: “What Can We Create Together?”

file4When creating the ideal school community for meaningful teacher evaluation we must clearly define the expectations for effective teaching at our schools. We must also effectively communicate the criteria that will be used to evaluate teacher performance. Personally, I believe the most important aspect of teacher evaluation is to ensure professional growth for our teachers in order to move them toward being highly effective. Our school has become a part of the Indiana Teacher Appraisal and Support System (INTASS) and I love how Dr. Sandi Cole, Director of Center on Education and Lifelong Learning puts it: “Teacher evaluation must be something done for teachers, not to them.” This statement has become a core value of our work of overhauling our entire teacher evaluation process. The INTASS process rests on four basic elements of a quality evaluation plan: a) Clear, frequent, and transparent communication among a wide base of stakeholders; b) Professional practice measures that are mutually agreed upon by stakeholders; c) Multiple measures of student learning outcomes, and d) Fully aligned post-evaluation processes, including job-embedded professional growth and support for all educators.

Another crucial part of this process is the norming of evaluators. We have chosen to have a monthly retreat of our evaluation team to ensure that evaluators have an accurate and aligned perception of classroom practice and student growth. This norming process also guarantees assigned evaluation ratings that are accurate reflections of teacher effectiveness. During norming, evaluators align or “calibrate” their scoring so that every member of the team applies the rubric consistently across teachers, and of the team of evaluators scores consistently with one another (inter-rater reliability). Having similar scoring and uniform expectations of teacher effectiveness is critical if you want to make meaningful comparisons among teachers.

I have also found the norming to be a good time for our administrative staff to engage in professional development for the purpose supporting effective leading of learning. A healthy team culture—and ultimately the school’s performance—rely on the team’s ability to encourage individual improvement in constructive ways. Through our norming process, administrative team members are learning and practicing the skills and dispositions necessary to mentor, coach, and evaluate colleagues. Our norming process has enabled the team to practice a model of shared leadership. By having regular norming retreats, team members are able to refine their collaboration skills and dispositions to ensure the team’s ability to act according to its shared purpose of enabling and empowering all of our teachers to be highly effective.

At this past week’s norming retreat I was struck by the amount of learning and professional growth that also went on with the administrative team of evaluators. There were discussions of how to more effectively use technology, sharing of best practices witnessed such as for checking for mastery, and new ways of engaging students; just to name a few. We even discussed the use of Emojis for engaging students. I couldn’t help but draw my own Emoji (shared in the picture above) as I graphically facilitated the norming retreat. We also were able to identify areas where we need to provide professional development learning opportunities for our teachers. I believe my role as a leader is not necessarily to always be a better role model or to drive change; my role is to create structures and experiences that bring our community of staff members together to identify and solve their own issues and drive improvement. Holding these norming retreats has enabled this structure of experiences for our administrative staff.

This norming process has become an important piece of being able for our school community to answer the question of “What can we create together?” I believe we are creating a community of continual improvement and one where our teachers are valued as professionals and given the feedback and resources to be the very best. I am attaching images of our notes from our latest norming retreat so you can see what went on:

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I Count You Twice!

Today is Thanksgiving – a joyous and festive kickoff to the holiday season. Many of us have a lot to be thankful for, including family and friends, and I’m especially thankful that I’m able to serve as a leader making significant strides in education. I also very thankful for all those I work with, serve, or have associations with. I am particularly thankful for all teachers who put in on the line every day for our sons and daughters. Please know that when I count my blessings I count you twice!

During this holiday season, take time to reflect on what you are thankful for. While we have many improvements to make in our educational community, and always will, we have many things to be thankful for. 

Education options are more flexible than ever. Not too many years ago, proximity and zip code was a crucial part of education. If you didn’t live near a school, you were unlikely to have any access to it. The ability to have choices had made all the difference for huge numbers of our children and adults. 

Today, we are more connected to k-12 and postsecondary education than ever before. There are evening classes, online options for both secondary and traditional college programs, and certificate programs for people who want to learn a specific set of skills or continue their professional growth. 

As I reflect this morning on my education, both past and present, I am thankful that I was taught to think critically, solve problems creatively, analyze and be open to the world around us, and most importantly how to learn. I believe it is important for us to remember that it is during our education we learn our sense of community.  Within a school setting, a child quickly learns the importance of teamwork and cooperation. A school requires a joint effort to be safe and clean. That’s when our children learn first-hand that everyone can make a difference and everyone’s efforts are important. 

I am also thankful schools don’t just teach our children academic curriculum. Schools are also helping our children develop into respectful global citizens. It is at school that our children are presented with life lessons they may not have learned at home.providing our children with lessons in acceptance. Our children are learning that not everyone speaks the same language, wears the same types of clothes, or eats the same types of foods at lunches. And that’s all okay. Our children are learning to take time to truly understand others and embrace who they are. 

While our education system certainly has room for improvement across multiple factors, I believe we need to be thankful for all the great things happening in education. 

Leadership Echolocation: How Big Are Your Ears?

echolocating-bat-with-bug-smallThis week’s leadership lesson (#17) from John Parker Stewart in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader, used the analogy of how big bats ears are to help inform us as leaders. Bats have the best hearing of all land mammals. They often have huge ears compared to the rest of the body. Instead of relying on their sense of sight for night-time vision, bats make rapid high-pitched squeaks called “ultrasounds”.  These sounds are too high for most people to hear.  If these sounds hit something, they bounce back — sort of like when you hear your echo in a mountain or a bathroom when you shout.  The bat hears the echo and can tell where the object is.  This is called “echolocation”.  Therefore, bats actively listen instead of passively listening. In other words they listen for the feedback. Not every species of bat is able to echolocate, but most can.

I don’t know about you, but I wish I could use “echolocation” to really listen to those I serve. This story really resonated with me as we are studying deep listening in the Developing Myself course I am taking at Harvard University right now. We are doing exercises and case studies to develop true listening skills. Think about it… Would it not be great if we always concentrated on receiving the feedback instead of spending the time when others are talking with us to be devising our response. We need to spend time developing our listening skill to be that of a bat. In other words, we need to develop “leadership echolocation.”

“The bat’s two assets are listening and receiving feedback. How do you assess yourself in those two areas?” ~ John Parker Stewart

A useful tool I was taught to use at Harvard is that of the Ladder of Inference developed by Chris Argyris. The Ladder of Inference (shown here in a drawing I did for a professional development workshop on norming for teacher evaluation – I think you will be able to see how this would be valuable for those observing teachers) has six rungs:

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  1. Observable Data
  2. Selected Data
  3. Assumptions
  4. Conclusions
  5. Beliefs
  6. Actions

The idea is to stay low on the ladder. As you move up the ladder away from observable data you begin to make your own meaning of what you are hearing. The problem is, this meaning may not be the same as the person you are listening to. Then some recursive loops begin to come into play. As we begin to form beliefs, we only listen and select data that supports our beliefs. See the problem? The other recursive loop that if we move to the top of the ladder and begin to take action, we only look for observable data that supports the meaning we have made out of the dialogue or situation. Again, the idea is to stay low on the ladder and keep moving back down the ladder.

So, how do we do we hone and perfect our “leadership echolocati0n?” As we find ourselves moving up the Ladder of Inference there are three things that will intentionally enables us to move back down the ladder:

  1. Question your assumptions
  2. Question your conclusions
  3. Seek contrary data to support or refute the meaning we are making

Most of us struggle with deep listening. Next time you want to have true dialogue with someone, consider where you are on the Ladder of Inference. Doing so will increase the feedback you receive from those you serve and have dialogue with.