Sometimes I feel as if blogging gives people an inside tour of my jumbled, redheaded mind! This year my reflections are as disjointed and varied as the year. A true reflection of the year and it’s many changes and surprises. However, good, bad, beautiful, or down right painful I know reflection has to happen for me to grow and effective change to take root.
Here are my top 3 take aways from the 2017-2018 school year.
1) All students, K-12, crave consistency and expectations. Even those that scream from the rafters, “You can’t make me!” They expect to come to school and have the rules reinforced fairly, consistently, and across the boards. When I talk to students outside of classes, filled with anxiety, and frustrated the common complaint isn’t “Mr./Mrs./Miss Teacher made me —-” No! Their common lament is, “But Mr./Mrs./Miss Teacher lets me ___, so it isn’t fair that this teacher isn’t!”
My reflection on this growing epidemic is it’s past time to develop a cohesive plan! I am optimistic about the work MTSS is doing to develop the plan. I want this plan to work. Just like I want every other initiative to work that time, effort, energy, and resources have been devoted to in any district. After all, we know how valuable time is and we want our buildings to be safe, effective learning communities. From my point of view, when a district selects an initiative it’s based on research and best practices so we should give it a go!
I trust that the group of educators in this committee did their due diligence and spent their time researching, exploring, crunching our data, & making informed decisions. I also understand that it takes all kinds of people to run a school and our personal philosophies may not always mesh but if we want our boat to stay afloat and sail smoothly into the sunset we need to work as a team. I encourage everyone to buy in and give 100% to enforcing this plan. If all adults; admin, teachers, custodians. cafeteria staff, instructional aides, etc. reinforce and reward similar incentives and consistently expect the same behavior I am confident change is imminent.
2) Change is hard! I still think I’ve developed a bit of whiplash from my head moving back and forth from one change to another! I have developed empathy for the poor bobble heads whose purpose is to bounce back and forth.
As I’ve eluded to in past blogs, change is never easy, but it can be re-energizing! I am nervous, overwhelmed, and tentative too, however I know that change is healthy. I also know that some of the greatest changes in my life; marriage, parenthood, new jobs, etc. came when I shifted WAY outside of my comfort zone and trusted that change would be good for me and others.
Amongst the avalanche of changes this year, we’ve experienced changes in leadership, changes in initiatives, changes in expectation, and it is scary and leads to uncertainty. Through my uncertainty I’ve found trust. Trust that all change brings progress. I want to be here to see that progress come and be an integral part of it. I’ve committed myself to buying in and being a change agent.
Most leaders come in and have the luxury of formulating a vision and then taking action to make a vision reality. Building the vision and forging action towards it simultaneously is no small feat! The time to embrace change, fail forward, and advocate for ourselves and students has never been easier than now when change is the norm! I encourage everyone to embrace this season of change and try one thing you’ve always wanted to do in your classroom, but didn’t because there wasn’t time, it might not work, or it seemed impossible or impractical.
3) Our students may be “digital natives” but they are not digital dynamos! I know I’m a tech coach and I just said students aren’t doing dynamic things with tech. Yikes! Let me clarify!
The basics are MIA! It may appear to educators who are allowing students to use devices that they’ve got it all together, but please allow me a bit of grace here when I say they make their work harder for themselves. Just because we give a student a device doesn’t mean they know how to leverage it to empower them as learners. It doesn’t even mean they best know how to use it.
What students have is a lack of fear and a willingness to use tech that some adults don’t. Adults read manuals, explore menus, or stick to the same devices they’ve always used because we like our comfort zones!
Students aren’t afraid to push buttons! This curiosity is healthy and great! It leads to discoveries. However, without formal training and instruction button pushing can lead to bad habits. I think of the teachers I have coached over the years and the moments I’ve heard, “I never knew I could do that!” Our students, given devices but not trained on how to use them have developed ineffective practices as well.
I challenge teachers across the building to sign out a chrome book this summer and explore it. Learn and practice gestures and navigation. Explore apps, extensions, and add-ons so you can better support and instruct your students on how to leverage their devices for learning.
After all, we didn’t hand students a pencil without teaching them how to hold the pencil and write letters. We shouldn’t hand a student a device without demonstrating and giving explicit instruction on how to effectively use it to demonstrate their mastery of learning.
I’m not saying we should walk them step by step through every app and tool we use, however the basics; care, navigation, and actions or gestures must be taught in order to allow students to springboard into the higher levels of SAMR without getting bogged down by bad habits and lack of understanding.
I hope all educators take time this summer to spend time relaxing with their families, regrouping from their years, & come back refreshed and ready to tackle a brand new year. Whatever you find yourself doing prior to focusing on the coming school year; lessons to be taught, materials to be collected, and professional development to be explored allow yourself time to reflect on this year before your focus switches to the next. What were your take aways, what were your challenges, and what were your successes? Be brave and reflect on your hopes as well. These hopes may directly impact our students, our profession, and the future of education!