Elementary & Secondary Teachers Sharing Best Practices….(gasp!)

This past week was our district Humanities Institute that ran 4 days!  You are probably thinking – What?!  Are you crazy? It’s the first week of summer break. Apparently, I am not the only crazy one because there were over 170 educators there to learn and teach incredible sessions!  

Let me tell you the best thing about this week.  Elementary and Secondary teachers shared best practices in the same room!  (gasp!)  That’s right, we all shared and learned together! It was professional learning, discussing, connecting, reflecting, and sharing across district from Pre-K to our Collegiate Academy! 
I want to publicly thank our fierce leader, Dr. Suzanne Newell, for taking this approach this week.  I am not sure if she realizes just how powerful this one little thing was.  As I listened to others and talked with people, the most amazing thing happened….we connected the dots between elementary and secondary.  This still is my most favorite quote because of how true it is!
  • Teachers in first, fourth, seventh and high school were sharing best practices they used that could help each other.
  • Teachers were meeting new teachers and putting a face to the name.
  • Teachers were exchanging emails and ways to communicate and connect their classes.
  • Teachers were developing empathy for other teachers…discovering that when we communicate we realize little things we may never have known before.
  • (The biggest, in my opinion) Teachers began to understand the links from elementary to secondary and the importance of common language and Common Instructional Expectations!  
We have heard of these Common Instructional Expectations many times, but SEEING exactly how they begin in kinder and extend all the way through was incredibly powerful!  Having time to discuss with others and time to reflect made all the difference in securing this learning.  
I know this might seem obvious, simple, and you might already do this….but if you think about it, there are not many opportunities that place Pre-K through HS in one room to learn together and share vertically how things apply.  Powerful!  So incredibly happy I was able to be part of this and learn so much!  I walked away from this week with many new connections, more secondary knowledge than I came in with and how to start connecting elementary and secondary goals so that we can transition our students effortlessly.
One of the most amazing educators I have the privilege of learning from in my tribe is Bethany Hill.  You can find her on Twitter  @bethhill2829  This quote came from her and how true it is.  
I just posted an article by @SaneeBell about leadership at all levels and how much she learned from being given the opportunity to be an elementary principal when she had only known secondary.  As she exits she feels she is a better educator having spent her last few years in elementary learning so much!  It was a great connecting thought for me as I thought about how much elementary and secondary already do that is similar and could really help one another if we verbalized these connections with our students.  It also made clear how we could tweak a few little things to help our students even more.  All it took was communicating in the same room with others and developing a strong personal learning network right here within our amazing district! 
I look forward, even more now than ever, to the awesome things to come in GCISD.  Thank you Dr. Newell!  🙂

Innovation: Sharing Is Caring

Last week was the best educational experience ever!  I was fortunate enough to get to attend TCEA for the entire week.  After spending Thursday learning from George Couros, or as someone said, “Day of Couros,” the concept of innovation had many thoughts swirling in my head. Then, when I read his blog yesterday it stirred up even more in me!

Just recently, a principal friend, Matthew Arend mentioned in his blog, how during one session George took the concept of using a Google Doc to curate many inspirational videos. In both blogs, the mindset of innovation is discussed. The idea of using a Google doc was not a new concept to me at all.  In fact, this past week at TCEA many of us had one that we were all adding to while attending as many different sessions as we could so we could divide and conquer.  And boy did we!

In The Innovator’s Mindset, George defines the notion of innovation as a way of thinking to create something new and better.

We have collaborated on Google docs in our faculty meetings, with our students, and each other.  What made this innovative in my eyes was the “new and better” part of it. When George crowdsourced this document to gather even more ideas, THAT was “new” to me.  I never thought of sending it out to people who are not part of the making of it, and can I tell you how much “better” this one thing made this experience!  First, so many people responded with quality videos that now it has saved me hours of searching for the perfect video. Second, do you even know how many people have circulated this document and how many people it has helped!?  THIS is creating new and better with something that we already use. I am not writing to discuss this experience, but how this experience has led me to thinking about something else.

What if the document stopped there? What if someone saw it and thought, that’s great, but I am not going to use someone else’s list of videos.  If not applied, does it truly make the idea better? In short, yes and no.  Yes, for those who take this idea and use it to enrich the learning experiences for their students.  No, for those that hear the idea and then go back to doing it the way they always do it for whatever reason.

Take the above example and substitute curated videos with teaching strategies, classroom management strategies, technology lesson ideas, classroom climate/culture suggestions…you name it.  Unfortunately, I think so many teachers are hesitant to use things like this because they are afraid it is “stealing or copying.” Or they feel like if it isn’t something they came up with themselves, then they are frauds. Maybe that is a little dramatic, but the point is…this is a huge misunderstanding out there with teachers that needs to stop!

For many years people have said, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Now I hear, “We are better together.  The best idea is a lot of ideas.”  I wholeheartedly believe the latter one. We are better when we work together. Every person you meet has something to teach you.  We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts.  Why wouldn’t we capitalize on this for the sake of the children we teach?  If our mindset is in the thinking that “sharing is caring” then it is a win-win situation!  🙂  Who wouldn’t want that?

  • We need to let go of the thought that as teachers we have to do everything ourselves.
  • We need to let go of the thought that innovation is some huge thing and involves the best and latest technology.
  • We need to let go of the thought that we have all the answers.

We don’t.  We can’t.  We need to turn to other awesome educators out there and be better together. How can you use the power of your PLN to make this happen today?