that zero changed my life
Reflecting on an article I keep seeing on social media about the teacher getting fired for supposedly not abiding by the school’s grading policy. As a student, did I ever get a zero? Sure. Was it right? I guess. As a teacher, did some of my students receive zeros? Probably. Was it right? Probably not. As an instructional leader do I support the idea of students receiving zeros? In most cases, the answer is no. The bottom line is that we must exhaust all options to promote the success of each and every student regardless of how much they are driving us crazy or might seem too lazy to complete any work. I can remember as a teacher and team leader working with a small group of 7th grade students during my lunch. They had lost their way and learning was not a top top priority due to extenuating circumstances at home. They would come into my classroom and complete work that was way overdue in several of their classes. Over time they started to catch up and realized that we were not going to let them dig a deeper hole for themselves.
Often I think we as educators believe it’s easier to teach students a life lesson by giving them a zero because we need to prepare them for the real world. When in fact we need to think about building supportive and engaging learning environments that not only show students that we care about them but also holds everyone accountable. I can remember as a student sitting out the first half of a basketball game because I was not holding up my end of a bargain. You know what? I deserved it. In more recent years, both as a teacher and administrator, there were a few occasions where students were not being responsible and they needed to be held accountable. Did that mean I got a zero? No. Something that meant so much to me was taken away for short while. I still needed to make up the work and learn the material.
The whole zero thing is an easy way out for all parties involved. Now, if there is a point where all options have been exhausted and nothing has changed than we can have a discussion about who deserves what grade. The research is very clear in this area of education. John Hattie tells us that that a teachers estimate of student achievement has a 1.29 effect size. Additionally, Hattie tells us that teacher credibility has a .90 effect size. The research makes it abundantly clear that if teachers believe their students can achieve desired learning outcomes they will. On that same note, students know if you as a teacher are legit and subsequently will either rise to the occasion or not really care about learning. Students also know if you as an instructional leader are legit as it relates to keeping a pulse on what is or is not going on in school.
The important thing here is to keep having these sorts of conversations with your colleagues, school stakeholders, and most importantly students. Take a look at my friend Eric Sheninger’s blog post on a similar topic from back in 2013:
Keep fighting the good fight my friends!
Brad has been an educator for more than 18 years as a coach, teacher, and administrator. He currently serves as a Director of Planning, Research, and Evaluation for the Chester School District in Chester, New Jersey. Brad is the 2017 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year and part of the ASCD Emerging Leaders Class of 2014. He is the co-founder and co-moderator of a weekly Twitter discussion for educators called #satchat. Brad has authored five books including the newly released Tech Request: A Guide for Coaching Educators in the Digital World. He presents nationally on leadership, teaching, and learning in the digital era. Brad currently serves as an adjunct professor in Drew University's Graduate School of Education. He also is a Google Certified Trainer and supports districts in implementing Google Apps for Education. Connect with Brad by following him on Twitter @thebradcurrie or visiting his company website at www.evolvingeducators.com.
The 2nd Annual Better Together California Teachers Summit is taking place on Friday, July 29 at over 30 locations around the state of California. Last year over 15,000 educators attended this event to share, collaborate, learn, and network with one another. This free event will inspire and push educators to impact student success in ways once thought unimaginable. Want to get a glimpse of what this unique experience will be like? Check out the event YouTube channel, follow the #CATeachersSummit hashtag, or "like" the Facebook page.
So how can educators be "better together" in 2016? There are so many ways that resources and ideas can be shared in the physical and virtual world. For some, Twitter is the "go to" resource to stay current with educational trends and connect with like minded educators. Others prefer attending their local Edcamp so they can share insight and speak with people face to face about topics that are near and dear to their hearts. Another great way for educators to collaborate and learn from one another is right in their very own schools by way of the Pineapple Chart initiative. Finally, educators can utilize Periscope to watch live or archived shows about best practices that are taking place in classrooms, schools, and districts.
There are so many ways that educators can be "better together" through tech and non tech methods. A commitment to growing professionally and risk taking are two key ingredients that go a long way with being entrenched in this way of life. Start today by choosing one of the "better together" options listed above and watch how you move from good to great. This will not only change who you are as an educator, but ultimately impact the success of all students.
Brad Currie is the author of the newly released 140 Twitter Tips for Educators. His other books include All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities and Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development. He is one of the founding partners of Evolving Educators LLC. Brad is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and Google Certified Trainer. Brad currently serves as a K-8 Supervisor of Instruction and Dean of Students for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. He speaks and presents nationally about technology integration. Learn more about Brad by following him on Twitter@bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.bradcurrie.n
Over the past year Google Classroom has taken the educational world by storm. Teachers and students are now able to thrive in a paperless world. School leaders must support this new way of life while respecting the transition from traditional methods. So how can a school leader leverage the power of Google Classroom to promote student and staff success? Let's take a look...
1. Flip the faculty meeting and create a Google Classroom for staff members. Instead of wasting teacher's time with boring agenda items, post this information on a Google Doc or Google Slide in Classroom. Then actually utilize this additional time for meaningful professional growth opportunities.
2. Promote sharing of best practices with a Blog of the Week PLC. Send out a Google Form that provides staff members with an opportunity to nominate their favorite blog post. Once the blog posts are submitted, send out an another Google Form for nomination purposes. Once the blog post with the most votes is selected, begin a conversation utilizing the new question feature in Classroom.
3. Move your school forward with a Student Roundtable. Once a month a select group of students meets with administration to be informed of school happenings, but more importantly share insight on how to make the learning environment better. The Google Doc agenda leading up to the meeting can be shared out to students and crowd sourced in Classroom. Additional conversations and resources can be posted within the Student Roundtable Google Classroom throughout the school year.
4. Create a Google Classroom for best practices in technology integration. In particular, Google Apps for Education. Each week have staff members share different ways they are utilizing different apps and extensions to promote student success. Often teachers who are in the same hallway, let alone the same building, have no idea what great things are going on in their colleagues' classroom. This sort of sharing will be a game-changer.
As you can see their are countless ways that administrators can utilize Google Classroom. It's a great way to mode technology integrationl for students and staff. Make it a goal this schoo lyear, if you are working in a GAFE school district, to find one consistent way to utilize Google Classroom. It will make a world of difference.
Brad Currie is the author of All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities and the newly released Personalized PD: Flipping Your Professional Development. He is one of the founding partners of Evolving Educators LLC. Brad is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and Google Certified Trainer. Brad currently serves as a K-8 Supervisor of Instruction and Dean of Students for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. He is a Google Certified Trainer and speaks nationally about tech integration. Learn more about Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.bradcurrie.net.
My First Year on the Job
Innovation. To me, innovation means: change, risk-taking, new, and maybe even most importantly, fun.
My name is Sylwia Denko and I just completed my first year of teaching. I teach third grade and work in an incredible district with unbelievably supportive and dedicated administration and colleagues. My first year was absolutely wonderful. Part of the reason why it was so great was because of an important word: innovation.
As a first year teacher, I was told by several people: “Play it safe, stay quiet, do what everyone else does, don’t feel pressured to get involved or take risks yet.” I understood where they were coming from, but that is simply just not me. I believe that the reason why I am who I am is because I am different and I take risks. I was offered a job three days before my graduation date last year partially because I am different, because I take risks. Just because I secured a job through many risks taken, does not mean that I will stop taking risks now. Risk-taking can be, well of course, risky. However, the way I think about it is “What’s the worst that could happen? I fail and then have to fix it, no big deal.” Without failure, we cannot learn and grow as people. That is what I encourage my students to do, take risks and get back up if they do not succeed. There is no judgement, only support. I was lucky to have talked to my friend Brad Currie at EdCamp in November who told me to be different, be true to myself, and to showcase my skills without feelings of judgement or fear; and that’s what I did.
I love learning. I love talking to people, reading, and researching. I enjoy having a plethora of knowledge, strategies, and resources to choose from and to make my own; so I talk to people, colleagues that I work with and my professional learning network online. I take so many different ideas and incorporate them into my teaching. As a first year teacher (well, now, second year teacher), I do not have a lot of experience to help me. Instead, I have people with experience to help me. In addition, I have my mind that is always spinning with ideas, thinking about ways to make my teaching even better. My mind enjoys the idea and thought of incorporating technology in the classroom. If you think back to my definition of innovation, technology is exactly that: change, risky, new and fun. I love technology and students love technology. I decided that I wanted to change the way I taught and incorporate more and more technology.
The first thing I did, which no one had done yet, was create a classroom Twitter in the beginning of the year. I wanted to be a transparent educator for many reasons. As a new teacher, I wanted to alleviate any feelings of discomfort of the parents in my classroom. In addition, I wanted my administration to see what I was doing in the classroom in case they were not there in person to see it. My students were always doing wonderful things and I wanted to showcase that. Eventually, I wanted my students to become more reflective in our classroom and more involved in sharing what they do. I had a “tweeter of the week” that would compose tweets about our day and those tweets would be posted on our classroom Twitter. I have had very positive reactions from parents, administration, and colleagues. Parents enjoyed seeing what was happening to avoid the conversation of: parent: “What did you do in school today?” student: “Nothing.” (however, I would hope that students had more to say about our day together than just nothing!!). Now, in order to further the conversation (just in case they did respond with “nothing”, parents could say “Well, on twitter I saw…”. I even had a parent tell me “A classroom Twitter is the best thing to have happened in school.” After seeing my classroom Twitter and my professional Twitter, my administration asked me (a first year teacher!!) to develop two professional development sessions to my district about Twitter in the classroom and a professional Twitter. I was so excited about this opportunity and of course, I agreed. Through this, many of my colleagues have joined Twitter and we have developed our own personal hashtag for our district.
Our district is a growing district in terms of population and technology. The number of students are growing as well as our resources. This year, there were three classrooms in our school piloting a Google Chromebook program. I was hoping to someday have the opportunity to teach in a 1:1 classroom like them, but just because I wasn’t at the time, did not stop me from incorporating technology in my classroom. I used technology daily by incorporating videos and digital manipulatives, and eventually the google platform, into my teaching. Although we did not have Chromebooks, I taught my students how to use google drive and create documents for them to work on at home and documents that were worked on collaboratively in class. I took my students to the computer lab as often as I could when they were working on collaborative projects so groups could be working on the same document at the same time. When we were not able to go to the computer lab, we developed a system together that allowed one group at a time to work on our classroom computers while everyone else worked on hard copies. As time went on, students took the initiative to use the google platform on their own. I even created “office hours” for my students while they were working at home so I could confer with them outside of our time in class together. Not only did students benefit from this, they enjoyed it. One of my student said “Miss Denko, THIS IS SO FUN!” In May, we found out that the Chromebook Initiative would be growing in our district and I would be one of the lucky teachers who will be teaching in a 1:1 Google Chromebook classroom next year. I am so excited that my administration is confident in me to take on such an exciting and innovative initiative.
Now that the school year is over, I am excited to reflect on a successful and innovative year. My year was also filled with smiles, laughs, loving, and learning within the walls of our classroom. I am so happy to look back on my year and know that I have successfully made it through, what people say, would be my toughest year as a teacher. It may have been challenging at times, but people are strengthened through challenge. The best part is that next year, I can do it all over again, but better. I cannot end my post without thanking my unbelievably amazing administration, colleagues, PLN members, family and friends who supported me the whole way through. Thank you more than you know.
Sharing is Contagious
During a presentation or while conversing, people will often ask me how being on a tool like Twitter or LinkedIn can help educators improve their craft. Providing concrete examples to people will help them see the power of being a connected educator. I also emphasize the importance of differentiating the way people obtain and share best practice resources. In the end, the more educators share ideas and information, the more student success will be impacted. Here is an example of the sharing process....
I follow Derek McCoy, school leader from North Carolina, on LinkedIn. Early one morning before getting ready for work I scrolled through my LinkedIn feed and came across a great resource that Derek shared. It was a blog post written by John Spencer titled 8 Ways to Keep Informational Text Engaging. I was so impressed with its content that I decided to tweet it to my followers. I then proceeded to put it in my weekly email blast to staff called the Bulldog Bulletin that is chock full of best practice resources. The hope here is that my PLN and fellow colleagues will continue to share out this wonderful blog post by John Spencer. As I said earlier in this post, sharing is contagious and will ultimately impact the success of students.
Another example relates to our district's transition to Google Classroom. Alice Keeler, an adjunct, author, and edtech guru from California, consistently puts out great content related to GAFE on her blog titled Teacher Tech. I use a service called Feedly that stores all my blog subscriptions which can be accessed through an app I have on my iPhone. On a weekly basis I will got to Alice's blog through Feedly knowing that she will have timely and relevant content related to GAFE. I can then share her content on my various social media feeds and with my colleagues. In the long run it helps everyone stay current and helps integrate the various tools students use in the most efficient way possible.
So what do you say? Take a few moments each day to consume and share best practice resources. It will make all of us better educators in the long run and push our students to places once thought inimaginable. As the old adage says: Connect Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.
Brad Currie is the author of All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities. He is one of the founding partners of Evolving Educators LLC. Brad is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and Google Certified Trainer. He currently serves as a K-8 Supervisor of Instruction and Dean of Students for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. Learn more about Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.bradcurrie.net.