I LOVE reading, and summer is a great time to dive into learning. This summer I read several professional learning books, novels for book talks, and a textbook and articles for grad classes. After reflecting on all the titles I read, I narrowed down my list, and the top six are pictured above. Each book allowed me to grow as an educator and helped me gear up for another school year of supporting teaching and learning through Instructional Coaching.
Looking forward to this school year, I already have a "to read" list started and will continue to share my learning here as well as on Twitter (@LairdLearning).
What title(s) do you recommend I check out?
I recently finished Relentless by Hamish Brewer, and it was exactly the book I needed to read as I prepared to head back for another school year. Four themes that stood out to me as I read were:
I believe this is a must read for educators (teachers and principals) as it pushes and encourages you to look at your legacy and the steps you're taking to write your story.
As I gear up for the 2019-2020 school year, I can't help but think about 2020, not just as the beginning of another decade, but also in terms of 20/20 vision. When I hear 20/20 vision, a few words that come to mind are: clarity, distance, and screenings.
School districts, leaders, and teachers have visions for their organization, it’s the "why" that drives their work and provides direction. This vision allows everyone to focus on what matters most - the students being served. Chances are your vision includes something related to students achieving at high levels, professional learning communities, or teacher collaboration, but how clear is your vision? Is it 20/20?
Steps to Refining Your Vision
Clarity: By clarity, I refer to having a clear understanding of where you and your organization are going. A professor I had in both my undergraduate and graduate programs frequently reminded us of the adage, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will lead you there.” This statement has guided my work and reminded me to pause and ensure my work, path, and end goals are aligned. An activity to try with staff tied to clarity and consensus is the One Word Challenge. Also, check out #oneword for examples and to connect with others.
Distance: Are you on track to go the distance? Have you set goals, established an action plan, and implemented systems and structures (including personnel) to ensure success? To whom have you communicated your vision? Like teaching, leadership is a team sport, and as such you need a team who understand and are committed to the vision. Consider creating an infographic identifying your goals and post it around the building, school website, and on social media. The more eyes you have on your goals and vision, the more people there are to join in and support you on the journey.
Screenings: What screenings, or checkpoints, do you have in place? How will you know when you’ve achieved your vision? Writing SMART goals, going on learning walks, utilizing Instructional Rounds, or using PLC protocols to discuss data can help inform your work throughout the year. Recognizing how quickly schedules fill up, push-notification services such as Calendar reminders or scheduled emails what can be a way to keep the screening frequencies at the forefront of your mind.
No matter how your vision is phrased, if we truly want to make 2020 the best year of teaching and learning for our students, then we owe it to them to have 20/20 (or better) vision.
So again, I'll ask: What's your vision, and more importantly, is it 20/20?
For the past three years (2016-2019) I have had the joy of serving along side fifteen of the most passionate literacy advocates out there. Together, on the International Literacy Association's Board, we worked to ensure the organization's mission and vision were enacted. During my term, I had the privilege of serving on committees and task forces, presenting chapter awards at the annual conference, and supporting ILA's Children's Rights to Read campaign. The three years flew by, and I was humbled, honored, and grateful for the opportunity to serve and advocate for literacy. While it is bittersweet to close this chapter, I am looking forward to continuing my literacy work through my PhD study, consulting, and advocacy.
In late April, I was in a meeting where data was being discussed and the question of when to celebrate the end of year data came up. I cringed and shared I don’t believe there’s an end point we should focus on, because learning doesn’t end. You see, students are on a learning journey, where a body of evidence builds as they progress through PK-12 (or 16/20) schooling. Yes, there are checkpoints along the way, and progress should be acknowledged, but “end-of-year data” seems final to me and communicates the wrong message about learning. Just because the calendar says May or June, doesn’t mean learning ends. By no means am I saying to ignore data or no longer recognize growth or gains, but instead, view the information as what it is, limit the emphasis, and continue setting goals with students and keep the learning momentum going.
As you might guess, I am also not the countdown to the end of the year type of educator either, but that’s a conversation for another time and blog post.
What are your thoughts on celebrating end-of-year data?
Writing grants is a great way to fund projects and programs. To date, I have brought in over $30,000 in grant funding to my elementary building. The grant highlighted in this post is from Facebook's Altoona Data Center Community Action Grant. I have received this grant three times, and this year's is for $14,700 to fund technology which will be used in our kindergarten classrooms.
If you're unsure where to begin, I encourage you to look at educational organizations you are part of, or the literacy focused blog post I wrote a while back.
If you would like support or wish to learn more about projects I have funded, don't hesitate to reach out.
Note: If you're in a school district, you will want to check whether there is a grant funding process or checklist you need to follow.
One of my assignments for my EL PS 620: Education for Social Justice was to read and critique a social-justice oriented text. I chose Garcia and O'Donnell-Allen's Pose, Wobble, Flow: A Culturally Proactive Approach to Literacy Instruction. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this text and highly recommend it! Rather than sharing my full critique writeup, I am including the handout I created to share the information with the class.
As part of my CI 565: Literacy: Connecting Research, Policy, and Practice course, we lead a week's discussion. The focus of my week was Connecting with Family Literacy and included four readings:
To kickoff our study and discussion, I created the Reading Preview graphic below.
Every so often, teachers reach out to me for enrichment activities for reading, math, science, or social studies. This is an activity I put together for 1st grade students and is modeled after Jerry Palotta's Who Would Win series. The grade level is 1:1 (one device per student) Chromebooks, so I designed this in Google Slides. The final page will have a Blabberize (Chatterpix could be an alternative if you have iOS devices, where the winning animal explains why they won the battle. A few resources students will use for this project are PebbleGo, Bookflix, TrueFlix, and Kiddle.
If you would like a copy of the Google Slides file, please let me know.
I also created a graphic organizer where students can record their findings.
We are always looking for ways to recognize students, and our Building Leadership Team was recently talking about wanting to celebrate when students are kind. I was excited to use Canva to design kindness cards, but started by searching online to see if there were any free options. There's no sense in recreating the wheel if something is already available. Luckily, thanks to Scholastic, this was the case! Scholastic's Kindness Cards were exactly what we were looking for. I did create an additional page to print on the back of each card, which will allow staff members to write a message noting the kind act. Each Monday, students receiving the kindness cards will be announced over the intercom, allowing the school community to recognize the work and action of the students.
I encourage you to visit Scholastic's website and download your own copy of the Kindness Cards. If you would like a copy of the back page I created, let me know!