CHANGEd: What if I were designing one more faculty meeting? 60-60-60 #50

[Disclaimer: This is my biggest failure on the “60-word target!”] For the past nine years, this last week of April has marked the moment when I would begin framing next year’s opening-of-school faculty meetings. New student registrations have just occurred, so I have made a habit of starting faculty meta-planning the morning after those student registrations. Students are registered…we need to start planning! I won’t be doing such faculty meta-planning this go around, but a habit is a hard thing to break.

I have always striven to design frameworks for faculty meetings that would make people want to flock to the events. Unfortunately, I think I have always failed. Yet, I have kept trying. What if I were designing the frameworks for an August meeting that would open the 2012-13 school year? What would some of the frame pieces look like?

  1. I’d probably create a Google doc in which faculty could contribute their ideas for faculty meeting topics and explorations. What do they want and need in our precious few meetings together? These tributaries would weigh heavily into the collective river of our work together. These waters would be the projects and challenges that are most relevant to us.
  2. I’d try to create an invigorating, exciting, compelling “need to know.” With a school vision that focuses on project-based learning, integrated studies, global connectedness, balanced assessment, teacher teaming, and 21st century schedules and spaces, I would likely try to model and simulate those very things into our meetings. If we wanted to learn to play baseball, then the best method would likely be to…play baseball (not sitting in a desk hearing about baseball!). So, I would want to start with a hook – a “need to know” – to get us playing.
  3. I’d be tempted to invite teachers to share IGNITE or TED-talk-like sessions about their practices and potential experiments. Maybe we would even workshop and construct these together, in small groups and teams, during the meeting.
  4. I’d want to utilize some “brainfood” – some stuff to which to react and respond. I think I might use the following:
    1. CHANGEd 60-60-60: OUR BRANDS, by @mmhoward
    2. Leveraging Learning by Organizing Technology Use: A Modest Framework, by @maryannreilly
    3. Educating the Next Steve Jobs, by Tony Wagner
    4. Lessons from Caine’s Arcade, by Seth Godin
    5. RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms…Sir Ken Robinson

    6. Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge…TED talk
  5. And, perhaps, we would employ some quiet reflecting and writing time…and maybe some micro “FedEx time.”

I have loved serving as the principal learner at my Junior High School for the past nine years. I don’t have many regrets. I do wish I had done a better job each and everyday for the faculty. I wish I had spent more time interacting with each and every one of them. I wish I had spent less time in other meetings and more time in shared learning with the middle school teachers. So, I think I’d keep that in mind as I designed one more start to school.

CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 Project Explained

“Hey, let’s send Bo a quick video of what we’ve been white-boarding!” #IdeasWorthSpreading

For years, we have been working in the Junior High to “tear down the walls” that define the typical egg-crate culture of schools. As a faculty PLC, among other techniques, we have used Twitter, peer visits, instructional rounds, lesson study, job-embedded/regular team meetings, “FedEx Days,” and “campfire storytelling.” Every time we share, a connection-point on a virtual spider web gets planted. From these nodes of stickiness, more connections have the potential of being formed.

I am blessed with an amazing faculty and staff of 82 people; I am blessed to be among them, and I am blessed to be one of them. I am blessed to lead and serve with them.

This week, a new blessing occurred. Two Science 6 teachers met during an “off-day” during exam week to do some planning for the new learning challenge they are developing around global climate change. THEY SENT ME A VIDEO SUMMARY OF THEIR MORNING! The video and the email exchange are embedded below (with permission from the teachers).

I was so excited to get this unsolicited piece of campfire storytelling! I could see and hear Alison and Brenda in their actual voice with facial cues. I love the excitement and energy in their dialogue and countenances. I love that they are taking risks and trying new things. I love that they are willing to share.

For some brief moments, they seemed tentative about sharing this beyond just me. They wondered if they should “spiff it up.” I love it “un-spiffed!” Un-spiffed is spontaneous and tool-like. The video does not need to be production-perfect…it is, instead, process-perfect. They used a tool to share in a more personal way, and they helped me learn and share in their moments of planning. What a gift. What a perfect gift.

From: Alison George
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2011 10:51
To: Bo Adams
Subject: 6th grade update

Working hard all morning, just wanted to share what we accomplished

From: Bo Adams
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 05:33
To: Alison George, Brenda Cobler
Subject: Re: 6th grade update

I LOVE THE VIDEO! I LOVE THE VIDEO! Thank you for “including me” in your planning by sharing a short summary of what you’ve been diligently working on! What a gift to be able to see and hear your brainstorming in your actual voice.

May I PLEASE post this to my blog and write about how much I loved receiving such a clip? May I share with Jill for an upcoming faculty-meeting share?

THANK YOU!

From: Alison George
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 09:48
To: Bo Adams
Subject: Re: 6th grade update

Sure, are you actually considering showing the video in the faculty meeting? (we might want to spiff it up with some actual class footage if so)  We just did this on the fly and didn’t think it would be shown to the entire faculty.

From: Bo Adams
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 10:20
To: Alison George, Brenda Cobler
Subject: Re: 6th grade update

If you don’t want me to use it for mtg or blog, I will honor your wishes, of course. However, PLEASE DO NOT “spiff it up.” I love it as it is! You two used a technology to communicate with me and include me and inform me. You innovated, instead of sending me a bullet-list or a voice mail. You made it Web 2.0! It is beautiful and “perfect” in my opinion!

From: Alison George
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 11:08
To: Bo Adams
Cc: Brenda Cobler
Subject: Re: 6th grade update

Ok go ahead and use it, we love to be perfect!

Valuable Time – Invaluable, Shared Insights

When I first began my role as principal (this current year is my ninth year in this role), I was not systemically connected to the work and learning of the faculty in my care. Ironic maybe, but true. In the ensuing years, I have developed systemic ways to plug into the work and learning of my colleagues. The efforts have resulted in valuable time and invaluable, shared insights.

1. Weekly, I attend at least 25% (1 of 4) of each of the PLC/PLT (professional learning community/team) meetings. Over the course of a year, this provides me with at least 144 hours of time with the teacher teams who explore ways to enhance learning for students and adults alike. I am able to learn side-by-side with those purposefully and collaboratively exploring curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment.

2. I load into my reader the RSS feeds of the blogs from any Junior High faculty member who maintains a blog. What insight into the thinking, questioning, and practicing of my colleagues this provides!

3. I follow my Junior High colleagues on Twitter…if they have an account.

4. Maybe most importantly, I am given the great excuse (“professional responsibility”) to read the goals and self-assessments of the faculty. I do so to prepare for one-on-one or team conferences with each of the 80 Junior High faculty. These conferences provide opportunity for incredible dialogue about that which we are focusing on in our classrooms and learning spaces. These conversations are among my favorite of the year.

Reading goals and preparing for today’s two conferences is what inspired this quick post; reading a few faculty blogs and tweets also contributed to my compelling need to share.

From just these four, integrated, systems approaches to connecting with my faculty team, I am a part of an intricate web of deep thinking, rich inquiry, and innovative practices. I can see connections in people’s work…I can learn of what they are trying and researching to help students…I can be challenged in my own thinking and teaching practices. I can discern how they are using student/course feedback, peer visits, and administrative observations to reflect on their practice and improve their growing professionalism as educators.

‘Tis I who is blessed to be in this web of thinkers, doers, and learners.

“Bright Spot on Flexible Faculty Forum” Guest Post: Sally Finch

When Dr. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, numerous other runners soon ran through the opening that he cracked in an apparent barrier. Perhaps we have a similar situation here. Thanks, to Jen Lalley, the 112-day wait time paid off, and It’s About Learning enjoyed it’s first Junior-High-faculty guest post. Now, Sally Finch has offered up an email that she sent to Dean of Faculty Thad Persons. THANK YOU to Jen and to Sally for their willingness and courage – to share with a broader audience.

Thad:
I loved the ease of registering on the multi-colored spreadsheet!  It was so user-friendly and made so much sense.

I just read Bo’s blog about how he and Jill changed topics at the last minute and got a whopping increase in attendance.  This kind of flexibility for Faculty Forum, with an “expert” speaker working along with us, and with us teaching each other, is the best kind of choice for getting back to school.  Even those sessions I could not attend but wanted to (Sophie is just across the hall from me) can be an asset in the future.

The flexibility made it possible for Marjorie and me to work together on economics, and that was especially helpful since Jay was on jury duty.  I was getting a little nervous about the technology before Thursday, but feel much better now that I have taken some baby steps on some new things and know that I have lots of folks around to help.

Thanks for a great two days.
Sally

People often pick up the phone or pound on the e-mail to complain. Fewer (it seems) take opportunity to communicate about a bright spot. For instance, we call the help desk when technology is frustrating us, and we call Georgia Power when the power shuts down. How often do we call to say, “Things worked great today! Thanks for providing the tools and the electricity!” Such positive feedback goes a long way to building a record of what works, what helps, and what needs to continue. Thanks, Sally!

“Out of the Egg Crate” Guest Post: Jennifer Lalley

Last spring, I “offered my blog” to any and all Junior High faculty who might want to guest post. I thought it might be one small step on the journey of trying something new and thinking out loud with a public reflection – for some, like trying on clothes before deciding what to buy. Then, I waited. And waited.

Wait time is an invaluable tool in the educator’s tool kit, eh? (pronounced “A” and in honor of @gcouros). Since I extended the invitation, 112 days have gone by.

But learning is the constant – we should guarantee that people will learn…at high levels. Time and support should be the variables.

Thanks to the support offered at Faculty Forum, and perhaps some other support I am unaware of, a Junior High faculty member has submitted a guest post. Many thanks to Jennifer Lalley for taking this opportunity.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and we are all frantically trying to keep track of the influx of information coming our way. However, something about this year feels different for me (Jen Lalley). At the moment, I feel more energized than overwhelmed. Yesterday in the faculty meeting, I felt thankful for the time and space to speak openly and honestly about the changes here at Westminster. Although it’s hard, it’s valuable to have differing opinions on how technology is affecting our students and our classrooms. I left our meeting wanting more discussion. Can we continue it here?

Some of the themes thrown out…

– How do we find balance with screen time/non-screen time?
– How do we communicate to parents what we are doing in school?
– What is valuable about “traditional” teaching, and what needs revision?
– How is technology transforming pedagogy?

As said in the meeting, I echo how all of this boils down to “learning and sharing.” To me, that’s the reason we blog, MOODLE, tweet, journal, etc. Honestly, there are times when I’m working with other teachers when my individual spot in the “egg crate culture” seems nice and cozy and warm. It’s safe there, and I can move at my own pace.

There’s a problem with that statement, ”at my own pace.” It’s not really about me. It’s about the students. The moments I venture out of the egg crate have made me sharper, and most importantly, have engaged my students on a deeper level.