I am writing this as I come off the “conference high.” You know the feeling you get after you attend a big conference and hear a very motivating speaker that inspires you and speaks to your passions? That is where I am right now after listening to George Couros at the IT Summit in Saskatoon.
— Dean Vendramin (@vendi55) April 30, 2018
For those of you that have heard George speak, you know he has a strong voice for our students today and believes in the need to change our teaching practices to meet the needs of our students. His book, The Innovator’s Mindset” is certainly worth a read. He does not want us to put our students at a disadvantage because we are ignoring online spaces where our students like to hang out and we are hanging on to teaching practices that may not be what our students need to prepare them for the world they live in now and in the future.
During one of the conference sessions, I asked him how to get buy-in from all of our teachers. How do I get all of them moving toward a common goal? He asked me a lot of tough questions about my practice and expectations such as:
- What do I model for them?
- Do I still use paper agendas at staff meetings?
- Would all of our teachers show up at a staff meeting with their laptops ready to learn if I did not ask them to?
By the end of the session, his advice to me was, “You have to quit coddling them, Michelle.”
Wow, George! That’s tough!
As I took time to reflect what he was saying to me, the ah-ha moments started coming. I feel like we have been on a journey toward innovation in our teaching at our school for about 9 years now. The first time I stood up at a staff meeting trying to explain the learning I was doing while taking my Masters Degree, I was excited about education for the first time in a long time and I couldn’t wait to share. As I left that meeting, however, I was like a puppy with her tail between her legs. I mean, I think they would have thrown tomatoes at me if they had any.
As I talked it over with my principal at the time I figured out a few things:
- My passions are not necessarily other people’s passions or at least not yet.
- Baby steps were necessary and I could not use the bull in the china shop strategy.
- I needed to recognize every teacher is at a different place and I need to start there.
- I needed to seek out the like-minded people I was surrounded by. I knew they were there, I just had to find them.
We have taken many baby steps since that day. Interestingly enough the first teacher I found willing to jump into a class blog was not a younger fresh out of school teacher, but rather a seasoned teacher that understood the need to reflect and change practice to meet the needs of those students we teach and was willing to do so.
— Michelle Smart (@PrincipalSmart) May 1, 2018
We applied for IT grants and worked on projects. We were successful with receiving a $10,000 grant to work on Web 2.0 in the classroom and we sent 3 people to Philidelphia to a conference and have them share with the rest of us. At that time we all started Twitter accounts and many moved toward class blogs.
So baby steps we have been doing for sure, but even with all of that, we still do not have a focused goal for really meeting the needs of our students. We still have teachers that do not see the need to change practice and this is worrisome because constant reflection and change of practice seem necessary. The same old thing just doesn’t work anymore. I am not talking about throwing out everything and starting over, but we only have so much time, so the things we are doing better get us the best bang for our buck and benefit our student’s learning the most.
Last year we decided to have each teacher set a goal of using our available laptops, I-pads, and bandwidth to inspire our students to connect and create. Many good things happened and forward steps were taken by some, but not all. This year we asked them to take the next logical step. They could add on to what they had done last year or try something new. We still had many wonderful things done with our students in classrooms, but I hate to say it, less buy-in and in some cases more excuses.
It is not that I don’t think some excuses are valid to a point, but if we continue to come up with all the reasons why we can’t do something, our students continue to be miles ahead of us and practice never changes.
When I look back on our journey to this point and truly think about what George was trying to say to me I realized that I can’t wait for some people to take baby steps on their own. If we feel something is important as a staff (or most of us anyway) then it is up to us as administrators to let our strong leader teachers lead and support them by not coddling the others.
Sometimes things need to be put forth as expectations, especially when it comes to truly trying to meet the needs of our students.
A dear mentor of mine used to say “Hold their feet to the fire while rubbing their backs.” 🙂 #leadupchat
— Marci Houseman (@marcihouseman) May 5, 2018
So here we go! Thanks, George!