Monday, August 26, 2013

50 Great Minutes!

Message to staff regarding our first late start for teacher collaboration.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thoughts about teacher led professional development.

Today we wrapped up two days of high quality professional learning.  Last year, I organized a group of teachers to take a hard look at our professional development practices.  I felt that our PD was all over the place and had little thought or direction.  I have had some good and bad PD throughout the years (More bad than good).  As an administrator I have organized my fair share of bad PD for teachers.  We vowed this year to never allow that to happen again.  We met several times, and had a full day work session over the summer. We meticulously planned our two days of learning.

Rather than bringing high priced presenters into our school.  We used our experts in our buildings and spent time researching best practices.  We placed our focus on the teacher. Its the teacher that has the largest impact on student achievement.  Using an idea I took from Jim Knight, we developed everything around a target.  Our target has three prongs, 1)Instruction, 2)Engagement, and 3)Assessment.  Everything we prepared was aligned and did not deviate from the target.  Our goal is to stay consistent as we move forward.  

We want PD to: Individualize, provide follow up, stay on target, differentiate, and provide reflection opportunities. 

We wanted small group sessions so we broke our staff into three random groups.  We made sure that the groups had various members from the elementary to the high school.  This allowed us to have more intimate discussions about the topic.  We also wanted to provide follow up, because we felt that too often we have PD that never enters the classroom.  One way we worked around that was by developing a document called, "Teacher Takeaways."  Each teacher was expected to take at least one method from each of the five teacher-led PD sessions and use it in their classroom.  We have the luxury of having four early release times throughout the year for PD.  We will use these as an extension of the two full days of PD to share evidence of use. We want follow up! 

I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of presentations that were created by the teachers on the PD team.  Teachers were active participants and I felt that they enjoyed the days.  I heard many positive comments about the changes we have made.  The true test of whether these two days of PD were quality or not will come on September 11th during our early out.  Teachers will be expected to share evidence of use. We will find out if any of these new methods entered their classroom.  It has been a lot of work, but a much needed change for our district.  

Admin need to realize that the people in your building can provide high quality PD, and you don't always have to hire the expensive presenters for credibility.  Our local experts can provide an equally high PD experience if done right.  


Monday, August 5, 2013

Book bucks, stickers, bikes and the love of reading.

I have read several excellent posts regarding the use of rewards and incentives to encourage reading over the last few months.  Joe Bower wrote an excellent post on his experience with his own daughter's school and their use of book bucks.  The school used book bucks to motivate their students to read more books. Bower went on to write, "Before Kayley went to school she said she read because she liked to read with me and it was fun, but now she says she likes to read because she wants book bucks." I shared his post with our staff and it led to some very good discussions and caused many to question their use of rewards.  

Chris Wejr, another great blogger put together a post a year ago discussing how his school has removed rewards and incentives from their reading program.  Wejr shares several creative ways his school has created a love for reading without rewards. It begins with, "No charts. No stickers. No pizza parties. No awards. No certificates…. and LOTS of reading!"

Don't get me wrong I know schools have the right intentions and many believe that rewards motivate children to read more. It may help them read more, but is it really about quantity or should it be about quality?  Does this really encourage reading?

I am writing this post tonight, because like Joe Bower my daughter said something tonight that disappointed me.  She participated in the summer reading program and did an excellent job reading books over the summer. For every 10 minutes their name was entered into a bucket to win a bike, and low and behold she won it.  I have nothing against the program but looking back I feel I enabled her to be motivated by rewards. Now that the summer reading program is over and the bike has been won, her motivation to read on her own has wavered.  Tonight after reading a few books I asked her if she was ready to read one of hers, and she said, "Daddy I don't need to read on my own anymore the summer reading program is over."  This really got to me.  I really want her to love reading, not just for stickers, pizza parties, and book bucks.  I have seen first hand how rewards don't motivate.