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Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Recipe for Professional Learning!

We hear all the time how important it is to have a professional learning community (PLC) and are showed numerous examples of what that should look like.  However, I feel not as much time is spent on the ingredients you need to get to that point and if it doesn’t happen overnight, it should be ok.  Being the strong leaders that we are, it can be hard to work with someone else and share the work load when you would much rather do it yourself in your own way.  I strongly feel the number 1 ingredient for a successful professional learning community is similar philosophies or at least the willingness to learn.

This became evident once I was paired with my current teaching partner.  We were just meant to teach together.  It is through working with her that I have learned the ingredients needed to have a successful PLC.

  1. Balance – We are similar but yet not identical.
  2. Sharing – We take turns planning and creating lessons.
  3. Willingness to learn – We never settle and are always on the lookout for what more we can learn or in what ways can we make something better.
  4. Honesty – We can tell the other one when we don’t think an idea will work and don’t take it personally if the other one wants to try something else.
  5. Risk Taking – We are willing to try something outside our comfort zone because we know we have the support of each other.

It is these core values that have allowed us to become a cohesive team.  Granted it helped that our philosophies were the same to begin with but it took us 4 years to get to the point we are at today.  Our balance, sharing, and willingness to learn came first and honesty and risk taking came after.  We were always honest and willing to take risks mind you but the risks were small and our honesty was always slightly sugar coated.  The more we work together the more we understand how important to those last two ingredients are and we have gotten stronger in them.  In the last year, I have learned that as an educator you have to be willing to have your way of thinking challenged.  While it doesn’t mean you have to change it, you have to be willing to see someone else’s point of view and acknowledge the positives in it.  It is through PLC that you can reimagine an idea or concept and make it your own.  That’s where the innovation happens!

Twitter has taken the PLC to a whole other level.  Now you have access to your professional learning network (PLN) of educators all over the world.  What I find most fascinating about Twitter is that educators from all over the world, who may have different philosophies, understand the core values of a network.  You have 24/7 access to people who want to learn, share resources, take risks, and will be honest with you.  I think part of that is you aren’t face-to-face so it is slightly easier. J   At any rate PLNs have provided yet another way for educators to work collaboratively and maybe even take some of that back to their PLCs.

When you are willing to make any of the above happen, you will be surprised on the positive effect it will have on your teaching.  You will also be surprised how inspired it will make you to become a better educator.  Those scary risks and ideas that you only dreamed about start becoming a reality because you know you have someone else in your corner now.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in PLC

 

Fabulous Feedback!

My administrator has been participating in the #LeadLap ANCHOR conversations challenge and it has been awesome.

ANCHOR Challenge
I am incredibly thankful that she took on this challenge and already feel as though I have become a better educator because of it.  Not to mention I’m smiling even more than usual which is always good.  My co-worker then started having ANCHOR conversations with her students.

This challenge has allowed me to do some reflecting on my own when it comes to the art of feedback.  I feel as educators we crave feedback or at least someone taking a moment to either praise or ask you how you did that.  I know that providing my students with ongoing and effective feedback is just as important!  During my student teaching experience, my cooperating teacher reminded me that I need to remember students crave feedback just as much as adults do.  I feel we often get bogged down with all that is on our plate that we forget to stop and take a moment to reflect, provide feedback, and notice something wonderful.  We need to remember that if we have full plates, so do our students.  We need to pause and take a moment to really notice and appreciate each student.  This can feel daunting because we often, as Donalyn Miller states, turn conferencing with students into a math problem.  We have to get through this many students in this amount of days or we have failed.  However, we need to instead think of this as on-going and constant.  Once you are done you start again. There is no failing.

When giving students feedback for learning, I have learned that it needs to be instant, constant, and ongoing.  Students need to hear from us early, often, when they start, when they finish, and during the process.  Feedback needs to have a focus.  For example, when I am conducting content conferences during writer’s workshop, I only focus on what the writing does: the content and words of their piece.  In editing conferences, I look only at conventions.  This allows for students who excel in these areas to feel praise and students who may not excel, not feel as overwhelmed.  I have loved the whole concept of CFAs (common formative assessments).  Quick ways to check in on my student’s progress.  My coworker came up with the idea of laminating index cards.  Students record thoughts on the card and then put back in a central location.  I take a quick glance and can instantly tell which students grasped concepts and which students need extra support.  I love being able to have this quick way to assess, so I can then focus on providing my students with effective feedback on their learning.

I also love using my blog as a way to provide feedback on learning.  When I flip the classroom and post videos to watch on the blog, students then are required to post a comment that either answers a problem with in the video or relates to the video.  I have made it a goal this year to then respond to each student’s comment.  Within the comment, I try to highlight something they did well as well as pose a question that is related to that particular student’s growth.  The questions will range in level of difficulty depending on the needs of that student.  I feel this has increased student engagement and participation which then in turn has impacted our learning.

In February, I will embark on a 1:1 pilot using Google Touch Chromebooks in my classroom.  I am looking forward to learning and discovering even more ways I can provide fabulous feedback for learning.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Feedback