Sunday, March 31, 2013

Admitting Our Fears


Standardized test scores.


Parent-Teacher conferences.

The word "moist".


In and out of the classroom teachers, administrators, students, and everyone else has some fears or insecurities, but facing those fears is where you separate leaders from the rest. Vicki Davis posted this on her Cool Cat Teacher Blog late last year:
"I think it is hard for many people to realize that fear is a natural part of being innovative. If you do ANYTHING at all, fear is often part of that. "
Fear can motivate us or it can hold us back from achieving amazing and innovative things. I started a blog this year - scary stuff. I started coaching soccer for the first time a few months ago - scary stuff. I started running professional development for other more experienced teachers and administrators this year - holy guacamole! Scary stuff. Now, I find myself looking forward to blogging, searching out materials to use in different blog posts, and sharing them with others in a new light. Now, I'm reading soccer coaching books and finding segues into teacher and learning that I had never been introduced to before. Now, I have realized a passion for teaching adults that I never knew existed. Fear is a good then when realized and used as a guide.
I have accepted fear as a part of life – specifically the fear of change…. I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.  ~ Erica Jong
What fear is holding you back? Realize your fears and take the first step to overcome them. This might be talking with a colleague about the fears, this might be doing a little research and trying something new yourself before asking others to join you, or it might just be admitting you have a fear of something. Here's a challenge for you - pick something that you fear from the list below and do it; let your fear of it guide you instead of stopping you. Already conquered all these? Add your unlisted fear to the list by leaving a comment at the bottom - the first step to overcoming a fear is admitting it.

Try Blogging!
Here is a webinar called Fear Factor: Taking the Fear Out of Blogging and here are the great resources they mention for getting started with blogging that they mention,

Try a New Project with Your Students!
Infographics --> Here is a great post by Bill Ferriter on his blog The Tempered Radical

Common Craft Style Videos --> This is a great resource post by Paul Bogush.

Tackle the Topics of Bullying Once and For All!
Use one of these 4 Great Online Anti-Bullying Initiatives to get the ball rolling on an anti-bullying program unique to your school's or classroom's needs.

Need to start simplier yet? Have your staff read this NY Times article on how to define bullying to help everyone create a common language around this hot topic in education.

Participate in a MOOC and Learn Something New!
MOOCs? Pshh who cares about MOOCs? Take a minute to read Why MOOCs Matter by Keith Hamon, and you'll be itching to participate in a MOOC.

Find a MOOC of interst at A Master List of 700 Free Courses From Great Universities from Open Culture
and learn something new!

Try Out a New EdTech Tool!
Try out PosterOven to create a poster to get teachers excited about the next PD you are leading or to get students asking questions about the next topic in your class!

Use a QR code to get students using thier devices and interacting digitally with material and you! Here are two simple ways to use QR codes.

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Admitting Our Fears by Anthony Pascoe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Leaders Must Be Curators

Wikipedia describes Digital curation as
...the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets. Digital curation establishes, maintains and adds value to repositories of digital data for present and future use. This is often accomplished by archivists, librarians, scientists, historians, and scholars. The term curation in the past commonly referred to museum and library professionals. It has since been applied to interaction with social media including compiling digital images, web links and movie files.
Curation as a teacher is vital. Curation as a administrator is vital. Curation as a leader is vital. Curation as a life-long learner is vital. Curation helps us interact with the resources available; it helps us categorize, organize, and share resources with others. In curating resources we learn, grow, and contribute to our professional and personal learning networks in a hugely beneficial capacity that is only outmatched by the reciprocity it produces if done using social media like Diigo, Twitter, blogs, etc.

Will Richardson wrote a blog post last month titled Curators Rule the World where he highlighted a quote by Joe Coleman in his post Long Form Journalisms Ressurection"We’re now at a point where curators rule the content world, by collectively deciding whether content gets amplified or lost." This is a great point that curation can help us with the vital 21st century skill of managing information in the information age by allowing the curation of resources to be a communal activity with the work load dispersed allowing for more learning and less searching.

For an example, below are seven (7) of the 20+ resources I bookmarked on Diigo this week and shared on Twitter with my followers, the #edchat and #edtech chats, and my fellow teachers via Twitter, email, or "come here and look at this":

Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership --> During my blog post last week How May I Help You? (Servant Leadership) I found the actual center responsible for holding the annual conference on servant leadership and maintaining the body of knowledge around it, I bookmarked it for future resource gathering in this area of leadership.

Online classes may worsen educational achievement gap, study shows --> I read this Seattle Times article and sent the link out to our district's technology and distance education coordinator to help in the ongoing discussion in our district of using out online classes as credit recovery opportunities.

50 Educator Twitter Accounts Worth Following --> I used this TeachThought blog post as an opportunity to grab a few new Twitter users to follow (like plugged-in superintendent Tom D'Amico and connect principal Lyn Hilt) and to share with my colleagues who are just starting out on Twitter.

6 Steps To A Flipped Classroom --> I used this TeachThought blog post (I like TeachThought quite a bit) to build my knowledge base about flipped classrooms, because I am interested in the idea but skeptical about best practices related to it as well.

Picking the Best Platform for Class Blogging --> I started a class blog and leadership blog this year, and next year I would like to start giving students individual blogs so I am gathering resources for that change next year and this FreeTech4Teachers resource was a great addition.

The Roman Empire on Google Maps --> I teach 6th grade social studies which focuses on ancient history and this resource will make a great resource next quarter when we study The Roman Empire more closely, I also shared it with the other teachers in my district for a great resource from the Google Maps Mania blog.

Could There Actually Be One "C" To Rule Them All?! --> I thought this was a great piece from the ConnectedPrincipals blog of the "C" discussion of Common Core and vital 21st century skills that I enjoyed reading and shared with my school.

Curation is not just about aggregation - curation is the deliberate act of collecting, organizing, annotating, and sharing resources that will benefit others and hopefully start or contribute to conversations that will help those involved learn and grow. It is about dipping into the rivers of resources like Twitter, Pinterest, or blogs and sifting out as many golden resources as we can. Curation is how we learn in the information age; it is an art, a passion, and a skill that all leaders need to have in their toolbox.

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Leaders Must Be Curators by Anthony Pascoe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How May I Help You? (Servant Leadership)

Top notch teachers more often than not have a strong desire to help others, this is one of many traits that helps them to be empathetic - a key to meaningful teaching. In the same vein though, one of the common complaints of teachers pertaining to administrators is that they are disconnected from the classroom and therefore don't understand the struggles that a teacher goes through in the classroom. The idea is the same for the very best administrators that we hear about and read about; they have the ability to empathize with colleagues and they embrace the idea of servant leadership. I am not an administrator, but as a teacher I try to understand and follow the same ideas in the hopes the I will become a integral part of my school to my students, teachers, administrators, and the community as a whole.

George Couros is one of many leaders that I follow that seems to carry servant leadership as one of the many tools in his toolbox of administrative skills. Recently discussing an example of the practical application of servant leadership in a blog post titled Questions and Ownership Couros said:
I have said this before, that great leadership should model the same things that great teachers do.  If you are the leader or teacher with all of the answers, what happens when you leave?  What have you built within your school or classroom?  Even if your school moves forward because of the wisdom of one person, that is a culture of one, and that culture will die when you leave.  We have to figure out better ways for our staff and students to own the culture and learning, and follow up by doing what we can to empower them to be successful.
I gather two big ideas from this discussion on leadership: continuity and shared leadership. Now, built into these things are optimism, empowerment, trust, team-work, and many other key characteristics but when it comes down to it a school often needs to have continuity and shared leadership to survive. It is often said that the average time a principal will spend at a school is 2-3 years before moving on or up in their careers. Although this is unsettling, I think the best move for schools is to have a system in place that allows for this professional mobility without a loss of overall skills, knowledge, and leadership. Empowering teacher-leaders by allowing them to fulfill leadership roles at a school-wide level will not only diversify the leadership within a school it will unify the school and allow for the long standing stability and continuity needed for success.

The following list of critical skills for the servant leader is adapted from the work of the originator of the term "servant leadership" Robert Greenleaf:
  1. Listening - Communication is always a valued trait of a leader and it is no different in servant leaders. Servant leaders seek to identify the will of their group and clarify any misunderstandings, by actively listening they also act as a medium for communication by listening and moderating communications.
  2. Empathy - As mentioned above, servant leaders seek to understand and empathize with others, in both the positive and negative aspects of the teaching and learning profession.
  3. Healing - Greenleaf wrote, "There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if, implicit in the compact between the servant-leader and led is the understanding that the search for wholeness is something that they have."Understanding how to heal people's hearts and minds is a key to understanding how to be a true servant leader.
  4. Awareness - This refers to a frame of mind that seeks self-awareness and general awareness of things like school culture and climate.
  5. Persuasion - This is a key difference to most traditional models of leadership, where a leader seeks to persuade others rather than coerce compliance. Building consensus in this way often leads to stronger and more stable buy-in from stakeholders within a school setting.
  6. Conceptualization - Servant-leaders must be able to conceptualize an optimistic future and see it in the day-to-day undertaking of a leader, teacher, or student
  7. Foresight - Linked to the previous skill, foresight it is vital for leaders to conceptualize the future while understanding the past either explicitly or intuitively.
  8. Stewardship - Robert Greenleaf's view of all institutions was one in which CEO's, staff, directors, and trustees all play significance roles in holding their institutions in trust for the great good of society.
  9. Commitment to the Growth of People - Servant-leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As such, servant-leaders are deeply committed to a personal, professional, and spiritual growth of each and every individual within the organization.
  10. Building Community - Servant-leaders seek to identify a means for building community among those who work within a given institution. Creating a living learning community in a school can be one of the most powerful movements made by a servant leader.
To learn more about servant leadership you can explore the website devoted to Greenleaf's servant leadership or you can buy the 25th anniversary edition of the original book that still holds valuable information for leadership today. You can also watch this 10 minute YouTube video explaining some of the tenants of servant leadership.

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How Can I Help You? Servant Leadership by Anthony Pascoe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Go Home! - How to Be a Better Teacher

When I told my students how much I missed being in a place with snow ever since I moved to teach in Saipan, they were instantly interested, and not just because I mentioned the mystical thing known as snow - I was talking about something that I was passionate about.

I quickly realized we needed some visual guides and pulled up some Google images as I talked about snowshoeing, ice fishing, snow mobiles, snowmen, snow ball fights, snow forts, and sledding. When I told them that I spent a night in an snow fort I made for a Polar Bear challenge with my dad when I was a kid they begged to hear more. I described how we made the fort so that we slept raised up on a platform (to let cold air sink below us) and then how we stayed warm (without melting the fort) using candles and the heat from our breath in a hardened-snow fort and why this was better than a solid ice fort.

This discussion had me thinking about a short interview I watched the other day of Gary Stager at a Maker Faire, which is "a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement." Stager made a few statements that help describe this spontaneous teaching moment I had about snow forts from my childhood and the most important is that "Knowledge is a consequence of experience." We need to show students that we are interesting people who lead a well-balanced life and don't simple live, eat, sleep, and breath our classrooms.

Stager goes on to discuss that the most influential teachers of our schooling are often the ones who share their "knowledge and their passion for acquiring more knowledge and it becomes infectious and transparent to their students." A great example of this is when I sat and ate lunch with a student one day and we talked about I really liked to read about Julius Caesar and his exploits, the very next day the student came in bursting with stories about Caesar being captured by pirates when he was a young man - another student successfully addicted to learning! :-)


 The idea here is simple - live a life full of experiences worth talking about, share them with your students, and in the process become a better teacher.

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Go Home! - How to Be a Better Teacher by Anthony Pascoe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Risk is the Key to a Good Life

Every time I catch a video with International Space Station flight engineer Chris Hadfield I eagerly drop what I am doing and watch it. Hadfield is a powerful and captivating speaker who is a natural at explaining and articulating a huge variety of topics. Recently, I caught a video of Hadfield having a conversation with William Shatner about a variety of topics stemming from a Q&A session by Shatner. There is one particular question that when Shatner asks about Hadfield about the risks of a possible Mars mission; Hadfield casually responds, "you can't live a worthwhile life without risk."

In the classroom and in schools as a whole if there is not a safe and caring environment where teachers feel that they can take risks then there will be very little innovative thinking. Everyone must take risks at a school at one time or another for innovative thinking to occur at a school-wide level.
  • Students must understand that mistakes and even failures are not end products but a means to a more successful end; a stepping stone of learning
  • Teachers must feel the freedom and support of their administrators to try new teaching and learning strategies in an environment that fosters life-long learners
  • Administrators must feel empowered within their role and in their ability to be able to pilot new programs and test new technology within their schools without out the confines of rigid accountability
The key to all of these is a high level of support and trust at a school, because there is always a possibility that a program will fail, won't produce higher student achievement, won't promote character education in a school, or won't hit any other mark it was intended to. At this point you make or break a school environment; if the told-you-so statements start flying or anything similar - innovation will die a painful death. On the other hand, in schools where failure, mistakes, and a little bit of stumbling are seen as profession growth, learning opportunities, and stepping stones to future excellence you will see all stakeholders work harder, appreciate failure, and seek excellence in all aspects.

Here is a YouTube for Chris Hadfield which comes up with eating in space, clipping finger nails,  and tons of other great things you never thought of that were different in space - try and watch one without having to watch another from sheer curiosity.