Transition to Middle School

Transition to Middle School

I have continued my work presented in an earlier blog exploring the transition for students from elementary school settings to middle schools. As part of prepping grade five and six teachers working with instructional coaches to plan purposeful actions, we asked sixth grade students to record on Flip-Grid Video their responses to these questions: As a fifth-grade student, last year, what excited you MOST about going to middle school? Students shared they were excited about…. lockers, more than one teacher, meeting new friends, joining friends who didn’t go to their elementary school, and walking in the hall with no lines. (I wonder if we could provide students with additional excitement about the things they will learn and study?) As a fifth-grade student, what were you MOST worried about prior to starting…
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Steve Barkley Presenting at Fifth Annual Educational Bridges Conference

Steve Barkley Presenting at Fifth Annual Educational Bridges Conference

Renowned education consultant Steve Barkley will present at the fifth annual Educational Bridges Conference in Cape May, NJ, April 26 – 28, 2017. As a featured speaker, Steve will present the opening session, “Learning and Changing Through Questions: Guiding Questions to Help Get the Most Out of the Conference,” in which he’ll provide a framework for forming and organizing questions that lead to personal growth and system change. Steve will also deliver a keynote session: “Planning With the End in Mind.” This keynote will address how to make an impact on students by first identifying desired learning outcomes. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to network and discuss partnering and project opportunities. Each year, the Bridges Conference highlights numerous collaborative projects between higher education and K-12 education, with an emphasis…
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Focusing on Learning

Focusing on Learning

How do school leaders continuously guide the flow of teacher conversations, PLC’s and planning from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning? How do they focus on what they see and hear students doing rather than on what they see teachers doing? I was recently asked to provide some input on work that a principal and instructional coach were doing on a template for lesson plans. As I considered their thinking I was first moved to consider a need to move away from the term “lesson plan”. Consider this definition: A writing noting the method of delivery, and the specific goals and time-lines associated to the delivery of lesson content. It helps the teacher to know what to do in a class (prepared by themselves) with quite specific…
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Scaling Teachers Up or Cutting Them Loose?

Scaling Teachers Up or Cutting Them Loose?

I was recently facilitating a conversation with K-5 administrators and instructional coaches regarding the learning experiences they wanted students to be experiencing. At one point, someone said that they would have to “scale teachers up” for this to happen. In a few moments, someone else suggested that it wasn’t about “scaling up” but more about “cutting them loose”.  What do you think? Some of both? One of the items I shared to generate thinking about desired learning experiences was a video clip  of Todd Rose titled the Myth of Average. Rose identified a study of pilots that set out to identify the average pilot body build that the cockpit should be designed around. The problem they identified was that there is no average. Not one single pilot met the average…
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Teacher Leaders—Middle Leaders

Teacher Leaders—Middle Leaders

I was asked to facilitate a day-long session of middle leaders for a K12 school. As I gathered information about the participants, I found that they all taught full time with some duty- free periods. The elementary leaders oversaw a curriculum (math, science, etc.) and therefore worked with all the teachers in the school. The secondary members were content focused and worked with a department of teachers. Exploring the term “middle level,” I found a download  from the New Zealand Ministry of Education that defined middle level leaders as teachers with a focus additional task such as: pedagogical leaders at the subject, curriculum, and faculty levels; team and syndicate leaders; teachers with specific or designated whole school responsibility, such as for sport, information and communications technology (ICT), assessment, literacy, special…
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How Mastery Oriented Are Your PLC Conversations?

How Mastery Oriented Are Your PLC Conversations?

If we recorded the conversations during your PLCs, how much of the language would be identified as being mastery oriented vs self-limiting? In our classrooms, we would label these student statements as self-limiting: I tell my parents about an assignment late on Sunday, they help me with it a lot more than if I start earlier.  Practicing isn’t worth the time. I was no better at hitting the ball today then I was last week.  The assignment was too hard so I didn’t do it.       I got a 100 on the test. It was so easy. (Self-limiting if the student studied well) Self-limiting learners: Believe ability is fixed and unchangeable See failure as evidence of lack of ability Are threatened by failure Use maladaptive responses to challenge, expending energy and…
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Four Tenets for Building a Coaching Culture

Four Tenets for Building a Coaching Culture

*All teachers deserve coaching *Every teacher should have a growth plan and growth necessitates feedback *The stronger a teacher becomes the more coaching they should receive *Teacher leaders are the first to request coaching as they work to build the culture A common concern that I hear from instructional coaches is the question of how to approach teachers who see no “need to” or “value from” working with a coach….teachers who are “fine”. These staff members often view coaching as a supervisory activity or a support structure for new or struggling teachers. They may view themselves as equally (or better) skilled than the coach and believe that coaching is an activity involving an advanced professional (coach) working with someone less skilled. A focus from school administrative and teacher leadership on…
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PLCs: From Data to Action

PLCs: From Data to Action

I recently worked with several PLCs looking at how to take data they had regarding student learning and use it to decide, “What do we do now?” This is the truly critical step in functioning as a PLC.  I have too often witnessed time being spent reviewing data from a common assessment only to have teachers leave the session and go back to their classrooms to start instructing the next standard no differently than if they had not done the reflection on the data. The first step in moving to action from data study is goal setting. I facilitated a PLC of secondary math teachers who came to the session with the results of a standardized assessment that their 9th and 10th grade students had completed. The data identified particular…
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Facilitating Reflection

Facilitating Reflection

Reflection can provide a valuable learning experience for individuals and teams. Simon Sinek identifies its value in this short clip. “Reflection turns experience into insight.”                                                         John Maxwell I recently worked in three settings where leaders were exploring their facilitation of reflection as a strategy for increasing learning: Mentors supporting new heads of international schools Teacher leaders facilitating PLC goal driven processes A building administrator coaching teachers to examine differentiation to increase student achievement In each case I focused these leaders on using Questions for Life to plan questions that support reflective thinking. (Print a copy of QFL Cue Words) Like the facilitation that classroom teachers would provide students to support reflection that produces insights and learning, education leaders should create environments and guiding questions that increase educators’ learning from…
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Teachers in Two Paradigms

Teachers in Two Paradigms

Often, when working with school leaders and teachers implementing changes and innovations in teaching and learning, I describe the difficulty of living with a foot in each of two paradigms with a growing gap between the two. The question is, “Which foot gets picked up when the gap becomes too great?” Do we fall back into the “old” historical practice or lunge deeper into the “new” practice and culture?  A common example exists with implementing standards-based instruction in classrooms while maintaining an existing grading and report card schedule.  The teacher is telling students that she recognizes they require differing opportunities and time for mastering a standard while the teacher is being told she must have a grade recorded for each student each week. This two-paradigm struggle came to mind when…
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