Friday, April 9, 2010

Playing School Leadership Team: The Challenge of Real Versus Make Believe

My cohort and I are currently in our fifth week of studying Organization and Administration, the fourth course of our five-course plus internship certificate program for Administration and Supervision through JHU & ISTE. The course is unlike any of our previous ones. Each week we undertake a real-life school leadership team challenge and submit a component of our overall Administrative Action Plan based on the real data of one of the schools where we work, (in this case, MY middle school).

O&A is what I’d call hands-on learning. We have our hands on real data for a school that really exists. It is not make believe. The challenge for me personally is that I work in and know this school and all its players. I know the plan that the real school constructed and I know how it’s playing out in the current school year. I have to pretend that it’s August and we are looking at this just-delivered data and preparing for a new school year. Some of what we come up with parallels what really happens, but not all of it, and in those cases, I’m proud of our work and would really like to implement our ideas to see what kind of results we would achieve.

I’m not crazy about the fact that my role on the leadership team changes each week. One week I’m a principal, the next week a guidance counselor, the next week a parent/community liaison, and then a department chair. While I understand the importance of representing and walking in the shoes of each of these stakeholders on the team, I would much rather practice being a principal. I’d rather have my instructor evaluate how I handle the principal’s role in the context of this team with each piece of the puzzle that’s presented.

For the first half of O&A, I’ve been resisting the course structure, but I’m beginning to “get it.” For the first time in the program, I want the instructor to lecture me, to tell me “this is what a principal does and this is how you do it.” I’m coming to realize that he is in fact doing just that. He’s saying principals are given a set of data to drive decisions, a relatively fixed amount of money, time, and personnel to improve student achievement, a parent and community to support and involve, and a representative team with which to create and implement the plan. He also provides a fair amount of literature and research on what others have done that worked and shares his own experiences of being in the driver’s seat of a high school.

The only piece that’s not the real deal is that we pull all of this off virtually, and not gathered around a conference table face-to-face and rubbing elbows. Oh, and the fact that we all submit an Administrative Action Plan individually, after weekly feedback on the team-submitted component parts, where in the real world the work of the team gives birth to one document, not five. But we're preparing five principals, not one, so it's important to have evidence that all can perform the task.

Carry on, Leaderhip Team, we're more than halfway there!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The American Cancer Society - :

Please support TEAM CHRISTINE in the Relay for Life of Pottsville to benefit The American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society - :

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ISTE 2010

I'm presenting a Poster Session at ISTE 2010 in Denver this summer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Instructional Leaders Fostering 21st Century Technology Integration

I tried my hand at Pixton Comics for this week's blog assignment for the Curriculum Theory course. Take a look!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Week 5 Discussion Summary: Challenges to Implementing Universal Design for Learning, (Choose one of the three options below.)

I. Click on the Play button below to hear a Voki summary of JHUISTE Section 2's Whole Group Discussion on the Challenges to Implementing Universal Degign for Learing (UDL) in classrooms and schools. Feel free to leave your comments and questions.

Get a Voki now!

II. Visual learners may prefer the PhotoPeach summary slideshow here. Click the full screen icon on the lower right corner of the presentation window.

Challenges to Implementing Universal Design for Learning, (UDL) 02.2010 on PhotoPeach

Special thanks to two-time teammate Andrea Christman for introducing me to this useful software.

For a complete list of references for the Flickr photos, click here.

III. Week 5 Discussion is summarized here in a text version, i.e. PowerPoint.
Week 5 Discussion Summary Power Point

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why Do We Go to School?

I have to be honest. I never really thought much about why kids go to school. I know why I’m still going to school. I’m at a point in my life where I want to expand my repertoire and skill set. I want to learn more and to gain proficiency in the art of administration so that I can take the next step in my career from teacher to principal, supervisor, or director. But why do my students or my nieces and nephews go to school? The bottom line is that we go to school to learn, to get an education, to earn a diploma, so that we can pursue further education or join the work force and live nobly as informed and dedicated citizens.

There’s information we need to know in order to survive in an intelligent and competitive society and to be successful in life. As far as what subjects should be taught, I still believe in the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic, as a starting point. But curriculum in these or any subject has got to be much bigger than that. It includes not only “content,” but also “process.” It’s one thing to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. It’s quite another to be able to apply those skills to a variety of relevant problem situations. It’s one thing to rattle off a list of state capitals, square roots, prepositions or presidents, but quite another to take one’s knowledge and apply it to issues and debates in meaningful and persuasive ways. These processes must be taught so that our students can be equipped to handle themselves in a big, bold diverse world that thrives on communication. What I’m getting at here is the need to get away from the “what” of curriculum to the “how.” Teachers can deliver their students boatloads of information and check them off as they go, but out of context the information is almost useless. It is incumbent on them to provide their students with opportunities to create, collaborate, and think. A great place to start to see the connection between curriculum and these processes is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Coincidentally, with my new philosophy about the purpose of school and the subjects to be taught, I was asked to take on a teaching assignment at the start of the second quarter, so it was time to "put my money where my mouth is." I am currently teaching an algebra class to 8th graders. It’s been four years since I’ve been in the classroom, and I’ve learned a lot about technology integration and pedagogy since then in my role as a technology integration coach. I’m trying very hard to teach differently than I did before. I’m trying not to focus on algorithms, but to get behind the math. I no longer accept that they know the procedure, but insist that they explain the “why” of the steps we follow in solving a problem. Kids can say things like “cross multiply these two numbers and divide by the denominator,” but have no real understanding of how these numbers are related. I’m also trying to use real-life problems and contexts that kids can relate to rather than meaningless abstract problems that are not connected to their experience. For example, when we studied percents and proportions, I created problems like this: “If the Student Government made $300 in 4 days of ticket sales, how much can they expect to make in two weeks?” They were immediately interested in this because the dance had just been announced and they were very excited about it.

Another new strategy I’m using more now than before is to have students work in pairs and groups and to use technology to show what they know. They can’t just tell me an answer. They have to explain their thought process and determine whether or not the answer makes sense. This we do through blogging where they really have to think and put into words in a public forum what it is they’re doing to arrive at a solution and why. I have no doubt that I can get my students ready to pass the state test in June. But I want them to achieve much more than this. Not only will they have knowledge of algebra, but they will also know how to express their thinking, to rub shoulders and work through problems and projects with others, to sort through their disagreements, and to open their eyes to new solutions. These are skills that will serve them well as they enter the world on their own, no matter what direction their path takes them.