Leadership Day 2014; Reflection on Things Done Well

To celebrate Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day 2014, I thought look back on a few highlight of my leadership.  The moments I look back on for reference and guidance when the going is rough.  There is always plenty to be discouraged about in this vague, daunting, exciting role of school leader, so when things work, really WORK, it’s worth a word or two.   Today I’ll share two such moments.

Our school has always been a technology leader.  I started there with an Apple IIe lab, very cutting edge.  Our active and involved Technology Committee (aka Grant Geeks) met off site, equal parts parents, staff and our principal to continue our momentum in making technology an integral part of teaching and learning.

As a sixth grade teacher, I was already knee-deep in Ed Tech (reading blogs, checking out new devices, encouraging my colleagues).  Enter the scene, Interactive Whiteboards.  By this time, we were running a PC Lab, had a bank of desktops in most classrooms and were launching “the teacher work station.”  Grant Geeks used funding from PTA and (minimal) site funds.  Projector or IWB was the conversation for a few months as we were planning to outfit 3 classrooms as a starting point.  I read Frank Noschese’s post, The $2 Interactive Whiteboard.  Agreed.  100%.  IWB’s are the technology equivalent of round robin reading.  You want interaction among students?  Buy a melamine panel and hand out the Expo pens!  That’s collaboration and interaction!!  The $2 versus $2000.

This was a moment when we were willing to spend the money necessary, install a system in a few rooms, stand back and see how it worked.  Then tweak, refine, replicate and move through the rest of the school.  Projector vs IWB was a pivotal decision.

What’s best for students versus the latest shiny thing is a battle we wage often in Ed Tech.  And sometimes it’s just hard to know until you get to work.  We were making a different decision when the rest of the Ed Tech community seemed to be IWB crazed.  And I know many teachers who are very pleased with this device and use it effectively.  We just didn’t quite agree with the trend.

I, along with two colleagues, piloted the initial ‘teacher work station.’  It was awesome!  A desktop computer, projector and doc cam opened up the world to my students.  Instant research, ‘field trips’ to far away places, webinars from McMurdo Station, students showing off their ideas and learning…. we made a good decision.  And I’m proud to have been a part of it.

As the site administrator for our school now, starting year four, my moment of things working well happened just two days ago.  We start every school year with a staff meeting, of sorts.  Welcoming new staff, enrollment updates, scheduling, and some sort of message for the year, a pep talk/theme/guiding experience.   Last year we talked Abilene Paradox.  I wanted to protect our site from district-level strife that was bringing down morale.  As a site, we are not getting in the car to Abilene, speak up, your opinions are important and we don’t have to agree to come to agreements.

This year, after an awesome two days at the Google Teacher Academy, I was inspired to put teachers in the learner’s seat and host an experiential start to school.  We dove into a hyperdoc with four tasks.

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 8.20.18 AM


Aligned to the 4C’s and very GAFE-centric, we worked through the tasks, asking questions, learning from one another, skipping around the document, googling help, laughing and enjoying the work.  When we got to our stopping point, we went through each quadrant, enjoying the fruit of our labor but, more importantly, talking students.  How would this look with your students?  Needs more structure?  Small group activity?  How does this tool apply to math?  history?

In my experience as a learner of Ed Tech, one part of the process is usually left out.  Teachers need to be learners.  Not just talked to, but actually doing the work.  And not pretending to be a fifth grader, but learning and experiencing as an adult.  Sometimes that’s missing.  And we need to talk application RIGHT AWAY.  While we’re in the learner’s seat is when the How does this look with students? be most fruitful.

“I accidentally messed up the title slide,” shared a teacher.  Yep.  That’s going to happen.  Do you stop the class for a mini lesson?  Talk to the individual, help he/she fix it and maintain everyone’s work flow?  Those are in-the-moment teaching decisions.  It’s up to you.

I’m proud of the work I prepared for our 1st day back.  Being together is important for a small staff like ours.  Learning together, laughing and then turning our attention to our students… it was fun.

Thanks Scott for inspiring me to write!  Happy 8th Anniversary to your Dangerously Irrelevant blog!  Always an inspiring read.



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