The purpose of this blog is to share insights into educational issues affecting Jerome Middle School. These could be new teaching strategies; new ways of grading; new ways of holding students accountable; new ways of getting students involved in their learning; or even new ways of getting parents more involved in the events at school. I hope that these posts will help answer some questions about happenings at JMS!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Virtual Journey Continues

I haven't posted in a while - I was trying very hard to stay "disconnected" while we were on Spring Break. I needed to that in order to spend some quality time with my family - "reconnect" with them, if you will. We took a short trip up to Boise and went swimming, watched Alice in Wonderland at the IMAX, went bowling, and visited our newly remodeled Capitol building. I wasn't able to completely stay "disconnected" - I corresponded with @mrspal concerning the "muchness" discussed in Alice in Wonderland, and how that related to education. She has a great blog post about it!

But...I digress. The purpose of this post is to discuss what occurred just before Spring Break started. We have many "new" administrators in our district this year - I put "new" in quotes, because they aren't brand new, but in new positions. Our Superintendent, Business Manager, HS principal, UE principal, and Federal Programs director are all in new positions this year - lots of learning going on in our district! So, we held a "strategic planning" meeting last Thursday - I know, I know - curb your enthusiasm! We were all so looking forward to spending this time together - planning. BUT what a great day it turned out to be!

Through the discussion of the day (we had an outside person "coaching" us through the process--really a taskmaster.), we discovered what our vision for our students REALLY is. AND, the idea of "technology for learners v. technology for learning" came up. I grabbed the chance, and "confessed" my twitter habit that had developed in the last month. A great conversation erupted from my "confession" to these professionals.

Through my "testimony", I was able to share a glimpse of why I have been tweeting. Our district "tech" guy, who was leery of my obsession at first, was beaming with excitement. I have not always been known as a tech expert by any stretch of the imagination, but what I had been doing is exactly what he wanted to see in classrooms. I shared my skepticism of this social media platform as a "learning" tool, and how the skepticism had quickly turned to excitement and amazement in all that I had learned. I found myself so excited to share what I had learned, and the excitement became contagious.

We discussed some of the "negatives" to this idea - the fact that many of us (us being digital immigrants) see too many "bad" things associated with the Internet. Because we ARE digital immigrants, our students know much more than we do about this whole venture. I shared what I have read in multiple tweets - we are dealing with digital natives - whether we like it or not, social media is their world. We might as well teach them how to use it for "good" rather than for "bad".

By the end of the day, I was able to whet enough appetites, that this discussion is going to continue. In fact, our curriculum director has asked that I do a presentation for ad council (all our admins) about how I built my PLN, and how they can do the same. I am still in the process of learning all of this, and am honored that they want to learn from me.

What started out for me as an experiment - a trial- has turned in to an adventure that may possibly change the direction of instruction for teachers, and learning for students, in our district! I can't wait!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Morale is a Team Effort

Last week our edchat topic was concerning teacher morale. There was great discussion as to how it may or may not affect student achievement. One member of our PLN challenged everyone to raise someone's morale the next day.

I took this to heart and began to think of ways to raise morale in my school. As the instructional leader, I take this very seriously. I expect teachers to focus on the positives with their students in order to help relationship/rapport. I need to model this as well. However, morale boosting is not just up to me - it needs to be team effort.

Here are some things I have been doing to raise morale (some of these were done before last week's edchat).

1. We began our year with a FOCUS. We do have school improvement goals, team goals, department goals, and individual professional goals. All those "goals" can get overwhelming unless they all have a common focus. I used the "Starfish Story" as the basis for our focus this year. We are remembering that if we can make a difference for just one child in our jobs, then it is worth it. I use a starfish on all my presentations to staff - just keeping that focus in front of all of us.

2. Two staff meetings were dedicated to staff collaboration in answering two questions - What makes JMS Special? and What do we Value? Staff put a lot of though into this interactive activity - posters were hung up in our faculty lounge and staff commented on each others ideas. Now we are making them into permanent posters to be hung around the building.

3. Frequent walk throughs. The purpose of the walkthroughs is two-fold. One - to see what great things are students are being asked to do; and Two - to show students that the administrators value what goes on in classrooms.

4. "Starfish Awards" I took some time out of our most recent faculty meeting to recognize staff members who had made a difference in the last week. I recognized four groups/individuals, and then asked for others to share - and give out their own awards. Not only did more people get recognized for both little and big things that they do each day, we all learned what great things were occurring.

5. During this time of the year (Feb, March), I also ask staff to keep a "positives" journal. We get so focused on all the stress and negative things that our students are doing, we forget that we have great students too. I ask staff members to find at least one positive thing that occurred during the day (even if it is - I didn't kill any of my students today)! :-)

Just as it is easy for our teachers to get focused on negative aspects of our jobs - unmotivated students, apathetic parents, budget cuts, etc. - it is also easy for administrators to get pulled into the same vortex. That is why it is so important that building morale be a team effort. The instructional leader is just one piece of the puzzle. I just try and do what I can to lead the morale in the right direction.