I was extremely excited for this presentation for a few reasons. #1- Heather and I chat on Twitter, and I was excited to finally meet her in person! #2- I love literacy and I love leadership; yay for one presentation that combines them both! #3-
Heather started off by having participants doing some thinking and writing on their own (yay writing!). She asked us to think about literacy instruction in our school, specifically:
*What is going well?
*What needs improvement?
*What are your department/school goals?
I won’t share my answers here because they ended up being somewhat personal. Isn’t it funny how just taking a few minutes to write about something can bring up all sorts of realizations and feelings that you didn’t know were there?
We then moved into some sharing with partners and then with the larger group. I loved listening to everyone and seeing where they were coming from. There’s something comforting in learning that the issues we’re seeing at my school around literacy are not unique to us; it seems like there is a paradigm shift happening in education now (for better or worse), and everyone is trying to grapple with it in a way that will best help young people. This is a good reminder for me that, all politics aside, school is for the kids. That’s it. (#quotesfromPenny) (I miss Penny.)
Heather referenced Doug Fisher & Nancy Frye’s gradual release of responsibility model. The model is a teaching framework, but Heather says she looks at it through a leadership lens. She breaks down her leadership plan into four stages: hunting and gathering, mapmaking, building a fire, and setting them free.
Hunting and gathering
*data collection/analysis: combination of quantitative and qualitative data (including anecdotal evidence like talking to kids and teachers)
*observation trends: be mindful of trends in classroom observations
*survey: survey teachers to see what they want to work on for the year and what they need from their leader(s)
Important: if you create a department that they don’t think they need, they will never buy into it. Wherever possible, create a goal that department members come up with.
I keep hearing this over and over in my leadership classes, and Heather reiterated it today: Don’t say anything in a meeting that you can put in a memo. In fact, Heather doesn’t call her faculty meetings “faculty meetings.” She calls them “opportunities for learning.” I will take this with me as I become a leader!
*identify most pressing issues
*plan yearlong PD in meetings (and use your rock star teachers to share their expertise. The admin doesn’t always have to be presenting PD; use teachers!)
*utilize small groups (and mix the groups up from time to time!)
*request input from seasoned and new teachers
*be transparent (be honest and open; share why you are doing what you’re doing. Just like kids, teachers want to know that everything has a purpose.)
Building a Fire
Start meetings with something fun (good news to share, bring in a poem, share a book that they’re reading or that the kids are reading, etc.)
Meetings are mostly discussion based; she provides guiding questions and bullet points for teachers to focus their ideas. The meeting closes with an exit card to get some feedback on what teachers want to discuss at the next meeting or where they are in this process.
*Lesson plan conferences
Pick a focus for the year for lesson plans (example: assessment). Meet with teachers on a regular basis to talk about lesson plans (about 30-45 minutes). Sit down, talk about plans, talk about kids, etc. It’s a great way to individualize instruction for teachers (can help Ts find resources, books, articles, experts, etc.).
Offer demonstrate lessons for your teachers. You can offer to go into the teacher’s class and teach a lesson in something teachers need help with (and teachers take Heather up on this). This is also a great way to keep admins in touch with what’s going on in the classroom these days. I really love this idea, and as someone who worries about being miserable if I left the classroom, it gives an opportunity to stay connected to kids.
Find workshops that you think teachers might be interested in and pass them along. Then teachers can bring everything back to school and pass it along!
Stay in the loop (thank you, Twitter!) so you can send teachers links and resources. Create files and documents on Google Drive to build an archive of resources.
I’m so excited Heather addressed this because I really struggle with finding time for SSR, and I KNOW how important it is!
In her district, Heather’s English teachers give their kids 10 minutes of independent reading at the beginning of the period every day. I liked how she told the story about how long it took and how it wasn’t something that happened right away. There is still hope!
Setting Them Free
*Opportunities to share (in meetings, via email, etc.)
*Showcase teacher expertise
*Establish PLN (Twitter!)
Heather closed with what I needed to hear: SLOW DOWN!! My problem is always that I try to do too many things at once.
“Choose one thing you care about and resolve to do it well. Whether you succeed or not, you will be the better for the effort.”
And remember, TAKE CARE OF YOU!!
Great session, Heather! Thank you! 🙂