The Power of the Network

I’m realizing how powerful and influential my network is in my professional growth and development.  I was recently reading a post by Michael Forder (a former UMW classmate) about how he will no longer “Google It.”  It’s awesome that you can tweet out a question or problem, and receive feedback from real people with experience that are in similar situations.  The feedback from Twitter is much more valuable than a Google search in so many ways.

One of the latest developments in my Personal Learning Network is a brand-new chat.  I’m extremely pleased that two excellent folks, Amber Teamann and Cathy Brophy, created a Technology Integrator chat (#tichat on Thursdays at 8pm EST).  With my new role at an ITRT, I know I will need the support of my network even more than in the past.  There have only been two chats, but I have gained so much knowledge about what it takes to be a successful leader in Instructional Technology Integration.  It’s nice knowing that there are other people in the same boat dealing with similar challenges.  I look forward to continuing to learn from them about how they’ve been successful and also problems they face.  It’s a passionate group of educators with a ton of wisdom to share!  Please join us on Thursday nights at 8pm EST to talk tech integration!


Professional Learning Communities

I’ve been thinking about Professional Learning Communities and collaboration quite a bit lately.  Near the end of the school year, we were evaluating the effectiveness of PLCs in our school community.  We went through a rubric to assess where we were in the process within our grade level.  It was an eye-opening experience to see where we fit on the continuum.  There are many great things going on, but we also have plenty of room to grow.  When I began teaching in the county (4 years ago), they were already doing the whole PLC thing, so I didn’t get a chance to see how the county unrolled the initiative.

Fast forward a few years and I’m moving counties.  The county I will be teaching in hasn’t been officially engaged in PLCs.  Apparently that is going to be a big undertaking in the next few years to get that started.  In preparation, the ITRT team is reading “Learning by Doing” by the DuFours this summer.

One thing that really struck a chord with me was the idea of collaboration vs. coBLABoration.  I know I’ve been involved in many meetings where we did a lot of talking, but not focused on student learning and action.  Lots of other topics come up – ranging from field trips, student behavior and some venting sessions.  It can be difficult to stay on target during meetings.  Not everyone on the team is on the same page or even sees the value of working together.  But, there are four questions that should be at the forefront of PLCs:

  1. What is it we want our students to learn?
  2. How will we know if each student has learned it?
  3. How will we respond when some students do not learn it?
  4. How can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?   (DuFour, p. 119)
There are many obstacles to effective PLCs – TIME, buy-in, distractions, numerous other tasks, sidebar conversations, etc.  It will be interesting to see how the county rolls out and implements PLCs.  Hopefully there will be lots of support for teachers to understand how valuable a PLC can be in making your school the best it can be.  It is a continuous learning process to create PLCs that collaborate productively to improve student learning.
Any suggestions or advice for a school brand-new to the idea of PLCs?

Taking the Lead

I’m making a big move this coming school year. I will be changing counties and position. My new role is Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT). I am extremely excited about the new opportunity! I’m fortunate to join an amazing group of ITRTs that embrace the term Professional Learning Community. They rely on each other to become better at the job by reading, discussing, researching and learning together. The team also has the right focus on INSTRUCTIONAL needs being met with technology tools. I look forward to learning a ton from them (and with them).

My first reading assignment since joining the team is “Taking the Lead” by JoEllen Killion and Cindy Harrison. The book covers the new roles for teacher leaders/coaches.

The big take-away from the book for me was the many different roles you play within one position. This requires quite a bit of knowledge and flexibility.

The 10 roles outlined were:

  1. Resource provider
  2. Data coach
  3. Instructional specialist
  4. Curriculum specialist
  5. Classroom supporter
  6. Learning facilitator
  7. Mentor
  8. School leader
  9. Catalyst for change
  10. Learner
This will be a HUGE learning year for me as I change counties and take on a new leadership role. But I am looking forward to the challenge! I’m thankful to have a supportive group of ITRTs and my PLN on Twitter to help me learn and grow!
Please leave a comment if you have any reading suggestions, resources or words of advice as I start this new journey!