Highly Effective Teams

We had our first official ITRT meeting this past Friday.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as a newbie, but I left feeling energized and excited for the upcoming school year!  We spent most of the day building relationships (we had to prepare a short presentation on our summer, did introductions, ate lunch with our mentors, etc.), discussing what it takes to be a highly effective team and what our norms should be for the year.

A few members of the team went to the Learning Forward conference this summer and came away with a great activity for assessing and building highly effective teams.

For the first part of the activity, each person gets 6 index cards (1 blue, 5 white).  Each of us had to pick a highly effective team that we had been on – it could be anything: high school basketball team, family, grade level team, band, etc.  Write that team down on the blue index card and set it to the side.  Next, write characteristics that made that team effective (one per card).  After everyone has reflected individually, we got together in small groups of 3-4 people.  Each group created a list of traits; if it was listed more than once, we put a check next to the term to show frequency.  We shared out as a whole group to hear what people came up with.  Some of the characteristics we came up with: dedication/commitment, trust, respect, communication, good leadership, shared vision/goals, congenial relationships, fun, shared accountability.

We took a short break while the leaders of the activity wrote each of those characteristics on a separate piece of paper.  They hung them around the room.  Our next task was for each of us to put 5 blue stickers on our top 5 necessary traits of a highly effective team.  It was interesting to see where people placed value/didn’t place value.  We had a great discussion about why we put our stickers where we did.  The last part was to evaluate our ITRT team by putting a red, yellow or green sticker with each trait.  Red = we aren’t good at it, yellow = it needs some work, green = we are doing this well.  As a new team member, it was great to see how the team perceived themselves.  I still had to rank them, but just based on what I had observed thus far (which was rather difficult).  This was an effective way to assess where we are as a team, and what we really need to focus on for the coming school year to improve.

This was a wonderful activity that would be easy to replicate with teams you are involved in – school-wide, leadership team, grade-level team.  It leads to some excellent discussion about what you do well and, more importantly, areas that need improvement.

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Reform Symposium 3

Hands down, Reform Symposium (RSCON3) is the best professional development for the right price.  RSCON3 is a FREE, online conference for educators around the world.  One of the top selling points to this conference (besides being free) is that you can attend in your pajamas and nobody will know 🙂 – PD in your PJs!  I believe it was estimated that over 8,000 would be attending the latest Reform Symposium.

There were so many amazing sessions, and I didn’t even get to see a bunch of them!  I’m thankful the archives will be up shortly so I can catch up on all of the sessions I wished to see.

Highlights that I caught live:

  • John T. Spencer’s “It’s Personal: From Differentiating Instruction to Customizing Learning” – very insightful, inspiring educator.  Need to make learning personal for our students to meet their needs.  Check out his site: http://www.educationrethink.com/.
  • Panel discussion on Collaboration Between Leaders and Teachers – what a group of panelists (David Britten, Lyn Hilt, Patrick Larkin, Dwight Carter, Pam Moran, Becky Fisher)!  I only caught part of this session, but will definitely be revisiting it.
  • David Deubelbeis’ “Flipped Curriculum” – Keep hearing so much about the flipped classroom, so I wanted to learn a bit more about it.  Still trying to decide if this model could work well in elementary and also how to deal with issues of access to technology at home.  But lots of good ideas were discussed during this session.
  • Mary Beth Hertz‘s “Teaching with Video Games in Mind” – At first I thought this was a session on using video games in instruction, but was pleasantly surprised that it was actually about designing instruction with the principles of video games.  Kids get hooked into games easily, so Mary Beth gave us some ideas on how to incorporate game design into our instruction to get our kids engaged in learning.
  • Paula Naugle’s “Educating with Edmodo”Paula showed us around the site Edmodo (think Facebook, for education).  We joined a group she created, played around and discussed how she’s used the site with her 4th graders.  Paula is such an inspiration – 36 years in education and still passionate and always learning!  She is such a rockstar!
  • Lyn Hilt’s “Differentiated Learning: It’s Not Just for Students!”Lyn’s presentation struck a chord with me because I will most likely be running quite a bit of PD for my school.  We have to keep in mind how our students learn best and apply those same things we do in the classroom with adult learners.  Don’t drone on, keep it interactive, hands-on, relevant.  Don’t make PD like this:
  • Paula White’s “Who Directs the Learning?” – Only saw the first half of Paula‘s keynote, but it was excellent!  Lots of audience participation and discussion in this one.  Will be hitting up the archives to see the rest of the presentation!
  • Technology Smackdown – What a fun hour of sharing our favorite sites!  You had only 2 minutes to share a site, if you wanted.  Saw quite a few that I’d never heard of, and a few that I had, but will be checking out again.  Tested the limits of my browser with the amount of tabs I kept opening 🙂
Overall, it was an awesome weekend full of learning.  Looking back at the schedule, I know I missed some excellent sessions!  If you attended, what were some of your favorite sessions?  If you didn’t attend, please check out the archives (should be posted in the next week or two)!