MSC 2018: Teach like lives depend on it!

As I sit and reflect upon my experience at the Model Schools Conference, a phrase from the conference comes to mind, “attitude of gratitude”. This phrase came from Tyrone Howard’s keynote, which was very enlightening. Every session and keynote I sat in, allowed me to gain some powerful insights.

Here are the top 3:

  1. Blended Learning: “A great place of blended learning is where you can transition from old to new school. It’s not one or the other.”

I have been in education for 11 years (10 as a Teacher, 1 as a Vice Principal). I can count several new initiatives and “re-brands” to statewide testing. As time has progressed, technology has become the forefront of the education world. When I was in the classroom, I know that I was guilty of sometimes using technology before clearly defining my objectives. I was all for technology within my lessons, but I never lost sight of “old” school initiatives. As I sat in Wes Kieschnick’s keynote, he was talking about a BOLD (Blended & Old) approach and turning it into: Blended & Online Lesson Design. Using this structure within lesson design, will give our students the opportunity to be ready for the 21st century careers.

I know that many educators are blazing forward following new technology initiatives and weaving it creatively into their lessons, while others are still staying in their comfort zone with their “old” school lessons.

My plea to the trailblazers:

  1. Don’t lose sight of the objective within your lesson with technology. Make sure you follow Wes’ instructional design: OUTCOMES → STRATEGIES → TOOLS: (technology) → PLAN: What gets planned gets done → RIGOR & RELEVANCE: is it any good?
  2. Help your “old” school friends out. SHARE! SHARE! SHARE!

My plea to my “old” school friends:

  1. Take the leap into the digital age! Be an example to your students by stepping out of your comfort zone.
  2. Ask for help! Your colleagues and your students would LOVE to show you!

Finally, something that resonated with me as I listened to Kieschnick’s energetic keynote:

“Learning is King, Growth is Queen. “Cool” is the court jester. The jester is technology. And the jester has value, but don’t put him in charge of the kingdom.”

As educators we have the power to educate students. With that powerful statement, we need to make sure we do everything we can to ensure they are ready for the future.

  1. Teach like lives depend on it!

I sat in awe of Tyrone Howards keynote. His main focus was EQUITY. In order to bridge the gap and allow for equity, educators need to understand poverty, race & racism and mental health. Two of the three aspects resonated with me as being a major concern and need in our classrooms today: Race/Racism & Mental Health.

A mistake that Howard stated that many educators and society makes today, is that we say “we don’t see people’s color, we just see them as human”. A great approach to take, however that is doing a disservice to minority students in today’s classrooms. He continued to state that by taking this bad approach, we use microaggressions in our classrooms. Microaggressions are brief everyday exchanges that convey denigrating messages often unintentional and unconsciously delivered in the form of subtle snubs, dismissive looks, gestures and tones.

We as educators often want to show sympathy to our students, but we need to focus on empathy. We need to focus on how our students are feeling, and allow them to use who they are to drive their learning and experiences.

The second part was the focus on mental health. So much of my job as a Vice Principal is addressing students’ behavior. Much of what I do is trying to focus on the root of the issue and understand why students are behaving the way they are. Howard’s keynote focused on recognizing that discipline stems from the students social emotional upbringing and trauma experiences. Much of the SEL and trauma stays with students for a long time. In that, we must allow our students to receive help they need in order to minimize these behaviors as well as to teach them how to behave.

Many of the conversations I have had with colleagues over the last year has focused on building SEL into our classrooms. I am excited to see how our implementation of our new SEL plan will influence our students lives. (I will be sharing this in future blogs).

  1. Teaching the Hidden Curriculum.

Most teachers today focus on Assessments (Meeting Standards) and Technology, but we forget the most important component: Social Emotional Learning. Times have changed. I can remember my first few years as an educator and can recall few issues I’ve had in regards to behavioral issues. Now, I think of stories I have heard from teachers and other educators and notice the high increase of behavioral issues that fill our classrooms today. In Bill Daggett’s keynote, he emphasized that we need to ensure we are focusing on building up the social emotional aspect of our students by teaching them non-cognitive skills (not limited to):

Responsibility
Contemplation
Initiative
Perseverance
Optimism
Courage
Respect
Compassion
Adaptability
Honesty
Trustworthiness
Loyalty

I think a strong movement that needs to enter into the classroom is, less focus on the standards/technology and more focus on teaching our students these skills. PBL and technology lead to teaching our students this, but we must go a step further and get to know our students. We need to know what makes them tick, what they like, what past experiences they have gone through in order to make the much needed change in our classrooms.

This topic right here, is what I am so passionate about. I miss being in the classroom because of this specific aspect. My students were (and will always be) my babies. I invested so much of my life into them, getting to know about them and watching them develop these non-cognitive skills filled me with so much joy.

My plea to all educators, is to make sure you take 5 minutes a day to make connections with your babies. How we talk to them and what we talk to them about is what makes the difference. Once we have a safe classroom environment we can then pick back up on PBL, technology and assessments.

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