The Power of Feedback

My new role has been challenging, exciting and full of professional learning. The more I learn the less I know. My mother always told me that I would soon find out that the older I got the more I’d need to learn something new. Wise woman.

I’ve learned to work with a colleague in a give and take situation. Our strengths are different and therefore we are very complimentary (both task wise and verbally!) to each other. We both know when to step up and when to step back. So far I have not managed to break any of her toes!

The challenge of providing professional learning to teachers in schools at multiple grade levels – Elementary, Middle and High – has begun to teach us the skill of differentiating on the fly. Educators are so very busy. When we arrive for training during their planning period or lunch, they don’t let us know that what we are offering isn’t suited to them. They haven’t learned to speak up when we’re there. But some of them definitely speak up in the follow-up survey.

I’ve previously posted about some negative feedback we received, but that was the catalyst for really analyzing what we do and how we do it. The option to get down deeper into what an educator or principal really needs can also be informative for the person leaving the comments. While some might lash out in displeasure, others leave some of the following:

” I understand that when in a training, you have people at all different learning levels but I felt that our training started in the middle and there was so much that could have been introduced, shown to us, etc, to then get us to the middle. I left feeling like I know nothing more that I did before. I did love the convenience of you coming to us instead of us having to take time off to go to a training elsewhere.” However, this same person said the most important takeaway from this session was “I still have a lot to learn”.

So how do we address this in the span of 35 minutes? It has opened our eyes to thinking outside of what typical professional learning looks like. This has started us thinking about choice and voice for our teachers. How do they choose? How do we make that work if they choose 10 different things on the same day? Where do we draw the line? How can we group our tools and offerings so that everyone gets something?

Working with professional educators at all levels makes every day different. We try not to take shortcuts, but give all of our energy every day to provide our best.

Am I still learning? You bet. Sometimes falling short of the mark? You bet. Feeling like I have the best job on the planet for me? You bet. Grateful for those I work with and for? You bet.

I’m so grateful for the feedback that helps me grow, learn and strive to make what I do better each time. I’m not there yet, but maybe I never will be. If I stop learning, then I stop growing.

Bring on the feedback!

The Depth of the Educator’s Heart

Teacher mug and penWe don’t do it for the money. We don’t do it for the long vacation time. We don’t do it for the short hours. We teach because we truly believe that every student has potential. Every teacher has potential. Every administrator has potential.

While we may never see the fruits of our labors, we never stop trying to impart knowledge. I view my role as a chance to give teachers an opportunity to grow and learn. I also view my role as my own chance to grow and learn. It’s truly all about the journey.

I’ve worked in many school districts in multiple states. Each job in varying roles provided the foundation for where I am now. No job is without its challenges – big and small.

How you handle and grow from those challenges is what defines you. It’s the unreasonable administrator (who ultimately drives you to earn an advanced degree). It’s the difficult colleague that sets you up to fail. It’s the challenging students that turn your hair gray. And each one of them is part of your story.

We can choose to be defeated by the negativity, or we can choose to find the positive side of the equation, even when we don’t really feel like it. Never let someone else’s bad day define your day. Sometimes much easier said than accomplished!

If your passion for what you do has diminished, maybe it’s time to renew your strength. Maybe it’s time to adjust your job. Maybe it’s time to adjust your attitude. teacher heart

How deep is your heart? How passionate are you about educating others? How do you find what you need to carry on in the face of time constraints, new curriculum and pressing demands? I look for the little things. The student in the hallway that needs a shoe tied. The educator who suddenly discovers how to use a technology tool. A colleague who reaches out to share their frustration. Every moment is an opportunity to reach deep into your heart and share with someone else.

I feel so honored to be where I am. My journey, much like yours, has been rocky and full of challenges. But I wouldn’t trade it for a different journey because I wouldn’t be where I am right now. And where I am is full of excitement, wonder, challenge, and joy. My heart will always be an educator’s heart. How about yours?

Professional Learning: “Is this Mandatory?”

“Less ‘fun ideas and silly stories’ and more practical resources. Please use our professional time professionally” and “Is this mandatory?” were a response on a follow-up survey from a training that my colleague and I gave. The training topic was an insight into the new teaching licensure requirement in technology for our state. We focused on multiple ways and places that teachers could explore to acquire the required credits. The majority of what we presented, while readily available if someone went looking for it, wasn’t entirely easily accessed. Our thinking was that we would provide easy links and videos to save teachers time in finding the various ways to get CEUs (Continuing Education Unit). And we provided part of a credit by giving this training.teachers at training

Providing instruction where we don’t know the small group of teachers coming in to work with us means that sometimes we are going to not provide enough, provide something the teacher doesn’t feel they need or go too quickly for someone. We attempt to differentiate during every training, but sometimes we miss the mark.

We take our feedback surveys personally. We really do want to modify our training to continue to improve the content we deliver. And I know we can’t make everyone happy (as was evidenced by the teacher and another colleague at this training!) But how do you discern whether the dissatisfaction is because of the content, the trainers, job unhappiness, or personal life affecting attitude? I feel it’s our job to at least attempt to meet as many people as possible right where they are.

question marksDid I take this teacher’s comment personally? You bet. Does it mean that I’ll never give that same training in the same way again? Probably. And a few years ago, I would lose sleep over what I “did wrong”. But I am a different person today. I have an amazingly supportive colleague who collaborates to make things better each time. We will digest the feedback and will find a way to respectfully and professionally follow up with this teacher to find out how or if we can provide digital learning support in the future.

This journey of educating isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the brave. It’s for those that, despite the criticism, despite the challenges keep coming back into the ring every day. Whether you work with children or adults, the motivation is the same: To open the door to learning and to make that learning relative and timely.

“Is this mandatory?” Yes, yes it is. While you might not hear the message yet, we will continue to share the message. While you might think it’s a waste of your time because you know more than we do, there are valuable things that we are learning from you at the same time. Teach us and help us help you. #neverstoplearning

Expanding Your PD While Waiting in Traffic

No, I’m not really checking my Twitter feed while sitting in traffic. (Not that I haven’t done that before). But, there are so many tools that can curate for you while you are busy doing other things. Last summer, most of my professional reading happened while waiting for my Dad to finish his cardiac rehab. It was quiet up there on the second floor of the medical building. Dad was getting his physical workout time and I was getting my brain workout time.

There is so much information to digest! I often get caught up in Twitter feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Info-whelmed I believe the term is. So I went looking for other ways to get the best of what worked for me so that I could add to this info whelming PD process.

There are lots of tools out there. Some seem more suited to my style of learning than others. The tools I choose to use for myself are not the same as what I might suggest a teacher use with students.  Common Sense Media has curated a good list of these: https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/great-apps-and-websites-for-curation

content curation tools map

Where do you find your inspiration? A young professional friend of mine commented that she’d never used Twitter. Never tweeted. Hmmm. Are we teaching the immense value of this platform?

While it’s rapid fire and sometimes I continue to feel info-whelmed, Twitter is still my go to for my PLN (Professional Learning Network). LinkedIn is becoming more like a cross between Facebook and Twitter. While I like both of those platforms for different reasons, I’m not ready to really spend a lot of time there – YET.

I find nuggets of information on social media. I really couldn’t curate as much data as I do without using Feedly.com. Feedly allows me to follow multiple blogs and grab information from so many sites. A quick read of headlines allows me to utilize my time in the most efficient way.

Social media is a powerful learning tool. How do you curate? Who do you follow? I look forward to learning from you!

#PD #ProfessionalLearning #Twitter #curate #alwayslearning

Snag A Free Chromebook(and some memory) With A New Samsung Galaxy S9 — Chrome Unboxed – The Latest Chrome OS News

You read that right. From now until August 13th, Samsung is giving away a $200 credit towards a new Chromebook with the purchase of any Galaxy S9 or S9+ smartphone. That means picking up the Chromebook 3 for pretty much free or a Chromebook Pro for only $399! To make the deal even sweeter, Samsung…

via Snag A Free Chromebook(and some memory) With A New Samsung Galaxy S9 — Chrome Unboxed – The Latest Chrome OS News

The Nature of Summer

Every day of summer vacation includes some professional time. I’m not one to take the summer off. Even if I could truly take the summer off, I’m sure I’d fill my time with professional development or a project of some kind. I’m not good at vacating!

While summer gives me time to regroup and change up my routine, it also allows me time to reflect on what’s truly important in my career as well as my home life. What parts of your work life spill over into your home life? If you’re an educator, then probably a lot.

beach during sunset
Photo by b. on Pexels.com

Educational professionals lead a different kind of life. There is a constant need to reinvent oneself as technology changes, curriculum changes, schools change and demands change. It can cross into your personal life in such a way that you never truly feel like you are away from your job.

So how do you balance it? Every person does it differently, but I find that I have to still teach all summer. Maybe you teach at a summer camp. Maybe you give professional development sessions to other teachers. Maybe you teach your own kids. Or maybe you teach yourself new things. I try to combine as much of that as I can but on a less demanding schedule than the traditional school year.

I teach teachers online for the New England Institute for Teacher Education. Two of my established technology classes are running concurrently right now. The summer is the only time to run two at the same time while working full-time! This adventure is full of new things every time I do it. These teachers find new angles that I hadn’t even thought of! I get a “2-fer” – I get to teach and I get to learn at the same time. Now that’s a great summer!

The nature of my summer might look a lot different than yours. Yes, sometimes I long to go take a really long walk on a beach somewhere, but my family has other demands that just don’t allow for much of that. It’s all good, though. I’m able to help them out and still get to do something I love: educate and learn.

How about you? What’s your “Nature of Summer”?

 

Learning Never Stops

Those of you that know me well know how much I love what I do. I may be well-aged, but my learning doesn’t stop. I am challenged daily by my colleagues to be better. Twitter, Professional readings, workshops, collaborative interaction and the like make me realize just how little I really know.

woman sitting on chair using black ipad
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Last week Marlo Gaddis, Interim Chief Technology Officer and Senior Director for Instructional Technology and Library Media Services for the Wake County Public School System challenged her followers to read professional articles for an hour a day. At first, I thought, I can barely find an hour to sleep! But as the enormity of what she had said sunk in, I realized that not only should I read professional material an hour a day, but I must read this way.

Education and technology change constantly. Sometimes daily or hourly. It is the responsibility of every professional educator – and especially those in coaching roles – to remain invested in expanding our knowledge base. Summer break is the perfect time to begin this new habit.

While I am not yet devoting a full hour daily while on vacation, my goal is to use technology to help me develop this habit. Daily Wunderlist and Google Calendar reminders, using Feedly to curate relative content and posting via Buffer to spread that knowledge to the greater community is now in my daily routine.

So now it’s my turn. I am challenging you to invest some time in your professional development on a daily basis. Whether you are a teacher, business professional, homeschool parent, chef, stay-at-home parent, a student or whatever your job is, you can benefit from spending some time reading about your profession and the areas that affect your situation. Dig deeper. Expand your circle of influence. Join me on the journey!