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Growth Mindset for Teachers

Growth Mindset for Teachers

As the new school year gets underway, teachers across the country will be working to develop positive learning cultures in their classrooms. Many will extol the virtues of a growth mindset, pushing their students to try, fail, and try again in the name of learning.

Carol Dweck’s popular (and often misunderstood) research has become a pervasive force in classrooms, teaching students to change the way they view effort and success. In one classroom I visited, I saw a poster that gave examples of fixed vs. growth mindsets, including “Instead of: “This is too hard.” Say: “This may take some time and effort.” The students were prompted to add “yet” each time they said “I don’t know how to do this,” and were rewarded with stickers of superheroes saying “I never give up!”

We demand this of our children, but what about ourselves?

When I facilitate sessions about incorporating technology in the classroom, I see teachers disengage, roll their eyes, and start skimming Facebook after the first few things they tried took longer than they anticipated.

Technology is moving quickly, and our brains don’t move as quickly as our students in adopting it. There’s not enough time in the day; we have too many classes and not enough planning periods. Our principals already paid for one tool — why one more? Yes, sure, I hear you. But more than that, I believe every educator owes it to themselves (and the students they serve) to try a new technology tool this year, and I mean really try it with an open mind.

The International Society for Technology in Education, a.k.a. ISTE, defines this challenge in one of their standards for teachers, emphasizing a cycle of exploration, reflection, and planning that can take entire school years to get right:

Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness

Regardless of our own difficult experiences learning new technology, limiting the way we teach to the ways we were taught can only set them up for failure. The jobs of the future demand students that are adaptable, reflective learners. Using technology to seek information, present ideas, and collaborate increases student engagement, builds confidence and communication skills, and makes it easier for teachers to support a variety of learning styles. We must adapt to our students’ futures, not ask them to adapt to our pasts.

Modeling a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

Searching for just the right tool for your classroom will take time. Your students are unique, and your teaching style is developed authentically over time. So, you’ll need to invest time to learn the ins and outs of your new toy. You’ll click the wrong buttons. You’ll screw up the settings. Start over. Try again. Ask for help. Get frustrated. Have a breakthrough.

Just as we demand that our students pause and reflect before they say, “I can’t” and return to the comfort of the known, teachers should do the same. Invest in your own teacher tool belt. Just as when your new smartphone comes, you spend time to download your favorite apps and music and make it your own, invest that time in your classroom technology.

Part of getting accustomed to a new tool involves setting goals for its use. This goes beyond the prescribed methods that supposedly work in every classroom. As a teacher, you know the ins and outs of instruction better than anyone.  As you warm up for the new school year, make time to figure out how a tool can adapt to best fit your practices—not the other way around.

Administrators — it’s on you to make space for this in your schools. ISTE has standards and resources to support school leaders in developing a culture of genuine inquiry and innovation. Give your teachers time and ask them lots of questions — it’s what they’re asking for!

Kiddom was custom-built to combine multiple tools into one integrated education platform. We help educators establish a streamlined workflow to save teachers time and improve student outcomes, while also offering schools and districts significant cost savings. 

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Get Started: Curriculum Development and Personalizing Assignments

Get Started: Curriculum Development and Personalizing Assignments

Kiddom’s Planner and Timeline are curriculum development tools that work together to help you plan ahead, then modify assignments when you need to.

Your Timeline (left) and Planner (right) work together to help you plan and deliver the right materials when you need them.

 

What is Planner?

You can think of Planner as a digital curriculum binder or bookshelf, storing resources like lesson plans, activities, worksheets, and videos for later use.

With Planner, you’re free to access any of the curricula you design from within any class: the activities and resources can be assigned to any student in any class.

 

Planner (at right) can be made up of assignments, playlists, and resources

 

Planner is organized to help you think about the big picture, but then dig deeper. Structurally, it’s laid out like this:

  • Curriculum: This is one overarching set of units. Every new class has a “Master Curriculum” with the same name as the class. This curriculum will be shared with your co-teachers who have access to your class.
  • Unit: a unit can be organized around a topic or skill, and includes playlists or individual assignments. Unit titles and descriptions are only visible to teachers — not students — as it is purely a way to organize things.
  • Assignment Groups: a number of assignments that are grouped together to serve a purpose, such as remediation, self-paced instruction, differentiation, review, or by topic. The assignments in them can be assigned to students together as a set or individually.
  • Assignment: When you create an assignment in Planner, you can add an attachment from your computer, Google Drive, or Kiddom’s library. You will add standards, due dates, and grading settings when you assign it to students.

What is Timeline?

Your Timeline shows you (and your students) assessments and resources that have been assigned. It shows all of the assignments you have sent to your class (or an individual student), in chronological order. You can even filter assignments that are late or you haven’t graded yet.

 

 

You can create assignments directly in Timeline, but these will only be available in the class you’re in. To be able to re-use the assignment in the future or in another class, consider creating the assignment in Planner first.

How do Planner and Timeline work together?

Once you’ve made an assignment or playlist in Planner, you can drag it over into your Timeline to assign it to an individual student, a group, or the whole class. The original assignment (or playlist) remains exactly the same in your Planner to be used again, and a copy of it is created in your Timeline. You can edit the assignment that’s in your Timeline to modify standards, rubrics, points, a due date, or more detailed instructions for your current class.

 

Easily drag-and-drop assignments and playlists from Planner into Timeline

 

Use these tools in tandem for more efficient planning, and spend more time getting to know your students, analyzing their work, and giving them feedback. Happy Planning!

Read more about using Planner like Pinterest or get additional curriculum planning support from our Help Desk.

Book a 1:1 demo with a Kiddom team member for personalized support.

Collaborative Teaching in Our Pilot Schools: 3 Case Studies

Collaborative Teaching in Our Pilot Schools: 3 Case Studies

When co-teachers are in sync, classes move more smoothly from entry routine to exit ticket. And when teachers have tools to communicate more efficiently, they can build curriculum that helps students thrive.

When students get off-track, teachers come together to support, leveraging the skills of all adults. But when collaboration falters, it stunts student growth. Lack of structured co-planning can prevent teachers from sharing student data or anecdotes, and curriculum planning or interventions fail.

Fostering collaborative adult relationships is both an art and a science.

Some of the work is investing time to get to know each other as whole people, leading with inquiry and empathy, and supporting each other’s learning. In today’s classrooms, there are often several adults supporting students in various capacities. Each adult has a role to play in the development of crucial student skills, and if they can’t work together, student achievement suffers. But there is also a crucial, technical aspect to collaboration in the 21st century. When you are responsible for writing curriculum, presenting to students, and assessing their progress as a team, the tools you use to communicate are a core part of your work.

At Kiddom, we’re excited about our newest collaboration features to help teachers save time and plan more efficiently, giving them time to get to know their colleagues and work more productively together.

Collaboration Made Easy

  • Adding a collaborator is as simple as entering their email address — once they accept, you can begin working together.
  • Share your classes with multiple adults — there is no limit to the number of collaborators each class can have. And there are levels of sharing and editing access to ensure that everyone can play a role.

Each of the schools within Kiddom’s pilot community are using collaboration features a little differently, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Here’s how some of our pilot communities are collaborating to make strides this year.

Case Study #1: Support the Whole Child Together

In one small, private special education pilot Kiddom school, there are as many therapists and paraprofessionals providing services to students as there are classroom teachers. In order for student treatment to be effective, adults must be consistent in their expectations for students, and need constant access to student data to keep families informed of progress. For this reason, each teacher has added every speech therapist, occupational therapist, or counselor as a “view only” collaborator to see student grades and assignments. With this information, students can develop and track progress towards time management goals in counseling sessions, work with teaching assistants to make up missing work, or practice strategies learned in speech therapy using actual class assignments.

Case Study #2: Innovating Together

In another Kiddom pilot community, students will use a flex blended learning model to work on projects at their own pace, following personalized pathways based on their mastery levels in individual academic skills. Rather than move room to room for isolated disciplines every period, multi-subject teachers will act as facilitators and coaches in the room, guiding students through flexible, interdisciplinary projects. In this scenario, one head teacher acts as “owner” of the Kiddom account, created one class with all of the students and their personalized goals. Then, the rest of the team teachers are added as co-teachers with editing privileges in order to assign them projects and give students feedback.

Case Study #3: Sharing Outside of School

Many of the educators using Kiddom to collaborate are homeschool families working together to ensure that their students have access to quality materials. Homeschool families may not be able to see each other daily like traditional school communities, but with Kiddom, they can use Planner and our Library to plan units, and swap them with families who have created other content. Why reinvent the wheel when you can share in the workload?

The Kiddom team is committed to helping your school community grow. We want to hear and learn how your teacher teams are using our collaboration features. Tweet at us using #SharingIsCaring with collaboration tips!

Editor’s note: If your school or district is ready to join the Kiddom pilot community, click here to learn more. For resources on how to get started, check out our help desk or schedule a personalized, one-on-one demo.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Building “Good Noise” in Classrooms

Building “Good Noise” in Classrooms

The principal slams the door open and skids into my high school English classroom, sweating and red-faced, eyes darting across the room. Most students barely notice him come in; they’re all standing in clusters rehearsing opening remarks and giving each other pep talks. The two young women closest to the door look up at him, eyebrows raised, and then scan the room to see who’s in trouble.

“What’s happening….” he trails off. “Oh…I…thought. Um. What are you guys working on?”

A student silently points to the board. “Final debate prep begins now!” warns the SMARTBoard, with a timer ticking down the seconds until the main event.

“We’re getting ready to debate about these uniforms you got us wearing,” and I saw the realization pass across his face. The class was buzzing with energy, but was decidedly not out of control.

The principal finally leans in to me and says, “I thought they were fighting but…this is good noise,” as he walks out.

    For decades, students were told to be compliant, to speak only when spoken to, and teachers with noisy classrooms were considered ineffective. Today, we know it’s more nuanced than that. Sure, kids shouting over each other or disrupting quiet work time is still inappropriate. But increased student talk time has also been proven to be an indicator of classrooms that breed inquiry, engagement, and achievement.

    That “good noise” is fostered by curriculum with explicit instruction and practice with speaking and listening and collaboration skills. Debates, group projects, Socratic seminars, presentations, or competitions are all fertile ground for the development of academic skills alongside key social emotional competencies. Kiddom’s planning and assessment tools make it easier to give students ownership of their learning.

    Use Planner to create Playlists, or groups of resources, to increase the amount of accountable student talk and engagement.

    • Students working in groups can be assigned individual roles based on their strengths and growth areas. For example, make a playlist for the “Presenter” that has exemplar speeches, checklists for rehearsing and soliciting feedback, and worksheets for anticipating audience questions. Each role gets their own, specialized playlist once the students have chosen or been assigned.
    • Provide student choice in topics for writing or research projects. Simply create Playlists of key texts and drag and drop them to your timeline to assign them to the students who chose each topic.

    Teach Social Emotional Learning Skills in Context

    • Align assignments to CASEL’s social emotional standards and use pre-loaded SEL rubrics in tandem with academic standards to give students feedback on their ability to negotiate conflict with peers, communicate clearly, or seek help when needed.
    • Kiddom has pre-loaded speaking and listening standards from the Common Core or your state — assess students on the content of their presentation and on their ability to communicate.
    • Create custom standards in Kiddom to move students towards a class culture goal.

    Beautiful Reports Support Student Self-Advocacy

    • Use Kiddom’s simple but detailed mastery reports to conference with students in groups or individually about their progress, gain insight into their perspectives, and use the information to tailor instruction further.
    • Kiddom’s student dashboard also makes it easy for them to log in at any time and see how they are doing, send a message to teachers for help, or guide their study focus.

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    Use Planner Like Pinterest — 5 Tips for Saving Teaching Resources

    Use Planner Like Pinterest — 5 Tips for Saving Teaching Resources

    Last week I went to see Pipeline, a riveting play, at least on its surface, about education. I left the theater fantasizing about the opportunities for lesson plans that lived within the lines of the play. I went home and googled the Gwendolyn Brooks poem repeated throughout the narrative. I read an article about the playwright. I scanned YouTube for clips from The Wire and Dangerous Minds, both referenced by teachers in the play. I knew I’d want to use each of these things in unit or lesson plans someday, but I wasn’t quite sure how it all fit together. So, instead of pinning them to be lost between craft videos and recipes or saving them to a never-ending list of bookmarks, I added them to my Planner in Kiddom.

    For teachers using Kiddom, when you find excellent curriculum resources and content, you can save them down in your Planner, organized in units or playlists, without assigning it to students until you (or they) are ready. Saving ideas on Pinterest to use later means remembering what you Pinned, searching through your boards to find it, and downloading it to send digitally or to print for students. With Kiddom’s Planner, you skip all of that and simply drag-and-drop the assignments into your Timeline to assign them to your class, students grouped by mastery level, or an individual student. Here are 5 tips for using Planner to save teaching resources.

    1. Spark Creativity

    To store thought-provoking photographs or illustrations to use as inspiration for daily free-write prompts or art critiques. Simply download the image in .pdf or .jpg format and attach them to the assignments, upload them to Google Drive (using Kiddom’s Google Drive integration), or copy-and-paste the URL into the assignment description.

     

     

    2. Build Student Ownership

    Offering students choice is a classic strategy to increase engagement, but it can be time-consuming to gather multiple sets of resources to meet student interest during the school year. With Planner, you can gather resources ahead of time, give students a range of options, and once they’ve chosen, assign them only relevant texts or assignments.

     

     

    3. Enrich or Remediate

    Students learn best when they learn at their own pace. If your Reports tell you that some students are still developing in a skill, you can assign them extra resources like videos or lower-level texts that you’ve stored in Planner. When a student is ready to move ahead after mastering one assignment, you can send them more challenging extension activities directly from Planner and right on time.

     

     

    4. Bring Current Events to Life

    History teachers can help students draw connections by saving current events articles that connect to historical topics, and assign when they reach that point in time. Math teachers can save articles about “math in the news” to ground theoretical concepts in everyday language. Saving articles means that you won’t have to waste time searching around to find that article from a few weeks ago — upload it to planner and it will be waiting for you.

     

     

    5. Set Goals and Reflect

    Strong social emotional skills can support students in becoming lifelong learners. Part of developing strong self-management and awareness skills is reflecting on your own progress and setting goals to improve. Pairing Planner with Kiddom’s Reports means being able to ask students to pause, reflect, and plan exactly at the right moment. Setting goals in the middle of a project may be frustrating for one student, and another student may need to complete personal reflection activities more frequently. With Planner, you’re a few seconds closer to more independent, thoughtful students.

     

     

    A teacher friend once told me, “every time I ride the train, I see something I want to teach about. Content is everywhere.” She’s right. In this information age, there’s so much out there for our students to explore. With Planner, save the things that are just right for your students, and start the year strong. When you and your students are ready, drag-and-drop them into your classes and teach away.

    P.S. At Kiddom, we support teachers in guiding 21st century students as active, engaged citizens. Book a free PD consult to learn more.

    Professional Development Offerings for Teachers and Schools Now Available

    Professional Development Offerings for Teachers and Schools Now Available

    Melissa Giroux

    Melissa Giroux

    Former K-12 teacher and administrator

    As we move through our careers in education, all sorts of people teach us important lessons. A lesson can come in the form of a more experienced teacher who nurtures us with bits of advice and tough love. Teachers or paraprofessionals we share classrooms with bring new strategies to co-planning sessions that we continue using for years afterwards. Our students teach us all the time with their questions and engagement in our curriculum. That’s why at Kiddom, we’ve been talking to teachers, visiting classrooms, and digging into research to build a professional development menu that offers authentic learning experiences for educators.

    If you work in a school, it’s likely you’ve spent hundreds, maybe even thousands, of hours in sessions meant to support you in your growth as an educator. At Kiddom, we know that the best of those sessions are those that connect directly to your day-to-day practice, supply you with concrete strategies, and give you the flexibility to work at your own pace and collaborate with your peers.

    We believe educators deserve on-going education that is:

    • Personalized: Our virtual consults help us tailor the workshops we offer to the needs and context of your school community. Our resources are customizable so that they can be useful immediately, because we know you want to start using new strategies in your classroom now.
    • Grounded in Teacher Experience: We have a team of current and former teachers on staff developing resources based on research-backed practices that we’ve used in our own classrooms. Our in-depth guides can jump-start your exploration of topics like blended learning or standards-based grading.
    • Inquiry-Based and Exploratory: You don’t want to be lectured at any more than your students do. We design sessions that are self-guided if that’s your style, or collaborative workshops to support your teachers in teams.

    Kiddom facilitates a wide range of workshops with teams of educators, from basic account set-up and launch sessions to more in-depth cycles of data workshops using student mastery reports. We can also provide materials for teacher leaders and administration to run their own workshops at school to build in-house expertise and leadership.

    Excited? We are too! To get started, explore our menu of professional development offerings and schedule a free consult. If you don’t see any offerings that match your needs, we can work to create custom sessions once we get to know you and your school via an initial consult.

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    I Am an Educator, and I Am Desperate to Be Taught

    I Am an Educator, and I Am Desperate to Be Taught

    The following post was submitted by a New York City educator. The author has chosen to remain anonymous. You’ll understand why.

     

    I am an educator, and I am desperate to be taught.

    I have been working in schools for eight years as a teacher, department lead, and instructional coach. I am by no means a veteran of the field. Despite this, by and large, I have been left alone to independently seek resources to improve my practice or received coaching that was ineffective and misaligned to the realities of my classroom.

    I’ve always felt this disconnect, but it hit me even more concretely this week in a professional development session for instructional coaches. We were asked to describe the best mentor we’ve had as educators — what were the qualities that allowed us to learn from them, the structures they used to teach us, and the lessons we learned from them? As I scanned my memories of the last eight years, the officially assigned coaches or mentors did not come immediately to mind. Instead, it has been peers, books, online forums, and my students that filled my head with lessons and pushed me to improve.

    As I reflected more deeply, going year by year, I realized how much of my lack of professional development stemmed from greater issues in public education: lack of financial resources, inexperienced teachers and administrators trained by alternative certification programs, high staff turnover and burnout, and the heavy focus on standardized tests.

    In my first year teaching, I was assigned a mandatory mentor to meet with biweekly. She rarely observed my classes or asked for lesson plans as a source of data to develop my personalized goals; she usually asked me how I was feeling about my own practice. Much like a doctor asking a patient to diagnose themselves, she left it to me, a twenty-one year old novice, to pick a focus area for my learning. I gave the answers that “felt” right, but I was never confident I was seeking the right resources. Most of our sessions focused on classroom management, but since she hadn’t seen my students’ behavior or my delivery, her feedback consisted of things I had already found in books like The First Days of School or Teach like a Champion: stand at the door and greet students, circulate around the room a lot, don’t put your back to the class while writing on the board, etc. It was disconnected from what was actually going on in my classroom and my planning, and it flat out didn’t work to make me better or help my students. I usually left those sessions feeling more exhausted and confused than before we met. I want to go back and coach myself like Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghost of PD future. “Stop focusing on behavior. Look at your lesson plans. Script your questions ahead of time. Pick more engaging content. Get to know the kids better. Really listen to what they’re saying in class.”

    In my second year, it was assumed by administration that as I had survived my first year, I was competent enough to be left alone. The principal (who had taught for only four years before being fast tracked into administration through the Leadership Academy) came once mid-year, observed for fifteen minutes, and left. We never had a post-observation meeting. At the end of the year, I was asked to sign off on five “Satisfactory” observations for my file towards tenure. I survived that year, and learned via trial by fire. I came out feeling grizzled, and wondered if teaching was for me. I had no idea if I was doing a good job, and though I had strong relationships with my students and their academic results seemed solid, I felt unmoored in my career. I thought about leaving teaching, but stayed because I loved my students and the community I worked in.

     

     

     

     

     

    Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC by 2.0

     

    Fortunately, in my third year, a group of veterans formed an informal peer observation group. The plan was to pick a partner, observe them every other week, then meet in the off-weeks to debrief and give suggestions and discuss. This was the most important group I have ever been a part of professionally. Throughout the year, I was paired with teachers across grade level and content area with varying levels of experience and teaching styles. Through spending time in their classrooms, I learned an infinite number of lessons — everything from how to use the physical space in my classroom more creatively to how to infuse engaging multimedia into the most mundane lessons. I am eternally grateful to the teachers who voluntarily gave up lunch breaks to meet with me, who welcomed me into their classrooms, and allowed me to question their methods with a generosity of spirit that made me the educator I am today. Their lesson plans, their teacher voices, and their passion for the true work of teaching lives in every class I have ever taught or PD session I have led.

    After my third year, I moved to a brand new school as a founding team member. The school had not been planned well from its inception, and amidst the chaos of figuring out new systems for everything from collecting attendance to choosing curriculum, our administration had less than zero time for coaching. The only instances that an observer ever came to my class were reactive, in both negative and positive ways. If there were conflicts between certain students, a visitor might come for a little bit and stay in the room, but the focus was never on instruction, only physical and emotional safety. Conversely, I would frequently invite the whole school community into my class to see presentations, debates, or readers’ theater my students were sharing to celebrate success. Rarely did anyone, especially from administration, take me up on my offer. I was so disappointed I couldn’t foster the same “open-door” policy among the new staff that had become so important to me at my old school. Once or twice, the principal popped in and complimented my classroom management, but the content or structure of my lessons was not a point of discussion. Still, I could only judge from my students’ reflections and my own research that I was learning to become a better teacher. Again, I didn’t receive any formal feedback for an entire school year.

    Finally, the following year, I got a coach. She was an experienced, passionate, and purposeful educator who asked me early in the year, “What do you want to work on? What should I look for when I observe?” She came to my class, stayed for entire periods, took detailed notes, and videotaped my lessons. This Cinderella with a ragged unit plan got a fairy godmother full of probing questions and content knowledge. She let me drive my goals — I wanted to learn how to question better, how to flip my classroom so I could be a facilitator and my students would be accountable for accessing the knowledge they sought. This coach pushed me to consider how to increase the number of minutes students were speaking to each other in class, and we researched techniques and strategies together. We watched taped footage of my class together, attended external PD workshops together, and re-wrote curriculum together. I had never felt more effective or energized; I knew my decisions in planning were grounded in evidence-based strategies, my students were performing at extremely high levels in both standardized tests and project-based assessments. I was able to use the innovation and pilot strategies we had come up with to teach others in my department. It was exactly the teaching utopia I had dreamed of. And then, because of nasty political decision-making at the administrative level, my fairy godmother left to work at another school. I was devastated, but I didn’t blame her. I knew the coaching she had given me was rare, and I was still craving her expertise and constant challenges to improve. 

     

     

     

     

    Credit: PhotoPin, licensed under CC by 2.0

     

    In my last year at this school, I experienced a slow decline in my emotional engagement in the work of teaching, despite having extremely high test scores and a greater leadership role in the school. I was observed the most I had ever been in my career, but it was the least helpful time I’ve spent in meetings. While my previous coach had tracked things like percentage of student vs. teacher talk, rigor of questioning, and text complexity in her observations, my new coach was checking items off on a list, exactly the same as he had in every other class he visited: Were rules posted? Was there common formatting on worksheets? Did I have a behavior tracker on the wall? And most importantly, was there a standardized test question embedded in every lesson? The deep, personal inquiry into student learning was replaced with questions of compliance and testing. I pushed back in feedback meetings, and was reminded repeatedly that our students would only graduate if they passed the state exam. I wanted to shoot higher than the state test. I wanted my students doing college-level work, thinking beyond a simple multiple choice test question. I wanted them to question me, the texts, and each other. I wanted them to argue, reflect, and create authentic artifacts of their learning. But the resistance I faced was strong, and it drove me out of the classroom.

     

    Today, I work to mentor new teachers-in-training, and much of my drive for coaching is rooted in a desire for them (and most importantly, their students) to have what I did not. This year, I’m challenging myself to plan my coaching with the three major things that worked for me in mind: personalized development goals grounded in classroom observations and student data, opportunities for peer-to-peer observation and feedback, and use of coaching time to seek new resources and work side by side with a mentor, rather than receiving top-down feedback. I hope to be transparent about these goals with my team, so that when fatigue hits in March, they’ll hold me accountable to what I said I would do, and refocus me as the facilitator of a community of adult learners.

    I challenge you, educators of all types: do what you can to support your colleagues’ growth to help prevent burnout and turnover.

    New teachers: find a veteran and hang out in their classroom while they teach. Ask them questions about their practice and take risks to try some of their techniques.

    Veterans: instead of chatting with them in the teacher’s lounge, open your classroom door to the fresh-faced teachers joining your staff this year. Show them how you balance all of the hats you wear as a teacher. Create a community of teachers who support and learn from each other.

    Administrators and coaches: ask questions of the teachers you coach. What do they see as their biggest challenge? Where do they want to grow? Work alongside your teachers to develop a culture of inquiry and learning. Seek feedback from them all along the way, instead of just providing yours.

    Let’s make this school year one that fosters development for all, so our children can reap the benefits.

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    It Was the Way He Let Me Learn

    It Was the Way He Let Me Learn

    Sara Giroux

    Sara Giroux

    Learning Specialist, Franklin Academy

    Sara went to Syracuse University to get her undergraduate degree in secondary science education. While teaching, she realized how many students with disabilities were flying under the radar and not receiving the air that they needed from teachers. She decided to attend Southern Connecticut State University to get her Master's in special education with a concentration in assistive technology.

    Often you hear about those great teachers who gave their students all this knowledge that they were able to take and use in their future schooling, job or life. I would argue that the greatest teachers are not the ones who teach you the most content, but those that teach you experiences that can change your life.

    I was that little girl with every possible dream of what I would be when I grew up. I wanted to be a doctor, an actress, a singer, a teacher, a veterinarian and even a fire truck (yes, truck, not fireman — I was only 3). I kept some of those dreams as I went into high school, and my love for learning and helping others learn grew with me. That’s when Mr. Samuelson became my teacher.

    He was my AP biology teacher, a subject I love, so it wouldn’t take too much effort to make me like you as the teacher. However, it wasn’t the content he won me over with; it was the way he let me learn. I was the type of kid that always learned the way I was supposed to: by reading, taking notes, studying hard, which all lead to those great grades. I did that in this biology class, but I also got a chance to learn a different way, without realizing that it would shape the rest of my life.

    Of course in science class, there are tons of labs and hands-on experiences for learning. I always loved this part of science, because rather than reading about reactions and processes, I got to see them. There was one lab that really hit home with me, and Mr. Samuelson noticed. This was the fetal pig dissection (gross to most, awesome to me). Instead of a normal lab, it was a lab practical, so we had to be able to show Mr. Samuelson that we knew the anatomy by just looking at the pig. I went and showed him exactly how much I loved this lab. What he did next was let me use this love in a way I had never done before.

    Mr. Samuelson let me go around and help teach the other kids in my class where all the different parts of the pig were before they went to go present to him. This became somewhat of a regular thing for the rest of the school year, where I got to help him teach the other students. For someone who was always kind of all over the place with figuring out what I wanted to be when I got older, this was one of the greatest experiences I could have had. I realized how much fun and how rewarding teaching really was. I also realized that I actually could combine my love for science, which had always made me want to me a doctor or a vet, with this rewarding feeling.

    There is so much focus in schools now on cramming content into students’ heads and increasing test scores. Looking back on my schooling, I did study hard and tried to get good grades, but that isn’t what I would say was the defining moment of my school career. Years later, now a teacher and getting my Master’s, AP biology with Mr. Samuelson is still what I look back on as the greatest learning experience I have had. I think, at times, teachers and administrators need to think about the experiences they are giving their students, along with content knowledge. You never know where those experiences might bring students!

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