Total Pageviews


Sunday, April 15, 2012

What the Heck is a PLN?

Whether you refer to them as Professional or Personal Learning Networks, there is no mistaking the fact that discovery, involvement and implementation of social media into your own world manifests itself ten-fold into both personal as well as professional growth.  Those who tweet, blog and communicate otherwise via the world wide web all concur it has tremendous advantages.  I like to think of them as being harmonious in nature.

I have been involved with social media for several years but only recently began to learn the power and influence that both blogging and connecting with educators world wide has had on me, both personally and professionally.  To be able to learn at your own pace, in your own desired direction has to me, become invaluable.  It has, without a doubt, been the most rewarding and satisfying of my ventures over the last 24 years as an educator.  All of the innumerable staff development sessions and trainings I have received prior over the years pale in comparison.  

My eyes have always been open to the continued blending and  narrowing  of this vast world via the Internet.  As an avid participant on Twitter, I have been able to get news first hand before it is released to the major networks.  I have learned differing viewpoints, and have greater appreciation and understanding of global issues and problems in which would have taken me years to develop through continued reading and books.   The resources are infinite in which are shared amongst people who are actively involved in social media.  I have had the opportunity, and continue to do so,  develop personal and professional relationships with people whom are regarded as famous and leaders within the realms of their respective fields of expertise.  To that end, even after communicating, exploring and reading what they have to say, you now have the power to collect, store and share these vast amounts of information and resources with whomever you choose and whomever is interested.  One memorable comment made by a distant colleague referred to our continuing inquiry and sharing of information via these forums as a graduate degree in itself, without the cost and time consumption!  All of these advantages, in which takes much time and effort, which many of us unfortunately as professionals do not.

Most of what I have learned involve the topics and issues revolving around leadership and the implementation of 21st century resources in to classrooms.  Additionally, I have gained tremendous knowledge referencing the scope and complexities of political, ethical and moral issues from a global viewpoint Most all of this has come from the perspectives and voices of people who are firsthand in the midst of turmoil and strife. 

Most importantly,  I firmly believe that my persistence and dedication to using and voicing through these mediums have been instrumental in assisting me in procuring my first leadership post at the building level of school administration.  Although never explicitly referenced to, I think in the process of continuing to establish, develop and promote my digital footprint has been invaluable in getting my name out their to both colleagues and potential employers.

I am very interested in what other colleagues and professionals have to say regarding "what the heck is a PLN?"


Friday, April 6, 2012

Eight Pillars for Effective Educators

     Having taught in the middle school and high school classroom for 19 years, and now having the opportunity to evaluate and observe teachers for the past four years, I have come to the conclusion there are a few characteristics and best practices in which set great teachers apart from ordinary ones.  These assumptions are not based  solely on my own experiences and observations, but come from many hours of research, readings, staff development, blogs, webinars and seminars, etc... as well.  There is however anecdotal and credible evidence and statistical data in some instances regarding the points I am about to make.  With this said, unlike the practice of educating young people through formal and summative assessments to determine academic achievement only, most is not quantifiable. 

     By all means this not an inclusive list, and feedback and consideration is always appreciated to include in these assertions.  Enjoy, and begin practice of these tidbits of advice and watch your students and classroom transform in a way in which you never thought possible.  These simple practices and conscious efforts to implement in your classroom will reap positive, direct and immediate feedback and results.

     Whatever your prior practice has or has not been in the past as a classroom teacher, this is arguably the most important element you can begin incorporating in to your daily regime. Consequently,  it will have a profound effect on both the climate and culture of your classroom.  To demonstrate you truly care for each and everyone of your students, and to begin to build a bond of trust as well as rapport,  it is imperative that prior to your class and the bell ringing, outside your door you should greet them by name with a handshake or a pat of the shoulder or back.  Likewise, as the bell rings and they are preparing to leave your classroom you should likewise wish them a farewell with a gesture of either a handshake or pat on the back.  Watch and observe over both the short and long term how pleasant and respectful a climate you have unwittingly and subconciously created.  Watch and observe teachers who have already implemented this into their daily practice and ask your self, as well as them, what is their relationship with their students like?  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     As laborious and tedious it is to take class roll at the outset of each and every day or period, I highly recommend keeping another roster to keep a tally of how many times and to whom in the class you addressed by name each and every period?  This does take some time and effort but with practice can easily be done throughout the course of your lesson.  The point again is to make a personal contact and connection with each and every student by name each and every period of the day!  You would be surprised at how many average teachers forget the names of their former students not long after they are no longer in there class!  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     During a class period, invariably when and if a student poses a distraction, is off task, or is initiating a potential discipline issue, by simply using the phrase "Is there a problem ____________?" you will have immediately addressed something not condoned by yourself while at the same time bringing attention to the problem student without compromising or questioning any level of embarrassment or disrespect toward the student.  You will be amazingly surprised at how effective and powerful these four mere words are!  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     When establishing your classroom guidelines and expectations (formerly alluded to in the 20th century as rules)  be sure there are explicit, clear and as positive as possible.  They should be succinct too.  Ensure that they are adhered to and remain consistent and fair in your implementation of them.  Any deviation of them will cause for class disunity, mistrust and a poor climate.  Most importantly, you will lose respect amongst your students.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well. 

     Great teachers constantly and consistently plan and prepare innovative and engaging lesson plans on a daily basis.  To be truly appreciated, remembered and respected by your students it is your charge and responsibility to ensure this is happening on a daily basis and that your students are experiencing vigor from the outset of the class to the bell to end class.  It is imperative to create and incorporate ALL the resources in which are available to you and beyond to engage, inspire, interest and motivate inquiry from ALL of your students.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     As a teacher who wants to be great and who will experience the infinite numbers of personalities of their students if they remain in the classroom for any length of time, it is your great test of ability and character to reach a point in your practice to never accept an answer from a student who says "no, 'I don't know, or remains silent."  Your established connections and rapport on a personal level will dictate the way in which you drive at a response as well as allowing the length of time to wait and continue to prompt for one.  This is directly related to our ability and efforts in accomplishing the first couple of points aforementioned.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     Teachers of the 21st century need to understand it is a time to facilitate and coach your students, and not to necessarily teach via lecture excessively.  With this said and to that end,  the more you move in and around as well as throughout your pupils you demonstrate your willingness to be accessable, assist and relate to your students.  Doing so by name, as well as with a physical gesture, such as a pat or hand on the back or shoulder will keep them engaged and focused with the task you have assigned at hand.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     One of the more important, if not essential practices, in which I have had a difficult time instilling into my staff is the importance of making personal communications/contact with their student's parents at the outset of a semester or year.  By logging phone calls and emails in which demonstrate positive and complimentary comments about their students they have set the tone for a positive and quality relationship forthcoming between all stakeholders.  Additionally, it assists in heading off any future problems the teacher might have with the student, making it easier and more comfortable for the teacher to communicate to a child's parents.  By getting them on board at the start in a positive and complimentary way their expectations beyond paperwork, in the forms of syllabuses and course outlines, personalizes the educational experience for arguable the most important stakeholder in the student's ultimate success.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well. 

     As previously noted, there are assuredly many more tips and best practices in which have been embedded into quality classroom instruction and management beyond this brief post.  I look forward to further quality comments and responses from colleagues both in the classroom and in educational administration.  PEACE!

Great teachers inspire!