As a school administrator, I spend a significant portion of my time observing teachers’ classes and giving feedback to try to help them to improve their practice. I also have to make judgments regarding the direction of our program and what matters most for our student body. It’s a job with a lot of responsibility, and I’ve been really lucky this semester to have had tons of support from the super-hardworking teachers at my school.
In order to better serve the teachers and students of our school, I recently sent out a Google survey to the faculty, asking them to review my performance as program manager over the semester thus far. Personally, I’ve tried to be mindful of my successes and failures the past months since taking this position, but, as our faculty is an important stakeholder in our school community, I feel that it is important that I seek their anonymous guidance and get their opinions on how well or poorly I’ve been doing my job.
To do so, I crafted a brief survey using Google forms and emailed it to the staff, requesting that they fill it in when they had the time. I used the standards put forward by the Ontario government to inform the process, but heavily modified the criteria to fit the specifics of my position and our school. I don’t think that the rubric assessed everything about my practice, but I do feel that it covered some of the main duties I hold that our teaching faculty would be equipped to assess me on based on our work together.
With some trepidation, I entered the email addresses into the form and hit send…
Waiting for the feedback to arrive was really exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. We’ve had a super-interesting semester with many changes and challenges. I was curious to find out how people felt about the leadership they were receiving, and ready to make profound changes to my practice if required.
I was pleased to discover that, for the most part, the teachers who submitted responses were satisfied with my approach to the work that we are doing in our school. The criticisms were measured and constructive, and expressed a genuine desire to improve our school. I learned a lot, and much of what I read matched my personal assessment of my weaknesses and struggles this semester.
The positive feedback I received was very motivating, and I was glad to note that our English-speaking faculty are as proud of our team’s success as I am. And, sometimes, teachers expressed sentiments that were wholly unexpected.
I appreciate how. . . even if he is really busy he makes you feel like he has all the time to truly listen, not just hear. His feedback and support have really changed my own teaching vision and helped reinvigorate my passion for teaching again. His drive to make our school better creates this energy where others want to actively pursue ways to make our classes better.
Damn. If that doesn’t motivate me to continue to show up and try my best everyday next semester, I don’t know what will.
Before the summer vacation, a group of teachers in my school got together to create a vision for our program and our new, aligned curriculum. To start actualizing our vision right now, I’m writing this post to tell you about a project I’ll be leading to get our school Digital Citizenship Certified by Common Sense Education. Give it a read and see if you’re interested in doing the same at your school! For more information visit the Common Sense Education Website.
Making our Vision a Reality
One part of our vision is to create globally conscious citizens, and to provide kids with authentic learning experiences. To do this, we’ll likely find ourselves and our students making use of digital media more often in the near future. It’s important that our students (and maybe we teachers, as well!) know how to use web 2.0 resources safely.
Opportunity for Teachers
To do so, we’re going to get our school Digital Citizenship Certified School status, and in the process, some of our interested teachers will be able to become Digital Citizenship Certified Educators. They’ll get a badge to stick on emails and websites and can call themselves Digital Citizenship Certified Educators on their resumes. You probably won't get a raise for it but it's proof of continued professional development and experience in teaching this aspect of a 21st century curriculum.
Common Sense Education
Common Sense is a non-profit organization that has developed a curriculum for students and PD resources for teachers about digital citizenship. In addition to printable curriculum units for each grade, they’ve got online learning resources that kids can use in a 1:1 or BYOD classroom. Here’s the breakdown.
Connecting with Parents
Part of getting the Certification involves communicating with parents about digital citizenship. The easiest ways to implement this would be sending out a provided fact sheet electronically, as well as embedding a few links on class webpages and the front page of the school website. Other options include hosting discussion groups with parents, but since my school is in Korea the language barrier might make that a bit difficult.
What You Need to Do
The last thing to remember, is that you need to document your teaching as you work through the curriculum. It’s not that intense. You just need to take photographs or short videos of students at work on the Common Sense curriculum materials, make a blog post, show some sample work, or make a short video
Interested teachers need to teach 5 lessons on digital citizenship. A key point is that the entire grade must take part. That is to say, all of the 5th grade students have to learn the material, not just the kids in one class. If your entire team doesn't want to get involved, you can work out a way to teach it to their students for them. Teachers also need to be involved in a bit of PD. There’s a one hour webinar online, and you need to set up an account on Common Sense.
After you’re done, you can apply for the school’s certification and your teacher certifications will be included. Simple!
I’ll update as we make our way through the process. Over half of the grades in our school have signed on to participate already. I think it will be lots of fun!
It's been a couple of weeks, and after a few meetings with individual teachers and the entire staff, we have 100% participation in the Digital Citizenship Certification project! Students are engaged and parents and already writing in with positive feedback about the curriculum. It looks as though it will be a great success!
Grade teams are fitting in digital citizenship instruction when their long range plans allow, but we should be ready to send in our application by the end of November! For now, here are some students working away on Common Sense Education's free Digital Citizenship resources!
It's official! Our school has become a Digital Citizenship Certified School through Common Sense Education.
All of our teachers did a great job of working to teach students about how to be safe and positive online citizens over the past few months, and the program was a great success. Almost all of our teachers enjoyed using the Common Sense curriculum and found it to be relevant and appropriate to meet our students' needs at Uchon Elementary School.
The Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship resources will become a part of every grade's curriculum in the coming school year, and teachers are already discussing how best to implement it and improve on the work they've already done.
A big thank you to Common Sense Education for their excellent Digital Citizenship Certification program and to all of the hard working teachers at Uchon Elementary School who made this happen.
Are you a teacher who sees something that needs fixing in your school? Do you have a great idea that you want to champion and have implemented? Worried that school administration hasn't the time or interest to do it for you?
Time for some teacher-driven change! Do it yourself!
I’m leading teachers in our school’s English program in a curriculum improvement project. In the coming weeks, I'll outline the steps we've taken already and the steps we will take in the future. I hope it can inform and inspire other teachers seeking to start change in their schools. Please share any of your tips and advice with me! I can use all the help I can get!
Step 1: Confirm the Need
Before starting out on a change initiative, make sure that change is actually needed. Perhaps someone else is solving the problem already. Maybe what you see as a negative is a positive to your colleagues and you've been looking at it the wrong way. Any broad change will involve your colleagues, too. You should find out their views on the subject.
Before our first meeting, I talked to teachers from each grade to make sure that others saw the same need. I made sure at least one teacher from each grade was willing to take part in meetings throughout the year. My informal discussions with teachers helped to confirm and define our needs. I moved forward once I knew others felt the same and would take part.
Step 2: Involve Administration
At some point you will need the support of your school’s administration to create the change you want to. It is important to keep school administration informed about your project and invite them to be a part of it. Whether they choose to take part is beside the point. It’s important to communicate in case you need to change plans because of new information from the office.
Once I had a core group of teachers who agreed, I shared my idea with our program director. I described my plan to lead an initiative to realign our program's curriculum. I said that to maximize teacher buy-in it should be voluntary, collaborative and teacher-led. I asked to schedule a staff meeting during prep time for any teachers interested in coming. I made it a point to inform administrators and invite them to attend and take part.
Step 3: Frame the Issue
It is important that everyone understands and commits to a shared purpose. There may be knowledge gaps. Colleagues might be passionate about some things but disagree with the need for others. Framing relationships between issues in your project and defining jargon can ease progress.
I held a meeting and gave a brief presentation about the project. I defined key terms like standards, curriculum, and resources to account for knowledge gaps. I framed our problem and presented a basic vision of the curriculum I thought we should move towards. I reinforced that our goal should be process-oriented change and growing our skill. At the end, there was discussion and feedback.
Step 4: Get Data
Make sure to make decisions based on data and not just assumptions. Finding that key decisions are based on false assumptions could lead to loss of support. Base decisions on solid research and best practices. It’s important that all stakeholders in the change process have input in some way.
At our meeting, we decided administration, teachers, students and parents needed to have input. We scheduled further discussions to determine how best to get the facts we’d need. We decided to make parent and teacher surveys. We left it up to teachers how they wished to gather data from students. Some teachers held simple Q&A sessions, while others had lengthier discussions and surveys. A sub-group created the parent survey. I created a teacher survey and gave it in person to each member of our program staff and administration.
Step 5: Clarify Your Vision
A sizable change project may take years to complete. It is important that as team members come and go the project doesn’t derail or lose focus. A clear vision can ensure that the end result will meet the original goals.
To do this, we had a vision building workshop. I summarized and tallied survey responses for teachers and highlighted common themes. Teachers worked in pairs to create vision statements of 20 words or less on a worksheet. Pairs joined into larger and larger groups to combine and refine their efforts. When we had four potential vision statements, we wrote them on the board. Teachers took turns selecting words and ideas they agreed with from other teams’ statements. Finally, the group collaborated to combine the ideas into a final vision statement.
Step 6: Analyze and Research your Vision
It’s easy to come out of vision building feeling great about the high ideas in your shiny new statement. But, what’s more difficult is determining what exactly vision statements mean. It is important to make sure that team members are on the same page about what their vision statement means.
I made a pamphlet summarizing research about the key themes in our vision to help teachers. I met with every teacher and administrator to hand out the pamphlet and hear their opinions.
Step 7: Maintain Momentum and Walk the Talk
After creating a vision statement you need to actualize your vision over the long term. One way to stay motivated is to take small steps to operationalize your vision in the interim. It will help ensure that you walk the talk each day.
Taking action was the topic of our last meeting before summer break. We looked at the themes in our program vision and shared some ideas about how to 'do' each of them. We discussed Digital Citizenship Certification through Common Sense Education and professional development options. We made a timeline to break our large project into more manageable steps. I created a website to communicate, get feedback, host PD, and record our progress.
It has been a busy couple of months working on this project while studying for my M.Ed. and being a new dad! I can’t wait to see how far we take our project in the months to come!
Stay tuned for further updates! To be continued after summer break! And please share advice to help us move forward in the comments if you have any ideas! Thanks!
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.