Sunday, July 26, 2015

Creating more upstanders

This past week the district principals and central office administrators met with the teachers involved in the District Equity and Diversity Committee to discuss next steps in moving our district forward around Cultural Proficiency.   

Through the organization of this committee, over the past three years educators throughout the district have worked together  to discuss and learn about creating a culture that is physically and emotionally safe for all students by standing up to hateful acts and addressing acts that can be viewed as insensitive or offensive.  Over this time we have learned about important teaching strategies, such as "assuming good intentions" and "asking a curious question" when potentially insulting comments are made.  For example, if someone makes a stereotyping or potentially hurtful comment, to respond by asking "what did you mean by that" and "why do you think someone may find that comment offensive" instead of making an immediate judgement and shutting the student down.  

As a response to this professional development and due to the strong culture already existing in our school,  I have seen teachers take courageous risks and incorporate these strategies in their classrooms and in the hallways.  Through these courageous conversations, they engage with students around the topic of difference and use student comments to serve as launching pads to help kids grow and become more culturally aware.  While these responses by teachers have been impressive, we need to continue to model to our students and empower them to stand up when they hear comments when they are with their friends.  

One way to empower students is to encourage them to be upstanders in their school and address these comments and acts in the same way that the Equity and Diversity Committee has been encouraging educators to respond to comments. As one of our teachers said, we need to provide PD for our students on how to become more culturally proficient.

Being an upstander around issues of difference is no different that being an upstander in a bully free zone.  Upstanders in a culturally proficient school and in a bully free zone are:

*  Willing to step in and stop a bullying or hate incident
*  Willing to ask a curious question
*  Willing to be an ally to a victim or target
*  Willing to tell a teacher or administrator about a situation
*  Willing to promote a school culture that celebrates differences

Please feel free to add additional actions in the comments section

If you are interested in understanding more about students are standing up to hateful comments and bullying,  check out the "Not in My Schools" Organization 

How do we create more upstanders in schools?

Monday, July 20, 2015

EdCamp Leadership--Bring in the Disconnected!!

Last week, Bedford High School was one of 16 sites around the world that participated in EdCamp Leadership.  This was an amazing event of learning and sharing between educators.  One of the major accomplishments of EdCamp Leadership Boston was the large number of participants who have never participated in an EdCamp or are not connected to social media as a professional learning tool.

While EdCamps are popular among the connected educators, we should be looking to pull in educators who may not regularly participate in social media.  One of the challenges of connected education, is the large amount of agreement happening on social media.  Learning happens when we are challenged.  Therefore, the more diverse opinions that connect to social media the more improved learning we will experience.

The diversity of opinion that was present at EdCamp Leadership Boston helped make the event an exceptional learning experience for all of the participants.  Digital converts learned from folks who are skeptical of the digital change as much as the skeptics learned from the converts.  Diversity of opinion is the power of learning and the power of EdCamp.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Leaders Modeling Innovative Strategies

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of learning and sharing at the ISTE Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA.  Certainly a highlight of the conference was reconnecting with my research teammates, Peter Cohen and Gina Flanagan as we presented a paper on "How Superintendents Gain Acceptance on Large-Scale Technology Initiatives".  In addition to that presentation, I connected (and reconnected) with impressive educators and learn through outstanding workshops.  One of the most memorable workshops was a presentation from George Couros on leading innovation.

During George's presentation he described an important characteristic of leadership...modeling innovative strategies.  He described that leaders can learn how innovations can help kids if they first tryout the innovation.  As leaders our best attempt at fostering a connection to an initiative is when we truly understand the benefits and challenges to the initiative.  I loved George's risk taking in creating a blog to better understand how metacognitive development better helps him as a learner before he asks teachers to monitor students using a metacognitive skills.  George asked the audience, how can we understand how digital portfolios helps kids understand their own learning, if the adults in the building are not reflecting about their own learning.

His discussion of risk taking was even more relevant me as our I try to better understand benefits of digital portfolios as a metacognitive learning strategy.  While I conceptually understand the benefits of digital portfolios, I have a lot of questions about them as well.   Therefore in my pursuit to better understand digital portfolios as a learning strategy, I have decided to develop this blog to reflect upon my learning.

The goal of this blog is to document my learning as a leader, to reflect on my personal and professional growth as a high school principal and to evaluate the benefits of personal reflection as a form of digital portfolio.  Ultimately I want to come out of this experience with a new tool to explore my learning, but to also understand whether the undertaking of personal digital portfolios can have a transformative experience for all students.

Certainly as educators we focus on modeling good behavior and habits of mind for our students, but do we regularly model learning strategies with our students.  George's discussion of the leader as role model, was an important reminder for me that we need to model effective learning behaviors in order for us to share these strategies with our students.  So here I am using this blog as my resource to reflect on my learning as well as an opportunity to better understand how portfolios can be useful in helping learners reflect and analyze their learning.  While a bit nervous, I am looking forward to this new venture of blogging my learning.