Like many educators I have spent time this summer looking over the “new” common core state standards. (In science they are called the Next Generation Science Standards) Overall I like the idea of having common standards between states, because up till now each state has had different standards. Comparing states educational systems has been very difficult. Some states have created rigorous standards, like Michigan where I teach, yet others have just left minimal requirements. Colleges have complained about students arriving with poor skills. Often so poor the students need to take remedial classes in record numbers. While I processed all of the information, I felt it would be tough as an college admission officer not familiar with all the different state standards. As a new college student I would be depressed if I was placed in nothing but remedial classes as a freshman. Core standards are needed. BUT are they needed for ALL students?
As I pondered these ideas, I started to notice articles about “Where the jobs are now.” Sure you can find stories about unfilled STEM jobs that the Common Core will address. I noticed stories about jobs, I never expected: truck driver shortages and factory shortages. Does the common core help fill these vacancies? NO. What do we do with students who want to fill these positions? I believe the if the common core is the only avenue for them they will drop out! Is that what we want? I hope not.
We should not be telling our youth that the only path is College. Today more jobs do not require a college degree than jobs that do! Sure, I want to encourage everyone to get the best education they can, but there are many routes to success that don’t pass through college. As educators we need to be up front and honest with students. Tell them their options. Start them all off on the College Core path, IF and when it becomes evident that the path is not right, there needs to be another one for them to travel down.
When you ask a 5 year old what they want to be most will say: “Doctor, Lawyer, Fireman Police Officer, Nurse, or Teacher” as they gain knowledge about the many more professions it changes many times over. We need to offer core educational requirements that lead to ALL occupations: Musician, Artist, Cook, Truck Driver, Etc…. To do this we have to do away with 1 common core and create many cores that are as well defined as the common core. The common core is great for college bound students but not all students will go down that path.
How do districts keep up in this age of ever changing technology tools and shrinking school budgets?
Everyday I hear about a new tool to use in the classroom or a new technique on how to use the technology. Where I work we have seen our budget shrink every year for the past 7. Our Technology Director position is now filled by the business manager and we have 2 tech support people for 3,200 students and 7 buildings.
How do we keep up? Our district does the best it can by trusting the teachers to become experts in various technology skills and then share the skills back with the leadership and fellow teachers. We also utilize our Intermediate School District and the technology support that they provide to the all 21 districts in the county. Districts can’t afford to have a resident expert in all technology. We have been struggling to keep pace with change. Some of our administrators are not technology-savvy and do not feel comfortable using all of the tools at hand.
So do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?
Simple answers is NO. Administrators have to create a culture of learning and sharing among staff. Administrators have to trust their staff on leading them in the right direction. They also need to develop strong questioning skills to ask the staff about the technology to be reassured that the district is moving in the correct direction. Shared leadership helps districts keep pace with the technology change. Districts can’t afford to have a resident expert in all technology. They have to have trust in their staff to become experts in select technology. Then build an atmosphere of respect so staff feel comfortable training each other. The moment someone becomes an “expert” in a product, a newer, better, version is being released. If one person was trying to keep pace they would never have time train staff. Challenge yourself as a leader to share our leadership with your staff.
Two final thoughts-
1: Leaders have to embrace technology and learn if they want their staff to do the same. They don’t have to be savvy or the expert but they need to learn.
2. A great leaders isn’t the smartest person in the room but the one who surround themselves with the smartest people. If you know you have knowledge deficits try to find people to help fill in the knowledge void.
Here is the link to the archive of the inaugural #mschat on storify. Thanks to @tchrmom2boys for helping archive.
It was a great chat, with a large group of middle school educators discussing: How to start the year off right in the Middle School. There are many great ideas and good links.
Hope you can join us for chat #2 on 8/23 at 8 pm EST.
Our Twitter poll has closed, our first topic will be: How to start the school year off right: ideas for the first weeks in a middle school.
For some teachers school has already started, others of us are starting in the next few weeks. This is a great topic for all educators. I always have mixed emotions about starting the school year. I am excited to meet and work with a new group of students. I am nervous about how the students will respond to my teaching. I am a bit sad to not have my former students in class. I know the hardest weeks of the school year are the first few, because it is so important to establish the student/teacher relationship. I am always look for new ideas to help me engage ALL of my students.
I am looking forward to sharing and learning from all the teachers and leaders that join us Thursday for the first #mschat of the 2012/2013 school. I hope it will be the first of many learning opportunities for me/us.
The Middle school chat poll is out at http://twtpoll.com/nhkze6
1. How do you connect with your student at the beginning of the year to develop a positive relationship?
2. Start of the new year right; Ideas for the first few weeks.
3. How to engage the wandering middle schooler’s mind.
4. Tech in the Middle School- The do’s and don’ts
5. Goal setting in the Middle School- The How, when and why.
Chat will be August 9th at 8 pm EST. We hope to have a positive chat specific to middle school issues. We have a great list of topics for the year. Looking forward to connecting with great middle school minds.
As I begin this journey of starting #mschat (August 9, 8 pm EST every other week), I have been asked by friends and colleagues Why?
The simple answer is to get off the “island of teaching” and into a collaborative group. It really goes back to my first year of teaching: I was struggling getting a grip on the what and how to teach. I asked my veteran grade level teaching partner if we should meet with teachers in another building to discuss the issues. She answered: “No we have to figure it out, our principal would not like that.” I felt isolated and alone. Teaching has traditionally been this way sadly. Teachers, schools and districts have been hesitant to share what the are doing (The good, bad and ugly). Education is not a competition, we all have the same goal so we need to collaborate.
Last year I stumbled upon educational value twitter at the suggestion of a friend. On twitter all of the educators are helping each other reach the common goal of student learning and quality teaching. Over the past year I have participated in many chats that have help me grow. The chats make me reflect on my teaching and give me insight into what other teachers are doing in their classroom. I have found great tools and lesson ideas by being a connected educator. Better yet I have forged relationships with other educators from around the world. I have a large group of teachers to ask advice of, share ideas with, and collaborate. Observing a void in the conversation specific to the middle school needs, I along with my principal (@wwmsprincipal) have decided to start #mschat. Topics will be picked using a twitter poll, focusing on Middle School issues.
I encourage all educators to become connected. Start slow by following people you know. Lurk in chats, until you feel comfortable. I feel it is best just to try it out and find your comfort level. The community is welcoming and full of help. If you don’t understand how something works, tweet a question and the community will answer. Educators that feel isolated and want to get off the “island” need to explore all of the social media options and become connected.
I have been on actively on twitter as an educator for a little over a year, in this time I have found wonderful connections to educators from around the world. I have found incredible resources and insights from educators of all levels. I value all of the people in my growing PLN. One thing that seems missing is a chat/group dedicated solely to Middle School Issues. So after conversations with members of my PLN and encouragement from my principal. I am going to moderate a #mschat starting August 9th at 8pm. This chat will be a twice monthly chat focusing on current middle school issues. I hope this will be a time where middle school teachers can share the great things that are going on at their schools and also talk about the challenges of teaching at this level. I look forward to learning and growing with all of the connected educators out there. See you in 2 weeks.