- I wish I had been an elementary school teacher: I love working in the elementary schools! Elementary schools teachers are more willing to take coaching, they tend to have more technology because of the digital content platforms, and station rotation inherently makes personalized learning easier.
- High Schools PD Needs to Change: You just don't get much-accomplished mid-year in a high school especially when you are a coach spread across several schools. High school teachers are just too busy. I know elementary and middle school teachers are too, but it's just different at the High School level. High School teachers are so busy that they don't make changes mid-semester, so we need to front load PD for them. We then need to support them through coaching.
- The movement to student creation is a long road: Schools need to let students create. To me when you teach with worksheets and questions, it put learning in a box. You are only going to get what you ask for. When you let students create you take away those walls as it can lead them in different directions. The road to get there though is long. There are just too many long-standing habits. The teachers that are willing to be out front really need to lead that charge, or change won't happen
- The type of device does not matter, it's the software: I have seen several schools pick devices this year, and let's just say it's not the device I would pick. I do however understand how they got to that choice. They got there by picking what they know instead of looking down the line. I think when we really let schools pick their device this cab be an inherent flaw in the system. They choose comfort rather than innovation. Really, when you pick a device the key is the software. Every device has it flaws, but it comes down to what you can do with it. So to me, the ones with the best software and apps always win.
- Leadership MATTERS: I have been in several schools this year, and some had good leaders while others had bad leaders. The difference between them in kind of unbelievable. This is especially prevalent in what you can term the low achieving inter-city schools. Leaders who insist on a certain level of instruction and support their teachers in all classroom management proceedings tend to have a great work environment. The ones who don't tend to have the inmates running the asylum. Leadership also does the hiring, and for inner-city type schools that is vastly important. You have to find good teachers who care about "those" types of kids.
- There are AMAZING teachers at some of the schools that could be classified as "low achieving": I have had the privilege to work with some AMAZING folks at what many would classify as one of the lowest-achieving high schools in the state. They have one of the most amazing ELA teacher I have ever been around, who actually just won the Fishman Prize. They other have great teachers in math, world geography, economics, US History, and many others. What brings the school down at times, though, is that the group is not huge. They have many long term subs in the building, and it brings me to my next point
- Good Schools Come from Hiring and Retaining Period: I have the advantage of seeing one of the lowest performing high schools in the state and one of the highest performing schools at the same time. The difference between the schools: hiring and retaining teachers. It's a hard problem to solve, but when the low performing school has to fill several slots where teachers quit with long term subs, you understand where they struggle a bit more. I think there needs to be some sort of push to build teachers from within these communities. If they invested in the community, they are more likely to stay!
- The Next Challenge: As I move into the next school year, I am looking for more challenges. I have done the tech coach thing in these schools for almost two years now, and I am excited to move into our next phase. With our personalized learning project, that phase will come in November. My hope is that I can also start dabbling with some other projects within our group, but we shall see. It's on to the next one.
I am coming to the end of the school year, and I thought I would take some time to post some end of year reflections. The 15-16 school year was my first full year working for KSU Iteach as an Education Technology Specialist. We are basically consultants for local school districts, and I have been working with a school district on their personalized learning initiative. This year has been a crazy year, and I wanted to take this blog to share some of the things I learned during the year.