Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Drive to Improve

It's May!  We all know what May means, flowers, warmer temps, Memorial Day, school year winding down and ... end of the year evaluations.  

How does an individual improve?

This question can fit many walks of life.  As a college golfer I read books on the mental approach.  I diligently practiced.  I repeatedly put myself in a position of being uncomfortable and I was constantly assessing my strengths and weaknesses.

As a teacher I found improving to be different.  First, I had to want to improve.  It's easy to say you want to improve, but it must be genuine, you need to be open to criticism and NOT make excuses.  All people can improve, the question is how.  

True Story.  I was in my 6th year teaching.  I had 9 boys and 16 girls in my classroom.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Of the nine boys I had zero boys that embraced being a "positive" leader.  I can't tell you how many motivational talks I had with that class.  I was constantly trying to encourage students to step up and be positive leaders.  As the year wore on I found that I was contacting parents more with problems (not solutions), and becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of "personal" growth.  I stepped back and analyzed.  I asked myself a hard question, could I be part of the problem?  The very next week I met with another teacher who I viewed as having fantastic discipline/management procedures.  After observing and talking with the teacher I adjusted and tweaked my approach.  I had to leave my "bubble" to improve.  

This is where you may sense some frustration from me.  During my 15 years in education most of what I have observed has taken place in a large square room.  Day-in and day-out teachers are on an "island of one" teaching 25+ students.  Then teachers go to the lounge and decompress.  Finally, at the end of the day teachers go home, grade papers and make sure they are organized for the next day.  This can become repetitive, I must ask the question, how does an individual improve?  

This is what the most common answers are to that question:  1) Teachers collaborate and work together  2) Teachers attend PD days a few times per year.  3) Teachers take classes to renew certificates and stay current.

These are the most common answers, I believe these are all small ways to improve, but I don't believe this will create sustained, significant growth.  Sustained improvement or growth typically means two things: continual and revisited.

This is how I believe improvement happens:

1) Analyze yourself and be open to critiquing from others 

2) Observe fellow teachers

3) Read for improvement

4) Take risks, try new things 

5) Find PD that fits your needs

I happen to be a goal oriented person and I push myself to complete my goals.  I could be the exception and not the rule, but I don't think I am.  I think goals are important and they push people to meet their potential.

So I ask the question again, how does an individual improve?  

A very good friend of mine recently said this, "If you want to improve you need to put yourself in uncomfortable positions."  I thought about this and I agreed.  If you are never uncomfortable in what you do you are probably playing it safe.  

Are you willing to leave your comfort zone?


Monday, May 6th:  Teacher Appreciation Week Begins!
Tuesday, May 7th:  String Team 4pm
Tuesday, May 7th:  5th grade Band Recruiting concert at Warner 10am
Tuesday, May 7th:  Board Work Session 5:30pm
Wednesday, May 8th:  Walk-To-School Day
Wednesday, May 8th:  Grades 3-5 assembly with SAU track
Thursday, May 9th:  5th grade Instrument Fitting
Thursday, May 9th:  School Improvement Meeting 4pm
Thursday, May 9th:  Kids Hope Dinner
Friday, May 10th:  PM Drill

Articles Worth Reading:

Are Grades utterly useless?  shared by @CurtRees

Mental Hospital to Cult Hero shared by @8Amber8

The 7 Most & Least Effective Ways to Improve Student Achievement  shared by @KleinErin

Gamifying Student Engagement  shared by @twhitford

Is it time to ditch the phrase 21st Century Teacher?  shared by @MrPowersCMS

Teacher Observations Aren't the Only Way to Improve Schools  by @PeterMDewitt

Rethinking Difficult Parents  shared by @casas_jimmy

Minecraft will get their attention  by @CurtRees

12 Things Kids Want From Their Teachers  by @AngelaMaiers

5 Core Skills Your Life Depends On  by @marcandangel

What Goes Around Comes Around

Running with your spouse and what it means  by@NewbieChronicles

5 Ways For Teachers To Get Quality Summer PD  shared by @DrSpikeCook

The Objective of Education is Learning, Not Teaching  shared by @NMHS_Principal

The Leader Podcast (8 min)  shared by @dreambition

iPad iNformation:

8 Educational Apps to Create Digital Portfolios  shared by @NMHS_Principal

12 Advanced iPad Tips All Educators Should Learn  shared by @MrPowersCMS

7 Ways to Use Your iPad in the Classroom  shared by @KimGriesbach

Videos Worth Watching:

Power of Twitter Chats (31 min) shared by @Joe_Mazza

Know or Go with Ellen (6 min) @TheEllenShow

One of the All Time Greatest Stories! JMac (5 min)

TedTalk on Sifteo Cubes (7 min)

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