Posts Tagged: Inspiration

In the Classroom Leadership
Synergy
December 10, 2017
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Synergy

Hayley Cloud
@hcloud_tn

The Wright brothers created the world’s first powered airplane because they shared the same curiosity and intellect. Michael Jordan completed 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association with the help of a skilled team. Helen Keller devoted much of her life to raising awareness for people with disabilities after overcoming challenges with the help of Annie Sullivan. Martin Luther King Jr. had a grand impact on the Civil-Rights Movement because of the many demonstrators that followed him in his efforts. For centuries, some of the most influential people in history have changed the world as a result of synergy. Synergy is when two or more people interact, cooperate, or collaborate to produce a greater result.  Synergy is vital to creating effective schools.
In the Classroom
Metcalf – My Story
December 2, 2017
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Metcalf – My Story

Lynnsey Metcalf
@SterchiMetcalf

Being an educator was never a question for me, I just didn’t truly know what being an educator was, until I became one!
In the Classroom
How Have I Survived 25 Years of Teaching?
October 29, 2017
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How Have I Survived 25 Years of Teaching?

Al Feldblum
@afeldblum

Istarted my teaching career with two strikes against me. One, I am a high school math teacher; the only school subject with a recognized, known phobia. Not only must I overcome “Math Phobia” with my students, but also I must listen to adults say, “I hated math in high school,” or “I was terrible at math.”
In the Classroom Leadership
Find Your Mrs. P
October 22, 2017
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Find Your Mrs. P

Jeff Gray
@iteachushistory

My experience as a first year teacher is not unlike many others in the teaching profession. I was fresh out of school, ready to change the world. My first teaching job found me in a large southern city with a sordid, but progressive history in public education. I was assigned to teach 8th grade social studies in a large middle school located physically in a solid middle class suburb. However, our student population was anything but solid middle class. Through the then constitutional busing policy, our student population was majority minority with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch. Our faculty was full of “newbies” just like me, trying to change the world.
Leadership Policy Professional Learning
Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow
June 22, 2017
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Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow

Diarese George
@DiareseGeorge

What’s my next move? What are my options? Are there opportunities for growth beyond the classroom? In the classroom? This time last year, these were questions that I had asked myself. At the time, I had just completed my fourth academic year of teaching and wondered what my professional trajectory looked like in the coming years. I transitioned into education after working in business for six years after college. In business, there was always an understanding that if you came into an entry-level role, depending on the company, you should be preparing for upward mobility within 2-3 years. Having surpassed that timeframe in the classroom, I was anxious to see what my next steps in the profession would be. That’s when I came across teacher education fellowship opportunities after reading Commissioner McQueen’s monthly Educator Update. (See past updates and sign up to receive them here.)

I decided to apply to Hope Street Group’s State Teacher Fellowship, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship, and Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship. I was surprised to be accepted to each of them! At the conclusion of this year, I have completed each fellowship. Reflecting on them, I see they each offered unique experiences that have equipped me to be a better educator.

My Education Pioneers Fellowship placed me at the Tennessee Department of Education in the Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation. Last summer I worked on a project that explored the opportunities and challenges of school districts collaborating with education preparation programs to create partnerships. Working at this level helped me to see education from a broader lens, especially regarding an initiative like that. That experience helped me to reframe my thought process and view situations from different perspectives. It also gave me access to executive directors across various departments, professional development with the Commissioner, and a chance to view the Department’s five Education Priorities at work in real time.

I participated in both the Hope Street Group and SCORE Fellowships at the same time during the 2016-2017 academic year. The Hope Street Group Fellowship connected me with other teachers and local and national policymakers to give feedback on critical education policy issues, while serving as a spokesperson for positive change in the profession. I also was able to provide feedback to the Department of Education regarding professional development, chronic absenteeism, and RTI2. Additionally, Fellows convened throughout the year to receive advocacy training to aid in our roles. Three of the most helpful things that I learned are how to utilize Twitter for professional development, how to participate in and host Twitter chats, and how to conduct a meaningful focus group.

The SCORE Fellowship selects teacher leaders from across the state to train them to advocate and elevate their voices to support and advance student-focused education policy. SCORE provided the historical context of education policy in Tennessee, including where the state started and how it became the fastest improving in the country. This Fellowship connected me with key individuals and policymakers who played a role in the state’s improvement. It also equipped and empowered me to lead my own advocacy project, which centered on supporting educators of color in Tennessee. SCORE convened Fellows four times throughout the year to provide both advocacy training to support our projects and opportunities to meet key stakeholders, including Commissioner McQueen, executive directors from national education reform organizations, state legislators, and gubernatorial candidates.

My participation in each one of these fellowships has left me feeling enlightened, equipped, and energized to continue to engage in the policy work that I have begun. As my fellowships concluded, I remind myself that the work is just starting. We need more educators involved in education policy and engaging policymakers. When highly effective educators inform and shape education policies based on their practical knowledge and experience of excellent teaching and learning, the results are better for students. I highly recommend any of these fellowships to any educator who is looking to advocate on behalf of students and make an impact in the policy space. Each one of these fellowships proclaim once a Fellow, always a Fellow. For that, I will forever be connected to these organizations, their ongoing work, and the future Fellows who participate in them.

Diarese has taught Business courses at Clarksville High School for the past three years. In that time, he has served as a lead instructor for the school’s career Academy, member of the Instructional Leadership Team and an Academy lead in cross­-curricular collaboration for project­-based learning. He is a graduate of his district’s Leadership Development course, and a district­-wide Professional Development facilitator for Microsoft Excel training. Diarese holds a BBA in Marketing and Management and M.A. in Corporation Communications from Austin Peay State University, MBA from University of Phoenix and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Professional Learning
Implementing Classroom Changes
April 19, 2017
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Implementing Classroom Changes

Crystal Nelson, Ed.D.
@CN628

fter a disastrous first year of teaching, I knew I needed to make some changes. I reflected on my year and identified areas I thought would make the biggest impact in the next year. That summer I worked on what I needed to learn and developed a plan to make my next year better. Thus began a habit of reflecting on my practice that has helped me to improve each year in my teaching career. I hope sharing these steps can help other teachers reflect and grow too:
  1. Identify where you need improve. What is going to make the biggest difference in student learning or even in maintaining order in your classroom? What is the goal of this change? Limit the changes you are going to make to no more than three. You can’t change everything at one time, and you may not see the success you’re looking for if you spread your attention too thin.  
  2. Decide how you’re going to measure a goal. Sometimes, my measurement stick is very specific and is exactly how teachers are supposed to goal-set: “I will use x instructional strategy 8 out of 10 lessons.” Sometimes my goal breaks the rules and lacks the specificity: “Don’t be terrible at x.”  Of course, you want to quantify any goals relating to student learning. However, changes relating to organization, classroom management, procedures, etc. can depend on where you’re starting, what the nature of what you’re trying to do is, and whether you have a clue what your “end game” should quantifiably look like. Sometimes the vaguer goal is just fine, and you will know if you’re happy with the change or not.
  3. Make a plan to make your change happen. If you aren’t sure and don’t know of anyone to ask, read. There is a book on every topic. Reading professional literature has been the biggest help to me, especially those times when I’ve felt like I had no one who could give me the advice I needed.
  4. Identify when to start. It’s hard to make “big” changes in the middle of a semester or school year. Because your classroom expectations and policies are already set, it often takes a lot of legwork at the beginning to make a new change successful. It might be better to start new changes on a fresh year with a new group of students when you’ve had all summer to let your ideas marinate and have had time to get new systems in place. It is possible to make adjustments and changes in the middle, but it really depends on what you’re trying to do, how you will be managing the expectations of students, and whether you physically have time to get the legwork in.
  5. Reflect on your new change throughout implementation. Is it better than it was before? Where are you seeing success and where are you still unhappy? Modify your plan as needed and figure out those problem-pockets. If you feel the plan is failing, you don’t have to continue living with something that isn’t working. However, analyze why it isn’t working and give it a real chance before you give it up completely. (Remember, if you’re attempting a behavior modification plan, the behavior might get worse before it gets better. If this is an area with which you don’t have a lot of experience and the behavior is especially challenging, get help from your principal or a teacher who has a lot of success in this area before implementing the plan.)
  6. Pick your next change if you’re happy with the results of your new change, or you’re at a place where you can handle something else.

My first year of teaching was incredibly challenging, as I know it is for many. I try to stay focused on what I can control and improve, rather than all the many factors outside of my control (lack of parent support, limited instructional time, etc). This has led to improved student learning, student behavior, and personal job satisfaction.

Crystal has taught at Camden Elementary for six years teaching PreK-2nd grade general music and reading intervention and serves as RTI Co- Coordinator. Crystal served as the Benton County Education Association president 2013-2015, is an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma, and was named Distinguished Educator of West Tennessee by the Tennessee Education Association in 2014. Crystal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin where she earned a B.M. in Music Education. As a life-learner, she has also earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Leadership Professional Learning
Maximize Errors to Change Mindset
January 9, 2017
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Maximize Errors to Change Mindset

Michael Bradburn
@bradburnm

Students and teachers are working hard in and out the classroom on a daily basis.  Teachers are spending extra time planning, preparing, and thinking about their students to make sure everything is as good as it can get.  They want to have the perfect lesson, perfect materials, and perfect management plan.  Students are putting forth extra effort to make sure they have the perfect essay, perfect notes, and perfect solutions to their problems.   It seems that teachers and students are striving for perfection when mistakes are the precursor to successful learning.

What if we all stopped trying to be perfect and start learning from our errors?

Teachers naturally want to perform well and do an exemplary job in the classroom.  We want our students and co-workers to see us as amazing!  We put forth so much effort trying to achieve greatness that we may be missing great learning opportunities.  The effort and mistakes we make could lead us to learning new lessons or deepening our understanding.  Dwek’s idea of a growth mindset can have an impact on collaboration and teacher growth.  If a teacher has a fixed mindset, they may view the success of others as a failure of their own.  They see weakness in making mistakes or they may not try to implement new ideas because of the fear of failure of making a mistake.  When someone achieves great things, that makes teachers with a fixed mindset feel discouraged or inadequate.  Teachers with a growth mindset are more likely to share ideas and collaborate because the conversations could lead to both teachers learning.  They are more likely to try, and sometimes fail, at new strategies or ideas because they believe the failure leads to learning.  Teachers should be encouraged to see others’ success as a way to grow, collaborate, and share information to have an impact on all learners.

This translates directly to students.  Students may want to impress their teachers and peers.  The growth mindset can encourage learners to see their mistakes and the success of others as a way to grow and learn.  These students will often embrace challenges and risk failure to grow.  When teachers push their students to complete difficult tasks that they may not know how to solve, they can push them to try new strategies or require them to depend on peers for help and support.  In addition, teachers can become more aware of areas to reteach and focus instruction when errors occur and identified by students.

Everyone has the desire to be successful, but success often comes after a long line of mistakes and errors.

 

Michael is an Instructional Coach at Alcoa Elementary School. He has been an educator for 11 years. He received the East Tennessee PreK-4 Teacher of the Year in 2014 and the Wal-Mart teacher of the year in 2004. Michael is currently working on the Tennessee Standards Mathematics Review Committee and as a Teacher Partner in his school collaborating with teachers to impact student achievement. He was a Common Core Mathematics Coach in 2013. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor’s of Science and a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies. He holds an Education Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Leadership
Are You a S2.A.P.P.Y. Educator?
December 30, 2016
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Are You a S<sup>2</sup>.A.P.P.Y. Educator?

Tina Faust
@tntechgal
passionate educator, blessed to be a technology integration specialist

Have you ever had a time that left you extremely frustrated? Have you found yourself aggravated because you were excluded from discussions that will impact you? Have you felt disheartened because you were not a part of the decision making process?

I confess that I recently found myself in the above scenario. Like many of you, I am a passionate educator. I was frustrated over things that are out of my control. I found myself venting to a friend and grumbling to a colleague about initiatives that I felt excluded from but they will impact me. I became mentally drained and exhausted. I finally stopped mentally rehashing the things that are out of my control and realized that I was the one letting my frustration take root. I’m usually a positive person but I was allowing my negative reactions to impact me. It occurred to me that I have the ability to control me. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a process or decision, I can control my reaction and my focus.

I don’t want to be a yappy, negative educator but I want to always be a S2.A.P.P.Y. educator. I can control my thoughts and my actions. When I find myself frustrated, I can stop and find the positive in the situation and be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. I can always have a positive attitude and I yearn to be a lifelong learner.

2017 is fast approaching. For the new year, my goal is to be a S2.A.P.P.Y educator. When I find myself getting frustrated, I will remind myself to self-reflect, be a part of the solution, keep a positive attitude, maintain a perspective that involves a positive mindset, and I will yearn to learn. I can learn from every situation and I can I always control my thoughts and my reactions. Feel free to join me and get S2.A.P.P.Y.!

Self-Reflect

Solutions-Oriented

Attitude is Everything

Perspective is Key

Positive Mindset

Yearn to Learn

A former high school marketing teacher with Jefferson County, Tina is currently the Instructional Technology Specialist for Hawkins County Schools where she works with teachers and administrators across 18 schools to integrate technology in K-12 classrooms. A Tennessee Department of Education iTunesU featured presenter, Tina has presented at numerous professional conferences including Tennessee’s first EdTech Summit. An advocate for technology integration, Tina works with professional societies to plan, and produce annual technology conferences for teachers across Tennessee. Tina holds a B.S. in Business/Marketing Education, an M.S. in Human Resource Development, and an Ed.S. in Instructional Technology from the University of Tennessee. She is currently pursuing her Ed.D at Liberty University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Leadership
Are We There Yet?
September 18, 2016
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Are We There Yet?

Elaine Vaughan
@evaughan77

“Are we there yet?” I don’t know how many times I have heard that question asked as my family traveled to Florida for summer vacation before reaching our final destination. We arrived at the beach, hung out together,  and then returned home. However, I remember most vividly the experiences that happened when we stopped along the way. 

Similarly, in the classroom, a student may ask the question, “Are we there yet?” in the form of “Do we need to do all of this? Just give me the answer. Is it on the test?” During the past few years, the most important aspect of a student’s educational experiences has focused on end-of-year testing, partially due to pressure for students to perform effectively according to Race to the Top. Conversations by legislators, school boards, communities, teachers, parents, and students have centered on the standards and raising the bar in education through “the test.”  Tests are a part of the process in evaluating student growth and achievement. Consider that learning along the way is much more meaningful when engaging and inspiring students while  reflecting upon each educational experience.

Why should students be engaged in their learning experiences? Engaging students in the learning process strengthens their attention and focus, motivates them to develop and practice higher-level thinking skills, and promotes a culture of collaboration and communication within the classroom and the school community. Educators establish a student-centered environment where class time is used for inquiry and application through real-world problem solving. Teachers cultivate relationships with students, in which students feel safe, take risks, and a culture of curiosity and excitement prevails. The teacher serves as a facilitator who guides each student through multiple learning opportunities by integrating technology, real-world problem solving experiences, collaboration and communication skills, and academic growth. As educators, engaging students may mean stepping out of the classroom and exploring the world around us. John Dewey once said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

Why should students be inspired to achieve? When I think of inspiration, there are four ladies that come to mind. My sixth grade teachers, Mrs. McNabb and Mrs. Pickelsimer, my Calculus teacher, Mrs. Benita Albert, and my piano teacher, Mrs. Rothermel, believed I could succeed. My teachers encouraged me to “stay the course” and that through productive struggle, I would succeed. Carol Dweck, a well-known psychologist, explains that a growth mindset can be developed by students when a teacher intentionally praises students’ efforts and perseverance. As educators, it is our responsibility to encourage students to try again if they don’t experience success the first time. As a matter of fact, students may have to try multiple times to reach their goals. Many students may not come to class with an eagerness to be challenged. However, teachers, parents, schools, and the community must work together to find multiple methods to develop challenging learning environments for the students and also allow the students to create learning environments in which they set standards to challenge themselves. Teach students to have courage. They might have to step out of their comfort zone but will grow leadership skills and self-confidence.

Why should students reflect upon their learning experiences? In a modern, global society information is available and changing quickly prompting users to constantly rethink, change directions, and examine many different types of problem solving strategies. Therefore, educators emphasize  the importance of reflective thinking during learning to help students create strategies to apply new knowledge with prior understanding to complex situations and develop higher-order critical thinking skills. Allowing time for students to reflect when responding to questions, taking the time to review the learning situation on what is known, what is not known, and what has been learned is important in the learning process. When provided with  a less structured learning environment, students are able to explore what they find to be  important and work within a social-learning environment that allows students to see and hear other points of view. Reflective thinking centers  on the process of making judgements through justification of solutions about what has occurred. Reflective thinking is essential  for prompting learning during real-world problem solving in achieving goals and standards.

Are we there yet? I hope not. I want to continue to be a lifelong learner. John Dewey stated, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of a desire to go on learning.” One’s lifelong journey is not about finally coming to the end. Instead, it is how the journey occurs along the way, and when examining the steps, goals, and outcomes that happen throughout the learning process, life becomes all the better.

Dr. Elaine Vaughan is a mathematics instructor at Oak Ridge High School for 20 years. She is a National Board Certified teacher, Professional Learning Communities Coach, and member of the Response to Intervention district and school board. Elaine is also a member of Delta Kappa Gamma and serves on the XI State Vision Board. Through this organization, she received both state and international scholarships. Elaine was a state mathematics textbook reviewer during the 2013-2014 school year. Elaine received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Tennessee and her doctorate from Walden University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.