Teamwork Equals Success

I sat down with an administrator this week to talk about a few things that are happening at my school and with my team. He caught me before school and my teammates were not at school yet, so I sat with him. We talked about some great things that were happening at our school and then talked to me about out team. He asked me if one of the members of my team were to leave, move to another grade, or retire, would our team stay the same so we can replicate our successes, or would it fall apart? Interesting question.

We were unfortunate to have one of our great teachers take a leave of absence for a medical reason and we watched that team succeed by replicating and moving forward with a new member. We talked about what would be different with what we do? There will be differences and new ideas with a new team member, but can we replicate the success? I think what we do as a team is much better than what did as individual teachers. What works will go on. We will improve and change as needed. But the success will go on. I think this is true with any team.

In each team there are strengths and weaknesses in each person and as a team. Once a team starts preparing and planning those things are apparent. Each person takes over what they are great at and we all look at what we need to work on and we work. If someone leaves, we start it at the beginning, but we put our strengths in and see what we need to work at and we work. The key to the team is not just the strengths each brings, but their attitude. If someone comes to the team that is not willing to put forth effort to learn or improve, that becomes a problem. That can be a bump in the road, but it will not stop a good team. They will persist, train, work, encourage, praise, and help.

We do not want to see someone leave the team, but if they do, we will keep on donning what we do. Helping students and learners succeed and prepare them for whatever future they will be seeing.
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Somebody Get Me A Doctor!

I love the yearly health assessment our insurance carrier has us do. They moved the date back this year and let us all know two months before the date, so we scrambled to get the appointments as soon as possible. That in itself is a nightmare. The doctors are all booked 4-6 weeks out. Then we have to wait for the results which take 10+ days and we are up to the deadline. The craziest thing about this is that the insurance let's us take the assessment once a year fro free, but since they moved the date back a couple months, no one can get it for free because we did it all last year when they warned us two months in advance. So the year has not come up and we are all in a pickle having to pay and trying to get it on before the deadline.

The good in all this is the information we get. I have lost a few pounds over the last few years we have done this. My blood pressure has gone down, and my cholesterol levels have moved for the better. Life has treated me good and it looks like I am taking better care of myself. The pains and aches I get are age-related, says my doctor, so I am ok. My blood pre sure is still a little high, but it doesn't help that I come straight from school when there is controlled chaos as we film our last scenes to our history films. No stress. None whatsoever.

Our district has been on a health mission for a few years. They have started to see that we have gotten healthier as a district. Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight, and other medical things. They started a health contest a few years back and have teachers and staff log their minutes or miles, or whatever they do to exercise. The is a weigh in week week to see our progress. It has really become a school-wide competition. All in all we have gotten healthier and, hopefully, this will lower our insurance one day. I doubt it, but I sure feel better.

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We Sure Do Appreciate Ya

How should teachers be shown appreciation by their school district? Our district has a "Team of the Year"award where the team of teachers is an grade level or subject submit a binder of information telling and showing information about their team. We need to convince others we are doing great. There used to be the "Teacher of the Year" award where each principal would select a teacher and the district would somehow pick the winner. These are the ways I am familiar with.

I am wondering if there is a better way? Could there be a committee that reviews teacher by actually visiting their classroom? Not for a few minutes, but for a week or two? Be with them in their meetings and discussions, planning meetings and conferences. See how they work with their team. This would be hard for administrators because of the work they need to do, but it would really show how teachers work.

We love awards and recognition, but how about a day for collaboration between the teams? Sharing ideas and plans. What works and what doesn't. What problem need discussing and what solutions are there. This is the real PLC. When districts can bring schools together to discuss and plan, then we are a true Community of Professionals.

So how can we recognize teachers and teams fairly? Sounds like an end-of-year test for students. How can we truly assess either?


Maybe Next Year We'll Do It

Here is a list of things we thought about this year, but didn't quite get to. Included is also a list new ideas we came up with.

1. Identity Day-have each student teach something about themselves. A report about one thing that makes them, them.
2. Spelling Tests on Google Docs - in fact we can do most of our tests on google docs and that will save a lot of paper. We have been told to cut back on paper this year, so we are looking at out laptop mini's to step up to do most of our work.
3. Tech minutes for younger grades - each month our fifth grade students will teach the younger grade students something they can use on the computer, this gives them time to teach and the younger students time to learn something new. This helps the student, the teacher and next years teacher. Students become more literate on computers and teachers that are uncomfortable with using computers, can get better.
4. More back channel discussions - these are great for topics and questions. I have loved using them during reading time. I love using them during a lesson when they are supposed to be listening and not talking. The more the student can input questions and answers, the better and more comfortable they become with communication.
5. Innovation Day. Having students pick a subject, learn a out it, produce something, and present it the next day. Having them do this all on one day. They can work in pairs. But they should have a product to show or discuss the next day. How many full days could we do this? Every two units in Language? Making it a part of the lesson and gear it to the units?
6. More articles to read during PLC days. This is the best way to get information from around the country. Reading articles from our own personal learning network.
7. Research. What else is out there that we can use in our classroom?
8. Pecha Kucha presentations. Integrating this format of presenting in our classrooms. Interesting format. 20 slides, 20 seconds each slide, 6 minutes to present an idea. Love it.

There is always so much to do in our classroom. New things we can try.

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Tech Minute...or Longer

My principal came to me a few months ago and asked me to take 15 minutes each Friday to teach something techy. About half of our staff were given iPads and were only just starting to use them, and some of the teachers are a little unsure about some of the new computer-based Programs we are using for Language. So we have a 15 minute class every Friday right after school. This give the teachers time to learn a little and take it back to their planning to incorporate it into their lessons. After the 15 minutes is up, we have some teachers that want to learn more so we go further or answer questions about specific problems they are having in their rooms. Confidence has improved and each teacher is working on a class website. It has been fantastic.

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The Grandeur of Zion

Our classes had the opportunity to have a ranger for Zion Canyon visit our school. Barb Graves was our tour guide as we were taken back through the building up of the geology of the United States and more specifically, Zion Canyon. She knows her information and we all could tell that she loved what she taught about. That made all the difference. Everyone payed attention. All students learned something new. The passion showed through and it kept us all divided.

This passion is what I need to keep my students intested with what I teach. How do I get to the point that I am passionate about my subjects? First I need to know my subject. I can't just teach by the seat of my pants. I need to know my subject. Next I need to like what I am teaching. I need to find a way to make my least favorite subjects my friends. I need to embrace thsubject and have the attitude that I love it. Last, I need to be excited while I am teaching. Attitude is everything. Students will know when it is not my favorite and it will not be their favorite. They can feel it when I am not excited about a specific subject ad they will feel tht it is not that important.

Watching the passon of a ranger teach about their park is amazing. It is fantastic watch someone that has passion as they teach. I hope my teaching shows the passion that Barb showed my class today.

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