Who am I, you ask?

My name is Andi. I am an Assistant Principal at dauphin County Technical High School. I love that we help students find and develop their passions every day. I also love when we encourage our students to problem-solve, collaborate and reflect: when I see students working together to create a solution to a real problem—especially one that has relevance to their field.

As an example, our Building DCTS BCCConstruction team went to build a playground for a community that was hard-hit by a hurricane. They had a limited budget from fund-raising and other sources. Once there, they encountered several unanticipated situations that presented the team with several building challenges. With research, imagination, planning and deep knowledge of their field content, they were able to solve the problem with the constraints that they had– and make a community very happy in the process. They shared their story (with amazing images) with our Joint Operating Committee Board. The whole endeavor was student-driven: selecting the site (i.e., a community in need), raising the money, designing the project and overcoming the obstacles. I love that they did it all with their teacher to facilitate (and monitor) their vision.

Check out more about DCTS Building Construction Cares here: https://sites.google.com/a/dc-tech.org/building-construction-cares/

 

 

Twitter ~ My Next Steps


twitter_learning_tool

I have been using Twitter to share positive things that are going on in my school since I became a school leader @andiwallach. All of my Tweets started with a photo of something I saw in school or at a school event. I enjoyed showcasing special things that I saw, especially things that were creative, innovative or novel. Reflecting on my Twitter use, there are some things I would like to try as I look ahead:

  • Let’s deicide on a school-wide hashtag and find out how we can disseminate this. Can we add it to  business card and correspondence? Can we feature it on our Website? That will help generate interest and traction in having our stakeholders become our followers.
  • Let’s try George Couros’ idea of having every adult in the building Tweet one thing each day (or each week). It could be a student “aha” moment, a photo of a project, a link to an article, a student video presentation, a teacher reflection…This would model connected learning, self-reflection, and growth for ourselves and our students.

In addition to creating a shared community of DCTS learners, we would be showcasing our work and our growth for a larger audience. As a Career and Technical School, we need to engage our parent and community partners even more than others. Our Twitter record would demonstrate our Mission in action; it would encourage more business partnerships and recap for parents how we are growing as #learners and #doers.

Seminar 10 and Creative Commons

In my writing assignment for this seminar, I discuss the pros and cons of two sites for the sharing of educational resources. The first is PBS Learning Media

This site has many lessons that have been created by a vetting of teacher-shared lessons. Because these are vetted, the quality of the lessons and materials are generally of good content and visual quality. It is not, however, designed for users to quickly share improvements to the materials.

PDE SAS  has teacher-submitted lessons and resources, but they are generally less visually appealing and the user has to assess their level of rigor and student choice.

 

For this assignment, I enjoyed thinking about and searching for various resources that are available to teachers to “steal”, share, and modify materials; but I also know how time-consuming it can be to look for and find the right things. For example, it was frustrating to me when I took a look at Merlot only to find their material not aligned to standards or requiring installations of programs and other impediments. In fact, I got a Block Warning about content I found there. I have seen other sites where lessons and content (especially in math) were not aligned to standards, too rote, or not user-friendly. It is easy to spend hours going down a rabbit hole in search of a great activity or lesson idea.

 

So it can be far too time-consuming for teachers to pursue just the right resources in a sea of options. It would be better for teachers to find 2 or 3 sites that they find consistently useful, with at least one of those allowing teachers to easily share with and provide feedback to others. It is through their sharing that teachers will begin creating their best work.

Seminar 9: What do others see? What do I see?

Someone who looks at my work both on this Blog in in my Course posts and projects will, I believe, learn two broad ideas about me.  And I believe they would be an accurate reflection.

First, when perusing my technology-imbedded or technolog0focused work, they would see someone who is not a Millennial! They would see a person who is working diligently to learn and try new technology, media and Web tools. They would see, somebody who believes in the power of these tools, though, for people to learn and grow: to have unlimited access to information and ideas and unlimited ways to use their strengths to create and communicate their ideas.

And that would relate to the second broad theme: I believe in the power of people. I believe that people have potential. As leaders, we need to meet people where they are. We need to understand their desires, their motivations and their goals. We need to encourage those and shine a light on the great things they do–and can do.

For me, something that would help me improve is to not allow myself to be overwhelmed with options or to compare myself to others. Both of these have been areas of struggle even B.G. (Before Google :)). Image result for I am me

I have to be mindful to focus on my accomplishments and growth and be secure in the strengths that I bring to any project or situation.  So a goal for me for next time is to better focus on one thing (or one aspect) and to that that thing well.

Focus on Strengths…and Develop Resilience

1213I always associated student ownership with student CHOICE. This Seminar has changed by thinking to that of student STRENGTH. Reflecting on the research of Tom Rath, I realize how important it is for students (and all of us!) to feel successful in order for us to feel engaged and competent. And THOSE feelings help us build resiliency so that we have the emotional energy to grapple with those tasks and areas that are not our strengths.

One of the things that we can do as leader sis help students–and teachers–identify their strengths. A teacher who comes to mind is a Middle-Level ELA teacher in my previous school. There was a huge push to move to more student-centered learning environments. As part of that, this teacher was experimenting with giving students more choice and voice in her classroom. She shared with me that she was trying to give students a (small) selection) of texts with a common theme or focus so that there could be a combination of whole-group and small-group discussion. She was also experimenting with using Socratic Seminar with her 7th-grade students. I observed her class several times and gave her specific feedback about the remarkable level of rigor and engagement (and empowerment) in her classes.  She shared her frustrations, however, with having students reading different texts. I encouraged her to continue her efforts and to stick with what she’s believes in, even if it falls flat sometimes.

What was amazing was not just the transformation in her classroom, but in her as well. I noticed that she started to share more at faculty meetings. She challenged others who gave an “it-won’t-work” sentiment. She volunteered to be a leader in brining PBIS to the school. I also pointed these things out to her, and encouraged her to seek other leadership opportunities. So here, it was not I who “put her” into these situations where she would flourish. But I think giving specific, positive feedback and encouragement gave her the confidence to put herself in situations would she could grow.

In turn, she helped nurture her students’ strengths. They had enough confidence in their ability and strength of rapport to work through those areas that were difficult. They persisted through obstacles following her example.

 

 

The DCTS Mission and Vision

Here are the Mission and Vision Statements from the DCTS Website:

Mission Statement:
The mission of DCTS is to prepare students to enter post secondary education and industry with the attitude, skills, and knowledge necessary to be successful in a constantly changing and competitive world.
Vision Statement:
Through the utilization of a curriculum firmly grounded in academic and industry-based standards, DCTS will provide all students with the skills, and knowledge necessary to actively enter a dynamic and competitive high skills work force and/or post-secondary education.

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Our Mission statement does hint at and has the potential to reflect today’s learning opportunities. It specifies the ATTITUDE (as well as skills and knowledge) needed to be successful. It also acknowledges that the world is ever-more competitive and changing. The Vision statement, then, falls a bit flat. It seems to go backwards in time rather than expounding on the Mission statement’s call.

The Vision statement needs to be more compelling for teachers, students, and community. We need to express our Vision for instilling that attitude of a growth mindset that–along with industry knowledge and skills–will help students to overcome challenges and rise above when things get difficult, when the rules change or when they have to re-equip or change course in their careers.

Additionally, our Mission and Vision statements should be front and center on our Site.  As I have learned in this Seminar, it should be our calling card and call to action– on our Website visitors and in all that we do.  DCTS is a special and unique place! Let’s work with our stakeholder partners to refine our Vision to reflect how we are preparing our young people not just for careers or college but also to be well-equipped — for their fields and to grow and change as the world does.

 

 

Reflection on Seminar 6

Empowerment vs. Engagement

One of my favorite series for professional development and PLCs is based on the work of Dylan Wiliam. His strategies are about creating greater equity, accountability and engagement in the classroom so that better data is available for teachers in deciding on next steps in learning. I have been thinking lately about how stale and old these strategies now seem. They still focus on active student engagement and teacher decisions. As helpful as they are, the strategies are still stuck in the old paradigm about teacher-centered and primarily whole-group instruction. They are not about student-centered learning and student empowerment.

Once we move away from a whole-group instruction, even with flexible grouping, we begin to see that time–which used to be a fixed variable–is the most fluid. if we give students the time they need to identify areas of interest, to explore them and to show what they have learned, not only have we empowered them, but we have removed the obstacle of performing according to some pre-set timetable.

Image result for student centered and standards

Student Interest vs. Standards

This is not to say that there is no time factor or that students are not accountable for learning standards-based content. It is just about opening the options. Something like, “by October 1, you will have demonstrated that you have met these standards: [list]”. The teacher helps students generate ideas, find resources (if needed), and provide check-in points. Teachers can guide students to work individually or collaboratively (locally or globally) as is needed and desired by the project the student creates.

So interest and passion is not enough. The adults still need to ensure that all students are meeting high-quality standards in all content areas. We just need to be more flexible and CREATIVE in how we do that.

 

Speaking of CREATIVITY, check out this Animaker video

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on Professional Goals

This is a difficult Blog entry for me. When I was a young teacher, I was selected to work with a group of educators throughout the Philadelphia School district to pilot the Interactive Mathematics Program. IMP was a creation of a group of teachers and educators who took the newly-minted NCTM Math Standards and devised a curriculum to help high school students meet and exceed them. At its core IMP was problem-solving based and required students to make sense of the mathematics they learned. It used technology–25 years ago–that is still be used in math classrooms today (graphing calculators).  Students worked in teams and had to devise rules for how their team functioned (in problem-solving scenarios). There was writing, reflection, and portfolios. IMP did then what standards-based curricula are still trying to do today.

If we could add more current technology to the collaboration and to some exploration and if IMP had elements of personalization and flexible pacing, it would encompass a robust, forward-thinking program even today.

So with that background, I am frustrated that, due to many factors, we (including I) have deviated from that path. Pennsylvania’s hyper-focus on testing and its creation of the Keystone Exams killed programs such as IMP. Districts that used it chose to abandon is spiraling curriculum in favor of course-based (i.e., Algebra I, II, etc) curricula. And so my work mirrored that focus to a large extent, though I never lost sight of student-centered, constructivist learning.

So my goal of empowering young people to make sense of mathematics and developing their confidence to do so needs to be re-captured and refined. This course on Innovation will give me tools that give ME confidence to help teachers infuse rich, sound pedagogy with tools that bring teaching and learning into the present.

Observing Classrooms Differently

In the past, I have focused on student engagement and equity opportunities for participation as the main areas of focus when I observe a classroom, The SAMR Model of technology use gives my an added and vital dimension to observation and for discussion and reflection with and for teachers.

In all aspects of learning and growth, we need to meet people where they are, recognize what they are doing well, and them help them move forward with next steps that are appropriately reachable. That’s what I like about the SAMR model. It differentiates for teachers and how they are using technology and gives them a next level to move towards that does not directly compare their work with that of others.

As an example, I observed a teacher who had students go to a specific Website, to search for specific details and complete a worksheet where they coped ver batum what they saw on the Web page. The SAMR model gives another lens to discuss this process. Here, the teacher is substituting a Web page for a Texbook page. So we can turn that to a positive: the teacher is using technology and trying something new. The conversation can focus on how can we move up a level–to augmentation-so that students have some choice in where they find information or how they report it?  

Focusing on one level up on SAMR gives teachers a goal that is less threatening than jumping to, for example, how can we make this a collaborative activity where students compare this historical event to a current event and create a publicly-shared video comparing them? 

Meeting people where they are and giving them tools and support to grow is what teachers need from educational leaders and makes it more likely that they will try something new with technology or with any other classroom process.

 

Building Relationships

 Maya

Relationships are at the heart of every organization because they are at the heart of human emotional connection.

When I started my position as an Assistant Principal, I knew that building trusting relationships with people was paramount. I worked to demonstrate respect (to everyone in the organization) and to keep commitments (i.e., to respond promptly and deliver on promises). I took responsibility for mistakes I made, tried to do things better, and sought to be transparent about doing so.

One thing I learned from working with my former supervisor was talking straight with people. He was always completely open about, for instance, what happened at a leadership meeting; he did not sugar coat or cherry pick what he shared. I try to emulate that trait in how I work with people.  I still work on being mindful about listening more and suggesting less. This is so important if we want to encourage people to try new things, be creative and lead the change culture.

One final idea really struck me: “When teachers feel supported, then taking changes seems less risky”.

This is a challenge to me. I need to continue to ensure that the work I do supports teachers and gives them the permission and freedom to grow, risk, and innovate.