Friday, December 1, 2017

Are You Future Ready?

This blog was originally posted on the GWAEA Digital Learning Team Blog found here

What’s the Future Ready movement all about?  A small team from Grant Wood has recently spent two days at the Future Ready Institute in Detroit, Michigan.   Future Ready about best practice to prepare our students for what lies ahead.  It’s a framework that leads to actionable steps to change the educational experiences for our students that at the center focuses on personalized learning.  

Check out the details of the framework here.  The Future Ready Framework is unique because it includes many voices in the conversation that are essential to a creating a student-centered environment in which our students will thrive. It brings to the table a clear vision for district leaders, principals, technology leaders, instructional coaches, and teacher librarians linking job-specific roles and responsibilities to the gears of the framework.
Here are our big takeaways from the Institute:

Amber: Even though this is the Future Ready Institute, I didn’t really feel like we were casting a long line into the deep future.  During many moments, we were asked to reflect and dream about education. What should learning be like in 5 years? What do we want classrooms to look like in 5 years?  

Five years is not that long from now.   Five years is a tangible amount of time.  It’s far enough out to be flexible and allow not only time to dream, but also learn, prepare, plan and execute ideas.  How can we make real changes in our educational system that are good for kids?  The core of the Future Ready movement is personalized student learning.  Students are the reason we became educators and should always be our main focus.  The future is now and the self-assessment built into the framework gives schools actionable steps and supports towards change for the near future which will have a direct impact learning for students.

Lynn: At the heart of the Future Ready framework is personalized student learning. It’s the “why” of the work. 

Over the course of the last two days, as we dug into the learning around the frameworks, we were confronted with a multitude of questions meant to help guide our thinking as we move to action. The questions weren’t about the “how” of this work, but rather about the “who”: Whose voices need to be heard? Are we considering the insights and valuing the input of those who are essential to and impacted by this work? 

Are we asking the right people the right questions? 

Perhaps that’s what I value the most about the Future Ready movement and the subsequent frameworks for each role. It brings multiple voices to the table to engage in the conversation.

Even though the students don’t have a framework for themselves, they are the heart of the Future Ready movement and frameworks. They are the most important “who” in the “why.” 

AndreaRelationships, relationships, relationships:  It was clear that relationships are a large part of making this work.  I think differently about this statement now, after listening to the opening sessions from Tom Murray, the facilitator in my strands session, Shayla Rexrode, as well as the keynote from Jimmy Casas.  There are key ideas to establishing relationships which cannot be overlooked.  

Language - One must have a clear understanding of the language being used. We often hear “build relationships” but do we have a clear idea of what we want those relationships to look like?  Do we model what we want this to look like?  It all begins with leadership.  Ineffective leadership is the biggest barrier in our schools. It was clear when hearing the word leadership that it was not just a reference to district leaders. This language was referring to everyone in the room as a leader.  We cannot hide behind this or from this fact.  We have to own it and rise up to our leadership opportunities and challenges.  We must be relentless as we strive toward excellence in leadership.

Culture - your culture is the definition of your space. Jimmy Casas outlined three ways to build culture. Champion for kids; Expect excellence; Carry the banner.  Investigate what your culture looks like on a variety of levels from multiple lenses. How are you building your culture?  One example was of a Virginia principal, Hamish Brewer, and how he is making learning fun again and disrupting the traditional landscape in education.  How are you being relentless and disrupting tradition?

Find your tribe - Who do you count on to build you up and keep you striving to run the race? How do we build each other up?  How are we honoring each other’s core values? Do we understand each other and our core values?  Do we have empathy for each other?  Jimmy says, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.”  What is your disposition attracting or deflecting? Ask yourself this… would you be classified as an “awfulizer” or an “awesomizer”?  It is your choice how you want to live each day.  Never pass up an opportunity to make someone’s day with something as simple as a smile or a hello.  
We will be working more on the Future Ready Movement and what this can mean for our Iowa Schools.  Feel free to contact any of us with questions.

Amber Bridge - Digital Learning Consultant - @abridgesmith
​Lynn Kleinmeyer - Digital Learning Consultant - @thlibrarizen
Andrea Townsley - School Improvement Consultant @townsleyaj

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

New Adventures Embracing the Jungle Tiger

I spent my first eight years teaching and learning in a fourth grade classroom at Benton Community.  As a classroom teacher, I was challenged by my teammates and colleagues within my building to think differently and continue to be a learner.  I got a taste of teacher leadership having been on our building and district leadership teams.  I also had the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers, administrators, and community members to write our district's grant for teacher leadership.  As we went through that process, I didn't think I would be able to step outside of my zone of comfort and leave my classroom for one of the full time teacher leadership positions.  When the opportunity of teachers leadership came to Benton Community and we were awarded the grant, I made a difficult decision of trying something new, putting myself out there for failure, something completely outside of my zone of comfort.  I had never been an instructional coach, I had never been coached as as teacher.  What would this look like at Benton Community?  Would it be embraced by our teachers?  What would happen if I failed?

I have been extremely blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to support students and teachers at Keystone Elementary and in the Benton Community School District as a teacher leader.  Now looking back, I am so thankful I took that leap of faith three years ago.  I was unsure of what it would look like, how I would like it, and how much people would embrace working with a teacher leader.  Our team and district built teacher leadership from the ground up.  We often speak of the analogy of building a plane as we were flying it.  This is because we had teachers willing to learn on the edge, try new things with us, fail together, modify our goals, and try again.  Still today, my colleagues continue to amaze me by being willing to collaborate and learn together and take risks with me -- learning in the wild.
Back in October, this learning theory was solidified when I heard a message about finding your inner Jungle Tiger from Trevor Ragan on an #IAedChat LIVE show. I encourage you to take a look at his videos on learning and growth.  His message challenged me to dance with my fears and live beyond my comfort zone.  I challenge each of you taking the time to read this post to dance with your fears, for you never know what kind of opportunities will unfold when you take a risk.  I have absolutely no doubt that the staff at Benton Community will continue to amaze me with their willingness to be learners and dance with their fears.  

This summer I will start a new journey at Grant Wood AEA as a School Improvement Consultant. Benton Community will always be our home, a place to raise our family, with an opportunity be a part of an amazing community.  It is the place I was able to start my journey... because of people who believed in me.  I had great mentors my first several years of teaching and continue to have mentors in my leadership roles.  These people are my tribe.  They push me to want to be better, do better, and know better.  They are my coaches whether or not they have the title. To the people who have believed in me along the way, thank you for pushing me to step outside of my zone of comfort, to continue to grow as a learner, and find my inner jungle tiger.

Visit the Train Ugly website at or find Train Ugly on Twitter @Train_Ugly

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Student-Centered Coaching Focus at Benton Community

Benton Community is in its third year of implementation of Iowa's Teacher Leadership and Compensation Grant.  In those three years, we have learned a lot about teacher leadership and its impact on teaching and learning in our district.  

Our first year, we honestly felt that we were building a plane as we were flying it.  None of the five instructional coaches that were hired had ever been an instructional coach.  Only one of them had ever had the opportunity to work with an instructional coach.  We learned a lot from our colleagues at Grant Wood AEA and from the other first year implementation schools.  We have also learned in the past three years that we aren't finished learning.  

Throughout year one we learned with Grant Wood AEA and the New Teacher Center.  Our learning centered around coaching language and ways to look for entry points to build relationships with teachers.  We also did a book study on a book by Elena Aguilar called The Art of Coaching and a book study on the book Student Centered Coaching by Diane Sweeney.  

The spring of our first year, we started planning a summer #BCedCamp focused on Teacher Leadership.  This was an opportunity for teacher leaders from around the state to get together and learn together about the new TLC grant and initiative in Iowa.  We are in planning stages of our Third Annual #BCedCamp, planned for June 15, 2017, so mark your calendars!

Our second year we learned with Grant Wood AEA and Jim Knight.  His sessions focused on high impact instruction and taking advantage of videoing teaching in the classroom to make connections for teacher improvement.  We also read a Pete Hall book, Building Teachers' Capacity for Success, and attended trainings with Pete Hall and Elena Aguilar to strengthen our coaching knowledge. 

This year we are learning from our neighbors at AEA 267 and Diane Sweeney around Student Centered Coaching.  Our team and our administration feel this is the best way to make the greatest impact on student achievement in our district.  To support this shift to a more student-centered approach, we created a visual to outline the supports we can provide.

The continuum below shows the progression from relationship building to coaching cycles.  All levels of the continuum are important in any coaching relationship.  This visual simply outlines that the goal is to provide teachers support as they move toward the right side of the continuum; a deeper coaching relationship which is more student-centered.   Below the continuum, the instructional supports we can provide are also outlined.  

Next, we felt it was beneficial to show that there are a few options for coaching cycles.  One option is an individual or group data team cycle focused on data from the classroom.  We will outline a focus for support, provide observation and co-teaching support, learn together about improvements which will positively effect student achievement, and support analysis of classroom data to gauge proficiency toward our goal.  This process closely aligns with our district data team goals, it is simply focused on a classroom goal rather than a district goal.  Another option is with support with implementing new instructional practices such as small-groups or differentiated levels of support for students.  Also included in this support is planning, feedback, and reflection on the process.  
Overall, our mission is to get into coaching relationships with as many teachers as possible to support teachers as they strive to get better.  With all of the learning we have done over the past three years with such impactful instructional coaching models, we feel we are more prepared than ever to help teachers accomplish their goals.  We are always learning to find ways to best fit our teachers' and students' needs.  This quote by Dylan Wiliam highlights our mission: "Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better."  BCTLT does not want to 'fix' teachers.  We want to empower teachers as they yearn to get better for the good of our students.  

If you'd like to talk more about our TLC journey at Benton Community, please contact me or one of my teammates!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Soctober Success at #KeyRocks!

We had SO much success with our Socktober project this year!  Our presentation to give our donated socks to Olivet Neighborhood MIssion from Cedar Rapids was scheduled for later in November, but because of a family emergency, their representative had to cancel.  Instead, we shared our students' projects with our students here at Keystone Elementary, and now, we're sharing them with you!  

We are so very fortunate to have such a supportive community and friends of our school to help us out with our mission project!  We have had many family and friends who supported our Socktober project ask for an update and I kept forgetting to get it out, so here goes!

Grand total - 1,305 pairs of socks for cold feet! 

Socks delivered to Olivet Neighborhood Mission in Cedar Rapids!

Look at all those socks!

Socks from Washington! 

Socks collection from a family! 

Student posters!

Socks from Des Moines!

Socks from Colorado!

Socks from Nevada!
Socks from Illinois! 

Socks from Arizona!
Socks from California!

Socks from Arizona!

Socks from California! 

Socks from Arizona and North Carolina!

3rd Grade Projects:

2nd Grade Projects

1st Grade Projects

Yellow guy with black curly hair at the end is my favorite! ;)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Five Favorite Ted Talks

Do you have a few minutes to spare?  Here is a short list of five of my current favorite TED-Talks.  

Rita Pierson - Every Child Needs a Champion

This video gives a call for educators to ensure that all students have a "person" with which to connect.  

DIana Laufenberg - How to Learn? From Mistakes

This short ten minute video discusses the process where learning happens.  Students (and adults) learn from mistakes and by others encouraging them through embracing resilience.  

Ramsey Musallam - Three Rules to Spark Learning
I heard Ramsey speak at a conference last year.  He is truly inspirational.  Ramsey Musallam is a chemistry teacher from California.  In this short talk, he encourages teachers to cultivate curiosity by lighting a spark with imagination and learning. 

Sir Ken Robinson - Do Schools Kill Creativity?

This is one of the first TED-Talks I had ever watched, and it is still a favorite.  In this video, Sir Ken Robinson encourages teachers to cultivate curiosity by thinking radically in order to change the way we teach to embrace the way students learn. 

Angela Duckworth - The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela talks about how IQ is not the best predictor of success in this short, six-minute video.  The power of perseverance and passion are true predictors of success.  "Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint."  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Community Data Wall at Keystone Elementary

Benton Community School District is a Year 3 Iowa TLC school and has recently transitioned from utilizing Model Teachers to now having a Data Team Leader at almost all grade levels/departments PK-12.  Our team has made data the center of most of our conversations, and with the support and guidance of our administration, the Instructional Coaches in our district have made it a goal to bring this data to a community place at all of our buildings.   Many classrooms currently have data walls, much like this one in a kindergarten classroom at Keystone Elementary.   This blog will focus on the community data wall located in the office at Keystone Elementary.

What is a data wall, you might ask?  A data wall is a space dedicated to displaying results over a period of time.  It is also a space to show whole school data, as well as grade-level or classroom data.  Data walls are also an opportunity for self-reflection and an opportunity to identify gaps.  If the data wall is in a community space, the names of students are preserved, and often, numbers take their place or general data is used.

Included on our data wall:
  • Preschool IGDIs - Picture Names
  • Kinder - Letter Sound Fluency
  • 1st Grade - Sentence Reading / CBM Fluency
  • 2nd Grade - CBM Fluency
  • 3rd Grade - CBM Fluency
  • PK-3rd grade - PBIS Office Referrals
  • Percentage of students "Progress Monitored" the week prior
  • Percentages of students who had "Intervention Time" entered into the Tier system the week prior
  • Weekly results over time

Keystone Elementary chose to get down to grade-level specific data from our fall, winter, and spring FAST assessments, as well as building-wide PBIS office referrals and weekly Progress Monitoring and Intervention data.  Our data wall will give us a chance to look at trends and take ownership of what is happening in our classrooms.

The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.
-- Carly Fiorina

Data is recorded and tracked over time.

We found that last year, sometimes our Progress Monitoring inadvertently was missed or incomplete.  This type of result was especially heightened during shortened weeks due to holidays or inclement weather.  According to the new Differentiated Accountability process in Iowa, 90% of the Progress Monitoring and Interventions must happen 90% of the time.  Our district has made it a focus to ensure that our Differentiated Accountability numbers continue to rise, and ensuring our Progress Monitoring and Intervention Time is being entered will help with this goal.   

Teachers make these two integral pieces a part of their classroom routine.  On Wednesdays, reports are run for the previous week and the data wall is updated.  Teachers are working hard to remember to make this a part of the routine, and as a result, Progress Monitoring happens every week and Interventions times are being entered with fidelity.  As the quote says, it's all about the kids.  This data wall is not about pointing fingers or calling each other out.  Instead, it is about embracing the "us" mentality.  These are our kids and we can work together to ensure their success. 

For more information on data walls at Benton CSD, don't hesitate to reach out!