Monday, February 25, 2008

PETE&C Postconference

Wednesday after PETE&C, almost 2 weeks ago now, the PA-TIMs had a professional development session around leadership/coaching lead by Steve Sassaman from Performance Learning Systems. Steve has been with us before and has always enlightened us and given us things to ponder and use in our role as mentors. This session was no different. We started of with a discussion of the differences between presenting, teaching and facilitating. It was a very interesting discussion.

The definitions from
Presenting: Teaching: Facilitating:

Here are my definitions
Presenting: A static "canned" delivering of information to a group, sometimes meant to persuade to take action.
Teaching: To cause information to be learned by a group.
Facilitating: To take an active role in the learning process, were both the "student" and "teacher" learn

If you stop and think about it facilitating requires the most work, but will produce the most learning. It is back to the old adage you get out what you put it, in programing terms it's GIGO. The other thing that really gets in the way sometimes, especially for secondary teachers is the plan. We boiled it down to this, "Plan the teaching, don't teach the plan". That and the Lumberjack story would have been enough, but there was still more.

Facilitation comes in three forms. Facilitate yourself, facilitate others, facilitate a group. Facilitating yourself is about self-awareness and using reflection as tool to better your teaching. As Lao Tsu said "Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment". When you facilitate yourself you make choices, either DO choices or BE choices. Making the positive DO and BE choices is the best way of facilitating yourself.

Once you have yourself on the path, then you can facilitate others. This is coaching. The one on one facilitation of others. Taking a person from where they are to where they want to be. I think this one is the easiest. I think facilitating yourself is the hardest, but coaching one-on-one provides a "safe" environment for both persons. It is easy to establish a relationship and trust in this arrangement, thus making it possible for both participants to learn from the interaction.

Facilitating a group is really knowing how to read them and know what they need. Is it time to think and reflect, guidance, motivation, a nudge, or just an okay to express themselves. This is done by establishing a culture in the classroom, one of respect and safety, where learners feel free to express thoughts and views. Where the true feeling is that the sum knowledge of all of us is better than any one of us. Sounds simple, but this is the art of teaching. This is when teaching becomes true facilitation and learning takes place at an astounding rate.

So what are the barriers to reaching this nirvana of teaching? Perception is part of the problem. We want teaching to be neat, orderly, sequential, quiet, managed, reproducible and controllable. Unfortunately learning is often messy, accidental, random, loud and complex. So what we truly want may not look, sound or feel like what we expect it be. Too often we would rather see or are "judged" on the expectation and not the desired outcome, one of the real crimes of teaching.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Einstine on Testing

I came across this article from Teacher Magazine and just had to pass it on. Go read the article and then finish reading the post, I'll wait.

It was the not until the last two bullet points that I really got interested. The comments about thinking on the grand scale and standardized testing being psychometrically week and causing feeling of mistrusted seem so true. People always talk about NCLB and multiple measures, and how the test does not really measure what it is suppose to, blah, blah, blah. But think about it in terms of an individual kid, picture him/her in your mind, one that you know is intelligent, articulate and engaged in their education, but is labeled as not proficient do to some PSSA score. Got that kid in your brain now. Okay answer the question, how can (insert name of child here) demonstrate, or what measure can I use, to erase the not proficient label and replace it with advanced. Got your answer, go do it, then repeat.

Monday, February 18, 2008

PETE&C Podcast

Well I compiled some interview from PETE&C this year and put together a podacst. My fellow TIM Dave Solon put on the finishing touches and posted it up on the Twenty Minutes For Tech podcast. Give it a listen and if you were at PETE&C let me know what you thought was the best session or thing you found most useful.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What we learned from MCPS

There is a lot of talk about closing the "achievement gap" well last week I had the opportunity along with a team from my district to hear from a district that is doing it. We heard from Jerry Weast and his team from Montgomery County Public School in Maryland. They have a truly district wide vision of every student graduating college ready. This vision is held by ever person that works in the district, from the superintendent to the cafeteria worker. All of the stakeholders are aligned and pulling on the same rope. This is a unique situation were the administration, teacher union, support staff and parents have all come together around there vision. This vision has several benchmark measurements that guide students along the road to graduation (none of which are AYP related). These benchmarks start at kindergarten and takes the students though graduation letting them, their parent and their teachers know where they stand during the journey. Our district patterned our work around the success of MCPS and have started to roll them out to administrators. Once we have fully "released" them I share them as well. Until then just know that we have started on our PATHS for all of our students.

The other inspiring person we heard from was LeDerick Horne, a student that was labeled special ed in third grade and his struggles with a system that told him he could not make. Luckily he had his mother as an advocate that would not the system fail him. As a result he is a successful well spoken entrepreneur, businessman, playwright and poet. Take a look at his bio, although it does not do him justice. It made me think how many LeDericks have passed though our school system without ever receiving the chance to succeed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What a week

Wow, I just spent a week on the road, and I thought teaching was tough. I saw so much and had such great experiences, but for now I need to catch my breath. In the next few days I will be working on posts and podcasts around these events. These events were a Panasonic Foundation Leadership Apprentice Program around breaking the links between race, poverty and achievement. Next came PETE&C, just the keynotes were worth the price of admission. Finally our PA-TIMs post conference with Steve Sassaman. Well just had to get something out, more will be coming!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Just saw this on the Fishbowl, and it fit so well with my last post.
At the risk of giving Gary a heart attack, here's an interview of Thomas Friedman by Daniel Pink. It's part of the February issue of The School Administrator, which appears to have several articles relevant to our discussion of A Whole New Mind. I would suggest our students read both the interview and some of the other articles with Gary's criticisms in mind. (For those of you who haven't been following our AWNM project, you may want to read through the comments on this post and this post to see some of Gary's thought-provoking questions for our students - and their responses.)