Walking the walk: Administrators should teach, too.

Nearly one year ago, I accepted a job as curriculum and technology director in the district I had taught high school geometry and statistics in for six years.

Everyone once in a while I hear someone suggesting that administrators should also be part-time teachers or should at the very least teach a lesson once in a while to be reminded what it feels like to be in the trenches.  I decided to walk the walk and give it a try...in my old classroom.  (Thanks Mrs. R. for your willingness to give up the reigns for one class period!)

Before I reflect a bit on this experience, I want to provide a bit of context.

  • The statistics class I taught today was comprised of students who choose to take this elective course.
  • Approximately 50% of the students in the class were familiar with my personality and teaching style because they'd had me as an instructor previously.
  • Because I've taught this course previously, I had an idea of some of the common misconceptions students might have related to this topic.
  • I visited this same classroom the day before for approximately 45 minutes to get a feel for the classroom culture and procedures.
  • Today was basically the first day of the last half of the class.  It was the day students would transition from thinking about statistics as purely descriptive to inferential as well.
I started off with the same type of bell ringer the classroom teacher typically uses.  This went fairly well. A few students did not come to class with their materials, so I let them borrow a calculator or go to their lockers.  This was par for the course in my former teaching days.  It was a bit awkward introducing myself at first, I forgot to explain what my role is now until halfway through the class period, and I never did tell the students why I was guest teaching for the day.

After introductions and starting to tell a story about how I didn't get much sleep last night due to my excitement leading up to this teaching opportunity (true story), the fire alarm went off.   There was a scheduled fire drill that I wasn't aware was going to take place.  Luckily, the classroom teacher had planned to be in the room to observe, so she grabbed the seating chart and we headed out the door.  It was a momentum killer, but that's part of teaching, right?  

Once we returned back to class, I led a high energy Q&A/ session to gain a better understanding of the pre-requisite descriptive statistics knowledge base.  I then continued my story about how I usually get wired whenever I'm lacking sleep.  This led into asking how many hours of sleep students had last night.  I used a Flip camera before school to record about twenty students answering the same question, so we used this data to lead into inferential vs. descriptive statistics.

Following a get-out-of-your-seat check for understanding activity, we finally launched into confidence intervals.  I had a nice activity ready (that I'd used in the past) involving candy to help students better understand this concept, but a quick glance at the clock told me there was no chance it was going to fit in.  The interactive Q&A was intermingled with a few statistics jokes (Math teachers reading this know what I mean!) seemed to keep students' attention for a while longer.  Finally, we made it to the meat and potatos of the lesson: constructing our first confidence interval.  I'm still thankful for the student who made the connection between confidence intervals and the Central Limit Theorem or I might still be in that classroom trying to explain where today's formula came from.  

With ten minutes left in an 84 minute block, I had one last small check for understanding opportunity before students could begin their practice problems.  My biggest fault of the lesson: I did not have a solid plan (and, as it turned out, enough time!) to continue the formative assessment cycle to figure out how to help students close the gap on the last big idea for the day.  Ugh.  I don't "know if they know" and that's not good.  

Overall, it was a positive experience.  Should all administrators teach a lesson from time to time?  I think so.  Is it easy?  Even though several contextual areas were in my favor, it was more difficult than I anticipated.  I had a case of the "first day of school" butterflies going into this opportunity and I obviously missed the boat on the assessment side of things towards the end of the block.  I cannot imagine teaching a discipline I've never taught before or being a first year administrator and teaching a class comprised of students I had no previous rapport.  Regardless, I'm looking forward to stepping back in the classroom again, at least on a semi-annual basis.  Sure, I'll be spending extended time in the office digging out from the time I spent away today, but it was well worth it.

Teachers: do your administrators ever guest teach for you?  
Administrators:  do you ever offer to teach for your teachers?  What have your experiences been in this area?

Motivating staff development using Google Sites and Docs?

I was recently interviewed by SimpleK12 about our district's use of Google Docs and Sites to motivate staff development.

After viewing the interview again, I am not sure if "motivating staff development" is the most appropriate phrase.  "Glue" might be a better descriptor.  Google Docs allows our learning teams to share notes, documents and data in an organized and confidential way in real-time.  

Google Sites enables our leadership teams to plan purposeful dynamic learning opportunities for our staff.

Looking for that handout from last month's professional learning? 
Check out the site.
Not sure about the direction we're going at tomorrow's professional learning?   
Check out the site.

There is no paper shuffling required in our "one stop shop" approach.  Documents and agendas are archived and available for school board and community members to view, too.

What is the glue holding together your building or district's staff development?