Sometimes staff development is inspiring. This wasn't one of those times, Dallas ISD.
My initial thought is that there is nothing worse than sitting next to my principal in long meetings. Why does it matter?
It's about time to start doing Professional Development again. I went from hating to loving a 3 day training.
First submission from BTBS, our new friend and Dallas ISD middle school teacher.
That moment of panic is starting to set in where I realize I got nothing I needed to get done over break finished. I'm pretty sure there's a significant amount of team building ahead of me and I'll have a limited amount of time to play on the internet. I'm sure it will get me back in school mode, but I'm dreading it.
I wasn't ready. Even so, welcome back education folk. In case you missed it, below are the top 10 positive an negative moments of 2015. May this year be better than the last.
Top Ten Positive and Negative Moments in Dallas Education 2015
Positive 01: Students Have a Plan Negative 01: Poop On the Walls
Positive 02: Students Understanding Goals Negative 02: Drop Outs
Positive 03: Food Adventure Negative 03: Mike Miles Quits and Nothing Changes
Positive 04: Social and Emotional Health Negative 04: Trouble with TEI
Positive 05: Trustees Stop By Negative 05: Student Mother Kicked Out
Positive 06: Supportive Principal Negative 06: A Bad Spot Observation
Positive 07: Department Chair Respect Negative 07: Principals Lying
Positive 08: DISD Student Has Her Baby Negative 08: Parent thinks their child is stupid
Positive 09: Thanked by a Parent Negative 09: Blamed for a DISD Student Fight
Positive 10. Alex Hales and Retired Teacher Negative 10. Promising DISD Student Gets Pregnant
Happy New Year
Coming Back is Hard for Teachers
There's been a bit of chatter the last few weeks about PD and the behavior of teachers expected to benefit from it. One of the complaints I hear about TEI and instructional expectations is that there is nobody in the district that can show other teachers how to teach effectively the way they are asking it to be done. So we go to these PD sessions put on by admins, Region 10 people, or whomever and suffer though however long and walk away with nothing.
The two extremes of people in these meetings are those who have decided they have nothing to learn from it so they tune out immediately and those who believe that PD is part of your job that you get paid to endure so you have to sit there, be quiet, and consume.
The vast majority of teachers, based on sitting in these meetings over the past few years, fall somewhere in the middle. They are engaged 80% of the time, take a few extra bathroom breaks, explore facebook/check emails under the table, and walk away generally unfulfilled and slightly annoyed by the experience.
My criticism has always been that PD should reflect the expectations we're being held to in the classroom. PD should be differentiated based on needs of the faculty, the presenter should be qualified to provide said training, and the information should be presented in a way that attracts participation and attention. If the administrator that is in charge can't get a room full of people being paid to pay attention to pay attention, there's a problem there.
Last week, PD was different than I'm used to. It was fun. I feel like I learned from it. Why? It was teacher centered. Oh man, that sounds almost like "student centered." Coincidence? Nope.
We were broken into small groups and instead of being asked to role play, build marshmallow towers, or play guess that MRS, the facilitator had us share our experiences with homework, student skills, test performance, and other topics that we thought were important enough to bring up. As people shared, other teachers chimed in with potential solutions to common issues, constructive criticism based on observations, and new ideas for teaching content teachers were struggling with.
Not one cellphone was out. Nobody got up to get water or go to the bathroom. There was no sleeping, fidgeting, or sighing.
Why? Why was this different from the norm?
It was PD created by teachers for teachers based on the things that teachers wanted to talk about and improve on. We were the presenters. That barrier that we put up sometimes where we assume the person has no idea what they're talking about because they haven't taught our kids, don't have kids in the district, don't know anything about our classrooms, was eliminated by putting our peers in charge.
I hope we have more just like it.
Dallas ISD Professional Development Days
Should Dallas Teachers skip PD to tutor their students?
DISD Teacher PD Conference Reflection 1 - Was it worth it?
DISD Teacher PD Conference Reflection 2 - Economics and Education
DISD Teacher PD Conference Reflection 3 - Coaching
DISD Teacher PD Conference Reflection 4 - Taking it all in
Making your own PD: Watching a Master Dallas Teacher
Today I attended part of the presentations for the Urban Leaders Fellowship here in Dallas. It's a cool program that matches up motivated educators with elected officials in hopes of creating policy that can benefit the community. The turnout and viewership was small but very engaged and I enjoyed being a part of it.
The fellows spend the summer working on implementation strategies and content at different levels of the process but these fellows focused on 3 specific areas: ELA/ELAR, Bilingual Educator Recruitment Pipeline, and House Bill 5.
The first presenters were two young women, one with 3 years of classroom experience and one with 6 years, who were both products of Fort Worth ISD education. So proud.
The benefactors of these fellows were DISD Board of Trustees representative Miguel Solis and State Board of Education Member Erika Beltran, both of whom I've gotten to know very well and appreciate here in Dallas.
Despite only being able to stay for part of the event, I was moved and engaged right away. The presentation on ELAR was admittedly data heavy, but it was extremely engaging and interactive. The crowd, made up of a mix of community members and experienced educators, was excited to take a look at, and criticize the TEKS used to govern ELA/ELAR in our schools.
Big takeaways were things that those of us who are teachers already know. The Texas students are below the national average in terms of achievement on nationally monitored tests, and the TEKS are overly complicated without adequate support for mastering / implementing them in a practical classroom setting.
What was the interesting part of the event? Getting to see Trustee Solis and SBOE Member Erika Beltran get back to their teacher roots and see the TEKS from the perspective of a classroom teacher. The common concern was that they are too complex and not formatted in a way that's conducive to teachers successfully communicating the "necessary" lessons to their students.
I know we haven't posted anything since DISD Superintendent Mike Miles made his sort of shocking, but not really shocking, exit from Dallas ISD. There are three main reasons for this. 1. Summer school is draining and I'm giving myself a little break. 2. Changes that big demand some serious reflection time. 3. I've been rethinking a lot of elements to the blog to make it better, and now it's time to put some of those changes into action!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion with Teach for America regarding their summer institute for new teachers and training initiatives going forward. It was a who's who of education aficionados and blogger/news types all gathered together to get the rundown of how TFA operates.
On stage Momentous, SMU, DISD, and TFA itself were represented. In the crowed you had DISD Trustees, Dallas Teacher Residency, Stand for Children and Dallas Kids First members, wealthy funders, and teachers. Watching, blogging, and taking notes were veterans of the game. Eric Celeste complete with cowboy boots and his trademark facial hair, Matthew Haag and his laptop sitting in the back, Brett Shipp in all his Brett Shippness, and me, just happy to be sitting near these folks, absorbing their blogging and writing skills.
The main takeaway from this panel was that TFA is constantly rethinking and improving its training methods for new teachers. Director Alex Hales and VP of Teacher Leadership, Elizabeth Fritze Cheek showcased and impressive list of resources available not just to TFA teachers, but All Teachers. Partnerships with Momentous and SMU could go a long way to helping improve the quality of classroom instruction and the reception of that instruction by students through social and emotional training. Why should DISD care? Because all of these methods and materials are free and for share with every teacher in the district if they're interested. Could be a strong alternative to the weekly PD that makes us all want to run head first into nearest wall.
The common misconception is that TFA teachers get 5 weeks of training then are abandoned in the classroom. Compared to Dallas AC for example, these teachers have weekly check-ins and conferences with a slew of mentors, advisers and observers, daily if necessary; additionally, they supplement district mandated PD with regular TFA and SMU PD nights and weekends. The myth of the 5 week training couldn't be further from the truth and it would benefit all of TFA's detractors to take not of this simple fact and the proceed with the criticism accordingly.
The Momentous philosophy of educating the whole student brings me back to an idea of looking at the whole school instead of just the teachers. The question I asked was what resources are available to help school leadership become stronger. We've talked about it before, but there are several APs, Principals, and even Executive Directors that have no experiences either running a business or teaching in a DISD classroom. DISD administrators and leadership are struggling, but they don't have to be. Many of the chronic issues we have and complain about come from a lack of skills and leaders being promoted / hired without the credentials necessary to be successful in their new position. It's not necessarily their fault, but if we want our schools to be successful, we need our leaders to be able to hone their skills just like we as teachers are called to do.
The future of Dallas ISD still has the potential to be bright. All of this collaboration is a great start. The next step is to get out of the same rooms with the same people, ideas, and mindsets to created a united district. We have to bring in our Veteran DISD teachers that have rejected some of these ideas in the past, not by force, but by sincere invitation.
DISD PD Reflection Week
I had the opportunity today to watch a master teacher teach a class. Interestingly enough, this teacher was one of my teachers in high school. As a teacher now, it’s interesting to go back and watch a class led by a teacher that taught you. I quickly found myself sitting down and taking notes with the rest of the students. Why? Because even now, over a decade later, I have a great deal to learn from this teacher. Anyone who has been doing this for nearly three decades has something to offer a young teacher. Listen to your elders and respect them. The seasoned veterans of Dallas education have much to offer all of us. Young teachers would be smart to find a veteran and listen to them about class, kids, and education. You’ll be better for it and sometimes making your own PD is much more rewarding.
DISD New Teacher Trashcan
DISD New Teacher Toolbox