In my last post, "How Can You Transform Your Teaching to Improve Learning?" I talked about the steps I have seen teachers in our district take to grow and improve. One teacher that stands out in my mind when thinking of a transformational teacher is, Rena Sharp, 2nd grade teacher at Kellom Elementary. I had the opportunity to meet Rena her first year of teaching when she was hired on in 2008 as a 3rd grade teacher at Kellom where I was working as a technology specialist. She was one that came in excited to teach, learn, and share. She also had a natural talent for classroom management and working with students of diverse backgrounds. Rena was a really good teacher from the start, but what makes her great is her constant drive to better her practice. In our district she has risen as a leader by serving as her building's, Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), and earned an endorsement in our Instructional Technology Leadership program. I had the opportunity to serve as her instructor for one of the courses she took. We introduced the educators in the class to the TPACK model that talks about creating the "total package" for a lesson by purposefully combining Technology, Pedagogy, and Content knowledge seamlessly together. I consider Rena a TPACK superstar! I asked her to share with me a bit about her transformation as an educator over the years that has placed her where she is now.
How have you transformed as a teacher?
I feel that I have transformed as a teacher in many ways. First, I have learned that technology is so much more than a replacement to curriculum or content. Through the use of technology, teachers can promote student engagement, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, as well as help student develop a deeper understanding of content. These are also crucial skills to develop for their success in future careers.
Technology is a way for me to transform my current lessons into ones that are more meaningful to my students. I also know that technology is vital to my students future as their world continues to be surrounded by technology. It is no longer a supplement in my classroom is it is an essential element in many of my lessons.
Finally, I have developed a different mindset when it comes to teaching and learning. I now see the student first versus the content. I focus my lessons on where my students are currently at, where they need to go, and the best ways to get them to their goals. Student centered learning allows students to work at their own pace and level to meet their individual needs. All teachers are working hard to differentiate their instruction and the use of technology makes this easier and to me a much more manageable task.
How have you noticed your transformation impacting your students' learning?
First, my students are excited about learning. They want to be in my classroom, and they are excited about learning. My students are proud of themselves and have found their strengths. But what I love seeing most of all, is all of my students being successful in the same skill, but in their own ways.
I have a very wide range of academic levels in my room, from ELL newcomers to students two levels above grade level. The use of technology has allowed all of my students to participate in the same activities, but at their individual levels. This gives my classroom a strong sense of community. They learn with and from each other.
What tips would you give to a teacher that wants to grow as an educator?
Don't be afraid of new things! I once heard a saying that has really stuck with me, "change is not scary, its uncomfortable". Many times when I try new things in my classroom, I tell my students this is new to me. I ask them to be patient and also take their support. We work through it together which helps ease my fear of failure and let's my students feel valued.
Don't be afraid to ask for help! Change is uncomfortable, but going at it with support can make it so much better. As educators we are excited to help others, and we need to lean on each other for all to be successful. Make connections with like minded teachers and use them to transform your teaching. This can be educators from your school, district, and now through the use of social media anywhere around the world! It is important to take advantage of the wonderful resources right around you!
You showcase a lot of what you do to engage learners in class on Twitter. Why is that important to you?
First, I want to start by saying I have only been actively using Twitter for about a year. And to be honest, I was resistant and overwhelmed by the whole idea! I'm thankful to a wonderful teacher, who supported me along way and helped me to jump right in!
Showcasing my classroom on Twitter is important to me for a few different reasons. First, my students love it! They are proud of their work and want to show it off! I'm happy to have their parents, community members, and other educators see the wonderful things they are doing in the classroom. My students love to see the feedback we also receive from others. It's connecting them to others beyond the classroom walls!
Second, it is my way to connect with other educators. I have learned so many new ideas and strategies through Twitter as well as connected to hundreds of like-minded educators around the world! We have been able to Skype or communicate with other educators, classrooms, and professionals through the use of Twitter. Also, when I find myself struggling I turn to Twitter to see how other teachers are doing things in their classrooms. To me it acts as an instant line of support when I need it!
Finally, Twitter is a major part of my professional development. Education is always changing and no two days or lessons are the same. It is my way of seeing what's happening in classrooms right now! It also gives me the flexibility to learn when and where I have time from the doctors office, to my daughter's dance class, or from the comfort of my couch. I can grab my phone and learn something new at any time! Twitter chats also play a key role in this instant form of knowledge. I can learn more and get more resources in a 45 minute Twitter chat than an hour long staff meeting. Plus you can find a Twitter chat on almost any topic!
My thoughts about Twitter have definitely changed, and I am now encouraging all teachers to join! It has become a powerful resource for me in many ways!
If you want to take a peek into Rena's classroom on a consistent basis, follow her on Twitter @Mrs_SharpOPS as she opens up and connects with other educators by sharing what her students are learning. View the Sway below spotlighting her work with connecting her students globally through the use of Skype in the Classroom. Check back to this blog in the future to see other transformational teachers I showcase in this series and to learn more about their journey.
Transformational Teacher Series: Introduction
I am constantly amazed by the outstanding teaching and learning I get to see in the classrooms in our district. I like to believe this is something happening in schools across our nation. I know that not all classrooms, teachers, students are at the highest level at all times as there is always room to grow. I like to focus on those rooms that have learning experiences that are making a difference and dig into what is making them great. There is a huge benefit to educators walking into the classrooms of other educators to share ideas, see models of good instruction, and to collaborate on strategies. The time it takes to do this is not always available. Luckily with social media like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and through blog posts, teachers can share ideas in a manner that opens their classrooms up to others.
I wanted to take time to highlight some of the teachers I work with that have transformed their teaching over the years. These teachers have sought out professional learning opportunities to develop their skills and application of those skills. Over the next couple of months, as we close out this school year, I will highlight a transformational teacher in a series of blog posts. Each teacher has a unique story of how they have reconstructed their strategies for teaching.
What makes a transformational teacher?
A willingness to learn and grow is the start of any positive transformation. It comes with the understanding that it won't be easy, but it will be worth it. It also is known that it doesn't happen overnight and improvement is ongoing. It comes from incremental steps as new strategies are applied, reflected upon, adjusted, and turned into quality habits. This Edutopia article, "4 Things Transformational Teachers Do" highlights this key factor:
"The key to transformational teaching is not reacting, but rather a grinding obsession with analysis and preparation."
It also identifies key strategies a transformational teacher puts in place.
How do we build transformational teachers?
In our district, we offer a variety of professional development experiences for teachers. There are two specific programs our Instructional Technology Training team focuses on that allow me to build relationships with educators across the district. First, we modeled our district's Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) program off of the global one Microsoft provides. It is a three year rotational program that builds up the technology integration skills of teachers to apply their learning in their classroom with the goal of them sharing their learning with others and serving as leaders in their building. Many of the transformational teachers I will be showcasing have grown from this program. My colleague, Melissa Cleaver, created the image below that highlights the key components of the program. Our district's MIE program allows teachers to build on their interests as they learn new tools, pedagogy, and strategies for implementation.
The second core program we support is a cohort of teachers working towards their Instructional Technology Leadership (ITL) endorsement with a local university. The ITL program is grant funded and focused on our librarians and MIEs gaining deeper skills than what our MIE program above can provide. It is an intense look at the 21st Century Skills our students need, the pedagogy behind teaching these skills, and the technology that will support this. This is where I have seen the greatest growth of our transformational teachers. The intensity of the program allows them to apply their coursework to their classroom. The end goal of the program is to not only transform them as teachers, but to create connected educators that will share their experience with others. I teach a course in the program called, "Technology for Diverse Learners." As part of the course, I visit the classrooms of each of my students. These visits allow me to form a stronger relationship with the educators and support them through their learning. Many of the transformational teachers I will showcase have completed this endorsement program.
How can You Start your transformation?
Finding the model teachers in your building or district to collaborate with is a great start. Look further to those sharing on social media and through blog posts including the ones I highlight in this series. Edutopia shares, "9 Ways to Plan Transformational Lessons" that can be used to reflect on your current lesson planning. Your starting point may be to find an area in your instruction that you know needs to be improved on, but you may feel uncomfortable shifting. Then take the risk.
Mother, wife, teacher, learner, information seeker, outdoor lover, & I guess now a novice blogger.