Sunday, October 14, 2018

Mindframes Matter

John Hattie & Klaus Zierer 10 MINDFRAMES for Visible Learning—Teaching for Success

I read John Hattie’s books initially as a teacher and now as a principal. I was excited to read his latest book 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning, Teaching for Success by Hattie and co-authored by Zierer because it offered a different perspective for students, teachers, principals, and district administrators. “The question this book addresses is related to the one big critical idea underlying success in making a difference to the learning lives of students--the mindframes of the educators” (p. xx).

Hattie and Zierer inform the reader educational expertise are both about competence and mindframes. “Expert teachers have answers not only to the question of what they are doing but also to the question of how and why they are doing what they are doing” (p. XV). Mindful teachers evaluate their impact by asking themselves how to “change and challenge” their current teaching practices so all students can improve. Mindful teachers evaluate how they collaborate through feedback, dialog, and building trusting relationships in order to develop a “learning focus”. Most importantly, mindful teachers continually reflect on the value an equitable impact has on learning for each of their students. “A high degree of competence alone is clearly not enough to lay the foundation for expertise, nor are even the best of mindframes. The important thing is rather the interaction between competence and mindframes” (xvi).

The book was written for students who want to understand their own learning, as an instructional resource for teachers, a guide for principals in order to inspire and motivate teachers to work together, and for other administrators to understand the current classroom challenges with all of the above-invested participants. It is tempting to simply list the ten Mindframes followed by celebrating the brilliance and insights of each Mindframe and encourage students, teachers, principals, and administrators to adhere to the author’s evidence-based research practices. Although it so much more than that. At the end of the book Hattie & Zierer reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  They reminded the reader Dr. King “did not proclaim “I have a strategy” or “I have a plan”; instead, he said, “I have a dream” (p. 166). Hattie and Zierer have strategically inspired a vision for educators to develop expertise through both competence and mindframes. Their vision includes the following 10 mindframes.

I am an evaluator of my impact on student learning.
I see assessment as informing my impact and next steps.
I collaborate with my peers and my students about my conceptions of progress and my impact.
I am a change agent and believe all students can improve.
I strive for challenge and not merely ‘doing your best’
I gave and help students understand feedback and I interpret and act on feedback given to me.
I engage as much in dialogue and monologue.
I explicitly inform students what successful impact looks like from the outset.
I build relationships and trust so that learning can occur in a place where it is safe to make mistakes and learn from others.
I focus on learning and the language of learning.
Hattie and Zierer said it best by sharing, “Successful teachers are passionate not only about the subject they teach but also about teaching and learning in general, about the learners, and about their profession. About their impact on their students. This passion is important not just for becoming a successful teacher, but also for remaining in this challenging profession and therefore, for remaining a successful teacher in the long run” (p. XVII).

Monday, September 3, 2018

Equity, Empowerment, & Outcomes

Dominique Smith, Nancy Frey, Ian Pumpian, & Douglas Fisher BUILDING EQUITY—Policies and Practices to Empower All Learners

I am starting my twentieth year in education this fall. How the years have flown by, and how much the classroom and the school learning environment has changed! Although, a bit of honesty here, the biggest change for me personally was the lessons and experiences that were not necessarily easy for me to look back on. Early in my career, I provided each of my students with an equal amount of resources in the form of time, materials, activities, and curriculum. Although my intentions of fairness were sincere for all of my students to grow and learn. Wisdom learned…not each of my student’s experiences were equitable.

As I started my administrative pathway, I heard a quote that continues to push my thinking forward today. It spoke of equity not defined by access, but by outcomes.  My determination to understand how to ensure equitable outcomes for each of our students is one of the reasons why I picked up the book Building Equity, Policies and Practices to Empower All Learners by Smith, Frey, Pumpian, and Fisher. After devouring the book I was not disappointed as well as reassured what was defined as fair in years past has evolved. The authors share their definition of fair and equal as,

“Today, we think of fair as being not just equal but equitable…Whereas equal means everyone gets the same treatment and services as everyone else, equitable means each person gets what he or she need to succeed” (p. 2).

The authors developed an Equity Taxonomy built on five levels of “practices and outcomes that support critical standards of equity in a school or district” and are outlined in their first five chapters of their book. The levels are not necessarily linear but connected and more effective when purposefully interlinked. The taxonomy levels include the physical integration of student’s differences and experiences, accessing the needs of the whole child’s social-emotional engagement, and having multiple opportunities for students to engage in deep learning by providing instructional excellence to engage and inspire learners.

What I appreciated most from the authors were the examples of schools and educators across the country who are engaged in building equity. Their stories were insightful and left the reader with more than one way to move from teaching practices we have “done” with our students towards empowering each student as learners. Here are three ideas I want to commit to that were shared in the book that can provide more opportunities to build equity in our school community starting with purposeful actions by this administrator.
  1. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. Hattie’s positive link to a student-teacher relationship with achievement has an effect size of 0.72, indicating a potential equivalency of two years’ worth of growth for our students. One way I can begin to ensure this happens is to connect those students who have difficulty with social-emotional engagement with a caring staff member. Although I have tried this before, I need to develop systems to consistently provide these dedicated staff members opportunities to share their success and get a recommendation from each other on what is working for them as they continue to connect and build relationships with our students. I also want to prioritize the relationships staff members have with each to be just as valuable as the relationships we have with students in our school culture.
  2. Students definitely know you care and are vested in them when you know their name and use it regularly. This is my downfall. There is something about looking them in the eye using their name, talking about what you know interest them, and giving them a smile of confirmation. In other words, I value you and who you are. My goal is an activity recommended by the authors to engage a student in a conversation for two minutes a day. My vision is to take a two-minute walk and have a talk about what interest them outside of school consistently for ten days and associate their name with our time together.
  3. I also want to enhance the narrative we have created with our amazing families and get to know their hopes and dreams for their children. The authors provide an example of a new family survey, but with a bit of modification, I could enhance it to hear the voice of our family’s perspective on the school experience we are creating for their students.

I came into this profession later than most and still find it hard to believe year twenty starts officially tomorrow. I still have years ahead of me and I am nowhere near my finish line, but still striving to create multiple opportunities for effective equitable outcomes for our students and to "create a school every student needs and deserves" with purposeful leadership actions. The authors said it best.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Moments Matter

Chip Heath & Dan Heath THE POWER OF MOMENTS—6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools

Moments. A life is built on the continuation of many moments. The ones that are often the most important to us stay with us for a long time if not forever. The Power of Moments authors Chip Heath and Dan Health state “a defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful” (p. 12).  The term short being relative in the span of one’s life, but based on Heath & Heath’s findings, defining moments are created from one or a combination of elements of elevation, insight, pride, and connection. These unforgettable moments “rise above the every day,” helps us to “realize the truth,” “capture us at our best,” can be “shared with others,” and often “shape our path” (p. 13-14). The key according to Heath and Heath is not to wait for them, but purposefully create them to make a meaningful life.

I inevitably thought about our students and their experiences at school. The first day and the last day of school are often filled with multiple ongoing “peaks” of memorable moments. The challenge becomes filling the in-between moments referenced by the authors as the “pits.” Now I have to say most teachers put forth a lot of effort to make the moments in between the first day of school and the last day of school pretty darn fabulous for our students. Teachers are famous for planning memorable moments including field trips to OMSI or the Zoo, celebrating achievements of student meeting individual goals, and wearing the best silly hat for their students on Hat Day.

The question I continued to ask myself is, "What can I do as the building principal to create those memorable moments for teachers?" How can I elevate a teacher’s school experiences, provide insight to their possibilities, instill pride in their accomplishments and growth as educators, and help them make connections with their on-going efforts towards their professional goals? The first answer that came to mind was to nourish our teachers who work tirelessly every day for their students. Heath & Heath had a multitude of suggestions that could be applied in a school setting. Here are some of my plans to build meaningful peaks for teachers and fill in their in-between times from the first day back to work until their much-deserved summer break. Many of the ideas could then be modified for teachers to do the same with their students in their classrooms.
  • “First Day Experience” “Thinking in moments” use the short time staff has all together before students arrive to define our “why” and shared purpose collaboratively. Goal: Thinking in moments plan “First Day Experiences” including team building activities with all staff. Message: “If we recognize how important these natural defining moments are, we can shape them--make them more memorable and meaningful.”  (Chapter 2)
  • “Tailored Gifts” Throughout the year randomly recognize teachers that simply go above and beyond expectations. More than once, well after the end of a teacher workday, I have observed them still in their classrooms with colleagues, coffee and/or diet Coke in hand planning purposeful lessons for their students. Goal: Create tailored “authentic” recognition to be given out in staff meetings. For example, awarding these teachers with an ice cold six pack of diet coke, or a Starbucks coffee card in their confiscated well-used coffee cup. Message: “I saw what you did, and I appreciate it.” (Chapter 7)
  • “Multiply Milestones” Our teachers are required to develop two student academic goals and one professional learning goal each year. Waiting to celebrate their achievement at the end of the year is a long time period. Goal: Collaboratively create “intermediate milestones” with teachers to provide moments of pride as they stretch towards their professional goals. Celebrating both attainment of their intermittent goals and “normalizing failure” as a jumping off point for leaning in towards their progress. Message: “Milestones deserves peaks.” (Chapter 6 and 8).
  • “Deepen Ties” Ask, “What matters to you?” Facilitating learning for a diverse group of students can be a difficult job for many teachers. Struggling alone can heighten that challenge. Goal: Continue to connect with our teachers and not only ask the question, “What matters to you?” but listen to understand, validate, and care about their responses as we reconnect with our why. Message: “You are special.” (Chapter 11).

“What if we did not just remember the defining moments of our lives but made them?” (Chapter 12). What if we redefined the school experience for our teachers by purposefully multiplying milestones to deepen our connections, and tailor their experiences throughout the school year? What if we created more moments to message they matter? Heath and Heath said it best,