3 New Year’s resolutions as an educator
Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Jan. 1 marked the start of my 17th year as a public school educator and my 12th as a high school administrator. For many, the new year signals a rebirth. It is an opportunity to start fresh with a new idea, a new habit or a renewed commitment to something designed to promote improvement.
As I sit at my desk this morning, I feel inspired to share my New Year's resolutions in hopes that they may inspire you to start 2018 off right, too!
1. I vow to promote opportunities for my staff and me to spend more time visiting classrooms.
Classrooms visits — both formal and informal — are beneficial to both the host as well as the guest. As a principal, I know it is important for me to get into classrooms as much as possible to help me understand the current reality of my school, but it is equally as important for teachers to go through the process.
There are formal ways to do this, such as the instructional round model promoted by ASCD. Bob Marzano explains what the goal of instructional rounds is and what it is not.
"The goal of instructional rounds isn't to provide feedback to the teacher being observed, although this is an option if the observed teacher so desires," he writes. "Rather, the primary purpose is for observing teachers to compare their own instructional practices with those of the teachers they observe."
There are also less formals ways to stimulate peer-to-peer classroom observation, such as the #observeme initiative. To engage in this protocol, teachers simply post a message by their classroom door inviting their colleagues to stop in and observe their room, with 3-4 questions on which they are looking for feedback.
2. I promise to learn more about the skills students will need to be successful in the future.
An ancient Chinese proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the next best time is now." We certainly can't go back and change the past, but we do have an opportunity now to improve our future.
For schools to be effective now, we have to live in the future all the time so we can help students master the skills they will need for tomorrow. The question often asked is, "How do we do that when the world is changing so rapidly?" It can be difficult to predict what tomorrow's world will look like.
Recently, Alex Williams of The New York Times explored this topic in the article, "Will Robots Take Our Children's Jobs?" Williams wrote about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and its potential impact on the job market: "Yes, robots have the potential to outsmart us and destroy the human race. But first, artificial intelligence could make countless professions obsolete by the time my sons reach their 20s."
This may sound dire, but think about how AI has changed just in the last few years.
Most airline agencies rely on technology, not people, to help passengers check in for their flights and download boarding passes to devices. Most shoppers scan and bag their own items at stores (assuming they go to a brick-and-mortar store at all). Consumers call customer service lines when they need assistance and often never speak to a live person.
If so many things are being automated, what jobs will be left for our current students when they reach the workplace?
The research tells us that to best prepare children for this unknown future, it will be work-study practice skills like communication, collaboration, research, data analysis, problem solving, grit and determination, and way-finding that our kids will need most. Less important will be the actual content of our curriculum — the dates, facts, figures, and other trivia that some of us spend far too much time focused on.
Shifting our instructional and assessment models to promote student achievement in these work-study practices is critical today. In this MultiBriefs Exclusive, I discuss ways that schools can begin to make that shift.
3. I vow to spend less time on email.
My middle-schooler Brady asked me the other day why "old people" (he was referring to me) like email so much. He went on to explain that his generation doesn't see the need for it.
At first I chalked up his response to a combination of being a presumptuous preteen and a lack of understanding for how adults conduct business and communicate. Then, I started to think more about what he said and realized my boy is on to something big.
I consider email to be one of biggest time monopolizers I have in my professional and personal life, and it has reached an unhealthy level. Here are some ways I plan to attack this problem this year:
I will engage in more face-to-face communication. When someone emails me with a question, I will try my best to talk to them in person or call them on the phone. My hope is that this approach will eliminate the follow-up emails that often result from an initial email.
I will try to send fewer emails. It is logical to think that if you send fewer emails, you'll receive fewer emails. This is the logic that Harvard Business Review's Chris Brown, Andrew Killick and Karen Renaud suggested in this article. To do this, of course, I'll have to think carefully about the emails I am sending and whether they need to be sent in the first place (or if there is a better way to communicate the message).
I will make better use of team drives and team folders in Google. Our school moved to Google last year, and it has been an amazing transformation. While most of my staff members have become comfortable using their Google Drive, we still have work to do to develop a consistent approach to the use of shared folders to store common documents that we all need to be able to view and/or edit. This resource by Google can be a good way to learn more about the power of team drives.
I hope that my New Year's resolutions may inspire you as a school leader. I wish you all a safe and happy New Year. Let's have a great start to 2018!
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