Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Absolute Best Time of Year to be in Education

Guest Blogger Michael Wacker
Director of Professional Development, EdTechTeam

Though recently my direct role within schools and districts has changed, one thing remains the same: I am UNBELIEVABLY excited at this time of year. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE working and strategizing with teachers, coaches, admin, and leadership. This drives so much of my work, my passions for learning, and my support and belief in children and teachers. 

Photo by Ken Shelton

My excitement and inquiry of why I felt so excited this month came down to a simple question with a follow up:

"Why is New Year’s Day a Holiday and What if New School’s Year was also a Holiday?"

What makes the New Year so beautiful can be summed up by folks way smarter than, me.

“This unique tick of the clock has always prompted us both to celebrate, and to step outside the day-to-day living we're always so busy with, and reflect; to look back, take stock, to assess how we did, and resolve to do better going forward.”

So, I immediately thought to myself, YES! My friends, this is the time to slow down and absorb the awesomeness that is back to school week! The energy is truly palpable in our social echo chambers but also our externally internal community, which is to say, everyone is affected and influenced by “back to school.” You can feel it in your child’s school. You can feel it in your social media spaces. For me, I sense it in my bones and I feel the energy and excitement from mamawack (a former AP with a different set of experiences and of course the littlies!

Photo by Ken Shelton

 It’s important to note that I understand completely that my excitement does “look and feel” different than it did when I was teaching in a classroom. It is true, I don’t get the direct enjoyment of my favorite back to school teacher roles of: prepping my classroom, working with my team, hanging out at the “meet and greet” ice cream social meeting parents and siblings, building community connections (I miss that the most.)

 But today, while my peers and amazing educators prepare and brainstorm next iterations of lessons, objectives, and assessments, I find myself super excited about the new year! I'm fresh off a micro math session with my kiddos and about to head to Redondo Beach Unified in California to help kick off their new teacher induction and development. Redondo has done amazing work the past year preparing their schools, children, and teachers for the next iteration of teaching and learning; or as we on the team like to think of it as, being “future ready." 

Jennie Magiera shows off Future Ready Schools support. 
Photo by Ken Shelton.

 We have spent time working with and cultivating “Courageous Leadership” from central office to the classroom, focusing on change. The work we’ve done with principals and leadership has been huge in gaining support. Primary to all of the professional learning has been about making sure we are “Empowering Teachers” cultivating and supporting (for far too many the first time) professional development and learning opportunities for the “rock stars” the teachers evangelizing and inspiring their peers through their innovation and passions.

 There has been a focus on “Student Agency” by having professional development and learning opportunities for the children. Walking through the nouns of devices and platforms was a start, but beginning to brainstorm the possible was an awesome experience, especially asking children out loud, “What are you going to ask with access to all of the information ever?” It was a fun couple of days and I believe this type of student agency and support even external of the school is a must for every systemic change in education spaces, no matter the size. One key for the community and teachers, particularly here, was the timeline and ability to do a slow, transparent, and well-designed rollout.

We also have spent time allowing and building the growth mindset spaces for the early adoption by teachers and leadership. This inspired and created incubators of sorts for innovation in the district micro-pockets of teachers and schools excited about what was possible, next.

 They have built the bandwidth to support three devices per child. What is really exciting for me is the next iteration or 2.0 focus on their “new” teachers in a newly designed platform. Induction is rarely differentiated. Inspired through the spaces and learning opportunities and who knows, maybe we have even more pockets of excellence to learn and share from. And this gets to the heart of change. How do you support and sustain an iteration of an age-old model? In working with their leadership team the past year, one thing is certain, they value their teachers' input a lot.

To create this change systemically: we must inspire, ignite, and bring folks on board with us. This looks different in varying locations, schools, and districts, but empowering your new teachers is a great place to start. And for what it’s worth a great place to stop as well. So, As I prepare to plan and design a fun day with my future friends in Redondo, I find myself authentically excited and pumped up about the upcoming school year.

 I am excited! I am so lucky to work in education and be able to feed off of the energy and excitement from the teacher leaders in Redondo and everything they have been working towards, become energized by the buzz of walking the halls of my kids’ school at back to school night this week, and of course have a bunch of fun exploring and discovering some ways to empower and inspire the children of Redondo with the “new” teachers of Redondo tomorrow, Eileen Czesk, Stu Woodward, Shawn Lemmer, Amanda Steinacher-- and the vision from Annette Alpern and Derek Kinsey.

 1. "Why We Celebrate New Year's Day: Survival | Psychology ..." 2013. 18 Aug. 2014

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