There is no sugar coating it, implementing anything new, including new curriculum, in the first few years can be a challenging and stressful time for teachers. Statistics tell us that if you have been teaching for at least three years you have probably been a part of a new curriculum implementation. So, whether you are implementing a new idea, a new approach or a new curriculum, here are some tips to help you along as you begin this journey.
1. Approach it with a Growth Mindset
If we chose to approach a challenge as an opportunity to improve our instruction and have a greater impact on student learning that, in the end, is what is most likely to happen. A collective belief of an entire staff in their ability to positively affect students is called Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE). In his most recent publication, John Hattie cites Collect Teacher Efficacy as having the greatest affect size or positive impact on student success. Individual belief is good, a common shared belief is even better. Believe you can achieve, and you will. Believe you will fail, and you will.
"We all do better when we all do better." – Sen. Paul Wellstone
2. Be Up for the Challenge
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin’s’ Research and Development Center for Teacher Education tells us that “real and meaningful change takes time and always comes with challenges. Build in space for setbacks. Anticipate obstacles and meet them with a cool head. One of the most difficult aspects of adopting new curriculum (or anything new for that matter) and instituting real change is the fear of failure that comes with it. Understand there is room for failure as long as there is a commitment to learning from it.” Give yourself permission to try something and know if it does not work as anticipated, you can reset and try approaching it a different way.
"To create a new standard, you have to be up for that
challenge and really enjoy it." -Shigeru Miyamoto
3. Be kind to yourself
Celebrate the success as you go along. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is going well!” and share that success with colleagues. On the flip side, don’t be too discouraged when something doesn’t go well. It is all part of the process. Remember there is a great deal of work to be done in this process, but do not give up that important “me and/or family time”. This is what energizes us to sustain the effort in the long run.
"If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me." - Maya D’Angelo
4. Don’t work too hard on the unimportant things
Sometimes we can get caught up in the “bells and whistles” and spend too much time on the unimportant things like fancy bulletin boards. In her blog, Nancy Flanagan reminds us, “The most important thing you can do before schools starts is think about the curriculum and the kids you are teaching” Keep your focus on best instructional practices. Your time is precious, as you do your unit and daily planning ask yourself, “What is it I want my students to learn today and what is most effective way to get there?” Remember, cute worksheets do not develop conceptual understanding.
"You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple." -Steve Jobs
5. Don’t be afraid to let some things go
Change is the opportunity for a fresh start. Try new things. Rejuvenate. It is OK to let the old files go. (Even if it is your favorite). Change is difficult for many reasons. Sometimes it is because we believe we are losing something of value. Some teachers may share these sentiments: “I liked the old curriculum, it worked for me” or “I have spent a great deal of time developing resources for (insert initiative here), now I have to start over”. Or it might be that we fear that we will not be able to adapt to something new… again. Stepping out of our comfort zone is how we grow and improve.
"Let it go. Let it go." – Elsa, Disney’s Frozen
6. Give it time
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Research tells us it takes years to effectively implement a new curriculum. It can take just as long to implement other aspects of change. There is definitely a learning curve to this process. Take it one day at a time with your eye on the goal of increasing student learning.
"Patience is a key element of success." - Bill Gates
7. Know that You Are Not Alone
We can no longer teach in isolation. There is so much value in collaboration. There are many people who want to support you and to see you succeed in this endeavor. Your colleagues may be experiencing the same feelings of uncertainty and frustration as they work to make changes and try new things. Be sure to reach out and share successes and concerns. We can all learn from each other.
"The smartest person in the room, is the room." – David Weinberger
8. Take advantage of all the possible professional develop you can
In order to effectively do anything new, you need some degree of learning to occur. Take advantage of all the possible staff development opportunities you can that are offered right within your own district. The more you know about the content area, concepts being taught and best instructional practices the more success you will have in increasing your students’ learning. Look for courses to support your learning on the RPS PDexpress.
In regards to the new elementary math curriculum, you may want to organize a cohort that uses the Curriculum’s Teachers’ Edition as a Book Study for CEU’s. This gives you the opportunity to study and have professional dialogue as you “unwrap” your new curriculum together. The Office of Curriculum and Instruction will be offering as much math support and training as it possibly can. Please contact us with questions, concerns and ideas as to how we can best support your learning.
"The most effective teachers actively seek to improve their own teaching." - John Hattie
9. Have confidence in the leg-work that others have already done
Whether you are trying a new behavior plan, a new method of grading, or a new curriculum, likely you chose it because there was research to show that it was effective and produced great results. Whether you did the research or you read someone else’s research, believe and trust that of all the choices out there, this one rose to the top as being worthy of replication.
In regards to the new elementary math curriculum, trust that “great care” was given in the development and selection of this curriculum. You may or may not have been a part of the articulation or curriculum adoption process. However, if you are a staff member in the Rochester Public School system, you need to know that many of your colleagues spent a great deal of time reviewing data, current best practices in instruction and content as part of a process to select this new curriculum. Every step of this process focused on what is best for our students. Believe that the articulation committee made the best decisions possible in the selection of this curriculum.
"Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence." – Vince Lombardi
Finally, the best tip of all – believe in yourself. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is not intelligence, opportunity, or resources. It is the belief that they can make their goals happen. We all deal with vulnerability, uncertainty, and failure. Some people trust that if we move forward anyway, then we will figure it out. If you do not believe that it has possible to make new things work, then it is hard to make any progress. It does not matter how good the ideas are, nothing will work for you if you do not believe in it. And more importantly, nothing will work if you don't believe in yourself.
"YOU GOT THIS!!!!" - The office of Curriculum and Instruction
The journey may not be easy. You will not always be successful on your first attempt. You may love some things you are trying and dislike others. You may soar high and then crash but you will soar again; Higher, father and faster than you could ever imagine.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Ahh! The time is almost here. Whether your reading spot is a beach, a hammock, or a shady tree I bet you are getting ready for some summer reading. As educators we love learning and summer can be a great time to renew, reflect, and recharge our teacher batteries. Here are some of my top picks for great reads this summer:
Troublemakers by Shalaby
In her first book, Carla Shalaby, a former elementary teacher, introduces us to four “troublemakers”: Zora, Lucas, Sean and Marcus. Her book causes us to question how we identify and understand students who experience school differently. These memorable children allow readers to see school through the eyes of those who are sometimes considered 'problems'.
This book definitely caused me to think about our school structures and what we value in the world of education. Although the children in this book are elementary aged, there are many lessons to be learned within any level of K-12 education.
Blind Spot by Banaji and Greenwald
This book was recommended by Dr. Sharokky Hollie at our last professional development session. The authors of this book explore the hidden biases we carry from a lifetime of exposure to cultural attitudes on race, gender, class, religion, and sexuality. This book is for those of us who want to align our behavior with our intentions.
Full disclosure, I have not read it--yet--but it is on my short list and has been highly recommended by those who have read it already.
The Courage to Teach by Palmer
"This book is for teachers who have good days and bad — and whose bad days bring the suffering that comes only from something one loves. It is for teachers who refuse to harden their hearts, because they love learners, learning, and the teaching life." These words, taken from Parker Palmer’s introduction, speak to the message of this book. Palmer boils things down to this one sentence: good teaching cannot be reduced to a technique but is rooted in the identity and integrity of the teacher. He says good teaching takes many forms but it shares one thing: good teachers are authentically present in their classrooms and in community with their content and their learners.
JJ Abrams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and co-creator and producer of the tv show Lost, said in a review that, "This extraordinary, wildly entertaining book sheds new light on the Age of Disruption. What does it take to make a meaningful difference? How can you apply this insight to your own life? By debunking myths of success stories, challenging long-held beliefs of process, and find commonality among those who are agents of profound change, Adam Grant gives us a powerful new perspective on not just our place in the world, but our potential to shake it up entirely."
Lately, we have been working hard on social-emotional learning in the Rochester Public Schools and how we might best help every student succeed. Although this book is from outside of the education sector it has great ideas for how we can support every student, no matter their background, to be successful in college, career, and life.
Drive by Pink
I was introduced to this book through Mayo High School’s “ Best Bits of Books” Staff Development Series facilitated by Peter Dodds. The main premise of this book is that if we are engaged in creative tasks (like teaching) the elements that people need in order to feel job satisfaction are threefold: autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Pink gives readers examples of how organizations can cultivate these elements.
What’s on your summer reading list? If you are interested in discussing some of these great reads or others that you plan to delve into consider attending Pages on the Patio, which begins this June (sign up here).
We’d love to talk with you about your reading and thinking!
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Yes! We did it! Another year completed! Students are gone, finals have been completed, grades have been submitted, and now what? Time to celebrate, reflect, rejuvenate, and reenergize.
As the busses rolled away and I waved goodbye to students who have been such a huge part of my life for months, I have always felt a strange mix of celebration and shock. I was so proud my students, but I also couldn’t believe it was all over.
The first week off was always strange for me. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. This is when the first R of my summer began: time to Reflect.
I spent my first few days reflecting on my year. I celebrated my successes, but I spent more time reflecting on what I wanted to change. How could I adjust my classroom set up that would foster more interaction? What teaching strategies did I want to dig deeper into that I just didn’t have the time for last year? Which lessons did I want to modify to make them more successful for all my students? How could I build in more academic vocabulary in my lessons? I would jot down these ideas as I knew that I would forget them between June and August. I sometimes organized my ideas by the following categories:
After spending time reflecting and celebrating, it was time to Relax! Time to rejuvenate and enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of school. This time allowed me to clear my head, rejuvenate my body and fill up my well again. Here are some ideas that could fill your well:
Then, in September, share what you did over the summer with your students in the fall. They love to hear what teachers do in the summer!
After some much needed (and much deserved) relaxation, I was ready to get Reenergized for the fall. I would pick up that list of ideas I jotted down in June. I would reread it and begin making my plans for the start of the year. I would start researching new strategies, read blogs that offered new ideas, or dig into a professional development book that someone told me about. I was ready to get back at it again.
Teachers never stop learning and I saw this first-hand last year at Pages on the Patio. It was reenergizing for me to see these amazing educators reading professional books, listening to podcasts, and sharing their learning with one-another. My co-facilitator and I would have local residents come up to us and ask us what was going on. I’m sure it seemed strange to see 20+ people quietly reading in public. Our response was “we are teachers and this is what teachers do in the summer; we continue to learn”. It was fun to see them looked surprised. They often expressed admiration for what these educators were doing. I took away so many new ideas to start off my year with from these sessions and couldn’t wait for August to start sharing my learning with others. (You can read more about last year's summer learning here.)
By the way, it isn’t too late to sign up for this summer's Pages on the Patio. You can still sign up on PD Express!
As the year comes to a close, my wish for you is to take some time to do the same 3 R’s as I’ll be doing: Reflecting, Relaxing, and Reenergizing.
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
As the school year becomes more and more visible in our rear-view mirrors, it is not only our students whom we may have difficulty keeping engaged, but also ourselves. Often we do not even realize that we have begun to “tune-out” as the year begins to drift away. Let’s face it – we’ve had a few things our plates and have been working our tails off for the last 9 months. So with less than three weeks remaining, how do we remain engaged and energized to help get our students to the finish line?
Here are 4 ideas for keeping it fresh and fun right up to the last minute you have with this years kiddos.
Field Test Something
Remember that great idea you had back in October when things were crazy busy and you just didn’t have time to explore it? Remember that conversation you had with a colleague about an idea from an article you read and would love to try in your own classroom? Now is the time! The end of the year can be a great time to pilot something new and see how it goes because it will come to a definite conclusion in a manner of weeks. Not sure what to give a try? Check Best Idea Ever for more than 35 ideas!
Take time to Reflect
Since we are already looking in the rear-view mirror, you might as well focus on reflecting. You have almost an entire year of instruction under your belt. It’s time to look back on what worked well, what could have been even better, and what should not be repeated next year. Perhaps even ask you students to reflect on the year and even on your teaching and give you feedback for going forward. Getting Student Feedback and Tools for Gathering Feedback offer ideas for soliciting advice from your students.
Create Something New
After you and your students have done all that reflecting, you will likely have things you would like to improve upon or change for the next school year. Start making those changes now. The end of the year is a great time to start preparing for next year. Even better, get your students involved in making those changes. How to Experiment is a great article about how to go about trying something new in the classroom.
What do you want your students to remember about their year with you? Take some time to gather those memories and put them in a place that students can take with them. These last few weeks of school are a great time to collect and share the highlights of the year. Education World and Edublogs have some fantastic ideas to wind up learning and find the bright spots of your time together.
Recently, I came across the quote from the image above and it really spoke to me when I read it. I hope it speaks to you, too. I encourage you to take some time in these last few weeks to take your ending and turn it into a new beginning.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
Originally posted on the Secondary C&I website on 4/18/2018
The recent spike in temperature plus the spring rain has those of use at C&I thinking about the sunny and warm days of summer. Summer: the season of new growth and of rejuvenation--not just for our gardens and our lawns, but for our souls as educators, too.
As you begin to think about your summer plans and how you personally would like to grow in your instructional practices and rejuvenate your classroom approaches, consider enrolling in one or both of the following C&I summer professional development opportunities.
New this Summer...
If you have ever wished that X, Y, or Z were offered as RPS Professional Development sessions, disappointed occasionally that they are not, then this new opportunity might be for you.
Returning this Summer...
So, as you start to think beyond this snow and focus on the new growth of summer--don't forget about opportunities to grow yourself, too. Maybe we can even grow together.
This post brought to you by the Elementary C&I Team
Minnesota standards require us to teach about the indigenous people to our state. From that point, it is our responsibility to ensure that what we are teaching is accurate. Minnesota state standards require that our students encounter different teachings about Dakota and Ojibwe people throughout their K-12 experience. Learning about Indigenous People and the history of our area before America’s colonization is fundamental to understanding the relationships between people and place. We cannot truly understand the dynamics of our area if we do not include a long and multi-perspective history. Teaching accurately about Indigenous People benefits not just our Native students, but also all students.
In my short time working for the school district, I have noticed there is never enough time in a day to teach all the things that need to be taught and there is an ever-present desire to find new resources. I have also noted the increasing number of blogs and information hubs, such as Pinterest, that have easy ready to use ideas.
Unfortunately, by using these resources, what ends up happening is an overload of information that often times isn’t well researched or vetted through any credible sources. Inadvertently, this can lead to activities that perpetuate stereotypes, keep Native Americans in the past, and demote native culture to cute crafts.
Something we want to work to avoid is only exposing students to historical views of Native Americans. Today there are 572 federally recognized tribes, 11 of which are located in our state. We want students to understand the sacrifice these tribes have made at the benefit of our country, as well as learn about tribes that have called Minnesota home for 100s and thousands of years to help build well-rounded learners.
An example of how we can begin to do that is to help students make connections and understand the differences between the various Native tribes. Many people know southwest Indians use adobe dwellings to stay cool, but let’s not stop there. We should build on understanding that each tribe has its own traditions, clothing, types of dwellings, etc. dependent on the region they inhabited. It is important to learn about tribes from around the country, but Minnesota state standards require us to place an emphasis on learning about our tribes here in Minnesota.
As educators, we can be better equipped to teach our students about Indigenous people by taking advantage of events and professional learning opportunities provided by various education associations and societies. Here are some of the great upcoming opportunities, most of which happen on an annual or even more frequent basis.
As we approach summer and think about professional development in our upcoming year, I encourage everyone to consider one of these amazing opportunities. Let us all strive to teach Native American content in the humanizing manner with which we teach all other subjects. As always, I am here to help in whatever way I can.
Podcasts have been around for quite a while, however, many educators still have not tapped into their learning potential. Podcasts can be used for your own personal interest, as an easy source of professional development or for student use in the classroom. As the popularity of podcasts continue to rise, here are some creative and easy ways to use them in your elementary classrooms.
Podcasts for Educators
There are many educators out there who have started their own podcasts! If you are interested in learning more about a topic or if you are interested in getting new ideas, a podcast is an easy way to learn. While you are doing the laundry, driving down the road, preparing for your day at school or if you are interested in engaging teachers in a new way at a staff meeting, try listening to a podcast. Below are some Podcasts to check out!
Podcasts for Your Students
Students can also take part in learning through podcasts. They are available currently to them on their on iPads. Ask them to bring headphones, provide them with a list of pre-approved podcasts and they can get started. The podcasts below are currently used in classrooms around the country. Once students download their podcast on their iPad or phone they can listen to them anywhere. Consider taking them outside on a warm day or on a walking field trip. It can even be a station of learning in your classroom or a resource to use while writing a paper. If you want some ideas on where to start, below are some student friendly podcasts!
New to Podcasts? Here are simple directions on how to get started!
In iTunes you can find and subscribe to podcasts in several ways:
Things like Podcasts are the educational future. They open a whole new world of learning possibilities for adults and children alike. Explore. Engage. Enjoy. Of course, should you find something wonderful, be sure to share!
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, POSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
As a teacher, we spend the vast majority of our time educating others but often do not get the time to further our own learning. There is an amazing opportunity coming up in August that is close to home and budget friendly.
The Learning First Institute is taking place on August 8 & 9 in Kasson. This is an unbelievable chance to spend two days learning and networking with local educators. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event last year along with 70 other educators from RPS and found those two days to be some of the most informative learning in which I have been able to participate.
Over the course of the two days, you are treated to 4 different keynote speakers that are not only engaging and dynamic but also deliver important message around current educational trends and topics. The remainder of your time is spent in small group sessions that you select to best meet your learning needs.
Some of the topics from last year’s presenters included: Assessment strategies that motivate kids and help them learn, keys to a positive learning environment, building culture in your PLC’s, RTI – it’s not just about intervention but how kids respond to intervention, changing the experience of school and how to have difficult but necessary conversations.
This year’s lineup of speakers is just as impressive as last year. Keynote speakers this year include:
Myron Dueck - Vice principal and teacher with over 17 years of teaching, He has had experience in a variety of subjects in grades 3 to 12. Dueck has been a part of district work groups and school assessment committees that have further broadened his access to innovative steps taken by others.
LaVonna Roth - An internationally known brain-powered educational consultant, author and presenter. She is known for providing fun and engaging professional development specializing in neuro- and cognitive sciences to help educators better understand how the brain learns.
Kenneth C Williams - A former teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Kenneth is the chief visionary officer of Unfold the Soul, LLC, a company dedicated to inspiring individuals and teams to perform at the highest level. He is skilled in developing productive, student-focused learning environments.
George Curous - A previous speaker in RPS, he has over 17 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George speaks about meaningful change happening when you first connect to people's hearts and the importance of creating an innovative student learning environment with high engagement.
In addition to these four amazing keynote speakers, there are an additional 14 speakers leading breakout sessions on a huge variety of topics. Last year I was able to attend 8 breakout sessions in addition to the learning from the keynotes.
Mark your calendar for August 8 & 9. You won’t be sorry that you spent two days in August at a conference once you’ve experienced this amazing event!
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
The purpose of this blog is to share with you the work a group of educators are doing in the area in new teacher support and retention with a partnership between the New Teacher Center, REA president Dan Kuhlman, POSA Heather Willman, POSA Kate Palmquist and numerous educators within RPS.
RPS Teacher Induction Program Mission Statement:
To ensure that all educators entering Rochester Public Schools receive an inclusive high-quality induction that focuses on professionalism, growth, students learning and retention of quality educators.
Over the past year a group of teachers, administrators, and instructional coaches have been working with the New Teacher Center to a learn more about how we can improve our support for first year/beginning teachers. Throughout the process of investigating our current practices we found that while we have a solid plan for supporting classroom teachers, our special area and related services teachers have less access to strong mentoring. This past week our team met for the final time to lay out a vision and mission for how to support area and related services. Our goals and focus are as follows:
For the teachers who are not aware of our current Rochester Public Schools New Educator Induction Plan, we also reviewed those supports below:
After listening to the group concerns and ideas, the team chose to focus on how to better support special area and related services teachers due to the unique needs of this group of educators. One thing that we know we do well in Rochester Public Schools is supporting the classroom teacher with full release coaches. These coaches support our new and veteran teachers in many different ways. However, what we learned is that if you are a traveling art teach for example, you lose the connection between a specific site, so a site coach might not be the best mentor for you. We also discussed how our special area teachers have specific needs as far as understanding a unique grading process, learning how to establish relationships with a larger group of students, parent communication tips and other areas that are different to them.
Much like the special area teachers, our related services educators also have unique needs that they felt may not best be served by their instructional coaches. Knowing that we need to do more to support these important educators and to increase the retention rate, the group strategies a few possible plans on how to support new teachers in these areas with mentors, as well as still receive support from their building instruction coaches. Moving forward, the team will be exploring ways to support new special area teachers and related services teachers and in turn hopefully increasing their retention rate. If you are interested in learning more about this great work, reach out to Kate Palmquist in the Elementary C&I Office!
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, POSA overseeing Elementary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Time. The most precious commodity of which teachers never seem to have enough. It does not matter what school I visit or whom I talk with when I am there, the number one request that teachers have is for more time.
Right now, the number one thing teachers seem to be talking about that takes a chunk of our valuable time each day is conferring. On average, this seems to involve anywhere from 25-40 minutes in classroom schedules. If we are going to devote that much time to one event in our day then it had better be a worthy activity. Below are the top four questions I receive around conferring.
How do I confer with a reader when I haven’t read the book?
I remember thinking the exact same thing at one point in my conferring practice. This led me to question how effective I was being which in turn made me feel I was wasting time. However, you can confer with any reader on any book and still make the conference impactful. Here are some things to think about:
How can I possibly get through all those word lists (checklists)?
There are some color levels in IRLA that seem like one giant set of word lists. These are especially common in the lower levels where kids are still learning the mechanics of how to read. The trap teachers tend to fall in to is to focus on those lists and check them each time we confer with a student. In doing this, all we ever have time to do in a conference is check a list of words. This, of course, does not feel like a good use of our time. Here are some ways we could use our conferring time and still get those word lists checked:
How do I choose what to confer about?
This is probably the most challenging thing both new and veteran teachers still ask about. I know that it was the area I struggled the most with in regards to conferences. Here are some tips I gathered from teachers across the district:
Is conferring really that important?
Of course I have my own opinion about the answer to this question. Instead of answering the question directly, I am going to leave you with these thoughts.
With time always being the most precious commodity a teacher has, I leave you with the quote above from Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer. Here’s to being the most effective teacher we can be for our students with the time that we are given.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
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Members of the Elementary C&I team post useful tools, tips, and tricks on a weekly basis to help you help students.