Friday, January 31, 2014

being a leader

As new teachers, sometimes you are called upon to be a leader. Whether or not you feel confident in this role, this sometimes happens. You may bring to your job some expertise from your preservice education, or if you are a second career teacher, experience from your previous work life. Teachers are leaders every day, both in and out of the classroom.

Teachers are leaders in multiple ways. They might be the go-to for resource ideas, perhaps they are an instructional leader in classroom management techniques. Maybe because you are the math or reading specialist, or got a STEM certificate, you are a curriculum specialist and can help others build content and curriculum knowledge. And often, new teachers are tapped for their energy and enthusiasm to lead committees and student groups, so you might serve on a building or district committee. Or perhaps you model life-long learning. All of these are important leadership roles for teachers.

There is a real need for teacher leaders these days. The shift to Common Core State Standards and, therefore, new state assessments, means a need for adjustments in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. But also, teachers know the daily concerns of P-12 teaching. And there is a need to problem-solve the current challenges that students, families, and teachers face. With changes in teacher evaluation and accountability, we need teacher voices at the table.

And one of the goals for education P-16 is to teach children & teens to become leaders. What makes a great leader? A previous post on critical thinking is a good start. Good leaders can think critically about problems. They "start with why." Lots of teachers and administrators are talking about the book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek and his corresponding TED talk. Education Week has many resources for teacher leaders with their Teacher Leader Network.

In what ways are you a teacher leader? What support and resources do you need to lead well? Share your

Saturday, January 25, 2014

planning a field trip

It's been a tough winter here in MN, with the bitter cold forcing school closings. This January weather has me dreaming of packing a bag, driving to the airport, and getting on the first flight anywhere warm. But in lieu of quitting your job and moving to South America, one way to mix up the learning in school is planning a field trip. For many new teachers, you go on the field trips that were already in place for the class or grade level. Maybe you're thinking ahead, though, for the end of the year or next year's field trip possibilities. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are planning.
  1. Find a group of teachers that might be interested in a field trip - this will lessen the burdens of planning and organizing the field trip, and can create a cool interdisciplinary or grade level learning experience for students.
  2. Scout out the possible field trip location. This will give you first-hand knowledge of the location and will help you plan instructional goals for the field trip. It will also help you prepare students for their experience.
  3. Instructional time is at a premium these days, so in order for a field trip to make sense for you and your students (and get approved), you will need to consider the educational learning goals that will be accomplished by the trip. Why this field trip? What will this accomplish that supports and extends curriculum goals?
  4. Determine what the costs will be for the field trip. This will be necessary for approval.
  5. Next is to get principal and/or superintendent/school board approval. This will hinge on having thoughtful goals and a trip that fits in the school/district's budget.
  6. Transportation - this is usually the most costly and difficult to arrange aspect of a field trip. Contact the bus or transit system (if city buses or light rail is an option) to find out the procedures to book transportation for the field trip.
  7. Secure chaperones. You will likely need parent volunteers for a successful field trip.
  8. You will be best served on field trip day by having a clear itinerary, something you can provide for students, transportation, and chaperones.
  9. Contact the school nurse in advance of the field trip. There may be medical needs of students in your class(es) that need to be considered and planned.
  10. Create a field trip file with emergency information, including:
    1. Contact for the school
    2. Cell phones of chaperones
    3. List of students who require medication/medical attention
    4. Site contact
    5. Class list
    6. Trip itinerary
  11. Then, prepare the students! Give them the information that they need to make the most of the experience. This may include teaching lessons, brainstorming, reading books, etc that build their background knowledge so that they are ready to learn as much as they can.
Field trips can be a wonderful addition to a curriculum. Though exhausting, the learning that happens can be powerful, and students gain new and deeper insights into the goals of the classroom.

What is your dream field trip? Where would you like to take students in the 2014-2015 school year?