Back in October’s #edcampdallas, we had the great fortune of meeting Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd), who had driven down from Waller, Texas. He & his ninja counter part Stacy, (@TechNinjaStacey) were so enthusiatic and engaged throughoutthe day, they decided to go back and host their own #edcampWaller. It was a resounding success.
Much like Matt Gomez (@MattBGomez), Todd is a forward thinking, take charge kinda teacher and has been featured by many as one to follow, specifically in the realm of flipped classrooms. I asked Todd to do a guest post about his leadership on his campus and what results he’s seen. He’s a charismatic speaker and innovater…but he backs it up with phenomonal classroom results.
Thanks for the post, TNT!
I’ve been teaching for 6 years. Before that I worked four years at an elementary school as a classroom aide (as part of the “Grow Your Own” program) while I attended Texas A&M University. And before that I worked at an elementary school while I was in high school as part of the “Ready, Set, Teach” program. In those 11 years I have never learned as much as I have this past school year when I finally decided to step up and take charge of my own professional development.
Teachers are Leaders. The sad thing though, is that many of us don’t see ourselves as that. Sure we view ourselves as leaders of our classroom, but when it comes to helping out other teachers or other schools we sometimes feel very inadequate. Over the past 9 months, the number one thing I’ve learned is that there are far more exceptional people in education than I ever realized. Once I joined and became active on Twitter (in June of 2012) I found a wealth of knowledge, experience, ideas, and creativity from many of my new connections. It energized me. It lit a fire I haven’t had since before I started teaching.
So often as teachers we get bogged down by all the rules, procedures, and paperwork. We also can get derailed by those “Negative Nellies”. Those people who are so convinced that education can never be fixed and therefore they’ve given up. I was almost one of those people. Four years into my teaching career I was ready to quit. I was preparing my students for a test because the state and my district wanted great scores. I was shoving problem after problem after problem down my students throats. I was teaching them how to take a test. And in the process I was looking like an excellent teacher because my students were scoring exceptionally well! But I was dying inside. I view myself as a game changer. Someone who thrives on pushing boundaries and trying new and exciting ideas. But I turned into this robot who was making my students into test taking robots. I hated it.
Then I heard about the Flipped Classroom, Project Based Learning, and Twitter. And my eyes were opened. I decided no longer would I listen to those who said the only way you could get kids to be successful was to teach the test. I was no longer going to listen to those who said my ideas were too outlandish and that I needed to take a step back. I decided I was going to take charge of my own learning and I was going to forge new paths within my district for the betterment of my students.
For a while I felt very alone. Sometimes when you blaze new trails there are many people that whisper behind your back, that hope you fail, or that constantly tell you your ideas are crazy and it can begin to feel like you’re the only one on a sinking ship. Then I found my PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter.
Through the power and connections of Twitter I was reminded I’m not alone. That out there in Texas and the rest of the country and the rest of the world are educators just like me. Educators who want their students to LEARN not just to take a test. Educators who want to push boundaries, change conventional thinking, and really challenge their students. I found a network of peers who encouraged me, cheered me on, challenged me, and best yet have walked with me through every step of my new endeavors. Have I met many of these people in person? No! But I have met some! And getting to meet these people in person fires you up even more. I now attend every single conference and training I can in hopes of finding more people like me and of course in hopes that I’ll get to hang out with or meet more of my twitter friends. I now even plan my own conferences (EdCampWaller) in hopes of bringing even more great minds together.
And better yet, these new endeavours and connections haven’t only benefitted me, they’ve also benefited my students! Now my students are getting these fun and engaging lessons that I’ve heard about from other educators. My students are getting to connect with other classrooms from all around the world. And best of all, guess what, since I refused to teach a test in October of 2012, my scores have increased by 12% to an almost perfect pass rate this year. Who said you have you to teach a test?
So don’t fret. If you’re trying new things and often feel alone, forge ahead! Seek out other educators through Twitter or whatever other avenue! Step outside your comfort zone and you will find a world of encouragement and learning that you couldn’t have ever even dreamed of. Take charge of your learning and lead the way!
Had a great convo at lunch today with two different staff members. We each have different roles on the campus and various experiences. One a former high school teacher, one a former 1st grade teacher and me…
We were discussing our next school event and the inadvertent commotion it has caused. In May, we’re planning a “prom” as our school wide occasion. It was requested by one of our fabulous 5th graders last year, and has just been in the books since then. The “planning” books…it hasn’t been officially announced to students or parents yet.
There have been several concerns, which we were going over at lunch and my two table mates were going back and forth over the pros and cons. Regardless of what one said, the other had a brilliant counter point. Sitting there listening, it was clearly going to be another situation in life where I wasn’t going to win.
If we just canceled the event…people were going be upset. If we held it, renamed it, re-themed it…people were going to be upset. One lunch mate commented that she was glad she wasn’t ever in my position because it just went against her nature for people to not like her, where as I clearly made decisions that albeit unintentionally, divided people.
Now that I’ve been in this role, I have such empathy for people who have to make hard decisions. (Obviously, the prom isn’t a life impacting decision, but still…you know what I mean.) I look at Obama, or CEO’s, or superintendents and think about what tough decisions they have to make…and those ARE life impacting decisions. They have to stay true to themself and really look out for the greater good. In my lil’ol chair, it can still be tough. You come back to the concept of leader likeability and there’s a great quote that comes to mind.
As long as the decisions I make are made in the best interest of our Lions, I can handle the naysayers. (Some days better than others, :)) I’ve definitely learned that there are times where I don’t get to share my side or have my say and that just comes with the territory. Being a leader isn’t about being liked, it’s about doing what we have to do. Life isn’t always pretty and if we want to have a successful school, sometimes tough actions need to be taken.
Leaders who have to be liked, rather than respected, lose credibility, confidence and support. I think I’d rather be respected and known as consistent, more than win a popularity contest.
PS: Event is ON! Come one, come all…to the Luna Family Ball!
This week kicks off the STAAR tests for spring of 2013. As both a mom of a tester and supporter of those Lions giving the test…I hope to impress upon both that their value or success doesn’t have anything to do with what happens this week.
As a 4th grade teacher (three tests!) I remember the long days, the short days, the days where some students didn’t eat and acted as such, the days where someone’s grandparent passed away and all we did was talk and cry, the days where it was just too pretty to sit inside. I remember having an administrator who valued ME, and didn’t place any importance on my skill as a teacher based on the results of a test.
So, LL’s as we move forward, know that what is done this week will reflect on how you’ve handled yourself ALL year. The late afternoons, the early mornings, and the tears that you’ve put into these students…way more important than an arbitrary test score.
That being said…go home early. Get to bed early. Have a yummy breakfast. It’s all down hill from here!
Eric Sheninger spoke at #ASCD13 on the keys to initiating sustainable change and something he said that resonated with me was “I don’t find the time to learn and get better. I make the time to learn and get better.” While this did inspire a lively talk about unicorns, I completely understood what he meant.
Educators today are pulled in a dozen different directions daily. We’re expected to meet unrealistic goals and transform lives, daily, and most of the time? we’re able to do it. How can you fit any thing else in your day?
To me, being a connected educator isn’t an option, it’s how I’m able to function. I couldn’t possibly provide the answers, the options, the experience that I do without having a PLN of my very own. From conversations on the other side of the world to being able to ask 4,000 people their advice…being connected provides that opportunity.
I’m presenting at TEPSA this summer on being a “connected educator” and being able to articulate the value of what social media can bring to the table is almost overwhelming. I know how busy and stressed these administrators are. I’m busy and stressed too! Hopefully I’ll be able to show that we’re in a time where being connected isn’t an option any longer, and that the problem isn’t that education isn’t what it used to be…it’s that it IS what it used to be. Our students can’t afford any less than the most current, the most engaging, and the opportunities that being connected provides.
Plug in, you won’t regret it! Change can either happen to you or because of you…and what leader doesn’t want to be at the forefront of positive, impacting change?