Innovation #IMMOOC

For many we know that change can be difficult. People get comfortable, cozy and “it works.” Sometimes, though what we deem as working is more existing. Sure, compliant students leave the K-12 system reading, writing, doing basic math, knowing some level of facts in their other classes, but is this really all we want from our students?

Our schools need to take a hard, deep look at themselves. Reform is one thing. Transformation is something entirely different. For our schools to truly meet the needs of the world that our students are graduating into, we need adults who are ready to innovate in every sense of the word. We all know that schools are one of the only industries that look and function much like they did 100 and 200 years ago; neither the business world nor the medical profession does –can you imagine? Yet we continue to tweak here and tweak there. Trade a white board for a chalk board. Trade a tablet for paper. Without changing the functionality of these, it’s just not enough. We need true innovators to wipe the slate clean and dream up a system that will work in 2016 to prepare our students for their present and future.

The impact will be students who are ready for the world.

Students who can think.

Students who are not compliant but are creators and innovators themselves.

Our world cannot wait. We must innovate.



Getting to this Point…












Going through the National Board process early on in my career certainly helped shape me as an educator. Additionally it had provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise have: I have spoken with district and state superintendents, local politicians, and one of the highlights was speaking before members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

But our career is not made up of highlights but of day-to-days… we impact students, educators, and the field overall: that is what will make a career.

For me going through the process solidified my reflective nature. I have renewed also and that process gave me the opportunity to reflect on the professional learning I had gone through and how that learning actually impacted my practice. I took months to reflect on the training that I had completed and determine how worthwhile they were; what impact they actually had. As a result, I am particular about how I spend my time. Particular about the professional learning I take part in. Particular about the degree programs I choose.

I am currently the Innovation & Technology Coach at a middle school. I oversee the professional learning at the school as well as coach teachers as we move our school to one that is project-based learning and 1:1 iPads.

I work hard to use that same high standard to create personalized professional learning for my teachers and staff that I want for myself. I am reflective after each PL session that I plan and ask for feedback to better it for the future.

The National Board process is one that allows us time for reflection. Reflection to become better teacher. Reflection to become better coaches. Reflection to become better educators.

Change the Paradigm: What Makes a Skilled Teacher?

I am a firm believer that teaching itself is a skill. Sure, being a content expert is important, but you have to be a kid expert, a human expert also. This is an entirely different set of skills than knowing your content. Don’t get me wrong, teachers must know the content they teach, but just as important is knowing how to make that content come alive for the students they teach.

Those of us in education, or even parents who have seen the magic of a great teacher, know that it is just that –magic. It is an art and a science all in one. For some people, it is natural, but for many it can be nurtured and taught through the process of education and skilled mentoring. Deborah Ball hits the nail on the head in this speech when she states that we in the field cannot state that it’s just what we do…. we have to acknowledge that it is something that can be multiplied and taught in others.

We have to begin to speak this language of accomplished teaching from the time pre-education majors (if you will) enter the field, so that as a profession we begin to meld together as a profession. We have to begin to work together as ONE: university professors, undergraduates, teachers, administrators, and district officials. All of us must come together with a common language, a common goal, and a common understanding.

That must be that teaching is highly complex and it takes all of us working together with common vocabulary and intentions for the good of all our children to make the future stronger than the past and the present.

What Do Trash Cans Have to Do with Teaching?

This week I am humbled to be part of a group of accomplished educators in this historic NBCTsonthehill event. Together eighteen of us from all over the country have been brought together to help Ron Thorpe and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards move forward with their vision of making National Board Certification the norm for educators.

In the words of the CEO of NBPTS, Ron Thorpe, we can’t become a true profession by saying, I’m good. Trust me. We need to prove it. To this I have to say I agree; in every other aspect of our teaching lives we use evidence.

Ramona Lowe likens teachers to the surgeon who calms a nervous patient telling him not to worry because he is too good of a surgeon for him to die. Well, we should all be too good of teachers for our students to fail….or have anything less than success!

Those of us in education know that we must have relationships with our students. First and foremost before we can teach them or have a well-managed classroom it’s about the relationships we make. Knowing this, Siema Swartzel had her students create the trash can band kids. They created music in a way that was meaningful to them, and as a result of building this rapport, she saw huge gains in some of her toughest students.

Principals Mary Harris and Kiela Sneider have both created an amazing culture in their schools through National Board Certified Teachers. In Mary’s case, establishing the culture of accomplished teaching. Kiela used the reflective nature of the National Board process to naturally improve a high needs school. The turn-around in student progress is quite impressive, and even once she moved on from that school, the results remain.

We want this culture of accomplished teachers. Lisa Markussen agrees that having this high concentration of NBCTs creates this collaborative culture. In contrast to medicine, says Rhonda Blankenship, most teachers are still working in isolation. Jeffrey Wright sums it up well; in medicine students are taught by board certified doctors. That’s not the case in teaching.

National Board Certification for the Masses: What Would that Look Like?

Imagine a teaching force of accomplished educators who are reflective about their practice, knowledgeable about the content they teach and how best to teach it to their students, and willing to look deeply at themselves through data and videos to improve their craft. Current research done in several states tells us that the students in National Board Certified Teachers’ classrooms gain an average of one month’s ELA instruction and two months’ math instruction over a year’s time compared to the students in non-NBCT’s classrooms. One study was done in LA Unified. Another was done in Gwinnett County, Georgia. There is also research on the positive gains of students in the classrooms of NBCTs of low-income and minority students.

So what would it look like if from the time every undergraduate began an education program, the Five Core Propositions of National Board became part of the language –if from the beginning it was understood that the end result was that educators needed this Board Certification. If we were talking about being accomplished teachers from the start of our programs and learning that this would be the end result –that the highest achievement that a teacher can achieve–NBCT– was the expectation, much like it is for a doctor, could we build an even stronger profession in the way the medical profession has?

For many teachers reflection comes naturally. These teachers go back at the end of the day and ask themselves what went well and what could go better. They figure out why they didn’t get through to that one student who was taught that lesson in three different ways and still didn’t grasp the concept. Those are the teachers who take responsibility when students don’t understand. These are the teachers who understand that good classroom management starts with good relationships. But what about those who aren’t as reflective? For those of us who went through the National Board process, consider what seeing ourselves on video for the first time did for our practice. What would that do for education overall if every teacher went through this process?

A nation of reflective, accomplished practitioners; stronger teacher-student relationships; better student engagement; and therefore a more professional profession? Could National Board Certification be one way to strengthen our profession?

The Medical Model: What Can Educators Learn from It?

A historic event in the world of education is about to happen: for the first time in history a group of educators will engage in a conversation with physicians to look at the parallels in these two professions. These groups will talk to see what we can learn from one another. What most people may not realize is that until 1910 and the publication of the Flexner Report and then with the concept of medical residency programs becoming the norm, medicine was not much of a profession –not like it is today. But since that time, I think we will all agree that the medical profession has gotten it right! They have come together, trained physicians, organized residencies where after intense schooling, they go through professional mentoring programs for three to seven additional years. From the beginning of their schooling, doctors begin preparing for medical boards.

What can we as educators learn from all this? EVERYTHING! By streamlining education preparation programs, we can better prepare future teachers. Once teachers complete university programs and student teaching, they need residency schools –much like doctors enter residency hospitals. Consider what your first year of teaching was like. Most of us had informal mentoring programs at best; this is causing a huge teacher-turn-over rate. In residency schools first-year teachers can be mentored by the most accomplished of teachers who will already work there. By valuing these accomplished teachers and teacher leaders, we can elevate our profession to just that –a true profession.

This change will take some time, but it needs to happen. We must build a great profession for our children. Board certification and residency can become the norm for education. It will begin with one conversation: between some educators and some doctors. Where will it go from there?

What’s Medicine Got to Do with It?

 CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

Ron Thorpe, the president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, writes about an innovative idea that needs to gain steam –the idea that education can use the medical model to build our profession is brilliant! Currently the modal year that a teacher has been teaching is ONE. This is a crisis in our profession that is not only costing money, but also is a problem for our students. We need experience in our classrooms; although excited with ideas, none of us were at our best our first year in the classroom. With constant turnover we cannot build a great profession and make learning what it needs to be in classrooms. By setting up a program similar to that of a residency program, we give teachers the time to have strong role-models from whom to learn. These first-year-out-of college teachers have the opportunity to learn from the most accomplished teachers thus they aren’t alone that first year when we lose so many to other professions. Ron Thorpe writes a well-thought out article based on research. Here is part two of a three part series on building our profession.

Building a True Profession (Part II of III) | NBPTS

tags: education building profession

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