Mr. Tom Winters recently sent out an SLT update to the entire district staff. Below is one teacher’s response, from his/her PLC perspective. We would love to hear from more teachers!
Our General Science 2 team has a fantastic and unified team of people. The history is interesting going way back 15 or 20 years such that, in spite of the normal coming and going of talent, the underlying foundations of the team have persisted in maintaining a high quality professional team. Stupid me, I thought all other teams on our site and across the district were like this and only recently in the last couple of years have I realized we’re more of an exception. This realization has become evident as colleagues, district leaders, and our own site team come to observe what we’re doing which really surprised all of us in 8th grade science.
Here are a few things that have helped us maintain our friendships, professional capacity, and outlook to do our best. (I only share these not to brag but to reflect that sometimes, there’s a gap between what we ‘get’ from reform efforts and what actually ‘gets done’ when teachers get back to their sites.) Each 8th grade science teacher willingly has internalized the following values/morals/ethics. A few might be classified as soft-skills but each of these translates into a vision and commitment towards excellence.
- Humility – None of us on our GS 2 PLC believes that we’re better than our colleagues, much less perfect and we make fun of ourselves when we make mistakes. The bigger the mistake, the greater the cause for celebration during PLC. We hand out ‘monkey wrench’ diplomas during PLC and have them framed on our team wall. We especially like share faults that our students catch and we find ways to reward each other and our students when they catch us making a mistake of action or omission. ‘We know how not to do X, Y, Z, next time’
- Forgiveness – Today is the best day to make an improvement. No baggage allowed, no ‘go backs’, and no gossiping about how someone screwed something up whether it was yesterday or a decade ago. Each person on our team makes a sincere, immediate, and clear effort to make things right by apologizing. Almost always, there’s a hug, a joke, or a funny moment. When things go sideways, it stays in the team and everyone is 100% confident that nobody is going to go outside the team to gossip.
- What we’ve seen is that lacking 1 and/or 2, it’s almost impossible to get anything done, regardless of the organization, team, or relationships among individuals. Nothing will ruin an effort faster than arrogance and a ‘payback’ mentality.
- Charity – Show others you care by saying good morning, please, thank you, and I’m sorry every time, every day. If you have something you created, you modified, you think someone can use, give it away. No transaction, no ‘you owe me’, nothing. Freely give of your kindness, your smile, talent, resources, etc. We like to remind one another that we don’t own our classrooms, we don’t own the lab equipment, we don’t own the master schedule, etc. It makes it easy to share. We show charity by rotating the burdens of leadership, section assignments, and so on.
- Empathy – a principal always reminded us that ‘everyone has a story’ and in a high support / high trust relationship those stories are shared with food, snacks, and sometimes tears. The fabric that’s woven among our team is strong enough that any professional tasks always pale in comparison to the human needs that we all have. At the end of each PLC session, we close with ‘Happy Monkey Time’ so we all share some personal or professional success that was significant to us as individuals, no pressure to make any glamorous pronouncements, just honest personal successes and a highlight of the week’s most rewarding moments.
- Supported Risk-Taking – Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the team, sometimes two, sometimes all of us that are trying something new in either professional development, leadership, or instruction. No matter who or how many, we all pitch in to make sure that person has every support possible. Communications, materials, contacts, insights, and a feeling that they’re not alone or that when the process is over their effort is forgotten. There’s a real importance to embedding that experience moving forward into our daily practice as a way of honoring what other people contribute.
- Individual but Public Accountability – There are regular checkpoints that we all have agreed to for materials, planning, sharing, supporting, revising, fixing, accepting. These checkpoints were agreed to in PLC with full consensus and we openly share with each other when we feel we’ve missed the mark. Nobody picks on anybody, nobody has hard feelings, everyone provides feedback for improvement with the realization that nothing we do is ‘one and done’.
- Self-Directed and Team-Directed Reflection – Similar to above but we have lots of ‘thinking aloud’ and ‘if we had no limits, here’s what we would do’. These conversations allow full access to big vision items with pull-back to a tighter focus on the daily instruction. I’d actually have to say that we rarely – almost never – look at our instruction from a ‘daily’ perspective. We view our instruction through outcomes and interventions for success because it allows us to focus on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘when’.
- Continuous Improvement – Think Deming and the Toyota Way. Lots of lessons we’ve embedded from those foundational models and here again, the concept of human capital as a resource to be developed is at the core of our interactions with one another. Seniority, rank, educational degrees, financial status, religion, sexual identity, all take a back seat to the idea that all of us have chosen to be part of an active team that wants to improve what we do (relationships, instructional delivery, content mastery outcomes).
- Direct and Open Communication — Some of us are super assertive, some are deferential, some are great listeners, some are always coming up with lots of random ideas, some are really good at ‘bean counting’… we openly accept and honor individual strengths by not only recognizing them but by eliciting contributions from those who have a strength that we don’t have. We work really diligently to make sure our ‘bean counter’ checks NGSS standards, our random idea person generates innovative ways to approach content, our assertive person keeps us on track, our deferential person is listening and points out things we miss by going too fast…. Synergy has never been better exemplified but it’s always there whether we have ‘new interns’, ‘new BTSA’, or 20 year veterans. Everyone works on improvement of what we do.
- Willingness to Volunteer – Whether it’s sharing a classroom, travelling on assignments, or covering a class on prep. Our default position is yes and the ‘no’ only happens in extenuating circumstances. Nobody counts, nobody keeps track, everyone steps up for each other and for our students.
I share these with you because oftentimes, even with programs that have a great track record, or processes where things are clear and well organized, or in organizations with superb talent… the outcomes aren’t always easy to produce. Over time, it’s made me realize that people have to be willing to ‘go in dumb and come out smart’. Individual Humility –> Organizational Pride
- Are you a teacher interested in developing as a teacher leader?
- Are you a teacher leader interested in collaborating with colleagues about enhancing your leadership without leaving the classroom?
- Do you enjoy discussing professional readings with other teachers in order to impact your students’ learning or your team’s productivity?
Come check out the SUHSD Teacher Leadership Book Study starting this Fall!
For Round One we will be reading and discussing The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
- This book study is open to any teacher in the SUHSD.
- There will be two meetings and teachers will be paid extra duty to participate.
- The first meeting will be an orientation about the expectations of the Book Study.
- If you RSVP to attend and commit to participate, you will receive a copy of the book.
- Everyone who takes the book will be invited and encouraged to return for the second meeting, to discuss the book and how we can apply the principles from the book in our work here in the SUHSD.
- Each meeting will be offered on two different days; teachers wishing to participate may come to either day, as long as they attend one meeting #1 and one meeting #2.
- Meeting #1: 8/23 or 8/24 in the PDC
- Meeting #2: 10/17 or 10/18 in the PDC
- RSVP here so we will be expecting you!
The author will be hosting a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called IMMOOC in October
Dear SUHSD Learns Community,
Thank you for sharing your learning with us this year! The SUHSD Learns project was launched to celebrate the diverse ways in which we, the Sweetwater community, learn inside and outside of our classrooms, schools, and offices. We loved reading about how students, teachers, administrators, counselors, and Classified staff members learned this year. The SUHSD Learns project has branched out to include a monthly district Twitter chat, using the hashtag #suhsdlearns. We will continue the monthly Twitter chat in July (taking June off for summer!) and we will be happy to continue the learning blog if there are participants interesting in sharing their learning.
Until then, we wish you a fun, relaxing, restful summer break that includes at least a little learning!
UCSD and CSUSM Present an Open House for the UCSD/CSUSM Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership
Monday, June 5th
Southwestern College Library & Learning Resource Center
Building 620, Room L238N
Open to all
Did you know that there are over 250 SUHSD staff members on Twitter? Staff from all across the district are sharing learning and telling the Sweetwater story using the hashtag #suhsd. We even have a monthly district Twitter chat using the hashtag #suhsdlearns (named after this daily blog showcasing our community of learners!). Our next district Twitter chat will take place on Tuesday, May 9 from 7:00-8:00 PM. The chat will be moderated by three staff members from our Equity and Culture department, Sonia, Mariana, and Molly. We will be chatting about creating a safe and healthy school environment.
If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat, it’s easier than you think! We have an entire page of Twitter resources available on the Professional Growth website here, but this is a mini Twitter chat tutorial:
- You need a Twitter account.
- It works best if you are on a computer, rather than a phone or ipad.
- It works even better if you use Tweetdeck.com, which allows you to view multiple columns at once.
- You type #suhsdlearns in the search box in Twitter or Tweetdeck and you will be in the right place!
- Our chat follows a Q1/A1 format. That means you will see one person tweet out Question 1 (Q1) and anyone participating can respond with their first answer by including A1 and #suhsdlearns in their tweet.
- Answer questions and chat (via tweets) with your fellow SUHSD colleagues throughout the hour.
- Have fun learning!
- Consider submitting a written or video blog about what you learned in the #suhsdlearns Twitter chat!
Have you ever participated in a Twitter chat? It is a fun-filled hour where you can learn and share new ideas about education from the comfort of your own home.
The next SUHSD Twitter chat will take place on Tuesday, April 11 from 7:00-8:00 PM. To follow along and participate, please use the hashtag #suhsdlearns . We will be chatting about Digital Citizenship and our chat moderate will be Mari Venturino, a teacher from Mar Vista Academy (@MsVenturino).
For more information on Twitter chats, read here and here.
Have you noticed that your inbox has been missing the daily SUHSD Learns post? We need your contributions! We know that each member of the Sweetwater community has learned something this year. Please take the time to share your learning with us all.
To contribute all you have to do is:
- Write (hand write, type, email, or call us directly to type for you) a short description of what you learned *OR*
- Record a short video where you talk about what you learned *OR*
- Send in pictures with captions about what you or your students learned
- Create an infographic of something you learned
- Submit student work (as long as we have parent permission to post it) demonstrating learning
Blogs can be in list format, in video format, or in narrative. Blogs can be created by one individual or by a team of people. We are open to all styles and appreciate hearing from a range of district students, staff and community members.
For questions or support, please contact Cynthia Acuna (email@example.com or 619-585-4431).
Dr. Amy Illingworth is the Director of Professional Growth. She loves reading about others’ learning experiences and looks forward to new community members contributing.
I see success as the measure of one’s impact on others. In order to be successful I set as a daily goal to make a difference in someone, whether that is as simple as smiling at that person or encouraging the individual to pursue a tertiary education. The reward of success does not come into appearance immediately but rather blooms in the future, when you see how your actions have become a crucial and influential component of the complex instrument to society that person has become. Teachers are a model of this, as they educate copious students, which become the leaders of our society and build a better community for future generations. In my opinion, there is no equivalent satisfaction than seeing a student progress and succeed.
In a mentor program at my school, where high school students educate middle and elementary school students in STEM and careers within the field, students are exposed to the experience of a teacher, where they get a sense of a teacher’s responsibilities and their love for education. This mutuality impassions the students to pursue higher education, have closer relationships with their teachers, and consider a career in education. Being more understanding of the role, the students admire the teachers for their outstanding efforts and ability to teach, creating respect and aspiration.
As the student board representative, I find as my responsibility to voice the opinions of all student with equity, leading me to live my life in the shoes of others. I listen to their concerns and ideas and discuss with the schools’ leaders to design a proposal that would allow for the betterment of the students’ educational experience: didactic, environmental, and socioemotional. A beauty of being the student board representative is being able to witness the complex structure of the district, composed of devout and dedicated individuals who work passionately to create a better future for the students and the community. In addition, to have the opportunity to make a district-wide contribution alongside the amazing district-staff generates happiness of ineffable magnitude, that which inspires me the same way I hope it inspires other students for them to follow this feeling.
Xaiver is a Junior at Southwest High School . He was the first sophomore to attempt AP physics, he currently is taking 5 AP classes and is in VEX Robotics and FIRST Robotics as well as serving as the student board representative. Xaiver is an active member of the ASB.
The San Diego Area Writing Project offers a powerful professional growth opportunity for teachers through their Summer Institute. Applications are due January 13. For detailed information and the application, click here.
To read the latest Professional Growth Update you can click here or here. This update includes:
- SUHSD Learns
- Taco Tuesday & Twitter Too
- ObserveMe Challenge
- Edcamp619 save the date
- Google Certified Educator
- and more!