PD + GHO = Awesome

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Recently, LAC School did a first. The school partook in a professional development workshop on co-teaching.  While that type of workshop was a first, we also did the entire workshop through google hangout.  I contacted Danielle Schwartz (@teacherschwartz) a superb teacher with years of co-teaching experience from northern NJ. I told her I wanted to try something new with our technology, and she obliged with no qualms, We mapped out a plan, tried GHO a few times, and were ready to go.  On the day of the  In GHO, we had four teams in four different parts of the building.  Materials (worksheets and a team building activity) were given out in advance.  Teachers reported to their respective classrooms, and for the most part, partook in a wonderful dialogue of what co-teaching is and the various models of it.  Like all things done for the first time, we had some missteps.  Here’s the breakdown below:

PROS:

  • Easily accessible.  We gave teachers the link; they clicked.
  • Easy for the presenter. Danielle did not have to drive two hours to get here.
  • Easy to understand and operate.  GHO can be a bit tricky, but after a few clicks, you can easily follow along.

 

PITFALLS:

  • Hard to gage if participants are truly engaging. Not having the person in the room may detract some from paying attention.
  • Tech savviness. I should have know that running GHO on your computers requires a few installs when it happens for the first time.  We had to do installs of all computers used.  It slowed us down by about 15 minutes.  Not killer, but it;s good to know for the next time.
  • Consistency. While everyone was getting the same content, some were on the document, some were watching the videos, and some were at the end of the presentation.  In workshops, I like to deliver the same message to all at the same time.

So many great lessons were learned from this workshop.  When’s the next one?

When the Captain sinks the ship

School leaders are often related to boat Captains.  They are charged with navigating the waves of education and dealing with the trade-winds of change. While there will be a mix of rough and calm seas, the Captain typically ends up running a tight ship.

There are all kinds of Captains. There are the Captain Phillips’ and the Captain Quinn’s sailing around the educational seas. It always saddens me when I see a Captain Quinn.

In a matter of years, I’ve watched a Captain go from a Phillips to a Quinn in no time.  The Captain hit a rogue wave and was never able to recover.  After the wave, he tried to put on a new face, laugh things off, and surround himself with a superficial crew.  Epic Fail.  After a series of attempts to try to steer back and gain control, it just got worse and worse.  So sad.  How can central office stand behind such a failure? How can one go form ‘hero’ to ‘zero’ in just a couple of years?

Why? Simple.  Cloaking yourself in the shroud of “Old Boys Club” combined with a group of people a majority of the ship don’t like because of their clique / bully like attitudes and actions leads complete breaking of trust and respect.  The ship is still floating, but you have a crew and passengers that are there just to play school, and the leadership thinking all is OK because the inner circle keeps telling them it’s OK. Oh, and then there’s that whole tenure thing…

Tenure has served as the life preserver to keep those who sink their ship afloat.   So, time old question arises… what does one do with a Captain who sinks their ship? Moreover, what does one do with the crew and the passengers? How long can someone just sit there and let creativity perish?

IF YOU’RE A STUDENT:

I really feel bad for you when your school leader is completely out of touch, doesn’t even know your name, and you even know who he / she is (like you thought they were a sub or something).  The power rests with you; start with a simple petition expressing your concerns.  See the White House website… you can even register one there! Democracy has worked in magical ways…it’s to put what you learned in social studies class to the test. Speak with mom or dad too… they may be just as intrigued about your concerns and may launch actions of their own.  Let’s be clear here…you’re not going into Boston Tea Party mode and causing violence or damage. The pen is truly mightier than the sword.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT:

The best bet is to start by attending local BOE meetings and expressing concern. While the Superintendent will guard his / her own, getting on the official record and partaking in democracy is best.  Speaking to the press would not hurt, as long as you’re cool calm and collect. It is not recommended to go vigilante mode and start writing off-the-cuff comments online or submitting anything to press that would be “slanderous” – facts are facts.  Leave the opinions out; people will form them on their own. If the Captain is failing, state it, you don’t have to lace your opinions in there… everyone will see it.

IF YOU’RE A TEACHER:

You show leadership, and you keep doing your job, for two reasons: 1) you’re there for your students, and 2) you’re filling the void of true leadership, so an educator takes it on their shoulders.

Low and behold, the school will still stand regardless of who runs it.  BUT… since everyone knows the Captain is flawed and is useless the teachers, counselors, parents, and students take charge of their learning and move onward.

But hey, I’m just a Superintendent, what do I know?