There are many reasons to pop the champagne if you are an educator; you’ve either crossed the finish line or are about to! While I hope every educator will take the time to relax and recharge this summer, some will still have the 2017-18 school year on their mind. Many will be spending time exploring projects, ideas, and technology at their leisure. If you are feeling overwhelmed already, below is a great 2-minute-flick on how you can take charge of your own PD this summer and in the future. Now, get off my blog and enjoy the beautiful sun!
Eitner Education debuts in its’ new podcast called “The Tub”! Each episode will feature a trend in schools, a trending book in education, and something to turnkey into your educational lifestyle. This podcast is for all leaders, teachers, and everyone in between.
My first podcast features Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter, co-authors of “Escaping the School Leaders Dunk Tank”, which is available on amazon, Barnes & Noble, and classy bookstores everywhere!
I hope you enjoy this; thanks for coming on the journey with me!
About The Authors
Dr. Rick Jetter is an Educational Consultant, Speaker & Trainer, and Multi-Genre Author. He was a solid “D+” student in 7th grade and he has a cool dog, named George Jetter. Dr. J. also types faster (with two index fingers) than he talks. Dr. J. is interested in all types of topics–especially the ones that no one wants to truly take on (even though they say they do while their fingers are crossed behind their backs).
For more information about the book, Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank: How to Prevail When Others Want to See You Drown, visit http://www.leadershipdunktank.com
Dr. J. has also successfully worked with other authors on their ideas and creative concepts by offering book concept and writing strategies through his own unique coaching process.
He is the founder of and lead consultant at RJ Consultants.
Rebecca Coda is the founder of the Digital Native Network. http://www.digitalnativenetwork.net She currently serves as a STEM Coach, weekly contributing columnist for School Leader’s Now, and article contributor on LinkedIn. She has over 18 years’ experience in education as a teacher, ELA curriculum and assessment writer, and technology program leader. Rebecca is a National Board Certified Teacher & Arizona K12 Center Master Teacher. She is a Christian and lives each day by faith, hope, and love.
Interested in hopping into the tub? Join me on my podcasting journey!
Below is a post that was written by Jeffrey Bradbury. I have been very proud to call Jeff a colleague and great friend since we met at the first EdCampNJ in 2012. Since then, Jeff has helped me navigate the educational seas on a myriad of levels, ranging from creating a new district website to offering in-person professional development to support staff. Read his great post below:
The other day, I had a technology coach from a neighboring school district visit my school and shadow me for the day. It was a fantastic experience and something that I hope to be able to do with other districts this year and beyond. The teacher and I had a great day of learning from one another, but I couldn’t help but use the day to reflect on many of our common conversation topics. One of the deep conversations we had was around the simple question: “What is a Tech Coach?”
Rather than use this post as an opportunity to dive into what a Tech Coach is, and what a Technology Integration Specialist is, I would like to propose a question to my readers that might shed some light on how I have approached these titles and my current position for the last two years. The question is one that might sound strange, but those knowing my background might find quite interesting. Should I consider myself a Tech Coach … or a Tech Conductor?
Let’s dive into this topic …
Everything I Know … I learned From The Podium
It’s no secret that my background is in Music Education. I have countless memories of rehearsal sessions, and amazing performances of the worlds greatest pieces of music. About 10 years ago (or more) I decided that I wanted to get up and instead of sitting in the orchestra, I wanted to start down a path that allowed me to stand in front of the orchestra and work along side them to perform sonata’s, symphonies, and operas.
It was during that time that I started taking formal conducting lessons from several amazing teachers. From there, I learned how to physically stand and present myself to not only an orchestra, but a paying audience, and of course work along side a board of directors to help promote my vision, the orchestras vision, and most importantly, the composers visions.
Of all the things that I learned in the world of conducting, these lessons stand out:
- The conductor is the only one on stage that doesn’t make noise, yet his actions are what tie the group together
- The musicians don’t need a conductor to know what to do. A conductors job is simply to start everyone and guide them through transitions.
- Treat every musician with respect, but understand that different instruments require different needs.
It has been through these lessons that I approach every day as a Tech Coach. It is through these lessons that I find myself more becoming a Tech Conductor. Let me try and explain how these lessons can be applied in a school system.
From Podium To Classroom … and Back Again
When you break down everything that happens on the podium, it starts and stops with the simple concept of Respect. I can honestly say that I have my good days and I have had my bad days as I learn how to be a Tech Coach to over 400 staff members. As a conductor, you have your good days and bad days too. You have your rehearsals where everything goes well, and you have those times where someone puts you on the spot in a rehearsal and you simply don’t know the answer. This happens in the classroom all the time.
What is important is that you come prepared to every rehearsal, meeting, classroom, as prepared as possible. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you always make sure you have a resource (your PLN) that can help you find the answer quickly.
From early on in my conductor training, I learned that the word Maestro is one that gets placed upon you from day one, but the concept of Maestro, a word that literally translates into Teacher, (or coach) is one that is earned day after day, rehearsal after rehearsal and is earned only through respect. This is extremely true for Technology Coaches who not only work with everyone in a district at all levels, but must also be walking talking resource centers of technology and pedagogy that are essentially on call 24/7.
You Are The Only One Who Doesn’t Make Any Sound
In an orchestra setting, the violin players, play the violin, the tuba players play the tuba, and the bass players play the bass. Each of these musicians or groups of musicians has an instrument that they can pick up anytime and practice. A Conductor on the other hand has the orchestra. There is no try way to practice late at night with an imaginary group of 50 people. The preparation for Conductors is mostly mental and requires you to study scores of music and practice “gestures” in the air, sometimes in front of mirrors to make sure that the one single time you are in front of a group you get it right.
As a Tech Coach, it is very much the same. Teachers have the opportunity to learn from their students every day. They learn how their classrooms work, act, and interact with each other. As a Tech Coach, you have just one moment to walk into a classroom and nail your lesson. When you are given an opportunity to present in front of a building, you are given an opportunity to showcase your self in front of 150 (or more) strangers who are all there to learn from, and support you. They know you are in front of them to help them become better educators, but there might not be the same friendly connection that a teacher and a group of students has, or a principal and a faculty have.
Walking into a building to give PD is very much like bring asked to come into a new orchestra and guest conduct a rehearsal or performance without ever getting to meet the musicians.
Your Teachers … They Don’t Need You
Let’s face the fact that teachers have been teaching for hundreds of years without the need for a “Technology Integration Specialist.” They don’t need “Tech Coaching.” But … do they?
One of the first rules of conducting is … Show Up When Needed, and Get Out Of The Way …
There are times when you can simply tell a musician how to play something, times when you can describe a sound, and times where you have to grab an instrument from the violin section and demonstrate for a group.
This couldn’t be more truer as a Tech Coach. There are times where I have worked with a teacher and my role was simply to answer a question or two and back away. Other situations have lead me to helping them create a co-teaching lesson where together, we worked with the students on an innovative lesson.
In the classroom, the role of a Tech Coach is to quickly enter and assess a situation and provide whatever the teacher needs when they need it. Perhaps it’s by simply answering a question and other times it’s by picking up the instrument to demonstrate how something should look or sound.
If you choose the right method of support, the group/teacher will appreciate your help and together the rehearsal/lesson will move forward. If you choose the wrong method at the wrong time, you are libel to insult someone and create a situation you never intended to have started. As a Conductor and as a Tech Coach, it’s always important to know the personalities you are working with so you can quickly make the right decisions and choices.
Some Teachers Are Section Players … Some Are Soloists
If you really think about it, a school district is very much like an orchestra. To conceptualize this, lets break down the different parts of each.
In the front of a symphony orchestra lies a massive section known as the Strings. All together, their instruments are in the “violin family.” Their instruments look similar, they play with a bow, and there could be as many as 24 of the same instrument in each of the 5 distinct sections. Together, they can be broken down into string quartets, trios, and often, composers write for them as either a full section, or as soli sections. Each of the subsections (violins, viola, cells, bass) are seated by rank (ability level) and there is a section leader who is for conversation sake, “the boss” of that section.
The next group of musicians behind the strings is the Woodwinds. This section is composed of your Flutes, Oboes, Clarinets, and Bassoons. They are your mid range, mid level instruments who are put in the awkward position of sitting behind the massive string section, yet they sit in front of the might brass and percussion sections so it’s often possible that while playing loud and proud they don’t get heard when the entire group is playing together.
The Brass, Percussion, etc …
Composed of the Trumpets, Trombones, and Tubas, Drums, Marimbas, Cymbals and all other instruments these musicians are highly specialized and are only in your group because, like the winds, they passed an audition based on their ability to be leaders and soloists. When addressing these musicians a conductor should simply be able to describe in as few words as possible the sound or quality they wish to hear and it should happen with as little retakes as possible. These are HIGHLY skilled and trained musicians who spend hours in a practice room learning what is known as “excerpts” or very tiny solo passages just to have the opportunity to audition for the group.
A School District
Elementary Teachers, should be approached as a group. In any building, for example, you have several 4th grade teachers all teaching their own class, but teaching a common curriculum to the classroom next door. They meet in departments to plan common activities but they often do their lesson plans on their own. When you work with one and not the others, it is often not looked highly on. Sometimes it’s best to talk about concepts such as blended learning, or SAMR models, but they are also the first to allow a Tech Coach to pick up their instrument (classroom) and come in to demonstrate something new and amazing in the world of Technology.
Elementary teachers often have degrees in general elementary education rather than a specialized degree in a subject area and for that reason it’s often best to show a wide variety of examples and build lessons together. Elementary Teachers and Buildings should be approached the same way a string section is approached. It’s always best when you are able to demonstrate the concept as well as describe.
Much like the proud woodwinds, Middle School teachers are caught between elementary and high school teachers. They have the hardest job because without them students don’t have a solid direction when they get into the older grades. Also much like the Woodwinds, Middle School teachers are soloists who often times are remembered the most when a student looks back at their favorite years in school Their hardest job is that they often have to work with a group of students who came from multiple elementary schools and haven’t yet jelled together as individuals yet … and oh, did we mention those wonderful puberty years.
Much like a conductor should never (unless specialized themselves in the instrument) tell a brass player how to play the trumpet, a good Tech Coach should never (or hardly ever) approach a high school teacher and tell them how to teach their subject. . . Trust me …
High School Teachers are HIGHLY talented, and HIGHLY Specialized educators who command the respect of teenagers every day and for those reasons I love popping my head into classrooms each day, asking if they need anything and moving on. Often, I find myself sitting down with high school teachers to plan out lessons the same way I would sit down with a soloist to plan out a solo passage in a symphony. If you show them respect, they will reciprocate and come back time and time again because their only goal each year is to produce the best students and pass them on to college.
I’m writing from the glorious D-terminal in Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I was lucky enough to find a plug by my gate, so why not tap a vein for a bit.
Conference season for education professionals is upon us. Almost every week, there is a conference dedicated to educational pedagogy, technology, practice, or all aforementioned. Don’t be fooled, the first year of conferences is fun and exciting; going around the country, trying new foods, seeing new things. But after the second year, it gets old. Quick.
This will be my 5th year of crossing the country for various conferences. Some I look forward to, some I don’t. They are long, long days filled with meetings, workshops, salesman shoving things down your throat, and lots of food and beverages. I can’t even do the food and beverages anymore since my bypass surgery.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m very thankful and fortunate to do what I do, see what I see, and meet who I meet. However, many people don’t see the negatives of this; time away from home. Flying is still a royal pain, your hotel bed is not your bed, and seeing your kids via FaceTime is not the same as hugging your kids.
Moreover, when you hold a public position, many think that a conference is some vacation on the taxpayer dime. As I said earlier, maybe the first conference one goes to. Now, it’s work, with longer hours and not getting to come home.
Some members of the public go further and don’t want conferences to be funded. I can totally understand that; there are some fools who just go for booze and pool time. It stinks because it ruins it for everyone else. What the public needs to understand about conferences is that the ones I choose to go to are on the forefront of what’s happening in education and where education is going. Skeptical Board Members and weary taxpayers need to see the value in ascertaining information at the time so we aren’t allocating more resources to get to the spot that’s being offered. I often use the saying of “Do you want to ride the education wave or spend thousands of hours and dollars trying to catch up to it?” The school districts that are trying to catch up are the ones that never get anything done, and when they finally get there, it’s too late and it’s off to the next wave.
School districts need leaders that are willing to take the time to ride the wave. Districts and boards who invest in time-punchers will do just that, and you’re left out at sea.
So, as I wait for my flight to take off, I’ll be riding the wave once again. As much as conference season sucks, it’s the time for the game-changers to show who we are and why we are who we are.
Until next time…safe flights everyone!
It’s been an interesting November & December. While I have been truly blessed with my family, my career, and my traveling, I took a rare step. I did something for myself early in November. I had gastric bypass surgery.
This surgery has been a long time in the making. For most of my life, I’ve been the fat guy. While I just tolerated it in middle and high school, I took it all off in college. I went from 340 lbs to 208 lbs. How? I was in the gym, every day, for at least 4 hours. In about a year, I took it all off, I was in shape, and even had a social life. It was awesome.
Post college and into the real world, I certainly didn’t have time for four-hour workouts, let alone eating properly and caring about my looks. Slowly but surely, it all came back. I tried every yo-yo diet and fad exercise in between with no results. The past five years have been the worst. I wouldn’t just eat; I would graze, all day. Fast food stops when I was bored or just because. Really bad. I eventually got to 350 lbs again, and now older, other medical conditions came with it. Acid reflux. Diabetes. Fatty liver. All of that bad stuff.
I decided on the traditional ‘roux en y’ procedure versus the sleeve and other methods. My stomach is now the size of a duck egg. While that may sound heinous to some, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I basically can eat about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of food. If I go over that, I’ll get ill. While the recovery has been a bit rocky at times, I am finally able to eat, get out of bed without being in pain, lift, take steps and all of that.
As always, “Jay, what does this have to do with education?”
I feel that the past six weeks have been a time of patience and persistence. I was under the impression that I would up and running within 48 hours and had to constantly be reminded that this was a major surgery and it will take time to heal. It’s a whole new way of eating as well. I went from eating a 20 piece chicken McNuggets in one session to maybe finishing one.
Change is hard. Often, change is good. Eating in a healthy manner, exercising, and practicing a healthy lifestyle is going to do wonders for me. I couldn’t do it alone before, and I was allowed to get a tool (this surgery) to help me.
Teachers and administrators often go through change, and the change is hard. However, when the Superintendent is following the mission and the vision that was created to circulate around students and growth, and are provided the tools and time to adjust to the mindset, change will be good.
For those on the change roller coaster, hang in there. It will settle when all the pieces come together. Focus on what’s best for your students. As long as you keep doing that, you’ll be AOK.
With the school year going into full swing, so are many of the weekend September festivities: festivals, football, and fall TV. For educators, it is also a time for weekend conferences, workshops, and EdCamps.
Ever since becoming a superintendent, I have been faced with the same questions at least once a week. Below is a simple Q & A for you.
“Why do you still participate in EdCamps, conferences, and weekend workshops?”
The simple answer is because I enjoy them. I enjoy learning at these workshops. I enjoy learning from others and with others. I enjoy networking. Mostly, I enjoy seeing how other students are learning and how I can harness their triumphs for my own students and teachers.
Yes, some conferences are the same ol‘ same ol.” I don’t go to those.
Yes, I often run into many of the same people. So? Chances are those people are a part of my PLN (personal learning network), and I learn more from them than from anyone else.
Are those folks that do all of these conferences or tweets in some cult or clique? Eh, some of them. Just because we are on Twitter or the 18,000,000 other avenues of social media does not mean we all get along – or should for that matter. Difference is good. Everyone doing the same thing…. bad. The movers and the shakers always find each other, not for popularity, but so they can grow together. Anyone who is too cool to say, “Hi,” to you or spends their time spewing slander? Drop ’em like French class. (Remember that movie?)
Do you feel bad is you miss one? LOL – no. There have been many conferences/EdcCamps I have experienced. Some were great; some were not. In some cases, I served on the organizing committee. You do your time, and you move on. If it truly speaks to you, you stick around. It is not mandated by any means. There are scads of conferences and EdCamps that I’ve partaken in and don’t partake in now. It’s not a game changer if I don’t go or help out, and it never should be. If any EdCamp or conference is built around one person, there’s a big problem.
How do you get the time? That’s the tricky issue these days. I have an amazing family at home, and my 18-month-old twins require much time and talent. Not only that, but I want to spend as much time with them as possible. Family first, always.
What if you go alone? ho cares? You are going for you. I work the same way. I’m here to learn something. If I don’t learn, it’s a waste of my time.
Seriously, you really enjoy this stuff THAT much? Hell, yeah! Education is my passion; it’s what drives me. I am a fearless workhorse who wants nothing more than to have every available option for my students and staff, so that they can learn as well. I want our students to be productive members of society. Those students will be taking care of me down the road. Why would I not want the best for them?
Until the next conference, EdCamp, or whatever the next big thing will be…
This past Friday evening I had the honor of kissing Penelope, a 120-pound Vietnamese potbelly pig, not because it was the trendy thing to do, but because the Home and School Association (HSA) held a special dual event where students played candy-bar bingo and also voted on various teachers and administrators to kiss the pig. This was the first time I’d seen such an event, and the crowd was beyond energetic. Nothing beats seeing a packed room of parents, teachers, and students all embracing a sea of smiles.
Based on a few hundred children who kept running to the front of the stage every time Penelope came out to smooch, it was certainly the highlight of the evening. As for my kissing the pig, I don’t recall having ever done something before where almost every smartphone in the room came out to take pictures and videos. Surely, this is the stuff that computer wallpapers, screen savers, and memes are made of.
That is the point, though; all of this is in good fun. Superintendents, now more than ever, need to be public, approachable, and up for events like this. It does not have to be kissing a pig; it could be a dunk tank (I had to hide around the corner), eating something you normally don’t (muskrat was a common local food and “delicacy” in one community where I worked), or something goofy like dying your hair or sleeping overnight on the roof of a school. This is free, positive publicity for you and your district.
Any school leader turning down such happenings is waiting for a barrage of negativity on top of the daily criticism you already face. Events like this are win-win. Whether you love me or loathe me, you thoroughly enjoyed the experience…and… money was raised for a good cause (in the pig’s case, it was for HSA funds).
Thus, to those crazy fundraisers and hilarious events where something silly can happen, keep them coming. You raise funds and awareness and perhaps even gain some personal points in the process.
As for my eating pork, I’m going to give that up for a while!