You've made it to my site, now why not gain a deeper understanding of why I do what I do and how I can help YOU do what YOU do! This episode shares exactly that- my why, my what, and my how (full disclosure- I have a hiccup in the very beginning of the episode... let's see if you can catch it!).
As an instructional impact consultant, I focus on partnering with schools to collaborate around high impact strategies that solve the problems that programs and products aren't solving. Yes, that's right, I said it- programs and products are NOT solving the problems that come up again and again in our schools- lack of student engagement, motivation, and ownership; low morale due to overwhelm; an overabundance of resources; minimal gains in student achievement or increasing gaps; and lack of knowledge transfer and application.
But as an attempt at a quick fix, we bandaid the problems we encounter with curriculum programs and technology products. Imagine the time, effort, and money spent on these things that have only minimal lasting and positive impact, or worse, NO positive impact! The solution to these problems does NOT lie in the THINGS we purchase. The solutions lie within the walls of our buildings- in our leaders, our educators, and our students.
But what we know is that taking a step back to analyze the effectiveness of our people can be daunting work. Each individual in an organization comes with their own perspective of problems and solutions, alike. This can make it challenging as a collaborative group to get to the heart of the real challenges at hand, much less the real solution to the challenges. And THIS is where I come in!
I'm able to take a seat in the balcony of your school to analyze the challenges your school faces from all perspectives. I ask the instructional leaders the right questions to get to the real challenge. I have the right conversations with teachers to gauge the school culture and mindset. And I observe students and classrooms with just the right lenses to analyze the current reality. Finally, I strategically and intentionally partner with teams to facilitate collaborative learning around the strategies that will have the highest impact on student achievement and teacher empowerment.
A great deal of what I do revolves around not only facilitating collaboration, but more specifically modeling and explicitly teaching about collaboration. Why? Because I believe that the greatest instructional impact lies in our ability to and our success in collaborating with colleagues and students. I believe that collaboration can be hard, complex, and challenging work- but this kind of work is often the most inspiring and empowering. And I believe that products and programs DO NOT empower and inspire.... PEOPLE empower and inspire.
It is through successful collaboration that our continual problems can be solved. And I would love nothing more than to partner with you and your school to solve the problems that products and programs aren't solving!
And so you've made it to the end- that's all there is to it! If you've gone through the first three parts of this blog series, you know all there is to know about implementing collaborative studies!
This last post on the blog series is SUPER fun! This is where we get to think about all of the possibilities of topics and modes of delivery. The only problem is that the possibilities are actually ENDLESS!!
Have more ideas?! Share away and let us know how it goes! Together, our ideas are limitless. Any of the possibilities listed above can be combined, tweaked, stretched, and arranged in a way that makes the collaborative learning experience one that attendees LOVE and remember!
You're Here to learn more?!
Or perhaps you're here for the first time! If that's the case, hop on over to the first post in this blog series all about Collaborative Studies and how to introduce them to teachers. THEN, read on in this post, PART TWO, to learn about what it looks like to get teachers signed up!
Of the four parts to this blog series, this is quite possibly the easiest and least complex piece. Now, it's important to state here that following the first steps that are listed in this blog series is extremely important. Once you have done so, and have gotten the word out about collaborative studies, it's time to settle down and plan your collaborative study events! This can be done many different ways. You may decide to host collaborative studies monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly and pre-plan the topics across the year. You also may choose to host collaborative studies sporadically based on patterns noticed across the classroom. To make this decision, think about the culture and climate of your school, the initiatives of administration, and the current teacher workload. No matter the case, be sure your teachers know what to look forward to as the year goes on. *Side note: My first time implementing collaborative studies, I decided to host them monthly. It did have its benefits, but I suggest hosting them bimonthly or quarterly so that you might illicit better teacher turn out.*
How to Get Teachers Signed Up for the First Event
You now have a broad plan for the year, you know your first topic of study (more on this in a future blog post!), and now you're ready to get teachers signed up! This will require you to take a step on the bridge of vulnerability. You're essentially giving teachers power to say "yes" or "no" to what you are proposing. And, let's face it, a "NO" kind of hurts, even if you've vowed to yourself not to take it personally! This is how a carefully written sign up form can be super helpful to both you and the teachers completing the form. So let's visit the secrets to building the form and then we'll jump into the logistics of getting it out to teachers and, more importantly, completed and submitted!
Secrets to Building the Form
The easiest way to get teachers signed up is by sending out a Google Form. You can also use Sign Up Genius, but I find that Google Forms are much more user friendly and can easily be customized. And, of course, I have a great form template ready for you to download. Simply scroll down to get your copy!
You'll notice in the template that there is space for all the details of your collaborative study and topic of choice. These details are much like a session description you might find on any conference pamphlet. Make it as enticing and intriguing as possible and cater to the unique personality of your campus. This should be what teachers see first on the form. Whether they are interested or not, I request that all teachers complete the form. Therefore, they will include their name, email address, and grade level (if needed).
The next part is where you can allow them to "let you down easy" and also can give you a ton of great information about where the teachers are in relation to the content being studied. Include only positively stated options for involvement. Not only does this ease the pain of the "no's" for you as the host, but it also encourages a positive attitude toward collaborative studies, even if the teacher chooses not to participate.
Here are possible participation options to include:
Logistics of Getting Forms Completed and Submitted
Got the form done?! Ready to hit "send"?? HOLD ON!!! First and foremost, have a dear friend or colleagues proof read it. And then let your administrator know that you're going to send it out. If you're not completely comfortable with sending it out, or you believe it will have more weight coming from an administrator, you could ask them to send it on your behalf. Ideally, you'd want it to come directly from you. The best option, if you're using Google, is to email it using the option through Google Forms. This will allow you to see who has responded and who has yet to respond.
You won't simply email the form and await responses. The primary way to gain the most responses is by visiting teachers or striking conversation about it in passing: "Hey, have you seen the email about the upcoming collaborative study? Be sure to respond soon. I can't wait to find a way for us to partner and learn together!" Another way to gain responses is by including information about the collaborative study and the form you're expecting them to complete in multiple formats and outlets. If you send a weekly newsletter, include the Google Form link or QR code on the newsletter. Post a few flyers at various locations throughout the school (perhaps the bathroom- as was the case for this flyer!).
These collaborative studies are meant to be more casual than formal and are optional. Make it enticing, relevant, and professional, but never underestimate the power of FUN! As you are marketing this idea of collaborative studies, show your enthusiasm and interest in the things that are on the teachers' minds and seek out their expertise.
After all, to collaborate is to partner with others in the quest to better ourselves collectively for the sole purpose of supporting the broader audience: our students.
Until next time, when we dig into WHAT to do when teachers attend the collaborative studies, grab this free Google Form template and get your teachers signed up!
I will be the first to say that changing one's mindset can be a daunting task! It is much easier said than done. Unfortunately, and fortunately, many teachers have a way of holding themselves to very high standards- sometimes so high that they often feel as though they've failed more times than not. This shouldn't be the case. And if we can train our brains to think intentionally, we can better accept when things don't work out as planned or when we do actually fail.
All it takes is one small step at a time. This week, that first step we'll discuss is "Determining Purpose". This sounds like an obvious thing to do when you're practicing the art of intentionality. But how often do we find ourselves thinking about the PURPOSE of each thing we do in the classroom- each activity, each conversation, each line up time, and the list goes on and on and on? If educators can take this first small step in changing our mindset and transform into intentional THINKERS, the other steps will easily fall into place.
Here is what I propose to begin:
... and that's it! You don't even have to take steps to ensure follow through! (Say whaaaaaatttt???) Remember, the whole purpose is to BEGIN adjusting your mindset to THINK intentionally. Building this habit with small pieces of your day will inevitably filter into other, more meaningful, parts of your day.
Here is an example of what my thoughts might go when determining purpose as students line up:
So, what say you?!
Will you accept the challenge and train your brain to begin thinking intentionally? No, it won't be easy to be a full-fledged intentional educator from the start. But the smallest steps, like determining purpose, can lead you there!
If your students are anything like mine, they often get in a habit of writing in a certain style, where their writing almost becomes formulaic. Or perhaps you have students that may have some great ideas for the body of their essay, but the introduction or conclusion are lacking a certain "je ne sais quoi". Enter stage left: 'Grab a quote' lesson!
This lesson stemmed from a few different resources and clashing of ideas that constantly pop around in my brain. We are always looking for ways to help our students write engaging, interesting essays that readers simply don't want to put down. We also want to give our students a plethora of strategies and crafts to use so that they can put into place what works for their topic, their essay, and their style as an author. As is often said, "to each his own". (Get what I did there?? Hehe.)
So, as can be seen in this super quick and easy flow chart I created via lucidchart, there were multiple factors involved in my brainstorming session. I'll give the detailed version of the steps taken that I believe made this lesson successful, as well as ways that I will adjust in the future.
Because I'm a "boxes and bullets" kind of gal, that's how I'll take you through the steps of this lesson.
Set Students Up for Success
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- teacher, mentor, leader, mother, and wife aspiring to be much more!