Session Highlights from the National Title I Association Conference
I spent the past week with My People at an education conference, and man, did my teacher soul need that.
Just under four thousand teachers, administrators, and state representatives landed in Long Beach, California this past week for the National Title I Convention.
It is a powerful thing to sit in a room full of a few thousand strangers and see heads nodding and “mmm, hmm’s” being hummed throughout the crowd all at the same time.
This week reminded me of how meaningful and moving it is when a teacher cares about his/her students. We sat in on (and also walked past a few classes) where there was standing room only at the back of the room.
Seeing teachers sitting on the floor, notebooks in their laps, feverishly taking notes in hopes of finding ways to connect with, support, and ensure success for their Title I students was inspiring.
Over the four days we spent in Long Beach, we met some inspirational educational outliers; the insights they shared and the work they are doing invigorated us.
Here is a quick recap on some of the sessions we attended and projects we are now super excited about:
Shawn Berry Clark and Brady Venables
These two educational mavericks have a blog called Classroom Confessional that serves up a refreshing dose of teacher talk. They are passionate about technology in the classroom, serving the underserved in public schools, and encouraging teachers to grow from quality feedback.
Their writing is real and honest, but also refreshing and inspiring. They talk about challenges in education without whining or wallowing.
While their entire hour was filled with wise gems, my favorite takeaway from their class was what they called the formula for change. When moving their district to a 1:1 student to device model, they encountered some resistance.
Here is their formula for ensuring the highest likelihood of success:
Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance
They presented this formula by arguing that when making changes to the status quo in education, teachers need to buy into that change. They need to own part of it. Enlightening educators to their dissatisfaction with how things are, laying out a clear vision, and explaining what first steps will be taken while making the change will all help to lower resistance, therefore, ensuring a higher likelihood of success.
Think of a change you’d like to make in your classroom, school, or district.
How dissatisfied are you with your current circumstance? Give yourself a score of 1-10, (1 meaning completely happy and 10 signifying total unhappiness).
How clear is your vision? Do you know what you’re working towards? (1 means you have no idea of what you want, and 10 means you have the clearest vision of where you want to be.
How well do you know what you need to do for your first steps in order to accomplish your goal? (1 signifying that you have no clue where to start and 10 meaning that you know exactly what to do for your first steps).
Now, multiply those numbers. Resistance= 100. Is your score greater than 100? The greater the difference between the product of your three numbers and the 100 that represents resistance, the greater you are likely to accomplish your goal.
I mean, how cool is that?!?!
This equation doesn’t just pertain to technology in the classroom, either. If technology in the classroom really excites you, though, you should check out a blog we just wrote about seven of the best free online resources for teachers.
In addition to their thought-provoking formulas, in person, the chemistry between these two is dynamic and undeniable. They are beginning to “take their show on the road”. If your school or educational organization needs a breath of fresh technology-infused air, at a professional development event or an education conference, I’d suggest reaching out to these ladies.
On Friday morning, we attended the keynote speaker, Eduardo Briceño’s talk on a shift in thinking he’d like to see happen in schools.
His homepage says, “ignite learning with the power of the growth mindset.” How powerful is that?!
He argued that there are two different zones in which people enter when doing a task, whether that be in school, work, or at home: the learning zone and the performance zone.
This idea rocked my world.
There are two different goals in these two different zones: in the learning zone, students focus on what they don’t know or haven’t learned. In the performance zone, they focus on showing what they have already learned.
Low-stakes situations are necessary for the learning zone to happen.
After describing the differences between these two zones, Briceño asked the few thousand educators in the audience whether they thought their schools were set up mostly in the learning or performance zones for their students. Overwhelmingly, teachers said their schools were asking their students to remain in the performance zone much more frequently than the learning zone.
This realization has huge implications for our students.
The most valuable learning happens in the learning zone. Students need to feel comfortable exploring, making mistakes, and trying to improve, rather than being bogged down by constantly trying to prove that they’ve acquired knowledge.
Another question he posed regarding evaluations stuck with me:
Think about your last observation. Did you design a lesson where you’re trying out a new type of teaching in order to get good feedback on how to grow, or did you design a lesson where you feel totally comfortable in order to demonstrate how good of a teacher you are?
My biggest takeaway from his talk is that in order to encourage our students to enter into the learning zone, try new things out and make mistakes, we need to model this for them in our own lives.
(Talk sponsored by Practical Parent Education)
When we first sat down with the conference schedule and looked through the list of speakers and topics, both Amy and I knew we wanted to attend Cynthia Garrison’s breakout session titled, “No! I Won’t Do It! Loving the Strong-Willed Child”.
As a family therapist and parenting coach, Garrison’s insights reached beyond the classroom and had everyone in the audience laughing and nodding their heads throughout her talk.
She started off with the biggest a blow to those of us raising strong-willed children: it’s genetic.
She also let us in on an interesting insight: the world is designed for those who are less extreme. Thus, teaching and parenting a strong-willed child has its challenges, but we must also recognize that living life in the world we do brings up a certain set of unique challenges for the strong-willed child.
25% of the population is classified as strong-willed.
In a class of thirty students, the unique challenges that those seven kids bring to the classroom environment can be overwhelming.
My biggest takeaway from her talk is that as both educators and parents, we are never going to change the strong-willed child. What we can (and should) change when dealing with these kids is our attitude and mindset.
We need to choose our battles in the classroom, and at home, wisely.
Here are some tips she gave on ways to interact with our strong-willed students:
- Reframe how we think about their strong-willed personalities (instead of thinking they’re stubborn and difficult, think about how much less likely this child is to fall into the trap of negative peer pressure)
- Look for positive behavior and reward with praise
- Avoid “Yes, but” statements
- Aim to give ten positive comments for every one negative comment
During her talk, Garrison referred to the Pygmalion Effect. If I was still in the classroom, I would make a little sign to place up in my room for a constant reminder. The Pygmalion Effect states that we get out of a child what we put into a child.
Love, nurture, and appreciate those students and children… even the strong-willed ones.
After the end of the conference, we definitely came back to Phoenix exhausted. The week full of Ed talk and learning was a bit overwhelming, but we are more excited than ever that our free online leadership course is up and running for teachers to use in their classrooms.
We know how hard this profession is, and how hard so many of our teachers work.
To those teachers who willingly sit on preverbal floors in crowded rooms to learn strategies that might help their students succeed, we can’t thank you enough. Keep fighting the good fight, teachers. Our students need you now more than ever.
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