Monday, November 18, 2013

Working with Gen Y Teachers

A significant transformation is underway in American schools. As Baby Boomer teachers retire they're often replaced by members of Generation Y (born between 1977 and 1995). There is evidence that these teachers come from a far different set of experiences, experiences that motivate them differently than prior generations. Their expectations about the workplace vary as well.

Characteristics of Gen Y Employees

• Highly educated, value education and attribute their success to education;
• Very comfortable using technology and expect it to be available in the workplace;
• Tend to be creative, innovative and self-confident;
• Committed to making a difference and contributing to positive social change;
• Want to be connected, updated and included and involved in their work;
• Desire relationships with co-workers and supervisors;
• Looking for opportunities for growth, challenging work and assignments and flexibility in work schedules;
• Possess collaborative skills, are committed to team-building and are not afraid of accountability;

Members of Gen Y share several characteristics. They tend to be highly educated and concerned with the quality of education. As a result they value education and “attribute their success to their educational opportunities” (Wong & Wong, 2007). They are also very comfortable using technology and avoid disconnected or technologically inferior workplaces. “They were the first generation to grow up in a society saturated with electronic technology” (Rebore & Walmsley, 2010). They tend to be creative, innovative and very self-confident and enjoy working in small groups. Significantly, they are committed to making a difference and contributing to positive social change (Carter & Carter, 2001; Shaffer, 2008; Yuva, 2007). In a study conducted for the Educational Research Service, Marx (2006) found that Gen Y teachers are committed to addressing long-standing social issues including diversity and greater inclusiveness in the workplace.

These characteristics are different from previous generations of teachers, including many administrators who come from prior generations. It is important that school leaders acknowledge the powerful motivation for change, recognize their unique learning and working style and find ways to authentically engage and involve them in school leadership. I'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience as a member of Generation Y or working with a Generation Y employee.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time as a Resource: The School Schedule

It's the time of year when I begin to get calls from principals interested in revising their school's schedules. Lots of things drive interest in a new schedule---declining enrollment or resources, curricular changes, organizational shifts and school improvement plans. Regardless of the motivation it is critical to remember that time is a resource, albeit a finite one, and time can be used in ways that either inhibit or promote your school's instructional program.

Principals are always looking for ideal schedule. Hundreds, indeed thousands, of good schedules exist, but there is no single perfect schedule. Each schedule reflects the uniqueness of a school community, the philosophy of its teachers and administration and the priorities of its community.

So where do you begin? You start by clarifying your school's values and priorities. Virtually anything can be scheduled, but everything cannot be built into the same schedule. It's about choices. That's where priorities are so important. Take time to work with teachers and other stakeholders to clearly identify what you want to achieve with your schedule. Most importantly value collaboration. Participation in planning a schedule builds support and serves as a form of professional development. While planning make sure you have a balanced review of the options. Investigate all options and have a thorough discussion of advantages and disadvantages.

But no factor is more important than the vision that teachers and administrators hold for your school. Without a vision, and without clearly identified priorities, the schedule is nothing but a tool for organizing students and teachers. With a clear vision you can create a schedule that positively impacts students and their learning.

Here are four basic principles about scheduling.

  • Schedules reflect a school's values and priorities.
  • Most effective schedules are anchored in a shared vision.
  • A quality schedule emerges when teachers and administrators work together in its design.
  • With clear goals the schedule becomes a powerful tool to positively affect teaching and learning.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about your school's schedule and how you use it to improve the educational experience of your students.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Digital Badges Document Professional Learning

Badges are used by many organizations like the military or scouts to recognize accomplishments by their members. Physical badges are hundreds of years old but digital badges are a recent development. A new phenomenon, digital badges, is emerging as one way for educators to document their learning and qualifications. A digital badge is received after completing a learning module with established performance requirements. Upon completion individuals are awarded a "badge" that allows them to showcase their accomplishment. Proponents of badges identify four benefits.

  • Badges promote active, engaged learning because virtually all badge programs are collaborative.
  • Participating in a badges program allows you to connect with other professionals concerned with the same issues and interested in the same learning.
  • Badges are becoming another form of credentialing, of sharing the things you've learned.
  • Badges are a way to recognize people for the knowledge they have, the skills they've developed and the interests they hold.

Sites, such as Open Badges, are now available where you can aggregate your badges. This article from Purdue University describes their use of badges. Education Week recently showed how K-12 students might use badges to illustrate their skills. 2012 Digital Principal of the Year Eric Sheninger's website includes a page of the badges he's accumulated.

Digital badges are an emerging trend and an alternative to traditional professional development. I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts about "badges" and the use by educators.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Journaling - A Tool for Reflection

Ever since I became a principal I've kept a journal. I find it useful to take notes at meeting, to remind me of things I need to do and projects I need to finish. But most importantly I find that journaling is a way for me to quietly reflect about my life and my work. I'm often struck by the insights that emerge when I put pen to paper. Occasionally I'll share something that I've written but most of the time I value the privacy that the journal provides.

I recently came across some suggestions about journaling developed by Kathleen Coudle-King, a senior lecturer at the University of North Dakota and an active journaler for more than twenty years. These tips resonated with me and I hope you'll find them helpful.

  • Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can write in private.
  • Pick a certain amount of time and focus on you writing rather than worrying about wasting time.
  • Don't stick to words. Doodle, sketch or create a collage, if you prefer. Feel free to express yourself in various ways.
  • Pick a topic and focus on that. If you're having trouble thinking of something, pick a quote or something you worked on that day.
  • Don't force it. Not everyone needs to journal, and not every day. If you have other outlets for expressing yourself, use those instead of, or in addition, to journaling.
  • Use whatever tools make you comfortable. Use a journal that fits you and helps you reflect.

I've used an inexpensive composition book for my journaling. I've got a whole collection in a closet near by home office and surprise myself with how often I pick one up, read the entries, and recall the way my life has unfolded.