Impact of a Teacher – #112Leads

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

With this school year coming to a close on June 4, 2020 I was reflecting on the power of a teacher, and in February 2017 I shared a similar story about one of the most impactful educators in my life. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on Dr. McFarland and share his impact on me again as we prepare to bring the most unprecedented school year to a close! Originally shared in February, 2017 I shared some thoughts about how a college professor from an undergraduate course on the American Presidency from many years ago impacted my life and my professional journey. A journey that currently has some powerful meaning/relevance with our district’s move to remote e-Learning. With this blog post, I’ll draw the connections!

As a former 6th and 8th grade social studies teacher (U.S. history, civics, law, world history, reading, etc.) I have a deep interest in our nation’s culture, history, values, beliefs, celebrations, etc. In addition, I hold a degree in political science, so I have been a “policy wonk” for many years, and to this day I follow the news, politics, etc.

While I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, UIC, I had some of the best teachers in my life. The late Dr. Twiley Barker Jr., Dr. Kevin Lyles, and Dr. Andrew McFarland, to name a few. During a course on the American Presidency, POLS 229, an event took place in my life that impacted my philosophies, beliefs, and actions as a teacher and educational leader over the past 30 years. In some ways it likely shaped my philosophies and impact as a teacher and as an educational leader so many years later. Right now there is a current challenging transition from the abrupt changes to remote e-Learning and how teachers have to “report progress” in this unusual time. Looking back at my personal educational history, I’m reminded of why meaningful feedback, teacher /student relationships, and the mastery of content and the flexibility of instruction supersedes any percentage grade or mark in terms of meaningful feedback and communication about learning.

With this blog post, I’m reflecting on the congruity of an impactful event in my life during an undergraduate course, and the realization that this impactful event has impacted my beliefs whether I consciously knew about it or not. This is an “aha” moment for me – this is partially why I so strongly believe the growing pains and transition are worth the time, effort, energy, and extra work involved in pupil progress reporting.

 


Change is hard (I’ve written a lot about the change process) – Unlearning is hard (I have also written about this concept).

My college professor Dr. Andrew McFarland gave me a chance in the “real world” -when I was in college. Because he knew me, he knew what kind of student I was – he knew my passion for political science he treated me like I was more than a percentage or a score. Dr. McFarland also taught so that students would learn. He had high standards for each and every student and he held himself to high standards too.

So what is this all about? What is this big event that caused me an “aha” moment? Dr. McFarland called me one night while I was eating dinner with my parents; it was 5:30pm – I don’t know how I remember this fact, but I do. This event took place in 1988 or 1989 and I still vividly remember our call!

He called me that night because earlier that day when I took the final exam, I inadvertently forgot to answer one or two additional questions. If Dr. McFarland graded or assessed based on the “old” system I would have received an F. Dr. McFarland, though, was using standards based learning and instruction (whether he or I knew it or not). He called me on the phone and asked me to respond to the final exam question prompts – for 30 maybe 60 minutes. Because he cared about learning – not about percentages or “harsh” lessons, I was able to demonstrate mastery and competency of the American Presidency course (in which I did earn an A, not only because of what I learned, but more importantly, because my professor cared about discovering what his students knew).

He assessed my knowledge acquisition in an alternative learning setting because my teacher was more concerned about assessing my learning and mastery than he was about issuing a grade or a percentage. Had this caring professor used traditional methods I would have failed the exam. In my opinion and in my experiences, standards based grading, reporting, learning, and assessment actually prepares people for real life by holding them accountable to learn. Thank you Dr. McFarland!

Our district will transition through this remote e-Learning to next year (whatever that may be … ideally safe, healthy, and in person). Through this transformational experience for our schooling and for our society, we have all shown how quickly we can unlearn when we must, we have shown how we can relearn schooling, and we will show that we can learn how to create a new reality as necessary.

Dr. McFarland unlearned old school and rigid grading and assessment practices and I consider him to be remarkable and gifted, he was a leader who impacted me and my practice. Let’s use modern instructional strategies to maximize the impact and effect of learning whether we’re in person or remote, or in a hybrid combination of both. Let’s help people unlearn practices that make no sense other than to have been used in their past school experiences.

Preparing students for the future world requires teaching them content that is meaningful in learning environments that are powerfully purposeful and full of clear, regular, meaningful feedback and opportunities to learn and demonstrate learning. As we bring the school year to a close, we are reminded of the impact and power of a teacher and his or her feedback. Thank you to all educators — and thank you again, Dr. McFarland!

Snapshots of Success in District 112 – #112Leads

“We rise by lifting others.”– Robert Ingersol 


I recently posted a podcast episode with the information contained in this blog post, if you’re interested, you can listen:

In North Shore School District 112, I’m proud to report that our present is bright and our future will be brighter! We use various metrics to measure and gauge our success. For reference, check an earlier blog post: Measurement of Success – Blog Post

In today’s blog post, I’m sharing two slide presentations and a few extra slides that highlight some recent and current success in the District. The first presentation below was shared with the District’s PTO President’s Council (PTO refers to the Parent Teacher Organization). This is the formal leadership group representing the parents in the District’s 10 schools. In this report, the results of the Family Engagement Survey reveal significant growth in the areas of the school (& District) satisfaction/pride / and perception of our services.

My report from the January 21, 2020, Board Meeting focused on the District’s “Big Three” areas of focus for the 2019-2020 school year, which are Closing Achievement Gaps, Facility Upgrades and Modernization, and Portrait of a Graduate. The report began with student success data from the winter Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Data shows students in 1st grade are showing the highest achievement out of all grades at 66% projected to meeting or exceeding state standards. I also highlighted additional strong growth in multiple grade levels over the past three years, particularly in mathematics. These trends point to the success of the Full Day Kindergarten program, multiple curricular implementations K-8, professional development, implementation of instructional coaches, and the hard work of our teaching staff and students. 

The report went on to cover the Northwood Modernization Project, which is on time and is within 1% of its budget. I mentioned multiple ways for the public to engage with the process including the Long Range Plan webpage, drone footage and a live feed of the construction site. It was also mentioned that in July of 2020 Phase 2 of the Long-Range Plan will commence with a Thought Exchange community engagement process that will be used to help form a recommendation that will be presented in April 2021.

The report concluded with information regarding several highlights including the Portrait of a Graduate, the 5Essentials Parent Survey, the Innovation Learning Parent Survey, and other ways to engage with the district. These communications tools include the Lighthouse 112 podcast, the district mobile application, e-newsletters, #112Leads, Facebook, and Twitter.

At the Board meeting I did not present the Reading MAP data for time/efficiency, but, in this blog post, I’m sharing the comparable Winter MAP Reading data below (see images).

All in all our District work is showing progress and upward trends!

Insights from Students in a Bio Tech Program- #AASA_DigitalConsortium Summer 2019 visit – Nashville, TN

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
– Nelson Mandela


Listen to a recent episode of my podcast featuring question and answers from Tennessee high school students in Wilson County, just outside of Nashville — they are part of a multi-year pilot of Bio Tech programming. Their insights are outstanding; they highlight the impact of their teacher (and all teachers in general) and they offer ideas and insights for promoting and enhancing science and innovative learning!

One of the professional groups to which I belong and have a leadership role is the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). The AASA offers leadership support to superintendents and school district leaders around the USA and in Canada. One of the leadership development cohorts in which I have participated and for which I serve as the national co-director is the Digital Consortium. The July 2019 visit was to the Nashville, TN area of Wilson County. There we toured a brand new middle school (state of the art), we met with the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, and we interacted with teachers and students. In this podcast, we’re meeting with high school seniors and we’re discussing their Bio-Tech coursework and pathways and the impact that this innovative programming has had on them and their futures.

The purpose of the AASA Digital Consortium is to support school district administrators as they scale successful models in support of engaging, effective learning experiences using digital media in order to be the leading national voice for digital innovation in our nation’s public schools.

Focus Areas:

Experience innovation in schools, technology, and industry partnerships Engage/observe best practice in digital leadership Reinforce purpose and outcomes for the Digital Consortium Advance AASA’s goal to reinforce equity for all students
Essential Questions:

How do your programs prepare students to be successful in their local and/or global economy? How can technology pair with the concept of personalized learning to change teaching and learning in our schools? How can opportunities to innovate for both children and adults strengthen the local economy?

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