Monday, June 29, 2015

ISTE Take 1: The Bigger Picture

So I have only been in Philadelphia for two days for the ISTE Annual Conference, and my mind is already bursting from what has been shared. There is much diversity in the kinds of sessions that are offered, the topics that are covered, the delivery or mode of presentation, etcetera. And in spite of the great diversity there are a number of common themes. Here are a few...

  1. Connected Education: Being a connected educator is a game changer. Being connected globally changes your frame of reference. Being connected exposes you to ideas, opportunities and innovative practice that you would not likely encounter otherwise.
  2. Relationships: The importance of the relationships we cultivate in our classrooms, schools, districts, and communities (online too) cannot be underestimated. Relationships are the underpinning of what we do.
  3. Reflection: Reflecting on what we do, and  why we do it is critical to our growth. Much the same as it is for our students.
  4. Question: Question everything. Challenge the status quo. Be brave. 
  5. Learn: Be open to learn. No one expects us to be experts in everything, and there is much we can learn from one another if only we remain open to it.
But, Christina I thought this was a tech conference, and you hardly talked about tech at all! That's true. The tools are awesome, they can allow for amazing things to happen, but they are just things. It's what we do with them, and why we do it that matters. That's why these 5 themes are so important!

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Where does your inspiration come from?

Occasionally people ask me why I do what I do. Or rather, given the present climate in public education, why I continue to do what I do? There are a number of reasons, and here are a sampling in no particular order:

  1. I have two children of my own. I want the best for them. That includes having access to amazing public schools and educators that will inspire them, challenge them and empower them. My two children strengthen my resolve, and determination for fighting for a system of education that honors, and respects the whole child. Our children need passionate, dedicated and innovative teachers in their classrooms. They may need us now, more than ever.
  2. I believe that I can make a difference. I believe that I can positively impact the lives of children and families.
  3. This is my vocation. Not just on the days when the days are easy and the load is light, but on those difficult and trying days as well.
  4. I'm inspired by my students. Their curiosity, their wonder, their creativity, their struggles and their triumphs.
  5. My PLN. Colleagues in my district, neighboring districts, across the country and around the world that challenge me and empower me daily.

So who, and what inspires you?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Instructional Leaders

So what makes an instructional leader...

Peter DeWitt recently created a Facebook group dedicated to Instructional Leadership. Within the group he posed the question, "what makes a leader an instructional leader?" I spent the drive into work today contemplating how instructional leadership compares and contrasts with other forms of leadership, and here are a some things that came to mind. The list is not exhaustive; indeed it probably just scratches the surface. Hopefully some of you will read it and then add to it.

Instructional Leaders...
  • While historically the administrator has been considered the instructional leader in a school, it has become clear that the role of instructional leadership is not solely theirs. There are many teacher leaders that take on the role of instructional leader in their buildings and in their districts. Regardless of title or position, the instructional leader affects positive change by putting the needs of the student at the center, and creates the conditions necessary for learning to thrive.
  • Understand the importance of building trusting relationships with students and colleagues. 
  • Spend time in classrooms. Observing, learning, reflecting, questioning, challenging, modeling and empowering.
  • They research instructional strategies and techniques, and mindfully plan for the implementation of those that seem most promising. They don't just jump on the latest fads. 
  • They encourage collaboration. To quote George Couros, "the smartest person in the room, is the room." Instructional leaders know that they, themselves do not have to be an expert in every instructional strategy, but they need to be able to tap into, develop and facilitate the expertise in others. 
  • They need to be connected, and encourage connectivity so that their faculty and colleagues can benefit from the wealth of expertise that exists as a collective.

How do you define instructional leadership? What might you add to this list? Look forward to others sharing their thinking on this! Please add your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!


Love my work!
The role of an educator is multidimensional.  It requires a deep understanding of pedagogy and a thorough content knowledge. An understanding of human development and what motivates learners is essential. It requires patience and humility. This work is not for the faint of heart. 

I think maybe it was the Peace Corps that had the tag line, "the toughest job you'll ever love." I never worked in the Peace Corps, but there are days that I believe that tag line perfectly defines teaching. The week that just passed was one of those weeks. It seemed like a hundred different things, and a number of students were vying for, and demanding my attention. No two ways about it, it was a tough week. I know that I handled some parts of it better than others. In spite of the difficulties, the frustrations, and the tears that came easily, I love my life's work. It isn't easy, but it is worthwhile.