About laurynnevans

Please see "Who is Laurynn Evans" at www.laurynnevans.com for information about me.

Summer Reading – Four Favorites!

It will soon be time for the students and faculty to head off on their respective summer vacations. And while most school leaders continue working through the summer, the focus changes and the pace tends to let up a bit. And then there are those few precious weeks of summer vacation where even school leaders are able to rest and renew. For me, those vacation periods are times of reflection, learning, and growth… just having some physical distance and time away from the day-to-day work often leads to reflection and new ideas. As such, I love spending this time doing some reading, and so I thought I’d share four good reads for you to consider perusing this summer.


Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith

Tony Wagner has become somewhat of a fixture in the field of educational theory, having published numerous books about education. This time around, he partners with Ted Dintersmith, a venture capitalist who has deep experience in the tech sector to author a book that challenges the traditional paradigm of “success” for America’s school children. Rather than relying upon traditional measures like GPA and test scores, they contend that exposure to hands-on, project-based learning that develops essential skills is what will truly set our students apart. Some would say that Wagner and Dintersmith go too far in their call for a complete turning over of the educational system, and others would say that they are just toe-dipping into the pool “what might be” if we had the courage to engage in wholesale change. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you will find a great deal of “food for thought” for educators and a lot of ideas that could significantly improve the way in which we take on teaching and learning.

Some reviews of Most Likely to Succeed can be found HERE and HERE. There is also a documentary film by the same name that is an interesting examination of some alternative approaches to learning happening in schools today.


The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis

To sum it up: I absolutely loved this book. The story vignettes combined with the sincerely lovely sentiments of some of the featured people created a narrative that was inspirational, interesting, and thought-provoking. Many educators are making the transition from implicit to explicit instruction of a “fail-forward” mindset with their students, and this book provides some real-world experiences that demonstrate the value of faith, perseverance, individualism, and learner’s mindset. Lewis explores the myriad traits that led different personalities down their individualized path of success (and success is defined very differently from person to person, which to me only enhances the worth of the tales told). This book is beautifully written, is multi-dimensional, and has many take-aways for all educators. Failure is indeed a gift – and Lewis reminds us of this important lesson as we contemplate our own definition of what it means to be successful.

Some reviews for The Rise can be found HERE and HERE.


Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future by David Price

The rapidly changing world around us cannot help but impact the way in which we communicate, work, and function in our daily lives. This is especially true in the field of education, where new online platforms and services are dictating a new approach to teaching and learning at all levels. Rather than seeing the incessant changes around us as a disruptive force, Price contends that these forces can radically level the playing field for teachers and learners alike and open the door to new opportunities. From the genesis of MOOCs to gaining greater accessibility to individualized, personalized learning experiences, these early trends will play an ever greater role in education moving forward. This engaging and thought-provoking book is a must-read for any 21st century teacher!

Some reviews of Open can be found HERE, HERE and HERE.


Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

As educational leaders, feedback comes at us from 360 degrees on a daily basis. How we perceive, interpret, and react to that feedback is enormously important to our ability to relate with others in our community and “do the work” that needs doing. How we deliver feedback to others is equally important. This book encourages everyone to take a few steps back from interactions, reflect on intent versus impact, and re-think how we approach the giving and receiving of feedback. Stone and Heen discuss what can cause feedback go sideways, how we can address feedback that we feel is off base, how we can engage with challenging personalities in feedback loops, and how we can improve feedback systems both in formal and in informal systems. If you either give or receive feedback, this book is full of gems to help you process the feedback you receive as well as shape the feedback you give. Stone and Heen are the authors of Difficult Conversations, which is another worthwhile read.

Some reviews for Thanks for the Feedback can be found HERE and HERE.

Happy summer, and happy reading!

Effective Partnerships Between Schools and Universities

Like many independent schools, Parker has a committed faculty who are content savvy and who love working with students. Like many independent schools, Parker does not require that faculty hold a valid state-issued teaching credential. I heard from several faculty that they wanted to build up their pedagogical tool kit but not have a “one and done” or piecemeal approach to that work. I began thinking about how we might meet needs of those who wanted to either obtain similar learning as would be obtained in a credentialing program, as well as meeting needs of folks who already had a credential but who wished to hear the latest and greatest research-backed pedagogical information. I had heard a bit about “micro-credentialing” or “micro-certificate” programs that had met with good success. As such, the natural solution as I saw it was to find a way to provide a credential program of some manner that would both provide the pedagogical took-kit information as well as validate the time spent on the work by participants (via the demarkation of a certificate completion on a transcript). To do this, it would be important to partner with an accredited university program.

Our Middle School Head had a relationship with USD, and he helped me make introductions with the right folks. I then spent considerable time forging a partnership between Francis Parker and the University of San Diego last year, including developing the program from the ground up in tandem with their team. The net result was the creation of the “Independent School Educator Certificate Program” – an eight module, one-year program that mirrors the pedagogical training encapsulated in most required credential programs for teachers who obtain their state licensure. Our first cohort will be finishing the program in mid-May, and it has received rave reviews from the 15 faculty who are participating. We already have people inquiring about next year’s program, as well as taking the opening steps towards crafting a summer intensive version of the program that will be open to independent school educators from around the nation.

HERE is a nice write up about our efforts from a well known speaker and writer in the field of independent education. Enjoy!

We are moving forward with putting together another program for next year, and already have several interested faculty for that cohort group. We have also heard from other schools that doing something like this on an accelerated summer time frame would be very helpful and popular. As such, we are currently formulating how we could put a similar program together for the summer of 2017. It would be hosted here at Parker with participants staying at USD. Stay tuned!

Instructional Strategy: Learning Targets

What is a learning target? A learning target describes exactly what the students are going to learn and achieve in today’s lesson. Since achievement means that you are looking for evidence of “something,” a learning target explains to the students what that “something” is for today’s class. At a minimum, learning targets help orient both students and teacher to the desired learning outcomes for the lesson. At their best, learning targets help create a formative assessment cycle in the classroom where students self-regulate their learning by checking their progress against the stated target(s).

Why learning targets? Learning targets help both students and teacher organize their learning each and every day, thereby providing intentional framing of the day’s learning. As mentioned above, learning targets also set up a feedback loop between the student and teacher. By clearly stating where the students are going, the teacher sets up the opportunity for students to check in on their understanding and have clarity on whether or not they “got it” that day. Targets also help students understand the why behind the day’s learning activities. In short, a learning target “puts a formative learning cycle in motion, gives it direction, and keeps it moving (Moss & Brookhart, 2015)”.  

What makes a good learning target? First, you want to ensure that your learning targets are achievable, measurable, and reasonable. Will students be able to demonstrate evidence of attaining the target? Is your desired outcome, the target, do-able in the given time for the class that day? Second, you will want to put the learning target in language that your students can understand – this is best done by putting yourself in their shoes and thinking about these questions from the student’s perspective:

  • What will I be able to do at the end of today’s lesson?
  • What do I have to learn to be able to do it?
  • How will I be asked to show that I can do it?
  • How well will I be expected to do it?

Finally, you would then put the responses to the above questions into “I can” or “I will” statements in developmentally appropriate language for your level of learners. This forms the basis of robust learning targets for your class.

The biggest mistake many teachers make when writing learning targets is that they confuse targets with the day’s agenda. An agenda outlines learning activities taking place in the room that day. Learning targets, on the other hand, delineate the specific outcomes that will happen as a result of following the agenda.

How might you put learning targets to use? Unless students understand the target and use it during the lesson to focus their own work, it is not an effective learning target. Crafting the targets and posting them is, of course, a critical first step. Still more important is referencing the learning target(s) during the lesson. This can be done in several ways:

  • You can ask students to measure their learning against the learning targets on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Check in with students as the lesson unfolds using the learning target to frame your check-in. “Do you feel that you can _______”, “What is the hardest (or easiest) part of ________?”
  • Simply share the target verbally with students at the opening of class, and verbally review the target at the close of class.
  • Have students explain their perception of the target to a peer at the start and end of class to compare/contrast understanding.
  • At the close of class,ask for different students to share their learning related to the target.
  • Have students maintain a “learning target journal” that captures their perceptions of where they are with the desired learning outcomes described in the targets each day.
  • An extension would be to have students connect the targets from today’s lesson to what they learned in previous lessons or to have students predict where their learning is headed based off of what they learned today.

If you have a successful instructional strategy that you would like to share with your colleagues, we’d love to include it here. Please contact Laurynn and we will feature you and your strategy in an upcoming column. In the meantime, if you have questions about learning targets or you would like to strategize on how to implement them in your classroom, just ask!  



Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to

achievement. London: Routledge

Leahy, S. & William, D. 2009. Embedding assessment for learning – A professional

development pack. London, UK: Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

Marzano, R. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: research-based strategies for

increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Moss, C. & Brookhart, S. 2015. Formative classroom walkthroughs. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Yeh, S. 2006. Raising student achievement through rapid assessment and test reform.

Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

Ongoing Support for New Faculty and Staff

—-This is Part Three of a three-part overview regarding the on boarding of new faculty and staff. —-

Having a comprehensive faculty on-boarding program is a serious consideration for all schools, be they public, independent, charter, private, parochial, and especially international schools. Bringing new hires into the fold, so to speak, presents a unique opportunity to express what the organization holds up as most important, it allows the school to share its values, and it also begins weaving the fabric of community among the new hires – both among themselves as well as with already established employees. It seems so easy, and yet, doing this well actually takes a lot more planning, coordination and effort than many realize. And the larger the school, the more complex the process can become.

So, you might ask… what are the key components of an effective on-boarding program? I would contend that a good program would include three phases: 1. Lead Up, 2. New Employee Seminar, 3. Ongoing Support.

Today we’ll talk about Ongoing Support and the key parts to successfully supporting new hires during the arc of their first year. 

I remember hearing a friend tell me a story about how their mom taught them to walk. Their mom would put clothespins in their hands, and then, rather than holding the child’s hands directly, they held the clothespins. As time went by, my friend’s mom began taking one hand off of a clothespin, and then the other… and soon enough, my friend was walking on their own holding the clothespins. Eventually they dropped the clothespins altogether.

Ongoing support looks a lot like this clothespin analogy… especially for teachers new to the profession. When they first arrive, they need a great deal of support. As time moves on, that level of needed support begins to lesson gradually as the year moves on and they learn the routines and processes of a school and an academic year. Ongoing support can take a lot of different forms. Successful approaches I have seen have three components: “just in time” learning, informal check ins, socialization, and mentor relationships.

“Just in time” learning – setting up a once monthly meeting for new hires that tackles a “just in time” topic can be helpful and also leads to esprit de corps among the new hires. In September, the focus might be parent night. In November, it might be first reporting period procedures for grades. Whatever the topics, having them be relevant to an event that is just around the corner sets up new teachers to be more successful and also provides a good rationale for having the session. Closing each session with 10-15 minutes for the group to share highs and lows, ask questions, or seek clarifications is also a great idea. This can be done in full group or sub-groups, but it is important that new hires feel understood and heard. Having that “report out” at the end is very helpful. It may also give you valuable insight on things to improve in your on boarding process.

Informal check-ins – the principal and/or department chair (or whoever the formal and informal leaders might be) should make time to drop in and informally chat with new hires every so often. At the start of the year, doing this every other week might be most appropriate, tapering to once a month by mid-year, and then less frequently near the close of the year. Ensuring that the new hire knows that they can come by with questions at any time helps the check-ins become more of a two-way street.

Socialization – providing time for the new cohort of faculty to socialize is also helpful. In prior schools we partnered this with “just in time” learning meetings. We would handle our business, share out, and then move off-site for a social activity. Again, this just fosters stronger connective tissue between faculty who are new to the school.

Mentor relationships – having an assigned mentor for all new hires helps them in so many valuable ways! The mentor can help them with non-academic issues or questions, as well as helping the new hire find a social group within the school community. At my current school, department chairs are the “go to” for administrative procedures and curricular support. But we also assign an informal mentor to each new hire that is not a member of the hire’s department. This mentor’s sole focus is to help the new hire acclimate socially and environmentally to the school. Often we have the mentors attend our socialization activities that we hold along the way, and we also ask mentors to ensure new hires are introduced around the faculty at school-wide events too.

The ongoing support portion of new hiring is often overlooked once the chaos of the academic year kicks in. Ongoing support does not need to be enormous and overwhelming, but it does need to be thoughtfully incorporated into the ebb and flow of the school year. This kind of ongoing follow-through helps new hires feel supported in all facets of their new position, and research shows that it will lead to greater retention. I encourage all administrators to ensure they provide ongoing support to new hires!

There are many moving parts to the hiring and on-boarding process, and it can often feel overwhelming. Devoting some time and thought to ensuring it goes off smoothly will be well worth the investment.

The New Faculty and Staff Seminar

—-This is Part Two of a three-part overview regarding the on boarding of new faculty and staff. —-

Having a comprehensive faculty on-boarding program is a serious consideration for all schools, be they public, independent, charter, private, parochial, and especially international schools. Bringing new hires into the fold, so to speak, presents a unique opportunity to express what the organization holds up as most important, it allows the school to share its values, and it also begins weaving the fabric of community among the new hires – both among themselves as well as with already established employees. It seems so easy, and yet, doing this well actually takes a lot more planning, coordination and effort than many realize. And the larger the school, the more complex the process can become.

So, you might ask… what are the key components of an effective on-boarding program? I would contend that a good program would include three phases: 1. Lead Up, 2. New Employee Seminar, 3. Ongoing Support.

Today we’ll talk about the New Employee Seminar and the key parts to include.

Hopefully as you round the bend to the start of a new academic year, you’ve taken the time to carefully enact the various elements of the “Lead Up Phase” as discussed in the prior post. I have found that setting aside a few days prior to the return of all faculty and staff for a “New Employee Seminar” is enormously helpful in the on boarding process. I have seen these seminars last one day and I have seen them take an entire week. It’s really up to the particular school institution to determine the needs and length of time it takes to meet those needs. but there are three general areas to consider:

What are the basic logistics for having a Seminar? There are some primary considerations when setting up a Seminar that are important to handle – logistics is where events usually go wrong.

  • Half-Days. I would suggest that you consider using half-days, with the mornings being devoted to sharing important information and the afternoons being open for employees to work on their own in their new space(s) or handle personal business. This also lets you begin the day with introductions and breakfast, and end the day with lunch together (if your budget for time and food allow).
  • Locations. Make use of this time to move new hires throughout the campus or building, so that they gain familiarity with where things are located. Locations can even open doors to easy conversations about processes in the schools (libraries, tech centers, etc). Ensure that there is ample room for people to be comfortable for the duration of that session, and that there is easy and close restroom access.
  • Food Makes Friends. There is little doubt that providing food helps set a stage for discussion, chit-chat, and sharing among people. I strongly recommend having meals provided during these Seminar days. It doesn’t have to be extra fancy, but creativity can be fun (Food truck anyone? They are cheap and delicious!) or even just having a theme each day can be a great way to anchor informal conversations among the group. Providing meals expresses a level of care to new hires that is rarely matched by any other provisions during the week.
  • Set up Considerations. Be sure you have all locations secured, and that they are clean, ready for learning, and have the appropriate number of chairs and tables. Name tags are hugely helpful as well – be sure you have everyone’s name pre printed for that extra touch of care. Do you need to check that the AC will be on? Lighting? Tech projection? Myriad details handled in advance mean that the day-of will run smoothly.
  • Compensation. Different schools and states and countries have varying requirements for compensation for time. In some cases, it can be voluntary and unpaid, and in others payment might be required. Be sure you know what the drill will be for your Seminar and communicate that with your new people so that they are aware and don’t have to be put in the position of asking awkward questions.
  • Introductions. How will you introduce new folks to one another? To the larger school community?  Having a way to address these questions upfront is helpful. Letting new folks know how they will be introduced also helps them prepare to put their best foot forward.

What do they need to know? As a leadership team, you need to identify the “must know” information from the “nice to know” information, and then figure out what you have time to thoughtfully address. Remember that it is better to provide fewer things well than try to hit your new hires with an avalanche of details.

  • Philosophy of the School. Starting off with a brief overview of the philosophy of the school, how colleagues work together, how the school views the teacher/student relationship, and even a sharing of the history (both recent and ancient) of the institution helps ground new employees in the shared culture and understanding so that when all returning faculty return, all start on a shared foundation of philosophy, purpose, and vision.
  • Technology platforms, devices, procedures. Even though we are elbow deep in the Digital Age, it is not a safe assumption that everyone knows everything about technology. Schools can vary wildly on platforms, devices, and procedures. Setting aside time to walk folks through the basics, and then explain where and how they can receive more detailed support, is essential. At a minimum, people need to get connected to their email, use the LMS (learning management system), attendance modules both for kids and employees, and where collaborative work among colleagues “lives” on the school network.
  • Legal requirements and obligations. Mandatory reporting requirements, how to identify legal guardians, health and safety requirements… we all have them – and before the year starts it is important for new people to be well versed on these things too. If any new hire will be engaging with a high-need student, providing time and support will be critical.
  • Survival 101. How to use the copier, where mailboxes are located, how to take attendance… there are myriad details that might need covering. A great way to do this is to have a solid employee handbook that is well indexed and with a glossary of school-specific lingo. This way you do not have to carve out chunks of time to pepper people with a million details, but they have access to the important information when they need it. One thing that is nice to do is to provide a tour of the campus and make introductions to the essential support staff with whom new folks would be interacting.

How can we make them feel like a part of our team? Finding ways to forge personal connections and begin weaving the fabric of community are important, and they add great value to a New Employee Seminar.

  • Mentors. Many schools already have some type of distributed leadership model that provides a guide for new employees. I frequently make use of department chairs or other established leaders to help with supporting new hires. However, finding and identifying a mentor that is not necessarily in the same department or division as the new hire, but who might be the same age, or have similar interests, or enjoy the same activities is a great way to help forge connections in a new school. It also helps provide a support person that is not part of the evaluative network or process.
  • Building in fun. Why not take a couple of hours and play some mini-golf together? Or engage in some other off-site, inexpensive, but fun activity? The sillier, the better. Activities that are fun yet structured provide another avenue for connection. Having mentors attend these events makes them even better.
  • Social time. Having some social time built into the week is helpful in terms of building rapport and helping new hires find friends in the group. We often will start the mornings with thirty minutes over coffee and treats with informal conversation, with school leadership taking different tables to mingle among our new hires. We have also used more formalized ice-breaker activities during lunch or during break times. All of these things help open doors to connections and friendships!
  • Reminders of where to find help. Providing new hires with phone numbers, email extensions, and locations of support and support personnel is important. If possible, thinking through a “first line, second line, and third line” of support for typical new hire questions or concerns is helpful – then you can provide options for people to find the help they need.
  • Offers of support. Something that makes folks feel welcomed and also like they really can seek help from others is overtly and repeatedly making the offer to help, and then backing that offer up by checking in with people during the Seminar sessions. When all school leaders make these offers, it is a big win for new hires.
  • Feedback. I’ve found that it is always a great idea to have a short post-experience survey to gather information from folks about sessions. So that you get valuable feedback, it is advisable to wait until at least 2 weeks after school starts up, so that your new hires have some experience under their belt and better evaluate what might have been overlooked or what could have been dropped. This is part of any good continual improvement process!

As mentioned at the start of this post, each school has to figure out what works best for them. However, the above suggestions can provide a nice framework that would provide a robust, welcoming, yet not overwhelming New Employee Seminar. Just last week we engaged in our 3-day (half days only!) New Faculty and Staff Institute, and by all accounts it met with success. Taking this time prior to the often hectic start of school sets the right tone for your new people, it welcomes them to your community, and it begins weaving the social/moral fabric of the adults in the school. It is well worth the investment! If you would like to see specific example agendas from prior seminars I have put together, I’m happy to share. Please reference my email address on the “About Me” page.

Next blog post: Ongoing Support for New Faculty and Staff. Stay tuned!

Onboarding New Faculty and Staff

I’ve noticed a theme in my leadership career. Ok, actually, I’ve noticed a few themes. However, one of those themes is really coming to light as we round the bend to the start of a new school year. What is that theme? I have either created or completely re-envisioned (from the ground up) the way the school on-boarded its new faculty and staff.

Having a comprehensive faculty on-boarding program is a serious consideration for all schools, be they public, independent, charter, private, parochial, and especially international schools. Bringing new hires into the fold, so to speak, presents a unique opportunity to express what the organization holds up as most important, it allows the school to share its values, and it also begins weaving the fabric of community among the new hires – both among themselves as well as with already established employees. It seems so easy, and yet, doing this well actually takes a lot more planning, coordination and effort than many realize. And the larger the school, the more complex the process can become.

So, you might ask… what are the key components of an effective on-boarding program? I would contend that a good program would include three phases: 1. Lead Up, 2. New Employee Seminar, 3. Ongoing Support.

Today we’ll talk about the Lead up phase and the key parts to include.

This phase would include: 

Pre-Planning: Before the hiring season even begins, the leadership of the school needs to come together to ensure they are on the same page about important information, the answers to key questions, vision/mission, and also to set up the dates for the New Employee Seminar (and ongoing support sessions). There also needs to be a clear “hiring path and process” so that new hires have a smooth experience from initial contact to signing the contract, and then through their on-boarding. While this may seem like an obvious point, you would be surprised at how many schools just don’t do this… which then leads to mixed messages to new hires, uncertainty, lack of clarity, and in the worst case, it can sour a new hire’s perspective about the school before they even start.

Communication: Immediately on acceptance of contract from the new hire the principal or division head welcomes them verbally if possible and definitely by email. That first email shares information about the new teacher and staff institute (on-boarding week), how to reach the direct supervisor, and if the person is relocating, an offer to assist connecting them with resources in the local area. It also should include a way for that person to ask any and all questions they might have and a contact person they can reach out to with those questions.

Personalized, Individual Contact with HR: A phone, Skype or in-person session with the HR Director to review the myriad documents, insurance forms, and other assorted required docs is essential. This can include technology agreements, process for fingerprinting or clearing other back ground checks, vehicle registration, etc. Ensuring folks know who to contact for questions and what steps need to be completed when helps immeasurably.

Email Connection: Some institutions prefer to not “turn on” employee email until their start date, and in some cases, email connection can’t happen for legal or contractual reasons. Fair enough. But I would contend that once the technology use agreement is turned in by the new hire, there is no reason to connect them to their enterprise email. This serves several purposes – one, it lets them “listen in” to the various groups, divisions, and teams to which they would be assigned, so that they get a bit of a leg up on what is being planned for the new year (as we all know, many teachers take those final few weeks to get the new year’s planning started). Second, it makes it easier for the school to reach the new teacher and gives an official line of connectivity that helps with summer questions. Finally, it allows the individual to tell their departing school (and the numerous friends they may be leaving there) how to reach them when they move on. It is just a great way to score a big “W” with new hires.

Identifying a Mentor and/or Support Person (People): Introducing the new hire to a non-evaluative support person can be a big plus for new hires. Some schools use existing leadership structures to fulfill mentor roles, such as tapping department or team leaders. Other schools identify mentors who might be similar in terms of outside interests or hobbies so there is a connection point in addition to the formal structures in the school. Either way, identifying this person to the new hire well in advance gives them someone to reach out to, and also provides an additional channel of support.

Sharing Summer Updates: Most schools have some manner of end-of-year communication to faculty and/or parents, as well as summer update information that goes out to faculty and/or parents. Having folks looped in on this, whether through their new school email or their personal email, gives the new hires an idea of what plans are on the horizon as well as perspective on focus areas, the first week of school, and allows them to see what parents are seeing about the year ahead. Part of the summer updating would include sharing the teaching schedule with the new faculty member so that they’re able to get their head around the work day’s flow ahead of time.

The above ideas work well for local schools, independent schools, and charter schools. For international schools, I would also recommend that there is a personal “general session” Skype invitation from the direct supervisor to all new hires to just answer the big questions that any major relocation sets up, as well as establishing some kind of monthly newsletter that updates all new hires on things they need to think about as they plan their move, complete required paperwork, secure visas, and think about housing as they prepare for the relocation. International hiring happens so early in the prior year that there are several months where questions and worry can build to “boiling points” – by proactively providing information on a regular schedule, many of these concerns can be alleviated or even avoided.

Next blog post: The New Faculty and Staff Seminar! Stay tuned.

Formative Classroom Walkthroughs

One of the things that I am most looking forward to in the coming year is once again having a significant time to be in classrooms. This year, I will be partnering with our divisional leadership to engage in formative classroom walkthroughs as a part of our larger work around faculty growth and development.

We talk a great deal about formative and summative assessments with our student learning, but rarely have I heard this language used via the lens of faculty or adult learning in a school house. And yet, if we wish to have world-class faculty, we should be focusing on growing their teaching and leadership skills much the way we would focus on helping our students achieve their very best day in and day out in the classroom. Study after study demonstrates that formative feedback benefits students. It just makes sense that formative feedback would similarly benefit faculty.

Over the summer I had the opportunity to read more about the effective use of formative classroom walkthroughs, and essentially, the practice involves three lenses:

Micro view: Am I giving direct, evidence based feedback?

Snapshot view: What did the teacher learn from the feedback?

Long point of view: What changes happened as a result of applying the feedback?

We will be loosely basing our practice on the book Formative Classroom Walkthroughs by Moss and Brookhart, with a focus on applying the three views when observing faculty teaching or leading, and then using those views to shape solid formative feedback loops. We are going to strive to maintain a balance of feasibility (for both the division heads and the faculty members) as well as really focus on the growth and development of our faculty members. The three lenses described above will serve as the basis for feedback. Divisions will also continue their work on refining the faculty’s use of learning targets in the classroom. The book has a great deal more to the process, however, jumping in full-throttle right out of the gate felt a bit onerous to all involved – so we will think big, start small, and go slow with this process.

What do you believe are the integral components of effective growth and development of teachers? How would you approach that work?


As I scan my Twitter and Facebook feeds recently, a number of memes and “teacher humor” bemoaning the end of summer have come across my screen. Most of them share a strong sense of dread about the end of summer and the upcoming start of school. I’ll go ahead and possibly label myself as a quintessential dork, but I just can’t get behind those memes or the feelings of dread…

Don’t get me wrong, I had a fantastic summer. I was able to indulge my love of diving and traveled to some very fun locations, including Alaska, to dive and spend some time playing in the snow. I enjoy my time off of work the same as everyone else. The chance to unplug and spend time on my hobbies and visit with friends and families gives me a kind of special energy that fills my bucket.

But. I can’t help but get excited about the start of a new school year. I thoroughly enjoy the renewal and energy that comes through the door as faculty, staff and students return to campus. I like the planning and conversations as we think about, dream about, and increase our hopes for the new year. The slow steady increase of energy and momentum is tangible during the month of August. And then, in September, it is all systems go!

I’m elbow deep in big plans and dreams as we get ready to greet our new faculty in a couple of weeks, followed quickly by our faculty August inservice, and the first day of school in September. And I couldn’t be happier. It looks like it will be a very busy, very productive, and very fun year ahead, and I am excited to see what it holds. 🙂

The Promise of 3D Printing

During my daily perusal of articles, books, and interesting talks, I stumbled across this incredible presentation by Avi Reichental about 3D printing. His premise? 3D printing will not just catapult us into the future – it will actually provide us with deeper connection to our pasts. The case he makes is a solid one. The promise of 3D printing to afford all people access to customized products, be they custom printed joints for their knees, or sunglasses that fit them perfectly, or even perfect foods, is a radical game-changer.

3D printers are making high end production shoes, teeth, sunglasses, knee replacements, guitars, cakes, and even prosthetic devices that are custom-conformed to one’s body and even go so far as to allow paralyzed persons to once again walk. The revolution is real, and it is here.

It is becoming clear that 3D printing will become a part of our daily life the way the smartphone or the internet has. As such, as teachers and educators, those in schools have an obligation to foster maker-mindsets into their students, and expose students to the tools and processes involved in 3D printing.

How will 3D printing change YOUR life?