So often in education and life, for that matter, the best laid plans might be the framework for something completely different. This year, I started a new school year, in a new school, with a brand new magnet program and a variety of new initiatives. My role as the Lead Innovation Teacher was also new so it is still being defined as I walk through it. I set out to be a coach for innovation, to be a teacher of innovation and a learner of innovation. The very synonyms for innovation include newness, creativity, upheaval, transformation and I think this school year has had many of those components.
As part of my coaching, I have had the good fortune of being part of the North Carolina Digital Leadership Coaching Network (NCDLCN), which started right at the beginning of the year and has extended all the way until a week after traditional calendar schools let out for the summer. I set targets at the beginning and worked to achieve these goals through many shifts in formats along the way. Along with these goals, I had professional development goals, professional learning team goals and school improvement initiatives. As often as possible, you like for these things to overlap and in some ways they have, but in others, they were ever-changing. Some of my goals definitely included modeling and coaching teachers in innovative structures and design thinking. I also had intended to survey teachers as progress was moving along, in order to establish a base of data on which to structure support and coaching opportunities. Finally, providing leveled and timely professional development was part of being able to do the other two items most effectively.
In the arena of visiting classrooms and working alongside teachers, this was easy as I not only worked with those teachers in Innovation Hours but also was part of 4th grade ELA and 3rd grade science. As the end of the school year drew closer, I also provided support to groups of students during math Impact time. As part of these sessions and Innovation Hour, I did provide modeling of innovative practices as well as working with students to create or manipulate digital productions, when it fit into the goals and objectives. Examples of this can be found in the 21st Century Learning Environment section of Outside the Box.
Finding methods and times to survey teachers was possible for some areas of innovation as the year progressed, but not with the regularity that I think it should have been performed. This piece is one that I think could be stronger in upcoming years, in order to facilitate supporting teachers in areas that they need, at the level of need to each one has and in a way that will support students. I think these surveys, combined with some snapshots of walk throughs could help in planning the next steps for a program in which innovation is the focus.
Finally, I did provide leveled professional development this year, though not as much at the school level as I would have liked. With the volume of initiatives that were occuring with the magnet program, county initiatives and being part of the Elementary Support Model program, there were many meetings and other PD offered that didn’t always involve my role but I was still able to be included in delivering PD in other arenas. I was involved at various sessions of our county level conferences, Convergence, in the Fall and Spring as well as serving as an instructor for Seesaw during a digital portfolio series for the county. As part of all of these sessions, I was always cognizant of offering a variety of scenarios for elementary, middle and high school interests as well as having levels of learning for the beginner, those with some knowledge of the concept as well as those that were more expert participants. Examples of this can be found in the Leadership Section of Outside the Box.
As I reflect on this past school year and think toward the future, I know there are areas that I want to continue to work, while also looking toward new goals. I know that the arena of digital learning is always changing, transforming itself, creating new ideas and sometimes upheaval from the norm, or in a word being INNOVATIVE! As part of this, I too need to continue to grow and learn, decide what fits in the learning environment of which I am part and take risks. I also know that the weakest piece of my targets is one that has to be part of this. In order to find the best tools and resources for teachers and students, I need to know the needs of the school, the teachers and the students and it has to be on-going. As the school year progresses, needs and interests change, often initiatives don’t start at the beginning of the year and stop at the end, but rather arise mid year or even at the end to be continued into the next year. This means evaluation and analyzing data should be continuous to truly coach, support and learn. This summer I will continue to learn, as part of attending EdCamps and as a participant at ISTE and my final sessions of NCDLCN. I will also be a coach and teacher as I teach sessions for the Department of Public Instruction in the DLCs for Educators by Educators this summer. I will keep reflecting and learning over the summer and hope to come back into the school and community as a better coach and ready to set new goals for the 2018-19 school year!!