Power of Immediate Feedback

The most important support that I can provide to my faculty is feedback. It is essential in all that we do in my building. It is something that I work to do more – provide faculty with quality, timely feedback on what I see in their classrooms.

Like many schools, out leadership team focuses on getting into many classrooms per week. Because time is something that is an issue in every school – we developed a system that we think meets everyone’s needs. We developed a Google Form, which you can see a demo of below. The form is customized to what we need for our teachers, students and school. We love Google Forms for two major reasons:

  1. The form is 100% customizable and can be adapted as our needs change
  2. The analytics and metrics that we receive are invaluable; we can walk classrooms and look at data in our admin meeting the same afternoon

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However, we had a major issue. While the administration was getting the data, the teachers were not getting the feedback. We were often having to do additional work by sending an email or typing feedback into our evaluation system to get it to the teacher. This process takes too long and required double the work.

Enter, autoCrat; an add-on that lives in Google Drive.

This add-on takes a feedback form template that we created and merges all of the data from the Google Form right into that document and emails it to us as soon as we click submit. We can then simply forward the email to the teacher of the classroom that we walked and done. Often, the teachers have a PDF document sitting in their inbox before I ever leave the classroom.

It is like magic. You can try it out below. Click the link and complete the Google Form, which is modeled off of the WT protocol that we use in my building. Once you submit, you will receive an email with the PDF feedback form instantly.

Link to Demo Walkthrough Protocol Form: http://bit.ly/demowtprotocol

I work with schools and districts to customize this process to meet their needs and train their administrators on the process. For more info check out: http://www.meechincg.com.

For DIYers, you can check out @principaldurham and his article that details the process here.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Stop the Cycle

So, as I begin this post, I am still not really sure how I want to craft this entry. However, it has been weighing heavy on me.

I have worked my entire career in schools that serve students of low socioeconomic status and high minority rates. In my more recent role over the past few years in administration, I have spent that time in Title I schools exclusively. I am also a product of a very diverse public education in similar settings.

Public education as a whole is broken. Education is not on the radar of any politician in this country. Let me clarify, I mean really on the radar of any politician in this country. Talking about it from time to time does not cut it. Saying you want improved test scores when you would not last five seconds in front of a classroom full of school-aged children is an empty message.

Public education within underserved communities is even further broken. I have been there. I have been a leader in a building where less than 50% of students graduate on time. Those schools exist. Every day, students, teachers, and administrators serve in these schoolhouses. For many, the process is simply cyclical. Others may from time to time be impacted by a great leader and have a chance to turn it around.

For most, however, the cyclical land of missed opportunity continues day after day. Because I believe that education can set you free – this bothers me.

How will these schools succeed?

I have heard over the past couple of weeks several politicians spout off about school choice. School choice is not how these schools will succeed. It is clear that anyone that would suggest that as an answer does not understand the logistics of schooling. For example, students from low performing school F choose to go to high performing school A. But, high performing school A is at capacity and does not have any remaining seats. So, where do you go from there? Terrible idea.

How about we spend time and money in low performing schools? I caught this tweet over the weekend…

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How do we make this happen? As a school leader, I try to hire with a purpose. I make it plain that I need educators that want to be at my school. It is not easy, but I need them to want to be there. Highly effective educators and leaders are leaving low performing schools. As @tgrierisd tweeted, “we must stop this cycle”.

If you know any great educators looking to serve in low performing schools please reach out and connect with me. If you have best practices or other strategies about hiring highly effective educators in low performing schools please share them here on this post – I look forward to reading them.

Thank you to all of those who serve in low performing schools and stay committed to those students, schools and communities.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Teachin’ Ain’t Easy

This thing we do. It ain’t easy.

I am unapologetic about making that statement too.

I believe that education is what sets you free with every fiber of my being. The effective educator pours every thing that have into their students every day they are in the schoolhouse. I know this, because I see it every day in the classrooms of my teachers.

“Those who can’t do, teach.” Remember that.

It is actually quite the opposite. I meet potential candidates every year that are going to light up the world by dropping knowledge on wave after wave of students in their classroom. Those candidates often think that the profession is so easy… “I have a passion for “X” subject,” they say. Then you ask about the craft and they know nothing of the sort. I often know how these conversations end.

#Fail

You know, I was recently at a meeting with a high level District official who made a statement that was profound. He stated, “there are no more career teachers.” I was like – huh? At first, I though my hearing had gone – then I was overcome by anger. I took offense to that comment… great offense. I am a career educator. I am married to a career educator. Many members of my family, many of my friends are all career educators.

But, I thought, is he right?

Look, teaching’ ain’t easy. But, the answer is no. There are so many amazing career educators out there. My Twitter feed if full of passionate educators that live and breathe this craft that we call teaching. We, the career educators, constantly work at the art and the science of educating the masses. Many of us have devoted our lives to this. Many step into classrooms filled with students that are off grade level, have social/emotional issues, come from broken homes, and on and on and on.

These students need us. They need career educators. They need us to be there so they can go on to graduate and set themselves free of the chains that bound them. Education, and more importantly the career educator, has set them free.

We need career educators. I encourage you to talk to young people, talk to those students in your classrooms each day, talk to those potential career educators. We are the disciples for this profession and we need to encourage those that can do – to teach.

Reach out today and have that conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic… be sure to include me in on the conversation on Twitter @mikemeechin, #careereducator.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Guest Post: Unschooling

Jerry Obney is a high school Science teacher and a former colleague of mine. He does tremendous work in the classroom and connects with his students in ways that so align with my vision for teaching and learning. If you like his piece, please check Jerry out at his blog, or on the Twitter @jerryobney.


I fear the industrialized model of school has drained the creativity and innovation from our children.  When our children are young they have creativity, innate curiosity and the desire to learn.  It is not my belief that these qualities disappear throughout life but they become muted, softened and concealed by years of schooling.  The common practice of a reading passage, distribution of worksheets and a find and copy technique gets passed on from day to day in the doldrums of the classroom.  I see science teachers distributing a step by step procedure to a lab, while history teachers stand in front of a whiteboard passing off information of events that students have difficulty relating to.  I have spent a good portion of my career unschooling myself and I spend a good portion of my school year unschooling my students, getting past the idea of concrete timelines, letter grades and step by step directions.  It takes growing pains and frustration on the part of the students and the teacher.  “What do I do?”  “Where are the instructions?”  “Where do I find the answer?”  “Can I Google it?”  As a teacher of students I seek to tap into the childhood curiosity that exists in every student.  As William Butler Yeats once said, “education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

How do we light a fire?

Make the lesson relevant, create a community atmosphere that is safe and respectful, allow for self-discovery to take place, reinforce the discoveries with feedback, and allow the students to provide you with feedback. This type of lesson requires the instructor to do some unschooling of their own.  This idea inevitably leads to questions like, “how do I assess progress?”  “How do I assign a grade?”  “What if a student refuses to participate?”  When I hear these questions in my mind I try to stop myself and evaluate the core of my own questioning.  Am I falling into the industrialized trap?  Do I fear what my colleagues or administration may think if I do things differently?  If I believe in preparing students for real problems and real problem solving skills then why am I wavering when faced with these questions?  I felt discomfort at first, just as the students did, but these moments of discomfort lead to the most authentic types of growth.

What does the research say?

While the research does not specifically identify inquiry and problem-based learning as the most effective, it does suggest that it is a strategy that helps to close the achievement gap.   Nothing can produce better results than a positive relationship with students that takes care of Maslow’s Hierarchy, fosters a feeling of community and taps into the student’s natural curiosity.  According to John Hattie’s research there are two pieces that are imperative to make this style most effective.  Providing timely feedback and building positive relationships with each student will provide more positive learning outcomes.  The feedback piece for this style is very flexible and can be approached in a number of ways.  While students are working in their groups I spend every moment sitting with, discussing and listening to students as they exchange ideas and brainstorm ways to solve the problem.  The second piece, building positive relationships will build as you have these interactions in class, but must be backed with an authentic love for each of the students that are in your classroom.  Without love as the backdrop, the classroom cannot function to its fullest potential.

#FETC 2015 Session Video Available

In January 2015 I had the pleasure of speaking and attending FETC 2015 in Orlando, Florida. The nice people at FETC were even so thoughtful to record my session, 60 Instructional Strategies in 60 Minutes. This is one of my favorite sessions to present; it is fast-paced and changes every time I give it.

You can check it out here: bit.ly/meechinfetc2015

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Enjoy!

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under services.