An Instructional Model in Online Learning

Curriculum Quote for Inst Model Blog Post

To hear more about “An Instructional Model in Online Learning” listen to Episode 6, Season 1 of The Bulldog Educator Podcast.

Before COViD 19, before many schools even considered online curriculum or content as something to understand, before we are where we are now… I came to a place as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction in my current job for the State Virtual Program, where I realized my teachers needed a clear path or guide for how instruction was supposed to work in our online world.

In the Fall of 2019, I attended a collaboration conference for our state that included curriculum coordinators and educational leaders from districts all over our state. We were given the book “The Art and Science of Teaching” by Marzano. Over two days we drank from the proverbial fire hose.

I had already had some background in curriculum writing in my previous educational learning with previous positions. I understood the need for a cycle of feedback and evaluation. I knew the importance of a balanced role between curriculum, teacher, and student. What I needed was to get my head around how that played a role for my organization, my teachers, and the students we educated.

When I was at this collaboration conference I was exposed to the idea of proficiency scales (much like a “line of progression” I had learned and adopted in my practice in a previous instructional leadership role). I also learned about the “lesson line” presented by one of our department of education experts, Dr. Kiffany Pride, Director of Curriculum and Assessment. It was at that conference we were asked to create a working idea of an instructional model that we could continue to iterate with after we left and share with our schools.

I had attended this conference alone, without my team, but I immediately started reaching out. Asking “Do we have and instructional model?”

The Course Design and Development team responded, “We use the ADDIE Model.” Which then sent me on a quick google search of the ADDIE Model. I discovered the following: “The ADDIE model is the generic process traditionally used by instructional designers and training developers. The five phases—Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation—represent a dynamic, flexible guideline for building effective training and performance support tools.” (ADDIE Model. (2018, November 30). Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.instructionaldesign.org/models/addie/)

While the ADDIE model is an approach for online course design, it didn’t really address the process of instruction in an online synchronous/asynchronous approach that mirrored what our organization was doing, nor what it could be doing with a vision of growth for moving forward.

I continued to dig further with my team regarding our approach for instruction beyond the ADDIE model for course design. What was established was that we had exposed our teachers over the years to “a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.” However, there was no real clear instructional model.

At that point, I went in pursuit of an instructional model for online learning. After many google searches, a “phone a friend” to other online colleagues in my same role, I came up with nothing that was extremely clear, nor based on solid evidence-based research that was proven to be beneficial for educator effectiveness or have a positive impact on student learners.

From there I determined that an instructional model appropriate for our organization, the students we serve, and our teachers needed to be created. For this imperative task, I  pulled from many sources, “The New Art and Science of Teaching” by Marzano, “Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning” by Mike Schmoker, “Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros, “Collective Efficacy” by Jenni Donohoo, “Learning by Doing” by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, and Mattos, “Innovate Inside the Box” by Couros and Novak, “The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry” by Donahoo and Velasco, “Feedback: the Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning” by Jane E. Pollock, “Learning Targets” by Moss and Brookhart. In addition to these was the life long growth, knowledge, understanding, experiences, and professional learning I have accumulated over the years and added to my educator/learner toolbox. And, of course, the input and collaboration with my Curriculum and Instructional team and some of my key teacher leaders.

The result… our organization’s own Instructional Model. (click to go to the interactive Instructional Model)

This model pulls from the ADDIE model and puts a microscope on the implementation and evaluation part of the Course Design model. Surrounding the delivery of the instruction is the content and context. While in our organization the content is somewhat fixed (already designed for instructors to deliver). The context takes into account the individual learner, this is especially important in a year like this one where context takes into account trauma, environment, community, culture, events, and experiences that impact a learner and their ability to connect with curriculum, other learners, and the teacher.

Within the circle of content and context is the learning triangle. It is a balance of learning that occurs between the student, the teacher, and the curriculum and relies on a continuous cycle of feedback and instruction. Traditionally, it is thought that there is the curriculum, delivered by the teacher to the student. However, in an online environment where students have access to asynchronous content, it requires an expanded or evolved approach. Instead of learning being delivered by the teacher from the curriculum in a linear, one-direction approach it is in constant motion between the curriculum, teacher, and student. There are a series of influences at play in this learning triangle including backward design, unpacking the standards, collective efficacy through PLCs, student-friendly learning targets, and standards-based planning and assessment. This triangle also focuses on the Science of Reading, our states focus on skills for student success (G.U.I.D.E. for Life), proficiency scales, and goal setting. This specificity in the model serves as a guide for our instructors as they consider the best approach for the delivery of instruction with students.

Additionally, to further support effective instruction of online learning in our organization the lesson line is addressed. With the lesson line, teachers take the relationships built, along with multiple modalities of formative data they collect on each individual learner to determine what students need. While content may be fixed, instructional delivery of the content is not and that is where the lesson line comes into action. Based on the needs of each learner the teacher determines where a student’s needs are in regard to learning support on the lesson line. A teacher determines when direct instruction is needed on one side of the lesson line to the other end where the teacher is the facilitator of learning and the student is the main driver.

To overlay this entire process is the interaction that happens with the course and the feedback that goes back to the I and E of the ADDIE model, as well as the alignment pieces that are evaluated through the Quality Matters K-12 Rubric to ensure that there is a guaranteed viable curriculum.

This model was originally created to provide a clear guide for the teachers in our organization. Teacher clarity and teacher efficacy are some of the highest correlations with effect size regarding student achievement according to John Hattie, a basis for this design. Additionally, as Brene’ Brown states “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” It was my desire to be as clear and kind to my teachers as they do the most important work… educating and empowering students.

Now that many of our schools and teachers are walking into a variety of online learning approaches, I believe that this can be beneficial to those beyond our organization. I hope that in some way this provides a guide for other educators and administrators who find themselves thrust into the world of online learning.

Your organization/school may have other factors unique to your situation, but instead of having to re-invent the wheel, feel free to take this model and modify it to meet the instructional delivery needs of your students, teachers, and curriculum.

Your comments, feedback, and/or ideas are encouraged.

Sources used to create the Instructional Model:

Carr, Scott. “Putting the Pieces Together- Aligning Instruction, Assessments, and Student Support.” Solution Tree- PLC at Work. PLCs at Work: Series 3, 18 Nov. 2019, Plummerville, Arch Ford ESC.

DuFour, Richard, et al. Learning by Doing: a Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Third ed., Solution Tree Press, 2016.


Pride, Kiffany. “Teaching and Learning Fall Collaborative.” Teaching and Learning Fall Collaborative: Instructional Models and the Lesson Line. Fall 2019.

Schmoker, Michael J. Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning. Second ed., ASCD, 2018.

Space to PIVOT

pivot-friends-832x447As an administrator and educator, one word that has been stated over and over by me as changes have continually met us during this pandemic is “PIVOT.” As I watched the episode of “Friends” in early July, it hit me, that while they were trying to move the couch and were yelling “PIVOT” there was no space to do the needed pivoting. As we move through the start of school, as an administrator, I need to remember to give my teachers the space to PIVOT. I also need to give myself the space as well. In turn we give students that same space. I also hope that parents will give us the grace and space to “PIVOT” as well. No one has been in this place, and if we are going to move the “couch” of learning, we are going to need the space t “PIVOT!”

To listen more on this topic connect with “The Bulldog Educator Podcast” Episode 5, Season 1.

Exploring the World of Sketchnoting

To hear more about “Exploring the World of Sketchnoting,” check out Episode 4, Season 1 of The Educator Bulldog Podcast.

Sketchnoting is something I have seen. Anyone that has been on Twitter has seen the amazing sketchnotes of Sylvia Duckworth. I even went so far as to attend a conference with keynote Manuel Herrera, where he presented the research, importance, and benefits of sketchnoting. However, the whole idea of doing it myself was overwhelming. Even though I didn’t completely jump on to the idea, one quote stuck with me in his keynote speech that he shared was “Drawing is not art. Drawing is thinking. If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.”~Albert Einstein

Bisque and Black Text Traditional Nature Quote Instagram PostThat planted a seed. I also started following Manuel Herrera on Twitter and did some surfing through Twitter via the #sketchnoting but it sat in my thoughts and reflections for months.

In mid- February in my trolling of #sketchnoting I came upon the #doodleandchat. It takes place every Saturday at 9:33ish and is a one-hour doodle session live on YouTube with the author, of the book My Pencil Made Me Do It, Carrie Baughcum, and daughter Annabeth. I lurked via twitter and did not jump in as a participant until mid-April.

At that point, schools across the country were in emergency remote teaching, and for the betterment of all Carrie and Annabeth started offering a Wednesday session of #doodleandchat at 6:33ish.

Within that same window, I learned more about two-column notes (a more flexible version of Cornell notes) and graphic organizers as a literacy tool for comprehension. This particularly applied to tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary across content areas. All my synapses were firing!

I have since read Carrie’s book and have begun exploring my own understanding and comfort with sketchnoting.

Seven things I have come to learn about sketchnoting:

  1. Uses both sides of the brain–> verbal (left) visual (right)
  2. Releases creativity- choice in expression
  3. Helps organize knowledge (fill the page organically)
  4. Student Voice honored with customized expedient note-taking
  5. Improves learning/ cements and makes learning meaningful
  6. Helps to see the big picture
    • captures thinking
    • focuses on important ideas
  7. Applicable to many careers/life situations- fosters the executive function skills

Kevin Thorn says that sketchnoting is “A form of visual writing by expressing ideas, concepts, and important thoughts in a meaningful flow by listening, processing, and transferring what you hear by sketching either by analog or digital.”

It can happen as a directed activity or by personal choice. Sylvia Duckworth states that “Sketchnoting is purposeful doodling while listening, reading or watching something. It is also called visual note-taking.”

There seems to be no one way to do sketchnoting. Baughcum’s book provides some great guidelines and suggestions. Her YouTube channel offers some great supports as well.

I also enjoy joining in with her #doodleandchat live sessions to develop my “doodle” voice. It’s where I have discovered my two learning mascots Freddie the Frenchie and Henrietta the Hedgehog. I continue to look forward to adding other learning mascots.Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at 8.25.45 PM

I am just beginning this adventure. I look forward to learning and sharing with learners especially student learners. I am excited for how it provides a platform for expression and their individual voice.

I am still working on remembering that sketchnotes are not about art or perfection. Sketchnotes are about ideas. And for me, they are also a practice of self-care.

If you are wanting to learn more about sketchnoting follow on Twitter @carrie_baughcum, @mauelherrera33, @sylviaduckworth to start.

The sketchnoting community is very welcoming. The #doodlechat community in particular is the most welcoming, encouraging, and compassionate virtual community I have ever stumbled onto. And I am so glad I did… for my teachers, my students, and ME!

The Seriousness of Self-Care…Seriously!

In Episode 3, Season 1 of “The Bulldog Educator Podcast” I dove into my personal journey with self-care. I start off by sharing my misconceptions about self-care, which was mistakenly related to mani-pedis and girl’s weekends.

Click here to listen to Episode 3, Season 1 “The Seriousness of Self-Care… Seriously!”

I also share how when I was in my first year of teaching, health issues rooted in stress and illness forced me into habits of self-care. Even with that “wake-up call” for me personally with self-care, it continues to be a challenge.

Image taken from “The Observer’s Voice Blog

I share in the podcast the 5 strategic approaches I am personally using to employ self-care. I will share topically here, for more detail you can listen to my podcast.

5 Ways I Work to Implement Self-Care:

  1. Consistency
  2. Looking for the Joy in All Things
  3. Use of Permission Slips (for more on this, check out Brene’ Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness)
  4. Lean in and Get Curious
  5. Setting Goals with Grace (resources for this are books Take Time for You and 180 Days of Self-Care by Tina Boogren)

I also shared the struggle I still have with self-care. Self-care is not about living perfectly, but live “flawsomely,” as Tina Boogren states, and is responsible for coining the term “flawsome.”

It doesn’t escape me that as we enter a new school year, things are more up in the air than ever. We will need to have the energy reserves to care for our students and colleagues. As I share in the podcast that an approach to self-care is as unique and individual as you are, what works for one person may not be what works for you. What is important is that each one of us as educators, take inventory of our self-care practices, and take practical steps for developing a routine that invests in your self. that way you are ready with full energy reserves to invest in your students and colleagues.

How are you implementing a practice of self-care? What struggles do you have with self-care?

Who has Influenced The Bulldog Educator

In Episode 2, Season 1 of “The Bulldog Educator Podcast” I shared what some of the major influencers were in my life as an educator. The list turned out to be a lot longer than I originally thought.

Why did I share?

  1. I want people to know what has shaped me over the years and that if you are George Elliot- Influencegrowing, learning, and innovating… there must be deep connection… impactful influence.
  2. I really had the one why I just mentioned, but what resulted was immense gratitude for the people over the years, the authors, the social media educational influencers, and the podcasters who gave of their time either directly or indirectly to me, so I could keep becoming a person who impacts others… students, teachers, parents, community members, administrators. I am immensely grateful for those who have been a light to me.
  3. And that resulted in this why… because I want to aspire to be as much of an influencer for others as the influencers I mentioned in my podcast were for me.

Since there were so many I listed in my podcast, I will list 10 from the podcast of authors, social media influencers, and podcasters (I am not linking to my mother or other close friends I mentioned unless they ask me to!)

10 of the Influencers Mentioned in “The Bulldog Educator Podcast, Episode 2, Season 1”:

  1. Joy Kerr, Amazing Edu-Twitter person, Genius Hour Guru, and Author- We’ve never met but I would call her friend for sure. She was instrumental in helping me become a Genius Hour facilitator.
  2. Dave Burgess, author and CEO of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. introduced me to the idea of why teaching had to be more through his book “Teach Like a Pirate.”
  3. John Hattie’swork and research on the impact of various approaches with student learning. He took the idea of teacher impact on learning to the highest level of research and science, and focused me as an educator regarding what is most important.
  4. The book “Collective Efficacy” by Jenni Donahoo, who was also impacted by Hattie’s work. Her book drove home the importance of connection and collaboration, and how the work of many is so much more powerful and effective than work done in isolation by one.
  5. This next is a group. They are the EduSistas of the Arkansas Education Twitter chat #EduAR. I found them shortly after moving to Arkansas to work for the state virtual school and needed connection. They were immediate in their acceptance of me and continue to encourage me in my work. They each can be found on twitter: Lindsey Bohler, Karen Norton, and Bethany Hill (also known for #JoyfulLeaders).
  6. Where would I be right now if Tina Boogen‘s Book “180 Days of Self-Care” had not found itself in my hands last fall. Her profound and simple approach to self-care has helped me find myself, be able to better care for others, and ultimately value the need to care for myself. (I will mention that she was also the last human I hugged outside of my nuclear family before we went into quarantine… and I am so thankful it was her, I am a hugger and she made that last hug a good one.)
  7. This educational influencer I first met through my seeking to learn more about Genius Hour, then saw him speak (for the first time) at a TCEA conference in Austin, TX in February of 2014. Who is it? George Couros. I have since seen him speak at least a dozen times, collected as many selfies as he will let me when I see him in person, and have read his first book at least five times and am now taking my organization through “Innovator’s Mindset” as a synchronous/asynchronous books study that started in May and will continue into the 2020-2021 school year. He inspired me to write a blog, taught me how to meet people at their point A and be patient about their getting to their point B, and recently he was the impetus for me to stop talking about doing a podcast and just do it. There are a lot of other things I could say about George Couros’ influence, but I will leave it at this, he knows how to take the unidentifiable passion that I can’t name when it comes to what I do as an educator, and name it for me. When a person can name it, they can own it.
  8. The next influencer probably three-fourths of the world also can say she has had an influence on, is Brene’ Brown. At a time when shame was ruining me a few years back, I read “Dare to Lead.” I had intended to read it for professional purposes, but what it led me to was two of her other books, “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong.” It helped me to identify why I was transparent with others, but not vulnerable both professionally and personally, and how I had “friends” but not abiding, deep, and meaningful “friendships.” It has changed me both professionally and personally for the better. In addition to that her new podcast, “Unlocking Us” has continued to help me lean into both myself and the world with curiosity.
  9. I also want to mention the discovery of the Enneagram. It has been a game-changer for me being able to meet others with more compassion, and understand the underlying reasons for my own behaviors, too. I have begun to use it to help develop more cohesiveness and a sense of belonging among my teacher collaborative teams, and at the same time helped me do some hard self-study. I am currently reading “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I began to learn more when last summer I listened to “The Enneagram Summer Series” on the That Sounds Fun Podcast hosted by Annie F. Downs (rumor is there is another series on the Enneagram starting in July), and begun listening to a new podcast called Your Enneagram Coach Podcast by Beth and Jeff McCord. At some point, you will most likely learn my Enneagram number, but we will save that for another time.Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 8.06.31 PM10. Positive Psychology was missing from my world for a while and then entered “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. Since first reading that, I have either read or listened via audiobook to all of his books. They are easy to digest with a “story with a moral” format that is not too on the nose and helps you to reframe negative thoughts and actions. Some of his books can be read in one sitting and others take a few days or weeks, but all are worth it for moving to a positive frame of mind.

Now this list does not include many I mentioned in my podcast, including my mother who was my first teacher and the greatest influence on my life. Nor did I mention my husband, Eric of almost 26 years, or my two amazing children. And of course the many friends, educators, and students who have impacted and influenced me in ways beyond my ability to describe. In all of this, I am grateful and it has reminded me that I have a debt of gratitude to repay toward others.

If you listen to my podcast and wanted the info on something mentioned in there that I didn’t list here, respond in the comments and I will get it to you.

Also, share with me who are some influencers who have left their mark on you? (Please share in the comments)

The Bulldog Educator Core Values Podcast Episode 1, Season 1

On Monday, June 8th the 3rd podcast from “The Bulldog Educator Podcast” and Episode 1, Season 1 was broadcast. We are still learning the ins and outs of producing a podcast. I hope you will hear the heart of the podcast through these core values, forgive the novice mistakes of a new podcaster, and stick with us as we continue to bring relevant content for educators each week to your podcast doorstep!

Here are the 10 Core Values of The Bulldog Educator counting down from 10.

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #10

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #9

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #8

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #7 (1)

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #6 (2)

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #5 (1)

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #4 (1)

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #3

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #2 (1)

The Bulldog Educator Core Values #1 (1)

The above images share the main points of the 10 Core Values of The Bulldog Educator. To learn in more detail give a listen to “The Bulldog Educator Podcast with host and creator Kirsten Wilson” linked below:

Episode 1, Season 1: Core Values of The Bulldog Educator

We would love to have you follow @thebulldogedu on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as join our podcast audience!

The Bulldog Educator- A Re-launch

If you were a follower of the “Tag You’re It” blog, you may have noticed it has changed in name and format.

I started this blog in 2013. It was a way to share ideas, thoughts, and reflections. I was still a classroom teacher. Since then I have moved from an Instructional Technology Coach to a Campus Curriculum Coach, to an Elementary Assistant Principal, to the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for a public provider for online learning. That is a lot of change and developed a perspective that no longer fits with the idea of “Tag You’re It.” It also seemed time to develop a brand that was reflective of me personally and professionally.

Blog Relaunch

Picking the brand took some time, iterations, and feedback from friends. I wanted it to reflect so many things, but mostly the tenacity of my commitment to education and learning for ALL learners, and my love to encourage others to innovate. Nothing brings me more happiness than to see a learner (educator, student, friend, random connection on social media) inspired by our connection to try something new, to innovate in their space, and then share with enthusiasm with others.

I also didn’t want things to be completely serious. Education is nothing without humor. It transforms, endears, and breaks down barriers. If you have watched any short clips on french bulldogs or owned one, you can agree they are one of the funniest and most loyal breed of dog, ever.

Indulge me for a moment, while I share a little bit about my journey with dogs. When I was six years old, my parents brought home a dog. He was mine to care for. I even chose his name, Toby. He was with me wherever I went. About a year after having him,  my family went on vacation and he went to stay with friends of our family. After our return from our vacation, we went and got him. On our way home, Toby jumped out the window at a very busy intersection. Toby was gone. I felt responsible as I believed I should have held on to him better. After that time, I never bonded with another pet growing up, and even into adulthood. I didn’t want to be hurt by a loss like that again. Then two years ago for Father’s Day, as a gift to my husband, I brought home a French Bulldog, Cosmo. My intention was to provide my husband with a new canine companion after the loss of his dog the year before. What I didn’t realize is that this funny little french bulldog, through his humor and loyalty, would transform me, break down my walls, and open me up to be vulnerable again.

That is why I chose to brand this re-launch of my own version of the sharing of ideas, innovation, learning, and transformation “The Bulldog Educator.” In the time of the changes in titles and careers a curious transformation has happened to me. I have found connection, community, and vulnerability as I have grown as an educator. It no longer seems fitting to “tag out” but to “tag in” and do it with tenacity, innovation, humor, and most of all vulnerability, like a French Bulldog.

Over the next ten days, I will share out the core values of “The Bulldog Educator” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Following soon after will be the launch of “The Bulldog Educator Podcast.” Something I have been wanting to do for almost four years.

Am I scared? You betcha.

Will it be messy? Most likely, when is innovation not just a little bit messy?

Will I make mistakes? Of course, how else will I learn?

Could I use some help? Absolutely. In any form. Encouragement. Ideas. Guest host. BRING. IT. ON.

I am excited about this journey and that you are taking it with me.

I will also tell you Cosmo, my french bulldog, is too. He may from time to time find his way into cameos, spotlights, and presentations. His ability to add comic relief to any situation and be loyal at the same time is something I think we all need and value.


We are #BetterTogether

The better part of two weeks ago the United States entered into what much of the rest of the world was experiencing with COViD19 and traditional face to face education was turned on its ear. Face-to-face educators went into emergency remote teaching, parents became partners in educating students in a way we have never seen before, and administrators found themselves in a place they have never imagined. I can say that I have never been prouder as an educator.

Teachers reinventing instruction have found ways to connect through Zoom or other methods and are reaching out to one another and supporting each other. Administrators extend grace, maximum flexibility, and hope to their teachers encouraging them that “we can do this.”

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I have worked for a public state on online program for the better part of two years. We partner with face-to-face schools where students take courses at their school through us. With what has happened even our students and teachers have been impacted in tremendous ways. Even with our systems in place, we have experienced struggles right along with face to face teachers moving to emergency remote instruction. What I also know is that what takes place for online learning to be successful is time and a constant vetting of work to become a quality online learning experience. That time is not a luxury we have for emergency remote teaching to catch up.

What I have also learned is that teachers both online and face-to-face are connecting with each other to support one another in this transition, because, ultimately we ALL want ALL our students to succeed. Administrators both face-to-face and online administrators have banded together to support educators and students across this nation. Administrators have been busy, just like teachers, making sure we have every option available to our students and to ensure that there is quality learning going on at every level. We have been innovative, inventive, and gracious. Have we made mistakes? Absolutely. We have never been in a situation like this before.

So to those of you who have been sticking out your neck every day putting in those long hours to reinvent yourself and supporting other educators reinventing themselves so we can be everything we can possibly be and more for our students, thank you.

Many of you have sought support in places you’ve never sought before. You may have reached out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. to see what other educators are doing. You may have even posted an idea that you were thinking about or a way to do something to get feedback. You have resourced everything to find out and figure out what’s the best for your students by reaching out across social platforms to get feedback. Keep reaching out.

At the same time, many well-known educational authors and speakers find themselves at home not doing their usual circuit of lectures, professional development series,  and/or book promotion. Many of them have provided support, webinars, bonus podcasts, free coaching, and other things and I thank them for that.

However, I have also seen posts where administrators have been shamed for decisions supposedly made that were reported by their teachers. For example, one well-respected educator tweeted about an administrator that supposedly told teachers they need to keep to their 30-minute lunch… stating it was poor leadership. The well-respected educator may have done the research to check the facts. However, what if, perhaps, that administrator had reminded teachers who were working long hours to make sure they take at least a 30-minute lunch, attempting to encourage their teachers to do some self-care? Another well-respected educational author and speaker reposted a teacher’s expectations regarding Zoom sessions and attendance that were considered by his/her standards harsh/excessive. While what was posted did have some needed areas to address, the respected educational speaker and author blasted the teacher for the standards and expectations and encouraged negative and derogatory responses about the educator who created this in the post. That is not #bettertogeter and isolates those who most likely need us the most.

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What I want to offer is that teacher, perhaps for the very first time, used Twitter as a way to get feedback. She may have been given a directive to be clear and precise regarding expectations for learning and attendance by her administration and was asked to provide evidence. She may have been grasping and doing her very best and went to Social Media for support. Instead, she had her image picked up, posted, and then blasted by other educators. I want to urge all of us educators, those that are still in the classroom, those that are retired, administrators supporting teachers and students, and those that inspire us through the books, podcasts, webinars, and professional development to come together. Please support one another because we all know that #bettertogether is what we need right now.

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I want to plead with every single professional educator out there right now… administrator, teacher, retired educator, educational author, professional development trainer, and well respected educational Social Media influencer, to,  instead of identifying the faults or the things that may not align with our own thinking, to, instead, offer positivity. Work from the mindset of positive presupposition. Instead of assuming ill intent, presume positive intent. Nobody has been in this place before, We are all in this place of an FFT (listen to Brene’ Brown’s “Unlocking Us” Inaugural podcast on FFTs). Instead of narrowing our scope and shooting our arrows at each other, let’s circle the wagons and support one another. If you see an incident of what you feel is bad form, reach out privately through direct messaging/private messaging. Initiate a conversation with positive presupposition, a neutral question about their post, and the intent to build our tribe.

None of us are thinking clearly right now. Normally, we would be functioning from our frontal lobe where you and I make decisions that are in the best interest of our students. However, right now we have our own fears, our own families to consider, and our own concerns about our students who may not be in the best situations. We are thinking for our brain stem, which allows us to survive,  but may not necessarily provide us with the best possible solutions to our problems. We all need to be gracious, be kind, and, most of all, be there for one another.

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Image credit to This Tired Teacher’s Video Went Viral. Check Out His Reaction…

When this is all said and done I would like for our community to say that we came out of this #bettertogether and our students and ourselves are #betterforit.

The ‘Virtual’ First Day…

Many of you are about to venture into the first day on a virtual platform with your students, are supporting children with their first adventure on a virtual platform for learning, or are supporting someone behind the scenes that is one of the two mentioned (administrators, paraprofessionals, friends of parents/teachers transitioning to remote learning, etc.).

Last Sunday, March 15th, things were just beginning to unfold with COVID 19 in the state where I support the only online public option for 7-12 as Director of Curriculum and Instruction. We had already had our first school contact us about the options they had to move their students to online instruction with our Content Only courses (they utilize our online curriculum content in our Learning Management System (LMS) while their own teachers facilitate/deliver the content to their students). We were going to enter into training them about the courses, the technology systems, and the implementation of the delivery of instruction. I was charged with encouraging the teachers/administrators, provide some insight about partnering with the students, and most of all reminding them to give themselves grace and understanding as they transition into this new learning environment with their students.

That day, as I have done every Sunday since the beginning of January, I took a walk and listened to the podcast “Innovator’s Mindset” with George Couros. In this podcast, George revisited the “5 Questions You Should Ask Your Staff or Students.” At first, I thought, “George, why now, school is almost over?” Then I had a moment of clarity. We are all in a moment of “First Day Jitters.” COVID 19 has thrust us into a new situation for how we care for and teach our students. Many of us have no idea how we are going to do this remote learning. I will tell you, there is a lot of information out there on all the social platforms, maybe so much you are overwhelmed. (If you are, and you need someone to listen or help you just take the next step, put your email in the comments, and I will reach out to you, listen to you, and if you want it, help you.)

Back to my point. George shared the following in the podcast:

(c) George Couros, “Innovator’s Mindset”

If you want to listen to the podcast or read the related blog post, click here.

It got me thinking. How can these questions apply to the teachers/administrators I was about to train/support in the transition to online learning?

I came up with this modification of George’s original 5 questions. I realized this may be something that may be helpful to other teachers as well.5 Questions to Ask Sutdents

If anything, I hope it shares the message that before you jump into teaching content, let your students know their voice matters, their dreams and passions are important, and success is still something that is achievable and completely possible in this new online learning environment and you are partnering with them to make that happen. Before anything, relationships, relationships, relationships.

Kudos to those of you that have already met via some online video format with your students to check in with them. To do this is to help demystify the online live Zooming (Video) for both yourselves and the students before you even start to deliver content… and most of all it focuses on our most important job in learning, relationships.

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.08.20 PMI do not want to put too much more in this post. However, a very good infographic regarding things to keep in mind as both you and your students are learning from an environment that is not the classroom you all are accustomed to was shared with our own organization’s teachers and shortly after shared out on social media.

Most of all seek support from your colleagues, your greater education community, partner with your parents, and most certainly lean into your students. We are #bettertogether and my hope is that in all this we will find a level of solidarity and support educators have never experienced before, which in turn will bless our students and our parents in ways we had no idea would happen.

Please share your thoughts, your need for support/encouragement, questions in the comments below.

It is the “Little Things”

I look forward to my walk on Sunday afternoons and listening to the podcast of the week from “Innovator’s Mindset” with George Couros. Last Sunday he shared “10 Easy Ways to Create an Amazing Classroom Culture” in his podcast. He challenged his listeners to apply just one of the 10 suggestions. I wanted to meet this challenge in some way.

That was going to be difficult, however, I am no longer in a brick and mortar setting. The classrooms I support as Director of Curriculum and Instruction of our state Virtual School is over 250 high schools across Arkansas. I am not making excuses. I am sharing the beautiful constraint I was presented in meeting George’s challenge.

I mulled over this challenge for the remainder of my Sunday. Like most things, I didn’t have a strategy until I was in the shower Monday morning.

I sent an email to all my teachers including the blog post that linked to the podcast.

Here is the email I sent to my teachers:
“This weekend I listened to the most recent “Innovator’s Mindset” podcast by George Couros. At the end of the podcast he sometimes shares a challenge to his listeners. This one was to take the 10 things mentioned in the podcast and also listed in his blog post forwarded to you for reference and do at least one of them.

This week if you would help me in this, determine one student who has really worked hard for you, maybe struggles, but works hard. Maybe they are starting to lose their resolve and/or motivation and could use a word of encouragement. Send me their name, email, school affiliation, course they are taking with you, and something positive you notice or like about them. My intent is to personally reach out to that student you share with me and let them know that we are rooting for them. I want to share the love.

If you do not have the time, I completely understand, however, if you have a moment and can share, I would truly appreciate it. I want to love on your kids and do it with intention.”

The teachers that took me up on this were so excited to share the opportunity to encourage and love on their students. I took the time to craft a personal and unique email to each student was shared with me by their teacher. I cannot tell you to what extent it impacted the students I wrote, although, some wrote back and thanked me for reaching out and encouraging them. However, I can tell you, it changed me.

So if you are looking for a way to re-invigorate your work as an educator, I encourage you to read/listen to George’s blog/podcast and come to your own way to make one of his 10 suggestions happen. I found a way and I am so glad I did.

Please share in the comments if you tried any of George’s suggestions and how it impacted you and/or your students.

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