Well, here we are, more than a week after MSC 2018.
If you are anything like me, you are pumped, energized, and maybe even a little anxious to get back into the classroom, reeling from all of the information you took in, and wanting to put it into action! But what strategy should you try first? What method is going to work best with your students?
As that excitement starts to creep in and planning for the start of the school year begins, it may seem a bit nerve-wracking to step up to the plate and make changes. Below are some tips that I found helpful at the end of my first MSC and when planning for implementation. So, without further ado, here are my top five tips on what steps you should taking following the Model Schools Conference.
Tip #1: Pick One or Two Methods to Focus on in the Beginning
If you sat in every session that MSC offered this year, you probably walked away with 10 to 15 different strategies, methods, and ideas of ways to promote success in classrooms. Seeing as how we are all educators who constantly look for ways to improve, we just got a plethora of hot ideas. And they have been applied by the speakers, so we know they work!
But here is the thing: We can’t focus on all of them right out of the gate. My advice is to start with just one or two methods to implement immediately. It takes time to grow a culture where all of them will work, and that culture growth includes us. As we grow within our classrooms, we can add more to our plates, but we need that acclimation time.
As you become more comfortable with these one or two methods, slowly add more in. If we try to immediately implement all these findings, chances are we'll become overwhelmed and ultimately unsuccessful because it is too much at once. By giving each one of these strategies, methods, and ideas time to grow and take root in our daily regimens, they become part of that culture, and therefore take stronger root and build themselves more solidly into our rooms. As we “perfect” (Is that really even a thing in education—perfect? I think not!) the one or two things, add in another and another. This process slowly reforms our classrooms but does so successfully.
Tip #2: Connect With Your Network Group Now
In my first blog, I highlighted the importance of building a network, a subject Weston Kieschnick addressed in his opening keynote. Almost every session I sat in examined how important this is because, well, it is!
Let me give you an example—yes, I am on Twitter, and I know this is the way of the world, but I still love Facebook. Last year I connected with a lot of attendees via Facebook. I follow education pages like ICLE, MSC, HMH, and a wealth of other educators and groups. One of the awesome things that started happening is my feed became education-centered and it was all so positive. I love going through my feed now because these people and groups I connected with keep me highly motivated to grow. So, make those connections now. Don’t wait until you have a question about methodologies or issues with implementation or the like. Send those emails to fellow attendees, follow those pages, connect with the speakers!
The Model Schools Conference app is still there, and you are able to access it for those connections. It is so rewarding to have communication with energized teachers because it feeds your energy. I hope this blog will encourage you to reach out. Even if it is just to make a friend, fill your cup, swap notes on sessions—all of it. (Side note, if anyone wants a teacher buddy— email@example.com can’t wait to hear from you!)
Tip #3: Don’t Be Scared of the Deep End—Jump In
I remember after my first MSC being so excited and so scared at the same time. I wanted to be this educational rockstar like the presenters. I wanted to have no fear of failure and be “that” teacher for my kids, but it seemed a daunting task after becoming so accustomed to the way I had been teaching for the past decade.
I had to remind myself that these Model Schools were not model schools before. At some point they had to change what they were doing to find that success, and more than likely, the change was scary. So, like tip #1, I started small, with just one thing: flexible seating. And it scared me. Kids learned by sitting in desks. That is how I learned and it is how I taught my kids. But here I was, in this tech talk learning about flexible seating and seeing the way kids collaborated when given this opportunity. And I wanted it!
So, before I went back to school, I did it. I brought in padded benches, “collaboration” couches, and area rugs with low tables so the kids could sit on the ground. I jumped in, all the way, and went for it, and the kids love it. I wanted to also implement some literacy strategies that I learned, so I went for it and taught them the way the rockstar presenters taught me. And it was scary because it was so different than what I was accustomed to—but that is a good thing because the fear was followed by student success. It is OK to be scared, but don’t let that stop you from jumping in!
Tip #4: Go Back to the App
MSC may be over, but only in real time. You can go back to the app and still access all of the materials, including your schedule, the sessions you sat in on, and speakers' handouts. You can connect with speakers and the other educators who checked into those sessions, and refresh your memory on what was said.
You can even do all of those same things for sessions that you did not go to. I was really bummed because there were two sessions that I really wanted to attend at the same time; I had to pick one. For the session that I didn't attend, I was still able to access the PowerPoint and handouts. Plus I have already started speaking with another teacher who attended that session, and she has been helping me get a clear picture of it in its entirety.
If you didn’t make it to the bookstore at MSC, or maybe you only attended digitally, you can go back and order books on the app. You can also connect on social media through the app.
Tip #5: Share Your Documents
In my last blog, I recommended creating a Google slide that you could share with your team, where you can add information for each session you went to along with "ah-ha!" moments and what implementation may look like at your site. The tip for this one is super easy: SHARE!
One of my ah-ha moments this year was listening to Dr. Sue Szachowicz talk about her high school, Brockton High School in Massachusetts, and how she helped to turn it from one of the lowest performing high schools on the state test to one of the highest performing schools in a matter of a couple of years. She shared the assignments she used, her implementation practices—everything. She had the winning playbook and she shared it.
Share what can help others. At the end of the day, student success is our No. 1 goal. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get there; we just need to recreate working wheels at our site. So, share.
To close, my offer still stands; if anyone wants a teacher buddy, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to hear from you!