Formatting my philosophy of adaptation has been tough. I feel like there is so much to talk about and to condense it down to 2-3 pages is tough.
This week I read Gerald and Natalie's posts. Gerald talked about coming up with a simple and concise statement. I really like his idea of "adapt or die." In science we learn this to be what happens. Adaptations help us survive, and if we don't adapt we will not be able to survive. He also related change to how our educational system needs and overhaul. I think this is a great connection and something that almost everyone can relate to. We know that the current educational system is not working for every student. The idea has been to just create different types of schools. I agreed with him that this is working for some students, but is not really the change that will fix the educational system.
Next I read Natalie's post. I really liked how she focused on how to use technology. I didn't really talk about this but it is important to discuss how you can use technology in the classroom. This is a huge change from the traditional view of education. She also talked about using projects. I definitely feel strongly that this is the way to go. This is a change I have been making in my classroom. I think I need to do a better job at structuring these projects, but all of my students love projects over tests.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What is your philosophy of adaptation?
I am a science teacher, and I teach evolution and change every year to my biology students. I believe the classroom is not exempt from the same evolution and change that I teach my students about, because we learn that humans have evolved and are still evolving. We learn that evolution really just means change. If we are changing, then it only follows that education should change with us. Change is inevitable, and we must be ready to explore alternative ways to doing things. "Traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with a constantly changing world. They have yet to find a balance between the structure that educational institutions provide and the freedom afforded by the new media’s almost unlimited resources, without losing a sense of purpose and direction" (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Learning is less about rote memorization and more about making meaning out what we are learning in relation to the world. In this day and age I don't think we can live in a world that just asks "what", or in other words students are just learning facts. Everyone needs to make connections and understand how things are related. We need to fit our knowledge into our own niche of the world. That is where we can accomplish so much. We attach meaning, and this meaning is transferable to life outside of the classroom walls. (McCarthy, 2015). Put another way, "In the new information economy, expertise is less about having a stockpile of information or facts at one’s disposal and increasingly about knowing how to find and evaluate information on a given topic" (Thomas & Brown, 2011).
I take most of my teaching practices from connectivism, constructivism, and constructionism. I believe these pedagogies are being focused more today. We are an evolving society and the push in education is for project based learning or design thinking in classrooms because they support a way that our students are able to learn. These types of learning activities really fit with the pedagogies above. As far a PBL goes, Wolpert-Gawron (2015) talks about an integrated PBL unit she has taught where "there are many components to the unit: brainstorming, research, development, design, cost analysis, collaboration, and pitching. They are using art, writing, math, science, and probably countless other elements that focus on real-world content and communication." These types of units combine so much and really get students to see how all subjects are connected. We are accessing the "where" and "how" instead of only accessing the "what". Students also are learning by doing and "learning by doing can provide a unique and personal set of insights into the ways and means for creating something in the world" (Thomas & Brown, 2011). Students learn that education is related to the world and that all disciplines combine. The real world is not separate. I believe this is a crucial understanding because many times in science class I get a student who will say this is science not math. Students believe each content area is separate and this creates a divide when students enter a world outside school. We need to prepare students with tasks that replicate life outside of school. Design-thinking offers similar benefits to PBL where students are connecting what they are learning to some outside factor.
Some schools have even fully embraced the PBL or design thinking model throughout their school structure. For example, High Tech High, a charter school in the U.S., works from the ground up. In other words they work with teachers, parents, and students to create change rather than starting with administration. "There are no bells, class periods, or single subjects. Subjects are integrated. Teachers are hired on one-year contracts, with the payoff of being able to teach whatever they want to teach. And over and over again, we see and hear that one of the great things about this place is how teachers teach to their passions and, with their students, are the designers." Their test scores are 10% above the state average and they have a 98% college entrance rate (Phillips, 2015). I believe schools need to listen to students and find ways to focus on them. Too many adults are making decisions, but we would not have schools without students.
McCarthy, J. (2015, September 09). Student-Centered Learning: It Starts With the Teacher. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-centered-learning-starts-with-teacher-john-mccarthy
Phillips, M. (2015, December 17). The Problems and Promise of Educational Change. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/problems-promise-educational-change-mark-phillips
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change [Kindle].
Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2015, March 03). Collaboration: Key to Innovation. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/collaboration-key-innovation-heather-wolpert-gawron
Jule talked in her blog post about changing school. I can bet that changing schools would be hard on anyone. I have found that really trying to focus on the positives can help change feel less disruptive. This year I have really been trying to focus on the positives when I can. We aren't changing schools but have had our own challenges this year. Everyone has their own opinions. So I think Jule have nailed it that these differences will have to be reconciled, and you need a good leader who can help lead you through a change. She also posted a graphic that included great questions for you to ask yourself. This could help reframe the challenges you feel. It seems to take the focus towards how you can make the change work.
Natalie focused on listening in her post. This can be really tough especially when you have a different opinion. I think listening can be the most impactful as far as bringing people along for change to happen. If a person feels listened to and validated they are more likely to listen to you. I think it is also helpful to know what active listening looks like. So many think they are listening but really it is not the listening that people desire. We need to listen so that the other person feels heard. Here are the steps she listed for active listening:
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: Consider your own context within your school and with your mentee. How can understanding of controlled disruption and coherence making impact your leadership of peers at this time, and at this level ?
For me "controlled disruption" means looking at situations with different perspectives. We need the whole view to understand the situation and make the best possible decision, "coherence." Fullan (2001) states that "the most powerful coherence is a function of having worked through the ambiguities and complexities of hard-to solve problems." To be able to work through these complexities one has to be ready for conflict. Because "conflict is an inevitable part of working together. Conflict can be challenging and destructive, or it can lead to a deeper understanding between people, and perhaps higher quality work from a team" (Aguilar, 2013).
Aguilar continues on to talk about 6 different belief systems of educators:
If I were to classify myself I believe I would fall under self-actualization. I like to end units with projects and not tests. I believe students have a different perspective than my own and that they will make sense of information differently than I will. A test does not allow for these differences whereas an open-ended project can. I believe a lot of public officials are Technologist's placing much of decision making on test scores and not considering the rest of the situation. Taking a look at an article title Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report, Ansaray (2007) points out that the report analyzed the data in only one way.
Because of this "educational decisions have been moved as far as possible from the classroom. Federal officials are now in a position to make decisions that would have been unimaginable even two years ago. They've established the criteria for disciplining schools, removing principals and teachers, and even defining appropriate curriculum for American classrooms." Fullan (2001) on the other hand, points out that "People stimulate, inspire, and motivate each other to contribute and implement best ideas, and best ideas mean greater overall coherence." This means that we need to work together. We need teacher voice in these decisions, in my opinion. Also there has been "targeted budget cutting -- on the theory that withholding money from failed programs forces them to shape up." So we are taking away money from schools who don't have resources and giving it to the wealthy schools. In my opinion, we really need to rethink these decisions. I think Fullan (2001) makes a good point that about how we should decide if an idea is good. "The criteria for retaining an idea are (1) Does it work? and (2) Does it feed into our overall purpose? Knowledge sharing, in effect, comprises a continuous, coherence-making sorting device for the organization" (Fullan, 2001).
Aguilar, E. (2013, January 15). Teacher Collaboration: When Belief Systems Collide. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/educational-beliefs-collide-teachers-elena-aguilar
Ansary, T. (2007, March 09). Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/landmark-education-report-nation-risk
Fullan, M. (2001). Chapter Six. Coherence Making. In Leading in a culture of change. (pp. 107-119) Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED467449.pdf
Larissa shared a great example of a school through an edutopia video. These teachers are paired with another teacher and they collaborate daily. I wish I had an easier method to communicate with others who teach the same content as I do. At my school I am the only science teacher other than elementary teachers. The content I teach is different from what anyone else teaches. Right now we are only able to collaborate on strategies we use in class. We are a CHAMPs school and so right now we are working on our ratio of positive to negative interactions. This has been great to have because we are all working on something together and can share our experiences. It is relatable to all. Larissa picked up on the same quote I did: "If people begin sharing ideas about issues they see as really important, the sharing itself creates a learning culture." However I don't think it is true all of the time. If you are both on the same side and there is no disagreement then I think this works. But there are situations where you can be too passionate and stubborn to see someone else's perspective. I think this is where communication really has to be open and we have to be willing to listen to what the other person is saying.
Tristan talked about how she gives feedback to teachers when she uses their lesson ideas. This made me think about a program that I am in called PREPARES. It wasn't something I had considered until she mentioned this feedback and I looked back on this experience I have had for the past 3 years. This is a place-based, culturally relevant science curriculum that has been created with teacher and elder input. We are finally on the last year of piloting the curriculum. The 1st year we had a forum online to discuss what went well and what did not go as planned. This was awesome feedback to read if you taught the lesson after others had already taught it. It was very valuable regardless of if you were able to get the feedback before teaching or after. All of the teachers in the program are at different village sites and this was a great way to communicate. We get together once a year (more if we are lucky to see each other on other trips) and we talk about how our teaching of these lessons is going. This is the best communication I have had in my 5 years of teaching at a village site. I wonder if village sites could use this idea to foster more communication amongst teachers?
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What is the role of knowledge creation and sharing in a healthy educational organization?
The first thing that stands out to me is that communication has to be open. We actually just had a community, student, teacher, and school board meeting. The topic was cell phones. Parents, teachers, and the school board all were focusing on getting rid of them or how to see them less. Every time a student spoke they were given a solution that involved leaving the phone at home. Eventually students stopped speaking and one student pointed out that they felt shut down. That was again negated. I think this is a perfect example of how we have to honor everyone's opinions to start with. This is a tricky line to walk as the leader who leads the discussion. How do you make everyone feel heard? I talked with one of my administrators after the meeting and we both felt that it was unproductive. We looked back and saw that the students were being shut down and at the time we didn't realize it. I keep thinking about what we could do differently and I like a suggestion from Anderson (2013) to "take it in." To do this you can use a strategy called LCS: state what you like about the idea, state concerns, and then add a suggestion to address the concern. We can learn so much from each other but to do that we have to all feel welcome and appreciated.
Fullan (2001) says that "if people begin sharing ideas about issues they see as really important, the sharing itself creates a learning culture." I think in my example above it was too personal, so I do believe you have to be careful with the topic. This topic was given and that also makes it tough. When people can select their own topics they feel more in control. This is why I like the idea of an Edcamp and would like to experience one firsthand. "Each Edcamp is unique and based on the needs of the participants" (Swanson, 2013). You can get exactly what you want and it is designed in a way that fits with adult learning. "Ghe social, interactive, recursive nature of an Edcamp is directly aligned to adult learning theories" (Swanson, 2013). You can learn what others have done in their classrooms or schools and you have a way to share resources. You make connections with other teachers or school leaders and can share positives. This makes the whole process that much more engaging because you get to share the good things and not harp on all of the negatives, like so many staff meetings do. When you are in a new setting with new people you don't need to focus on what is wrong with your school.
Another great example was from Fullan (2001) where "teachers often visit other classrooms in conjunction with consultants' visits, either to observe one of their peers teaching a lesson or a consultant teaching a demonstration lesson. And groups of teachers often visit another school, inside or outside the district, in preparation for the development of a new set of instructional practices". This allows time to pick up on new strategies that you may have not thought of or not known how to implement. We can learn so much from each other but we rarely take the time to do it on our own.
Andersen, E. (2013, August 09). 5 Simple Things You Can Do To Get People To Speak Up In Meetings. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/08/09/5-simple-things-you-can-do-to-get-people-to-speak-up-in-meetings/#19bcc08cbe85
Fullan, M. (2001). Chapter Five. Knowledge Building. In Leading in a culture of change. (pp. 77-106) Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED467449.pdf
Swanson, K. (2013, April 23). Why Edcamp? Retrieved April 07, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-edcamp-kristen-swanson
Josie talked about her business experience. She said “Get the right people on your team, and get the wrong ones off” was always taught to her as being true. She talked about how most employers look for someone that will fit well with the team. I think this can be a good strategy, but you also need to make sure that they will bring diversity in. Maybe a new skill or even just a new perspective from their previous job experience. I wonder if most employers just look for someone who is identical to the workers they already have or if they just look for a personality that jives with their current employees? I would have to think it is the latter. It would be pretty hard to find identical workers, I would think?
Andrea said something that really struck me: "we need to know how to work with a wide array of people." Isn't this what we are teaching our students? We definitely have to have high EI to work with everyone and this can certainly be challenging. I think a big step is just recognizing that a decision you made makes others mad. Some people don't even realize this part. You will never make everyone happy, but working with them will help them to feel included and could lessen the anger as a result. She also shared a quiz to see where your strong suits are as far as EI goes. I took this quiz and scored a 63 out of 80. I really like how this resource shares how you can improve your people skills. I think this is something that most people continually try to work on. Below are the results the test showed at the end.
Score InterpretationScoreComment16-36Your technical skills may have taken precedence over your people skills in your career to date. You aren't making the most of the relationships you have at work, and this may be limiting your career growth. It's time to assess how you can work better with others in the workplace and develop a more collaborative, understanding, and open approach to getting your needs met – while still achieving team and organizational objectives. (Read below to start.)
37-58You recognize that working well with others in the workplace is important; and you are trying to work collaboratively while still making sure your needs are met. There is room for improvement, however, as old habits may creep in during times of stress and pressure. Make a plan to work actively on your people skills so that they form the natural basis for how you approach workplace relationships. (Read below to start.)
59-80Your people skills are good. You understand the give and take involved in complex issues involving people. You might not always approach situations perfectly, however you have a sufficiently good understanding to know when and where you need to take steps to rectify things. Keep working on your people skills, and set an example for the rest of your team. And take some time to work on the specific areas below where you lost points.
The quiz assesses your skills according to the four main themes below. Review your scores for each theme, and read more where you need to.
Interpersonal Communication Skills(Questions 6, 9, 13, 15)
Your score is 16 out of 20 Many people spend more time working with other people than they do with processes or products. This means that they need to communicate well with others, and this makes communication skills some of the most important skills in the workplace.
Some of the key communication stumbling block to be aware of include:
Managing Differences(Questions 3, 5, 8, 11)
Your score is 15 out of 20 People can seem to disagree about almost anything – what caused a problem, how to solve it, what values are right, what values are wrong, what goals should be pursued; the list goes on! On top of this, you have the personal, non-job-related differences between people that lead to obvious differences in outlook and approach.
Because of this, respecting and managing the differences between people can be one of the most important skills you can develop! Indeed, it can be a huge advantage if you learn to celebrate and enjoy differences, and make them work to your advantage.
Key to this is recognizing that, in many cases, conflict is not "bad". In fact, conflict often causes significant, positive change. It spawns creative and novel approaches to problem solving, and can actually improve organizational performance if managed properly. In our article on Resolving Team Conflict , we discuss how you can build stronger teams by facing and embracing personal differences. And then, with our Conflict Resolution tool, we outline how to use the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach for solving interpersonal issues. Both of these articles outline how you can emerge from conflict with strong and healthy relationships.
When resolving conflict, it helps a lot if you can understand other people's needs and points of view – this can often help you find solutions that may otherwise not have occurred to you. And when you take the time to understand another person's perspective, you are demonstrating your willingness to work together to find a solution. Our articles on Empathy at Work and Perceptual Positions can help you develop this aspect of people skills. These help you to adopt different vantage points when resolving differences.
Finally, you need to be appropriately assertive if you're going to manage differences effectively. Aggression is clearly counter-productive if you're trying to resolve conflict, but also, if you fail to recognize your own needs in a situation, you run the risk of agreeing to a solution that works against your own interests. Again, it's important to remember that differences aren't necessarily negative, so suppressing your thoughts and ideas just to come to an easy agreement isn't effective or efficient. You can read more about assertiveness in our article here . And our piece Yes to the Person, No to the Task is a useful approach to use in everyday situations where you need to manage differences assertively and effectively.
Managing Agreement(Questions 2, 10, 12, 14)
Your score is 12 out of 20 While managing differences may be an obvious application of people skills, managing agreement may not seem to be. However, helping people come to an agreement with one-another is important, and requires a great deal of skill!
"Synergy" is one of the most important things that you're looking for with teamwork. This is where the team's output is better or greater than the sum of each individual's input. To achieve synergy, you need to get people working together collaboratively.
If you've ever participated in a team decision-making process, you probably realize that reaching a decision by yourself can be much more straightforward. The problem with individual decision-making, though, is that you miss out on all of the insights that other people can give. With strong people skills, you don't need to back away from collaborative situations: you can approach team meetings with a genuinely positive attitude!
Tip:When you're engaging in group decision-making, make sure you avoid the common pitfalls. See our article on Groupthink for more.
Part of this involves feeling comfortable with different kinds of questions, and with when to use them, and how. In our article on Questioning Techniques , we look at open and closed questions, as well as other common types of question that you can use to keep conversation flowing and get the specific information you need.
As well as this, it's useful to have a good selection of problem solving tools in your arsenal. When you are confident in your ability to find solutions you will be more likely to participate in these conversations and add value to your team. In our article Opening Closed Minds , we show you how to get your point across effectively, so that you can reach the agreement you are seeking. These types of tools will give you the confidence you need to confront differences, knowing that you can also manage the agreement side of the equation.
Another aspect of managing agreement relates to feedback. When given poorly, people reject feedback: it's viewed as destructive criticism, and it can damage relationships. Delivered well, however, feedback can lead to an improved understanding of one another's needs and perspectives, as well as improving performance and productivity. We look at this in detail in our article, Giving and Receiving Feedback . Also, in our article looking at the Johari Window we outline a great technique for increasing interpersonal understanding through self-disclosure.
The bottom line is that, to develop strong people skills, you need to be able to accept what others are saying and learn from this. Not only will this help you personally, it will help you relate openly and honestly with others.
Personal Integrity(Questions 1, 4, 7, 16)
Your score is 20 out of 20 Integrity is the cornerstone of people skills. Integrity means basic honesty and truthfulness when dealing with others. It also means working with people openly, and in such a way that people's interests aren't compromised for the sake of the team or the organization.
Basic courtesies like saying “thank you" often, and giving credit where it is due, are the types of people-oriented behaviors that can make all of the difference to other people. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, recognizing your teammates' contributions and acknowledging their efforts will go a long way towards creating a positive, harmonious, and productive team climate. Our articles on Rewarding Your Team , Leading by Example , and Ethical Leadership are all great resources that help you learn how to behave with integrity on a daily basis.
Key PointsWith well-developed people skills, you can communicate effectively on an interpersonal level; manage conflict positively; work productively with others to find solutions and reach agreement; and work with integrity and ethics to motivate and inspire others.
These are all skills that can be learned and developed. Even the most technically-oriented worker can begin to incorporate people skills in his or her work setting.
Best of all, people skills are not limited to the workplace. When worked on actively, they will enrich all aspects of your professional and personal life.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: Explain and give examples to argue why the following statement is true or false: “Get the right people on your team, and get the wrong ones off.”
I think the scenario determines whether this statement is true an false. I think the type of leadership present can really make or break the statement. When I first read the statement my mind automatically told me this was true, but that seemed to be too easy of an answer. My initial thought was, why would you want someone on your team if they don't agree with you? In my opinion that would just make my life more difficult.
Through reading this week I was reminded how those with differing opinions may help to bring diversity. According to Fullan (2001), if we only invest in those who are like us "they become more like-minded and more unlike the rest of the organization while missing valuable new clues about the future. By supporting the like-minded, leaders trade off early smoothness for later grief. If you include and value naysayers, noise in the early stages will yield later, greater implementation." At first things will go well but later they might not. Fullan goes on to also give an example of how this plays out in 2 PLC's in one school. One is great while the other has made all of the teachers very negative toward their career. "Collaborative cultures, which by definition have close relationships, are indeed powerful, but unless they are focusing on the right things they may end up being powerfully wrong" (Fullan, 2001).
After more digging and more reading this thought from Fullan (2001) stuck out, "most people want to be part of their organization; they want to know the organization's purpose; they want to make a difference". This was crucial for me in realizing that maybe this statement could be false. In all of the articles I came across the key factor was the leadership. If there was good leadership most were in support of what was going on around them. The leadership has the potential to make the school a positive environment or a negative environment. So you could win over the support of your naysayers by making sure you keep a positive school climate. This takes a lot of emotional intelligence on the part of the leader. "In a toxic school culture and climate, learning by all will not take place effectively, and what is learned may be sustainably negative and harmful. When a school is a positive place to be, people are happy to be there, do their best, and make their best better" (Elias, 2015).
You cannot keep everyone happy all the time, but you could win them back. "In a culture of change, emotions frequently run high. And when they do, they often represent differences of opinion. People express doubts or reservations and sometimes outright opposition to new directions" (Fullan, 2001). Keenan (2017) talks about how at his school this happened a lot to start with. Eventually they created norms, and this has made all of the difference. "The norms have helped create a safe space for school staff to take healthy risks and describe difficulties they are having freely" (Keenan, 2017). With these norms teachers have jumped back on board and it is all related to the way the leadership responded.
However, I still have to go back to thinking that sometimes this statement could be true. All of the reading supported false, but what happens when you can't win someone over or you can't agree? In some cases you may just want to stick with those who support you and politely part ways with the people who don't support you.
Elias, M. J. (2015, March 05). You Need an Elevator Pitch About School Culture and Climate. Retrieved April 01, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/you-need-elevator-pitch-about-school-culture-and-climate-maurice-elias
Fullan, M. (2001). Chapter Four. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. In Leading in a culture of change. (pp. 51-76) Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED467449.pdf
Keenan, B. (2017, March 07). The Tough Work of Improving School Culture. Retrieved April 01, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/tough-work-improving-school-culture-brendan-keenan