“An organization can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who drive that organization are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves.”
– Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager
Recently I had the chance to teach students at one middle school in Alan B. Shepard Middle School. I was a 7th grade math teacher that day, and it was awesome. Last year and this year (and next year too) we in the leadership team “raffle” ourselves off to the teachers as a holiday gift and an acknowledgement of their high value. Another rationale/reason for us to do this is based upon our values and beliefs of the importance for us to get back into the classroom and experience a real day in the present time with real students “today” as opposed to looking through the lenses of teachers from a time in the past when we were full time classroom teachers (for me that would be back in 1993-1997).
Another set of reasons for me to get back into the classroom is for leading learning on the macro and micro levels; and for modeling the way in terms of leadership and experiential learning as well as inspiring a shared vision with respect to (in today’s case) the 1:1 digital transformation in our District. In the classroom I experimented with Math Techbook from Discovery Education, one of our District’s partners in our digital transformation. Earlier in the year I shared many resources our teachers have for this new era of learning and teaching in our District. Math Techbook is a tool we are piloting and with which we are experimenting, along with other tools, that will enhance our 6-8 Middle School math curriculum resource needs. Today at the end of each lesson we did a “whip around” where all students had the opportunity to share their reflections on the learning – what they liked, did not like, learned, experienced. The voice of the student is powerful and the voices of our students today reinforce my opinion, observations, and support for integrating student voice and choice into the overall learning environments.
Today’s experience was fantastic. The math teacher shared curriculum standards (aligned with the Common Core) for her four one-hour CORE math classes. With the partnership and help with our partners at Discovery Education, I was prepared (thanks to them) and “my” students were loaded into the Discovery Education account and I was ready to “rock and roll”. I was taking the students on a journey into 1:1 Transformative Learning via the latest and most advanced instructional tools around! Discovery is one of many partners with whom we work and one of the leading supporters of digital content across the country (and world). I’m writing to celebrate the experience, highlight the power of digital tools, and to show real live engagement in learning with “real” 7th grade students in our District.
I was humbled by the ease with which the students navigated the technology – they mastered the “what” with ease and with no fear or apprehension. They seemed innately in tune with the “why” for the learning via technology. They automatically explored the tools prior to the formal investigations in the lessons. They easily communicated and collaborated as they went from problem solving to explanation to investigation to writing about their decision-making. They got the “how” quite easily in terms of the all in one experience of using their laptop – in their case a Chromebook.
Even though this experience was new to them, they accepted the journey into algebraic expressions, equivalence, scale, proportion, ratios (lesson content throughout the day) as naturally as if this was their norm! I was grateful to them for the honor and respect with which they treated me (and each other) during all of the lessons.
Our motto is Engage, Inspire, Empower – this experience today was all three and more!
I was engaged from the moment I discovered Math Techbook as an option for digital integration and one of our 7th grade math teachers selected me in the raffle! I was engaged by the student engagement – literally “bell to bell” all day in each of the four classes – the students were truly and completely engaged in the exploration and learning!
I was inspired by their willingness to explore and experience math in new and motivating ways with one another for the entire learning session. I was also inspired that one of the other math teachers is going to take the chance and experiment with her students (8th grade math) using Math Techbook (she took the time to observe one of the classes and interact with the students and our iCoaches).
I was empowered by the reality that the individualized learning pathways created naturally and by design actually worked to allow the students to work at their own paces – the first time they ever saw Techbook or used this as a digital tool for learning!
As part of my “PLN” – personal / professional learning network via Twitter – I am a co-moderator of #suptchat the first Wednesday of every month at 7pm CT and as part of #suptchat, we are following the model and lead of our nation’s principals with a new Twitter experience called #ASuperDay where we superintendents share the story of leadership in our nation’s (and our continent’s) schools! The first #ASuperDay was February 18 – I share this blog as an example of what one superintendent did today during the day – I had the good fortune to return to the classroom! Please follow on Twitter to see the amazing work of my colleagues – through #ASuperDay on the 3rd Wednesday of every month!
About Mike Lubelfeld
Mike is a public school superintendent who believes in the writings and messages of Michael Fullan, Thomas Sergiovanni, John Maxwell, and others in the field of leadership. They give clear guidance in areas of leadership like culture building, relationship building, servant leadership and effective change agency. Mike finds great value in both the boardroom and in the classroom as all decisions for his superintendency are based upon what’s best for students. Conscious of the impact on staff as well, his aim is to cause enough disruption as needed to move the “organization’s needle to the right” on its transition and transformation into becoming a highly disciplined school system whose focus is on excellence at all levels. The motto Engage, Inspire, Empower is alive and well in this superintendent.