Fall Forward Conference

Hello, New Leaders! The first weeks of school are flying by, and it's almost time for the Arkansas ASCD Fall Forward Conference. This year, Allison Zmuda will be sharing her expertise in unit planning, and it promises to be a meaningful, productive event. I hope you are planning to come with a team so you can dig into backwards-design. You ought to leave with evidence for TESS Domain 1E (Designing Coherent Instruction)!

If you do plan on attending, make sure you have done the appropriate pre-professional training. Her session will start where she left off during her summer sessions at Annual Conference.

The New Leaders will have a presence at the conference, so be sure to look out for Dustin Parsons and me (Caitlin Harris). We will be sharing updates from the conference on this blog.

See you soon!

June 10 Key Learnings

The first day of AASCD Annual Conference is in the books, and we couldn’t be more excited about the New Leaders strand that began today.

Before we went to break-out sessions, the Army National Guard Challenge Students did a wonderful job presenting the Colors with dignity and accuracy. Their professionalism made me want to learn a little more about them!

Connie Kamm then spoke to us for the first full-group session in Horner Hall. One of my key learnings was her emphasis on using the term “evidence” rather than “assessment.” I wonder whether students would take greater ownership of their learning process if we used language that described their work as “evidence of learning”? “Oh, you know this concept? Prove it. What will it take for you to show everyone that you have mastered this?” She showed a video clip of a kindergartener who could defend her level of mastery and saw herself moving forward. What would that look like in my classroom?

Another key learning I had came through small group discussion, and it’s a concept I’m still trying to iron out. As a teacher, how do I prepare my students to respond positively to the feedback I give them? How do I prove to them that the comments (and the dreaded marking-up) I give their work are to help them grow? One possible solution we brainstormed was to norm the feedback process by posing questions such as, “What do you want me to write on your papers? How do you want me to respond to what you do?” I hope to continue refining those questions so that they help students understand the purpose of feedback and begin to desire it consciously.

Connie Kamm will be posting helpful links to a page on her website at conniekamm.com/aascd.php.

The first New Leaders break-out session was “Introduction to New Leaders – Oh, the Places We Will Go!” Amy Covey, the New Leaders liaison to the Board of Directors, got things started with a spaghetti tower activity, and it was exciting to observe the different approaches every educator brought. Each group was given varying parameters, but the overall goal was to “build the tallest tower.”

Afterward, the groups reflected on what the project had to show about education, teaching, and learning. Teachers discussed the role of collaboration, the limitations of resources, and the need for support. My favorite moment was the discussion about competition. Is education a competition? Some believe it is, citing the need for continuously improving scores. While the drive for success should be constant, I wonder whether sometimes teachers believe they are competing against one another, when, really, shouldn’t we be aiming for 100% success, not just in our classroom, or the classroom next to us, but in all classrooms across the state and nation? If we are successful, shouldn’t we want to share what we’ve learned to help elevate every student? I tend to be a competitive person, but I hope I’m willing to share my successes when they advance student learning, and I hope I can accept help from those who are stronger than I am in certain areas. To continue the conversation with your ideas, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our next session was “Simple Answers for Complicated Questions,” a conversation facilitated by superintendent Dr. Matt McClure. Though originally intended to address the concerns of new teachers trying to fit into a new district, the session shifted to address the concerns of superintendents working with new teachers. Monitor and adjust! Several meaningful suggestions were made to improve the support structure in place for novice teachers. For example, while most districts have some sort of new teacher orientation, not all of them have follow-up throughout the year. Another superintendent suggested that 2nd year teachers become a part of orientation because they would have gone through the process only a year ago. And perhaps most meaningfully: new teacher orientation often focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of working in the district, but may not address district and school vision and mission (that revelation courtesy of Randy Willison of Batesville).

So what do you do if you are unclear of your district’s vision or mission? Dr. McClure suggests starting the conversation with your immediate supervisor by asking, “How can I do a better job of supporting our school vision?” Frame your question as a “big picture” concern about what you need to understand to truly accomplish your district’s objectives for students.

The final New Leader session of the day for Judy Pennington’s full-house presentation entitled “You’re Not On Your Own.” She spoke from the perspective of an Instructional Facilitator (IF, or instructional coach). For more information about what an IF is, visit the Arkansas Department of Education website—they have a job descriptor. Mrs. Pennington also recommended a book called Instructional Coaching for more background. Her highly interactive session had teachers and IFs role-playing the types of interactions through which teachers and IFs could begin improving instruction. For example, one group had the topic of “Classroom Management,” and they “complained” to their IF (Mrs. Pennington) about a student who refused to work in groups amicably. Mrs. Pennington then modeled her response, which included thinking-aloud, asking questions, and suggesting strategies. With a persistently positive attitude, she showed how an IF can be a safe, honest support educator who helps teachers find solutions that are best for both students and teachers.


Arkansas ASCD  - Influence and Advocacy Award 2014 - Affiliate Excellence Award 2011