DigiLitSunday: Problem Solving

As teachers, much of what we do on a daily basis revolves around problem solving. Classroom management challenges, instructional pitfalls (both expected & unexpected), students who are not progressing in an intervention, collegial relationships under strain…the list can sometimes feel never-ending.

I am a go-to problem solver. It is how I am wired. When it comes to problems that arise within the walls of my classroom or my school, dialoguing in the company of my colleagues is one of the best places to be where problem solving can take root and impact students, teachers, and systems positively.

This morning I listened to a powerful podcast around this very topic. Cornelius Minor shared how teachers can build an effective teaching team using the analogy of superheros. Everyone has something to contribute to a cause, and taking the time to seek out & identify each person’s strengths/interests/passions can lead to the creation of what can be a powerful & effective team both for teachers and students, and he nudges listeners to consider what each team member can bring to the table to better the work they are doing. This “recruit from the group” mentality takes a team of people who are willing to be honest, transparent, and I would add brave, as everyone comes together to create a solutions-based approach to problem solving that needs to be done.

One idea Cornelius suggested around building an effective team is designing your time when you come together to meet. Because time is something teachers never seem to have enough of, it must be acknowledged that making time is a required sacrifice everyone makes together.

To that end, he specifically suggests that everyone ask each other for 7 minutes a week. Seven minutes? Yes, seven. If those seven minutes are deliberate, focused, and always directed at the heart of the work at hand, a LOT can be accomplished in those few minutes. The first one or two minutes should be a check-in with everyone – now this is important..it is not complain time, because we all know we teachers do the complain thing really well. Cornelius suggests that status check-in should be full of *nouns* and not *verbs.* “This *unit* is going well” or “This *student* is showing growth” offer opportunities for everyone to share what is working, or simply where each person is within the journey of the group’s collective work.

Effective teams will likely need more than 7 minutes a week to work through the problem solving process and eventually accomplish big work. Certainly there will be longer, highly intentional meetings around issues that need attention. However, it is the consistent, intentional team building practices (like weekly 7-minute check-ins to name just one) that create and maintain the integrity and collective problem solving power of an effective team.

Thank you to Margaret Simon for this DigiLitSunday topic and for creating the space for everyone to share their approach to problem solving in any area of their teaching life. Click here to add your story and link up with others who are doing the same.

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Packing Up, Moving Out

The countdown has begun..only 14 days of school are left. As I walk the halls in my school, the atmosphere has definitely changed. Here in northwest Montana, winter was long, and spring came oh so s-l-o-w-l-y this year. We’ve had a tease of sun and warmer temps intermixed with more rain and cooler temps than we would like, but with every day that passes, more blossoms are beginning to appear, the grass is getting greener, and the promise that summer will arrive next month is beginning to settle in.

Most of the teachers in my building will soon begin covering book baskets in their classroom libraries, tucking away materials in their cupboards, and closing their doors until they return in August. Two beloved teachers who have an impressive 77+ years of teaching between them will instead be cleaning & tidying for the new teacher who will occupy their room in August. When they walk out and close their doors behind them, it will certainly be with countless memories from careers that spanned decades, and powerfully impacted hundreds of children.

I am approaching my end-of-the-year routines quite differently this year. After 3 years as our school’s math & literacy instructional coach, I will be returning to the classroom to teach kindergarten in the fall. Fortunately I am not leaving my building, but only relocating down the hall. My mind is filled with great anticipation for this transition, and my list of summer reading is daunting to say the least!

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Obviously it is unrealistic to think I will be able to read all 20 (yes, 20!) of these titles (not to mention the countless children’s books I am accumulating!). Fortunately, several of the 20 are books I have already read, but will take time to review again, Post-It notes in hand, annotating and marking specific parts I will be referring to during the year. Others will be new reads of course, full of effective and engaging strategies and approaches to teaching our youngest learners.

Leaving my coaching role has caused me to reflect a lot on my last 3 years and the opportunities I had to work more closely with teachers than I had while in the classroom. I have learned a great deal about listening, asking the right questions, and discovering the opportunities to learn myself as an educator through every coaching conversation, PLC, and professional development session I attended.

While I may be packing up and moving out, I am looking back at much growth and a renewed passion for all that lies ahead. How are you approaching your end-of-the-year routine in your classroom? You can click here to join our DigiLit link-up to share your story. Thank you to Margaret for opening up the discussion!

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