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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Innovative Teachers-Share Your Genius by Eric Williams, Superintendent

This guest post was written by Eric Williams, Superintendent of the York County School Division in Virginia. Eric tweets as @ewilliams65 and blogs at http://promotingstudentengagement.blogspot.com/. (Note from Vicki: My dear friend Angela Maiers came running over to me at Microsoft's Partners in Learning teacher forum and said, 'You've got to meet Eric, he's something special. I agree.)

The world needs your unique talents and insights for engaging students in work that matters. Understanding and acting on this truth, as championed by Angela Maiers, can change the world.

You are a teacher who understands the importance of giving students opportunities to make a difference locally, nationally, or globally. The teachers at Microsoft’s recent Partners in Learning Forum in the United States (#PILUS) understand too. (See a list of all winners.) I had the pleasure of judging at this event. Here are two examples of #PILUS teachers and the projects they presented:

  • Greg Witkin’s students create media presentations which serve as vehicles of social change.
  • Julie Hembree’s 4th grade students created book trailers regarding favorite books to persuade their peers which books to read. Peers accessed their videos via SchoolTube and QR codes affixed to books in the School Library.
Many innovative teachers, observed Alan November at #PILUS, prefer to focus on innovation rather than on promoting innovative instructional practices. Innovative teachers, let’s break this stereotype!
You have unique talents and insights for engaging students in work that matters. Some teachers almost instinctively identify the big ideas and important skills of their curriculum and design projects that allow students to master these concepts and skills. Other teachers brilliantly support students’ leveraging of technology to connect with a global audience for the students’ work. Still other teachers wow us with their ability to coach students’ collaboration with peers and adults. As Angela Maiers emphasizes, claim your genius by acknowledging your genius.

Share your genius!

 The system, comprised of schools, school districts, state governments, federal governments, and other entities, needs vast improvements in terms of opportunities for teachers to share their genius. Even as I work to improve these opportunities within my district, I encourage you not to wait for the system to improve its capacity for genius sharing. Take advantage of the opportunities that already exist to share your genius.

Share your genius within your school and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Share at a department meeting, grade level team meeting, or faculty meeting. Share examples of student work. Tell the story of your design of the learning in your class. Provide rubrics and other resources.

Share your genius outside your school. Present at a conference. Employ digital tools to amplify your impact. Tell your story via Twitter, a blog, or YouTube. If you have not actively used any of these tools, stick your toe in the social media water by learning just one tool.

Use whatever opportunities exist. You may not have opportunities to attend conferences or to formally present within your school or district. Perhaps you are hesitant to wade into the social media pool. Recognize that while the twittersphere and blogosphere are social spaces where people interact, the hallways, teacher lounges, and classrooms of our schools are also social spaces. Raise awareness of innovation by sharing student work with a colleague and sincerely soliciting advice regarding improving the student work.
Carve out new spaces for you and your colleagues to share their expertise with one another. Recruit other teacher-leaders in your school or district to organize sharing opportunities to supplement or replace presenters from outside your district.

Connect with other teacher-leaders via #DotDay and #Choose2Matter.

Tens of thousands of educators participate each year in International Dot Day, which is inspired by the award-winning children’s book The Dot, written by Peter Reynolds. In The Dot, a teacher inspires her student to leave her mark on the world. This year, as a follow-up to Dot Day, teachers and students will connect their dots by collaborating to do work that makes a difference locally, nationally, and globally. 

Choose2Matter, a hashtag created by Angela Maiers, reflects the notion of using one’s genius to change the world. The world needs your genius so Choose2Matter. Others will benefit from your genius and you will be enriched by the connections as well!

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