Tuesday, October 25, 2016


How do you get feedback for your job?  How do you learn to become a better educator?  Early in my teaching career my answers would have been isolated to the formal Rube Goldbergian teacher evaluation system.  I believed that if I followed all the procedures in this step by step process, then by default I became a better educator and received enough feedback.

“I did then what I knew how to do.  Now that I know better, I do better.” - Maya Angelou

As a connected educator, I now gain feedback daily which helps me grow and learn in collaborative formats through Twitter, Flipboard, virtual learning walks, Voxer book studies, and other personalized PD.  This year I am trying a new way to get feedback through #ObserveMe by posting my personal goals on my door (as seen below).  As an administrator, I still get to participate in the formal feedback from professional evaluation, but I am also asking teachers to help me with some informal feedback by observing me in the hallways, in meetings, and in their own classrooms.  In this way, I am hoping everyone in our building can help me reach my goals and learn from my mistakes in real time.  We all win when we participate in this learning together.

Here is the sign on my door!

Bill Wietman
Assistant Principal at Wachter
@wwietman on Twitter
wwietman on Voxer

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Assessment Academy 2.0 - Who’s in?

I’ll be honest.  I wasn’t sure if it would work.  Who is, really, when trying something new?  Wait, rewind a little.  If you’re not familiar with the Assessment Academy, I’ll lay out the general plan:  
  1. Let’s ask busy, busy teachers to participate in planning a summer workshop around innovative assessment practices that we only have limited understanding and experience with. Some growth mindset will definitely be required.
  2. Then, let’s package it into a blended environment to offer a flexible schedule that allows participants to choose when and how it is best for them to engage with the workshops (and maybe model some tech applications at the same time),
  3. But also, let’s make sure that we build in time to directly apply our new learning in a meaningful way to projects and units that we are already teaching.  It’s one thing to learn, but taking the risk to try something new with students, and being open to working through new classroom practices, takes some courage.
  4. Heck, while we’re at it, why not build in some peer feedback and revision, and ask participants to share their work in its most vulnerable stages before it’s finished.
  5. Just one more thing -- we’ve got one semester to get it together so that it can be implemented over the summer.

RU Mind Map.jpg

A mind map from the summer academy injecting feedback and self-assessment opportunities into existing projects and lessons.

Maybe that sounds improbable, but with the collaborative efforts of over 35 teachers from seven middle and high schools, that’s just what we did.  It was a great summer (if you’re an education geek like me).  Our design and implementation team had the privilege of thinking, planning, learning and innovating with more than 86 teachers from across our district, and my sincere thanks and admiration go out to each and every one of them!

There were moments (aren’t there always?) when I wondered if the work we were doing was the right work.  After recently viewing the documentary film Most Likely to Succeed, I was reassured.   Working to leverage technological efficiencies to improve feedback and student self assessment in inquiry-based application level environments is exactly the kind of work that our students need us to do so that they can have the type of experiences that will allow them to be career, college, and community ready at graduation.  

So, what’s next?  How about this:

  1. Let’s show Most Likely to Succeed to a group of teachers, community leaders, parents, and students, and ask them what they need from us as teachers.
  2. Let’s use that “entry event” as a launching pad to implement the Assessment Academy workshops locally at schools across our district -- making sure, of course, to stay true to the teacher design group’s flexible blended schedule and classroom focused environment.
  3. In fact, let’s ask those busy, busy teachers who participated this summer to share their work and facilitate workshops for the next round of participants.
  4. Let’s continue to revise and improve the way we teach and learn ... always ...

Who’s in?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

One Great Question for Professional Learning Communities

I'll never forget the first time I heard "PLC" spoken a decade or so ago during a staff meeting.  My principal was talking about starting them, and I was confused.  I thought he was referring to Prairie Learning Center.  Since then, my understanding has grown a bit. I've been fortunate to be part of some really great professional learning  communities, and I've had the opportunity to learn about PLC possibilities through many avenues.

 Recently, Steve Barkley posed a great question that helped me think about PLCs in a more meaningful way. He asked, "What have you learned in your PLC that has impacted your work with students?"  This one question can help us formatively assess our PLC time, and provide focus to ensure that we are indeed learning from our professional learning communities. It can help us prioritize learning and avoid becoming a group dedicated solely to getting our work done.

When I thought about this question, Thursday morning at South Central High School immediately came to mind. The staff there is taking turns bringing something important to the group.  It might be a strategy to share or a problem to solve together. When I was there, I was blessed to get the chance to hear Mr. Sonneman share the way he provides for more student choice in his room by differentiating the products that students create to demonstrate their understanding. The strategy he shared was applicable to all of us seated around the table; we all learned from him that day.

What have you learned recently in your PLC that has impacted your work with students?  Please leave a comment to share your thinking and/or tune in to Twitter Tuesday on October 4th from 8:30-9:00 pm as we continue to discuss a learning focused PLC.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Twitter Tuesdays are back!

We are gearing up for our first Twitter Tuesday of the school year.  Join fellow colleagues as we discuss the "learning" in professional learning communities on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 from 8:30-9:00 pm.  It's a great opportunity to learn and share with your colleagues without having to leave your couch!  Curious about what Twitter Tuesday chats look like?  Check out two years of archived Twitter chats here.  You'll also find the schedule for the chats that are occurring this year.

Remember that you can earn Latte hours (which count for graduate credit) for Twitter Tuesdays.   Sign up in Tracker and participate in both Twitter Sessions within the month listed. 

Follow and tweet to #learnBPS anytime to see what cool things your colleagues are up to, share your own idea, or ask questions of your colleagues. 

Not sure where to start on using Twitter? Go here for some great starter tips: http://goo.gl/LRDJeV  

Still have questions?  Get in touch with mary_mchugh@bismarckschools.org or leave a comment on this blog.  Happy Tweeting!

Would you like to blog?

Do you have something to share with your colleagues?  Maybe you have an inspirational story from your classroom, an exciting teaching strategy, or another success story?  Consider writing about it on this blog!  Contact mary_mchugh@bismarckschools for questions about getting started.