2 Insights for Leaders on Connecting with the School Community

This blog post is based off on an upcoming online course called “Connecting Through Vulnerability” by Dr. Matthew Arau, that will soon be available on Atomic Learning. Dr. Arau is an Assistant Professor at Lawrence University and has a background in student leadership. (More about Dr. Arau)

Have you had a teacher or college professor in the past that was a wealth of knowledge, but seemed unable to connect to the students? Because of that lack of connection, the students in that course were most likely disengaged or mentally checked out. On the flip side, there are also those instructors that are able to truly connect what they know with their students and engage in the learning process.

We all have had those teachers or instructors from the past that fit both scenarios. But, what’s the difference? That is what Dr. Matthew Arau calls “the missing link”, and he believes it is often connection and vulnerability.


Why Connecting?

In his online course, Dr. Arau tells a story of when he was teaching high school several years ago. Specifically, how he was able to easily develop friendships with his students, and had no problems having great conversations with them. However, the moment he took the podium, that connection seems to dissipate.

It wasn’t until a colleague mentioned how differently he carried himself when he was up in front of the class that he realized he was trying to be someone he wasn’t and it was negatively effecting his connection with the students.

The solution: He simply needed to be himself and be authentic.

That realization helped him understand the importance of connection.  When we connect, we can both increase learning and enjoyment of learning.

Dr. Arau’s story could also be true of school administrators, fellow teachers, and staff members. By being authentic and yourself, you can help create connections that will build and strengthen the greater school community.
 

Why Vulnerability?

Have you ever noticed that when you share a personal story–maybe even something slightly embarrassing– it opens a connection with the person you were speaking with? By sharing, you open the door for others to feel welcome to share something a little vulnerable about themselves.

The more vulnerable you are, the more connected you can feel with your audience. Sharing personal stories of struggles and real life can have a profound effect. When we as humans see somebody being vulnerable and speaking about their fears, hopes, or frustrations, we see them as being courageous.  

The more vulnerable you are with your intended audience, the greater the connection.
 

Some Strategies to Try:

While these things may sound overly simple, or perhaps even silly, they can have a big impact on first impressions and connections. Whether you are connecting with teachers, students, parents, or other stakeholders, be aware of the following:

  • When someone walks into your office or classroom, greet them at the door and learn their name as fast as possible. Everyone wants to be acknowledged by name.

1 Word Can Change Everything: “Yet”

Every educator can tell you the importance of feedback. And, while it’s easy enough to offer praise for a job well done, what can be done to encourage quick learners to reach higher while simultaneously encouraging those students who haven’t quite gotten it yet?

Recently, Dr. Matthew Arau, a college professor and student leadership expert, created an online course for Atomic Learning focused on Unlocking Potential: The Impact of Mindset of Success. In the course, Dr Arau cites the work of Dr. Carol Dweck—a well-known researcher in the field of motivation and a Psychology Professor at Stanford who certainly knows her stuff.

In her TEDx Talk on the topic, Dr. Dweck states that teachers must “praise wisely.” Instead of simply praising the right answer, teachers need to praise students’ effort, the use of strategies, and documented improvement to ultimately foster a growth mindset.

FIXED MINDSET
Many people have what is referred to as a fixed mindset. As Dr. Arau explains: “Someone with a fixed mindset believes that intelligence, talent, and ability are fixed or static. If you are talented, things come easily to you; if you have to put effort into an endeavor, you must not be talented.”

Building Excellent Learning Spaces

 

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Robert Dillon, eLearning Contributor

 

Settling, for some time now, has been the achilles heel of many in education when it comes to learning spaces. With only a bookcase, a whiteboard, and some desks, many educators provide a solid learning experience for kids because they are resourceful, dedicated, and driven. They make do with the situations that they have, and they tell the stories of scarcity as a badge of honor.

 

Many of these situations are actually bleak, and many classrooms do suck the life out of kids. Too often, classrooms today mirror the classrooms of fifty years ago. This doesn’t have to be the reality though. With a shift in the ways that we think about the contents of the classrooms, we can make some significant changes that help students and build brain friendly classrooms that support collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Go Above & Beyond with 1:1 Devices & PD

Oklahoma City Public Schools has partnered with Apple Inc. and their ConnectEd iPad Program to provide every Arthur Elementary School’s 600+ students with a new iPad. Access to such devices not only builds students' critical technology skills, but ensures they have the opportunity to learn in the ways that work best for them.

Rhonda Schroeder, Principal at Arthur Elementary, is taking her district above and beyond standards with the help of the incredible teachers and staff that she works with.  Before moving forward with the 1:1 iPad initiative, Schroeder asked her staff if this was something they wanted to do, knowing that it would take a lot of hard work, and nearly every single one of them responded “YES”!

8 Awesome New Courses [Because ‘Top 5’ Isn’t Enough!]

Atomic Learning is constantly adding new learning resources focused on helping schools tackle common challenges found in education today.  Recently, we connected with Sarah Holder, Product Owner (aka eLearning Guru) here at Atomic Learning, for her top five new courses…and she more than delivered!

Without further ado, here’s the top five…umm, EIGHT, new courses:

  1. Evaluating Technology Resources
    With so many online resources and tools available, it can be very difficult for administrators to effectively filter and approve them. Which tools are worth the money? Are going to be most effective in improving instruction and student learning? What does the resource provide? In this course, we will look at strategies to help effectively evaluate these resources and tools—complete with a checklist for future requests.
     
  2. Learning Styles
    Learning Styles can be a great building block to developing a study strategy. To help you get started, will dive into the benefits of styles, the characteristics of each, and determine which Learning Style works for you. Additionally, we'll provide some study techniques for each style, along with some tools that might be useful. 
     
  3. Critical Thinking
    Provide students the opportunity to build and apply critical thinking skills, as well as critically evaluate circumstances and performance. During this course, students will practice questioning and evaluating to form judgments and make decisions, as well as learn how to interpret alternative viewpoints and reflect on their own biases and assumptions. 

Driving Teacher Buy-In: Q&A with Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

Earlier this year, we shared a blog post on how Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Texas had created and effectively implemented an Instructional Technology Implementation Plan to maximize technology integration and teacher support—a piece which involved incentive programs to encourage teacher participation by offering the opportunity to attend a regional or state education conference.

Recently, we followed up with Daniel Saenz, Information Technology Director for the district, to see how the program worked out, as well as how it could be replicated at other schools.

Atomic: Why did you decide to implement an incentive for Atomic Learning?
Saenz: Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD decided to Purchase Atomic Learning as a means of providing Technology Professional Development to our employees.  Since we have a relatively small training staff in the Technology Department, we figured it would be ideal to supplement our efforts.  However, we were not satisfied with the level of usage by our employees.  Therefore, we decided to implement an incentive program to promote the Atomic Learning usage. 

Atomic: What was the focus of the program?
Saenz: The main goal of our incentive program with regards to Atomic Learning was to increase the usage of the Atomic Learning system.  We wanted to get our teachers and staff more tech literate.  We also wanted them to use technology to facilitate teaching and learning as well as streamline the daily routines at our district.

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