The Evolution of an Edvolution, Chapter One

The Evolution of an Edvolution:

The Kentucky Story

Chapter One — The Budding Desire to “Edvolve” — by MeMe Ratliff

The story of the KYEdvolution began less than two years ago in January 2014 at the Red Mile Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky. Over 200 teacher leaders from across the Bluegrass had accepted invitations to attend the inaugural state convening for ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers). There was decent buildup to the event, with a stylish agenda and invigorating correspondence from the host organization, The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, a nonprofit organization established in April 2013 to provide encouragement and support for teachers, school leaders and others as they work toward adopting a new culture of continual improvement and innovation.

View outside the window of the Red Mile racetrack

What no one could have planned for leading up to the convening was a horrific snow and ice storm (I say this with a facetious tone, knowing that in northern states, this storm would be a mere formality, yet in Kentucky, the nearly 8 inches of snow caused massive strife and angst). Of the 200 planned attendees, barely 50 were able to make the event. The majority of those were from areas of the state over two hours away, who were able to drive to Lexington before the storm hit. What should have been a ballroom full of buzz and activity was in fact quite empty, with attendees moving from desolate tables of one or two educators to merge with others to create a handful of populated tables amid the mass of snowy white tablecloths.

In spite of the elements working against them, those in attendance were exposed to a day of unique, personalized sessions that introduced the emerging network of teacher leadership in the state. Organizations like theHope Street Group, the Prichard Committee and the Center for Teaching Quality, as well as emerging voices in state education, spread their missions and visions to the crowd. It was amazing to see the “Ahas” — the lightbulb moments that were evident on the faces of those who had braved the cold and snow to unknowingly begin their teacher leader journey. Formal sessions of Colleague Circles were strategically placed throughout the day to foster conversations through guided discussions. This opportunity further engaged those in attendance in state-level conversations that were occurring between partnering organizations in Kentucky education.

“Welcome to your Blank Canvas” visual used by Megan Allen during her keynote

To fuel the fires ignited by the powerful sessions promoting collaboration, professional growth and connectivity, a keynote was given by Megan Allen, 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year, spoke with powerful conviction centering on each person’s “blank canvas” and how they would fill their empty board with memories, stories and challenges. The speech served as a brilliant compliment to the empowerment that resonated throughout the day.

As the event neared it’s conclusion, the Fund’s Executive Director, Barbara Bellissimo, sought out individuals who would be interested in furthering their involvement with the ECET2 movement. This call for action helped lead to the next chapter in the KYEdvolution…

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The Evolution of an Edvolution, Chapter Two

The Evolution of an Edvolution:

The Kentucky Story

Chapter Two — Holes in the Calendar: The Need for Continual Professional Growth — by MeMe Ratliff

The educational landscape of the Bluegrass State is somewhat predictable. Educators in larger school systems, located in more populous areas, are afforded more opportunities for professional growth. Of the sessions offered, most are on weekends, in the summer, or held on three day weekends. Many aren’t well publicized. A plethora of competent, willing learners exist, but they lack the knowledge that is taught to students in early elementary — four of the “5 W’s” — who is offering the training, what is the content, when is the event, where is the venue? The fifth W, the why, is evident. Professional learning is key to effective pedagogy.

After the original ECET (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) convening in January 2014, it became evident that the teachers of Kentucky wanted…

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Happy Birthday, Coach

Thursday was my 42nd birthday. I’m not ashamed to admit my age. In the immortal words of New Kids on the Block, “Age is just a number, don’t you stop having fun.” Over the course of that day, hundreds of people sent tweets, wall posts, texts, Voxes, direct messages, called or gave in person well wishes for my big day, which happened to fall on Thanksgiving. You’re probably thinking that’s a big number, but to my credit, I’ve come in contact with too many people to count between my hometown and current city, college experience, professional contacts and school community.

As I drove home yesterday (a 3+ hour drive), I began to think about the myriad of people that took the time to send me a ‘birthday shoutout’ and was struck by one subset – former students. One of the pillars of my teaching has been forming lasting bonds with students. As a related arts teacher, I have the privilege of having students for multiple years, watching them mature and become more independent. I’ve stayed in contact with many as they graduate high school and go on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, tradesmen and tradeswomen, cosmetologists and too many other vocations to listen. I’ve also shed tears when they end up incarcerated, pass away or battle personal demons.

Each year at graduation, I’ve always told my graduating 5th graders that my gym will always be theirs and they are always welcome to come back and visit. Many students take me up on that offer. True, many are those that graduated within the past few months, but many are now in high school, college and now working themselves as well. Too many to count have asked advice or come to let me know they were engaged, starting a family or had chosen a profession. Seven of my former students and interns have gone on to choose physical and health education as a career, which is humbling.

There have been times when I’ve questioned if my body can continue to function at a level required to be effective as a physical educator. There have been surgeries, injections, days on crutches and too many nights on the couch with ice packs to count. Pain is temporary. As I age, the pain becomes more frequent and intense, but it does somewhat subside. The joy I feel knowing that I’ve made an impact on a student’s life is wonderful medicine. It gives me motivation and healing that medicines and ice packs cannot and it makes me more certain that age IS just a number. I may be 42, but my students, current and former, make me feel 24.

ECET2NOLA

It’s easy to be content where we are professionally.  We become comfortable in our surroundings; we find a pattern that suits us and we stay in a holding pattern.  Sure, educators love their jobs and they give time beyond what’s expected and what they are compensated.  That story is as old as time.  When students do well, educators are lauded; when there are problems, they are castigated.

ECET2 is a movement.  Maybe the word movement doesn’t do it justice.  Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers was created in 2012 by the Gates Foundation for Education.  The New Orleans convening was the fourth national one, and state and regional convenings have popped up across the nation.  In our Bluegrass state, there have been 5 convenings to date with the second state convening to be held in January.  Unlike many negative connotations the state of Kentucky may have, with the Gates Foundation and ECET2, we are one of the states who lead the way and set the bar high for others to emulate.  I’m so proud to be a part of ECET2KY, and can’t fathom that it’s been less than a year since my journey began.

300 of the best and brightest teachers from across the country were treated like rock stars at ECET2NOLA.  Most had no idea of what to expect.  There were a select group of teachers from previous convenings and from the Gates Teacher Advisory Council that were involved in the planning; it made the event more relevant to be planned for teachers by teachers.  From the opening remarks by Irvin Scott (@iscott4) of Gates Ed, all in attendance were mesmerized.  Over the course of the weekend, breakout sessions that both challenged and inspired, keynotes that brought both tears and laughter, and food and drink worthy of true rock stars or professional athletes were enjoyed.  Colleague circles promoted candor and critical discussions of problems of practice. Innovative new ideas were shared, networks grew and above all, educators were inspired by just being in each other’s presence.  Oh yes, there was also parade down Bourbon Street – a local band leading the convening from the hotel to the site of the welcome reception, where beads were showered on friends and strangers alike, waiting below with arms outstretched. #ibeadedthat

Of special meaning to me were the remarks by Vicky Phillips (@drvickip), director of Education, College and Career Ready Program of the Gates Foundation, a proud Kentuckian.  She spoke of the important role education has played in her life and of the impressive gains our home state has made since the adoption of Common Core.  We are a state on the rise, and she is proud of us.  Vicky is proud of us.  As I grow in my connection to the Gates Foundation, the fact that Vicky is proud of us means more and more to me.  At the concluding state luncheon, we sat at the same table and discussed the next steps for ECET2 in our state.  By the end of the lunch, she had spoken with each of the 27 Kentucky delegates.

In an era where teachers are undervalued, with ECET2, they are anything but.  As I mentored to the ‘newbies’ throughout the weekend and reconnected with old friends, one recurring theme was evident.  There is a passion, a fire, inside all teachers that sometimes needs to be stoked.  Once the flame gains momentum, the educator truly becomes an ‘impatient optimist’ that doesn’t merely believe they can make a difference.  They have accepted they do make a difference and they strive to make an even bigger impact, not just on their students, but on all those around them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhqRLMZcBlc is the link to the video that gives a glimpse into the passion and celebration of this past weekend.  To those of you that were there and have been involved with the ECET2 movement, I send a hardy SHOUTOUT!  To those of you who aren’t familiar with the movement that is ECET2, please read Vicki Phillip’s blog on the Impatient Optimist site http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2014/10/The-Power-of-Teacher-Collaboration-ECET2 to get a better idea of just how powerful the weekend was.

Physical Activity Leaders in Kentucky – #KYPAL

I took part in Physical Activity Leader (PAL) training this week in Richmond, KY.  The training is offered in conjunction with the Let’s Move Active Schools (LMAS) program, which encourages schools to offer physical activity before, during and after school to help today’s students live healthier lifestyles.  The PAL mantra is “60 a Day” – striving for for 60 minutes of physical activity per day.  The training was offered by Jamie Sparks @jamiesparksCSH, Coordinated School Health (CSH) Director at the KDE, and Jessica Lawrence @cairnguidance, nationally recognized health curriculum specialist and owner of Cairn Guidance, who last year biked across the country to raise money for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation organization.  57 teachers from across the state came together at the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance summer workshop for the one day training.

The purpose of the PAL training is to help PAL’s to implement the Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP), advocate for their programs, increase the amount of physical activity time offered at their schools, get their staffs more involved and actively engage their families and communities.  Attendees are given an overview of the PAL system and are taken step by step through the implementation process.  The “Next Steps” feature guide the PAL through the next 12 months in their journey.

In 2012, I went through the Director of Physical Activity (DPA) training with Dr. Aaron Beighle from UK, and was discouraged when I learned that so quickly another program was being created to replace it, but after attending the PAL training, I can see that it is a natural progression of the DPA.  I encourage everyone who went through the DPA process to also get their PAL certification.

One of the things that I left the PAL training with was the need to actively advocate for my student’s physical activity.  It’s easy to sit back and feel that you have a successful program.  Every school in my district signed up for the LMAS program, but many haven’t taken advantage of the myriad of tools that it offers.  The goal is to assess the school, set up an action plan, implement the plan and celebrate successes.  Many schools haven’t even started the process.  I really feel that through this training (and the training June 20th in Louisville for JCPS teachers), changes will take place to help create truly active schools.

I can’t wait to take my program at Greenwood Elementary to the next level!  I have identified my immediate goals and am already creating methods to help me achieve them.  With the support of the national PAL Community, I’m sure that all of the #KYPAL trainers will create schools that are examples for those that surround them and truly impact the health of their students, staff and communities.

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If you are looking for me, find the cute bald guy laying in the front row and look just to his right.  I’m in the grey shirt above the purple Under Armor shirt:).

 

#SDpechat

#SDpechat

Join Jamie Sparks (KYSHAPE Network – @JamieSparksCSH), Jacy Wooley (Alliance for a Healthier Generation – @jacysproverb) and MeMe Ratliff (JCPS – @meme3rat) on Wednesday 2/5 and 2/12 at 9pm EST/8pm CST) for #SDpechat – we will be discussing the upcoming @SDAAHPERD @KYAHPERD Southern District Convention (Feb.19-22) in Lexington, KY. Anyone is welcome to take part in the Twitter Chat. We look forward to the conversation!

Welcome to Your Blank Canvas – #ECET2KY

My #ECET2KY experience began with the trip to the Red Mile in snow and treacherous driving conditions.  I rarely made it above 40MPH and a normally benign drive took 2.5 hours.  By the time Taylor Haydock (@MrsTCH – Kennedy Montessori Elementary) arrived, it felt like I’d been in the Iditarod Race.  I had packed rations in case I ended up stranded, but thankfully, they were not used.  I did, however, keep my snow boots on as I trudged into the event.

Once we got in and found our table (and sweet swag bag), it wasn’t long before the magic began.  MC Mickey Campbell introduced the day’s events and changes that needed to be made due to the inclement weather (no Google apps session), and then Barbara Bellissimo (@bbellissimo – Fund for Transforming Education in KY gave a welcome, explanation of @thefundKY and introduction to Irvin Scott (@iscott4 –  Gates Foundation).  We sang – yes, sang – to a version of the Black Eyed Peas and gave a rousing “SHOUT OUT” until we had enough spunk.  I must say that by this time, I was captivated.  The #tag #ECET2KY was probably trending by this time!

Sherri McPherson (@SherriRMc – Fayette County) was the first speaker and posed a question that many of us may have been asking, “Why am I here?”  She spoke with passion of her ECET experiences and spoke of rejuvenation for our profession.  To remember WHY we teach and what drew us to teaching.  She encouraged us to be a voice for our profession; to work together to forward education.  With all the hoops we as educators must jump through today, it’s easy to lose sight of those.  As she spoke, thoughts of special moments with students popped into my head.  I love my job.  I get to “play” and form the foundation of what it means to be “healthy” with my students.  I am truly blessed!

My first breakout session was with Robin Reid and Brison Harvey of Lafayette HS – “Learning and Improving Practice through Collaboration.  Taylor and I were teamed with Brian McDowell and Renee Boss (@renee_boss – KDE) and collaborated to build a 28.5 inch house of cards and a structure made from 18 pieces of raw spaghetti, string, masking tape, a rubber band and a marshmallow which nearly stood on it’s own:)  We looked at the Tom Wujec: Build a Tower, Build a Team TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower.html and spoke about how collaboration is imperative for the educational process.

We came back for the first of two colleague circles where we shared our leadership “super power” and discussed what leadership meant to us.  My circle included Brian McDowell (Mason County), Mickey Campbell (Fayette County), Paradise Forbes (@pforbes81 – Williamstown), Ali Wright (@alicrowley – Fayette County) and Anna Shultz (@aetps13 of the Gates Foundation).  As I listened to Anna explain her work at the Gates Foundation and the exciting things planned for #ECET2, I felt an overwhelming desire to get even more involved with being a teacher leader.

Our second breakout session was with Ali Wright and the Center for Teaching Quality (#CTQ) team.  We were posed a quote from Barnett Berry (who was in attendance), “It’s time to blur the lines between those who teach in schools and those who lead them.”  We were asked to compare our version of what leadership is to what we had heard so far.  I must say that my views on leadership were being challenged by the company that I was in. This was not just any group of educators.  There were teachers of the year at either side of me. There were nationally recognized leaders and innovators.  I felt motivated to be more of a leader in my school, district, state and beyond. We were asked to create a professional action plan and were given an amazing template to use.  I made it a point to ask for additional copies so I could share with my colleagues.

During lunch, our keynote speaker, Megan Allen (@redhdteacher – Florida, Mt. Holyoke College), delivered a passionate talk.  She showed a street sign from New Orleans that says, “Welcome to Your Blank Canvas” and asked what we would put on our canvas.  She shared stories of students.  Her “Grip of Trust” story hit close to home, reminding me of my son, William, an Aspie.  It was so uplifting to see her passion that she fills towards her work.  I later attended Megan’s breakout session called Fireside Chat, without a doubt my favorite session.  We worked in groups to list celebrations and challenges after we watched a Tosh 2.0 clip on Jessica’s Affirmations http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg The statement “We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges” really made an impression on the group.  Megan talked about Imposter Syndrome and having faith in your abilities, believing that we do have a voice and we are the experts in our field, so we must have a voice.  We are all leaders our own way.  My new friend Kelly Stidham (@kastidham – KDE) posed the question that seemed to sum up our challenges.  Her post it read, “Have we clearly defined what our work is as a profession?”  We were taxed to think about what leadership looked like at our schools, which tied in with something said at my colleague circle that stuck with me, “Is everyone in my building ready to be a leader?”  As I drove home, those two questions took up most of my time.

We met back in our colleague circles again to discuss what work needs to be done in our profession, what the role of the teacher leader looks like, next steps for ECET2, and how we can network.  Josh Roberson (Robertson County) was our closing speaker, addressing “How did I get here?” “Why YES is so Important” and “Are We Professionaly Fit.”

The day was so empowering.  From the speakers to the people at each table to the questioning and challenges, I left feeling like I had a more defined idea of what I wanted my teaching and leadership to look like.  New goals were realized, new friendships were made, and most importantly, I realized how much more there was that Kentucky had to offer it’s students.  We are at the front of the educational movement in this state.  We must not rest on our laurels and continue to push forward with innovative new ideas and fresh thinking.  I’m so honored to be part of that movement.

On a #physed note, I met two amazing physical educators from Central Kentucky.  Melody Hamilton (@WoodfordcntyPE – Woodford County) and Emily Coleman (Fayette County).  Melody will be a presenter at next month’s SDAAPHERD Conference on Teacher Effectiveness.  Meeting other physical and health educators is always so exciting!Image

ECET2 Conference 1/25 at Red Mile

ECET2My friend Taylor Haydock and I have been invited to attend the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching event next weekend at the Red Mile.  It is sponsored through the Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky and through the Gates Foundation.  I’m very honored and excited to be one of the 12 educators from the field selected.  Special thanks to Jamie Sparks of the KY SHAPE networkfor the nomination.  My hope is to continue to network with other physical and health educators from around the state to further enhance my instruction, and to learn new and innovative technologies (including a better understanding of Google Apps) to help integrate technology into my instruction.  I’ll be sharing my experiences as soon as possible!  Now, to try and figure out what to wear…

Coordinated School Health Summit 12/5

This was such an amazing event for the state of Kentucky and the future of our children.  The newly formed KYSHAPE network put on an amazing event in Louisville on Dec 5th, and I was so honored to be able to attend and speak about health education as it relates to Coordinated School Health.  It’s about time that everyone else knows how important Bonnie Ciarroccki’s Health Promotion Schools of Excellence program is – it’s been centered around CSH from the start over 20 years ago.    Jamie, Todd, Stephanie and Vicki did a wonderful job of spreading the word about how important each of the 8 areas of the CSH format are.  Each county from the state sent a team to implement the ideas they learned there.   My Aunt, Connie Meek, was amongst the attendees from my home county, Johnson.  Being able to speak with her in attendance made the event special, and having my son (along with nine other of my Greenwood students) perform GoNoodle activities for the crowd meant that three generations of my family were able to be present at the event.  It was a perfect day (minus the fender bender after), and I hope it lays the groundwork for Kentucky to be a leader in the Coordinated School Health movement!Image

I’m a Slacker

Coach Ratliff #physed

Trying to physically educate the world, one person at a time...

PHYSEDAGOGY

A discussion of best practices in the modern Physical Education classroom