Thursday, May 19, 2011

Friday's Five: People Who Have Influenced Me

There have been many individuals that have had a great impact on my development as a teacher.  I can think of many colleagues, administrators, conference speakers, and educational leaders who have helped me to shape my personal philosophies, pedagogy, and practices.  Since our growth as professionals is something that never ends, I wanted to take some space on this week's Friday's Five to share some of the people that I have found inspirational.  I hope that you will take a moment to share some who have impacted you either in the comment section, or on the blog's Facebook page.

For those who missed last week's Friday's Five, every week I'll be picking a topic dealing with education and listing 5 things that I think fit that topic.  Last week's topic was web 2.0 tools.  If you've got suggestions for future topics, please share them with me on Plurk, Twitter, or Facebook.  After I give you my list, I'd like you to participate by sharing your ideas on the week's topic in the comment section.

As I said before, there have been many who have made an impact on me in my career.  Below are five, in no particular order.

1.  Dylan Wiliam - A few years ago I spent a week in Hershey, PA at the Governor's Institute for Data Driven Instruction.  One of the keynote speakers was Dylan Wiliam.  To say that his presentation influenced me would be a great understatement.  He convinced me of the need to change my lessons to include in-lesson formative assessment, and showed me ways how it could be done.  He introduced me to the concept of professional learning communities, and showed why they are so important.  He helped me to solidify my belief that the pedagogy we use in our classrooms is more important than any other factor in boosting student learning, and that putting focus on other areas just distracts us from what's important.

2.  Sir Ken Robinson - If tomorrow I was asked to choose the new United States Secretary of Education, SKR would be my choice.  I saw him deliver a keynote last year at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference (PETE & C).  I don't think I've ever had the pleasure of listening to anyone else that understands the shortfalls of what we're doing in education and the direction we need to be headed in more that him.  Some of you may have seen the clip of a SKR talk that's been floating around the internet from RSA Animate.  If so, it's worth watching again.  If not, I promise it's worth watching.

If you want more SKR, watch his TED talk on how school kills creativity, or consider reading his book, The Element:  How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

3.  Patti Duncan - Before attending a session she was giving at PETE & C in 2009, Patti and I had worked in the same district but only communicated via e-mail.  I wanted to meet her face-to-face and introduce myself, so I decided to drop in on her presentation on "Building a Professional Learning Network (PLN)."  It is probably the most important hour of my teaching career to this point.  Dylan Wiliam convinced me that collaborating w/ other teachers was important.  Patti showed me how to expand that collaboration globally through social networking.  Since that point, my PLN has become invaluable - a source of new ideas, inspiration, support, discussion of educational topics, and a place to get feedback on activities I try in my classroom.  Having a PLN of hundreds of teachers all over the globe has made me grow as a teacher in ways of which I never could have dreamed.  You can read Patti's DEN Blog here.

4.  Steve Leinwand - When my district was exploring ways to improve high school math achievement a few years ago, they brought Steve Leinwand in for a few hours in the summer to talk to the high school teachers about ways to change pedagogical practices in their classes.  I don't remember how I ended up in that session (since I teach 5th grade), but I'm sure glad that I did.  This is where I discovered the power of asking "why?" Steve's talk started me on the path toward demanding understanding from my students, and not just the correct answer.

5.  Dan Meyer - I came across Dan Meyer's blog about a year and a half ago when a member of my PLN shared one of his posts on Plurk.  His views on teaching math are visionary.  Many of the activities I have done with my math classes in the past year have been inspired by his posts.  To get an idea of his vision for how to change our math classes, take a look at his TED talk: Math Class Needs a Makeover.

Now it's your turn to share.  Who is someone that had an impact on your growth as a professional?  Let us know by leaving a comment.

Don't forget to re-Tweet, re-Plurk, or share this post on Facebook.  Like many of you, I love being exposed to new ideas and people who can help me grow.  The more people we can get contributing, the more amazing educators we can find to help us on our journey.


  1. I think that is a really hard question to answer. I don't think that I can really single anyone out. I have had the pleasure (and sometimes agony) of substituting. In doing so, I have been able to be inspired and impacted by so many professionals. No matter the classroom or situation, whether it be wonderful or frustrating, I try my best to walk away with a positive reflection... a learning experience. This is something that I will spend more time thinking about, my my current answer would be; every teacher, administrator and professional has been an impact on my teaching philosophies and my development as a teacher.

  2. Mr. Frederick Bourcey was my 6th grade teacher. Fresh from the seminary after deciding not to become a priest, young "Mr. B" had the fresh, progressive view of education that included listening to important music (Bernstein's "Westside Story"), reading important words (e.e.cummings and Alan Ginsberg), performing musical pieces from the early 20th century, and mentoring younger students by helping them carry their lunch trays, learn to read and tie their shoes, and generally encourage them. I'd wanted to be a teacher from the age of four, but it was Mr. Bourcey's teaching after which I modeled my own.
    In visiting my hometown last year I was able to talk to Mr. B after Mass one Sunday. I thanked him, told him just what his having been my teacher meant to me, and I shared the ways I've used the ideas he passed on to us.
    Thank you, Mr. B. Thank you for asking the question, Michael!