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(NOTE: At the requeset of my dear friend, Mike Fisher, many of us are writing tributes to the victims of Sandy Hook.)
Allison Wyatt, 6 Years Old
I never met Allison Wyatt, but after seeing her endearing photo on her Facebook page dedication I feel that I had a glimpse of an angel. Her smile is easy and soft and she is comfortable as she looks at the camera. Allison was lovely. I flashed on what her parents and family must be feeling a year later with the sincere hope that they are finding some peace.
The Sandy Hook tragedy is still palpable. Fathoming the events is simply not fully possible.
A few weeks ago I was walking through a school in New Fairfield, Connecticut, a few miles from Sandy Hook with the building principal who is a close personal friend. I had always wanted to see 'her school'. It was a beautiful facility with engaged kids. There was a surprising moment as she noted that the security on the doors totally changed. No visitor can actually go straight into the building, but is viewed through a security camera then circumvented through a tight office corridor. The entire school population practice lock-downs several times a year now with escape routes. Sandy Hook changed the entry way into elementary school.
After reading the comments on the Facebook page about Allison it is clear that during her short time on the planet, she had already become a treasured person. We are educators and every day in schools see a radiant face like Allison's regularly. Bright, engaged, lively faces accompanied by loud, playful, laughs, cries, and talking. She reminds me that in the classroom, on the playground, or the school bus- children are life.
Allison's Facebook Page:
An intriguing viewpoint posited in the article, “Rethinking Learning,” found on www.3gSelling.com, is that we often base our decisions more on what we are accustomed to than on what really works best. This is a useful perspective from which to examine expections and decisions that are made with regard to curriculum use and teacher evaluation.
It is not unusual for the directions on how to use a curriculum to include an admonition that in order to be used effectively, the curriculum must be followed as is. Doing this is often problematic because though learning takes place within a process, learning itself is not linear.
Hence, a teacher might opt to complete a particular aspect of a lesson based on what she knows about her students and not on a stipulated timeframe or, manner stiuplated by the curriculum. This type of professional judgment is integral for meeting specific needs through such vehicles like diversity, personalized learning and differentiation; all of which focus on meeting individual’s needs.
Given this recognition of varying individual needs, it is equally important to understand and accept that even when different instructional methods are used, not all students will grasp concepts at the same time. Similarly, a teacher will not always be able to address learning deficiencies during one lesson. Being able to do this is highly dependent on the nature of the lesson and student effort.
This is an especially important issue for evaluators during classroom observations. Conclusions about a teacher's practice should not be based on how many students did not grasp a particular concept at one point and time but rather they should be centered on what the teacher does subsequently and how effective it is in moving students towards mastery. This is in keeping with the true nature of learning, which occurs overtime and at a different pace for each person.
Unrealistic expectations and unsound decisions easily become the norm because they sound great and because changing them entails some discomfort. However, for learning to thrive, these habits need to be laid to rest.
I have not been a huge proponent of the Common Core State Standards. However, if education is faced with such a sweeping movement, teachers should be prepared with good strategies. Here are my Top 5 ways to improve your Common Core strategies.
Mark Barnes is the author of ASCD books, Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom and The 5-Minute Teacher: How do I maximize time for learning in my classroom? Learn more here.
This blog is cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/
The first job I ever had was working as a courtesy clerk at a grocery store. Working their, my main tasks were bagging groceries, gathering carts, and cleaning up messes. I was also instilled early on by my managers, that as a courtesy clerk, I was on the front lines of superior customer service. “People can shop anywhere for groceries,” I was once told, “we are all selling the same pack of Oreos. Customer service is what creates loyalty and commitment. Customer service is what separates good stores from great ones. Customer service makes the Oreos taste fresher.”
I recognize that my school is like most other schools. We are all selling the same Oreos. We all are offering our students a basic education, that will hopefully allow them to lead the lives that they desire. What separates the good schools from the great ones is a commitment to superior customer service. Great schools go above and beyond to deliver high quality service to their students, families and communities, even when they do not have to. Below are the rules of customer service that I learned in my days as a courtesy clerk and still serve as the foundation of beliefs about what great schools do.
1) Welcome Everyone in a Friendly Manner - Schools, like stores, are big intimidating places. When someone visits for the first time, the worry about being lost, not finding what they need, and just want to get in and out as quickly as possible. We want our students, families, and communities to feel like that the school is a place where they feel comfortable and want to return to again and again, not a place of anxiety and dread. Being welcoming and friendly can accomplish this. My manager told me to greet like I, “was running for office.” Now when I see someone new to the school, I ask their name, what they need and tell them to find me if they need anything. I want everyone who walks in the door, to feel like they are part of something special, and to come back again and again.
2) Anticipate Need and Escort to Item - At my store, we could never just tell a customer where the eggs were, we had to show them. Along the way we would have a conversation and the customer felt like they were getting the personal attention they may not get other places. At my school, if I see a parent in the hallway, I stop and ask them if I can help them. If they are looking for an office, or a teacher, I walk with them. I find that it allows me to have a few more seconds of personal connection. I find that many times, parents do not feel like the get special attention, and often times feel in the way. With every interaction, I try to show them how special they and that they have a welcome place inside our school
3) Handle Special Requests Promptly - I am a firm believer in dealing with problems at the lowest possible levels. In the classroom, I try to deal with everything with the student first, before I involve anyone else. The more people that are involved, often the further we get from a desirable solution. In the school if I am asked about a problem, or just a general question, I try to answer it right there. While schedules, or athletics eligibility, or bus schedules are not a normal routine, if I can find the answer I do. If I do not have an answer, I make sure I explain how I will find the answer or take them to the person who can. In my experience people often want to see that their questions are valued. The answer is important, but how the questions are handled expresses more than the answer ever can.
With a great customer service, everything about the school becomes better. It builds deep connections with those inside and outside of the school. It builds loyalty and commitment. It separates the school where you run in, get what you need and run out from the one where you feel welcome and return often. If a great school is one in which students feel welcome, parents feel respected, and communities feel engaged, then they can be achieved with a focus on customer service. I feel like this is a secret to school success and all I had to do was bag groceries in high school to figure it out
In one of his academic articles, Andrew Burke reports that teachers make some 30 non-trivial work related decisions every hour and engage in as many as 1,500 interactions with students every day. No wonder teachers are so exhausted!
The opportunity to engage with students as many as 1,500 times every day presents us with lots of opportunities to “get it right”—and just as many opportunities to fall short.
While these four strategies from blogger and ESL teacher Larry Ferlazzo won’t guarantee that we “get it right” all the time, they may prove useful for strengthening your relationships with challenging students.
Simple Ways to Reach Your Challenging Students
Conduct regular student reflections
Most of us regularly tell students what we expect of them; less often do we ask them to set expectations for themselves. One way to have students take stock of their behavior and intellectual growth is by having them write weekly reflections. As an example, you might consider having students answer and discuss prompts like these:
The idea is for each student to write about how they see themselves in the context of that particular topic and determine if they are satisfied with themselves. If not, encourage them to reflect on how they can improve.
In his class, Ferlazzo begins each week by having students write a goal and closes each Friday by asking them to assess whether or not they were successful in reaching it.
Use daily evaluations
Writing students’ names on the board is one amongst many “old school” methods of discipline still used in the classroom.
Instead of resorting to this, try using daily evaluations instead.
To start, discuss important elements of a healthy classroom. This should be a conversation that includes everyone. Based on this discussion, develop a check list, have students grade themselves on each criteria and assign themselves an overall grade at the end of each day.
Self-assessments should only take a few minutes to review and comment on.
No more phone calls about bad behavior
Instead of calling the parents of a student who was not behaving well, Ferlazzo suggests telling disruptive students that you will not be calling their parents—at least not that day.
Instead, let them know that the phone call will wait until the following week so that you can report all the good things they’ve done and how they’ve improved in the last week.
Arrange a secret sign with students that lets them know they need to stop
Private conversations usually help curb disruptive behavior, but they may not be necessary if you and the student arrange a “sign” that lets the student know a specific behavior needs to stop. This may be as simple as standing next a student or tapping on his or her desk.
If you stop by Mr. Ferlazzo’s blog, you’ll not only find a collection of useful teaching resources, you’ll also be able to read the six remaining classroom management tips we mention here.
In fifth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. K. She was a no-nonsense kind of lady, but like any master teacher, she was able to maintain a perfect equilibrium of toughness and tenderness. She demanded excellence, but she also knew when it was time to pull back and nurture. That’s a rare and special talent.
Two decades later, I can still remember things Mrs. K said, or the way that she could effortlessly transition between teaching long division and improvising songs on the piano—songs, I might add, that included the vocabulary and spelling words we were studying.
I wager that most of us have warm feelings about at least one teacher. We may not have seen this teacher in decades, but the impression made by him or her never quite leaves us. Excellent teachers come in all forms, but I’d like to share five things about my teacher that not only inspired me as a student, but turned me into an aspiring educator.
5 Lessons I Learned From a Master Teacher
She demanded excellence
Mrs. K knew how to have fun, but that never stood in the way of her demand for excellence in both our conduct and work. Anything less than the best and most urbane was not tolerated. We learned this quickly and rose to the occasion—and she did too.
She knew that there was a time for play
The first time Mrs. K joined our recess kickball game—ankle-length dress and all—surprised all of us. At our school, the teachers rotated recess duty: two would supervise while the others ate lunch in the cafeteria or prepped for the rest of their classes. On several occasions, Mrs. K gave up her prep time so that she could join in on whatever game her students were playing. When this happened, large groups of students would migrate to the baseball field to watch. Like us, they were impressed by this playful side of Mrs. K. I’m sure they also found it odd that the same woman who scolded them for dawdling, or marched them to the gym with the precision of an army sergeant, actually owned tennis shoes and knew how to thrown down on the kick ball court.
Joining in on our games showed us that our teacher could cut loose, laugh at herself, and that she genuinely liked spending time with us.
She found a way to incorporate her talents into the curriculum
Mrs. K wasn’t a virtuoso on the piano, but that never stopped her from playing “Happy Birthday” or banging out an improvised song that included creative ways to spell vocabulary words. Not only were these sing-alongs fun, they taught us something.
The lesson I took from this: Use your talents creatively, share them with students, and find a way to bring them into the classroom. This will keep things engaging for both you and the students.
She was forgiving
I’ve never given them a lie detector test, but I know a couple teachers who claim they never cheated in school. I happen to be one that did and, as you might have guessed, Mrs. K was the teacher who caught me. The details of the incident probably aren’t that important, but Mrs. K was no pushover; she knew there was no way I could have calculated the math problems she assigned our group in my head.
Once the rest of the class left for recess, Mrs. K called me up to her desk, handed me my paper and said, “You have the right answers, but I don’t see any work. Where is it?” Before I could answer, she added, “I just want you to be honest with me about this assignment.” I fessed up and to my surprise, she smiled, held out her hand, shook mine and said, “I admire your honesty.”
I didn’t receive a detention and I didn’t fail the assignment. Instead, she allowed me to redo the assignment for homework.
What did I learn from this? When I eventually had my own students, my classroom was not exempt from cheating. After weeks of going over plagiarism and proper citation, I would always find that two or three students had copied large sections of articles they found on Google and pasted them into their own papers. I felt betrayed, insulted and frustrated with these students. I may not have always handled these situations as gracefully as Mrs. K did—but I always strove to.
She made a big deal out of greeting us
What I always appreciated about Mrs. K was the way she greeted us every morning. As we would come into the class, she would stand outside the door, smile and greet us by name. This showed the class not only that she was pleased to see us, but that she was ready and eager to explore a day of learning with us. It was a simple, but important gesture that still sticks with me.
I remember all the times that I have asked my children for their opinion. I have asked, "How do I look?" before a trip to the movies. After spending hours in the kitchen, I have also asked "How was the home made soup?" To no surprise, I was not thrilled with their feedback (my daughter typically begs me to change my outfit immediately. As for the soup, I interpret their addition of much salt to represent the need for more flavor).
I didn't go through many changes, or much preparation before asking for my children's opinion, but I tend to think that for the classroom, asking our students for feedback should require a system or at least a plan. We understand the value of student feedbakc, but now, lets focus on how we can begin the process. Because I am a believer in the learning potential within mistakes, I will identify considerations to avoid when pursuing student perception.
1. Don't Reinvent the Wheel.
There is research available to show you the different ways to gather student opinion. There is no need to start from scratch and develop your own system. There are online surveys (survey monkey) or online polls that you can use to measure student perception of a lesson (polleverywhere.com). In addition, there are ways to get more personal feedback with the use of group conferences or individual conferences. You can indirectly obtain feedback through the use of a classroom profile by examining trends in your classroom such as attendance, submissions of late work, extra credit, and the frequency of visits to your classroom blog. Keeley (2012) in a pulication called Science and Children illustrates a great example of creating a classroom profile as a means of collecting information about your students.
2. Dont Overlook the element of Time.
Typically teacher evaluations are completed at the end of a year, but think about the drawbacks to this approach. If you approach your students early and often, there is a greater likelihood of utilizing the data to inform your teaching practices sooner and more frequently. There is a great article in the New York Times (Lewin, 2012) that discusses how professors that wish to go the extra mile collect feedback weekly.
3. Dont Be Vague.
Try to be very specific when aksing for feedback. Instead of asking what the students "like" or "dislike", require the students to share what they found particularly "useful" or what may have created "barriers" to their academic success.
4. Don't Sit on the Sidelines.
Even though you wish to focus on student feedback, allow the students to ask you questions as well. This is an opportunity to share your thought process on how you developed your curriculum map. Also, based on the questions that your students ask, you can learn what elements of the class they desire to have a voice or a role in the decision-making process.
5. Dont Personalize the Information.
It is likely that the student evaluations will yield some negative comments. That is fine. Remember that the focus of the eval is your teaching practice, not you as an individual. The goal is to learn specific things about your teaching that you may improve upon in the future. So, yes, it hurts my feelings when my daughter slams my outfit, but at the same time, I am able to learn a little about fashion (and hopefull learn to later present myself as a fashionista later) due to her feedback.
*Please note that the first post in this series is titled "There's no Crying in Baseball". For the final follow up post, I will outline important things that teachers should do after collecting the student feedback.
I discovered this great education infographic and thought it would be worth sharing with all of you. The flipped classroom method is a fairly new teaching concept I find interesting. It reminds me of the Montessori way of teaching because it allows students to completely master a subject before moving on, enabling them to work at their own pace. Students watch the lessons at home and are able to spend more individual time with their teachers mastering the subject content in the classroom.
Have you used the flipped classroom method? What was your experience? Are you considering using it? Please respond in the comments below. Check out the great infographic about flipped classrooms, created by Dan Grafton, below.
Thanksgiving is always such a hectic time of year. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the tasks that need to be completed prior to enjoying that long-awaited, delicious dinner with family.
I sometimes find myself caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday that I forget to step back and take a moment to really think about what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for so much, but right now I want to take a moment and say how thankful I am for all of you making a difference in the lives of children.
Your impact is HUGE. Your dedication and passion for being a leader and role model to children can’t be thanked enough.
As a special thank you, here is a poster created just for you.
Print a copy of your poster here. (http://edu.writestepswriting.com/morethanateacher)
You are so much more than a teacher. You play the role of counselor, police officer, travel agent, confidante, banker, librarian, doctor, detective, dietician, and many others in the eyes of your students.
As an aspiring educator, I knew exactly what kind of teacher I would be: I would facilitate dynamic discussions; the students would not only read all of the assigned texts, they would devour them. Sure, teaching would be work, but I mostly saw myself as a facilitator—someone who would ask all the right questions and look on as my students marched towards intellectual victory.
You can probably see where this is going. Once I was handed the keys to the classroom, I was surprised when things didn’t magically fall into place like they were supposed to. (Does this sound familiar?)
It wasn’t that things were disastrous, but they just weren’t the way I imagined. Why weren’t students talking? Why weren’t they as excited as I was about what we were reading? Why weren’t they making connections and thinking critically about what they read?
It wasn’t until later that I discovered that I (not the students) was the reason our discussions fell flat. To spark discussions and critical inquiry, I asked my students a lot of questions. Questions are good, but most of the questions I asked students were what we would call nonessential questions.
To give you a clearer sense of what I mean by essential and nonessential questions consider the following examples from Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins’ book, Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding.
Essential question: “How do the arts shape, as well as reflect, culture?
Nonessential question: “What common artistic symbols were used by the Incas and the Mayans?”
Essential question: “Is there ever a ‘just’ war?
Nonessential question: What key event sparked World War I?”
Essential question: “What does it mean to be a ‘true’ friend?”
Nonessential question: “Who is Maggie’s best friend in the story?”
As you may have noticed, unlike nonessential questions, essential ones are timeless. Some can even be grappled with indefinitely; they are neither immediately apparent nor can they be answered with a fact or a simple yes or no response. Essential questions force us to interrogate our presuppositions, dig in, explain, defend, question and—hopefully—grow.
If you still sketchy on the difference between essential and nonessential questions, here are seven of McTighe and Wiggins’ defining characteristics of a good essential question.
A good essential question:
Unfortunately, some of my undergraduate classes are not very diverse. Maybe out of 20-25 students in an introduction education/psychology class, only a handful are black. Recently in class, durinng the time dedicated to independent practice, one of my female black students wore ipod earbuds. This really got to me. Correction. It truly bothered me. Here, I had a student that had been presented with similar experiences as myself (we were both minorities), and yet she refused to engage in the lesson/practice that I created for her. I felt betrayed. I couldn't help but think about the root of her behavior:
Was she bored with the material or the classroom routine?
Was she testing her boundaries with me, the classroom, the university?
Was she unaware of proper classroom etiquette (afterall, she was a freshman)?
Was she going through something personally and needed music to help cope/block out everything around her?
I believed that the cause may stem from something deeper. Something more personal in nature. Was it me? I began to wonder just how I may have contributed to the student's behavior:
Did my thick afro-like loosely curled hair suggest that the classroom environment would be mor lax (and thus suitable for listening to ipod music during class)?
Did my wooden ethnic inspired earrings suggest that my lesson (or me as the instructor) was somehow less relevant (to the mainstream) or should be taken less seriously?
Did my conversational lecture, embedded with slang (some may say Ebonics) suggest that I was less educated than other leaders in academia and thus warranted less attention?
In short, I wondered was my young black student unprepared, uncertain, or even unwilling to receive a leader in the likeness of her own image? Further, I wondered how might I work to move my student and myself through this academic barrier? Finally, I needed to consider the "teachable moments" within this experience that would benefit other educators in the future.
In closing, I had reservations about sharing my private thoughts/experiences. I find that often race is one of those topics (like money, politics, and religion) that people shy away from talking about openly. I found inspiration to share my experience from a quote based on a radio speech by Gerritt Bolkestein that motivated the infamous Anne Frank to share her diary:
"History can not be written on the basis of official decisions and documents alone. If our descendants are to understand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during these years, then what we really need are ordinary documents--a diary... Not until we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everyday material will the picture of our struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory."
There are several reasons principals should regularly conduct classroom walkthroughs.
Keep in mind that classroom walkthroughs do not need to be long, invasive or formal for them to be meaningful. If you simplify the observation process and stick to the five steps outlined in Countdown to the Principalship, your observation should really only take about three minutes.
The 3-Minute Classroom Walkthrough in 5 Steps
Observe student engagement
It only takes a split second to observe whether or not students are engaged in their work. Are they listening, writing, interacting with the teacher or other students, or working alone?
Observe the lesson and learning objectives
Assessing what is being taught and determining whether or not the objective of the lesson is aligned with curriculum and ethical standards is where you should spend most of the next couple of minutes.
Observe teachers’ instructional strategies
Now that you understand the curricular focus, you are ready to look at the teacher’s instructional strategies. Is s/he using Socratic questioning or giving feedback? Are students working alone or in groups, are they taking notes, problem solving, etc.?
Always complete the first three steps and do your best to withhold judgment; you are simply gathering data and looking for patterns in classroom instruction.
If time permits, conclude your walkthrough with the following two steps:
Does the lesson connect?
During this step, you should be looking to see if you can make any connections between this lesson and previous learning objectives. Ideally, every lesson should build upon the preceding lesson.
Observe safety and health Issues
Are there any noticeable safety or health issues that need to be addressed?
If you decide to make brief classroom walkthroughs a regular part of your routine, you’ll want to inform your staff first. Here are five things you might mention to your teachers:
We love our job, but that doesn’t mean that teaching is easy. There will be bad days and classes that don’t go the way we planned them—there may even be days when things go so wrong that we question whether or not we are in the right profession.
We want to remind you that you are not alone.
To help you put things into perspective, we reached out to fellow teachers and asked them to share words of encouragement and their best pieces of advice for recovering from a disastrous day.
15 More Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
“Tomorrow is another day. I remember that even the best rock star teachers have disastrous classes, disastrous days, and even disastrous weeks and semesters! I know that I'll examine the class to figure out what went wrong and take steps to remedy the situation, whatever it was.”
“I remind myself why I'm doing this in the first place and that there are going to be bad days...they are part of life. AND prayer...definitely.”
“Take a deep breath.......realize that those students are gone (and you won't have to deal with them the rest of the day!), that a new set is coming in and they need you to be at your best.
“Quickly do a run through in your head and see if you need to make any adjustments to your presentation/teaching so that the next class won't go down the same rotten path. And keep in mind that they are just kids; we don't know what kind of home life they are coming from. We have to be adult and the bigger person.”
“I keep letters from former students that were given to me in years past. When I have one of those days, I will read some of the letters and remind myself that what I'm doing does matter and is touching lives.”
“You will have good days, great days, and bad days. Remember, you are there for the students, to teach them not only academics, but how to be good people. The students that are the worst need your help, love, and kindness the most. Don't take it personal.”
“I think back to some of the positive things parents and students have told me that helps reassure me I am doing the right thing. This allows me to refocus, step back up to the line and get ready for the next period.”
“A prayer for patience—and remember that tomorrow is a new start for both you and the students.”
“I find positive things that happened in the same class period. I call home about these positive tidbits. It goes a long way with the students that actually do what they are supposed to and helps me realize my small victories. I always feel tons better after bragging on students.”
“Do your best, put your heart into it, but don't take it personally when the kids let you down. You won't actually reach all of them, but work like you can.
“Do not take it personally. Reflect on how you can change the lesson or dynamics so that the students will learn. Remember, it is not about you, it is about the students' learning. Chocolate helps too, though. J”
“I try to figure out what went wrong and why, and then take action so the same thing won't go wrong the same way. And in the meantime, a deep breath and laughing with other teachers helps.”
“It is so easy to focus on the disaster and forget about the good things. Remember that you teach students, not a subject. Don't tear yourself up. We are all human. Laugh it off. Reflect, and move on. Think of it as a memorable experience and embrace the next adventure. It can only get better.”
“They need you! Just keep plugging!”
- Mrs. Oliver
“I am honest with myself and the students. Today for example, class went horrific. They were talking too much, not grasping the material, and not 100 percent focused (mainly because I have them before and after lunch). So I stopped class and told them to put their notes away. I told them that we will try again tomorrow because the cold weather has frozen our brains. We reviewed another topic and they did another activity.
I try not to force it when class is going downhill. Chances are I will have to reteach the topic again tomorrow anyway because of how the class went. So instead of everyone being frustrated or me rolling my frustration to the next class, I change up the lesson.”
Many of us have a clear sense of what we want to be—or more specifically, what we want to do for a living—from the moment we pop out of the womb. Whether or not it’s true, I know plenty of teachers who claim they knew they were going be educators while they were still walking around in diapers. Others of us, this writer included, didn’t find our niche or career path until well into adulthood.
While we do believe that kids should be kids, we would also argue that we have a responsibility to guide our students, help them hone their talents and move towards a fulfilling future. To help your students begin assessing their passions and career interests, we’d like to share three of our favorite resources with you.
3 Sites to Help Students Move from Classroom to Career
icould probably articulates its mission better than I can: “icould is about inspiration, encouragement and discovery. The idea is to help you make the most of your potential and talent by showing how others have used theirs.”
To pique your students’ interest, icould has compiled an impressive collection of video interviews with working professionals—anyone from laboratory technicians, engineers and speech therapists to music video directors, lighting cameramen and stewards.
Teachers will also find articles, classroom resources and a database of career-related articles on the site.
Unlike other career tests, Your Free Career Test is short (52 questions) and isn’t based on psychological theories. It simply asks students questions that relate to career categories; then it uses an algorithm to match their responses to careers. Upon completion, your students will receive an assessment that assigns them to a career category, recommends courses and offers a bulleted list of example careers.
In addition to interview and resume tips and career planning advice, you’ll also find a “Jobs For People Who…,” section that matches career options to your students’ interests. Also worth checking out is the “Do What You Love!” section where you’ll find a collection of interviews with anyone from animal communicators, astronauts and filmmakers to actors, musicians and LEGO master builders.
Recently during an in-class presentation, a student showed a clip from the Tom Hanks film "A League of Their Own". It was the scene where Hanks is frustrated with his female player (all female league) as she cries in response to his instruction/coaching. The source of his frustration is simple, Hanks holds a strong perception of baseball (he believes baseball is rough, tough, and all things macho) and it is evident that his female player did not share these ideas. In disbelief of his player's perception of the game, Hank yells "there's no crying in baseball". The video clip speaks directly to the vital role that perception plays in our everyday interactions. More specifically to educators, the film clip may serve to remind us how perception impacts our classroom.
As educators we are typcially aware of how we feel, but how much do we really know about our student's feelings? What do our students think about our lesson plans, classroom environment, and assessments and how do our perceptions differ? Below is a sample of 6 differences between what we may believe as educators and what our learners may perceive everyday in th classroom.
Teacher Perception: What does this test show about my instructional effectiveness?
Student Perception: I wonder if I can trick the teacher into thinking that I studied and know this material?
Teacherr Perception: How well does this assignment prepare the students for the test?
Student Perception: Why do we have to repeat the same stuff that we did in class at home?
Teacher Perception: Can I effectively individualize instruction?
Student Perception: Is separate truly equal? I don't know if it is fair that different students get different work
4. Scheduled Substitute Teacher
Teacher Perception: I hope I left sufficient activities for the students in order to keep them on track.
Student Perception: Free time! (Las Vegas mentality:What happens here, stays here).
5. Extra Credit Opportunities
Teacher Perception: How might this extra credit assignment reinforce the concepts from our class?
Student Perception: Free points!
6. Assignment Calendar/Syllabus
Teacher Perception: What other information should I add in order to make the information more clear to the students?
Student Perception: Should I keep this? I can just ask the teacher about the due dates or deadlines.
In order to make meaningful changes in our classroom, we first need to become aware of our perceptions as educators and the perceptions of our learners. Understanding the perceptions of others is hard work. I tend to think about the book "Seven Effective Habits" by Covey in that he emphasizes the need to first seek to understand (as a prerequisite to being understood). It's ok if you perceive crying in baseball as a crime. It is better if you seek ways to understand how others may perceive baseball. A single belief can be so limiting. Let's challenge ourselves to learn about perceptions outside of our own. Specifically it is time to think about how our students perceive their learning process and how we can use these perceptions to inform instruction. As a way to help, I will provide a follow-up post that outlines considerations and strategies in exploring student perception.
As a coach, it can be frustrating sometimes when you are coaching novice teachers who want instant answers to solve problems that seem to be the bane of their existence. Coaches, you have to understand and reflect back when you were a teacher, how much you longed for the same thing. As I go into schools supporting teachers and even administrators, I realized that you must leave them with some right now answers. Please know that everything does not lend itself to “right now” answers, but most do. So here are three quick tips to coaching novice educators.
Highlight the Positive: Often when a person is new to teaching, they have many questions around their pedagogue. It’s imperative that you affirm and highlight the positive things in their practice by explaining what makes what they are doing effective. Face it, everyone at some point wants to know if they are doing a good job, or not. This process also will support teacher retention because there is a cyclical process of support that highlights the positive rather than the negative. Just like we do with students, a coach should use that teacher’s strengths to build on areas of concern.
Tangible Quick Tips: It’s almost inevitable to give a novice teacher some quick tips to solve some problems they might be facing. Although every teacher has to find their way, we will often lose good teachers if they are not supported with tangible resources that will impact immediate change. For example, a novice teacher may have difficulty managing student behavior. One quick tangible tip you can provide that teacher is creating a behavior chart or classroom incentive program. Another quick tip can be providing classroom jobs. I used to teach my fifth graders how to apply for a classroom job. I gave them an application and walked them through the process and they had to interview for the job. They loved it! Believe or not, students want to be responsible, and sometimes teachers struggle with this if they see undesirable behavior(s) displayed by that student.
Effective Feedback within 24-48 hours: When providing feedback, it should be done within 24-48 hours; anytime past that starts to become gray and irrelevant. Keep in mind when providing feedback, try to get the recipient to talk first and share what they thought about the lesson or interaction that you (the coach) observed when visiting him/her. Feedback does not only involve you providing next steps, but also you listening to the teacher you are coaching. Often at times, novice teachers will need to talk about their teaching experience and will use your ear for support. This is okay, as long as you are connecting it back to students and how they can continue to grow using the information to become an effective practitioner. Remember, when you are providing next steps, always connect it to research or why this next step is important for the teacher to implement. If they don’t have an understanding of what they are implementing, then how can they do it effectively?
In a recent post adapted from Kate Rousmaniere's The Principal's Office, The Principal: The Most Misunderstood Person in All of Education in The Atlantic describes the evolution of the principal since the early 1900’s. As a current school principal, and a veteran principal of 14 years, I was able to make connections with this post and I was also able to see how other people have formed opinions of the principal’s role over time. That being said, there was one particular point I disagreed with in the article.
Kate Rousmaniere points out in her post that, “Most contradictory of all, the principal has always been responsible for student learning, even as the position has become increasingly disconnected from the classroom.” If anything, I believe that skilled leaders are working harder than ever to stay connected to classrooms and students.
Within the current state of education, which has seen some of the greatest upheaval ever, it is true that the principal continues to be responsible for student learning. That should not change. Schools need strong leadership in principals to help navigate changes and keep a steady focus on why we are here; children and learning.
There are many ways to stay connected both in and out of the school house, which ultimately, keeps principals connected to classrooms. As an educator, I have the good fortune to connect through my PLN with many other administrators, principals, teachers and educators using social media such as Twitter, LinkedIN, Facebook and About.me. The rise of technology as a tool for professional development helps many of us not be disconnected from the classroom.
Twitter alone provides a forum where other educators raise questions, share experiences, and offer advice. Contrary to the belief that principals are disconnected from classrooms, these fellow educators continue to keep me connected to my own school’s classrooms through their advice, questioning and insights into best practice and education reform. I often find myself reflecting on my own work and learning more that I bring back to my school, to my classrooms, and to my students.
Within my school, I am continually tethered to classrooms, teachers, and most importantly, students. My goal is to know as many students in the school as possible and to know something about each one. Parents and staff often comment on how many of the 500 students I know. There are times when I’m surprised myself, as to how much I know about the kids in my school. I can often be found greeting students at arrival and dismissal, visiting them during lunch, interacting with them in the hallways, and in class, asking them what they are learning about, reading, and working on. My assistant principal and I also have lunch with twelve students every two weeks as well. We are thoughtful and intentional in the ways we stay connected to students.
It is also very important to me that I know what my staff are teaching children. The intent of knowing is not about micromanaging, but as a way to support learning. That may happen through walk-throughs, observations, participating in professional development with teachers, and talking to students when I visit classrooms. My connectedness to learning helps me keep my focus so that I support both students and teachers.
Do I think it is easy to become disconnected from classrooms? Absolutely! The demands of the principalship are such that I could be in meetings frequently, interacting with staff outside of the classroom, and doing paperwork and reading responding to emails continually throughout my day. So what can I and other administrators do to stay connected to classrooms and student learning? My recommendations would be:
No principal enters into their leadership role with the intent on becoming disconnected. The demands of the job are such that it could happen easily though. By actively engaging in the role of educational leaders, I hope that principals and school administrators work in ways that provide a level of transparency to the public and the school communities that they serve. By doing so, it will help with public perception and contribute to the position being more understood, and while doing that, it will help maintain a level of connectedness to students. After all, isn’t that why we do the work of the principal?
Most new teachers have spent, at minimum, 17 years inside the classroom as a student. Despite this, it is often shocking to beginning teachers how different and overwhelming it is move from behind the student’s desk to the front of the room.
This initial period of transition is a precarious one; it’s also one that veteran teachers and administrators often forget about experiencing themselves.
We’d like to share 10 insights from real, first-year teachers. It’s our hope that these quotes will not only give principals a look inside the lives of beginning teachers, but also give principals a sense for how they are perceived by others. These quotes come from Barbara Brock and Marilyn Grady’s book, From First-Year to First-Rate: Principals Guiding Beginning Teachers. We highly recommend adding it to your reading list.
10 Things First-Year Teachers Said About Their Principal
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Policy Points Highlights Funding Sources for Educator Professional Development
Despite shrinking education budgets, there are still opportunities to pursue funding for educator professional development. Check out the latest issue of Policy Points (PDF), which provides links to these resources.
Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Leader Voices
Welcome University of Southern California ASCD Student Chapter
ASCD is pleased to announce a new ASCD Student Chapter, started by ASCD emerging leader Eric Bernstein. Please join us in welcoming University of Southern California ASCD Student Chapter to the ASCD community!
2013 ASCD emerging leader Melany Stowe was recently appointed director of communications and community outreach for Danville Public Schools in Virginia.
OYEA winner Bijal Damani is one of 250 educators chosen for the Microsoft Expert Educators Program. She is also a finalist for the 21st Century Learning Teacher of the Year award, and will be sharing her experiences at their global conference next month in Hong Kong.
Throughout November on www.wholechildeducation.org: Supporting Student Success and the Common Core Standards
The Common Core State Standards are not a curriculum. Standards are targets for what students should know and be able to do. Curricula are the instructional plans and strategies that educators use to help their students reach those expectations. Central to a supportive school are teachers, administrators, and other caring adults who take a personal interest in each student and in each student’s success. How are we designing course content, choosing appropriate instructional strategies, developing learning activities, continuously gauging student understanding, adjusting instruction accordingly, and involving parents and families as partners to support our students’ success?
A whole child approach to education is essential to realizing the promise of the standards. Only when students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged will they be able to meet our highest expectations and realize their fullest potential.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on supporting student success as schools implement the Common Core State Standards. Guests include Peter DeWitt, an elementary school principal in New York, author, and Education Week blogger; Thomas Hoerr, head of New City School in St. Louis, Mo., author, and ASCD Multiple Intelligences Professional Interest Community facilitator; and Rich McKinney, an assistant principal for a middle school in Knoxville, Tenn., and Common Core coach for the state of Tennessee. Throughout the month, read the Whole Child Blog and tell us what has worked in your school and with your students. E-mail us and share resources, research, and examples.
Something to Talk About
It’s hard to believe now, but the first time I formally stood in front of a classroom was also the day I stepped off an eighteen-hour flight from Detroit to Taoyuan, Taiwan. Jet-lagged and armed with exactly two words of Mandarin in my back pocket, I eventually—after many misadventures that would take a book to describe—found my way to the school for “orientation.”
Allow me to describe “orientation.” Basically, it entailed signing some paperwork, receiving five textbooks and being told by the co-director of the school, “Just have fun with the kids and you’ll do fine—oh, and your first class is in three hours.”
Three hours later, there I was…in front of twenty eleven-year-olds, doing my best to keep it together for the next hour and forty-five minutes. I survived, but it wasn’t pretty—and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty for quite some time.
I sought advice from anyone who would give it, but the most common sound bite was, “Just stay positive and have fun with the kids.” This was neither specific, nor was it very helpful.
Looking back, I know that having a copy of Roxana Elden’s book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers wouldn’t have solved all of my first-year woes, but it certainly would have put a lot of what I was going through into perspective.
Basically, Elden describes her book as the antithesis to the beloved Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Why? According to her, “new teachers need something stronger than chicken soup.” Most of us have heard our share of commonplace teaching advice, so let’s skip the sound bites and get to part I of 10 Things You Will Wish Someone Had Told You About Teaching.
A lot of the advice you get will make you feel worse—not better
You will hear lots of advice your first year. Some will be good, but you won’t necessarily be able to put it into practice right away. Some will be bad, but you won’t realize that until you have more experience. Either way, advice is likely to come from at least three different sources:
Don’t beat yourself up for not doing every last thing that begins with the words, “Research says.”
Your classroom is your first responsibility
When you’re the new teacher on the block, it’s tempting to sign up for any opportunity that comes your way so that you can prove yourself. Here’s Elden’s two cents: “Unless you were specifically hired to run a program or coach, don’t take on other responsibilities until you have a firm grip on teaching.”
Coaching volleyball, leading after-school programs and planning class trips can be rewarding experiences—but they can turn into a nightmare when you’re still learning the essentials of teaching. Learn to walk before you run.
You can’t change everything the first year—and you shouldn’t try to
You’re coming into the school with a new set of eyes, which means that you’ll see flaws or ways of doing things that seem inefficient or unfair. Always remember that your classroom is your first responsibility. Focus your attention on becoming a better teacher, not on fighting the system.
Ask for help and accept it
New teachers often make the mistake of thinking that they have to design all of their own lesson plans, worksheets and assignments. There’s nothing wrong with designing your own resources, but you should also be open to getting ideas from other teachers. There’s a definite value in your creativity, but there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. You’ll quickly exhaust yourself.
Your students are kids, no matter how big they are
If you are an average-sized adult and you teach junior high or high school, you’re going to be working with students who are bigger, taller, and physically stronger than you are. Here are two pieces of advice: First, don’t allow your students’ size or appearance to intimidate you; second, keep your preconceptions in check and don’t allow superficialities to keep you from caring about your students.
If you found any of this advice helpful, be sure to check back for part II!