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1289 Search Results for "classroom"

  • Teaching with an Adventurous S Teaching with an Adventurous Spirit

    • From: Tiffany_Della_Vedova
    • Description:

      

      As much I flooded my blog Teach on the Edge with shameless bragging over my preparations for and "reasons" to, it was hard to miss that I was in a triathlon race this weekend. When it was over, my 28 days of race blogging also came to an end, and I was left thinking about the connections between two central pieces of my identity: fitness and education. I feel strongly that one informs the other constantly, so I set out to explore these connections in an April blogging series: Teach Fit. 

      Teach Fit Tip: Teach with an Adventurous Spirit

      One synapse through which energy flows between all the facets of my personal and professional life is adventure. When I think of adventure, my heart returns to my childhood favorite The Goonies, in which an eclectic crew of well-intentioned, ill-prepared teens sets off to find the hidden pirate treasure that will "save the Goondocks" from foreclosure. With no forethought, the group hops on their bicycles with nothing more than an old map and key, an asthma inhaler, and a ton of brash courage. Along the way, they find friendship, purpose, compassion, inner talent, and (of course) the treasure.

      While it would be hardly responsible to send students off to impending doom by booby trap, it seems today that too many teachers are fearful of teaching with an adventurous spirit. As I stood in front of the waves on Sunday's race day, it was not without a fair amount of trepidation, but I also felt sure that I could at least survive and succeed given my level of preparation. In an age of so many creative and collaborative possibilities, educators would benefit from confidence in their abilities in order to dive into an adventurous sea. When facing something new or unexpected, we need to remember that we have arrived on this shoreline of possibility with no trivial amount of preparation. Unlike our beloved Goonies, we have far more in our packs to help us avoid danger and find the learning treasures with our students. Here are five adventurous seas most teachers face and should feel confident diving into...

      1) Tech Integration: Beyond checking age-appropriate guidelines for platform use, which are clearly outlined in the user terms, the integration of technology, especially that which has been specifically designed for the classroom, is a safe sea. While there will be waves to contend with, nobody is going to drown. Allowing students to play around in the surf and share with each other how they used different techniques to arrive at the same task completion is a great practice.

      2) Project-Based Learning: The best projects are often the most open-ended ones. It's uncomfortable for teachers to set forth projects with vague rubrics, but students can benefit from ones that set high standards for creativity, collaboration, and quality, with very little else detailed. 

      3) Choice-Based Exploration: As long as the prerequisite standards have been set so that students know how they must show they have learned, allowing students to choose what they learn and design their own demonstrations of learning is an excellent way to foster agency and creativity.

      4) Unfamiliar Topic: In today's data age, information is as easy to come by asking Siri. What is far more difficult to find is guidance, rapport, and connection. Allowing for student choice sometimes means allowing for topics outside our expertise. That's okay though because teachers are adept at the latter skills so as to guide students to the best resources and connections. We are boosters of brain power and creative, critical thinking...not databases for facts. Think Socrates--he never answered any questions!

      5) Being Ourselves: This is a personal and sometimes polarizing topic. Teachers cannot and should not try to be separate people in class and outside of school. While it would be unprofessional to over share information about one's personal life, our families and our interests make us human and relatable. These are two qualities a computer can never be. Yet, teachers are understandably fearful of sharing about their family if they feel the environment is intolerant. A moving example is Chris Friend's Edutopia blog "Silence is not Golden" in which Chris explores his missed opportunity in helping students embrace their own identities and differences. "Because I never brought up my sexuality on campus, I continued the discrimination. By hiding, I silently expressed my fear and added to the problem I feebly wanted to protect students from. I was trying to make sure that students felt safe in my classroom. Instead, I showed them that even I was not." 

      There is no shortage of fear in teaching. Sometimes we fear for ourselves, but mostly we fear the impact our mistakes will have on our students. We feel the weight of each interaction because we know that there are no neutral moments or do-overs. Still, with safe boundaries for exploration, we can trust in our skills as educators when faced with some trepidation. Our adventurous spirits can inspire our students to learn at new heights if we provision our packs with trust, creativity, and strong rapport. 

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  • Leader to Leader News: April 2 Leader to Leader News: April 2014

  • Five Ways for Teacher-Leaders Five Ways for Teacher-Leaders to Bolster the Effectiveness of Peers

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “How to cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to http://edge.ascd.org/page/ascd-forum.html


      How many educators have “fallen” into a teacher-leadership role without intention?  As a high school social studies instructor, I continually strived to refine my skills both the art and science of teaching.  In my ninth year, I was encouraged to apply for a grant-funded position that would take me not only out of my classroom, but also out of my comfort zone.  However, I also knew that I would regret passing up this opportunity for personal and professional growth. 

      During my five years as a Curriculum and Instructional Technology Coach, my growth was exponential.  My most pivotal insights involved learning how to best move the district towards achieving its mission and vision through ongoing, job-embedded, collaborative, and supported professional development. 

      It is my hope that what I have learned can serve not only as a guide for other teacher-leaders, but for all educational stakeholders interested in building a climate and culture dedicated to staff development and student achievement.

      1.     Be a life-long learner: Model continuous learning alongside peers.

            Learning can be engaging, enthusiastically contagious, and invigorating.  Experiencing that “AHA!” moment-of-realization continues to be remarkable, even in adulthood.  Teacher-leaders share the joy of this adventure with peers, engage curiosity, and spark momentum for knowledge-seeking.  Similarly, they also recognize that everyone has valuable contributions that add to the collective learning of a group, and thus, encourage the facilitation of learning over the “sage on the stage” mentality.

      2.     Be a contributor: Build a Personalized Learning Network.

            Connecting with other dedicated educators opens doors for the permeation of new concepts, astute advice, and best practices.  Teacher-leaders exchange ideas with their network, then share these perspectives with peers in the district to help direct next course of action.  Better yet, teacher-leaders invite interested peers to join their online network (see #5 below).  These additional viewpoints can help direct the movement of initiatives forward or provide guidance when the path needs to be altered. 

      3.     Be a canvasser: Seek input and multiple perspectives when introducing, modifying, or deepening initiatives.

            Valuing the opinions of others, even those who disagree, builds character, collegiality, and a positive climate in which learning and growth can flourish.  Teacher-leaders suspend judgment, actively listening to and incorporating the ideas, concerns, and solutions of others.

      4.     Be an advocate: Create a communication bridge between administrators and teachers.

             Uniting stakeholders helps reinforce our common goal to provide a valuable, meaningful educational experience for our students.  Oftentimes, our own vision is limited by the constraints of our daily schedule, the pressures of external forces, and the determined focus on accomplishing our own tasks.  Teacher-leaders weave connections between administrators and teachers to address the “whats, hows, and whys” to create a deeper understanding between both groups.

      5.     Be a capacity-builder: Stand next to colleagues as they integrate their new learning into practice - and reflect with them afterward.

            Offering to co-teach with teachers integrating a new practice can alleviate feelings of uncertainty, promote confidence, and lead to fun, engaging collaboration.  Teacher-leaders spend time with colleagues reflecting on the effectiveness of lessons in relation to student learning, focusing what went well, and addressing what could be improved.  In addition to building capacity among staff, this interaction shows students that teachers work collectively to provide the most effective instruction in order to meet their varied needs.

      “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”  ― W.B. Yeats

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  • 9 Ideas You Can Steal from Tea 9 Ideas You Can Steal from Teachers

    • From: Suzy_Brooks
    • Description:

      This blog post is listed in its entirety at :http://blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us/simplysuzy/2014/04/13/9-ideas-you-can-steal-from-teachers/

       

      After stumbling across Portent’s Content Idea Generator, I had a bit of fun… I threw in some favorite topics and generated some pretty giggly blog post ideas:

       

      10 Freaky Reasons Creativity Could Get You Fired.

      How Learning Can Help You Predict the Future

      12 Ways Technology Could Help the Red Sox Win the World Series.

      20 Things Spock Would Say About Schools.  <~someone should totally write this!!

       

      But those are all topics for another day….

      9 ideas you can steal from teachers

      So I started thinking about one of the topics that Portent generated….  What are ideas we teachers have, that others would find worth stealing?

      Here goes!!

       

      1: Attention Pleaseattention

      Whether teachers are clapping, chanting, counting, calling out, or throwing up Peace Signs – they are getting the attention of students coast to coast.  So, next time you need to get attention at the dinner table, or at the deli, or on the subway – try some tried-and-true teacher tricks.  Clap a rhythm, shut the lights off, or count backwards from 10.  Soon you’ll have the rapt attention of all those around you.

      2.   Everything is more fun with Music

      Music is a powerful medium. I can still remember all of the words from all the Schoolhouse Rocks videos of my youth. I can still sing my multiplication tables from 3rd grade (thank you, Mrs. Lynch!).  Classical piano and guitar help drown out all of the distractions of Real Life so I can focus on one thing at a time.  Sharing music in the classroom helps keep things calm and lively; serene and silly.  Students respond to rhythm, to rhyme, to rap, to relaxing tones.  So, try rapping that pesky list of chores to be done around the house, or singing the steps to cleaning a bedroom.  A little classical music during dinner never hurt anyone.

      3.   Read-alouds are good for everyone.  

      Read-Aloud time is one of our most favorite in Room 204. Whether we are sharing the next chapter in Charlotte’s Web, or rhyming along with Dr. Seuss, during read-aloud every student is engaged and involved.  Perhaps the next time you’d like to get an important point across to a family member, you could do it in the form of a read-aloud.  Gather them on the rug in front of you, muster up your best fluency skills, and have at it.  Whether you read the DVR user’s manual, summer camp brochures, or the latest junk mail, I guarantee you’ll have a committed audience.  Sell it.

      The remaining 6 ideas can be found here:

      http://blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us/simplysuzy/2014/04/13/9-ideas-you-can-steal-from-teachers/

       

      As a teacher, what ideas do you have worth stealing??  Share them!!

      

      

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  • 6 Ways to Reduce Your Students 6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

       

      test anxietyTest anxiety needs no formal introduction. Most of us have experienced it—and if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen the impact it can have on your students’ performance and self-esteem. Below we’ve pulled a few stress-management tips from Neal A. Glasgow and Cathy D. Hicks’ book, What Successful Teachers Do: 91 Research-Based Classroom Strategies for New and Veteran Teachers.

      6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety

      Model low levels of anxiety in front of your students
      It should be no surprise that research shows a connection between the way we negotiate stress and the way our students handle it. If we’re stressed, chances are that it’s going to rub off on our students. We can apply every stress-management strategy in the book, but if we fail to create a positive classroom culture, even the best stress-management activity will fall flat. 


      As Tim Haston, a 7th grade math and science teacher at Earlimart Middle School, suggests, teachers would do well to approach test days like athletes do game day. “It is the performance; it is the thing we grow all year to be excited for. I don't want them to work around any anxiety, I want to teach them how to channel it as athletes do for a game, musicians do for a concert, and actors do for their play/movie/show.”

      Deep Breathing
      In addition to modeling low levels of anxiety in front of our students, we can also teach them how to be in tune with their bodies and minds. Here’s a simple deep breathing exercise we like to use before tests:

      With erect posture, breathe in deeply through the nose and hold your breath for a count of 8-10 seconds. Then, slowly exhale through the mouth, counting 8-10. Repeat this procedure several times until relaxation occurs.

      Olympic Success
      This mindfulness exercise fits in nicely with what Tim Haston said in our first point.


      Tell students to try what Olympic athletes do to develop confidence in their performance. Picture yourself in a tense situation, such as taking a test, and visualize yourself looking over the test, seeing the questions, and feeling secure about the answers. Imagine yourself answering the questions without too much difficulty. Complete the picture by imagining yourself turning in the paper and leaving the room assured that you did your best.

      Relaxing Place
      Where do your students feel most at peace? One spot could be at the ocean. Have students identify a place and use all their senses to imagine themselves there and how they feel when they are there. Guide them in an activity: Watch the waves with the whitecaps rolling up the shoreline onto the beach. Listen to the waves and the seagulls. Smell the salty air and feel your fingers and toes in the warm, soft, and grainy sand.

      Keep in mind that this activity should be done with some reserve. It may not work for all of your students, so gauge the class and encourage students not to give up on relaxation exercises just because this one doesn’t work well for them.

      Write Letters of Encouragement
      This activity will require more effort on the part of the teacher, but it’s one that will certainly stick with students. Before a major exam or standardized test, write a letter of encouragement to each student the day before. If you have the time to custom-tailor each note, your effort will go a long way, but a generic note will also have a positive impact on your students.

      We’d like to thank Angela Oliver, a 7th and 8th grade teacher from Leggett, Texas, for sharing this idea with us!


      Watch This Test Does Not Define You
      This Test Does Not Define You is one video we always show students in the weeks preceding big exams. Not only does it do a nice job of dispelling a few myths about testing, it also sends them an important message: They are not defined by test results! The video also highlights some simple research-based activities that reduce test-anxiety.

       

                                                                     Download 25 Classroom Management Tips for Teachers

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  • Patricia_Hernandez

    • ASCD EDge Member
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  • How Do We Keep on Keeping On W How Do We Keep on Keeping On When Our Time is Limited?

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

       

      Image

       

      How do we as educators do everything we need to do in a given day?  Better yet, how do we do it all as well as we need?  It is a difficult task, and I do not believe there is a magic answer.  There’s no way to get it all done in a single day.  I’ve found that a great challenge in schools today is finding enough time to collaborate effectively.  I should not just say today, as this has been a problem for quite sometime.  When I was in the classroom, I often felt like we lacked planning time.  I frequently thought I was flying solo on jet soaring at a million miles an hour.   At that time in my career, my current school did not function as professional learning community; nor did we collaborate in meaningful ways that supported learning and growing of teachers.  Our meetings were built around an agenda that served the purpose of announcing dates and information on upcoming events.  After the meetings, we went back to our classrooms to prepare for the next week and then graded a mound of papers.  My first year as a reading coach, my new principal began the transition of our campus to a professional learning community, or PLC.  It has been an arduous process but not without great gains and benefits for our students and staff.  For three years now, our school has been focused on living as a community of learners.  Using the DuFour-Eaker model of PLCs, we have slowly morphed into a different institution keeping ALL students at the forefront of our focus.  We have sent more than 60% of our staff to Solution Tree’s PLC summer institution, which has been beneficial for our campus.  As a real-life, living, walking, and breathing PLC campus, we have totally changed our perception on learning while revamping the ways we practice and meet together.  During our weekly collaboration meetings, teams dive into an intensive analysis of student data.  The data is the key that drives our instruction and decisions about students.  These meetings are vital for the continuing success of our organization.  However, even with built in weekly time and using a great model for collaboration, we always need more time to gain more insight. 

       

      Like I stated earlier, there is not a magic answer to how to gain more time.  So, what if we challenged ourselves to think a little differently than we have in the past?  Is there a way to collaborate differently?   Sure there is!!! It is right at your fingertips- computers, smart phones, iPads etc.  What if the whole educational world was your PLC, which the virtual world calls a professional learning network (PLN)?  Thousands of people are on the professional development front 24/7 using digital sites.  My favorites are Twitter and Google, but there are others that function quite similarly.  Team meetings are a critical part of the collaborative process.  Now, as an assistant principal, I still highly value the face-to-face meetings with colleagues; however, I can tell that we must realize and take advantage of the digitized mediums we have available to us.  When educators get outside the four walls of a school and participate in digital chats and feed, they will gain a network with access to more knowledge and wisdom than one could ever acquire from just a weekly meeting inside a classroom.   Can you envision how regular participation in digitized learning could take a regular PLC meeting to an augmented state of learning if all its members are participating in PD like PLN Twitter chats simultaneously?  Can you imagine how it might enhance the face-to-face conversations?  For so many of us Generation X citizens, that is not an easy task but one that is becoming necessary.  As our Generation Y colleagues enter the workforce, they will rely heavily on their tech savvy skills to engage themselves and their students in learning.  I cannot blame them since this is their world and it is how they thrive. 

       

      Okay, so maybe this does not solve our time issue so much.  We cannot find more time to add to our day when we’re only given twenty-four hours.  But… what if we helped each other in such a collaborative way that we are working smarter with the 24 hours we are given?  We all have something to offer one another.   Connected learning using social and digitized media is an underestimated and underused resource for educators.   Teaching and learning is never-ending, and it most certainly cannot happen just once a week to bring home optimal results.  As educators, we do not have to fly solo anymore.  We have so much to learn from the vast amount of resources in our networking system.  Your time may be limited but your networking resources are not!

       

      Please follow me on Twitter @MandyVasek (TeacherCoach)

      source for graphic www.gettingsmart.com/learnboost.com/socialmediaprclass.blogspot.com

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  • Write on the Classroom Windows Write on the Classroom Windows: A Simple Student Engagement Strategy

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      student engagementI bookmarked Eric Berngen’s blog back in February, but like a lot of sites I add to my visual bookmarking tool, I forgot to repost it!

      As Eric aptly points out in his post, capturing the hearts and attention of our students often requires us to take an unconventional route. Here’s how Berngen put a new spin on one of his tried and true activities:

      During one lesson in particular, I asked the students a question and they responded in their journals. When it was time to share, instead of me writing their responses on the board, I walked over to the window instead. I pulled out an expo (whiteboard marker) and began writing frivolously, to the students shock and awe. Mouths began to drop and shortly thereafter, all eyes were on me as I was discussing their responses. One student muttered questioningly, “You can do that?”  I responded, “Why not?”

      Shortly thereafter I gave the students another question—except this time they were to work in groups and write their responses on the window. All students were thoroughly engaged and loved the opportunity.  Afterwards, we did a gallery walk and all students got to share out their responses from the group.

      It’s a simple idea, but I never would have thought of it on my own. If you decide to give this activity a try, let me know how it goes with your students!








       

                                                           New Call-to-Action

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  • Pointing To Your True North Pointing To Your True North

    • From: Sandra_Trach
    • Description:

           Instructionally savvy educators know that personalized learning is the heart of student success.  As schools strive to customize education through instructional design, technology efforts and professional learning, highly successful schools know that these initiatives in isolation are not nearly enough to improve and sustain student learning.  Strong schools know that deep levels of personalization are found in an enriching and responsive system of teaching and learning, that stretches and supports learning in individual and flexible ways.  In order to achieve a truly personalized education for every student, one must articulate, architect and actualize practical ways to engage with such a system, and support the school to ambitiously strive toward a noble vision.  Strong leadership, clear school structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes are vital elements that help ensure personalized success for every student. When these essential elements are employed, they create directionality for a school to reach their instructional True North.

       

      Strong leadership


           A leader must have one foot in the vision and one foot in the reality.  She must hold an almost unattainably high vision for her school, while embracing the evident truths about the school culture, data and instructional practices.  An instructionally savvy leader knows how to continuously bridge the ground level reality to the top story vision in small and achievable ways.  Her steady direction and encouragement is essential to regularly point the way to the instructional True North.  It is widely accepted knowledge that if the leader does not believe and practice the vision, the endeavors needed to reach that vision will never take root, grow or flourish.  While the instructional vision may seem distant, the leader must model and maintain a laser-like focus, that this instructional work is our moral imperative.  At the same time, she is laying a solid instructional foundation and supporting schoolwide incremental footsteps toward the vision.  Coaching and feedback are essential leadership tools.  An effective leader uses every moment of everyday to indicate the True North, fostering the conditions for school success and celebrating visible learning.

       

      Clear school structures

       

           Clear school structures are the vertical frame on the instructional foundation.  It is imperative to establish collaboration time and structures within the school day.  Collaboration is the work of teaching and learning.  One cannot effectively reflect, strategize, design, analyze, implement and monitor alone.  Instead, educators must have time and structures within the school day to have continual conversations about the fine points of teaching and learning.  Professional learning communities, data teams and a school leadership team are requisite to ensure a highly effective school.  These particular structures are the column supports for learning; educators depend on them in order to personalize education for their students.

       

      Continuous collaboration

       

           Collaboration takes many forms, and it must be a goal, norm and value in the organization.  In establishing collaborative structures, it is a necessary first step to ensure the team norms, purpose, goals and process.  For example, a professional learning community may employ a protocol that helps them look at student work.  A data team may center on a progress monitoring procedure.  A leadership team may use problem-solving model.  Collaboration rests on clarity of structure.  The absence of a clear collaboration structure leads a team to chaos or congeniality.  Neither promotes learning.  It is important to highlight that conflict is a natural part of the collaboration cycle.  It has been said that one is not really collaborating unless there is conflict.  Professional discourse reveals different points of view, and is necessary when collaborating around personalized education for a student.  Often when teams fail to embrace conflict as a growth opportunity, passive forms of meeting take over, which do not result in instructional growth.  There is no question that highly effective schools are steeped in collaboration as an authentic means toward personalizing student learning.  In fact, highly effective schools will tell you they would not be successful without collaboration.

       

      Monitoring processes

       

           The success of schoolwide systems and routines depend on careful monitoring procedures.  The leader must blend formal and informal processes to continually ensure that instructional efforts are helping the school advance in measurable ways.  Effective forms of monitoring involve transparent efforts, such as classroom walkthroughs, data work, instructional conversations and professional reflection. Savvy educators participate in monitoring procedures for instructional feedback at the student, team, school and district levels. In turn, this helps them ensure that the student’s personalized learning is successful, while promoting their own self-reflection in the process.

       

      Personalization as a goal and an outcome

       

           Highly successful schools know that building and engaging in a system that adapts to students’ strengths and needs is critical in fostering personalized education.  Educators in highly effective schools ask themselves, “How can I foster the conditions for success?”  They embrace an ambitious vision through a shared leadership model, and actively collaborate within the school structures to design, implement, measure and monitor learning.  Strong leadership, clear structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes comprise a educational direction for every school, and when properly employed, will point to the True North of personalized learning for every child.

       

      Sandra A. Trach, Principal

      Lexington, Massachusetts

      Cross-posted from sandratrach.blogspot.com to Connected Principals and ASCDEdge         

      

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  • Shut The Front Door Shut The Front Door

    • From: Steven_Weber
    • Description:

      As an educator, I am often surprised by the things I hear other educators say. You hear these comments at conferences, read opinions shared on Twitter, overhear opinions shared at other schools, and possibly even hear one of these statements at your own school. These statements make me cringe. When we are working with students, it is difficult to understand the statements that some educators make.

       

      Ten Statements That Make Me Say, "Shut The Front Door!"

       

      "Those students can't go to college. We should just prepare them for a career, starting in middle school."

      In 1903, Saunders, a professor at the University of Mississippi, described the perspective of many Americans at the turn of the century.  He wrote, "College education is desirable and theoretically necessary for preeminence, but it is not for the masses, and it would be but a utopian theory to plan for the day when a bachelor's degree shall be a qualification for suffrage or a necessity for success and happiness" (p. 73).

       

      In 2014, several Americans still share this perspective. The recent move towards College and Career Readiness is a positive move in education. This movement does not guarantee that every student will enter a four year college. It is the idea that every student should be provided with the opportunity to learn (OTL) key skills and concepts. Furthermore, adults should not determine a child's plans after high school when the child is in the seventh grade.

       

      "Our seventh graders made a PowerPoint, so I would say that I am proficient with technology integration."

      I am not offended by teachers saying that they require students to make a PowerPoint. However, it should be a red flag to administrators if any teacher hangs their hat on one project that incorporates technology. Technology integration should become seamless. In other words student projects will require technology integration, but the focus is on student understanding, not the device or program. After all, did you ever hear a teacher say, “My students used a pencil and paper today?” 

       

      "The Common Core State Standards are not new ideas. I have always taught this way."

      Regardless of your stance (for or against) the Common Core State Standards, there are obvious changes in the way teachers should approach curriculum development, instruction, and common formative assessments. "These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step” (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5). Be aware of teacher teams and administrators who claim, “This is how we have always done it.”

       

      The new standards will not fit into your state’s old standards like a jigsaw puzzle. The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to change how teacher teams communicate, collaborate, and reflect on standards. In the absence of ongoing communication, it will be easy to revert back to teaching in isolation and struggling to understand each standard. “Failure to understand the Standards and adjust practices accordingly will likely result in ‘same old, same old’ teaching with only superficial connections to the grade level Standards. In that case, their promise to enhance student performance will not be realized” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2012).

       

      "I require the gifted students to do double the work. They can handle it, because 'they are gifted.'"

      You do not hear this myth as often as you did at the turn of the century. However, there are still misconceptions about rigor and about homework for gifted students. Giving gifted students more work does not support student understanding. If you hear a teacher bragging about giving the gifted students double the work, you should refer them to resources such as (Edmonds, SERVE) and Rigor on Trial (Wagner, 2006).

       

      "How do you expect me to read a journal article or blog. There's no time for that."

      The field of education is changing and professional growth is not optional. Online journal articles, blogs written by teachers and administrators, Twitter chats, webinars, and teaching videos provide educators with a multitude of resources. As a professional, I grow frustrated when someone claims that there is no time for continuous improvement. As educators, we should continue to grow and seek to understand best practices. It is professional malpractice to claim that there is no time for learning.

       

      "Those aren't my students."

      Teachers in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) change from saying ‘those kids’ to ‘our kids’ (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). If the goal is to prepare all students to graduate College and Career Ready, then the teachers and staff members in the school district must collaborate to support students. Principals within the same school district should share ideas and discuss instructional strategies. Competition is good when it comes to athletics, marching band, academic clubs, and science fairs. It is also appropriate to see which school has the highest graduation rate, lowest dropout rate, and highest number of students enrolled in advanced courses. The idea that “Those aren’t my students” should be a thing of the past. As adults, we should share ideas within our school district, across state lines, and even around the globe. When more students graduate prepared for college and careers, the world wins! These are “OUR” students!

       

      "Do we get credit for attending this meeting?"

      Have you ever heard a colleague whisper, “I hope they are giving us credit for this.” Most school districts require a number of credits over the course of one year or a five year span. If a teacher is more focused on receiving credit than learning, it is a red flag. Have you ever attended a meeting until lunch and then your co-worker goes to the mall, because the credit was given in the registration packet? It is a shame that some educators view the credit as the purpose for attending. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that educators should receive credit in order to renew their license. I also believe that more school districts should begin recognizing blogging, Twitter chats, and webinars as ways to earn credit. Asking for credit is similar to the following scenario:

       

      A high school basketball coach asks the starting five to run a play in practice, one day before the game. The starting point guard pauses before running the play and asks, “Will we all five get to start in the game if we run this play right?”

       

      Running the play several times is part of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is the reason for professional development, not credit or a certificate.

       

      "We are no longer teaching during the last nine weeks. We have started benchmarking and test prep."

      Test prep is one of the worst things that teachers can do during the last nine weeks. Did you ever try to cram for a test in college? It usually does not result in transfer or understanding. There are multiple approaches that educators can take which will virtually guarantee instant gains or increases in student achievement. Curricular reductionism is a test prep strategy that eliminates arts education, social studies, character education, and soft skills. If it’s not tested, then it’s not taught during the last nine weeks (or even semester in some schools).

       

      Taking shortcuts to improve the data at an individual school is akin to a professional athlete taking steroids. When our students graduate from high school, we do not want them to reflect on their K-12 experience and see that the shortcuts adults took created long-term detrimental effects.

       

      When educators choose to give students multiple assessments that look like the high-stakes test, eliminate subjects, and create a test prep boot camp atmosphere, then students lose. High-stakes tests have changed the way some teachers and administrators approach teaching and learning.

       

      "I would assign more project-based learning, but it interferes with the pacing guide."

      Pacing guides provide students with a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum’ (Marzano), if the curriculum is implemented in each classroom. Pacing guides can support teaching and learning. Alignment in a school district is important and pacing guides can provide an outline of what should be taught to each student. Pacing guides should allow for flexibility in pacing and the readiness level of each student.

       

      The statement above is often overheard at high schools that teach on a block schedule. While there may be 90 minute periods, some teachers cannot overcome the fact that a one year course is taught in one semester. If student understanding is improved through project-based learning (PBL), then teachers should identify days of the week and units of study that provide students with time for PBL.

       

      I say, “Shut the Front Door” to this comment, because it is an example of putting the needs of adults in front of the needs of students. We are paid to prepare each student for the next level of learning. Some educators say, “Research be damned, I am going to get through the pacing guide and make sure that I cover the content.”

       

      "I believe that soft skills are critically important, but they aren't tested by the state."

      Soft skills include, but are not limited to, teamwork, decision-making, and communication (America’s Promise Alliance, 2007). “The goal of college and career readiness for all high school graduates is no longer a radical reform idea promulgated by a handful of states: It has emerged as the new norm throughout the nation” (Achieve, 2010, p. 23).

       

      Employers seek applicants who are problem solvers, communicators, team players, and have perseverance. These skills, sometimes referred to as soft skills, are needed by all high school graduates to ensure that they are college and career ready, regardless of whether they plan to complete an apprenticeship after high school or attend a two-year or four-year college.  While employers are seeking students with strong academic skills, they are having trouble finding applicants who can collaborate, create, think outside the box, and communicate. When educators focus on tested subjects at the expense of soft skills, students pay the price. If test scores are the reason for teaching and learning, then someone forgot to tell the employers who are seeking qualified applicants (Wagner, Seven Survival Skills as described by business leaders in their own words).

       

      Closing Thoughts

      I believe in instructional leadership, teacher leaders, the Common Core State Standards, curriculum alignment, professional learning communities, and College and Career Readiness. When teachers and administrators make statements that you disagree with, you should challenge the statement. As a professional, you owe it to students and to the profession to challenge broad statements or beliefs that are not in the best interests of students or the profession.

       

      Share your thoughts below:

      What makes you say, “Shut the Front Door?”

        

      Steven Weber is an elementary school principal in North Carolina. During his career, he has served as the Director of Secondary Instruction for Orange County Schools, High School Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, K-12 Social Studies Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Public Instruction, and as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in the West Memphis School District. Weber blogs on ASCD EDge. You can connect with Weber on Twitter at @curriculumblog.

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Jennifer_Priddy

    • ASCD EDge Member
    • Points:250
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  • Gimme a Break (Because I Sure Gimme a Break (Because I Sure Need One)

    • From: Eric_Russo
    • Description:

      It is open season on students in regards to testing, and in some school settings, this can mean a lot of pushback. This third quarter was a mess with all of the days off.  It killed instructional momentum, disrupted the classroom culture, and narrowed the number of day in that ever so important “testing window.”  Teachers are frustrated by the interruption in learning; students are frustrated by yet another meaningless assessment (at least to them).  As we sat in planning and looked at the testing calendar, there was no way around it - a week worth of testing that had to be completed before spring break.  Some of my colleagues lamented about how this would impact their data, or about complaints they would surely get from the students. It is true that the students would complain, and knowing that is a part of teaching; but what are you going to do with that knowledge?  Last year, at ASCD13, I attended a session on kinesthetic learning.  The speaker said something that has stuck with me since:  If you don’t like the state of your classroom, change the state.  It echoes something I always share with my advisory students as well:  You can’t control what anyone else does; you can only control yourself.

       

       

      I decided to do two things to be proactive about changing the state of this potentially negative situation.  The first was to share a poem.  Poetry was a major passion of mine in college, and one that teaching has taken away from me in some regards.  For National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to share a poem a day.  Not to annotate, or analyze, or read closely for some standard, but simply to share.  I want to share poems that meant something to me when I was a student; that shaped my love of poetry to begin with. I want to share them the way they were meant to be delivered – spoken aloud.  I want students to know that poetry is a great way to express our ideas, and I want to them to hear some of my own compositions.  And maybe through sharing my passion, it will help shape theirs.  I have to admit, that I am ferociously scouring my old college books, and reliving the joys of these poignant words all over again.

       

      The second thing I decided to do was play a game before testing.  Nothing fancy, just a simple game of silent ball.  I set a timer for 5 minutes and let them go.  It got the room quiet, which set the tone.  It got the kids moving, which got their energy out.  It got the kids smiling and laughing just before they were about to take an assessment, which got their brains firing on all cylinders.  After we got settled in our seats, the kids were more serious about working.  Their posture was better, and they were visibly focused on the task at hand.

       

      I believe that if we are truly trying to create a Whole Child Classroom, then we need to think about what our children truly need.  They do not need another test. They do not need another lecture. They do need to have some fun during the day.  They do need to know that their teachers love what they teach, and care about things other than work and tests.  And with those few quick moves they understood.  They understood that we (my co-teacher and I) understand.  We acknowledged how crappy it is to have to take so many tests, but we stressed the importance of doing our best.  We gained their trust and buy-in and changed the state of the classroom.  I thought about some of my peers, who were probably struggling to get their kids quiet, dealing with complaining or lack of effort.  Would they be willing to try something like this, or would they just talk about holding students accountable or wasting time?  Either way, my mind is made up.  Give these kids a break (even if it is 5 minutes), give them some of yourself, and they will give you more of themselves.   I’ll let the data work itself out.

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Resiliency Strategies that Wor Resiliency Strategies that Work in the Classroom

    • From: Marcia_Collins
    • Description:

       

      Hello colleagues:

      My name is Marcia Collins, I am a graduate pursuing a Doctorate in Education (Reading, Literacy and Literacy leadership ) 

      My current research interest and passion include combining  "resiliency strategies and literacy, by providing proven researched methods to enhance school climates, and the lives of educators across the country. What are your thoughts concerning research around these practices. 

      Do you believe as educators we a

    • 2 weeks ago
    • Views: 86
    • Forum: What Works ...
  • Kelli_Hueneke

    • ASCD EDge Member
    • Points:250
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  • SE2R Feedback Changes How We E SE2R Feedback Changes How We Evaluate Learning

    • From: Mark_Barnes
    • Description:

      One of the keys to a successful student-centered, Results Only Learning Environment is the use of narrative feedback over grades. Although feedback isn't necessarily difficult to provide, a systematic approach can simplify the process.


      A few years ago, when I was writing more feedback than ever before, I developed a system that I call theSE2R approach:

      • Summarize -- Provide a one- or two-sentence statement of what was accomplished.
      • Explain -- Give a detailed, objective explanation of what learning is demonstrated and/or what is missing, based on the activity's guidelines.
      • Redirect -- When learning outcomes are not demonstrated, redirect students to prior learning or to seek help from the teacher or a peer.
      • Resubmit -- Ask students to resubmit activities, projects or assessments, after they've returned to prior lessons and models and made changes to the work. This way the teacher can re-evaluate for mastery learning.

      SE2R feedback in action: Here is an example of SE2R feedback for a student who wrote what we call a reflection letter about a book she read. Notice that there is no point or letter grade attached; this is crucial to the success of narrative feedback. Studies indicate that if you add a measure of any kind to the feedback, students do not read it, making your effort a complete waste of time.

      Summarize

      "You wrote a brief reflection on The Hunger Games, in which you mix plot details and your own personal connection."

      Explain

      "The summary information demonstrates comprehension of plot elements including characterization and conflict -- elements of fiction we recently learned. I think, however, that you misidentify the rising action. I like how you show empathy for Katniss and her plight, as she faces the prospect of killing Peeta (hint: what story element is this?). Elaborating on this part would improve your reflection."

      Redirect 

      "Please review the presentation on rising action on our classroom web site linked here. Then, revise your reflection, reworking the part on rising action, in order to demonstrate understanding of the concept. Then, elaborate on your feelings about Katniss' tough decision near the end of the story.

       Resubmit

      When you have finished, e-mail me or send me a message on our private message board, telling me that you've done so."

      What makes the SE2R approach integral to mastery learning is that it removes the kind of subjectivity present in grades and rubrics, while providing students with clear information about what they've accomplished and what they still need to do.

       

      Parts of this are cross-posted at Brilliant or Insane

    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • Shiny Happy People Shiny Happy People

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      It was the middle of a long week and there was no end in sight. My priority list seemed neverending. I grumbled as I walked into school. I was tired, and I didn’t care who knew it. My vibe was not a good one. And, it was the wrong one.


      The first day I welcomed in a new group of students and told their parents not to worry, that their children would be fine under my care, my life stopped being about serving myself and began about serving others. This job stopped being about me a long time ago, and I’d forgotten about that.


      I felt like road kill. And, that’s okay. It’s human to be tired. It’s not okay in our field to let it affect us, because that impacts not just us, but the students we serve, the families who entrust us to keep their children in the forefront of each decision we make, and our teammates who feed off our energy.


      That’s why outside of this day, whenever a student or a co-worker had asked me how I was doing, I’ve always told them some combination of: “I’m awesome,” “I’m great,” or, “Never had a bad day.” Because everyone benefits from hearing that. Maybe it lifts us up, maybe it serves as a model for keeping a positive attitude.


      Or, maybe my students, parents, or peers walk away and think I’m nuts. But, if they’re tired, not feeling well, or life has dealt them a bad hand that day, I’ve at least given them something else to think about: that guy must be nuts. How is he always in a good mood?


      In reality, I’m not always in a good mood. I have arthritis, which can make some mornings tougher than others to loosen up and get moving. I have two boys, a three-year-old, and a 19 month-old. Neither has mastered sleeping overnight. However, I have the potential to wake up and put others in a good mood each day, and that’s a powerful thing. How many people can change someone’s day with a handshake, a smile, a nod of the head, raised eyebrows, or a silly face. Who was I to take away someone’s potential positive mindset because I had a long to do list!? That’s a misuse of power, and, that makes me sad, which is worse than being tired.


      As I walked into my classroom, I reflected on how I felt, acknowledged it, and put it aside. Because, my day was now about investing in others: making each person I came in contact with feel significant, that they belonged to something, and the environment they came to each day was fun. This was no place for a sleepy party pooper.


      I checked my coffee and diet soda to make sure I was armed for the day, turned on the tunes, and sat at my desk. It was time to review my plans, look at my morning message, and create another positive experience for those I would come in contact with that day.


      We may not always feel like shiny, happy people. But, we do need to put that out there for our students, their families, and our peers. They deserve nothing less than our best. We can always nap later.


    • Blog post
    • 2 weeks ago
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  • An Introvert In A 21st Century An Introvert In A 21st Century Skills-Driven Classroom

    • From: Krista_Rundell
    • Description:

      Introverted students constitute one-quarter to one-half of your classroom.  Just as we differentiate our instruction for student learning styles, interests, and needs, so should we consider differentiating for this trait that impacts how we process and respond to information and our environments.  As teachers, it requires an awareness of how others learn and respond to stimuli along with slight modifications in the teaching and learning strategies employed in our classrooms.  A little shift can go a long way.

       

      The headphones and book I always carry within arms reach?  Not just to entertain me, but to keep me from having to engage in random small talk conversation.

      The U-shaped format for my classroom desks?  Not just to facilitate conversation among my students, but to give me enough personal space to breathe easily in a room filled with people.

      The 45-minute afternoon nap I take after working with a school district all day?  Not just because I am exhausted after throwing all my energy and positivity into a presentation, but to find my balance again so I am not cranky for the rest of the evening.

      The beautiful, light piano music that plays every time my cell phone rings?  Oh, wait.  I never hear it because my phone is always on silent.  Leave a message and I’ll call you back when I have the answer to your question or know what you want to talk about.

      You are a teacher!  You have presented at conferences! You talk to and with people all day long!  You cannot possibly be an introvert!

      But, I am - and the rising popularity of books and articles (Marti Laney’s book “The Introverted Advantage”Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”, Carolyn Gregoire’s Huffington Post article) on what it means to be an introvert continues to remind me.  Through understanding, introversion is no longer seen as a “personality disorder”, but as an end-post of a personality continuum (Introvert – Ambivert – Extrovert) that is dependent upon a number of factors: Are you energized by solitude or by large groups? Do you need time to process information and gather your thoughts?  How do you feel about making small talk with others?  Do you enjoy phone conversations?  Do you look forward to engaging in deep, abstract conversations?

      I love to collaborate.  I love to communicate.  I love people; I really do.  But, if as an adult, I have developed coping strategies for living in a country where extroversion is more the norm… how are our students faring, especially if they have not recognized that they lean more toward the introverted side of the Introverted-Extroverted Continuum?

      As an introvert and a strong advocate for 21st century teaching and learning, I can’t help but think about how classroom teachers are now encouraged to foster collaboration and communication.  How do we cultivate a natural fit between the two that creates a safe learning environment for all?

      I’d like to offer a few suggestions on how to support the introverted student in your class (beyond helping them develop their own coping strategies for daily life).

      1.  Seating – I understand that it is easier to put students in alphabetical order when creating seating charts.  But I like to sit in the back or near the edge so I feel I have room to “breathe”.  I was once seated in the front middle seat because of my name and the teacher taught the class standing three inches from my desk; all I could focus on that year was devising methods of escape.  Please allow me to select my own seat with the understanding that if there is a disruption to the learning process, you will rearrange.  Besides, you can learn a lot about a student by watching where, and near whom, he or she sits.

      2.  Icebreakers – I understand the value icebreakers to foster a sense of community, and I admit that it DOES get better once you get started.   But, as soon as I hear that word, I want to slink to the floor and crawl to the door.  To keep me in my seat, to encourage participation, and to prevent me from leaving for an unnecessary bathroom/coffee/water/food/phone call break, don’t tell me to “find a partner you don’t know”.  Please pair me up with someone randomly by counting us off, using playing cards with numbers, pulling popsicle sticks with names… anything.

      3.  “Turn and Talk” – I understand the need to formatively assess how students are processing the information and to check for clarity by sharing it out, but I need time to internalize and sort through information on my own.  If you gave me two minutes to collect my thoughts or even allow me to write them down, I will be better prepared to share with a partner what I have learned.  The concept of “Think, Pair, Share” works much better for me.  Please give me the time to “think” and organize the array of thoughts racing through my head.

      4.  Group Projects – I understand the importance of learning how to collaborate in a group, divide up roles, share ownership, and negotiate ideas.  But sometimes I like to do projects independently instead of being forced into a group.  I’d love the occasional opportunity to “work with a group/partner or work independently” – even if this means I will have “more” work to do on my own.  Please give me a choice occasionally.

      5.  Participation Points – I understand, and appreciate, that you want everyone to be involved and to have an opportunity to share his or her thoughts.  I realize that participation points are one way to encourage this.  Check out my body language, notice my eye contact on you, see that I am taking notes and listening to what is being said, use a polling system in class (polleverywhere.com, mini whiteboards, thumbs up/down), or ask me to turn in an exit slip before leaving class.  Please recognize that I can be participating and actively processing discussions and activities without having to speak out loud.

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • School Unrest-Civil Disobedien School Unrest-Civil Disobedience

    • From: Doug_Wycoff
    • Description:

       

      **This story is an excerpt from the book, Classroom Classics, coauthored by me and my longtime teaching colleague, Bob Mandell. The book is available at: https://www.createspace.com/4273928

       

      School Unrest-Civil Disobedience

      I graduated from high school in 1964 and went on to a large university in the southwest from 1964 to 1968, majoring in History and English. During the last semester of my senior year I was accepted into a special student teaching program cosponsored by the university and the local public school system. It was a pilot program that placed student teachers on team teaching teams from grades 7 through 12. I was assigned to the 12th grade team at Monzano Senior High School, a large school in the suburbs. My two teammates were Jerry and Melissa. We were scheduled to teach three senior classes in the fall of 1968 under the supervision of two experienced English teachers who had taught for many years at Monzano.

      My 12th grade team spent the spring semester preparing for our student teaching the following fall. Long range unit plans, weekly lesson plans and daily lesson plans were hashed out and revised. Since the decade of the 60’s was caught up in the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement, we focused our planning on the concept of non-violent means of protesting against social injustice, We incorporated the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian independence movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, social activist in the American Civil Rights movement, as well as, the somewhat violent nature of the Black Panther Party and the Mississippi Freedom Marches. We also brought in the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century American author and philosopher of the Transcendental Movement.

      When school opened in the fall, we eagerly and enthusiastically greeted our students at Monzano. We were convinced that we would make an impact on their lives even though we were not much older than they were. They were excited about being taught by young student teachers and welcomed us into their classrooms, ready to absorb knowledge we imparted to them. The first grading period passed and everything went smoothly. Our mentoring teachers and the administrators of the school were pleased with our work.

      Along about the middle of October, it came time for Monzano High School to celebrate its annual Homecoming. Classrooms were decorated with school colors, plans were made for the Homecoming dance on Friday night and there was much anticipation about the big Homecoming game to be played against a rival school on Saturday afternoon. However, on the Friday before Homecoming week the football coach told the team that they were not to attend the dance because he wanted them to be well rested for the game. Needless to say, the players were down and the entire student body was up in arms about the coach’s decision. When school was dismissed that Friday afternoon, there was a lot of grumbling as students headed home for the weekend.

      During the weeks prior to the week of Homecoming, the seniors in our classes had read and studied Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience”. They also had exposure to Gandhi’s concept of “satyagraha” and Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. All of this was in keeping with our unit on peaceful and non-violent rebellion. Neither I, nor my two teaching colleagues had any idea what was in store for us when the students returned to school on the Monday of Homecoming week.

      When our students reported to class first period on Monday, we noticed a lot of whispering and low chatter among them, all the while keeping us out of hearing range. This went on in our other two classes as well. Students throughout the entire school seemed to be quietly buzzing about something in the hallways between classes and in the lunchroom at noon. This continued throughout the school day on Tuesday. My colleagues and I thought something was up, but we had no idea what.

      The school day began as usual on Wednesday. Fifteen minutes into third period, around 10:30, our entire class got up and walked out. Not only did our students walk out, but the entire school as well! By 10:25, the whole student body was assembled on the lawn in front of the school. The students had made a huge banner that read” LET THE FOOTBALL TEAM GO TO THE HOMECOMING DANCE!” The banner was hung between two trees on the lawn in front of the school. Another banner held by students read” NOT FAIR FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS NOT TO ATTEND HOMECOMING DANCE!” The principal, Mr. Duncan, was on the front lawn speaking with the students when he abruptly turned and headed back inside the school. The next thing we heard over the public address system was” Mr. Wycoff and his 12th grade team, report to the principal’s office immediately.” I remember turning to my two colleagues and saying,” We could be getting fired before we even start our careers.”

      As we filed into Mr. Duncan’s office, we were greeted by other administrators and other school officials. Also present was the head football coach and his coaching staff. Mr. Duncan turned to us and said” it is my understanding that the organizers of this school wide walkout are seniors in your classes. It is also my understanding that the idea for this school wide disruption stems from lessons about civil disobedience you have been teaching in your classes. The question now before us is how we are going to solve this situation and get these students back to class.” Addressing me personally, Mr. Duncan said,” Mr. Wycoff, as the leader of your teaching team, what do you have to say?”

      I realized that this would be my first test as a teacher and I responded quickly. “Mr. Duncan, I said, I think you have to admit that the seniors who organized this walkout did so in a great way. They were able to spread the word throughout the entire student body without anybody, teachers or administrators, knowing what was coming. And you have to admit that the timing of the protest was perfect-the entire student body walked out at exactly the same time. I think all of us have to give credit to the students on how they have gone about their protest. They didn’t stage a food fight or riot during lunch or been violent in any way. I think they should be commended for putting into action what they have learned in the classroom. Their only concern is not having the football team be able to attend and have fun at the dance this Friday night. I really think that a compromise would make the students happy”. I turned to the football coach and said,” Coach, the dance is scheduled from 7:00 PM until 11:00PM. Let the football players attend the dance for the first two hours and then leave. That way they can enjoy the homecoming dance and still get a good night’s sleep and  be rested for the game on Saturday.”The coach and his staff agreed, Mr. Duncan and the other administrators agree, and most importantly, the students agreed. The students went back to class and the educational process continued.

      When my teammates and I returned to our classroom, our students greeted us with cheers and thanked us for sticking up for them. The kids had a great time at the dance on Friday night and the following afternoon the football team beat their arch rivals from Sandia High School 42-7. I know that the seniors and other students of Monzano Senior High have never forgotten Homecoming in 1968.

      **This story is an excerpt from our book, Classroom Classics. The book is available at: https://www.createspace.com/4273928

    • Blog post
    • 3 weeks ago
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  • The Perks of Following The Perks of Following

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      My 3 year old son follows his older brother around non-stop.  Whether it is doing push-ups, saying “shut-up”, or standing on the living room couch (unfortunately it’s our new couch), my older son is locked into a silent game of Simon Says.  

       

      It really got on the older one’s nerves.  Even though siblings intentionally try to push each other’s buttons (the more my older son would protest, the more intense the following became), I wondered if there was something more to this.  Did following have to be a bad thing?  Better yet, were there any benefits for following someone or something?

       

      In contemplating the perks of following, I was reminded of the childhood game “Follow the Leader”.  The game emphasizes the power of observation and environmental study in planning one’s next move.  Similarly, consider the mantra from the Wizard of Oz, “follow the yellow brick road”.  It reveals the power of tenacity-in spite of any real (tornadoes, losing your way, etc.) or imagined obstacles (witches, fake wizards, etc.) that come our way. 

       

      What is Involved in Following?

      Nowadays, following is an action associated with the use of social media.  For example, thinking about Twitter, we may "follow" celebrities, friends, or colleagues in order to network or keep abreast with things that interest us.  In that sense "following" is done online using technology as a communication platform.  For the purpose of this article, the concept of "following" relies on the desire to emulate.  Please note that there is an element of imitation, but most importantly there is an internal change (learning) when effective following occurs.  

       

      So, let’s clarify a few aspects about the act of following before proceeding:

      • Although copying characterizes the early stages, following is more than becoming a “copycat"
      • There is an attempt to recreate an identified principle or style
      • It is a change process
      • It is not limited to a physical act
      • It requires situational assessments (appropriateness, relevance, effectiveness) 
      • It holds meaning (professionally or personally)
      • It is pursued with a specific outcome in mind

       

      What Can We Learn About Following From Teachers?

      I began to wonder how the concept of following translates into the classroom.  Educators follow instructional principles in their classrooms everyday.  Let's take a look at the experience of a few educators to learn how and why they follow:

       

      1. Blogger Jose Vilson suggests that following the principles of an admired educator is inspirational.  Jose recommends that educators study the style of other professionals as a means to refining classroom practice.
      2. Larry Ferlazzo, in one of his blogs, argues that in contemplating following (to discern whether to be principled or unprincipled) a valuable process of self-assessment occurs.
      3. In a post by Jane Healy, we see that following a principle impacts more than just the individual involved with following.  Jane argues that the consequences of following student-centered principles (in which teachers become invisible) reap more benefits for her students (such as self-directed learning, independent thinking, self progress monitoring) than for her.
      4. In a blog by Mark Barnes, he shares the dilemma of being torn between a widely accepted principle and his personal (less popular) belief that homework is ineffective.  His conflict highlights the importance of evaluating principles before committing to following them.

      What Does Research Show in Regards to Teachers Following?

      The teacher mentor process is one way instructional principles are studied and practiced.  Let's take a look at what teacher mentor research suggests about following:

       

      1. Mentoring is connected to teacher retention.  Research shows that beginning teachers that follow the instructional principles set forth by mentors are more likely to remain in the teaching profession (Odell & Ferraro, 1992). 
      2. Mentoring impacts the perception of teaching.  Research indicates that when teachers observe their mentor modeling an instructional principle, teachers report greater job satisfaction and self-efficacy (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).  
      3. Mentoring establishes teacher support.  When teachers communicate instructional principle difficulties with their mentors, they are able to obtain the required resources to meet classroom challenges (Appleton & Kindt, 2002).

      What Are the Rules For Following Effectively?

      Although teacher experiences and research indicate that following can be advantageous, as educators we must show care in how we follow.  There is a difference between becoming a follower and following (the latter is the goal). Keeping in mind a few tips helps to ensure effective following:

       

      • Strive to focus on a principle even if at first a person or behavior interests you
      • Expect to see a change between pre/post following.
      • Ask how the principle you wish to follow is appropriate, relevant, and effective for your needs.
      • Understand why the principle that you wish to follow is meaningful to you.
      • Determine the short-term and long-term goals that you hope to accomplish by following the principle.

       

      At last, it is time to revisit the questions that were inspired by my 3 year older following his older brother. Was there a deeper meaning to gain from this simple act of following?  Yes.  I believe that there is an important take-away from watching my younger son engulfed in the act of following. I believe that following is a powerful and necessary process that may begin copy-cat like, but when done effectively, results in learning.  As for the second question:  Was following bad?  I conclude that following is not bad at all, as long as it is principle-based, purposeful and change oriented.  In addition, we have to remember the many benefits of following that are echoed by teacher experience and education research.  Now, if only I could get my 10 year older to be more receptive to the benefits of following...

       

      References

      1. Appleton, K., & Kindt, I. (2002).  Beginning elementary teachers’ development as teachers of science.  Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(1): 43-61.
      2. Odell, S.J., & Ferraro, D.P. (1992).  Teacher mentoring and Teacher Retention.  The Journal of Teacher Education, 43, (3): 200-204. 
      3. Smith, T.M., & Ingersoll, R.M. (2004).  What are the effects of induction and mentoring on beginning teacher turnover?  American Educational Research Journal, 41 (3): 681-714.
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