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There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.
Reading and Language Arts
Technology in the Classroom
Originally posted at Curriculum21.com/blog
Follow Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000
Digital Learning Strategies now available from the ASCD Store
This is the first in an ongoing series of posts inspired by How I Work, a bi-weekly series on one of our favorite sites, Lifehacker. As educators, we like to know how other educators work, how they live, and how they play, so every other week we’ll be featuring a new interview with a new teacher. This week, we’ll hear from Marc Hamlin, an English Language Arts teacher from West Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Location: Exeter- West Greenwich Regional Senior High School, West Greenwich, RI 02817
Desired location: Eventually, I want to move on to teaching at a local community college. I want to “age with the profession.” I can’t say I’ll have the same relevance or world view of a 15 or 16 year-old when I’m in my late 50s-early 60s.
Current work title (administrator/teacher/school technologist, etc.) Also, what grade do you teach?: It’s interesting. I taught ELA at my school for the first 8 years of my career. Then, I had an opportunity to teach educational technology for 10 years. It was fun, but 10 years of teaching in “The Bunker” (room with no windows) can really warp your perception of reality. Then I went back to my first love, ELA, and here I am, but with a strong technology skillset. I’m all about integrating technology into lessons to improve learning.
Area of expertise (subjects you teach or have an interest in): ELA, computer technology, web design, computer networking and network design, relational database management systems (RDBMS) with languages like MySQL.
Do you have a specific long-term career goal?: Yes, I want to start creating instructional videos on YouTube. I really think it’s now, not the future.
Languages you have studied or currently speak: Well, It’s funny. On my father’s side, they came from France and Belgium. On my mother’s side, they came from French-speaking Canada (Quebec). But the language was taken out of them when they went to school (My mother spoke French until she went to school.) They were told not to speak French at home. It was all about assimilation, then.
As a consequence, I speak the French I learned in French class- “Un petit peu.” I feel I’ve lost a good deal of my cultural heritage as a result. When I look at Hispanic students, I think, “Yes, learn English, but don’t ever stop speaking your language. Once you lose that, you lose your cultural treasures.”
The project you’re most proud of: The “Sweded Video Project” is my very favorite. Inspired by the Jack Black/Danny Glover/Mos Def film, “Be Kind, Rewind,” the project centers around creating stories (or adapting stories read during the semester) to a five-minute “short attention-span” theater.
Imagine breaking down Moby Dick to 5 minutes. It’s breathtaking. It’s not merely about how we tell stories, but why, after all these thousands of years, we still gather around an electric campfire to hear and tell each other stories. And unlike other group projects, each student has a clearly defined job, with a “deliverable” at the end of the process. That part is 70% of the project grade. The video is only 25%. They make a movie poster using Photoshop to promote their movie- 5%. We have a large-format printer that allows us to print to poster size. We put these posters up in the hallway to promote their videos. Then, we roll out a red carpet at “premiere time” and “movie day” becomes a party, a human coming-together. I’d like Arne Duncan to put that through his testing regime and see what he comes up with.
Favorite technology gadget for the classroom: I’m a big fan of BYOD (bring your own device). As long as your platform isn’t too esoteric, most devices can play nice-nice with web 2.0 tools out there. I’m now exploring a site called exittix.com to facilitate some formative assessment strategies in my classroom, but we’re not 1:1 yet. Until then, 5-up (hold up five fingers, students self-assess their competency before and after a lesson) will have to suffice.
And I’d be crazy not to mention the impact Edmodo.com has had on my classroom. Parents, students both know what is expected of them, and when. Not to mention the fact that I don’t lose out to snow days anymore. And it’s a place for students to distill what they think about a work or a topic before they are asked to comment, at night, in a thread.
Next conference/professional-development event you’re planning to give or attend: I’ll be attending something called “Writing Strategies to meet CCSS” which is supposed to be good. I’m going with my department on 3/17. If it doesn’t work out, well, there’s an Irish bar across the street from the conference site. So after the conference, I may have to go in there for a debriefing.
How many hours per day do you usually work?: As a teacher of ELA, I often work 10 hours per day. At 48, I can’t work as long or as late into the night as I used to. When I first started, I’d be up until 12, 1 am…Now I have rules for myself. Like, “Don’t bring home more than you can evaluate in one night.” Otherwise, that “teacher bag” can become something of a nemesis.
Are you an early-riser or a night-owl?: It’s also seasonal, and generational. Used to be a major night owl back in my younger days. Hated mornings. Now, I’m in bed by 9:30-10 p.m. because I’m up at 5:30 for work. I like to get in early- 6:30 or so, plan, think, and pray that God gives me the wisdom and the words to help every single kid I encounter. I pray for certain students who I know are in turmoil. And I pray for good cycling weather.
Do you have any pets or kids (names and ages)?: I have one kid. She’s black, has four legs, never changes clothes, and she’s an obedience school dropout, but I love my dog Holly, a black lab-weimaraner mix.
Next city/country you want to visit: I’m headed to England and Scotland in April with a group of students on an EF Educational Tour. Just got back from Paris, France in November (Thanksgiving). Paris blew my mind. It’s a jaw-droppingly gorgeous city.
Favorite vacation place: It’s simple enough, but hard to get there (from the northeast, USA)- Maui, Hawaii. Went there a few years ago and did not want to come home. Don’t ever go there during February break. It will seriously mess you up for life. It really is paradise on earth. Why anyone would want to live anywhere else is beyond me.
Favorite book: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is my all-time favorite. You hear about “Macondo” and the house of mirrors and you wonder what is going on, and why all these people in the novel have the same names over the generations, and then, in about the last 50 to 100 pages, it hits you, and you can’t put the novel down until you’re finished. And then your mind explodes with reverence for Garcia Marquez’s genius.
Favorite song: Right now, Joe Pug’s “Hymn 101.” He’s picked up Dylan’s crown, shined it up, and it fits.
Do you have a Twitter account we can follow you on?: I have a twitter account: @mrhamlinewg but because Twitter is blocked in our school (I’m behind the Iron Curtain) I don’t use it very often. Yeah, I need to get writing.
We are discussing the history of education in one of my courses and thus exploring teaching philosophies (such as progressivism, essentialism, existentialism, etc.). As part of our discussion, I asked the students to identify advantages and disadvantages of each philosophy. A student shared that one drawback for using real world conflicts (the social reconstruction philosophy), was that it was “uncomfortable”. When probed further, it was determined that fear, anger, or sadness could result when discussing controversial current events and thus hinder the learning process for students. For instance, it may be frightening for students to discuss how the homicide rate for the first two months of 2014 (in some states) is slowly approaching the total homicide rate for the entire year 2013. Similarly it may be alarming for students to acknowledge the news story of how the “knock-out” game (an assault act that may end in death) targets unsuspecting pedestrians for no rhyme or reason.
I agree that discussing current events has its challenges, but I could not deny my discomfort with my student’s “uncomfortableness”. Maybe omitting real life events from classroom discussions is the best thing to do in terms of safeguarding student’s feelings?
I tend to think that it is within these “uncomfortable” topics that teachable moments are made. I wish to help students learn from the uncomfortable current events that surround them every day. For instance, the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law (the right to defend oneself during times of conflict) has been in the news after two separate conflicts resulted in the death of African American teen boys. In response to the two cases, strong emotions about racial relations and the legal system have ensued. The following curriculum ideas illustrate 9 classroom activities that may help students use the highly publicized law to reflect on themes such as effective communication, conflict resolution, and sensitivity to differences. Although the activities were developed with the ‘Stand your Ground’ law in mind, they can be adopted for use with any current event:
1. Discuss the term “threat”. Explore the different types of threats (physical and psychological) that students may hear. Debate various mechanisms to address threats such as bully awareness strategies. Websites such as bullyhelp.org and stopbullying.gov are great resources for this.
2. Ask students to journal about consequences that may ensue from defending oneself such as:
a. Physical consequences
b. Emotional consequences
c. Short-term consequences
d. Long-term consequences
3. Encourage the students to visit websites that focus on conflict resolution approaches and present their findings to the class. The National Crime Prevention Council offers great resources for this.
4. Invite the students to share funny videos (they can search online using Youtube or Vine) regarding problem solving strategies that are imaginative and outside of the box.
5. Hold a contest for students to find the best quote that illustrates reconciling differences.
6. Request students bring in song lyrics (or play a clean excerpt from the song) that emphasize themes in negotiation, compromise, or appropriately communication of differences.
7. Ask students to read, write, or respond to blogs that highlight uncomfortable conversations about conflict management. Invite teachers to share their experiences for how they learn (blogs, or professional development) to use current events within their curriculum.
8. Offer incentives for students to get involved in conflict resolution on a local level. Assist students in contacting the local police office or the local legislative office to gain further education regarding local rules and policies for those engaged in conflict.
9. Help students get involved in conflict resolution outside of their community. Assist students in a letter writing campaign to support the families of individuals that were unable to successfully defend themselves in times of conflict.
*Please note that this article was originally posted on teachersnet.gazette Vol. 11 No. 3
As an aspiring leader, I have thought often about who to look to for inspiration. I was told early on that an aspiring leader always has to have an example to emulate. There are many leadership examples that an educator can follow, but I have recently been following the leadership of Pope Francis. He has come into the position of Pope and helped to bring a new sense of excitement and possibility to an ancient institution.
As a leader in the public school system, an institution that is prone to tradition and slow to change, I am often frustrated by what I cannot seem to do. In looking for inspiration to overcome my frustration, Pope Francis provides a good example of what a leader can do within an organization. He has not made any radical changes since becoming pope, but his demeanor, his humility, and his willingness to embrace others has energized many Catholics. This is a good reminder of what a leader can do to bring change when dramatic action may not be possible.
In all of my reading about him, I found that there were three pieces of leadership advice that I think are especially applicable to any educational leader
This belief about leadership is especially important in the classroom. A leader must first know themself: what they can accept, what they must challenge, what they can are willing to risk everything for. It is only then that they can answer the situations that arise. In education, a leader is constantly asked to compromise, and if they do not know themself, they will struggle to know when to stop.
More importantly, if a leader tries to be something they are not, it will come across as inauthentic. Many times we underestimate the abilities of others (especially our students) to see through our act and truly know who we are. The challenges of working in a school are real and if a leader does not lead from a place that is their own, they will not be able to sustain the energy needed to succeed. They will back down, they will doubt, and they will burn out. We must be first confident in who we are before we can be confident in what we believe and what we do.
To lead people, they need to know that you understand their situation and put their needs ahead of your own. They need to know that you are part of the struggle and that you will be there for them throughout. If people believe that you are selfish or do not understand where they are coming from, they will not follow you. They may do what you tell them to do, because you are an authority figure, but you will not have authority.
This further connects to how decisions about leadership should be made within our schools. Leaders should have applicable experience working closely with our communities. This is the most important way to build critical early support and credibility as we look to improve our schools. Leaders must be creditable along with being knowledgable.
When leading change, leaders wish to seem like they have all of the answers. In the classroom, having all of the answers is the way to quickly gain authority with students. The reality is that no leader or teacher knows everything, and to portray that to those that we lead will not support growth in our classroom or our schools. If students are to grow and schools are to change, people must see that learning is part of the process at all levels. Leaders must model the behaviors that they want. In the classroom, students must know that even the teacher has to look up an answer and that is acceptable and encouraged. By admitting frailties, but not allowing them to limit their actions, leader demonstrate that everyone can succeed in spite of their limitations.
Often what we want is revolutionary change. We want to remake an institution instantly to address the issues that we see. As with any institution, change is slow, reform is may be stifled and instantaneous revolutions might be anything but instant and revolutionary. Yet while revolution may be far off, revitalization can happen today. As I look at what Pope Francis has done, I see a leader that knows his limitations, but still moves forward, and that is often what we must recognize in our schools. While we may be limited, we are far from stopped.
Huppke, R. (2013, Nov 04). Lessons in leadership from pope francis. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-11-04/business/ct-biz-1104-work-advice-huppke-20131104_1_leadership-style-first-jesuit-pope-jorge-mario-bergoglio
After reading several of Rafe Esquith’s books, I have come to the conclusion that not only is he a very good teacher, but he is very wise. He is able to communicate many “truths” about educating children that only someone with lots of experience and thoughtfulness can do. And while you may not agree with everything he says, he will certain get you thinking about teaching, learning, children, schools, and the community at large.
His latest book, Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: ‘No Retreat, No Surrender!’(2013: Penguin Books) contains a wealth of ideas, comments, and “wisdom” from a veteran teacher. The book is separated into sections for new teachers, teachers who have been teaching for several years, and even “master” teachers, but I think that everyone who is teaching at any level can profit from his insights in all three categories. He talks about things that mostly get ignored in the educational literature – bad days, first days, good routines, classroom management, classroom disasters, values to live by in the classroom, how to handle outside pressures and disagreeable people, testing and assessment, taking care of yourself, homework, the differences among kids and teachers, and many others.
Note that this book is not a how-to cookbook of ideas to improve teaching. While many of the thoughtful comments in the book may profoundly change teachers’ ways of thinking about their schools and classrooms, you will not find specific instructional strategies that work better than others, or even specific ideas about how to assess children. But many will come away with a better understanding of their own teaching, some guidance as to how to make teaching better for kids, and worthwhile ideas as to how to survive in a teaching environment.
In fact, everyone involved with education, including politicians and administrators who make laws and policy regarding education, should read the book.
The book is deep and rich, with many ideas, insights, and examples, and it is important to read it as a whole. But to give you a flavor of the Esquith’s views, below are a few short quotes from some of the chapters in the book. Note that some quotes might be out of a context, so you might find that they will read differently in the book.
I hope that they inspire you to read the book and consider his ideas for your classroom, school, or district.
Chapter 2: First things first
p. 42 …the truth is, in my class, Day 1 looks a lot like day 91. The kids will not grasp your program on Day 1. Introduce it and get to work.
[Note: This chapter has an excellent discussion of his philosophy of teaching and the rules and expectations he lays out for his students on the first day and beyond].
Chapter 4: An inside job:
p. 60-61 [In terms of classroom management and control]: My goal is to teach…children a set of values that they internalize. I want them to work hard in the class not because they fear a consequence but because they enjoy the work and also because they believe that good behavior is the right thing to do.
Chapter 8- Even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose
p. 106 –The reasonable desire to hold students and teachers accountable for what is being learned in school has snowballed into an avalanche of examinations that are hurting children and depriving them of a meaningful education…
p. 107 I have chosen a[n assessment] middle path. I consistently assess my students’ work and have no need for the exams being thrown at the kids by the school district and state. I fantasize about starting a bonfire with those infamous testing booklets that stimulate a groan from my students faster than the bell made Pavlov’s dog drool.
Chapter 11 – Keeping it real
p. 139 - Make sure the children make the connection between the lessons they are learning and how they will apply them in real life. Have the kids explain the connections rather than listen to you.
Chapter 14. Leave some children behind
p. 160 We have created situations where children do not understand that actions have consequences. School systems, under fire from all corners, have become desperate to please everyone. In doing so, they hurt the very children they are supposed to be helping.
Chapter 15 – Eyes wide open
p. 171 The unending problems and hurdles placed in front of a classroom teacher guarantee that you will not be able to help and reach every child to the degree you would like.
Chapter 18 Thomas Jefferson’s big mistake
p. 206 All students are not created equal, nor are they the same. When it is impossible to create individual assignments for the students, try to create assignments where one size does not fit all.
Chapter 21 One of a kind
p. 230 Pick something that you love to do and create a project with your students that will frame the entire year. Whether the students make quilts, become Scrabble experts or learn to surf, a special project will make all parts of your day better.
Chapter 22 All for one and one for all
p. 245 As you grow as a teacher, ask for lots of help…We can all use assistance.
Chapter 23 Getting better all the time
p. 252 Veteran teachers do not have to be stuck in a rut. Teaching the same lesson each year is not the same lesson if improvements are made.
Chapter 25 Stairway to heaven
This chapter deals with three ways for veteran teachers to stay “revved up and ready to go”: stay in physical shape (physical stamina); have a good social life (social stamina); deal with the emotional toll that the job takes (emotional rescue).
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, and former Professor of Education at Temple University. Additional blogs can be found on ASCD Edge at http://bit.ly/1kPsxBx. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to: www.era3learning.org
(reprenting from Vicki's Rethinking Education blog)
APPR has created a tremendous amount of change in our districts and buildings. It has also increased the amount of work principals have to do on a daily basis, let alone the amount of stress. Staying positive is key to the success and survival of these demands. As a 13 year administrative veteran, here are some top tens I would like to share (In no particular order!)
1. Keep Your Door Open and Be Visible: Your staff, students and parents need to see you as the leader and you need to be accessible. Keep your door open, listen, listen, and listen even more. Give encouragement to your staff who are working hard to embrace a new curriculum and create engaging lessons for students. Be in their classroom, the hallways, the lunch room and the playground. Greet the buses and parents in the morning. Get on the announcements daily and say the pledge, your school pledge and your belief statement. It's powerful, it resonates, and starts the day on a positive note.
2. Use a Scheduler: If you don't write it down on your schedule to do a walk through, be visible, orthat observation, then it will not get done! I use Google Calendar and live by it. I have shared the calendar with my secretary who schedules my observations and meetings with staff when needed. Using an online calendar such as Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook will help you organize YOU. The best part is that it notifies me of my schedule in the morning, and notifies me 10 minutes in advance.
3. Provide Mini-Observations: Teachers want feedback on how they are doing. When you do a walk through or mini-observation give them honest, constructive feedback. I like what Kim Marshall has listed in how to do mini-observations the right way: Unannounced, Frequent, Short, Face-to-face, Perceptive, Humble, Courageous, Systematic, Documented, Linked to Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, 2nd Edition, 2013.) Marshall suggests to do 10 mini-observations on each teacher, throughout the school year.. That would be 1 mini-observation per month. In our district, we do 5 mini observations for tenured, 2 formal observations and 3 mini-observations for 1st year teachers, and 1 formal observation and 4 mini-observations for 2nd and 3rd year non-tenured teachers. What it has accomplished for me is having powerful, professional conversations about what is occurring in the classroom, asking questions of the staff, and coaching best practice. It is also building trust and it is so important to have those face-to-face conversations about what is working and what needs to be refined. It’s about growth and should not be about a “gotcha”.teamwork and improvement, Linked to end-of-year teacher evaluation, and Explained well. (Kim Marshall,
4. Share The Leadership: I am the sole administrator/lead learner at East Side, with a student population of 463 and about 60 staff members. There is no way I can do this job alone and I rely on the staff to help run the school. Give leadership roles to your teacher's. Give them opportunities to work together so they can manage the Common Core. They are the ones in the trenches and will help boost school morale and provide great education for our students.
5. Be the Lead Learner: Rather than being "the principal", be the Lead Learner. Joe Mazza, Lead Learner of Knapp Elementary School in the North Penn School District, PA, coined this term and it means to talk the talk and walk the walk. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Join your teachers in professional development. Share your learning and what you find. Get on Twitter people! (Social media networking is huge and you should be embracing this venue.) Gone are the days of the principal sitting in the office, managing discipline and minutia. We need to be visible, be a part of what is happening in our schools, and be in the classrooms.
6. Your Hour of Power: Tony Robbins says that we have to have a daily ritual of physical and emotional . This means having time for you. Are you experiencing an extraordinary life? He also says to put in some type of physical activity. I try to power walk the hallways of my school and examine student work displayed and in turn, see the pride in our students’ accomplishments. This also gives me an hour to reflect on the day and plan. Give yourself this hour to rejuvenate and reflect.
8. Climate and Culture: How is the climate of your building? Have you given a culture survey? Are you dealing with lots of discipline issues that boggle you down? Maybe it is time to implement a social and emotional curriculum such as Responsive Classroom or PBIS. If you don't address the social and emotional aspects of students and get to know your kids, forget about the academics. Programs such as these change the culture of your building not only for students, but for the adults. The social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum. Once you have the social and emotional curriculum in place, academics are a breeze. It is about the relationships we develop not only with our students, but also with adults.
9. Celebrate: Celebrate the joys of being a team, a school family. We just finished our Holiday stocking stuffing exchange and what amade for the staff. We also celebrate baby showers, weddings, birthdays, you name it. Again, as adults, it's about the relationships and working together to be the best we can be. I always say to the staff, "You are the best of the best." You say it often, and it starts to become a part of you, and we show our pride.
10. It's People, Not Programs: Todd Whitaker says it best that it’s about the teachers, the people, not the programs. “We can spend a great deal of time and energy looking for programs that will solve our problems. Too often, these programs do not bring the improvement or growth we need. Instead, we must focus on what really matters. It is never about’ programs; it is always about people.” (Todd Whitaker, What Great Principals Do Differently, 2003.) have new Common Core State Standards and those modules, but if you are not putting the time into your people, your staff and teachers, giving them time to plan, collaborate, reflect and giving them ownership, then it will be a tough road ahead. Empower your teachers and your staff, and you will have a better school. You know that if you have great teachers, you will have a great school. “The program itself is never the the problem.” (Todd Whitaker)
In the end, it is all about teamwork. As the lead learner, create those opportunities for collaboration, leadership, reflection and rejuvenation. You are the lead leaner and remember to remain positive!
I keep reading the “dreadful” news that American students don’t compare well to students in many other countries on test scores, that our scores are woefully behind students in other countries, and that our students are not being prepared for the future as compared with students in other countries!
I find this a strange way to think about America’s educational system. In other spheres, we rarely compare ourselves to others. Is our medical system as good as others? Of course! We think of ourselves as unique and the best in the world in developing and using technology! We tend to think of ourselves as “special” and “different” in most areas, and make very few comparisons to other countries. We generally look at our own strengths and problems as a way of making judgments about how well we are doing. We most often find our own unique solutions to the problems that we face.
In this context, how should teachers, educational leaders, parents, and the general public think about American education? Should we all use a single set of standardized tests to compare ourselves to others at home and throughout the world? Or should we develop a unique concept of American education focused around American ideas, values and strengths? If we were to consider the “specialness” of America, its unique qualities, and build an educational system around those areas, what would it look like? How do we make our educational system “fit” with our unique qualities? What would we expect from teachers and our leaders? How would we know if we were succeeding?
Let’s take a stab at it. Here is my list of many of the unique qualities of American society and what I think are the implications of these strengths for building a strong American education system:
The importance of knowledge and “understanding”. From its beginnings, knowledge and understanding have been a critical part of American society. Benjamin Franklin set a high standard in developing, disseminating, and searching for knowledge and understanding. The American system of mass education for all Americans assumed that it was important for everyone to become literate and build a basic knowledge base. Andrew Carnegie promoted the development of public libraries so all could have access to knowledge and information.
Educational Implications. Access to and a focus on broad-based knowledge and understanding for all Americans should be an overall goal of American education. In today’s “knowledge explosion” world, a significant knowledge base should be coupled with the lifelong learning skills that will enable all Americans to continually learn and grow in their knowledge, information, and understanding.
Constitutional government around democratic values. The development of American democratic values – separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, one man, one vote – are one of the most unique characteristics of American society. We take these rights seriously and have over many years developed strengthened and improved them.
Educational Implications: A primary educational goal in today’s world is to insure that all our students understand the Constitution, its development, and its role in American society. All students should understand the conflicts that developed around it, changes and adaptations that have been made, related court cases, and its primary role in American society today.
Active Citizenship. A corollary to Constitutional government and democratic values is the role Americans play in the American political system. Americans today rarely sit back and accept government’s role in American society at any level. We tend to keep up with issues and problems and form strong opinions about what should be done (or not done) to solve them. We join a variety of groups and organizations dedicated to actively pursuing what we believe in – from environmental protection laws to a strong military. We actively engage in improving government, and expect a certain amount of honesty and competence among our government officials. We also expect basic services – safety, road repairs, security, and the like – to be provided efficiently.
Educational Implications: When studying American history, students should learn how in all eras a variety of individuals, groups and organizations promoted different causes and advocated for governmental policies to support them. Through a strong current events program, students should have the opportunity to continually examine and analyze the many issues that confront us today. Students in their high school years should be encouraged to become involved in causes that they believe in, discuss and write about their diverse views, debate issues that face us, and listen to, read about, and analyze the varied views and arguments of others.
Pragmatic problem solving. America has always been a land that has prided itself on pragmatic, practical problem solving. This “roll up your sleeves” characteristic began with the Colonists, was demonstrated when the Constitution was written, and is an important value throughout American history. Today it can be seen in the way businesses collect data and solve problems[i]. While our National government today is more ideological and less pragmatic, pragmatic government has always been an important thread running through governmental policies. Even FDR’s New Deal consisted of a lot of very pragmatic efforts by government to solve the problems of the Depression!
Educational Implications: Students should practice pragmatic problem solving in order to develop alternative solutions to the issues that face us. Developing classroom rules is one way. Conducting interviews to collect data is another. Conducting scientific experiments and building scientific problem solving skills is another. Providing students with authentic performance tasks that require hands on problem solving is also an excellent way to promote these skills.
Upward mobility, success, a better life. The Declaration of Independence focused on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as an ideal for all Americans. Millions of Americans came to America’s shores to search for a new life free from persecution and filled with opportunity. Education has always been one of the most significant vehicles for reaching the “American dream” and for upward mobility.
Educational Implications: “Equal opportunity” education as a route to “success” and achievement has played and today plays a very important role in American society. Schools are asked to create a culture of high and challenging expectations, share knowledge and information, and develop skills and attitudes that will help to improve the lives of Americans and develop individual talents and interests.
This means that we should commit ourselves to insuring that ALL schools – urban, suburban, rural – should provide quality services that include a full and complete curriculum in all subject areas, small class sizes, up to date technology, strong extra curricular programs, quality professional and curricular development, counselors and libraries, and so on. Additional services should also be available in those areas with high poverty levels and strong needs.
Individual development, growth and responsibility
America values individuals who take personal responsibility for their lives! We admire individuals who overcome obstacles, work hard, continue to improve and learn, don’t give up on themselves. We expect people to persist, show “grit” and determination, and overcome failure. We support the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to develop individual talents and strengths, and encourage difference among students.
Educational Implications: Schools should figure out ways to help students develop individual personal responsibility over time. Helping students learn to be persistent, learn from failure, stay on track, and see effort as important for success should be an important part of the curriculum at all levels, especially in those areas where children need this type of help and support. Students should have the opportunity to participate in multiple types of experiences that enable them to discover and develop their interests and talents.
Invention and creativity
America has always been a society that supported new ideas, innovation, and creative thinking. Americans invented a whole new way of thinking about government in the formation of its Constitution. Consider just the latest manifestations of this thinking – social media options, the desktop computer, mp3 players, tablets, search engines, hybrid and electric cars, solar energy, just name a few.
Educational Implications: Schools should be places where students learn to think creatively, come up with original solutions to problems, invent. Special elective courses might be developed that examine the role that invention, innovation, and creativity played and plays in American society. Students at all levels might learn creative problem solving strategies and techniques. Project based learning strategies might be used to encourage students to solve problems creatively.
The promise of science and technology
Throughout American history, science and technology have been thought of as a way to improve people’s lives. Science and technology achievements have dramatically changed our lives for the better, and will probably continue to do so in the future. Agricultural science thrived in rural America and paved the way for huge increases in crop yields, better water management, and so on. Inventions such as the cotton gin, the electric light bulb, the steam engine, and mass production techniques were critical to the prosperity and improvements in American society. Nobel prizes are regularly bestowed on America’s scientists.
Educational Implications: Science and technology should play a much greater role in educating American students. Strong high quality programs in these areas should begin in pre-school and include an understanding of the scientific method, core concepts and theories in science and the evidence that supports them, involvement in science competitions, and opportunities to creatively think about scientific and technical achievements. A big push should be to integrate science and technology with math and engineering throughout the curriculum, as in the STEM subjects
American artisans, from individual craftsmen to the design and building of the Model-T ford, have been a stalwart factor in American society.
Educational Implications: “Craftsmanship” should be emphasized in American schools. Craftsmanship is not doing well on tests – rather, it is focused on high performance levels, whether it be for writing an essay, participating in a discussion, creating a mural, doing a presentation, or acting in a play. [ii]
Tolerance for diversity, difference, pluralism.
One of America’s unique strengths is its continuous movement towards greater tolerance, diversity and respect for difference. Hard work and effort by many courageous Americans has resulted in the collapse of slavery, the significant reduction of anti-semitic, ethnic and racial prejudice, increased civil rights, and the movement for gay and lesbian rights.
Educational Implications: With the world’s boundaries shrinking through instant worldwide communication, global travel, global trade and multicultural corporations, educational programs that explore cultural diversity and tolerance both within and outside of America are important for living in a multicultural world. Student self-development programs that promote tolerance and reduce prejudice towards others should also be a critical part of the educational experience.
Competition and Collaboration
Both competition and collaboration are important values in American society. Competition is at the heart of the American capitalist system, and our competitive economic system has created products of excellence at relatively low cost. Collaboration is also important, especially within corporations and businesses, in order to bring together the best minds to maintain and develop economic success.
Educational implications: Our educational culture should support both competition among students to be the best, as well as cooperative ways to learn and grow together.
Voluntary service to others.
CNN has created a process to discover and share information about “heroes” that provide voluntary service to others; this yearlong process, culminating in a two hour program rewarding the ten best “heroes” for their work, correlates closely with American values. Many Americans freely give both their money and their services to help others – this is part of the great American tradition.
Educational implications: Schools should promote this American value by organizing opportunities for students to provide community service to others, and to learn from their service. Many schools already have community service opportunities for their students.
What teachers, schools and districts can do…
When education is based on America’s unique qualities, values and strengths, a paradigm very different from one based on improving standardized test scores emerges. Based on these qualities, here are some things that teachers, schools and districts can do:
We need to begin to measure our success in educating our young by how well we implement educational practices and programs based on America’s unique qualities and strengths, not by comparing American student’s standardized tests scores against other country’s scores. Teachers, schools and the outside community can judge success by how well students “understand” and apply content, read widely, write and communicate well, learn how to do research and problem solve, develop an understanding of American democracy and what it means to be a good citizen, learn about current American and world-wide issues and challenges, become interested and engaged in STEM subjects, think creatively, develop an interest in many activities and their talents through participation in both core and extra-curricular programs, complete high quality work, develop individual responsibility traits, volunteer for community service, and so on.
These criteria suggest that individual schools, teachers, and educational leaders might want to think differently about what makes for successful educational experiences, and build alternative activities and programs into classrooms and schools to support American excellence. They also suggest that governmental policies, built around standardized test scores, are currently headed us in a very limiting and wrong direction as we try to improve education and prepare our students for living a 21st century world. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in creating an educational system that builds on what is unique about and important to American society, and in using appropriate assessments to judge when education is successful.
[i] For example, see a recent article in the New York Times, February 15, 2014, Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist, that examines how Intel fosters research and collects data for improving product development.
[ii] For further insights into the role of craftsmanship in American education, see Ron Berger (2003), An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann publishers.
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, and former Professor of Education at Temple University. Many of his commentaries can be found on ASCD Edge. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to his website: www.era3learning.org
What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #16)
“The Monster under My Bed”
At this time of year, I often find myself cold, tired, and a little down. Naturally my mind and body wants to retreat in order to cope. My mind and body work together to do very little. For me, little to no exercise, never enough sleep and always a pull towards a perceived warm fire or hot meal are the desired state. These short term fixes to the day to day challenges never fill my bucket. The more I attempt to sleep, the more “restfulness” eludes me. Over the years, I have come to better understand my restless mind and soul. For me this awareness is similar to the monster under my bed as a little kid. Perceived to always to be there, but never really sure because I was afraid to look.
In the past few weeks, I have relived a few days as a student. My first day I was a 5th grader, the second an 8th grader and the third a 9th grader. Personally, these were difficult grades for me the first time around. I go into trouble, I was disengaged and I felt lost with the unknown. From bell to bell I did my best this second time around. Each of these days I worked to complete every assignment, live the respective schedule, unplug, be a part of the class and tried to fit in. For me entering these days once again reminded me of the monster that lies under the bed, full of perceptions that I had made my reality.
The monster under my bed is my friend. He reminds me of the obvious, my fears are my own and created by my own reality. In most of the classes that I attended, I got what I put into them. However, some of my teachers were going to make sure that I didn’t settle for anything less than my best. They were relentless, they had an organized plan, which they orchestrated with nimbleness and artistry. They were clear on what they expected from me and my fellow students. I was asked to explain, defend and cite my work. I had to take notes and organize my thoughts in a structured manner, which was the same in other classes. It reminded me of the same tempo and structure of my college wrestling and rugby practices. We learned basic routines for stretching, warming up and moving through drills so that we could focus on the content/skill and not lose time. In some classes, I was told I needed to stretch my muscles and mind, that we need to pick it up a notch, which we did. I was never given “the answer” by these teachers aka “mind coaches”, only told to clarify my thinking with my neighbor, and asked where I could find the answer/s and why I thought I might need help. At the end of each lesson, I was tired and I was fresh. I knew I worked, I knew I learned and it felt great. I was not alone in these feelings. My other students were bright eyed and wanted more. It was like we were all addicted to learning. I was amazed that my presence as the new kid didn’t change the flow, we all knew what we were there to do, individual and collectively get better. Not some of us, but all of us.
In my other classes, we did very little talking or engaging. The class was stopped if more than one person talked at a time, it felt like only one person could be fully engaged at once. The lessons were jam packed with the teacher explaining the content and how they wanted us to give the answer, which was often given to us if we waited long enough. The students had rules/norms to make it worse. They would ask low level questions so we didn’t have to do anything, it was a filibuster approach that was masterfully orchestrated and implemented. They knew and even told me, “If we wait long enough, “X” will just tell us the answer”. The same students who were alive earlier or later in the day with energy and curiosity appeared in a comma like state. In these classes there was no note taking, very little writing and a lot of worksheets with a one or two word answers. As a student you could feel it when you walked in the room, cold, tired and a constant state of grey. Fortunately, this environment was the exception and not the norm. As I write this, I am reminded on how cruel the truth can often be, however the living in delusion is not more consoling.
Over these days, I learned that I do better when I am worked. Our students can be challenged and trained for hours on end. That is why they stay after school for practices, performances and extended learning opportunities with great zeal. Our students can work harder than they do in their classes (they told me). We have talent in our classroom seats, we have talent in many of our teachers/“mind coaches”. We need to build better mental work outs for our students in all of our classes. A mental workout with timed intervals, activities that are connected, routines that stretch our muscles need to be relentlessly practiced. Some of us call these high yield or leveraged strategies, done with such fidelity that the students lead them with ease. We need to stop believing that going slower or stopping is going to engage more. This has to be matched with an environment that promotes self-competition on a daily basis. This can create a new phenomenon of group consciousness, which can be responsible for not only individual growth but collective impacts across our system. We have too much competing with another group or class when it comes to learning and not enough clarity on what it means to compete with yourself the “student”. Match this with some the mind coaches/teachers that I had this past few days, the ones who were talking us up, cheering us on, and individual pushing us for more and I know we can create the inspiration that we dream about daily. As school and community leaders, we must foster a belief system in all students, every day and in every class. We must define these principles with clarity and relentlessly uphold them for the sake of unity and good order of our society, even though we may know that others do not believe it to be truth.
The monster under my bed is there to remind me of who I am and when I am at my best or not... The monster is not here to provide fear, unless we should fear ourselves. The monster is just a mirror and when I look down, I see the “me” that needs to be worked. Over the years, the Monster has become my friend. Have you talked to your monster?
Finally from Shana Abe, The Smoke Thief
“All that effort,” he mused, “merely to avoid me. How gratifying.”
I work in the dark. I mean, it’s not pitch black in my office, but I only flip the switch to those eye-melting fluorescents when I absolutely have to.
It’s unusual, I know—but the fact of the matter is that I work better in dim light. I can’t think or write otherwise and according to a recent study, my quirk may actually have a drop of science to it.
According to the findings of a 2013 study by German researchers Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth, darkness may actually reduce feelings of constraint and spark creativity. Here’s what they reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology.
One key experiment featured 114 German undergraduates who were seated in groups of two or three in a small room designed to simulate an office. The room was lit by a single fixture hanging directly over the group’s desk. The amount of illumination varied with each group: some received only 150 lux (dim light), others 500 lux (the recommended lighting level for an office), and still others 1,500 lux (bright light).
After a 15-minute acclimation period, each group was asked to work on “four creative insight problems” that required creativity to find a solution. After two minutes, groups were asked to report their level of self-assurance, how free from constraint they felt and the degree to which they felt externally controlled. Here’s what the researchers found:
Those in the dimly lit room solved significantly more problems correctly than those in the brightly lit room. They also felt freer and less inhibited than their intensely illuminated counterparts.
Interesting business. I wonder what would happen if we dimmed our classroom lights during testing, problem-solving exercises and group work. Could it make our students more creative?
To read more about Steidle and Werth’s study, you can find a summary here.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
My February vacation was unlike any other I’ve experienced. With two trips planned - I had it set in my mind that one would be about Education, and the other would be about Family. I would spend 3 nights in Snowbird Utah, as a guest of the Gates Foundation. Their Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching Convening (#ECET2) was a chance for teacher leaders from all over the country to talk about the challenges we are facing in education. I was expecting to be immersed in all-things Education for those 3 days - and I was. For the next 3 nights, I would be with my family in the midwest, where we would be visiting my daughter’s #1 college choice: The University of Minnesota. There would be lots of laughs, meals shared, and stories to bring home. I was expecting to be immersed in all-things Family for those 3 days - and I was.
What I wasn’t expecting? Was the amount of overlap between Family and Education during my 6 day, 6 flight adventure. This week has had a profound effect on me as an educator, and as a individual. I couldn't help but re-think some of my goals, priorities and beliefs by the time I arrived back to Cape Cod.
BOS - SLC: Am I a leader?
In a recent post on ASCD’s Edge, I reflected on this question… Flying to Salt Lake City, I thought long and hard about it. I believe all teachers are leaders in their own way - some just take it beyond the classroom. My leadership extends beyond my classroom by way of the Internet. It is online where i am able to shine as a leader. Online, I offer an opinion without fear. I have time to formulate my thoughts before typing. I share what I’m doing in my classroom without shyness. I connect with others I wouldn’t have the courage to offline. It is the “face-to-face” leader I am reluctant to become. ECET2 brought me out of my shell through cooperative opportunities designed for meaningful interaction. I worked closely with teacher leaders from all over the US, and in the process, I began to see my skills mirrored in theirs. There were soft-spoken, shy, thoughtful teachers. They are working hard to bring teaching and learning to the next level. I saw them as leaders, and in doing so, I started to believe in myself as well.
PLAN: Connect with teacher leaders, and recognize my role as such.
SLC - BOS: Where’s the balance?
Flying home from Snowbird, my thoughts were consumed with the concept of Balance. Every conversation I heard touched upon the struggles teachers face when it comes to finding balance in their lives… How do we balance our role as teacher with that of teacher leader? How do we find time for our family? How do we find time for ourselves? Unfortunately, I came away with far more questions than answers. I am always amazed at the number of teachers who face the challenges of anxiety and depression. The more I tell people about my diagnosed, unmedicated anxiety, the more stories I hear. Too many teachers I connect with are having to rely on medication, exercise, diet and counseling to help them cope with anxiety and depression. In a profession where working at home is necessary, what strategies do teachers use to make everything fit? And, when it doesn’t fit, what is the price we pay? Do we leave the profession? Do we leave our family? What is conventionally billed as an excellent fit for families, a career in teaching doesn’t quite deliver. Balance is one of the biggest struggles I face in life. I have yet to figure out how to teach, lead and connect in effective, consistent ways. Because of this, I live a distracted life - trying to juggle everything well, knowing I’m dropping balls left and right. Though I was surrounded by passionate overachievers at #ECET2, I left wondering where my answers would come from.
PLAN: - Define boundaries where my attention is not drawn away from what is important.
BOS - STL: Can my students Achieve the Core?
My family and I took off from Boston 6 hours after I landed from Utah. As we prepared to visit my daughter’s #1 choice for college, we talked about the university’s requirements for entering freshman. Common Core students should start arriving on the doorsteps of colleges nation-wide, well-prepared to think critically, work cooperatively and demonstrate understanding in multiple ways. Teachers all over the country are given the responsibility of delivering curriculum to fit these national standards, and we are essentially still at the ground level. Understanding the shifts of the Common Core takes extensive reading and reflection, and it cannot be done alone. Teachers must work together to better define what teaching and learning will look like in the classroom at all levels. With careful, thoughtful implementation, our students will be set up for success. Isn’t that what they deserve?
PLAN: Build capacity in my own Common Core understanding while continuing to offer PD for teachers.
STL - MSP: Who put me in a cage?
Before landing in the Twin Cities, I thought about the sessions I attended at #ECET2. After attending one particular session called the Cage Busting Teacher, facilitated by Rick Hess (@rickhess99), and Maddie Fennell (@maddief) I was empowered to think of myself as a leader who can have difficult conversations. My anxiety often gets in the way of my actions - but Rick and Maddie offered entry points to engage education stakeholders. While the premise of the workshop was based on the idea that teachers are stuck in cages created by our education system, I saw it a little differently. What holds me back, is myself. I am in a professional and personal cage because I allow myself to be there. I censor my responses, suppress my opinion, let others speak up because my fear gets in the way. Typing this paragraph is a challenge for me, because I know deep down it is a commitment for me to break free of what holds me back.
PLAN: Find inroads to necessary conversations as they relate to what is important to me.
MSP - MKE: How does the fate of our individual journey figure in?
After spending a few days on a college campus with my family, I couldn’t help but think about fate. How do our individual choices culminate in an life-long journey? Each of us have a story to tell - what makes us special; what life lessons we have learned. Each choice leads us in a particular direction - and when we multiply out dozens and dozens of decisions, we end up at a certain destination. My daughter is at a time in her life where her decisions are starting to shape her journey. I was emotional several times during our visit, as my Big Picture thinking made me realize how our journeys shape us as individuals. To have it to do all over again would result in a different path, a different destination. I’m not sure I’d be wiling to risk losing the good and the bad of where I am now, for that unknown. The teachers I met this week shared touching, inspiring stories as unique and special as they were. Honoring our decisions (good and bad) as part of who we are, is so very important.
PLAN: Recognize the importance of future decisions as being catalysts towards my ultimate fate.
MKE - BOS: This I do for me.
As I was in my final leg, and almost home, I took a break from reading a book and started thinking again… I am very thankful for where I am and what I am able to do. I am honored and grateful for the recognitions I have received, and I love going to school and coming home each day. I am very aware of the fact that my happiness comes from helping others. In that quest, I often forget about the happiness that comes from helping myself. Small messages came through to me throughout my trip… Slow down, Suzy. Pay attention, Suzy. Exercise, Suzy. Relax more, Suzy. Be brave, Suzy. Essentially, the more I do for Suzy, the more I am fueled to do more for others. So, as I wrap up this blog post, I am committed to a new plan. I want what is best for my family, students, friends and colleagues. I am more than any of the individual roles I define. I am more than a mother, a wife, a teacher, a leader. Yet, it is the sum of those parts that make me unique.
PLAN: Take better care of myself so I can better meet the needs of others.
It is with sincere gratitude that I thank ASCD for my nomination, the Gates Foundation for the invitation, my amazing #ECET2 peeps for their inspiration, my family for our conversation, and my students for the motivation. I’m a lucky girl.
What is family?
If you go by the dictionary definition, it’s people who are related to you by common blood and descendants. If you follow the lyrics of Sister Sledge, it’s based on friendship, commonalities, closeness. And, if you were at ECET2, you realize it’s the 350 people you laughed, cried, and shared stories with during a three day convening based on a common passion for being an educator.
ECET2 is an acronym for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching, a convening hosted and funded by the Gates Foundation (@gatesed). Each of the educators invited to attend were nominated by a professional organization to best represent them. These organizations put up their A-Team, their MacGyvers, their Shakespeares, believing within each nominated person’s DNA was a common trait: a desire to support the whole child and their families. These attendees were not superheroes. They were more than that: people whose only invincibility was their unwavering belief that all students had the power to learn, as long as we empowered them to do so.
I was one of those 350 edustars. I was nominated by ASCD. Surprised that they chose me, smart enough not to question it, just thankfully blessed, I humbly accepted. (Didn’t want them to reconsider). I would find out later that this “Why me?” question was another commonality my new edufamily shared, because in our minds just doing our jobs got us here.
Our role at home was to help raise and nurture the next group of societal leaders, using our classroom and subject matter as the forum to teach problem solving, questioning, active listening, collaboration, teamwork, and advocacy. As ECET2 attendees, we would model, rinse, and repeat these skills through three intensely thought provoking days, 8,000 feet above sea level, in Snowbird, Utah.
The elevation in the ECET2 acronym meant raising our edugame through guided discussions, interactive presentations, Ted-style talks, and social downtime. We met in small, colleague circles, discussing chosen focus topics. We shared resources, asked questions, and actively listened, all under the agreement that the first rule of colleague circles was you don’t talk about colleague circles. It was the law of Las Vegas: what goes on in the circle stays in the circle.
This respectful collegiality, this understanding that our takeaway from each colleague circle, presentation, and discussion was to learn from and with each other, signified the power of a phrase I learned from George Couros (@gcouros): the smartest person in the room is the room. Or, as my friend and ASCD co-presenter, Eric Russo (@erusso78) said during our presentation on EduCore, “Barry and I were geeking out before with our breakfast table. Talking growth mindset, special education, school culture, and problem of practice, sharing documents we created, all while eating bacon.”
We all geeked out with each other by alternately learning, teaching, and leading so each member of our ECET2 family got better. So they could celebrate their new knowledge within their district, school, and student families. And, so we could all feel a little more effective in the process.
Katie Novak (@katienovakudl) called ECET2 “a movement.” I love her thinking, but it runs deeper than that for me. Originally, I saw the nomination by ASCD and the invitation to ECET2 by the Gates Foundation as a sign that ‘I’d made it’. When I attended the convening, I realized the ‘it’ was just the beginning of the journey. The real test to see whether I was worthy of my invite and had learned from my experience was what I would do next. How would I show my appreciation for my experience with my ECET2 family? How would I pay it forward to my edufamily at home?
The underlying approach to learning at ECET2 was to challenge and provoke our thinking through honest dialogue. No one at the convening did this better than Rick Hess (@rickhess99), of American Enterprise Institute, and Maddie Fennell (@maddief) who co-presented on ‘Cage Busting Leadership’. I asked him if he was interested in collaborating on a weekly Twitter chat. I believe our extended education family needs to hear his voice, have an opportunity to interact with him, and grow from these discussions. Rick’s response: “Love the chat idea...will figure out a way to make this happen.”
Challenging and provoking thinking comes from teacher activism. I touched base with Jessica Wright (@jessicampitts), Suzy Brooks (@simplysuzy), Chris Bronke (@mrbronke), Jen Orr (@jenorr), Vivett Hemans (@lotyssblossym), Emily Land (@eland1682), Tamera Dixon (mstdixon), and Dan Ryder (@wickeddecent). They are my pre-ECET2 family. We’d organized and led a Twitter chat the night before the convening began (http://storify.com/barrykid1/pre-ecet2-twitter-chat-on-2-16-14). We’re going to continue that discussion with a bi-monthly Twitter chat for all past and present ECET2 attendees, as well as any educators interested in Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. We’ll expand and turnkey focus topics discussed in Utah, and globally extend our colleague circles. Maybe members of the Gates Foundation, like: Dr. Irvin Scott (@iscott4), Dr. Vicki Phillips (@drvickip), Nate Brown (@hnborown1), Amy Hodges Slamp (@amyslamp), and Isis Randolph-McCree (@isismccree) would guest moderate. (hint, hint).
Teacher activism needs to be local, too. I connected with the three other New Jersey attendees at the convening: Peggy Stewart (@myglobalside), Michael J, Dunlea (@michaeljdunlea), and Katherine Bassett. With the help of our new friends from Pittsburgh (@ecet2pgh) who’ve previously hosted a regional ECET2, we’re going to figure out a way to do one too, to elevate and celebrate our effective teachers and teaching family in New Jersey. We’d love to collaborate with others on this, so if others in our area would like to pay it forward with us, let us know.
I know Sister Sledge and the dictionary both have it right: family is bound by like DNA, commonalities, and a similar mindset. That is why we say our close friends are ‘like family,’ and certain friends are ‘my brother,’ or, ‘my sister.’ From my three days in Utah, my edufriends became edufamily. And with their help and support, who knows what we will achieve? Regardless of outcome, our journey will continue together as we elevate and celebrate each other, and make one another more effective in the process.
Author’s note: to honor all who influenced me and helped make me better, I noted people’s Twitter handles. They’re great teachers, and even better people. Give them a follow. They’ll make you better, like they did me. And, you won’t have to go to Utah to do it.
9. But this is Social Media. I'm afraid to post. Yes it is Social Media (SM) but a rule of thumb is this, anything you post whether it's on Twitter, Facebook or a blog or a comment on a blog is a footprint. Just think of it this way, do I want my parents of students, staff and my family reading this, then you will be safe. Also, be kind - it is okay to agree to disagree in chats, but we are here to learn. Be nice. Diane Ravitch has a great post about posting comments on her blog. Rules to follow! Edutopia has a great page about creating Social Media guidelines here: http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school
Școala Gimnazială ,,Virgil Iovănaș“ Șofronea, Romania
WHAT IS CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT?
Effective Classroom Management is:
1. Planned not improvisational
2. Preventative rather than simply reactive
3. Controlled and organized rather than chaotic
4. An opportunity for all students and teachers to experience success
Tips for Arranging the Classroom
1. Have extra supplies available at a location in the classroom where students who have forgotten supplies will be able to go without disrupting other students (i.e. a cup of pencils at the center of each table or the back of the classroom).
2. Set a good example to your students by providing a neat and organized classroom.
3. Make your classroom look attractive. Use plants, bulletin boards, banners, warm colors, or anything to help make your classroom look aesthetically pleasing.
4. Structure your classroom as to avoid chaos and promote learning. For instance, do not place a talkative student next to the pencil sharpener because this creates many opportunities for disruptive behavior.
5. The teacher should be able to observe all students at all times and be able to see the door from his/her desk.
6. Students should be able to see the teacher/presentation area without having to move or turn around.
7. Arrange the room as to allow easy movement.
8. Main idea: Make your classroom fun, attractive, motivating, & functional.
Tips for Building Positive Student/Teacher Relationships
1. Follow the Golden Rule – Treat each student with respect and kindness.
2. . Identify a few students each class period and find ways to individually praise them so that by the end of the week every student in your class has been praised.
3. Be available before and after school in case a student needs help or simply needs to talk
Praise students for good work.
5. Praise students for effort.
6. Establish appropriate levels of dominance and cooperation.
7. Create one-to-one interactions with students.
8. Display students’ successful work in the classroom.
9. Disclose appropriate personal information that your students might find helpful (i.e. share a personal story that helps you describe a particular point of the lesson).
Time Saving Strategies
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
1. Establish time-saving, efficient routines for collecting papers and distributing materials and supplies (i.e. bins for each subject or class, mailboxes for each student or class).
2. ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE!
3. Establish daily routines.
4. Make a “To Do List” at the end of each day so that when you arrive the next morning you know exactly what needs to be done. Prioritize it and list the things that must be done first.
5. Create classroom jobs. This will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
6. Create a system for monitoring unfinished assignments. (i.e. Keep a clipboard with a list of student names with several boxes for each class next to each name. When you have finished grading the assignments, check off the boxes next to the students who have handed in the assignment.)
7. Teach your students how to be organized. Encourage them to have separate folders for each class and a home folder for assignments/notes.
8. Create your own filing system. Assign each class a color and keep important lesson materials in each folder.
1. Give directions one step at a time and avoid long and detailed directions.
3. Provide a variety of learning experiences, including peer teaching, cooperative learning, small group instruction, and lecture.
4. Provide homework assignments and activities that are meaningful, relevant, and instructional.
5. Teach students good study habits and provide a variety of different study suggestions.
6. Have your class summarize the lesson or activity at the end of each class.
7. Provide students with feedback (about what they did right and wrong).
8. Help your students set realistic goals.
Tips for Creating a Positive Classroom Environment
1. Use humor.
2. Greet students at the doorway and in the halls.
3. Show enthusiasm and be animated.
4. Provide opportunities for every student to succeed.
5. Model good listening skills by paying attention when
6. Create anticipation for lessons or tasks.
7. If a particular student is struggling, provide the student with a classroom buddy who is mature and responsible.
8. Create classroom rituals and traditions which build a sense of community.
9. Encourage parental and community involvement.
Tips for Preventing Misbehavior
1. Establish realistic and age appropriate rules and procedures.
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
2. Have discussions with your students about the rationale and purpose of each rule. When appropriate, incorporate student opinions and thoughts into your classroom rules and procedures.
3. Walk throughout the classroom during lectures and seat work to provide assistance and monitor behavior.
4. Keep class work and assignments separate from behavior issues.
5. Carefully plan each class time and have extra plans in case you finish early.
6. Have extra activities available for students to do when they are bored or finished with all their work.
7. Establish routines for transitions (leaving the room, using the bathroom, etc.) and prepare students for transitions by warning them ahead of time.
8. Reinforce and praise appropriate behavior.
9. When deciding whether or not to intervene with a behavior, determine if the problem is solely “teacher-owned.” Does the behavior simply annoy you or is it harmful to other students?
10. Establish a program that teaches self-discipline and responsibility to students. When appropriate, give students extra duties that will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
Tips for handling student discipline situations
1. REMAIN CALM AND COMPOSED!
2. When correcting misbehavior, communicate in the most private, respectful, and positive manner.
3. Make all discipline decisions after the “heat of the moment.”
4. Use appropriate humor to de-escalate conflict situations.
5. When you feel as if you or your student is too emotional to handle a particular situation, suggest postponing the discussion until both are prepared to talk it out.
6. Instead of blaming, use I-messages to explain why the behavior was disruptive. Instead of saying “You’re disruptive” try saying “I lose my concentration when you are talking in class.” This helps to avoid an angry retaliation.
7. Use positive self-talk to reduce stress and help to remain control. Mentally say things such as “remain calm,” “I’m doing a good job at handling this situation.”
8. Attempt to de-escalate situation by providing distractions. These distractions give people the opportunity to cool off.
9. Exaggerate issues to help students put the situation in perspective.
10. Use stress management techniques such as deep breathing or repeatedly tensing and relaxing your muscles.
11. Address only student behavior rather than personal traits.
February 17, 2012
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
ASCD Nominations Committee Selects Candidates for ASCD Board of Directors
In January 2014, the 2014 ASCD Nominations Committee selected five candidates to run for two open positions on the Board of Directors in the next General Membership Election. Those five individuals are Tony Frontier (Wisc.), Josh Garcia (Wash.), Patrick Miller (N.C.), Lorraine Ringrose (Alberta, Canada), and Anne Roloff (Ill.). The election process will open on April 1 and will run through May 15.
ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda
The key priority for ASCD in 2014 is to promote multimetric accountability so that standardized test scores are not the sole measure of student achievement, educator effectiveness, or school quality. Multimetric accountability systems must
The 2014 Legislative Agenda (PDF) contains four policy recommendations:
ASCD Educators Connect the Classroom to the Capitol
Educators throughout the United States recently convened in Washington, D.C., to attend ASCD’s legislative conference, the Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA). Attendees had the opportunity to meaningfully network with colleagues, build knowledge to expand their personal influence, and hear from top education thought leaders including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who urged attendees to “seize the day.” Duncan also commended ASCD and its members for “walking the walk when it comes to professional development,” helping classroom teachers and schools leaders commit to a “rich, well-rounded, rigorous education.”
If you were unable to attend this year, see LILA’s storify collection—which brings together your colleagues’ pictures, tweets, and reflections. ASCD Emerging Leader alum Hannah Gbenro also shared her reflections in an ASCD EDge® post Educational Advocacy: Why and How.
Other conference highlights:
Access follow-up resources from the conference, including more detailed policy recommendations and an overview of the legislative agenda.
ASCD Emerging Leader is Facilitator of New Professional Interest Community
Congratulations to ASCD Emerging Leader Jill Thompson, facilitator of ASCD’s newest Professional Interest Community on the topic of personalized learning. Please join the Personalized Learning group on the ASCD EDge platform to stay connected on this important topic.
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation on Teacher Leadership
The ASCD Forum is the chance for educators to make their voices heard on a topic of worldwide importance. From January 15 to April 11, ASCD invites all educators to explore the question through online and face-to-face discourse, “How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?”
To learn more about the ASCD Forum:
To join the conversation:
Join the ASCD EDge® group and respond to the comments from other educators.
Read and comment on these blog posts:
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #ASCDForum.
Write your own blog post on the topic of teacher leadership. Here’s how.
Join us at ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles at session #2124 hosted by ASCD President Becky Berg on Sunday, March 16, 8:00–9:30 a.m. pacific time.
As the most active leaders in the association, you are integral to the success of this conversation. Your leadership helps set an example for others to make their voices heard. Please join the discussion on teacher leadership!
ASCD Leader Voices
ASCD Releases 2014 PD Online® Course Catalog for K–12 Educators—ASCD announced the release of the 2014 PD Online course catalog. The new catalog offers more than 100 user-friendly courses developed by ASCD authors and experts available anytime, anywhere to educators, including 21 new PD Online courses. PD Online courses are developed to help educators increase their knowledge and discover best practice methods. Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces Expanded On-Site and Blended Professional Learning Services Offerings—ASCD announced the new ASCD Professional Learning Services, enabling more school districts nationwide to receive greater customized professional development from the association. The ASCD Professional Learning Services offerings are customizable based on the needs of a district or school and are available in on-site or blended solutions. Read the full press release. Read the full press release.
2014 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show Set to Host Sessions Focused on Technology, Leadership, Common Core Implementation, and More—ASCD announced the full schedule of events for the upcoming 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. The upcoming conference will be held March 15–17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Attendees will learn ideas and best-practice strategies that drive student achievement while unlocking ways to boost teacher and leadership effectiveness. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases Four New Professional Development Publications to Transform Learning—ASCD announced the release of four new professional development titles for educators. As educators face new standards and classroom challenges, they will find solutions for prioritizing school improvement efforts, working with difficult students, bringing joy into teaching and learning, and teaching vocabulary effectively in these new professional development publications. Read the full press release.
ASCD Brings Spring and Summer Common Core Professional Development Institutes to New Cities in 2014—ASCD announced the lineup of one- and two-day Professional Development Institutes for the spring and summer. Expanding to eight new cities, ASCD’s institutes are designed to provide greater support to educators nationwide as they continue to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), while meeting educators where they are. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda, Calls for Increased Multimetric Accountability—ASCD released its 2014 Legislative Agenda on Monday, January 27th, at the association’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Developed by the association’s Legislative Committee—a diverse cross section of ASCD members representing the entire spectrum of K–12 education—the 2014 ASCD Legislative Agenda outlines the association’s federal policy priorities for the year. Read the full press release.
I am a fan of Corner Office in the New York Times. I read it every Sunday and I think that there are valuable leadership lessons to be found for any career. One recent interview with John W. Rogers Jr., chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments that I read was about the influence of sports on his career. He described how his time on the Princeton basketball team taught him taught him the value of teamwork and caring about teammates more than oneself. As a former collegiate athlete and a current high school and middle school football coach, I know the valuable lessons that can be learned through sports. Lessons on teamwork, dedication, perseverance and humility are all ones that can serve athletes in any career path that they choose.
Along with reading this interview, I have also been captivated by the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying and harassment case. If the John Rogers interview is the best of sports, then the sordid tale of the Miami Dolphins offensive line is the worst. As I read about the investigation and the details of the case, I can easily understand how this kind of climate could be created in a locker room. When winning, and not player development, becomes the sole focus of a team, the types of behaviors demonstrated by Incognito and others, are tolerated because of good on field play. The lessons learned in these situations are that if you are good enough on the field, no one cares how you act off the field. When winning becomes everything, anything is tolerated.
In the end, I believe the impact of sports, for better or worse, comes back to coaching. As an assistant coach, I have been lucky enough to work for some great head coaches. Each one of them focused on player development more than winning. That is not to say that they did not want to win, they wanted to win desperately, but they knew that winning took a back seat to making our young athletes into better men. If we focus on making our players better teammates, encourage and reward hard work and dedication, and support them in the classroom and their lives away from the field, we will make them better people, and the wins will take care of themselves.
As I continue to coach, there are some lessons that I have continued to use with my players on the field. As a leader in my classroom and at my school, I have found that these lessons also apply. The best of sports should be reflected in the best of our schools.
In the end, it is the coach that has the ultimate responsibility. Focusing on the powerful lessons that sports can teach will lead to stories like John W. Rogers, Jr. Focusing on winning alone are much more likely to lead to situations like Martin/Incognito. My current head coach has said that we are not here to do our best, we are here to be the best. As I relate this to my players and students, I remind them that I want them to not try their best to be a good person, I want them to be the best person they know. I want them to try and exceed all of the examples they see in their surroundings. It may be the only way for them to exceed their situation and create a better life for themselves.
As a coach, and a teacher, I know the important role that we fill for many young men and women in our society. While some may remember the wins and losses, many more will remember the life lessons that they learned on the field. It is time we focus on what will leave the mark, not what will be in the paper.