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I remember all the times that I have asked my children for their opinion. I have asked, "How do I look?" before a trip to the movies. After spending hours in the kitchen, I have also asked "How was the home made soup?" To no surprise, I was not thrilled with their feedback (my daughter typically begs me to change my outfit immediately. As for the soup, I interpret their addition of much salt to represent the need for more flavor).
I didn't go through many changes, or much preparation before asking for my children's opinion, but I tend to think that for the classroom, asking our students for feedback should require a system or at least a plan. We understand the value of student feedbakc, but now, lets focus on how we can begin the process. Because I am a believer in the learning potential within mistakes, I will identify considerations to avoid when pursuing student perception.
1. Don't Reinvent the Wheel.
There is research available to show you the different ways to gather student opinion. There is no need to start from scratch and develop your own system. There are online surveys (survey monkey) or online polls that you can use to measure student perception of a lesson (polleverywhere.com). In addition, there are ways to get more personal feedback with the use of group conferences or individual conferences. You can indirectly obtain feedback through the use of a classroom profile by examining trends in your classroom such as attendance, submissions of late work, extra credit, and the frequency of visits to your classroom blog. Keeley (2012) in a pulication called Science and Children illustrates a great example of creating a classroom profile as a means of collecting information about your students.
2. Dont Overlook the element of Time.
Typically teacher evaluations are completed at the end of a year, but think about the drawbacks to this approach. If you approach your students early and often, there is a greater likelihood of utilizing the data to inform your teaching practices sooner and more frequently. There is a great article in the New York Times (Lewin, 2012) that discusses how professors that wish to go the extra mile collect feedback weekly.
3. Dont Be Vague.
Try to be very specific when aksing for feedback. Instead of asking what the students "like" or "dislike", require the students to share what they found particularly "useful" or what may have created "barriers" to their academic success.
4. Don't Sit on the Sidelines.
Even though you wish to focus on student feedback, allow the students to ask you questions as well. This is an opportunity to share your thought process on how you developed your curriculum map. Also, based on the questions that your students ask, you can learn what elements of the class they desire to have a voice or a role in the decision-making process.
5. Dont Personalize the Information.
It is likely that the student evaluations will yield some negative comments. That is fine. Remember that the focus of the eval is your teaching practice, not you as an individual. The goal is to learn specific things about your teaching that you may improve upon in the future. So, yes, it hurts my feelings when my daughter slams my outfit, but at the same time, I am able to learn a little about fashion (and hopefull learn to later present myself as a fashionista later) due to her feedback.
*Please note that the first post in this series is titled "There's no Crying in Baseball". For the final follow up post, I will outline important things that teachers should do after collecting the student feedback.
What time is it?
If I asked that question at home, my children would probably yell, “Adventure Time!” At work, I ask myself that question all the time (no pun intended).
There are a lot of old adages and cliche’s about time and I love everyone of them… I’m sure you have heard them too:
“Time swiftly passes”
“Time is of the essence”
“Time flies when your having fun”
“Time is an illusion”
With the increasing demands on school leaders, I think that this post is timely (pun again). How do we spend our time?
I struggle with time. I am not a morning person, but I know it is important to be at work early (although no one seems to care how late I stay). Throughout the day I am constantly juggling the responsibilities of observing, walking through classrooms, connecting with other educators, talking to students and parents. My time is precious. …. I can’t be everywhere all the time (pun number ?)
How do I manage my time? I have become reliant on my Outlook calendar. I have my calendar on my laptop, iPhone, iPad and anywhere else I need it. Someone asks me to do something or be somewhere, I usually whip out my iPhone to check my availability. I know I only have so much time (pun number ?).
I have to make time to learn new time management tools
My PrincipalCast co-hosts and I just did a podcast on Time Management. Although the session was not recorded (due to technical glitches) we had an amazing discussion on technological breakthroughs that can assist educators with time management.
In preparing for the show, I read a wonderful post byTony Sinanis who ended up stopping by to chat. InPut What Matters First, Tony discusses how he “prioritizes” rather than “manages time.”He is student-centered and remains steadfast that students are first on his list of priorities!
Jessica Johnson shared how she prioritizes her time. She uses the Four Quadrants of Time Management, a matrix popularized by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. She also uses BILT (Before I leave today) to ensure she accomplishes her tasks before heading home.
I shared one of my favorite books, Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy. In the book, readers are provided with 21 time saving tips to make sure that priorities do not get out of control.
Other resources that were shared on the podcast:
Paperless Principal by Jethro Jones
Want to lose the 3 ring binder? Try Livebinders
Want to connect with people without email? Printing? Try Google Docs
Quickly becoming the best place to explore, share, and contribute educational content… Educlipper
Recently during an in-class presentation, a student showed a clip from the Tom Hanks film "A League of Their Own". It was the scene where Hanks is frustrated with his female player (all female league) as she cries in response to his instruction/coaching. The source of his frustration is simple, Hanks holds a strong perception of baseball (he believes baseball is rough, tough, and all things macho) and it is evident that his female player did not share these ideas. In disbelief of his player's perception of the game, Hank yells "there's no crying in baseball". The video clip speaks directly to the vital role that perception plays in our everyday interactions. More specifically to educators, the film clip may serve to remind us how perception impacts our classroom.
As educators we are typcially aware of how we feel, but how much do we really know about our student's feelings? What do our students think about our lesson plans, classroom environment, and assessments and how do our perceptions differ? Below is a sample of 6 differences between what we may believe as educators and what our learners may perceive everyday in th classroom.
Teacher Perception: What does this test show about my instructional effectiveness?
Student Perception: I wonder if I can trick the teacher into thinking that I studied and know this material?
Teacherr Perception: How well does this assignment prepare the students for the test?
Student Perception: Why do we have to repeat the same stuff that we did in class at home?
Teacher Perception: Can I effectively individualize instruction?
Student Perception: Is separate truly equal? I don't know if it is fair that different students get different work
4. Scheduled Substitute Teacher
Teacher Perception: I hope I left sufficient activities for the students in order to keep them on track.
Student Perception: Free time! (Las Vegas mentality:What happens here, stays here).
5. Extra Credit Opportunities
Teacher Perception: How might this extra credit assignment reinforce the concepts from our class?
Student Perception: Free points!
6. Assignment Calendar/Syllabus
Teacher Perception: What other information should I add in order to make the information more clear to the students?
Student Perception: Should I keep this? I can just ask the teacher about the due dates or deadlines.
In order to make meaningful changes in our classroom, we first need to become aware of our perceptions as educators and the perceptions of our learners. Understanding the perceptions of others is hard work. I tend to think about the book "Seven Effective Habits" by Covey in that he emphasizes the need to first seek to understand (as a prerequisite to being understood). It's ok if you perceive crying in baseball as a crime. It is better if you seek ways to understand how others may perceive baseball. A single belief can be so limiting. Let's challenge ourselves to learn about perceptions outside of our own. Specifically it is time to think about how our students perceive their learning process and how we can use these perceptions to inform instruction. As a way to help, I will provide a follow-up post that outlines considerations and strategies in exploring student perception.
Let me come clean. At first, homework was a bad word for my students. I remember the grunts, the sighs, and the rolling of the eyes when I assigned homework in the past. So, you may wonder, what has changed? I have to give the credit to the infamous educator book "The First Days of School" by Harry and Rosemary Wong. I tend to rely on this book for many housekeeping matters in my classroom. For homework guidance, I refer to the book's "no mystery approach" (this strategy is described in the lesson mastery chapter of the book). So far, what woks for me is telling the students specifically what is needed for homework success and then practicing it together as a class.
Below are 5 effective strategies that I use to increases student homework output:
1. Check Marks the Spot
I use checklists that explicitly describe what the students are required to do for the homework assignment. I have the students attach the checklist to the homework so that they already know how they did on the assignment when they turn it in. A sample of things on our checklist include (page lengths, meeting the deadline, proper heading, etc.).
I provide examples to the students (student samples from previous classes) so that we can practice matching the checklist against the actual assignment. In the "First Days of School", the author urges how effective teachers show students examples of work and how this decreases assingnment fear and anxiety.
2. Probability Boosts Homework Potential
I anounce to the class that homework is collected randomly through out the semester. I provide a homework calendar at the beginning of the semester that lists all the potential dates that the homework will be collected (the calendar give the students a clear tangible schedule to help them track the homework process). Typically, I try to collect about 70% -75% of the assignments on the calendar. This amount gives a pretty good snapshot of the students practice performance (I get an indicator of the student's work quality, frequency, and need for remediation). I encourage the students to complete all the assignments, but the students understand that only a portion of the work will get collected. Making the assignment collection random keeps the assignments fresh. It is almost like the homework is a lottery or contest for the students. The more you enter (the more assignments you complete), the better your chance is to win (earn a strong grade). It is fun to see the students tyring to use statistics/probability to determine the likelihood that the assignment will get collected. I hear the older students saying "She collected it yesterday, so there is a lower probability that she will get it today"...
3. Make-ups Break-up the System
At the beginning of the year I make it clear that submission is the rule and make-up is the exception (unless there is a doctor's note or other verified special circumstance). Discouraging make-ups is important because it prepares the students for the real world, it makes them accountable, and fosters the students with a sense of urgency to complete the assignment.
4. The Power of Choice
I encourage the students to choose how they wish to complete the assignment. We practice what good homework vs. poor homework choices look like. For example, when it is a vocabulary assignment, instead of completing a true/false statement for every word on the list, the student is able to choose a select number of the words (we must agree on the amount of words ahead of time). Another example of a homework choice is when we are working on reading comprehension and the student is permitted to select the type of questions that they will respond to (literal, expressive, inferential, predictive, etc.). By granting the students choices, the assignment is less intimidating, and the student is more likely to complete the assignment.
5. Homework is the Ultimate Copy Cat
One of the themes of lesson mastery in "The First Days of School" is the effective teachers' use of a specific criteria that the students practice. I make it clear to the students that their homework is a miniature version of their test. To make it even more enticing for them, I explain that I pull the actual test questions from the homework that they submit.
If you find that it is difficult to use the homeowrk as a blueprnt for your test, consider revising the homework assignment. It is imperative for the homework to direclty reflect the assessment (for more details on this, revisit the Lesson Mastery in "The First Days of School").
These are some of the factors that have really helped turn around the perception of homework in my classroom. No more "the dog ate my homework" stories for me! The students understand that the homework is on their terms, their time, and that it prepares them for their test. In the "First Days of School", Wong inspires teachers to help students showcase what they are learning. Homework is a great opportunity to do this. What homework strategies have you found useful in inspiring your students to show what they have learned?
Dr. Karen Ruskin, relationship & family psychotherapist, interviews Dr. Jonathan T. Jefferson, author & education commentator, on The Dr. Karen Show. Filmed on October 25, 2013.
Watch it until the end! What Dr. Jefferson shares will motivate all good teachers!
Teachers teach because they have a drive to do so. We all know it’s certainly not for the money. (Cue the laugh track, we have all heard that one before!) We want to shape students into independent thinkers and learners. We want to teach them about life and about how to live it in a valuable way. That’s why I became a teacher. And that’s why I want to become an educational administrator. Think of all the students I could influence by being a leader in the educational world. Instead of the 120 or so students I see on a daily basis, I could reach twenty teachers, who reach 120 students. The math clearly states that I could influence 2,400 students. Wow. That’s big. Think about that. As an educational administrator you can reach thousands—not just hundreds, but thousands—of children. Take that in for a moment. It’s a big deal.
So now you have all these young minds at stake. You must be sure that your ideas, actions, directives, advice, feedback, and interactions with others lead you toward the same ultimate goal that you have always had—teaching the students how to be functional and thoughtful citizens of this country and this world. How do you go about doing this as an educational administrator? The list is lengthy.
First, listen to your teachers. You can go into classrooms and observe teachers for 20-40 minutes and see the students, but that is a snapshot of, what is most likely, a well-prepared lesson on a good day. (Listen, we have all been there. You know you’re being observed? You step it up, just a tad.) The teachers are in the trenches all day with the same kids every day. They are your best resource when it comes to knowing your population (which is also on the list). Rely on them. It is not a sign of weakness if you do. It is a sign that you care about your job and each of the 2,400 students you impact via your work.
By listening to your teachers you will get to know the population of your district if you don’t already. Know your clientele. (In this case, it’s the students.) You need to know them as a whole, know them as various subgroups, and even get to know them as individuals. Be present in the hallways and the classrooms. Not every walk through or observation needs to be formal. Go into classes. Talk with kids. Team teach. Build relationships with your teachers and your students. (Yes, I said your students. That was not a typo—they are yours just as much as they are the teachers’.)
This next one is tough. Are you ready? You don’t know it all. And it’s okay. What is not okay, is not educating yourself on the latest laws, mandates, classroom strategies, recent population, etc. (That list goes on. And on. And on.) Do you know the best way to learn things you don’t know? Read. Talk to people. Ask questions. Engage in conversations with people who are closest to the students. Please, whatever you do, don’t pretend to know something. That’s more damaging than just admitting you don’t know.
This brings me to the next point. Don’t be stubborn, either. Should you be assertive? Yes. Helpful? Always. Collaborative? No doubt about it. But pushing your agenda on the teachers and students is not focusing on the clients—it’s focusing on you. Being an educational administrator is not about accolades and awards. If that’s what you’re looking for, please find a job in the private sector where such things occur regularly. Being an educational administrator is finding the best way to reach the students and help them succeed. If you stray from this idea, you are doing a disservice to our kids.
Understand, future educational leaders, I am not saying your ideas are not worthy, valuable, or awesome, for that matter. They very well may be. But people will disagree on justifiable grounds and it’s your job to listen to them. (Yes, it is your job. You work for the kids. You owe it to them to listen to the people they interact with every day.) These people are not shutting you down. Your brilliant idea is not thrown away. Look what you have done. You have started a debate. And from that, you will find middle ground, and maybe an even better, more worthy, more valuable and more awesome idea.
Every good teacher, administrator, worker, and person goes rogue every once in a while. And I encourage you, yes you, future administrators, to do the same. Mandates are important. Absolutely. But remember, who are your clients? The kids. At the end of the day you need to do what is best for them. Must you implement directives? Of course! But that does that you mean you do every single thing by the book. Sometimes the book needs to be closed and common sense needs to prevail. Go rogue, people! It’s freeing. Try it.
In the end, be sure to support your teachers. It’s the best way to support the thousands of students you impact. Don’t hide behind email or in your office. Go visit your teachers and engage in their work. Don’t be afraid to get to know your students on a personal level. Make yourself available to everyone who needs you. Teachers need you. (By them lunch a few times a year just to show your appreciation for all they do.) Kids need you. (Ask about their latest soccer game or school play.) Be present. Be positive. Be effective. Care about your work. But most of all, just know that what you do influences thousands of people—albeit, young, sometimes very little people, but people. Those people who will be taking care of us in the future. Let’s do right by them and take care of them now.
I am current working with quite a prestigious school to transform their Year 8 curriculum and teaching practice such that the learning is not only more engaging but it begins to embed a structure to develop performance oriented independent learners.
As part of the process we were discussing formative assessment and the qualities or attributes of effective formative assessment. At one point I had quite a vigorous discussion with some teachers about the purpose of grading students.
One of the habitual practices I see in high schools is the grading of pieces of work, assignments, tests, etc and they are essentially summative. In other words, a student does a test, assignment, whatever and they are given a mark and that goes towards the result the student achieves for the term or year.
I asked them, “Why is this the habit you use? What is the purpose of this?” I really want you, as a reader, to think about this too. Why do you grade?
Now I am not against grading as a tool. What I think needs to shift is the context in how we use grades as a tool.
If you look behaviorally at students over time when grades are given they become used as a tool of reward. They are an artificial indication of that the student is doing well (or not), that they can provide what the teacher wants of them (or not). Self-belief and self-confidence rise and fall on the grades. Students adapt so as to get good grades (or give up). Students compare themselves to each other and mindsets are made and embedded. In many high schools I find that one of the clear and constant complaints is that students don’t want to show their working, or demonstrate the process of thinking, they just want the answer and get the grade.
Is this the purpose of schools and learning?
If our job as educators is to be partners to the students to learn then shouldn’t our structures match this desire? Having structures that are supposedly used to measure student understanding yet hinder it seems a bit silly to me.
Wouldn’t it be a good idea if all students could achieve a high grade (90% and above)? Why not let them resubmit an assignment and correct the mistakes they made? Why not have them re-sit the test or exam until they get a good mark? Give the students a choice to keep working until their grade is high and what you start to reward with grades is effort and you build a growth mindset. This is the fundamental thinking of how games work on develop skills and competency (thus the gamification and competency learning movements occurring in learning)
For those students who achieve a high grade quickly, why not have them tutor the other students on their thinking (not the answers) such that everyone can succeed. Not only does this build a community-oriented culture of learning (all for one and one for all), not only does this provide a feedback and coaching structure within the classroom, it addresses the higher competency students to develop their executive functions and be able to explain their thinking to others in such a way that the other students succeed.
And what does Hattie’s meta-analysis say about feedback, micro-teaching, formative evaluation, etc? They are amongst the top approaches to improving student learning.
Shifting one’s context can make a profound difference with little effort or hard work!
America has an urgent need to cultivate a strong workforce of innovators in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects, but too few students receive the academic support and many lack opportunity to study STEM in school. Why should we care? In the next five years it’s expected that STEM job openings will grow twice as fast as other jobs in the United States, however Department of Education figures show that only 16% of American high school seniors are interested in a STEM career. The figures for minority students are particularly low.
But a solution may be right in our students’ hands. A study commissioned by the Verizon Foundation found that more than one out of three middle school students report they are using smartphones and tablets to help with their homework. Not only that, students reported that using mobile devices at school makes them want to learn more about STEM subjects than students who don’t. As a teacher, this is music to my ears. Another study by Harris Interactive reinforced these findings. Incredibly, nine out of ten students reported that mobile devices make learning more fun.
Early intervention appears to be the key. While I believe that there is no age that is too early to introduce STEM based lessons, dynamic programs using technology aimed at middle and high school students are a way to maintain students’ interest in STEM as they progress to graduation. Last year I was the co-advisor for a team of middle school students who participated in a national contest to design a smartphone app. The students who participated in this challenge learned valuable skills, not only related to STEM, but to all aspects of learning. We had rich discussions on the topic of community challenges and concerns, and how technology and science could help alleviate them. The team decided to design the Chow Checker app, which would identify ingredients in food products to help people with food allergies. At the end of the process the students left with a greater awareness of the issues that children with food allergies face on a daily basis. Out of hundreds of teams from around the country, my students were one of the winning teams.
Our team was a diverse group of learners, each with their own level of comfort and understanding of technology. A key feature of this process was that at the start not every student who participated considered themselves a “techie” however, by the end all of them learned that STEM education was not beyond their reach, and that there were elements of STEM that they all could be experts at. I know that they will remember this process, and most of them will continue to hone their app building skills for their future.
As adults, we use mobile devices to manage our work and social lives, and we know that the current generation of kids will integrate these technologies in ways we can only imagine. So why shouldn’t we encourage kids to integrate these devices into their school lives in a fun and challenging way? I encourage students to submit their idea to the second annual Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which is open until December 3rd. They might be inspired to invent the next great innovation.
The passage from childhood to adulthood is a road of dependence to autonomy. To gain independence, a transfer of responsibility must take place, from adult to child, and this impacts all areas of life from exploration of the world to learning about it and our place in it. Yet, for many young people, this shift happens all too suddenly instead of in increments. As teachers of tweens and teens, we have a responsibility to aid in this transfer, to intentionally teach agency and provide the opportunities for such ownership. One way educators can help accomplish this is through student-led conferences which help us achieve a new level of independence as well as a few other key conference tasks. They allow us to...
Break it Down: Bringing a child and parent together provides us with a chance to remove a tough barrier that often exists, even in the best of households, so that young people can communicate with their parents about their learning. In turn, parents can listen and offer advice to show support for their child and present a partnership mindset with the teacher.
Illuminate: In a student-led conference, we have the chance to shine a light on a quality which a parent may not have seen or may not have realized others see in their children...in the presence of the child who feels proud and bright in the moment. The thought which goes through a child’s mind when he or she hears a teacher say something positive in front of a parent is invaluable. This begins an open, growth oriented conversation when listening to constructive feedback. The path forward to growth is thereby similarly illuminated for all to journey together.
Build it Up: Having all constituents present at a conference means being able to give constructive feedback in a setting where more people are working together to construct. Think about the manpower we then have to build something significant, like a growth plan, like confidence, like trust!
Preparing for successful student-led conferences is an essential step. Using a tool like this Student Conference Form, students can reflect on their learning and prepare for a discussion with their teachers and parents. From what we have seen at our school, and from what I have personally experienced as a parent, this simple invitation to the conference table can be truly transformative for a middle or high school student during the key transition years of adolescence.
Do you know a “know-it-all?” You know, the person who always has an opinion, never listens, seen it all, knows so much information… I am quite sure that a “know-it-all” is lurking in your midst… I’m actually surprised that we still have “know-it-alls” because of the ever changing nature of information.
I decided to do some research for this post (because I don’t know everything). First, I wanted to see what the “great” minds had to say about this concept of knowledge.
Here is what I found:
The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. Socrates
The more you know, the less you understand. Lao-Tse
To appear to be on the inside and know more than others about what is going on is a great temptation for most people. It is a rare person who is willing to seem to know less than he does. Eleanor Roosevelt
If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself. Albert Einstein
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. Confucius
Nobody knows enough, but many know too much. Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach:
I like people who show their vulnerability. Sounds like the highly regarded minds thought the same thing.
Then, I did some research to see how information (and the universe) is growing in the 21st century.
According to the Worldwide Information Growth Ticker from the Digital Universe study revealed that we have created 1,987, 262, 613, 861, 770,000,000 bytes of information since January 2011!
According to www.space.com, “Space itself is pulling apart at the seams, expanding at a rate of 74.3 plus or minus 2.1 kilometers (46.2 plus or minus 1.3 miles) per second per megaparsec (a megaparsec is roughly 3 million light-years).”
If you can keep up with all of that, good luck.
My advice for dealing with others in the 21st century is simple.
By doing this, you will end up learning much more, and resonating with people in a deeper way.
And by the way, there is no way you know-it-all!
Creators of the Common Core State Standards recommend a ‘publishers’ criteria designed as a guide for curriculum developers and publishers to ensure that instructional material and textbooks meet the Common Core requirements. But are publishers actually following these recommendations when updating their instructional materials to the Common Core?
Unfortunately no, not all publishers are aligning their materials appropriately. Educators need to be wary of the sticker slapping occurring in the education publishing industry as it relates to the Common Core. Educational publishers are creating shiny new text book covers claiming to be 100% aligned to the Common Core, but not all of them are completely changing the instructional material inside to meet the new standards.
Annie Kheegan, a longtime textbook writer and editor, writes a scathing indictment of the field she proudly served for over 20 years in her blog post, Afraid of Your Child’s Math Textbook? You Should Be. The blog is incredibly discouraging and provides insight into the education publishing industry.
Especially disheartening are the examples Kheegan describes of senior executives unwilling to correct serious errors or deliver on their Common Core claims.
Kheegan quotes a senior executive’s response to her concern that a project did not meet its Common Core specs, “It doesn’t matter if there aren’t enough correlations; our marketing materials say only that we ‘expose’ students to the Common Core.”
These kinds of reports are also voiced by another industry insider, Beverlee Jobrack, a 25-year veteran of educational publishing who retired in 2007 as editorial director for one of the largest companies in the business.
According to Jobrack, when it comes to the Common Core, "Here's what's happening right now in textbook land…They're not changing anything in the curriculum. They are simply relabeling."
Jobrack says in her blog, Solving the Textbook-Common Core Conundrum, “In the interest of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, textbook publishers, who have invested tens of millions of dollars in their textbook series, are doing the minimum necessary to address the new standards.”
When you are shopping for a writing program that adheres to the Common Core, make sure you are looking at what percentage of text types are being utilized in the lessons. The publishers’ criteria for elementary Common Core writing suggests teachers focus 30% of their time on opinion writing, 35% of their time on informative/explanatory writing, and 35% of their time on narrative text types.
Below are Common Core Word Banks that are available for K-5 educators interested in having a reference to the important words, topics, and phrases used in the Common Core Standards for writing.
These word banks show consistency that prove the Common Cores have a spiraling effect across all K-5 grade levels. For example, informative/explanatory lessons taught in kindergarten continue up through the fifth grade and are continually built upon in each grade level. WriteSteps has met these text types with careful analysis and is following the publishers’ criteria for elementary writing in 100% of its lesson plans.
The educational publishing industry has been criticized since the Common Core State Standards have been released, but there are wonderful products and services on the market today that do match up with the Common Core State Standards and can help schools adjust their curriculum to meet the standards. Anyone can repackage materials and add a sticker that says “Common Core Aligned” on shiny new materials. The important thing is for educators to pay attention to which instructional materials are true to the Common Core and which materials are instances of sticker slapping.
As an educational leader, you have a vision of where your school needs to be. You have invested in your staff, students, and stakeholders, and you expect success. And you hold yourself to a high standard knowing that your attitude—and your action—sets the overall tone for the school. So why is it that some leaders seem to be able to “get it done” while others seem overwhelmed? For many, it’s about time. All of us, if we are honest, have plans or goals that are unrealized, in part, due to how we have chosen to use our time.
In Short on Time: How Do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?, we tackle some of these important issues, one step at a time. We hear insights and see examples from successful leaders in the field. In my work as a teacher, principal, professor, and learner, I’ve compiled a growing list of ideas related to school leadership. From this list of 100 Action Steps (yes, it’s a big, round number), there are a few you might consider:
Consider leaders who have successfully navigated some of these challenges and realized success in their schools. Some of their action steps may be a great fit for you and your school, and you will likely add a host of others to your own list. Ask yourself, “How can I make time to lead in order to realize this goal?” Success often comes one action step at a time. Let’s take the first one. It’s about time.
The ASCD Arias book Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal? is written by William Sterrett, who is also the author of Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works (ASCD, 2011). Learn more about ASCD at www.ascd.org.
For more information about the book or to purchase copies, go to http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Short-on-Time.aspx You can follow on Twitter @billsterrett
This video just came out on YouTube yesterday and it's quickly going viral. I heard about it on my local radio station and The Today Show gave it a mention this morning too. Give it a watch first then I'll share some thoughts on the other side.
That's your feel good video for the week right there isn't it? The Dad's reaction, and his son's excitement to share with his dad, is priceless. If you don't know the back story (and I don't know many details) the boy had majorly struggled in Math for a long time. As in, he was failing and success in Math was looking bleak. I don't know what steps the boy and his dad took to be successful at Math but he brought home a C (or at least a passing grade) and the son getting to share his great news with his Dad is what was captured on video.
Based on Dad's reaction, I'd say this was a monumental accomplishment in this student's school journey. What a sense of accomplishment the student must have felt! Dad did such a great job at what I can only assume was the beginning of a major celebration. This was a milestone for this young man. I hope his teacher made a point to celebrate with him just as vibrantly.
My last post I shared some thoughts about how movement; no matter how small, always matters. It likely wasn't an A or B that this young man brought home to share with Dad, but it was movement in the right direction. It was a major victory for him. Dad didn't say, "That's all you could do?" or just give a "Keep up the good work" and a pat on the back. Dad made this a huge deal; a reason for celebration.
I think this is something we need to make the time to do more for our struggling students, not just for our students who success in school comes naturally. We want all students to be successful in everything they do. In school and in life. That's our ultimate goal for them right? I believe that a crucial part of that journey means to help them feel success as much as possible while they're with us, no matter how small it may appear from the outside.
If only I had the time. How often do school principals hear this phrase from their hurried colleagues? Educators' sincere desire to do more, learn more, and engage more continually runs up against the realities of the frenetic, ever-changing world of teaching and learning.
I wish I could reach Benjamin better and see him more engaged. How is this possible, with so many other student needs to meet?
I would love to read that new book and apply a new perspective to my work. Who really has time to read, digest, and apply emerging ideas and best practices when so much is demanding our attention in this moment?
It would be great to log on to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) and collaborate with others. Despite our best intentions, exhaustion often trumps professional learning goals at the end of a busy day.
We are living in a time of sweeping curricular shifts and demographic changes. Uncertainties abound regarding educational funding and policy. Innovation inside the classroom and access to resources and perspectives outside the classroom hold unprecedented potential and promise for teaching and learning. This is a time when we sorely need leadership in our schools. We must teach, learn, collaborate, and lead--together. Schools cannot be powered by a hard-working few or count on a small core to "show the way" to success.
In Short on Time, we will take a closer look at action steps that involve teaching, innovating, and leading. They require planning, action, and reflection. Here’s one important area principals can start with: faculty meetings.
The very notion of faculty meetings makes even some of the best teachers cringe. Asking the staff to convene at the end of a busy day is something that any school leader should carefully consider. Principals, take note: if you are struggling to come up with a reason to meet, make the wise decision and cancel the meeting. Be inspirational, not merely informational. School leaders should model what they want learning to look like in their buildings. A principal rambling through a laundry list of managerial items in a meeting is no different from a teacher passing out a dreaded "word find" worksheet to his class. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself, If I were a teacher, would I want to attend this meeting? To make the best use of meeting time, focus on the ABCs of meetings: affirmation, best practices, and coordination.
* Affirmation. Start each meeting by recognizing others' successes and innovations. Principals are uniquely poised to share "what's right" with the school. Allowing teachers to recognize one another can go a long way toward creating a positive climate and high morale.
* Best practices. To encourage best practices, share examples of what is working well within the school and discuss new opportunities for growth. Principals are in a position to leverage powerful insights from teachers and students, and sharing video clips of teaching and learning highlights can transform a faculty meeting's tone and level of involvement. Feel free to include ‘outside’ sources such as an occasional guest speaker or clip from a TED talk. Encourage teachers to lead the discussion.
* Coordination. At the end of each meeting, be sure to outline what is to happen next. Ensuring well though-out action steps will help keep the momentum of school improvement moving forward. An example of coordinating next steps might be: Each department will review and revise exit slips in their core subject area for the next three weeks. Or, With a colleague, review these two teaching strategies and discuss your thoughts on student engagement. Occasionally, use the scheduled faculty meeting time to let all teams conduct a deeper PLC-formatted meeting with specialists and administrators on standby to offer support.
This post is a modified excerpt from the forthcoming ASCD Arias book Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal? by William Sterrett. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. © 2013 by ASCD. Reprinted with permission. Learn more about ASCD at www.ascd.org . For more information about the book or to purchase copies, go to http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Short-on-Time.aspx You can follow on Twitter @billsterrett
Everyone is talking about the government shutdown. If you work with older students, no doubt they have opions or concerns about this topic. Even if they are just repeating what they hear at home, the issue is definitely at the forefront of conversations. When there is something going on in the world that grabs our attention, creates strong emotions, and touches our lives, as educators, we are required to consider the material for our lesson plans. The big question becomes how do we effectively integrate current events (in this case, specifically the government shutdown) into our teaching agenda?
The following are my favorite three ideas to integrate current events into your curriculum
1. Utilize comics or cartoons with your students.
Students think that looking at comics/animations are just for fun, but we teachers know otherwise. I love to use comics to emphasize major points from our lesson. Specifically, I ask the students:
A. What does the comic show us about ________ (insert a specific vocabulary word or concept from class discussions)
B. What would ______ (insert a specific name of a person from class discussions) say about this comic?
C. What makes this comic funny in terms of of the material we have studied in our class?
One of the best things about using comics in class is that they are typically easy to find online. For example with the government shutdown, popular comic websites such as "washingtonpost.com", or "politicalhumor.about.com" are great websites. Just in general, when I am searching for comics to use for class discussions, I tend to rely on "cartoonistgroup.com", or "gocomics.com".
2. Rely on Problem Based Learning.
Problem Based Learning (PBL) is a popular strategy that allows students to problem solve. In terms of the government shutdown, you can ask the students to brainstorm ways to address this issue. How can the government leaders move toward a solution? What may be examples of critical sacrifices that are needed? Are there any short term solutions that we can implement?
3. Make a connection between the current event and something specific in your curriculum (vocabulary, books, research projects).
I tend to start with our vocabulary and try to have the students think about the current event utilizing terms from our class text. For instance in one of my general psychology classes, we are discussing the learning principles (operant conditioning and the use of reinforcements and punishments to change behavior). In terms of the government shut down, the students can propose factors that may strenghten the use of the shutdown (rewards) and identify factors that may weaken (punishments) the use of the shutdown.
Books are always a great resource for exploring current events. One possibility of the use of books in regards to the government shut down would be to find student-friendly books (have the students speak with a librarian for support with this) that target government policy, government assistance, or government structure. After the student finds a book, challenge them to use the book to practice a specific skill from your classroom.
I am a huge fan of research projects. If a current event is particulary troubling or fascinating for students, offer extra credit for them to research the topic on their own time and connect it to a your class material. Its amazing the quirky youtube videos that students can find to really get a message across to their peers.
These were my favorite go-to strategies for creating "teachable moments" with current events. Which strategies have you found useful in your classroom?
National Teacher Day isn’t until May, but in our experience, trying to cram all of our appreciation into a single day can feel slightly disingenuous to teachers. Rather than wait for May to roll around, we’re sharing 15 simple ways principals can recognize teachers throughout the year. We owe the principals over at Education World a big thank you for sharing their ideas. Should you find that the tips we’ve listed below aren’t enough, you’ll find 50 more by visiting the original article here.
15 Ways for Principals to Show Teachers Their Appreciation