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My friend and fellow ASCD Emerging Leader, Matt Mingle, recently tweeted in a #satchat conversation that “@MMingle1: Can't help but think how easy it is to shift from leadership in action to leadership inaction. Hard to be ‘on’ all the time! #satchat.” Matt’s tweet actually has nothing to do with the rest of this post, but it did get me started thinking about lines and how easy it is to cross them. In the context of Matt’s quote, the line in Matt’s quote is the line between action and inaction and his quote points to how very close those two opposites really are.
So what “line” did Matt’s tweet start me thinking about? I started thinking about humor or, as I was “accused of” so many times when I was growing up: “being funny.” What does this have to do with leadership? Authentic interpersonal relationships (developing and maintaining) are, arguably, the most important part of leadership—our students, their families, our colleagues, our community members, and so on. For me, I face the challenge of being authentic (which, given the aforementioned accusation, includes being funny) and also being aware of the risks of “being funny.”
From a real “whole-child” and “social emotional” perspective, humor and joking can be important for bonding and creating connections (Anyone who has interacted with @ToddWhitaker can attest to this in our professional community!). On the other hand, it can also have the adverse effect of making someone feel like an outsider or feel uneasy or unsafe in a space. Whether with students, colleagues, peers, or friends, joking around can bring people closer together—but there is also a line—and if crossed, can make people feel marginalized, hurt, or disconnected. Much like Matt’s quick tipping point from “leadership in action” to “leadership inaction,” crossing from “laughing with each other” to people feeling “laughed at” or “laughed out” can happen fast and even blindside you.
@FredEnde, another friend and ASCD Emerging Leader, shares his #QuoteADay blog posts (http://fredende.blogspot.com/2014/07/quote-day-day-209.html) which reminded me to look at quotes about humor to help make my point here. Indeed, I have found two (Fred, feel free to use either, as neither is mine!). First, the words of adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary, demonstrates the positive social-emotional power of humor. He said that “when you're in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you're depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension.” Conversely, Erma Bombeck pointed at the line I am talking about here. She explained that “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”
I’d suggest that we can often see that line coming, even if it comes fast. Some people (especially younger students) are more obviously uncomfortable with jokes and joking around. That is not a flaw in them, but an obligation in those of us who like to joke. We are obliged to recognize, understand, and genuinely honor their different relationship with humor from ours.
The particularly thorny situations, however, are not with those who are less comfortable with humor than we are. Rather, the risk of being blindsided is with those who we have the most similar personalities, those with whom we have great comfort joking with, those who typically give us back exactly what we dish out (those with whom the role of joker and jokee are often shared or otherwise are interchangeable). When you have a student, colleague, or friend with whom you are always joking around, you can get caught inside a bubble—lost in the jokes, if you will. Then, when you don’t see it coming, you are smacked in the face with the reality that someone you care deeply about feels like an outsider or feels like the butt of the joke, rather than feeling like your laughing partner or your co-star.
The first moral of this story, this post, is NOT that we should persistently temper our humor—it is not that we should walk on eggshells. Rather, it is a reminder that we need to check ourselves periodically and we need to be on the lookout for times when we may not realize that we have made someone feel like they are on the outside. Even the people we are closest with, those who give us the most leeway to joke and be silly with—especially those people. In Happy Days parlance (love my TV show references, and apologies to a hero of mine, @hwinkler4real, for this one), the Fonz stopped being cool when he jumped the shark (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ZGKI8vpcg). We (read that as “I”) need to pay attention to when something that was funny “jumps the shark”—when it stops being funny to the people around us or, worse yet, when it starts to hurt someone.
That is not the only moral, though. The second moral is about healing. It is much easier to return to leadership “in action” from leadership “inaction” than it is to renew a relationship that is “burned by the flame of a joke taken too far” (@FredEnde, you can use that one, too—that one is all me!). It starts by you, the joker, realizing that you took the joke too far. Then, you must make your amends. For a moment, the responsibility then switches to the jokee—they must make the choice whether the relationship deserves to withstand the misstep.
Here, however, is the real rub. When the jokee accepts the apology, the burden then spreads to both. It is possible that the relationship will forever be altered—but, that is usually not in anyone’s best interest. Rather, the pair should genuinely reaffirm to each other that they can and should continue to laugh together. That from now on, whoever the joker is must commit to being more aware of the cues (stepping outside the bubble periodically) and whoever the jokee is should agree to make those cues more obvious—helping the joker get outside the bubble when needed.
Being funny, joking, and laughing together is great medicine. Developing relationships where that is safe and comfortable can be an important release that can lead to healthier and happier moments and lives. But as with so many other roles in leadership, we need to be good at communicating (when we are the jokee and feel like the joke has gone too far) and empathizing (when we are the joker, getting outside the bubble to recognize the cues that the joke has gone or is going too far). The first worst outcome is a person who feels hurt by the joke. The second worst outcome is the inability to renew a relationship impacted by that hurt. My hope, as I strive to be better as a person, better as a joker, and better as a jokee, is to minimize the first worst and hope the second worst never happens.
As always, thanks for reading (if you made it this far)! Until next time…peace.
By the time they step into the position, most principals have already spent years—even decades—in the classroom as teachers. This experience certainly comes in handy, but rarely is it enough to keep first-year principals from being broadsided by new challenges. While experience is often the best teacher, we’d like to help new principals avoid common first-year blunders by sharing 10 tips from real principals. These tips have been adapted from Tena Green’s book, Your First Year as Principal: Everything You Need to Know That They Don't Teach You in School.
Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for First-Year Principals
Have you ever been witness to a time capsule being opened? If you are not familiar with such events it is very simple. People select items that represent their culture or personal lives, and place them in a container to be sealed up for a long period of time. After a few decades the container is opened up at some sort of ceremony and people look at what was the height of technology, and life, decades ago. I guess we older folks get to appreciate those types of events more than the younger people, because the items in the time capsule usually do not need to be explained to us, as they need to be to the younger generations. I guess the fascination with time capsules is dependent on the apparent and dramatic effect technology has had on the culture represented by the encapsulated items which were selected.
It is one thing to study and talk about how technology and learning has made great strides in the field of medicine, but it is another conversation entirely when one experiences finding blood-letting tools in a time capsule. It prompts a great conversation that is lost in a textbook version of such events. It usually elicits from the youth questions like “What the hell were they thinking?” Of course the field of Medicine has probably developed faster and in more directions than any other field. I used to do a presentation where I would show a slide of a 19th Century operating room, followed by a picture of an operating room of today. The contrast was inimitable. Since this was a presentation for educators I showed a picture of a 19th Century classroom, followed by a class of today. It was the laughter of the audience that was inimitable at that point. There was little change. The upsetting point here is that if I were to do that presentation again, it would probably still hold true for the slow change in too many American classrooms.
As I engaged some of my connected colleagues in Edchat last week, we were discussing how the education system pays lip service to asking for innovation in education and for teachers to be innovative, while at the same time putting in place policies and mandates to stifle any such notion a teacher might have.
I pointed out how we are supposed to be teaching our kids how to be effective, competitive, and educated in the world in which they will live, while using tools for communication, collaboration, and creation that will exist in their world.
One Connected colleague pointed out that there is one school, or it might even be considered an education franchise school, that prides itself in the fact that it teaches its students without the use of any technology whatsoever. I guess that school franchise really holds 19th and 20th century methodology in very high esteem. Many of us are products of that methodology, so I guess there is a comfort level for some. I do often wonder why an educator’s comfort level should supersede the real world needs of his or her students.
Looking to the past in education and creating my own mental time capsule, I remember when calculators were not allowed in schools. The slide rule was okay. I remember the blue spirits ditto machine with a hand crank. I remember real Blackboards. I remember fountain pens, the Osmiroid Pen in particular. I remember desks with inkwell holes in the upper right corner. Again I am an old guy and this was my past.
What would go into an education time capsule today? Maybe a “Cellphones Banned” sign. Possibly, Oregon Trail would go in. Certainly those four computers, covered with dust at the back of the room. Definitely we would include the overhead projector that is now 75 year-old technology. Maybe we should also consider putting “sit and get” methodology in the time capsule. Let’s include the idea of teaching in silos as a concept. What about adding the concept of desks in rows. Why not add the idea of a content expert at the front of the room filling the empty vessels of student minds? This might also be the right place for standardized tests.
If we were to put all of these things into a capsule to be opened two decades from now, would we ever want to bring any of them back into the class? Maybe, Oregon Trail.
We need to reach out to those who are still teaching kids from the 20th Century perspective. We need them to commit to being learners again. Learning is ongoing and it must be a way of life for an educator. A relevant educator must continually learn to stay relevant. We can’t have time-capsule teaching in an ever-developing culture. At what point will we stop and look at what we are doing and say, “what the hell were we thinking”?
ONEness…Here Lies the Power!
Most the time we consider ONE an isolated number. Isolation Island is not a fun, nor an effective place to be. Not in education, that is! One cannot make great things happen alone…it is unfair to the student(s) and the educator. However, ONE is a dynamic number when we’re talking about a team…or even a school. Uno, isa, dua, taha, ngicce-q, een, um, ëk, wa’, or d’aya…. they all mean ONE no matter what tongue speaks the word. Great leaders know the impact teams have when operating from the “power of ONE.” Now, don’t get me wrong! I do not mean they operate like a cookie factory where everyone does the same thing simultaneously. I simply mean that teams have unified goals, objectives, visions, and the ability to come together to make things happen. Students deserve teachers and administrators who are willing to work together and make decisions collectively for the betterment of all those they serve. In fact, all systems should be operating from the “power of ONE.” If a school wants to ensure their campus goals are met, they also need to make sure they have a one-way vision that is so visible and audible to all stakeholders, including parents and the community. All those who influence student achievement in any way should be walking the same path in a unified direction. This means they need to have leaders providing direction, encouragement, and the drive needed to keep the path moving forward. Schools need to have a respectful fear of the “power of ONE.” Without taking this power stance, a school can rapidly lose momentum and fail.
Last night I was reading an article on from Education Leadership (EL) magazine published by ASCD. By the way, if you do not subscribe to this magazine, you are missing out on a lot of awesome PD through intriguing monthly articles. Great stuff!!! The article I read, How Japan Supports Novice Teachers, discussed a Japanese system that lines up with my thoughts on the “power of ONE.” In 2006, “only 1.35 percent of first-year teachers in Japan left the profession” (Ahn, 2014, para 3). Not to my surprise or probably even yours, the “power of ONE” does not work for our novice colleagues in America. Ummmm…the United States loses about one-third of our new teachers sometime during their first three years in the profession. By year five, the percentage increases to nearly one-half (Ahn, 2014). The article describes a room called shokuin shitsu (do not try to say that ten times fast because it will not sound good…believe me…I tried). This shared space is an area where teachers and administrators hang out anytime they are not in the classroom. The goal of the shokuin shitsu is support. Inside this “educator only” space, teachers collaborate and work side-by-side before school, after school, during off periods, and at lunch. Novice teachers get help with planning, calling parents, or simply gaining support or encouragement. So, is this type of “power of ONE” the answer for teacher retention in the U.S.? Maybe! Maybe Not! It definitely couldn’t hurt! It fares better than the systems I’ve witnessed in my years as an educator. Even if we did half as much (myself included), we would most likely see a sharp decline in teachers leaving the classrooms.
The shokuin shitsu may be a bit too much for us to implement as our systems and mindsets are not ready to support it. I share this story not to start this Japanese practice at my school but to show the powerful force found in unified organizations.
If you, your team, or your school is not operating from a ONE stance, then you need to reevaluate yourself or the systems in place at your school. Before going back to school this fall, reflect on ONEness (my word of the day). Remember, the “power of ONE” can certainly begin with you!
Always start on time
Some of us have a habit of starting late because we’re busy putting final touches on the lesson, writing on the board, or simply waiting around for the rest of the students to show up after the bell rings.
Always start class on time and do not wait for tardy students. Those who show up on time shouldn’t have to wait for those that don’t. As an incentive to get your students to class on time, begin your lessons with something they won’t want to miss.
Be more efficient about taking attendance
There are a couple ways to streamline your attendance-taking procedures.
One way is to have a sign-in sheet ready every day. Instead of taking attendance yourself, have students sign themselves in. Another idea: Stand outside the door and check off names as students trickle into the room. We like doing this not only because it saves us time, but also because it gives us the opportunity to greet each student as s/he enters the room.
Use technology to get organized
There are lots of useful apps for teachers out there, but Teacher Kit has, by far, saved us the most time. This app helps us create seating charts, take attendance, track student behavior, record grades, and import all of our data to our computer.
Set up a system for makeup work
With increasing class sizes, chances are that one or two students will be absent every week. Unless you have some sort of system in place, you’re probably spending valuable class time explaining what these students missed once they return. There are a couple reasons you should stop doing this! First, it’s unfair to those students who came to class. Second, it keeps students from taking responsibility for their own learning experience.
Instead of spending class time explaining what these students missed, have them email or call you on the day they are absent to receive updates. While you won’t be able to recreate the classroom experience over the phone or computer, you can ensure that they have all of the materials to successfully complete the work.
Make the most of classroom interruptions
Although we have yet to find a way to eliminate interruptions (special deliveries of forgotten lunches, notes from the office, or incoming calls on the classroom phone), we do make the most of them.
Some interruptions take ten seconds, others may take ten minutes, but one thing is for sure: If you add those seconds and minutes up over the course of the week, you get a lot of wasted time.
One way to take advantage of these interruptions is by teaching your students to get out their books as soon as an interruption occurs. Teach your students that a knock on the door or a ring from the classroom telephone isn’t a signal for them to chat; it’s a signal for them to reach into their desks, grab their book and start reading. If you start this procedure right away, your students will quickly internalize it.
As I begin my first day of summer vacation, memories of this past school year are fresh in mind, and I cannot help but evaluate the larger picture of my pedagogy: What did I do effectively this year? Where did I go wrong? What should I do differently next year?
The school year ended, summer has started, and projections about day 1 of next year are already formulating in my mind. I can’t think of a better way to indulge in such reflection than by referring to such a reputable source like Peter Smagorinsky (2008). In reference to in-class discussions, he states:
“I have found that students appreciate approaching literature through a variety of astructures, tasks, and activities, which alleviates the tedium that they haveunfortunately come to expect in school. More important, however, by engaging in these activity-oriented, student-centered means of discussion, students become more active agents of their learning and rise to a higher level of expectation for their engagement with literature,” (Smagorinsky, pg. 44).
Most educators would probably say that they strive for an “activity-oriented, student-centered” classroom, but perfecting what this actually means and looks like is a task that most teachers—at some point in their career—fall short of. One aspect of my teaching I am proud of from this past year was my effort to promote authentic discussions: engaging dialogues in which students respond to each other and use evidence to support substantial claims about meaningful topics.
Undoubtedly, students prefer hearing their own voices rather than listening to their teachers talk for the entire period, butas Johannessen & Kahn (2007) note,“Unfortunately, studies of classrooms reveal that students are seldom engaged in authentic discussion. Christoph and Nystrand (2001) and Nystrand (1997) report that, in the classrooms they observed, authentic discussion occurred on average for only fifty seconds per class in eighth grade and fifteen seconds per class in ninth grade classes,” (Johannessen & Kahn, pg. 101). A classroom that lacks in authentic dialogue will fall short in other critical aspects of learning such as engagement and formative assessment. Students must be able to voice their understandings to test understandings and receive feedback on misunderstandings.
One of the difficult aspects of an authentic discussion is to motivate students to respond to others. Many teachers will fall into a IRE (teacher initiates-student responds-teacher evaluates) pattern of questioning. This form of questioning--two teacher contributions for every one student contribution--minimizes the amount of time students get a chance to talk and heightens the amount of teacher talk in class. But how should a teacher go about getting students to respond to others? Ask them to! Step out of the conversation and establish some key policies and procedures:
Take a look at a transcript from a final discussion on A Tale of Two Cities that occurred last week. The question students were discussing was, “How does Charles Dickens use minor and major characters to comment on human nature?” At first I didn’t like this question. I thought it was too broad and that it should be focused more directly on our inquiry. Nonetheless, many of my colleagues were using the same question, so I thought, “My colleagues are pretty smart, so why not see what students come up with?” Given that there were three other focus questions for discussion, I decided to give it a shot. Students had 20 minutes to work with a partner to formulate responses and supporting examples. This is a selection from a small portion of the dialogue that ensued the next day:
STUDENT 1: I think Dickens wants us to understand the evilness of human nature. Ordinary people can be evil and contribute to the world in a negative way. Like when it says, “I call it my Little Guillotine. La, la, la; La, La la! And off his head comes!” (Dickens, pg. 275). He [the wood-sawyer] thinks it’s funny. He doesn’t have much value for life. He’s [Dickens is] using this minor character to demonstrate there is an evilness to human nature.
STUDENT 2: Yet to go off your claim—I agree that all people are innately evil. Gaspard was so upset that the Marquis killed his son, and on page 130 it says, “Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife…. ‘Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques,’” (Dickens, pg. 130). This just shows that people are driven by revenge. Gaspard goes to kill Marquis because of revenge.
STUDENT 3: I can see your point that human nature is innately evil but I cannot say that it is for certain. Human nature is easy to follow with Sydney Carton, “I see the lives for which I lay down my life,” (Dickens, pg. 372). He had no will to live but found a purpose to live, to die for his friends. He doesn’t seem that evil to me.
STUDENT 4: Human nature is innately evil, but that doesn’t mean that they are always evil. They can demonstrate good, but they are motivated mostly by wants and needs. The marquis was driven by his selfishness, “It is extraordinary to me… that you cannot take care of yourselves and your children,” (Dickens, pg. 111). He doesn’t care about killing a boy and just kills someone because he’s selfish.
This discussion is not perfect. Each student could be more articulate; there are a few points that need to be clarified; the connection between each idea could be more explicitly stated. Next year, I will make intentional efforts to close those gaps depicted in the transcript with future students.
However, there are a few things I like about that exchange: students are responding to each other, using evidence to support their ideas, and are offering different viewpoints on the ethical nature of individuals—pretty substantial material for 9th graders. Jeffrey Conant Markham (2007) notes that “education is essentially an ethical endeavor…. my own career has become increasingly focused on ethics—almost everything we read and discuss has an ethical dimension, and allowing our students to avoid this dimension, for me, represents real failure,” (Markham, pg. 19). Thus, to put students in a position where they can explore the ethical dimensions of a complex text is a worthwhile undertaking.
Furthermore, in the dialogue the teacher’s voice was minimized, and the students’ voices were heightened. The more opportunities a student has to engage in critical issues, the more they will understand those issues. Don’t fool yourself in thinking that it’s the other way around—that the more a teacher talks, the more students will understand. To be clear, I am not saying to let students leave with misinformation or let students completely run class. The idea is that a teacher should do everything he or she can to motivate students to construct knowledge on their own and engage with each other about critical issues.
The dynamics of teacher talk vs. student talk begs more fundamental pedagogical issues such as, “How should teachers engage students in learning? Who holds the knowledge in the classroom? What is the correlation between discussions and literacy comprehension?” These questions are difficult to answer, but have serious implications on our students’ lives; therefore, these issues must be examined.
How we talk not only matters in school but also outside of the classroom. We live in a rapidly changing society in which communication is being transformed by technology. I often hear people say, “Young kids just don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.” Given the transcript above, I’m not sure that is true, but one only needs to look around to see that people often communicate more with their phones rather than the person next to them. Students must be taught and put in the position to communicate in meaningful ways. When it comes to the classroom, I will err on hearing more from the students rather than hearing more of my own voice. Students will enjoy their educational experience more, and they will get more out of it. I will end here with a quote from John Dewey on the power of communication:
Not only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative. To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected. Try the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing; otherwise you resort to expletives and ejaculations. The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated. (Democracy and Education, pgs. 5-6).
Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004. Print.
Dickens, Charles, and Gillen D'Arcy. Wood. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004. Print.
Johannessen, L. and E. Kahn "Engaging Students in Authentic Discussions of Literature." Talking in Class: Using Discussion to Enhance Teaching and Learning. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. N. pag. Print.
Markham, Jeffrey C. "Inquiry Versus Naïve Relativism: James, Dewey, and Teaching the Ethics of Pragmatism." Talking in Class: Using Discussion to Enhance Teaching and Learning. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. N. pag. Print.
Smagorinsky, Peter. Teaching English by Design: How to Create and Carry out Instructional Units.Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.
On behalf of the Zurich State Department of Education, Switzerland, I invite you to consider using and sharing the following materials with your professional colleagues and families involved with early childhood education. We are proud of the creation of our project and want you to enjoy the benefits of the quality materials in this program.
Families play the most important role in promoting the healthy development of their children, yet not all families are equipped with the information and support that help them create environments for their children to develop and learn.
The Zurich State Department of Education (Switzerland) created 40 short video scenarios for Early Childhood Education in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Rhaeto-Romance, Spanish, Tamil, Tigrinya and Turkish.
The various video scenarios show day-to-day learning opportunities for children from birth through four years of age. They refer to a research-based framework, which was developed on behalf of the Swiss Commission for the UNESCO by Marie Meierhofer Children's Institute in Zurich.
The videos are part of a program for empowering parents and boosting the quality of childcare in any country. We believe they have universal appeal. They address themselves to parents as they are, speaking different languages. In addition, they are a tool for the professionals in the field working with parents.
The videos are in HD-quality, each lasting 2-3 minutes long. You can find the videos and more detailed comments for professionals on the website www.children-4.ch.There you can also download the videos and comments for free. You have our permission to use them as you wish without prior approval. They run best on Firefox. There are also special mobile websites for the iPad and the iPhone.
I just finished reading a post from my good friend and co-author of The Relevant Educator, Steve Anderson. His recent post, “Why Formative Assessments Matter” got me thinking about assessments in general and how often they are misunderstood and often abused by well-meaning educators.
We have all been taught that there are two categories of assessment, Formative and Summative. Formative assessment is done during a particular lesson to gauge student learning and understanding as the lesson progresses. This often takes the form of quizzes, but there are less formal forms that are as effective. The summative assessment is usually, but not always an exam of some type. It is to determine how much the student learned and understood from the overall experience. This could be a unit exam with various types of questions, or possibly some type of report done by the student.
With my education students I would explain assessments with a cooking metaphor. As a chef prepares a meal he or she would taste it along the preparation process. Based on those tastings adjustments are made. Spices may be added. Cooking time may be lengthened. Some components of the meal may even be eliminated. All of this is formative assessment. This assessment is for the chef to read the results of his or her preparation in order to adjust for the best outcome.
The summative assessment has nothing to do with the preparation, and everything to do with the final outcome. The summative assessment happens when the diner experiences the dish by eating it. How successful was the preparation in the final outcome?
Now, how can such a simple concept get corrupted? Grades! We are all held accountable by some measure. We have determined that grades are what we will use to hold students accountable. We will measure their every effort to learn and assess it with a grade. I guess if the chef assigned a grade to the dish with every tasting and averaged the grades it would not be an outstanding average. But then again how can the dish be measured when it has not yet been completed in the preparation process. Similarly we hold students responsible for quiz grades on assessments, which were originally intended for the teacher to consider in order to make adjustments to a lesson. If the kids do not get it, is it their fault or could it be a shortcoming in the lesson? Yes, students do have a responsibility to bring something to the table as well, but the bulk of the responsibility lies with the teacher.
Grading formative assessments to measure students understanding makes little sense. They all learn in different ways and arrive at learning specific things at different times. To use formative assessment to grade a student is a misuse of the assessment. It is expected that some will get it others won’t, but that is for the teacher to understand and adjust accordingly. That is the purpose of formative assessment.
Of course grading the summative assessment might have some value, as long as the summative assessment is assessing the learning. Too many unit tests however are nitpicking questions for content recall. I guess that lends itself well to Scranton testing. We all know how quickly we can bang out those Scranton test results. It is as easy as ABCD. Essays take too long to grade.
Of course not every teacher does this, but how many is too many? We need to better understand why we do things as educators. Often times the only reason for doing something is because that’s how others do it, or that’s the way it’s always been done.
If we better understand how to utilize assessments, maybe we can better our delivery of lessons without penalizing kids for things that they have little control over. Formative assessment comes in many forms and none really require grades. Summative assessments come in many forms as well. We need to choose those forms that show what individual kids have learned overall. To aim for the low hanging fruit of content questions is missing the mark. They have their place, but they should not be the focus of any test.
This should be a topic of faculty or department meetings. These are the things that need to be addressed by educators more than the usual fare of such meetings. We need to better understand what we do, and why we do it as educators. We need to be more reflective and critical within our own profession.
It is common for new graduates to settle for lower salaries on their first job. This is because they feel they are in no position to ask for a raise owing to their lack of experience. On the contrary, negotiating your first salary has nothing to do with your work experience.
Generally, employers never make the best offer in the beginning and those candidates who are able to negotiate their offer often end up earning more than those candidates who don’t. Also, those who at least attempt to negotiate are considered more positively because they tend to show skills that the company can use. To make sure you do not give your employers a wrong impression about yourself, you need to know how to negotiate your first salary.
Before you ask your first salary know the reasons for negotiating:
· Your paycheck has to cover all your expenses: the size of your paycheck decides how much you get to spend every month. Once you land yourself a job, you are expected to cover all your expenses by yourself and cannot rely on your parents for pocket money. Your paycheck decides how much you spend at the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, house rent and a number of other day to day purchases. You need to understand that your starting salary is the basis for your future raises. Hence, if you start at a lower amount, you end up getting a poor raise.
· Your first salary plays a key role in determining your life after retirement: The salary you draw during the early years of your career lead on to determine how much pension you will draw after your retirement. If you do not negotiate your first salary today, you might just as well have a hard time making ends met once you retire.
· Because you are worth it: It is clear when your employer hires you, that you have been hired for your skills. This implies that your skills are valued and you deserve to be paid for that value. You have to make sure that the salary you are being offered fairly compensates you for your work and helps you to make ends meet.
Now the Tips for you to follow when you negotiate your first salary:
· Do your research before an interview: it is necessary you know what they pay for a job like yours in other companies. You can browse online for salary surveys and if you are linked with a recruitment organization or agency, they should be able to tell you what the salary range for the position you desire is. You also need to decide what you want from the job with regards to both work and money. It is important you convince yourself first and then try it on your recruiters.
· The negotiation must not start too early. Do not ever ask about your salary in your first interview. The employer must not get the idea that a high salary is your motivation for taking up the job. Hence, you wait for the recruiters to ask what salary you are expecting from them. This is when your homework comes into picture. You know how what the market rates are. It is safer to give a number ranging within the market.
· DO NOT DEMAND- But do not be afraid in asking either: Know what you are worth. Asking is not a negative expression. Nobody loses an opportunity because they ask. The way you sound when you ask is important. Do not seem curt while asking. A requesting tone will help you here. Remember, during negotiations it is important that you seem polite, professional and enthusiastic as well.
· Make yourself a commodity and try to sell: Showing what you are worth during your interview is very important. Give wise answers when you are faced with tricky questions. Explain to them hypothetically as to how you will crack a problem if you are faced with it during your work. Give good examples. Give them a reason to believe that they will benefit by hiring you.
· Show them you have other options: This can get a little tricky, so be careful. Let your recruiters know that you are interviewing for other jobs as well. If they feel you are valuable, they will want to keep you and will be more open to negotiations on raising your salary.
Negotiating your first salary is not impossible. You have to keep in mind these above mentioned tips before you go on to convince your recruiters that you should be paid for what you are worth. Also, you need to make sure you do not end up victorious in the eyes of your recruiters. At the end of an interview, they should feel that they have won.
I teach an on-line graduate course at National Louis University in Chicago to students who are currently teachers and who are seeking to complete their master’s degree. One of the courses the student need to take in a series of three is called, Instructional Decision Making. Although the course has multiple learning goals and objectives, one of the key elements to the course is to engage the student in critical reflective practice to evaluate key understandings, assumptions, rationales, and shifts that underpin one's instructional decision making. The course explores a variety of teaching strategies and appropriate activities for grade school students. Being an on-line course, we do not meet face-to-face but do share the completed assignments with each other in the on-line class forum.
Select-a-Topic Video Sharing
For one of the assignments, the students are asked to research and share a presentation, report, video, etc. on a topic related to instructional decision making that was not covered as a part of the course. They are asked to elect a topic that we have not covered and create a lesson/presentation for the class on a selected topic of their choice. No “list of themes” are given to the student for ideas. They are asked to include a video example of teaching practice or expert opinion on a topic as a part of their presentation. The video could be from a third party source such as the videos they have viewed for the course. It could take the form of a chat session, VideoThread, Prezi, individual video, PowerPoint, etc.
To my surprise, and delight, one of the students in the class chose to write about the Whole Child Initiative. After grading her Prezi presentation, I sent her a separate email and asked her why she selected this topic. She informed me that she chose the Whole Child Initiative as she felt that in order for her students to be successful in the classroom, teachers need to cater to the whole child, not just one part. She went on to state that when teaching preschool, this is her goal in the classroom. She noted that this mindset changes as the students get older. This was a topic that she had heard of before but did not know much about it. She wanted to learn more in order to implement this concept in her classroom and hopefully encourage other teachers to follow suit.
What impressed me the most was here very appropriate selection of YouTube clips. Each one was spot on as they gave example for each of the five Whole Child tenants. She was right on the mark. She sums up nicely making note of several ASCD Whole Child Publications and where to find more information at the different websites.
I asked her if I could show this at our next Illinois ASCD board of directors meeting and she was thrilled and honored to have me do so.I, too, was exited and thought this would be worth sharing as a blog on the EDge. I look forward to your comments. Here it is.
Computers are no longer luxury items. Students and educators depend on them to communicate with one another, complete assignments and stay informed. While many of our students have access to a home computer, a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce suggests that fewer students have access to this technology than we may think. According to the report:
We believe that all students should have access to a home computer—and so do the online communities and nonprofit organizations we’ve listed below!
FreeCycle is sort of like Craigslist, but as the name suggests, everything you find listed is free. You’ll have to do a little footwork, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the generosity of Freecyclers who have responded to our requests for free computers.
PCs for People
For the past fifteen years, PCs for People has refurbished and repaired thousands of computers for those in need. This organization has locations in four different cities—St. Paul, Mankato, Grand Rapids, and
International Falls—and each distributes computers differently, so be sure to click on each location for details.
Older systems are free, but if you are able to give a small donation, PCs for People will upgrade your system:
Reach out to your local businesses
When I was in high school, my biology teacher wanted to start a one-for-one program where every desk in his classroom was computer equipped. It was a private school with limited funding, so instead of appealing to the principal (or the parents), he reached out to as many local businesses as he could to see if they had any spare computers they’d like to donate. The response was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, one telemarketing company ended up donating 50 computers (along with hardware accessories like monitors, printers and keyboards). The only thing he had to do was enlist a helper (me) to carry the computers down a few flights of stairs. Not a bad deal, huh?
To receive refurbished computers from World Computer Exchange, your school will have to become a “partner.” This sounds much more intimidating than it is. All you have to do is complete their three-part application process.
InterConnection.org offers refurbished laptops for only $99. Desktop computers are also available at a discounted rate.
To receive a discounted computer, you must show yearly earnings are less than $23,000 or show an EBT card or prove you receive Medicaid, SSI, TANF, GA-U, DSHS support, free or reduced school lunches or a nonprofit EIN number.
About a year ago Adam Bellow and I were discussing the possibility and the benefits of doing an Edcamp at the site of the United States Department of Education. Adam had just met with some members of the Department and I was in touch with many of them from the connected educator month committee on which I was serving. Our thought was to have an Edcamp take place in the Department of Ed and have all of the policy makers attend sessions with real, in-the-classroom educators to see, and feel their concerns as educators in regard to what is important in the classroom. We were thinking in terms of #Edcampwhitehouse.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the Edcamp model of professional development, a brief explanation may be in order. The Edcamp model is a grassroots movement for professional development. Educators assemble at a location with no set agenda for PD sessions. The day starts early with a provided breakfast while everyone collaborates. There is usually a large board with session times and room assignments for each session, but there are no session descriptions. That is what the breakfast collaboration is for. As educators’ discussions emerge and develop there are usually two types of participants, those who know about a subject, and those who want to know about a subject. Either type may put up that subject in a session slot. Both the experts and the novices then will have an opportunity to discuss the topic. Edcamps are more about discussion than presentations. The discussions involve classroom experiences both successful and unsuccessful. Each session provides a safe discussion for educators to explore their understanding of any education topic.
Both Adam and I thought that this is what the policy makers within the Department of Education need to hear. This is a great way to put educators into the national discussion of education, that so many educators feel has been hijacked by business people and politicians. So, with the help of some key members of the Department of Education, we got the go ahead. The DOE was willing to provide a space and coordination, but the bulk of the organization and planning were to be up to the educators to complete. To me, that meant The Edcamp Foundation under the leadership of Kristen Swanson. The Edcamp Foundation is a volunteer group that helps organize and support Edcamps around the world. This US DOE Edcamp was a perfect opportunity for their leadership. They took on the project without hesitation.
Since the space at the DOE would have a limited capacity, the attendees needed to be limited as a result. The invitations to all went out on social media to enlist interested educators to enter a lottery for the Edcamp attendance. There was a huge response considering it is on June 6, a weekday. The DOE is closed on weekends. Edcamps are usually a Saturday event. The lottery was held and invitations to attend went out. Many educators at their own expense will be making the pilgrimage.
The Edcamp will take place this Friday. I truly hope that the people or surroundings that educators will encounter at this event will not intimidate them in any way.
We are hopeful that most of the participants will be tweeting out their experience. This entire project came as a result of social media and connected educators. It will be that connectedness that gets the experience and feelings of the event participants out to all educators. I look forward to thousands of tweets and many blog posts coming from this event on Friday. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a statement with what educators do, and who educators are to possibly affect change. It is doubtful the President will show up, but at the very least Arne Duncan, The Secretary of Education, should have some level of engagement.
I often say: To better educate our students, we must first better educate their educators. Friday I will say to better affect change in education, we need first to better affect change in our policy makers.
Skilled teachers have the ability to make facilitating a classroom discussion look effortless. But as most of you know, facilitating a lively, but controlled classroom discussion is truly an art form. While most of us understand the value of a good question, we may not necessarily know how to make questions engaging or relevant to our students!
In their book Discussion in Small Groups, David Potter and Martin Andersen offer some helpful tips that should not only help you become a better facilitator, but teach you to ask thought-provoking questions.
Asking Better Questions: 10 Ways to Improve Classroom Discussions
To draw out a silent member:
To suggest the need for sharing personal experiences:
To call attention to points that have not yet been discussed:
To keep the discussion focused on the subject:
To use conflict constructively:
To suggest that additional information is needed:
To call attention to the source of information:
To test the strength of a particular viewpoint:
To focus attention on issues rather than personalities:
To focus attention on the need for objectivity:
Photo credit: Virtual EyeSee / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Recently, the editors of Edutopia were considering a theme for their bloggers to blog about concerning testing. In order to keep things timely, they needed to find out when most schools were being affected by standardized tests. It was a reasonable consideration, worthy of a responsible examination of the subject. It was the question posed to the bloggers however, that set me off about our evolved approach to these standardized tests. When is your Testing Season?
Every standardized test has a date or two or three that it is to be administered, but the question was not what are the dates of the standardized tests in your school. The idea that any school would have a “testing season” is enough to drive an advocate for authentic learning to skip taking his scheduled life-saving medications in order to stay on task completing a post about this culture of testing that we have allowed to develop. Every state has its own schedule for tests and a list of grades to take them. New York was at one time considering testing from Pre-K to 2nd grade as well all as the other grades. How does anyone get behind testing toddlers? Testing as it stands now begins in New York at 3rd grade. Here is a site that outlines what each state requires for their Standardized testing. Standardized Testing State By State, Standardized Tests Are Here to Stay
The thing that has really gotten me bothered is this culture change in education. It is no longer about the learning, but rather it is all about the testing. We no longer view the test as an assessment tool of learning to adjust lessons to meet the needs of each student. It has become a means to manipulate data to affect factors beyond that of just student learning. Standardized tests are certainly not the best form of student learning assessment. That seems not to matter however since for whatever the reason, we have had to expand and elevate testing day, or days to The Testing Season.
I remember a conference that I attended a few years ago where a New York City teacher was complaining that his elementary school dedicated an entire month to nothing being taught except for test preparation. The principal of that school monitored the classes to make sure that this strategy was adhered to by one and all. The most recent change in the testing culture is the need to accommodate the tests with all available technology. Some standardized tests are to now being administered via computers. Many schools provide Internet access to their students and teachers solely through computer labs. The tests however, take precedence over learning during “Testing Season” requiring limiting or even shutting down access to these labs in order to prepare for, and administer these computer delivered standardized tests.
I guess each season brings us feelings associated with it. From the season of summer we may feel invigorated with warmth and recreation associated with it. The season of winter brings on good feelings of sharing holidays, and hot-chocolate comfort. From the season of Testing we get stress and anxiety for kids and adults. I guess the season of Testing is not the season about which many poems are written.
Of course teachers will tell you that they are comfortable in setting their students at ease about the tests during “Testing Season”. I often told my students that I had every confidence that they would do very well on any standardized test that they took because their education prepared them for it. That of course was to reduce their stress and build their confidence, but I am glad I did not have a wooden nose. It would have been a dead giveaway.
Today’s teachers are very stress bound when it comes to these tests. The tests have become less of an assessment of student learning and more of a club or Thor’s hammer for teacher evaluation. Of course teachers are stressed and that is generated to the students for the duration of the “Testing Season”, whether or not the teacher intends for that to happen.
If teachers could select students for their classes, crafty teachers would always opt for classes with the slower students. Those are the classes that can show the most advancement in “testing season”, making the teacher a shining star. A great teacher with an outstanding class is cursed and possibly deemed inadequate because kids performing at the very top of the scale will show little improvement. Of course, according to the assessments, it must be the teacher’s fault that kids in the 95th percentile did not move at least five points higher. How can there not be stress and anxiety in the “testing season”?
We may need to research any drop in attendance at schools with stress related illnesses during “testing season”. We do flu shots in the winter season, so maybe we need stress reliever shots in the “testing season”.
Of course pushing testing into a season has had a great affect on the testing industry and all of its requirements. We need to prepare for “testing season”. We need to test in “testing season”, and we need to develop tools and curriculum for “testing season”. The result of all of this is a billion dollar a year industry and we have yet to develop the “testing season” greeting cards.
Maybe we should take a step back and assess our assessments. We do not need this testing season. Tests have grown beyond what they were intended for. They were intended for the teacher to gauge student learning in order to adjust lessons to better meet the needs of students. Tests were never designed to become the goal of education at the expense of actual learning.
This is the part of the post where I should be proposing a thoughtful alternative as a positive spin for this unpopular aspect which has been pushed into American education. Unfortunately, I have no recommendations. I have no ideas that can replace a billion dollar a year idea. Portfolios, individual conferences, and authentic learning projects would all be improvements over standardized testing for student assessment, but they do not provide easily calculated data.
We as a society have allowed business and politicians to corrupt an assessment tool in order to use it as a money-making device for a select few companies. Education needs to be more transparent, but certainly the best people to administer education should be the educators and not business people or politicians. We need to realign education’s goals on learning and not testing. We do not need a season of testing, but a life of learning.
As anti-boredom fighters and educational advocates, we’d like to offer 5 summer activities for students. Not only will they keep students entertained, they’ll also keep them from taking a ride down the summer slide.
Bookhooks provides students with a forum to craft both editorial (review) and generative (story, poem, drawing, photograph) responses to books they read at home or in school. Once they publish their review, students are able to email them to their friends, family and teacher.
If Bookhooks doesn’t do it for you, Goodreads is another site where students can create their own accounts, build a digital bookshelf, interact with likeminded readers, and review books.
Actual Size Books is one of our favorite book recommendations.
Inside, students will find complete, detailed, and accurate blueprints to create massive sidewalk drawings with chalk. Using these blueprints, students will be able to create full-scale drawings of anything from the Santa Maria’s deck and a prairie schooner to a Tyrannosaurus Rex or the Statue of Liberty’s Torch.
Each lesson includes a complete lesson plan, vocabulary, and a detailed blueprint.
Wreck This Journal is one of our all-time favorite books. White it is technically a journal, it’s definitely unlike any journal you’ve encountered. In essence, it’s an illustrated book that features a subversive collection of prompts, asking readers to muster up their best mistake and mess-making abilities and to fill the pages of the book (or destroy them). Students, especially reluctant writers, will love this book!
Take Virtual Field Trips
If your students aren’t planning on doing any traveling this summer, AirPano will allow them to travel all over the world without ever leaving their homes. This site provides users with high-resolution, spherical panoramas shot from a bird’s eye view. In addition to the 200 panoramas, you’ll also find 360 degree videos, a photo gallery and news stories.
So that they can document their travel experiences, you might show students how to create their own travel journals. You’ll find a detailed tutorial for this project here.
Adopt a soldier
This is a great way for students to not only practice their writing skills, but make a difference in the lives of those who serve and protect. Both Adopt a US Soldier and Soldier’s Angels are sites where you can adopt a soldier. Just remember that when you sign up, you’re making a commitment to regularly send cards and care packages. If you’re unsure what you should say, check out these sample letters for ideas. Keep in mind that packages don’t have to be expensive.
The Common Core Writing Standards are shifting the landscape of writing instruction, articulating rigorous new expectations and emphasizing newly redefined text types. Amidst this sweeping change, educators, publishers, and providers of professional development are scrambling to understand the types of writing that students have to master for college and career readiness: narrative, informative/explanatory, opinion, and argument.
Perhaps the biggest change for most writing teachers is the shift toward opinion and argument writing. Despite what you may have heard from some “experts,” page 24 of CCSS Appendix A makes it crystal clear: “Opinion” and “argument” are not simply new words that mean “persuasive.” These three words identify separate, distinct writing concepts.
Let’s begin with a basic definition for each. According to the Common Core, “persuasive” is not a text type; that is to say it is not a “design” or a “build” for composition. Rather, persuasion is a goal or a purpose for writing. Authors attempting to persuade an audience rely primarily upon credibility and emotion, often leveraging the reader’s sense of self-interest. In a nutshell, persuasion is generally accomplished by changing the way someone feels.
Argumentation is different. While the assertion of a specific argument can certainly be a purpose for writing, and while an argument can certainly change how a reader feels about a topic, an effective written argument also has distinct characteristics that set it apart from other writing forms. These characteristics define the text type, and, according to the Common Core, they can be observed and directly instructed. An argument begins with a claim. A claim is an assertion that the writer intends to prove is valid. A claim is a specific type of thesis: an opinion that is to some extent objectively defensible (This is the best type of computer for people who travel). A well-constructed argument advances the claim using reasons (It is durable), examples (I have dropped it many times, and it still works), and evidence (Consumer reports gives this model a top score for durability). Notice a key difference between examples and evidence: Evidence tends to be factual information gleaned from sources more informed than the writer himself.
According to the Common Core, argument writing instruction is supposed to begin at about 6th grade. Notwithstanding the recommendations of the Common Core, it is highly advisable to begin argument writing instruction when students demonstrate that they are cognitively ready to think a bit more abstractly (to think more “outside” their own experience). With many students, this will occur long before 6th grade. So in accordance with best instructional practices, teachers must observe and assess carefully, determine the developmentally appropriate moment to begin argument writing, and differentiate to meet the needs of students working at different levels of readiness and proficiency.
So what are we supposed to be teaching before argument instruction begins? According to the Common Core, opinion writing. This is simply a less sophisticated form of argument writing. It begins with an opinion statement and then supports it with reasons and examples. Opinion writing is often characterized by the lack of an objectively defensible claim and/or a lack of evidence to support the reasons and examples. But opinion writing and argument writing are not entirely separate from one another. These two text types exist on a developmental continuum, so it is possible for writing to exhibit characteristics of both simultaneously. From an instructional perspective, it is less important to identify the type of writing than it is to move students incrementally along the continuum from opinion toward argumentation. As writers develop, their compositions will gradually become less opinion-oriented and more characteristic of a true argument. For example, a first grader might render the opinion, “I like ice cream.” A seventh grader might argue about the same topic beginning with the claim, “Ice cream is unhealthy.” In both cases, the writer takes a position on the topic, but the first grader’s assertion (opinion) is far more subjective. The second example is more typical of a claim that might anchor a written argument, and it is more defensible from an evidentiary perspective.
Now that we have discussed the essential differences between persuasion, opinion, and argument, we must recognize their interplay in authentic “real world” writing. Think analogously of any car commercial you’ve watched recently. The tag line is probably an opinion, but in some cases, it might be a claim. Reasons to buy the car are provided, and visual examples are likely demonstrated by actors on the screen. Many car companies also cite evidence (J.D. Power and Associates award, Car and Driver’s 10 best list, etc.). But the advertiser also spent a lot of money in an attempt to establish their credibility, appeal to your emotions, and influence you to act in your own self-interest. So the commercial you’re thinking of probably had characteristics of both persuasion and argumentation…like many other “real world” forms of communication.
This begs a simple question: If persuasion, opinion, and argument often blend in the real world, why teach them separately? There are two simple answers. First, in order to effectively blend these concepts, students have to master each of them first. To do so requires explicit strategy-based instruction, and many of the proprietary strategies for each form are distinct. Second, the Common Core Standards emphasize the opinion and argument text types for success in college and career. Why? College and career require written expression that is ideationally compelling—writing that argues based upon reasonableness and proof. And because it’s easier to persuade than to argue, students often are better at the former than the latter. From an academic perspective, argument is more challenging. It requires a deeper level of understanding that comes from analysis, research, perspective-taking, and anticipation of counterclaims.
To summarize, persuasion, opinion, and argument are distinct from one another. For this reason, they require strategy-based direct instruction for student mastery. But this does not mean they exist in mutually exclusive silos. Talented writers develop a commanding mastery of each and then blend them expertly to address specific purposes and audiences.
This post originally ran May 7 on SmartBlog on Education and, here on the Zaner-Bloser Blog, is the first in a series of blog posts about the writing text types and how they have been redefined by the Common Core State Standards. Subsequent posts in this Decoding the Text Types series will explain the new narrative and informative/explanatory writing text types and tackle many more of the misconceptions that are out there.
—James Scott Miller, M.Ed., Zaner-Bloser Senior Instructional Consultant and Consulting Author, Strategies for Writers
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Participate in the Whole Child Symposium!
Watch the Whole Child Symposium Live archive. Listen to the recording of the live event, featuring ASCD CEO and Executive Director Dr. Gene R. Carter and a panel of education experts, to learn about effective education and education systems around the world.
Register for the Whole Child Symposium Virtual,which takes place May 14 and 15. As an attendee, you will hear from four live panels of school leaders, policy experts, teachers, and students. These panels will explore how school policy, classroom, and student decisions today affect what children, societies, and economies will need and become tomorrow.
Join the symposium discussion and spread the word on Twitter using #WCSymposium2014!
Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
Welcome: Thailand ASCD Connected Community
ASCD is pleased to announce that the Thailand ASCD Connected Community is ASCD’s newest constituent group! Please join us in welcoming them to the ASCD Community. View the full connected community directory on ascd.org.
Professional Interest Community Facilitator Hosts First Annual Symposium
Pauline Stonehouse, facilitator of the Brain-Compatible Learning Professional Interest Community, helped host the first annual symposium on “Professional Capital: Leadership for the Transformation of Teaching in Every School,” which was held last month in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This collaborative symposium aims to facilitate discourse on the influence and effectiveness of strategies designed to develop “professional capital” among a broad constituency. Dr. Stonehouse, who is an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota, asked Constituent Services Strategic Advisor Walter McKenzie to participate virtually, presenting on the topic “Online Communities of Practice” and launching a new ASCD EDge® group on Professional Capital during his presentation to support ongoing discussion after the symposium concluded.
ASCD Leader Voices
Thank You, Educators! ASCD Celebrates Teachers and Offers Professional Development Resources—Read the full press release.
ASCD Asks “What Keeps You up at Night?” and Offers PD Resources for Busy Educators—Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces New Teaching and Learning Framework for Schools and Districts: The FIT Teaching™ Tool Kit by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey—Read the full press release.
Educators Invited to Learn New Teaching Model at the ASCD Summer Academy—Read the full press release.
ASCD Presents Inaugural Whole Child Symposium—Read the full press release.
ASCD Offers Professional Development Resources That Support Student Engagement—Read the full press release.
I recently put out a tweet that was meant to be provocative. I often do this to stir things up in order to benefit ye olde creative juices. I tweeted that I recently had a heart procedure done, (which I did) and I did not ask the doctor to use any 20th Century methods or technology to complete the task. I thought it might stir up a discussion of relevance in education as an offshoot of that tweet. That did not happen. Someone asked, based on that tweet, why I thought educators could not be good teachers if they were not connected. My intent was to point out relevance. The idea I attempted to convey was that any profession, especially medicine, can no longer employ technology and methodology of the 20th Century, since we are well over a decade into the 21st. It was the tweeter who attributed a value on a teacher who was not connected. It was the being connected part which that tweeter took as being relevant, but there is more to relevance than just being connected.
Relevance is something that is important to the matter at hand. Of course in education, the matter at hand changes with every topic in the curriculum. Since educators need to be masters of content in their subject area that covers a great deal of ground in which educators need to be relevant. To complicate the teaching profession even further, educators need to be masters of the methodology and pedagogy of education as well. Educators need to maintain relevance in both areas. An understanding of this begins to offer insight into how difficult the position of educator can be.
Education however is based on relationships. There are student/teacher relationships, and collegial relationships. All of these relationships take place in an environment of learning. The idea of what is relevant is not something determined by the teacher, but it should be weighed and judged by the student. It is the student who needs the learning that will be used in the space that the student will occupy moving forward. If the student finds the teacher’s ideas and information irrelevant, it won’t matter how relevant the teacher finds it, the student will move on to something he, or she determines is relevant, leaving the teacher behind.
Will an educator be able to determine when he or she has become irrelevant? Does everyone become irrelevant? How does one maintain relevance? Do educators have a moral obligation to point out a colleague’s irrelevance? Is relevance something that is measurable? Is it fair to include “relevance” comments in an observation? What about irrelevant administrators? Is irrelevance always a generational condition? These are all the questions that are flying through my head that I would love answers to.
Of course being a huge advocate for connectedness, I feel an obligation to point out that collaboration and collaborative learning go a long way in keeping people relevant. It is only part of the answer however. We need to keep an open mind, as well as a mindset to continue learning. There are many, many ideas of the past that are relevant today, but we need to be able to exhibit that in relevant ways to new learners in terms that they understand, because if they don’t understand it, or question its relevance, they will not accept it.
I think awareness is a key to staying relevant. One needs to be aware of changes that happen so quickly in our technology-driven culture. Having a willingness and courage to step away from the comfort of the status quo is essential. Developing an ability to listen more than lecture should be a goal. It will take willingness to be more of a learner than an expert. It will require a flexibility to examine, question and reflect on what we know in order to see how it may, or may not fit in with what we will need moving forward. These are all traits of life long learning. Educators talk about life long learning for their students all the time. It should be a goal for all learners. Educators sometimes forget that they are learners as well. To be better educators, we need first to be better learners.
I was blown away the first time I saw the commercials in the “Real Cost of Smoking” campaign. You can take a look at one of the commercials in the series here. Even though the commercial was not a school public service announcement, it made me think about the classroom. So, instead of the cost of cigarettes, I thought about the real cost of the “I don’t know” response. It’s sad because unlike the in-your-face consequences instantly revealed in the smoking ads (we see a teen pry his teeth out with pliers to represent the impact of smoking on teeth), the consequences from the “I don’t know” response can go unnoticed for years. I was thinking that it was time to pursue a prevention effort-a campaign if you will, to eliminate this response. It's
time to ban “I don’t know” from the student vocabulary! Below are a few strategies that will get us off to a strong start:
• Some research shows that when teachers utilize active listening techniques (decreasing movement during communication, nodding head to show attentiveness, and rephrasing student comments) students are more likely to continue to interact and share information (Cahn & Frey, 1992).
• In addition research shows that humor may encourage students to open up a little more. There is some evidence that inserting humor helps students relax and pay more attention (Wanzer, 2002).
• Unsurprisingly, research also suggests that teacher smiling and making eye contact with students is linked with student motivation to learn (Frymier & Schulman,1995).
• Some scholars argue that children move between an active and bystander role during the communication process. Factors such as age, empowerment, and environment facilitate how children move between these roles (Lambert, Glacken & McCarren, 2010). I figure that our expectation of the student’s role (if we expect them to be more involved or passive) impacts
how we persuade (dissuade) the use of the "I don't know" response.
• Also, it appears the communication process can be defined as emergent or ever-changing. Scholars caution against the use of planned strategies/interventions that do not account forthe inherent dynamic nature of the communication process (King, 2010). I guess that this is an instance when we as teachers have to go with the flow and think quickly on our feet in
terms of responding to the “I don’t know” statement.
• Instead of dissecting the features of the communication process, one blogger focuses on the way students communicate their lack of understanding as a critical component of the assessment process. For example, when students say "I don't know", this leaves little information as to the source of confusion or even why the material was misunderstood. If we can help students to instead say, “I understand everything up to this point…” this provides teachers with a specific starting point for helping the student move forward.
• Another blogger explains that when teachers disclose steps within their own personal learning process (cognitive structures), it helps students navigate through their struggles with finding answers. So, to model how you actively strive to be in the know, you may say, "when the principal asks something that I don't know, this is what I do to come up with an answer..."
Admittedly, this list is short. I am hoping to hear from you in order to expand the list of strategies that we can use to improve student response. Have you found any useful techniques? What about any strategies that you found less helpful in meeting your expectations? When students say "I don't know", do you know the real cost? Join the campaign by sharing your story below...
Trusting relationships are a key factor of successful schools. Building a positive professional level of trust forms the foundation that allows staff, students, and communities to take risks, succeed, fail, and find success again. All staff need to be vested in building positive trusting relationships, especially the school’s administration. Recently a colleague of my mine shared that at a recent staff meeting her new Principal announced, that due to budget issues, several staff members may lose their positions. Then the principal asked the staff to trust her, and said by the same token she was trusting them, as they move through this process. It was quite an emotional time for her school.
I asked her if she did trust her principal, and this led to a discussion about what it takes for a new administrator to earn the trust of their staff. While we thought there were probably as many ways to earn trust as there are schools, there were a few common things that most school administrators could do when it came to earning trust. Here are our top 5 (in no particular order):