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  • 2014 Tweet For Success Scholar 2014 Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest

    • From: Timothy_Smith1
    • Description:
      DialMyCalls.com launched the annual "Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest" last year and received over 11,000 submissions from college students. In the first annual contest, college students were asked to, in 140 characters or less, explain how advances in technology have helped the education system - four winners won $500 a piece to put towards their education.


      After the success last year, DialMyCalls is excited to announce that the scholarship contest has returned and is now live. This year the contest will task college students to, in 140 characters or less, explain the pros and cons of e-books versus traditional textbooks. Do you think you have what it takes to come up with a Twitter-inspired submission?
      College students will have until September 18, 2014 to come up with a clever submission for a chance at one of the four $500 scholarships - winners will be announced within 7 days after the contest ends.


      In order to qualify for the DialMyCalls.com Tweet For Success Scholarship 2014, students must meet the following requirements:
      • Must Be A High School Graduate Or GED Equivalent
      • Must Be Enrolled In An Accredited 2 Or 4 Year College For Fall 2014
      • Must Be A Legal Resident Of The United States Of America
      • Must Not Be Currently Incarcerated
      • Most Recent GPA Must Be 2.0 Or Higher
      For more information regarding DialMyCalls' scholarship contest and to submit an entry, please visit www.DialMyCalls.com and follow @DialMyCalls on Twitter to view all of the submissions.
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  • Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for Word to the Wise: 10 Tips for First-Year Principals

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      first year principal

      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

      • Principals are forced to make decisions on a daily basis. Some of these decisions are run-of-the-mill, but others are high-stakes and have far-reaching consequences. When it comes to decisions, Veteran principal James Gasparino suggests that first year principals do two things: First, resist the urge to react impulsively. Second, learn to “differentiate what needs to be settled right away and what…require[s] reflection and input from others. First-year principals may want to do everything right away, and by themselves. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get buy-in from others if they did not have a voice in the decision-making process.”

      • First-year principals often fall into the trap of trying to do everything for everyone. According to veteran principal John Fielding, it is imperative that new administrators realize (and realize quickly) that they cannot—either physically, mentally, or emotionally—“be everything to everybody.” Keep in mind that “If you are too tired to move, you are no good to anybody else. You do not really have to know and do everything yourself. That said, you do need to know these things that require your attention and those you can let others handle.”

      • Echoing Fielding’s advice is principal Jory Westberry, who urges first-year principals to “Avoid thinking you should have all the answers” or that you “have to make all decisions quickly.”

      • Despite the fact that most principals have spent years in the classroom as teachers, many of them forget—or at least appear to forget—what it’s like to teach. Principal Barry Pichard reminds us that we must never forget what life is like in the classroom and remember that teaching is “one of the toughest jobs around.”

      • A first-year principal may have only the best intentions when s/he replaces that tattered and creaky sofa in the lounge or when s/he boxes up a wall of dusty trophies to make room for a student exhibit…but faculty and staff may see these seemingly innocent changes as a direct assault on the school culture. Principal Roy Miller suggests that first-year principals proceed with caution and “learn both the culture and the ‘hidden culture’ of the building” before making any changes.

      • What’s one of the biggest mistakes a first-year principal can make? According to principal Michael Miller, it is “coming on too strong and feel[ing] you have to show [faculty and staff] who is boss. If you have to ever remind them who the boss is, you have a problem.”

      • Since we’re talking about faculty and staff, we thought Oliver Phipps’s tip would go nicely here: “Make staffing a priority. More specifically, though, make sure your staff is complete with people who share your vision.”

      • When discussing the burdensome responsibilities of principals, Tammy Brown suggests handling them “one at a time. I try to do the paperwork and office tasks early in the morning or after dismissal so that I can be in classrooms, halls, and in the cafeteria interacting with teachers and students as much as possible. Something often comes up that must be dealt with immediately, but most often, things can be prioritized.”

      • John Redd reminds first-year principals that it “is better to take your time before reacting to a situation. It will give you a different perspective if you take the time to get all the facts before making a hasty decision.”

      • Here’s another solid piece of advice from principal John Fielding: “Pick your battles. I always use the measuring stick of ‘is this decision good for the kids?’ If it isn’t, it may not be worth fighting for. There will always be one more silly thing that somebody thinks is important, but does it really help kids in a significant way?”

      Photo credit: Farid Fleifel / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)



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  • Through a Two-Dimensional Cube Through a Two-Dimensional Cube: A Philosophy of Education in Action

    • From: Mindy_Keller-Kyriakides
    • Description:

      I find myself returning to a particular moment in one of my classes as an illustration of my philosophy of education. It wasn’t one of those inspirational lessons or fantastic units, either. It was a required, school-wide, test-prep math lesson.

      I’m an English teacher. Let's just say, math isn't my thing.

      In this school-wide initiative, we all did the same reading passage or math problem every day. These were sometimes not available until five minutes before the class and rushed out to teachers.

      On this day, we had this math problem that dealt with the volume of a cube ( or something like that), and we had to figure that out to resolve the larger problem. But the image provided was two-dimensional. It was a letter T, a box that was completely laid flat.

      2D cube.jpgWith a very clear, personal awareness of my non-math aptitude, I was actually a better model for learners that day. First, I had to offer myself some motivation for doing the problem other than the fact that it was required because doing something that way isn’t a motivation. I had to be curious about how to solve the problem.

      Teachers were given the answers, of course. But what good is an answer without wanting to understand where it comes from?

      I thought aloud about how to approach the problem as a learner for a bit and then opened it up for class collaboration, to see what we could do or not do with it. I modeled my thinking, which was probably something along the lines of "Seriously?! There has got to be a way…"

      rebuild cube.jpg

      My mind just wasn't getting it, though.  It didn't bother anyone, least of all me, that I didn't have the answer because we often held discussions where I didn't have the answer. That was okay in my class.

      So, we piddled and pondered together, and after a few minutes, a student figured it out (math whiz that he was!) jumped up excitedly and tried to tell us how he'd arrived at the (correct) answer. I didn't follow, so he ran up to the front, grabbed some scissors, cut the paper,

      cut cube.jpg




      and made the cube by folding it over.

      3D cube.jpg





      The whole problem rested on this spatial understanding.

      This learning moment exemplifies my philosophy of education.

      Now, I know a lot of people talk about strategies and methods when they discuss their philosophy of education, but I have to wonder what it is that induces those principles--what's behind the decision-making process that compels one to choose a particular strategy or method? Doesn’t our mindset come first?

      Because there was no method or strategy that I used in our cube story. But we learned.

      There were however, several mindsets at work, and I think my philosophy of education seems boils down to mindsets. If the mindset is appropriate, the method or strategy will emerge more naturally. They are (in no particular order): mindfulness, curiosity, creativity, and humility.

      Mindfulness has to do with a state of being in response to or approach to things as a teacher (or a learner).  Whether that is a stellar discussion post from an adult learner or a snarky comment from a teenager face-to-face, I steer away from knee-jerk reactions. Rather, I prefer to take a moment and consider what is actually happening or will happen. I allow the moment to happen--it's being fully present.

      In the cube story, I allowed the moment to happen. Without that mindfulness, I probably would have just glossed over to the answer.  If I attach mindfulness to an action, I would call it allowing. I enjoyed allowing the moment of not knowing, thinking, collaborating, and listening. 

      Curiosity as a mindset played a large role, here--the ability to be curious about things that we might not be interested in or that we might already know a lot about is a game-changer for education. It is a mindset that has helped me in so many ways with students.  For example, I taught Frankenstein every year in AP Lang. While I can certainly say I knew the story and characters inside and out, every year, I would approach the novel with new curiosity. I created a question for myself to answer, generally along the lines of "How is this ages-old novel STILL relevant today?"  And every year, without fail, I'd come up with an answer.

      Curiosity seems to attach to the action of searching. Students need to see us searching.

      Creativity has recently gotten a lot of press, but I'm careful when I say that this mindset is one of the driving forces of my philosophy. I'm not a creative genius or anything, but I know it when I feel it, and I notice when it's not there.

      I don't see it as a "what," though. It's a how. It's a process. It's a blend of willingness and flexibility and exciting discomfort. I want that in learners because that's where they can make some strides as far as autonomy (which they'll need) and in problem-solving.

      The art of brainstorming, collaboration, and sharing all fall under this category, and it seems to be one of the areas where my former students excelled. Though our cube story focused on one person as a catalyst, it was still a collaborative moment. Perhaps creativity can be connected to the action of trusting. Without trusting each other, could we have had this moment?

      The last mindset in my philosophy, humility, was really evident, here, and it certainly played a role in moving the students forward in comprehension. They saw me struggle and succeed. They struggled and succeeded, and we had a positive learning moment. Humility, as an action, could be seen as acknowledging one’s self. I am more open and flexible in my awareness of what I don’t know.

      Side note: I had to laugh, recently, because one of the comments I received on a course evaluation (I facilitate professional development courses for educators) was: "I know more on some topics than the facilitator does."

      I thought--"Damn right, you do! I learned from you! I want to learn from you! That's what it's all about!" Though I'm sure she meant it as a negative, it was actually a sort of positive for me, if only because she saw me as fellow-learner, which was my goal anyway.   

      After the student had shown the class what the heck was going on with cube, you could hear the collective, "AHHHHHH..." followed by the scribbling of the problem resolution.

      We applauded him and ourselves that day. We shared in that moment of curious searching, mindful allowing, creative trusting, and humble acknowledging of ourselves and each other as a community of learners. 


      Mirror Site: http://joyfulcollapse.blogspot.com/2014/07/through-two-dimensional-cube-philosophy.html


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    • 2 weeks ago
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  • ONEness...Here Lies the Power! ONEness...Here Lies the Power!

    • From: Mandy_Vasek
    • Description:

      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! venn.png

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  • Who's Talking? Who's Talking?

    • From: Mark_Patton
    • Description:

      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:


      • Focus the discussion on open-ended questions or questions that will elicit many different responses.  Ideally, these questions relate to a specific inquiry question and/or questions related to that inquiry.
      •   Give students time to prepare contributions and require that they use evidence to support their responses.
      •  Set up the classroom so that students are facing each other, and the teacher is on the outside.  Yes, the teacher should not be the center of attention.  Take notes publicly so students can track how the dialogue is constructing knowledge.
      •  After a student is done talking, he or she should call on the next volunteer to talk.  What if there are no volunteers?  The first time a teacher does this, there might be very awkward silence, but like the Depeche Mode song, enjoy the silence!  Inevitably a student will break the unbearable pause.  Once the policy is established, the awkward pauses will diminish.  Don’t doubt students have to learn how to engage in substantial and meaningful conversations.
      • Students should demonstrate uptake—the ability to incorporate a previous speaker’s point or language in one’s own contribution to show the connection between responses.  “I agree with you about X, but I don’t agree about Y.”
      •  Try to hear from all students and in a balanced manner (not a few students dominating conversation).  “Okay, if you have talked twice or more, give others an opportunity to talk for the next 5 minutes” or “Let’s shift gears.  Can someone that hasn’t talked yet start us off on a new topic?” and even motivating students to ask the question, “Does anyone want to talk that hasn’t?”
      • When students are not talking, they should be taking notes, annotating, or having an online discussion.
      •  Check in with students 2-3 times during or after the discussion and ask, “What are we doing effectively?  How can we improve?   You can refer back to your notes to highlight strong contributions, clarify misunderstandings, and provide feedback.


      Take a look at a transcript from a final discussion on A Tale of Two Cities that occurred last weekThe 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).



      Works Cited


      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.



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    • 1 month ago
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  • What Are Your Non-Negotiables? What Are Your Non-Negotiables?

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      The Common Core State Standards tell us what students should know and be able to do academically at the end of a school calendar year. They are, in essence, non-negotiables. But, what about you? What are your non-negotiables?

      What should your students know and be able to do when they leave your classroom, your school, or your district? What’s most important that you can pass on to them?

      Early in my teaching career, one of my non-negotiables was being a content and control specialist. I knew my material and loved to share it at the front of the room. I orated and did my best Dead Poets Society and Stand and Deliver impersonations. The content was dry, so I needed to make it fun by being ‘the fun teacher.’ I thought that was how teaching was done: by replicating what I’d been through in public education, what I learned in college courses, and what I’d seen in movies. But, I wasn’t teaching: I was wasting our time. Students were bored because I was teaching them that learning is boring. No wonder they passed notes, talked while I was talking, and made poor decisions. I put them in that position by keeping them isolated in their seats all day. I would have done the same thing if I were a student in my own class.

      As I’ve grown as an educator, I’ve changed this non-negotiable. I’ve moved from a teacher-centered environment to a student-centered one. I’ve learned that I can’t control the learning outcome. Students control that. I can’t make students learn. Students control that, too. What I can do is create an environment that is conducive to student learning occurring: short mini-lessons and active student engagement, while embedding cooperative learning and character education in each lesson. I can make the learning environment fun, and through that, I can teach students that learning is fun. Because, when learning is fun, students will stay engaged in the process, even when it gets hard.

      The Common Core State Standards are hard. There is a lot to cover, and the depth is tremendous. I can see why teachers get overwhelmed and scared. This is why I believe it is so important to know our non-negotiables, and fall back on our personal mission statements: what do I want my students to know and be able to do at the end of a school calendar year? What are my non-negotiables as an educator and a person. What is my role?

      Even with the advent of the Common Core State Standards, my role as an educator hasn’t changed: if anything it’s become more important to stick to my moral compass. I need to work with students to create an environment that is safe, so they are comfortable learning and taking risks. I want to help build creative, outside-the-box thinkers of strong character, ones who use rejection or failure as opportunities to grow. My objective at the end of the year is to help activate the problem solving and skill set necessary within my students so they will be successful when they’re adults, even if it means they potentially score lower on a standardized test now. Because, they will learn from this failure and rejection, and work harder by growing from it. But most of all, when students leave at the end of a school calendar year, I want them to know I didn’t teach them anything: we learned it together.

      Now, I don’t want people to think I’m down on the Common Core State Standards. I believe in them. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in there. I work with different education constituencies to assist educators in understanding the instructional shifts brought about by the Common Core. However, at our core, it is important that we always remember why we are educators, and what the most important thing we can do as educators -- and that’s too build the next generation of society with the skill set necessary for success in college, career, and life.

    • Blog post
    • 2 months ago
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  • 6 Ways to Reduce Your Students 6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:


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

      6 Ways to Reduce Your Students’ Test Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


                                                                     Download 25 Classroom Management Tips for Teachers

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

    • From: Doug_Wycoff
    • Description:


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


      School Unrest-Civil Disobedience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Blog post
    • 4 months ago
    • Views: 374
  • EduEarthQuake EduEarthQuake

    • From: Michael_Fisher
    • Description:

      '080630-1010560' photo (c) 2008, Waifer X - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/



























      I’m sitting in the Detroit airport waiting for my final leg home. There’s so much to think about after an ASCD conference and so much that impacts my professional practice and my professional partnerships. I love that environment--so much growth and collegial conversation over the course of just a few short days. There’s nothing like it!

      I was part-serious and part-joking this morning about the EduEarthQuake. While I was jolted out of bed, my first thought was to tweet out with the #ASCD14 hashtag versus any emergency decision I might have made. I guess that’s the power of being a part of something so awesome that you believe it can rock the world.

      I love that the entire mood across the conference was one of hope, one of appreciating others’ perspectives, one of discovering the best of what we can do for our students.

      So I’m thinking now about aftershocks. How are you going to continue the quake when you get back home? How are you going to rock your students’ worlds? How are you going to be so EduAwesome that everybody around you feels it?

      I hope all of you are feeling as empowered as I am tonight. I loved my time with you and am setting my sights on Houston in 2015, with a detour to Orlando for the ASCD Fall Conference in October.

      Rock the world, folks. Be an EduEarthQuake when you return!


      @fisher1000 on Twitter

    • Blog post
    • 4 months ago
    • Views: 451
  • Putting the Child into Whole C Putting the Child into Whole Child: Give Students Voice to Improve Your Practice

    • From: Eric_Russo
    • Description:

      Recently I was having a discussion with a colleague who is new to the building.  This teacher is confident, self-assured, and has decades of experience over me.  We teach the same children, so we meet frequently for RTI and team meetings.  This is the type of teacher that takes pride on being “old school,” which roughly translates to a no-nonsense, quiet-equals-learning, behavior-should-have-negative-consequences type of environment.  It’s the model that many of us grew up with.  Although I was able to navigate through this system because I was a so-called “good student,” many friends were not particularly successful, with the logical assumption that they were “bad students.” This model puts the system itself as the driving force for success, which is disempowering both to educators and to the students alike.

      Now, the conversation in question did not go smoothly, especially when I insensitively insisted that the teacher “would not be successful” using this old school approach.  Realizing that I was working against my goal, I quickly concluded with a final statement that I paraphrased from a Maya Angelou quote:  People don’t remember what you say; they remember how you made them feel.  It is a statement that I share with staff and students, and for me it is at the foundation of the type of teacher I strive to be.  It is also at the core of the safe and supported tenets of Whole Child.  The Whole Child philosophy offers a new approach that does not consider students to be good or bad, but forces educators to consider students’ needs.  And what better way to find out, then to ask the students themselves?  Consider two examples of how student voice and Whole Child thinking work together to show improvements on both the classroom and individual level.

      Example 1:

      In the beginning of this school year the majority of my first period reading class was sitting with their heads down.  There are two quick assumptions that a teacher can make.  One is that the kids don’t care about school; the other is that the teacher and or content actually is that boring.  The old school of thought would assume the first, placing the responsibility of learning on the learner.  The second is something that many teachers don’t want to admit, or that they convince themselves is all right because (true to old-school fashion),“it’s school, we sat through boring classes too, but it’s just something you have to do.”    But a Whole Child approach caused me to consider a third option based on the Healthy tenet.  As I was addressing the class about having their heads down I thought came to mind: “Raise your hand if you ate breakfast this morning.”  Few hands went in the air, and surely none of the droopy heads had their hands up.  On the spot, the homework assignment for the next class was to eat breakfast in the morning (in hindsight, I should have made students report out and really build understanding by reading articles as well, but now I know for future reference).  I checked up on the class the next day, and pointed out how different the dynamic in the class was when all or most ate breakfast.  I also included this information in my weekly email to parents with a link to an article about the importance of eating in the morning.   


      I started to think about my own practice and the assumptions teachers make everyday.  How many students have been written off as not caring, when in fact they may have simply been hungry and unable to concentrate?  The combination of awareness of the Whole Child tenets, and a discussion with the students lead to a change, and hopefully a lesson that they will never forget.  This is also something that will be woven into my opening lessons at the beginning of the next school year along with other brain-based research.  Had it not been for Whole Child thinking, and a moment to talk with the students, I may have plugged forward with the lesson.  Others might have fallen back on an “old school” management approach of consequences or phone calls home.  Whole Child opened my mind to other possibilities.  I still get some heads down during class, but it is almost guaranteed that every time a student complains about a stomachache or being tired, they skipped breakfast; and we can fall back on that day and use their experience as evidence.   On the flipside, I also have several students that tell me what they ate for breakfast regularly now (win). 

      Example 2:

      Having conversations with the students is an essential in serving the whole child on the individual level as well.  At a recent student conference, the teachers asked about being off-task in math class.  The student shared this:  

      “When you tell everyone to pass the warm-up to the front, I haven’t even done it yet because I don’t know how.  I’m still just trying to figure out what to do.  Then I get so frustrated and upset because I don’t understand what you guys are talking about, and it’s not even worth trying after that.”


      The teachers asked him why he doesn’t ask for help when he is confused, and he replied:

      “I look around and see how much the other kids in the class need you and how you are trying to help them out, I just don’t want to be bothering you.  You already have your hands full.”

      Finally when we asked him about the classes he was doing well in, he shared that in those classes he felt the teachers explained things more clearly to him, and checked up with him to make sure he understood what he was doing. 

      Thinking about the Whole Child philosophy forces teachers to go back to the tenets. This student definitely did not feel supported in math, which caused him to disengage.  Possibly the most disheartening aspect of this story is that the student felt like he was bothering the teachers to ask for help, or even worse, that he wasn’t worth their time.  Meanwhile, the teachers thought that he didn’t care, that he was all over the place, too social, or just couldn’t focus.  In this case, trying to reach the whole child truly led to an improvement in instruction and learning by changing the thinking of both the teachers and the student.


      From that meeting a direct plan came about to give the student extra time to complete his warm up, to assist with some guided notes and cloze steps for problem solving, and to find a peer tutor that can be trusted to assist during presentation and practice of new content.  It was a powerful meeting and one that came about from allowing the student voice into the process to assist with figuring out the missing pieces of the puzzle.  The student felt more supported, and would then presumably engage more in class.  The teachers were forced to think outside of the “old school” model of learning, and truly personalize for the individual in front of them.  More of these conversations need to happen regularly if we are truly going to reach every child, every day (and we have to push our colleagues to have them).  These conversations lead to greater understanding, but none if this understanding can happen without allowing the whole child to help you see the whole story.  Not every child is so open and self-aware, and many children are not used to sharing their opinion about instruction.  Some may not even know how to explain themselves, but they do know how you make them feel in class, and that discussion alone may be enough to help them help you.

    • Blog post
    • 4 months ago
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  • Teachers Appreciate Choice in Teachers Appreciate Choice in PD

    • From: Tiffany_Della_Vedova
    • Description:

      In a recent post, Personalizing Professional Development, I shared our plan to personalize an upcoming professional development day by having teachers indicate which target goal they wanted to focus on and what activities they would like to engage in to further their learning outcomes in that area. The experience proved largely successful and respectful of teacher autonomy and specialization. When we anonymously surveyed teachers to obtain their feedback, we were able to reflect on the effectiveness of the day and were even able to learn more about our individual team members. Here’s what we learned…

      • 100% of teachers found the experience at least as enjoyable or more enjoyable than a more traditional professional development experience, with 85% of teachers reporting a more enjoyable experience. Many expressed gratitude for the ability to customize the day with comments such as this one: “Thank you so much for the opportunity to tailor the PD to our individual goals. The time allowed me to really focus and make progress on the goals I set earlier this year. It felt positive and productive.”

      • 100% of teachers found the experience at least as valuable or more valuable than a more traditional PD day, with 78% of teachers indicating a more valuable outcome.

      • Preparation was key for the greatest outcome. One teacher shared the benefit of pre-planning, “I feel the planning for the day went well. We were able to meet prior to our trip off campus, allowing us to set goals for the day. We also met after the experience to discuss the experience and work on putting a plan in action” while another pointed to the need for more pto maximize the experience, “The only change to our experience could have been a little (30-minutes) pre-planning so we could have hit the ground running.”

      • Some teachers indicated the value of both types of experiences in reflections such as, “The reason I chose "about the same" is I think our PD's this year have been very good!” A few even suggested that having an option of a more traditional workshop as a learning path on a choice-based day would be helpful “in case plans fall through” or simply because they enjoy shared learning, “It would have been nice to have one topic/ article to discuss and learn together as a team.

      As an leadership team, we are very grateful for the reflective feedback. It was clear that teachers put in a great deal of thought into their responses, and we plan on incorporating some of the great ideas into our next professional development day.


      I’m inspired to continue searching for innovative, personalized approaches to professional development. It seems that the more validated people feel in their professional endeavors and the more opportunity they have to engage in meaningful, passion-based learning, the more invigorated about their profession they feel. For teachers, as winter endures and the year grows longer, energy is especially precious!

    • Blog post
    • 4 months ago
    • Views: 459
  • Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 W Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      positive school cultureThere’s been an awful lot of ink spilled on the benefits of building a positive school culture—and just as much on the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students. All that ink leads me to the conclusion that these things are important to educators.

      But if building better relationships and creating positive schools matters to us, why aren’t more schools positive places?

      According to Jon Gordon, author of The Positive School Manifesto, the answer is simple: Building a culture of care is hard work. Not only that, it requires a special breed of leadership—the kind that’s determined and passionate enough to make positivity contagious.

      Learning to Drive the Bus: 5 Ways to Build a Positive School Culture

      Positive leaders required
      Positive school cultures are created by principals who make the health of their organization a priority, lead the initiative, and are engaged in the process—even when it’s a struggle. Many of us start off with good intentions, but find it difficult to remain positive in the face of resistance and skepticism. Do not tolerate negativity! Weed it out and press on.

      Build a positive leadership team
      While principals can certainly be the spark for creating positive energy, they’ll need teachers and staff to fan and carry the flame. Invite your leadership team on the bus by setting up a workshop where you create a vision, a road map, an action plan, and a set of initiatives to move the school in the right direction.

      Develop a fleet of bus drivers
      You’ll be driving the bus at first, but you’re eventually going to need a fleet of bus drivers to join you. To recruit drivers, start talking. Share the school’s vision with everyone.

      Conversations should happen between principals and teachers, teachers and staff, staff and students, students and parents. Each person needs to understand the school vision and identify how their personal vision, job and effort contribute to the overarching vision.

      Tend to the roots of the tree
      In a world driven by test scores, budgets and short-term results, it’s easy to be distracted by outcomes rather than the process. Don’t fall into this trap. Tend to the roots of your tree and you’ll always be pleased with the fruit it supplies. If you ignore the root, eventually the tree will dry up—and so will the fruit.

      Weed out negativity
      To create a positive school culture, you must deal with the cost of negativity head on. Ask yourself the following questions: How are we going to deal with negativity, challenges and energy vampires?

      Dwight Cooper, the CEO of a nurse staffing company that was voted one of the best places to work by The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), asked himself this question; his answer was a company policy he called The No Complaining Rule. This rule states that “Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their co-workers. If they have a complaint, they can take it to a manager or someone who can do something about the problem, BUT they must also offer one or two possible solutions.”

      Give this rule a try: it may lead to new ideas, innovation and success.

      Stay tuned for part II; we have five more tips to share with you next week!


      Download our FREE Principal Coaching Gui


    • Blog post
    • 5 months ago
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  • 8 Black History Study Strategi 8 Black History Study Strategies to Avoid

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      A couple of weeks ago, I asked my oldest son what they do in school to honor Black History Month.  After shaking his head and moaning he exclaimed, “we always watch these videos…”   Upon further prompting, my son explained how they watch the same video regarding the infamous “I have a dream” speech.  Instantly, a tinge of discomfort ran through my body.  Wow, that was basically the same way (long, boring, ancient-like videos) that Black History month was recognized when I was in grade school.  To add salt to injury, I realized that my curriculum with college students in my classes did not include as much intentional, embedded, connections to Black History (or even American History (please see number one from the list below) as it could.  After thinking about the curriculum that most educators (including myself) fall into during the month of February, I compiled a list of 8 things to avoid during the study of Black History:


      1.  Isolating the Context

      Try to avoid studying Black History in isolation from other course themes.  Remember that Black History is American History.  Remember that concepts such as humanity, power, socialization and law can be drawn out and developed as it relates to your present curriculum.


      1. Emphasizing Colorblindness

      It is natural to see color.  Psychology teaches us that in terms of first impressions, race and visible characteristics are the first things that catch our attention.  It is unnatural to pretend that people are all the same race, and thus the same color.  Embrace diversity and use it to facilitate teaching moments (for additional information on sensitivity to differences visit the website www.teachingtolerance.org).  Think about how boring it would be if all M&M candy were the same color or if all cell phone cases were the same color, or all houses were the same color…


      1. Limiting the Study to Well Known African American Leaders

      We are all familiar with individuals such as Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X.  We need to expose students to additional examples of African American Leaders.  Challenge your students to do an online search to find African American inventors, scientist, school leaders, engineers, etc.  Please refer students to websites such as www.kulturekids.org and the history channel’s www.history.com


      1. Limiting the Study to Well Known African American Historical Events

      I can’t think of one student that does not know the story about the 1960’s boycotts, sit-ins, or the remarkable underground rail road.  It is time to expand our student’s knowledge on little known facts about black history and we as educators have the opportunity to do this. 


      1. Limiting the Study to Well Known African American Literature

      As a young African American female, I grew up in awe of the writings of Maya Angelou.  My mom shared her collection of Langston Hughes writings with me.  We need to broaden the scope of African American books that our students are exposed to.  For children, a list of favorite African American stories is listed on a blog post from www.huffpost.com .  In addition, you can order true stories about people of color from www.brownsbooks.com.  For older students, you can find, a list of “10 African American Teen Books to Read Right Now” listed on www.amazon.com


      1. Emphasizing Worksheets as the Frequently Used Method of Delivery

      We all love crossword puzzles and word searches, but we need to be more creative in our choice of supplementary materials.  As the digital age is taking over,  it would be a disadvantage to our students if we did not introduce them to kid-friendly websites such as www.urbantext.illinois.edu  and the “African American World” from www.pbs.org.  In addition, for older students, there are wonderful blog cites that share insights on topics related to African Americans such as www.josevilson.com and www.larryferlazzo.edublogs.com


      1. Reliance on Lecture as the Only  Method of Delivery

      We all know that lectures are boring and after 15 minutes, the students tune out the teacher.  Instead of the traditional lecture, try a debate.  One topic for debate could target the use of Emit Till’s name in a rap song by Lil Wayne (some felt that the use of the historic figure was inappropriate while others felt that it spurred interest in learning about history).  Another topic of debate could focus on whether voter suppression (additional information can be found on www.nan.net ) was used during the re-election process of President Obama. 


      1. Presenting One Dimensional Historical Accounts

      Remember that history is complicated.  Try to paint as full of a picture as you can and thus do not rely on only one source to inform your students.  If you must play the “I have a dream” speech for your students, don’t just use it in isolation.  Add interviews of how people reacted to the speech, how individuals today spend MLK day, or even critical reviews of the speech.  If you are inclined to discuss Malcolm X, combine excerpts from the biography, clips from Spike Lee’s movie, and the perspectives of those who may have disapproved of his leadership methods. 


      *Please note that this content was originally posted in teachers.netgazette Vol. 11 No. 2

    • Blog post
    • 5 months ago
    • Views: 409
  • Coaching With Glee Why Continu Coaching With Glee Why Continuous Improvement Doesn't Improve Our Work

    • From: Kathleen_Sauline
    • Description:


      Coaching With Glee
      Kathleen O’Connell Sauline
      How to Strengthen Continuous Improvement Processes Without Spending an Extra Dime

      Like most of you who have been educators over the last twenty years, I have sat at innumerable tables to engage in continuous improvement. What percent of these improvements, however well planned, came to pass?

      Most improvement processes have major gaps in planning, implementing, monitoring, and revising for continuous improvement. More time is wasted in this process than any other at the administrative level. The reason is simple. The time necessary is not spent with the individuals responsible for carrying out the improvement. To change this process and the outcomes there are a few non-negotiables that must be adhered to for improvement processes to actually change classroom practice and therefore positively influence student growth.

      1)      Do not decide anything for those who are not at the table. Those at the table may decide to get those not currently at the table together for a practice discussion, for comprehensive training, to develop deep understanding of information and data, etc. Those at the table may decide to work with practitioners – bringing them together with those who hold desired expertise. They should be brought together with knowledge of constraints and parameters determined at the district or building level as appropriate. For example, if we are responding to reading data with an intention to move teachers toward guided reading practice, those classroom teachers, intervention specialist, Title teachers and others who will carry out the practice must be at the tables. If we are responding to research with a decision to move to full inclusion, those teachers who will carry out the practice of co-planning, co-teaching and co-assessing must be at the tables.

      2)      Do not waste time discussing what others should do: “…teachers should…”, “…parents should…”, “…students should…”, “…the board should…”, “…the state should…”, are all a waste of time unless these individuals are at the table.

      3)      Do not allow processes to be hijacked by those who would offer solutions for which they are not responsible. With all due respect to state, county, university and other experts, the ideas that will result in actual student growth and implementation guidelines must come from the practitioners. This does not mean practitioners resistant to change or evolution of practice. This does not mean practitioners without expertise for guidance and challenge. In other words, the teachers of the teachers must be present to provide, prod, produce, and protect practitioners.

      4)      Do not allow resource allocation decisions to be made in an administrative vacuum. Practitioners will engage more willingly in improvement processes when they see that they will be included in resource allocation decisions (time and money).

      5)      Do not allow outside entities to waste your practitioner time.

      6)      Do not say: “we don’t have time to do this with teachers”. If we are not with teachers we are not doing it at all. If we added up the cost of the administrative time wasted in unfulfilled planning and processes that fall short of transforming our schools and redirected that to best practice teacher development, we would have the time and money we need to make a real difference for students.

    • Blog post
    • 6 months ago
    • Views: 218
  • Be Brave Be Brave

    • From: Barry_Saide
    • Description:

      I am an upbeat person and typically listen to upbeat music to get myself ready for the workday. The two genres that energize me most are hair band metal and today’s pop music. Think Bon Jovi and Motley Crue meet Katy Perry and Lorde. These genres put me in a good place, and I feel ready to take on the day. (Don’t judge).

      I was listening to a song by Sara Bareilles titled “Brave” this morning. There was a line that hit home for me:

      “Say what you wanna’ say

      And let the words fall out.

      Honestly, I wanna’ see you be brave.”

      I wondered the rest of the day: how often am I brave in education? I think I am with my teaching: I stay current in my research on best practice and am always looking to integrate new learning into the classroom. I continually invest in myself by reading my PLN’s education blogs, attend conferences, co-moderate and participate in Twitter #edchats, write, and co-direct a region of a valued professional educational organization. But, do I invest in myself and others when it’s difficult, when I may face initial isolation for my honesty, when it’s harder for me to be brave?

      Bravery as an educator (to me) means the willingness to be open and honest with peers when discussing best practice. I believe I need to be brave and willing to disagree respectfully with the hope that through this dialogue my fellow educators and I will both grow in a backdrop of honesty. This means we “say what you wanna’ say, and let the words fall out.”

      When we do this, we aren’t being unprofessional or judging one another. Instead, we’re willing to have the hard conversation. It isn’t personal to us, it’s about personalizing the learning and making it relevant to the children we serve. Because, isn’t that why we went into education in the first place -- to make a difference with students and their parents? To change things for the better, so others could have a better overall educational experience than we had?

      Bravery as an educator to me also means the willingness to be direct and honest with the parents’ of children who need it. It’s not easy to sit with a parent and explain why their child isn’t behaving in class, producing quality work, or making good choices. However, if we want to make the difference we told ourselves when we went into this field, then we need to have this conversation. Daily, if need be. Because if we don’t, not only are we not being brave, but we’re not honoring the educators who did invest positively in us and the lives of others.

      Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, that “The architects of the constitution wrote a promissory note...instead of honoring this sacred obligation...America defaulted on this check….which came back marked insufficient funds.”

      When we make decisions that impact children and their families, let’s make sure that those deposits we make in them never come back insufficient. That’s not brave. And, I think whether someone listens to Sara Bareilles or not, we can all agree that the more honest and real we are in our relationships, the more satisfied we all will be. Then, when we “let the words fall out,” we’ll be ready for them. And, we’ll hear them the way they’re meant to be heard. (Now you can judge).

    • Blog post
    • 6 months ago
    • Views: 1215
  • Get in the Boat, Not on the Bu Get in the Boat, Not on the Bus

    • From: John_Hines
    • Description:

      When I started teaching, I was often frustrated when students fell behind. We would be moving ahead as a class and invariably a student would tell me we were moving too quickly, or that they had missed something, or that they were absent for some reason that I deemed unimportant and needed to be caught up. I would tell them that the class had goals to meet, standards to teach, or an advanced placement test to prepare for and that we could not make an exception for them. I then reminded them that I had a responsibility to all of the other students to keep things moving forward and it was not fair to the other students to slow down. I would often close my response by telling them that, “the bus is rolling and not going to stop. You need to get on or you will be left behind.”

      While I still have students falling behind, I have changed my outlook about what that means for the students and myself over the years. I have read too many articles, seen to many presentations and heard too many lectures not to recognize the critical importance of my classes for my students. With many of my students, the class is not a bus to get on or get off. For many of them, school is their best or only hope. Education is the only way they are going to change their station in life. There is not another bus coming along in thirty minutes to pick them up. Missing the bus is not simply an inconvenience, a slight change in the plans of their day, but rather it is life altering, and most likely for the worst.

      With this in mind, my perspective has changed and instead of a bus, I have instead begun to see my class as a lifeboat. If the students miss the boat, there is not another one coming along to save them. They can tread water for only so long until it becomes hopeless and many of them simply give up. If they are not getting into the boat, they are going to be lost at sea.

      This new perspective has not changed the sense of urgency, but it has changed what I feel is the most urgent need of my classes. Before I felt the pressure to keep up the pace and push ahead out of fear of falling behind. This concern was mostly about myself and my own abilities as a teacher. Now I feel the pressure to help the students, out of fear of them falling too far behind. Instead of believing that if they miss out in my class, they will be picked up later, I try to help them believing they have no other chance. This concern is now about the students and my concerns have faded into the background. This has been much more challenging, and required much more work on my part, but it has to be done. When students do not get on the bus all they lose is time. When students do not get in the boat, they lose their lives. It is hard for me to not justify the extra investment if I know that I am their best hope for survival.

      Changing from a get on the bus mentality to a get in the boat mentality means changing what the most important thing in the classroom is. In a get on the bus mentality, the schedule, drives the classroom. When we think about a bus, the most important thing is the schedule. The bus has to run on time so that it can get all of its passengers where they need to go. A bus is transportation to get you from point A to point B. Classrooms that function this way are focused on the teacher and the teacher not wanting to fall behind. In the get in the boat mentality, it is about the student.  A lifeboat is about saving lives and getting people out of the water. Its only purpose is to help. The focus becomes helping the students. It becomes student centered and student driven because the goal is helping students not maintaining a schedule.

      As a leader, I continue to push others to think about getting in the boat and not on the bus. As my district has included more students into its advanced classes, I have had to try and encourage more colleagues to think this way. While some grow frustrated with those who refuse to get on, with the students who cannot keep up with the pace, I try to remind them that there is no other bus coming along. I ask them to think of their classes like a lifeboat and look at their students. If a student fall behind and we do not try and help them, we are throwing them overboard. While we can accept missing the bus, because another is coming along, we cannot accept missing the boat, because their is no regular schedule of lifeboats.They are either with you or they are with no one. Get them in the boat.


      If you are interested in more posts from John, follow him on twitter @jhhines57. Be prepared for educational insights mixed with PNW love. Go Hawks!

    • Blog post
    • 6 months ago
    • Views: 424
  • Differentiation Part 2 Differentiation Part 2

    • From: Kimberly_Horst
    • Description:

      I close this out with hope. I sometimes feel like a ultimate failure because I believe like Liam Neeson said as Oskar Shindler in Shindler's List, I could have done more as I reflect back. I could have done more. I know that I can do more and knowing is half the battle. As a professional educator, I want to be an agent for change and I will do more. I do not claim to understand differentiation, but I do claim to desire knowledge so I can further my understanding. That is the journey of learning. 

      Making A Habit Of Differentiation Part 2

      Meet CTW. He went by his whole name. He was a zany kid with a faddish for paperclips, especially colorful paperclips which he created chains out of an stole from teachers to the dismay of his parents.

      CTW was a lad who was a a genius in so many areas but his struggles were out in living color and made his learning difficult. You see, for CTW to write was an act of God himself! CTW had excellent ideas and when talking to you, created a beautiful detailed story, but when asked to write, nothing would be on the page.


      To watch CTW during testing...testing of any kind, was painful. His inability to focus on the task at hand created a long testing period. My last testing with him his fifth grade year resulted in over 5 hours needed for him to complete the spring state test we call MCA.  However, through coaching and time, he pulled out great scores that sometimes took him above the level of his peer group.

      Often though, his struggles led him to be in for recess because he could not "get his work done on time."  He needs help" would be the talk among the teachers, but not many helped him. I mean, really helped him.

      And by that, I mean looked at his way of learning and adapting their style of teaching to how he learned. Some teachers believe that students should adapt to our teaching. After all, it is we who have the degrees to prove that we are "smart." We are the ones who know what we are doing. They are not.

      I would suggest that this limited thinking traps us as educators. It traps us in to a box that was not meant to be there in the first place. The snare catches us at our weakest part of ourselves, assuming we are here to educate YOU. What if the students are here to educate us? What if that is really what it is all about?

      I know that the greatest amount of learning has not come from me teaching, but from me studying the students and their lives and their God given abilities and trying to figure out who this blessed human is that has been given to me for this season of the educational journey.

      I had CTW for two years as a student during which, I brought him to SAT at school, evaluations were done, and a process took place that put him on an IEP. My goal was to get him help now in his elementary years that would carry him through to MS and HS. I hope it has.

      I saw CTW this fall at a multi-aged school function K-8 for the yr round program (his school 6-8, is in another building). He was walking around with a clipboard. He was a leader and a young man with a plan as he helped to organize groups for the nature walk tour. He was in his element and immersed in his gifting.

      I came across a quote that I used in my other blog about differentiation by Seth Godin.  Here is entire manifesto: http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/docs/stopstealingdreamsscreen.pdf. It is a powerful manifesto. To read it once does not do it justice.


      God didn't make us all the same. He made us entirely different from one another. Those differences are there to unite us, to cause us to become interdependent on each other.  We waste so much time fixating on differences as a reason for alienation. Really, if we thought better of each other, of humanity and of the fact that each of us, EACH OF US, is made in the image of the Most High God, we would do whatSteven Covey asks of us, seek first to understand. I would like to suggest as well, that before Steven Covey asked it of us, God asked it of us first. Take the plank out of my own eye!

      As it is, I am sitting here a few days after Christmas working on assignments because I know what my life is like when school starts. Its crazy. I prefer learning in the stillness of time like this with a quiet house and coffee. But as I sit here and reflect on my students and my own children,  tears are just pouring down my face. I can't seem to control my emotions.  I feel like I am caught in a system that only says it wants differentiating learning, but still boxes in children. I admit, it is easy to revert to old practices that are not best practices because differentiating the lessons takes work.
      Solid. Mind blowing. Hard work.
    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
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  • The Insanity Trap, I Need A Si The Insanity Trap, I Need A Silent Night

    • From: Kimberly_Horst
    • Description:


      The Insanity Trap, I Need A Silent Night

      I am not going to do it. I am not going to fall for it. There is no way in heck it will happen to me. Or so, I say to myself this little mantra year after year.

      Then bang, like a sucka punch right hook I am down for the count and I swear to goodness, I didn't wanna be!

      But this year...this year I am going to NOT fall for the insanity trap.

      What is the insanity trap?

      The holiday frenzy and hullabaloo. The one where you gotta top last year and the Johnson's who live next door. Not to mention that, sometimes, I have felt like I had to have the best Christmas decor in the classroom or make the best projects with the students. There are Christmas work parties, classroom parties, get the gifts for the volunteers, for my coworkers, for the students, for my own kids for my own family. Saw the tree down and decorate that and the cookies at the same time and grades. Sometimes grades have been due around the holiday season adding to the "fun" of it all.

      That is the Insanity Trap.

      • I don't need it any more.  
      • I am too old for it. 
      • I just want to slow down. 
      • I have to slow down.

      But all this has me thinking about the students and the rush rush rush that they have in their lives too, especially at this time and if I feel swamped, I am positive that they might be too.

      So my gift to the students this year is to slow down. I don't need to make it to the end of the chapter, if I can't just to say that I got it in. I don't need to make stupid worksheets for "filler" time at school and the class party can be low key.

      Students do deserve the best me and so do my own children..and that best me is not the insane woman! So, try this for yourself...slow down the holiday rush..make your classroom a sweet place of peace on Earth. Or if you are like me and run here and there throughout the school, walk instead...breathe in so much peace and serenity that you bring a calming effect where ever you go and you can make other's feel merry and bright. Chapter 5.11 may just wait until January.

      The most urgent thing is NOT the most important thing. The most important thing is the people around us, our families and the students we are called to serve at work. It is the heart and souls of people that is the most important thing
      You too deserve a Silent Night and Holy Night, a Midnight Clear, and a bit of Peace on Earth...end all the crazy with a Silent Night! Blessings....Kimberly
    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
    • Views: 164
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  • 5 Ways to Worry-Proof the Stud 5 Ways to Worry-Proof the Student Feedback Process

    • From: Jennifer_Davis_Bowman
    • Description:

      Student feedback can be heavy.  I know that it can be an invaluable tool in improving instruction, but collecting, interpreting, and using the feedback can be grueling nonetheless.  First, it is scary to be judged (especially by learners that may harbor grudges from you upholding the policy on "no late work" or even from the younger, hormonal teens that are driven by their emotions).  Second, student opinion becomes a part of your official teaching record/standing when the student evaluations are submitted to the school administration.  Finally, it is difficult to know how to interpret the overall meaning of the evaluations (void of your emotions) and then PRODUCTIVELY use the data to inform your teaching. 


      In hopes of making the student feedback process more bearable this semester, I decided to focus on specific ways to use the feedback.  Typically as teachers, we invest a huge amount of time in collecting student opinions.  for example, english teachers may focus on the thoughts/actions of literature characters.  Similarly, science teacher may focus on getting students to share their view of a particular theory.  As teachers, we really need to dedicate just as much time (if not more) to exploring student feedback.  Below are 5 ways that may help in critically examining student feedback:


      1.  Table the Issue

      I love the organizational properties that tables provide for data.  When examining student feedback, try to create tables to house the information.  You can use an "Affect vs. Action" table that will show your emotions toward particular student feedback and how you will respond to that comment.  For example recently on a feedback sheet, a student wrote that it seemed like I jumped from one idea in the text book to another.  In the "Affect vs. Action" table I would write that "I felt that I did move quickly from one concept to another, but in the future, I would provide an outline for the notes in addition to the basic daily agenda in hopes of guiding the student better."

      Another option would be creating a table of the themes that become evident from the feedback.  When you review the feedback, what patterns seem to emerge or jump out at you?  If you find multiple comments about curriculum organization, practice time, or assessment, then these ideas should be highlighted in your table. 


      2.  Identify the Circle of Control

      Do you remember the movie "Meet the Fockers" and how Deniro kicked his future son-in law Ben Stiller out of his 'friend circle'?  The idea is that there are things that we as teachers control and there are things that are beyond our control.  In that movie, Deniro had the ability to be friends (or become an enemy) to his son in law.  As teachers we have a great deal of power.  We can choose particular aspects of our curriculum (dependent of course on our district), but we have to acknowledge that we can not control everything in our classroom.  For instance, on a recent feedback form, one student reported the expense of the textbook as a barrier to learning (university text books can be 100 dollars or more typically).  I can not control the price of the text (that is required through the university), thus this was a factor that was beyond my control. 


      3.  Highlight Student Voice

      More than likely, your evaluations will include both positive and not-so-positive feedback.  Embrace both.  In the past I have saved student comments and displayed them at home for quick reference.  Of course, I enlarge and use flashing lights to frame the postive comments (just kidding), but the point is, that I continually revisit the student's words in order to stay focued on growing as an instructor. 


      Another option is to use the student's comments during parent conferences to provide feedback about your current teaching style.  You can format the feedback in a table or even compile a series of comments and create testimonials regarding how students feel about your instructional methods. 


      4.  Explore Alternate Explanations

      No evaluation process is perfect.  Even though we try our best to collect valid and reliable data, sometimes extraneous variables get in the way (review number 2 on this list).  If you obtain negative comments about your teaching, the odds are that factors outside of your teaching ability/effort are involved.  For instance variables such as the frequency of data collection, the student response rate, and social desirability (or the need to rebel) contributed to the feedback that your students provided).


      5.  Stay in the Know

      For years we have heard about the research to practice gap in education.  Don't fall into this gap.  Stay abreast of the research and information regarding student feedback.  The New Directions for Teaching & Learning Journal is a great resource for information on collecting and using student feedback (This journal's volume 2001 issue 87 is dedicated to student feedback). 


      There are websites that offer pdf's and other resources to help teachers make sense of student feedback.  The Teaching Channel website (www.teachingchannel.org) includes a video "Improving Practice:  Learning From My Students".  In addition, The Center for Teaching & Learning offers a document titled "Interpreting and Working with your Course Evaluations" (www.ctl.stanford.edu). 


      Yes, student feedback can cause anxiety, but it does not have to.  Try the strategies listed above and let me know how they work (if they work for you).  I would love to know how you survive student evaluations at your school.  Please leave any teacher eval survivor tips in the comment section below. 


      *Please note that this is the final post in the 3 part series on student perception. 

    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
    • Views: 1275
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  • Simple Ways to Reach Your Chal Simple Ways to Reach Your Challenging Students

    • From: Ryan_Thomas1
    • Description:

      challenging studentsIn one of his academic articles, Andrew Burke reports that teachers make some 30 non-trivial work related decisions every hour and engage in as many as 1,500 interactions with students every day. No wonder teachers are so exhausted!

      The opportunity to engage with students as many as 1,500 times every day presents us with lots of opportunities to “get it right”—and just as many opportunities to fall short.

      While these four strategies from blogger and ESL teacher Larry Ferlazzo won’t guarantee that we “get it right” all the time, they may prove useful for strengthening your relationships with challenging students.

      Simple Ways to Reach Your Challenging Students

      Conduct regular student reflections
      Most of us regularly tell students what we expect of them; less often do we ask them to set expectations for themselves. One way to have students take stock of their behavior and intellectual growth is by having them write weekly reflections. As an example, you might consider having students answer and discuss prompts like these:

      • Are you a positive or negative person?
      • Are you a good or not-so-good listener?
      • Who are some people that you respect? How do you think they act when things don’t go exactly the way they want?
      • Do you think intelligence is fixed? Can it grow with effort?

      The idea is for each student to write about how they see themselves in the context of that particular topic and determine if they are satisfied with themselves. If not, encourage them to reflect on how they can improve.

      In his class, Ferlazzo begins each week by having students write a goal and closes each Friday by asking them to assess whether or not they were successful in reaching it.

      Use daily evaluations
      Writing students’ names on the board is one amongst many “old school” methods of discipline still used in the classroom.

      Instead of resorting to this, try using daily evaluations instead.

      To start, discuss important elements of a healthy classroom. This should be a conversation that includes everyone. Based on this discussion, develop a check list, have students grade themselves on each criteria and assign themselves an overall grade at the end of each day.

      Self-assessments should only take a few minutes to review and comment on.

      No more phone calls about bad behavior
      Instead of calling the parents of a student who was not behaving well, Ferlazzo suggests telling disruptive students that you will not be calling their parents—at least not that day.

      Instead, let them know that the phone call will wait until the following week so that you can report all the good things they’ve done and how they’ve improved in the last week.

      Arrange a secret sign with students that lets them know they need to stop
      Private conversations usually help curb disruptive behavior, but they may not be necessary if you and the student arrange a “sign” that lets the student know a specific behavior needs to stop. This may be as simple as standing next a student or tapping on his or her desk.

      If you stop by Mr. Ferlazzo’s blog, you’ll not only find a collection of useful teaching resources, you’ll also be able to read the six remaining classroom management tips we mention here.

                                                         Get Your Free Classroom Management Guide

    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
    • Views: 619
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