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Thanks for a fantastic 2013 ASCD Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois!
Your To-Do List: Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Register for the Whole Child Virtual Conference: May 6–10, 2013
Join ASCD for its third annual Whole Child Virtual Conference. This free online event offers thought leadership discussions; presentations from leading authors and experts; and an exploration of the steps outstanding schools, communities, and individual countries take as they move along the continuum of a whole child approach—from implementation to sustainability to culture. No matter where you are on this continuum, you’ll find lessons you can learn and questions you can ask to improve and grow your schools.
This year the conference will include 24 sessions over 7 days between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. eastern time, with sessions on May 2 and 3 specifically for Australasian and European audiences. This year’s conference speakers include authors and experts Thomas Armstrong, Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves, Eric Jensen, Wendy Ostroff, William Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge, Pasi Sahlberg, and Yong Zhao.
Sessions will also feature presentations from ASCD Emerging Leaders, ASCD’s Outstanding Young Educators Award winner, the recipient of Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award, and members of ASCD’s Whole Child Network of Schools.
Registration is now open. Go to www.ascd.org/wcvirtualconference to sign up.
ASCD Nominations Committee Applications Open in May
ASCD is seeking ASCD leaders who are interested in serving on the 2013–14 ASCD Nominations Committee. More information—the committee’s charge, qualifications for service, and time commitment—will be available starting May 1 on www.ascd.org. ASCD will be accepting applications May 1–31. We invite ASCD leaders to consider their interest in this opportunity over the next few weeks before the application becomes available.
ASCD Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Student Chapters Help Chicago’s Hungry During ASCD Annual Conference
On March 15, 46 ASCD Student Chapter members volunteered to make a difference in the fight against hunger in Chicago. Working together the Friday morning before ASCD’s Annual Conference, the students packaged more than 15,000 pounds of food to help feed the nearly 678,000 people who rely on emergency and supplemental food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Thank you and congratulations to our ASCD Student Chapter volunteers! Read the full Conference Daily article.
ASCD Forum Session at ASCD Annual Conference Gives Educators a Voice on Teacher and Principal Effectiveness
On March 17, ASCD Past President Debra Hill facilitated a discussion of the ASCD Forum topic “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” Ten ASCD leaders stepped forward to help lead the discussion:
· Jason Flom, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Ben Shuldiner, Position Advisory Committee Member
· Amy Vanden Boogart, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Jeffrey Lofthus, Alaska ASCD Executive Director
· Daina Lieberman, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Mamzelle Adolphine, Professional Interest Community Facilitator
· Laurie McCullough, Virginia ASCD Executive Director
· Alice Wells, Arizona ASCD Executive Director
· Matthew Cotton, ASCD Emerging Leader
· Torian White, ASCD Emerging Leader
Session attendees stepped up to the front of the room to share their thoughts and also posted tweets to the #ASCDForum hashtag. Many thanks to the ASCD leaders who participated to make this session a success!
Congratulations to ASCD Affiliate Recognition Award Winners
Please join ASCD in congratulating the ASCD Affiliate Recognition Award Recipients:
Two affiliates were recognized for the 2013 Overall Excellence Award: Iowa ASCD, for its increased focus on integrating technology into professional learning opportunities and their influence and advocacy work with ASCD, and New Hampshire ASCD, for its work to increase membership and provide increased professional learning opportunities, such as Common Core workshops.
In addition, New Jersey ASCD received the Area Excellence Award for Programs, Products, and Services for their leadership in their state as a trusted source for professional learning. Texas ASCD received an Exceptional Progress Award in Influence and Policy, and Alberta ASCD, Ohio ASCD, and Vermont ASCD were all recipients of the Exceptional Progress Award in Programs, Products, and Services.
Welcome to the “Educating Beyond Disabilities” Professional Interest Community
Please join ASCD in welcoming our newest Professional Interest Community, facilitated by 2011 ASCD Emerging Leader Christina Yuknis. Please join her group on ASCD EDge.
Tennessee ASCD Featured in ASCD Inservice Blog Series
Weasked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states. In the sixth post of the series, Tennessee ASCD President-Elect John Combs writes about the challenges and successes that Tennessee has had with CCSS implementation.
Meet ASCD President Becky Berg
Becky J. Berg is from a family of educators. "My dad was a school board president; my mom was a career educator; and my sister, my grandmother, and my great-grandfather were educators," she says. Despite the genetic pull, Berg wasn't completely convinced she would follow in the family's footsteps until her experience as a summer camp counselor while she was in college. It was then that she realized how much she loved working with kids. Read the full Conference Daily article.
Congratulations to the 2013 Outstanding Young Educator Award Winners!
ASCD salutes a new generation’s passion for education excellence through this year’s selection of two Outstanding Young Educator Award winners: Joshua Garcia, deputy superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools (Wash.), and Parkville High School (Parkville, Md.) teacher Ryan Twentey. Twentey teaches art, photography, and interactive media production and also serves as the school’s technology liaison. Read the full Conference Daily article.
Interactive ASCD 2012 Annual Report Features ASCD Leaders
Check out the ASCD 2012 Annual Report, entitled “Creating Solutions: The ASCD Revolution in Motion.” This interactive report features videos footage of ASCD leaders, including ASCD Emerging Leader Steven Anderson, Florida ASCD President Alina Davis, Alabama ASCD Executive Director Jane Cobia, ASCD Board Member Harriet Arnold, and Connecticut ASCD President David Cormier.
Throughout April at wholechildeducation.org: Principal Leadership
Principals are the key players in developing the climate, culture, and processes in their schools. They are critical to implementing meaningful and lasting school change and in the ongoing school-improvement process. Principals who have a clear vision; inspire and engage others in embracing change for improvement; drive, facilitate, and monitor the teaching and learning process; and foster a cohesive culture of learning are the collaborative leaders our schools need to fully commit to ensuring each student—and school staff member—is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
What qualities do principals in today’s (and tomorrow’s) schools need to fulfill their roles as visionary, instructional, influential, and learning leaders?
There are two episodes of the Whole Child Podcast in April for you to download and share. The first episode, “Leveling and Raising the Playing Field,” features school staff from Oregon’s Milwaukie High School, winner of the 2013 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award, and is available now. On April 11, the second episode will be available. It will focus on principal leadership and include guests Kevin Enerson, principal of Whole Child Network school Le Sueur-Henderson High School in Minnesota, and Jessica Bohn, ASCD Emerging Leader and principal of Gibsonville Elementary School in North Carolina.
The Best-Case Scenario
As we review and reinforce our schools’ safety measures, we aren’t planning for the worst-case scenario that might happen; we are working to make sure the best-case scenario—where schools are learning environments that are physically, socially, and emotionally safe for students and adults—is an everyday occurrence that does happen. Read more on the Whole Child Blog.
In February and March, we looked at what we, as educators, believe is crucial to making our schools safe—not just physically safe, but also safe places to teach and learn. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Joseph Bergant II, superintendent of Chardon Schools in Ohio; Howard Adelman, professor of psychology at UCLA and codirector of the School Mental Health Project and the Center for Mental Health in Schools (a whole child partner); and Jonathan Cohen, adjunct professor in psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and president and cofounder of whole child partner National School Climate Center.
Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read the latest newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Something to Talk About
What do you do when Graduate School loands and Fellowships only cover have of your expenses and you need structure too much to wait another 2-3 months about scholarships?
I tried Crowdfunding. It's actually kind of like a social experiment. I learned so much making this project funding page.
Please read it, I'm very interested to hear what people think.
Help fund my grad degree so I can help others! I'm about begin a program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University in NYC, but I need support.
In the long term, there is just one answer to the problem of school safety: More love. The short term solution, on the other hand, lies in the unhealthy mix of force, fear, guns, security, locks, and other devices meant to barricade our children from a small, but obviously lethal, subset of the population.
I’ll leave the short-term answers to parents and politicians. Instead, let’s support advances in education that take us closer to the ultimate goal of raising, nurturing, and educating children who feel psychologically safe. That, really, is the sole purpose of whole child education.
The formula is simple. Feeling safe is the central feature of feeling secure. Secure people do not feel afraid, except in the face of dire circumstances. In the absence of fear, positive emotions bloom. When positivity reigns, the brain responds by becoming more expansive, creative, and open to ideas. Emotions stabilize. The terrible effects of isolation, loneliness, depression, withdrawal, and other outcomes of emotional dysfunction disappear or are resolved. Many fewer people feel compelled to murder a child. Those who do receive compassionate help from a greatly enlarged safety net of understanding, emotionally mature adults.
The foundation for this transformation is love. However, I don’t mean a kind of greeting card, Valentine’s version of love, as in, “Oh, aren’t little children just the sweetest little souls? I just love all of them!” Rather, I suggest that it’s overdue to recognize the hard science informing us that care counts. It’s time, really, to get out of our own way by integrating the most recent evidence-based findings about positive emotional development into schools and make healthy emotional development the centerpiece of learning.
Until society is willing to turn that corner, unsafety will plague us. With that in mind, here’s my list of simple ideas for educators to embrace that reflect the science of the second decade of the 21st-century. These findings point us toward designing schools as havens of safety and seedbeds for stable individuals who can be beacons of love throughout society and the global village:
Emotions and thinking are not separate. The 200-year misconception that emotions and cognition are separate has been disproven. The brain is an integrated organ that processes thoughts and emotions simultaneously. In fact, positive emotions help power the frontal cortex. Rather than an academic downside, a greater focus on the emotional health of young people will result in better performance, particularly in areas like 21st century skills and critical thinking. See Barbara Frederickson’s book on Positivity for the evidence.
The brain changes with the culture. There is no greater story at the moment that brain plasticity. Neurons change every millisecond, and the neural pathways work as fast as they can (and they’re fast) to adapt to new surroundings and the incoming culture. Everything about schools should be reviewed in this light. What messages do the hallways and the classrooms send to the brain? What is the atmosphere and climate of the school? Is nurturing the norm or the exception?
Let go of the brain. Now for the flip side. Not everything occurs from the neck up. Recent science shows intricate connections between the heart, gut, and the brain. Fear registers in the heart before the brain, and then communicates via the vagal nerves. The body acts as a sensory organ for safety—and the brain follow the lead. More fear equals less activity in the prefrontal cortex, the favorite part of the brain for any teacher (that’s where attention and learning take place.) In other words, holism is a reality, not a wish.
Emotions and physiology are one conversation. When you see a child in emotional distress, that means the child’s body is not working optimally. For example, stress is an over-mobilization of the natural resources of the body (too many hormones, at abnormal levels, and a high octane sympathetic nervous response.) The good news is that by calming the physiology of the body, we also alter emotional states.
Emotions are good, not bad. Research into positive emotions is shaping up as the next big advance in science. The old model of emotions, focused solely on survival mode, is a legacy from the caveman days. We’ve evolved; now science has confirmed that humans who generate and experience emotions such as contentment, joy, inspiration, and love respond by becoming more fulfilled, higher achieving people.
Relationships change emotional states. The connections between us and others alter emotional states. The mind, in fact, is not just within us any longer; it’s somewhere in that space between us, as Daniel Siegel in Mindsight shows us. The constant interplay takes place subconsciously, either through mirror neurons in the brain or energetic exchange. Regardless of the mechanism, it’s now clear that humans communicate in real time, at all times, on an emotional level. Every message from teachers, conveyed through facial expression, body language, words, or hidden assumption, carries weight.
Stress and challenge differ. Love does not preclude challenge, meaning you can still test children to figure out what they’ve learned. But it does tell us that removing the unnecessary stress of learning is a good thing. Constant testing invokes stress; a few meaningful exams pitched as a way to understand the gaps in your knowledge stirs up challenge. Here’s one clue to the difference: Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing the armpits to perspire and one set of muscles in the face to contort; challenge brings a blended response of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems—and a genuine smile.
Mindfulness works. Whether you choose mindfulness, meditation, or heart-focused breathing, they all work. Each dissolves stress and liberates a calm, safe feeling that leads to positive health and better learning. It would be interesting to see the results on high stakes testing if every school day in America began with a five-minute meditation!
Love, compassion, and gratitude make you smarter. Some of the most powerful research recently shows the impact of gratitude on brain function and physiology in the body. Love calms, and the simple, yet profound, act of appreciation seems to have forceful consequences. As we move forward in schools and society, it is the job of adults to create a world in which children have ample reason to feel appreciative. If that happens, we’ll all feel safe.
Thom Markham is a psychologist and author of the Project Based Learning Design and Coaching Guide: Expert tools for inquiry and innovation for K-12 educators, and the forthcoming book, Redefining Smart: The return of the heart. Download Tools for PBL on his website, www.thommarkham.com or contact him at email@example.com.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I became a principal in a rather untraditional way. In the retirement of our school’s long standing co-principals, two other colleagues and I decide to apply as a leadership team. We had advanced degrees in education, but neither of us had formal administrative experience, although we had plenty of leadership roles in our professional work. My principal preparation was on the job and mentor supported. I am currently in the process of taking further coursework which combines educational leadership theory and practice, particularly through an additional leadership practicum at a local school. Having the opportunity to connect my work so far with this theory has provided me with further opportunity for reflection on my role and skills as a leader. The practicum has been a wonderful opportunity to also see how other schools are meeting the every day challenges we share as administrators.
In having this varied set of experiences, I offer some considerations for administration training and continued support throughout an administrator’s journey.
Investing in effective training AND providing continued support to administrators are key to a school’s success. Our classrooms highlight future leadership potential, now it remains the responsibility of the educational community on all levels to foster and sustain these leaders.
As I work with aspiring administrators, I often am asked about potential interview questions that might be asked during the hiring process. I offer a list of typical—and not so typical—interview questions that might be asked by panels who are considering school leader candidates. Of course, a hiring decision often boils down to the right fit, so questions can vary wildly depending on the needs of a particular school or the district. While this is not by any means a complete list, it does encompass a few examples of what kind of questions might be asked. As they say, there is no “right answer,” so I have tried to include a bit of rationale of what the panel might be thinking as well as a possible approach one might take. “Fit” is also an important consideration for the candidate; remember, you are interviewing them as well (though it may not feel like it!) and need to be sure that you are prepared for—and aware of—the specific leadership role that is involved.
1.) Describe great instruction.
2.) How will you support a safe and effective schoolwide learning environment?
3.) How would you resolve a conflict between two upset adults in your school?
4.) How will you ensure that staff members continue to grow as professionals?
5.) How would you work with the School Improvement Team (or equivalent) to realize change?
6.) What is a recent professional development-related book you have read recently and what did you gain from reading it?
7.) Can you describe a mistake you have made before and how you addressed it?
8.) If your life was a movie, who would play the lead role?
9.) Do you have any questions for us?
Remember, be succinct and confident. Allow the hiring panel the opportunity to ask possible follow-up questions to probe deeper regarding issues that are on their mind. Again, my thoughts and recommendations are just that—my best guess of anticipating what you might experience. You know yourself better than anyone, and hopefully, you have a sense of the organization and the specific leadership position that you seek. The important thing is that you present the real you: a competent, prepared, and caring leader who is ready to lead a team of people toward success.
William Sterrett's ASCD book, Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works and related study guide can be found here: http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Insights-into-Action.aspx A former principal and current member of the educational leadership faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Sterrett can be followed on Twitter @billsterrett
My school is going through an administration transition. It has been tough on everyone: staff, teachers, and students. Recent events have my considering if I should change schools or even stay in education. I reached out to a good friend for advice. I met her when she interviewed me when I flew to Chicago for my first interview to become an educator. At the time, she was the Program Director of Chicago Teaching Fellows. We have stayed in touch over the years and she has excelled in her career and become the Program Director of The New Teacher Project (The 'parent' organization of the fellows programs in the US) and is now the Program Manager at a larger but more focused educational reform group. During my initial teacher training, her drive to close the achievement gap in the US really imprinted on me and she still continues to inspire me with her dedication and wisdom as you will see in the conversation posted bellow.
Hey Andrea, I hope you have been doing well! Things are not going good at my school and I need to get out of the school before the new administration fires me (I'm being 'bullied'). I am thinking about leaving teaching altogether. Do you have any inspiring words of advice?
Hi Bobby!I! It is great to hear from you- but I am SO sorry about what you have been going through- you have done an incredible job caring about each and everyone of your students, focusing on their academic growth and pushing them to aspire for greater things in the future. It really is Collin's loss if they haven't been able to provide a setting that allows you to feel supported, safe and encourages your development. It is ok to feel the way you feel. I cannot blame you for wanting to put yourself first and take care of your basic needs. Being bullied is NOT ok. When a situation becomes too harmful (emotionally, physically) you need to feel like you can walk away. If it does come to that with your school- I would just make sure you do everything you can to leave your students with a smooth transition so that your departure does not disrupt their learning. I do however want to strongly encourage you to think harder about teaching- I have seen and heard of your work and I know- and I hope you know- that you are an incredible educator. It would be a devastating loss to have you leave the profession. Don't let your experience at this school spoil your gift- if after reflecting you recognize that it was your recent experience that has you considering leaving- then take a break and find a place where you fit- where you can thrive and still impact student learning.
Thank you so much for your kind words. Reading them made me feel so much better. The last administrator that we had for the past three years left yesterday and right before he did, he pulled me aside and warned me that they are looking at every little thing and are waiting for me to make even the tiniest mistake to try to get rid of me. I guess I don't fit their profile of what an educator should look like and how an educator should educate. I don’t want to leave teaching, I really do love it, and I absolutely LOVE my kids here at Collins. I'm teaching the seniors anatomy and I taught them biology when they were sophomores. I have seen them grow so much and am doing everything I can to help them get into the college of their choice with scholarships. However, yesterday the Interim Principal who took over recently screamed in my face because I gave a couple of students a hall pass to go to their counselors to get college applications that I was going to help them fill out. So, yes, I love teaching. However, this experience this year has been so emotionally draining that so many other things seem more appealing.
Last night, I rewrote my resume and made a detailed 5 page CV detailing my experiences as an educator.But then I also started looking into schools and found this: http://www.snre.umich.edu/sites/all/files/behavior_education.pdf and this: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/teaching/msc/admissions.php
But I just don't know what to do.
On a happy note: It was announced today that my favorite senior who I've been mentoring for 3 years got the Posse scholarship (over $240,000) and my top senior last year got it too! Both want to be doctors or scientists!
Wow- it sounds like the culture and climate at your school has really turned toxic. I'm sorry to hear that- from what you've articulated it really does sounds like there has been a dramatic change (and there was a strong difference in vision between the old and interim administrators), On a side note- the work that you've done with your kids sounds awesome! It truly is the kids that keep us going huh- too bad dysfunctional systems and admin make situations so unbearable for excellent teachers! I'm glad your heart is still in it- you've definitely done your piece in helping close the gap in Chicago and I know you have many more successes ahead of you. I think your approach is good- if it were me I'd focus on teaching within my classroom walls during the day and quietly look at other teaching jobs for this year (that way you have choices if something happens) and you find a good fit. And you try to stick it out for your kids with a solid back up plan. Looking at your links- if you want to apply for grad school- that is always an option too- I mean it's never a bad investment to continue to improve ourselves. I'd love to see you continue in education- the one piece of advice I have to give you about grad school is - instead of approaching it as "what program interests me and then I'll find a job I qualify for," map out your ideal job- then identify what education you need and work backwards. Our jobs are such a big part of our life it is important to find something that fulfills and challenges us in the long run.
How fantastic!!! We need more scientists!! That is awesome; I hope you celebrate your success with that one
Again, thank you so much for your kind and inspiring words. That is such good advice and I feel so much more at ease. I'm going to do what you said, I promised my kids when we found out the principal was leaving (two weeks later a VP left and yesterday the other VP left) that I would be here for them as long as I am able to. They have been asking me why I'm still here and why I haven't left yet and I tell them it's because of them! Half of our staff was fired or left last year and replaced with first year teachers. Your advice about grad school makes so much sense and you have answered a question that I have been wondering for about a year. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you and will always always-always be thankful for everything I've learned from you.
You're so welcome! Your dedication to your kids is always an inspiration to me! Please reach out anytime you want to talk about anything.
Thank you!!! J It’s so good talking to you.
I literally just took the deepest breath and feel much better.
Good! I’m so glad.
Few artifacts of formal learning are as iconic as the letter grade.
What can I do to get an A?
She’s a C student.
He’s always gotten As and Bs in all of his classes.
Then we turn the letters into numbers–letter grades become averages of letter grades, which, when calculated, determined whether or not a learner qualifies to play sports, get into college, or thinks of him or herself as “smart.”
She has a 4.0 GPA.
You’re not getting into Stanford with that GPA.
It is an incredibly powerful symbol that isn’t going to be erased by long-winded rhetoric. Learners and families–far and away the most vested stakeholders in education–understand them. They “get” what a B means, and what an F means.
The issue is, in all honesty they probably don’t.
The Failure of the Letter Grade
The letter grade fails because its job–to communicate learning results to learners and families—cannot possibly be performed a single symbol.
Further, the letter grade “pauses” learning–basically says that at this point, if I had to average all of your understanding, progress, success, and performance into a single alphanumeric character, it’d be this, but really this is over-simplifying things because learning is messy and understanding is highly dynamic.
But parents don’t want to hear about understanding because it’s grey area that doesn’t make sense. It sound like spin. It’s subjective. Complex. They want it to be distilled for them–and rightfully so, but that reduction dissolves the honesty of the learning process. Conversations with parents turn most frequently on missing work, learner temperament and/or attendance, and the letter grade, but rarely on knowledge, curiosity, or the ability to evaluate information.
So that leaves education in a tight spot. Parents need capacity as bad as the education system itself.
While standards-based grading is one attempt to reduce how subjective letter grades are–measure and report proficiency based on standards as “grades.” This is a step in the right direction–at least parents know what a grade is based on, but they still don’t know any more about their son or daughter.
The ideal “response” here isn’t a single change, but a total merging of schools and communities. But until that happens, there are options.
12 Alternatives to Letter Grades
A comprehensive systems of badges, trophies, points, XP, achievements. This uncovers nuance and is capable of far more resolution and precision than a letter.
2. Live Feedback
Here, students are given verbal and written feedback immediately–as work is being completed. Live scoring without the scoring and iteration. No letters or numbers, just feedback.
In this process, work is graded as it traditionally has been, then, through revision and iteration, is gradually improved and curated. Eventually “lesser” performance (as determined by students, peers, families, and teachers) is replaced by better work, but without the grades. Grades jump-start the revision process, and that’s it.
4. Always-on Proving Grounds (Continuous Climate of Assessment)
In this model, assessment never stops–the result of one assessment is another. Not tests, but demonstrations. It doesn’t stop, so rather than halting the process to assign a letter, the process continues on.
5. Standards-Based Reporting
This one replaces letters with numbers, so it’s really not much better, but it can reduce the subjectivity of grading.
6. “So? So What? What Now?”
Here, students are asked–and ask themselves–at the end of every assignment–So, So What? What Now? This is similar to #4 above, but leaves the next step up to the student. Okay, you’re “finished” with this work. Now:
So: What did you “do”? Summarize details and big picture
So What? Why was this work important?
What now? What is the logical next step with this assignment, idea, or topic?
7. Metacognitive Action/Reflection/Narrative/Anecdotal
This approach dovetails behind #6. Rather than halting the learning process with a letter-as-performance-indicator, instead learners are tasked with reflecting on their thinking process–not as a patronizing “tell the teacher what they want to hear” activity on an exit slip walking out the door, but as a measure of their understanding and intellectual growth. This can be based on metacognition, reflective on the progression through the content, or more anecdotal about the learning process itself.
8. Curating the Highlights
A variation of the reflective and anecdotal approach, curating the highlights amounts to the student and teach getting together to extract the highlights of an assignment, or the process of project-based learning.
No letter grade–you either pass or fail. Not a great solution to anything other than the shades of grey between an A and a D, but an alternative nonetheless.
10. P2P, S2S, or Mentor Celebration
Gather with peers within and across schools to celebrate academic and learning success. No grades necessary–just planned visibility from the start of the project with a diverse groups of peers. Peer response can also be embedded throughout a lesson or unit by design, rather than only at the end as a summative evaluation.
11. Non-points-based Rubrics
This is much like the current systems–student performance is still evaluated against a rubric, but not grade or points are ever assigned. It is up to the student and their family to determine “how they did.” The goal of the teacher is not to grade students, but rather to support learners. Students will wiggle and writhe trying to turn the rubric’s assessment into a letter grade, and that’s fine. As a teacher, you’ve moved on to taking data from that performance to plan the next steps.
Make all learning public. Publish it. It can by anonymous if necessary, but it’s visible to families, peers, and communities. Peers can collaborate on revisions, families can respond, communities can celebrate or scoff, but the process has been decentralized and, in a way, democratized.
This approach won’t work for every student every time, but the idea is sound–return the stakeholding to the stakeholders.
The more we question the effectiveness of our current public education system the more we are led to question what it is we are trying to accomplish. Granted, students should become competent in the basics of reading, writing, math and technology. However, I believe the time has come to redefine broader goals which have previously been addressed as peripheral to the core curriculum. ASCD's Whole Child Initiative has a wonderful framework that should officially become a part of public education world-wide. When I asked a group of teachers, administrators, and parents in Canada what they felt the purpose of public education was, the answers focused on the following:
Although we know that these are all important, we haven't reached agreement that these must be directly addressed at school. If not there, then where? Many families are not making time to focus on such things. A recent study indicated that young people spend close to 7 hours a day on-line. What are they learning there? Many schools have attempted to address these broader goals through character education programs. Unfortunately, these programs are often treated as being separate from the core curriculum rather than being embedded in the culture and climate of the schools.
It is time to define the place for social/ emotional aspects of student growth and development in a broad-based curriculum. This is the only way to truly maximize student learning. Once these are defined and accepted, all educators must be trained on how to create the necessary safe, caring, positive, supportive learning environments that will create confident, competent, creative, caring students. It can be done. Find out more in my book "REAL LEADERSHIP, REAL CHANGE Moving beyond research and rhetoric to create a new future for public education" available at www.impactleadership.ca.
Master Leadership Class
Building a Culture from Outside the Box
Part 1: Taking on a “Red Alert” Climate from Scratch
Part 2: Building Trust with Staff
Part 3: Building Trust with Students
Part 4: Building a Culture from Outside the Box
How do I get these kids to want to come to school? How do I get them to want to tuck in their shirts?
From these questions Master Leadership Class was developed. I must give some credit to Oprah Winfrey who came up with Oprah’s Master Class. The concept was to have a famous person share their story of overcoming obstacles; how they used the challenging moments in their lives to become someone who has impacted millions of people. After watching both Oprah’s personal story then Maya Angelou’s, I was inspired, motivated, and more determined than ever to show my amazing students another way to think about their future.
As the ideas rushed through my brain, my thinking was, “Yes, a class, a leadership class. Amaster leadership class! I’ll have kids take an hour out of their day each six weeks and listen to a teacher or administrator share their story and give leadership concepts along the way. Yes, this will work. But they will have to show restraint in their behavior, show up at school each day, and pass their classes.”
Then, “No…this will never work. Why would my kids care about walking into the auditorium and sitting for an hour in another class? Listen to someone they see every day? It’s not enough – they’ll never buy in. Especially if they have to follow rules they already hate just to attend.”
I needed to figure out how to get the students to WANT to do the right thing. I was on the right track, but not quite there. I also knew I needed a special type of speaker – an Oprah, a Maya. I needed a successful presenter to share their real life story – not the TV version – the real deal – the hard stuff. I had already decided my staff needed to be in the lineup during the MLC’s. When 95% of your staff is Caucasian and 98% of your students aren’t, you need to assist in making connections from their life to yours. I could imagine all they saw were a bunch of white teachers who never had a problem in their lives. Now they had a female white principal who came in guns blazing. I needed them to see a different side of the staff, including myself. I wanted to be able to use a different staff story at each MLC. At the end of Oprah’s personal story from Oprah’s Master Class she said these words, “Every person has a story, every story has a lesson.” That became the theme of our staff stories. We wouldn’t share them live. They would be shared as a video biography – a portion of the MLC format. Sharing the struggles our staff had gone through when they were young would build bonds with our students. This would be one of the most important elements to the success of MLC.
To get you right to the meat of why MLC and how MLC was developed, I’m going to skip a thousand details. As the author Simon Sinek says, Start With Why.
It comes down to the needs of the students. They needed to feel celebrated, believed in, loved, respected, honored. They needed to have a reason to come to school. A reason to look beyond rules and dress code. A reason to believe in a future that could take them anywhere. They needed to be inspired. As I wept through almost every minute of Oprah and Maya’s stories I knew this was the avenue to bring the best out in my students. I needed to find authentic, genuine stories -- stories my students couldn’t ignore.
A very important piece, which must not be lost, is that MLC was developed out of need. The need of a specific group of kids, with a specific mind set. While I have no doubt this concept could be initiated anywhere and most likely be well received, it was born from the need of this campus. Whatever programs you create must be based on one premise – which program, like none other, will impact students in the most positive way?
How MLC was Developed
An idea, a concept, a vision is one thing, but something larger than you cannot be done without support. Support for the concept, the “why”, and of course, the cost. I started with my closest friend, and sister-principal, Ena Meyers. After sharing my vision she was on board. We talked through every process from what we needed to order during the summer to how we would manage the cost associated with the logistical concerns. We would travel on this journey together. That’s when “I” turned into “we”.
We then brought in our assistant principals and counselors. Everyone had to buy into the idea. When you are passionate and visionary, it isn’t too hard to pull that off. Our leadership teams were all in from the first meeting.
I honestly don’t remember having a moment where I sat down and thought through every detail before moving forward. I think it’s a mistake to do so in most cases where a risk is being taken. Most risks immediately die when there are negative voices playing “devil's advocate”. One loses heart and motivation. Momentum comes to a halt and the drive is put into park. When taking a risk – one that is for the right reason – it pays off to move forward regardless of obstacles. Don’t ignore them. Write them down, address them later, but keep momentum.
I could write a book on everything put into developing this concept, and I probably will one day, but for now I’ll give you the basics. There were a few MLC non-negotiables. First, staying on campus wouldn’t work for my kids. They could care less about hearing a teacher talk on a microphone in the auditorium when they hear them every day in class. In fact, these kids would not want to go to a Master Leadership Class at all; another class…on leadership? When I said it out loud, it even sounded like a joke to me. What our kids wanted was to be out of school. We knew if we could get them off campus, they wouldn’t care where they were going. They would just want to go to get out of going to class.
Our team planned five MLC’s over the year and tied them to the first five six week periods. The perfect location was a sister school auditorium. It was beautiful and free. The only cost would be travel (buses) to and from the school and a sound crew to run the systems in the auditorium. Paying the sound crew was a breeze. But we had really underestimated the cost of buses for up to 600 students. That’s another story. Bottom line, the superintendent and many other key central staff members attended the first MLC. Afterwards, they enthusiastically agreed to support our travel the rest of the year. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Secondly, teachers could not be used as the key speakers. We needed our teachers to play a significant role, and knew their stories were real, valid, and should be shared, but students would need to hear from others as well. We needed celebrity speakers. We needed Oprah (and believe me, we tried, but to no avail). We needed people our kids could relate to, would know by face, and could hear a story relative to their own.
With charm and the amazing new social networks like Facebook, MLC wound up with a top 20 contestant from that summer’s, "So You Think You Can Dance," a former NFL football player, a High School Coach of the Year four times over, Jim Morris, the inspiration behind the movie The Rookie, and The Biggest Loser’s Danny Cahill for our keynote speakers. In addition we pulled together a Master Leadership Conference for the spring that included thirty area speakers covering career, health, and leadership. It was truly amazing.
Last, we needed to find a way to tie the concept of Master Leadership Class to the new structure of the school. How do we get students to look beyond the policies and procedures, beyond the dress code, beyond the idea that school didn’t matter? How could we get them to want to get on the bus to attend MLC? If we could just get them to the first one, I knew we would have them.
During the new school year orientation the guidelines and rewards of MLC was introduced. Students were intrigued. We consistently announced our first speaker would be a former NFL football player, but never said who it would be. Hopefully they would be curious enough to want to attend and see for themselves.
In order to get on the bus there were stipulations that must be followed. Every student received three wristbands that corresponded with our school colors. Navy represented behavior and read, “The Choice is Mine”. Gold represented attendance and read, “Priority One – Be Here!” White represented academics and read, “No Excuses, Just Results.” Students would have to make good choices. In order to keep their navy band, they couldn’t receive any consequences leading to a detention or worse. We had a very clear set of policies that defined how many written warnings were allowed before assigning a detention. The number was three. Anything beyond warranted a detention. We kept spreadsheets every day updating all written warnings.
Students would have to be in class every day, every period, on time. The only valid excuse would be a doctor’s note. A parent note would not cut it. This was the most challenging issue up front and remained so all year. Students were in the habit of showing up to school on their own time. It was a big change.
Finally, regardless of need, students would have to pass their classes. Any student who failed even one class would not be allowed to attend. MLC was meant to reward students who always did the right thing and also the ones who decided to do the right thing just to get off campus. The right thing is the right thing. It didn’t matter what the intent behind studying was, just that they did it.
The week before each MLC trip “golden tickets” with name labels attached to each one would be hand delivered. It was their ticket on the bus. The excitement from MLC to MLC grew and expanded as each one drew nearer. On the final MLC of the year several students told me they received a ticket for the first time all year. One ran in my office in tears because she was about to attend her first MLC.
It worked! Not for everyone, but for most students, it certainly did work. The day following the first MLC the tone and climate took a dramatic upturn. We had well over four hundred of the six hundred students attend every six weeks. Discipline was lower than it had been since before the high school existed. Those who did come in the office for behavior felt remorseful and devastated when their action led to missing that six weeks' MLC. Attendance was the most challenging of the three key areas of concern. We still struggled with it, but it did increase.
Master Leadership Class was the right program, at the right time, for the right school. But you must know our team did not throw all our “culture” eggs into the MLC basket alone. There were many other programs and significant moments that helped the atmosphere of our school continue to move uphill. One single concept did not change the school. MLC played a significant role, but it alone could never build what occurred that year. It was the whole process; one filled with risks and high end returns.
When it comes to changing the climate and culture of a school, there is no better place to invest your heart and resources than in programs that will meet the specific needs of the students you serve. Be willing to think outside the box and take a risk. To this day, the experience on that campus is my best so far. I’m so grateful I was trusted to serve that community – those amazing secondary students. I have no doubt it is a season they will also never forget.
Thank you to my wonderful leadership team and my best friend, Ena. You all made dreams come true. Thank you to the district that stood behind an innovative, very outside the box, risky program. Thank you to incredible speakers who donated time and energy to remind a hurting group of urban kids that all challenges can be overcome, despite the dream-killers around you. And thank you to a strong group of students who overcame their pride and stood up for the right thing. I love you all so much. Continue to be the success you already are and share your story! Like Oprah said, “Every person has a story, every story has a lesson.” What’s yours and who’s learning from it?
Artistically challenged? Tired of looking at hand-drawn maps that barely resemble their topographical subject?
Perhaps it’s time to re-energize and refocus your students—and yourself—with Interactive Map Generator Apps for teachers.
If you haven't delved into the realms of "Apps for Teachers" there has never been a better time. Infographics are one of the most useful and fun apps for teachers and students. They help to capture the attention of those visual learners and your students will be inspired to up the ante on their own presentations.
Several Infographic Generator sites have excellent map generators, allowing you and your students to present accurate, colorful, and data-rich visuals of the places you are studying.
5 Interactive Map Generator Apps for Educators
Apps for educators offer one more way to bring technology into the classroom and make life easier for you and your students. The more you learn about using infographics in the classroom, the more you will continue to do so. You will have the attention of students who usually zone out when an adult is talking, and provide a tool for the less-artistically inclined to create presentations they can be proud of.
You might be interested in becoming an educational technologist; maybe you want to become a principal and are considering a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Perhaps you are interested in professional development and would like to earn a Master’s in the Art of Teaching. Whatever the case may be, Marygrove College has several online masters’ programs tailored to fit your needs—and your wallet!
The following is a modified excerpt from Sterrett’s ASCD book titled Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works. (From Chapter 6, titled “From In-Class Instruction to Out-of-School Learning," featuring interview quotes from Richard Louv.)
If including nature in the daily school experience enhances health, the learning environment, and test scores, then why not find ways to do it?- Richard Louv
Combating Nature-Deficit Disorder
Best-selling author Richard Louv wants us all to get outside more—much more. Louv, the recipient of numerous recognitions and awards, including the 2008 Audubon Medal, chairs the Children & Nature Network, which has identified and supported "more than 80 city, state, provincial, and regional campaigns focused on getting children and you out into nature" (Charles, Louv, & St. Antoine, 2010, p. 8). In his book Last Child in the Woods, Louv (2008) discusses the phenomenon of nature-deficit disorder, which he defines as a "growing gap between human beings and nature, with implications for health and well-being" (p. 26). In today's schools, nearly all instructional time is spent indoors. Many factors are to blame, from the standards and accountability movement to inadequate planning, safety concerns, community restrictions, and lack of access for some sites. Whatever the reasons, Louv insists that the recent push for natural school reform "is long overdue" (p. 204). (See video overview of Louv's work here: http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/videos/ )
Although some children are particularly drawn to the natural world as a facet of the naturalist intelligence posited by Howard Gardner (1999), research (Charles & Louv, 2009) increasingly indicates that all students could benefit from a greater emphasis on environment-based education. Louv explains that "researchers have demonstrated that student achievement levels rise in core academic areas, including reading, math, and science, when nature is included in the curriculum. Simply put, when the outdoors is included in a well-conceived program, learning increases and test scores reflect this." Overall, studies have shown that environment-based education can reduce discipline infractions, improve attendance, and bring to life subjects that are viewed by students as stale, boring, or irrelevant. A few examples of benefits of environment-based education from a compilation of research by Charles and Senauer (2010) include the following:
In this world of increasing accountability and teacher burnout, nature learning can also provide educators with a fresh perspective on learning. According to Louv, "Canadian researchers found that teachers expressed renewed enthusiasm for teaching when they had time outdoors. In an era when teachers must do more with less, the impact of green schools and outdoor education on teachers' motivation should not be underestimated. Ultimately, K–12 education cannot be reformed without reforming higher education, which sets many of the standards and expectations for primary and secondary education. We'll need leaders who understand how the natural world works and how humans are a part of nature. Superintendents, principals, school board members—and teachers—are key elements."
. . .
As the research indicates, principals and teachers play a significant role in shaping nature learning for students. This is increasingly difficult in our test-driven climate, yet it is essential. By taking a few steps to infuse students' lives with the outdoors, principals and teachers can instill in students a sense of community and healthy priorities for years to come. Here is an abbreviated list from Insights into Action of practical steps that educators can take:
Create Ownership - Devote a faculty meeting to doing a "grounds walk" with your colleagues and discuss ways in which your school might incorporate nature learning into existing curricular goals.
Enlist Volunteers- Enlist the help of parents and other volunteers, who can play a crucial role in the learning community by helping infuse nature learning.
Highlight Your Nature Learning Initiatives- School websites, bulletin boards, community announcements, newsletters, and school improvement goals should highlight how learning can and does occur outside school walls.
Take School-wide Field Trips - Field trips can serve two important purposes: to provide an opportunity to experience nature and to bring the learning community together.
Provide Team Building for Staff- Ropes course, anyone? Engaging in such activities helps leaders set an example for colleagues and reinforces that there is much to be learned from the outdoors.
Provide Team Building for Students- Many local camps and recreational therapists offer ropes courses, team-building exercises, and other services that are tied in with nature learning.
Develop Thematic Units – Are there collaborative ways that your department (or grade level) can coordinate efforts to study, plant, create, or learn outdoors together?
Get Outdoors, Anytime, for Any Reason- You don't have to have a specific nature-based unit in place to benefit from the outdoors. The bottom line is, students benefit individually and the classroom climate benefits as a whole from time spent in nature.
Let's Go Outside
If we want to change what happens within our school walls, perhaps we should start by learning outside them. Incorporating nature learning in our schools is necessary and revitalizing, and it can bring the community together. By seeking support and working toward deliberate goals, today's educators and leaders can address nature-deficit disorder in a variety of ways. It is a challenge that all of us can and should accept: Let's go outside and learn.
Source: Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works (pp. 68-71, 74-77), by William Sterrett. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. ©2011 by ASCD. Reprinted with permission. Learn more about ASCD at www.ascd.org . Purchase this title at: http://shop.ascd.org/Default.aspx?TabID=55&ProductId=36913916 For an overview of the book, links to chapters and full bibliography, see http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/112009-overview.aspx You can follow on Twitter @billsterrett
A couple of weeks ago, the noted philosopher and veteran social critic, Noam Chomsky, spoke to the youth of the Occupy Boston camp and advised them to occupy the world. In the same week, David Brooks of the New York Times reminded readers that the 99% can be defined in terms other than wealth. He suggested that most important 99% is the portion of American youth who receive an education vastly inferior to the needs of the 21st century. Finally, there have been numerous articles criticizing the Occupy movement for failing to articulate a list of demands.
It appears to me it might be time for educators to step in and fill the gaps. I suggest that our industry formulate a set of non-negotiable demands that would, if implemented, address the issues raised by the Occupy protestors and critics alike. In fact, were these demands met, the future of the world would look quite different from the future now before us. So let education do its part with an Occupy the Future movement.
The demands must be simply stated, above politics, and speak to the deepest convictions of teachers. They must rise above the current debate over teacher salaries and evaluations, per pupil expenditures, charter schools, or similar operational questions. They must be system-busting, change-oriented, paradigm–shifting demands that really will alter the direction of the planet.
By choice, the Occupy movement has no leaders. This is appropriate to the Age, in which change begins at the bottom of the power structure and flows through horizontal social networks. The Occupy the Future movement can do the same. Instead of relying on representatives from the Department of Education, state legislatures, District Offices, or the vast number of special interest organizations that inhabit the education space, let’s take our cue from what the overwhelming number of teachers in this country (and most other countries) know is right about educating children. Let’s speak with a collective voice.
As part of the collective, here is a five-point list of demands I would suggest for the Occupy the Future movement:
Thom Markham, Ph.D., is a psychologist and school redesign consultant who assists teachers in designing high quality, rigorous projects that incorporate 21st century skills and the principles of youth development. He may be reached through his website at www.thommarkham.com.
We can talk about merit pay, accountability and tenure. We can debate (endlessly it seems) students first, testing, failing schools, poverty and unions. We can go toe to toe over the value of choice, charters and vouchers. PISA, Finland, Arne and Rhee. Ravitch, Race to the Top and common core. All worthwhile conversations. And necessary.
And perhaps moot.
While we haggle over evolution and intelligent design, revisionist history texts and the best way to grade and fire teachers, there is a larger beast afoot: The increasing global instability caused by (and/or exacerbated by) climate change.
Were we hunter gatherers, this might not be much of an issue. We could simply gather up camp and follow the mouth watering scent of big, tasty mammals. A bit warmer here? A bit cooler there? No big deal. Heck, we might even appreciate a few more roasty-toasty days. "It's only the spring equinox and it's already time to break out my summer loin cloth, dear. And look, the ocean is closer than it was yesterday! Let's go nab some fish." But we aren't hunter gatherers. (Unless hunting for sales and gathering coupons counts. Which may explain why we are only peripherally aware of warning signs so large we almost can't see them.)
Black swan events have almost become routine. We practically don't even notice them anymore. "Another one hundred year flood of the Mississippi? Ho hum. Monster hurricane? Yawn. Obscenely enormous tornado devastates entire city? Been there, done that." And that is just here in the states.
Take a peek beyond our borders and the trend continues: droughts, heat waves, blizzards, monsoons -- all breaking records at an alarming rate. When athletes annihilate records at a break neck pace we suspect The Juice, and congressional meetings ensue. When the planet breaks meteorological records at the same rate, we implement standardized tests and line up to buy Priuses.
Unfortunately, the Purchase-A-Bunch-of-"Green"-Stuff Solution will not suffice. We can't buy our way to a more sustainable planet. We may have to go so far as to -- eek, eek -- educate our youth; and not just in how live more sustainably, but in how to assess and adapt in a rapidly changing environment. Or, more simply, how to: Learn. Apply. Repeat.
In an article in the New York Times, "A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself," Justin Gillis unpacks some of the myriad factors currently affecting the global food supply and hints at potential calamities coming to a destabilized ecosystem near you. It is not a pretty picture. In fact, for people in developing countries, it is absolutely bleak. With over 900 million people (NEARLY 1 BILLION!) already lacking access to clean water and adequate food, and the population set to hit 10 billion well before the end of the century, and more fantastically gigantic natural disasters sure to come, we must ready ourselves, or at least our students.
And our education system.
I'm a fan of reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. All are important. As is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). I'm also a fan of standards. I like knowing what students should be able to do, as long as the standards don't limit learning and growth.
However, more so than the skill achievements quantifiable by a company's question bank and bubble sheets, I'm a fan of doing, engaging and tackling. I want to see my students wrestling with issues beyond them and larger than life.
When the Gulf Oil spill happened, we teamed with an FSU marine biologist to help conduct baseline mole crab surveys in the event the oil made it this far. We couldn't stop the spewing gas, but dag-nab-it, we could take the learning opportunity and squeeze it for all its worth.
Did we meet standards? You betcha. Did we read, 'rite and do 'rithemetic? You betcha. Did we apply the scientific method in a relevant context, analyze data and investigate systems? You betcha.
More important than all of that, however, is that students made connections between scholarship and the environment. They investigated a local ecosystem and increased their knowledge of the many dynamics at play while also sensing the unquantifiable value of an unspoiled stretch of nature. We need more of that. Students must become experts in the land we have and architects of the Earth they want.
This won't happen through test prep and bubble sheets, text books and number 2's, or sentence diagrams and grammar worksheets.
Students need to get their hands dirty. They need to experience where their food comes from, where their poop goes and what it actually means to live on a cup of rice for a day. They need to feel and learn about the profound connection between dirt and life. We need an education system that gives students transformative and empowering experiences that bring them face to face with the delicate balance between the environment and humanity.
If climate change predictions are correct (and I'm believe they are), oceans and temperatures will rise; droughts, floods and storms will increase; and lives will be disrupted.
People will suffer. People will die. One of them could be one of my girls. One of them could be one of yours.
Our children must learn how to live on this planet sustainably, with everyone, peacefully. Everything else is just blissful white noise.