Search ASCD EDge
If anyone of you has not read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, then you are really missing out on some effective communication strategies to use with your students and staff. Chapman describes 5 different ways to communicate effectively to the ones we hold dear to us. Now, you may be freaking out a little because that kind of language sounds too intimate for the workplace, right? Wrong!! Actually, he did write this book for more intimate relationships, such as spouses or close family and friends. However, after reading this book for about the fifth time, I had a revelation! Why didn’t I see it before? I think it was because, like you are thinking, the words “love language” sounded too mushy for a working environment. Nevertheless, Gary Chapman has inspired me to be a leader who loves. When I use the word leader, I do not mean just an administrator but any person who leads others. A leader could be a classroom teacher, an interventionist, coach, nurse, secretary, content specialist, bus driver, etc.
Chapman discusses five languages desired by human hearts. His languages are recipes for healthy, happy relationships. According to the author, most of us have a preferred way to be treated by others in order to feel worthy. Reciprocally, we also have a favored style we use to show others we care about them. For many of us, we will demonstrate to others we care in the same way that we choose to be loved.
Below are the five languages discussed in the book along with examples, which I’ve added:
• Words of Affirmation- saying nice or kind words to the person
• Quality Time- Having a meaningful, quality conversation; listening
• Receiving Gifts- a coffee, favorite snack, an inexpensive token of appreciation
• Acts of Service- teaching a class for someone or doing their duty
• Physical Touch- a hug, a pat on the back, or a touch on the shoulder that says you care
As a leader, you also yearn to be esteemed by one of these languages; you may even have two. In fact, you may desire all of these to some degree, but you probably have at least one or two dominant languages that feed your soul. More often than not, you show others you care by reciprocating with your dominant language(s).
For instance, I am “words of affirmation” and “quality time”. In order to have my emotional tank filled, I need to hear kind, positive words about something I am doing or who I am. I also love spending time with others. As a wife, mom, and assistant principal, I tend to show others I care by participating in the same actions; that’s just human nature. I do have to be aware that others may not share my same dominant language. Their heart could thrive on one of the other three. So, even though my tank is getting the fuel it needs, the person I am with may not. I have to pay careful attention to signs that will help me identify their dominant language. It may take experimenting and time, especially with students.
As a school leader, it is important to realize our students and staff have emotional needs. These language identifiers really help! Just think about how you could get children to do what they are supposed to do by simply speaking their language! On the flip side, you must be careful and sensitive whenever critiquing or disciplining them. If you use a lot of words that may be considered “put-downs” to a person who attains some of their self-worth from words of affirmation, you can actually degrade the individual. It does not mean the student or staff member cannot take constructive criticism; we just need to be mindful as to how we deliver our words. Many times, our well-behaved students and staff might feel neglected, especially if their language is quality time. Really, think about this…. Who gains most of our attention? Yes, those who require more of our time and attention for learning or behaving.
Building relationships is key to sustaining a great educational environment for our students and staff. You really have everything to gain in just trying. It can’t hurt to affirm or care for someone a little too much as long as it is genuine. In my opinion, it is a win-win situation.
Next month I will travel to Los Angeles to join many of my students, almost all of whom I have only know through our Adobe Connect online classroom, for commencement from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. As a full-time faculty member at USC, I have the privilege to work with students from across the country and world in our face-to-face, synchronous online Masters of Arts in Teaching program. I prepare teachers for certification or to advance their practice.
One of my students was able to “score” tickets for us to go see a taping of the new Disney series “Girl Meets World” on May 14. To say I am excited, well, that would be an understatement! Maybe “totally stoked” would be more apt a description. When I was a middle school social studies teacher and later a middle and high school principal, the original series “Boy Meets World” was at the peak of its popularity. One of the greatest memories (and greatest honors) I have of my middle school students was when they would liken me to Feeny. Since I am overdue for a blog post, I decided to consider some of the many lessons that Feeny could teach all of us as educators. Here are my top ten (each scene is quoted first and then it is followed by what I have deemed “the Feeny Lesson” from that quote):
Season 1, Episode 1 (1993):
Cory Matthews: Mr. Feeny, who cares about a guy who killed himself for some dumb girl?
Mr. George Feeny: The tragedy here, Mr. Matthews, is not about a dumb girl, or the boy who kills himself because of her. It's about the all-consuming power of love. And the inevitability of its influence on each of our lives.
Cory Matthews: [pauses] Are you aware that I'm only eleven years old?
Lesson: Don’t talk down to your students, believe that they can understand and learn by being spoken to like adults—even if they don’t realize it!
Season 4, Episode 17 (1997):
Mr. George Feeny: Even though this isn't a classroom at the moment, would you mind if I taught you a lesson anyway?
Topanga Lawrence: Please.
Mr. George Feeny: Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I cared for someone as deeply as you two care for each other now.
Cory Matthews: You believe we love each other?
Mr. George Feeny: And for no reason I understood, my wife was taken from me, and I haven't been so deeply in love since.
Cory Matthews: [to Topanga] Feeny believes we love each other!
Mr. George Feeny: I believe that when you find love, you hold on to it, and cherish it! Because there is nothing finer, and may never come again. And that, my dears, is the most important thing I could teach you.
Lesson: Our work as educators is not and should not be bound by the walls of the classroom—there are important life lessons that we can teach our students that extend far beyond the formal curriculum.
Season 2, Episode 9 (1994):
Katherine 'Kat' Tompkins: This Jonathan Turner guy, what's the deal with him?
George Feeny: It's really not my place to comment, from one teacher to another.
Katherine 'Kat' Tompkins: Oh, come on. He asked me out! I just wanna know if he's an axe murderer.
George Feeny: It wasn't on his resumé.
Lesson: How to handle gossip in the teacher’s lounge—enough said!
Season 7, Episode 23 (2000):
Mr. George Feeny: Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good
Topanga: Don't you mean "do well"?
Mr. George Feeny: No, I mean "do good".
Lesson: Doing “well” and doing “good” are not the same thing—and as teachers, it is not that we must work to merely do our jobs well, but we must strive to “do good” for our communities, our schools, and, most importantly, our students.
Season 1, Episode 8 (1993):
Cory Matthews: Shawn, what was your mother's maiden name?
Shawn Hunter: Cordini.
Cory Matthews: Cordini, so that would make you a WOP, right?
Shawn Hunter: What did you call me?
Cory Matthews: You heard what I called you.
Shawn Hunter: [to Feeny] Did you hear what he called me?
George Feeny: I heard what he called you.
Shawn Hunter: What're you going to do about it?
George Feeny: He's the teacher, what're YOU going to do about it?
Shawn Hunter: I'm gonna knock his head off!
Cory Matthews: What if you couldn't? What if you couldn't do anything about it?
Shawn Hunter: What?
Cory Matthews: What if you lived in a country where I could KILL you just because of your mom's last name.
Shawn Hunter: Cory, what're you talking about?
Cory Matthews: A 15 year old girl is DEAD! Doesn't anybody care? She was really smart and totally cool. Her name was Anne Frank, she wrote this book. They say she died of typhus but they killed her, BECAUSE her name was Anne Frank.
Lesson: Sometimes our students can be the best teachers of each other—and our job should include giving them opportunities to do so.
Season 4, Episode 11 (1996):
George Feeny: Eric, in the play of your life all your great scenes lie ahead of you.
Eric Matthews: So you're saying in thirty or forty years I could write a play that you would wanna come and see?
George Feeny: No, tonight pretty much killed any interest I had in the theater.
Eric Matthews: Mr. Feeny you know everything. Where does my life go from here?
George Feeny: Well, now, you have passion. You have drive. You certainly have guts. I frankly can't wait to see what happens to you.
Eric Matthews: So you're not gonna tell me to give up my life as an actor and go get a college education?
George Feeny: Eric I told you to get a college education ten-thousand times. I don't have to tell you anymore.
Eric Matthews: What about my life as an actor?
George Feeny: Get a college education.
Lesson: Encourage students and support them in even their wildest dreams—but tether them to reality as well, and guide them toward choices that will open doors rather than close them.
Season 6, Episode 1 (1998):
Mr. George Feeny: You can't tell Cory and Topanga what to do. I've been trying to do that since the first grade. I remember when I tried to separate their desks. She kicked me. He bit me. And some little punk kept saying "Leave 'em alone. They should get married."
Shawn Hunter: I was cute then, huh?
Mr. George Feeny: Precious.
Lesson: Looping works—when we stay with students year after year, we develop a better understanding of who they are as people and what their unique needs are. Even if we don’t loop, it is important for us and to them that we maintain continued relationships with our students even after they move on to another teacher.
Season 4, Episode 15 (1997):
Mr. George Feeny: [passing by] Good morning, Miss Lawrence, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Hunter.
[stops, then turns to Shawn, who is dressed as a girl]
Mr. George Feeny: If there's anything you need to talk about, my door is always open.
Shawn Hunter: It’s for an article we’re writing, Mr. Feeny!
Mr. George Feeny: I'm not here to judge.
Lesson: Notice when our students may need someone to talk to—then remind them that we are there to listen and that we will listen without judgment, that we will support them no matter what.
Season 4, Episode 19 (1997):
Cory Matthews: Mr. Feeny, look, the show's proving that we're absorbing the right kind of knowledge, I mean that's why we're the champions.
[the class applauds]
George Feeny: Hold it, hold it, wait a minute. Champions of what, Mr. Matthews? Of a generation whose verbal and mathematical skills have sunk SO low, when you have the highest technology at your fingertips? Gutenburg's generation thirsted for a new book every six months. Your generation gets a new web page every six seconds. And how do you use this technology? To beat King Koopa, and save the princess. Shame on you. You deserve what you get.
Lesson: Technology is only as effective as the users—and just because we use technology for something does not make the thing we are using technology for somehow inherently valuable or worthwhile.
Season 7, Episode 23 (2000):
[Eric hugs Mr. Feeny and follows Topanga and Shawn out the door]
George Feeny: So Mr. Matthews
Cory Matthews: You think we've known each other long enough for you to call me Cory?
George Feeny: I think I've known you long enough to call you Cornielius
Cory Matthews: Ssh! Mr. Feeny! Not even Topanga knows that.
George Feeny: Your secret is safe with me.
Cory Matthews: Well. I got Topanga to go to New York.
George Feeny: Good for you.
Cory Matthews: She's not even scared anymore.
George Feeny: Nor should she be.
Cory Matthews: I am.
George Feeny: Well, you have a right to be.
[Cory finally breaks down and hugs Mr. Feeny]
Cory Matthews: You coming with us Mr. Feeny? You gonna sneak up on us in Central Park or something?
George Feeny: No, I shall remain here.
Cory Matthews: No. You'll always be with us. As long as we live okay?
[Cory walks out the door. Mr. Feeny looks around the room]
George Feeny [the last line of the series “Boy Meets World”]: I love you all... Class dismissed
Lesson: Know your students well, even better than they want their friends to know them—and love them, even if you wait until they all leave the room to tell them, because you will always be with them (whether you’ve done them right or done them wrong).
The inimitable William Daniels, who played Feeny in “Boy Meets World,” had two other roles in his career that hold special places in my heart: As John Adams in the 1969(?) musical AND 1972 film “1776,” he was with me every year that I taught middle school social studies and taught that very play and as the voice of K.I.T.T. in the TV series “Knight Rider,” he was a significant part of my own childhood television watching! I would feel remiss if I did not include two bonus lessons from Feeny, but in each of those other two significant roles:
Act I, Scene 3 – (1972—“1776”)
John Adams: Now you'll write it, Mr. J.
Thomas Jefferson: Who will make me, Mr. A?
John Adams: I.
Thomas Jefferson: You?
John Adams: Yes!
[Jefferson—6 feet 4—steps up, towering over Adams—5 feet 8—and looks down at him]
Thomas Jefferson: How?
[tapping his chest with the quill pen]
John Adams: By physical force, if necessary.
Lesson: There are times when we must make a stand—even when the odds are stacked against us—so that the job will get done. Teachers are often the little guys and we must stand up to the big guys, for what we know is right, even when (like Jefferson with Adams) they are actually on our side (although, history tells us of the extraordinary love-hate relationship those two Founding Fathers really had).
Season 2, Episode 5 (1983—“Knight Rider”)
K.I.T.T.: Michael, I've been thinking about David Dudley's sportscar. I'm afraid it may have met with a dreadful end.
Michael Knight: I don't follow.
K.I.T.T.: It's occurred to me that in so far as the car is essentially evidence in a shooting, those hoodlums may have disposed of it in that crusher at the wrecking yard.
Michael Knight: Oh, well that would make a compact out of it, wouldn't it?
K.I.T.T.: I fail to see the humor in that. It's a most humiliating way to go, transformed into a tin can..
Michael Knight: Well, I'll remember that the next time I have sardines.
K.I.T.T.: Really, Michael. Sometimes you're so insensitive.
Lesson: Have empathy and realize that the lived experiences of our students may not be the same as our own—the things that may seem inconsequential or fodder for a joke to us may actually be genuinely and deeply personal for them.
It is worth the side note for me to explain why “Girl Meets World” is really the full circle for me. Like Feeny, I was a classroom teacher turned principal. And like Cory Matthews (who grew up to become a teacher like his own mentor/second father “Mr. Feeny”), I grew up to become a teacher in (I can only hope) the likeness of my own mentors/second fathers, Mr. D and Mr. E and, of course, my own father who was also a teacher and then school administrator.
As I understand it, William Daniels has reprised (or will reprise) the role of Feeny in some capacity for the new series and I can only hope that he will appear on the episode taping on May 14—but in any event, I can’t wait! And so concludes this blog post and my tribute to “Feeny” a.k.a. William Daniels a.k.a. K.I.T.T. a.k.a. John Adams. Class dismissed!
Many school districts in America have a Service Learning requirement. An idea well-intentioned but poorly implemented in most schools. Teachers and Administrators who have never even done volunteer work now demand that their students do what they have never done. Needless to say these administrators offer nothing but lip service to the cause. We set the requirement but then we back off, we want nothing to do with these service learning requirements. "That's your problem kiddo" go get it done. And by the way stop whining about it, just go do it. The teenager is now left to fend for themselves with little help from the adults in their world. Oh, sure we offer the opportunity for the students to meet after school with their counselor or the service learning coordinator to discuss upcoming opportunities but what about the adults who stand in front of them every day? Where are they? They are nowhere to be found.
Let's be honest we forced this requirement upon our students because we believed it's so damned important but the truth is we do not walk the walk and talk the talk. If teachers and administrators truly believe that service learning is so damned important (and even if they do not) it is about time educators began to support the service learning agenda. It is about time educators stopped hiding behind empty rhetoric and began including service learning into the curriculum.
Every single requirement for students is supported at school except service learning. Driver’s education is supported with classes and books, so is physical education, the constitution exam, health, sex education and the arts. But when it comes to service learning we kick the kids to the curb and wish them luck. Then we blame them when the appropriate number of hours is not met in the given time frame. If schools are going to make service learning mandatory then it's about time these educators began supporting this requirement with more than slogans and suggestions.
The solution is simple. Every teacher at school must include two service learning projects into their unit plans every year. If the subject you are teaching is relevant then there must be some practical way to integrate this into your instruction. If you cannot do this then your subject is not worth teaching.
Schools exist to prepare our young to be productive members of society. How is this possible if we do not demonstrate how the topic presented in class each day applies to a real world situation? Service Learning is the only graduation requirement we throw at students with little or no support. If we really believe in the value of service learning then let's start supporting that requirement in deeds not just with words. Let’s bring service learning into the curriculum front and center. Let’s give everybody a stake in the responsibility to complete and implement the service learning requirement
As a high school teacher, I used an array of diverse assessments to measure and evaluate student achievement and success. Many varied components would go into each student’s grades and narratives – test and quiz results, the quality of projects, writings and self-reflections, observations of students, and judgments regarding effort, growth, and class participation. Given the multiple student cognitive abilities, attitudes, character traits, and strengths and problems, it would have been foolish of me to use only one type of measure to determine a students’ success in my class.
Given that multiple types of assessments such as the ones I used above are used by most teachers, one would expect that appropriate, multiple assessment approaches would be also used to assess school and district success. Thus, it is surprising that “one size fits all” standardized tests, with their major emphasis on multiple choice-short answer questions, are touted as the major, and often the only way to judge school success, student achievement, and even teacher effectiveness.
Unfortunately, the sole use of these traditional tests pose many problems for assessing actual student knowledge, skills, abilities, talents and interests. First, many educators and lay people suggest that standardized tests often do not do a good job of measuring the purported skills associated with them. For example, as recently pointed out by a New York State teacher in a NY Times op-ed piece, the New York English Language Arts test questions do “a poor job of testing reading comprehension”. A student’s answers to the questions on this test have “little bearing on [his or her] reading ability and yet [have] huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools”[i]. Some students also might be good readers but do poorly on the reading test because of their poor test-taking skills.
Second, standardized tests have limited use in evaluating whether students have learned many of the most important skills required for college work or for living in a 21st century world, such as interest in learning, motivation to learn, research and study skills, coherent writing abilities, effective oral communication skills, project and problem-based development skills, problem finding and question asking, the ability to apply learning to authentic situations, scientific investigation skills, “deep” thinking, student “grit”, and the development of each individual student’s talents and abilities.
In addition, the tests usually provide schools and teachers with limited, if any, feedback to help them figure out how to improve teaching and learning. And, unfortunately, they also have a number of negative side effects, such as increasing sterile test-prep activities, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student anxiety and frustrations, and reducing student interest in learning. Many of our best teachers write about how the emphasis on testing plays havoc with their curriculum, the interest and motivation of their students, and their joy of teaching. Some have even left the teaching profession altogether because of their school or district emphasis on preparing for standardized tests.
As opposition to the use of these tests increases, and a greater understanding of their limitations and negative consequences develops, it is imperative that opponents to standardized testing suggest alternatives. In fact, there should be many varied assessments used to determine school and district success, just as there are many and varied types of educational goals, results, and students. This is a very different paradigm from the “one size fits all” standardized testing results model of measuring success. So, described briefly below are some examples of types of measures that might be combined into an assessment plan useful for judging district and school success, student achievement, and the school or district conditions that limit or reinforce success. The first number of measures are designed to measure output – achievement and successes of students, their involvement and participation in multiple types of activities, perceptions of stakeholders in how the school is meeting their needs, and so on. The second set of measures focus on input: characteristics of student population, conditions under which students learn, amount of resources available, the quality of curriculum and teaching, and others.
Achievement, Successes, Activity Involvement, and Perceptions
Student graduation data
What do students do when they graduate, where do they go and how successful are they both during their time with us and after they leave us?
In analyzing school success, data should be regularly collected on the % of students who graduate and what they do after graduation (types and names of colleges and universities attended, financial aid obtained, military enlistees, technical school attendees, etc.); what % of those who attend college graduate and why do they drop out; college majors. Student data also should include surveys and interviews with graduates to find out their levels of satisfaction with their K-12 school programs;
Mission-related achievement data
How well do our students meet the mission of our school or district?
Student data should be collected and analyzed that demonstrate achievement and success based on mission-related goals. For example, a school specializing in the visual arts might collect data on the type of artwork students complete and a sampling of student portfolios; a school with an emphasis on music may focus assessments around the types of student performances given by students and the skill level of its music students. Vo-Tech schools might collect data on the types of training received by each student, their post high school plans and career goals, their job placements and acceptance levels into advanced programs.
Report card results
How successful are our students, based on the results of their daily and yearly work?
We know that the best predictors of student achievement and success lie with how well students do in their classes and in the recommendations of teachers and others in the school. We therefore need to make sure that each school or district develop specific, “standards-based” report cards, built around measures of 21st century goals, that reflect how well students succeed and grow in their classes and courses. Report cards should be broken down into specific cognitive and social expectations, with ratings that use levels of achievement as well as grades. Narrative comments convey specific information to parents-guardians about the strengths of individual children and areas that need improvement.
Report card data can be summarized to provide a picture of how well the school or district is doing to meet the needs of its students. Randomly selected report cards, along with narrative comments, can also be collected and shared.
Cornerstone-graduation project(s) results
How well do our students complete “cornerstone” projects that both develop and assess core 21st century skills?
Cornerstone projects consist of research projects and “authentic” performance tasks that culminate in presentations and exhibitions and demonstrate in-depth understanding of ideas, the ability to use 21st century skills, and the ability to transfer and apply learning. Students who are able to develop questions around their interests or suggested topics, conduct research, read and comprehend, write essays and research papers, and make presentations to others demonstrate an understanding of content and competence in using significant skills.
Cornerstone project results at different school levels demonstrate progress towards the development of these skills as well as final mastery of them.
Student plans for the future
What are student plans for the future?
Every student should be required to develop a plan for his or her future, indicating their next steps after graduating from high school and their more visionary goals for the future. Part of the development of a plan should include research about future educational goals, career options and choices. A summary of these plans is an important indicator of school and district success.
What is the comprehensive nature of individual student work?
Portfolios - collections of student work - help us to assess actual student work and incorporate “real learning” into the assessment process, not the artificial, “out of context” kind of learning assessed through standardized tests. Portfolios are also individualized and customized to demonstrate an individual’s nuanced and varied skill levels, talents, abilities, and interests. Today, with Internet capability, an individual student’s best writing and/or artwork, project results, tests, self-reflections, plans for the future, and other student work can be scanned and placed electronically into portfolios.
Students should be asked to develop portfolios of their work throughout their K-12 experience. Sample portfolios, or parts of portfolios, can be used to illustrate the types of work students are doing within the school or district, and how well a school or district is helping students master key 21st century knowledge and skills.
Survey-focus group data
What do parents, students and teachers think about us?
In this day and age of the Internet, it is relatively easy to develop, post, and summarize survey data. Every school and district should collect data from parents, students and teachers at least once a year, and then use the data to review its programs, applaud its strengths, and figure out ways to improve what it does[ii].
What do graduates and dropouts think about us?
Once students leave school and move on to colleges and other post high-school experiences, they have greater perspective on their experiences and can often provide valuable insights into the strengths of a school program and “needs improvement” areas. Data from graduates should be sought after, even if it is often difficult to collect.
Attempts should be made to collect and analyze data from dropouts, even if this data might be difficult to collect, in order to indicate why they dropped out of school and therefore suggest ways to help other students stay in school.
How do students view our school? What do they see as our positive and negative features?
Students who will be leaving one school to go to another school within the district (e.g. from elementary to middle school) or leaving a school to transfer to a school outside the district, or graduating from high school should be the focus of special attention when it comes to surveys and data collection. These students should be asked to reflect on their school experiences and focus on what they perceive as the strengths of the school they are leaving, the major learnings resulting from their school experiences, and suggestions for improving their learning experience. This data should be collected, analyzed and shared.
Community service and field-based activities
What are our students’ opportunities to connect with and apply their learning to the outside world?
How do students provide service to the community? How do students connect with the outside world via field trips, career days, and so on? How do outside individuals and groups provide services to and work with students within a school? These and other similar questions should be part of data collection that is shared and used to provide feedback on connections to real world, outside resources.
Extra-curricular, support, or enrichment activities
What opportunities are there for students to participate in extra-curricular, support and enrichment activities? How much do our students take advantage of extra-curricula, support and enrichment activities?
“Extra curricular” activities provide opportunities for students to explore and learn about a variety of options that are beyond academics. What extra-curricular activities are available? Data should be available that indicates which students are partake of which extra-curricular activities, and how often they do so.
In a similar vein, are their support and enrichment activities available for students? Data should indicate which students participate in these and why.
Conditions, Culture, Teaching, Curriculum, Resources,
School and district student population, resource availability and conditions
What are the characteristics of our student population? What resources do we have available to support our teachers and students? What school or district conditions help or hinder us in meeting achievement goals?
This data helps us to understand the characteristics of the school, district and student population, and resource adequacy, needs problems and challenges. The data include information about student populations, such as ELL, special education, identified gifted populations; the number of students on free or reduced lunch. Other data includes the % of students who drop out of a school or district before graduation and the reasons why they leave; % who are “lifers” within the same school or district, % of students who are absent 10 or more days a year, % of students given suspensions and other discipline data, and mobility rates.
District and school information include, among other things, resources available for technology, supplies, materials and other needs; class sizes; adequacy of library-media centers, art-music, and extra curricular programs; and support personnel available (NTA’s, nurses, counselors, community laiasons).
Curricular programs and instructional activities
What are the common types of curricular programs and instructional activities used in classrooms?
One part of a school or district assessment plan might include examples of the kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning experiences that are incorporated into classrooms and other activities. Suppose, for example, that the school or district promotes inquiry learning. Do teachers in the district use an inquiry learning model in their classrooms? If yes, what does learning look like? What are the essential features of the mathematical curriculum? The reading-language arts curriculum? Are there any special programs in place (e.g. leveled books, writing process, deep learning, competitions) that provide the opportunity for a different type of learning experience for students?
School and program reviews
How can we increase the amount of “objective” assessment data in order to determine our successes and improve our programs?
When I was on the staff of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, an educational service agency in Bucks County, PA, we conducted a number of program reviews for our constituent districts each year. We would enlist a number of teachers, administrators, and experts from across the county and the area to spend three days in a district examining and analyzing all or part of the district’s program. Our final report would list the strengths and needs of the program, and also make suggested recommendations for improving the program.
These types of reviews are extremely valuable for a school or district, especially since an outside agency is conducting the review. It provide a wealth of objective information and data, along with suggestions for improvement, that help to assess a program and provide the impetus for making changes.
Building a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP)
Just as we should expect teachers to build a comprehensive assessment plan to measure student success and achievement in their classes, so should we expect schools and districts to build a Comprehensive Assessment Plan (CAP) that measures both output and input: a broad array of types of achievement, successes, involvement, perceptions, conditions, culture, and resources. The plan should both assess student achievement, growth, and development, and also be useful in improving school conditions and success in the future.
The selection of a set of a core set of assessments, built into a Comprehensive Assessment Plan, may be best determined by each school or district, depending on its resources, options, and viewpoints. My own view is that a combination of student population and school and district conditions-resource data, strong report card and student portfolio data, cornerstone project results, and surveys of and reflections from current students and graduates will provide significant and important data on how well a school or district is doing as well as the conditions under which schools, districts and teachers operate.
In today’s world of e-mails, Internet surveys, smartphones, computers, tablets, much of this data would be relatively easy to collect. Many of these measures, taken together, can become part of a holistic school-district annual report card, presented by a principal or superintendent to school boards and available to the general public. They can be used to identify problems that need to be addressed. They present a much more nuanced picture of how well a school is doing, the qualities of student graduates, what issues a school or district are facing, and what steps need to be taken to improve the results.
Unfortunately, a broad, varied array of assessment data just doesn’t get collected and developed by itself. A school or district needs to assign someone who is responsible for the development, collection, and analysis of this complex data. The person responsible might even be part of a collaborative, regional effort. The development of this more comprehensive approach will also take time to develop, and a long-term goal should be to enable every school and district to develop a significant assessment process for judging success with students and the conditions and resources necessary for success.
How Federal and State Officials Can Help This Assessment Process
Here are some ways that state and federal officials can provide support for a the use of a much more comprehensive assessment process:
Ultimately, a trust in a decentralized assessment process, a belief in the value of multiple, diverse assessments to measure school and district success, along with a combination of strong leadership at all levels, will provide the necessary impetus to move us away from the primary reliance on standardized tests to assess student, school and teacher success. We should be moving towards the use of varied sets of data that provide nuanced, helpful pictures of success and student achievement and help to improve the conditions of learning. Let us hope that we move in the right direction soon, because the current direction is leading us away from the kinds of education that our students need to prepare for living in a 21st century world.
Elliott Seif, Ph.D. is a long time educator, author, consultant, educational advocate, and trainer. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, read more his blogs on ASCD Edge and go to: www.era3learning.org
[i] Elizabeth Phillips, We Need to Talk About the Test: The Problem With the Common Core, The New York Times op-ed page, April 9, 2014.
[ii] A High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) is available free of charge from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. Go to:
Instructionally savvy educators know that personalized learning is the heart of student success. As schools strive to customize education through instructional design, technology efforts and professional learning, highly successful schools know that these initiatives in isolation are not nearly enough to improve and sustain student learning. Strong schools know that deep levels of personalization are found in an enriching and responsive system of teaching and learning, that stretches and supports learning in individual and flexible ways. In order to achieve a truly personalized education for every student, one must articulate, architect and actualize practical ways to engage with such a system, and support the school to ambitiously strive toward a noble vision. Strong leadership, clear school structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes are vital elements that help ensure personalized success for every student. When these essential elements are employed, they create directionality for a school to reach their instructional True North.
A leader must have one foot in the vision and one foot in the reality. She must hold an almost unattainably high vision for her school, while embracing the evident truths about the school culture, data and instructional practices. An instructionally savvy leader knows how to continuously bridge the ground level reality to the top story vision in small and achievable ways. Her steady direction and encouragement is essential to regularly point the way to the instructional True North. It is widely accepted knowledge that if the leader does not believe and practice the vision, the endeavors needed to reach that vision will never take root, grow or flourish. While the instructional vision may seem distant, the leader must model and maintain a laser-like focus, that this instructional work is our moral imperative. At the same time, she is laying a solid instructional foundation and supporting schoolwide incremental footsteps toward the vision. Coaching and feedback are essential leadership tools. An effective leader uses every moment of everyday to indicate the True North, fostering the conditions for school success and celebrating visible learning.
Clear school structures
Clear school structures are the vertical frame on the instructional foundation. It is imperative to establish collaboration time and structures within the school day. Collaboration is the work of teaching and learning. One cannot effectively reflect, strategize, design, analyze, implement and monitor alone. Instead, educators must have time and structures within the school day to have continual conversations about the fine points of teaching and learning. Professional learning communities, data teams and a school leadership team are requisite to ensure a highly effective school. These particular structures are the column supports for learning; educators depend on them in order to personalize education for their students.
Collaboration takes many forms, and it must be a goal, norm and value in the organization. In establishing collaborative structures, it is a necessary first step to ensure the team norms, purpose, goals and process. For example, a professional learning community may employ a protocol that helps them look at student work. A data team may center on a progress monitoring procedure. A leadership team may use problem-solving model. Collaboration rests on clarity of structure. The absence of a clear collaboration structure leads a team to chaos or congeniality. Neither promotes learning. It is important to highlight that conflict is a natural part of the collaboration cycle. It has been said that one is not really collaborating unless there is conflict. Professional discourse reveals different points of view, and is necessary when collaborating around personalized education for a student. Often when teams fail to embrace conflict as a growth opportunity, passive forms of meeting take over, which do not result in instructional growth. There is no question that highly effective schools are steeped in collaboration as an authentic means toward personalizing student learning. In fact, highly effective schools will tell you they would not be successful without collaboration.
The success of schoolwide systems and routines depend on careful monitoring procedures. The leader must blend formal and informal processes to continually ensure that instructional efforts are helping the school advance in measurable ways. Effective forms of monitoring involve transparent efforts, such as classroom walkthroughs, data work, instructional conversations and professional reflection. Savvy educators participate in monitoring procedures for instructional feedback at the student, team, school and district levels. In turn, this helps them ensure that the student’s personalized learning is successful, while promoting their own self-reflection in the process.
Personalization as a goal and an outcome
Highly successful schools know that building and engaging in a system that adapts to students’ strengths and needs is critical in fostering personalized education. Educators in highly effective schools ask themselves, “How can I foster the conditions for success?” They embrace an ambitious vision through a shared leadership model, and actively collaborate within the school structures to design, implement, measure and monitor learning. Strong leadership, clear structures, continuous collaboration and monitoring processes comprise a educational direction for every school, and when properly employed, will point to the True North of personalized learning for every child.
Sandra A. Trach, Principal
My 3 year old son follows his older brother around non-stop. Whether it is doing push-ups, saying “shut-up”, or standing on the living room couch (unfortunately it’s our new couch), my older son is locked into a silent game of Simon Says.
It really got on the older one’s nerves. Even though siblings intentionally try to push each other’s buttons (the more my older son would protest, the more intense the following became), I wondered if there was something more to this. Did following have to be a bad thing? Better yet, were there any benefits for following someone or something?
In contemplating the perks of following, I was reminded of the childhood game “Follow the Leader”. The game emphasizes the power of observation and environmental study in planning one’s next move. Similarly, consider the mantra from the Wizard of Oz, “follow the yellow brick road”. It reveals the power of tenacity-in spite of any real (tornadoes, losing your way, etc.) or imagined obstacles (witches, fake wizards, etc.) that come our way.
What is Involved in Following?
Nowadays, following is an action associated with the use of social media. For example, thinking about Twitter, we may "follow" celebrities, friends, or colleagues in order to network or keep abreast with things that interest us. In that sense "following" is done online using technology as a communication platform. For the purpose of this article, the concept of "following" relies on the desire to emulate. Please note that there is an element of imitation, but most importantly there is an internal change (learning) when effective following occurs.
So, let’s clarify a few aspects about the act of following before proceeding:
What Can We Learn About Following From Teachers?
I began to wonder how the concept of following translates into the classroom. Educators follow instructional principles in their classrooms everyday. Let's take a look at the experience of a few educators to learn how and why they follow:
What Does Research Show in Regards to Teachers Following?
The teacher mentor process is one way instructional principles are studied and practiced. Let's take a look at what teacher mentor research suggests about following:
What Are the Rules For Following Effectively?
Although teacher experiences and research indicate that following can be advantageous, as educators we must show care in how we follow. There is a difference between becoming a follower and following (the latter is the goal). Keeping in mind a few tips helps to ensure effective following:
At last, it is time to revisit the questions that were inspired by my 3 year older following his older brother. Was there a deeper meaning to gain from this simple act of following? Yes. I believe that there is an important take-away from watching my younger son engulfed in the act of following. I believe that following is a powerful and necessary process that may begin copy-cat like, but when done effectively, results in learning. As for the second question: Was following bad? I conclude that following is not bad at all, as long as it is principle-based, purposeful and change oriented. In addition, we have to remember the many benefits of following that are echoed by teacher experience and education research. Now, if only I could get my 10 year older to be more receptive to the benefits of following...
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
How can teacher leaders be identified and cultivated?
In a school setting, it is important that leadership does not come only from the administration, but from all aspects of the school community. As peers, we can identify and cultivate teacher leaders through paying attention to each others’ strengths and skills (including our own), and by seeking information and feedback.
Teachers are leaders when their influence extends beyond their own classroom. This influence can be a simple as working with a colleague to improve teaching practice through observation. It could be more involved, such as working as part of a curriculum development team. Leadership could even be quasi-administrative, such as serving as department chairperson or as a mentoring teacher.
No matter the role of teachers, we can identify leaders by paying attention to their strengths. Are they good listeners? Do they work to include all participants in meetings? Do they think “outside the box” to help solve problems? These are all skills that can serve well in leadership. When we are with our colleagues, we should pay attention to these types of skills, and should point them out to each other. Additionally, we should pay attention to our own strengths. If we find that we are effective at meetings, at talking to others, at helping all members contribute, we should hone these skills and improve them to increase our leadership.
Seeking information and feedback can help cultivate a fledgling leader – even if that leader is ourselves. When there are areas of concern, such as an unproductive team member, we should look for resources to guide us to effective communication. We can ask our peers to give us feedback about our effectiveness in different areas – especially our communication. We can honestly give feedback to our colleagues if they seek it.
Leadership needs to be cultivated throughout a school community. Even if we have terrific administrators, we are a stronger organization when we can pool our talents and skills. Identifying and cultivating leaders is a task for the entire school, because it benefits the entire school.
What does it mean to be a teacher leader and how does an educator become one?
To be a teacher leader means to be a teacher who has the best interest of the students at the forefront of their teaching practices. Teacher leaders know that improving student learning is at the heart of the most important decisions they make. They are teachers who work to identify the best teaching practices and then collaborate with others to implement those practices. They are supportive and know that the teacher in isolation is a thing of the past. Working together and being supportive are the norms by which teacher leaders operate. They realize that to help students succeed means fostering teamwork to reach that goal. Teacher leaders are those who model effective skills. If they find something that works to improve student learning, student motivation or a love of learning, it becomes their mission to spread that information. As such, teacher leaders are effective communicators. They accomplish this through learning-focused discussions or simply by expressing their enthusiasm for their discoveries. Not only can teacher leaders communicate effectively, but they are also good listeners. They are ready to give appropriate feedback or ask questions to get a better understanding. They accept diverse views as a way of learning more. Often research and data-driven vocabulary are characteristics of teacher leaders. These teachers look for challenges and ways to improve themselves by being continuous learners. Improving and developing communication skills, evidence gathering and research skills can occur through educational programs like those found at St. Mary's College. Their Masters in Teacher Leadership is available to help teacher leaders realize their potential. Teacher leaders are the teachers next door. Anyone with the desire can become a teacher leader. If a teacher is enthusiastic about a learning style or teaching strategy, one that is inclusive of all learners, is equitable and is worthy of sharing, then just by informing others that teacher has become a leader. By collaborating with peers and promoting instructional strategies that ensure student learning, a teacher exemplifies the characteristics of a leader. A leader does not have to be someone who is always presenting to groups or who takes the lead in everything. Teacher leaders must know where their strengths lie. But they need to realize that they are responsible for engaging in dialogue with those who are also interested in increasing their knowledge of meaningful teaching practices. Teacher leaders love teaching. They understand their craft and want to help others advance their skills by being supportive. They usually have a goal. They work to achieve it. They realize that they cannot reach most goals alone. Teacher leaders do not always have authoritative positions. But they are capable of modeling effective practices, being influential through their communicative skills and being collaborative as a way of reaching goals. Anyone who believes in these ideals can be a teacher leader.
We are discussing the history of education in one of my courses and thus exploring teaching philosophies (such as progressivism, essentialism, existentialism, etc.). As part of our discussion, I asked the students to identify advantages and disadvantages of each philosophy. A student shared that one drawback for using real world conflicts (the social reconstruction philosophy), was that it was “uncomfortable”. When probed further, it was determined that fear, anger, or sadness could result when discussing controversial current events and thus hinder the learning process for students. For instance, it may be frightening for students to discuss how the homicide rate for the first two months of 2014 (in some states) is slowly approaching the total homicide rate for the entire year 2013. Similarly it may be alarming for students to acknowledge the news story of how the “knock-out” game (an assault act that may end in death) targets unsuspecting pedestrians for no rhyme or reason.
I agree that discussing current events has its challenges, but I could not deny my discomfort with my student’s “uncomfortableness”. Maybe omitting real life events from classroom discussions is the best thing to do in terms of safeguarding student’s feelings?
I tend to think that it is within these “uncomfortable” topics that teachable moments are made. I wish to help students learn from the uncomfortable current events that surround them every day. For instance, the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law (the right to defend oneself during times of conflict) has been in the news after two separate conflicts resulted in the death of African American teen boys. In response to the two cases, strong emotions about racial relations and the legal system have ensued. The following curriculum ideas illustrate 9 classroom activities that may help students use the highly publicized law to reflect on themes such as effective communication, conflict resolution, and sensitivity to differences. Although the activities were developed with the ‘Stand your Ground’ law in mind, they can be adopted for use with any current event:
1. Discuss the term “threat”. Explore the different types of threats (physical and psychological) that students may hear. Debate various mechanisms to address threats such as bully awareness strategies. Websites such as bullyhelp.org and stopbullying.gov are great resources for this.
2. Ask students to journal about consequences that may ensue from defending oneself such as:
a. Physical consequences
b. Emotional consequences
c. Short-term consequences
d. Long-term consequences
3. Encourage the students to visit websites that focus on conflict resolution approaches and present their findings to the class. The National Crime Prevention Council offers great resources for this.
4. Invite the students to share funny videos (they can search online using Youtube or Vine) regarding problem solving strategies that are imaginative and outside of the box.
5. Hold a contest for students to find the best quote that illustrates reconciling differences.
6. Request students bring in song lyrics (or play a clean excerpt from the song) that emphasize themes in negotiation, compromise, or appropriately communication of differences.
7. Ask students to read, write, or respond to blogs that highlight uncomfortable conversations about conflict management. Invite teachers to share their experiences for how they learn (blogs, or professional development) to use current events within their curriculum.
8. Offer incentives for students to get involved in conflict resolution on a local level. Assist students in contacting the local police office or the local legislative office to gain further education regarding local rules and policies for those engaged in conflict.
9. Help students get involved in conflict resolution outside of their community. Assist students in a letter writing campaign to support the families of individuals that were unable to successfully defend themselves in times of conflict.
*Please note that this article was originally posted on teachersnet.gazette Vol. 11 No. 3
“All You Need to Do Is Keep That Child Buoyed”
The First of Three Lessons on How to Support Students with Learning Differences from the Fonz
One of my self-proclaimed areas of relative strength as a teacher educator is in helping regular education teachers understand learning disabilities and how to work with students who have special learning needs in the regular education classroom. I suspect that the earliest contributions to this strength had to do with my (as yet officially) undiagnosed ADHD. Having been that student who did not fit the traditional learner mold, but usually being a high achiever, I understood early on that every person did not learn the same way and that just because people do not learn the same way does not mean they do not learn well. After seeing Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) on a recent episode (February 12, 2014) of Morning Joe, I learned that Winkler is another (far more famous) example of my personal experience and understanding of learning differently. Listening to Winkler, I felt validated in the way I have approached discussions with pre-service and in-service teachers about teaching students with disabilities—reading disabilities, in particular—and was moved to write my next blog based on Winkler’s words in that interview.
After my last blog post theme, connecting teacher professional learning to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (http://edge.ascd.org/_Meaningful-Learning-An-Excellent-Adventure/blog/6562392/127586.html), I thought that maybe I could write about lessons in education or learning from Henry Winkler’s famed Happy Days character, “The Fonz!” I searched the web for quotes from Happy Days in hopes of finding ways the Fonz’s wisdom could be connected to teaching and learning. Sure enough, I found a pearl in Season One of Happy Days, the episode “Fonzie Drops In,” which (just as surely) proved that this approach was probably not my best brainchild ever:
Richie [speaking to the Fonz]: You make school sound like good fun.
Fonzie: Well, school's got good points. I mean, smoking in the bathroom, cutting classes, showing my tattoo to the chicks.
So...I decided that pop culture would NOT form the theme for this blog post! Ultimately, though, I hope that Henry Winkler has actually created a new pop cultural icon, Hank Zipzer. Winkler has created this series of chapter books together with co-author Lin Oliver (@linoliver) based on many of Winkler’s own experiences. The Hank Zipzer series (www.hankzipzer.com, @hankzipzertv) follows the adventures and misadventures of this bright fourth grade (then fifth and sixth, and soon second grade in an anticipated prequel series) student with the same learning challenges Winkler experiences. My third grade son (who is learning to master some of his own differences in learning style) has just started reading the first book in the series and it has been great to see him relate to the story and character and be motivated past some of his own reluctance to read.
After re-watching that interview on Morning Joe, I realized that I didn’t need the Fonz for this blog post. I realized that I could address several important points from the words of the Fonz’s self-proclaimed alter-ego, Winkler, himself. I decided to focus on understanding the experience of being a student with a learning difference and how educators (and parents) can better support those (and ALL) students. Three things that Winkler said in the Morning Joe interview anchor some salient points from my thinking about supporting students:
1) “I covered my shame and humiliation for not being able to figure out what was going on, with humor...” (MSNBC, 2014)
2) “...we have to start teaching children the way they CAN learn and not what we think they SHOULD learn....” (MSNBC, 2014)
3) “...all you need to do is keep that child buoyed...” (MSNBC, 2014)
Mostly in an effort to keep up with the blogging pace of Barry Saide (@BarryKid1), I have decided to break this into three different blog posts (perhaps also to save you from a single 5000+ word blog post—which I think probably violates some rule of blogging! I know @Joe_Mazza, there are no rules...nonetheless, 5000 words seems excessive for one post). Each post will address one of the three key points highlighted by Henry Winkler’s words from that Morning Joe interview.
“I covered my shame and humiliation for not being able to figure out what was going on, with humor”
One of the most powerful professional learning experiences I ever had with respect to understanding the experiences of students with disabilities was watching the film F.A.T. City Workshop (Lavoie, et. al, 2004). The shame and humiliation that Winkler describes lead to the “F,” “A,” and “T” in Lavoie’s F.A.T. City: Frustration, Anxiety, and Tension.
Children who struggle with different learning needs experience increasing frustration that they just can’t “get it.” There are many things that we tell students who are struggling, especially to read. Lavoie notes three of the most common in F.A.T. City:
As Winkler explained in a different interview, “I was called lazy. I was called stupid. I was told I was not living up to my potential.” Yet, he went on to explain that all the time inside he was thinking “I don’t think I’m stupid. I don’t want to be stupid. I’m trying as hard as I can. I really am” (Yale, n.d.). Students who are struggling already know they are not getting it and our typical responses only compound the frustration—as they really do WANT to get it.
The persistent experience of “not getting it” results in anxiety about being called on in class or looking stupid in front of peers. Winkler described being called, in 1999, to read for a new Neil Simon play—ostensibly, a significant career opportunity—and he explained how he very easily initially reacted to himself “you can’t do this, you’ll be out of the business, you’ll be out of your life. Aside from this, you’ll be embarrassing yourself into oblivion” (Yale, n.d.). Winkler had that anxiety after already being an established, successful, and even revered actor. Imagine the anxiety that is experienced by the student with learning differences every time the teacher is cold calling, or as the ping pong reading comes ever closer to her or him. Lavoie explains, and I have seen in my own classrooms, the cognitive demand of the anxiety that those students are experiencing when thinking about what or when they will be called on and how their “not getting it” may make them look in front of the teacher or, worse, their peers.
The cognitive load of the anxiety leaves little space for focus on things that those students would otherwise be able to learn and understand. We need to come up with strategies to reduce that anxiety for our students. One simple change would be to have a silent cue that only you and the specific student know—when you give them that cue, they know they are the next person to be called on. This will likely not reduce the anxiety the student experiences at the time you actually call on her or him. What it will do, though, is relieve the cognitive load of worrying if they will be next—allowing room for them to engage with and learn the content that is being delivered in the mean time.
Winkler describes covering his shame “with humor.” The acting-out behaviors that generate the laughs create the third aspect of Lavoie’s F.A.T. trifecta, tension between teacher (or parent) and the young person. Winkler aptly notes that “A child doesn't wake up in the morning saying 'Wow, I'm gonna be an idiot today, I'm gonna cause trouble,' ” yet, causing trouble is often the only way that young people who are struggling with learning can “save face” or avoid feeling ashamed by their lack of understanding. Those who don’t act-out, often exhibit another protective behavior, hiding—making themselves small and hoping no one notices they are even there. In either event, there is always a reason why young people behave in an apparently asocial manner. That reason is almost always for self-protection or self-preservation. Research by Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) resulted in the construction of a cycle of acting-out behavior and explain that even maladaptive behaviors typically serve an adaptive purpose.
Most often, educators and parents focus on punishing the asocial behaviors of young people. Winkler describes his experience with his own parents growing up: “My parents were determined to find the punishment that was going to force me to get better grades” (Murfitt, 2008). However, as Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) explain, punishments for the acting-out behavior tend not to be effective or long-term behavior changers. Actually, they note, punishing the acting-out behavior often reinforces the behavior by fulfilling the need (e.g., avoidance of the originating situation). Rather, they explain that the underlying behavioral contingency (the if-then construct—e.g., if I act out and can get in trouble, then the teacher will focus on punishing me and will not make me answer the question I don’t understand and I won’t be embarrassed by giving a wrong answer or if I refuse to read my book and, instead, argue about it with my parents, then I will get sent to my room and not end up having to do the reading) must be identified and the needs that lead to the behavior are what, in fact, should be addressed.
The bottom line: We should use our energies to seek an understanding of what motivates student behavior and ask ourselves why this young person feels compelled to act-out (or hide). This lesson is absolutely one that will benefit all of our students, regardless of learning styles and disability—and will support a positive, safe learning climate in all of our classrooms.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far and I do hope that you will be on the lookout for part two of this blog post—“...we have to start teaching children the way they CAN learn and not what we think they SHOULD learn....”
Lavoie, R. D., Rosen, P., Eagle Hill School Outreach., Peter Rosen Productions., & PBS Video. (2004). How difficult can this be?: Understanding learning disabilities: frustration, anxiety, tension, the F.A.T. city workshop. Alexandria, VA: PBS.
MSNBC. (2014, Feb12). Morning Joe: Henry Winkler’s kids book tackles dyslexia. Video retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/henry-winklers-kids-book-tackles-dyslexia-148785731602.
Murfitt, N. (2008, Dec 8). 'I was called Dumb Dog': Henry Winkler's happy days as The Fonz were blighted by condition undiagnosed for 35 years. Daily Mail. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1092477/I-called-Dumb-Dog-Henry-Winklers-happy-days-The-Fonz-blighted-condition-undiagnosed-35-years.html.
Walker, H. M., Colvin, G., & Ramsey, E. (1995). Antisocial behavior in school: Strategies and best practices. Pacific Grove, Calif: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.
Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. (n.d.). Henry Winkler, Actor, Producer, Author. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/Winkler.html.
Teacher Appreciation Week Comes Early to Snowbird at #ECET2
During the closing address of the Gates Education Foundation’s (@gatesed) Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (#ECET2) Convening, participants were asked to share one word with an elbow partner that summed up their feelings about the conference. I struggled to convey the thoughts in my head using the words “expanded” or “broadened.” I needed a lot of explanation to go along with my response, all the while getting further and further away from the one word challenge. With time to reflect, what I really was trying to get at was the idea that this experience, and the teachers that I had the privilege of coming in touch with, truly opened my mind. Without knowing it, I came to the table with narrow definitions of the idea of teacher leader, of how to reach all learners, and of the implications of common core. Furthermore, I came with a limited view of my own place within the context of this amazing group of teachers and the impact I might have. I was nominated to attend through my work with ASCD and the Whole Child Network, which as many of my peers have stated, seems like being recognized for simply doing what our job requires, but it is never that simple.
When it came time to share out with the whole group, Dr. Irvin Scott (@iscott4) asked people to stand and call out their words. A common theme quickly emerged from the chorus of responses: refreshed - inspired –invigorated – energized - and an array of synonyms that expressed similar sentiments. As I sat there listening, the inadequateness of the word I came up with during the turn and talk became apparent, and a new one came to mind . . . appreciated. I shouted it out just in time to make the final cutoff for sharing, and quickly leaned over to my partner telling her not to give away the secret of my switch.
Appreciation is such a simple sentiment, and one that I’m sure most teachers will agree we often don’t feel. Much of the press likes to embellish the negative connotations that are associated with our profession. Education as a system has a pass-the-buck type of mentality, and usually that buck stops at the head of the class. I am always critical at the beginning of the year, when our district special education department calls us together to say what a great job we are doing before following with a laundry list of all of the things we aren’t doing well. There are endless examples any teacher can give you. By the very nature of the youth we serve, and through no fault of their own, a thank you is not something I here every day (Although I dream of the students that come to me to say, “Hey Mr. Russo, thanks for teaching me the elements of plot. That was mind-blowing!”) And it was clear, through discussions with other attendees, that being a teacher leader, especially an unofficial one, doesn’t always come along with an eager group of followers hanging on your every word. In fact, it can be quite the opposite.
Having said all that, the name of this incredible event gets lost in the simplicity of the acronym. It truly served to elevate and celebrate the work that we do. For the first time in a long time, I feel appreciated, and in turn want to show some of my appreciation. I am appreciative to ASCD and the group from the Whole Child Network for thinking that I am worth it. I am appreciative to my co-presenters, Kristen Tolsen Cons, Barry Saide (@barrykid1), and Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy), for considering me an equal when in fact they are miles ahead of me (and again to Barry and Suzy for inadvertently inspiring me to write this post). I am appreciative to my colleague circles, especially those in the “Reaching All Learners” circle, who reminded me that it’s not just about the high flyers and the strugglers, but it’s about boys and girls, about race, about special education, about socioeconomic status, and it’s about the kids in other people’s classes that do not have the privilege of sitting in our classrooms on a daily basis. I am appreciative to my principal (especially after hearing some horror stories) because she has fostered my growth from the moment I stepped in the building as a first year teacher four years ago. I am appreciative for everyone that shared with me and listened to what I had to share. I am appreciative for all of the comments and links and hash tags on the social network surrounding this conference (#ECET2). I am appreciative of the Gates Education Foundation for holding this convening and living up to it’s promise. I am appreciative of my family, who often take the backseat to grading, planning, or IEP writing on the weekends. But most of all, I am appreciative of my students, who push me to be better daily, who, upon my return, showed that they missed me in a variety of different ways, but most simply when one student, Paulina, said “Welcome home, Mr. Russo.” I am truly at home in the classroom. I am where I belong, and I am appreciative of the opportunity to serve kids through all of the highs and lows that come with the responsibility.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
The best leaders, the ones who truly understand what it means to lead, know that from the minute they step into a leadership position, they have to have one foot already on the way out.
This doesn’t mean leaders are thinking about retirement or leaving the profession; far from it. Rather, what it means is that the best leaders lead for the future, knowing that organizations need to have a leadership scheme in place if they want to be successful for generations.
This means that a leader needs to begin thinking about those who will come next even as she is reflecting on the work of her predecessor.
What is so interesting about this idea is that a leader is always in transition, even those leaders who have been in their current position for quite a while, and most interestingly, even for those who began their leadership position today.
How do we keep one foot grounded while building capacity for the future with the other foot? Here are three ideas:
As silly as it might sound, any leader worth his salt needs to always be thinking about transitioning, if for no other reason than the future of his organization.
So celebrate that new position for a minute. Now start preparing for when you have to leave.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
My February vacation was unlike any other I’ve experienced. With two trips planned - I had it set in my mind that one would be about Education, and the other would be about Family. I would spend 3 nights in Snowbird Utah, as a guest of the Gates Foundation. Their Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching Convening (#ECET2) was a chance for teacher leaders from all over the country to talk about the challenges we are facing in education. I was expecting to be immersed in all-things Education for those 3 days - and I was. For the next 3 nights, I would be with my family in the midwest, where we would be visiting my daughter’s #1 college choice: The University of Minnesota. There would be lots of laughs, meals shared, and stories to bring home. I was expecting to be immersed in all-things Family for those 3 days - and I was.
What I wasn’t expecting? Was the amount of overlap between Family and Education during my 6 day, 6 flight adventure. This week has had a profound effect on me as an educator, and as a individual. I couldn't help but re-think some of my goals, priorities and beliefs by the time I arrived back to Cape Cod.
BOS - SLC: Am I a leader?
In a recent post on ASCD’s Edge, I reflected on this question… Flying to Salt Lake City, I thought long and hard about it. I believe all teachers are leaders in their own way - some just take it beyond the classroom. My leadership extends beyond my classroom by way of the Internet. It is online where i am able to shine as a leader. Online, I offer an opinion without fear. I have time to formulate my thoughts before typing. I share what I’m doing in my classroom without shyness. I connect with others I wouldn’t have the courage to offline. It is the “face-to-face” leader I am reluctant to become. ECET2 brought me out of my shell through cooperative opportunities designed for meaningful interaction. I worked closely with teacher leaders from all over the US, and in the process, I began to see my skills mirrored in theirs. There were soft-spoken, shy, thoughtful teachers. They are working hard to bring teaching and learning to the next level. I saw them as leaders, and in doing so, I started to believe in myself as well.
PLAN: Connect with teacher leaders, and recognize my role as such.
SLC - BOS: Where’s the balance?
Flying home from Snowbird, my thoughts were consumed with the concept of Balance. Every conversation I heard touched upon the struggles teachers face when it comes to finding balance in their lives… How do we balance our role as teacher with that of teacher leader? How do we find time for our family? How do we find time for ourselves? Unfortunately, I came away with far more questions than answers. I am always amazed at the number of teachers who face the challenges of anxiety and depression. The more I tell people about my diagnosed, unmedicated anxiety, the more stories I hear. Too many teachers I connect with are having to rely on medication, exercise, diet and counseling to help them cope with anxiety and depression. In a profession where working at home is necessary, what strategies do teachers use to make everything fit? And, when it doesn’t fit, what is the price we pay? Do we leave the profession? Do we leave our family? What is conventionally billed as an excellent fit for families, a career in teaching doesn’t quite deliver. Balance is one of the biggest struggles I face in life. I have yet to figure out how to teach, lead and connect in effective, consistent ways. Because of this, I live a distracted life - trying to juggle everything well, knowing I’m dropping balls left and right. Though I was surrounded by passionate overachievers at #ECET2, I left wondering where my answers would come from.
PLAN: - Define boundaries where my attention is not drawn away from what is important.
BOS - STL: Can my students Achieve the Core?
My family and I took off from Boston 6 hours after I landed from Utah. As we prepared to visit my daughter’s #1 choice for college, we talked about the university’s requirements for entering freshman. Common Core students should start arriving on the doorsteps of colleges nation-wide, well-prepared to think critically, work cooperatively and demonstrate understanding in multiple ways. Teachers all over the country are given the responsibility of delivering curriculum to fit these national standards, and we are essentially still at the ground level. Understanding the shifts of the Common Core takes extensive reading and reflection, and it cannot be done alone. Teachers must work together to better define what teaching and learning will look like in the classroom at all levels. With careful, thoughtful implementation, our students will be set up for success. Isn’t that what they deserve?
PLAN: Build capacity in my own Common Core understanding while continuing to offer PD for teachers.
STL - MSP: Who put me in a cage?
Before landing in the Twin Cities, I thought about the sessions I attended at #ECET2. After attending one particular session called the Cage Busting Teacher, facilitated by Rick Hess (@rickhess99), and Maddie Fennell (@maddief) I was empowered to think of myself as a leader who can have difficult conversations. My anxiety often gets in the way of my actions - but Rick and Maddie offered entry points to engage education stakeholders. While the premise of the workshop was based on the idea that teachers are stuck in cages created by our education system, I saw it a little differently. What holds me back, is myself. I am in a professional and personal cage because I allow myself to be there. I censor my responses, suppress my opinion, let others speak up because my fear gets in the way. Typing this paragraph is a challenge for me, because I know deep down it is a commitment for me to break free of what holds me back.
PLAN: Find inroads to necessary conversations as they relate to what is important to me.
MSP - MKE: How does the fate of our individual journey figure in?
After spending a few days on a college campus with my family, I couldn’t help but think about fate. How do our individual choices culminate in an life-long journey? Each of us have a story to tell - what makes us special; what life lessons we have learned. Each choice leads us in a particular direction - and when we multiply out dozens and dozens of decisions, we end up at a certain destination. My daughter is at a time in her life where her decisions are starting to shape her journey. I was emotional several times during our visit, as my Big Picture thinking made me realize how our journeys shape us as individuals. To have it to do all over again would result in a different path, a different destination. I’m not sure I’d be wiling to risk losing the good and the bad of where I am now, for that unknown. The teachers I met this week shared touching, inspiring stories as unique and special as they were. Honoring our decisions (good and bad) as part of who we are, is so very important.
PLAN: Recognize the importance of future decisions as being catalysts towards my ultimate fate.
MKE - BOS: This I do for me.
As I was in my final leg, and almost home, I took a break from reading a book and started thinking again… I am very thankful for where I am and what I am able to do. I am honored and grateful for the recognitions I have received, and I love going to school and coming home each day. I am very aware of the fact that my happiness comes from helping others. In that quest, I often forget about the happiness that comes from helping myself. Small messages came through to me throughout my trip… Slow down, Suzy. Pay attention, Suzy. Exercise, Suzy. Relax more, Suzy. Be brave, Suzy. Essentially, the more I do for Suzy, the more I am fueled to do more for others. So, as I wrap up this blog post, I am committed to a new plan. I want what is best for my family, students, friends and colleagues. I am more than any of the individual roles I define. I am more than a mother, a wife, a teacher, a leader. Yet, it is the sum of those parts that make me unique.
PLAN: Take better care of myself so I can better meet the needs of others.
It is with sincere gratitude that I thank ASCD for my nomination, the Gates Foundation for the invitation, my amazing #ECET2 peeps for their inspiration, my family for our conversation, and my students for the motivation. I’m a lucky girl.
What is family?
If you go by the dictionary definition, it’s people who are related to you by common blood and descendants. If you follow the lyrics of Sister Sledge, it’s based on friendship, commonalities, closeness. And, if you were at ECET2, you realize it’s the 350 people you laughed, cried, and shared stories with during a three day convening based on a common passion for being an educator.
ECET2 is an acronym for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching, a convening hosted and funded by the Gates Foundation (@gatesed). Each of the educators invited to attend were nominated by a professional organization to best represent them. These organizations put up their A-Team, their MacGyvers, their Shakespeares, believing within each nominated person’s DNA was a common trait: a desire to support the whole child and their families. These attendees were not superheroes. They were more than that: people whose only invincibility was their unwavering belief that all students had the power to learn, as long as we empowered them to do so.
I was one of those 350 edustars. I was nominated by ASCD. Surprised that they chose me, smart enough not to question it, just thankfully blessed, I humbly accepted. (Didn’t want them to reconsider). I would find out later that this “Why me?” question was another commonality my new edufamily shared, because in our minds just doing our jobs got us here.
Our role at home was to help raise and nurture the next group of societal leaders, using our classroom and subject matter as the forum to teach problem solving, questioning, active listening, collaboration, teamwork, and advocacy. As ECET2 attendees, we would model, rinse, and repeat these skills through three intensely thought provoking days, 8,000 feet above sea level, in Snowbird, Utah.
The elevation in the ECET2 acronym meant raising our edugame through guided discussions, interactive presentations, Ted-style talks, and social downtime. We met in small, colleague circles, discussing chosen focus topics. We shared resources, asked questions, and actively listened, all under the agreement that the first rule of colleague circles was you don’t talk about colleague circles. It was the law of Las Vegas: what goes on in the circle stays in the circle.
This respectful collegiality, this understanding that our takeaway from each colleague circle, presentation, and discussion was to learn from and with each other, signified the power of a phrase I learned from George Couros (@gcouros): the smartest person in the room is the room. Or, as my friend and ASCD co-presenter, Eric Russo (@erusso78) said during our presentation on EduCore, “Barry and I were geeking out before with our breakfast table. Talking growth mindset, special education, school culture, and problem of practice, sharing documents we created, all while eating bacon.”
We all geeked out with each other by alternately learning, teaching, and leading so each member of our ECET2 family got better. So they could celebrate their new knowledge within their district, school, and student families. And, so we could all feel a little more effective in the process.
Katie Novak (@katienovakudl) called ECET2 “a movement.” I love her thinking, but it runs deeper than that for me. Originally, I saw the nomination by ASCD and the invitation to ECET2 by the Gates Foundation as a sign that ‘I’d made it’. When I attended the convening, I realized the ‘it’ was just the beginning of the journey. The real test to see whether I was worthy of my invite and had learned from my experience was what I would do next. How would I show my appreciation for my experience with my ECET2 family? How would I pay it forward to my edufamily at home?
The underlying approach to learning at ECET2 was to challenge and provoke our thinking through honest dialogue. No one at the convening did this better than Rick Hess (@rickhess99), of American Enterprise Institute, and Maddie Fennell (@maddief) who co-presented on ‘Cage Busting Leadership’. I asked him if he was interested in collaborating on a weekly Twitter chat. I believe our extended education family needs to hear his voice, have an opportunity to interact with him, and grow from these discussions. Rick’s response: “Love the chat idea...will figure out a way to make this happen.”
Challenging and provoking thinking comes from teacher activism. I touched base with Jessica Wright (@jessicampitts), Suzy Brooks (@simplysuzy), Chris Bronke (@mrbronke), Jen Orr (@jenorr), Vivett Hemans (@lotyssblossym), Emily Land (@eland1682), Tamera Dixon (mstdixon), and Dan Ryder (@wickeddecent). They are my pre-ECET2 family. We’d organized and led a Twitter chat the night before the convening began (http://storify.com/barrykid1/pre-ecet2-twitter-chat-on-2-16-14). We’re going to continue that discussion with a bi-monthly Twitter chat for all past and present ECET2 attendees, as well as any educators interested in Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. We’ll expand and turnkey focus topics discussed in Utah, and globally extend our colleague circles. Maybe members of the Gates Foundation, like: Dr. Irvin Scott (@iscott4), Dr. Vicki Phillips (@drvickip), Nate Brown (@hnborown1), Amy Hodges Slamp (@amyslamp), and Isis Randolph-McCree (@isismccree) would guest moderate. (hint, hint).
Teacher activism needs to be local, too. I connected with the three other New Jersey attendees at the convening: Peggy Stewart (@myglobalside), Michael J, Dunlea (@michaeljdunlea), and Katherine Bassett. With the help of our new friends from Pittsburgh (@ecet2pgh) who’ve previously hosted a regional ECET2, we’re going to figure out a way to do one too, to elevate and celebrate our effective teachers and teaching family in New Jersey. We’d love to collaborate with others on this, so if others in our area would like to pay it forward with us, let us know.
I know Sister Sledge and the dictionary both have it right: family is bound by like DNA, commonalities, and a similar mindset. That is why we say our close friends are ‘like family,’ and certain friends are ‘my brother,’ or, ‘my sister.’ From my three days in Utah, my edufriends became edufamily. And with their help and support, who knows what we will achieve? Regardless of outcome, our journey will continue together as we elevate and celebrate each other, and make one another more effective in the process.
Author’s note: to honor all who influenced me and helped make me better, I noted people’s Twitter handles. They’re great teachers, and even better people. Give them a follow. They’ll make you better, like they did me. And, you won’t have to go to Utah to do it.
Școala Gimnazială ,,Virgil Iovănaș“ Șofronea, Romania
WHAT IS CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT?
Effective Classroom Management is:
1. Planned not improvisational
2. Preventative rather than simply reactive
3. Controlled and organized rather than chaotic
4. An opportunity for all students and teachers to experience success
Tips for Arranging the Classroom
1. Have extra supplies available at a location in the classroom where students who have forgotten supplies will be able to go without disrupting other students (i.e. a cup of pencils at the center of each table or the back of the classroom).
2. Set a good example to your students by providing a neat and organized classroom.
3. Make your classroom look attractive. Use plants, bulletin boards, banners, warm colors, or anything to help make your classroom look aesthetically pleasing.
4. Structure your classroom as to avoid chaos and promote learning. For instance, do not place a talkative student next to the pencil sharpener because this creates many opportunities for disruptive behavior.
5. The teacher should be able to observe all students at all times and be able to see the door from his/her desk.
6. Students should be able to see the teacher/presentation area without having to move or turn around.
7. Arrange the room as to allow easy movement.
8. Main idea: Make your classroom fun, attractive, motivating, & functional.
Tips for Building Positive Student/Teacher Relationships
1. Follow the Golden Rule – Treat each student with respect and kindness.
2. . Identify a few students each class period and find ways to individually praise them so that by the end of the week every student in your class has been praised.
3. Be available before and after school in case a student needs help or simply needs to talk
Praise students for good work.
5. Praise students for effort.
6. Establish appropriate levels of dominance and cooperation.
7. Create one-to-one interactions with students.
8. Display students’ successful work in the classroom.
9. Disclose appropriate personal information that your students might find helpful (i.e. share a personal story that helps you describe a particular point of the lesson).
Time Saving Strategies
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
1. Establish time-saving, efficient routines for collecting papers and distributing materials and supplies (i.e. bins for each subject or class, mailboxes for each student or class).
2. ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE!
3. Establish daily routines.
4. Make a “To Do List” at the end of each day so that when you arrive the next morning you know exactly what needs to be done. Prioritize it and list the things that must be done first.
5. Create classroom jobs. This will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
6. Create a system for monitoring unfinished assignments. (i.e. Keep a clipboard with a list of student names with several boxes for each class next to each name. When you have finished grading the assignments, check off the boxes next to the students who have handed in the assignment.)
7. Teach your students how to be organized. Encourage them to have separate folders for each class and a home folder for assignments/notes.
8. Create your own filing system. Assign each class a color and keep important lesson materials in each folder.
1. Give directions one step at a time and avoid long and detailed directions.
3. Provide a variety of learning experiences, including peer teaching, cooperative learning, small group instruction, and lecture.
4. Provide homework assignments and activities that are meaningful, relevant, and instructional.
5. Teach students good study habits and provide a variety of different study suggestions.
6. Have your class summarize the lesson or activity at the end of each class.
7. Provide students with feedback (about what they did right and wrong).
8. Help your students set realistic goals.
Tips for Creating a Positive Classroom Environment
1. Use humor.
2. Greet students at the doorway and in the halls.
3. Show enthusiasm and be animated.
4. Provide opportunities for every student to succeed.
5. Model good listening skills by paying attention when
6. Create anticipation for lessons or tasks.
7. If a particular student is struggling, provide the student with a classroom buddy who is mature and responsible.
8. Create classroom rituals and traditions which build a sense of community.
9. Encourage parental and community involvement.
Tips for Preventing Misbehavior
1. Establish realistic and age appropriate rules and procedures.
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
2. Have discussions with your students about the rationale and purpose of each rule. When appropriate, incorporate student opinions and thoughts into your classroom rules and procedures.
3. Walk throughout the classroom during lectures and seat work to provide assistance and monitor behavior.
4. Keep class work and assignments separate from behavior issues.
5. Carefully plan each class time and have extra plans in case you finish early.
6. Have extra activities available for students to do when they are bored or finished with all their work.
7. Establish routines for transitions (leaving the room, using the bathroom, etc.) and prepare students for transitions by warning them ahead of time.
8. Reinforce and praise appropriate behavior.
9. When deciding whether or not to intervene with a behavior, determine if the problem is solely “teacher-owned.” Does the behavior simply annoy you or is it harmful to other students?
10. Establish a program that teaches self-discipline and responsibility to students. When appropriate, give students extra duties that will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
Tips for handling student discipline situations
1. REMAIN CALM AND COMPOSED!
2. When correcting misbehavior, communicate in the most private, respectful, and positive manner.
3. Make all discipline decisions after the “heat of the moment.”
4. Use appropriate humor to de-escalate conflict situations.
5. When you feel as if you or your student is too emotional to handle a particular situation, suggest postponing the discussion until both are prepared to talk it out.
6. Instead of blaming, use I-messages to explain why the behavior was disruptive. Instead of saying “You’re disruptive” try saying “I lose my concentration when you are talking in class.” This helps to avoid an angry retaliation.
7. Use positive self-talk to reduce stress and help to remain control. Mentally say things such as “remain calm,” “I’m doing a good job at handling this situation.”
8. Attempt to de-escalate situation by providing distractions. These distractions give people the opportunity to cool off.
9. Exaggerate issues to help students put the situation in perspective.
10. Use stress management techniques such as deep breathing or repeatedly tensing and relaxing your muscles.
11. Address only student behavior rather than personal traits.
February 17, 2012
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
Find the Good.
When I first started teaching, I’d heard and read of the importance of finding something to like about each student, even the student whose positive qualities were hard to find. I was told, “It can be as simple as the color shirt they’re wearing. Maybe they’re wearing red and you like red.Use that to drive your interactions with that student.”
Thirteen years later, I realize what the messenger meant. I think they meant: “maybe the child has a nice sense of style. They dress well. The shirt is a cool one, and I wish I could get away with wearing that one now.”
I hear from time to time when meeting with parents: “I know you have your favorites. It’s natural, everyone does.” I agree with the premise, that some students are very personable: they come in with positive experiences about school and the world. Perhaps they have a great support system. They’re charming, social, or their wittiness is matched by great comedic timing. They’re easy to like. They’re easy to find the good in. You don’t even need to tell them, they know. Someone’s probably told them before you even met them.
However, we didn’t get into this field for the easy. We did for the intrinsic rewards: the ability to create positive change by finding the good in those who may not know the good they carry. To shine a light on what’s not readily evident. To search, find, and celebrate. We’re unique. That is good.
Sounds easy.It’s not.
Students, their parents, and we educators all come into our environment each day an unfinished product. We’ve got our warts, our schemas, and our issues. Sometimes they’re easily visible, and sometimes we just think they are. While we cannot change anything that has happened when we were wards of the education system, we can create a positive one for those who move forward through it now. That means we can embody the good, find the good in others, make sure we call attention to it so the student and their parent knows it, and use that knowledge to help the child and his/her support system trend positively from this point forward.
This repeated process enables us to find the good quicker in others, as the lens we look at people through has changed. It keeps us positive during the challenging days. And, it reminds us that all of us are capable of growth and learning. We just need to be willing to stay consistent to the process, because finding the good is a repetitive one. Find it enough, and it will find you, too.
ASCD has found the good in me. Members of the organization nominated me and three of my peers to attend Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers (#ECET2). This event is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The 250 of us invited by the Foundation, will connect, collaborate, and leverage the goodness in each other. Prior to meeting everyone this coming Monday, we will host a Tweetup on Twitter Sunday night from 8 - 9 PM EST. All current and past ECET2’ers are welcome. Our goal is to find the goodness in each other, carry that with us to the convening, and turnkey it back home to our students.
Find the good.
Then, let it find you.
There are a number of ancient misnomers about teaching, but today we’d like to take on four of the most common myths about the profession.
My students are resistant
Sure, some students resist, a few my act like they couldn’t care less, but often those we label “resistant” are simply unsure of our expectations.
For example, when we ask students to “try harder to pay attention in class,” we think we’re issuing a straightforward request. But as Robyn Jackson reminds us in her book, How to Motivate Reluctant Learners, this request is vague, lacks specific instructions and does not give the student a clear picture of what we expect from him or her.
Instead of asking students to try harder to pay attention, say something like this: “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”
Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.
Teachers shouldn’t smile until Christmas
This is one of the most ubiquitous teaching myths. Although we disagree with this adage, we see the line of reasoning: “It’s better to be feared,” as Machiavelli says in The Prince, “than it is to be loved.” Rule by fear may be appropriate for a dictator-prince, but we’ve never believed dictator-princes to be very effective teachers.
Most students begin the school year enthusiastically: they are quiet, attentive and respectful. From the outset, students need to know that they can trust us; they also need a reason to invest in the journey they’re about to embark upon. If you want them to set sail with you, make the first day—and every day thereafter—a celebration. Smiling doesn’t make you a pushover.
Teachers have to be the smartest person in the room
Give yourself permission to be human and admit it when you make mistakes or don’t know the answer. Students respect teachers who admit their mistakes and take steps to correct them. Why? Because it lets them know that the classroom is a safe place—a space where both students and teacher are free to make blunders, take risks and learn from them.
Students don’t read anymore
It’s funny how many of our students vehemently claim that they don’t like reading. Teachers reinforce this fallacy when they echo their students’ claims.
Students read. In fact, they read all the time. Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook account or read and write comments on their friends’ walls. Do they send email? Do they read magazines, comic books or celebrity gossip blogs? You bet they do.
Like it or not, if we want to nurture a love of reading in our students, we must acknowledge that these are legitimate forms of reading. Believe and reinforce this.
Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
I find myself at a stage in my career as a 3rd grade teacher where others are looking to me as a leader. Yikes!! To be perfectly honest, I'm still not convinced I'm any such thing. Seriously... between my shyness, anxiety and fear of conflict, there are many reasons I feel I don't even come close to fitting the description of a Teacher Leader. Even though I have a bunch of "followers", I'm not always sure where our little traveling party is headed... I need a map!
In a couple weeks, I'll be heading off to Snowbird, Utah for the Gates Foundation's ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers) Convening. The invitation reads: "The goal of ECET² is to celebrate effective teachers and to build a strong network of teacher leaders working together to elevate our practice and profession." I'm signed up for workshops to help me develop my skills (and confidence?) as a leader, with the expectation I will bring my enthusiasm back to my district. I am honored to be invited, and more than willing to step up to the plate and figure out where I fit in the whole "leadership scheme".
There is one thing I am sure of, walking into this experience... to feel like a leader, we must remain focused on our passions. My passions run the gamut from technology integration to Common Core implementation. However, the more I've listened to teachers? The more i realize the common denominator for me is Effective Professional Development. In order to integrate technology or implement curriculum, teachers need varied opportunities for engageing professional development. Moving forward, the map for my learning and development as a leader will be viewed from that perspective.
If time is one of the most valuable resources we have when it comes to supporting teachers for effective student learning, we cannot afford to waste a single minute, right?
This is the inside of the Custom House clock in Boston, MA. Time, from a different perspective… Photo by @SimplySuzy
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-newsletter for ASCD constituent group leaders that builds capacity to better serve members, provides opportunities to promote and advocate for ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and engages groups through sharing and learning about best practices. To submit a news item for the L2L newsletter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2013 by ASCD. All Rights Reserved.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative Has a New Twitter Handle
ASCD's Whole Child Initiative switched its official Twitter handle to @WholeChildASCD. Themore than 15,000 followers of the old @WholeChildAdv do not have to do anything to keep following the initiative’s Twitter account; current followers have automatically been moved to the new handle. In addition, individuals trying to contact ASCD under the old account will be directed to the new Twitter handle: @WholeChildASCD. The initiative encourages whole child enthusiasts to follow the new handle to stay up-to-date on whole child issues and partner activities. Anyone who has questions about the twitter handle should contact Kristen Pekarek, ASCD’s whole child project coordinator.
Sign on to the Global School Health Statement
Schools have always played an important role in promoting the health, safety, welfare, and social development of children. Progress has been made in policy and program effectiveness. However, the trend of establishing initiatives as sector specific—or sector isolated—has affected long-term sustainability of approaches. The global evolution of education systems to suit the needs of the 21st century presents both a need and an opportunity for greater sector integration. Ultimately, there is a need to focus on the development and growth of the whole child and develop better ways to integrate health and social programs within education systems.
In response to the World Health Organization’s Health in All Policies (HiAP) initiative and recent HiAP statement (Helsinki 2013), education leaders invite representatives from the health and other social sectors to lead a revised partnership with education. This partnership uses a capacity-focused and systems-based approach to embed school-related efforts more fully into the core mandates, constraints, processes, and concerns of education systems.
ASCD and the International School Health Network are now inviting individuals and organizations to sign on to the global school health statement. Learn more.
Can’t Wait for #ASCD14?
How about some free sessions from the 2013 ASCD Annual Conference to tide you over?
ASCD Members Approve Proposed Changes to ASCD’s Constitution
ASCD members recently voted to approve several changes to ASCD’s Constitution: clarifyinga quorum for Board of Directors for voting purposes at the Annual Meeting; changing the start date for newly elected officers and members of the Board; and changing the ASCD membership requirement for applicants for Board positions. Contact Governance Manager Becky DeRiggewith any questions.
ASCD Emerging Leaders: 2013 Recap
Check out our recap of all the amazing things ASCD emerging leaders did in 2013. We’re looking forward to some great things in 2014 as well!
ASCD Leader Voices
Throughout January at wholechildeducation.org: Personalized Learning
How do we help each student succeed? One promising way is to personalize learning and put each student at the center of her learning experience. Broader than individualized or differentiated instruction, personalized learning is driven by the learner. Ensuring personalized learning for all students requires a shift in thinking about long-standing education practices, systems and policies, as well as significant changes in the tools and resources. To address students’ abilities, interests, styles, and performance, schools need to rethink curricula, instruction, and technology tools to support giving learners choices and schools flexibility.
Personalized learning has been described as learning that takes place “anywhere, anytime, and anyplace.” More importantly, it has the promise to ensure equity, engagement, ownership, and achievement for each child, in each school, and in each community so that she is college, career, and citizenship ready and prepared for success in our global, knowledge-based society.
Download two Whole Child Podcasts discussing personalizing learning for students—one is a special one-on-one conversation between professor and author Yong Zhao and ASCD’s Sean Slade, and the other podcast has a panel of educators featuring guests Jennifer Eldredge, a Spanish teacher at Oconomowoc High School whose district is a member of the regional Cooperative Educational Service Agency #1, which is committed to establishing personalized learning as the prevailing approach in southeastern Wisconsin; Andrew Miller, former classroom and online teacher and current education consultant, ASCD Faculty member, National Faculty member at the Buck Institute for Education, and regular ASCD and Edutopia blogger; and Beth Sanders, a high school social studies teacher at Tarrant High School in Alabama who is also the cofounder and codirector of Youth Converts Culture and was named an Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2013 and 2013 Teacher of the Year for Tarrant City Schools.
Something to Talk About
ASCD Invites Educator-Driven Conversation with the ASCD Forum and #ASCDEdSpace—ASCD announces two new ways for educators to shape teacher leadership. From now through April 11, 2014, educators are encouraged to participate in the ASCD Forum online via the ASCD EDge® social networking community and in-person at the 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. Read the full press release.
ASCD’s Newest Professional Development Publications Support Effective Instruction—ASCD announced the release of three new professional development titles for educators. As educators face increasing pressure on assessments and testing, they will find support for structured teaching, self-regulated learning, and assigning and assessing 21st century work in these new professional development publications. Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces Updates to Free EduCore™ Common Core Implementation Tool—ASCD announced new features available on its free Common Core implementation tool ASCD EduCore™. For the new year, the updated EduCore website features simpler navigation and expanded resources. Read the full press release.
ASCD to Live Stream 21 Sessions from 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show—ASCD will live stream 21 sessions from the association’s 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. The live stream option offers global educators an accessible and affordable alternative to attending ASCD’s 2014 Annual Conference. Read the full press release.
ASCD Joins Instagram as @OfficialASCD—ASCD has joined the social network Instagram under the username @officialascd. ASCD’s Instagram profile will show educators worldwide a behind-the-scenes look at ASCD, while providing free motivation and professional development through pictures and videos. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases Four New Professional Development Publications for the New Year—ASCD released four new professional development titles for educators. In light of pressing issues facing educators today, such as improving stagnant Programme for International Student Assessment scores, implementing the new Common Core State Standards, and improving teacher effectiveness, these four new ASCD publications offer educators support with getting to the root of academic and behavioral issues, working with English language learners, developing effective school rules, and teaching effectively. Read the full press release.
ASCD Expands Emerging Leader Program to Serve More Young Educators—ASCD is pleased to announce the expansion of the ASCD Emerging Leaders program. The two-year Emerging Leaders program is designed to prepare younger, diverse educators for potential influence and ASCD leadership. The expanded program now enrolls more educators, inducting a larger membership class than ever before, and includes an Emerging Leaders Grant opportunity that will award selected participants in their second year of the program with grants of up to $2,000. Read the full press release.
When I began teaching thirteen years ago, I was told by my cooperating teacher that I needed to be an actor: “You’re on stage all day. You need to show energy, enthusiasm, and engage others, even if you don’t feel it.” My cooperating teacher was right about a lot of things, except for her point about being on stage: at this point in my career, I know the spotlight should be on the students, and and I should guide them from the side, as needed. Which was why as I entered the center of the circle during our Morning Meeting group activity, I was very conflicted.
I didn’t feel like I belonged there. Another student should. So, how did I find myself in the center during the group activity Description? My students asked me to go, but why did I listen? I was caught off-guard and couldn’t find a reason not to go in the middle. Three students huddled together and wrote something on an index card. Then, they taped it to my back. I stood up, shuffling within the area of the circle, so each student could see what was written on my back. Everyone, but me.
Description is like 21 Questions, the person in the middle will ask a question, and the members in the circle can answer with a yes or no. Occasionally they will tell someone, “that’s not a good question.” We modify the activity so that the person asking the question has three to five minutes to figure out the word on his or her back. Keep it quick.
The words on someone’s back connect to where we are in the curriculum. I use this as our jumping off point, or anticipatory set, for when we get to the topic mentioned in Description. The two words written and guessed prior to me standing up were: Andrew Jackson (where we are in Social Studies), followed by pizza (what Maniac Magee is allergic to in the Jerry Spinelli book we’re using as mentor text).
I began by asking if the word taped to my back was a place. (it wasn’t). Thing. (no). So, I knew it was a person. As I asked question after question, the students laughed, giggled, smiled, and all raised their hands. They were engaged, and I felt good.
I got the answer correct within the three to five minute grace period. The answer related to an inside joke we shared this year. It was unimportant. What was important was the feeling I had being in the center of the circle. I realized that it’s okay as the teacher to sometimes put yourself in the center of the circle. It drove up the energy level for the balance of our morning. When I guessed the word correctly, the children let out a loud cheer. It was almost deafening. I wanted to phone the teachers to the right and left of me and apologize. I didn’t want to interfere with their instruction.
By allowing myself to be in the center I connected to the students differently: I understood why they enjoy this activity, how challenging it is thinking of questions that give information, yet can only be answered with a “yes” or “no”, and to have all eyes focused on you. That can be pretty uncomfortable.
I still made sure to let the students guide the learning. They chose the word, they answered my questions, and when I seemed puzzled, they provided support: “You’re on the right track, Mr. Saide,” one said. “Go back, and think about what you know so far,” another stated. “That’s a good question, Mr. Saide,” said a third. Their positive language was a reminder that they know how to present themselves when talking to others.
As the rest of the morning unfolded, I realized how lucky I was to be a teacher in this room, with this group of kids, and what a superb moment I just shared with them: they had showed initiative by asking me to go to the center of the circle. This had never happened with any other class in the seven years since I integrating Morning Meeting into the day. Students guided my questioning approach when needed, and followed the Morning Meeting guidelines they created as we participated together. They acted as I’d taught them to.
At some point, you’ll have an opportunity to go to the center of the circle. Maybe, you’ll have a lot of opportunities. Every once in awhile, take it. You may just like how it feels.