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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.
As we enter the New Year and look back on progress made, we see that the important issues facing educators today are not being addressed. Politicians and bureaucrats continue to focus almost exclusively on test scores and financial issues. Our children are suffering. Their individual needs are not being met. Our teachers are not empowered to do what needs to be done to create a new future for public education. I’ve chosen 5 Resolutions for 2014 that should help us move from research and rhetoric and take meaningful action.
1. Commit to teaching the whole child.
As politicians and bureaucrats increase pressure to raise test scores and close gaps, the majority of teachers know that the only way to do this is through developing the whole child. It is not about defining core curriculum, mandating a narrow range of teaching strategies and measuring results. Whole children have strengths, talents, passions, learning styles, challenges, insecurities, fears, values and beliefs.
2. Have Real Leaders leading.
Real Leaders are driven by beliefs and values, not expediency. They model and teach trust and respect. They inspire and empower. They plan and budget strategically and have a bias for action. Perhaps most importantly, they have common sense and use their wisdom. They are not confined by rules and regulations and do whatever it takes to make a real difference. Real Leaders impact the lives of others positively.
3. Address problems, not symptoms.
Focusing on symptoms is much like tinkering or doing something to make the symptom go away. The real problem is never dealt with and will recur. Think about the following examples as you consider whether you are working on symptoms or problems.
•The goal is to stop bullying. This won’t be accomplished by having anti-bullying programs and sanctions for those who bully. We must teach our children to know themselves, be themselves and respect one another. We must move well beyond telling them what not to do and support them in being the best they can be.
•The goal is to improve our ranking on international tests. This won’t be accomplished by teaching to the tests and applying pressure on teachers and students to “do better”. This is where we must look deeply into what has happened in America to cause this drop. Then we take action.
By defining the problems at national, state and local levels we can then make the significant changes necessary to create more effective public education systems and a better future for our children.
4. Engage and empower all stakeholders.
Politicians and bureaucrats have a place in solving our problems but it is not to define the solution. It is to create a vision for the future together with some broad goals that form a framework for action at the local level. School districts, principals, teachers, students and parents are best positioned to create solutions that work for them. When people are empowered to take significant action they will. Just look at the schools scattered across the country that are literally changing the lives of their students and their communities. It is because people feel empowered to take whatever action is necessary to make bold changes.
5. Move from They to We.
We live in a culture of blame. If a student isn’t learning, blame the teacher. If poor children aren’t doing well, blame their parents. If people are poor, blame the government. Focusing on blame is certainly not the same as defining the problem. Blaming causes inaction. We can’t be satisfied with simply pointing to “they” as the culprits and washing our hands of any real action. “We” can make a difference. We can take responsibility. We can act. We can work together. There can be no “they” if we hope to move forward toward a shared Vision for our future. We must revisit the concept of decentralizing decision-making and accountability to the front lines. We can align authority with responsibility and then empower those in positions to have a real impact.
None of this is new or revolutionary. Unfortunately it continues to be rhetoric that is always on the back burner but doesn’t find its place in our schools and in our classrooms. We need people to step up and do what needs to be done. Be that voice that won’t go away. Be the Real Leader in your school, in your community, in your school district and beyond. Commit to these 5 Resolutions or create your own. Whatever you do, be sure that your focus remains on the child. This is where we will have a real impact.
Coaching With Glee
by Kathleen O'Connell Sauline
The Importance of a Strong Filter 1/10/14
Teachers, coaches and administrators must develop and maintain a strong filter. This filter, aligned with our mission, vision and framework for continuous improvement, will be the key to our failure or success. We’ve all know administrators who go to a conference for three days and come back with the latest salve for all our woes. “You will differentiate. I will look for differentiation in your classroom. You will have a “needs improvement” on the differentiation line of your evaluation just in case you aren’t differentiating enough.” WHOA! We all know we need to differentiate; it is a critical element of the practice of good teaching. In order to know how to best differentiate and what it should look like in your classroom you must evaluate your students’ needs, design an approach, select strong strategies, and practice deploying the differentiated teaching and learning you designed. No one can walk by and tell whether that is or has happened. When you do enter a classroom, as a peer, a coach or an administrator, you can tell whether students know what is expected of them that day, whether they appear engaged, whether learning appears to be on target. It is harder to know whether the rigor is appropriate, the standards are aligned, and whether growth in learning is occurring. What does a filter have to do with enhancing the experience described? A filter prevents us from overloading unaligned strategies just because everyone is doing them. A filter prevents us from using a good strategy inappropriately. A filter says: We will do x when it meets our learning goals and student needs of a, b, and c. A good filtering process is team based and is understood by teachers, coaches and administrators. A good filtering process is the difference between strong teachers with life balance and teachers who are overwhelmed, absorbing every expectation, or rigid, refusing to adjust or grow. We’ll explore more ideas for designing an effective filtering process for teaching, next time. We’ll explore filtering as an individual and as a team process. Thanks for reading. If this made you think, pass it on!
A half a century ago, today, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty and launched several initiatives intended to battle the ravages of a chronic and persistent problem. Among these was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It required that any institution receiving federal funding could not deny anyone access to any program or activity based on race, color, or national origin (Hanna, 2005). There were many additional educational initiatives that occurred during this time period. Each focused on equality of social justice and social benefits and better ensuring that underserved minority student populations (i.e., students living in poverty and students from diverse racial, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds) would receive equal access to an appropriate education.
Where are we now?
Fifty years later, has the achievement gap experienced by groups of underserved students been closed? While the Common Core State Standards are being used widely by almost every state in the nation, they have not been in effect long enough to know whether they will have a significant impact on this outcome. Also, they do not call for a different approach to be used in the classroom. Rather, they call for a common set of outcomes for what it is students should know and be able to do.
A look at what is occurring shines some light on this important question. In a report released in June 2011, completed by the Editorial Project in Education Research Center and using data on high school graduates, we learn that underserved groups continue to be among the most underachieving and vulnerable or at-risk of failing school (Swanson, 2011). This is a particularly important when we consider that 48% of the nation’s students are living in poverty (US Department of Education, 2013).
While it is critical to understand racial, economic, and gender differences, a closer look at language and literacy, especially the type of language and literacy that are needed to perform successfully in school, is an important key to unlocking more effective ways for closing the achievement gap. In the United States, along with 350 different languages spoken among the nation’s English learners (Garcia, Jensen, & Scribner, 2009) many many dialects are spoken. While African American Vernacular English is the most widely studied of the dialects of English spoken in America, many additional dialects are used by our nation’s students, including Latin American Vernacular English, Alaskan American Vernacular English, Hawaain American Vernacular English, and Indigenous American Vernacular English (Labov, 2006).
In addition, there are regional dialect differences (Delpit, 2011). Morever, like any language system, dialects are dynamic and evolve with the culture and context in which they occur, making communication more descriptive. As a result, students come to school using dialects and languages that reflect their home cultures and their language systems are richly diverse and constantly evolving. Some of these students come to school with a deep foundation in the language system that is used in school (what many refer to as school or academic language) while others do not.
To look at this more closely, it is helpful to understand what it means to be a proficient user of academic English. The federal definition of the abilities that an English learner must obtain to be considered proficient in English sheds some light on the academic language that is needed by ALL of the nation’s students. It includes the following: "(i) the ability to meet the State’s proficient level of achievement on State assessments, (ii) the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English, (iii) the opportunity to participate fully in society" (U.S. Department of Education, 2004)
An important characteristic of the federal definition is that a student must be able “to meet the state’s proficient level of achievement on State assessments.” While these may vary from state to state, the common requirement is that a student is highly fluent and competent in academic language. Let's look at a classroom interaction that occurs between a student and her Kindergarten teacher.
Teacher: Do you have the permission slip for the class trip?
Student: It be at home.
In this short exchange, what do we note about the student's speech and its relation to academic language? First, some of us might respond that the student understands the question, uses precise language, and her response is dialectally rich. At the same time, we might also find ourselves using deficit-based language to describe the differences that we see between the language that she uses and school language. Common deficit-based descriptors, such as nonstandard speaker, might be used. These divergent views are particularly relevant for us to consider for three primary reasons. First, across the country, rural, suburban, and urban schools are becoming more populated by students who possess language systems that are distinct from the academic language system that is needed to be successful in school (Calderon & Minaye-Rowe, 2010; Zacarian, 2011; 2012). While, the highest concentrations are in urban areas, rural and suburban communities are rapidly finding themselves teaching students from these experiences. Second, we must value and honor these language systems as opposed to viewing them as a deficit. Third, we must support the learning of academic language while simultaneously supporting the learning of the curriculum across all subject matters.
This type of intentional teaching of academic language is critical. It calls for transforming our understanding, value, and practices about working with the growing population of academic language learners. Until this is done in a more intentional and meaningful way, the legacy of poverty is likely continue as some groups of students will not have the access that is sorely needed to close the academic language gap.
This article should be referenced/cited as: Zacarian, D. (January 8, 2014). The war on poverty: fifty years and counting. http://zacarianconsulting.com. It has been excerpted in part from Zacarian (2013) Mastering academic language: a framework for supporting student achievement.
Conferencing lies at the heart of effective writing instruction. Why?
Because, unlike math or even spelling, writing offers no single correct answer. In some ways, it is like playing a sport. You have to put a variety of skills together to hit the target. As teachers, we demonstrate the “rules of the game” and then guide our students in strengthening their “performance.” It’s a step-by-step process. Like the coach who offers personalized advice to help each athlete improve, we give individualized feedback that helps students discover their power as writers.
In this three-part blog series, I discuss the most common conferencing challenges we hear about when coaching grade-level teachers on professional development days:
Let’s look at solutions for the first bullet point.
The Old-Fashioned English Teacher Mindset
Don’t take this the wrong way – English teachers aren’t the problem! The problem occurs when a teacher mistakenly corrects every single error on a child’s paper. Redlining papers like a high school English teacher does not serve K-5 writers! Why?
Just imagine this scenario. You are learning to play tennis. You’re a beginner who’s trying hard, and you’re proud of your efforts. Your coach offers feedback on your progress, and reports that you’re doing many things wrong. You need to: (1) follow through on your serves (2) use two hands for your backhand (3) adopt a different grip on the racket (4) plant your feet before every stroke, and (5) anticipate your opponent’s moves so you can hustle to the ball better. Sound overwhelming?
Solution — Don’t Try to Correct Every Mistake!
Nobody learns to play tennis like Serena Williams all at once. By the same token, children have a hard time maintaining motivation for the long haul if they’re faced with a long list of mistakes every time the teacher gives them feedback. In conferences, stick to one or two teaching points.
That’s all. Anything more, students will not absorb.
Tip: Your teaching points address writing weaknesses –but be sure to honor strengths, too! Just as none of us likes to hear a solid stream of criticism from colleagues or family members, students need their efforts acknowledged. When conferencing, compliment at least one specific strength for your two teaching points. WriteSteps students learn to analyze anonymous student writing samples this way, too, by looking for glows (what has the writer done well?) and grows (what could the writer improve?). The two must go hand-in-hand.
Did you find this conferencing tip helpful? If so, check back next week for part two of “Teaching Tips for Great Conferences with Elementary Writers” to learn what do to when you’re not exactly sure what to conference about! While you’re waiting for the next post, sign up for a free trial of WriteSteps, and discover why 1,000’s of teachers love our elementary writing program.
A principal asked me recently about some of the things I do to enhance the culture of learning in my classroom. The question originates from the Danielson instructional mode, domain 2 which concerns the class environment. It is fair enough to ask me about the strategies I use to uphold the culture of learning in my classroom, but I cannot help but feel the whole argument is slanted to find fault with the teacher. The Danielson model seems to consider the teacher as an isolated cog in a great big world. A very mechanistic view of education.
Most educational scholars today view schools from the systemic framework, school is a vibrant, organic system. As in any system, what happens in one area affects all of the other areas. Teaching has got to be looked at in this context. So when you ask me to articulate some of the things I do maintain a culture of learning, I will ask you Mr. Principal, what are YOU doing to create a culture of learning in this school? The culture of learning should permeate the entire school. When a student walks in the front door of school what do they see? How are teachers and other staff members speaking to them? What attributes or indicators are present in this school that communicate high expectations for all learners?
Let's have this conversation first, then we can examine my classroom practice. I am not saying that teachers have no responsibility in this area, I am just saying that the classroom needs to be looked at in the context of the whole school. I propose that there should be a series of rubrics, similar to the Danielson model whereby the whole school is evaluated in the same domains. Let’s evaluate the whole school first – then we will examine classroom practice.
On January 15, 2014 my Blog will be three years old. With this post included I have written 223 posts just for my blog. In addition, I have done several dozen guest posts for other blogs. On a week-to-week basis I strive to write something new about education, or at least a new take on an old subject, but there are some subjects that linger with very little change.
Social media’s influence in education is a great example of slow change under the influence social media itself on education. The acceptance of social media in our culture has allowed social media’s slow acceptance into our school system as a source of branding, collaboration, and communication. The idea of blanket banning of students and teachers from all social media, although, unbelievably, still existing in some less enlightened districts, has been a declining practice. There are far fewer posts about that narrowly considered practice. At least this is progress.
Technology’s acceptance in education however, seems to be a never-ending subject amongst bloggers. Many refer to the fear factor involved with educators and technology. I do not understand what there is to fear from technology. It is what we all depend on to drive our civilization at this point. It is part of our world, and will continue to be so into the future. Our kids will use it and rely on it more than we do, as we used it and relied on it more than our parents did.
There is no longer a choice as to whether or not educators should incorporate technology tools for learning into education. That boat has sailed, that train left the station, that genie is out of the bottle, and that horse got out of the barn. Time to close that barn door and get on with it.
If there is nothing to fear about technology, why are so many educators fearful of it? I have often read that there is a technophobia among some educators. Could it be a fear of being replaced by a computer? I doubt it, because educated adults, especially educators, should be able to recognize that as a myth perpetrated by science fiction. Computers cannot replace teachers, but they can make teachers more effective and efficient.
I think the real pushback on technology from educators comes not from fear, but rather a reluctance to give up time and effort to have to learn something else. Teaching is not an easy job to begin with. It requires not only subject or content knowledge, but education knowledge as well. It requires mastery of two areas and that comes with a price. It requires more than a specialized degree, but additionally, an ongoing struggle to stay relevant in a society that is undergoing continual change at an ever-increasing rapid pace. Learning about technology and how to incorporate it into learning specific to one’s class may be a bridge too far for many educators.
This dilemma, as pervasive as it seems to be, is not totally the fault of the educators. Many educators have taken to learning on their own. They have personalized their learning to address their needs, as well as the needs of their students. As educators we know that self-motivation in learning is not a common commodity. It also holds true for educators who are learners as well.
If our education system requires that our educators maintain their relevance through education than the system should have a responsibility to provide the support and security to do so in terms of time and access to learning. Professional Development needs to be more than an occasional workshop that can then be checked off of an Administrator’s list of things that need to be done for the year. PD must be prioritized and supported on an ongoing basis. It must be part of the workweek. In addition to providing access to new ideas, technology, and methodology, time must be afforded for educators to collaborate on what they have learned. Educators need time and support to put into practice what they need to learn.
In an ideal world every educator would pursue relevance on their own as life long learners. They would seek out the latest and greatest methods and technologies to enhance their teaching and all would benefit. All would be right with the world. Unfortunately for us, we do not live in that world. Educators are strapped for time and money as much as anyone else. Fear of learning something new is far less a factor than time or inclination to do so. If we want to incent people to learn more, we need to prioritize it with time and money. It always comes down to this.
Professional Development for educators for the most part has been left to the individual educators. The hours spent on PD are often mandated by the district, or state and described in teacher contracts, but the learning often comes at the expense of the educator. This is a model that does not work. We are a system obsessed with assessments, yet we fail to assess many of the things that would really make a difference. Try assessing the effectiveness of PD in a district. Is it making a difference to the entire system, or are only a few educators benefitting? If your system’s method of PD does not do what PD is supposed to do, then maybe you need to change the way you are doing it.
From my introduction to Dan Pink through his book Drive I was amazed at how he could write a book about business that pertained so much to what educators do. It was not in the sense of how to create widgets, which is often a business approach to education, but rather what incents people to do what they do in the best way possible. It was more than just the best way to drive students, but the best way to drive educators to their highest potential as well. For that reason Dan has been recognized and engaged by national and international education organizations to address their memberships. I have listened to several of his keynotes with never a disappointment. In personal conversations I have found him to be a really nice guy. I sought him out at a recent trip to D.C. to ask him about his new book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others . I was hoping to find his latest book to be as educator-friendly as Drive.
1. You say that today, like it or not, we're all salespeople. Is that true even of teachers?
On the first question, the answer is "yes." When you look at what white-collar actually do each day, it turns out they spend a huge portion of their time persuading, influencing, and convincing others. It's what I call "non-sales selling" or "moving" others. Money isn't changing hands. The cash register isn't ringing. And the transaction isn't denominated in dollars, but in time, effort, attention, energy commitment and so on.
This is what teachers do much of their day. Think about, for instance, what a good algebra teacher does. At the beginning of a term, students don't know much about the subject. But the teacher works to convince his or class to part with resources -- time, attention, effort -- and if they do, they will be better off when the term ends than they were when it began.
2. You also say that sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the previous 100. How have the forces causing that change affected education?
The biggest change in the buyer-seller relationship. One reason that selling has a bad rap because most of what we know about it arose in a world of information asymmetry -- where the seller always had more information than they buyer and therefore could rip the buyer off. But today, information asymmetry is giving way to something at least close to information parity. That's changed the game in ways we've scarcely recognized. In conditions of information asymmetry, the operative principle is "buyer beware." In a world of information parity, the operative principle is "seller beware."
This has affected teaching in some interesting ways. One hundred and fifty years ago, we began to have schools in part because that's where the information was and teachers were the mechanism by which students accessed that information. Those conditions prevailed for a very long time. But now -- thanks to the Internet, mobile phones, social media and so on -- students have the same access to information that teachers do. That means that a teacher's job isn't to transmit the information, but to equip students with ways to analyze the information, make sense of the information, evaluate the information. What's more, it has begun to change what happens inside the classroom itself as more teachers move to flipping the classroom -- providing the lectures electronically and use class time for hands on work that computers can't replicate.
3. What are the underlying principles of this new approach to selling -- whether you're selling your product, your idea, or yourself?
The result of the change I just described is that sellers -- of anything -- need a new set of skills. There is a rich body of research -- in psychology, economics, linguistics, and cognitive science - that reveals some systematic ways to become more effective in moving others on a remade terrain of information parity. The old ABC's of sales were Always Be Closing. The new ABC's of Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. These three qualities are the platform for effectiveness. Attunement is perspective-taking. Can you get out of your own head and see another's -- a student's, a colleague's, a parent's -- perspective. Buoyancy is staying afloat in an ocean of rejection. And clarity is helping students move from accessing information to curating it and from solving existing problems to identifying hidden problems.
4. On your concept of attunement, what is something a teacher can do to become more attuned with his or her students?
It's important to understand at the outset why attunement matters so much. All of us today have less coercive power. It's tougher for bosses, teachers, parents, and so on simply to command something and expect compliance. The better approach is to understand another's perspective in the hopes of finding common ground.
But that can be a challenge. One sturdy finding of the social science is feelings of power and acuity of perspective taking are inversely correlated. That is, feeling powerful tends to degrade our ability to take another's perspective. This is important because teachers are often in a position of relative power with regard to their students. So being effective often requires beginning from a different position: Assume that you're not the one with the power. This of it as persuasion jujitsu, where you enlist an apparent weakness as a strength. Start your encounters with the assumption that you're in a position of lower power. That will help you see the student's perspective more accurately, which, in turn, will help you move them.
5. What is one other tip teachers might glean from your book?
One of my favorites comes from a technique know as motivational interviewing. With this technique, you can deal with resistance by asking two seemingly irrational questions. So imagine you've got a student that simply doesn't do his homework. Instead of threatening him or punishing him or pleading with him, use the two-question strategy (which I learned from Yale psychologist Michael Pantalon).
The first question is this: "On scale of 1, with one meaning 'not the least bit ready," and 10 being 'totally ready," how ready are you to begin doing homework.
Chances are, he'll pick an extremely low number -- perhaps 1 or 2. Suppose he answers, "I'm a 2."
Then you deploy the second question: Why didn't you choose a lower number?
The second question catches people off guard. And the student now has to answer why he's not a 1. "Well, he might say, if I did my homework, I might do a little better on tests." "If I did my homework, I might learn a little more." "I'm getting older and I know I'm going to have to become a little more responsible."
In other words, he moves from defending his current behavior to articulating why, at some level, he wants to behave differently. Equally important, he begins to state his own autonomous, intrinsically motivated reasons for doing something. When people have their own reasons for doing something, they believe those reasons more deeply and adhere to them more strongly.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to use Pantalon's technique? And why didn't you choose a lower number?
Student feedback can be heavy. I know that it can be an invaluable tool in improving instruction, but collecting, interpreting, and using the feedback can be grueling nonetheless. First, it is scary to be judged (especially by learners that may harbor grudges from you upholding the policy on "no late work" or even from the younger, hormonal teens that are driven by their emotions). Second, student opinion becomes a part of your official teaching record/standing when the student evaluations are submitted to the school administration. Finally, it is difficult to know how to interpret the overall meaning of the evaluations (void of your emotions) and then PRODUCTIVELY use the data to inform your teaching.
In hopes of making the student feedback process more bearable this semester, I decided to focus on specific ways to use the feedback. Typically as teachers, we invest a huge amount of time in collecting student opinions. for example, english teachers may focus on the thoughts/actions of literature characters. Similarly, science teacher may focus on getting students to share their view of a particular theory. As teachers, we really need to dedicate just as much time (if not more) to exploring student feedback. Below are 5 ways that may help in critically examining student feedback:
1. Table the Issue
I love the organizational properties that tables provide for data. When examining student feedback, try to create tables to house the information. You can use an "Affect vs. Action" table that will show your emotions toward particular student feedback and how you will respond to that comment. For example recently on a feedback sheet, a student wrote that it seemed like I jumped from one idea in the text book to another. In the "Affect vs. Action" table I would write that "I felt that I did move quickly from one concept to another, but in the future, I would provide an outline for the notes in addition to the basic daily agenda in hopes of guiding the student better."
Another option would be creating a table of the themes that become evident from the feedback. When you review the feedback, what patterns seem to emerge or jump out at you? If you find multiple comments about curriculum organization, practice time, or assessment, then these ideas should be highlighted in your table.
2. Identify the Circle of Control
Do you remember the movie "Meet the Fockers" and how Deniro kicked his future son-in law Ben Stiller out of his 'friend circle'? The idea is that there are things that we as teachers control and there are things that are beyond our control. In that movie, Deniro had the ability to be friends (or become an enemy) to his son in law. As teachers we have a great deal of power. We can choose particular aspects of our curriculum (dependent of course on our district), but we have to acknowledge that we can not control everything in our classroom. For instance, on a recent feedback form, one student reported the expense of the textbook as a barrier to learning (university text books can be 100 dollars or more typically). I can not control the price of the text (that is required through the university), thus this was a factor that was beyond my control.
3. Highlight Student Voice
More than likely, your evaluations will include both positive and not-so-positive feedback. Embrace both. In the past I have saved student comments and displayed them at home for quick reference. Of course, I enlarge and use flashing lights to frame the postive comments (just kidding), but the point is, that I continually revisit the student's words in order to stay focued on growing as an instructor.
Another option is to use the student's comments during parent conferences to provide feedback about your current teaching style. You can format the feedback in a table or even compile a series of comments and create testimonials regarding how students feel about your instructional methods.
4. Explore Alternate Explanations
No evaluation process is perfect. Even though we try our best to collect valid and reliable data, sometimes extraneous variables get in the way (review number 2 on this list). If you obtain negative comments about your teaching, the odds are that factors outside of your teaching ability/effort are involved. For instance variables such as the frequency of data collection, the student response rate, and social desirability (or the need to rebel) contributed to the feedback that your students provided).
5. Stay in the Know
For years we have heard about the research to practice gap in education. Don't fall into this gap. Stay abreast of the research and information regarding student feedback. The New Directions for Teaching & Learning Journal is a great resource for information on collecting and using student feedback (This journal's volume 2001 issue 87 is dedicated to student feedback).
There are websites that offer pdf's and other resources to help teachers make sense of student feedback. The Teaching Channel website (www.teachingchannel.org) includes a video "Improving Practice: Learning From My Students". In addition, The Center for Teaching & Learning offers a document titled "Interpreting and Working with your Course Evaluations" (www.ctl.stanford.edu).
Yes, student feedback can cause anxiety, but it does not have to. Try the strategies listed above and let me know how they work (if they work for you). I would love to know how you survive student evaluations at your school. Please leave any teacher eval survivor tips in the comment section below.
*Please note that this is the final post in the 3 part series on student perception.