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I was having a great week. I had returned from ECET2, a convening celebrating effective teachers and teaching. It was hosted by the Gates Foundation (@gatesed), and all 350 attendees were nominated from major educational organizations. From that experience, I gained new friendships and possible opportunities for future collaboration. Our NJASCD North Region had a successful weekday PD event with Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) on Digital Learning and Leading. Eric even stayed 45 minutes after his presentation ended to ask me, and my North Region Co-Director, Billy J. Krakower (@wkrakower), how we were doing personally and professionally. Life was good. But all I could think about was some offhand comment someone had made to me a few days earlier.
It was an innocuous comment made to me by someone I don’t know. And, it’s so silly it doesn’t even bear repeating. Yet, I stayed in my car for almost ten minutes before reversing my car out of my parking spot.
In prior posts I’ve written about the importance of treating each other well and modeling it daily, the importance of honesty in our relationships with students, parents, and peers, and staying true to our core values as educators. I pride myself in finding the good in others, in our field, and myself, which is why as I reflected on this moment, I wondered where my unwavering positivity went. Why would I let someone I don’t know, who doesn’t know me and will never see me again, have a lasting effect on me? Why would I allow someone to take away my excellence?
Eric Bernstein (@bernsteinusc), in his race to write more than I do, wrote a beautiful piece about the importance of understanding who students are as people, and where they are as learners. (http://edge.ascd.org/_Lessons-From-the-Fonz-Part-1/blog/6562962/127586.html). His belief (and mine, too) is: the better we know our students, the more successful we can educate them. I think we can extend this concept: the better we know and are honest with ourselves, the better we can educate our students because we will be in a better place, too. And, it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves, acknowledge what irks us (like a throwaway comment by a stranger), and have a support system in place to assist us when we hear the negative whispers after a comment like that which feeds into our insecurities.
With the hope that this post supports other educators who hear and sometimes can’t block out the negative whispers, here is my advice to keep the faith:
1. Get Some Ed Therapy: Twitter has salvaged my day more than I like to admit. When I’m down, drained, or dejected, I click on my Tweetdeck shortcut and connect with my edufriends. They have become an extended family, one I share my thoughts, questions, concerns, and ruminations about life in and outside of education. I know they will always be my rock when I need them, and hope they know the same is true for me. My #ASCDL2L, #satchat, #njed, #arkedchat, #iaedchat, #edchat, and #ECET2 crew, I love you all. (Hashtag that).
2. Find Your Matt Hall: every person in education needs one person in their district who believes in them and shares of themselves, so we become better by learning from their experiences, instead of having to go through them ourselves. Matt Hall (@MHall_MST), the Science and Technology Supervisor in my district, is that person for me. Because he’s paid his dues, knows my driven nature and my end goals, listens to me when I speak, and guides me when my thinking needs redirection. And, he’s a vault. What goes on with Matt Hall, stays with Matt Hall.
3. Have a Phone Call with Someone from Iowa (or North Carolina, Minnesota, or New York): it was one year ago when I was at a crossroads professionally. I wasn’t sure where my path was leading, or if I could go further. Jimmy Casas (Casas_Jimmy), who I’d known briefly from a couple Twitter interactions, called me and spoke with me for an hour. We discussed me: who I was, who I wanted to be, what my long-term goals were, and why. Jimmy reminded me I couldn’t change my current situation, but I could change my mindset. And it was that conversation, followed by conversations with Steven Weber (@curriculumblog), Kimberly A. Hurd (@khurdhorst), and Maureen Connolly (http://goo.gl/RPN7DH) that prompted me to e-mail Marie Adair (@todayadair), the Executive Director of NJASCD, and ask what I could do to help the organization. Her response: “Whatever you are comfortable with. We’re just happy to have you join us.”
Like Eric Bernstein’s post, I tried to focus on three main points. Additionally, Eric mentioned his desire to keep his message short, but acknowledged the challenges inherent in that. With that being said, I wanted to list the 99 people who have mentored me on the anniversary of my mindset changing conversations. I am not a better person, father, husband, or teacher without them in my life. I have listed Eric Sheninger, Billy Krakower, Eric Bernstein, Matt Hall, Jimmy Casas, Steven Weber, Kim Hurd, Maureen Connolly, and Marie Adair already, so I will start at the number ten, in no order. Each one of them has helped shape and mold me in some way. To acknowledge that, I have included their Twitter handles if they have them. All are worthy of a follow, and will reciprocate sharing ideas with the goal that we all go further together. We may have 99 problems, but a mentor should not be one:
10. David Culberhouse (@dculberhouse)
11. Daisy Dyer-Duerr (@daisydyerduerr)
12. Scott Rocco (@scottrrocco)
13. Brad Currie (@bcurrie5)
14. John Fritzky (@johnfritzky)
15. Jay Eitner (@isupereit)
16. Anthony Fitzpatrick (@antfitz)
17. Diane Jacobs
18. Pam Lester (@njpam)
19. Mariann Helfant
20. MaryJean DiRoberto
21. Tom Tramaglini (@tomtramaglini)
22. Matt Mingle (@mmingle1)
23. Alina Davis (@alinadavis)
24. Fred Ende (@fredende)
25. Becki Kelly (@bekcikelly)
26. Kevin Kelly (@emammuskevink)
27. Tony Sinanis (@tonysinanis)
28. Ross LeBrun (@MrLeBrun)
29. Darren Vanishkian (@mrvteaches)
30. Glenn Robbins (@glennr1809)
31. Rebecca McLelland-Crawley
32. Bruce Arcurio (@principalarc)
33. Scott Totten (@4bettereducatio)
34. Kevin Connell (@WHS_Principal)
35. Krista Rundell (@klrundell)
36. Cory Radisch (@MAMS_Principal)
37. Meg (Simpson) Cohen (@megkcohen)
38. Tina Byland
39. Klea Scharberg
40. Suzy Brooks (@simplysuzy)
41. Eric Russo (@erusso78)
42. Walter McKenzie (@walterindc)
43. Kristen Olsen (@kristenbolsen)
44. Kevin Parr
45. Robert Zywicki (@zywickir)
46. Chris Giordano (@giordanohistory)
47. Jim Cordery (@jcordery)
48. Drew Frank (@ugafrank)
49. Jasper Fox, Sr. (@jsprfox)
50. Kate Baker (@ktbkr4)
51. Megan Stamer (@meganstamer)
52. John Falino (@johnfalino1)
53. Jon Harper (@johnharper70bd)
54. Grant Wiggins (@grantwiggins)
55. Kirsten Wilson (@teachkiwi)
56. Dan P. Butler (@danpbutler)
57. Tim Ito (@timito4)
58. Andre Meadows (@andre_meadows)
59. Tom Whitford (@twhitford)
60. Matt Renwick (@readbyexample)
61. Chris Bronke (@mrbronke)
62. Daniel Ryder (@wickeddecentlearning)
63. Emily Land (@eland1682)
64. Jessica (J-Wright) Wright (@jessicampitts)
65. Phil Griffins (@philgriffins)
66. Jennifer Orr (@jenorr)
67. Sophia Weissenborn (@srweissenborn)
68. Kristie Martorelli (@azstoykristie)
69. Michelle Lampinen (@michlampinen)
70. Manan Shah (@shahlock)
71. Tom Murray (@thomascmurray)
72. Rich Kiker (@rkiker)
73. Irvin Scott (@iscott4)
74. Vivett Hymens (@lotyssblossym)
75. Jon Spencer (@jonspencer4)
76. Jozette Martinez (jozi_is_awesome)
77. Peggy Stewart (@myglobalside)
78. Michael J. Dunlea (@michaeljdunlea)
79. Karen Arnold (@sanford475)
80. Ashleigh Ferguson (@ferg_ashleigh)
81. Jill Thompson (@edu_thompson)
82. Rick Hess (@rickhess99)
83. Maddie Fennell (@maddief)
84. Todd Whitaker (@toddwhitaker)
85. Jeff Zoul (@jeff_zoul)
86. Jen Audley (@jen_audley)
87. Kevin Scott (@edu_kevin_)
88. Kathryn Suk (@ksukeduc)
89. Baruti Kafele (@principalkafele)
90. Peter DeWitt (@petermdewitt)
91. Anthony McMichael (@a_mcmichael)
92. Natalie Franzi (@nataliefranzi)
93. Paul Bogush (@paulbogush)
94. Sam Morra (@sammorra)
95. Spike C. Cook (@drspokecook)
96. Colin Wikan (@colinwikan)
97. George Courous (@gcouros)
98. Scott Taylor (@tayloredlead)
99. Dave Burgess (@burgessdave)
“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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
ASCD Nominations Committee Selects Candidates for ASCD Board of Directors
In January 2014, the 2014 ASCD Nominations Committee selected five candidates to run for two open positions on the Board of Directors in the next General Membership Election. Those five individuals are Tony Frontier (Wisc.), Josh Garcia (Wash.), Patrick Miller (N.C.), Lorraine Ringrose (Alberta, Canada), and Anne Roloff (Ill.). The election process will open on April 1 and will run through May 15.
ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda
The key priority for ASCD in 2014 is to promote multimetric accountability so that standardized test scores are not the sole measure of student achievement, educator effectiveness, or school quality. Multimetric accountability systems must
The 2014 Legislative Agenda (PDF) contains four policy recommendations:
ASCD Educators Connect the Classroom to the Capitol
Educators throughout the United States recently convened in Washington, D.C., to attend ASCD’s legislative conference, the Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy (LILA). Attendees had the opportunity to meaningfully network with colleagues, build knowledge to expand their personal influence, and hear from top education thought leaders including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who urged attendees to “seize the day.” Duncan also commended ASCD and its members for “walking the walk when it comes to professional development,” helping classroom teachers and schools leaders commit to a “rich, well-rounded, rigorous education.”
If you were unable to attend this year, see LILA’s storify collection—which brings together your colleagues’ pictures, tweets, and reflections. ASCD Emerging Leader alum Hannah Gbenro also shared her reflections in an ASCD EDge® post Educational Advocacy: Why and How.
Other conference highlights:
Access follow-up resources from the conference, including more detailed policy recommendations and an overview of the legislative agenda.
ASCD Emerging Leader is Facilitator of New Professional Interest Community
Congratulations to ASCD Emerging Leader Jill Thompson, facilitator of ASCD’s newest Professional Interest Community on the topic of personalized learning. Please join the Personalized Learning group on the ASCD EDge platform to stay connected on this important topic.
Join the ASCD Forum Conversation on Teacher Leadership
The ASCD Forum is the chance for educators to make their voices heard on a topic of worldwide importance. From January 15 to April 11, ASCD invites all educators to explore the question through online and face-to-face discourse, “How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?”
To learn more about the ASCD Forum:
To join the conversation:
Join the ASCD EDge® group and respond to the comments from other educators.
Read and comment on these blog posts:
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #ASCDForum.
Write your own blog post on the topic of teacher leadership. Here’s how.
Join us at ASCD Annual Conference in Los Angeles at session #2124 hosted by ASCD President Becky Berg on Sunday, March 16, 8:00–9:30 a.m. pacific time.
As the most active leaders in the association, you are integral to the success of this conversation. Your leadership helps set an example for others to make their voices heard. Please join the discussion on teacher leadership!
ASCD Leader Voices
ASCD Releases 2014 PD Online® Course Catalog for K–12 Educators—ASCD announced the release of the 2014 PD Online course catalog. The new catalog offers more than 100 user-friendly courses developed by ASCD authors and experts available anytime, anywhere to educators, including 21 new PD Online courses. PD Online courses are developed to help educators increase their knowledge and discover best practice methods. Read the full press release.
ASCD Announces Expanded On-Site and Blended Professional Learning Services Offerings—ASCD announced the new ASCD Professional Learning Services, enabling more school districts nationwide to receive greater customized professional development from the association. The ASCD Professional Learning Services offerings are customizable based on the needs of a district or school and are available in on-site or blended solutions. Read the full press release. Read the full press release.
2014 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show Set to Host Sessions Focused on Technology, Leadership, Common Core Implementation, and More—ASCD announced the full schedule of events for the upcoming 69th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show. The upcoming conference will be held March 15–17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Attendees will learn ideas and best-practice strategies that drive student achievement while unlocking ways to boost teacher and leadership effectiveness. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases Four New Professional Development Publications to Transform Learning—ASCD announced the release of four new professional development titles for educators. As educators face new standards and classroom challenges, they will find solutions for prioritizing school improvement efforts, working with difficult students, bringing joy into teaching and learning, and teaching vocabulary effectively in these new professional development publications. Read the full press release.
ASCD Brings Spring and Summer Common Core Professional Development Institutes to New Cities in 2014—ASCD announced the lineup of one- and two-day Professional Development Institutes for the spring and summer. Expanding to eight new cities, ASCD’s institutes are designed to provide greater support to educators nationwide as they continue to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), while meeting educators where they are. Read the full press release.
ASCD Releases 2014 Legislative Agenda, Calls for Increased Multimetric Accountability—ASCD released its 2014 Legislative Agenda on Monday, January 27th, at the association’s Leadership Institute for Legislative Advocacy in Washington, D.C. Developed by the association’s Legislative Committee—a diverse cross section of ASCD members representing the entire spectrum of K–12 education—the 2014 ASCD Legislative Agenda outlines the association’s federal policy priorities for the year. Read the full press release.
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.
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.
One of my favorite movies during my high school years was ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.’ The movie focused on two lovable, sweet, but nowhere near valedictorian high school seniors who need to pass a history report in order to graduate. With the help of a time machine, and some luck, they pass their class, meet the girls of their dreams, and are able to start their own rock band.
At one point in the movie, Bill and Ted are transported to the very distant future, where they meet three people, aptly named ‘The Three Most Important People in the World.’ These three people recognize Bill and Ted, and seem to revere them. The men are speechless, waiting to see what Bill and Ted will do:
Ted: Bill, I think they want us to say something.
Bill: What should I say?
Ted: (shrugs) Make something up.
Bill: Be excellent to each other.
After BIll’s comment, the three men nod appreciatively, as if this is the wisest thing the two transported teens could say. And, when thinking about teacher leadership, I don’t think Bill or Ted is that far off when they say we should be excellent to each other.
Being excellent to one another is really what’s at the core of teacher leadership, for me. Excellence begins in the way we interact with each other, as professionals. We greet the secretaries in the main office. Even if their heads are down, it’s important to acknowledge them, and validate the important role they play as the first line of communication (or defense) in our buildings.
Interacting with excellence includes saying hello to each other in the hallway, even if we’ve just seen each other, or don’t know one another. We respect each other’s role in the school, and each one of us helps make our school community function positively. That quick greeting we gave may be the one that perks someone up. Or, it may be the first positive interaction that person has had all day. We’re not always cognizant of our role and effect on others, and we should be, because we’re in-tune with how others affect us.
Our students see the interactions we have with our peers and co-workers. Students see if we greet each other with a smile. They also hear our sarcasm, and see us if we use negative non-verbal communication, like turning our backs, ignoring comments from peers, or averting eye contact. Students then internalize our mannerisms. After all, we are their teacher. Aren’t students supposed to do what their teacher says to do? Don’t actions speak louder than words?
At some point, students will replicate us: either in how they talk to the peers or co-workers we spoke to (or one of similar status), or in how they speak to their own classmates. We have an opportunity to model excellence in leadership without ever leaving our classroom by ‘being excellent to each other.’ Perhaps the ‘Three Most Important People in the World’ understood that. And, perhaps Bill and Ted had a little more social intelligence than we gave them credit for in that movie. Because, creating an excellent environment depends on the consistency in which we carry our excellence with us.
Now, go be excellent to each other. See how that feels. Chances are, you’ll enjoy it.
Then, take that feeling and party on, dude. (couldn’t resist).
I am an upbeat person and typically listen to upbeat music to get myself ready for the workday. The two genres that energize me most are hair band metal and today’s pop music. Think Bon Jovi and Motley Crue meet Katy Perry and Lorde. These genres put me in a good place, and I feel ready to take on the day. (Don’t judge).
I was listening to a song by Sara Bareilles titled “Brave” this morning. There was a line that hit home for me:
“Say what you wanna’ say
And let the words fall out.
Honestly, I wanna’ see you be brave.”
I wondered the rest of the day: how often am I brave in education? I think I am with my teaching: I stay current in my research on best practice and am always looking to integrate new learning into the classroom. I continually invest in myself by reading my PLN’s education blogs, attend conferences, co-moderate and participate in Twitter #edchats, write, and co-direct a region of a valued professional educational organization. But, do I invest in myself and others when it’s difficult, when I may face initial isolation for my honesty, when it’s harder for me to be brave?
Bravery as an educator (to me) means the willingness to be open and honest with peers when discussing best practice. I believe I need to be brave and willing to disagree respectfully with the hope that through this dialogue my fellow educators and I will both grow in a backdrop of honesty. This means we “say what you wanna’ say, and let the words fall out.”
When we do this, we aren’t being unprofessional or judging one another. Instead, we’re willing to have the hard conversation. It isn’t personal to us, it’s about personalizing the learning and making it relevant to the children we serve. Because, isn’t that why we went into education in the first place -- to make a difference with students and their parents? To change things for the better, so others could have a better overall educational experience than we had?
Bravery as an educator to me also means the willingness to be direct and honest with the parents’ of children who need it. It’s not easy to sit with a parent and explain why their child isn’t behaving in class, producing quality work, or making good choices. However, if we want to make the difference we told ourselves when we went into this field, then we need to have this conversation. Daily, if need be. Because if we don’t, not only are we not being brave, but we’re not honoring the educators who did invest positively in us and the lives of others.
Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, that “The architects of the constitution wrote a promissory note...instead of honoring this sacred obligation...America defaulted on this check….which came back marked insufficient funds.”
When we make decisions that impact children and their families, let’s make sure that those deposits we make in them never come back insufficient. That’s not brave. And, I think whether someone listens to Sara Bareilles or not, we can all agree that the more honest and real we are in our relationships, the more satisfied we all will be. Then, when we “let the words fall out,” we’ll be ready for them. And, we’ll hear them the way they’re meant to be heard. (Now you can judge).
View our short videos to gain insight into TEN2ONE's mission to mentor, teach, and empower next generation leaders of color.
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.
As the fireworks burst in the midnight air, I found myself making mental resolutions for the year ahead. Over my nearly 40 trips around the sun, some resolutions have been more meaningful than others. This year, I resolve to be fully present with my children once I am home from school. Professionally, I resolve to use my connected educator powers to help others build their own networks and grow. I am not seeking to bring anyone through my journey. They each have their own destination and road to travel, but I can help support fellow educators in their transition.
Being connected is extremely powerful. As connected educators, we seek out resources and learning new technologies to help our students. We have been able to embrace changes with a growth mindset. As we seek to inspire and reach every child, we have responded by taking whatever steps necessary to be at the top of our game. We have expanded our search beyond the school walls to a vast, global arsenal of educators through our professional learning network (PLN). We adjust our sleep schedule and coffee intake times for Twitter chats. We restructure our time to allow for reading journals, participating in formal workshops or EdCamps, writing blog posts, and lead in professional organizations. We are fully plugged into the matrix and thriving. This new reality seems perfectly normal to us, but perhaps a bit scary to others who have not shifted. I am not about to pull the plug because others are fearful of the change. It is too important for our students that we stay connected, but if you are seeking to make real change happen, become a digital leader and help ALL students.
We must be leading the charge as connected educational leaders, helping our colleagues, districts and states move forward into the new, and ever-changing, digital reality.
How can we help our colleagues stay ahead of the digital curve?
We show others the power of being connected educators and help them build their networks.
As digital leaders, we need to stand with our brothers and sisters. We know that digital tools can help motivate students, provide them with opportunities to articulate their mastery of content and skills, and connect them to a world of experts to enhance the learning experience. It is time we help our colleagues see the value through modeling, coaching, supporting, and providing them with the tools to go on their digital journey.
We can encourage other teachers or administrators to check out resources like Twitter, Edmodo, Edutopia, Classroom 2.0, and the Teacher Leaders Network to build an online community where they will be able to learn and share with other educators. Invite an educator to a professional organization meeting or share with them a Twitter chat archive at lunch. There are plenty of ways we can help our colleagues.
The Alliance For Excellent Education's Project 24 website (http://plan4progress.org/) opens a world of possibilities with access to expert blogs, curriculum ideas, and tangible suggestions.
One of the greatest tools available is access to the free massive online open course for educators: Digital Learning Transition: Massive Open Online Course for Educators (MOOC-Ed). If you are a digital leaders, or hoping to become one, the MOOC-Ed will provide you with the tools to help your entire school community forge ahead. The eight week course begins January 20 and will help you:
• Understand the potential of digital learning in K-12 schools;
• Assess progress and set future goals for your school or district; and
• Plan to achieve those goals.
Consider signing up for the MOOC-ed with a team of teachers, and administrators, and be a part of a learning community of thousands of educators learning and leading the way to help your school district plan effectively implement digital tools.
Whatever tools you consider, start with empathy for your colleagues who need your support and patience. Remain focused on the ideal that we are in a digital world and our students require access to a variety of tools to be successful in the 21st century. Every single time you reach another educator, you will also be helping me achieve my New Year’s resolution. Let’s take this on together - for all of the students.
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.
I am going to be working through some action research in my class in the coming weeks ahead. My focus is going to be about using student feedback to improve my own day-to-day practice. FYI, I teach Gr 6 and 7 math at an international school in Dubai.
In the past I have used exit notes… very helpful on getting information about what the students can do.
I’ve used student surveys and frequent formative assessment… always good information there. The trouble with both of these is /was that it didn’t give me enough information about what I was doing in class.
Our school went one-to-one this year and every student should have an educational device with them at all times. Earlier this year I moved my exit notes from paper to digital form and I found that I was able to gather more data on my practice.
The results were excellent (and I’ll not bore you with ALL of the details) I was able gather data on how many conversations I was having with kids during class time… how many were “getting” the lesson etc. I found that with some work, I was able to have a one-on-one conversation with over 80% of my students in each of the 6 classes I was teaching… I was able to increase student questioning from 15-20% of the kids asking me questions to over 85% of my time being spent answering their questions, usually one-on-one. All good right…
There was also this other thing at the bottom of the list… and it really bothered me… still does.
There were consistently 2 – 5 kids who ticked off that they still were not clear about the lesson content, OR already knew everything we did that day.
That means that if I have a class or 25 students, up to 1/5 of them just wasted their time in my class. Furthermore since the digital exit notes were confidential, I didn’t even know who they were.
This was tough for me to take. I’ve always considered myself a pretty decent teacher; kids progress well, parents like my feedback and e-mails. We all “got along”. Yet here I am with data that says there is a substantial number of my students that may have well stayed outside.
My action research is going to be focused on how I can best use the technology available at my disposal to find a way to use student feedback to provide more effective coaching both in and out of class time.
I’ll try to keep posting about this, and would appreciate any feedback.