Search ASCD EDge
You’ve already spent years, maybe even decades, in the classroom as a teacher, you know how to lead and organize, and you certainly have the “in-the-trenches” perspective that every administrator worth his or her salt must have. Now what? What should you do to make the prospect of becoming a principal a reality? To help answer these questions, we’d like to share a few tips from Peter Hall’s book, The First-Year Principal.
So You Want to Be an Administrator? 5 Tips for Aspiring Principals
Skip the resume—for now
Your first inclination may be to dust off your resume and start looking for open positions, but as Hall wryly notes, the “application” process begins long before resumes, long before you had the crazy idea that “13-hour days with no lunch sounded appealing,” and long before you even had the slightest inkling that you wanted to become a principal.
Hall suggests that you start with “those people with whom you have worked, the contacts you have made, the folks from whom you have earned support and respect.” Do you need to “schmooze” these people? Not at all, but keep in mind that “relationships with credible professionals” are a form of currency—and that currency is priceless.
Stay in the moment
Regardless of their career aspirations, aspiring principals should always “stay in the moment.” For Hall, this means that you must continue to “focus on students in your care and your current school organization as a whole.” In addition to this, it means aligning your “work practice and decision-making with the established school goals.”
For Hall, there is “no reason to focus on anything but excelling in your current position.” This means going where no teacher has gone before: Set and exceed new standards of excellence and watch as your name becomes associated with positive results.
Involve yourself in projects beyond your current position
So you’re continuing to perfect your craft and excel at what you do? Good. Now it’s time for you to do a little more. Start by participating in district activities, committees, panels, focus groups, and other school or district groups and organizations. Just don’t take on so much that you begin to shirk your current job responsibilities or your students; doing so will only undermine the benefits you are hoping to gain from joining these organizations.
Be respectful to everyone you meet
You’re an educator, so you already know that the job doesn’t end when the bell rings. This is especially applicable to teachers who live in small, rural towns, but even those of us who live in the city will run into students, parents, and colleagues at the mall, the grocery store, or in restaurants. We may not even see these people, but you better believe they see us and they take note of what we say, do, and how we behave when we’re out in the community. Eyes are always on us. Keep this in mind not only when you are in the classroom, but outside of it as well.
Find an experienced mentor
There are plenty of books offering advice for aspiring and first-year principals, but few are as wise as someone who has been doing what you hope to do for the last five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Seek out a mentor and learn from him or her. Hopefully, this relationship will not only reaffirm your passion for the position, but also help you become better prepared for the road ahead.
Caring connects kids to their school, their teachers, their learning, their families, their communities, to one another and to themselves. Therefore, creating and maintaining a culture of caring in our schools and communities is paramount to effecting real change.
As with any impactful change, creating a culture of caring requires a delicate combination of programs, processes and people. It is simply not good enough to create or purchase a program and implement it. Over the years, packaged programs have proliferated while bullying and mental illness have increased. Schools have developed processes to create safer environments, yet more students are being hurt physically, socially and emotionally. Little attention has been paid to empowering the people in our schools and communities to make a difference.
As principal of a large, inner city school we implemented a very effective balance of programs, processes and empowerment of people that resulted in a very effective school culture in which our students thrived. Bullying was almost non-existent, kids who needed help got it and test scores went up. All of this occurred in a budget model which allowed us to spend funds where needed. We were empowered.
In order to move you to action, here is a selection of our most effective strategies that allowed us to create an award-winning school in which everyone was proud to work and to learn.
1. Student Empowerment
1. Early Intervention Program- Intermediate students self-selected to be part of a weekly mental health support group that addressed at-risk behaviors and was run in partnership with a local mental health hospital.
2. Yoga – Students self-selected to be part of a weekly lunchtime yoga group. One at-risk girl commented that it saved her life.
3. Mental Karate – The entire school was involved in Mental Karate, a program that took them through setting goals and taking action in the areas of Initiative, Discipline, Contribution, Courage and Awareness.
4. United Mentors for Peace - Intermediate students planned activities to create a peaceful school, reaching out to the community and beyond. They created annual peace assemblies, managed charitable fundraising activities, and took responsibility for supporting a safe and caring culture in the school.
5. Peacekeepers – Junior students were trained in conflict resolution strategies and helped resolve disputes in the Primary and Junior yards.
6. Fun Bunch – Junior students were trained to teach and supervise schoolyard games for Primary students.
7. Social Skills group – Identified students were directly taught social/ emotional skills in partnership with a local community center support program.
8. Leadership development – Students of all ages were engaged as lunch monitors, peer tutors, teacher helpers, reading buddies, coaches and referees. They were also engaged in a multitude of service learning projects.
9. Option Program – Intermediate students had one period a week in which they could choose an activity of interest from such things as cooking, chess, hip-hop dance, drama, visual arts, guitar, board games etc.
2. Teacher Empowerment
1.SSafe and caring teaching and leading– All classrooms were safe and caring, free of ridicule, harassment and sarcasm. Teachers understood the importance of creating an atmosphere in which the brain is at the optimal level of arousal.
2. Bi-weekly professional development staff meetings – Staff were trained to differentiate teaching strategies through honoring multiple intelligences, learning styles and current brain research.
3. Shared leadership – Division leaders were empowered to implement programs and process to support their students academically, socially and emotionally.
3. Parent Empowerment
1. Parent Council was guided to develop a Mission and Goals that supported the school’s Mission.
2. Parental responsibility was embedded in the school’s Mission Statement, “To maximize student learning through students, staff, parents and community working together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared responsibility.”
3. Parent education workshops were provided.
In addition to the previous empowerment examples we maximized the adult:child ratio of support; ensured that each student had a significant connection with a teacher; focused on connections and relationships; worked within a shared, vision, values and beliefs; maintained stability on our staff and leadership team; became a recognized leader as a Professional Learning Community and ensured that being at our school was fun and rewarding.
I hope this provides you with some useful ideas to move forward in creating a safe and caring culture in your classrooms and in your schools.
Our students love when we read aloud to them and while we do this often, we always like to save a few of our favorite books for the last day of school. Before you part with your students for the summer, send them off with one of these read-aloud activities.
Miss Rumphius is the story of Alice Rumphius, who vowed as a young child to do three things in her life: travel to faraway lands, live by the sea, and make the world a more beautiful place. To fulfill her third vow, Alice scatters lupine seeds wherever she goes so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of these flowers long after she is gone.
Miss Rumphius is one of our favorite end-of-the-year read alouds. The illustrations are beautiful and the message challenges students to consider what they can do to make the world a better place. To remind students of this challenge, we like sending them off with a packet of lupine seeds.
City Dog, Country Frog is the story of an unlikely friendship between City Dog and Country Frog. In the spring, City Dog roams the countryside for the first time in his life and discovers Country Frog, a strange creature perched on a rock. It’s an unlikely match, but from here we follow the progression of a rich, but unlikely friendship that spans each season.
After reading this book, we like to play memory games with our students to reflect on the friends we’ve made, the special times we had, and key moments we shared during the school year.
During the school year, we read dozens of books to our students. On the last day of school, we like to take all of these books, spread them out on the tray of our whiteboard, and play the “connection game.”
The teacher begins the game by grabbing any two books and making some sort of connection between them. Next, a student picks a book and makes another connection to one of these two books. Repeat these steps until you’ve successfully connected all of the books together in some way. This is a fun way to revisit favorite books, but it’s also a useful way to reinforce text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.
Photo credit: sweetjessie / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
The Important Book is, as one critic has suggested, is a “deceptively simple exercise” in taking familiar objects (a spoon, a daisy, or rain) and forcing us to look at them in unfamiliar ways. It may be true that daisies are yellow in the middle and that they have long white petals—but why does the author suggest that the “most important” thing about daisies is that they are white? Students often disagree with the author’s conclusions, but that is precisely what makes The Important Book such a great read!
As an accompanying activity, have each student take out a piece of paper and write “The Important Thing About (student’s name goes here).
Now, have students go around the room and write down something important about each person. You can set any ground rules you like, but we ask students to be as specific as possible and avoid saying things about other students’ appearances.
Recently, the editors of Edutopia were considering a theme for their bloggers to blog about concerning testing. In order to keep things timely, they needed to find out when most schools were being affected by standardized tests. It was a reasonable consideration, worthy of a responsible examination of the subject. It was the question posed to the bloggers however, that set me off about our evolved approach to these standardized tests. When is your Testing Season?
Every standardized test has a date or two or three that it is to be administered, but the question was not what are the dates of the standardized tests in your school. The idea that any school would have a “testing season” is enough to drive an advocate for authentic learning to skip taking his scheduled life-saving medications in order to stay on task completing a post about this culture of testing that we have allowed to develop. Every state has its own schedule for tests and a list of grades to take them. New York was at one time considering testing from Pre-K to 2nd grade as well all as the other grades. How does anyone get behind testing toddlers? Testing as it stands now begins in New York at 3rd grade. Here is a site that outlines what each state requires for their Standardized testing. Standardized Testing State By State, Standardized Tests Are Here to Stay
The thing that has really gotten me bothered is this culture change in education. It is no longer about the learning, but rather it is all about the testing. We no longer view the test as an assessment tool of learning to adjust lessons to meet the needs of each student. It has become a means to manipulate data to affect factors beyond that of just student learning. Standardized tests are certainly not the best form of student learning assessment. That seems not to matter however since for whatever the reason, we have had to expand and elevate testing day, or days to The Testing Season.
I remember a conference that I attended a few years ago where a New York City teacher was complaining that his elementary school dedicated an entire month to nothing being taught except for test preparation. The principal of that school monitored the classes to make sure that this strategy was adhered to by one and all. The most recent change in the testing culture is the need to accommodate the tests with all available technology. Some standardized tests are to now being administered via computers. Many schools provide Internet access to their students and teachers solely through computer labs. The tests however, take precedence over learning during “Testing Season” requiring limiting or even shutting down access to these labs in order to prepare for, and administer these computer delivered standardized tests.
I guess each season brings us feelings associated with it. From the season of summer we may feel invigorated with warmth and recreation associated with it. The season of winter brings on good feelings of sharing holidays, and hot-chocolate comfort. From the season of Testing we get stress and anxiety for kids and adults. I guess the season of Testing is not the season about which many poems are written.
Of course teachers will tell you that they are comfortable in setting their students at ease about the tests during “Testing Season”. I often told my students that I had every confidence that they would do very well on any standardized test that they took because their education prepared them for it. That of course was to reduce their stress and build their confidence, but I am glad I did not have a wooden nose. It would have been a dead giveaway.
Today’s teachers are very stress bound when it comes to these tests. The tests have become less of an assessment of student learning and more of a club or Thor’s hammer for teacher evaluation. Of course teachers are stressed and that is generated to the students for the duration of the “Testing Season”, whether or not the teacher intends for that to happen.
If teachers could select students for their classes, crafty teachers would always opt for classes with the slower students. Those are the classes that can show the most advancement in “testing season”, making the teacher a shining star. A great teacher with an outstanding class is cursed and possibly deemed inadequate because kids performing at the very top of the scale will show little improvement. Of course, according to the assessments, it must be the teacher’s fault that kids in the 95th percentile did not move at least five points higher. How can there not be stress and anxiety in the “testing season”?
We may need to research any drop in attendance at schools with stress related illnesses during “testing season”. We do flu shots in the winter season, so maybe we need stress reliever shots in the “testing season”.
Of course pushing testing into a season has had a great affect on the testing industry and all of its requirements. We need to prepare for “testing season”. We need to test in “testing season”, and we need to develop tools and curriculum for “testing season”. The result of all of this is a billion dollar a year industry and we have yet to develop the “testing season” greeting cards.
Maybe we should take a step back and assess our assessments. We do not need this testing season. Tests have grown beyond what they were intended for. They were intended for the teacher to gauge student learning in order to adjust lessons to better meet the needs of students. Tests were never designed to become the goal of education at the expense of actual learning.
This is the part of the post where I should be proposing a thoughtful alternative as a positive spin for this unpopular aspect which has been pushed into American education. Unfortunately, I have no recommendations. I have no ideas that can replace a billion dollar a year idea. Portfolios, individual conferences, and authentic learning projects would all be improvements over standardized testing for student assessment, but they do not provide easily calculated data.
We as a society have allowed business and politicians to corrupt an assessment tool in order to use it as a money-making device for a select few companies. Education needs to be more transparent, but certainly the best people to administer education should be the educators and not business people or politicians. We need to realign education’s goals on learning and not testing. We do not need a season of testing, but a life of learning.
I Never Took an SAT Exam
Jonathan T. Jefferson
How better to make my point than to share my own experiences? I am not a fan of college admissions tests, and find it absurd the amount of time and money spent preparing for them. The “haves” can spend the money while the “have-nots” cannot. This does not make the haves smarter than the have-nots; just more aware of the strategies employed to help maximize their test scores on a specific test. The new SAT tests (2016) will try to balance this equation by giving have-nots access to similar test strategy training. After all; civility, social ability, mechanical inclinations, and creativity are only secondary considerations for colleges that rely on admissions tests.
Back in 1986, I arrived at my high school one day with no knowledge of an exam being given that morning. My 11th grade peers were equally in the dark when we were told our first two class periods were canceled so that we could take an exam called a PSAT. We shrugged in unison when it was explained to us that this was a practice SAT exam. No big deal. If they want us to practice, we’ll practice. Without preparation, or excess stress, we took the exam and went about our day. Several weeks later we received results that did not appear to count toward anything, so the exam was quickly forgotten.
Spring ahead 20 years to 2006, and the PSAT has become as prepared for and stressed over as the SAT. There are merit scholarships attached to PSAT results, and the cavalier attitude my generation had toward that test is long gone. Also of note is the fact that 20 years after taking a PSAT, I was finishing my fourth college degree. My route to a doctorate was atypical. I never took an SAT, but earned my Bachelor of Science degree with honors. I never took a GRE, but earned my Master of Education and Advanced Certificate degrees with Distinction.
Aware of my past successes without standardized admissions tests, I asked the head of the doctorate program I applied for in 2002 to wave the MAT requirement. He refused, so I begrudgingly took the MAT. I did so without preparing, and did not score high enough to meet the doctorate program’s requirement (despite three college degrees). The department head accepted me in the doctorate program along with 30 others, but required me to re-take the MAT. I practiced my analogies by adding my dollars to the pockets of a test prep book publisher, and easily scored high enough the second time around. If the test had any merit, being the last of the 30 cohort members to qualify should have resulted in me being one of the last to complete his doctorate. Reality was much different. I was the second one in my cohort to complete his doctorate.
As a New York City public school student, admission to City University of New York colleges was determined by high school transcripts. The graduate schools I attended; Springfield College and Mercy College also made determinations based on my college transcript. I’m sure I would have performed just as well in my doctorate program if I had never heard of, or took, the MAT. Are we doing students an injustice by valuing standardized tests ahead of years of study?
It’s test time! The majority of our students are currently involved in high-stakes, year-end standardized testing. They are going through rigorous reviews and even test-taking practice as if the year’s learning is effectively over.
As a principal of a large, inner city K-8 school, I was proud that our students were engaged and excited about learning until the very last day of school and even into the holidays. Their teachers challenged them to engage in projects that would make a difference. They wanted to work hard. Some students were involved in staging a play to raise money for an organization, Finding Life, that was raising money to build a school in Nepal. The founder of Finding Life visited the school frequently and developed an ongoing partnership with the students. Other students connected with children in a refugee camp in Africa. Now, some are working tirelessly to raise money to plant new trees in their public housing project. Surely, they will be caring for these trees over the summer. Last year they took part in painting their community center.
How can we engage our students to the end?
1) We must ensure they never believe the test is the end. They must know that the end or goal is their personal academic, social, emotional and physical development.
2) We must explain to students of all levels what the tests are and what they aren’t. Too often, we treat our students as individuals throughout the year and then confront them with standardized tests that don’t align with their year long personalized education experiences. They must fully understand what is being measured and for what the data will be used. The tests have limited personal relevance.
3) Rather than winding down, we should focus on synthesizing the year’s learning into highly engaging, impactful activities. Now is a good time to empower students to make a difference. Now is the time for individual or group projects that will have an impact on their school, their local community or the global community. Allow them to use the tools we have given them throughout the year to be optimistic, responsible, productive, and resourceful members of society.
4) Use the last few months of school to let your students shine. Let them lead. Our middle and high school students love to think critically. Allow them to find and solve big problems. Help them make a difference. Once engaged, they may even continue their efforts throughout the summer. Winding down until the last day? No way!
5) Lead them to understand that their personal growth does not stop in June. Guide them to set goals for the summer. At their age, doing nothing is not an option. They don’t need a two-month break from the “pressure”. They can focus more on the social, emotional and physical aspects of their growth and that making a contribution and having an impact must never stop. Kids who are making a difference never disengage.
6) Help parents move beyond, “What am I going to do with them all summer?” to being excited to help them in whatever they want to accomplish. For those who can afford to send their children to some of the wide variety of “camps” available, encourage parents to allow their child to choose the ones that best fit their goals. For others, they should ensure that their child has long and short-term goals for the summer. This will help them when the structure of school starts up again in the Fall. It will also help solidify their learning.
We cannot let testing shorten the learning time of our students. The testing process itself is time consuming enough without it signifying the end of learning for the year. The last two months must be as exciting and engaging as the first month. Let’s do it!
On Sunday, March 30, 2014, the New York Times published an important article about the opt-out testing movement In New York City and State: “Standing Up to Testing”. Here is the URL to the article:
Perhaps a movement such as this can get our Federal and State officials to understand how deep seated the feelings are against standardized testing, how much they distort educational practice, and how each individual can make a difference in determining the direction of educational policies and practices in the future.
The National Archives website is an historical goldmine where users can dig for ancestry and military records, browse photographs, and even order ship passenger arrival records (1820-1959), Eastern Cherokee applications, and federal military pension files from 1775-1865.
To top it all off, there are 40 other online exhibits. We didn’t have time to browse all of them, but we do want to highlight our three favorites.
Here you’ll find vivid and intensely personal accounts of historical events:
This exhibit contains over 1,200 documents, photographs, drawings, maps, and other materials. Using a keywording system that visually links records, the Digital Vaults enables visitors to customize their exhibit experience, create posters, movies, games, and share them through email.
Picturing the Century
This exhibit contains over 100 years of snapshots from revered photographers Walter Lubken, Lewis Hine, George W. Ackerman, and Ansel Adams to name a few. Users can browse by artist portfolio or by galleries to find photos that depict some of the most beautiful, horrific and pivotal moments in the history of our country.
“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.
AS I type this Congress has not reauthorized ESEA. Our state has given away most growth revenue to businesses in the form of tax credits and lowered corporate taxes on horizontal drilling. As a result, our state government is facing a revenue shortfall created by this corporate welfare! While causing this fiscal crisis by their actions, these same legislators have enacted pages of reform proposals for education without providing any funding to accomplish those reforms! At the same time, our state is experiencing growth in population and serving some 40,000 more students than were served in 2009 when the Great Recession occurred and now we are expected to serve them with some $270 million less dollars!
Wouldn't it be refreshing if the rhetoric we all hear about education being a priority was backed by actions that proved it? I don't think I will hold my breath waiting for that to happen!
If we live in a society in America where our representatives are supposed to work on our behalf my only conclusion is we have the policies and budget priorities that the majority of Americans want! It is obvious there is no outcry when corporations buy politicians to the point they receive massive amounts of tax credits and tax reductions that serve to enrich their bottom lines but simply rape budgets for state funded services like public education. Since this is reality in the U.S., then I have one question for parents of the students we are serving. Who will buy the politicians for school children since they can't do that for themselves?
Education costs money and to provide services to children that need additional attention costs money too. Schools are subject to inflationary costs so if their budgets decline, they can provide less services and attention to those students they serve. Why is this reality not understood by the parents of these students and why are they comfortable with it?
The old saying "you get what you pay for" implies that today's parents are more than willing to allow politicians to provide less services for their children by the funding policies they allow our lawmakers to enact! Does this reflect education as a true priority? I think not!
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.
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.