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Many educational scholars and practitioners, including me, have written extensively about teaching students from underserved populations. The focus of this work has included has included students living in poverty, from diverse cultural and racial experiences, and who are English learners. These are made more relevant by an ever-increasing population of students and families living in poverty, the significant rate of school absenteeism among our nation’s poor, and an increase in racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity among the nation’s populace. While it’s critical to understand underserved student populations, it is especially important to look at the type of language and literacy that are needed to perform successfully in school. Some students come to school with a deep foundation in the language system that is used in school while increasing numbers do not. These differences represent what many refer to as the achievement gap. We might think of it as an academic language gap between students who come to school with this foundational language and those who must learn it while simultaneously attending school.
In the United States, the federal definition of the abilities that an English learner must obtain to be considered proficient in English sheds some light on the type of language and literacy that is needed by ALL of the nation’s students. It includes the following:
(i) the ability to meet the State’s proficient level of achievement on State assessments;
(ii) the ability to successfully achieve in classrooms where the language of instruction is English; and
(iii) the opportunity to participate fully in society (U.S. Department of Education, 2004).
An important characteristic of the federal definition is that students must be highly fluent and competent in the language that is used in school and across all subject matters to be successful in it. To remedy the differences between students who carry academic language like a literacy suitcase wherever they go (in school, at home, and elsewhere) and students who are learning academic language while simultaneously attending school, we must intentionally transform the ways in which we build programming, policies and practices for the nation’s students (Zacarian, 2013).
To do this calls for a four-pronged literacy framework (Zacarian, 2013) in which we understand academic language learning as a
(1) a sociocultural process that must be grounded in our students and their families’ personal, social, cultural, and world experiences;
(2) a developmental process that calls for understanding the literacy levels of each of our students and targeting instruction a little bit beyond that level so that it is obtainable and reachable,
(3) an academic process that is built on our students’ prior learning experiences and where the learning goals are made explicit; and
(4) a cognitive process in which higher-order thinking skills are intentionally taught and practiced.
We also have to understand that each of the four prongs is akin to an electric outlet in which all of the prongs must be plugged in for learning to occur. When we do this, we have a much better chance for closing the achievement gap and better ensuring that our students can flourish in school and beyond (Zacarian, 2013).
This article should be referenced as: Zacarian, D. (2014). Understanding the achievement gap as an academic language gap. zacarianconsulting.com. It has been drawn from from Zacarian (2013) Mastering academic language: a framework for supporting student achievement.
In a recent post, Personalizing Professional Development, I shared our plan to personalize an upcoming professional development day by having teachers indicate which target goal they wanted to focus on and what activities they would like to engage in to further their learning outcomes in that area. The experience proved largely successful and respectful of teacher autonomy and specialization. When we anonymously surveyed teachers to obtain their feedback, we were able to reflect on the effectiveness of the day and were even able to learn more about our individual team members. Here’s what we learned…
100% of teachers found the experience at least as enjoyable or more enjoyable than a more traditional professional development experience, with 85% of teachers reporting a more enjoyable experience. Many expressed gratitude for the ability to customize the day with comments such as this one: “Thank you so much for the opportunity to tailor the PD to our individual goals. The time allowed me to really focus and make progress on the goals I set earlier this year. It felt positive and productive.”
100% of teachers found the experience at least as valuable or more valuable than a more traditional PD day, with 78% of teachers indicating a more valuable outcome.
Preparation was key for the greatest outcome. One teacher shared the benefit of pre-planning, “I feel the planning for the day went well. We were able to meet prior to our trip off campus, allowing us to set goals for the day. We also met after the experience to discuss the experience and work on putting a plan in action” while another pointed to the need for more pto maximize the experience, “The only change to our experience could have been a little (30-minutes) pre-planning so we could have hit the ground running.”
Some teachers indicated the value of both types of experiences in reflections such as, “The reason I chose "about the same" is I think our PD's this year have been very good!” A few even suggested that having an option of a more traditional workshop as a learning path on a choice-based day would be helpful “in case plans fall through” or simply because they enjoy shared learning, “It would have been nice to have one topic/ article to discuss and learn together as a team.
As an leadership team, we are very grateful for the reflective feedback. It was clear that teachers put in a great deal of thought into their responses, and we plan on incorporating some of the great ideas into our next professional development day.
I’m inspired to continue searching for innovative, personalized approaches to professional development. It seems that the more validated people feel in their professional endeavors and the more opportunity they have to engage in meaningful, passion-based learning, the more invigorated about their profession they feel. For teachers, as winter endures and the year grows longer, energy is especially precious!
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)
In my recent column in Educational Leadership, I drew upon some studies synthesized in a new book from Newsweek and New York Times journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, which provides a slew of fascinating insights, including the importance of framing problems as challenges versus threats.
In sports, for example, professional soccer players are more apt to kick a tie-breaking goal when they are kicking to win—that is, to give their team the lead in a shootout—than when kicking in a sudden death situation to avoid a loss. In addition, Bronson and Merryman point to a study conducted at Princeton University, which invited two groups of students from high schools under-represented on the prestigious campus to answer questions about their backgrounds (to remind them of their outsider status) and then take a short math test.
The tests the two groups took were nearly identical, with just one subtle, yet important difference. For one group, the exam was a framed as an “Intellectual Ability Questionnaire;” for the other, it was called an “Intellectual Challenge Questionnaire.” The differences in performance were striking; the students taking the “challenge” test answered, on average, 90 percent of questions correctly; the students taking the very same test labelled as an “ability” exam answered, on average, just 72 percent of the questions correctly. In effect, framing the test as a threat rather than a challenge resulted in a two-letter-grade drop in performance.
Consider yet another study included in Top Dog. It found that the size of the venue in which students take the SAT test has a tremendous effect on performance—the smaller the venue, the higher the score. Certainly, many explanations might be offered for this finding. One likely culprit, though, is that being surrounded by a large group of fellow exam takers can be threatening. As Bronson and Merryman observe, “These kids know darn well that the entire country is taking the test that day; however, having so many at the same place, often in the same room, is intimidating. It’s a stark reminder of just how many other students are competing with you for college spots."
Bronson and Merryman connect these findings with yet another dot: business research that shows that companies whose CEOs create a “promotion focus” (i.e., set ambitious goals and encourage innovation) are more likely to outperform competitors than those led by CEOs who create a “prevention focus” (i.e., cautiously fixate on preventing errors).
In my column, I related these insights from Top Dog to the current environment in many schools, which for nearly half of all educators, according to a recent MetLife survey of educators, is characterized by high levels of stress, due in no small part to ongoing pressure to raise student performance while enduring budget cuts. In short, what many educators appear to be facing are tantamount to threat conditions that are likely not conducive to kind of the creative and collaborative thinking that is required to develop better learning environments for students.
That’s not to say pressure and competition are always bad. On the contrary, Top Dog identifies conditions under which competition spurs higher performance and even, surprisingly, creativity (for example the rivalry between Renaissance painters Michelangelo and Rafael). Along these lines, the pressure created by the last two decades of reforms hasn’t been all bad; it has focused attention to helping all students succeed, relying upon data to make decisions, and looking for bright spots and best practices.
That said, we need extrapolate only a little to question the current direction, and underlying theory of action, beneath the continued press to tighten the screws on the package of high-stakes testing, school accountability, and educator performance evaluations tied to student achievement scores (which, as I noted in a previous Educational Leadership column, researchers caution is fraught with concerns of its own).
For starters, if simple tweaks to tests, such as reframing them as challenges, reducing the number of fellow test takers in the room, or, as I noted in an earlier blog, offering students small rewards, can dramatically alter how students perform on them, one wonders if we’re really assessing what we think we are. Moreover, one might wonder whether the threat conditions we’ve created for many schools with high-stakes accountability are serving us well, or if it may be time to begin to reframe accountability in terms of a challenge condition that encourages educators to harness their collective ingenuity to create better learning environments for all students.
I’ll write more about what these efforts might resemble in future blogs and columns. For now, though, I’d encourage readers to absorb the many surprising insights from Top Dog (of which I’ve barely scratched the surface) and consider how this science of competition, adeptly captured in the book, might point us toward a more enlightened approach to school improvement.
After five decades of being an educator, I am growing weary of the constant discussion over the divide between education and technology. When will we reach a point where we will discuss Education, teaching and learning without having to debate technology? The idea of learning hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. We learn to survive and improve. Much like breathing, it is what we do naturally. Unlike breathing, some learn better than others, but the concept is the same for everyone. It is the degree of learning that is the variable.
Education addresses learning and teaching for specific goals. Of course what those specific goals are, is a point of contention among many people, both educators and non-educators alike. I think we can agree that education teaches many skills, which people can use to exist, thrive, compete, and create in society. This should hold true for whatever skills are taught in whatever society they are taught in, be it primitive, or advanced. Obviously, the more complicated the society is, the more sophisticated the skills that must be taught.
If we analyze and list all the skills that we deem essential to teach, I think there would be a great deal of commonality without regard to any country. The languages may vary, but the skills would be the same. Discussions of education in these terms would sound similar no matter what country in which these discussions took place. For the sake of this discussion, we could break down all education to its basic elements of reading, writing, and speaking. I am sure that there are some educators who remember education being just as simple as that from back in their day. Actually, it wasn’t all that long ago.
What has changed in education since the late seventies is not the specific skills we teach, but how they will be used. Technology has crept into our society in both obvious, and subtle ways. It has changed the way many of us do things, but for our children it is the only way they can or ever knew how do things. We old folks grew up watching TV. It was part of our culture. Kids today do not view it the same way. We used to dress up as an occasion to travel on a plane. Today, never a second thought is given to jumping on a plane dressed in any manner to get anywhere. A second phone in a household was once a luxury, and today each member of a family carries their own phone. The world has changed and continues to do so at a frightening pace. It is not something we control. IT has become part of the infrastructure. It is as important as roads, rails, planes and power grids.
The very skills that we as educators are charged to teach our kids will be used in a technology-driven society. The skills remain the same, but their application has drastically changed over the last decades. We can discuss education as education without technology, but at some point we must address how kids will be using that which they have learned. If the application of their learned skills will be technology driven than the very tools they should be learning with should also be technology-driven.
The biggest problem with technology is the pace at which it evolves. It moves faster than folks can catch up to it. Because of that, it becomes a burden on educators to learn what they need to know in order to teach skills in an environment close to what kids will be expected to live in. Many educators are running as fast as they can to catch up, but too many others are reluctant.
Some believe that just teaching the skills is enough. They feel kids will adapt, after all they are digital natives. I don’t feel that way. I have come to see that kids are great at exploring the Internet, Google searching, downloading music and movies, and texting at lightening speed with two thumbs. Beyond that, kids need to be shown how the skills that they have learned fit into the world in which they will live. This requires using tech in education as a tool and not a skill. We need not teach tech, to use it. It should be a tool for curating data, collaborating, communicating, and creating. This requires an application of their learned skills to produce and create stuff in a format that society recognizes as relevant.
I think the point that I am painstakingly trying to make is that technology needs not to be in discussions of education, but rather in how will the education of any kid be applied in an ever-evolving, technology-driven world in which tour kids will be required to live. We need to recognize what it is we are educating kids for. Where will they apply their education? If it is a world void of technology, than technology is less important in education. If not, than we need to better prepare them for what they will need.
In order to accomplish that, we need to better prepare ourselves as educators to deal with that. Educators need to be digitally literate and that doesn’t happen on its own. It takes effort. The excuse of “too much on the plate already” doesn’t hold up against the argument of professional responsibility. The argument of education for the sake of education and the hell with technology doesn’t hold up in light of the technological world in which these kids will live. Yes, we need to do more, and it isn’t always easy. If we are to better educate our children, we need to better educate our educators. It is not an easy job. Isn’t that what we tell people all the time?
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.
I recall seeing a recent Facebook post by ASCD asking teachers to finish the sentence: Professional development should be…. Not surprisingly, relevant and personalized were top responses. At some point, each of us has sat through a well-intentioned and/or even brilliant PD experience wondering, What does this have to do with me and when can I get back to work?
|image by dkmz.net|
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.
Throughout the United States, the Challenging Teacher Leader has been labeled as a contrarian, pessimistic, and even a barrier to change. Quite often the Challenging Teacher is not nominated for Teacher of the Year or district committees. Tha Challenging Teacher is viewed as an outlier or a loose cannon. As we continue to discuss Teacher Leadership on the ASCD Forum, consider tweeting or blogging your thoughts regarding The Challenging Teacher Leader. You may post your thoughts by replying to this blog, write your own blog, or tweet your thoughts #ASCDForum.
Who is the person on your staff you can predict will say, "Yeah But?" When the principal says, "We are going to implement a new math program to support our gifted students" this teacher responds on que, "Yeah But!" When the assistant principal says "I would like to send you to a national conference for social studies teachers" - the teacher replies, "Yeah But.....I am having a guest speaker that week." As a principal, I get frustrated with the "Yeah But" response. However, there are teacher leaders who respond, "Yeah But!" I believe we could support more students if we.......
A teacher who challenges the process and forces everyone in the organization to think is serving as a techer leader. One of the most popular leadership books over the past 25 years is a book titled, The Leadership Challenge (1987). Kouzes and Posner (1997) wrote that leaders Challenge the Process. A teacher leader who challenges the process, may provide valuable input for school improvement or implementing school programs.
Schelchty (1993) wrote an article on teacher leadership titled, On the Frontier of School Reform with Trailblazers, Pioneers, and Settlers. "Settlers need to know what is expected of them and where they are going" (Schlechty, 1993). Who are the Settlers on your staff? A settler could be a strong teacher leader, but they may resist until the details of the program are clear and they feel confident that this will not become the "Flavor-of-the Month" initiative. School administrators can identify the settlers on staff and seek out their input prior to making an announcement about a new program or goal. With the input of a settler, the principal can have a deeper understanding of what reservations staff members have and can develop FAQs, offer additional information, or adjust the implementation timeline.
When we think of teacher leaders, we often view a "Yes, Man!" Does leadership mean that we say yes to everything in order to avoid conflict? Patrick Lencioni (2002) wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He described the "Fear of Conflict"as one of the dysfunctions. School administrators must be open to conflict and willing to listen to multiple perspectives. Many principals view the person who asks questions as a challenging teacher leader and may not value the challenges as much as the teacher who is willing to say yes and move forward with any project or school improvement goal.
Questions for Teachers and Administrators to Consider:
1. Do Challenging Teacher Leaders add value to the school/school district?
2. Do I view the Challenging Teacher Leader as a teacher leader or a contrarian?
3. How can a principal or superintendent utilize the expertise of the Challenging Teacher Leader?
4. Should the Challenging Teacher be required to provide a solution to his or her "Yeah But" comments?
5. Is the Challenging Teacher Leader less valuable to the school than the "Yes Man"?
6. Should we say yes to every new initiative and avoid conflict?
"This article is from the website of Dr. Paula Kluth. It, along with many others on inclusive schooling, differentiated instruction, and literacy can be found at www.PaulaKluth.com. Visit now to read her Tip of the Day, read dozens of free articles, and learn more about supporting diverse learners in K-12 classrooms."
Too often, students with disabilities, especially those with more moderate and significant disabilities, are excluded from the rich and complex experience of the science lab. This is unfortunate as many a teacher would argue that if students are not engaged in hands-on science, then they are not really “doing” science. In other words, science is about learning ideas and concepts, studying vocabulary, and understanding theories, but it is also about observation, exploration, and discovery.
Another reason to give all students access to lab work is to pique their interest and enhance their learning. It is widely accepted that students who participate in labs and other hands-on science activities will remember the material better and be able to transfer the learning across situations and lessons. Students who have learning difficulties or differences are often more on task during hands-on activities because there are typically a wide variety of ways to participate and the active and social nature of the science lab keeps students engaged. Finally, lab work helps all students hone social and communication skills, making it ideal for learners with disabilities who may need help with asking and answering questions, taking turns in a conversation, or knowing how to enter a discussion.
Having shared all of these benefits, many learners will need adaptations or modifications in order to be successful in a lab situation. Twenty ideas that can help you support diverse learners in your science classroom are offered here:
1.Be explicit about what you want students to know and do in each lesson and model what you want to see (e.g., language, behaviors, techniques) in the lab.
2.Post expected lab behavior on a poster or chart that is clear for all to see- (emphasizing safety guidelines). Draw students’ attention to this information every time they work in the lab.
3.Organize your lab around “big questions” that all students can answer in some way. For instance, the question, “What is a rock?”, can be answered on many different levels. One learner will be able to show or give an example of a rock while other learners will learn that it is “consolidated mineral matter”.
4.Be sure to create very clear step-by-step directions for the lab. If needed, provide a checklist or even an illustrated checklist of steps.
5.Instead of pairing students alphabetically or randomly, think about individual needs to determine best partnerships. You might also give students a questionnaire to find out not who they want to work with but who they think they can work effectively with. Get suggestions from them but make the final decisions based on your observations. Some learners might have difficulty working with new or unfamiliar people. You may want to pair these students with a familiar peer.
6.Give different students different roles based on their strengths. For example, a student who is a strong writer might take notes for the group, while a student who enjoys public speaking might present the group’s findings to the class. You can also assign roles based on student needs. For instance, an individual who needs more practice with social skills might be asked to serve as the group facilitator.
7.Some students may be better served by working across groups instead of within a group. For instance, if measurement is a skill you are targeting for a particular student, you might have him visit each group to measure and pour liquids. If calculations are a target skill, perhaps he can help each group check and re-check their work.
8. If the experiment or lab requires procedures that are complicated or has directions that are easily misunderstood, be sure to clearly demonstrate these pieces in front of the students.
9. If reading the supporting materials will be a challenge for one or more learners, consider simplifying the directions, highlighting key words, or adding icons, tables, or photos to the text.
10. If you work with students who struggle with the writing requirements of labs, allow all or some to use portable word processors or to speak observations and findings into a tape recorder or digital voice recorder.
11. Add additional roles or tasks for students who are working on individual goals that would not typically be addressed during lab. If a student is learning to use a new communication device, for instance, you might ask her group to allow her to direct or, at least, introduce the activity with pre-programmed messages on the device.
12. Look for a range of materials that diverse learners can access to understand the key concepts or ideas being explored in the lab. For a lab on dissecting frogs, for instance, you might have a plastic model of a dissected frog, books on frogs, and an on-line virtual dissection available to learners who need extra support.
13. Provide more durable materials, if needed. Plastic beakers might be a better choice than glass ones for some learners, for instance.
14. When necessary, incorporate adapted materials that help students with sensory differences (e.g., talking thermometers, laboratory glassware with raised numbers).
15. Use technology as a support for diverse learners. For example, digital cameras can help students record steps of an experiment. An iPad can be used as a tool for collaboratively recording data.
16. For those who need repeated practice or extra materials for review, you might record experiements and give them to certain learners to view. Or you can post parts of your labs on a classroom website or on a site such as TeacherTube.com.
17. Reduce the writing component of the lab work. Instead of asking for the purpose, materials, procedure, and the conclusion, you might have some students responsible for writing only the conclusions. Or you might prepare a set of guided notes (a map or outline of the lab notes) for some learners;; these individuals would only need to fill in the blanks where content is missing or finish diagrams or charts that have been partially completed.
18. Allow students to report their findings in a variety of ways. They might choose from writing a description, drawing a diagram, or explaining findings to a peer.
19. If a particular student needs supplemental activities or supports, he or she might spend some class time away from the lab gathering information that can be brought back to the whole group. For example, a student might explore websites for visuals that can be presented to the whole group.
20. To challenge some or all learners, ask them to design a new lab or experiment.
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.
An administrator’s ability to identify and recognize teacher leaders is a critical factor in preparing our schools, and students, for the 21st century. Even though the way students learn and teachers teach has been evolving rapidly over the last decade or so, the evolution of teacher leadership has remained relatively stagnant in comparison. I feel many schools still operate with what I term a “traditional” model of teacher leadership. Fortunately, I think there is a large group of innovative and motivated teacher leaders that is just waiting to be noticed.
Traditional Teacher Leaders
First of all, I would like to explain the distinction I make between what I view as a traditional teacher leader and this new group of teacher leaders I am thinking of. Traditional teacher leaders are generally selected by the school or school district and are given a title such as “instructional coach”. They are charged with promoting school or district initiatives (new curriculum or Common Core State Standards, for example), helping teachers implement those initiatives, as well as leading related professional development. In this way these teacher leaders support “what is” within a school.
New Teacher Leaders
This new group of teacher leaders, however, is focused on “what can be” within a school. They are accomplished teachers first and foremost. Over and above their title of “teacher”, they can be found quietly tinkering with new ideas in the classroom, failing and learning from it. They often go unnoticed as they read articles, books and blogs about innovative approaches in their free time. Other times they are silently collaborating with a network of colleagues via Twitter. One thing is for sure, they are many and their interests are as diverse as they are. Some are passionate about technology. Others are enthusiastic about social and emotional learning. Still others are eager to implement project-based learning. Whatever the topic, there is a teacher out there, probably even in your building, who is passionate about it and is just waiting to be recognized and asked to share it.
Tips on Getting Noticed
These teachers do not walk around with a self-directed spotlight, however. They are a student-centered, not self-centered, bunch. So how can they make their passions know so their principals can identify them as teacher leaders? Fortunately, this can be accomplished with just a little bit of effort.
Here are some ideas teachers can keep in mind for helping their principals identify them:
1. Treat your classroom like a museum: Since principals are doing walkthroughs in addition to formal observations as part of teacher evaluations, take advantage of those periodic visits to make your specific area of interest known. Think of your classroom walls as a gallery. Highlight your passion through displaying student work, anchor charts and other signs of your journey. Make your work stand out and your principal will notice.
2. Align your professional goals and your passion: All teachers set yearly professional goals so make your budding expertise known by setting a bold goal in that area. Even if your principal isn’t able to experience it first-hand, you can highlight your efforts by submitting artifacts, results and student feedback.
3. Just tell them: Teachers must keep in mind that principals are suffering from a tremendous workload and lack of time just like they are. Therefore, teachers should not be amazed or hurt when their principal overlooks their inspiring service learning project or creative use of an iPad. The truth is, if they saw these advancements (or even knew about them) they would surely recognize and support them. Teachers must remember we are all working toward the same goal—student learning. If you are passionate about something that aligns with this goal, share it with your principal. It might be the only way they find out.
Both teachers and administrators acknowledge there is a real need for reform in the way we educate our students. History has proven that sustained change has always come from the bottom up. In education, this means that instead of waiting for permission from above, real change will only occur when teachers begin leading each other. In this way, identifying, recognizing and supporting this new group of teacher leaders should be among a principal’s highest priority. They need our help, though. They need to know we are here. I’m ready to talk to my principal. Are you?
Leaving work at work is truly an art form—especially when you’re a teacher.
It gets easier with time and experience, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent restless nights and early mornings replaying the day’s events, recalling the conversations I had, the cringe-worthy lessons I gave, and all the things I didn’t say—but should’ve said— to my students.
If you haven’t experienced these feelings, I’d like to know your secret to success—but my gut tells me that most teachers, particularly those new to the profession, often feel like they’re hanging on by a thread. In times like this, I reach for one of my favorite resources: a book by Neila Connons called If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students. Below you’ll find 10 of her tips to help teachers keep the fire burning.
10 Ways for Teachers to Keep the Fire Burning
Make “me-time” part of the job
Your students are important, but they cannot—and should not—be your sole priority. Beating yourself up at night and working through the weekend are both counter-productive activities. Your students need you to be at your best…how can you possibly be your best if you are exhausted?
You-time is part of the job. You owe it to yourself to pursue healthy relationships, hobbies and life outside of work.
View problems as challenges
You can waste a lot of time and energy talking about what’s wrong, but healthy people spend 5 percent of their time discussing problems and 95 percent looking for solutions. They enforce this philosophy in every aspect of their lives.
Don’t be a finger-pointer
This is an extension of the point we made above: Blame has never accomplished anything. Instead of spending time trying to figure out who is at fault, use the time to make things better.
Analyze your stresses and frustrations
Know what sets you off and avoid it when you can.
Set personal goals that are not associated with vices
Too often we associate resolutions and goal-setting with vices. We know we should stop smoking, start exercising more, eat less red meat, and so on. While the aforementioned goals are certainly worthy of our pursuit, it is important to also set goals that relate to our passions. What have you always wanted to do? Making it happen may not occur overnight; it may take a lot of work, but you owe it to yourself to pursue your passions.
Do not vegetate, procrastinate or complain
Be active, organized and positive. Get involved and be a part of the accomplishment. Healthy people are doers.
Have positive role models and mentors
Teachers are surrounded by lots of brilliant and resourceful people. Swallow your pride and learn to depend on them.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
When challenges occur, ask yourself if this will make any difference tomorrow, next week or next month. Take your job seriously; take yourself lightly.
Be proud and confident
Even on the days you don’t feel your best, fake it ‘till you make it. A walk of confidence and pride definitely adds to the positive climate of a building.
Don’t ever stop playing and laughing
A day without laughter is also a day not fully lived. There is so much to smile about in our business; and we know that we don’t stop playing because we grow old—we grow old because we stop playing.
We have discussed grit in terms of teachers and students in the beginning of this 3 part blog series. Now, to conclude the series, it is time to focus on how parents express grit. As parents, we are typically in a type of “mother bear protective mode” where we subconsciously fight for our children’s needs. I like to think of this inner fight as grit. Even though parents advocation for children is often well-intentioned, at times parent grit can translate into frustration or anger.
For example, recently as my son warmed up for his basketball game, I noticed that everyone (except my son had a team jersey). I asked my husband if he knew why our son was “jersey-less”, but he had no clue. As the game time drew closer and closer, I could feel my frustration brewing. I did not want my son to be left out or feel in some way that he was not good enough to deserve a jersey. Angrily, I was thinking that it was time to give the coach a piece of my mind…
Because parents are so protective, it is common for grit to appear as aggression and for it to feel overbearing for teachers. Below is a list of strategies from A-Z to help teachers address parents when their grit becomes unproductive.
A Acknowledge the parent’s frustration.
B Baseline is the starting point. Take note of the level of parent frustration, so that you can identify how it changes in response to your intervention efforts.
C Copy the intervention style of other teachers or staff that seems to work with this particular parent.
D Delegate the tasks needed to address the parent’s concern. Involve the parent, the child, support staff, and of course yourself.
E Eliminate the audience. If the parent expresses their anger toward you in front of their child (or the entire class) request to meet with the parent in the hallway or during a more convenient and private time.
F “Furthest Thing” is the title of a rap song by Drake. The song emphasizes that we all make mistakes and that it is important to learn from them. This is common knowledge, but admitting your error or misconceptions with parents helps everyone learn and move forward in the problem solving process.
G Goals must be identified immediately. In addition to your own, discuss the expectations of the parent, the child.
H History of the parent’s anger or frustration (expressed grit). Study the triggers in order to help prevent future issues.
I Immediacy of your response is key to deescalating the parent’s anger. Even if you can’t meet or speak with the parent the same day of the altercation, attempt to make contact within 48 hours.
J Just as disease signals to the body that healing is needed, parents that are angry are at “dis-ease” and require immediate attention/intervention.
K Keep administrators and peer faculty abreast of the parent’s concern. Feedback from school staff will help in efficiently addressing the issue.
L Listen intently to the parent’s concern. Do you hear issues with control, fear, blame? Identifying the source of the anger is paramount in the intervention process.
M Mode of communication impacts how the parent will respond to you. For example, face-to-face makes the parent feel like a priority, whereas, email may appear too impersonal.
N Notes are needed in order to record goals, roles, and responsibilities related to diffusing the situation. In addition notes help in recording progress (please see letter B for Baseline).
O Operationalize the concept of grit. Discuss appropriate ways to express concern or advocacy.
P Put yourself in the parent’s shoes. Think about how you would advocate for your child. Think about how you would respond if you were frustrated with your child’s teacher.
Q Question the parent in a way that shows that you genuinely care about their concerns. For example, “What are you most concerned about?” Also, you might ask, “Is there anything else you want me to know?”
R Resources are an important element in working with an angry parent. Determine if resources such as the school counselor, school social worker, or the PTA may be beneficial referrals for the parent.
S Sustaining a calm demeanor is important when working with a frustrated parent. Today’ kids use the term “turned-up” to describe a level of high emotion and attitude. Try not to become “turned-up” when interacting with an angry parent because it will escalate the situation.
T Time is a crucial factor. Remember to communicate with the parent early and often. Also, monitor how well the action plan/intervention is working.
U Undeniable desire to make things right with the parent. Let’s face it, your first attempt may not work out. Remember to continue to make an effort to ease the parent’s concern.
V Value parents as partners and change-agents. Acknowledge that you need the parent’s help in order for their child to succeed.
W Win-Win-Win Situation for the parent, child and teacher must be the ultimate goal. Discuss what this will look like and how you all can get there together.
X X marks the spot. Think about you and the parent signing (on the x) a friendly contract about specific responsibilities in terms of solving the issue at hand (please see letters D and G).
Y Young stages of any intervention may be difficult, but as the teacher, utilize your grit to hang in there for the future success of your student.
Z Zany ideas or creativity may be the secret ingredient to make any intervention with an angry parent successful.
For more information on dealing with angry parents please see the following resources:
1. The School Learning Environment
2. The Student’s Peer Community and their own beliefs about learning
3. The Parental / Family Community
Schools tend to spend most of their time, money and energy working on the School-Student leg. Most of the professional development done in schools is based on pedagogy, curriculum or elements of student well-being and engagement. This is understandable as the people who are employed within the school need to be within a professional learning community that has a major focus on developing their capacity to do their job.
However there is a high leverage aspect leg of a student learning community that I believe that schools don’t do enough to empower and develop – the parental / family community. As a parent of two school aged children – one at primary school and one at high school - and an educational consultant who works with schools to improve their planning and learning environments, I find myself quite challenged by the way that parents are related to by schools. I find that there is, quite often, very little guidance from the school to be able to support my children in their learning.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - the organisers of the PISA tests used to compare education across countries – performed in-depth research on the factors underlying student performance within each country. What they found was the power of parental involvement in a child’s achievement.
“even when comparing students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, those students whose parents regularly read books to them when they were in the first year of primary school score 14 points higher, on average, than students whose parents did not.”
As Franklin Schargel, a noted educator and expert in the area of school engagement, pointed out … it is the little things that parents do that makes a difference to student achievement. For example:
· Parents reading to and with their children
· Parents asking their child how their school day was and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring
· Parents telling stories to their children (not from books but from the life of the parent)
· Parents sharing about their day
· Monitoring homework
· Making sure children get to school
· Rewarding their efforts and talking up the idea of going to university
As Franklin reports, the OECD study found that “getting parents involved with their children’s learning at home is a more powerful driver of achievement than parents attending school board meetings, volunteering in classrooms, participating in fund-raising, and showing up at back-to-school nights. “
As teachers have shared with me, their experience shows that the mindset that a child has to learning is driven by the parents. If a parent had a poor experience of school as they grew up then it is likely they will pass on that mindset to their children. If the parents’ value education as a tool for learning and development then it is likely the norm that the child will come to develop will value education. It isn’t surprising that the higher the educational level the parents have attained the greater they value education.
So how can you support and encourage parental involvement in their child’s learning at home? Perhaps asking yourself that question as a teacher community within your school is the first stage. If you are aware of each child’s stage of development then there might be suggestions you can make to the parents on how they can support their child best. Perhaps:
· When / if you send homework home with the child you put a short couple of paragraphs to the parent on how they can support their child best to achieve the goals of the homework.
· Recommend that the parents not do the homework themselves (helicopter parents tend to do this) but what could be the factors and suggestions that might make the biggest difference to the child moving forward and grappling with the learning themselves.
· Provide clear learning intentions, success criteria and formative rubrics in work sent home for the child to do
· In the school newsletters continually provide short informative articles or guides for parents about learning. The default understanding about schools and learning for most parents is what they experienced. The more you can provide something for parents to read and grow as learners themselves the more it will make a difference.
· Invite parents to their child’s culminating events for rich learning tasks within the school
· Organise experts to come and talk to parents about aspects of child development or even recommend to parents to subscribe to the newsletters of people like Michael Grose (positive parenting), Barry McDonald (mentoring boys), Kathy Walker (play based and personalised learning), or even Intuyu Consulting amongst the many other educational providers.
· I have seen one school in a low socioeconomic area even organise sponsorship from a large book provider (e.g. Scholastic) so that they can send books home with children that they can keep and build up a library at home.
For more reading and research on this topic:
· Untapped Resource? Engaging Parents in the Learning Process (this article has some great ideas and links in the comment section)
I know that it is unlikely that the majority of parents have a similar attitude to learning as we do but I believe it is worth schools paying attention to how they can support parents better to be their own children’s learning partners. The more that schools build strong, learning partner relationships with parents the more they become involved. If we are to create a society that values life-long learning and encourages human beings who connect, and grow, and adapt to an every changing world, then we do need to spend the effort and time to empower everyone involved.
Recently, “grit” has surfaced as one of the more popular concepts in the classroom. Last week, we examined grit in teachers, but for part 2 of this series, we will shift the focus to students (part 3 will target parent grit). When considering grit in students, it is typically associated with desirable characteristics such as motivation and determination. In examining experiences with student grit in my classroom, I began to wonder “Is grit always a positive student trait?” This question brought to mind the skit “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” from the infamous comedy series Dave Chappelle. Now keep in mind, that this phrase “keeping it real” represents a person’s ability to be genuine, honest, and “real” in terms of their interactions with others. Upon initial examination the phrase seems agreeable (there would seem no disadvantage in telling the truth), but Chappelle’s skit revealed that such consequences do exist (insensitivity to feelings, arguments, miscommunication etc.). Similarly to the concept of “keeping it real”, a teacher’s initial impression of student grit is welcoming, but after careful thought, there are some caveats that need consideration.
I have compiled a list of 4 examples of when student grit goes wrong and corresponding strategies that teachers may use to help get it back on track:
It is common for teachers and students to perceive things differently in the classroom. A teacher may define grit as meeting a standard or goal, whereas the student may view grit as agreeing to work towards an academic goal.
In order to achieve a shared understanding of grit, teachers and students must communicate with one another regarding their beliefs, expectations, and experiences.
As teachers, we strive to engage our students. We give students second chances, extensions, and repeated practices. In short, we require the students to work. Yes, all work requires energy, but all energy is not created equal. It is the level of energy expended, how the energy is expended over time that comprises grit. We must remember that when a student participates in class, or completes an assignment, that this does not necessarily illustrate grit. It becomes grit when the student participates consistently (even when they dislike the class) or when they continuously submit work (even though they struggled with the assignment).
In order to highlight the dimensions of grit, encourage that students utilize self-progress monitoring strategies such as class journal writing and one minute reflection pages to outline their learning process. Attempt to help the students operationalize the concept of motivation so that they are able to identify strategies that help or hinder their academic motivation.
Grit is described by a deep sense of focus and can create tunnel vision for students. When a student identifies a goal, they may have a difficult time working on anything else. In addition, if they create a goal that is different from their peers, feelings of alienation may result.
In order to prevent these feelings of isolation, encourage students to identify shared goals. For instance, provide time in class for that group of students who have their hearts set on completing the extra credit work. In addition, teachers may pursue more collaborative student projects as a part of the curriculum in order to give students opportunities to work in groups.
As unfortunate as it may be, a desire for success does not guarantee it. Of course, students want to pass, obtain praise for their work, and exceed academic goals, but they must work for it. Sometimes there is a mismatch between the student’s desire and their level of effort. This mismatch may result from a disability, a lack of guidance or a host of other reasons (please refer to numbers 1-3 on this list) and prevent the student from making any progress towards the goal.
In order to decrease the likelihood of the “desire to action” gap, teachers must continually strive to empower student effort. Activities that foster choice, ownership, or an opportunity for students to have a voice in their learning process will help fill this gap and incite student effort.
For additional reading on student grit please see the following resources:
*Please note that this entry was cross-posted from teachthought.com
When I started teaching, I was often frustrated when students fell behind. We would be moving ahead as a class and invariably a student would tell me we were moving too quickly, or that they had missed something, or that they were absent for some reason that I deemed unimportant and needed to be caught up. I would tell them that the class had goals to meet, standards to teach, or an advanced placement test to prepare for and that we could not make an exception for them. I then reminded them that I had a responsibility to all of the other students to keep things moving forward and it was not fair to the other students to slow down. I would often close my response by telling them that, “the bus is rolling and not going to stop. You need to get on or you will be left behind.”
While I still have students falling behind, I have changed my outlook about what that means for the students and myself over the years. I have read too many articles, seen to many presentations and heard too many lectures not to recognize the critical importance of my classes for my students. With many of my students, the class is not a bus to get on or get off. For many of them, school is their best or only hope. Education is the only way they are going to change their station in life. There is not another bus coming along in thirty minutes to pick them up. Missing the bus is not simply an inconvenience, a slight change in the plans of their day, but rather it is life altering, and most likely for the worst.
With this in mind, my perspective has changed and instead of a bus, I have instead begun to see my class as a lifeboat. If the students miss the boat, there is not another one coming along to save them. They can tread water for only so long until it becomes hopeless and many of them simply give up. If they are not getting into the boat, they are going to be lost at sea.
This new perspective has not changed the sense of urgency, but it has changed what I feel is the most urgent need of my classes. Before I felt the pressure to keep up the pace and push ahead out of fear of falling behind. This concern was mostly about myself and my own abilities as a teacher. Now I feel the pressure to help the students, out of fear of them falling too far behind. Instead of believing that if they miss out in my class, they will be picked up later, I try to help them believing they have no other chance. This concern is now about the students and my concerns have faded into the background. This has been much more challenging, and required much more work on my part, but it has to be done. When students do not get on the bus all they lose is time. When students do not get in the boat, they lose their lives. It is hard for me to not justify the extra investment if I know that I am their best hope for survival.
Changing from a get on the bus mentality to a get in the boat mentality means changing what the most important thing in the classroom is. In a get on the bus mentality, the schedule, drives the classroom. When we think about a bus, the most important thing is the schedule. The bus has to run on time so that it can get all of its passengers where they need to go. A bus is transportation to get you from point A to point B. Classrooms that function this way are focused on the teacher and the teacher not wanting to fall behind. In the get in the boat mentality, it is about the student. A lifeboat is about saving lives and getting people out of the water. Its only purpose is to help. The focus becomes helping the students. It becomes student centered and student driven because the goal is helping students not maintaining a schedule.
As a leader, I continue to push others to think about getting in the boat and not on the bus. As my district has included more students into its advanced classes, I have had to try and encourage more colleagues to think this way. While some grow frustrated with those who refuse to get on, with the students who cannot keep up with the pace, I try to remind them that there is no other bus coming along. I ask them to think of their classes like a lifeboat and look at their students. If a student fall behind and we do not try and help them, we are throwing them overboard. While we can accept missing the bus, because another is coming along, we cannot accept missing the boat, because their is no regular schedule of lifeboats.They are either with you or they are with no one. Get them in the boat.
If you are interested in more posts from John, follow him on twitter @jhhines57. Be prepared for educational insights mixed with PNW love. Go Hawks!
With the school year half over, we are busy thinking about all the things we want to accomplish yet this year. We are thinking about our reading scores, our math curriculum, our science standards, our fine arts, our athletic teams, our building goals, our community's expectations, and our state reports (couldn't resist!).
In the midst of all of the 'doing', we need to take time to determine the validity of the doing. Educators are great at searching for "the how" to improve scores, implement curriculum, unpack standards, build students relationship and support district initiatives. We need to be even better at knowing "the what" and "the why".
It makes no sense to look for new instructional strategies if we are not clear as to the type of instruction we want - or need. We must take the time to continually reflect on what we want and need to succeed. We cannot do what we have always done just because it is comfortable. We should do it because we get the results we need. We must be clear about our vision, our passion, and our needs. Then, we can determine our action steps. The "how" must never come before the "what" and the "why".
Once we define our purpose, then we determine our practices.
What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #13)
“Afraid To Look into the Mirror”
As we enter a new year, many of us set new goals, establish new commitments and or renew old ones. Often, I am asked what my resolution is for the New Year. In the past few weeks, I have been struggling with establishing a “new” goal or a new way. I have been struggling so much that I have not really been able look into the mirror or write about what I have learned. I have been afraid to be honest with myself: what I have I done for our students; what have I not done for our students; why have I chosen not to do these things; what is my plan to actually act on the data that I have? Each day, I make a decision on how much of “me” that I will bring out of the car to our shared work. This decision is often based not only on my ability to examine the issue/s but also what is my plan to act, review, and respond and then act again.
I have learned that getting clear with our expectations, commitments and results is courageous work. I know “hope” is not a strategy, but I often hope I have the courage to be the best “me”. I hope that I will bring enough of “me” out of the car to be honest with myself and others about our shared results. I hope that I can be clear enough to communicate that there is not “a single plan” that is the right answer, but there better be at least “a” plan. We should be able to articulate our plan to improve our student outcomes with confidence and trust. In previous learnings my “dream” has remained steadfast – each child, every day - safe, healthy, supported, engaged and challenged. My relentless effort to work side by side with you on behalf of our students has grown even stronger. We don’t need a new plan, we just need to be relentless at being a better “us”. We must have the courage to not leave any of “us” in the car. We must be honest about our results and be committed to act upon our data. We must do this not only for our students and colleagues, but also for ourselves.
Finally from Jack Paar,
Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as the chief obstacle
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.
As we enter the New Year and look back on progress made, we see that the important issues facing educators today are not being addressed. Politicians and bureaucrats continue to focus almost exclusively on test scores and financial issues. Our children are suffering. Their individual needs are not being met. Our teachers are not empowered to do what needs to be done to create a new future for public education. I’ve chosen 5 Resolutions for 2014 that should help us move from research and rhetoric and take meaningful action.
1. Commit to teaching the whole child.
As politicians and bureaucrats increase pressure to raise test scores and close gaps, the majority of teachers know that the only way to do this is through developing the whole child. It is not about defining core curriculum, mandating a narrow range of teaching strategies and measuring results. Whole children have strengths, talents, passions, learning styles, challenges, insecurities, fears, values and beliefs.
2. Have Real Leaders leading.
Real Leaders are driven by beliefs and values, not expediency. They model and teach trust and respect. They inspire and empower. They plan and budget strategically and have a bias for action. Perhaps most importantly, they have common sense and use their wisdom. They are not confined by rules and regulations and do whatever it takes to make a real difference. Real Leaders impact the lives of others positively.
3. Address problems, not symptoms.
Focusing on symptoms is much like tinkering or doing something to make the symptom go away. The real problem is never dealt with and will recur. Think about the following examples as you consider whether you are working on symptoms or problems.
•The goal is to stop bullying. This won’t be accomplished by having anti-bullying programs and sanctions for those who bully. We must teach our children to know themselves, be themselves and respect one another. We must move well beyond telling them what not to do and support them in being the best they can be.
•The goal is to improve our ranking on international tests. This won’t be accomplished by teaching to the tests and applying pressure on teachers and students to “do better”. This is where we must look deeply into what has happened in America to cause this drop. Then we take action.
By defining the problems at national, state and local levels we can then make the significant changes necessary to create more effective public education systems and a better future for our children.
4. Engage and empower all stakeholders.
Politicians and bureaucrats have a place in solving our problems but it is not to define the solution. It is to create a vision for the future together with some broad goals that form a framework for action at the local level. School districts, principals, teachers, students and parents are best positioned to create solutions that work for them. When people are empowered to take significant action they will. Just look at the schools scattered across the country that are literally changing the lives of their students and their communities. It is because people feel empowered to take whatever action is necessary to make bold changes.
5. Move from They to We.
We live in a culture of blame. If a student isn’t learning, blame the teacher. If poor children aren’t doing well, blame their parents. If people are poor, blame the government. Focusing on blame is certainly not the same as defining the problem. Blaming causes inaction. We can’t be satisfied with simply pointing to “they” as the culprits and washing our hands of any real action. “We” can make a difference. We can take responsibility. We can act. We can work together. There can be no “they” if we hope to move forward toward a shared Vision for our future. We must revisit the concept of decentralizing decision-making and accountability to the front lines. We can align authority with responsibility and then empower those in positions to have a real impact.
None of this is new or revolutionary. Unfortunately it continues to be rhetoric that is always on the back burner but doesn’t find its place in our schools and in our classrooms. We need people to step up and do what needs to be done. Be that voice that won’t go away. Be the Real Leader in your school, in your community, in your school district and beyond. Commit to these 5 Resolutions or create your own. Whatever you do, be sure that your focus remains on the child. This is where we will have a real impact.
Coaching With Glee
by Kathleen O'Connell Sauline
The Importance of a Strong Filter 1/10/14
Teachers, coaches and administrators must develop and maintain a strong filter. This filter, aligned with our mission, vision and framework for continuous improvement, will be the key to our failure or success. We’ve all know administrators who go to a conference for three days and come back with the latest salve for all our woes. “You will differentiate. I will look for differentiation in your classroom. You will have a “needs improvement” on the differentiation line of your evaluation just in case you aren’t differentiating enough.” WHOA! We all know we need to differentiate; it is a critical element of the practice of good teaching. In order to know how to best differentiate and what it should look like in your classroom you must evaluate your students’ needs, design an approach, select strong strategies, and practice deploying the differentiated teaching and learning you designed. No one can walk by and tell whether that is or has happened. When you do enter a classroom, as a peer, a coach or an administrator, you can tell whether students know what is expected of them that day, whether they appear engaged, whether learning appears to be on target. It is harder to know whether the rigor is appropriate, the standards are aligned, and whether growth in learning is occurring. What does a filter have to do with enhancing the experience described? A filter prevents us from overloading unaligned strategies just because everyone is doing them. A filter prevents us from using a good strategy inappropriately. A filter says: We will do x when it meets our learning goals and student needs of a, b, and c. A good filtering process is team based and is understood by teachers, coaches and administrators. A good filtering process is the difference between strong teachers with life balance and teachers who are overwhelmed, absorbing every expectation, or rigid, refusing to adjust or grow. We’ll explore more ideas for designing an effective filtering process for teaching, next time. We’ll explore filtering as an individual and as a team process. Thanks for reading. If this made you think, pass it on!