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Grades hurt your children, and I never want to grade them again. Grades are harmful in every imaginable way, and they are inhibiting your child's learning. You may not realize this, because you have only encountered one education system, and it has always been built on measuring success with numbers, percentages and letters.
What the many educators and researchers suggest is that students are conditioned to believe that numbers and letters are the sole indicator of success. When handing out assignments, teachers constantly hear, "What's this worth?" Furthermore, in virtually all cases, these one-size-fits-all measurements are subjective, because the teacher creates the activities and the tests. Where one teacher might score your child's work an A, another teacher might score the same work a C. So, you see, this arbitrary letter says nothing about learning.
Worst of all, though, is that instead of learning for learning's sake, students strive to get a particular grade -- typically the one their parents' want. If you demand A's, they will likely do whatever it takes to get A's. If you're satisfied with C's, they will decrease their effort.
What this system breeds is children who learn to manipulate a system in order to earn a number or a letter, when what we should have is independent learners, eager to acquire knowledge and to become critical thinkers and problem-solvers. Do we really want to measure these important qualities?
The beauty of this question is that the answer is so simple. Teachers and students must evaluate learning together, using an ongoing dialogue. Teachers must provide both written and verbal narrative feedback about what students have accomplished and what may still need to be learned. This dialogue, accompanied by follow-up activities and further study can lead to mastery learning.
Until school administrators nationwide realize that any sort of grading is inherently problematic, final report card grades should be decided by both the teacher and the student, in a conversation about what was learned in a marking period. If coached properly, students will understand that self-evaluation is one of life's most important skills. In the end, your child's opinion of her work is more important than anyone else's.
So, please support me in changing how we evaluate learning. I want to eliminate grades, as much as our system will allow. I will provide ongoing narrative feedback for your children and for you. Most important, I promise, my students, your children will become amazing independent learners, who never again ask, "What's this assignment worth?"
To learn more about feedback over grades, check out Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom
This blog is cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/
As a novice in certain areas of life, I have learned a lot about what I expect from experts. For example, I trust my doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, dentist, etc to stay up-to-date with relevant research & experience that informs the advice they give me. I trust their expertise and I choose to work with these experts because of their approach and knowledge.
On the other side of the coin, I'm aware of my expertise, training, & experience in aspects of education. I have learned from being both a novice and an expert. As an expert who leads, I have learned it's my responsibility to (1) help others understand the current landscape by cultivating the need and (2) lead KISS interventions.
Cultivating the Need
It's important for experts to present data to inform decisions. I visited my doctor the other week and he performed a few tests, printed out information about a potential diagnosis, and explained my test results to me in relation to the symptoms listed for potential concerns. In the end, everything ended up just fine with my health. Through this experience, though, I realized the process my doctor went through with me is what needs to happen on a regular basis in education.
Educational leaders must present information and data about potential concerns before beginning interventions. This can help create a shared understanding of the need. On top of that, just as a farmer cultivates the soil to make sure crops grow each season, leaders must continually cultivate the need with stakeholders.
This makes me wonder: How are we, as educational leaders, purposefully identifying & communicating needs to change/intervene/update antiquated systems with stakeholders? How are we using data to inform our cultivation of a shared understanding about the need? How are we using data to inform how we communicate with stakeholders on a regular basis? How are we connecting our work back to our strategic plan in a relevant way for stakeholders, leveraging a data informed and results driven approach?
Example: My school has been studying the 90-90-90 schools approach over the last few years. Teachers looked at the data and interventions. They've discussed the need for ongoing, job-embedded professional development (PD) and a shared understanding of this need was created. Then, when a PD Plan that involved monthly PD instead of occasional inservice days was voted on, teachers passed it this fall. We continue cultivating this need by developing PD that's responsive to shifting needs, collecting feedback from teachers about PD, aligning our work with research, & communicating about the PD with stakeholders.
Keep It Simple & Sustainable (KISS)
I met with an educational leader the other month who told me many leaders say interventions should involve KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. In his district, however, KISS stands for Keep It Simple & Sustainable. Two things I've learned about sustainability are to have a "Who else?" mindset and to move ahead with clarity amongst stakeholders. Keeping It Simple supports these pieces.
Sustainability means consistently thinking "Who else?" on a regular basis. Who else...in our feeder pattern/region should we involve? ...should we connect with from our community organizations on this? ....should we communicate progress updates with? ...should vet this before we send it out? ...is passionate about this topic? ...is knowledgeable? Who else?
Once we live with a "Who else?" mindset, we can focus on clarity- around the need, intervention, monitoring system, evaluation timeline/protocol, communication plan, etc. All of our stakeholders are potential marketers and we can generate an even deeper sense of sustainability if stakeholders understand the need for an intervention, the intervention itself, & why we're going with a certain intervention. Again, this understanding must be cultivated as stakeholders turnover, new research emerges, and data on the evaluation of our intervention develops.
Example: I've learned a great deal about developing sustainable systems from my work at the district and site level. Several years ago, I started at a district office working as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for instructional technology. I quickly realized a professional development (PD) program developed around my skills and expertise wouldn't last long - we needed both an intervention to the current setup and a system of support. I worked with district administration to develop a train the trainer program for teacher leaders. In order to maintain high quality PD, we created a gradual release protocol where trainers collaborated with me to co-write PD lesson plans, co-trained/presented with me several times, participated in coaching sessions with me, and eventually engaged in a monthly PLC with other teacher trainers. We implemented program evaluation best practices to support the analysis of feedback from PD participants and determine the value added by the PD system. Our trainers used PLC time to examine data that informed their decisions in moving forward with strands of PD. Although I am no longer working with the district instructional technology program, I'm happy I see the PD system continues to support teachers and leaders in a sustainable manner.
Just as I trust the experts in my life - doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, dentist, etc - stakeholders trust us (educational experts) to provide visionary leadership and to lead the best educational systems possible. They trust us to prepare the students of today as leaders for tomorrow. Each day, it is our responsibility to do just that through cultivating the need and utilizing a KISS approach.
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When Collins-Maxwell began a 1:1 iPad initiative for all students in grades 6-12 in the fall of 2012, one of the largest concerns among teachers, parents, and board members was the management of the device. Teachers were worried that students would be off-task in class, refusing to do the assigned work. Parents felt that students would bring the devices home and fill them full of games, songs, and inappropriate pictures. Board members felt that teachers would not know how to manage the new technology in classes AND that parents would be frustrated that taxpayer dollars were spent on devices so kids could listen to Pandora while playing Angry Birds.
Yes, it all happened. Everything we feared would come true did to some degree. We had students that got off task in class and missed the assignments or the lecture or the project. We had students download music in the hallways between classes so they could listen to it in the next period. We had students at home not doing the work they didn’t do in class because they were playing games, or on Facebook, or tweeting, or listening. Yes, it all happened.
But not for every student. And not for every teacher.
We had our students who followed the rules to the letter. They never downloaded anything that was not teacher approved. They never got on the iPad in class unless there was a reason explained by the teacher. And they certainly did not use the iPad at home inappropriately. It was only used for schoolwork, and then charged for the next day.
And we had teachers that had no problems with students off task. Here is the success of the management of iPads. We had teachers treat the iPad like any other tool in the classroom. For the past few years, we have allowed cell phones in school for student use. Many students have used them to take photos of problems on the board, use calculator functions, or text answers to an online poll. The teachers who have used cell phones in this manner in the class were the same ones who had little problems with the iPads. They realized the iPads were tools to help students learn, so they worked to see the iPads as supports for learning. Now, those teachers did not feel the need to use the iPads every day, just to use them. They used the iPads only when it suited the learning. When the iPads were not in use, they were turned off and put under the desks or set aside in the classroom. Those teachers who saw the iPads as possible improvements to learning also knew when they would be impediments to learning, so they created clear rules for engagement in using the iPads.
Other teachers who were not as comfortable with iPads struggled to see how to use them in their classrooms. Therefore, they used them for artificial purposes thinking the administration wanted the iPads to be used a lot in classes. The truth was the administration never gave a clear expectation for how often the iPad was to be used in a class. We wanted it to be a natural extension of support for learning. For some teachers, that was a good idea. For others, they felt like they were not using it enough and that would be a disappointment to the administration. When those teachers tried to integrate the iPad into a learning activity that did not suit it, problems occurred. Or if the teachers tried to ignore how to use the iPads in class, then the students had them out and engaged in off-task behaviors. Interestingly, by not addressing the iPad as a tool that may or may not support learning in specific instances, the teachers inadvertently allowed the iPad to become a bigger obstacle to learning in every instance.
From the various viewpoints of the teachers implementing iPads in their classrooms, the administration began to notice a unique paradigm: there were some that were truly trying to manage the iPad while others were trying to lead learning with the iPad. It became clear to the administration that those teachers who used the iPads to lead – or support – learning were more successful in using the iPads. Those that tried to manage the devices seemed to have more struggles with students. The administration also noticed that learning tasks began to change. Many teachers found that using iPads to do the same type of work before their introduction caused more problems and off-task behavior. When teachers changed the learning target or asked students for their input in how to use the iPads, there was greater student engagement, higher quality learning, and greater teacher satisfaction.
In all, we also worked to tighten our security of the iPads to limit downloads, added some consequences for how to use the devices, and supported parents to better understand how to use the iPads at home. But our greatest discovery in managing iPads was learning to not manage them, and instead lead learning – where appropriate – with them. Now, teachers and students are making better decisions about how iPads support student learning. Our philosophy to technology – and not the iPads themselves – are helping our students be better prepared for the 21st century of learning, earning, and living!
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 email@example.com.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Policy Points Highlights Funding Sources for Educator Professional Development
Despite shrinking education budgets, there are still opportunities to pursue funding for educator professional development. Check out the latest issue of Policy Points (PDF), which provides links to these resources.
Leaders in Action: News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Leader Voices
Welcome University of Southern California ASCD Student Chapter
ASCD is pleased to announce a new ASCD Student Chapter, started by ASCD emerging leader Eric Bernstein. Please join us in welcoming University of Southern California ASCD Student Chapter to the ASCD community!
2013 ASCD emerging leader Melany Stowe was recently appointed director of communications and community outreach for Danville Public Schools in Virginia.
OYEA winner Bijal Damani is one of 250 educators chosen for the Microsoft Expert Educators Program. She is also a finalist for the 21st Century Learning Teacher of the Year award, and will be sharing her experiences at their global conference next month in Hong Kong.
Throughout November on www.wholechildeducation.org: Supporting Student Success and the Common Core Standards
The Common Core State Standards are not a curriculum. Standards are targets for what students should know and be able to do. Curricula are the instructional plans and strategies that educators use to help their students reach those expectations. Central to a supportive school are teachers, administrators, and other caring adults who take a personal interest in each student and in each student’s success. How are we designing course content, choosing appropriate instructional strategies, developing learning activities, continuously gauging student understanding, adjusting instruction accordingly, and involving parents and families as partners to support our students’ success?
A whole child approach to education is essential to realizing the promise of the standards. Only when students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged will they be able to meet our highest expectations and realize their fullest potential.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on supporting student success as schools implement the Common Core State Standards. Guests include Peter DeWitt, an elementary school principal in New York, author, and Education Week blogger; Thomas Hoerr, head of New City School in St. Louis, Mo., author, and ASCD Multiple Intelligences Professional Interest Community facilitator; and Rich McKinney, an assistant principal for a middle school in Knoxville, Tenn., and Common Core coach for the state of Tennessee. Throughout the month, read the Whole Child Blog and tell us what has worked in your school and with your students. E-mail us and share resources, research, and examples.
Something to Talk About
Let me come clean. At first, homework was a bad word for my students. I remember the grunts, the sighs, and the rolling of the eyes when I assigned homework in the past. So, you may wonder, what has changed? I have to give the credit to the infamous educator book "The First Days of School" by Harry and Rosemary Wong. I tend to rely on this book for many housekeeping matters in my classroom. For homework guidance, I refer to the book's "no mystery approach" (this strategy is described in the lesson mastery chapter of the book). So far, what woks for me is telling the students specifically what is needed for homework success and then practicing it together as a class.
Below are 5 effective strategies that I use to increases student homework output:
1. Check Marks the Spot
I use checklists that explicitly describe what the students are required to do for the homework assignment. I have the students attach the checklist to the homework so that they already know how they did on the assignment when they turn it in. A sample of things on our checklist include (page lengths, meeting the deadline, proper heading, etc.).
I provide examples to the students (student samples from previous classes) so that we can practice matching the checklist against the actual assignment. In the "First Days of School", the author urges how effective teachers show students examples of work and how this decreases assingnment fear and anxiety.
2. Probability Boosts Homework Potential
I anounce to the class that homework is collected randomly through out the semester. I provide a homework calendar at the beginning of the semester that lists all the potential dates that the homework will be collected (the calendar give the students a clear tangible schedule to help them track the homework process). Typically, I try to collect about 70% -75% of the assignments on the calendar. This amount gives a pretty good snapshot of the students practice performance (I get an indicator of the student's work quality, frequency, and need for remediation). I encourage the students to complete all the assignments, but the students understand that only a portion of the work will get collected. Making the assignment collection random keeps the assignments fresh. It is almost like the homework is a lottery or contest for the students. The more you enter (the more assignments you complete), the better your chance is to win (earn a strong grade). It is fun to see the students tyring to use statistics/probability to determine the likelihood that the assignment will get collected. I hear the older students saying "She collected it yesterday, so there is a lower probability that she will get it today"...
3. Make-ups Break-up the System
At the beginning of the year I make it clear that submission is the rule and make-up is the exception (unless there is a doctor's note or other verified special circumstance). Discouraging make-ups is important because it prepares the students for the real world, it makes them accountable, and fosters the students with a sense of urgency to complete the assignment.
4. The Power of Choice
I encourage the students to choose how they wish to complete the assignment. We practice what good homework vs. poor homework choices look like. For example, when it is a vocabulary assignment, instead of completing a true/false statement for every word on the list, the student is able to choose a select number of the words (we must agree on the amount of words ahead of time). Another example of a homework choice is when we are working on reading comprehension and the student is permitted to select the type of questions that they will respond to (literal, expressive, inferential, predictive, etc.). By granting the students choices, the assignment is less intimidating, and the student is more likely to complete the assignment.
5. Homework is the Ultimate Copy Cat
One of the themes of lesson mastery in "The First Days of School" is the effective teachers' use of a specific criteria that the students practice. I make it clear to the students that their homework is a miniature version of their test. To make it even more enticing for them, I explain that I pull the actual test questions from the homework that they submit.
If you find that it is difficult to use the homeowrk as a blueprnt for your test, consider revising the homework assignment. It is imperative for the homework to direclty reflect the assessment (for more details on this, revisit the Lesson Mastery in "The First Days of School").
These are some of the factors that have really helped turn around the perception of homework in my classroom. No more "the dog ate my homework" stories for me! The students understand that the homework is on their terms, their time, and that it prepares them for their test. In the "First Days of School", Wong inspires teachers to help students showcase what they are learning. Homework is a great opportunity to do this. What homework strategies have you found useful in inspiring your students to show what they have learned?
This blog is cross-posted from: http://wsascdel.blogspot.com/
The other day I told my principal I was pondering what to write about for my upcoming Leading & Learning blog post. He turned to me and said, "Well, you've been here a while now. Why don't you write about what makes you a successful leader here?" Great idea! He and I quickly brainstormed the key points below. This is dedicated to all the deans and assistant principals out there as I share what's been working for me.
Communication & Relationships
Communication with my principal, office staff, our specialists & family liaison, paras, teachers, students, and families is key. I've learned to differentiate the mode of communication (face to face, email, phone) based on the situation and individual(s) with whom I'm communicating.
Example: Adults, sometimes get stressed out around testing and I've learned part of that has to do with a concern about student progress reflecting on our work as educators. It can be a challenge to hold test scores up as a mirror to reflect the impact of our instruction! That's why, when we administered the STAR Test on computers for the first time this year, we was particularly conscious of our methods used to communicate updates. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were faced with a challenge the Friday afternoon before our week of testing. Thankfully, we'd been in face to face contact with teachers all week to provide clarification and support. So, when our team sent out the revised testing schedule for the upcoming week, my principal and I made ourselves available by being visible and we checked in with classroom teachers to answer questions. We were able to clarify & confirm updates on the spot. Our initial round of testing ended up running pretty smoothly and we continued face to face/email communication throughout the week.
Follow-Through & Support
One of the most important roles a leader plays is that of "support". People deserve to have leaders follow through with protocols, next steps, goals, values, etc.
Example: Last spring, our staff updated our Professional Code of Conduct (norms) and made a commitment to live out these professional agreements on a daily basis at work. One of the norms we created is: Go to the source. When colleagues comes to me with a wonder or question that is really for someone else (early childhood team, instructional coach, principal, etc.), I generally give a brief response based on my knowledge and encourage them to go to the source/leader/individual who is coordinating the work they wonder about to gain in depth clarification. I then follow-up with both the person to whom I sent them and the individual(s) asking the question. By doing this I am following-through on living our Professional Code of Conduct, while also following-through with support for teams and individuals to make sure questions are answered.
Questioning for Clarity
As a leader, I represent a lot of perspectives, teams, and initiatives. In order to fully understand, lead, and represent, different aspects of our school, I've developed a "seek to understand" mentality.
Example Questions: What is the goal? What do we hope to accomplish? What might success look like? How might we measure success? How does this make a difference for students? How might we know it made a difference for our students? How does it impact different stakeholders? How could we communicate with stakeholders? What supports might be needed? What existing supports do we have? How does this support other initiatives? How might we need to shift our allocation of resources (fiscal/human) to support this work?
I've learned to try and get enough sleep, eat healthy, participate in weekly joint immediate/in-law family dinners, volunteer within my community, walk my dog, & use online resources (ASCD free webinars, articles via Twitter, etc.) to develop as a professional. Surprisingly, maintaining Self Care is quite the challenge! It takes a conscious effort on a daily basis in terms of scheduling and communicating. I continually go back to Covey's work, however, around balance to help remind me of the importance Self Care has.
Example: Making sure my body gets the nutrients it needs (beyond a multiple vitamin), is essential. I schedule time on the weekends to go grocery shopping with my husband. Then, we come home and make lunches for the week. This weekend we bought frozen soup in bulk - just add water, boil for 40 mins., & you have a lot of soup that can be eaten and frozen! I look forward to feasting on tomato basil or cream of broccoli soup for lunch each day alongside crackers, cheese, & fruit. For breakfast, I buy disposable cups in which I put non-fat Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola each morning. Sometimes I feel guilty about using disposable cups, but I know this keeps me on track with getting the nutrients my body needs. On that note, a friend of mine found washing her "to go" mugs from coffee each day became too much to keep up with so she bought paper disposable cups + lids. She now puts coffee from her Keurig in a low-cost disposable cup every morning. This reduces the urge to stop by a coffee stand and provides similar convenience.
Whenever I hear the word Grit I think of the John Wayne movie True Grit. I see John Wayne's character helping the young lady find the person who took her father. And nothing was going to stop him from achieving his goal. Thomas Hoerr takes this same point of view in his ASCD Arias book, Fostering Grit. As he points out learning is more than our core subjects that students need to succeed. Learning means developing Grit. This is the tenacity, perseverance, and willingness to take risks and learn from failure.
In this Arias, Hoerr lays out the 6 steps needed to teach students to have grit:
Establish The Environment
Teach The Vocabulary
Create The Frustration
Monitor The Experience
Reflect And Learn
Accompanying each of these steps are real-classroom examples of how to achieve this. For example in "Create The Frustration" Hoerr points out that when completing tasks it is easy for frustration to take over when we fear failure or don't have the correct knowledge set to complete the task. Hoerr offers suggestions to ease students into the frustration like focusing all effort for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 mins if success is had, keep going. If it isn't, step back and reflect on what different effort is needed.
Also included is a ready-to-go lesson plan that can be modified to be used in most every grade level to help students understand grit and how to use grit to their advantage.
I absolutely love the Arias because of their short yet fully covered subject matter. Fostering Grit does not disappoint. At 38 pages its a quick read but the takeaways are immediate and impactful. And while Hoerr focuses on fostering grit in students there is something here that could be used by teachers and administrators as well. It is definitely a multipurpose book.
You can check out Fostering Grit here. At $7 for the eBook I think the cost is well worth the learning. Definitely check it out!
Roland S. Barth shared in his seminal book Learning by Heart (2001), that schools should possess an “ethos hospitable to the promotion of human learning.” As I have endeavored through massive leadership and learning changes, Barth’s words have become a truism for me. Whether navigating a curriculum change, supporting different forms of professional learning, or problem-solving a complex issue (or usually all of the aforementioned at the same time), I ask myself, “How is what we are doing promoting an ethos hospitable to learning?” Inevitably the responses to this question have led the way to culturally transformative levels of learning in our school. Given that instructional cultures grow best organically and synergistically, (and this has been the case for mine), I would simply add that when change is nurtured with innovation, support and feedback, the rate of growth is exponential, and the direction of growth flows in intended and unintended directions.
In our schoolhouse, we believe:
Barth eloquently describes what it takes to achieve this vision. “When we come to believe that our schools should be providing a culture that creates and sustains a community of student and adult learning—that this is the trellis of our profession—then we will organize our schools, classrooms, and learning experiences differently.” (Barth, R., The Culture Builder, Educational Leadership, May 2002.)
Organizing learning differently has been both an exciting and daunting challenge. In the era of sweeping reform, striving to make this vision come to life uniquely within a school requires the science and artistry of students, faculty, staff and parents alike, who must continually partner as an interdependent team. This type of work demands mutual support, collective expertise and shared accountability. (For example: How does being affixed to one curriculum benefit students? Am I ready to share my student’s formative data with my teaching peers?) It also demands adaptive thinking, rather than technical solutions. (For example: How does this master schedule promote flexible forms of learning?) In our school’s journey, confronting shared questions have proven weighty, but worthy. While many might say strong academic achievement has been the most visible and predictable success in our trellis climb, we believe our substantive growth has mainly emanated from our collective drive for seamless collaboration and embedded forms of professional learning. In fact, I would characterize our school as relentless about setting the conditions for academic and social-emotional success. Our sustained urgency on learning, along with our instructional and cultural momentum has fundamentally redesigned the way we teach and learn. What were once individually celebrated features of our school’s educational excellence, are now deliberately interconnected and vital components of our cultural instructional identity. In essence, we teach and learn within a coherent system of meaningful moving parts.
Professional Learning Communities
Our teams practice the data cycle (Reeves, D.) within the professional learning community model (DuFour, R.). In addition to three dedicated common planning times for each team each week, our teachers also collaborate in numerous informal, horizontal and vertical ways throughout each school day. We reflect, design, instruct, assess and monitor as teams. No one teaches or works in isolation. We strive to meet and exceed commonly established goals, and our data is transparent and accessible at all times.
Response to Intervention Methods
Our faculty has studied Response to Intervention (RtI) through the work of Mike Mattos. Our Superintendent’s leadership has also helped us fully commit to giving students what they need, when they need it. We employ universal screening, core district curriculum, and progress monitoring procedures. Customized interventions and supports are architected into personal learning plans, which are designed and delivered by our expert teachers. These academic and social-emotional learning plans are monitored and refined by data teams in instructional cycles throughout the year.
Our district is deeply committed to embedded forms of professional learning. At the elementary level, we employ the workshop model of instruction, chiefly studying the work of Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project. We benefit from three literacy specialists and one mathematics specialist on our staff, who actively coach each of our teachers and teams. Our school employs a literacy and mathematics laboratory model (conducting peer observations with a coach, engaging in lesson voice overs, leading parts of a lesson, and dissecting model lessons), shared classroom walkthroughs, opportunities to look at student work, and the unconference model. Each of these forms of adult learning expands our craft knowledge and grows our shared expertise.
Leadership For All
Our school rests upon our extraordinary teachers and staff, each of whom is a leader in his/her own right. Teachers are trusted to make important decisions about learning. While we have formal teams such as a school leadership team, a child study team and a positive behavior support team, our teachers actively lead the wealth of the instructional design, intervention plans, and assessment work. Teachers also design and lead professional learning opportunities that seed the school with innovation; modeling their own risk-taking and inspiring adaptive thinking among staff.
As Barth has eloquently pointed out in Learning By Heart (2001):
“It has been said that running a school is about putting first things first; leadership is determining what are the first things; and management is about putting them first. I would like to suggest that the ‘first thing’, the most important feature of the job description for each of us as educators, is to discover and provide the considerations under which people’s learning curves go off the chart. Sometimes it’s other people’s learning curves; those of students, teachers, parents, administrators. But at all times it is our own learning curve.” (Barth, R. Learning By Heart, 2001, p. 11).
I would be remiss if I did not comment on my own learning curve amidst this type of learning environment, where change is the norm, and as Barth points out, “learning curves go off the chart.” My experience is that one cannot be immersed in this type of work - day in and day out - without realizing the profound personal and professional effect it has on your own practice. The way I think, the way I listen, the way I reflect, the way I contribute and the way I solve has everything to do with what I have learned from my colleagues. Their work teaches me everyday. Courageously, they have helped me reach upward and outward for a truly ambitious vision, and equally have the support to lean into what can be possible for every learner. Barth reminds me time and time again, that the ethos of learning is within and among us every single day. Even in the face of tremendous change, it is our calling to climb the professional trellis uniquely and continually, in order to benefit every student and adult in the schoolhouse, including ourselves.
Sandra A. Trach, Principal
Estabrook School, Lexington, MA
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure"
What makes a burger great? Why do people choose to buy their burgers from one place over another? Is it the choice of meat? Is it the freshness of the bun or the lettuce and tomato? Or is it the special sauce that you can only get in one place?
I have talked with colleagues about my views in education and I have used the burger analogy often. I can get a burger anywhere, but I have clear opinions about the best burgers. The same is true for education. Students can learn anywhere, but they have clear opinions about the best teachers. If the students are supposed to be getting the same thing no matter where they go to school or who they have for a teacher then the question that must be answered is what makes one burger (or teacher) more desirable than the other? How do we get all burgers (or teachers) to at least be the best they possibly can be.
As we think about what makes burgers great, I want to focus on the things we all can see: freshness of the ingredients, quality of service, and options and customization. What I do not want to focus on is the secret sauce. We cannot use the secret sauce to make all burgers better. The secret sauce is a secret, and therefore it cannot be transmitted or shared. I have often heard people say things like a colleague was a "born teacher" or "just had that special something" that made them good. It often seems to me that we often think that what makes a teacher great is their secret sauce, the special things they do that are inherent in who they are. The unique things in their classroom or about their personality that cannot be reproduced and shared are what separate the gourmet from the dollar menu.
I have also found that teachers, once they have a secret sauce, do not want to share it. They want to hold into it because the enjoy being popular, or successful or well regarded. They see the secret sauce as what makes them unique and special. As a leader, I want everyone to feel that way, not just the one or two people that, "have it figured out." I also want all of my students to get a great education, not just the ones that have the teachers with the secret sauce.
We have to get away from the secret sauce mentality in education. While this sounds easy in theory, it is much more difficult in practice. Many teachers have spent years developing their secret sauce: highly polished lesson plans, powerpoints, simulations, or modes of delivery. They have made an investment and want a return. To break out of the secret sauce mentality, we have to get teachers to recognize that they get more when they give more.
We cannot believe that there are any secrets to what we do, and instead need to share our best practices with each other. Only if we do that, would we be able to make the system great, instead of depending upon the flashes of greatness of our staff. If we want greatness to be more than a flash, we will need to share the secrets.
As leaders we have to be concerned with the system, and creating systems that ensure success, and not just about individuals that are part of the system. This does not mean that we treat people poorly, or that we treat them like they are interchangeable, but that we take the best from everyone to make everyone their best. Focus on what we can do, what we can see, what we can share in the classroom and in our schools to make the experience of all students great. If we hold on to the secret sauce, will never get a better burger for everyone.
Scoring a student sample or grade-level appropriate writing with the WriteSteps’ rubrics is effective because it gives your students the opportunity to see how each of the six traits works separately and together to make a strong piece.
Devin Dusseau-Bates, a 3rd grade teacher using WriteSteps, shares her tips on making the most of the six traits rubrics. Using the six traits rubrics helps students identify their own areas of strengths and weaknesses, which really boosts student confidence. (Click to Tweet!) For example, if a student recognizes that they have a strength, called a glow, in the area of organization, but a weakness, or grow, in word choice, then they have something very specific to focus on as a writer rather than just on writing as a whole.
The key to having success with the rubrics in my classroom was making sure my students were very familiar with the six traits. Once my students understood the traits, the rubrics were a great tool to improve my students’ writing.
The most helpful thing I did with my students this year was very simple. I divided the rubric in half by splitting 6-5-4 and 3-2-1. I discussed with the student how this helps them to accurately nail down a score for the traits. Dividing the upper and lower half of the rubric helped to simplify things. Then, all we had to do was specify the exact score.
Six is perfect!
Think of six as the absolute best you’ve ever seen. It’s perfect. This helps students understand that obtaining a six, while doable, takes a lot of hard work and effort, especially during the revision and editing stages of the writing process.
One is not an option!
Think of one as the absolute worst you’ve ever seen. I’ve always explained to my students that receiving a one on the rubric means that very little effort, really none at all, was put into that particular piece. I assure them that as long as they incorporate what they’re learning into their writing, revising and editing honestly, then they’ll never get a one. Don’t talk too much
As a teacher we want to explain, and explain. Let your students do the talking. When they suggest a score, ask THEM to back it up with examples and evidence from the piece.
Don’t score every trait in one session!
I never score an entire piece on one day. The great thing about WriteSteps’ rubric lessons is that they only focus on three traits in one session (Click to Tweet!), then the remaining on the following day. This really allows for a deeper focus and understanding of the traits being scored that day. Each trait discussed and scored lends itself into a brief five minute mini lesson per trait.
Make scoring fun!
Get your students involved by allowing them to make signals for their score choices. For example, think like a baseball coach and ask students to touch their nose then the top of their head for a six! WriteSteps has Uno-Dos-Traits Cards which provide some great interaction too. The purpose of having your students score visually is so you can do a quick scan of who really knows what they’re looking for and who still needs more time understanding the traits.
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What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #8)
“The Grass Is Not Always Greener”
At this time of year in the great Pacific Northwest there is lots of fog. The days are getting darker and many of us long for the sunshine. It also the time where we start having “family/teacher” conferences. In many cases, families and staff go into these events with a little angst, not knowing what will be a bright spot or what will add to the haze of clarity on how to help our shared students. Perceptions are such a driving force in this dance.
As families we have perceptions about our own experiences of school. Ultimately we just want to know if our children are safe, engaged, supported, challenged and in a healthy environment. Often we are in unchartered waters, either this is our first child experiencing this grade level/school or our children are so different that we experiencing something new at home as well as at school. As staff, we have perceptions about what perceptions families may have about us, our schools and public education as a whole. We have to not only know our students individually well enough to guide them, we need to think about what strategies we can provide families to help their children at home. We want to be clear and honest about each child’s strengths and areas of growth, but don’t want to feel offensive. We want to help our families, but also need to be aware of our limitations of time and resources. For me, I am aware of both sides of the dance and always trying to different strategies to help my needs as a parent as well as honor the staff that are serving my children.
This week a master teacher taught me a few new strategies. She starts by asking families to describe what they are seeing at home when they are working with their child (assessing their perceptions about their student).
Next, she has the family watch a short video that she has filmed of the student doing some grade level work (establishing a shared context for the conversation and showing what the engagement or non-engagement looks like in the class).
Showing her human side, she is honest about her new learning of technology and her limitations (establishing that we are all learning and to take risks).
Then she asks them what they saw and their thoughts (facilitating reflection, this may be the first time the family has seen their child learning at school).
She builds off of their comments and talks about what they are doing in class to either provide additional support and or challenge the child during the day (reassuring their child is safe, engaged, supported and challenged).
Working from the standards and skills, she has a few generic strategies that are related to the standards/skills that can be replicated at home. Often these are skills that reinforce academic stamina, solid work habits, and are simpler versions of what she doing in the class already (reinforcing healthy habits that we all can support).
She reminds the family that this work needs to be low stress and not fight, “start slow and be consistent” (finding safe ways to challenge their child at home). Finally, she asks the families to contact her every few weeks to get an update and share what they are seeing at home (reinforcing the partnership without all the ownership lying on the teacher).
I was reminded that we have world class teachers and world class principals in our schools. Our teachers and principals have never been more challenged and met those challenges at higher levels than ever before. I know there are challenges in our schools across our Nation. I am not blind to the realities that not every child in our country has a world class teacher, every day.
However, there are many schools, cities and states that our global partners may want to come examine. With relentless pressure to provide quick fixes and national propaganda about the lack of the success of our schools, maybe we should look closer at the numbers (http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/infographics/math-achievement-globally.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1). In our state we are not perfect, but we are becoming world class.
This week in Washington it is Principal Appreciation Week, I am thankful for our world class principals. Their successes are marked in more than a single test score, but rather the 1000’s of lives they save every day. In Tacoma, we have some the world’s best educational leaders. Although there may be foggy days in our area, rest assure there is sunshine behind the clouds for our students, for that I am humbly grateful.
Finally from David Whelan’s “My View of Fog”,
Ask any ten people, 'what's the odor of fog? ' And...
you'll get different replies, from ten different guys,
from brisk, briny sea smell, to smell of wet dog,
to perfume worn by Neptune, essence of clouds
and blue skies
I think that fog is something and nought.
A wraith of perception
suffused with deception
as easily at home…
or in thought
This past weekend, I attended an education conference with some of the preeminent minds in the field. The focus was on educational technology: its importance, how to integrate it relevantly, and how to market it to staff members who might be resistant. Presenters came from all over the United States, Mexico, Canada, and even Arkansas. (Sorry, had to). Well known connected educators dotted the audience, among them Tom Whitby, the “Godfather” of Twitter #edu chats. There were a lot of brilliant minds talking about moving education forward in an engaging manner for students. What was I focused on? The charging stations, of course.
The location for the conference was at New Milford High School, in New Jersey. It’s an older building, but the infrastructure for wireless connectivity was unbelievable. There were over 400 registrants at the conference using wireless devices (many more than one), and there was no online lag time. Additionally, Eric Shenninger, the Principal of New Milford High School, mentioned at the end of the keynote address that there were charging stations for wireless devices located all throughout the building.
What a brilliant idea, I thought. Imagine the hidden message to all who enter this building each day: you will use technology daily. We understand that in order for you to be successful in the future, you will need to be intuitive with technology today. Think of the secondary expectation embedded in the charging stations: we trust you. We trust that you will use technology for its intended use. You can charge your device whenever you’re low on batter power, and it will be here when you return.
A common theme among the presenters at the conference was that technology is a tool grounded in the human element. It is a way to bring people together, to form connections, extend knowledge in a different modality, and another way to synergize good teaching with good tools. Technology isn’t meant to replace educators, it is meant to enhance them. As the lead learner, teachers still plan, organize, present, and guide. Technology is there to support the infrastructure educators put in place in their classrooms.
The infrastructure of charging stations and strong wireless broadband connectivity embeds the message of trust we try to build with our students. In order for learning to occur at its optimal level, humans must feel comfortable in their environment. They must feel secure in it, supported by it, and able to grow within it. Making clear to students that they’re in an environment where they’ll be prepared for a technologically driven future, in an environment where the infrastructure can handle it makes it clear that we care about them. The secondary embedded message that your technology is safe in here, you can leave it, and it will be here when you return, speaks to the climate and culture created by the administrative team at New Milford High School.
As people moved from presentation to presentation, I kept looking at all the charging stations. I heard high school students giving directions, connecting with conference attendees, and answering questions. A couple students were presented with a question they were unsure how to answer. “We’ll ask Eric,” they said. They asked him the question, got the answer, and moved on – using his first name when talking to him. This happened repeatedly during the day, conversations between Eric and his students, all on a first name basis.
Another embedded message of trust on display: we will provide you with all the technological opportunities we can to make you successful, but we know that your success still depends on the communication and connections we model and form during our conversations with you. We will do that by respecting each other and calling one another by our first name, as we are one unified community learning and growing together.
What a message.
As an educational leader, you have a vision of where your school needs to be. You have invested in your staff, students, and stakeholders, and you expect success. And you hold yourself to a high standard knowing that your attitude—and your action—sets the overall tone for the school. So why is it that some leaders seem to be able to “get it done” while others seem overwhelmed? For many, it’s about time. All of us, if we are honest, have plans or goals that are unrealized, in part, due to how we have chosen to use our time.
In Short on Time: How Do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal?, we tackle some of these important issues, one step at a time. We hear insights and see examples from successful leaders in the field. In my work as a teacher, principal, professor, and learner, I’ve compiled a growing list of ideas related to school leadership. From this list of 100 Action Steps (yes, it’s a big, round number), there are a few you might consider:
Consider leaders who have successfully navigated some of these challenges and realized success in their schools. Some of their action steps may be a great fit for you and your school, and you will likely add a host of others to your own list. Ask yourself, “How can I make time to lead in order to realize this goal?” Success often comes one action step at a time. Let’s take the first one. It’s about time.
The ASCD Arias book Short on Time: How do I Make Time to Lead and Learn as a Principal? is written by William Sterrett, who is also the author of Insights into Action: Successful School Leaders Share What Works (ASCD, 2011). Learn more about ASCD at www.ascd.org.
For more information about the book or to purchase copies, go to http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Short-on-Time.aspx You can follow on Twitter @billsterrett
This video just came out on YouTube yesterday and it's quickly going viral. I heard about it on my local radio station and The Today Show gave it a mention this morning too. Give it a watch first then I'll share some thoughts on the other side.
That's your feel good video for the week right there isn't it? The Dad's reaction, and his son's excitement to share with his dad, is priceless. If you don't know the back story (and I don't know many details) the boy had majorly struggled in Math for a long time. As in, he was failing and success in Math was looking bleak. I don't know what steps the boy and his dad took to be successful at Math but he brought home a C (or at least a passing grade) and the son getting to share his great news with his Dad is what was captured on video.
Based on Dad's reaction, I'd say this was a monumental accomplishment in this student's school journey. What a sense of accomplishment the student must have felt! Dad did such a great job at what I can only assume was the beginning of a major celebration. This was a milestone for this young man. I hope his teacher made a point to celebrate with him just as vibrantly.
My last post I shared some thoughts about how movement; no matter how small, always matters. It likely wasn't an A or B that this young man brought home to share with Dad, but it was movement in the right direction. It was a major victory for him. Dad didn't say, "That's all you could do?" or just give a "Keep up the good work" and a pat on the back. Dad made this a huge deal; a reason for celebration.
I think this is something we need to make the time to do more for our struggling students, not just for our students who success in school comes naturally. We want all students to be successful in everything they do. In school and in life. That's our ultimate goal for them right? I believe that a crucial part of that journey means to help them feel success as much as possible while they're with us, no matter how small it may appear from the outside.
I was recently interviewed by a school for a leadership position and was caught off-guard by this question: When have you failed as a leader and what did you do about it?
I am certainly not a perfect leader and have made my fair share of mistakes, but I really struggle with the term, or any derivation of “fail”. What does it mean to fail? What does it mean to fail if you haven’t defined what success looks like? If you are making marked improvements towards but not yet achieving the definition of “success”, are you failing?
As leaders, we have those days when we feel less effective than others; when we aren’t seeing the gains in student achievement, improved instruction, or a positive shift in the culture of our schools. There are those days when we feel we have failed our students, our teams, and ourselves. Yes, I have had many of those days.
Are we failures or have we failed in any of these situations? I would venture to say that we haven’t. We only “fail” when we don’t demonstrate and act with courage in response to adversity. We only “fail” when we allow intended or unintended immoral, inequitable, or unjust acts to occur without trying whole-heartedly to prevent them. We only “fail” when we refuse to courageously fight for what is right in spite of obstacles, big and small.
In response to the question from the interview, I asked what the interviewer meant by the term “fail.” Not intending to turn the question back on him, that’s what happened. He struggled to define what it means to fail and rephrased the question. Tell me about a mistake you have made as a leader and how you responded. This question I could much more confidently respond to -with many examples. Instead of focusing on the mistake, I was able to elaborate on the successes experienced due to my own courage and the courageous professionals around me. Failure is not an act, it’s a refusal to act.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill
I’m seriously concerned that the schools aren’t doing enough (change that: aren’t doing anything!) to prepare students on the autism spectrum for a range of careers that are beginning to open up for them in the workplace. So much of recent educational ”reform” has been about preparing our students to be college and career-ready. If this is true, then we should be focusing on doing everything we can to help prepare students with autism spectrum disorder for new opportunities that are opening up for them. Educators need to know about an emerging trend in the workplace where high-tech companies are increasingly seeking to hire individuals with autism because their strengths are well-suited to a career in information technology. I contributed to an article in the October 8, 2013 Wall Street Journal(online) on this new phenomenon, and I’d like in this post to go over some ideas and resources that supplement what was given in that news piece.
The company that really launched this new trend was a Denmark firm called Specialisterne (”The Specialists”). They hire workers to look for ”bugs” in computer software. Their clients have included Microsoft, Oracle, and other top high-tech companies. Seventy-five percent of Specialisterne’s employees are on the autism spectrum. Specialisterne has opened up offices around the world, including in the United States.
The Specialist People Foundation, which owns Specialisterne’s concept and trademark, has launched an initiative to obtain training and employment for one million people with autism. As part of this project, they have begun creating partnerships with other high-tech companies to employ people with autism, including software giant SAP and Computer Aid, Inc, which plans to employ 3% of its workforce with individuals on the autism spectrum. Two other companies that are also seeking employees on the spectrum include Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage finance company, which has been advertising for interns with autism, and Semperical, in San Jose, California, which provides software testing and quality assurance services, and advertises on its website: ”Our specialized program unleashes the incredible natural talents of engineers on the autistic spectrum.”
Another organization that has taken an important role in training and employing people with autism, is the Plano, Texas firm Nonpareil, which, is a combination training program and software company for young adults on the autism spectrum (photo by Lauren Silverman for NPR depicts trainee at Nonpareil). Gary Moore, one of the partners of Nonpareil (along with Dan Selic), has a son Andrew who is a junior in high school and is on the spectrum. “Although [Andrew] can’t tie his shoes or buckle his belt to do a lot of things independently, he can do technology,” Moore says. “He’s a digital native.” Another group, the Specialists Guild in San Francisco, also trains and finds employment for young people with autism. Their clients include Benetech, Compass Labs, and Launchpad Toys.
These new employment trends come in the wake of research findings suggesting that in addition to the difficulties that people with autism have in the areas of social functioning and communication, they also have particular strengths, which up until now haven’t been recognized. Cambridge University professor Simon Baron-Cohen, for example, points out that people on the spectrum are good at interacting with system rather than people (and these systems include computer programs and other IT systems).
Laurent Mottron, a University of Montreal scientist has written about the strengths of autism in a recent article in the prestigious British journal Nature, and suggests that if IQ tests such as the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (a highly abstract visual-spatial assessment devoid of social interaction), were used with individuals with autism instead of the standard IQ test (the Weschler Intelligence Scale), their IQ scores would be 30-70 percent higher. Another ability connected with autism is the capacity to focus on small details, sometimes referred to as ”enhanced perceptual functioning,” which is a valuable trait for searching for small errors in computer code.
As I said at the beginning of this post, the schools are totally unprepared for this, and the simple reason for that is that special education in the United States has been firmly rooted in a ”deficit” paradigm for the past hundred years - focusing on what kids with special needs can’t do, rather than what they can do. This is true of both public and private schools. Perhaps the most renowned person with autism in the world, animal scientist Temple Grandin, in the October 7, 2013 issue of Time Magazine, wrote: ”I recently spoke to the director of a school for autistic children and she mentioned that the school tries to match a student’s strengths with internship or employment opportunities in the neighborhood. But when I asked her how the school identified the strengths, she immediately started talking about how they helped students overcome social deficits. If even the experts can’t stop thinking about what’s wrong, how can anyone expect the families who are dealing with autism to think any differently?”
I firmly believe that every school that has students with autism (and other special needs) should have a ”strengths specialist” that does nothing but look for abilities, capacities, talents, and gifts in special education students. This would be a specially trained educator who is familiar with the strength-based literature (only a small part of which was noted above), competence in using a range of formal and informal strength-based assessment tools (see my previous post on seven of these assessment tools), and the capacity to help a student’s teachers use instructional strategies based on their strengths. They should also be able to find ways to develop a student’s strengths within the school (such as computer classes) and to serve as a school-community broker, helping to set up internships, apprenticeships, liaisons, and other real-world opportunities where students on the spectrum can be trained and find employment in the workplace.
A study done at Virginia Commonwealth University, discovered that young adults with autism who received training in specific work fields had an employment rate of 87% compared with 6% for those in the control group who received no such help. Clearly, this is a call for action to our nation’s public and private schools, and to the field of special education in general, to stop spending so much time focusing on deficits, and start turning your attention on strengths, because that is where the answer lies regarding helping these kids find success in life.
For more information about the strengths of students with special needs, and specific strategies to help them achieve success, see my book Neurodiversity in the Classroom.
Yesterday, as a speaker and panelist at various education related conferences, I had a wonderful experience. I was asked to participate on a panel at a gathering of education technology industry leaders. The group was assembled through The Software and Information Industry Association, SIIA. It took place in the plush setting of a prestigious law firm office in the heart of New York City. The Panel discussion was to address connected educators and the effect on education. The other panelists included my friend and connected colleague, Lisa Nielsen, @innovativeEdu and Andrew Gardner, @Agardnahh, whom I met for the first time.
The setting was incredible. It was on the 9th floor of a building that we needed to sign into. The receiving area had food and drinks set up with couches and tables set up to comfortably gather the group as it assembled and pinned on their nametags. The room quickly filled with clusters of conversations positioned about.
Lisa and I went off to check out the room where we were to conduct the “roundtable discussion”. We wanted to get comfortable with the setting before we had to begin. Again, it was a large, elegant room with leather top tables and microphones for the panel at the front of the room. There were very comfortable chairs for the audience arranged in ROWS. It was the idea of rows that got to me immediately. This was not a roundtable discussion setting. It was an historic classroom setting with the teacher at the front and students in rows. It screamed we are the experts and you are the students. For me this was not going to work.
As the 20 to 30 participants entered the room I made an announcement that we would be re-arranging the seats so they would be in a circle for the presentation. The immediate reaction was confusion. The host of the event, I believe he was a partner of the law firm, said quietly to me, “We have never done this before.” I knew then that I was going to be thought of as an out of the box thinker, or an idiot by the end of this session. Actually, it is a teaching method we teach student teachers. Consider the goal, and the setting you need to accomplish it. If it requires rearranging the room, do it.
Once the audience realized that there was no escape from rash decision of the mustachioed, short guy standing in the front of the room (an obvious position of power), they helped form the circle of very expensive chairs. I was committed at this point, so I had to make it work, but I was confident that it would. I was fortunate that the other panelists were aware of the benefits of the new configuration, and they supported the decision. In retrospect I might have been a bit arrogant, but in this instance it worked to my benefit.
The discussion started with quick introductions from Lisa Schmucki, the moderator, followed by a general question about what is a connected educator, and what is connected learning. We, as panelists, carried the opening of the discussion, but soon that shifted as the audience members, who were not separated in rows, but connected in a circle that positioned each listener to face each speaker, committed to the discussion. Success was almost assured as long as the panel, now part of the circle, kept the conversation going with facts and opinions from an educator’s point of view. This was in fact connected learning face to face. Titles were dropped and ideas were considered on their own merit. The panelists, lawyers and business people all became equal participants in the discussion.
The goal of this roundtable was to explore what business people could do to get involved with connected educators. The big idea was to listen to what educators had to say. Pitching products to connected educators will not work. A big take away was that these industry people had access to researchers and experts not available to teachers. They could provide free webinars with these experts to address and inform on issues as professionals and not salespeople selling products.
I can’t help to think that, if we as educators had these types of discussions earlier, maybe the discussion on education would not have been hijacked by business people, politicians, and profiteers. Instead of experts in the front of the room telling us what needs to be done, we could develop solutions through dialogue with the people really involved. The idea that well-intentioned endeavors, like Education Nation could continue with such little, or contrived participation from educators to balance the discussion could gain popular attention is more than upsetting.
Another family member has taught me a lesson about schooling. Last time, it was one of my daughters, Elle. This time, it was my oldest son, Sam.
Sam is five years old, and bright as can be. He just soaks up everything he hears and sees. He is already reading books, spelling, and doing math above his learning level. Some things academically are coming easy to Sam. So, I am glad he helped me make his bed recently.
My wife and I decided to wash the bedding for all of our children, and Sam was asked to help put his back on - like his older siblings. Sam's job was to put his pillows back in the pillowcases.
This was not an easy task for Sam. He struggled to figure out how to get the pillowcase on the pillow. He sat on the floor and tried to push the pillow into the case. He stood up and tried to kick the pillow into the case. And he pleaded to his father to end his suffering and do it for him. (He does not have that type of dad.)
I told him to keep trying and tell me what he learned. When he became less frustrated, he was able to share that he could not get the pillow into the case by pushing it in. He stood with the pillow and the case and began to share back and forth while getting mad again. Suddenly, he noticed that some of the pillow was slipping into the case. Now, he began to jump up and down to get more of the pillow into the case, watching his progress with each jump. When the end of the pillow was completely in the case, Sam threw the pillow up in the air, and announced, "I did it." The smile on his five-year-old face was bigger than his pillow! Sam proceeded to do his other pillow in the same manner with the same success.
After his bed was made, I sat there while Sam picked out his clothes for school the next day, and I realized that Sam had persevered. He had shown grit and determination, and he was successful in the end. I sat there on his newly made bed, and I wondered if I should have modeled how to put a pillow in the case or even start it for him. In the end, I am glad he struggled. Yes, glad. I want things to be difficult for Sam (some things) so he can know the depth of his resolve. I want him to know that he can struggle and still be successful. He should know that some successes only come from struggle.
I want the same for Sam in his school, and for all of his peers in the education system. We must have students construct more of their learning, struggle more to find success, so they can be flexible, adaptable and resilient learners.
If we accomplish that goal, we will truly have the learners we need in the future. Sam's journey has already begun. I hope others help him struggle.
ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) News is a monthly e-mail 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.
Action Items for ASCD Leaders
Shutdown 101 for Educators
The first federal government shutdown in 17 years did not lead to immediate consequences for most schools and districts, but as each day goes by it becomes more problematic for the nation’s educators and students. See the ASCD policy team’s key takeaways and behind-the-scenes details on what the shutdown means for schools by reading our special edition of Capitol Connection and our ASCD Inservice blog post. They cover everything from how health and nutrition services for children and families are being affected to the long-term repercussions of the shutdown. And, for ongoing coverage, read your weekly issues of Capitol Connection!
ASCD to Host 23 Common Core Implementation Institutes November 2013 to February 2014
Starting in November, ASCD is holding institutes across the United States to help guide educators in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The one- and two-day institutes will be held in nine U.S. cities and are focused on Mathematics; English Language Arts and Literacy; Formative Assessment; Leading the Change to CCSS; and Common Core and the Understanding by Design Framework. View the full institute schedule on ascd.org.
New Whole Child Publication
The Korean Educational Development Institute’s KEDI Journal of Educational Policy publishes scholarly articles and reports on research that makes significantcontributions to the understanding and practice of educational policy on an international level. This month's special issue, “Promoting Students’ Social-Emotional and Character Development and Prevent Bullying,” includes an article written by ASCD’s Sean Slade, director of whole child programs, and David Griffith, director of public policy. The article, titled “A Whole Child Approach to Student Success” (pp. 21–35), describes the whole child approach to education and its global education policy recommendations.
Integrating Health and Social Programs Within Education Systems
In August 2013, ASCD and the International School Health Network began work on a new draft statement, titled “Integrating Health and Social Programs Within Education Systems,” at a global school health symposium held in Pattaya, Thailand. The two organizations would like to encourage readers to review and comment on the draft, which was developed to explain how health and social programs can be integrated more effectively within education systems.
Leaders in Action:News from the ASCD Leader Community
ASCD Welcomes the Competency-Based Education Professional Interest Community
ASCD invites you to join our newest Professional Interest Community, facilitated by ASCD Emerging Leader Jason Ellingson. The Competency-Based Education group is a place to share your ideas and connect with one another.
2012 Emerging Leaders Will Use Pilot Grant Funds to Benefit Students through 2013–14 School Year
This year for the first time, ASCD accepted grant applications from 2012 emerging leaders. The grant program, now in its pilot phase, is designed to give emerging leaders the opportunity explore new and innovative ways to support the success of each learner.
This year’s grant fund recipients are Jessica Bohn, Krista Rundell, Fred Ende, and Amy Murphy. Jessica and Krista are working independently; Fred and Amy are working as a team.
ASCD would like to thank all the emerging leaders who participated in the grant application process as we continue to learn and improve the program over time.
ASCD Leader Voices
Common Core Myths & Facts
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and are preparing to fully implement them—including administering tests based on the standards—in the 2014–15 school year. But rumors and myths about the standards have run rampant, causing confusion among educators, policymakers, and the public. The latest ASCD Policy Points (PDF)clarifies what the CCSS are and are not and tackles these myths head-on.
Read the issue for straightforward facts and explanations that help combat common misperceptions about the federal government’s involvement in the standards, the cost of their implementation, the role of local schools and districts, concerns about student privacy, and more. We hope this Policy Points provides you with useful information about the CCSS that you can share with your local communities to help dispel confusion, counter opposition, and establish yourself as a trusted resource on the standards. If you have any questions, contact the ASCD policy team at email@example.com.
Throughout October at wholechildeducation.org: Early Childhood Education
What does “education” mean for our youngest learners? The first years of school are as important for an educated population as any other period, perhaps more. Research shows that implementation of high-quality preschool programs can be beneficial for the lifelong development of children in low-income families and that an upfront commitment to early education provides returns to society that are many times more valuable than the original investment.
With the current focus on standards and academic achievement, is learning and testing coming too early? Curriculum and assessment should be based on the best knowledge of theory and research about how children develop and learn with attention given to individual children’s needs and interests in a group in relation to program goals. Young children have different social, cognitive, and emotional needs than older children and early childhood is where they begin to build skills and behaviors such as persistence, empathy, collaboration, and problem solving.
Download the Whole Child Podcast for a discussion on the importance of early childhood education with ASCD’s Walter McKenzie, authors Thomas Armstrong and Wendy Ostroff, the New America Foundation’s Laura Bornfreund, and ASCD Emerging Leader Jennifer Orr. Throughout the month, read the Whole Child Blogand tell us what has worked in your school and with your students. E-mail us and share resources, research, and examples.
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