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There’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.
Reading and Language Arts
Technology in the Classroom
Well, if you watched the Academy Awards last week, you witnessed the global impact that social media has in the world. Ellen DeGeneres was able to take a picture of a group of actors that, in the first half hour of it being posted, was re-tweeted 700,000 times, which temporarily knocked Twitter off the Internet. It has now become the number one tweet of all time. That is one example of the effect that social media is continuing to have in countries around the world. We should not lose sight of the fact that many, many people were following the Oscar show hashtag to share the experience of the program with others.
Many actors are using social media to connect with fans. The same fans, which a generation ago resorted to fan mail to connect with their idols, now have an opportunity to connect in real life through social media. This is not an opportunity that is ignored by the entertainment industry. TV fans are now being continually bombarded with hashtags to follow shows. The news business is also asking people to follow and exchange information through hashtags. This is creating more interactive involvement with TV. Not since Winky Dink and You, where Winky Dink, an animated character, had us draw with crayons on a plastic sheet placed over a TV screen in the 50’s, have we seen such interaction. We traced lines placed on the magic screen one at a time, until we had a bridge drawn for Winky Dink to cross and escape danger. It was way ahead of its time. It was however interactive and a definite attention-grabber.
What does any of this have to do with education? The idea that social media gives us a platform to send out information and have people interact with it, or just digest it, would seem to be an idea that would be snapped up and embraced by educators. They are the very people who make a living trying to get folks to get information and interact with it, or just digest it. We shouldn’t need a magical plastic screen to connect the lines in order to build a bridge for educators to reach this idea.
Ellen DeGeneres’s picture is small potatoes to what educators can put out. Educators have access to real sources. In addition to pictures they have: Websites, Documents, Blog posts, Videos, Podcasts, webinars, articles, interviews, and maybe even some sensible worksheets to share. To share with whom you may ask. To share with each other, I would answer. Imagine if every teacher shared just one of their best sources with other educators, who in turn could tweet them out to the tune of 700,000 tweets in a half hour. Everyone would benefit. The idea here is to get educators familiar with the concept of connectedness and its possibilities, so that getting comfortable with social media itself becomes less of an obstacle.
Social Media is here to stay. Its form may change, and certainly the applications we use will not remain the same, but the idea of openly exchanging information in whatever forms it is produced is not going away. As educators we can use it or lose it. If we don’t start to understand and use this technology soon, we will lose the opportunity to harness it, because we will be irrelevant. We don’t need social media to teach, as much as we need it to learn. It is a cornucopia of information. We can tailor that information to personalize our learning. This is the way of today’s world. For the scholar, the tomes are no longer stored in the monasteries, they reside on the Internet, and collectively, if we all share that which we know, we will all benefit. Collectively we are smarter than we are individually. That is the basis of collaborative learning. It is no longer a face-to-face endeavor limited in time and space. It happens anywhere, and anytime through the use of technology. Technology is the game-changer. As educated individuals, how can we ignore the possibilities?
Becoming a connected educator requires the use of 21st Century skills. This should not come as a surprise 14 years into that Century. Educators need to be digitally literate. We do not need educators who loudly proclaim to not get it when it comes to computers. We would not tolerate an educator in the 19th and 20th Centuries to loudly proclaim to not get it when it comes to reading books. This Century requires a new literacy and there is less and less room for illiterate educators to work alongside those who constantly strive to remain relevant. To better educate our kids we need to better educate their educators.
Maybe educators should do a Selfie with their class behind them in the picture. These are the faces of kids that this educator leaves an impression on each and every day. They are the educator’s charges. Are they the faces of kids who got from that teacher the best that that teacher had to offer. Does what that teacher offered meet the needs of what those kids will have to know in their world in order to live, thrive, and compete? What’s in a Selfie?
After reading several of Rafe Esquith’s books, I have come to the conclusion that not only is he a very good teacher, but he is very wise. He is able to communicate many “truths” about educating children that only someone with lots of experience and thoughtfulness can do. And while you may not agree with everything he says, he will certain get you thinking about teaching, learning, children, schools, and the community at large.
His latest book, Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: ‘No Retreat, No Surrender!’(2013: Penguin Books) contains a wealth of ideas, comments, and “wisdom” from a veteran teacher. The book is separated into sections for new teachers, teachers who have been teaching for several years, and even “master” teachers, but I think that everyone who is teaching at any level can profit from his insights in all three categories. He talks about things that mostly get ignored in the educational literature – bad days, first days, good routines, classroom management, classroom disasters, values to live by in the classroom, how to handle outside pressures and disagreeable people, testing and assessment, taking care of yourself, homework, the differences among kids and teachers, and many others.
Note that this book is not a how-to cookbook of ideas to improve teaching. While many of the thoughtful comments in the book may profoundly change teachers’ ways of thinking about their schools and classrooms, you will not find specific instructional strategies that work better than others, or even specific ideas about how to assess children. But many will come away with a better understanding of their own teaching, some guidance as to how to make teaching better for kids, and worthwhile ideas as to how to survive in a teaching environment.
In fact, everyone involved with education, including politicians and administrators who make laws and policy regarding education, should read the book.
The book is deep and rich, with many ideas, insights, and examples, and it is important to read it as a whole. But to give you a flavor of the Esquith’s views, below are a few short quotes from some of the chapters in the book. Note that some quotes might be out of a context, so you might find that they will read differently in the book.
I hope that they inspire you to read the book and consider his ideas for your classroom, school, or district.
Chapter 2: First things first
p. 42 …the truth is, in my class, Day 1 looks a lot like day 91. The kids will not grasp your program on Day 1. Introduce it and get to work.
[Note: This chapter has an excellent discussion of his philosophy of teaching and the rules and expectations he lays out for his students on the first day and beyond].
Chapter 4: An inside job:
p. 60-61 [In terms of classroom management and control]: My goal is to teach…children a set of values that they internalize. I want them to work hard in the class not because they fear a consequence but because they enjoy the work and also because they believe that good behavior is the right thing to do.
Chapter 8- Even the devil can quote scripture for his purpose
p. 106 –The reasonable desire to hold students and teachers accountable for what is being learned in school has snowballed into an avalanche of examinations that are hurting children and depriving them of a meaningful education…
p. 107 I have chosen a[n assessment] middle path. I consistently assess my students’ work and have no need for the exams being thrown at the kids by the school district and state. I fantasize about starting a bonfire with those infamous testing booklets that stimulate a groan from my students faster than the bell made Pavlov’s dog drool.
Chapter 11 – Keeping it real
p. 139 - Make sure the children make the connection between the lessons they are learning and how they will apply them in real life. Have the kids explain the connections rather than listen to you.
Chapter 14. Leave some children behind
p. 160 We have created situations where children do not understand that actions have consequences. School systems, under fire from all corners, have become desperate to please everyone. In doing so, they hurt the very children they are supposed to be helping.
Chapter 15 – Eyes wide open
p. 171 The unending problems and hurdles placed in front of a classroom teacher guarantee that you will not be able to help and reach every child to the degree you would like.
Chapter 18 Thomas Jefferson’s big mistake
p. 206 All students are not created equal, nor are they the same. When it is impossible to create individual assignments for the students, try to create assignments where one size does not fit all.
Chapter 21 One of a kind
p. 230 Pick something that you love to do and create a project with your students that will frame the entire year. Whether the students make quilts, become Scrabble experts or learn to surf, a special project will make all parts of your day better.
Chapter 22 All for one and one for all
p. 245 As you grow as a teacher, ask for lots of help…We can all use assistance.
Chapter 23 Getting better all the time
p. 252 Veteran teachers do not have to be stuck in a rut. Teaching the same lesson each year is not the same lesson if improvements are made.
Chapter 25 Stairway to heaven
This chapter deals with three ways for veteran teachers to stay “revved up and ready to go”: stay in physical shape (physical stamina); have a good social life (social stamina); deal with the emotional toll that the job takes (emotional rescue).
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, and former Professor of Education at Temple University. Additional blogs can be found on ASCD Edge at http://bit.ly/1kPsxBx. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to: www.era3learning.org
Will you be attending ASCD's 69th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show next week in Los Angeles? We're thrilled to have you and I want to personally invite you to Trader Vic's LA Live Saturday evening for the #ASCD14 Tiki Tweet Up sponsored by Herff Jones Nystrom.
Stop by Trader Vic’s Saturday evening between 6:30 and 9:30 for a "lei’d back" time complete with great company and complimentary appetizers. A tweet up is an in-person meet up of Twitter users and at the #ASCD14 Tiki Tweet Up you can connect with fellow @ASCD followers. Even if you are not active on Twitter, we encourage you to stop by and network with other educators.
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!
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play by William Shakespeare that chronicles two pairs of lovers: Benedick and Beatrice (the main couple), and Claudio and Hero (the secondary couple). By means of "nothing" (which sounds the same as "noting," and which is gossip, rumor, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. At the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples. (Much Ado About Nothing. Captured from Wikipedia. February 28, 2014.)
What is currently taking place across the United States regarding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Much Ado About Something, does not bring to mind a comedy; rather, it brings to mind a tragedy. Before I continue, I must state that my post is not an “I’m on this side or I’m on that side” commentary. It is simply a personal and professional reflection based on working intimately with the CCSS and scores of teachers K-12 across this country and overseas coupled with what I have observed regarding those who are making “much ado”. My hope is that I mirror Benedick and Beatrice’s desire to set things right.
Whether it be politicians, parents, or people in educational circles commenting, I most-often hear them not making comments about the standards themselves – the basic, no-frills standard statements that convey what students need to know and be able to do. For example, let’s take a Reading Literature standard for Grade 7:
CCSS.RL.7.7 Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).
This standard, here as it appears in the CCSS ELA Progressive Continuums App I created to aid teachers in collaboratively designing systemic curriculum that uses italic font to represent learning from a previous grade or grades and boldfaced text to indicate new learning in a grade, speaks directly to 21st-century (modern) learners needing to not only become literary literate, but media literate as well, as my colleague, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, promotes in her new book, Mastering Media Literacy (Solution Tree, 2013).
Before one can compare and contrast, one must know these two literacy forms as stand alones, which generates interesting conversations with teachers I work with as we develop content and skills because they were not taught media literacy when they were growing up (even younger teachers). Our conversations usually result in the seventh-grade teachers realizing they need to become deep learners themselves to best design content and skills associated with media literacy. And, as you can visually see represented in the standard above, comparing and contrasting written works to media is in italics, which means this process and learning about media-based versions has been learned in at least one previous grade (actually, starts in Grade 4 and is expanded on in Grades 5 and 6). Therefore, not only do seventh-grade teachers say they need media-literacy professional development, but fourth, fifth, and sixth grade teachers share they want to be included as well.
Common Core State Standard RL.7.7 is not saying specifically what must be read, what must be watched, or what the focus must be when read and watched, which is what I find many unhappy-with-the-CCSS commentators are up in arms over (excuse the film pun). While myriad companies and non-profits have developed recommended reading/media lists, units of study, and lesson plans that “are align to” the CCSS, these resources are not the standards. These aligned documents, programs, textbooks, etc., are how tos (instruction and assessments) based on someone or some group’s interpretation of the standards. For example, based on this standard, groups can have a wildly different take on what is an appropriate text versus movie/staged production for seventh graders – one group choosing a very liberal text and film and another group select a very conservative text and staged production.
Regardless of the selections, it is not the standard that is making a selection, human beings are. If studied closely, standard RL.7.7 is asking students to be critical thinkers and reason deeply regarding the nuances in a selected text and audio-visual representation, which is exactly what 21st-century students need to be doing – critically thinking and problem solving as well as reasoning and providing text and media evidence for their claims (e.g., requirements also found in standards RL._.1, RI._.1, W._.1). And, if we are truly trying to engage learners and wanting them to own their own learning, how about allowing students to select the text and film or staged production they will analyze?
What I often find interesting is that if you ask someone who is knocking the CCSS (let’s say in reference to a unit of study that is for some reason “inappropriate”) to tell you specifically what standard or standards he or she does not like (e.g., W.7.1a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.), the person will hem and haw and can’t state the standard. And, when shown the aligned standard he or she most often comments that the standard is fine, it is the reading or film selection, the activity, or assessment item or task that is not liked. Evidence once again that it is not the standards themselves that is truly the concern.
With this said, I need to make one comment at this juncture: the CCSS are not perfect. There are definitely some flawed standard statements, but the flaws are minimal when compared to the total number of CCSS K-12.
The bashing or knocking of the CCSS, which is getting louder in some states with each passing month, is frustrating to me as a curriculum-design consultant who has worked extensively with the CCSS since they were in draft form and officially adopted in 2010. I know the standards inside and out from Kindergarten to Grade 12. I have spent hundreds of hours of meaningful conversations with teachers concerning the vertically articulated standards. These teachers care passionately about their students’ learning as they develop collaborative, systemic curriculum.
My passion and work has been, and will continue to be, dedicated to aiding teachers in designing curriculum maps with the students’ best interests in mind. The CCSS are our curriculum-design building “codes”, much as an architect uses codes to design blueprints, which Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Jay McTighe, and others have used as an analogy for many years. For the first time ever the largest number of independent United States have chosen to have the same building codes. This does not mean that each state, district, or school has to build the exact same home – one can choose to design a modern two-story, another a log cabin, another a green home, and another a ranch-style hacienda. The point here is that the infrastructure of the home design remains the same regardless of where the home is built. I grew up in the military and lived around the world before I was 15 years old. Today, given our ever-growing mobile society, chances of having a similar (and thankfully not exact) blueprint-based curriculum for a K-12 education is better than it ever was when I was in my formative years.
Academic standards are not the curriculum (Concept-based curriculum and instruction for the thinking classroom. Erickson. Sage, 2007. p.48). I whole-heartedly believe this is true. And while it absolutely takes time and commitment to develop a worthwhile systemic curriculum (oftentimes two to three years to fully develop and implement), I remind myself and others that curriculum mapping is a verb and the deep conversations and collaborations across grade levels immediately impact student in positive ways through teachers who are reconsidering the learning, teaching, and assessments while embracing what is new in the CCSS content and process standards. This immediate and on-going process validates why I have been involved in this specific field of work for over 15 years. Designing CCSS-based curriculum involves a two-phase process: studying and breaking apart the standards systemically to first develop learning based solely on what the standards (and critical ancillary documents, such as the CCSS Math Progressions) explicitly and implicitly require; and secondly, develop meaningful units of study that combine the learning, teaching, and assessment tasks based on a current program or encouraging teachers to create their own program.
Well, I may have not set things right, but hopefully a little bit right, in that it is not the CCSS themselves that are the problem; instead, it is CCSS-based interpretations made in the form of instructional choices and assessment practices, as well as one area I chose not to get into here: teacher evaluations.
As I previously mentioned, I will continue to work diligently with districts and schools who have a like passion – looking collaboratively and critically at the CCSS and systemically designing curriculum that aids their students in experiencing meaningful learning journeys K-12+.
(reprenting from Vicki's Rethinking Education blog)
APPR has created a tremendous amount of change in our districts and buildings. It has also increased the amount of work principals have to do on a daily basis, let alone the amount of stress. Staying positive is key to the success and survival of these demands. As a 13 year administrative veteran, here are some top tens I would like to share (In no particular order!)
1. Keep Your Door Open and Be Visible: Your staff, students and parents need to see you as the leader and you need to be accessible. Keep your door open, listen, listen, and listen even more. Give encouragement to your staff who are working hard to embrace a new curriculum and create engaging lessons for students. Be in their classroom, the hallways, the lunch room and the playground. Greet the buses and parents in the morning. Get on the announcements daily and say the pledge, your school pledge and your belief statement. It's powerful, it resonates, and starts the day on a positive note.
2. Use a Scheduler: If you don't write it down on your schedule to do a walk through, be visible, orthat observation, then it will not get done! I use Google Calendar and live by it. I have shared the calendar with my secretary who schedules my observations and meetings with staff when needed. Using an online calendar such as Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook will help you organize YOU. The best part is that it notifies me of my schedule in the morning, and notifies me 10 minutes in advance.
3. Provide Mini-Observations: Teachers want feedback on how they are doing. When you do a walk through or mini-observation give them honest, constructive feedback. I like what Kim Marshall has listed in how to do mini-observations the right way: Unannounced, Frequent, Short, Face-to-face, Perceptive, Humble, Courageous, Systematic, Documented, Linked to Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation, 2nd Edition, 2013.) Marshall suggests to do 10 mini-observations on each teacher, throughout the school year.. That would be 1 mini-observation per month. In our district, we do 5 mini observations for tenured, 2 formal observations and 3 mini-observations for 1st year teachers, and 1 formal observation and 4 mini-observations for 2nd and 3rd year non-tenured teachers. What it has accomplished for me is having powerful, professional conversations about what is occurring in the classroom, asking questions of the staff, and coaching best practice. It is also building trust and it is so important to have those face-to-face conversations about what is working and what needs to be refined. It’s about growth and should not be about a “gotcha”.teamwork and improvement, Linked to end-of-year teacher evaluation, and Explained well. (Kim Marshall,
4. Share The Leadership: I am the sole administrator/lead learner at East Side, with a student population of 463 and about 60 staff members. There is no way I can do this job alone and I rely on the staff to help run the school. Give leadership roles to your teacher's. Give them opportunities to work together so they can manage the Common Core. They are the ones in the trenches and will help boost school morale and provide great education for our students.
5. Be the Lead Learner: Rather than being "the principal", be the Lead Learner. Joe Mazza, Lead Learner of Knapp Elementary School in the North Penn School District, PA, coined this term and it means to talk the talk and walk the walk. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Join your teachers in professional development. Share your learning and what you find. Get on Twitter people! (Social media networking is huge and you should be embracing this venue.) Gone are the days of the principal sitting in the office, managing discipline and minutia. We need to be visible, be a part of what is happening in our schools, and be in the classrooms.
6. Your Hour of Power: Tony Robbins says that we have to have a daily ritual of physical and emotional . This means having time for you. Are you experiencing an extraordinary life? He also says to put in some type of physical activity. I try to power walk the hallways of my school and examine student work displayed and in turn, see the pride in our students’ accomplishments. This also gives me an hour to reflect on the day and plan. Give yourself this hour to rejuvenate and reflect.
8. Climate and Culture: How is the climate of your building? Have you given a culture survey? Are you dealing with lots of discipline issues that boggle you down? Maybe it is time to implement a social and emotional curriculum such as Responsive Classroom or PBIS. If you don't address the social and emotional aspects of students and get to know your kids, forget about the academics. Programs such as these change the culture of your building not only for students, but for the adults. The social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum. Once you have the social and emotional curriculum in place, academics are a breeze. It is about the relationships we develop not only with our students, but also with adults.
9. Celebrate: Celebrate the joys of being a team, a school family. We just finished our Holiday stocking stuffing exchange and what amade for the staff. We also celebrate baby showers, weddings, birthdays, you name it. Again, as adults, it's about the relationships and working together to be the best we can be. I always say to the staff, "You are the best of the best." You say it often, and it starts to become a part of you, and we show our pride.
10. It's People, Not Programs: Todd Whitaker says it best that it’s about the teachers, the people, not the programs. “We can spend a great deal of time and energy looking for programs that will solve our problems. Too often, these programs do not bring the improvement or growth we need. Instead, we must focus on what really matters. It is never about’ programs; it is always about people.” (Todd Whitaker, What Great Principals Do Differently, 2003.) have new Common Core State Standards and those modules, but if you are not putting the time into your people, your staff and teachers, giving them time to plan, collaborate, reflect and giving them ownership, then it will be a tough road ahead. Empower your teachers and your staff, and you will have a better school. You know that if you have great teachers, you will have a great school. “The program itself is never the the problem.” (Todd Whitaker)
In the end, it is all about teamwork. As the lead learner, create those opportunities for collaboration, leadership, reflection and rejuvenation. You are the lead leaner and remember to remain positive!
I keep reading the “dreadful” news that American students don’t compare well to students in many other countries on test scores, that our scores are woefully behind students in other countries, and that our students are not being prepared for the future as compared with students in other countries!
I find this a strange way to think about America’s educational system. In other spheres, we rarely compare ourselves to others. Is our medical system as good as others? Of course! We think of ourselves as unique and the best in the world in developing and using technology! We tend to think of ourselves as “special” and “different” in most areas, and make very few comparisons to other countries. We generally look at our own strengths and problems as a way of making judgments about how well we are doing. We most often find our own unique solutions to the problems that we face.
In this context, how should teachers, educational leaders, parents, and the general public think about American education? Should we all use a single set of standardized tests to compare ourselves to others at home and throughout the world? Or should we develop a unique concept of American education focused around American ideas, values and strengths? If we were to consider the “specialness” of America, its unique qualities, and build an educational system around those areas, what would it look like? How do we make our educational system “fit” with our unique qualities? What would we expect from teachers and our leaders? How would we know if we were succeeding?
Let’s take a stab at it. Here is my list of many of the unique qualities of American society and what I think are the implications of these strengths for building a strong American education system:
The importance of knowledge and “understanding”. From its beginnings, knowledge and understanding have been a critical part of American society. Benjamin Franklin set a high standard in developing, disseminating, and searching for knowledge and understanding. The American system of mass education for all Americans assumed that it was important for everyone to become literate and build a basic knowledge base. Andrew Carnegie promoted the development of public libraries so all could have access to knowledge and information.
Educational Implications. Access to and a focus on broad-based knowledge and understanding for all Americans should be an overall goal of American education. In today’s “knowledge explosion” world, a significant knowledge base should be coupled with the lifelong learning skills that will enable all Americans to continually learn and grow in their knowledge, information, and understanding.
Constitutional government around democratic values. The development of American democratic values – separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, one man, one vote – are one of the most unique characteristics of American society. We take these rights seriously and have over many years developed strengthened and improved them.
Educational Implications: A primary educational goal in today’s world is to insure that all our students understand the Constitution, its development, and its role in American society. All students should understand the conflicts that developed around it, changes and adaptations that have been made, related court cases, and its primary role in American society today.
Active Citizenship. A corollary to Constitutional government and democratic values is the role Americans play in the American political system. Americans today rarely sit back and accept government’s role in American society at any level. We tend to keep up with issues and problems and form strong opinions about what should be done (or not done) to solve them. We join a variety of groups and organizations dedicated to actively pursuing what we believe in – from environmental protection laws to a strong military. We actively engage in improving government, and expect a certain amount of honesty and competence among our government officials. We also expect basic services – safety, road repairs, security, and the like – to be provided efficiently.
Educational Implications: When studying American history, students should learn how in all eras a variety of individuals, groups and organizations promoted different causes and advocated for governmental policies to support them. Through a strong current events program, students should have the opportunity to continually examine and analyze the many issues that confront us today. Students in their high school years should be encouraged to become involved in causes that they believe in, discuss and write about their diverse views, debate issues that face us, and listen to, read about, and analyze the varied views and arguments of others.
Pragmatic problem solving. America has always been a land that has prided itself on pragmatic, practical problem solving. This “roll up your sleeves” characteristic began with the Colonists, was demonstrated when the Constitution was written, and is an important value throughout American history. Today it can be seen in the way businesses collect data and solve problems[i]. While our National government today is more ideological and less pragmatic, pragmatic government has always been an important thread running through governmental policies. Even FDR’s New Deal consisted of a lot of very pragmatic efforts by government to solve the problems of the Depression!
Educational Implications: Students should practice pragmatic problem solving in order to develop alternative solutions to the issues that face us. Developing classroom rules is one way. Conducting interviews to collect data is another. Conducting scientific experiments and building scientific problem solving skills is another. Providing students with authentic performance tasks that require hands on problem solving is also an excellent way to promote these skills.
Upward mobility, success, a better life. The Declaration of Independence focused on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as an ideal for all Americans. Millions of Americans came to America’s shores to search for a new life free from persecution and filled with opportunity. Education has always been one of the most significant vehicles for reaching the “American dream” and for upward mobility.
Educational Implications: “Equal opportunity” education as a route to “success” and achievement has played and today plays a very important role in American society. Schools are asked to create a culture of high and challenging expectations, share knowledge and information, and develop skills and attitudes that will help to improve the lives of Americans and develop individual talents and interests.
This means that we should commit ourselves to insuring that ALL schools – urban, suburban, rural – should provide quality services that include a full and complete curriculum in all subject areas, small class sizes, up to date technology, strong extra curricular programs, quality professional and curricular development, counselors and libraries, and so on. Additional services should also be available in those areas with high poverty levels and strong needs.
Individual development, growth and responsibility
America values individuals who take personal responsibility for their lives! We admire individuals who overcome obstacles, work hard, continue to improve and learn, don’t give up on themselves. We expect people to persist, show “grit” and determination, and overcome failure. We support the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to develop individual talents and strengths, and encourage difference among students.
Educational Implications: Schools should figure out ways to help students develop individual personal responsibility over time. Helping students learn to be persistent, learn from failure, stay on track, and see effort as important for success should be an important part of the curriculum at all levels, especially in those areas where children need this type of help and support. Students should have the opportunity to participate in multiple types of experiences that enable them to discover and develop their interests and talents.
Invention and creativity
America has always been a society that supported new ideas, innovation, and creative thinking. Americans invented a whole new way of thinking about government in the formation of its Constitution. Consider just the latest manifestations of this thinking – social media options, the desktop computer, mp3 players, tablets, search engines, hybrid and electric cars, solar energy, just name a few.
Educational Implications: Schools should be places where students learn to think creatively, come up with original solutions to problems, invent. Special elective courses might be developed that examine the role that invention, innovation, and creativity played and plays in American society. Students at all levels might learn creative problem solving strategies and techniques. Project based learning strategies might be used to encourage students to solve problems creatively.
The promise of science and technology
Throughout American history, science and technology have been thought of as a way to improve people’s lives. Science and technology achievements have dramatically changed our lives for the better, and will probably continue to do so in the future. Agricultural science thrived in rural America and paved the way for huge increases in crop yields, better water management, and so on. Inventions such as the cotton gin, the electric light bulb, the steam engine, and mass production techniques were critical to the prosperity and improvements in American society. Nobel prizes are regularly bestowed on America’s scientists.
Educational Implications: Science and technology should play a much greater role in educating American students. Strong high quality programs in these areas should begin in pre-school and include an understanding of the scientific method, core concepts and theories in science and the evidence that supports them, involvement in science competitions, and opportunities to creatively think about scientific and technical achievements. A big push should be to integrate science and technology with math and engineering throughout the curriculum, as in the STEM subjects
American artisans, from individual craftsmen to the design and building of the Model-T ford, have been a stalwart factor in American society.
Educational Implications: “Craftsmanship” should be emphasized in American schools. Craftsmanship is not doing well on tests – rather, it is focused on high performance levels, whether it be for writing an essay, participating in a discussion, creating a mural, doing a presentation, or acting in a play. [ii]
Tolerance for diversity, difference, pluralism.
One of America’s unique strengths is its continuous movement towards greater tolerance, diversity and respect for difference. Hard work and effort by many courageous Americans has resulted in the collapse of slavery, the significant reduction of anti-semitic, ethnic and racial prejudice, increased civil rights, and the movement for gay and lesbian rights.
Educational Implications: With the world’s boundaries shrinking through instant worldwide communication, global travel, global trade and multicultural corporations, educational programs that explore cultural diversity and tolerance both within and outside of America are important for living in a multicultural world. Student self-development programs that promote tolerance and reduce prejudice towards others should also be a critical part of the educational experience.
Competition and Collaboration
Both competition and collaboration are important values in American society. Competition is at the heart of the American capitalist system, and our competitive economic system has created products of excellence at relatively low cost. Collaboration is also important, especially within corporations and businesses, in order to bring together the best minds to maintain and develop economic success.
Educational implications: Our educational culture should support both competition among students to be the best, as well as cooperative ways to learn and grow together.
Voluntary service to others.
CNN has created a process to discover and share information about “heroes” that provide voluntary service to others; this yearlong process, culminating in a two hour program rewarding the ten best “heroes” for their work, correlates closely with American values. Many Americans freely give both their money and their services to help others – this is part of the great American tradition.
Educational implications: Schools should promote this American value by organizing opportunities for students to provide community service to others, and to learn from their service. Many schools already have community service opportunities for their students.
What teachers, schools and districts can do…
When education is based on America’s unique qualities, values and strengths, a paradigm very different from one based on improving standardized test scores emerges. Based on these qualities, here are some things that teachers, schools and districts can do:
We need to begin to measure our success in educating our young by how well we implement educational practices and programs based on America’s unique qualities and strengths, not by comparing American student’s standardized tests scores against other country’s scores. Teachers, schools and the outside community can judge success by how well students “understand” and apply content, read widely, write and communicate well, learn how to do research and problem solve, develop an understanding of American democracy and what it means to be a good citizen, learn about current American and world-wide issues and challenges, become interested and engaged in STEM subjects, think creatively, develop an interest in many activities and their talents through participation in both core and extra-curricular programs, complete high quality work, develop individual responsibility traits, volunteer for community service, and so on.
These criteria suggest that individual schools, teachers, and educational leaders might want to think differently about what makes for successful educational experiences, and build alternative activities and programs into classrooms and schools to support American excellence. They also suggest that governmental policies, built around standardized test scores, are currently headed us in a very limiting and wrong direction as we try to improve education and prepare our students for living a 21st century world. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go in creating an educational system that builds on what is unique about and important to American society, and in using appropriate assessments to judge when education is successful.
[i] For example, see a recent article in the New York Times, February 15, 2014, Intel’s Sharp-Eyed Social Scientist, that examines how Intel fosters research and collects data for improving product development.
[ii] For further insights into the role of craftsmanship in American education, see Ron Berger (2003), An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann publishers.
Elliott Seif is a long time educator, Understanding by Design trainer, author, consultant, and former Professor of Education at Temple University. Many of his commentaries can be found on ASCD Edge. If you are interested in further examining ways to improve teaching and learning and help to prepare students to live in a 21st century world, go to his website: www.era3learning.org
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.
What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #16)
“The Monster under My Bed”
At this time of year, I often find myself cold, tired, and a little down. Naturally my mind and body wants to retreat in order to cope. My mind and body work together to do very little. For me, little to no exercise, never enough sleep and always a pull towards a perceived warm fire or hot meal are the desired state. These short term fixes to the day to day challenges never fill my bucket. The more I attempt to sleep, the more “restfulness” eludes me. Over the years, I have come to better understand my restless mind and soul. For me this awareness is similar to the monster under my bed as a little kid. Perceived to always to be there, but never really sure because I was afraid to look.
In the past few weeks, I have relived a few days as a student. My first day I was a 5th grader, the second an 8th grader and the third a 9th grader. Personally, these were difficult grades for me the first time around. I go into trouble, I was disengaged and I felt lost with the unknown. From bell to bell I did my best this second time around. Each of these days I worked to complete every assignment, live the respective schedule, unplug, be a part of the class and tried to fit in. For me entering these days once again reminded me of the monster that lies under the bed, full of perceptions that I had made my reality.
The monster under my bed is my friend. He reminds me of the obvious, my fears are my own and created by my own reality. In most of the classes that I attended, I got what I put into them. However, some of my teachers were going to make sure that I didn’t settle for anything less than my best. They were relentless, they had an organized plan, which they orchestrated with nimbleness and artistry. They were clear on what they expected from me and my fellow students. I was asked to explain, defend and cite my work. I had to take notes and organize my thoughts in a structured manner, which was the same in other classes. It reminded me of the same tempo and structure of my college wrestling and rugby practices. We learned basic routines for stretching, warming up and moving through drills so that we could focus on the content/skill and not lose time. In some classes, I was told I needed to stretch my muscles and mind, that we need to pick it up a notch, which we did. I was never given “the answer” by these teachers aka “mind coaches”, only told to clarify my thinking with my neighbor, and asked where I could find the answer/s and why I thought I might need help. At the end of each lesson, I was tired and I was fresh. I knew I worked, I knew I learned and it felt great. I was not alone in these feelings. My other students were bright eyed and wanted more. It was like we were all addicted to learning. I was amazed that my presence as the new kid didn’t change the flow, we all knew what we were there to do, individual and collectively get better. Not some of us, but all of us.
In my other classes, we did very little talking or engaging. The class was stopped if more than one person talked at a time, it felt like only one person could be fully engaged at once. The lessons were jam packed with the teacher explaining the content and how they wanted us to give the answer, which was often given to us if we waited long enough. The students had rules/norms to make it worse. They would ask low level questions so we didn’t have to do anything, it was a filibuster approach that was masterfully orchestrated and implemented. They knew and even told me, “If we wait long enough, “X” will just tell us the answer”. The same students who were alive earlier or later in the day with energy and curiosity appeared in a comma like state. In these classes there was no note taking, very little writing and a lot of worksheets with a one or two word answers. As a student you could feel it when you walked in the room, cold, tired and a constant state of grey. Fortunately, this environment was the exception and not the norm. As I write this, I am reminded on how cruel the truth can often be, however the living in delusion is not more consoling.
Over these days, I learned that I do better when I am worked. Our students can be challenged and trained for hours on end. That is why they stay after school for practices, performances and extended learning opportunities with great zeal. Our students can work harder than they do in their classes (they told me). We have talent in our classroom seats, we have talent in many of our teachers/“mind coaches”. We need to build better mental work outs for our students in all of our classes. A mental workout with timed intervals, activities that are connected, routines that stretch our muscles need to be relentlessly practiced. Some of us call these high yield or leveraged strategies, done with such fidelity that the students lead them with ease. We need to stop believing that going slower or stopping is going to engage more. This has to be matched with an environment that promotes self-competition on a daily basis. This can create a new phenomenon of group consciousness, which can be responsible for not only individual growth but collective impacts across our system. We have too much competing with another group or class when it comes to learning and not enough clarity on what it means to compete with yourself the “student”. Match this with some the mind coaches/teachers that I had this past few days, the ones who were talking us up, cheering us on, and individual pushing us for more and I know we can create the inspiration that we dream about daily. As school and community leaders, we must foster a belief system in all students, every day and in every class. We must define these principles with clarity and relentlessly uphold them for the sake of unity and good order of our society, even though we may know that others do not believe it to be truth.
The monster under my bed is there to remind me of who I am and when I am at my best or not... The monster is not here to provide fear, unless we should fear ourselves. The monster is just a mirror and when I look down, I see the “me” that needs to be worked. Over the years, the Monster has become my friend. Have you talked to your monster?
Finally from Shana Abe, The Smoke Thief
“All that effort,” he mused, “merely to avoid me. How gratifying.”
“All You Need to Do Is Keep That Child Buoyed”
The First of Three Lessons on How to Support Students with Learning Differences from the Fonz
One of my self-proclaimed areas of relative strength as a teacher educator is in helping regular education teachers understand learning disabilities and how to work with students who have special learning needs in the regular education classroom. I suspect that the earliest contributions to this strength had to do with my (as yet officially) undiagnosed ADHD. Having been that student who did not fit the traditional learner mold, but usually being a high achiever, I understood early on that every person did not learn the same way and that just because people do not learn the same way does not mean they do not learn well. After seeing Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) on a recent episode (February 12, 2014) of Morning Joe, I learned that Winkler is another (far more famous) example of my personal experience and understanding of learning differently. Listening to Winkler, I felt validated in the way I have approached discussions with pre-service and in-service teachers about teaching students with disabilities—reading disabilities, in particular—and was moved to write my next blog based on Winkler’s words in that interview.
After my last blog post theme, connecting teacher professional learning to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (http://edge.ascd.org/_Meaningful-Learning-An-Excellent-Adventure/blog/6562392/127586.html), I thought that maybe I could write about lessons in education or learning from Henry Winkler’s famed Happy Days character, “The Fonz!” I searched the web for quotes from Happy Days in hopes of finding ways the Fonz’s wisdom could be connected to teaching and learning. Sure enough, I found a pearl in Season One of Happy Days, the episode “Fonzie Drops In,” which (just as surely) proved that this approach was probably not my best brainchild ever:
Richie [speaking to the Fonz]: You make school sound like good fun.
Fonzie: Well, school's got good points. I mean, smoking in the bathroom, cutting classes, showing my tattoo to the chicks.
So...I decided that pop culture would NOT form the theme for this blog post! Ultimately, though, I hope that Henry Winkler has actually created a new pop cultural icon, Hank Zipzer. Winkler has created this series of chapter books together with co-author Lin Oliver (@linoliver) based on many of Winkler’s own experiences. The Hank Zipzer series (www.hankzipzer.com, @hankzipzertv) follows the adventures and misadventures of this bright fourth grade (then fifth and sixth, and soon second grade in an anticipated prequel series) student with the same learning challenges Winkler experiences. My third grade son (who is learning to master some of his own differences in learning style) has just started reading the first book in the series and it has been great to see him relate to the story and character and be motivated past some of his own reluctance to read.
After re-watching that interview on Morning Joe, I realized that I didn’t need the Fonz for this blog post. I realized that I could address several important points from the words of the Fonz’s self-proclaimed alter-ego, Winkler, himself. I decided to focus on understanding the experience of being a student with a learning difference and how educators (and parents) can better support those (and ALL) students. Three things that Winkler said in the Morning Joe interview anchor some salient points from my thinking about supporting students:
1) “I covered my shame and humiliation for not being able to figure out what was going on, with humor...” (MSNBC, 2014)
2) “...we have to start teaching children the way they CAN learn and not what we think they SHOULD learn....” (MSNBC, 2014)
3) “...all you need to do is keep that child buoyed...” (MSNBC, 2014)
Mostly in an effort to keep up with the blogging pace of Barry Saide (@BarryKid1), I have decided to break this into three different blog posts (perhaps also to save you from a single 5000+ word blog post—which I think probably violates some rule of blogging! I know @Joe_Mazza, there are no rules...nonetheless, 5000 words seems excessive for one post). Each post will address one of the three key points highlighted by Henry Winkler’s words from that Morning Joe interview.
“I covered my shame and humiliation for not being able to figure out what was going on, with humor”
One of the most powerful professional learning experiences I ever had with respect to understanding the experiences of students with disabilities was watching the film F.A.T. City Workshop (Lavoie, et. al, 2004). The shame and humiliation that Winkler describes lead to the “F,” “A,” and “T” in Lavoie’s F.A.T. City: Frustration, Anxiety, and Tension.
Children who struggle with different learning needs experience increasing frustration that they just can’t “get it.” There are many things that we tell students who are struggling, especially to read. Lavoie notes three of the most common in F.A.T. City:
As Winkler explained in a different interview, “I was called lazy. I was called stupid. I was told I was not living up to my potential.” Yet, he went on to explain that all the time inside he was thinking “I don’t think I’m stupid. I don’t want to be stupid. I’m trying as hard as I can. I really am” (Yale, n.d.). Students who are struggling already know they are not getting it and our typical responses only compound the frustration—as they really do WANT to get it.
The persistent experience of “not getting it” results in anxiety about being called on in class or looking stupid in front of peers. Winkler described being called, in 1999, to read for a new Neil Simon play—ostensibly, a significant career opportunity—and he explained how he very easily initially reacted to himself “you can’t do this, you’ll be out of the business, you’ll be out of your life. Aside from this, you’ll be embarrassing yourself into oblivion” (Yale, n.d.). Winkler had that anxiety after already being an established, successful, and even revered actor. Imagine the anxiety that is experienced by the student with learning differences every time the teacher is cold calling, or as the ping pong reading comes ever closer to her or him. Lavoie explains, and I have seen in my own classrooms, the cognitive demand of the anxiety that those students are experiencing when thinking about what or when they will be called on and how their “not getting it” may make them look in front of the teacher or, worse, their peers.
The cognitive load of the anxiety leaves little space for focus on things that those students would otherwise be able to learn and understand. We need to come up with strategies to reduce that anxiety for our students. One simple change would be to have a silent cue that only you and the specific student know—when you give them that cue, they know they are the next person to be called on. This will likely not reduce the anxiety the student experiences at the time you actually call on her or him. What it will do, though, is relieve the cognitive load of worrying if they will be next—allowing room for them to engage with and learn the content that is being delivered in the mean time.
Winkler describes covering his shame “with humor.” The acting-out behaviors that generate the laughs create the third aspect of Lavoie’s F.A.T. trifecta, tension between teacher (or parent) and the young person. Winkler aptly notes that “A child doesn't wake up in the morning saying 'Wow, I'm gonna be an idiot today, I'm gonna cause trouble,' ” yet, causing trouble is often the only way that young people who are struggling with learning can “save face” or avoid feeling ashamed by their lack of understanding. Those who don’t act-out, often exhibit another protective behavior, hiding—making themselves small and hoping no one notices they are even there. In either event, there is always a reason why young people behave in an apparently asocial manner. That reason is almost always for self-protection or self-preservation. Research by Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) resulted in the construction of a cycle of acting-out behavior and explain that even maladaptive behaviors typically serve an adaptive purpose.
Most often, educators and parents focus on punishing the asocial behaviors of young people. Winkler describes his experience with his own parents growing up: “My parents were determined to find the punishment that was going to force me to get better grades” (Murfitt, 2008). However, as Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) explain, punishments for the acting-out behavior tend not to be effective or long-term behavior changers. Actually, they note, punishing the acting-out behavior often reinforces the behavior by fulfilling the need (e.g., avoidance of the originating situation). Rather, they explain that the underlying behavioral contingency (the if-then construct—e.g., if I act out and can get in trouble, then the teacher will focus on punishing me and will not make me answer the question I don’t understand and I won’t be embarrassed by giving a wrong answer or if I refuse to read my book and, instead, argue about it with my parents, then I will get sent to my room and not end up having to do the reading) must be identified and the needs that lead to the behavior are what, in fact, should be addressed.
The bottom line: We should use our energies to seek an understanding of what motivates student behavior and ask ourselves why this young person feels compelled to act-out (or hide). This lesson is absolutely one that will benefit all of our students, regardless of learning styles and disability—and will support a positive, safe learning climate in all of our classrooms.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far and I do hope that you will be on the lookout for part two of this blog post—“...we have to start teaching children the way they CAN learn and not what we think they SHOULD learn....”
Lavoie, R. D., Rosen, P., Eagle Hill School Outreach., Peter Rosen Productions., & PBS Video. (2004). How difficult can this be?: Understanding learning disabilities: frustration, anxiety, tension, the F.A.T. city workshop. Alexandria, VA: PBS.
MSNBC. (2014, Feb12). Morning Joe: Henry Winkler’s kids book tackles dyslexia. Video retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/henry-winklers-kids-book-tackles-dyslexia-148785731602.
Murfitt, N. (2008, Dec 8). 'I was called Dumb Dog': Henry Winkler's happy days as The Fonz were blighted by condition undiagnosed for 35 years. Daily Mail. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1092477/I-called-Dumb-Dog-Henry-Winklers-happy-days-The-Fonz-blighted-condition-undiagnosed-35-years.html.
Walker, H. M., Colvin, G., & Ramsey, E. (1995). Antisocial behavior in school: Strategies and best practices. Pacific Grove, Calif: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.
Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. (n.d.). Henry Winkler, Actor, Producer, Author. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/Winkler.html.
They respond to texts differently than you do
One of the most exhilarating things about teaching reading and discussing texts is that they can be viewed through a variety of lenses. Texts, like language, are malleable: they mean different things to different people.
There are too many students who share this experience: At the teacher’s request, students prepare a response or opinion piece on a book, but receive low marks because they did not give the “right opinion.” If you’re asking for an opinion piece, hold up your end of the bargain and accept it for what it is. Reward students for their efforts, allow them to revise their work, and help them develop their ideas.
They can’t read as fast as their peers
Why are we always in such a hurry? Slow down and allow your reluctant readers to set their own pace, even if it means they “fall behind.” They may be slower than their peers, but one thing is for sure: pushing them to read faster isn’t going to help build their confidence, their comprehension or their enthusiasm for reading.
They are anxious about reading aloud
Students are often asked to read aloud; less often are they given the opportunity to silently read the text first. This might be worth reconsidering.
If you’ve ever agreed to read publicly, chances are that you requested the opportunity to review the text before you stood in front of an audience. Why? Because you didn’t want to stumble over words or make silly mistakes. Naturally, our students feel the same. Most real-world reading happens silently, so doesn’t it make sense to allow our students the opportunity to read silently before shining the spotlight on them?
They are preoccupied by “The Test”
You may not be able to completely abandon the multiple-choice test, but when given the chance, allow students to respond to what they’re reading. With your guidance you can help readers make connections and actually discover themselves in a text. Instead of posing questions that have predetermined answers, try some of the following:
They read texts that adults don’t value
We’ve been using the phrase “reluctant readers,” but the fact of the matter is that we don’t really believe any of our students are reluctant about reading.
All of our students read—they read all the time, in fact. If you need proof, give something a try: Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook pages or write on their friends’ walls. Do they like gossip magazines, comic books, blogs, and foreign films? We bet they do.
If we want our “reluctant readers” to shed their reluctance, we must acknowledge that their “texts”—no matter how low-brow we consider them—are legitimate forms of reading.
Teacher Appreciation Week Comes Early to Snowbird at #ECET2
During the closing address of the Gates Education Foundation’s (@gatesed) Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (#ECET2) Convening, participants were asked to share one word with an elbow partner that summed up their feelings about the conference. I struggled to convey the thoughts in my head using the words “expanded” or “broadened.” I needed a lot of explanation to go along with my response, all the while getting further and further away from the one word challenge. With time to reflect, what I really was trying to get at was the idea that this experience, and the teachers that I had the privilege of coming in touch with, truly opened my mind. Without knowing it, I came to the table with narrow definitions of the idea of teacher leader, of how to reach all learners, and of the implications of common core. Furthermore, I came with a limited view of my own place within the context of this amazing group of teachers and the impact I might have. I was nominated to attend through my work with ASCD and the Whole Child Network, which as many of my peers have stated, seems like being recognized for simply doing what our job requires, but it is never that simple.
When it came time to share out with the whole group, Dr. Irvin Scott (@iscott4) asked people to stand and call out their words. A common theme quickly emerged from the chorus of responses: refreshed - inspired –invigorated – energized - and an array of synonyms that expressed similar sentiments. As I sat there listening, the inadequateness of the word I came up with during the turn and talk became apparent, and a new one came to mind . . . appreciated. I shouted it out just in time to make the final cutoff for sharing, and quickly leaned over to my partner telling her not to give away the secret of my switch.
Appreciation is such a simple sentiment, and one that I’m sure most teachers will agree we often don’t feel. Much of the press likes to embellish the negative connotations that are associated with our profession. Education as a system has a pass-the-buck type of mentality, and usually that buck stops at the head of the class. I am always critical at the beginning of the year, when our district special education department calls us together to say what a great job we are doing before following with a laundry list of all of the things we aren’t doing well. There are endless examples any teacher can give you. By the very nature of the youth we serve, and through no fault of their own, a thank you is not something I here every day (Although I dream of the students that come to me to say, “Hey Mr. Russo, thanks for teaching me the elements of plot. That was mind-blowing!”) And it was clear, through discussions with other attendees, that being a teacher leader, especially an unofficial one, doesn’t always come along with an eager group of followers hanging on your every word. In fact, it can be quite the opposite.
Having said all that, the name of this incredible event gets lost in the simplicity of the acronym. It truly served to elevate and celebrate the work that we do. For the first time in a long time, I feel appreciated, and in turn want to show some of my appreciation. I am appreciative to ASCD and the group from the Whole Child Network for thinking that I am worth it. I am appreciative to my co-presenters, Kristen Tolsen Cons, Barry Saide (@barrykid1), and Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy), for considering me an equal when in fact they are miles ahead of me (and again to Barry and Suzy for inadvertently inspiring me to write this post). I am appreciative to my colleague circles, especially those in the “Reaching All Learners” circle, who reminded me that it’s not just about the high flyers and the strugglers, but it’s about boys and girls, about race, about special education, about socioeconomic status, and it’s about the kids in other people’s classes that do not have the privilege of sitting in our classrooms on a daily basis. I am appreciative to my principal (especially after hearing some horror stories) because she has fostered my growth from the moment I stepped in the building as a first year teacher four years ago. I am appreciative for everyone that shared with me and listened to what I had to share. I am appreciative for all of the comments and links and hash tags on the social network surrounding this conference (#ECET2). I am appreciative of the Gates Education Foundation for holding this convening and living up to it’s promise. I am appreciative of my family, who often take the backseat to grading, planning, or IEP writing on the weekends. But most of all, I am appreciative of my students, who push me to be better daily, who, upon my return, showed that they missed me in a variety of different ways, but most simply when one student, Paulina, said “Welcome home, Mr. Russo.” I am truly at home in the classroom. I am where I belong, and I am appreciative of the opportunity to serve kids through all of the highs and lows that come with the responsibility.
AS I type this Congress has not reauthorized ESEA. Our state has given away most growth revenue to businesses in the form of tax credits and lowered corporate taxes on horizontal drilling. As a result, our state government is facing a revenue shortfall created by this corporate welfare! While causing this fiscal crisis by their actions, these same legislators have enacted pages of reform proposals for education without providing any funding to accomplish those reforms! At the same time, our state is experiencing growth in population and serving some 40,000 more students than were served in 2009 when the Great Recession occurred and now we are expected to serve them with some $270 million less dollars!
Wouldn't it be refreshing if the rhetoric we all hear about education being a priority was backed by actions that proved it? I don't think I will hold my breath waiting for that to happen!
If we live in a society in America where our representatives are supposed to work on our behalf my only conclusion is we have the policies and budget priorities that the majority of Americans want! It is obvious there is no outcry when corporations buy politicians to the point they receive massive amounts of tax credits and tax reductions that serve to enrich their bottom lines but simply rape budgets for state funded services like public education. Since this is reality in the U.S., then I have one question for parents of the students we are serving. Who will buy the politicians for school children since they can't do that for themselves?
Education costs money and to provide services to children that need additional attention costs money too. Schools are subject to inflationary costs so if their budgets decline, they can provide less services and attention to those students they serve. Why is this reality not understood by the parents of these students and why are they comfortable with it?
The old saying "you get what you pay for" implies that today's parents are more than willing to allow politicians to provide less services for their children by the funding policies they allow our lawmakers to enact! Does this reflect education as a true priority? I think not!
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “How do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
The best leaders, the ones who truly understand what it means to lead, know that from the minute they step into a leadership position, they have to have one foot already on the way out.
This doesn’t mean leaders are thinking about retirement or leaving the profession; far from it. Rather, what it means is that the best leaders lead for the future, knowing that organizations need to have a leadership scheme in place if they want to be successful for generations.
This means that a leader needs to begin thinking about those who will come next even as she is reflecting on the work of her predecessor.
What is so interesting about this idea is that a leader is always in transition, even those leaders who have been in their current position for quite a while, and most interestingly, even for those who began their leadership position today.
How do we keep one foot grounded while building capacity for the future with the other foot? Here are three ideas:
As silly as it might sound, any leader worth his salt needs to always be thinking about transitioning, if for no other reason than the future of his organization.
So celebrate that new position for a minute. Now start preparing for when you have to leave.
This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we cultivate and support teacher leaders?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
My February vacation was unlike any other I’ve experienced. With two trips planned - I had it set in my mind that one would be about Education, and the other would be about Family. I would spend 3 nights in Snowbird Utah, as a guest of the Gates Foundation. Their Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching Convening (#ECET2) was a chance for teacher leaders from all over the country to talk about the challenges we are facing in education. I was expecting to be immersed in all-things Education for those 3 days - and I was. For the next 3 nights, I would be with my family in the midwest, where we would be visiting my daughter’s #1 college choice: The University of Minnesota. There would be lots of laughs, meals shared, and stories to bring home. I was expecting to be immersed in all-things Family for those 3 days - and I was.
What I wasn’t expecting? Was the amount of overlap between Family and Education during my 6 day, 6 flight adventure. This week has had a profound effect on me as an educator, and as a individual. I couldn't help but re-think some of my goals, priorities and beliefs by the time I arrived back to Cape Cod.
BOS - SLC: Am I a leader?
In a recent post on ASCD’s Edge, I reflected on this question… Flying to Salt Lake City, I thought long and hard about it. I believe all teachers are leaders in their own way - some just take it beyond the classroom. My leadership extends beyond my classroom by way of the Internet. It is online where i am able to shine as a leader. Online, I offer an opinion without fear. I have time to formulate my thoughts before typing. I share what I’m doing in my classroom without shyness. I connect with others I wouldn’t have the courage to offline. It is the “face-to-face” leader I am reluctant to become. ECET2 brought me out of my shell through cooperative opportunities designed for meaningful interaction. I worked closely with teacher leaders from all over the US, and in the process, I began to see my skills mirrored in theirs. There were soft-spoken, shy, thoughtful teachers. They are working hard to bring teaching and learning to the next level. I saw them as leaders, and in doing so, I started to believe in myself as well.
PLAN: Connect with teacher leaders, and recognize my role as such.
SLC - BOS: Where’s the balance?
Flying home from Snowbird, my thoughts were consumed with the concept of Balance. Every conversation I heard touched upon the struggles teachers face when it comes to finding balance in their lives… How do we balance our role as teacher with that of teacher leader? How do we find time for our family? How do we find time for ourselves? Unfortunately, I came away with far more questions than answers. I am always amazed at the number of teachers who face the challenges of anxiety and depression. The more I tell people about my diagnosed, unmedicated anxiety, the more stories I hear. Too many teachers I connect with are having to rely on medication, exercise, diet and counseling to help them cope with anxiety and depression. In a profession where working at home is necessary, what strategies do teachers use to make everything fit? And, when it doesn’t fit, what is the price we pay? Do we leave the profession? Do we leave our family? What is conventionally billed as an excellent fit for families, a career in teaching doesn’t quite deliver. Balance is one of the biggest struggles I face in life. I have yet to figure out how to teach, lead and connect in effective, consistent ways. Because of this, I live a distracted life - trying to juggle everything well, knowing I’m dropping balls left and right. Though I was surrounded by passionate overachievers at #ECET2, I left wondering where my answers would come from.
PLAN: - Define boundaries where my attention is not drawn away from what is important.
BOS - STL: Can my students Achieve the Core?
My family and I took off from Boston 6 hours after I landed from Utah. As we prepared to visit my daughter’s #1 choice for college, we talked about the university’s requirements for entering freshman. Common Core students should start arriving on the doorsteps of colleges nation-wide, well-prepared to think critically, work cooperatively and demonstrate understanding in multiple ways. Teachers all over the country are given the responsibility of delivering curriculum to fit these national standards, and we are essentially still at the ground level. Understanding the shifts of the Common Core takes extensive reading and reflection, and it cannot be done alone. Teachers must work together to better define what teaching and learning will look like in the classroom at all levels. With careful, thoughtful implementation, our students will be set up for success. Isn’t that what they deserve?
PLAN: Build capacity in my own Common Core understanding while continuing to offer PD for teachers.
STL - MSP: Who put me in a cage?
Before landing in the Twin Cities, I thought about the sessions I attended at #ECET2. After attending one particular session called the Cage Busting Teacher, facilitated by Rick Hess (@rickhess99), and Maddie Fennell (@maddief) I was empowered to think of myself as a leader who can have difficult conversations. My anxiety often gets in the way of my actions - but Rick and Maddie offered entry points to engage education stakeholders. While the premise of the workshop was based on the idea that teachers are stuck in cages created by our education system, I saw it a little differently. What holds me back, is myself. I am in a professional and personal cage because I allow myself to be there. I censor my responses, suppress my opinion, let others speak up because my fear gets in the way. Typing this paragraph is a challenge for me, because I know deep down it is a commitment for me to break free of what holds me back.
PLAN: Find inroads to necessary conversations as they relate to what is important to me.
MSP - MKE: How does the fate of our individual journey figure in?
After spending a few days on a college campus with my family, I couldn’t help but think about fate. How do our individual choices culminate in an life-long journey? Each of us have a story to tell - what makes us special; what life lessons we have learned. Each choice leads us in a particular direction - and when we multiply out dozens and dozens of decisions, we end up at a certain destination. My daughter is at a time in her life where her decisions are starting to shape her journey. I was emotional several times during our visit, as my Big Picture thinking made me realize how our journeys shape us as individuals. To have it to do all over again would result in a different path, a different destination. I’m not sure I’d be wiling to risk losing the good and the bad of where I am now, for that unknown. The teachers I met this week shared touching, inspiring stories as unique and special as they were. Honoring our decisions (good and bad) as part of who we are, is so very important.
PLAN: Recognize the importance of future decisions as being catalysts towards my ultimate fate.
MKE - BOS: This I do for me.
As I was in my final leg, and almost home, I took a break from reading a book and started thinking again… I am very thankful for where I am and what I am able to do. I am honored and grateful for the recognitions I have received, and I love going to school and coming home each day. I am very aware of the fact that my happiness comes from helping others. In that quest, I often forget about the happiness that comes from helping myself. Small messages came through to me throughout my trip… Slow down, Suzy. Pay attention, Suzy. Exercise, Suzy. Relax more, Suzy. Be brave, Suzy. Essentially, the more I do for Suzy, the more I am fueled to do more for others. So, as I wrap up this blog post, I am committed to a new plan. I want what is best for my family, students, friends and colleagues. I am more than any of the individual roles I define. I am more than a mother, a wife, a teacher, a leader. Yet, it is the sum of those parts that make me unique.
PLAN: Take better care of myself so I can better meet the needs of others.
It is with sincere gratitude that I thank ASCD for my nomination, the Gates Foundation for the invitation, my amazing #ECET2 peeps for their inspiration, my family for our conversation, and my students for the motivation. I’m a lucky girl.
9. But this is Social Media. I'm afraid to post. Yes it is Social Media (SM) but a rule of thumb is this, anything you post whether it's on Twitter, Facebook or a blog or a comment on a blog is a footprint. Just think of it this way, do I want my parents of students, staff and my family reading this, then you will be safe. Also, be kind - it is okay to agree to disagree in chats, but we are here to learn. Be nice. Diane Ravitch has a great post about posting comments on her blog. Rules to follow! Edutopia has a great page about creating Social Media guidelines here: http://www.edutopia.org/how-to-create-social-media-guidelines-school
Școala Gimnazială ,,Virgil Iovănaș“ Șofronea, Romania
WHAT IS CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT?
Effective Classroom Management is:
1. Planned not improvisational
2. Preventative rather than simply reactive
3. Controlled and organized rather than chaotic
4. An opportunity for all students and teachers to experience success
Tips for Arranging the Classroom
1. Have extra supplies available at a location in the classroom where students who have forgotten supplies will be able to go without disrupting other students (i.e. a cup of pencils at the center of each table or the back of the classroom).
2. Set a good example to your students by providing a neat and organized classroom.
3. Make your classroom look attractive. Use plants, bulletin boards, banners, warm colors, or anything to help make your classroom look aesthetically pleasing.
4. Structure your classroom as to avoid chaos and promote learning. For instance, do not place a talkative student next to the pencil sharpener because this creates many opportunities for disruptive behavior.
5. The teacher should be able to observe all students at all times and be able to see the door from his/her desk.
6. Students should be able to see the teacher/presentation area without having to move or turn around.
7. Arrange the room as to allow easy movement.
8. Main idea: Make your classroom fun, attractive, motivating, & functional.
Tips for Building Positive Student/Teacher Relationships
1. Follow the Golden Rule – Treat each student with respect and kindness.
2. . Identify a few students each class period and find ways to individually praise them so that by the end of the week every student in your class has been praised.
3. Be available before and after school in case a student needs help or simply needs to talk
Praise students for good work.
5. Praise students for effort.
6. Establish appropriate levels of dominance and cooperation.
7. Create one-to-one interactions with students.
8. Display students’ successful work in the classroom.
9. Disclose appropriate personal information that your students might find helpful (i.e. share a personal story that helps you describe a particular point of the lesson).
Time Saving Strategies
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
1. Establish time-saving, efficient routines for collecting papers and distributing materials and supplies (i.e. bins for each subject or class, mailboxes for each student or class).
2. ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE! ORGANIZE!
3. Establish daily routines.
4. Make a “To Do List” at the end of each day so that when you arrive the next morning you know exactly what needs to be done. Prioritize it and list the things that must be done first.
5. Create classroom jobs. This will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
6. Create a system for monitoring unfinished assignments. (i.e. Keep a clipboard with a list of student names with several boxes for each class next to each name. When you have finished grading the assignments, check off the boxes next to the students who have handed in the assignment.)
7. Teach your students how to be organized. Encourage them to have separate folders for each class and a home folder for assignments/notes.
8. Create your own filing system. Assign each class a color and keep important lesson materials in each folder.
1. Give directions one step at a time and avoid long and detailed directions.
3. Provide a variety of learning experiences, including peer teaching, cooperative learning, small group instruction, and lecture.
4. Provide homework assignments and activities that are meaningful, relevant, and instructional.
5. Teach students good study habits and provide a variety of different study suggestions.
6. Have your class summarize the lesson or activity at the end of each class.
7. Provide students with feedback (about what they did right and wrong).
8. Help your students set realistic goals.
Tips for Creating a Positive Classroom Environment
1. Use humor.
2. Greet students at the doorway and in the halls.
3. Show enthusiasm and be animated.
4. Provide opportunities for every student to succeed.
5. Model good listening skills by paying attention when
6. Create anticipation for lessons or tasks.
7. If a particular student is struggling, provide the student with a classroom buddy who is mature and responsible.
8. Create classroom rituals and traditions which build a sense of community.
9. Encourage parental and community involvement.
Tips for Preventing Misbehavior
1. Establish realistic and age appropriate rules and procedures.
Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools
2. Have discussions with your students about the rationale and purpose of each rule. When appropriate, incorporate student opinions and thoughts into your classroom rules and procedures.
3. Walk throughout the classroom during lectures and seat work to provide assistance and monitor behavior.
4. Keep class work and assignments separate from behavior issues.
5. Carefully plan each class time and have extra plans in case you finish early.
6. Have extra activities available for students to do when they are bored or finished with all their work.
7. Establish routines for transitions (leaving the room, using the bathroom, etc.) and prepare students for transitions by warning them ahead of time.
8. Reinforce and praise appropriate behavior.
9. When deciding whether or not to intervene with a behavior, determine if the problem is solely “teacher-owned.” Does the behavior simply annoy you or is it harmful to other students?
10. Establish a program that teaches self-discipline and responsibility to students. When appropriate, give students extra duties that will help save you time and teach them responsibility.
Tips for handling student discipline situations
1. REMAIN CALM AND COMPOSED!
2. When correcting misbehavior, communicate in the most private, respectful, and positive manner.
3. Make all discipline decisions after the “heat of the moment.”
4. Use appropriate humor to de-escalate conflict situations.
5. When you feel as if you or your student is too emotional to handle a particular situation, suggest postponing the discussion until both are prepared to talk it out.
6. Instead of blaming, use I-messages to explain why the behavior was disruptive. Instead of saying “You’re disruptive” try saying “I lose my concentration when you are talking in class.” This helps to avoid an angry retaliation.
7. Use positive self-talk to reduce stress and help to remain control. Mentally say things such as “remain calm,” “I’m doing a good job at handling this situation.”
8. Attempt to de-escalate situation by providing distractions. These distractions give people the opportunity to cool off.
9. Exaggerate issues to help students put the situation in perspective.
10. Use stress management techniques such as deep breathing or repeatedly tensing and relaxing your muscles.
11. Address only student behavior rather than personal traits.
February 17, 2012
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|
What I Learned Lately (WILL 13/14 #15)
“Show Me the Love, Show me the Evidence”
Show me the evidence… Often we talk about really big concepts and challenges in an abstract manner without very many specifics or evidence. These conversation can be grounded in emotions or hunches but they may not be “evidence based”. I believe there is various forms evidence, data from numbers, observations similar to clinical rounds and even firsthand experiences. We use these types of practices and knowledge to engage ourselves and colleagues in action planning that will positively change the trajectory of our results. Recently, I was listening to a great leader in our community discussing the roles of architecture and execution in social change.
In leadership, is architecture or execution more important? In our work we spend a lot of time discussing, debating, dismissing and deciding on the plans or the architecture of our plans. We discuss whether it is “best practice” and often give it permission to move along without success criteria. We do this, because we recognize that there is not “a silver bullet” or single solution to the complexity of our challenges. I have been wrestling with the notion that the plan doesn’t matter if we can’t execute it. Although this may seem like common sense to many, for me I have become more reflective about the idea that execution may be the missing piece for our work. Do we spend enough time analyzing the execution of our plans or do we dismiss our results because of poor plans? Do we give enough credit to those who execute without dismissing it as luck? Do we hide “average” because we are fearful that we may not get “better”? For me, these past weeks have been wondering do we need new plans or do we just need to be better at the plans we have?
Finally from Dejan Stojanovic
“The most complicated skill is to be simple.”