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Posts tagged ‘Change’


Collaboration Is Difficult…

While it seems there is a common call for more time to collaborate in all school districts, those who dig into the meaningful work of true collaboration discover it is far easier to continue working in isolation.  The majority of us learned our trade figuring it out as we went through the enduring pains of trial and error.  Being isolated in our classrooms was simply the norm, and the true collaborative work described in PLC literature was unheard of.  Today we have clear evidence showing the need for real collaboration, yet the work of doing collaboration is much different from the work we have been good at in the past.  Digging into showing our results, aligning our instruction with clearly articulated outcomes and common assessments, and engaging in robust action research can feel like an invasion of one’s craft.  The truth we all know deep inside however, is that collaborating in this way is the real work of excellent teaching.    Read more


“Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars”

Reposting this today in honor of Dr. King: 

I am grateful for the reminder in church this morning of the powerful words that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared in his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” on April 3rd, 1968.   His inspiration, support, and leadership lives far beyond the generation of people who knew him, and our world is much changed for the better as a result of his work.  I believe the greatest leaders articulate thoughts in a manner that resonate across many generations, peoples, and circumstances, and today King’s message of hope – in an incredibly difficult time – has a special ring for me.  In this speech he shares his desire to be in that place, at that time, to face those difficult issues even if given the opportunity to be anywhere else.

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Teaching and Leading is Tough Business…

Reposting this post 4 years later.  It’s just as applicable today – in a district of 2 sites and 1,600 students…  Teaching is indeed a calling!


Communications over the past couple of weeks has made clear that I’m in a different ball game than I was just a few months ago.  As a teacher leader and school administrator, I was visible and made person to person connections with nearly every staff member at least weekly if not every day.  People saw me on good days, bad days, during pressure, when joking around, and all of the other times in between.  This is clearly not possible in the role I now serve in forcing me to reflect quite a bit about leadership strategies and how to make positive change from a different place in the organization.

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How Do You Make Rigorous Instruction Relevant?

351x301xblooms_new.png.pagespeed.ic.aGecvMechvAs a junior high principal 5 years ago I worked with some great teachers who took it upon themselves to make sure their students understood Bloom’s Taxonomy and how it applies to the activities each day in the classroom.  Students were asked to hold the teacher accountable for making sure that homework and assessment activities applied to the top 3 layers of the taxonomy.  Action phrases and verbs for each layer created a huge wall display of the taxonomy in classrooms, and conversations about why each activity in the classroom was planned for took place in the regular ebb and flow of routine.  Did you hear that?!!  I can honestly say that students understood the why!!  You know… the “why are we doing this???” question that frustrates many-a-teacher?  A commitment to being able to answer that question for every pedagogical decision we make – a true commitment to being disciplined in thought and action – is an authentic commitment to being a true professional… A real Professional Learning Community.

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Rick Wormeli on Formative Assessment

Fair Isn't Always EqualThis is the sixth post in a series of short YouTube videos by Rick Wormeli, author of the book Fair Isn’t Always Equal.  This episode focuses on the power of frequent formative assessments and tying that into a standards based grading system.  I wish I had learned about the power of formative assessments and a standards based approach to grading when I was teaching…  Might you take what @RickWormeli has to offer and implement it in your classroom tomorrow??

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Gradebooks… by Rick Wormeli

So I’m asking some questions in #isd186…   Do we count late work?  How much is homework part of a grade? Do we average points out of points possible to determine a grade?  Is it better if we categorize grades into assessments, homework, projects, etc…?   At some point in a career every teacher struggles with the sacred cow – the GRADE BOOK…  How do we record points – or better rather – how do we record the level at which a student has demonstrated mastery of a standard in order to communicate those results and use them for instructional planning?

These are thought-provoking questions and not ones that our college courses prepared us well for.  So… Here are a few thoughts from respected expert @RickWormeli on grading:

So how do you calculate grades?  Does your software get in the way?  How can you work around that?  Guskey says – if there is one thing he would get rid of it’s using averages.  How will you get rid of averages in your grade calculations?  How do you define what a grade actually is?


Educating Students to Wait in Line?

Our Future Experts of Waiting in LineSitting at a twelve team wrestling tournament today prompted me to dig out a post from several years ago about the assembly line system of education that has dominated our classrooms for the past 100+ years.  Even with nine mats being used continuously and a remarkable effort to run an efficient and well-organized tournament, each student was engaged in competition for a total of 2 – 6 minutes in a 4 hour time frame.  Spread around the gym was several hundred boys — 9 were engaged and the other 99% were bored silly.   They were participating in a beautifully designed lesson for learning how to wait in line and deal with boredom.   

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Rick Wormeli on Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs

Fair Isn't Always EqualThis is the fourth post in a series of short YouTube videos by Rick Wormeli, author of the book Fair Isn’t Always Equal.  If you’re willing to ask honest questions about your practices and rules about late work – you’re golden and will love the questions posed by @RickWormeli.  If you aren’t courageous enough to ask honest questions, this one might not be for you.  My expectation: anyone teaching our children must be able to soundly defend all decisions about practice, resources, and delivery with research and evidence.  So…  What are your answers to Rick’s questions?  Do you provide opportunities for redos?  Late work?  Do-Overs?  How does this calculate into a quarter or semester or final grade?  I encourage a deep dive into Wormeli and Guskey’s work and some reflection on how to make it happen in your classroom!

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A Simple Focus

The Right ReasonsA presentation I listened to last week by Kim Gibbons, Executive Director of the St. Croix River Education District, brought me back to a great synthesis of education research that I wrote about in a 2011 post.  Her main argument was that the best thing we can do to better serve our students with special needs is to improve core instruction – what happens in our classrooms to meet the needs of all students.  She presented John Hattie’s research with polish and focused on a simple question and my ongoing soapbox – how do we better align our practices with what research says is best practice?


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Cross Post – Why I NEVER Recommend Teaching as a Profession – The Tempered Radical

This post by @plugusin and the discussion evolving in the comments is real reflection of the ongoing emotional struggle in the hearts of our best educators.  I continue to call for real heroes to step up and live out the calling to teach, but I too believe those individuals need to enter this work with eyes wide open to the realities.  How do we engage in rigorous dialogue about education around the research and evidence of what works rather than what is easy and attractive to voters misinformed by soundbites?  How do we lead this dialogue effectively from within our profession?

Here is the post by teacher, author, and champion blogger Bill Ferriter:

Why I NEVER Recommend Teaching as a Profession – The Tempered Radical.