Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#BostonStrong: Boston Marathon Bombing, One Year Later

One year ago, I wrote the following blog post to share resources with educators and parents/guardians - to help work with students and to help adults themselves work through this tragedy that hit Boston, Massachusetts and the world.  In the spirit of seeing the good after a tragedy, we teach our students to focus on the leadership and human kindness that emerges from dark, tragic times.  The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was one such time, but Boston is resilient, and so are its people.  In addition to the resources below, some heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing are profiled one year later, which is a positive follow-up to either start or conclude a reflection on the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary:



From April, 2013 (http://sguditus.blogspot.com/2013/04/after-boston-marathon-bombings.html):

As adults, we feel helpless after a tragedy such as the Boston Marathon Bombings.  There is so much
pain, grief and anger that we feel even as adults, it is important to stop and remember how these same feelings may be impacting our students.  Two big questions I've been considering are:

  1. How should I speak to kids about this?
  2. What can I do to help?
Below, you will find some resources and suggestions to help answer both of these questions.

Resources to speak with kids about the Boston Marathon Bombing Tragedy:

Ideas of How To Help:

  • Many victims and survivors have an incredibly long road ahead - emotionally and physically.  As a result, financial donations seem to be one of the best ways to help at this point.  As a parent or educator, consider helping students organize to help raise money.  A few ideas follow.  (Kids should not go door-to-door asking for donations and should always be supervised by an adult.)
    • Hold a car wash
    • Get donors for a honk-a-thon
    • Hold a garage sale
    • Organize a spirit day at school and request donations to participate.  Ideas include:
      • Boston Spirit Day
      • Marathon Mondays - wear blue and yellow (Boston Marathon colors)  
      • Wear jeans for the day
      • Dress up day
      • Wear a hat day
    • Consider having students choose where to donate money.  Boston.com has a very comprehensive list of places to donate.  Consider carefully how much information to share with your child/students.
    • Donate to the Boston One Fund, which is the official donation site set up by Governor Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino: http://onefundboston.org/.
  • The American Red Cross says that their blood supply is now current.  To schedule an appointment to donate blood in the coming weeks, go to: http://redcrossblood.org.
  • Show your support through the 26.2gether campaign.
  • Write thank you cards to first responders who helped on the day of the tragedy, as well as during the week: police officers, fire fighters, state police, EMTs, nurses, doctors, and volunteers.  You can send cards to your local police, fire and EMTs, or specifically to the Boston PD, FD or medical personnel (see addresses below).
  • Write get well soon/thinking of you cards to survivors of the blasts.  You can send cards to Boston Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital or Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  See addresses below.

Boston Medical Center
1 Boston Medical Center Place
Boston, MA 02118

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

Boston Police Department Headquarters
1 Schroeder Plaza
Boston, MA 02120

Boston Fire Department Headquarters
115 Southampton Street
Boston, MA 021185

Image Credit: http://fpcmarathoncharityteam.blogspot.com/2012/09/run-2013-boston-marathon-with-franklin.html

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stress, Play and 21st Century Skills

While discussing stress with his students, our building's Health Teacher invited me up to discuss students' concerns - at their request.  Students felt strongly enough that they wanted to speak about stress, homework and academic pressure with the principal.  Seventh graders!  I popped up to his classroom, and what I heard was alarming, upsetting, and a bit sad.  Students reported things such as "there is so much pressure, that sometimes I have to decide between playing with friends or doing my homework" and "I'm thinking about dropping out of playing on my sports team, because I don't have time to be on a team and time to finish my schoolwork."

I polled the students, and on average, students have over two hours of homework a night, often not including studying for tests and quizzes.  What does this tell me?  We need to do some work with students around study skills, backwards planning and executive functioning skills.  In her article from the fall of 2012 "Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?," Washington Post author Valerie Strauss cites multiple studies that fail to paint a particularly persuasive case for homework - or at least for avoiding excessive amounts of homework.  

What can we do?  Yes, we can keep the amount of homework moderate; yes, we can provide more support and structure around study skills and staying organized; but ultimately, as a community, are our expectations for students where we want them to be?  Are we permitting our students to be kids, stressing the values that are important, and preparing students to play, to have fun, to be creative, to pursue their passions?  Are they avoiding these things because there doesn't appear to be value - either in their own eyes, that of their parents/guardians or the school?  Our schools need to ensure that
Play is crucial to building 21st century skills.
students have time - to be kids, to play, to find their passions.  

With spring finally upon us, I brought students outside during lunch for 15 minutes.  15 minutes, unstructured, and what I witnessed was amazing.  Students played, they solved problems on their own, created games, and had fun.  And I would imagine, more focused, energized and ready to learn for their afternoon classes.

Regardless of the path or the strategy, students need to be provided with time to be kids, to pursue passions, and have down time - and ultimately, they will build 21st century skills - problem solving, creativity and communication skills - and be more engaged in their learning.

Works Cited:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Your Child's Job (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

Melissa Schorr of the Boston Globe wrote an article in the Globe's March 9, 2014 issue on Learning and Earning 2014 entitled "Where The State Labor Market Is Headed This Decade."  Schorr reports Massachusetts-specific statistics about the future of the job market, helpful for current job seekers, college grads, or parents and guardians who are interested in persuading their children to plant roots in The Commonwealth later in life.  If you have ever asked me my thoughts on 21st century skills or heard me speak publicly to parents/guardians, student or staff, you know that I believe we are in a time where our
Where the Massachusetts job market is headed next.
public education system is preparing our students for jobs that don't yet exist.  In her infographic-style article, Schorr states:

The work we do is ever-evolving - some jobs emerge, others fade to black (think film projectionists).  The Labor Department's list of occupations, which has gown to some 840 items since its 1977 debut, is again undergoing review.  The last revision, in 2010, added genetic counselors, hearing aid specialists, MRI technologists, and nurse midwives: the 2018 version might welcome nurse informatics and data scientists.  Can Social Media Mavens be far behind?

18 months ago, in September 2012, U.S. News and World Report reported that the top job industries in 2020 likely include work in the fields of data crunching, database analysis, market research, mental health counseling, 3D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, software engineering, communication sciences, entrepreneurship and veterinary studies.  What does this mean for how we teach our students in middle school?

We must teach students a well-rounded, exploratory and rigorous curriculum which emphasizes constant growth, lifelong learning, communication skills, critical thinking and creativity.  What exactly these jobs will be, we still do not know.  In ten years, however, as our current middle schools are graduating from high school, higher education or the military, they will be well-prepared if they possess a skill set that teaches not only content but adaptable, 21st century skills that can be used - and this should begin in middle school.  Our schedule and school should reflect this growing uncertainty about the future of the job market, as well as the need for our students to be learning, starting in middle school, how to think critically, creativity, and communicate effectively.  These skills will be needed for certain in 10 years, even if we are not entirely sure for what job title our students are applying.

So what can we do?  We can provide feedback to students in school about how to be creative, critical-thinking communicators; we can make our curriculum and school schedule be exploratory in nature and provide opportunities for many different seeds to be planted amongst our students, and provide a safe place for students to make mistakes, fail, and recover - and find their passions as a result.  Our schools can and should invest in STEM, STEAM, communication and public speaking classes, and providing opportunities and support for our struggling learners, those in the middle, and our highest-achieving students.  Everyone should be in the challenge zone - and we need to fund our schools accordingly.  To not is to fail our students and the future of our nation.

Works Cited:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lessons from The Olympics (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

The Olympics is such a great event for so many reasons...but as an educator, I can't help but view the events unfolding in front of me through the lens of "how is this an authentic way to teach students?"  Though this list is in no way comprehensive, The 2014 Sochi Olympics has provided several great ways to teach our students.  A few lessons to learn from the Sochi Olympics:

  1. Be courageous.  Hopeful to medal after winning the US Championships a month prior, Jeremy Abbott crashed to ice in his short men's ice skating program, within just 10 seconds of starting.  What he did next said more about his character than the performance itself: he stood up, and continued skating.  And he went on to skate one heck of a performance.  Jeremy Abbott might not have medaled, but he demonstrated picking oneself up after falling.  To read more: http://es.pn/1fiqMvL 
  2. Be determined.  Charlie White and Meryl Davis, the American Ice Dancing Team that won gold, have been working together for 17 years.  17 years!  Success doesn't come overnight - it takes consistency, determination, hard work, and longevity.  To read more: http://on.mash.to/Oclto8
  3. Stay positive.  Noelle Pikus-Pace overcame multiple obstacles in her Skeleton racing career, including a multiple broken bones, personal struggles, quitting and then returning to the sport.  Her path to success?  Stay positive no matter what, and focus your energy on achieving your goal. To read more: http://bit.ly/Ocmg8B
  4. Persevere.  Swiss skier Dominique Gisin has been through nine knee surgeries - and despite this ongoing threat of further injury, she pushed herself to gold - sharing it with Slovenian Tina Maze.  To read more: http://bit.ly/1fAWnp1

What great authentic opportunities to teach students how to succeed, win, and persevere!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Resources to Support All Learners (@sguditus Steve Guditus) #satchat

The amazing #SatChat strikes again.  On Saturday morning, January 25, 2014, I participated in the weekly #SatChat with colleagues from around the country and world.  Not only does participating in #SatChat challenge me personally and professionally, it allows me to stay current and gather best practices to share with students, parents/guardians and staff.  The topic on 1/25/14 was "Supporting All Learners," and as participants were asked to share resources used to support all learners, I couldn't keep up with the great list supplied, collectively, by educators around the world.  What follows is the start of a list of apps, programs, websites and programs used by educators to support learning.  Please comment below to add additional ideas to this list!  If you have questions about how-to or implementing effectively in the classroom with students, I would suggest you tweet a message to the idea's author: their Twitter handle is next to the resource.

  • Livebinders: help capture student learning and utilize electronic portfolios (@Ronbrogers)
  • TedTalks: inspire and engage with cutting edge ideas (@MaineSchoolTech)
  • Remind101: free communication tool to push out information via text (@DavidHochheiser)
  • Twitter: develop your PLN, interface with experts, flatten the world (@sblwilliams)
  • Instagram: capture real-world examples (@sblwilliams)
  • Vine: bring in stories to your instruction and learning (@sblwilliams)
  • Symbaloo: social bookmarking site - focus on research skills, webquest, exploration (@ipadbrainology)
  • QR Codes: students can research, teachers can instruct, focus on exploration (@ipadbrainology and @bekcikelly)
  • Photosynth: provide 360 views (@idesignit)
  • Today's Doc: examine primary sources (@idesignit)
  • Google Earth: explore the world! (@idesignit)
  • Explain Everything (@idesignit and @techgirljenny)
  • Snapguide: create your own instructions (@idesignit)
  • Google Sketchup: focus on design and 21st century skills (@sguditus)
  • Audio Boo: quick and easy recording (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • Dragon: speech recognition app (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • Speech with Milo: practice with parts of speech and language skills (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • Mobile Education Apps: focus on questioning, story building skills (@teachhub and @vroom6)
  • iTunes U: download free lectures on math - or any topic (@teachhub)
  • WolframAlpha: search engine on steroids (@teachhub)
  • Calculator +: iPhone/iPad calculator, handwriting support, scientific functions (@teachhub)
  • Math Bingo: patterns, basic math practice (@teachhub)
  • Free Graphic Calculator - William Jockusch: scientific and graphic calculator (@teachhub)
  • Monkey Math School Sunshine: building basic math skills (@teachhub)
  • BrainPOP: animated videos, interactive quiz; free and subscription (@teachhub)
  • Math Drills Lite: focus on basic math facts and skills (@teachhub)
  • Math Fact Master: flashcards, challenge modes - basic math facts (@teachhub)
  • Mathemagics: mental math (@teachhub)
  • Mabble: middle school math (@teachhub)
  • Raz-Kids (@rosso_n)
  • Dreambox (@rosso_n)
  • Xtramath (@rosso_n)
  • Socrative (@msfrenchteach)
  • Edmodo (@seanrussell311)
  • Educreations (@seanrussell311)
  • Kidblog (@seanrussell311)
  • Youtube (@seanrussell311)
  • Google Drive (@seanrusell311)
  • Notability: create notebooks, passcode protection (@techgirljenny and @idesignit)
  • Aurasma: augmented reality (@idesignit)
  • Lapse-it: stop-motion app (@idesignit)
  • Fade-in: create scripts (@idesignit)
  • Over (@idesignit)
  • Typo-Pic (@idesignit)
  • Xperica (@idesignit)
  • Haiku Deck (@idesignit)
  • Newsela: collaborate with other students about news articles, differentiate non-fiction text (@girltraveling and @JohnFritzky)
  • Jing: capture screenshots and video (@hendylou)
  • Dropbox: share files seamlessly, between mobile apps and hard drives (@StJMagistra)
  • Evernote: take in info, create, share, save creation (@iplante)
  • PicCollage (@msfrenchteach)
  • iMovie (@msfrenchteach)
  • QuickVoice (@msfrenchteach)
  • Fotobabble @msfrenchteach)
  • Voicethread (@sguditus and @idesignit)
  • Geoboard (@MathMinds and @kkidsinvt)
  • Minecraft (@MathMinds)
  • Auto Rap (@FinkTeach)
  • Learnist (@runningdmc)
  • Wordpress (@runningdmc)
  • Socratic (@runningdmc)
  • TouchCast: great research tool (@idesignit and @42ThinkDeeply)
  • Ask3 (@idesignit)
  • Autodesk Apps (@idesignit)
  • Zinio (@idesignit)
  • Halftone (@idesignit)
  • Strip Designer (@idesignit)
  • Subtext (@idesignit)
  • Strip Creator (@MrCsays)
  • Puppetpals (@MrCsays)
  • Skitch (@kkidsinvt)
  • Doodle Buddy, Doodlecast Pro (@kkidsinvt)
  • AudioMemos (@kkidsinvt)
  • Numberrak (@kkidsinvt)
  • Lexia (@kkidsinvt)
  • Screen Chomp (@askteacherzcom)
  • Camtasia (@askteacherzcom)
  • Book Creator App (@techgirljenny)
  • Popplet (@techgirljenny)
  • Videolicious: videos, collages for assessment (@NLHSprincipal)
  • Power Up WHAT WORKS: free evidence-based resources (@sguditus)

Works Cited: 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Parent/Guardian Alert: Ask.fm (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

There has been an uptick in recent use of anonymous, unmonitored social media websites by adolescents.  One website in particular, Ask.fm, is cause for serious alarm.  What makes this website so dangerous is the fact that it provides a forum for adolescents, who may already be feeling isolated, to be victim to receiving and responding to anonymous messages - sometimes from strangers and oftentimes from peers they already know, but who want to post anonymous (and frequently hurtful) messages.    

Ask.fm is a Latvian-based company that requires users to create a homepage, which others can view and comment upon anonymously and without registering or logging in.  This website allows anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world to view one’s Ask.fm profile, post information, ask questions, and communicate with users – all anonymously.

Other social media outlets such as Instagram, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter require all users to register, so communication is linked to specific users.  Ask.fm, however, provides a forum for anonymous users to post hurtful, upsetting, harmful or dangerous information on a user’s profile – with no trace of who the author is.

If you are a parent or guardian of pre-teen or adolescent, you may want to take the following steps to help protect your child's overall well-being and safety:
  • Speak to your child about his or her online profiles and online behavior, habits and communication.  
  • Ask your child for his/her usernames and passwords, check the content of his/her messages and with whom he/she is communicating.  If he/she will not provide their username or password, that may be a red flag there is content he/she may not want you to discover.
  • Regularly monitor your child's social media accounts.
  • Determine if your child has an Ask.fm account.  To do so, try googling your child’s name and ‘ask.fm’ to see if a profile page appears.
  • Reiterate the importance of online and offline behavior being consistent.  One should not type something online they wouldn't say to someone's face - both children and adults! 
  • Reiterate the importance of keeping information private.  Never share personal, identifying information, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses, especially on public websites like Ask.fm.
  • Engage your child in a conversation about positive behavior and making good decisions - spanning online and offline behavior. 
  • Speak to your child's school about to ask how they address student behavior and encourage a culture and climate of tolerance and kindness.
Technology itself is not the danger; students engaging in risky online behavior is the danger.  You can find a list of resources below that may be helpful in learning more about Ask.fm and helping to support your child with improving his/her online social media behavior:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Homework Tips for Parents/Guardians (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

What can you do to help your child succeed with homework assignments?  Short of advocating for limiting homework assignments outside of school (and referencing relevant recent research on the topic), read on for several tips to help facilitate the homework-completion process at home with your middle school child.

  • Prioritize homework assignments.  Based on difficulty levels and due dates, create a numbered to-do list each afternoon/evening to help your child efficiently complete their homework.  Encouraging students to start with the most challenging assignment when he/she is fresh may work best for him/her.   
  • Encourage your child to advocate for him/herself.  If an assignment is confusing to your child, he/she needs clarification, or additional support from his/her teacher, create a game plan with your child.  Brainstorm with them to whom he/she should speak and about what, including specific questions to get the help they need.  These are life skills!
  • Utilize a calendar or a student agenda.  Especially for long-term assignments, it is helpful for students to use the calendar in their agenda to plan backwards from due dates of assessments and projects.  It will be helpful to your child if you can help break the project or studying into pieces with mini deadlines.  Try color-coding for various classes; this will help students better chart out and track their after-school time. 
  • Have a consistent work time and space.  Everyone deserves some down time, especially after a long day at school!  Allow your child some time to relax and unwind, encourage them to stay hydrated, and have a consistent start time and public location for homework (e.g. the kitchen table, not the bedroom with the door closed).  
  •  Stay positive.  Homework can be difficult, but modeling a positive attitude, especially when work gets difficult will help teach your child develop problem-solving and self-advocacy skills.  Encourage and support your child by providing guidance as to how to solve a problem, seek help and ask good questions.  
  • Take a break.  If your child has been working for a good chunk of time, keep an eye open for frustration.  It is ok to take a break!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Teaching Learning in the 21st Century (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

In his article “The Shift from Teaching Content to TeachingLearning,” Dr. Grant Wiggins suggests that education must focus on students becoming metacognitive about their learning, and educators must ensure that we are explicitly modeling the skills that we want to see our students produce – not just assume they can do it. 
In a world of shifting priorities in education, and where standardized test scores scare educators into teaching to the test, we must remember that one of the most valuable things we can do in education – be it as teacher or student – is to stop; think; and reflect.  Reflection is simple, but it can be momentous and it can be powerful.  When students and educators stop to think about the process of education – and how it relates to their own learning – students take ownership for their learning, better understand their learning styles, and begin to advocate more for themselves.
A little bit of pressure isn’t a bad thing.  We live in a world of priorities and deadlines, and that is ok.  This is reality.  Pressure and priorities is not a bad thing in the world of education, but prioritizing the task of stopping to reflect must too be embedded into the schedule.  If time for reflection is not a priority, it will not get done.  Reflection may be “treated” as an add-on, because we can always continue with the curriculum and classes may continue to chug along.  If, however, we stop, pause and reflect – what do I do well, what did I not do well, what do I need, what would I do differently, where should my focus be – I would make the claim that students would learn more in the long run, and that test scores would not go down – but that test scores would go up.  Why?  When students understand how they learn and take time to reflect upon it, they become more effective and efficient learners who can advocate more for themselves, and educators can better personalize education for students.

In my second year of teaching seventh grade Social Studies, I assigned students the following homework task: Create an outline of Chapter 7, Section 2.  There are a few things that make this assignment weak, but I remember being disappointed the next day when the outlines that came in were of varying degrees of effectiveness, size, color, margins, setup, quality, content and success.  Sadly, I blamed the students at the time.  Why don’t they know how to do this?  Who forgot to teach them this?  Why don’t they know what I want?!  Then I realized: these students are twelve.  No one had yet explicitly taught them how to create an outline – or if they had learned it, my expectations were different and I provided an awful assignment and little expectation to students.  Wiggins claims, and I agree with him, that we must teach students how to learn – by providing the scaffolding to create structure around expectations, and help students learn the skills they need – not just assume they possess them already.  Yes, some students may possess these skills already (such as ‘how to create an outline’), but not all do and we must provide structure and scaffolding so all students can grow and improve.

How can you develop a focus on teaching learning in your classroom, as well as content?  Consider the following tips below.

  • Make reflection a priority in your schedule.
  • Ask students questions about the learning process.  Use this information to help students build self-awareness and advocacy skills.  Use this information as an educator to drive your instruction.
    • How do I learn?
    • Where am I a strong student?  Where are areas of weakness?
    • What do I need from my teacher?
    • What can I improve to be a more successful student?
  • Help students set goals.  Use this as practice to teach students learning – the process of goal-writing. 
  • Share your own goals to model an ongoing, reflective process.
  • Unwrap assignments into chunks and pieces.  Explain all of them.  Vertically remove support as the year (and grades) progress to make students more independent and learn the skills they need over time.
  • Consider flipping parts of your classroom.  Provide a video to watch for homework on “creating an outline,” and then in class, provide support and feedback to students while they practice the skill.
  • Develop and use rubrics to provide feedback to students – not just on content, but in other areas as well: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication.
  • Work with colleagues to identify the wide-reaching, interdisciplinary skills that can cross content areas.
  • Develop interdisciplinary units with colleagues to help students grow and develop these skills.

We must teach the whole child.  Gone are the days of “I teach subject X.”  For the sake of our students, we must shift from teaching to learning.  All educators must help students grow and develop reading, writing, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity skills.  Instead of teaching subject X to students, we must teach students and help them develop these skills, using subject X to do so. 

“We move from being “teachers” to coaches of learning.” – Grant Wiggins

Sunday, September 29, 2013

10 Ways to Develop #Grit and #Resiliency In Our Students (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

Angela Duckworth appears to have succeeded because she possesses the two characteristics she claims leads to success in the students she has studied: grit and self-control.  Her theory suggests an understanding that intelligence is not fixed, but malleable, and that what we do to support our children and expand their potential matters: parents, schools, teachers, mentors and communities.  @ruthetam, a freelance writer, interviewed Dr. Duckworth, a former consultant, 7th grade math teacher and neuroscientist, and recent MacArthur Genius Award recipient to get a better idea of what she will study now that she has won this $625,000 unrestricted grant.  

Dr. Duckworth's previous work has centered on importance of grit - the ability to sustain effort, focus and determination on long-term goals - and its impact on future success of students.  Dr. Duckworth's grit test, a simple 22 question test (for which you can signup - for free - by clicking here), has been shown to predict success, more so than straight IQ, academic, fitness and other tests. 

In order for our students to be successful, we need to have high standards and community support - and we need to focus on helping our students to develop grit and resilience.  Duckworth's focus on the whole child and realization that children are more than an IQ and standardized testing score is refreshing - as is her conclusion that test scores are not all evil, if they are not the only way in which we measure student learning and growth.  Duckworth's research alone is evidence that we must focus our efforts, especially in middle school, on modeling and developing lifelong learning, good habits, and sustaining resiliency and "grit," as Duckworth has coined the phrase.  How can we do this in our schools?

  1. Encourage your students to be creative.
  2. Create opportunities for students to engage in long-term projects.  Support your students in sustaining interest and projects for a longer period of time.
  3. Have students reflect upon what strategies help them sustain focus and interest.
  4. Don't protect students from failure or disappointment; instead, help students work through and past disappointment and failure.
  5. Adults should model overcoming adversity.  We must model what we want to see in students.
  6. Reflect upon failure.  Why did it happen?  What can I do next time differently?
  7. Allow time to play, to create and to reflect.  
  8. Encourage students to stick with a goal and see it through to the end.
  9. Ensure students have a trusted adult in their school, preferably one who loops with them through the grades - this will help sustain ongoing work and goals.
  10. Build time into the school day to set goals, revisit them, and reflect upon how we (students, staff, parents/guardians) can do things differently.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fall.” 

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can watch Dr. Duckworth's May, 2013 TEDTalk on the importance of grit by clicking below:

Works Cited:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Getting Ed Eval Right (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

We are underway.  It's nearly October, we have hit the ground running, and as a community, we need to start thinking about educator/teacher/staff evaluation.  In Massachusetts, we have shifted from a model of "I'm on this year" to a model where every educator, myself included as an administrator, are in a constant state of reflection and growth.  The trick, as we enter year two of this model, is to focus on a state of reflection and growth - not a state of panic and confusion.

What I have found, in working with many staff members, in two different districts in the state, is that folks do a great job.  Educators want to do the right thing, be the best they can be, and ultimately, teach students.  After thinking back to last's year initial implementation of this model and entering into this year, as our entire staff is "on," and working in the evaluation system, a few key reflections cropped up.

  1. Trust is key.  In order for this new model to work, all staff are being asked to think about their strengths and their weaknesses.  If a culture of trust is absent, it is impossible to have an open, honest and authentic conversation about how to improve student learning, instruction and our schools.  
  2. Normalize talking about mistakes, discussing strengths and weaknesses, and ensure that staff know that as educators, need to be lifelong learners.  This is something we want not only in our students, but in our educators as well.
  3. Shift from a focus on instruction to a focus on student learning.  It is no longer, "Did I teach it?" but instead, "Did they learn it?"
  4. Educator evaluation is about opportunity: an opportunity to reflect, to improve, and to have high-level, professional conversations between colleagues.  Take the opportunity to do so.
  5. This is not about checking boxes.  The state requires certain forms and methods - they always have.  Avoid getting stuck in the weeds, and make sure to focus on student learning and constant growth.
  6. Leverage our new educator evaluation system to highlight the best practices, the best in student learning, and share it with fellow colleagues, parents and students.
  7. Conversation is essential.  Make debriefing a walkthrough or observation a priority.  We are all busy in schools, but to make this work, the power is in conversation and reflection.
  8. Shift from "gotcha" to "taking inventory."  Our new evaluation system will provide more consistent data about what techniques are used in class, themes that emerge - and how to use this to drive our instruction to improve student learning.
I know this makes me an edu-geek, but I am so looking forward to working on my own educator evaluation, and working with my fabulous colleagues on being lifelong learners - all in the name of improving student learning.  Off to the races we go!