Showing posts from 2013

Parent/Guardian Alert: (@sguditus Steve Guditus)

There has been an uptick in recent use of anonymous, unmonitored social media websites by adolescents.  One website in particular,, 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. 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 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 speci…

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.Especi…

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 t…

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 succes…

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.
Trust is key.  In order for this new model to work, all staf…

Being an authentic leader (@sguditus / Steve Guditus)

Today's #satchat on 9/7/13 inspired me to do some reflecting about how I want to start my career in my new school, the fabulous Manchester-Essex Regional Middle School in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.  My PLN got me thinking about some things to remember as the school year kicks off:

Be truly present.  Put down the iPhone while having a conversation.  Make listening and asking questions a priority.Be visible.  Students and staff want to see you and want to see you engaged.  Be a lead learner, teacher and educator.  Move your desk into the hallway for a period, an hour or a day.Sometimes, it's ok to just listen.  Many of us administrators want to problem-solve and fix all the time - and we need to recognize that it's ok to just listen, sometimes!Be vulnerable.  Being authentic and admitting you don't know something is ok.  We want our staff and students to do so also, so be willing to show the strength to admit you made a mistake or don't know the answer.Model what you …

37 inspirational ideas to kickoff your school year (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

I just participated in a great brainstorming session with some outstanding educational leaders at the MSSAA summer institute, and made note of 37 different ideas to inspire your school and have a successful kickoff to the school year.  The best educators beg, borrow and steal ideas and adapt them to be their own - so I offer this list to be borrowed, stolen and adapted (no need to beg!).

Have staff write one fun fact about themselves on a post-it note on their classroom door.Create a scavenger hunt and have folks hunt down items, discover new info about fellow staff members, the school or the community.Create a teacher survival kit: a mini hershey's bar for a pick-me-up, a K-Cup for a jolt of caffeine, some office supplies, etc.Have staff set a personal goal, in addition to their student learning and professional practice goal: make it about personal health, nutrition, work/home balance, family, etc - and have check-ins!Leave a personal note, post-it, memo or quote on teachers'…

Personalized Learning - the new PD (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

After three years as a middle school assistant principal, I am heading to a new gig in three weeks - to become the principal of Manchester-Essex Regional Middle School.  I am super pumped, and as I start to make my transition, I am taking some time to reflect upon lessons learned about PD while I was an assistant principal.  After participating in a lively #satchat on June 8, 2013, I feel inspired to crystallize what effective PD 2.0 looks like.  I look forward to shaping opportunities for adults to learn effectively and with purpose - all in the name of student learning.

A few conclusions about PD effectiveness:
Time is key.  If we want enact change in schools and bring about movement, we mustn't just provide a quick overview.  Time in schools is the most valuable resource, and how we choose to divide it up matters.  If we want not just understanding, but implementation and effectiveness, protect time, focused on your topic: provide time for exploration, discussion, debate, ongoin…

My Educator's Memorial Day (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

Ever since I was a kid, I looked up to my Dad.  A Vietnam War and Marine Corps Veteran, he enlisted in the USMC after graduating from high school.  Fearless and eighteen, he headed to Paris Island for training and ultimately for multiple tours of duty in Vietnam.  Though I don't know many of the details (he rarely speaks about it), I know he was brave and served his nation proudly.  He earned a purple heart, and even as I write about it, I get teary.  I will probably never know why exactly, but a combination of pride and honor comes over me when I think of the moves my Dad needed to make as a young man.

My Dad is a driven man.  He is dyslexic, so school was always tough for him.  I am even more in awe that he has been a successful businessman through intelligence, drive, dedication and a work ethic like no one I've ever seen.  He encouraged me and pushed me to always be my best, and when I slacked off, I would imagine my Dad - waist deep in a swamp in Vietnam - and push harde…

7 Thoughts on School Improvement Plans #satchat (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

Today's #satchat, as usual, has left me feeling inspired and motivated.  Folks from around Massachusetts, the nation and world chimed into a fantastic conversation about sometimes-dry School Improvement Plans (SIPs).  Co-faciltiated by @bcurrie5, @ScottRRocco and @billsterrett, a few main lessons emerged for me:

Create a unified vision.  Provide tight-loose leadership to provide vision and structure, and then allow folks to do their best work.  Encourage all constituencies to revisit a school's vision and SIP - if it is clear and unified enough, it will be easily accessible and relatable to all we do in our school. Administrators cannot just talk the talk - they must be ready, willing and able to walk the walk.  SIPs can easily become an exercise in jargon, acronyms and only philosophy.  For staff, students and parents to be inspired to work outside their comfort zone, try something new, and reach for goals, leaders must be ready to not just say it, but live it themselves.  It …

After The Boston Marathon Bombings: Resources for Parents and Teachers to Help Students (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

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:

How should I speak to kids about this?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:

National Association of School Psychologists - Helping Children Cope in Unsettling TimesNC Department of HHS: Helping Children Deal with Tragic Events - advice from Mr. RogersCenter for Social and Emotional Education: Talking to Children about Violence and TerrorismDr. Gail Saltz - via The Today Show: Talking to Your Kids about the Boston Marathon BombingsNational Association of School Psychologists: Tips for Parents/Teachers - Talking to Children about Violence
Ideas of How To Hel…

Climbing The Rock Wall (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

This weekend, I attended the Adaptive Open House at the Lynch van Otterloo YMCA in Marblehead, MA.  A fabulous event for many reasons, one of which was meeting some amazing people.  As I witnessed a wheelchair-bound guest be lifted out of her chair and proceed to climb the rock wall in the lobby, I thought about school (to where my mind often wanders).

I had seen many people climb that rock wall in the lobby, but had never seen someone without the use of their legs climb the rock wall.  The accomplishment was the same, and I found myself overwhelmed watching the accomplishment in the lobby.  Holding the expectation the same, the athlete had spotters and climbing rope assist her, which allowed her to make the same accomplishment as all other rock wall climbers.  Truly, the Y had provided the scaffolding required to allow the athlete to accomplish her goal.  

I wondered, Do we always provide the proper scaffolding to all of our students, so they are able to climb the rock wall?Student…

Marvelous Mistakes (Steve Guditus @sguditus)

This week, I had a conversation with a first-year teacher about a student who plagiarized.  The student had pretty closely adapted a cartoon, and handed it in as his/her project.  Unsure of its true author, the teacher did some research and found the cartoon, nearly word-for-word and image-for-image (is that a thing?).  The teacher asked me to discuss the scenario with her, because she had never before encountered a student plagiarizing.  Our conversation was a fruitful one, and she asked great questions:

Why did the student plagiarize?Did the student know that he/she was plagiarizing?How will he/she learn from his/her mistakes?How do I grade the student?What about consequences?  What message gets sent to the student and fellow classmates?Do students know what plagiarism is? Ultimately, when students make a mistake, they should be permitted to learn from their mistakes; a consequence should be separate from the learning and the grade, which should reflect mastery, not poor decision-mak…

10 Lessons for Education from Dr. Seuss (Steve Guditus)

A big happy birthday to Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel.  Dr. Seuss was an inspiration to many, and on his birthday, I thought it would be fitting to reflect upon lessons we can learn from Dr. Seuss' books*.  In so many ways, he was insightful and ahead of his time; his simple messages permeate education still today.  Ten lessons for education from Dr. Seuss' books:

Schools should help students take ownership and responsibility of their learning process, to help them become lifelong learners and discover their own passions. (You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...Oh, the Places You'll Go!)Students must find their own voice and their own identity.  Embracing the growth of the whole child is essential to success in our world today.  (Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is…

Maslow's Hierarchy of School Needs (Steve Guditus)

The pace of schools today is frantic.  So little time is left in a child's 24 hour-day to play and explore - both in and out of school.  Unintentionally, we may be pushing students to think and learn at high levels when more basic needs are not met.  For a student to be available for learning, basic needs need to be met - in both school and at home.  We need to shift our paradigm from student supports as "extras" and "add-ons" to prerequisites for a student to be available for learning.  I created this Maslow's Hierarchy of School Needs to highlight the need for other pieces to be in place for students to be available to learn (and to learn at high levels, reach their potential, and increase their potential).

Any thoughts, feedback, edits, subtractions or additions?

10 Ways Social Media Makes Me A Better Leader (Steve Guditus)

How can social media help make me be a better leader?  Let me count the ways:
Exposure to new educational research.Awareness of educational trends.Sharing (and stealing) of best practices. An increased ability to connect staff members with relevant resources.Pro-active (not reactive) school PR: instead of waiting for a parent/guardian to reach out to inquire, I can share relevant pictures, quotes, ideas and videos of learning occurring - usually in real time!Support on my personal journey to be a lifelong learner and expand my horizons.Empower staff, students and me to be creative with ideas and make new connections.Differentiate staff professional development.Exposure to web 2.0 tools that students and staff can and should be using the classroom.Collaborate with folks by having ideas challenges, expanding my PLN and connecting with educators out there with similar (and different) philosophies. Daily, I am humbled by how much I don't know, and how endless the possibilities on this…

17 Ways to Develop 21st Century Skills in Classrooms and Schools (Steve Guditus)

If we want our students to possess, practice and utilize 21st century skills, then we must support the implementation and practice in our administrators, staff, classrooms and school structures.  Not only must classroom teachers keep 21st century skills in their forethought of planning, administrators too must be cognizant of how their words and actions support (or don't support) staff development and how the structures of their schools promote and encourage (or don't) the utilization and practicing of 21st century skills in the classroom with students.

After reading the National Academy's study brief of "Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century," I was inspired to think about how administrators must support teachers, so they can support students.  Let's model with staff what we want implemented with students.  According to the National Academy's study, deeper meaning occurs when students can take infor…

Using Google to Search for Content by Reading Level (Steve Guditus)

This quick and easy Google search function will allow you to search for content by reading level.  What incredible potential to easily provide differentiated reading levels for students.  Go ahead, try it now and provide content to students based on their reading level!  Here's how:

Step 1: Go to, enter your topic and hit the search button. Step 2: Just below the search field, click on "Search tools."

Step 3: After clicking "Search tools" in Step 2, a new toolbar will show up.  Click on "All Results," which will open a drop-down menu.
Step 4: Click on "Reading level."

Step 5: After clicking on "Reading level" in Step 4, a new field will show up with three hyperlinks.  Click on "Basic," "Intermediate" or "Advanced" to sort results by reading level.

Below, you can see the difference in the first three results, organized by reading level:

New Massachusetts DESE Educator Evaluation (Steve Guditus)

January is a busy month.  Cabin fever sets in, the pace of curriculum picks up, and we are at the halfway point of our journey.

As with anything new, there can be some growing pains and some grumbles - but the Massachusetts DESE's new educator evaluation system has provided an outstanding opportunity for me to have deep conversations about learning and teaching.  At first, the anxiety level of staff (both teachers and administrators) was high; as the nuts and bolts have been figured out, we have been able to focus on reflection and best practices.  In the last several months, I have consistently had the best conversations in recent memory about learning and teaching with a high number of staff members.  I cannot help but believe this is, in part if not full, attributed to our new educator evaluation system.  The shift from one lengthy, hour-long observation to several  mini-observations with immediate feedback to staff, has proven to be an outstanding forum for conversation - focu…