Friday, September 23, 2011

Who are we leaving behind?

A friend recently loaned me his copy of the August Christian Science Monitor because the cover story was about education.  The article was quite insightful and I'm ashamed to say on a topic I'd not thought about:  gifted education. 

In this high-stakes accountability environment, our gifted students are often forgotten.  I know in most districts where I have worked, our focus has been on the most at-risk (or ask my current employer says:  at promise) students.  But, what about our gifted learners?  Are they being pushed to their fullest potential?  Are we challenging our gifted learners?  Shouldn't we consider all students, not just the sub-group/reporting category that may prevent a school from making AYP?

I'd encourage you to read the article here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Making Thinking Visible

This professional text is from Harvard's Project Zero.  It is filled with thinking routines for classroom use along with case studies and a DVD. These are excellent resources for any and all content areas and grade levels.  The book is organized in a very handy way with the routines grouped by use - before, during and after the learning occurs.  I have used these routines with students and adults, which great success!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What if school were fun?

A few months ago, I read a tweet from Kylene Beers linking to this video:

Beers asked about what we could do to make school routines more fun.  What do you think?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Farm Girl, Skunk Girl, Haystack Girl, Goat Girl…you pick the name and fourteen-year-old Janie has heard it.  She thought it would be cool to live on a farm, but once she gets to high school, it’s definitely NOT cool!  It doesn’t help that her friends from middle school are all spread out and she doesn’t know anyone in her lunch period.  At least she has one class with her best friend, Sarah, and they get to do a project on a great woman in history.  This leads Janie and Sarah to a local lady who taught blacks how to read and write during the Civil Rights Movement.  Janie learns just what it means to live big.

This is very much a coming of age novel about Janie figuring out who she is and what she stands for.  It would be appropriate for middle school readers as there’s no foul language, drug use, sexual encounters, etc.

Themes:  friendship, discovery, standing up for what’s right

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Change: Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote about changes and the implementation bridge that teachers must cross when learning something new.  “When implementers make it across the bridge, self and task concerns should decrease while impact concerns should increase.”  So if there’s truly fidelity to the implementation, teachers are less concerned about how the change will impact them and most concerned about how the changes will impact students’ learning.

So, how do I support teachers where they are and help them move forward?

Levels of Use
Level 0 Non-use – no involvement, not doing anything related to change.
Level I Orientation – learning about, exploring requirements, evaluating value
Level II Preparation - preparing to implement, asks questions, attends meetings, considers innovation/change
Level III Mechanical Use – begins to use curriculum, first attempt is disjointed, scheduling is inefficient, refers to guides often
Level IV Routine – pieces are coming together, can predict what happens next, moves through lessons smoothly, focus remains on the process

Many teachers will start at Level III since participation at professional staff development training is mandatory.  The key seems to be helping teachers move out of their discomfort.  This could be co-planning with teachers, co-teaching lessons, etc.  

A large part will also be monitoring implementation and providing constructive feedback.  This could be via classroom visits or debriefing of lessons together.

Hall, G. E., Hord, S. M. (2011).  Implementation:  Learning builds the bridge between research and
      practice.  JSD, 32(4), 52-57.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


“Change cannot occur without professional learning.” Whoo, hoo! This will keep Instructional Coaches in business for a long time! Change is always happening in education and with change comes new learning, discomfort and maybe obstacles. How do we support teachers (and students) in developing new understandings and acquiring new skills?

Part of my role as an Instructional Coach is to support teachers’ implementation of new curriculum and improved instructional practices through job-embedded professional development. Hopefully, I can be the bridge to forge the implementation dip that occurs when one learns something new. This leads me to the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) as a tool to assess progress and support implementation efforts.

First, I have to be aware of how the change will impact teachers; thus, the personal/affective aspects of change. Where are my teachers on this continuum?

Stages of Concern:
Awareness – not aware of change or doesn’t want to learn it.
Information – heard of change, needs more information.
Personal – main concern is how change will affect me.
Management/Task – main concern is about the scheduling, tasks to be one, management.
Consequence/Impact – main concern is how to make the change work for student success.
Collaboration – main concern is how to make it work even better by collaborating with colleagues
Refocusing – seeking out continuous improvement to make the change even better.

Typically, teachers’ comments in meetings and even in hallways, give insight to where they are on this continuum. I have seen teachers move several stages in one professional development session. I have seen other teachers camp out on one stage for a while. My goal is to meet them where they are. Tomorrow, I’ll post about how to help teachers move forward.

Hall, G. E., Hord, S. M. (2011). Implementation: Learning builds the bridge between research
and practice. JSD, 32(4), 52-57.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy School Year!

Today is our first day of school with students and I am so excited for this year. My district has ambitious plans for more rigorous curriculum, enhanced instruction and increased student success.

We know that all students can learn!
We believe in our students!
We won’t give up on our students!

Here’s hoping your first day is grand! (And if you've been in school a while, here's hoping your year is off to a fantastic start!)