Monday, November 24, 2014

The "Power of Habit" and working in schools

Every day we react.  We react in the way we were taught, programmed, advised, mentored, parented, etc.

Our reactions have become a habit.

I recently was reading this:

 Then again came across this podcast about habit.  Learn more about habit here.

But do we ever analyze the way we react?

Have we even thought about whether we'd react the same way if we were given new opportunities?

Imagine this:

A kid is misbehaving in class.

The kids misbehaving are the stimulus.  The black box, being the thought process happening in our brain based on habit.  This leads to a response

That stimulus typically leads to a response from the teacher.  The teacher can:
  • discipline the student
  • reteach expectations
  • redirect the students
  • ignore the stimulus
  • send the student out of the class
  • etc.
But what if........

What if we imagined a different school?  What if we projected how they might behave, what their responses might be?  What if we taught differently? What if we thought differently...

Imagine the staff of "THE SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE" (I know cheesy).

But how would the teachers at that school respond to stimulus?
If we can examine the habits we have, we may be able to analyze possible solutions and the adjacent possible solutions that impact our kids.

What we do an how quick we react impacts students.

Take some time to list stimuli that happen today, how did you react to it?  Would the staff of this fictional school react differently?

Time to form some new habits....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time well spent?

I am an amazingly productive person.  I pride myself in being to do more with a minute than most people can do with an hour.  I have leveraged a TON of resources to be more productive in a given day.  But yet, there's still something wrong.

I'm struggling with how I use my time.  I hate to admit it but it's true.  I'm not sure I'm doing the best I can.

About a year ago I wrote this post about balance.  I still think I'm a work in progress.

I turn to this space for a number of reasons:
1.  It's an opportunity to reflect.
2.  I know I'll get creative solutions.
3.  I know those of you that read this have something to give and are willing to give it.

I ran across this today that prompted this post:

So here are my priorities:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Webster Groves (where I work)
  4. ConnectED Learning (the company I started)
  5. Social media
  6. Reading books
  7. Reading blog posts (listening to podcasts)
  8. Religious obligations (church on Sunday, etc.)
  9. Working out
Here is how a day is typically structured:

Where are my opportunities for growth?  

Where can I be challenged to do/think differently?

If I were to base my priorities on where I spend my time, it would be:
  1. Webster Groves
  2. Family
  3. Social Media
  4. ConnectED Learning
  5. Reading blog posts (listening to podcasts) *typically do this while driving
  6. Reading books
  7. Religious obligations
  8. Working out
  9. Friends
What do you do?  How do you maximize and optimize your life? What does your day look like?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thinking about Experiential Learning

Great commentary from Grant Wiggins today I wanted to share.  It made me think of the conversations we’ve been having in social studies about content.

Grant shares:

"Student members of the Young Americans for Freedom at a school in Rome, Ga., marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany with a re-enactment at their school. They knocked down a graffiti-covered, 12-foot-long wall made from wood for the dramatization. "It is great to see them internalizing the lessons of history and exhibiting the power of freedom," said Brad Poston, history department chair.”

This is a great step in the right direction, can you imagine how powerful that experience was, see the image here?  Too often we think of history as words on a page and events on a timeline.  We can bring those events to life for our kids!

Also this event above is fun, the learning that happens before and after the event makes it closer to “Experiential”  Here’s a great resource on Experiential learning:

When you’re planning your next history unit, consider the lessons/activities/conversations kids are having with these questions:
• What are you doing?
• Why are you doing it?

• What does this help you do that’s important?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stop saying you're busy.

Stop it, just stop it right now.  Eliminate the phrase "I'm Busy," from your mind.

Imagine this.

You're walking down the hallway and someone asks you how you're doing.  You reply without even thinking, "I'm busy."

Stop it.  Stop it right now.

When you say you're busy here's what you're really saying...

I'm working really hard.  I have too much on my plate right now.  I planned poorly and can't stop to talk to you.  I'm prioritizing what I'm going to over building a relationship with you.  I'm also REALLY important and you should think about that when you say "Hi" to me in the hallway.

Imagine this too.

You get a phone call from a colleague/friend asking you if you can do this task to help them out.  You reply, "I could but I'm really busy right now."

When you say you're busy here's what you're really saying...

I poorly planned my own projects or I don't even like you enough to help you out.  I'l help you with your task but I'll reach back out after all of my other work is complete.

Finally, imagine this...

You're on the phone checking you're voicemail and your get one from your grandmother.  She just wants to check in and she says it, "I know you're busy."

When she says you're busy here's what she's really saying...

I haven't heard from you in a while, I miss you, I don't feel like a priority.  

Stop it, Just Stop it. Stop it this instance.

How to combat "Busy"

Saying your busy implies you're misguided, frantic, walking hard, but not towards a goal.  You have a lot to do, we all do.  But you know what successful people do?  They do this:
  1. Set yearly goals in all aspects of their life. (See seeking balance)
  2. Prioritize tasks
When a new "to do" list item is presented.  

Successful people check: 
1.  Does this get me closer to my goals?  If Yes, it goes on the list, if no, it gets omitted/deleted.  NOTE: some things like going to the grocery store or folding laundry do make it on the list of "life maintenance."

2.  How will it get prioritized?  Will it become more important or less important than the tasks that are already there? NOTE:  If the item takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it now.

When you're doing busy work, you're working on things that are misaligned with your mission.  The items are NOT moving you closer to your professional or personal goals.  Keep focused.

Stop saying you're busy, focus on your goals and work to achieve them.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Summary of "Remodeling Literacy Learning"

Cross Posted on my work Blog here:

Find the original PDF here:

The report started with a survey:
The "NCLE conducted a national survey of educators of all roles, grade levels, and subject areas to find out where we stand as a nation in the following areas:
• What kinds of opportunities have educators had to learn about the new literacy standards?
• What kinds of professional learning are most powerful in supporting teachers as they implement changes in their classrooms?
• How are schools and districts approaching the transition to the new standards, and how involved are teachers in planning and implementing that transition?
• Are teachers working on the change individually or collectively, and how does that impact how well the change is going?
• What role is teacher expertise playing in translating the broad goals of the standards into specific learning experiences for students?"



pg. 9 "Data from NCLE’s 2013–14 survey demonstrate the potential of the teacher-driven, capacity- based model of educational change. Put simply, the transition to the new standards seems to be going best when teachers are highly engaged in the process and have time to work together to use their professional expertise to bring all students to higher levels of literacy."

pg. 11 "In our 2012 national survey on teacher learning, we asked educators to identify their single most powerful professional learning experience of the past 12 months. The number-one choice by a large margin was “co-planning with colleagues,” cited by 22% of respondents. Coming in second, chosen by 13% of respondents as their single most powerful professional learning experience, was “meeting regularly with a collaborative inquiry group.”"

pg. 11 "Respondents could choose up to three reasons, and the top three all speak to the power of professional collaboration to impact classroom practice:
• Helped me create new lessons, materials, or instructional strategies for immediate use (selected by 59% of respondents as one of the top three reasons the learning was powerful)
• Provided opportunities for active learning, discussion, and reflection on my practice (34%)
• Provided opportunities to collaborate with colleagues/to create a support network (32%)"

pg. 11 "This result is consistent with extensive research showing that educators find professional learning most powerful when it affords them the opportunity to actively exchange ideas with colleagues and test them in their practice immediately."

pg.11 Working with colleagues is GOOD!

p.12 "This year’s data show that over the last year teachers have become even more isolated from each other’s professional expertise, even as they are being asked to undertake the large, complicated task of CCSS implementation."

pg.12 DATA!

pg.12 "Good teaching requires deep understanding of the goals we are trying to help students reach, analysis of their current level of understanding, and careful design of learning experiences, all of which are tasks that require professional time outside of the classroom and are best accomplished with the support of colleagues."

pg. 13 "Beyond being given little time to work through the shifts called for by the standards, most teachers reported having little voice in how their school is making the transition."

pg. 13 GRAPHIC

pg. 15 "Compared to teachers who are working in isolation, teachers who had participated in collaborative work with colleagues around the standards were twice as likely to rate themselves as well prepared to help their students meet the standards and also much more likely to report having already made moderate or significant changes in the content of what they teach and methods of how they teach it in response to CCSS goals."
pg. 16 "Research has consistently demonstrated the value of teacher collaboration in improving student learning,"

p.16 Keys to effective collaboration
"(1) Deprivatizing practice: Teachers open their doors and their briefcases to share lessons, actual teaching, and student work with each other, so they can learn from each other’s successes and, perhaps even more important, failures.
(2) Enacting shared agreements: Colleagues agree at a concrete, specific level on the student outcomes they are working toward and how to assess them.
(3) Creating collaborative culture: Teachers demonstrate accountability to each other by following through on trying new instructional practices between meetings and reporting back on results, and they trust each other enough to engage in hard conversations about what works.
(4) Maintaining an inquiry stance: Experimentation is grounded in evidence and focused on clear student outcomes.
(5) Using evidence effectively: Teachers decide whether a lesson or practice worked and how it could be improved by analyzing evidence from students, from test scores to samples of student work.
(6) Supporting collaboration systemically: Teachers’ shared work receives formal support including protected time, relevant and timely data, and leadership involvement."

pg.18 Teachers need more time
pg. 18 "Looking at practices like lesson study in Japan and periodic curriculum reviews in Finland points to some answers: these are structured, purposeful tasks which immerse teachers deeply in the substance of what they are teaching, the best methods to get concepts across to students, and how best to assess student mastery. Most of all, these structures provide a lab-like setting, an ongoing cycle in which ideas are developed, tested, and refined, tapping the collective insight and practical experience of multiple teachers to strengthen learning for all students."

pg.19 "We then looked at whether teachers who frequently engage in specific collaborative tasks report being better prepared to teach the standards."

pg.19 What works when teachers work together

pg.21 "Professional learning that is embedded in the real work of instruction is far more likely to lead to desired changes. Such tasks let teachers pool their insights and experiences and adjust their practice in real time"

pg. 22 "When asked specifically how big of an impact standards are having so far on classroom practice in terms of both what is taught and how it is taught, solid majorities of teachers across subject areas reported a moderate or significant impact on HOW material is taught. There was more variance in the reported impact on WHAT is taught."

pg. 23 "The most consistent shift reported by teachers in our survey is in spending more time having students defend arguments with evidence, which more than three-fourths of teachers in all subject areas report doing more of this year in response to the CCSS."

pg. 23 "The bottom line is that these standards ask students to work collaboratively and analyze evidence coming from multiple kinds of texts that cross disciplinary lines. This is going to be difficult to pull off if teachers of different subjects remain isolated from each other and so many have minimal to no time to work together."


pg.28 "Recommendation #1: Provide educators with more shared time for planning and professional learning about elevating literacy learning for all students."

pg.29 "Recommendation #2: Encourage and support educators to take initiative in designing and using innovative literacy teaching resources that are appropriate for their students, and not rely on prepackaged programs or solutions."

pg.29 "Recommendation #3: Draw upon the insights, skills, and experience of everyone with a stake in improving literacy learning to help students achieve more."

Pg 29-30 HOW TO:

"Principals and School Leaders Can . . .
• Allocate and protect time for teachers to work together in developing literacy instructional practices and in analyzing student work.
• Provide training, support, and structures that make teacher collaboration time purposeful and effective.
• Build trust among staff by participating in groups not solely as an instructional leader, but also as a collaborative colleague.
• Respect the expertise of teachers in building-level decisions about literacy teaching materials and curriculum and in the application of formative and summative assessment data to instruction.
• Monitor and understand emerging research about literacy learning and educator collaboration, making this a focus for their own professional growth.
• Make literacy learning in every subject a school-wide priority and establish a structure for staff-wide participation in planning and monitoring progress toward the attainment of student literacy growth goals."

"Teachers and Other Educators Can . . .
• Engage in focused, purposeful collaboration with colleagues (both in person and online) about instructional shifts that can be made to deepen student literacy learning in every class.
• Open doors and share practice so that others can learn from both successes and failures.
• Commit to continuous, collaborative assessment and analysis of student work and agree to
shift their strategies as they learn more about students’ progress as literacy learners.
• Demonstrate accountability to each other and to students by developing and documenting
shared plans for deepening student literacy learning across a school year.
• Build professional capacity by choosing literacy teaching strategies and materials based on
learning from collaborative activities with other teachers.
• Tap the literacy expertise that resides in all subject areas and job roles (including coaches,
librarians, and administrators) to build a coherent school-wide literacy experience for students."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Resources for Union R-XI Staff Development


Consuming - Phase 1 of Connecting

Subscribe to blogs/websites with a RSS reader, here are two options:

Email Subscriptions via newsletter, options:

Podcasts - For iPhone, iPad, and iTunes, some options:

Lurking - Phase 2 of Connecting

Definition of Lurking: “Lurking is a slang term for when an individual reads a message board without posting or engaging with the community. Lurking is sometimes encouraged by forum moderators as a way for new members to get a sense of the community and etiquette before participating. Lurking also may occur if a user simply wants to get some information without adding to the discussion.” via

Actually Connecting - Phase 3

Remember: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook - GIVE, GIVE, GIVE, then Ask.
14 quotes from the book -

Twitter - #MoEdchat 9pm Thursdays

Maximizing your PLN document -
Complete exhaustive list of hashtags -
When is a twitter chat happening -
Twitter 101 -

Facebook -

Other Connected Sites

Educators PLN -
Flipped Learning Network -
Kagan discussion board -

Google Plus

Beginners Guide -
LiveBinder for educators -
Tips for teachers -

  • Connected Classrooms
  • Digital Leadership
  • EdReach
  • Edcamp
  • Educational Leadership
  • Minecraft in Education
  • Google docs and drive
  • Google Apps
  • Connected Learning
  • Discovery Education
  • EdcampSTL


How to use it for educators -
Tips for teachers -
Using for education -

Events - for a little Face-to-Face (F2F)

3/29 ShareFair -

Things I'm excited about trying

Who are the 5 people that do your job better than you? Connect with them.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Learning: Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

I'm preparing for a after school workshop on Culturally Relevant Teaching.  While doing some research on the topic I ran across this article from 2011:

This article provided some amazing insights and began a foundation of understanding what it means to be "Culturally Relevant."

See below for some of my take aways, questions and musings.  Please add other resources, books, comments, ideas to the comments.


"Scholars have pondered over strategies to assist teachers in teaching about diversity as well as interacting with diversity found within their classrooms in order to ameliorate the effects of cultural discontinuity."

Cultural discontinuity = difference in culture between the white middle class teacher and classroom that isn't reflective of that.  (vice versa can also be true for an African American teacher in a classroom of students that are not reflective of that culture.)

"The problem embracing the American educational system is how to ensure that all students, especially racal/ethnic minority students, achieve.

"Theories and research which argue that students, especially those from status-oppressed minority groups, are sensitive to their treatment in school by teachers, administrators, and peers will look for answers in these social relationships"

How do we move from theories and research to solutions?

"Viable teaching and learning environments are:

  • culturally appropriate
  • culturally congruent
  • mitigating cultural discontinuity
  • culturally responsive
  • culturally compatible"

How is a student's home reflected in my classroom?

"Just as the student body is not homogeneous, teachers may come from a culture quite different from that of their students, resulting in cultural clashes that can potentially lead to gaps in learning."

What are the cultural gaps that exist between you are your students?

"For viable teaching and learning to take place, there must be connections between the home-community and school culture."

"...intentional inclusion of students' backgrounds becomes a direct demonstration of the distinction between difference and deficiency."

How do we recognize difference and/or/vs deficiency?

How does your school mirror the community?

Historical Evolution of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

"Bringing the relevance of the text to the child's own experience helps the child make sense of the world"

"This illustrated the importance of teacher as a bridge between home-community and school culture."
"...teachers need to recognize differences in interactional style (preference or learning style and demonstrating what was learned) as well as differences in cognitive style (cognitive information processing).  They stressed that the teacher should be actively involved in ascertaining the learning styles of his or her students."

When students and teachers are from the same culture, evidence shows there is more learning.

"cultural incompatibility is one explanation for school failure."

Significance of Critical Race Theory

"...acknowledgement of who children are, how they perceive themselves, and how the world receives them."

"...racism persists in being"endemic and deeply ingrained in American life"" Ladson-Billings and Tate 1995

"Critical Race Theory tenets:

  1. Racialized power
  2. the permanence or centrality of race
  3. counter storytelling as a legitimate critique of the master narrative
  4. interest convergence
  5. critique of liberalism"

"...reviewing the ways that, for instance, curriculum is designed, the delivery of instruction is executed, classes are composed and grouped, assessment is determined and processed, school funding is allocated, and redistricting lines are drawn."

How do you get to know, I mean know, your students, their families and their culture?

Conceptual Framework of Cultural Relevant Pedagogy

5 themes:

  1. Identity and Achievement
  2. Equity and Excellence
  3. Developmental Appropriateness
  4. Teaching the Whole Child
  5. Student-Teacher Relationships

Figure 1:

Identity and Achievement

"...both student and teacher identities are considered."
"...identity is defined as a cultural construct."

"parts of our identity that do capture our attention are those that other people notice, and reflect back to us."

"Teachers should realize that students who are racial or ethnic minorities see, view, and perceive themselves and others differently than those who are of the majority group."

"race is not to be ignored in the picture of identity development."

"Teachers need to be aware of their own identities."

"...individually and collectively students voices are heard, they matter, and their presence and contributions are valued."

Teachers CANNOT be colorblind or race neutral because each "ignore the centrality of race and racism within American society."

"When teachers acknowledge that the system is racist, they can move forward to not only avoid socially reproducing the racism, but also to rethink the system, recognize their actions in it, change them if they need to be, and embrace all cultures as equally important."

"by embracing the reality of diversity through such an identification is critical in creating an environment for equitable learning."

Equity and Excellence

"...equity involved giving students what they need."

"Giving students what they need means believing:

  • Difference is good.
  • Differentiated instruction is essential for some
  • Culturally relevant pedagogy practices can enhance learning."

"when teachers do not see diversity, they truly do not see students at all and therefore greatly limit their abilities to meet students' diverse educational and social needs."

How do we incorporate more multicultural content?

How do we provide windows and mirrors into our content that allow our students to see themselves in their curriculum?

Developmental Appropriateness

"...acknowledge the importance of knowing where children are in their cognitive development."

"The key is generating teaching styles that incorporate the vast difference in culturally-based learning styles and learning preferences of students."

How do we do we generating teaching styles that incorporate the vast difference in culturally-based learning styles and learning preferences of students?
What does it look like when teachers generate teaching styles that incorporate the vast difference in culturally-based learning styles and learning preferences of students?

Teaching the Whole Child

"These cultural influences affect how students and their families perceive, receive, respond to, categorize, and prioritize what is meaningful to them."

"Culture resides in the individual."

" is crucial for teachers to learn about all of their students, especially those who are culturally different from the teachers themselves."

How can we filter the content required by teachers to 'cover' to leave time for teachers to get to KNOW their students?

Student-Teacher Relationships

"the nature and the extent of the relationships between the teachers and their students are crucial in promoting student learning."

"...teachers' knowledge and translation of different cultural communications styles can avert misinterpretations of behavior, demonstrations of disrespect, and conflicts in schools."

Student-teacher relationships are "fluid and equitable and extend beyond the classroom."

Teachers should "demonstrate a connectedness with all their students and encourage that same connectedness between the students."

Teachers should believe that "community is a vital partner in students' learning."

Teachers should "simply not accept failure, but begin where students are and works hard to help them succeed."

"...through counter stories, teachers are provided a vehicle by which they can see what has, in some cases, been consciously invisible to them before."

How do we as teachers INVEST in our students and our students families?  Only through that investment will true learning be achieved.

That's it for now, add more resources in the comments section....

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

EdcampSTL and Things you can't do with kids in the building

So I organize and lead a team of educators to create an event called #edcampSTL.  Please follow along with the hashtag and participate.  This year it will be on 2/8/2014.

One of the things we like to do is get creative.  To get creative we need people to get our of their shells.  The whole day is pretty uncomfortable for those that have never attended an edcamp.  This event really pushes them over the edge.

After lunch, typically there is a lull.  It's not anyone's fault, it just happens.  Blame it on circadian rhythms, the ebb and flow of the day, the lack of coffee, or the cycles of the moon, regardless, there's a lull.

To combat this lull, to build community, to meet new people, we needed an activity.  We came up with an activity we affectionately call "Things you can't do with kids in the building."  I know, long name.

We gave every person a sign off sheet (see below) and a MAP of the school:

The idea is get people up, moving, doing things they normally wouldn't in their "professional day."  The ideas below are accompanied by images if we were able to catch them.  These images are from over the last two years of EdcampSTL.  The stations we used included:

  • Running in the halls - Super easy station and fun for everyone!  Gets the blood pumping!

  • Screaming in the library - Wish I had a video of this.  People had a blast since they never get a chance to do it.  We really wanted to get a person in a white wig and bifocals (old-school librarian style) shhhhing people after they screamed.  That would have been great!
  • Sliding down the rails - We all want to do it, it's great to give people permission to play!
  • Bouncing balls in the hall - How many times have you said for students to not bounce the balls in the hallway, it's freeing to let go of that!
  • Throwing food in the cafeteria - The one station people talk about every year.  It's a classic.  Both years we used mashed potatoes.  We forgot about having people wipe their hands after throwing them, oops!  We got smart and picked up an apparatus from the dollar spot to keep people's hands clean!
  • Throwing paper airplanes - Toby is the king.  People came up with creative airplanes and we learned who's a perfectionist. :-)  

  • Texting in school - Really easy station.  We used poll everywhere to gather information to show teachers how they can use student's devices in the classroom.
  • Rolling chairs in the hallway - Awesome!  Be careful though, we broke two chairs and had to replace them :-)
  • Playing with bouncey balls - I forgot the name of the game.  We had cups and the bouncey balls had to make it into the cup.  The only trick was there were directions of different tasks on cards.  It was awesome.  I do remember we purchased the game at urban outfitters. No it wasn't beer pong!
  • Book Bowling - This was awesome!  We built "pins" out of shoeboxes and then used books to knock them down.  Very fun!  I wanted to do a station called "Angry Books"  Which we built a structure and then flung the books like angry birds, it just took too long to set up each time.
  • Bullying in the stairwell - Fun one!  We came up with insults (see planning documents below) and people picked them out of a hat and read them to each other.  It was all in good fun!  Even the team from Mentor Mob appreciated it!

  • Dance walking -   Interesting.  I really wanted video taken of this and then made into a promo for EdcampSTL.  I'm not sure what happened to the video.  Anyway, this was our inspiration:

  • Acting up - We had a room where people could do anything they wanted.  Most just stood on the table.  That's a big thing for people.  I guess they wanted to reenact the scene in Dead Poets Society:

Here's the planning document we used from last year:

And some brainstorming done here:

 At each station is a volunteer that signs off on their form, these submissions are used to win a prize, yet another incentive to get people moving.  Here's the form for 2012:

Steal this idea!  Bring play, unprofessionalism and creativity to your school or team.  With play and creativity we can accomplish anything!

What stations could we have in the future?  

Add your thoughts of things you can't do with kids in the building to the comments!